Pak Media Watch: How Media Missed Jihadi orchestration of London protest

This article appeared in Pakistan Media Watch on August 11, 2010

Outside Zardari’s appearance at the PPP rally in Birmingham, England,
a crowd of protesters gathered to express their opposition to the
president and his message. Inside, crowds chanted their support for
the president. But there was another story that was missed by the
press altogether.

This is a perfect example of how even reputable foreign and Pakistani
news services can misreport stories about Pakistan when they do not
receive the facts from the Pakistani media. Also, it shows how all
media sometimes miss important facts when reporting a story.

BBC released a video about the protests at President Zardari’s rally
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-10905129), and noted that it was
indicative of the political divide in the Pakistani public. The video
featured a couple of men speaking in English and saying that they
think that the president would have been better to stay in Pakistan
during the floods, and a clip of Bilawal fundraising for flood victims
in London.

But that wasn’t all.

The video shows scenes from the protests outside the rally filled with
signs that say, “Save Pakistan from America” and “Khilafah Only Way to
Stop America”. One might ask, what does America have to do with
Zardari speaking to a PPP rally in the UK, or with the floods that are
devastating the country? In fact, several shots from the video clearly
show protesters waving Khilafah flags.

A commenter on this blog recently asked “Do the British Broadcasting
Corporation and The Guardian not check simple verifiable facts that
they report…And what possibly makes you think that these news services
rely on Pakistani media sources, without any verification?”

Actually, there is a quite simple explanation. Many Western reporters
may not be aware of such concepts like caliphate or even of
organizations like Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Even our own reporters get caught
up in a particular narrative – “People protesting Zardari decision” –
and miss the evidence that there is perhaps another story there.

The fact the protests outside the rally were largely organised and
manned by members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir was largely overlooked by the
press, despite this organization being banned by a large number of
countries including Egypt, Turkey, and Bangladesh. The group was
banned in Pakistan by Gen. Musharraf until a decision by the Lahore
High Court reversed the proscription.

In fact, Hizb-ut-Tahrir has orchestrated protests at previous
appearances by President Zardari since he was elected, arguing that
Pakistan’s government should be overthrown and replaced with Khilafah.

[VIDEO: Hizb-ut-Tahrir protest against Zardari]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy_arwD8s6c&feature=player_embedded

So while there is certainly a story about Zardari’s decision to attend
diplomatic meetings in Europe during the flood crisis – a story that
President Zardari himself has addressed (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/
0/8ec3998c-a3b7-11df-a100-00144feabdc0.html)  – there is another
important story that was largely missed by both the foreign and
Pakistani media: The protests outside Zardari’s speech in Birmingham
largely had nothing to do with Zardari’s decision to attend the rally,
but more to do with a highly controversial jihadist group that opposes
the concept of democracy and is working to overthrow the Pakistani
government and install a new Caliphate.

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