The ‘Main Problem’ with The Nation’s editorial on drones

Jul 9th, 2011 | By | Category: The Nation

The Nation logoAn editorial in The Nation on Friday claims that the main problem of Pakistan is drones. This may seem like an unremarkable story since it is not the first time that The Nation has taken such a position on drone strikes. But this time the editorial gives away a bit more than the editors may have realised.

It should first be noted that The Nation editorial had the unfortunate timing of being published on a day when Karachi was in flames not from any American drones, but because some people were being Pathan or Mohajir in the wrong place and wrong time. But this was not the only problem with the claim of drones as Pakistan’s ‘main problem’.

According to The Nation, “the casualties of innocent tribesmen that these pilot-less planes cause tend to radicalise the affected population and add to the strength of militants as well as to Pakistan’s difficulties in subduing them”. This is a typical response that is heard widely – drones are creating terrorists and suicide bombers. But this claim ignores two important facts.

First is the rising number of terrorists and suicide bombers who are children kidnapped and brainwashed by Taliban at training centers.

Second is that if the death of innocent tribesmen is turning their families into militants, why this only happens after drone attacks and not after militant attacks on mosques and bazaars and other places? If the death of a loved one turns people into terrorists, there should be many more anti-jihadi terrorists than pro-jihadi terrorists.

The ‘main problem’ with The Nation‘s editorial, though, is that it makes the argument that drones are responsible for producing terrorists, and then says that Pakistan will get drones from China and use them ourselves.

The only choice left with us is to tell the US in clear terms that it should not exacerbate the situation by continuing with the policy of drones and let us handle the problem ourselves like we have overcome it in Swat. Obviously, the Americans are unwilling to supply us the drones, but we have a far better option. The Chinese would and, as in the past, be ready to give us technology as well.

And so The Nation lets the cat out of the bag. Despite its constant writing that drones cause more civilian casualties, that drones are creating terrorists, that drones are illegal and immoral – the truth is that The Nation likes drones.

Actually, this makes sense. Surely The Nation was aware of Maj Gen Ghayur Mehmood’s briefing this year where he stated that “majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements”. And accepting that The Nation are patriots who want to see terrorist elements driven from their country, it would only be natural to want to use technology that is effective.

It is also natural for The Nation being patriots to want the technology for Pakistan military and not to have American or other foreign troops carrying out such missions within Pakistan’s borders.

So here is the problem: Why not just say this?

What we are seeing is a ‘main problem’ with not just The Nation but too much of Pakistani media. In an attempt to be clever, it makes incorrect and misleading statements to raise the emotions of the awam as part of a strategy to force some other group (the Americans, usually) to do what we want.

Professional propagandists might think that they are clever and doing a service to their country, but what kind of patriot lies to his own people? More importantly, despite telling these half-cocked stories about drones since the past few years, it is no more likely that the Americans will transfer the technology to us. This oh-so-clever scheme doesn’t work.

Media should not be in the business of propaganda or clever schemes. Media should be in the business of reporting facts. Media groups, anchors, and journalists are entitled to their own opinions, but these too should be based in facts, not clever misinformation.

Ultimately, truth is more persuasive than fiction. Media’s constant peddling of conspiracy theories and misinformation undermines not only its own credibility, but maligns the character of the nation in the eyes of the world. Why would the Americans or any other country trust us with advanced technology when they look at our media and see a culture of bald faced liars? If The Nation and other media groups want to do what is in the best interests of Pakistan, they will clean up their act and set an example of honest reporting.

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