Sunday, October 02, 2005

WP Story Blacked Out in Pakistan?

Not one local Pakistani newspaper carried the story of yesterday's hard hitting Washington Post editorial (‘Gen. Musharraf 's Lies’ ) on Musharraf. One can only conclude that the usual phone calls have been made to editorial rooms all over the country ordering them to kill the story.

So much for the much vaunted freedom of Pakistan’s press.


His image (or as he claims ‘Pakistan’s image’) in the West is apparently of crucial importance to Musharraf. The Washington Post accused him, with some justification, of being ‘a ruler who cares more about how he is perceived in the West than in implementing the policies he claims to espouse, or even in speaking the truth’.

This obsessive sensitivity to Western perceptions has resulted in a number of image damaging absurditites, such as when Musharraf personally banned the gang rape victim Mukhtaran Mai from travelling to the US because of fear of the ‘bad press’ that would result.

Ironically one can confidently assert that no one has done more to damage Musharraf’s reputation than Musharraf himself. His self-destructive verbosity during the recent US visit is proof in itself.

To protect his and Pakistan’s image, if one were to follow previous examples, the logical corollary would be that Musharraf officially ban himself from further travels abroad (by placing his own name on the Exit Control List held at airports preventing ‘harmful’ Pakistanis from travelling overseas).


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You've got some spam comments above...

Anyways, the press is pretty free - Ayaz Amir in the dawn just a few days back had a article bashing mushrraf to knogdome come about this very issue.

Syed said...

I am astonished people are weighing him with the norms of morality and ethics.

Onlooker said...

Dear Anonymous
I agree with you. Ayaz Amir and a few others do have a pretty good go at Musharraf and his men but as any senior journalist worth his salt (i.e. integrity) will tell you that phone calls are made to editors to kill stories as well as plant them. Anyone not obeying these calls soon finds himself in extremely hot water. So in reality we have a 'sort of free' press' but no more than that.

Dear Syed,
Do you mean that Mush should be beyond norms laid down for noraml mortals or you feel that he is simply beyond redemption?

Honest Desi said...

Musharraf does not want Pakistanis to know he is considered a liar in Washington because he controls the Pakistani opposition by scaring them with the weight of Washington behind him.

Because Pakistanis believe Musharraf can't be removed until Washington wishes so, the illusion of full American backing serves him well. Then, he tells the Bush administration they need him because there is no alternative in Pakistan.

In the absence of a vibrant opposition, the Bush administration buys Musharraf's line notwithstanding the widely held view that Musharraf is a liar.

I feel the Pakistani press is only selectively free. It is allowed to criticize enough to make soft critics of Musharraf happy. It is privately told to behave if it highlights embarrassing facts or runs commentary that might shake the government.

What other explanation is there for the Washington Post editorial not being reported anywhere in Pakistan?

The English and Urdu language press also have different rules of engagement. The freedom of the press is a bit like the freedom enjoyed by 'The Muslim' and 'The Herald' under Zia-ul-Haq. I read somewhere that Zia used to say he didn't mind criticism by these English papers "read by diplomats and intellectuals" because it did not impact his government at all while creating the image of relative freedom.

Only Pakistanis who have shed the notion of relative freedom and relative democracy find the partial freedom of Pakistan's media offensive.

Syed said...

I recommend the post of Mr. honest desi and have a question for the simpletons.
Why does every news paper, including 'jabir sultan kalima-e-haque' fame daily writes 'hassas idara' and not Pakistan Army?
Times have changed and no body can implement the Ayub or Zia style censor-ships.
It is their limitation for which they are trying to claim credit.