Should there be another ‘Good Friday Agreement’?

Food for thought for nonaligned media!

By Jawad Raza Khan

The antiquity of 20th century has blatantly developed a logical relationship between conflict and mass media. One of the most obvious outputs of this relationship is propaganda, viciously used for injecting a conflict and then turning into fateful wars. It will not at all be astonishing, if we state that “media has been one of the most effective instigators in human history for events leading to catastrophes and loss of precious human lives”, US propaganda through powerful media campaigns in world wars, Cold War era, European radio in Romania, US media after 9/11, media campaign against Iraq WMDs, can be the best quoted examples.

It will not be astounding even, to understand the ability of media in the opposite direction for peace and tranquility especially after seeing its record for the Antonym. Certainly, West has used media for war mongering for its vested interests during most part of its history but its track record for handling media in case of its own in grown insurgency is indeed laudable.  

As per Lippmann (1922) “Through the power of Government controlled broadcasting, mass media can be envisioned as a mean to influence societies in the best of national interests”.   

Here I will talk about something known as Good Friday Agreement also known by other names such as the Belfast Agreement and sometimes as the Stormont Agreement. The name came from the fact that the Agreement was reached and signed on Good Friday in 1998. It was a signifying milestone to end to the war in Ireland against British Rule and British presence in the country. The agreement was between the British, the Loyalists and the Republicans. After the agreement was reached, the British were to remove occupying troops from Ireland. It also began an era of North Ireland and South Ireland working together to unite their country.

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Just to recapitulate the situation before the Good Friday Agreement, primarily, the struggle was between the Catholics and Protestants. The Protestants held most of the lands and most of the resources and their actions resulted in a low standard of living among the Catholics, the factions of Protestants and Catholics split on the issue of home rule. Fighting erupted based on the fact that the Catholics favored separation from the United Kingdom and the Protestants feared rule by a Catholic majority. Armed Hostilities began again in the 1960s and erupted into an insurgency. Bloody riots were commonplace and acts of terrorism such as bombings were frequent. The British were once again sent in to control the violence, but only succeeded in inflaming the situation more because of their presence. The violence and fighting continued unabated into the 1990s. The main issues of the conflict arose out of the treatment of the Catholics by the Protestants. The long standing poor treatment embedded a resentment and bitterness in the hearts of those involved. The two parties were not willing to give an inch because they felt they had been giving for over a hundred years. The attitudes continued to create an atmosphere of animosity, which was passed on into the next generation. Peace talks began in the early 90s and resulted in a cease fire and further talks. The Anglo-Irish Peace Proposal resulted but the cease fire broke down as tempers flared again. The US became involved in the peace process, succeeding in negotiating the gradual disarmament of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during the course of the peace talks. In 1998, an accord was reached to resolve the differences, known now as the Good Friday Agreement.

The final step for the enforcement of Good Friday Agreement was a referendum, observing difficulty in obtaining concentrated “yes” for the said agreement forced the British Government to go unorthodox.

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A massive media campaign was launched by the British machinery for “yes” vote in both south and north Ireland also contemplating with regards to the importance of the referendum along with the implication of its popular vote for peace and stability in Ireland. The results are worth mentioning 98% Irish casted vote in referendum with results giving a clear go ahead for Unity Good Friday Agreement.

This landslide victory could only be achieved through effective but checked perception management through operational media tools. Irish insurgency had taken its roots from the religion as the warring factions were Protestants and Catholics. Although the root cause in Pakistan’s case is not sectarian violence in first place but mishandling of the situation coupled with involvement of other non-state actors and foreign powers has dynamited the insurgency into shade of sectarian violence as well.

It was just out of place when Pakistan saw and heard, Ms. Hillary Clinton’s speech to congress in which she admitted about exporting Saudi brand of Islam (Wahhabis) to Pakistan for their interests in the region. The latent perspective of the said speech was not friendly at all, as it looks apparently.

Why US Secretary of State admitted something so openly, which will perforce trigger an anxiety in the masses of Pakistani society especially the religious cadre?

Why that admittance came after so many unfortunate incidents in mosque and durbars of Pakistan and the iron was hot to hit?

Who was the real audience of the speech?

What can be the real motive of this speech to the congress?

The said question are thought provoking especially after US attitude towards Pakistan after OBL fiasco.

This reminded me a joke, which very intelligently covers the term of interests…..

Last month, a world survey was conducted by the UN. The only question asked was: “Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world.” The survey was a huge failure…

  • In Africa they didn’t know what “food” meant.
  • In Sub continent they didn’t know what “honest” meant.
  • In Western Europe they didn’t know what “shortage” meant.
  • In China they didn’t know what “opinion” meant.
  • In the Middle East they didn’t know what “solution” meant.
  • In South America they didn’t know what “please” meant, and
  • In US they didn’t know what “the rest of the world” meant.
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Coming back to the preposition, this export has indeed touched the fabric of Pakistani society which is more inclined towards Sufism. Point to ponder here is not to advocate one or other form of Islam rather; it’s an endaveour to put across the role of controlled media by west, in an old enmity between Protestants and Catholics resulting into Good Friday Agreement.

  • Can our uncontrolled media take a lead from “Good Friday Agreement” as holy month of Ramadan is also fast approaching and Pakistan need these types of initiatives?
  • Do we as a nation should come out from the quagmire of unfortunates with Islam as a binding force?
  • Should media curtail its commercial needs and prioritize its broader aims for nationalist agenda?

If answers to above questions are in affirmation, then, the in question organ of the State needs to strategize the media campaign, most importantly to disown sectarianism in the coherent values of Islam, otherwise, anarchy will prevail and will lead to more disasters. This has to be done by our own people through our own media because westerners have us on their last priority and why should they give us precedence if we ourselves are not ready to do it for our own selves……………