August 22, 2012
We live in insecure times – both physically and mentally. As Pakistan has been at the forefront of the ‘war on terror’ every festive occasion is also marked by fear of violence. This Eid was no different.
However, when it comes to telling us that we are in safe hands from those believing in using violence for making their “voice” heard, the media in Pakistan, particularly print, has only one word – foolproof. Given the amount of senseless violence leading to loss of precious lives, it seems a supreme irony that the media should be talking about such security arrangements.
With no thought going into how to narrate the efforts made for the safety of Pakistanis, ‘foolproof security’ has become a buzzword. It is used almost every day in the headlines or in the text of news as the front pages scream with headlines announcing dead and injured in bomb blasts and target killings.
Everyone in the government in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, and Karachi issues orders for making ‘foolproof security arrangements’ for 14th August, Jumatal Wada, Chand Raat and of course Eid. If for some reason the headline is without the clichéd words, they would surely to be part of the text.
When the Prime Minister is briefed on Islamabad’s security, he is told about “various steps taken by the police to ensure foolproof security”.
From 14 August to the Eid day, the main English newspapers roughly published more than 25 headlines carrying the words – foolproof security – and also used them in the text.
Here are some of these headlines:
Such news is all about arrangements and the official measures which do not need any publicizing. But we are told every year that holidays of all policemen and those working with the intelligence agencies have been canceled and police would guard places of worships and other important installments (whatever that means). Apart from keeping an eye on “suspicious elements” the police these days also have “metal detectors” and “walkthrough gates”.
Pakistan has suffered immensely over the last decade. Violence and gore have become part of our lives. The mantra of foolproof security is no less than a cruel joke for families who have lost their loved ones to violence.
One wonders if any reporter or sub-editor ever thought there is no such thing as “foolproof security”. They must have. But the compulsion of filling the page coupled with the perennial boredom of reporting and subbing day in and day out allows such things to get printed, with no meaning, no impact except for taking up space.
Perhaps now is the time to think how to present these “annual” events especially when so much has changed for the worse. It is time to question the official handout announcing safety and also how to report it.
Sadly there is almost no effort to link the need for making these arrangements with the incidents of violence that Pakistan is facing. And more sadly and ironically sources never forget to tell the newspaper that the security arrangements have been made to “avoid any untoward incident” like the attack on the Kamra airbase.
(The writer is a senior journalist who has worked for The News and Dawn)
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