Countering propaganda through media
“As Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan, Balochistan is the ‘backbone’ of Pakistan.” Raja Mujtaba. This was stated in a Defence and Diplomacy episode of PTV on Balochistan.
By S. M. Hali
Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan but it has remained the most backward and underdeveloped. Successive regimes have been guilty of gross neglect. Even the provincial governments headed by the Baloch themselves and one Balochi Prime Minister has remained oblivious to Balochistan’s woes and misery.
Nature too has been rather unkind to the poverty struck populace of Balochistan, in meting calamities. Earthquakes, devastating floods and deluge of biblical proportion have wreaked havoc in the province, namely the floods of 1950, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1992, 2000, 2010, 2011 and 2012, drought in 2000 and cyclone in 2007. One redeeming factor is that one national organization that stood with the people of the hapless province, in its moments of distress is the Armed Forces of Pakistan, which includes the Army, Navy, Air Force and the Frontier Constabulary (FC). They not only responded to the call of duty without demur or complaint and reached out to help their Balochi brothers and sisters whenever the need arose, even to the peril of their own lives.
On 24th September 2013, Awaran district of Balochistan was hit by a massive earthquake. As had happened in previous calamities, Pakistan Army, Navy, Air Force and FC personnel promptly acted as tasked by the Government. Even though the FC located in the area was equally affected by the earthquake and it had suffered casualties itself, yet they were the first ones to respond to the situation. The Army units moved from Khuzdar and Karachi, while the Navy was deployed from Gwadar and Ormara and PAF operated from Karachi and Quetta. Sadly, some miscreants operating in the distraught area tried to put impediments in the path of the rescuers by firing on them with rockets and disrupt their aerial rescue efforts.
The misfortune is that despite the selfless efforts of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, the relief effort has been politicized and militarized to the disadvantage of the affected citizens of Balochistan. The militants and their foreign collaborators not only opposed the relief activities by Armed Forces and FC but repeatedly attacked the security forces during relief work thus hampering the operation. An Army helicopter carrying the Chairman NDMA and Commander FC was specifically targeted. The humanitarian efforts of the Armed Forces and FC not only failed to attract the attention of the media while the rescue, relief and rehabilitation workers remained targets of the miscreants, the media continued to either ignore the efforts by the rescuers or targeted the Armed Forces, criticizing them on trumped up accusations.
In this context an article titled ‘Fear and Loathing in Awaran’ by Naziha Syed Ali, carried by the English daily, “Dawn” of 26 November 2013 is a case in point. The author has totally projected the cause of separatists while bashing the Establishment for having failed to win over the hearts and minds of people in Awaran, despite providing substantial amount of relief goods to the affected people. As a journalist she did not bother to investigate the under currents of Awaran and collected views of only those who represented the banned outfits and therefore missed the real truth.
Miscreants have created a coercive atmosphere in the area where the public is traumatized by fear of backlash from outlaws; thus the general public remains apprehensive of expressing positive comments lauding the humanitarian efforts of the Armed Forces.
The environment in Balochistan envisages that social scientists must be bold enough to act as participant observers to find out the real pulse of people who cannot even express their real ordeal. To gauge the real sentiments of people who have been provided food, shelter, clothes, medicine, hospital facilities and psychological warmth enhancing their self-esteem, media analysts should spend time with victims, rather than unwittingly presenting the viewpoints of the miscreants only.
Newspapers and media houses must play their role to project the relief activities of the Armed Forces and FC in the earthquake ravaged areas so that they can inform the masses of how the woes, misery and tribulation of the earthquake affected people is being allayed by the Armed forces with missionary zeal.
Some malicious propagandists are going to the extent of reporting that under the garb of the relief operations, Army is conducting anti-insurgency operations. Such false reporting at the behest of enemies of the state can only be countered through objective reporting.
Detractors of Pakistan, who are fomenting trouble and fanning hatred against the country, should know that they will never succeed in their designs to damage Pakistan. The misled separatists should lay down their arms and stop making trouble in the province of Balochistan. Their foreign masters are the enemies of Pakistan and are using them as tools of their anti Pakistan policy. The survival and well being of the Baloch lies only in united Pakistan.
Analysts, columnists and the Media have a responsibility to uphold the interests of Pakistan. Damaging Pakistan for petty gains would be dangerous for them all. Media analysts must not sell the power of their pen or voice by promoting the cause of miscreants as against the cause of Pakistan. Playing politics with the suffering and misery of the people is criminal and must be condemned. Such malevolent propaganda must stop so that the torment and distress of the people of Awaran must be attended to be their real benefactors, the Armed Forces of Pakistan and they can go on with the reconstruction of have their lives.
Media can play a positive role by enabling the Armed Forces and FC in winning the hearts and minds of the people of Awaran and Balochistan. The Armed Forces have already run the gauntlet of reaching out to the earthquake victims; it is now the turn of the media to come forward and project Armed Forces and FC’s role enabling the Government to serve the people of Balochistan. The bridges of compassion must be built and hate themes must not be published on the behest of foreign agencies and anti Pakistan elements.