Globalization of Media MCM404
MEDIA AS ELEMENTS OF NATIONAL POWER
Text of two handouts for students
Note: While the title of the lecture focuses on the role of media as elements of national power, it is relevant
for students to review aspects of national security in the conventional sense of the term as well as the
unconventional sense. Thus, in this handout, it will be found that emphasis is given to even "invisible"
frontiers and boundaries because such elements have a powerful and motivating impact on the capacity and
ability of a people to defend themselves against external threats as well as to be able to cope with internal
threats. The text of the handout was originally prepared in 1998 but, except for a nominal topicality of a few
aspects, the principal observations remain, in the opinion of the lecturer, valid and relevant for students in
2005 and for several years to come.
This handout reproduces a chapter from the book titled: "Storms and rainbows" by Javed Jabbar published
by Summit Media and Royal Book Company, 2001, e-mail: email@example.com.
The invisible frontiers of national security
While I propose to deal with the invisible frontiers of national security, let us first identify the visible
frontiers. First and foremost are the people of our country, wherever they may live and work. It is the desire
of our people, their will and their determination to be Pakistanis and to remain part of our country that makes
them the most obvious, and the most powerful visible frontier. Other visible frontiers comprise a range of
indicators such as those listed below.
Boundary lines that demarcate the country's territory on maps reflecting the general acceptance by the world
of these lines as the political, sovereign frontiers of a State. Border posts, including airports, sea ports, railway
stations and road check-points that mark entry and exit points of territory.
Military defence capacity, as expressed through the Armed Forces on land, sea and in the air to enforce the
visible lines of security.
Economic infrastructure and the productive capacity of a country: our industry, agriculture, services,
transportation, telecommunications and other sub-sectors. Geographical features that help define a country's
territory and give some States extra-ordinary dimensions of security. For example, the world's largest island,
Australia has a degree of permanent natural protection due to the water by which it is surrounded and by its
own huge size. In the age of missiles and sophisticated aerial warfare, such geographical features have also
become vulnerable but geographic identity remains a tangible, visible frontier.
General stability, as in the absence of an organized, sustained, armed internal rebellion against the State, there
may be insurgencies as sustained as the Naxalites over three to four decades in parts of India such as in Bihar
and in Andhra Pradesh but the movement remains confined and is not wide-spread throughout India. There
certainly are several other internal rebellions in India but, taken together, they have not yet reached critical
Fortunately for us in Pakistan, while illegal arms and weapons have proliferated widely and while certain
groups indulge in systematic violence, we continue to possess an overall and general stability. In an age of
electronic technology and new military instruments for dominance and control, the conventional notions of
national sovereignty and the conventional concept of visible frontiers of national security are unreliable
While possessing almost all the visible frontiers, a State may not have national security. Perhaps the classical
example is what happened to the Soviet Union in 1991. Reference to conventional assumptions about visible
frontiers and national security brings to my mind the image of a State that is like the ship Titanic which, in
this case, hits the iceberg of its own phantoms and its false sense of security, only to disintegrate and sink.
The "nomenclatura" dimension of the Soviet Union by which the ruling elite enjoyed special privileges but at
the same time insulated itself from reality is a lesson to be always remembered.
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In contrast, we have the unique wisdom of China which abandoned the inefficiency of economic
communism but retained the strong centralized authority of political communism in order to ensure the
stability and coherence of the Chinese State. Whereas Mikhail Gorbachev attempted to simultaneously
abandon both economic and political communism as a result of which the Soviet State disintegrated.
While retaining political communism and its State security, China has proceeded to deregulate in the
economic sphere to achieve the world's highest growth rate and to deepen its economic security.
In the case of Pakistan, we have a strong military sector and yet very weak law and order, representing a
remarkable juxta-position of contrasting conditions. There is a serious threat to our external national security
from India and serious threats also to our internal security due to our own failures and fears.
Our conventional military forces and technology are being out-paced by a hostile neighbour which is
investing heavily in aggressive weapons. Our physical infra-structure, a facet of national security, is
functioning. Planes take off and land, the trains run (despite bombs and bloodshed), the road traffic flows.
But our spiritual infra-structure has serious malfunctions. It is often jammed: it is also crumbling, like many of
our roads and urban sewerage systems. When we turn to identifying the invisible frontiers of national security,
we can demarcate three such frontiers that manifest themselves with visible features.
The first of these invisible frontiers are the spiritual frontiers, predominantly inspired by, and based upon, our
religious faith in Islam. Yet, for an aspect that is common to the overwhelming majority of our people, it
appears that our spiritual frontiers have been taken over by a small minority of people.
We have four broad categories of adherents to Islam in Pakistan. We have the small minority of extremists,
comprising fanatics who will not tolerate any alternate viewpoint. Most of these are also very sectarian-
minded and prone to violence in direct contradiction to the edicts of Islam which enjoin tolerance and peace
in the matter of religious faith and observance.
There is the second category which could be called the orthodox segment of our society, people who are
conservative without being extremist or violent. There is then the third stream that can be described as the
moderate majority, representing most of our people, best personified by the urban middle class but also by
the majority of rural households that may seem to be orthodox and conservative by tradition, but who, in
practice, are balanced and open-minded.
Lastly, there is the segment of our society that should be called unchangingly Muslim in their beliefs and yet
at the same time, inconsistent and irregular, or self contradictory in their actual practice of the injunctions of
our faith. Even while one arbitrarily divides fellow Muslims into these four broad streams, one remains
conscious that in some respects there are over-laps and commonalities. There is a criss-cross nature to the
spiritual frontiers which is an inevitable consequence of our being a State derived from the fact that most of
our people share the same religious identity. The other such State, Israel, also contains sharply varying
interpretations of Judaism so we need not feel unduly alarmed at our condition!
It is notable that, despite certain deep schisms we have a strong sense of being Pakistani; we do not want to
loose this "Pakistaniat" even though we may disagree on critical issues. Regrettably, for a country with such a
strong Muslim frontier of national security, some of us tend to regard non-Muslim Pakistanis, specially those
of the Hindu faith, as being less Pakistani than others. This kind of suspicion or disregardful attitude is
contrary to the spirit of Islam and to the principles advocated by the Quaid-e-Azam.
Though we are an overwhelmingly Muslim nation, we do not, as a State, practice the true values of Islam. For
example, less than 1 per cent of national income is distributed formally and officially to the poor and the
dispossessed whereas some non-Muslim countries like Sweden spend about 37% of their national income on
The second set of invisible frontiers could be described as psychological frontiers or psycho-social frontiers.
We notice the curious contrast between the strong sense of Pakistaniat, to which I have referred earlier, with
the weak sense of duty to the State and of taking pride in the State.
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We have secured some substantive achievements in 50 years and are proud to be Pakistanis. Yet we have an
incessant tendency to invalidate ourselves and to revel in gloom. Some of this moroseness is justified because
of our illiteracy, weak law enforcement, delayed justice, inefficiency and corruption. But our low self-esteem
becomes particularly painful when the green Pakistani passport is viewed with suspicion at overseas airports
because we find other people also viewing us with the same lens that we do.
The tendency to migrate, to leave behind the despair in our own lands in order to gain fulfilment in other
lands, also reflects growing disparities between the rich and the poor. So we Pakistanis help to rejuvenate
Canada even as we weaken Pakistan! There should be a migration tax imposed on recipient countries
particularly the countries of North America and Europe because the highly skilled or well-educated
professionals who migrate there do not even remit the major part of their income to Pakistan, unlike the
lower income, temporary migrant workers who go to the Gulf and the Middle-Eastern countries.
There is a serious haemohorrage of human resources that is presently taking place, sapping and draining us,
eroding a vital frontier of our security. The third set of invisible frontiers is our communication frontiers. On
the one hand, these have developed fairly actively and widely within our own country. In spite of the fact that
only about three million households out of about twenty million households in the country have access to
telephone lines or to a close-by fax service, there has been a rapid expansion of access to telecommunication
in recent years.
However, in a comprehensive context, we have media scarcity and media poverty, best evident in our low
literacy. In another dimension, even within our own territory, and even in the mass medium of radio that has
the highest level of coverage, it is regrettable that in the border areas of our country, the radio and
propaganda signals from India are far more powerful and clear than the broadcasts from Radio Pakistan.
Some countries such as an economic super-power like Japan can afford to have weak external communication
frontiers and yet remain economic Titans. But we cannot afford to do so. Overseas media have a strong
presence inside Pakistan, and not just in our border areas. For example, video-tapes of Indian movies as well
as a proliferation of Indian satellite TV channels, film songs and audio-tapes, photographs of Indian film stars
on posters and in newspapers, as well as non-Indian radio and TV channels such as BBC, CNN and others
are widely viewed.
It is ironic that there is very little media in-put into Pakistan from those very countries with whom we have
strong religious affinity, countries such as Iran, Turkey, the Gulf and the Middle-East. We have more media
in-put from our most hostile neighbour as well as from countries and regions far away from us such as the
USA and Europe, than we do from countries that are fellow Muslim brethren!
Out of, let us say, 1000 kilometres of our communication frontiers, only about 200 kilometres are strong and
stable whereas 800 kilometres are weak and are breached daily. When we consider the way forward to the
future, we should attach the highest priority to reducing disharmony and discordance between the visible and
in the invisible frontiers of national security. We need to learn how to be truly Muslim by ending our habit of
trying to convert the 95 per cent of our population who are already Muslim into being Muslims all over again.
This excessive zeal to be holier than thou is totally misplaced and irrelevant.
I am confident that, contrary to the grim predictions of some analysts in Pakistan and in Washington D.C.,
the Balkanization of Pakistan will not happen. Let us recognize that the uncertainty factor is deliberately
promoted by those hostile to Pakistan and it is inadvertently given credence by those Pakistanis who allow
the pains of our evolution to be mistaken as the death-knell of our existence.
We need to study in-depth the remarkable tenacity of nations such as Eritrea rather than only concentrate on
the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Czech Republic. Education must be our guiding force for
cementing our invisible frontiers. To bring about a fundamental re-orientation we need political
commandoes, individuals with extraordinary grit and integrity to secure our political frontiers. We also need
to right size and re-structure our Armed forces in consonance with new technology and our economic
priorities without reducing our capacity to deter external threats.
But the emergence of new technology needs to be seen with caution and realism because the more
sophisticated the new technologies, the more expensive they become! We cannot afford indulgence in high-
Globalization of Media MCM404
cost gadgetries because of our burden of debt and debt servicing. One critical factor in deepening our
national security will be to make service in the Armed Forces compulsory for two years for all males aged
between 18 years to 40 years, while using flexible age segments for females in view of their special needs as
mothers and home-makers.
In the media sector, we need to strengthen our defences by opening up the air waves of the country to allow
a million voices to speak, rather than let only the existing State monopolies to continue.
Most importantly, we must empower our women because it is only with their full-fledged participation as
citizens able to exercise all their human and legal rights that we can over-come the negative gender ratio and
injustice that exists in Pakistan.
Note: As the context of this lecture has a direct relationship with aspects of national security, in addition to
referring to the verbal content of the lecture and the PPTs, students are invited to review the text given below
titled: "Directions of national security" which represents a chapter from the book: "Storms and Rainbows" by
Javed Jabbar published by Summit Media and Royal Book Company, BG-5, Rex Centre, Zebunnissa Street,
Karachi 74400, Tel: 5684244, 5653418, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Directions of National Security
Over the years since the Pakistan-India war of September 1965 (September, 1998), the security dimension for
Pakistan has been marked by a mixture of stagnation, erosion and renewal. On the edge of a new
millennium, the multi-layered and inter-woven nature of the perspectives for our national security are further
reinforced by the acquisition of a formal nuclear power status in May 1998 accompanied by an unprecedented
economic crisis and an assault upon the Federative principle that binds the 4 provinces together.
The stagnation of our security situation is directly related to the continuing state of hostility with India shaped
pre-dominantly, but not exclusively, by the unresolved aspect of the Kashmir issue. Through all the
vicissitudes of events in both countries and in Kashmir and through all the sweeping changes in the
international arena, the problem of Kashmir has continued to simmer and crackle. It has shaped our
perception of the major threat to our country and has consequently determined our investment in the Armed
Forces. Thus, in the era in which the Berlin Wall was dismantled and communism in general and western
communism in particular collapsed, bringing large-scale geo-political change across an entire continent,
Kashmir in that very year, 1989, re-erupted as if to remind the world that in this issue there exists a depth and
complexity that goes even beyond the stark division between single-party communist ideology and the multi-
party free market philosophy.
A second aspect of the stagnant nature of our security situation in respect of India is that, even apart from
Kashmir, assuming for a moment that the issue is resolved and is no longer the source of tension, Pakistan
cannot afford to lower its guard as long as India relentlessly pursues an expansion of its armed forces entirely
at variance with its claims to peace and non-violence. As the only country in South Asia that has
continuously enlarged its own territory since independence in 1947 (Junagadh, Manawadh, Sikkim, Hyderabad
Deccan, Kashmir and Goa) the Indian pursuit of a hegemonistic role may be a self-deluding and grandiose
ambition but it is an extrapolation of its track record of the past 50 years. Thus, in the foreseeable future,
stagnation, in as much of a positive sense that stagnation can be seen, will remain a feature of our national
With the disastrous political and military decisions taken in 1971 there occurred the most serious erosion of
our national security. The loss of East Pakistan was a profound tragedy for the very concept of Pakistan,
shaking to the very foundation the spiritual and psychological well-springs of national origin and national
identity. Of almost equal magnitude was the geo-strategic change at our expense, in South Asia. The scale
and consequences of that loss have obscured and distorted the reality of the circumstances in which the set-
back occurred. Whereas Pakistan's military forces on the land, on the sea and in the air were never deployed
at optimal levels to defend East Pakistan, the loss was seen as a defeat inflicted upon almost equal adversaries.
In actual fact, of the 90,000 people taken as prisoners-of-war by the Indian forces, less than 50,000 personnel
belonged to the armed forces. The forces were asked to fight in some of the most unfavourable conditions,
about 1,000 land miles away from their supply ports, separated by a much larger hostile neighbour and
eventually encircled by its forces, with an alienated civil population as a finishing touch to this doomed
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scenario. The Indian "victory" in East Pakistan in December 1971 was more a lopsided push-over, a win by
default and nowhere close to a result of a conflict in which both adversaries used all the resources at their
Be that as it may, the drastic erosion that occurred in December 1971 was gradually compensated for by three
measures. First: an attempt to see the post-1971 form of Pakistan as a more rational and viable nation-state
that sustained the wisdom and truth of the two-nation theory on a more pragmatic geo-political basis than the
original version itself. Second: the adoption of the Simla Pact in 1972 between the two adversaries which
enabled the release of 90,000 prisoners-of-war, the return of Indian-occupied territory in the western wing
and deliberately or inadvertently, put the Kashmir issue on the back-burner for some years. Third: the
commencement in 1974 of the attempt to develop nuclear weapon capacity and its eventual completion about
a decade later giving the country a new sense of security, veiled under ambiguity.
However, the persistence of Indian military expansion and its superiority in conventional forces means that
erosion, like stagnation, is an almost permanent condition. It would be neither wise nor practical for Pakistan
to pursue parity and equivalence with India in arms capacity. The most appropriate and effective option for
us is to strengthen our deterrence capacity both on the nuclear weapon level and in conventional forces.
When and if both nations sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty, the
nuclear weapon dimension will also change the balance between the two nations to a new level of mutual
tolerance. Pending that occurrence we shall have to deal with the phenomenon that can best be described as
"abiding erosion." The only fitting and effective response to the perception of abiding erosion will be for
Pakistan to build a new internal cohesion, a fortress of the spirit and the mind that no armour can penetrate.
This will require an extraordinary vision in political leadership coupled with the organizational capability to
implement the vision.
In contrast to the grim history of stagnation and erosion of national security since 1965, the decision to
become a formal nuclear weapon power in May 1998, regardless of whether it was a judicious action in terms
of the economic fall-out and international sanctions, was a decisive step forward in renewing and
strengthening the security situation of Pakistan. Though India retains a distinct edge in conventional forces
and in all other resources, the demonstration of nuclear weapon capacity has a symbolic significance in two
respects. In unambiguous and categorical terms, Pakistan has asserted the only power which the psyche of
the Indian hegemonistic mind-set understands and respects. Secondly, the nuclear tests embodied the
principle that a relatively smaller state can deter a much larger adversary from hostile actions by any one, or
all, elements such as: support from a rich and powerful friend vis-à-vis the U.S.A. and Israel; Eritrea's
successful struggle against Ethiopia and its eventual independence; the cultivation of a militaristic posture at
the expense of all domestic economic and social considerations as in the case of North Korea. Pakistan does
not exclusively belong in any one of these three categories. But the renewal and the strengthening of the
security situation in May 1998 derives a little from each of the above three categories, even though we remain
far removed from the benefits that Israel enjoys and we have little of the remarkable character shown in
Eritrea, nor to be fair to ourselves, have we been as insulated and paranoiac as North Korea.
To the credit of the Armed Forces of Pakistan, particularly in the ten years between 1988 and 1998, our
vigilance and combat readiness have received undivided professional attention undistracted by direct
involvement in political management as occurred during the tenure of General Zia-ul-Haq. While the Army
leadership's close proximity to political affairs continues due to the weaknesses of insecure civilian political
leadership, the present Chief of Army Staff, General Jehangir Karamat who is also the Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff Committee has, in particular, set a notable example of focusing exclusively on the security
responsibilities of the Armed Forces. In spite of being asked to be present during some of the discussions
that occurred in the confrontation between the Nawaz Sharif Government and the Supreme Court in August-
November 1997 leading to the eventual resignation or removal of President Leghari from the Presidency, the
present Chief of Army Staff has maintained a remarkably non-partisan and entirely professional posture in
contrast to some of his predecessors.
Quite separately from the factor of nuclear weapon deterrence, the strength and courage of our Armed
Forces, notwithstanding the inequality with India, are potent disincentives for our neighbour. India knows
that it will have to pay too heavy a price even in conventional terms if it attempts an all-out conflict against
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Yet the renewal of the security situation post-May 1998 has become a curious mixture of effective external
deterrence and at the same time an ineffective internal factor. Grave misjudgements in economic policy
accompanied by a failure to improve governance, rounded off by a callous insensitivity to the sentiments and
views of the three smaller provinces have created an entirely new condition of internal turmoil and
uncertainty that offsets and dilutes the aims achieved in May 1998.
In the context of domestic social, economic and political realities, in the light of the need to redress
fundamental inequities and injustices that abide in our system and in the face of new technologies that are
shaping and changing perspectives of military capability, we need to initiate a vigorous debate on how we
should construct the framework of national security in the new century.
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