Pakistan Media: Controlled By An ISI A and an ISI B?
TORONTO: Now, here arises a fundamental question. When I say media is a veritable arm of the ISI and other intelligence agencies, does it mean all the journalists and all the media houses or there are exceptions. What about an occasional voice of truth and resistance that the world hears from Pakistan?
Understanding this phenomenon is complex and complicated. There are a few journalists and few publications that defy the so-called ‘national narrative’ but they are still being allowed to operate in Pakistan. However, these journalists and their marginal publications are not allowed to ‘defame’ the military and its intelligence agencies. They cater to the requirement of the tiny liberal faction that is left in Pakistan.
Three years back when a known Pakistani journalist from Geo TV Hamid Mir was shot and injured in Karachi, the questions asked why he was hit since he is one of the most pro-army journalists in the country. His brother Amir Mir gave the answer in a written Press statement saying that there are two ISIs. What he meant by that is there is ISI A, that is big, powerful, conservative and real steerer of country’s policy and then there is ISI B created by ISI A, that puts on a liberal mask and allow few people to say and practice so called liberalism but nothing on army, religion or ideology of Pakistan. So like in politics where both the treasury and opposition are controlled by one string from behind the curtain, in media and other walks of life too the model is replicated.
Then there are journalists who stretched this leash a bit too far and they were picked up and neutralised and after their ordeal they were put back on track through torture and fear.
One of the most prominent among those is running cricket affairs nowadays and having all the fun in the world. The gentleman runs a TV talk show on GEO and his comments leave listeners baffled especially those who know him for a long time. There are many like him who changed course and found all the favours being showered on them.
Just three days back one of the journalist wrote on a news web site that the 2013 elections was rigged in favour of Nawaz Sharif by Saudis and former army chief General Kayani where the journalist-cricketer was made Punjab caretaker chief minister. The next day the hapless journalist was apologising on national TV saying whatever he wrote was a figment of his imagination. However the truth is stories of Saudi interference in 2013 elections are circulating ever since.
However, one may find a real independent journalist sitting somewhere between the ranks marginalised but one can never find an independent publication or a TV channel because all the papers and channel have to have security clearance through the Pakistan Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) from the intelligence agencies. So much for the so called liberals of Pakistani journalism.
Another question: Why other civil society segments like writers, artists, poets, painters are not raising their voice in resistance like they did during Ayub’s Martial Law and General Zia’s dictatorship; and why the Pakistani public despite suffering from an acute energy crisis, dreadful inflations and 22 per cent unemployment is suffering quietly?
The answer is two-fold: One, during the last 70 years they are conditioned to bear repression. The process of submission was not abrupt it was gradual.
Two, the state’s intelligence agencies have penetrated completely and take out the resistance from within.
Three, the rewards for staying loyal overwhelms the thought to resist. The people of Pakistan have seen time and again that no matter how much they sacrifice to change the system they can not change this equation which is heavily loaded against them.
Also even if they try to push back the army to regain some lost space, the alternatives are bad and sad in the form of politicians who are incompetent, corrupt and extremely self-centred.
There is no silver lining on the horizon and hence the prognosis is bleak.
( Links to Part 1 and 2 of this series: The-Army-and-the-Media-in-Pakistan