Bashing Pakistan: the only game in town
The savaging of Pakistan in newspapers across the United States that was beginning to ebb, gained fresh life with, first the President’s CNN interview to Ms Christian Amanpour (who always reminds me of a younger Begum Nusrat Bhutto) and then story after story from the well-wired Pakistani stringer of the Washington Post. He it was who first named Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan, both in his own newspaper in Pakistan and the one that he strings for here, as the man who had passed on nuclear materials and know-how to Libya, Iran and perhaps North Korea for no reason higher than money. He also wrote about Dr Khan’s vast interests in business and real estate holdings. There is a phrase in English which says it all: cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.
As the storm raged around Pakistan’s alleged nuclear waywardness and the risk such irresponsible conduct posed to the West, I asked one of this town’s leading Pakistan ‘experts’ what the endgame was. “Will Pakistan, if found guilty as charged, be hanged by the neck by the next tree or will it be let off just for the last time with the direst of warnings?” I wanted to know. He did not disagree that this entire ‘nuclear-secrets-sold’ business was part of a well-planned and deftly executed campaign.
How is it possible for every major newspaper in this country to run the same story over and over again? It is unprofessional but it makes perfect sense if the purpose is to bludgeon the country into doing what the big and mighty lords of the world think it should do. “Repeat the medicine till the patient is dead,” could be a good slogan for the Pakistan-bashing that has gone on here for the last several weeks.
The Embassy of Pakistan has maintained a Buddha-like calm while the media war on Pakistan has raged on. Perhaps unlike the rest of us who hang around on the sidelines, the ‘core professionals’ have seen the light, in which case, it would be my earnest request to them to kindly share their wisdom with us unenlightened ones. Not a word has come out of the embassy or any of Pakistan’s paid and duly accredited representatives in any American newspaper on the nuclear issue. Neither am I aware of any of our distinguished diplomats having gone on television or radio to speak in defence of the country that keeps them living in the style to which they have become accustomed.
It is for this reason that what a small group of Pakistanis living in New Jersey has done deserves to be saluted. Syed Asif Alam of the Association of Pakistani Professionals organised a meeting at Columbia University last week to discuss the American media onslaught against Pakistan, to understand what was behind it and to devise ways to deal with it. He gathered a small and committed group of Pakistanis who all came at their own expense. They agreed that the US media should be engaged in a proactive manner. They said the media’s single-track agenda was that ‘Pakistani begins and ends with extremists’.
Recently, Syed Asif Alam along with some friends went to meet the New York Times editorial board to protest the negative manner in which Pakistan was being dealt with. He has also been emailing critical columnists back and forth in an attempt to point out that they are not being fair. Far be it from me to suggest that this is something our diplomatic reps should be doing.
At the Columbia meeting, Moeed Pirzada drew attention to the ‘synchronisation’ and ‘timing’ of stories on both sides of the Atlantic that were designed to establish that Pakistan was a dangerous proliferator. “What is the objective? Who coordinates? What interests influence the media? What economics lies behind such moves? Why do such stories not appear about Israel and India even when major failures take place? Is the market for ideas and information free?” he asked the meeting.
However, I think we should all stop worrying because our esteemed information minister and principal spokesman of the Government of Pakistan, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, arrives on these shores soon and who can doubt his troubleshooting abilities!
Khalid Hasan is Daily Times’ US-based correspondent