Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of the Arts, English and Media


Forty years ago, Afghan refugees began streaming into Pakistan, driven by the abuses of the Communist -led regime throughout the 1970s. After the Soviet Union invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, an additional 400,000 Afghan refugees crossed borders into the neighbouring Pakistan. In the next 10 years, a massive humanitarian crisis followed and by the end of the war in 1989, some four to five million Afghans had sought refuge in Pakistan alone. The civil war (1989-1996), five years of Taliban rule (1996-2001) and the US ‘war on terror’ (2001-present) further fuelled the refugee crisis in Pakistan. To prove alliance to the US, and partly under political pressure, the Pakistani government launched a crackdown on Afghan refugees and started encouraging them to leave Pakistan and return to their homeland. The Afghan refugee crisis and their forced repatriation to an unprepared and unstable Afghanistan became a new bone of contention between the two countries and a subject of interest for media, who were not only politicised but were also used by the State as a propaganda tool. Although the initial coverage of the refugee movement in the 80s and the 90s continued with the government’s optimistic framing of ‘rescuing and helping’ the neighbours, that swiftly changed from 2001-onwards. Pakistani media started to regularly blame Afghan refugees for terrorist attacks in the country and using Pakistan as their safe haven. It became an issue of national security for Pakistan and the media echoed this political stance. In this thesis I undertake a critical analysis of the media coverage of the longest ongoing conflict in the country – the forced repatriation of Afghan refugees – to examine the media framing of the conflict to answer this question: to what extent is it conflict-escalatory or peace journalism? What drives this thesis is a deep concern that the media framing may have escalated the conflict between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The roots of this research trace back to my experiences as a war journalist in Afghanistan and Pakistan during 2012–2014, where I witnessed the misrepresentation of Afghanistan and Afghan refugees in reportage affect political relations between the two countries, shape and influence public opinion and create acceptability of stringent government and military action/policy towards Afghan refugees. State and military-induced censorship and control influenced how media report certain conflicts of political importance (Carruthers 2011; Young and Jesser 1997). In my thesis, I study the coverage of the refugee conflict in four major English publications, Dawn and The Express Tribune (daily newspapers), and Newsline and Herald (news and current affairs monthly magazines) in the years 2016– 2018 to analyse the presence and extent of conflict de-escalatory journalism. I utilise Johan Galtung’s Peace and War Journalism Model and Jake Lynch’s analytical criteria, guided by Robert M. Entman’s framing theory, to conduct the critical discourse analysis . An empirical content analysis of news stories and articles serves as the foundation of the critical discourse analysis, which finds media coverage of Afghan refugees in Pakistan to be highly dominated by war and conflict-escalatory framing, conceptualised in this thesis under the non-peace master frame. I also find nationalistic, propaganda, polarising, emotive and ethno-nationalistic language in the coverage. Only Herald demonstrates some traces of peace journalism, however they are weak and non-frequent. Peace journalism focuses on humanising the affected and marginalised groups in a conflict, and highlights peace initiatives and post-war development – if there is any. A peace journalism practice focuses on the reduction and elimination of ethnic differences and emphasises non -violent responses to conflict and war.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.