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Pakistan Media's anti-Shia Bias


By Abbas Zaidi

24 January 2013

Channels like Geo, ARY, Aaj, SAMA, and Dunia have been interviewing leaders of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who spit venom about the Shias. On these channels, they have shamelessly declared that the Shias are kafir

On 10 January, there was a blast in a Tablighi (Islamic-Proselytizing) seminary in Swat. The blast took place in the afternoon. Initially 5 men were reported dead. The blast, later reported as a suicide bombing, was part of the Deobandi infighting going on between the Taliban and the Tablighis. Later in the evening, it was reported that the number of dead had climbed to 22.

Two hours after the Swat blast/suicide bombing, a blast hit the Bacha Khan Square in Quetta. The Square is a Pushtun area. These Pashtun are Deobandi too, but generally not affiliated to either the Taliban or the Tablighis. Most of them living there are poor laborers who lead a hard and peaceful life. The number of dead in the Square was reported at 12. None of the dozens of injured later died. Thus, the total number of the dead was (and is) 12.

Both tragic incidents were given a very wide live coverage on the electronic media as is usually done in such cases.

In the evening, the media reported that a “big blast” was heard on Alamdar Road in Quetta. The report of the Alamdar Road was not flashed like the above-mentioned two incidents; one could see only a strip of the blast running on the bottom of the TV. In a few minutes, TVs flashed with another report: Another big blast was “heard” on Alamdar Road. Since Alamdar Road is a predominantly Shia area, facts about the blast were relegated to the bottom in hourly bullets, as is usual with the reporting about attacks on the Shias. After that, the TVs began to show the preparations being made in Karachi to show live the “Political Drone Attack” MQM’s Altaf Hussain had promised to launch on Pakistan.

Two hours elapsed between the coverage of the preparation (seating arrangements, analysts making predictions about the ‘attack,’ MQM supports enthusiastically talking about what their leader was about to do, etc) and the actual address Altaf Hussain. Meanwhile, the TVs continued to run just a strip of the Alamdar Road blasts without giving the number of Shia casualties despite the fact that it was obvious that the number of the casualties was very high.

Once Altaf Hussain began his two-hour speech which was filled with jokes, lewd poetical musing (ham sa ho to saamnay aiy/Let one who is more beautiful than me come forward), and blaming Jinnah for being a British loyalist, the media reported very little on the Alamdar Road blasts.

Once his speech was over and there was no “Breaking News” content in it, the media went back to the blasts showing its usual anti-Shia bias. They showed interviews with the survivors of the Swat blasts. These survivors spoke in Pashto. That was followed by interviews with the survivors and witnesses of the Bacha Khan Square blast. They spoke either in Pashto-accented Urdu or in Pashto itself. Not a single interview was done with a Shia survivor or witness at the Alamdar Road. Thus the impression given was that only (Deobandi) Pashtun were the target of the two bombings. The Hazaras carnage was completely censored.

But the fact over that 100 people died in the twin bombing at the Alamdar Road could not be hidden anymore because those killed involved one police DSP and an inspector. The head of the Quetta police held a press conference at which he declared that the situation was out of hand.

It was only after the DIG’s press conference that the media began to tell some truth; yes just some truth. It reported that over 100 people had died including seven policemen. The word ‘Shia’ was conspicuous by its absence. ‘Hazara,’ yes!

It was the sit-in of thousands of Quetta Shias, both Hazaras and non-Hazaras, carrying the corpses of their dead which forced the media to give up its cynical and time-tested ploy, which is: Minimize the reporting of the Shia genocide in Pakistan and elsewhere. Initially, the media criticized the protesters who had started a sit-in in freezing cold. The anchors and reporters complained that the sit-in was causing trouble to commuters. They complained that the protesters had caused long traffic jams. These anchors and reporters must have thought that the protesters would leave after a few hours as in the past. But they undermined the resolve of the mourners: The protesters were comprised of the elderly, adults, youngsters, kids, and even infants of both sexes.

For two nights the media demonized the protesters for being responsible for stalling “people’s activities” (awam ki masroofiat). But when the Shias of other cities began to stage sits-in all over Pakistan too, the media was forced to tell that the Quetta protesters were there with 86 dead bodies. That the protesters all over Pakistan did not do a miniscule act of violence must have demoralized the media persons, so they had to tell that those who were killed by the Islamofascists were not just “Men belonging to the Hazara community” (a stock phrase to describe the Shia genocide in Hazara) but Shias. Later some analysts begrudgingly acknowledged the determination, discipline, and peaceful protest not only on the part of the Quetta Shias but all over Pakistan.

If you look back at the history of the electronic media in Pakistan, you will find that it has brought irreparable misery to the Shias of Pakistan. It has been acting as an executioner of the Islamofascist ideology of Saudi Arabia whose physical executors are Lashkar-e-Jhangvi murderers who proudly claimed the responsibility of the Alamdar Road blast and threatened to continue their mission of wiping Pakistan of all its Shias. The media have been acting as a facilitator of this bloodthirsty ideology. Channels like Geo, ARY, Aaj, SAMA, and Dunia have been interviewing leaders of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi who spit venom about the Shias. On these channels, they have shamelessly declared that the Shias are kafir. These Takfiri Deobandi terrorists proudly kill the Shias and then are invited by these channels to justify their crimes in the name of Islam. Has any anchor asked them to define a Muslim? No; never. Previously, it was the Pakistan Army through the ISI and MI which supported these Saudi-inspired murderers. Now the electronic media is another institution serving the Saudi Islamofascism. The Army, the ISI, and the media facilitate the Saudi-inspired Islamofascists in making more Shia women widowed and children orphans. The Shias have seen worse times throughout history not in Pakistan but in the Middle East too. But they are still there and will continue to live their lives based upon the love of Imam Hussain. Pakistan’s morally bankrupt channels are criminals too: They owe billions of rupees to the government in taxes which they have not paid and are not willing to pay. But if you say so, you are an enemy of Pakistan.

A recurrent theme in Shakespeare is that evil is self-destructive. The evil of Deobandi Islamofascism will ultimately destroy itself. But the Army which has created it to bag billion-dollar Saudi alms and the media which is loaded with money without willing to give its source will sooner or later be destroyed too.

Abbas Zaidi is the author of Two and a half words and other stories published by Savvy Press, New York