South Asia Media Summit in Islamabad

The two-day South Asia Media Summit (SAMS) initially scheduled for January was held this month amid much uncertainty and confusion. The Summit organized by All Pakistan Newspaper Society (APNS) was graced by Prime Minister Raja Ashraf, despite his hectic schedule.

The delight was presence of Indian media tycoons, who managed to finally reach Islamabad, despite fog and closed roads. The summit was scheduled to take place last month but had to be cancelled due to sits in called by Tahir-ul-Qadri and those protesting against genocide of Hazaras in twin attacks in Quetta a few days in January in which around 100 Shias were killed. 

Organizers of the Summit once gain faced similar situation but finally emerged successful. The blast on 16thFebruary killed another 100 Hazaras which once again led to sits in various cities, especially in Quetta where mourners refused to bury the killed unless their demands were met.

The SAMS aimed at dwelling upon challenges faced by main stream media in the emerging situation, due to enormous growth of digital and social media. One of the reasons is that mainstream media still suffers due to ‘policies’ either determined by the media owners or by the government.

In a rather suffocated environment digital and social media has emerged as safety valve. However, often issue of credibility arises, mainly because of armature handling and inexperience.The digital and social media still suffers from resource constraints and at times it has to also rely on main stream media.

It is believed that while there may be certain lessons for the main stream media, the difference in the mindset of Pakistani and Indian media owners and professionals often creates highly undesirable situations. Though, a lot of efforts are being made under ‘Aman ki Asha’ the ongoing process is often derailed on the smallest pretext, the latest being tension at LoC.

It is often that to reduce the tension between the two countries their economic interest should be integrated. There are two opinions; first that Pakistan gives MFN status to India that will pave way for the resolution of Kashmir issue, second that trade should not be allowed until resolution of Kashmir.

However, it is often said that media becomes subservient to hawks present on both sides of border. If Pakistani hawks insist on not granting MFN status to India, it is the reaction to the demand of Indian hawks who say’ “We will not allow another division of India on the basis of religion.

Though, India often blames Pakistan for providing safe sanctuaries for militants and cross border terrorism, similar allegations are also made by Pakistan. This statement of aggression mainly emerges because hawks present on both sides of borders often emerge stronger than the government. This attitude becomes too obvious when Indian channels initiate a campaign against Pakistan, which also try to respond in the similar manner.

India has emerged as ‘Big Brother’ in SAARC as many of its endeavors aim at proving itself a regional super power. While it is true that enormous size of India gives it the reasons to claim this position, at times it is felt that the United States is trying to create its own hegemony in South Asia by supporting India.

This perception gets come credence when one looks at the involvement of India in the construction of Chabahar port in Iran and rail and road links connecting the port to Central Asia via Afghanistan. While there is enormous pressure of United Sates on Pakistan not to buy Iranian gas, India has not been stopped from undertaking this billions of dollar investment in Iran, enduring economic sanctions for more than three decades.

It is true that geo politics often drives foreign policy and economic agenda of India and Pakistan but carrying a huge load of unresolved issues will not allow the two neighbors ‑ now atomic powers ‑ to benefit from the strengths of each other. Unless the prevailing mindset is not changed ‘Aman ki Asha’ will remain a far cry.