From a tool for state propaganda to playing whistle blower in high profile scandals, the media of a country yields incredible potential by holding the reigns to the sway of public opinion. The interminable manifestation of violence in the country fuelled by religious extremism has by design or default blackened more pages than any other subject in the past decade.
They lie at both ends of the spectrum each vociferous of its ideological spinal cord; from Nawa-i-Waqt with adherence to the two-nation theory as its slogan to the Daily Times that refuses to print remotely pro-radical news. But the bloodcurdling fatwas cum op-eds in right wing papers aren’t solely responsible for invoking the honor of heaven bound ghazis and mujahids. Part of the onus for this must be borne by the liberal end of the spectrum that takes on an apologetic stance in matters of religious extremism. The sway towards violence, sensationalism and its successes are clear. So does this mean that the media has tried and failed in fulfilling its purpose of objectively disseminating information?
Policies pertaining to content apart, the influence of social factors is vital in determining the audience, scope and vision for a news organization. Sensationalism in electronic and print media, GEO TV’s obscene fixation with death and flying carcasses, are issues regularly hashed out every time one of these organizations over step the line of what’s viewer friendly and grotesque. Making money is of course important and sensational news always brings in more viewership; however the tendency to completely swing that way and forget the fact that these papers were birthed in the shadows of extremism and that their duty lies in tackling the lurking monster by educating the masses seems to fizzle out in reluctant apologetic hogwash.
When the right wing launches a tirade on how these ‘liberal’ papers have been funded by the US to be its mouth pieces and Zaid Hamid claims to back it with documental evidence, the legitimacy and authenticity of these institutions as sources of opinion and news drop several notches for the average man. While being in cahoots with Enemy number One is a definite no no, is this dubious source of funding the reason why you don’t see people jumping OFF the Qadri bandwagon instead of ON it? Why is it that where so many channels of alternate news are present the antiradical papers still won’t take a hardline approach towards extremism and fundamentalism? At best disapprove but no where will they outright condemn it and encourage people to do the same?
News of Quranic Verses being scratched off the Ahmedi Mosque was an incident that should’ve been condemned loudly, on the front pages, by every author with wide readership. A case for blasphemy should’ve been made and publicized to make apparent the gaping holes of justice in our society and our collective imagination.
This is less of an opinion piece and more of an experiment in order to learn why the liberal face of Pakistan hides behind its own veil of apology, diffidence and vacillation. What all has it achieved in terms of tempering extremism and what obstacles lie in changing the mindset of the average man, who’s sociopolitical consciousness starts and ends with religion and what the Mullahs say.