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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Let Pakhtun Voices Be Heard

By: Fatima AhmedFatimakhan7699@gmail.comThe Pakhtun Nation numbering more than 40 million, with a history more than five thousand years old, a culture so unique, occupying a vast area of more than 1, 80,000 square km this side of the Durand alone, and located at a strategic location; are today at the heart of the political, economic, security and geo-strategic issues confronting this region and even the whole world. The land that we occupy lies at the junction of four distinct civilizations, the South Asian, the Central Asian, the Chinese and the Persian civilization. This fact has played an enormous role in influencing our past and will certainly continue to shape our future. The central Asian region has vast natural resources and needs excess to the outside world. China and South Asia on the other hand are going to be the epicentre of global economic development due to their immense human capital coupled with the zeal for acquiring knowledge of science and technology. Iran and the Middle East provide the bulk of the energy resources to the world today. In the middle of this all lies our land and our nation; divided, disunited, disenfranchised, backward, illiterate, and most of all – voiceless. Ironically, if one could carry out a survey of the major regional newspapers and TV channels- one would observe that most of the headlines in these would in one way or the other involve the ‘Pakhtuns’. Pashto and Pakhtuns are perhaps some of the most used words in the print and electronic media today. Yet, Pakhtuns remain the least understood and most maligned people in the whole region today. While ideally, our geographical location, rich culture, proud history and the current international focus should provide us with the ideal opportunity to promote our nation, our values, our culture and act as a link between the fast developing regions; the unfortunate fact is that we the Pakhtuns are at the bottom of political power, economic development, education and social status in the whole region. Isn’t it time we ask ourselves the question-Why?On the one hand, the Pakhtuns are grossly un-represented in the national print as well as electronic media whose main focus remains Punjab and urban Sindh, on the other hand the situation is further exacerbated by the absence of any worthwhile local media, electronic or print. Resultantly neither is there an outlet for articulating the correct Pakhtun perspective on various issues on the national or international stage; nor is there any forum for these to be discussed and debated with in ourselves. The restricted access of the national as well as international media to the areas populated by the pukhtuns for a number of reasons makes the situation even worse. Add to this the effects of infrastructural inaccessibility, some real and most perceived social dogmas and the dismal state of education, and you have an ideal mix for the forces with vested interests to exploit and project our nation as it suits their designs. As a consequence neither is there a mechanism for evolving a consensus on vital issues, platform for internal debate, nor is there adequate portrayal of our rights in the national fora, neither still is our image correctly portrayed at the international level. The chief reason for this situation - among many others - we have no voice of our own. Ever wondered who speaks for us 40 million people? The state controlled Punjabi dominated media in Pakistan or the Persian dominated one in Afghanistan, or at best, the few foreign commentators visiting our areas now and then. The world has to put on Punjabi/ Persian glasses before looking at us - No wonder they see us as ‘Fundamentalists, extremists and barbaric. Just consider- Malaysia with a population of 22 million which is half that of Pukhtuns and an area roughly equal to that of Pukhtunkhwa has 32 daily newspapers with circulation of 3 million, 27 TV stations and 92 radio stations. Ironically we probably don’t even have half a dozen newspapers and only one TV station/ channel - that too state controlled. How could we expect to be heard and understood around the world? How do we expect to be given our rights? How can we expect to preserve our culture and language? How can we hope for a better future for our children? The answer lies in speaking out! NOWWith out any doubt, it is the media that shape events and influence regional and global issues today. It is the media that spurs economic development, stimulate education, provoke political debate, prompts intellectual pursuits and brings in change. Without an effective media to project our viewpoint, any hope for economic, social and political emancipation of our nation is a cry in the wilderness.

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