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    The 'manufacturing of consent'

    Dr Farrukh Saleem

    The writer is an Islamabad-based

    freelance columnist

    [email protected]

    Pakistan beware. The American leadership has begun manufacturing domestic consensus (Noam Chomsky's terminology: manufacturing consent) against Pakistan singling us out as the lone nuclear spoiler on the face of the planet. There was a time, not too long ago, when there used to be an almost daily certification of President Musharraf's "extraordinary performance" in America's 'war on terrorism'. The White House ended all that some three weeks ago.

    The New York Times (NYT) and The Washington Post (WP) picked up the whip from where the White House had left it. On May 29, NYT ran "World opinion isolates a divided Pakistan". The New York Times News Network asserts that the "world opinion has swung decisively against Islamabad on the Jammu and Kashmir issue even as Pakistan itself is cleaved between the country's moderates and liberals on the one hand and the fundamentalists and militarists on the other. In the past week, almost every major country in the world, from the United States to Australia, has rejected the Pakistani argument that it is innocent of the terrorism in Kashmir, which it describes as a freedom struggle. Neither the Islamic world, nor its closest ally, China, has backed Pakistan's position."

    On May 26, NYT carried an opinion piece titled "Pakistani Militants' Ties to Military Make Radicals Hard to Dislodge". Howard W French, the author, claims that "for more than 20 years, the Pakistani government has used Islamic radicals as an instrument of both domestic and foreign policy. Now, many Pakistani security experts doubt that the government has the will or the means to neutralise what has become a huge network of violence."

    On May 31, two Washington Post Staff Writers wrote that "President Bush used his toughest language yet yesterday in demanding that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf choke off the incursions of Muslim militants into Indian-held territory that are threatening to trigger open warfare between the nuclear-armed rivals. Bush said, 'He must stop the incursions across the line of control. He must do so. He said he would do so. We and others are making it clear to him that he must live up to his word.'"

    On May 27, WP reported that President Bush had called on Pakistan's president to "show results" in stopping incursions into Indian-controlled Kashmir.... Bush told a news conference with French President Jacques Chirac, "That's what's more important than the missile testing, is that he perform."

    Some two weeks ago, the 'manufacturing of consent' through the print media was taken over by the electronic media. Secretary of State Colin L Powell recently told Public Broadcasting System's (PBS) 'News Hour with Jim Lehrer' that President Musharraf "has now given assurances again, and these assurances are more positive, and we hope he is now giving the necessary orders and taking all the necessary actions to stop the infiltration," adding that "If we see that, if everybody can detect the end of this kind of infiltration activity, then we have a basis for calling upon the Indians to start moving in the other direction, with respect to their mobilisation and preparation for attack action."

    On May 27, ABC News chose to air Omer Abdullah's (India's junior foreign minister) comments in which he told his American audience, "It is for Pakistan to dismantle its machine of terrorism, it is for Pakistan to stop cross-border infiltration, it is for Pakistan to hand over people on the list of 20 given to Pakistan."

    It is important at this stage for our policy makers to try and read the minds of South Asian policy makers in Washington. At the State Department, the top South Asian policy-maker is Richard Lee Armitage. This person has been the Presidential Coordinator to the New Independent States of the former Soviet Union. President Bush's father appointed him as a presidential Special Negotiator for the Philippines Military Base Agreement, a Special Mediator for Water in the Middle East and a Special Emissary to Jordan during the 1991 Gulf War. Armitage is a highly decorated, Vietnam-era, covert CIA operator. He continues to think like one and operates like one.

    Then there is Christina Rocca. A graduate in history from London's Kings College, who now lives in Virginia along with her husband and two children. A career officer of the clandestine operations Directorate of the CIA and an assistant to Senator Brownback (when he chaired the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs), she helped Brownback move two amendments that were adopted by the US Senate in 1999 (vesting powers with the President to lift sanctions against India and Pakistan if he deemed it fit). Brownback then helped Rocca become the US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia (in place of Karl Inderfurth).

    In 1990, Rocca was assigned to the Stinger buy-back programme during the implementation of which she engaged various Afghan Mujahideen groups and the ISI. She had a brief tangle with Lt Gen Javed Nasir (who was then the Director-General ISI). The general was later removed from the ISI by Nawaz Sharif.

    Rocca has been an active member of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Gauging from what she has written or said she probably has a pro-Tibet or an anti-China bias in tandem with a strict anti-terrorist or perhaps a pro-Delhi bias.

    Within the elected hierarchy the four that can make any difference at all at this stage are Senator Biden, chairman Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Rep Hyde, chairman House's International Relations Committee, Senator Wellstone, chairman Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and Senator Brownback, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs.

    I believe it was last week that The Guardian, The Times and The Telegraph all ran pieces the same day denouncing Pakistan's 'pro-militancy' Kashmir policy. It is scary how the world media - both print and electronic - is now framing issues and selecting topics. That reminds me of 'Operation Desert Storm'. Saddam invaded Kuwait on 2 August, 1990. Between the middle of December 1990 and January 1991, American media - both print and electronic - was overwhelmed with anti-Iraq rhetoric. By the end of it all, Americans were all convinced that Saddam had to be punished. On January 17, the air war began with an Apache helicopter attack.

    There are two ways of looking at it all. First, we are Muslims we cannot be wrong. We are Pakistanis we cannot be wrong. We are Muslim Pakistanis we cannot ever be wrong. The whole world is biased. Second, if the whole world says that we are on the wrong path may be a review is due.

    PS. On June 1, President Musharraf wrote a dozen letters and selected five dispatchers to deliver them. Wasim Sajjad flew off to Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey with four letters. Najmuddin Shaikh took possession of his share of letters and rushed to Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan. Farooq Leghari also sped away to the mummies of Egypt. Estimated expense on behalf of taxpayers: Rs5 million. I checked with DHL and they were willing to do the same for Rs2,157 each or a total of Rs25,884. Savings to taxpayers: Rs4.97 million.

    How can a man die better than facing fearful odds for the ashes of his fathers and the Temple of his Gods?