Systemic violence against local populations – Journal


When it comes to covering terrorism in the Af-Pak region, Pakistani journalists and analysts have one thing in common: Their fixation on ideological aspects of extremism often overshadows territorial considerations rooted in power politics. real. This conceptualization has detrimental implications for people living in marginalized areas where violence is staged locally but reported from a distance.

This (false) representation has its origins in the 1980s, when the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan forced thousands of refugees to flee to Pakistan. “Resistance” and “jihad” were the two buzzwords representing Pakistan’s stewardship role in a subsequent anti-Soviet proxy war. With the help of US-Saudi petrodollars, the Zia regime’s mix of extremism and warlord gave birth to an alliance comprising four fundamentalist and three nationalist parties. This alliance was imposed on the motley refugees settled in more than 400 camps in different parts of present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. To support this militarism, a madressah network has been set up to turn local youth into extremists – lasting fodder for proxy warfare. But the term “resistance” itself has also gradually been replaced by “jihad”. This transformation from the profane to the divine obscured for a time what happened in the making of the conflict zone.

Read: How Zia ruled

Although this is a biased reference, jihad as an abstract terminology also fits well into the imperialist tradition of great Western narratives. Celebrating the post-Soviet era, for example, English-speaking academics strategically excluded the context from their political analyzes in the early 1990s. The victory of capitalism over communism has been called “the end of history” and ” unipolar moment ”(the United States being the only superpower). This imperialist text not only announced the domination of capitalism over other forms of ideologies, but also inspired in the commercial media the use of a broad brush to paint spatial realities.

In the Af-Pak region, at least, the use of “jihad” as a lexicon has started to develop a double meaning: it has legitimized terrorism in the name of religion, creating a break with the past.

The dictators staunchly defended regional American interests at the expense of the local Pakhtuns.

Throughout the 19th century, the British used violence to control the northwestern territorial fringes of colonial India (Af-Pak region). When the local population resisted, they were first blamed and then victimized for their indiscipline, violence and fanaticism. Pakistan embraced this legacy of a colonial empire (British) and gifted it to a neocolonial power (United States). As early as the 1950s, the country’s elites set their own position in this cycle of regional oppression by joining two imperialist pacts: Seato and Cento. Since then, Pakistani dictators have staunchly defended US regional interests at the expense of local Pakhtuns.

As “jihad” was a phase of Cold War politics, the United States’ “war on terror” was a phase in this violent regional history extending market interests into the local space. This destructive imperialist cycle (call it the privatization of ‘jihad’) never allows an alternate life form to develop locally that they fear will end at the ‘unipolar moment’. In the media, the representation of the Af-Pak region serves this tradition, associating militarized violence with the love of the local population for “jihad” and, despite tons of evidence of a jihadist economy created by it. State, this aspect is hardly contextualized in the reports on the region. .

Read: The riddle of the madressah

Globally, digital technologies have helped people present alternative coverage for their precarious conditions. From Twitter to Facebook, an ambitious group of experts in the field has emerged who, in their haste to report on terrorism, offer rich data. But this data usually lacks detail due to lack of space or exposure. Regarding Af-Pak regions, for example, the information transmitted digitally often lacks insight into the tribal life system, fostering a contextually altered worldview. This limitation favors naked claims and sovereign actions without any “substantiated feeling”. This lack of tactile sense tends to marginalize the securing of daily life, while essentializing extremism and terrorism – “this is what it is” (one analyst said of the tribal Pakhtuns: those who live by the pistol, die by the pistol).

With an expansion of violence from Afghanistan to Pakistan in the context of September 11, a large number of local journalists emerged whose job it was to cover terrorism for the media. The possibility of independent journalism was further increased with the privatization of the country’s airwaves in 2002 and the expansion of the media landscape. But such hopes quickly died out due to lack of access to the conflict zone. Only selected journalists received free helicopter rides to battle sites – those ready to serve the state narrative. Defining media-military ties, this ingrained culture imposes on the local population a look from elsewhere. Where movement is not a right but a privilege, journalists and analysts at the national level project meanings from the outside onto people, portraying systemic violence as being of local origin.

Terrorism in the border areas of Pakistan cannot be attributed to a bunch of lunatics who send the “civilized” world to hell just for the fun of it. On the contrary, it is rooted in the grand imperialist designs of the state to exercise control over Afghanistan. So the violence we see is not local. It has a close connection with the state and the market and, therefore, it is systemic. From Zia in the 1980s to contemporary elites, the use of the state apparatus to create and mainstream extremism is a given. Yet media professionals have flourished by nibbling away at violent extremism like money products.

This approach – using systemic violence as fodder to produce symbolic cultural artifacts – allows commercial media to conveniently ignore the systemic war on local culture, ethnicities and their resources. Therefore, this militarized production of “extremism” and “terrorism” in the Af-Pak region is so closely tied to the interests of the producers (military, media and activists) that the massive and continuing violence does not appear to be any different from the production. of merchant products. Any real action to discourage this devouring of local space and resources requires media professionals to focus on the material implications of national policies and policies on local communities without reducing the big narratives of extremism (“jihad”). to ideological groups.

The writer is the author of The Dark Side of News Fixing: The Culture and Political Economy of Global Media in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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Posted in Dawn, January 6, 2022

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