Construction of Taliban Image in Pakistan: Discourse Analysis of Editorials of Dawn and the News

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China Media Research, 7(2), 2011, Malik & Iqbal, Construction of Taliban Image in Pakistan

Construction of Taliban Image in Pakistan:
Discourse Analysis of Editorials of Dawn and The News
Shaista Malik, Journalists for Democracy and Human Rights
Zafar Iqbal, International Islamic University
Abstract: The aim of this research study is to investigate as to how the image of Taliban is being constructed in the print media discourses. In the last couple of years, media in Pakistan widely covered the involvement of Taliban, fanning extremism in Pakistan, which, at present, forms a frame of reference in national context. The media coverage shows that Taliban mostly carry negative images. They might have some positive gestures as well, but the overall image is clearly negative. Most of the editorials in leading newspapers see Taliban as a precursor to growing extremism in the country. This paper discusses the difference of image building between two leading English language newspapers - The News and Dawn. The study describes the coverage pattern of the two distinct newspapers on Taliban and extremism. Editorials of these two Pakistani newspapers published from February 1, 2009 to March 31, 2009 were selected to study media construction of the image of Taliban in Pakistan. The rationales behind selecting these newspapers are: (1) both the English newspapers have a high circulation (2) both have distinct editorial policies. The paper concludes that media constructs a negative image of Taliban in the editorial discourses. The paper examines as how the media constructs the image of Taliban and to what extent this portrayal forms derogatory and stereotypical frames of them. Concretely, this study focuses on the frame that has been applied by both the newspapers Dawn and The News while writing editorials on Taliban. These frames identify differences and similarities between the coverage of the two newspapers. The paper does speak of the stylistic features in editorials of both the newspapers. [China Media Research. 2011; 7(2): 46-56] Keywords: Discourse analysis, qualitative research, social construction of reality, corpus modus, image studies in other parts of Pakistan by local religious groups. The

latest form of Taliban is the product of these religious
Madrassas, flourished in recent decades.
Taliban is not a distinct organization but an alliance
of different groups, which have common goals but
different agendas, making it a more complex
phenomenon. According to an editorial in The News,
Taliban were born in Afghanistan, a ‘product of a dark
alliance between the CIA and our own intelligence
services as a tool to lever the Soviet Union from power
in Afghanistan’1. The News commented that ‘militants
comprise a number of groups rather than one
homogenous unit’ – and include ‘extremists, criminals
and smugglers’ 2 . The newspaper believes that the
‘Taliban are perhaps better armed and better funded
than Ziaul Haq’s era’ in the contemporary times. The
newspaper writes that Taliban are a medium for the
CIA’s overt and covert aid as they were projected and
constructed as (Mujahideen) freedom fighters3 by the
Pakistan and Western media.
In generic terms, the word ‘Taliban’ is derived from
‘Talib’ (a student) which means ‘the one who seeks for knowledge’. According to Pushto language, ‘Taliban’
generally denotes the students who are studying in
‘deeni’ (religious) Madrassas. The phenomenon of
Talibanization is generally perceived as the process of
imparting religious education to students (Talibans) at
the religious centers.
Shah (2001) in his article The Myth of
Talibanization in Pakistan writes that ‘emergence of the

Introduction and Background
Since the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan in 1979,
Pakistan has been facing serious challenge of growing
religious extremism that has now taken a new turn in
terms of Talibanization. Militancy and incidents of
terrorism routed from Talibanization are serious...
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