SELIG HARRISON-REPUTE AND CREDIBILITY

ALI SUKHANVER

 Is it the climax of love or the peak of hatred that Selig Harrison talks of nothing but Pakistan and the ISI? He is a well known journalist, at present, working as the director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Once he had been the Bureau Chief of the Washington Post in Asia. His sole aim of life has always been to hold Pakistan responsible for every act of terrorism throughout the world. Here is an extract from his statement which he made in July 2002 while addressing a seminar at Woodrow Wilson Center of International Scholars. The topic of discussion was Human Rights Violations in Indian Held Kashmir. “It is good news that the American press had finally discovered the activities of the ISI. This spy agency is playing a very active role in bringing jehadis from all over the world to Afghanistan and helping them to train as terrorists but  activities which ISI is carrying out in Kashmir have  never been the focus of the American media..”

Here is another extract from his latest article published in the New York Times. The title of the article is China’s Discreet Hold on Pakistan’s Northern Borderlands. Harrison says, “The entire Pakistan-occupied western portion of Kashmir stretching from Gilgit in the north to Azad (Free) Kashmir in the south is closed to the world, in contrast to the media access that India permits in the eastern part, where it is combating a Pakistan-backed insurgency. But reports from a variety of foreign intelligence sources, Pakistani journalists and Pakistani human rights workers reveal two important new developments in Gilgit-Baltistan: a simmering rebellion against Pakistani rule and the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army.” Both these extracts show that running after Pakistan is not Harrison’s passion but profession. Though he is no doubt serving his masters who have hired him for this ‘sacred job’ with all possible sincerity and devotion but he must observe some rules and regulations which are the most precious asset of a journalist. If he were an Indian, the situation could have been altogether different; every Indian has a legal and moral right to oppose Pakistan because the two countries have never had very cordial relationship. More than twice India and Pakistan had confronted each other in the battle field. On the both sides of the border line, there are people who don’t have very pleasant feelings for the neighbouring country but what compels Harrison to keep on firing the bullets of words against Pakistan? It seems that money is making the mare go.

In his recent article, Selig Harrison has criminally tried to disfigure the facts by saying that India has permitted media access in the eastern part of Kashmir. The reality is altogether different. According to the report of Kashmir Media Service, Indian Authorities have banned beaming of Pakistani channels in the northern part of Indian held Kashmir and directed cable operators in Baramulla and Sopore to block five Pakistani news channels including PTV, Geo TV, ARY News, Dawn News and Express 24/7. Bobby Singh who runs the cable operation in occupied Kashmir said that two months back, the Baramulla district Magistrate directed cable operators to act upon the instruction with immediate effect. Same is the case with the Pakistani newspapers which are not allowed in this occupied valley of the Indian held Kashmir. Not only the TV channels and newspapers but also the internet search engines are continuously kept under pressure. The Google is surely the unluckiest search engine which is going to face a ban everywhere in India including in the occupied part of Kashmir. Various Indian newspapers have published reports regarding the expected ban on Google and Skype related services. The government of India has presented a lame excuse for this expected ban that the government can’t access encrypted information being sent through Skype and Google related services. User exchanging information in an encrypted way through Google can’t be monitored by Government. Government officials say that by using this method criminals can easily make contact with others and carry out criminal activities, that is why the government has decided to impose a ban on them but in fact the story behind is not so simple. The government of India is taking all these steps simply to keep the people in dark; but what to do of Selig Harrison who is never ready to look at the other side of the picture.

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As far as the western portion of Kashmir is concerned, Selig Harrison must correct his information. Either in Azad Kashmir or in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, there is no movement against the government of Pakistan. In both these areas people are leading a very calm and peaceful life. The government of Pakistan is using all possible sources for the betterment of these areas. New development projects have been started just to provide the local people new opportunities of prosperity.  The government of Pakistan is very keenly planning the Gilgit-Skardu road project. The establishment of regional branches of the National Bank of Pakistan, the offices of the National Database and Registration Authority and the House Building Finance Corporation in the area are some of the important steps taken by the government of Pakistan. The Gilgit-Baltistan political Government has been given complete internal freedom and the Legislative Assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan is enjoying all financial, administrative, judicial, political and developmental powers with all freedom.

Selig Harrison has criminally concocted the story of the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army in Gilgit-Baltistan. This type of fabrication is the worst example of yellow journalism. Chinese troops are no doubt there in the Gilgit-Baltistan region but they have come there at the request of the government of Pakistan to lend a helping hand in repairing the Karakoram highway, which has been severely damaged by the recent floods and landslides. Pakistan and China have a very deep-rooted cordial type of relationship since the day one. They stand by each other at every time of need. At present Pakistan is facing the worst consequences of the flood-disaster and being the closest friend of Pakistan, China can not leave Pakistan alone and companionless. Journalists like Selig Harrison must try to behave sensibly and see the world around them with their own eyes if they want to earn repute and credibility.

The writer is a Pakistan based bilingual analyst on defence and strategic affairs.

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