Karachi killings: why is foreign media not interested?
By: Imtiaz Ali
Karachi: The foreign media has least interest in covering Karachi killings partly because they were a routine matter, said Declan Walsh, the New York Times correspondent in Pakistan.
He was speaking at a session titled “Pakistan through Foreign Eyes” on the third day of the 4th Karachi Literature Festival on Sunday.
“Violence in Karachi is a daily occurrence,” he said, “besides the killings are a very complicated issue.”
Karachi was a “city state”, where ethnic violence or killings were isolated from the rest of the country, Walsh opined, and not connected with foreign interests.
The journalist said he wrote about Dr Afia Siddiqi in the past but recently, the issue has faded.
About the coverage of drone attack victims, he said it was very difficult to get good information about the issue. “Drone strikes are an emotional issue in Pakistan but at the same time, it is complex one as it is related to the [country’s] sovereignty,” he added.
More and more people in the US were, however, asking about drone strikes now and it was emerging as a legitimate debate after the reported approval of the US administration to kill US citizens abroad, he claimed.
About the political developments in Pakistan, Walsh said a coalition government seemed inevitable after new polls. “The foreign media has so far shown no interest in covering the general elections in Pakistan.”
He admitted that most of the time, the foreign correspondents were asked to write about terror. Only last night, he recalled, his editor had talked to him about the terror attack in Quetta.
It was striking that Pakistani media was now taking up issues like Balochistan, which were not debated earlier, he said. “One subject, which remains unspoken however, was the alleged attacks by the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan.”
The journalist believed that after US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014, the American interest, especially at the government level, might undergo changes that would also likely affect media coverage.
Earlier, Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Dr Farooq Sattar, sitting in the audience, asked why there was no sense of ownership about fighting against terrorism in Pakistan. “Why Pakistan couldn’t establish a system like the US Homeland Security to eliminate terror and was it the failure of the politicians to instil a sense of ownership among the masses?”
Columnist Cyril Almeida, who moderated the programme, was surprised that the question was coming from a politician himself.
“The biggest problem in Pakistan is that over the past one decade, the country still doesn’t know where it stands in the fight against terror,” replied Hasnain Kazim, a German journalist of Pakistani origin. “Just like not being clear on drone strikes.”
Kazim was also critical of the Pakistani officials obsessed with portraying a positive image of Pakistan abroad. “I always say [to such officials] that it is not my job to portray a positive image. My responsibility is balanced reporting,” he said.
Another German journalist, Yassin Musharbash, termed Pakistan “one big riddle”. “Stereotyping about Pakistan abroad has created severe difficulties in reporting on a diverse country,” he said, “but you can not write about Al-Qaeda without knowing a bit about Pakistan.”