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Mr Karamat Ali (Pakistan)

3 Information dissemination and popular culture

S V Raju | Khaled Ahmed | Raj Chengappa | Karamat Ali I. A. Rehman | Arif Hasan | DISCUSSION
SESSION CONTENTS | HOME

Session 3 CONTENTSSPEAKER'S QUOTE

Therefore, when we talk about national security, the blinkers are inbuilt, not imposed.

It involves their perception, their plans, their personnel and whatever they do. It becomes worst in Pakistan because of the direct military rule for more than 25 years but it’s no better in India.

What do the Kashmiris want? … Nobody seems to be interested in asking them what do they want and that is the common thing that you will find both in India and Pakistan especially among the intelligentsia.

This thing of territorial integrity evolved from the colonists because their main concern was with territories and not human beings and we adhere to it very strongly

We can’t talk about civil society based on small NGOs … we really need to seriously think about the limitations and not delude ourselves that we can substitute one with the other and if we do have to substitute, why do we need the state at all? To repress us, to suppress us, to extract whatever it can out of us?

Mr Karamat Ali spoke on "Media and it’s blinkers." He described himself as someone who was not a liberal and did not see social phenomenon just in the framework of the market. "One also has to look at the broader issues involved." Therefore, the existence or the non-existence of blinkers is jointly defined by the nature of the state and the reality of the media.

He explored both these variables separately during the course of his speech. Pursuing the "nature of the state" first, he observed that:

  1. "The states in the sub-continent are essentially a continuation of the colonial states." Referring to both India and Pakistan he felt, that, although there were changes in the way these states operated now in the post-colonial era, they still followed the old colonial pattern of keeping the natives out of any discourse that related to issues of national interest – whether political, social or economical in nature. Referring to Pakistan, he said that it had now graduated to being a client state from being a colonial state by way of the international globalisation led by the US. Quoting Chomski, the greatest living humanist, he elaborated upon the client state system of the US: "The basic fact is that the US has organised under its sponsorship and protection a new colonial system of client states ruled mainly by terror and serving the interest of a small local and foreign business and military elite." He noted that India, too, remains a client state but the Indian scholars do not like talking about it.
  1. "In Pakistan, the elite refuse to undertake the most basic reforms that are required, especially in the agrarian sector." Therefore, the state is characterised by a powerful, feudalistic agrarian sector, which is reflected in our lacklustre political development.
  1. "Both these states are national security states." He said that a colonial state was a national security state, which essentially meant that it had to secure the interests of its coloniser.

Exploring the "reality of the media", he made the following observations:

  1. Both India and Pakistan have privately-owned press. In Pakistan, the elite owns the press as a part of the establishment. We don’t have any papers under State Control.
  2. The press-ownership pattern in both the countries are monopolies. In Pakistan, the print media is dominated by three main houses: (a) Jang Group, (b) Dawn Group, and (c) Nation/Nawai Waqt Group.

These publication groups are a part of the overall system and therefore cannot escape its suppressive nature. "These are big industrial houses, very closely linked to the economic, political and security establishments through a variety of connections."

  1. In Pakistan, we had had censorship for an extended period of time although there is no official censorship today. India did not have any censorship except during emergency periods.
  2. When it comes to national security issues, e.g. Kashmir, it is noted that the media on both the sides plays nothing but the role of a propagandist. "It simply propagates the views of the establishment. At the same time it effectively suppresses all dissenting views and in Chompski’s terminology, it is engaged in the function of manufacturing consent." Also, the media on both the sides observes the following stances in dealing with national security issues:
  1. One cannot question the rights of the nationalities. "In Pakistan, you cannot say that the two-nation theory was wrong. In India, you cannot say that the two-nation theory was right. [And] nowhere can you say that these states in this whole sub-continent were actually a multinational entity."
  2. Nobody can say anything against the official perception on Kashmir adopted by both the sides – which is that Kashmir is an integral part of their respective identity and territories.
  1. The whole issue of militarization and especially nuclearization is a victim of self-imposed censorship. Nobody can challenge the established views on these issues.
  1. The media cynically and deliberately distinguishes in the manner that the nature of stories and editorials contained in the newspapers vary with their language and readership. In Pakistan, he noted that what is published in English newspapers is not published in Urdu newspapers and vice versa. The viewpoint of English papers tends to be more liberal, catering to its more learned and objective readers, whereas that of Urdu newspapers remains narrow and hostile. This holds true even when both of them are simultaneously owned by the same publishing house. A case in point, according to the speaker, was that of the Urdu daily "Jang" and the English daily "The News" which are both owned by the Jang Group.

Mr. Ali described the blinkers in the media as having "a material base," since "they are based on this very close interlocking of the private economic interest and the establishment." Therefore, the real issue was not of "the blinkers" but the "democratisation of the state". In other words, The State and the accompanying establishment need to be progressive and the blinkers will automatically disappear. Although the NGOs played a significant role in bringing about change, their role remained limited and in no way could be confused with the mammoth role that the State needs to play. "I think we need to have a democratic, socially responsible state and short of that there is no possibility of any change in the miserable situation of the majority of people of what we call the civil society in Pakistan... I think Indians also need to think along those lines."

Pointing out the differences between the outlooks of the Urdu and the English press, he observed that almost the entire editorial page of Jang appears to be the exclusive property of the most retrograde columnist in Pakistan. "I don’t know who has appointed them for they keep blurting out the worst kind of propaganda, worse, for instance than what even the GHQ would have wanted them to – regarding Kashmir, India and nuclearisation." He observed that this was very different from The News, which is an English newspaper owned by the same group.

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