The international media and its affiliates in Pakistan have launched a smear campaign against the country and its institutions. Their main target is to malign the Pakistan army and create sympathies for former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the world. The attempt may obtain its goals in the world but it has failed to influence the people of Pakistan.
Two Pakistani media groups take pride in ridiculing the military establishment, courts and defending former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It is clear that they are advancing an agenda of international forces to weaken the country and find a way out for the former prime minister to impose him on the people of Pakistan again. In the process, they have exposed themselves and their integrity and impartiality have suffered badly. Since the Panama revelations, which discredited Nawaz Sharif, they have launched an all-out effort to defend him through fake news and analysis. They also attempted to cast a pall on the judiciary and the army in their efforts to save him from the Panama leaks fallout, which was not the handiwork of the Pakistani establishment or the judiciary. The Sharif family and their media partners should have sued the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which broke the scandal, if they believed the corruption charges were false.
It is clear that a section of the Pakistani media is toeing the line of the international media, which is controlled by the international establishment. In an article in the Washington Post, Indian journalist Barkha Dutt wrote, “Right after sweeping the 2013 elections in Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif told me that as prime minister he would show the world that he, not Pakistan’s army chief, was the real boss. But now he has returned from London to face not only jail time but a military establishment that is determined to finish him. Flanked by his daughter and political heir, Maryam, Sharif has presented himself as the only Pakistani civilian with the courage to take on an army.” Defending his corruption conviction, she claimed, “There is a wide consensus among ordinary Pakistanis that Sharif has been punished disproportionately. The corruption case may well be an attempt to undermine the autonomy of civilian politicians in Pakistan’s stunted democracy.”
Hameed Haroon, chief executive officer (CEO) of Pakistan’s leading English language newspaper, in his article in the Washington Post made his intentions clear. “Certain forces aim to prevent the media from providing independent coverage of the country’s central political issue — specifically, a deepening power struggle between the military and the civil authorities. The current campaign against the media involves many elements of overt coercion, including severe disruptions of the distribution network of independent newspapers and the blocking of broadcasts of dissenting television news channels.” Defending Nawaz Sharif’s alleged corruption, he wrote, “Recently, the military has embarked on a campaign to remake the political landscape by depicting the leaders of certain political parties as corrupt or hostile to national security. The result of this ‘decapitation strategy’ has been the destruction of the careers of several prominent members of the civilian political leadership — largely, though not exclusively, confined to the Pakistan Muslim League. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the party, was subsequently forced to step down as a result of a Supreme Court ruling in a corruption case. Sharif is posing a clear challenge to the campaign currently pursued by state institutions.”
However, his claim of impartiality was exposed in an interview to the BBC’s Hardtalk. Host Stephen Sackur ripped him apart and unveiled the reality behind an “impartial” media in Pakistan. The interview revealed how media organisations work and manipulate public thinking and mass psychology without having solid evidence. The host asked him to provide the evidence of his claim that the Pakistan army was orchestrating plans against democracy and Nawaz Sharif. However, he failed to provide proof of Nawaz Sharif’s innocence or the army’s involvement in cases against Nawaz Sharif. His only proof was “reports in the social media” which are not trusted in the world.
Stephen Sackur crushed him when he asked, “The bottom line is this, you the self-proclaimed, independent, impartial, neutral media group covering Pakistan politics seem to be supportive and sympathetic of Nawaz Sharif and his daughter who are now, it has to be said, convicted criminals.”
Hameed Haroon, “I think what is now important is that there is an element of orchestration in that.”
Sackur: “Where is your evidence? Who is orchestrating and where is your evidence for it?”
Hameed, “I think if you go to the social media, if you look at the trolls on the social media, if you look at the attacks on my newspaper. You might get some idea that there is a very large presence by the ISPR.”
To every allegation, Hameed advised the host to look at the social media in Pakistan and the host, quite disturbingly, kept asking for solid evidence to validate his shocking and unbelievable claims. Hameed also told the anchor that the distribution of his newspaper had been banned in Larkana for two-and-a-half months. His allegation is ridiculous in the sense that he cited a remote district of Sindh which has only a 35pc literacy rate and most people cannot even read Urdu newspapers. On the Dawn leaks, the host reminded the guest “how the report deeply embarrassed the military and your newspaper was with Nawaz Sharif. It is not a journalist’s job.” When Hameed attempted to defend his newspaper, the host said, “You are giving a platform to Nawaz Sharif and it does not make you impartial or independent for many of Pakistanis. You are a self-proclaimed independent, impartial media group but are actually supportive and sympathetic of Nawaz Sharif.” At the end, when the guest tried to clarify his position, saying “I am not making a case against the state.” Stephen Sackur did not stop. “You are making a case against the state. You are saying that the military is trying to undermine freedom of expression in Pakistan. You are trying to build up a narrative against the state.”
The media campaign to discredit the army and revive fortunes of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will backfire. It will only discredit the media houses of Pakistan, which are allegedly working on an international agenda to weaken national institutions. It will also create hatred for Nawaz Sharif and his party among the people of Pakistan. He should prepare himself to face the fate of Altaf Hussain and his party.