‘Punjabi Nationalism’ Dominates National Discourse
Pakistan’s ‘jaundiced’ media is full of terms such as ‘Baloch, Pashtun, or Sindhi nationalism’ and ‘Mohajirs’. What is missing in defining Pakistan’s ethnic groups in the mainstream media is ‘Punjabi nationalism’.
The electronic media, newspapers and communication flood on the social media had printed on the masses’ minds that demands coming from Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan are speaking of the nationalists in those provinces. However, Punjab’s gains in development, education, health, and communication infrastructure are portrayed as national achievements of Pakistan.
In politics, a term like ‘Sindh card’ is widely used with PPP despite its presence in all four provinces, FATA and Gilgit-Baltistan. ANP is hardly defined in terms of its secular agenda or the only anti-Taliban forces in the volatile northwest Pakistan. Political forces from Balochistan—JWP, BNP and others are presented as soft names of the Baloch rebel groups in the national media. Political parties in Sindh are paraded in the media with the available negative tags attached to their names and causes.
All national traitors Pakistanis have known so far through media are either the Bengalis of the pre-71 Pakistan or the non-Pujabi nationalities of the post-71 era–Sindhis, Pashtuns, Balochis and Mohajirs. Starting from the latest case, Dr Shakil Afridi (the doctor whose small efforts had allegedly got rid the South Asian Islam off the terror godfather Osama bin Laden and Wahabism) is Pashtun. Former Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (Sindh), former opposition leader late Khan Abdul Wali Khan (Pakhtunkhwa), late GM Syed (Sindh), late Ghaus Bakhsh Bizanjo (Balochistan), to name a few, all are defined as traitors in the mainstream media. Altaf Hussain of MQM can’t come back to Pakistan and leaders like Nawab Akbar Bugti don’t deserve life.
Contrary to this, the Indian-specific media and text books are defining Major Aziz Bhatti, Captain Muhammad Sarwar, Major Muhammad Tufail (a total of 11) as Pakistan’s national heroes. All of them died while defending Punjab in four wars against India from 1948-1999. However, the state and ‘yellow’ media of Pakistan have yet to produce a single hero in the 10- year war against Terrorism in a comparatively tough terrain and tricky battlefield known as the Wild Wild West of Pakistan.
Over 160 million Pakistanis, today, can’t recall a man or a woman that they know who might have been fallen against the Arab, Central Asian or Pakistani fanatics in the mountains in FATA while defending Pakistan against militancy. One apparent reason for this nation-wide apathy towards soldiers fighting Terrorism is that Pakistan not owning the ongoing war despite its claims of higher causalities at international fora.
The decades long control of the Punjabi mindset and ‘Maulvis-turned-journalists’ on media has locked Pakistani journalism in ‘Punjabi Box’. The journalists living in that particular box can hardly imagine the sensitivities of people and regions existing out of the Punjabi Box. They don’t see Pakistan Muslim League (N) or (Q) as Punjabi nationalists nor they define Sharif brothers as leaders of Punjabi nationalism when they allocate more development funds for Punjab or deny due shares of the other three provinces from the national pool of resources.
Whether it’s a political fight between PPP or Muslim League, differences on NFC award (national resources), provincial autonomy, militancy, royalty rights, blasphemy law, or women rights, Pakistani media shows Punjab’s voice as protagonist and those of other provinces as antagonist in its narration of events.
As if that is not enough, they cover up Punjab’s causes as Pakistan hard core national interests and label others as Pashtun, Baloch, Sindhi or Mohajir nationalists in a bid to deny them a space on the minds of media viewers, listeners and readers.
The irony is that the state institutes and Pakistani intellectuals call it a ‘media revolution era’ of Pakistan though a reader of the Jang newspapers in 1970s and viewer of Geo TV in March 2012 doesn’t see a difference in contents and description of facts (Punjab vis-à-vis others). The media revolution in Pakistan has, unfortunately, reinvigorated the Punjabi voice and its outreach, however, and has successfully avoided the ‘Punjabi nationalism’ label for itself while defending the interests of one major ethnic group at all levels in a multi-ethnic country.
Courtesy: Mullah Military Media