China has CGTN/CCTV, Russia has RT, Turkey has TRT World, Singapore has Channel News Asia, Qatar has Al-Jazeera, Iran has Press-TV, Britain has the BBC, France has France-24 and Pakistan has the entire world believing that India’s increasingly extremist breed of politicians are paragons of virtue while everything Pakistan says is a lie….at least this was the case until February and March of this year.
This year witnessed a watershed in how a wider international public that is normally oblivious to the realities of south Asia, learned that Pakistan is an honest, dignified and law abiding country whilst India’s BJP leaders are pursuing a policy of aggression towards neighbours that is backed up by bogus claims, cartoonish geopolitical fantasies and un-evidenced statistics.
Specifically, it was in February after India claimed to have conducted a “surgical strike against Pakistani terrorists” when it was revealed that instead of killing upwards of “300 terrorists”, Indian jets that illegally breached Pakistani airspace rapidly retreated and in the process dumped their payload in the middle of nowhere, resulting in the obliteration of a few trees.
Later, when Pakistan downed an Indian MiG-21 that breached its airspace, the captured Indian pilot was saved from an angry mob on the ground and given the medical attention mandated by international law before being peacefully released across the border. Moreover, contrary to Indian claims, the United States backed up Pakistan’s assertion that the country did not lose any of its F-16s in the midst of the dogfight with Indian jets.
Much of the credit for communicating Pakistan’s actions in an accurate and calm fashion to the international community can be given to Major General Asif Ghafoor, the Spokesman for the Pakistani Armed Forces. Major General Ghafoor exuded not only credibility but competence and confidence throughout the recent ordeals at the hands of election season aggression from India.
At the same time, Imran Khan’s charismatic and calming approach during the crisis helped the wider world to understand that the days of Pakistan’s tongue-tied and financially compromised heads of government are over and that a truly global figure is Pakistan’s new and inspiring Prime Minister.
For an Indian government used to the wider world (except perhaps China and Turkey) eating out of the palm of their hand, the message was clear – Naya Pakistan speaks with a convincing voice to the outside world. And yet, it should not take India bringing the world to the verge of a nuclear war for Pakistan to say what needs to be said in a manner that wider world can understand with ease.
Other countries, including some of Pakistan’s closest partners are able to communicate their positions on major global issues to international audiences on a 24/7 basis. As Pakistan is naturally home to more English speakers than its Chinese or Turkish partners who have excellent 24/7 news outlets, there is absolutely no excuse for Pakistan not to open up a similar outlet with a similar style and a similar target audience.
A recent article by Agha Hussain admonished Pakistan’s government for failing to take a more robust approach to its declared enemies. It is indeed especially embarrassing that in Hussain’s words:
“Imran Khan’s recent decision to decline meeting the Taliban, a party non-hostile toward Pakistan and involved in state-level diplomacy for years, owing to reservations expressed by the Kabul government hostile to Pakistan and friendly with India, sent off a series of disastrous signals to regional actors regarding how serious and competent Pakistan’s government was in pursuing its national interest in Afghanistan. One can only rationalize that Khan was continuing his practice of overly soft rhetoric and policies for the sake of garnering what amounts, in all practicality, to likes on social media for being ‘gentle’ and ‘kind”.
Part of this problem is due to the fact that because Pakistan does not have its own CGTV, TRT-World, Press-TV or RT, the country must rely on decades old foreign outlets like CNN and the BBC to get its message out. As such, the instinctively Euro-American supremacist style of reporting from major western outlets is able to cope with Imran Khan talking about peace, brotherhood, and minority rights, but they are less capable of accurately communicating a would be message that puts Pakistan’s enemies on notice in the way that China does in respect of the Taiwan Straits issue, that Iran does in respect of Israel’s endless threats and that Turkey does in respect of PKK and FETO terror and their foreign backers.
Ultimately, if Pakistan is to take ownership over a bolder, patriotic and uncompromising message, it must take control of the medium just as multiple other countries have done, including the economically plagued Venezuela. A 24/7 Pakistani national media outlet (which could be available online and on satellite dish services..etc.) could even help to force Pakistan’s leadership to do something they have not been able to do for many decades: offer a coherent and consistent set of policies that are emphasised and re-emphasised before a global audience that for too long has only heard one side of the south Asian story.
If Pakistan can speak to the world during a time of an Indian provoked crisis, it can and should do the same on a 24/7 basis, just as multiple other nations do. The time is right for Naya Pakistan to break free from the past and allow Pakistani voices to communicate a pro-Pakistani message through a modern and genuinely internationally aimed medium.