It often happens, and regrettably so, that the media in many countries tends to play a rather jingoistic and nationalistic role during times of war. When a war is actually underway and being fought, that may make sense to some extent given the need for the national/public morale to remain. This is what happened during the 1965 India-Pakistan war when songs by Madam Noor Jehan kept the nation’s spirits high. However, the situation right now is completely different. Pakistan is not at war with any country and certainly does not need a war either. To make this point further clear, Pakistan can hardly afford a war with the world’s sole superpower, a country that also happens to be its largest trading partner and second-largest foreign investor. If anything, the media should be asking the nation at large, and in particular the centres of power — who will decide how to deal with the crisis — to look inward and gauge whether the fault for the present tension perhaps lies with us, because of our actions — or inactions.
By no means does this mean that we should take such allegations lying down, in fact they need to be responded to, but not by beating the war drum, thumping our collective national chest and demanding that we give America a response that it will never forget. Let’s also not forget that the military, which is perhaps the key arbiter in this whole situation (though ideally this role should lie with civilian government and parliament), has benefitted immensely over the years from military aid and cooperation with the US and would be hurt by any permanent break in ties and/or cut in assistance. Any response to America — and the media, need to emphasise this point — should come not from the heart or the fist but from the mind and reason/logic. Can an economy withstand a permanent break in ties with the US? What would happen to foreign aid from multilateral donors and foreign investors since America has influence over them as well? Do we have other allies to fall back on? To what extent would these other nations come to our aid given that most of them, except perhaps Iran, have thriving ties with America? And perhaps, equally importantly, what kind of sovereignty are we talking about given that the state’s own writ doesn’t extend to large parts of Fata and many settled districts?
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2011.
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