Enemy Images on Pakistan Television

IN Media Practice | 03/06/2002
Enemy Images on Pakistan Television

Enemy Images on Pakistan Television

By I.A.Rehman

Pakistan television reminds viewers of their enemy every day.

 For years now its main news bulletin has been presenting, prominently in the first half of the programme, an account of this enemy’s atrocities in the Muslim-majority part of Kashmir valley. The story may include the latest acts of barbarism by Indian troops against the militant guerrillas or innocent civilians, or protest strikes in towns, or restrictions placed from time to time on dissident leaders’ basic rights to freedom of movement and political agitation. The killer/oppressor is identified as an enemy not merely because he is committing gross violation of human rights, although the spoken lines does suggest this, but because he is operating as an instrument in India’s decades-old conflict with Pakistan by perpetuating its hold over Kashmir that, according to Pakistan, has been denied its right to self-determination.

With a view to facilitating public acceptance of the enemy image. Pakistan television has been offering, besides news items, feature productions and discussions in current affairs programmes. The features are usually enlarged versions of news reports of the conflict in Kashmir the heroic resistance put up by ordinary and generally resourceless Kashmiri men and women against a merciless foe, the enormous sacrifices borne by them in the cause of freedom and justice, and the utter inhumanity and bestiality of their oppressors. The current affairs programmes offer a recapitulation of historyhow the partition principle, according to which princely sates were required to join one of the new dominions India or Pakistan in accordance with the wishes of the population was subverted by the Maharaja of Kashmir in collusion with the Indian rulers’ how the United Nations Security Council’s resolutions calling for a plebiscite in the disputed territory were frustrated by Indian obduracy, how important for peace in the region the resolution of the Kashmir problem is, and how impossible and immoral it would be for Pakistan to give up the cause of the Kashmiri people.

The issue is placed in a wider historical context. India has resorted to carnage and pillage in Kashmir, it is argued, because it has not reconciled to the creation of Pakistan. Its Kashmir policy is therefore part of its plans to undo Pakistan. Thus, Pakistan is confronting an entity whose hostility is not confined to the dispute over Kashmir, but one whose enmity to Pakistan is more deeply rooted. Since India’s non-acceptance of the reality of Pakistan is on account of its repudiation of the theoretical foundations of Pakistan, it is an enemy in an ideological sense as well as in physical terms. Thus unless India agrees to give up Kashmir and offers proof that it has reconciled to Pakistan’s existence as a free state, it will continue to be rated as a standing enemy.

However, this enemy image is not the products of Pakistan television alone, which came into being 17 years after independence. Pakistan people’s thought-processes had already been fixed by a long history of communal confrontation in the sub-continent, the orgy of violence which attended the partition, and the impressions formed by the literature of the colonial period and the under-developed Press before independence and the controlled one afterwards.

In order to fully appreciate Pakistan television’s performance in creating enemy images it is necessary to briefly review the development of the country’s media. Pakistan had a fledging Press at the time of independence. A low literacy rate impeded its growth. Even today the combined circulation of newpapers is around two million copies in a population estimated at 140 million. A better part of the Press chose to accept between 1947 and 1958 the official version of Pakistan’s disputes with India. Mainly because it formed a continuation of the communal controversy that preceded independence and in the course which the masses has imbibed a certain view of the politics.

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