LAHORE: “The spy games from both India and Pakistan are rampant in the volatile region of Afghanistan and the time has come for all the sides to move forward and stop blame game to maintain peace in the region,” veteran journalist and Associated Press (AP) Senior Correspondent for Pakistan and Afghanistan Kathy Gannon said.
She was speaking at a seminar called ‘Journalism in Conflict Zones’ on Wednesday, organised by the Center for Governance and Policy, Information Technology University (ITU) in Lahore.
Speaking from a personal perspective, she noted that even though she was shot at in Afghanistan, she remains undeterred and wants to continue working in the region. “As many as six bullets were fired at me while performing my duty in Afghanistan and I have undergone 16 surgeries so far,” Gannon said, who was badly injured in April 2014 while covering preparations for Afghan national elections when an Afghan police officer opened fire on the car she was riding in. Her colleague and close friend AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus was killed in the attack.
The actions of one madman will not affect me, she added. Reporting in conflict zones is difficult and independence of movement and work is complicated, Gannon noted, while explaining her embedded role with the Pakistan Army and the Afghan Army.
Talking about the Pakistan’s fight against terror, she said that Pakistan has lost its soldiers and common people in fighting this war but it is only one side of the picture. “The other side of the story reveals that Pakistan’s war against terror is a strategic fight as Pakistan is quite selective in fighting the terrorists and targets only those terrorists who are a threat to its own security. For example, Pakistan does not launch an operation against Maulana Masood Azhar and he walks free in this country,” she said.
Gannon is the longest serving foreign journalist in Pakistan performing her duties in the region since 1988; during her stay, the region has witnessed some drastic developments including the withdrawal of Russian forces from Afghanistan.
Lauding the bravery of Pakistani people, she said that there are numerous brave people in the country like right-activist Hina Jilani who is the member of an international NGO ‘The Elders’; an honour for Pakistan given that great personalities like Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela are also part of this organisation.
Speaking specifically on Afghanistan Gannon noted that while Afghans are angry with foreigners, especially Pakistan, ‘there is overwhelming anger in Afghanistan against their own government.’ ‘The Pashtuns were glad to see the Taliban go, but were alienated by the Bonn Agreement,’ she said.
She further said that presently there are too many groups in Afghanistan which has serious repercussions. Commenting on the Taliban, on whom she has reported since their inception, Gannon said that ‘their aim is purely political; religion does not have a direct impact.’
On Pakistan and its relationship with its neighbours, Gannon said that ‘Since Afghanistan does not accept the Durand Line, Pakistan’s concerns are and will remain real.’ The Pakistan Army has been countering the terrorists, but the Army is stretched, she underscored. She also said that Pakistan is not paranoid about its situation in the region because it is simultaneously dealing with antagonism from Afghanistan and India.