The tragic situation in Parachinar has turned from bad to worst. First, the people are attacked repeatedly and agencies appear to be completely outfoxed as even in most secure areas, still terrorists are able to carry out attacks easily. The most recent attack which killed scores of innocents was virtually ignored, as PM preferred to condole those killed in Bahawalpur accident, and COAS preferred to spend his time at LoC.
Meanwhile, as the poor people of Parachinar protested their treatment, their cries were virtually ignored by major media groups adding to confusion and making the people feel helpless and abandoned. Then, the insult became injury as self-styled social media ‘defence analysts’ began a campaign to defame and threaten these Pakistani citizens as ‘traitors’ because they are Shia.
After remaining silent, ISPR was forced to confront the anti-Shia sectarianism being projected across social media by these accounts with links to Army.
However, it must be noted that the meaning of the official statement is unclear as it does not note who exactly Army is holding responsible for spreading sectarian hatred. Actually, this message is being promoted even by those spreading sectarianism.
So what is the message exactly? Those pro-Army accounts who are terming Shia as ‘traitors’ obviously believe that Army has endorsed their hate speech. This only puts Shia citizens in even more dangerous position.
To clear the air, ISPR needs to issue an official clarification to inform whether they endorse or condemn the sectarian hate speech being spread by Zaid Hamid, Faran Jeffrey, and other Army-linked social media commandos. Otherwise, is it the case that Army is reading from the same playbook that tried to silence Bengalis and then Mohajirs by spreading the narrative that they are ‘traitors’ to Pakistan?
Gen Musharraf who had tightened the noose on journalists at one time, is also often credited with granting the media the freedom that allowed it to grow into what we have today. However, like many things in Pakistan, there is more to media ‘freedom’ than first meets the eye. Actually, the claim that Musharraf himself freed the media came from none other than the general himself, and was mocked in the international media at the time. Even Moeed Pirzada once admitted that ‘a carefully-created perception of free media inside Pakistan helped the military dictator to market himself’. Despite being exposed in the international press, the strategy worked better than could ever have been dreamed at home and led to the rise of an entire industry of Army/ISI media proxies. Now it looks like that strategy is coming into its latest phase.
Ever since becoming ‘free’, media has seen the likes of Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid whose journalistic credentials were less important than their talking points. Mainstream anchors have also raised questions about media independence as certain well known voices are widely considered as Army mouthpieces, and those who dare question or criticise GHQ are silenced with threats or worse. It is a coincidence that in this era of ‘media freedom’, this is the quality of ‘journalism’ we are subjected to?
Waj bro will soon have competition, though, from a new media personality even closer to GHQ: The ex-dictator himself. Gen Musharraf has announced that he is joining none other than Bol TV (yes, the same channel that has long been rumoured to be an ISI front). It is more accurate to say that Gen Musharraf is returning to TV since he has played this role before.
At a time when whole world is trying to solve the problem of ‘fake news’, Pakistan media is doubling down on the strategy of ‘a carefully-created perception of free media’ to market the Army to itself. Now they will even be joined by the founder of this strategy himself.
After Donald Trump brought the problem of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts’ to the attention of the world, internet editors have begun to ask questions about the credibility of so-called ‘news’ sources. The latest sign of a widespread crack down on fake news is the announcement that Wikipedia has banned using UK newspaper Daily Mail as a source, terming it as ‘generally unreliable‘. This is a major development because it is banning of a newspaper that was founded 120 years ago, not some shadowy website that popped up over night.
With wide spread concern about the ill effects of ‘fake news’, banning of Daily Mail may be just the beginning, and Pakistan media may be at serious risk. Since the past several years, dozens of fake news sites in Pakistan have been exposed. The most famous example was blog Cafe Pyala that shined the light on shadowy propaganda rings that appeared close to the deep state including even a Pakistani fake news source called ‘Daily Mail‘! Then last year an APP report may have accidentally busted another fake news operation with ties to ISI.
Tight control of Pakistan media by Army is already well reported in international media. In 2015, The Guardian published an expose about Army officials threatening journalists and forcing them to self-censor. How can such media be deemed as reliable if it is well known that it is threatened and coerced by Army? These threats have again come under view after a group of bloggers who dared question Army mysteriously disappeared earlier this year, resulting in new global attention to the dangerous turn of censorship in Pakistan.
However, it’s not just censorship that threatens the credibility of Pakistan media as a whole, it is also the number of obvious deep state puppets who dominate the media. There are the obvious jokers like Ahmed Quraishi and Zaid Hamid, but there are also the more ‘serious’ journalists like Mubashir Lucman, whose fake news cost ARY millions after being judged by an international court, or Moeed Pirzada who is widely seen as close to the establishment.
As the world makes moves to limit the negative influence of fake news, will Pakistani media find itself caught between the rock of international questions and the hard place of establishment operations to keep tight control over national discussions? If UK Daily Mail is termed as ‘generally unreliable’, what can we say about most of Pakistani news? As the world community takes on the problem of fake news, Pakistani media will be facing a lot of difficult choices.
After Ahmed Quraishi’s unceremonious departure from Express News, it was only a brief delay until he was back on the air. This time he has been given a platform on Neo TV, the new private TV channel launched by Chaudhry Abdul Rehman who believes that ‘Pakistan is in a cultural and ideological war‘ and promised to ‘defend Pakistan’s culture and ideology from the Platform of Neo’.
Ahmed Quraishi should feel right at home with Neos idea of media not as means of informing people but a propaganda tool for fighting wars. What is funny, though, is when the media mujahideen get so involved in their soldier fantasies that they lose all perspective and begin to believe that they really ARE soldiers.
We saw this first hand with Zaid Hamid who filled the internet with photos of himself playing dress up like a child.
Now Ahmed Quraishi is also suffering from the same delusions.
Why does this happen? Is it the massive insecurity from being around real soldiers so often? These clowns would be very funny but unfortunately it is hard to laugh because they, and those who are funding them, obviously think this is helpful for the country. It is bad enough that real journalists are trying to work with a boot on their neck, but this is just too much.
Phony anchors spinning propaganda ‘narratives’ are not soldiers and they are not defending the country. They are only defending their careers at the expense of the real journalists. And please stop taking selfies with guns, boys. You are only embarrassing yourself!
When a shop owner in Hafeez Centre posted a notice banning “infidels” (explained to mean Ahmadis), social media erupted with questions of whether Pakistan could be called ‘Trumpistan‘ after the infamously Islamophobic politician Donald Trump. Now there is another case of Pakistani hyper-nationalists imitating their famous American counterpart. Our own infamous hypernationalist zealot Zaid Hamid has announced creation of a new database to track anyone against Pakistan ideology.
Now, you are saying, what is the harm of tracking Pakistan’s enemies? Obviously, there is none, but this is asking the wrong question. The question is what is the definition of an enemy? Zaid Hamid gives a clue: “I am specially talking to those students who follow ANP, BLA, MQM and Sindhi sub-nationalist groups.” So you see, Zaid Hamid is not actually threatening Pakistan’s enemies, he is threatening Pakistanis who doesn’t accept the same politics as him.
Donald Trump has threatened to create a database to track all Muslims in America. In Pakistan, our own hypernationalists are threatening to create a database to track anyone who disagrees with them. Donald Trump wants to silence Muslims. Ironically, so does Zaid Hamid and his backers.