By Shaheen Buneri
Media has always played a major role in transforming values, initiating change and encouraging positive developments. It has a force that runs thorough the socio-political and cultural systems of a society and leave irremovable impressions behind it. If it wounds, it heals also.
In the modern era of science and technology where high-tech arms of mass destruction can wreak havoc and can erase the whole humanity in seconds, it has become like breathing for the survival of humankind, that we use media (both electronic and print) for peace, harmony and balance.
History is testimony to the fact that Pashtun land from "Amo to Indus" has always been remained a battle ground for different invaders. Its geo-political importance, its resources rich land, its high mountains and its brave and dashing people attracted many. But every test of time enhanced its strength and every invasion made it more invincible.
In wake of 11/9 terrorist attacks in United States, global peace confronted with a new challenge--The war against terrorism. Without defining terrorism in broader spectrum the so-called war against terrorism breeds more violence and hostility. The world has become an insecure place to live in.
The ongoing instability in Afghanistan and tribal areas of Pakistan has made it more important that we objectively analyze the situation and find new ways and means to handle it. Instead of talking peace we should act peace now. There should be a big No to guns. Why not dialogue, negotiations and talks?
Peace is not a specific situation or stage in the drama of human life, it is a state of mind that prevails every thing every where. Peace in Afghanistan supplements peace in Pakistan, war in Afghanistan brings war in Pakistan. We are one, interlinked and destined to live in peace if we really want to live and progress.
One way to ensure stable and long standing peace is to utilize our media channels for altering attitudes and changing behaviors. Media can be used for peace building and conflicts resolution. To improve and strengthen relations across the Pak Afghan border media channels in both the countries should create a conducive environment for dispelling doubts and fears and building peace. We share the same values and traditions. Millions of Pashtuns on both sides of the border speak the same language, sing the same songs and feel the same pain.
To bridge the gulf between peoples of the two countries no serious initiative has been taken during the last many years. The clash of interests between international powers and lack of vision and political will at the regional level resulted into numerous social, economic and political problems across the Pak-Afghan region.
The launching of first satellite TV channel in Pashto language--AVT Khyber--- opened a new window of peace and confidence building between the two peoples. With its innovative approach to Pashto music and coverage of Pashtun issues, AVT Khyber has scored high points by increasing awareness and enhancing understanding.
No doubt, AVT Khyber provided a platform to the social and political leadership to come together and share their vision. It initiated a debate on issues that were totally ignored in past. From encouraging the process of democratization in Afghanistan to giving extensive coverage to the new developments on Pak-Afghan border and adjoining tribal areas and showing Pashtuns in their soft, non-violent, and civilized image to the world, AVT Khyber altogether transformed the whole picture.
In a short span of three years AVT Khyber has become a home for millions of Pashto speaking communities living in different countries of the world ranging from Asia to the Middle East and some countries of Europe. The independent policy of its managers and the hard work and dedication of its workers raised it to the heights of popularity and acceptability.
On the foundation of Pashtun folklore and traditions AVT Khyber constructed a new structure that stands for peace, friendship and tranquility. Besides imparting education on a range of issues it also brought a renaissance to Pashto music and poetry. The Bibi Sherini, one of AVT Khyber's popular Pashto songs, sung by a young and talented singer Zek Afridi, has now become the Bibi Sherini of every young imagination. This is the Bibi Sherina who symbolizes love, harmony and tolerance. "Featuring mostly men wearing trousers and T-shirts, playing guitar and keyboards along with Pashtun instruments, Khyber TV is fusing tradition with outside influences and creating space for change", writes Owais Tohid, a prominent Journalist in his feature story "Music soothes extremism along troubled Afghan border", published in The Christian Science Monitor on June 07, 2005 edition. He adds Pashto music, many believe, has the potential to challenge elements of religious extremism in a way that military action alone cannot.
"Maraka", (Debate), another current affairs programme with Hasan Khan in the host seat is successfully changing the hard line attitudes and creating an environment for eroding tensions and encouraging moderation.
For Kamran Hamid Raja, the moving spirit behind AVT Khyber, Peace is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures. With a tribal background and a strong sense of oneness with his land and people, Kamran Raja's new vision for peace through trade and tourism now getting shape on the screen of AVT Khyber in a series of programmes under the title of "Da Khawra aue Da Khalaq" (The land and its people).
The new series of programmes is specially focusing on human and natural resources development, promoting trade and tourism and discouraging poverty, intolerance and illiteracy which are the root causes of extremism and terrorism. This weekly series of five programmes will cover social, economic, cultural and political issues/events in a balanced manner. The new programmes include Badlon (change) directed by Mushtaq Aurakzai with a focus on tribal areas, Rikhtya, Rikhtya dee (Facts are sacred) produced by Khalid Khan regarding social and political issues , Aman Jirga (Peace council) by Hasan Khan, Splendid Suvastu (A tourism promotion programme) by Shaheen Buneri and Staray Ma Shee ( ) by Dawod Jan.
Its main objective is to create awareness and motivation. "No one will come from the outside to build our home. This is for us to strengthen our bond and to work for change and development in every walk of our life. We have talent, courage and resources, but the world knows little about us. We are portrayed as un-educated, intolerant and narrow minded on the media. Under AVT Khyber's new peace initiative we are trying to show Pashtun with his strength, skills and with all the romanticism that surrounds his life", says Kamran Raja, chief executive of the channel.
In the curtain raiser of this peace initiative programme, Khalid Khan, producer of Khyber TV said, "Unfortunately Pashtuns' image has been communicated by non-Pashtuns since centuries. The first history of this nation was written by a foreigner likewise Pashto folk songs were first compiled by people from the outside. In the modern times even on TV and cinema screen Pashtuns were shown in a false manner. A wrong picture was created. While in reality religious harmony and peaceful co-existence are the corner stones of Pashtun society. This is for the first time that AVT Khyber is showing real Pashtun image to the world".
He added that Pashtuns were liberal in their thoughts and practices. Pashtun Hujra was not only a social club but also an institution based on democratic norms and values.
Hasan Khan, anchorperson of Aman Jirga explained that AVT Khyber's was determined to play a constructive role in discouraging myths about Pashtuns and helping in initiating debate and dialogue to replace violence and aggression.
This is true that changing human behavior is a complicated and time consuming process but AVT Khyber recent initiative for peace through its specially designed programmes is a step worth appreciation.
Once the famous British Musician John Lennon said, "Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. I hope someday you'll join us, and the world will be as one".