How media can help the India-Pakistan dialogue -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

How media can help the India-Pakistan dialogue

‘Jab miya-biwi razi tau kya kare ga qazi’, goes the saying. Meaning that when the bride and the groom are willing, the cleric can do little.

But that is precisely what has happened to the dialogue between India and Pakistan. The two sides are, so far as one can tell, open to discussing their problems with one another, but it is the media in both countries that’s holding them back. Here’s how.

The nastiness that has entered the current dialogue between the nations is not the result of a difference of opinion, so much as a difference of expectation.

On the Indian side great offence is taken at the Pakistani demand that a timetable be set for when Jammu and Kashmir can enter the dialogue. But it does not seem unreasonable to ask this because, so far as Pakistan is concerned, this is the core issue of talks. It is unlikely also that Manmohan Singh’s government would have a problem with this, and had these talks been at the more boring level of bureaucrats and diplomats, this might have even been introduced under some sort of plan. But the problem is that recent events have determined the way in which the two nations see this dialogue.

The attacks by Lashkar-e-Taiba on Mumbai were initially disowned by Pakistan. But the subsequent detention of its military commander Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi, and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the chief of the Jamaatud Dawa accused of having links with the LeT, showed the world that there was some movement. Court documents released since have shown that more has been done by the Pakistani government than has been known previously, and that the Pakistani government has been tracking the funds used to finance the operation.

The Indian government should share these details with its media and, while it is right to make demands of justice, it should also acknowledge the work done by Pakistani investigators. This will substantially reduce the pressure that builds up when the Indian media reports the dialogue as the way in which to make a breakthrough on the Mumbai attacks issue.

On the Pakistani side, the Kashmir matter would not have been raised as aggressively had there not been a concentration of bad news from Srinagar’s neighbourhoods over the last few weeks. The police has been opening fire on crowds that have refused to disperse after a period of violence. Many in Pakistan will not know that this is mostly Muslim-on-Muslim violence, with the state police being drawn from Kashmiri ranks, and the protesters drawn from Srinagar neighbourhoods controlled by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. These were the same neighbourhoods that boycotted the elections that other parts of Kashmir and all of Jammu participated in.

If this is reported without emotion, it is unlikely to be the pressing issue it now has become and the Pakistani government will have more space to be accommodating. India is certain to introduce Kashmir into the dialogue, because the stated position of the government is that all issues will be discussed. So there should really have been no need to make a demand at this stage, except for the fact that the media was insistent.

The talks are following a familiar pattern that – unless the media acts with a little more patience – will repeat again, leading to unnecessary anger, and waste of time.
Source: Express Tribune
Date:7/21/2010