India bashing isn’t the flavour of the season for Pakistani media. The way Uttar Pradesh’s Muzaffarnagar riots was covered by the local media, it showed reluctance and definite distancing from an anti-India stand.
The riots received a mixed response, with Pakistani media shying away from commenting on the issue. While most papers took the riots in their front pages, almost none of them wrote an editorial on them. Columnists also stayed clear of comment.
“It can be because there is not much Pakistan can comment on riots given its own poor record at communal harmony,” defence analyst Aisha Siddiqa said.
Pakistan TV channels took footage from Indian channels but unlike on previous attempts there were no special shows or discussions, possibly because so much was happening within Pakistan. Talk show host Farrukh Pitafi said during the riot period there were “more sexy stories to be talked about like the violence in Karachi, situation in Syria and also election of the president.”
There are some who argue that India is now gradually going off the radar of the Pakistani media. Majid Nizami, the chief editor of the right-wing Nawa-e-Waqt and Nation newspaper group said issues from India that need to be highlighted are ignored by the local press.
“The Kashmir cause seems to have been forgotten by the Pakistani media and Pakistani politicians,” he said, accusing the government of not giving enough attention to the plight of Muslims in India.
Pitafi disagreed with this contention and argued that the media had focused on the Mumbai hearings and the on-going discussion of talks between India and Pakistan. “For us, communal riots in India was an old news. I would much prefer hearing about the developments in the Delhi rape case.”
State-run Pakistan Television, which is said to be under a revamp with the new government, also stayed clear of any India-bashing so far. “This possibly has to do with the desire of prime minister Nawaz Sharif to improve relations with India,” media analyst Babar Ayaz said.
The privatisation of the media and the 24-hour news channel has meant that local news takes precedence over anything else.