It is a theme that is both recurring and ever worsening in the Pakistani media, distrust of the American agenda and skepticism of the pro-US government’s viability.
Pakistan’s ruling party is quick to put the blame for this virtually ubiquitous sentiment on the media’s shoulders, and indeed one poll shows nearly a third of Pakistanis agree that the media is fueling “instability.”
But it seems hard to accuse the Pakistani media of having formed such a massive national consensus against the US, particularly when the nation’s media has proven time and again not to be particularly powerful or influential. Reports of Blackwater infiltration into Pakistani cities is rampant, but this is hardly something the media has created out of wholecloth.
Today, for instance, a top opposition figure, MP Hashimi of the PML-N, became the highest ranking government official yet to admit to the presence of Blackwater employees in the Islamabad District.
The Pakistani government regularly denies claims that Blackwater is in the nation, and accused those reporting it in the Pakistani media of being “conspiracy theorists.” Yet Blackwater has been shown time and again to be operating, not even covertly but openly, across the nation.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to the nation, trumpeted as a charm offensive, was met with extreme distrust not primarily by the media, but by ordinary Pakistanis who condemned the US for killing civilians in drone strikes. The anger over Clinton’s dismissal of the concerns was certainly reported in the media, but it was palpable in the streets long before it hit the newsstand.
Pakistan’s assorted military dictators, most recently Gen. Musharraf, have a long history of hostility to the press, particularly when things are going bad. This time, however, it seems that the civilian government is the one looking to the media as a scapegoat as public confidence is cut to the quick.
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