Multiperspective Narratives about Peshawar Massacre: An Analysis of American, Indian and Pakistani Medias

Authors: Ayisha Khurshid

Multiperspective Narratives about Peshawar Massacre: An Analysis of American, Indian and Pakistani Medias


The discourse build within in any narrative often has the quality of multiperspectivity, where facts can be blurred and reality can be manipulated. The present paper analyzes the embedded multiperspectivity in the narrative of Peshawar massacre where American, Indian and Pakistani medias have built their own respective discourses to present the issue in front of the audiences. The issue at hand is to explicate the convergence and divergence of frames employed by various medias under discussion to highlight how multiple level views are generated through single event. The Pakistani media framed the issue as the after math of Zarb-e- Azab operation, whereas American media tied it with Malala’s narrative. The Indian Media build the narrative around 26/11 and rejected Indian involvement in the atrocity. On the deeper level, the framings employed by all the medias under discussion highlight the vulnerability of security in Pakistan, yet the patriotic stance , blame game, misrepresentations, hate speech, along with strong message of abhorrence for violence add both convergence and divergence in each Multiperspective narratives about Peshawar incident. The reason for divergences in the narratives lies both in political as well as cultural patterns of all the medias under study. As the social responsibility on part of media cannot be denied, there is a need to educate the journalists not to be media frenzy but be responsible enough to present the facts and figures without vague or multi- embedded lexical items.

Keywords: Media, Lexical Analysis, American Media, Indian Media, Pakistani Media, Multi-perspective, Media Perspective


“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors. (Manzarek, 1967).”

The discourse build within any narrative, be it political or social often gyrate around the notion of multiperspectivity as every event is perceived and analyzed by every individual through a distinct frame. The lens or frame generates multi-perceptions which may or may not generate conflict.  “We must look at the lens through we see the world, as well as the world we see, and that the lens itself shapes how we interpret the world.” (Covey, 1989, p. 17)

In the domain of Narratology, multiperspectivity carries no distinct meaning. Multiperspectivityin Narratology may signify different perspectives through multiple stories but despite having divergences in their frames, they do converge at some points. It may refer to multiple narrators or multiple viewpoints.‘The most prototypical cases of multiperspectivity can be found in repeated, successive renderings of one and the same event from different character’s points of view’ (Hartner, 2008).

The relationship between Narratology and Journalism may not be explicit to some as for many the former is related with fiction and the later with non-fictitious world, where distinction is also made on the basis of subjectivity vs. objectivity. But the deeper analysis reveals a different perspective where ‘journalists do not write article. They write stories’ (Bell, 1991, p. 147) where mostly third person narration is used by the journalists.

While describing the narrative strategies employed in the newspapers, Fulten describes five basic points which makes news a form of narrative; these include ‘angle, point of closure, individualization, focalization and chronology’ (Fulton, 2005). What media analysts generally describe as frames in news production, Fulten labels it as an ‘angle.’

While describing the schematic structure of news Van Dijk states that the headline of any news story is of primary importance in unveiling the thematic structure (Fairclough, 1995). The headlines serve the purpose of divulging the macrostructure of the news articles by providing the main jest of the story/narrative (Dijk, Discourse and Communication: New Approaches to the Analysis of Mass Media Diiscourse and Communication, 1985) and helps readers in building ‘their own personal macrostructures’ (Dijk, 1988, p. 33). They often serve as an individuality mark for any newspaper for presenting the story with its own idiosyncratic trait (Bell, 1991).

Headlines act as ‘relevance optimizers’ and are “designed to optimize the relevance of their stories for the readers’ (Wilson, 1996). “If a headline does not express in part the highest macro-proposition of the news report, but rather some lower level detail, we may conclude that the headline is biased” (Rodríguez, 2004, p. 139).It is often seen that readers mostly go through headlines instead of scanning the whole articles to get to know what is happening around the world in a minimal time period.

The choice of lexical items in covering a story is directly connected to the frame which a journalist wants to employ. Lexical items due to their connotative and denotative meanings have the quality of value judgments (E.Richarson, 2007) and this very tendency of words assists in building the story around a particular frame.

But what kinds of frames are mostly employed by journalists is a matter of great importance. It is often quoted that in the world of media a bad news is an omen of profit making, thereby laying stress that as bad news carry more attraction, their coverage tend to foster more economic ruminations. The status conferral bestowed upon terror incidents has always been debatable like the definition of terrorism itself. In such instances, the credibility of journalistic articles or electronic news is not only questioned but media connoisseurs more specifically those working in the domain of media discourse layer by layer disclose the one sided frames which are employed by journalists.

One such terrorist attack which gained much status conferral, after the 9/11, in international media is Peshawar school carnage in Pakistan in which 132 children were killed by Taliban. The Pakistani media gave extensive coverage to the issue as it was a national tragedy. Similarly, Indian and American media also covered the tragedy and presented the issue to their audiences. As it is said that mostly readers want to read those stories which in a way are related to them, so there is a need to find the relevancy optimizers used by the three Medias. The present study is based upon the analyses of finding multiple perspectives in the three Medias to find where the stories converge and where they diverge. As a sample for the study, the coverage of initial three days of the Peshawar attack is studied where The New York Time, The Hindustan Time and The News are taken as sample for each type of media. The discourse analysis is applied and lexical items are then used as cues to scrutinize the headlines. The headlines are only analyzed as they are of primary importance in building frames.

Peshawar Narrative in American Media

1. Coverage of Peshawar Massacre in New York Times

The present section analyzes the headlines of the articles published in New York Times related to terrorist school attack in Peshawar. On the basis of lexical cues, categories have been made and headlines are then stratified accordingly.

1.1. Peshawar Massacre and Malala’ s Narrative

If news is published for singleton time in media, it is said to be of some importance. But if the same news is published twice with no apparent new angle then it is said that it is of much more importance. In the New York Times two headlines were published to discuss how MalalaYousafzai, a Nobel prize laureate has felt the grief of Peshawar attack. The headlines ‘Malala: 'Heartbroken' About Attack in Pakistan’  (16 December 2014) and ‘Nobel Prize Winner Malala 'Heartbroken' by Pakistan School Attack’ (16 December 2014) were published where in the former one there is addition of words ‘Nobel Prize Winner’ to mark the importance of Malala in the international community. Similarly in almost 10 articles, allusion to Malala is given to link the Peshawar attack with Malala’s attack.

1.2. Issue of Death Penalty

 The enforcement of death penalty in the wake of Peshawar carnage is also discussed by The New York Times. ‘Pakistan PM Lifts Moratorium on Death Penalty After School Attack’ (17 December 2014) though mentions about the lifting of ban on death penalty but does not explicitly state that it is only for cases pertaining to terror attacks..Similarly the headline, ‘Pakistan Executes Militants and Bombards Tribal Areas’ (18 December 2014) uses ‘militant’ as a euphemism for terrorists and then discloses that they are executed by Pakistan implying that on the order of Pakistani authorities, terrorists were hanged.

1.3. Pakistan and War on Terror

There have been mixed headlines with respect to Pakistan and its commitment to War on Terror. ‘Despite Billions in Aid, U.S. Unable to Get Pakistan to Confront Militants’ (18 December 2014) criticizes that despite the aids in millions to combat in war of terror, Pakistan has failed to confront terrorists. This is said in the context of Peshawar incident where there are doubts about where the money is going as well as doubts on Pakistan’s efforts to curb terrorism. ‘Taliban Horror: ‘When Evil Meets Evil, Innocents Die’’ (18 December 2014) are the collection of letters published where Pakistan’s political and military leadership is labeled as evil as they had been fostering Taliban (according to the author) and other  evil is Taliban themselves. So the headline means that military and Taliban both are to be blamed for the carnage.  

1.4. Horror and Awe

The New York Times also presented the revulsion against the terrorist attack in Peshawar. In the headline ‘Horror Paralyzes Pakistan after a Methodical Slaughter’ (Khan, 18 December 2014) the words paralyzes and methodical slaughter are of significant importance. Paralyzes is generally associated with living beings and their inability to move or show any movement. On the other hand, ‘slaughter’ is used for animals and not human beings. Here, their combination implies that children were systematically killed like the slaughtering of animals and the very act has affected everyone in Pakistan that life has come to a standstill.   In ‘The Taliban’s Massacre of Innocents in Pakistan’ (17 December 2014) the usage of words massacre and innocent reflect the horror; the killing of children in mass number in Pakistan.

1.5. Condemnation and Support

Several headlines stating United States condemnation of the attack and support for Pakistan were published in The New York Times. ‘Obama Offers Support After Pakistan Terror Attack’ (17 December 2014) and ‘Kerry Says 'Devastating' Pakistan School Attack Angers the World’ (16 December 2014) present US stance.

Condemnation by Indians also made it to the headline. ‘Image of Asia: Indians Pray for Pakistan Victims’ (17 December 2014) brings into focus that the neighboring country of Pakistan, India who has also felt the grief. The usage of word ‘pray’ means that they felt some relation with the victims for which they showed solidarity with the people of Pakistan.

Some news about Pakistanis condemning the attack made it to the headline. The most important headline with respect to this condemnation is ‘ Some Pakistan Militants Denounce School Attack, Amid National Outrage’ (18 December 2014) where some militant groups in Pakistan also denounced the attack. ‘National Outrage’ refers to general public anger towards the attack, and it seems that due to this militant groups denounced the attack.

1.6. Peshawar Massacre and Role of Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s role is also highlighted in one of the news headline which states that ‘Pakistan Urges Afghans to Help Find Taliban Leaders behind Massacre’ (Khan and Ahmed, 18 December 2014). Here Pakistan is used as an umbrella term for military officials who visited Afghanistan to seek help from Afghans to help in finding the safe havens of Talibans in Afghan regions. The headline also requires a supposition that the planners of the attack are hiding in Afghanistan.

1.7. Security Concerns

The New York Times also highlighted the security concern in India due to the Peshawar attack.  ‘India Goes on Security Alert Weeks Before Obama Trip’ (17 December 2014)  though apparently does not mention about Peshawar carnage, yet the security alert  is due to the  fear that if a school can be targeted by Talibans in Pakistan then the same group can target India as the visit of President Obama is of international significance. Another news that was published was ‘Pakistan Court Bails Man Accused of Masterminding Mumbai Attack’ (18 December 2014) which again depicts the security concern that the Pakistani court released the man accused to be master mind behind Mumbai attack. Here the identity marker of ‘mastermind’ is used for Hafiz Saeed.

1.8. Pakistani Taliban and Terrorist Attacks

Some of the headlines in The New York Times are related with Pakistani Taliban and terrorist attacks like ‘A Look at the Pakistani Taliban Militant Group’ (16 December 2014). Though the word ‘look’ simply means ‘to see’ but here it means to see historically the evolvement of Taliban group. Similarly the headline ‘How the Pakistani Taliban Became a Deadly Force’ (Gall, Walsh and Schorzman, 17 December 2014) though uses question format but also traces the emergence of Talibans as a ‘deadly force’ meaning how they took violent ways to terrorize people. The headline “Major Militant Attacks in Pakistan in Recent Years’ (16 December 2014) discloses that violent terrorist attacks have engulfed Pakistan for quite some years. The word ‘major’ implies that minor incidents have also been reported but are not discussed in the same article.

1.9 Rescue Operation

The first news that appeared related to Peshawar massacre was "Pakistan Police: Explosions Heard at Peshawar High School"(16 December 2014), thereby pointing out that something is going wrong in Peshawar High School. The name of the school is not mentioned in the headline i.e., Army Public School and College. Multiple news were published with respect to the rescue operation being held in Peshawar. Headline like ‘Pakistani Military: Four Taliban Killed at School, Search Continues’ (16 December 2014) discloses that four Talibans are killed during operation while it was still underway. The ‘search continues’ signify that there are other Taliban attackers in the vicinity of the school.  The headline ‘Pakistani Operation to Rescue Students at Peshawar School Is Over’ (16 December 2014) marks the completion of the operation. ‘Over’ signify that the attackers have been killed.

Peshawar Narrative in Indian Media

1. Coverage of Peshawar Massacre in The Hindustan Times

Indian media also gave extensive coverage to Peshawar school incident. The present section uses The Hindustan Times as the sample for studying the frames employed in Indian media to cover terrorist attack in Peshawar.

1.1. Narrative of Peshawar Incident and its Relationship with 26/11

The Hindustan Times uses Mumbai attacks (also referred as 26/11) as a relevancy optimizer thereby on one side laying stress that India itself has been a victim of ferocious terrorist attacks and on the other side to pressurize Pakistan that the release of Hafiz Saeed, one of the member assumed to be the key man behind the Mumbai attacks, is a step which is unwelcoming in India. The headline ‘Will Pakistan take the right lessons from Peshawar?’ (Sharma, 18 December 2014) may seem of no relation to 26/11 on denotative meaning yet if read with the what the article states “Peshawar massacre is Pakistan’s 26/11” (Ibid) the meaning becomes apparent that the headline is a kind of sarcasm which questions whether Pakistan is ready to take the right decision. The lexical items ‘right’ and then ‘lessons’ are used to object on the release of Hafiz Saeed, where the journalists intention is to depict that the step of giving bail to Saeed is a wrong one thereby implying that Pakistan has not learnt lesson from Peshawar and is still fostering terrorists.

The headline ‘Same terror, same pain: Peshawar, 9/11 or 26/11 attacks’ (Baweja, 17 December, 2014) apparently seems objective where all the three listed terrorist attacks have resulted in same terror and pain, yet the article makes an altogether different point where the blame is put on Pakistan for using Lashkar against India. Here the conflict of Positive Self Presentation and Negative Other presentation is evident.

1.2. No place for Terrorism

•           Condemnation by Indians

In order to present soft image of India in front of the World and show solidarity in fight against terrorism, Indian newspaper The Hindustan Times published many headlines in which Indians belonging to diverse fields are mentioned to be condemning the Peshawar terrorist attack in Pakistan. It is important to note that Prime Minister of India and another political leader’s condemnation made it to the headline whereas no other political figure is mentioned in any headlines. In ‘PM Modi calls Sharif, says Peshawar attack an assault on humanity’(Gupta and Jacob, 17 December 2014)the last names of the Presidents of Pakistan and India are used as identity markers. The usage of word ‘humanity’ is important here that the terrorist attack is not against any race, any region or any nation but against the whole mankind. In another headline, ‘Peshawar killings brutal massacre: Himachal CM’ (17 December, 2014), for Chief Minister CM is used and the name of CM is not mentioned.  The usage of lexical item ‘brutal’ suggests that the CM is denouncing the attack on school children by labeling it as inhumane and savage.

Contrary to condemnation by two political figures, many headlines were published in which Bollywood actors strongly opposed the ferocious killing of innocent children in Peshawar. “B-Town condemns militant attack on school in Peshawar” (16 December 2014) presents the stance of Bollywood actors. B-Town is used for Bollywood actors, and usage of euphemism can be seen where ‘militant’ is used instead of ‘terrorist.’ Another headline is “You are beyond evil’: AnupamKher to militants behind Peshawar attack”(18 December 2014) presents individualistic stance of Indian actor Kher. The lexical item ‘evil’ expresses gruesome act of terrorists who killed innocent children in a school attack. The  usage of word ‘militant’ as a euphemism for ‘terrorist’ leaves reader wonder if the attackers are beyond evil then why the headline states them as militants and not rather terrorist. The headline refers to the open letter written by the Bollywood actor to the terrorists of Peshawar attack.

Apart from media community, much news related to Indian school children condemning the attack were circulated in the media. One such headline that covers the overall trend is “Indian schools mourn deaths of Peshawar children” (17 December 2014). The headline generalizes the trend and by using “Indian schools” it seems that every school in India is airing their voices against Peshawar school which is not the case.

Indian Civil Society also raised its concern over the Peshawar attack as the headline ‘Pak Killings denounced’ (17 December 2014) condemns the attack by using the lexical item ‘denounced’. Pak is used instead of Pakistan and the agent’s name is missing here. The article reveals that IDPD (Indian Doctor for Peace and Development) has been the agent.

           Condemnation by Pakistanis

Attributing heavy amount of coverage to denouncement made by Indians, The Hindustan Times also published headlines presenting Pakistanis’ stance on the heinous attack. ‘Pak leaders condemn attack, Sharif terms it ‘National tragedy’’ (16 December 2014) and ‘Won’t differentiate between good and bad Taliban: Pak PM Sharif vows to fight terror’ (Ahmed, 17 December 2014) divulge the stance of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The last name of PM is used in both the headlines as the identity marker. The first headline has two subsets, first section presents that all political leaders of Pakistan are on one page and condemn the attack, the second section brings into lime light the element of ‘national tragedy’ which is declared by the PM of Pakistan. The second heading demands contextual knowledge that in previous some years there has been debate in Pakistan that there are some sections in Taliban which are in favor of peace and thus are good and there are others who are labeled as bad, means the one who foster conflict and spill blood. So, the background behind good and bad distinction is necessary to interpret this headline.  It can be read as from now onward Pakistan would not cater to this demarcation as it has slowed the process of war on terror and thus hundreds of innocent lives are lost.

Certain Pakistani sport players also showed their grief on the incident  and strongly denounced it. In the headline ‘Pakistan players wear black arm bands in World Cup Kabaddi’ (17 December 2014), the Kabaddi players showed their condemnation through black bands. Black color is associated with extreme grief and sorrow, but in the international community, the wearing of black bands is to denounce and protest. The headline lacks the causal factor and the lead clarifies it by mentioning that the very act is to condemn the Peshawar incident.

•           Condemnation by the International Community

The Hindustan Times also mentioned about the rest of the international community which has shown abhorrence for the very incident in Peshawar. The headline ‘World leaders condemn gruesome attack in Pak by Taliban’ (16 December 2014) prepares the reader that article will be discussing the condemnation by international leaders.

1.3. Vulnerability Pertaining to Terrorist Attacks and Security Concerns

In the wake of Peshawar attack, Indian media also highlighted how vulnerable are the security conditions in their own country. The headline, ‘Mumbai Schools not fully equipped to tackle Peshawar-like attack’ (Pedneker, 16 December 2014) highlights two things. First that Mumbai schools do not have necessary security equipment to stop such attacks and the other deeper meaning implies that Indian schools themselves are not safe from the risk of being targeted by the terrorists.

Side by side, Indian media showcases that the Peshawar incident is not an anomaly where children have been targeted, such attacks have had happened in the past. The headline ‘Pakistan attack a chilling reminder of Belsan school siege’ (16 December 2014) uses the allusion of Belson school siege. In 2004, Chechan terrorists attacked a school in Russia and killed hundreds of students. The usage of word ‘chilling’ is important here which signify that the both the incidents have been unnerving. 

1.4. Trauma and Horror

There are multiple headlines in The Hindustan Times which try to capture the trauma and horror associated with the Peshawar carnage. The headline “Inside Peshawar school: Eerie silence and the stamp of brutality’ (17 December 2014) tries to present the grim picture, where the use of word ‘silence’ signify mourning and death.  The lexical item ‘brutality’ also captures the horror with respect to savage act of killing children. The usage of word ‘stamp’ is important, generally it means to ‘leave a mark’ but here the very word is used in negative connotation to reflect the inhumane nature of Taliban’s act of killing children.

  In the headlines, ‘Peshawar school attack: More than 130, mostly children, massacred by Taliban militants’    (16 December 2014) and ‘132 children killed as Taliban gunmen storm Peshawar school’ (Ahmed, 16 December 2014) the number themselves are indicator of horror and savagery. The lexical items ‘massacred’ and ‘killed’ reflect the tragedy. In the second headline the usage of word ‘storm’ indicate that it was not a normal attack but as a storm destroys everything in the way, Taliban furiously killed children in rage. Similarly, the second headline exactly lists the number of children killed but says nothing about the school staff like teachers who were murdered ruthlessly.


Peshawar Narrative in Pakistani Media

1. Coverage of Peshawar Massacre in The News

The News attributed significant amount of status conferral to Peshawar incident. In this section the news headlines are first stratified into various categorized and then analyzed as the news headlines play crucial role in shaping frames. The coverage of initial three days is analyzed.

1.1. Peshawar Massacre, Zarb-e-Azab Operation and Pakistan’s Commitment to             War on Terror

In the after math of the Peshawar massacre, Taliban accepted the responsibility of the attack by clarifying their stance that the attack was carried out as the retaliation of  Zarb-e-Azab Operation. The headline ‘Zarb-e-Azb will continue until terrorism is eliminated: PM’(16 December, 2014) clarifies Pakistan Prime Minister’s stance that Peshawar massacre will not disrupt the Operation.  The lexical items ‘terrorism’ in conjunction with ‘eliminated’ can be inferred as expressing strong determination to curb terrorism. Similarly the headline ‘PM expresses resolve to continue fight against terrorism’ (17 December 2014) unveils the determination of Pakistani Government to curb terrorism. The choice of lexical items is important here. The linkage of words like ‘resolve’, ‘fight’ and ‘terrorism’ establishes the firm stance of Pakistan against War on Terror. ‘Pakistan leadership on one page to eliminate terrorists’ (17 December 2014 ) frames that there is consensus among Pakistani leadership on the issue of curbing terrorism. The usage of word ‘eliminate’ is used to treat terrorists as in humane. To further strengthen Pakistan’s take on Terrorism, the headline ‘Imran suggest formation of Counter Terrorism Expert Committee’(17 December 2014) goes one stage ahead to mention the strategic step which could be taken to curb terrorism. In this headline, it is assumed that the readers will be able to identify ‘Imran’ as an identity marker for political leader Imran Khan.

1.2. Condemnation

•           Pakistani Political Parties as a Single Entity Condemning the Attack

Various headlines appeared in The News which depict the stance of multiple Pakistani political parties where the unity in their stance towards the incident is highlighted as if presenting opposition parties on the same page. Headlines like ‘President, PM, politicians condemn attack on Peshawar school’ (16 December 2014) and ‘Political leaders meet as Pakistan mourns Peshawar massacre’ (17 December 2014) treat the opposition parties as a single entity as they are just labeled as political parties and not by their proper names. The heading does not state identity markers of political parties nor state whether they are Pakistani or not, but the leads do mention them. 

•           International Condolences

The News published many headlines related to international personas who registered their condolences.  Obama’s condemnation of the attack did not make it to headline but appeared in the lead, the headline of the same article is ‘We stand with people of Pakistan, says Obama’ (16 Decemebr 2014)  where framing is on the support of United States in the time of the atrocity but the headline does not explicitly state the reason behind the support. For this reason one has to read the whole article to understand that it is about War on Terror and the moments of grief. On the other hand John Kerry’s statement on the condolences appeared as the headline ‘Kerry calls PM Nawaz to convey condolences on Peshawar terror attack’ (17 December 2014). So two different headlines convey the US message of condolences and support for Pakistan..

1.3.      Issue of Death Penalty and Peshawar Massacre

In the aftermath of Peshawar carnage, the Government of Pakistan lifted ban on death penalty in cases of terror incidents. The headline ‘Pakistan to end death penalty moratorium in terror cases’ (17 December 2014) frames the article around the issue of death penalty which was suspended since 2008. The headlines does not make it clear regarding the cause leading to this decision, the link is established in the lead where it is linked with the murder of 132 children in Peshawar.

The stance of death penalty is echoed through the use of headlines like ‘Mercy plea of 17 death row inmates dismissed’ (18 December 2014), and ‘Judges meeting convened for implementation of death penalty cases’ (18 December 2014). In the last headline, nothing about is revealed about the identity of the judges. In first two headlines, the perpetuators’ crimes in which they are charged with death penalty are not mentioned nor is the timeline mentioned about the execution day.

1.4. Peshawar Carnage and its Relation with Afghanistan

In the aftermath of the incident, many headlines appeared in The News that establishes the link between the incident and its relation with Afghanistan. Headline like ‘Peshawar Attack: Terrorists were in contact with handlers in Afghanistan’ (17 December 2014) is a perfect example of this. It signifies that the focal persons behind the heinous attack are residing in Afghanistan. The nature of the contact is made clear in the lead where it is stated that it was a telephonic one. Later the headline ‘Crackdown in Afghan camps and outskirts of Peshawar’ (18 December 2014) establishes the connection behind the terrorists with Afghanistan where crack down by Pakistani intelligence agencies is performed as camps could be the hide outs of the terrorists.

1.5. National Calamity

Many news headlines appeared in The News which label Peshawar massacre as a national tragedy where every Pakistani has felt the pain and grief. Headlines like ‘Pakistan mourns 141 killed in Peshawar school carnage’ (17 December 2014)is a perfect example of this. By personifying the country, the headline captures the grief the whole nation faced in the wake of the Peshawar incident. Similarly the headline ‘Life comes to a standstill in Peshawar as country mourns school massacre’ (17 December 2014) uses the same strategy. The lexical items ‘standstill’ in combination with ‘life’ signifies the impact of the incident on the whole nation.

1.6. Identity of Victimizers

 The headlines revealing the identity of the terrorists involved in the Peshawar Massacre also appeared where one headline ‘Mullah Fazlullah group claims responsibility for Peshawar carnage’ (17 December 2014) reveals the perpetuators’ group identity.  Another news makes it to the headline which is related with the publication of photos of the terrorists involved in the school massacre i.e. ‘Taliban release photos of Peshawar school attackers’ (17 December 2014). The lead then discloses the question of ‘who’ released them by mentioning the name of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

1.7. Immediate Action Taken After the Attack

 On the 16 of December, two important things are done by Political and military leadership. Both the Chiefs visit Peshawar on the same day. PM Nawaz leaves for Peshawar to supervise operation (16 December 2014) and ‘COAS cuts short Quetta visit, moves to Peshawar’ (16 December 2014 ). In the first headline, the usage of lexical item ‘supervise’ on one side suggests the power of the Prime Minister and on the other side shows the responsible attitude on his part. Similarly in the second one, “cut short” implies that Peshawar incident is of grave importance that the military Chief changed his plan and moved to Peshawar. COAS is used as an acronym for Chief of Army Staff. Similarly In the after math, one news that gained much attention was about Imran Khan’s sit in. ‘Imran Khan ends Islamabad sit-in after 126 days’  (17 December 2014 ) and ‘PTI postpones nationwide strike after Peshawar attack’ (16 December 2014 ) requires the background knowledge about the reason behind Imran Khan’s sit in. It was primarily to raise voice about the rigging in the 2013 general elections.

1.8. Death and Gloom

Multiple articles in The News try to capture the nature of grief associated with the heinous terrorist attack against the school children in Peshawar. Headlines like “Terrorists didn’t even spare little girl who came for admission” (18 December 2014) and “I saw death so close’: Peshawar student recalls” (16 December 2014) try to capture the horror associated with the incident. In the first headline, the place of the incident is not mentioned nor it is clear what the lexical item word ‘spare’ means specifically. The issue of ‘where’ is resolved by reading the whole article that it is about Peshawar incident while  the contextual meaning behind ‘spare’ turns out to mean spare from death; being murdered. In the other headline, the quotation from a student at Army Public School is taken where the student remains anonymous yet his words echo the nature of atrocity which he had to go through.

1.9. Zero Tolerance for Supporters of the Attack

On the third day of the incident, the protests against the clerics of the Red Mosque gained attention, where The News published an article withthe headline “Protest Outside Lal Mosque against Maulana Abdul Aziz” (18 December 2014) which though discusses the person against whom a protest is made yet the causal factor is missing. The headline can only be comprehended by reading the whole article where the cleric of Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz in Islamabad, refused to condemn the attackers of the Peshawar school in media. The civil society charged against him of supporting terrorist activities. The coverage of the very protest reveal that there is zero tolerance for those who support terrorism as remaining silent in such cases makes a person complicit in the very crime.


The three Medias understudy have used their own relevancy optimizers. For American media, it has been Malala and War on Terror in general, for Indian media 26/11 is used to link it with Peshawar carnageand similarly for Pakistani media, as it has been the national issue, every event in a way is relevant and more specifically when seen as the aftermath of Zarb-e-Azab.  In all the three media, condemnation section presents convergences and divergences which primarily lie with the social and political reasons. In American media, US stance is presented but also Indian and Pakistanis condemning the attack are also highlighted, it is more or less balanced. When one comes to Indian media, though international and Pakistan’s denouncement are mentioned but significant amount of conferral is given only to Indian presenting their stance not only to show solidarity but to show soft image of India in the media. Pakistani media is mute on Indian’s condemning the attack. The condemnation section is filled with Pakistani leaders’ stance on the attack. Pakistani media do highlight the American condolences.

 With respect to security concerns, American media, due to Peshawar massacre has discussed the security concerns in India on President Obama’s visit. Similarly Indian media also presented the same stance but one thing which is divergent here is Indian’s concern for their school children as for them schools lack security measures.

With respect to Afghanistan’s involvement in the attack, the Indian media is mute on the issue whereas American and Pakistani medias do highlight it. Similarly, the demarcation between ‘self’ vs. ‘others’ is also highlighted in the three media. In American, some headlines do present Pakistanis leaders as ‘others’ having fostering the Taliban for years. The ‘self’ image is presented by discussing the aid US has been giving to Pakistan to combat terrorism. Similarly in Indian media, Indians are highlighted as peace lovers whereas Pakistani establishment is criticized as presented as ‘others’ having soft corners for Taliban. In Pakistani media patriotic stance is build and Afghanistan is treated as ‘other.’

The most important convergent point in the entire news media understudy is related with the presentation of grief and horror associated with the Peshawar attack. All the three consider the attack as gory and inhumane and stand with the school children of Peshawar

So it can be said that the journalistic frames do very according to their political and social affiliations but what bind them together is the concern for humanity.





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About the author

Ayisha Khurshid is a PhD scholar at English and American Studies Department, Karl Franzens University of Graz, Austria. Her research focuses on media discourse analysis while scrutinizing the nature of relationship between the choice of lexical items, cultural norms and political objectives.  Her research is primarily concerned with the coverage of Pakistan in the international media, more specifically American media. She can be reached at