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Saturday, January 24, 2009

‘Eliminating the tension’ rather than diffusing it

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It’s now almost two months since the 26/11 attacks. There have words and comments made from both sides. Ever since the attacks, I have been active on Pakistani forums like Pakspectator. One of the things that I have realized over this period is that there has been complete lack of acknowledgment of the problems that both sides face.

Pakistani public have shown a complete disregard for the huge anger of the Indians because of the Mumbai attacks. Indian public on the other hand hardly have any knowledge of the problems that Pakistan is facing today. I really doubt how many Indians know about the scale of problems in Swat, FATA and NWFP in Pakistan. Today Pakistan has lost control of almost the entire Swat area. Indian media has hardly covered these events.

The politicians on both sides know how to whip up nationalistic feeling by raising slogans and addressing rallies. This is quite an expected behavior from this animal. But one would have hoped for a better response from the media. It is people to people contact that can alleviate the mistrust among ordinary citizens in the long run. The cricket matches and bus-services brought people of two countries closer. Pakistanis are fond of our movies and soaps. Several Pakistani singers are now regularly working in Bollywood movies. A large number of Pakistani visit India regularly for medical reasons because lack of advanced medical facilities in their countries. It is quite unfortunate that the Cricket tour of Pakistan had to be cancelled. However, it better to postpone a tour and play in an environment where it promotes friendship rather than rivalry.

So what can be done to permanently eliminate the tension?

The media from both sides can really play an important role in this. The politicians on both sides would continue to arouse nationalistic feeling. Can the media on both sides come together? To start with lets say, there is a one-hour weekly show on CNN-IBN that is produced actually produced by the Dawn news. Vice-versa there is a one-hour weekly show on the Dawn news by CNN-IBN. Such an initiative would make people on each side more aware of the issues on the other side of the border and thus deny an opportunity to the politicians/military to raise nationalistic feelings. It could make an even greater impact if such an exchange would take place between a Pakistan-based-urdu news channel and an India-based-hindi news channel. It can further be followed up by columnists from both sides writing columns in each others newspapers. Recently there was an article in The Times of India about 10 myths that Indians have about Pakistan. They can be read from the following link.

A similar initiative was undertaken by two bloggers – one from each side. They decided to exchange emails about the developments after the Mumbai attacks, each one presenting his side of the story. Their blogs can be found on the following links Ahsan and Nitin. Unfortunately blogs and online forums is not a place that can shape public opinion on either side because of their limited reach. At present all we witness is mostly Pakistani politicians and diplomats on Indian news channels who say nothing but old rhetorics. Sometimes, Pakistani journalists do come to talk on shows. However, in such shows they merely answer questions put up by the Indian journalists. A full blown program produced by the media would allow them to present the story in their own way.

As an MBA student, I have been taught that if you remove the middle-man and bureaucracy, and instead empower people then you can improve the efficiency of the overall system. In this case, it is the media that can empower the people. I have been actively following The Dawn news for the past two weeks, and I have to say that it is one of the better and neutral channels of our neighbor. Their editorials are bold enough to criticize their government and even the military. Considering the kind of pressure that the Pakistani media works which includes the military, it is the responsibility of the Indian media to take the lead and start such initiatives. Ofcourse there are irresponsible channels and guests on both sides. Some of them include Zahid Hamid who keeps on blasting anti-India rhetoric on Pak-channels.

For the past two days, CNN-IBN has been continuously following up the story of Prime-minister’s health going into details of the surgery and why it is conducted. Is the man on the street worried about such details? Its time these channels realize that they need to do some real journalism and move beyond sensationalism. However, I hardly have any hope because just like our politicians, these news channels are completely hopeless too.

I don't believe that the issues between India and Pakistan cannot be solved overnight. I don't think even if the above initiative is undertaken, it is going to have any immediate impact. But in the long run, it is surely going to serve a purpose. The politician is hungry for votes. At the moment he can win them merely by raising tensions. Lets beat him on his own game. It people on each side are sensitive of the sufferings of the other, then he will be forced to make some substantial work rather than maintain status quo.

For all Indians, please do try and watch The Dawn News online via the link. Similarly I request my Paki friends to watch CNN-IBN online via the link.


  1. I think you have a very common sense approach to this should run for office ;)

  2. It is all easier said than done.In India the man on the street is very angry,both with Pak and the Indian Govt.My views are completely different.Why should we worry about the internal conditions in Pak?Now is the time to finish the incomplete agenda with Pak.Cut-off all contacts, stop train services,stop bus services,stop agri-exports to PakLet us behave like a nation on it's feet rather than crying all the time.