North Korea is not the only country that has taken offense to its portrayal in Western media. Recently, Pakistani officials have criticized the American television series Homeland, which airs on Showtime, for portraying Pakistan in a negative light.
Pakistani officials are upset because the show portrays their country as a “hellhole,” to use their words. Homeland focuses on American intelligence officers and the latest season mostly occurs in Pakistan. The Pakistani embassy in the United States released a statement saying that it was “very unfortunate that the underlying theme of ‘Homeland’ Season 4 is designed to create a negative perception of both the U.S. and Pakistan.” Pakistani officials were especially upset because Homeland showed agents from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), assisting local terrorist groups, including helping one attack the U.S. embassy in Pakistan. This has led to a statement from Pakistan that “insinuations that an intelligence agency of Pakistan is complicit in protecting the terrorists at the expense of innocent Pakistani civilians is not only absurd but also an insult to the ultimate sacrifices of the thousands of Pakistani security personnel in the war against terrorism.” Pakistani commentators also argued that the show fuels American paranoia over Pakistan and the Islamic world in general.
These statements from Pakistan ring hollow. Pakistan has a long history of state support of terrorist groups that conduct operations in India, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, even against U.S. interests. While Homeland is obviously a fictitious account, its theme of Pakistani support for militant organizations is not off the mark. As analysts have pointed out, Pakistan is unlikely to change its policy of sponsoring militant groups even after the Peshawar school attack. Recent incidents have confirmed this. On New Year’s Eve, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted a Pakistani fishing boat off the coast of the western state of Gujarat. The incident fueled speculation that the boat was transporting people and supplies to carry out another Mumbai-style attack. The Mumbai attack of 2008 featured a small, armed team attacking several key buildings simultaneously.
The truth may never be known for sure since the Pakistani boat blew itself up with some of the explosives contained within the boat. All four individuals on the boat are presumed dead. While smuggling is a possibility, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that the boat was involved in a “possible terror operation.” As a new year begins, it seems as though it is business as usual for Pakistan and its support of terrorist organizations. No negative portrayal in American television or terrorist attack in Peshawar is going to change its overall strategic calculus.