The need of a narrative shift

The last ten days have been violent. Pakistan finds itself in the throes of terrorist attacks. More than a 100 lives lost. Half a dozen cities targeted. Government officials wring their hands as questions are raised. The questions are crucial: how can peace prevail and how can security be guaranteed? Could it?

There are a few good answers. There is little way of predicting damage to come, but the authorities have closed down borders with Afghanistan; initiating Radd al Fassad, combing through the country for terrorist remnants like never before. Punjab that had enjoyed its carte blanch until now is also under scrutiny.

These measures are at the heels of growing pressure from the west to pull the plug on the terrorist perpetrators. The terrorist organisations like the Pakistani Taliban who oppose the law of our country and call themselves the Islamic State need to be brought to justice in the public eye.

In the political analysts view, what Pakistan needs at the moment is a narrative shift. Priorities need to be sifted. Our country caters to different races, religions and ethnicities. Hence pluralism should be celebrated and a shared language should prevail that deters the paranoia of the other.

The international media faults Pakistan for passing the blame to its neighbours and running a campaign against Valentines a day ahead of Lahore blast on February 13th. A dialogue with neighbours is more important than enmity.

The civil society is weary of the use of religious propaganda by terrorists to further their cause. In the light of the recent paramilitary operations media has started to tear away religious justification and glory from criminal and terrorist actions. A crime should be viewed as such and no episode of divine consequence should be attributed to it. The government’s decision to shed any prejudice between good and bad Taliban has also made it easier for law enforcers and the media to call a spade a spade.

However, media is an industry too. In recent years media studies departments in Pakistan and across the world have criticised the ethics of the news media for indulging in practices to raise viewership and hence ratings disregarding quality and credibility. Recently, as many as 31 media outlets were given show cause notices by PEMRA to explain how could they air news of a second bomb attack in Lahore’s Gulberg area on the 23rd Feb without any corroborating evidence.

In the war against terrorism, military, law enforcement agencies and the media are targets alongside the general public. It is important for the media to air reliable coverage and refrain from sensationalism, unless there is evidence that the sole target of this recent countrywide terrorism was PSL alone. Taking a responsible position would allow the media to become a watchdog, keeping a check on the government and, its narrative.

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