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

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Piper Ryan Randall leads a pro-Scottish independence rally in the suburbs of Edinburgh  

i Editor's Letter: Britain survives, but change is afoot

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Some believe that David Cameron is to blame for allowing Alex Salmond a referendum  

Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?

Mark Steel
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam