Tuesday, July 5, 2016
Business Recorder editorial July 5, 2016
Deplorable irresponsibility The Foreign Office (FO) has refuted claims in the Indian media that Pakistan’s ISI was behind the Dhaka carnage in an uptown café on July 2. The attack on the café by gunmen belonging to the Jamayetul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) saw about 35 people taken hostage, of whom 20 were slaughtered with machetes, most of them foreigners. Six of the gunmen were eventually killed by security forces after an 11-hour siege, while one was captured alive and is being interrogated. Pakistan had condemned the terrorist atrocity and expressed its solidarity with the people of Bangladesh and the victims of the incident. It is all the more deplorable therefore that a section of the Indian media pounced upon the opportunity to malign Pakistan by ascribing imaginary statements to a Bangladeshi government advisor blaming Pakistan and the ISI for the planning of the attack. The advisor, Professor Gowher Rizvi, immediately denied the reports, particularly an interview with him claimed by Indian NDTV that he says never took place, let alone the statement blaming Pakistan attributed to him. He went further in castigating the motivated report as “proof of the Indian media’s malicious intent”. Not just that, Professor Rizvi informed Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Dhaka of the correct position and requested the clarification be conveyed to the Pakistan government to avoid any misunderstanding between the two countries. The sensitivity surrounding this episode needs to be seen in the context of recent tensions between Islamabad and Dhaka regarding the former’s castigation of the hangings of Jamaat-i-Islami’s (JI’s) leaders charged with genocide during Bangladesh’s independence war in 1971. The Pakistani FO sprang into action in the wake of these developments to reiterate its condemnation of the terrorist attack and express sympathies for the families of the victims. The FO called the allegations of Pakistani involvement “baseless and unfounded”, “highly regrettable”, “irresponsible and provocative”. The last phrase in particular sums up the blinkered approach of sections of the Indian media, never loath to exploit any opening to whale into its favourite whipping boy, the ISI. While Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency has earned a fearsome and not always enviable reputation in the past, on this occasion it is found to be more sinned against than sinning. While Pakistan and Bangladesh have officially cleared the air with each other over the false reports in the Indian media, this may not be the end of the matter. Bangladeshi Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu could not resist the temptation to swim against the current of Professor Rizvi’s clarification by raking up old accusations of the Pakistan government’s continuing to patronise and support the JI, which had caused Pakistani diplomats to be withdrawn time and again. And in an interview with CNN, Mr Inu said his government was still looking into whether the ISI had played a part. For one, the Bangladesh government, in its own interests and in the interests of the relationship between the two countries, should refrain from issuing contradictory statements by different spokespersons. Second, the Indian media responsible for such irresponsible, unethical and motivated reporting should revisit its preconceived notions that seek to cast Pakistan always in a negative light even when the facts do not support it. The issues surrounding the Dhaka attack deserve a more serious approach than the one adopted in knee-jerk fashion by the Indian media. JMB, an outfit banned over a decade ago, claims to represent Islamic State (IS) in Bangladesh. That itself, along with the airing of photos of the attackers and details of the attack by IS should ring alarm bells throughout South Asia. IS is clearly establishing a foothold in the region through local terrorist groups. This calls for a realization on the part of governments and the media that they should not, consciously or inadvertently, provide grist to the IS mill, but instead make efforts to bring South Asia together to combat the common threat from terrorism in general, and now IS in particular. While the Indian media responsible for false reporting has rightly been exposed and castigated, we in Pakistan should also be critical of similar tendencies in our own media of preconceived, off the cuff, uninvestigated reporting that further muddies the waters rather than impelling South Asia towards cooperation in the common fight against terrorism.