Cyril Almeida: In Pakistan, the blame game only compounds our troubles

A toxic brew of militancy has gone unnoticed by the media

Related Topics

"Make no mistake, al-Qa'ida and its extremist allies are a cancer that risks killing Pakistan from within," President Obama said while introducing his strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Trouble is, Pakistanis are not convinced.

With militants rampaging through a police academy in Lahore yesterday morning, security reinforcements were beaten to the scene by reporters and cameramen from local TV channels that pump out raucous, bawdy reporting. It's a familiar pattern, one that transfixes a nation that can see its own dying live on TV while the state flails about helplessly every time.

Within hours – if not minutes – though, another pattern begins to play out, often unnoticed by the outside world unfamiliar with the local languages in which most local coverage is done.

Blame is apportioned. But rare is the voice that blames the militants. The first candidate for blame is inevitably RAW, India's mysterious and, were Pakistanis to be believed, infinitely powerful intelligence agency. Some of it is perhaps inevitable; when faced with a frightening, amorphous threat that seemingly strikes at will, the oldest of enemies is trotted out as a whipping boy.

But as the day wears on and the channels dig into their archives and chronicle the orgy of violence that has consumed this country in recent years, the second suspect is flogged: America's war in Afghanistan.

Since public proof of Indian involvement in violence in Pakistani cities is thin, it becomes necessary to acknowledge the possibility of local complicity.

But almost in the same breath the "experts", anchors and sundry talking heads provide the excuse: "Yes, our tribal areas may be a source of militancy, but there was none before America arrived in Afghanistan"; "The Pakistani state is responsible for the violence because it does America's bidding."

Nowhere, at least in the vernacular media, is there talk of what some Pakistanis have pieced together in recent years: a toxic brew of militancy is emerging in Pakistan in which earlier identities and separate ideologies may no longer be relevant, and it's gone unnoticed by a media that clings to the fears of the past – India, the US.

Consider what happened when Rehman Malik, the Interior adviser, spoke to the media yesterday. Mr Malik said he had no proof yet of who was behind the attack, but flagged the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi as a possible suspect.

It was a logical choice. The Lashkar is a Punjabi Sunni outfit that earned an especially violent reputation in the 1990s when Pakistan's Shia and Sunni militant groups were at each other's throats.

Probably unknown to most Pakistanis is that al-Qa'ida's ideology has a virulent strain of sectarianism – and that since 9/11 the collaboration between Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and al-Qa'ida is believed to have grown to the point that the Laskhar is considered the local arm of al-Qa'ida.

Predictably, when Mr Malik mentioned the Lashkar – Lahore is the capital of Punjab, the province from which most of the Lashkar's cadre is drawn – the reporters ignored him. "What about RAW?"; "Wasn't today's attack similar to the Mumbai attack?" – thereby implying that perhaps India had a role to play in that, too. Nobody asked a follow-up about the Lashkar.

In the days ahead the investigation into yesterday's attack may reveal who is behind it. But if the past is any yardstick, don't expect the media here to make much of local involvement, if any.

Instead, anonymous sources may leak "clues" of Indian perfidy, as has been the case with the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team. Recently, it was "revealed" that some of the weapons used by the militants in that attack are used by India's security forces.

Weapons used by third countries were identified, too, but, predictably, the other countries did not make the cut in the front-page headlines. "Indian weapons used in attack on Sri Lankans" – no need to read the fine print below.

But if I can connect the dots, why can't others in the media?

Because I'm not really "Pakistani". I write in English (Westernised!). I don't believe the primary goal of the Indians and Americans is to break up Pakistan. I don't drink at the fountain of right-of-centre tripe that passes for public discourse. I don't believe a "strong" Pakistan, ie. one armed to the teeth, is a prerequisite for a "better" Pakistan.

All of that makes me a minority. You don't win a media war being in the minority.

The writer is an assistant editor and columnist for Dawn. The views expressed are his own

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron's 'compassionate conservatism' is now lying on its back  

Tory modernisation has failed under David Cameron

Michael Dugher
Russian President Vladimir Putin 'hits his foes where it hurts'  

Dominic Raab: If Western politicians’ vested interests protect Putin, take punishment out of their hands

Dominic Raab
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform