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Pakistan’s media mujahideen, hawks blame RAW for Lahore attacks

by Farooq Sulehria

Sunday 8 March 2009, by Farooq Sulehria

A more discreet euphemism ’foreign hand’, otherwise employed to identify RAW India’s Foreign Intelligence Agency, was avoided lest the cognition loses its impact. No sooner the terrorists had struck the Lankan team on its way to Lahore’s Qaddafi stadium than all the TV anchors were busy crying in unison: its RAW!

Without any proof on hand, they weaved every possible conspiracy theory. Talk show host, Kamran Khan, conducting a late-evening current affairs programme on Geo, did not deem it necessary to even spin any theory. He was direct, frank and determined in declaring: ’’No need to guess. The identity of the terrorists is evident. Also, it is crystal clear where they have come from. Pakistan now should not sit idle. Instead she should highlight the issue at international forums the way India highlighted Mumbai’’.

He did not find it necessary to explain that one of the attackers, according to eye witnesses, was speaking Pashto. That there is no precedence for RAW having the ability to infiltrate an important Pakistan city and carrying out such a high-profile terrorist attack, did not matter in any talk show either. Also, the ease with which attackers disappeared did not raise any eyebrows in these talk shows.
Every anchorperson was keen to outdo the other in his bid to establish RAW as the real culprit. They were greatly helped in this attempt by a select group of hawks. This freemasonry of hawks consists of either retired military generals, former ISI boss Gul Hameed being most familiar/notorious, or beards like Jamaat Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmed and Imran Khan. Well apparently clean-shaven Imran Khan has, as a Punjabi saying goes, beard in his stomach.

After Lahore attacks, Gul Hameed, besides his TV appearances, also penned down an article daily khabrain, a right-wing rag. He categorically blamed India in his article as well as TV interviews. He said: "India wants to declare Pakistan a terrorist state". The attack on the Sri Lankan team, he declared, "is related to that conspiracy." The real target, according to Gul Hameed ,is Pakistan’s nuclear assets.
His idealogical disciple, Imran Khan is a self-appointed defence counsel for Taliban. Every butchery inflicted upon Pakistan by Taliban is justified by Imran Khan as a just reaction to ’war on terror’. Imran Khan shortly after the Mumbai attacks had told an Indian newspaper: "There is no problem about the security of cricketers in Pakistan. The terrorists will never target cricketers knowing that they will then lose the battle of hearts and minds of the people (as if they have been otherwise winning this battle or care about hearts and minds of people)."

When his comments were sought by Hamid Mir, hosting ’Capital Talk’ on Geo on March 3, Imran Khan as usual resorted to his famous parrot-talk blaming ’war on terror’, Lal Mosque operation and US occupation of Afghanistan. Mir also sought comments from Lt Gen.(retd) Hamid Nawaz. The general informed the audience that India was dissuading Sri Lankans from touring Pakistan.

Hamid Mir single-handedly achieved what the Empire failed to achieve with all its might. That is to say: he is the only person outside al-Qaida network who managed to reach Osama ben Laden after 9/11. He interviewed OBL soon after 9/11 that made headlines all over the world. He is often floating all sorts of conspiracy theories but in his March 3 Capital Talk’ ,he was outdone by Talat Hussain of Aaj TV.

In his ’Live with Talat’ on March 3, anchorperson Talat Hussain was hosting interior minister Tasneem Qureshi among others. Talat Hussain began by declaring ’’a plan is being hatched against Pakistan’’ and announced the handlers of Lahore episode were sitting abroad. But when the interior minister refused to name India ’’until an evidence emerge’’, Talat began bullying him. ’’Why are you taking a soft position’’, he mocked the minister. ’’Hundostan say barra dushman koi ho sakta hey’’ (Can there be an enemy as big as India), he remarked. Talat also aired the statement by Purnab Mukerjee on Lahore attacks. Thus interpreted Talat the comments by Purnab: ’’India blamed us for Mumbai. Now when we are attacked, again India blames us. India does not want cooperation. She wants coercion.’’

Ironically, same anchorpersons---ridiculed as Media Mujahideen for their pro-Taliban rhetoric--- declared a virtual war on Indian media in the wake of Mumbai attacks for its ’’knee-jerk’’ finger pointing at Pakistan.
A question media mujahideen repeatedly posed was: “Do you think the India media should have pointed a finger at Pakistan within such a short time, and without any evidence? Why do we see this knee-jerk response every time some terrorist incident takes place in India?”
On Dawn News – anchors Hamid Mir, Talat Hussain and Nasim Zehra – dissected the coverage in an hour-long programme soon after Mumbai attacks.

“[The] Indian media is overcommitted to projecting India as a success story. They are not used to reporting state failures. They are used to reporting India as a country where nothing bad happens, its Army as the best thing in the world. It projects its heroes as supermen, taller than the Himlayas…So the gap between what the Indian media are committed to reporting, and the crass state failure they had to do report [in Mumbai], they ended up filling it with lies,” Talat Hussain had told Dawn News.

On the same programme, Hamid Mir asked why the Indian media were not asking hard questions of the Indian government.“When Pakistani forces say they have killed five Al-Qaeda, when they say Rashid Rauf has been killed in a drone attack, Pakistani media are asking them questions — show us the bodies. But Indian media are not asking important questions’’.

He went on: “There are 500 nautical miles between Karachi and Gujarat, and the Indian media are saying the terrorists came in boats from Karachi. Why are they not questioning the failure of their intelligence agencies?”

Later on, when section of Pakistan itself confirmed the Indian version, the media mujahideen had their credibility badly hurt. But credibility has never been a consideration since most,if not all, work for state agencies besides the media houses they represent. (Some 14 years ago, when Benazir Bhutto was in power, an official list of almost two dozen journalists working for Intelligence Bureau was leaked to press. The leak was Benazir’s revenge as she would always get bad press ).

And media mujahideen do not merely rule the TV screens. The print media is also increasingly becoming a pen-jihadis domain. Daily The News, country’s largest English-language chain paper, flashed a report by Ansar Abbasi on March 4. Known for his sympathies for Jamaat Islami, Ansar Abbasi filed the following report (excerpts):

’’ The Crime Investigation Department (CID), Punjab, had accurately warned the Punjab government on Jan 22, 2009 about an Indian plan to target the Sri Lankan cricket team during its visit to Pakistan.
The CID, while referring to a source report, said this terrorist attack would be carried out by the infamous RAW, especially while the Sri Lankan team would be travelling "between the hotel and stadium or at hotel during their stay".

The report tagged "SECRET/IMMEDIATE" with subject "SOURCE REPORT" reads: "It has reliably been learnt that RAW (Indian intelligence agency) has assigned its agents the task to target Sri Lankan cricket team during its current visit to Lahore, especially while travelling between the hotel and stadium or at hotel during their stay.

2. It is evident that RAW intends to show Pakistan a security risk state for sports events, particularly when the European and the Indian teams have already postponed their proposed visits considering it a high security risk to visit Pakistan.

3. RAW has also collected photographs of leaders of Jamaatud Daawa (proscribed) and its establishments to target them’’.

Writing for The News op-ed in the same issue (March 4), Shirin Mazari in her regular column ---regularly oozing with hate-India vitriolic--- philosophises:
’’Like the attacks on the Chinese working here, who has the most to gain by targeting the Sri Lankans? Certainly no Pakistani. But India and our other enemies certainly will make political gains. Interestingly, the incident has come soon after the Naval Chief’s statement casting doubts on the Rehman Malik investigation dossier on Mumbai, which upset the Indians. So is this attack a mere coincidence in terms of timing?’’

A Gul Hameed of op-ed world, Shirin Mazari wonders: ’’The question that must be examined honestly is whether this is a natural follow-on from the terrorism linked to FATA and Swat, or is it a continuation of Mumbai or is it something new that is conveniently being linked to the former two? It is too early to give a definitive answer but it does not seem to have any linkage or bearing to FATA or Swat – otherwise why was the first match not targeted? In connection with Mumbai, the only connection is the role of RAW given the timing of the attack and the setback to Pakistan’s image recovery after Mumbai’’.

Liberals, trade unionists, peace-activists, leftists hardly make it to either talk shows or op-ed sections. Vernacular press---all the mainstream Urdu newspapers blamed RAW in their March 4 editions. --- is particularly stifling. Luckily, the cyber world has offered a relief.

Ever-growing email lists are connecting an increasing number of activists. Blogosphere is particularly attracting new audience otherwise fed up with media mujahideen. Here, on email lists and blogs, the media mujahideen are grilled. Their lies are exposed, their reasoning challenged, their credibility questioned, their professionalism mocked and their real faces exposed.

Farooq Sulehria,

Sweden.

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