The relationship between US and Pakistan, supposedly close allies in the war on terror, has always been uneasy. It has undergone cold spells and been revived several times with hectic diplomatic efforts in the best interests of both nations. By defining public sentiments, the media has played an integral role in shaping this mercurial relationship. Unfortunately, Pakistan has often found itself at the receiving end of media coverage.
In some of the most vocal and influential media houses, Pakistan has often been portrayed in negative light and felt victimized. With distances now becoming irrelevant in today’s virtual world, such depiction hurts Pakistan’s public perception and standing in the world on various political and economic matters. Two recent news stories covered by the US media are a testament of this bias.
While the world anxiously awaited any news about the missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, US media suggested that the flight could have flown for around extra four hours after losing contact with air traffic controllers. As absurd as it may sound, the US media believed that the flight could have been possibly hijacked and landed at an unknown location in Pakistan, most likely bordering Afghanistan. Although Pakistan claimed not to have identified any unknown aircraft in its airspace, the country’s surveillance capabilities were mocked for failing to halt US drone strikes and the air raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. In another news item, the US media has accused Pakistan’s intelligence and security forces for “collective incompetence and negligence” as Osama Bin Laden lived unnoticed in the country for over six years. While Pakistan has dismissed the report, its intelligence community stands accused of directly or indirectly supporting the world’s most wanted terrorist. The report also points out the influence of hard-line Islamists inside the country’s armed forces and how some officers are sympathetic to the cause of militants. The report goes on to criticize the US For its “contemptuous disregard of Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the arrogant certainty of its unmatched military might.”
Some political commentators attribute the US media bias to growing influence of biased strategists in the US think-tank and political circles. By pumping several millions of dollars into lobbying efforts, these strategists are able to twist and hype various situations against Pakistan.
Although Pakistan’s own media is quite independent, it has been largely unable to counter the US media allegations or promote the official stance because of its own internal divisions and political affiliations. To overcome poor publicity, the onus lies on Pakistan to clean up its act. The country should start by building trust and repute in the international community by putting its words into action. Till then, Pakistan will continue to be closely scrutinized by the global media and attract unwanted attention for its actions.