Why Baloch Mass Graves Have Not Made Headlines in Pakistani Media

mass gravesBy N Yousufzai

Changing different Pakistani news channels this morning, I found almost all the news channels were covering the routine session of the parliament where the members were chanting for their supporters and carping at opponents. At the same time, I was on my laptop going through my twitter and Facebook feed– The social media has become my main source to keep myself updated of the current situation in my country-Pakistan. In this window to the world, the news that has been circulated by thousands of people is about the mass graves found in the province of Baluchistan – which the rest of Pakistanis only know for the Sui gas (the country’s largest gas compressor station and a purification plant) and for “Masakh shuda laashain” the mutilated dead bodies.

Finally in the evening Pakistan media did come with a two minutes report on the mass graves although the report was very short and vague in which the reporter immediately concluded that said, “ RAW [India's intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing] might be involved in these mass graves. He added that the government officials have accused an Indian intelligence agency for killing the Balochs and burying them there to slander the Pakistanis agencies as if the agencies were already very popular with the local community. Forget about the government contradicting itself – in the past they always blamed India for supporting Balochs separatist and now the Indians are blamed to kill the ones who were breaking Pakistan.

Ironically, if India was behind these mass graves, they would not the graves of Baloch citizens but that of Pakistani army soldiers Frontier Corps personnel. It is only the Baloch families, not the army, who have complained about the disappearance of their loved ones. However, if there is any Indian interference, the government should bring forward evidence to substantiate its allegations.  Even if we subscribe to the government version of things, just for the sake of this discussion, then is it not the responsibility of the Pakistani army, intelligence agencies and the police to protect the Balochs as much as every other citizen of the country against ‘foreign forces’?

In recent past, press freedom organizations, human rights activists have openly criticized Pakistan for limiting the activities of journalists  that eventually have lead to the complete occupation of media. The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority [PEMRA] and the Pakistani Telecommunication Authority (P.T.A.) have continuously restricted the the media from issues that contest government policies. They have adopted a very strict policy with regards to the coverage of issues pertaining to Balochistan.

PEMRA was first introduced in Pakistan in the year 2002 by then president General Pervez Musharraf who, soon after the launch of many private news channels, realized that allowing private channels was a dangerous decision. He thought that if they acquire freedom to speak up for democratic values and empower common voices against the strategic policies makers of the state, they can cause his ouster from power. So Musharraf decided to limit their capacity by creating new rules and regulations. In other words, Musharraf cut the wings of the bird before it learned to fly. The strategy worked, Pakistan today has more than eighty private television channels but one cannot regarded even one of them totally independent and neutral.

Dozens of international organizations have highlighted that working in Pakistan as a journalist is tough and dangerous. Pakistan’s history is replete with epochs of censorship, press advice, blackmailing the media through government’s advertisements. Dozens of reporters have been killed, tortured or arrested while reporting against the wishes of the government and the spy agencies.

Pakistani reporters and TV Channels know their limitations and their reports are mostly limited to routine life activities. For example, most of these news reports focus on crimes in Karachi and the Panjab, also cultural reports and the gossips they inherited from their ancestors- make it to headlines.

The channel owners are interested in profit making and not in the position to fight for their right of “independent media” to cover issues in conflict with the interests of ruling class.

The channels owners are mostly from the big cities of Panjab and Sindh- that also is a major factor that these channels do not bother to take any stand to pick the stories of Pashtun and Baloch killed by the state guardians.

Pakistan state have forgotten about the people of Baluchistan and Pakhtunkhwa– TV channels have chosen the easy way for themselves – ignore the violence within its own country and pretend to be a peace promoter, with starting Aman Ki Asha type talk shows to divert public attention from pressing issues.

If  shocking news like this one involving the mass graves do not make a headline, then its safe to conclude that the media is equally complicit in the murder of the Baloch people which has been exposed through these mass graves.

Published in The Baloch Hal on January 27, 2014