Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pakistan - Media and anti-Pakhtun racism

We stand with the Pakhtun community. We stand with them in solidarity against the now infamous television segment that aired during Eid transmission. We find it appalling that a national state broadcaster would find it cricket to mock the Pakhtun community.
Poet Jawad Hasan Jawad used his lyrical verses to mock bomb blasts striking Pashtun areas. Not content with this, he also resorted to the ill-founded stereotype that anyone from this community automatically has links to “illegal trade”. It was only when the citizenry of this country protested — only then, did the government respond, with the state minister for Information banning the poet for life.
Yet this is only one incident. The extent of racism is still alive and kicking and runs deep as ever in Pakistan. At the beginning of the year a Punjab government notification surfaced, ordering the racial profiling of Pakhtuns. This prompted protests from civil society activists as well as members of the Pakhtun community itself. Sadly, however, certain quarters refused to back down, insisting that this racial profiling was necessary in the name of national security.
It is ironic that Pakistan criticises US President Donald Trump for his racist statements and policies, including the notorious travel ban — yet sees nothing wrong in treating its own citizenry far worse.
People who respond to the anti-Muslim rhetoric by saying that Muslims are themselves the victims of extremist groups everywhere should empathise with the Pakhtun ethnic community that is unfairly blamed for terrorism. There have been multiple cases of hate speech against this community on a number of private TV channels, but never once has PEMRA taken action. The media watchdog is too busy issuing notices to children’s entertainment channels for airing “obscene content”, including policing the bodies of female cartoon characters.
We urge the government to take action against hate speech directed towards ethnic communities, which is currently on the rise. In the current situation — when the country is effectively at war with militants — such accepted racism simply undermines national harmony and creates divisions. This is the very last thing that the country can afford right now.

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