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Sabir Ali sbirnastran@gmail.

Fakhir Marghoob
Luqman Saqib

Media has assumed a very significant role in today’s modern
world. Ever since the electronic revolution and the advancement
in technology in telecommunication sector, an unprecedented
growth in electronic media has seen an increase in the ability of
the government and political parties to reach to the masses
whether it be through the radio, TV, or the internet. This
enhanced the ability of preaching out to the people has given
tremendous power and influence to those who control the
communication channels between the rulers and the ruled giving
them the unique power of influencing both the masses and the
However, it would be incorrect to assume that this influence goes
both ways, as we would discuss today, this communication in
generally unidirectional which serve the interest of those powerful
lobbies that control the media. Today media is a powerful tool for
international and regional diplomacy shaping the conditions for
achieving maximum advantage in diplomatic maneuvers and
negotiations. The US used her powerful media to shape the global
public opinion against Iran’s nuclear programme, to brand it as an
axis of evil and to rally the world behind her(the United States).
This helped the US to achieve her strategic objectives in the Gulf
and to launch a diplomatic offensive where she was able to
ensure that her interests are safe.
Another example of how the media aided the government in her
diplomatic maneuvers in the recent tensions between India and
Pakistan after the Mumbai blasts on 26th November. American
newspapers, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times
together with Indian newspapers, the Times of India and the
Hindu, ran a successful campaign to have the Pakistan based
militant group Jama-ul-Dawa banded by the United Nations
Security Council. In fact the political crisis in south Asia has
further demonstrated that when guided by their respective
governments and the powerful lobbies. Media is a powerful tool
for propaganda purposes.

Increased importance of media:

However, the best example to demonstrate the influence and
usefulness of media is the Bush Administration’s propaganda
against Saddam Hussein’s regime, where American used the
media to prepare a global public opinion against Saddam Hussein.
Where the media didn’t just propaganda half truth or twisted facts
but rather fabricated invented false changes of Iraq processing
weapons of mass destruction, a basis which was used to
legitimize America’s invasion of Iraq.
The same exercise of using selective stories, partial facts and of
demonizing the enemy was and is being carried out by western
governments to fight the war on terror. The Iraqi example further
demonstrates, the power of media, when the British and the
French used the Arab media, Aljazeera for example, to expose
American atrocities in Iraq and Guantanamo bay, Cuba to
internationally embarrass and humiliate America and robe her off
her moral authority in the world. Something which has
contributed greatly in the weakening of American political power
around the globe. These are but a few examples of how media
has helped redefine the way international struggle proceeds, of
how international politics and diplomacy is carried out and how
wars are fought. All of this is related to relationships between
states; however in the modern polity media has a critical role in
the domestic working of a state.
It is the primary tool for changing hearts and minds of the
people, affecting the dominant thoughts and emotions of the
society and shaping the course direction of domestic politics.
Furthermore, in modern societies media has taken central
position in accountability of the rulers and the incumbent
government to an extent where media is termed as the fourth
pillar of a democratic state together with the legislature, the
executive and the judiciary.

Reform of Pakistani media:

The Pakistani state saw an explosion of private electronic media
since 2002, followed by a reshaping of the domestic political
infrastructure and an increase in the awareness of the general
public. The role played by the private electronic media, especially
in influencing local politics and the opinions and emotions of the
masses since then, compels us to understand the circumstances
and the dynamics which led to the setting up of these new media
outlets to correctly and fully compared the role they have played
and will play in the future in influencing the lives of the people of
Pakistan. This understanding will help in making correct political
The military government of General Pervez Musharaf established
the Regulatory Authority for Media Broadcasting Organization
(RAMBO) in April 2002 and renamed it to PEMRA in January
2001 to regulate electronic media in Pakistan. It was however in
2002 that PEMRA started issuing licenses to private TV and radio
channels. Since then according to PEMRA it has issued 64
licenses to private satellite TV channels and 116 FM Radio
This is apart from the foreign channels which were being aired in
Pakistan before the establishment of PEMRA and issuance of
licenses to local broadcasters. This move followed months of
speculations that Pervez Musharaf plans to allow private
electronic media outlets. At a meeting at the reorientation of the
information Ministry, on 16th January 2001 General Musharaf said:
“Pakistan’s national strategic interest in the
international media should be projected with
particular focus on our principled stand on Kashmir.
We should not be lagging behind in responding to
stories that may be carrying a slant or tilt or
whatever. We should rather encourage a pro-active
approach in responding”.
Such statements followed by a number of steps like the
inauguration of Current Affairs and News Channel of Radio
Pakistan in April 2001, the establishment 7th Wage Board Award
which regulates the salaries of the journalists, the declassification
of the Hammod ur Rehman Commission Report, the
establishment of the Press Council, a journalistic body which
devises the rules and regulations for the press and which does not
include representatives from the government, NAB’s
announcement that it won’t investigate judges and journalists and
hosting of regional conferences and local workshops on press
freedom were some of signals which the military regime sent to
the media as good will gestures and to show the government’s
willingness to be more tolerant of criticism by the media and the
government’s desire of establishing private media outlets. It
seemed that through such actions, the military regime wanted to
achieve the following objectives:

military objectives:
• Increase the credibility of the government by establishing
private media outlets, at a time when the government was
under criticism from the segments of the society for forcing
in to exile the heads of the two largest political parties, the
PPP and PML-N.
• The Pakistan Military establishment’s realization that India
had the upper edge in the propaganda war and the shaping
of the international public opinion due to private media
outlets. This feeling was exaggerated after the Kargil conflict
in which Pakistan military desperately felt that she was
forced to abandon the Kargil conflict due to the political
weakness of the civilian government and the lack of support
internationally. The military wanted a similar tool at its
disposal to counter Indian propaganda internationally and to
make sure that she was not snubbed off by the civilian
government in the future.

Direction of media:
It was not however until in May 2002 that Pakistan’s first private
satellite channel GEO started transmission and it was towards the
end of year 2004 when electronic media started having a major
influence in the Pakistani society. The privatization of media in
Pakistan however seems to have more than just local motivation
of seeking domestic credibility and protection of strategic
interests. Several local and international factors point towards this
The media was privatized during the reign of Pervez Musharaf,
America’s most loyal agent, who blindly followed American
dictation on even the most controversial issues like establishing
diplomatic ties with Israel, pledging to send troops to Iraq at the
height of anti-Americanism in Pakistan, carrying out raid on
Islamabad’s Red Mosque and twice removing the former chief
justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Choudhary from his office.
The establishment of private media outlets followed the adaption
of a hawkish foreign policy the neo-conservatives in the American
administration and followed America’s launch of the War on
Terror after September 11 attacks. As various American think
tanks, officials of the State Department and Pentagon and that of
the Bus Administration have stated the US plans to fight the war
on terror for decades to come. This strategy required redefining
the geo-political landscape of South Asia.
As we would discuss later privatization of media in Pakistan, and
then controlling it, was and is one of the tools by which America
seeks to secure its interests in the region.
The launching of the war on terror and the invasion of Iraq by the
US suggests the American desire of being physically present in
the Muslim world. Establishing so called independent media
outlets is part of cultural invasion.

American Guidelines to Pakistani Media:

Let’s look into these points in detail. Richard Hass, Director Policy
Planning Staff in the US State Department in his speech titled
“Towards Greater Democracy in the Muslim World” delivered at
the powerful American think tank, the Council on Foreign
Relations on December 4, 2002 mentioned eight guidelines which
would help promote democracy and liberal values in the Muslim
World and one of them was the establishment of independent and
responsible media. He said, “The media has a critical role to play
as a key element of civil society. In democracies, the media is
free, and is not under the state control. This allows for multiple
views, ideas, and perspectives to be aired in the free marketplace
of ideas. The best protection against the media promulgating
views that people do not agree with is the proliferation of more
perspectives, not the squelching of voices.” Richard Hass was the
head of the policy planning team in US State Department at the
time when media was privatized in Pakistan.
In 2002, at a time when US neo-conservative hawks were more
focused on invading Afghanistan and Iraq, the then Security of
State Collin Powell launched the Middle East Peace Initiative
(MEPI) Program to focus on what has come be called softer
elements of the US foreign policy, promoting Western values in
the Muslim World. Although the program initially received a small
amount of funding and was aimed at the Arab world, the model
strikingly resembles the US policy towards Pakistan for the last
eight years. Moreover the program has been quoted as a role
model for many future proposals to the US Congress and the US
administration with regards to formulating a policy towards the
Muslim world. The MEPI was designed to achieve four objectives
in the Muslim World: political reform, economic reform,
educational reform and cultural reform.


The first category is that of the nationalist which is led by Majid
Nizami’s Nawaiwaqt group. This group derives its ideology from
the Two Nation theory presented as the basis of the partition of
Pakistan. They believe that Pakistan should be a parliamentary
democracy with Islam as one of the source of legislation. They are
conservative Islamists and recognized the 1973 constitution as a
legitimate document. They are opposed to a secular outlook for
the country and presented a formidable challenge to the
Musharaf regime’s campaign of enlightened moderation and of
presenting a soft image of the country by adopting liberal values.
However due to their staunch and rigid nationalistic viewpoint and
strict adherence to the ideas of Muhammad Ali Jinnah and other
leaders involves in Pakistan movement they accept the right of
the majority to amend the constitution even if the amendment is
against the Islam and other nationalistic ideas which they adhere
They consider the resistant movements in occupied Muslims
territories in Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine and Kashmir as
legitimate. Due to their deep commitment to the two nation
theory, and there nationalistic ideals they advocate a firm and
strong policy against India and America.
Nawaiwaqt aggressively challenged Musharaf’s policy of
normalization with India and putting the Kashmir cause on
backburner. They however failed to pressurize the government in
going out of the modernization process and giving concession to
India. Nawaiwaqt also put up a strong challenge to the Musharaf
regime’s incrimination of was due to the pressure
created by the Nawaiwaqt and the Islamic elements in the Pak
army which forced Musharaf to refuse American access to him
after Musharaf successfully removed him as the head of
Pakistan’s nuclear program.
The Nawaiwaqt is opposed to the War against terror and does not
view jihad as terrorism. However due to international public
opinion it has been forced to abandon openly calling for it
although it still has sympathies for jihad and does not these
sympathies. It openly calls for jihad as a solution of Kashmir
dispute; however it may be forced to abandon this policy in the
wake of Mombai blasts. The Nawaiwaqt considered itself an
umbrella organization for all Islamic parties. The Nawaiwaqt
considers the Taliban insurgency against the Pakistan army as
anti Pakistan however they advocate a negotiated settlement
between the Pakistan army and the Pakistani Taliban.
When ascertaining the blame on the lawlessness caused in FATA,
they are reluctant to blame the Taliban and support the viewpoint
that Americans and Indian secret Agencies are behind the
mayhem in NWFP. Unlike the secular media outlets, who blame
the Taliban on the lawlessness in the tribal areas .Nawaiwaqt
considers the Americans presence in Afghanistan as the root
cause of the problems which Pakistan faces in Northern areas. It
is critical of Western backed NGOs and generally adopted a very
aggressive stance towards government’s anti Islamic policies.

Secular nationalistic:
The second category is that of secular nationalists. No single
newspaper or media group exactly falls into this category
however different writer like Sherien Mazari and Ayaz Ameer who
writes in daily news or Talat Hussein who hostess a private TV
show falls in to this category. Newspapers like the Frontier Post
and Observer who have a secular outlook tend to take strong
nationalistic position. The Urdu press with the exception of
Nawaiwaqt and newspaper associated with religious parties
generally adopt a secular nationalistic posturing.
Secular nationalistic believe in liberal democracy however they
are ready to compromise on it in the favor of national interest.
They, together with the Nawaiwaqt group were one of the
harshest critiques of Musharaf regime’s handling of the reform
and women empowerment. These are the same lines America
worked in Pakistan. Whether it is the repealing of the Hudood
laws, the Mukhtaran Mai case, the Red Mosque or building the
case for Madrassa reform and change in the educational
curriculum in Pakistan, the media played an important role in
achieving these US objectives in Pakistan.

Privatization and its objectives:

One example of how the privatization of Pakistani media has
provided more access to the US to influence the Pakistani society
is that of the Hadith Wars. In the report “Civil Democratic Islam”
the researchers of RAND Corporation proposed starting Hadith
Wars in the Muslim world to confront the interpretation of Islam
presented by fundamentalist like Hizb ul-Tehrir. The idea is that
there is a universal agreement on Quran being beyond criticism;
however the authenticity and interpretation of Hadith can be
challenged which would create confusion in Islam. Javed Ahmed
Ghamidi has been provided unprecedented access to almost all
major private media outlets to spearhead the Hadith War in

Challenge to Social Bases:

Another objective of privatizing the media in Pakistan is to
challenge the conservative structure of Pakistani society and the
deep rooted ethical and moral values held in high esteem in
Muslim societies like Pakistan. The approach is specifically
targeted towards the Muslim youth. Promotion of events which
encourage free mixing and socializing between men and women
are seen as antidotes to radicalism.
In the name of providing entertainment the radical and
conservative opinion of the society towards different social
practices are softened. The US hopes that this softening of
opinion towards western values would eventually lead the youth
to adopt these values. These entertainment channels like AAG
and MTV have been set up to present an alternative of life to the
Muslim youth in Pakistan. Fashion and game shows, musical
nights, Valentine’s Day, romantic screen plays, liberal
advertisements, chit-chat radio talk shows and co-education at
the college and university levels are redefining the moral fabric of
the Pakistani society and weakening its Islamic emotions.
Before further analyzing the role media played in executing
American plans in the region let’s first have a look at the
ideological composition and political affiliations of the media in
Pakistan. The Pakistani media and intelligentsia can be
categorizing into three broader categories on the bases of their
viewpoints towards foreign policy, relationship towards the West
and the domestic politics.

Diverse views on different issues:

They opposed Musharraf’s policy on the Kashmir dispute. Secular
nationalists accept that terrorism is home grown problem of
Pakistan and believe that limited military operations in Pakistan’s
tribal areas can be carried out to eliminate militancy. On the other
hand they are opposed to using brute force to curb the challenge
of militancy in the tribal area of Pakistan. Their view point on the
war on terror and military operation by the Pakistan army in its
tribal belt is not guided by any ideology, they rather see the issue
as the threat to Pakistan and are willing to accept any solution
which would solve the problem are limit the disastrous
consequences faced by the Pakistani state as a result of this
Similarly, the secular nationalists view the Baloch insurgency in a
pragmatic manner. The blame the Govt. for depriving the Baloch
people for their rights on the other hand they criticize the Baloch
insurgency as anti Pakistan. Due to their liberal ideas the secular
nationalist view the repealing of the Hudood Laws and changes in
the educational curriculum as necessary steps in the direction
towards separating state and religion. They criticize the Islamist
for their opposition of western backed NGO’s and mixed Marathon
Pro-Western secularists:
The third category is of pro Western secularists. The DAWN, The
Daily Times, and The Friday Times generally fall in this category.
This group believes that Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who is credited by
them to be the founder of Pakistan, envisioned Pakistan to be a
liberal secular democracy.
They staunchly opposed to the rule of religion in public life and
hate those who want to bring the religion in to public life. They
aggressively opposed the military dictatorship of Zia ul Haq and
his Islamization drive. They term Zia era, which saw an increase
in the rule of religion in Pakistan’s public life, as darkest period of
Pakistan’s history. They were the first one to embrace Musharraf’s
regime’s U Turn on Pakistan’s Afghan policy after 9/11. They
owned the War on Terror as their own war and aggressively
supported in the hope that this will force the Pakistan Military to
abandon its ties with the Jihadi Organizations and Islamic political
parties. Pro Western secular is harshly opposed to the rule of
Military in Pakistani politics.
They were the biggest hurdle for the Musharraf’s Regime and
were at the for front of turning public opinion against him. They
consider the Western ideology and values to be far better than
any other ideology. They are convinced of West’s Moral, political
and military superiority. Hence they see West’s interference in
the Muslim World, especially Pakistan as help towards liberalizing
Pakistan from conservative Islamist forces. Therefore they are
ready to provide ideological support to any Western plan which is
aimed at promoting Western values in Pakistan.
They idealize the Democratic Models present in India, Turkey and
Eastern Europe as they consider that these states have been able
to establish liberal Western style democracy with the help of the
West and they hope that they would be able to do the same If
they corporate with the West. Pro Western secular advocates of
friendly policy towards India and want peace between India and
Pakistan. They reject the Idea of India being a rival state and are
ready to accept Indian hegemony in the subcontinent.

Their stance on issues:

They are generally Anti American whom they see as a guarantor
of Pakistan Military’s influence in the region and who is ready to
compromise democracy and promotion of Western values for
political gains. The 1973 constitution is sacred document for
them. They bitterly opposed the 8th constitutional amendment
made at the time of Zia ul Haq and the 17th amendment and the
removal of Supreme Court judges by Pervez Musharraf’s. Pro
Western Secularist realized that they are in minority in Pakistan.
They think nationalism and Islamic Ideas complement each other
the weaken their influence in Pakistan.
Therefore they avoid taking hawkish stance and advocate
avoiding war and term themselves as “peace doves”. They
supported western pressure against the Pakistani State on the
issue of nuclear proliferation by Dr. A Q Khan although they were
careful not to be labeled as anti Pakistan given the popularity of
nuclear scientists. They advocate a negotiated settlement to the
Kashmir dispute and are in the favour of having good relationship
with India and are against the idea of Kashmir centric Indian
They strongly opposed the military operation in Baluchistan and
term it as army quest of power and influence. They advocate the
idea that Baloch insurgency is a result of injustices carried out
against the Baloch people by subsequent civilian and military
regimes. They however stop shot of supporting the demand of
independent Baluchistan. Pro Western Secularists aggressively
support the promotion in liberal values in Pakistan.

Attitude towards Government:

They ran passionate campaign and pressurized the Govt. to
repeal the Hudood audience and carry out Military Operation
against the Red Mosque Clerics. They supported and adopted
Musharraf’s theme of “enlightened moderation”. They supported
the de radicalization of the education curriculum in Pakistan and
campaigned for bringing Madrassah Reforms. They consider it as
their moral personality cover atrocities committed against women
non Muslims and blame them on Conservative Muslim majority.
They have high regard for human right groups and view them as
promoters of liberal values and thus extended and every possible
support for them.
Political categorization:
After analyzing the ideological divisions within the Pakistani
media and those who influence it lets now have a look at the
political affiliation of different media outlets. To fully understand
these affiliations we first need to know the stakeholders involved.
These can be divided in to two groups:
• International players: which includes America and Britain
• Local players: which include mainstream political parties
the PPP and PML-N
International Powers’ disputes and Media:
In order to determine the political affiliations of private electronic
and print media outlets both with the local and international
players we need to understand the difference in policies which
these different players have with regard to different policy
matters. America and Britain disagree in Pakistan on the following
policy matters:

• The War on Terror: The War on Terror is American’s War

aimed at securing Americans interests in South Asia.
Britain is opposed to increased American influence in
the religion and their fore opposes the War on Terror in
the hope of weakling American’s influence in the region.
• The Kashmir Dispute: America wants to de link the
Kashmir issue from Pakistan India rivalry and makes it
irrelevant. Britain wants the issue to be addressed
through the United Nations and seeks to maintain the
dispute in order to frustrate the American plans.
• The Role of Military in Pakistan: Military is the primary
institution which guarantees and secures American
influence in the region. America has long worked to
consolidate Pakistan militaries influence in the country,
although the policy may be changing now. Britain seeks
to weaken Pakistan military in the hope of weakening
American influence in Pakistan.
• The Baloch insurgency: Britain has long supported the
Baloch insurgency in order to weaken Pakistan’s military
and hence American influence in the region.
• Strong State Institutions: Britain being old colonial
masters Pakistan has considerable influence on
Pakistan’s bureaucracy and judiciary. America has never
allowed these institutions to become strong enough to
challenge the Pakistan military.

PML-N and affiliated media:

The PML-N is the party loyal to Americans, while the PPP has been
historically close to Britain. The PML-N and the PPP has the same
difference which Nationalist Islamist has from Pro Western
Secularists. Having said that such differences are cost aside for
political expediency and for the sake of colonial Master.
Now that we are aware of differences between American and the
British and between the PML-N and PPP it’s easy to determine the
political affiliations of various media outlets. Let’s discuss each of
them one by one:
The Jung group which includes THE NEWS, The Daily Jang and the
GEO TV Network. This group is owned by Mir Shakeel ur Rehman
and is loyal to the American’s and supports the PML-N. Its agenda
is openly Pro Western and is at the moment dominating by Pro
Western Secularists. It receives funds from America and toes the
American line on all policies matter.
It was very close to the Musharraf regime but developed personal
enmity towards the military dictator in the last year of his Military
rule due to a personal dispute between Mir Shakeel ur Rehman
and Musharraf.
GEO TV Network has the largest viewer ship amongst private
satellite channels and together with ARYONE Group and AAJ TV
has helped America transform the political infrastructure of
Pakistan from that of street politics to media centric politics. They
have helped redefined political struggle in Pakistan with media
being at the centre stage and made it easier for America to
strengthen her grip and influence on the Pakistani politics.

The DAWN GROUP which includes the Dawn newspaper, The
Herald Tribune and DAWN NEWS Channel. This group is owned by
the family of Mehmood Abdullah Haroon and is loyal to the British.
The haroon family has strong ties with Britain since before the
partition of Pakistan. They support the PPP with many loyalists of
Zulifqar Ali Bhutto and Benzir Bhutto and Pro British bureaucrats
writing for the newspapers. They are very close to the British. Its
present and former editors like Zafar Abbas and M.Ziauddin used
to work for the British Broadcasting Corporation. Irfan Hussain one
of the most influential columnist who writes weekly in Dawn was a
former speech writer for Zulifqar Ali Bhutto. Ayesha Siddiqua, The
other Pro British academic also writes regularly in the newspaper.
The newspaper can be considered the guardian of British
influence in the region and is amongst the most influential groups
amongst all of the media outlets.

The NAWAIWAQT Group, which includes The Daily Nawaiwaqt, The
Nation and the Waqt TV. This is owned by Majid Nizaami and is
perhaps the only media outlet in Pakistan which is independent of
foreign influence. It pursues its own policies and supports the
PML-N. It is the most powerful voice of Islamist in Pakistan and
has given tremendous resistance to American plans for the

PPP loyalist group:

The Daily Times, The Friday Times, The Business Recorder and
The Daily AAj Kal.
This group is owned by PPP loyalist and the Governor Punjab
Salman Taster.
Its group editor Najam Sethi is also Pakistan’s correspondence for
the influential British Newspaper, The Economist. He has been
awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom Award 2009 by the European
Agency the World Association of Newspapers. The group is loyal
to the PPP and according to some reports have strong links to the
British Secret Service the MI5.
The Frontier Post is owned by Rehmat Shah Afridi who is loyal to
the PPP and the British. Rehmat Shah Afridi was sentenced to ten
year in Jail by the Nawaaz Sharif Govt. in 1988 on the charges of
drug trafficking when he refuses to testify in different cases
against Benzir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari. Asif Ali Zardari, in one
of his first action after the February 18th Election secured the
release the Rehmat Shah Afridi on bail.

ARY Group
The ARY Group. This group is owned by Haji Abdur Razzaq. It is
close to the MQM.

The EXPRESS Group which includes the Daily Express and
EXPRESS NEWS Channel. This group is owned by Sultan Ali
Lakhani. The group editor who is loyal to the PPP. The group
maintains a high standard of reporting and gives ample space to
independent reporting.