Media Watch: If you watch only one thing from last week: Ashraf Ghani


    For all the purported openness of the media, we rarely see points of view different from the mainstream narrative. Even on social media, though there is a lot of osmosis of ideas, people mostly live in echo-chambers of self-perpetuating viewpoints.

    On the issue of Kashmir, do we even know the Indian viewpoint? Do we know what the UN actually says about its resolution about a plebiscite in Kashmir?

    In this vein, it was a rare treat when Geo’s Saleem Safi interviewed Afghan president Dr Ashraf Ghani. An erudite, extremely articulate man, Dr Ghani handled all questions with aplomb. Though it could be argued by Safi’s prior “victims” that he didn’t quite employ his devastating wry sarcasm this time. A measure of reverence for the office of the president, perhaps. Yes, Safi seemed a bit overawed.

    Which is not to say that he didn’t ask tough questions.

    And what an illuminating program it would have been for those bred only on the Pakistani state narrative.

    First of all, Dr Ghani refused to apologise for having good relations with India. We are a state, he said; it is nobody’s business to tell us whom we can and cannot have good state-to-state relations with. This is a point that needed to be made. Pakistan sounds like a 6-year-old girl telling her friend whom she can’t be friends with. Less statecraft, more kindergarten.

    Yes, you can have good relations with anyone that you want, said Safi. But what about the RAW involvement, the use of the country as a launching pad to stage attacks on Pakistan? This was an important question, since many in Pakistan do ask this. The end-all reply: I have met the Pakistani chief of army staff and other government functionaries a number of times; they haven’t ever given me a shred of evidence about any such activity.

    (An aside: this isn’t just something Ghani has said. The Pakistani prime minister’s advisor on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz, when grilled by the senate standing committee on foreign affairs about the dossier of evidence against India regarding terrorist activities in Pakistan, admitted that the documents submitted to the UN had little by way of hard evidence but more “pattern and narrative.”)

    Safi pressed on. What about Mullah Fazlullah, he asked. I have ordered a total of eleven airstrikes on him, replied the Afghan president; I have killed his closest associate. Is it my fault that the fellow seems to have seven lives? But tell me this: does Mullah Fazlullah operate out of Kabul on an Afghan passport, the way Mullah Akhtar Mansour was based out of Quetta with a Pakistani passport?

    Ghani said that it was an open secret that the Afghan Taliban operate out of Quetta. He even offered to give Safi the addresses from where they operated.

    With this wealth of information, perhaps it was a bit natural for Safi to be on the backfoot. Yes, the veteran journalist colours outside the lines when he does his programs within the country, but this was on another end of the spectrum.


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