A Tale of Two Editorials

Dec 24th, 2010 | By | Category: Daily Times, The News

Two very different editorials about The New York Times story suggesting American officials are planning to put being raids into Pakistan’s territory serve as an excellent demonstration of unbiased media versus ‘playing to the gallery’.

First, The News (Jang Group) wrote on Wednesday that the article was proof of American duplicity.

The News (Jang Group)When The New York Times speaks you are hearing the voice of the American government. Thus when the NYT says as it did on Monday that US commanders in Afghanistan want to expand Special Forces operations into Pakistan; we can be sure the report is accurate. We can also be sure that the report is as much designed to twist diplomatic arms as it is to inspire fear in the enemy; and it is a reflection of the frustration felt by the Americans for our perceived failure to ‘do more’ by way of counter-terror operations in the borderlands. With America working towards a reduction in troop levels and an eventual pullout it will also be looking downstream for somebody to blame if, as expected, the war in Afghanistan is not won by the US and its allies. It is not difficult to see who might be in the frame once blame starts getting apportioned, and no matter how engaged we may be, how great our casualties – and they are greater by far than any other nation fighting this war – the ‘do more’ mantra is moving towards being ‘never did enough’.

This raises a few questions. Is The New York Times, as alleged by The News, actually the voice of the American government? If that is the case, one must believe that the American government supports the opposition. One must also believe that the American government criticises itself for not doing a good enough job of communicating with the Pakistani people.

Also, it could be asked if newspapers merely serve as mouthpieces, who is The News a mouthpiece for?

Now compare The News‘s editorial with one that appeared in Thursday’s Daily Times.

Daily TimesPakistan is already in enough trouble politically and economically. Terrorism has added to our woes and it seems like that in the coming days, more trouble may follow. According to a report published in The New York Times (NYT), “senior American military commanders in Afghanistan are pushing for an expanded campaign of Special Operations ground raids across the border into Pakistan’s tribal areas”. It is plain that this proposal has more to do with military strategy than with politics. Pakistan has been stalling a military operation in North Waziristan for some time now. Our argument is that the military is already stretched in Swat and South Waziristan, that we fear more IDPs, and we do not have enough money to conduct a large-scale operation. This delay has not gone down well with the US military commanders based in Afghanistan. The US-led NATO forces are running out of patience with us because of the safe havens that have been provided to the Afghan Taliban on our soil, particularly in North Waziristan. The military commanders now want to hit the Taliban in their rear base areas to make life difficult for them.

The NYT reports that the “Afghan militias backed by the CIA have carried out a number of secret missions” in our tribal areas. Although NATO forces have denied these reports, Pakistan’s military establishment should understand the gravity of the situation. NATO’s denial is due to the political sensitivity involved. Pakistan is the frontline ally of the US/NATO in the war on terror and the Americans want to keep us on their side rather than push us away. On the one hand the withdrawal date of foreign troops from Afghanistan is looming large and on the other hand, the frustration of military commanders is growing. Will they be held back by political considerations is a question worth pondering. Already there is outrage in Pakistan against the increase in drone attacks, which WikiLeaks has confirmed are with the tacit approval of Pakistan’s government. The political fallout of more clandestine operations can be seriously damaging, but under the circumstances, it cannot be ruled out that the Americans might opt for it if our military establishment keeps up its dual policy.

Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, has ruled out ground operations and asserted that our military is quite capable of handling the terrorists within our borders. With all due respect to Ambassador Haqqani, our military is definitely capable of doing this, but does it really want to? Our military establishment must understand the limits to which we can push this dual policy because great danger lies ahead now if we keep on with our misadventures.

Here we see a much more reasoned analysis of the story. Where The News appears quick to play to the gallery by repeating hyper-nationalist slogans, Daily Times is considering the facts and trying to put them in perspective.

Even the handling of Ambassador Haqqani’s statement shows some colouring of the facts. Daily Times reports his statement about not allowing foreign troops on our soil, but asks how long we will be able to keep up this posture. On the other hand, The News all but accuses the Ambassador and all other government officials of being dishonest without providing any reason to think that Haqqani’s statment was not hearfelt and true.

People read the news for facts. They read editorials for context and perspective, the idea being that the professionals who write the editorials are being objective in their analysis. Obviously, there can be an opinion to the piece, but it should not be merely parroting slogans and playing to the gallery. You can see the clear difference in the two editorials between The News and Daily Times – one trying to make sense of the news of the day, the other using the news of the day to push a particular political agenda. Which do you think better serves the public interest?

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