CNN’s Zakaria Fails to Include Pakistani Viewpoint on GPS

    by Amra Tareen
    May 19, 2010
    Longtime journalist and author "Fareed Zakaria":http://www.cnn.com/CNN/anchors_reporters/zakaria.fareed.html

    An Open Letter to Fareed Zakaria

    Dear Mr. Zakaria,

    GPS could be a much more inclusive and accurate discussion if there were more voices in the square."

    My name is Amra Tareen. I’m the founder and CEO of San Francisco-based global citizen news site Allvoices.com. I am a former venture capitalist, an Ivy League-educated electrical engineer, mother of two boys and a Pakistani-born U.S. citizen. I’m writing to provide the Pakistani voice you neglected to include in your recent CNN Global Public Square segment which aired on Sunday May 9 and Newsweek column of May 7 labeling Pakistan “Terrorism’s Supermarket.” Both your broadcast and column were stunning examples of bias, not to mention examples of how the old world of media often falls short in incorporating diversity and a broad range of opinion.


    Your CNN program pitches itself as a “Global Public Square,” yet it was severely lacking in any true global perspective. Rather than utilize social media, the Internet and other technologies that could have brought in a diversified perspective, you fell into the old media trap of sticking to a select number of voices that reinforced your beliefs. This was strange in light of the consistent use of Twitter, Facebook, iReport and other social media by CNN during its broadcasts.

    Here’s the video from the show:


    Rather than the intelligent, well-researched and thoughtful examination of the day’s issues we’ve come to expect from you, we witnessed instead the manipulation of two huge media platforms to promote a personal belief. Labeling Pakistan as the world’s leading supplier of material and support to terrorism negatively brands all Pakistanis everywhere as terrorists, or supporters of terrorism and undermines the strategic importance of Pakistan to U.S. interests.

    A Weak Larger Assumption

    Either your inability or unwillingness (it’s not clear which) to include a Pakistani point of view when making such a sweeping statement is irresponsible. Your argument falls short here in the U.S., which means your larger assumption — that Pakistan is behind much of the rest of the world’s terrorism — is equally weak. Here’s why:

    1. The 9/11 attacks were conducted by Muslims, none of which were from Pakistan.
    2. The recent attacks against the Unites States where not all carried out by people of Pakistani origin; Faisal Shahzad is the first. Your Newsweek column and CNN program seemed to suggest that Pakistan has been behind all plots.

    Let’s take a look at the people who have attempted or carried out terrorist attacks over the last couple of years on U.S. soil:

    • The Fort Hood shooter, Nidal Husan, was of Palestinian descent; he was not a Pakistani.
    • Abdul Mutallab, the Christmas airline terrorist, was from Nigeria, not Pakistan.

    How many other U.S. citizens with Pakistani descent have been involved in terrorist activity in the U.S.? With one of three terrorist attackers coming from Pakistan, it’s impossible to deduce that all educated Muslims from respectable families who are terrorists have a link to Pakistan.

    Pakistan (as you rightly state in the Newsweek piece) is the only country that has lost over 30,000 people — a huge toll on both its military and citizen population — fighting a war on terror on its own soil. So how can Pakistan still be “terrorism’s supermarket?”

    Three guests on your CNN program made assumptions about Pakistan to support your “supermarket” theory:

    • Irshad Manji, a Muslim from Uganda/ Canada
    • Bernard Levy, a French author and philosopher
    • Fawaz Gerges, a man of Arab descent who is a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science

    None of your guests were of Pakistani descent. How can you promote a “Global Public Square” discussion about Pakistan if you don’t invite a Pakistani to take part in the discussion? To me, that removed any thread of relevancy. By neglecting these options and the online channel you’ve followed the top-down, broadcast-only path.

    End of Single Voice Media

    People are no longer interested in a singular voice when it comes to news — especially not for terrorism news, and certainly not for analysis of terrorism news. I got the idea for Allvoices shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks when as a Muslim I experienced the same kind of broad-brush bias and suspicion you’ve recently been promoting with your arguments against Pakistan. Back then there were few media sites where anyone with a news story or opinion could circumvent the mainstream media to present their views. It was very scary to see everyone of my creed labeled as extremists, and I’d never wish that on anyone. This is why I opened the dialogue with Allvoices. You could too, given your position within two major mainstream media outlets.

    Take a page from the rest of CNN’s programming, Mr. Zakaria. Many of its shows throughout the day have embraced the online channel to provide detail, color and a “man on the street” perspective the mainstream media can’t quite capture anymore. They use Twitter, Facebook and other social media to bring in additional voices and provide an element of exchange and conversation. So useful is this input that CNN now relies heavily on its citizen media portal, iReport, to augment its professional reporting. GPS could be a much more inclusive and accurate discussion if there were more voices in the square.

    Your column and television show should come with a heavier burden of responsibility. Negating Pakistan’s struggle against jihadists by calling it “terrorism’s supermarket” is offensive to a superlative degree considering how many people have lost their lives fighting fundamentalism there. Yet you’ve spent an inordinate amount of time focusing on just Pakistan. What about other fundamentalist hotbeds like Saudi Arabia and Egypt? If only you would shift some of your energy into listening and participating in the real global public square online you’d find fewer reasons to label all Pakistanis as collaborators in Pakistan’s national terrorism agenda.


    Amra Tareen is founder and CEO of Allvoices.com, a global people’s media company where anyone can report news or their story from anywhere in the world via cell phone or PC. Launched in July of 2008, Allvoices is the fastest growing citizen media site with over 4.7 million unique users per month and 300,000+ citizen reporters from over 180 countries. Prior to Allvoices, Amra was a partner at the venture capital firm, Sevin Rosen Funds. Before joining Sevin Rosen, Amra was a product marketing director at Ascend Communications and Lucent Technologies. Amra has an MBA from Harvard University and a bachelors of electrical engineering and computer science from University of New South Wales, Australia. She lives in San Francisco with her husband and two young boys.

    Tagged: cnn cnn ireport facebook fareed zakaria newsweek pakistan terrorism twitter
    • Ram

      It is true that the 9/11 hijackers weren’t Pakistani and Bin Laden is not a Pakistani.

      However, that doesn’t refute the fact that it was the Pakistani govt that propped up the brutal Taliban regime in Afghanisthan and it was one of the only three countries to recognize the Taliban govt before 9/11.

      The New York Times has done extensive reporting on terrorism promoted by the Pakistani government and it has quoted several state department and CIA officials who say that the Pakistani government has sponsored acts of terrorism. The Mumbai attacks are just one example of terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

      As Pakistan is discovering, promoting terrorism against others can be dangerous to Pakistan itself. Imo recognizing the dangers of terrrorism will be far more helpful to Pakistan than dismissing the reality as “bias”.

    • Irene

      I absolutely agree with Amra Tareen’s statements here. I’m a 5th generation US citizen of European heritage, and I think she’s correct that “Labeling Pakistan as the world’s leading supplier of material and support to terrorism negatively brands all Pakistanis everywhere as terrorists, or supporters of terrorism and undermines the strategic importance of Pakistan to U.S. interests.”

      She’s also absolutely correct that people are no longer interested in a singular voice when it comes to news. I’m not, and I’m highly educated as well. CNN’s really fell short on their program (i.e. failing to include any true global perspective).

      I have to say that it’s really cool to see a strong female CEO take on CNN with such excellent and well-supported arguments.

    • Irene

      I appreciate Ram’s comment, but here’s my response. Does every citizen agree w/ what their own gov’t does? Of course not. Yeah, the Pakistani gov’t might have supported terrorism in the past, but the US gov’t has also done horrible things without the approval of its citizens. Does that make all US citizens nefarious? Of course not.

      Ram then brings up the Mumbai bombings by a handful of Pakistanis. What about the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 led by American militia movement sympathizer Timothy McVeigh and co-conspirator, Terry Nichols. This was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until 9/11. Just because a few lunatics in the US engage in unspeakable acts doesn’t mean the US is fostering or sponsoring terrorism. The same goes for Pakistan. There are lovely people there.

      Tareen is pointing out the dangers of labels and generalizations. She’s also pointing out that CNN failed to include a true global perspective in their program which is true.

    • IM

      Amra makes a valid point. People of Pakistan have paid a huge price for war on terror with a loss of over 30,000 lives and an economic loss of $35 billion since 9/11. (Read Brookings Institution report in Pakistan). Terrorism was an unknown commodity in Pakistan till USA and its allies started to support Afghan Taliban against Soviets (Refer to movie: Charlie Wilson War). Pakistan has paid more than its fair share of war on terror, and it’s ironic that instead of recognizing their efforts Mr. Zakria not only labels Pakistan as supermarket of terrorism, but also labels the creation of Pakistan sixty three years ago as support of jihadist act. Mr. Zakaria has conveniently ignored that over 250,000 Muslims were massacred by non-Muslims at that time. Unfortunately Mr. Zakria fails to take responsibility for the mistakes that were committed by others, and puts the entire blame on Pakistan. Loyal and hardworking Pakistani Americans for decades have lived in USA and contributed to the economy of this country as doctors, entrepreneurs, professional, small business owners. They have made many sacrifices, many Pakistanis Americans who have died while serving in US armed services. Mr. Zakaria failed to recognize that Pakistani Americans and Pakistan Government have categorically denounced Mr. Shahzad’s actions and any other terrorist activity for that matter. We need to work for community assimilation and not community alienation. If Mr. Zakria wants to talk about Pakistan, he should invite Pakistani Americans to his show to hear their viewpoint.

    • Ram

      I think it is absurd to compare the US govt with the Pakistani govt wrt terrorists like McVeigh.
      McVeigh was prosecuted and sentenced to death. The federal govt also prosecuted accomplices like Terry Nichols for the crime.

      In contrast, the planners of the Mumbai attack are free and the Pakistani govt blocked even the friendly Pakistani media from visiting the village of the terrorist who was captured in India.
      The founder of terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad was freed by the Indian govt in exchange for passengers on a hijacked Indian plane. He and his group pledged to destroy American and India and his group has carried out several terrorists acts such as the attack on Indian parliament, murder of civilians in Kashmir etc. Yet, he is a free man in Pakistan. His group is now linked with Faisal Shazad, the Time Square bomber.

      See http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/26/world/asia/26tribal.html for how the Pakistani government (through the ISI) continues to promote terrorism in Afghanisthan. Here is one quote “Top American officials speak bluntly about how the situation has changed little since last summer, when evidence showed that ISI operatives helped plan the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, an attack that killed 54 people.”

      To conclude, I’d ask you to learn some basic facts about the Pakistani govt and terrorism. The Pakistani president has himself conceded that Pakistan created terrorist groups to achieve foreign policy goals. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/5779916/Pakistani-president-Asif-Zardari-admits-creating-terrorist-groups.html

      Our govt isn’t perfect, but to compare our govt and alleged McVeigh links with the Pakistani govt and their creation of terrorist organization, their support for the brutal Afghan Taliban etc. is absolutely ridiculous.

    • AC

      The real problem is that politicians / dictators from all countries promote terrorism / injustice if it can get them elected or keep them in power. These politicians / dictators don’t care who gets killed or suffers – even if it is people from their own country. In almost all cases this support for terrorism / injustice has a blowback. Here are a few examples:

      * US one sided support for Israel – this is a major recruiting tool for terrorists

      * US support for the Shah of Iran

      * US support for Saddam Hussein

      * US & Pakistan support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan that led to the Taliban

      * Support by Indira Gandhi for the terrorists in Punjab and when that relationship turned sour, the support for the same terrorists came from Pakistan. I assume Pakistan was hoping to do the same thing with India / Punjab as India had done with Pakistan / Bangladesh split up.

      There are some examples where there was no blowback and things were resolved relatively peacefully but people suffered for a long time:

      * US support for the apartheid regime of South Africa

      I hope that getting people informed about what their own leaders are doing might be the only way to create more peace in this world.

      I guess what I am trying to say is that instead of blaming foreign governments who you have limited control over, one should look what your own politicians are doing so you can vote them out.

    • AN

      Amra Tareen’s rant is typical of Pakistanis – commit acts of terror and deny any knowledge of it. India and Indians have borne the burnt of Pakistan-sponsored terror. In fact, Pakistan was created for one purpose only – destroy India through acts of religiously-motivated terrorism. India can exist without Pakistan (in fact, it will be good for India), but Pakistan cannot as its entire existence depends on its desire to obliterate India.

      Pakistan knows very well it does not have strategic depth and that was why it supported Taliban in Afghanistan. Its military too weak to defend itself and that why its supports terrorist groups to bring down India slowly.

      The problem with India is that we accept Pakistan’s “friendly” gestures too quickly. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Bajpayee did with with Nawaz Sharif – while Nawaz Sharif & Atal Bihari Bajpayee shook hands and smiled for the world, Nawaz and Pervez Musharaff plotted Kargil War. Now, we have fools over at Times Of India repeating the same mistake with Dawn.

      Dawood Ibrahim is living a life of opulence in Pakistan, while victims of Mumbai blasts are yet to see justice. Same with the Kandahar hijackers and Maulana Masood Azhar. The 26/11 attackers were from Pakistan, as was the terrorists who attacked Indian Parliament in 2001. Amra Tareen convineintly misses David Headley, Pakistani-American who did surveillance for 26/11 attack, Aafia Siddiqui, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, 9/11 mastermind, and other Pakistani-Americans.

      So, is Fareed Zakaria correct in calling Pakistan “terrorism’s supermarket?” Absolutely, 100% correct.

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    • Sarah

      Ram seems to have done his homework regarding Pakistans involvement with terrosrism but he seems to have forgotten that the Taliban and the likes of Osama Bin Laden were funded,planted and supported by the CIA.How convenient,we should always look at the root cause of a problem if we genuinely stand by what we believe.
      Can he also explain why there is a huge diplomatic presence of India in present day Afghanistan.Maybe a little bit of research might give him more clarity.

    • Ayesha Bux

      I think RAM and AN have done their research but all post the cold war. What they have failed to recognise is that prior to the cold war we Pakistanis were never labelled terrorists. It was becoming an ally of the US during that time and helping and assisting the so called Mujahideen or freedom fighters that the US had trained. The same Mujahideen were labelled terrorists and Pakistan was dropped as the favoured ally post cold war.

      Pakistan had to deal with over 5 million refugees the aftermath of the war which wasnt ours to begin with.

      Tell me of another country that has taken refugees of this magnitude. All the problems that arose for Pakistan as a result of this it was left to deal with on its own.

      I do request both Ram and AN to look up history and get your facts right. We do condemn the terrorist activities and the general public does not support it in any way shape or form. Also look up how they greeted and treated the Indian tourists better than locals and other foreign visitors. Taxis, Restaurants and shops wouldnt charge them.

      Maybe if you visit Pakistan you will see how different it is to your perception. This is something I hear as a norm from visitors.

    • Emmad

      With regards to the accusations by Mr Ram, I am appalled with his claims, how would he justify the communal riots in India that over the years have seen the death of thousands of Muslims all over India?, these people were brutally murdered and some even torched alive… What about the presence of a millions soldiers in Kashmir and the oppression that they indulge in on innocent unarmed men and women, your government and army has terrorized millions of muslims in your own country.
      The list just goes on & on, and your claim that Pakistan was created to destroy India is just a comment from a primary student and does not need to be commented upon even.

    • ALQ

      Pakistan is a “terrorist nation” because Pakistan is sitting on USD89 Billion of gold in reko dek, Baluchistan. Just like Afghanistan is sitting on triple digits billion of natural resources (as reported by mainstream media)). Its a real tragedy that so many people still never bother to investigate the real rational behind black money funding terrorism to destabilize nations and propagandize the public through incomplete and distorted reporting. I recently visited that part of the world on mission work and was alarmed to see the lies perpetuated by our govt, by my own eyes. Zakaria is another tool of the global brainwashing agenda and Amra has wasted her time trying to argue reason with a plugged in talking head.

    • lovely_18

      Fareed Zakaria is a journalist… o really?????? he is bone head sucker… son of bit*************

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