Has Gen Bajwa Lost Control of Media Operations?

Gen Bajwa ISPR

DG-ISPR Gen Bajwa has received international recognition as a master of public relations for the media campaign that has lifted COAS to unprecedented heights of popularity. In addition, media has been united behind Army’s efforts to fight terrorists until the bitter end. However, a new trend has appeared within media that has some shaking their heads and wondering if a change for the worst has taken place behind the scenes.

It appears that ISI’s M-Wing is under new management and the tactics being used have become more crude and ineffective in the process. The glaring example being discussed is a hit piece on an American professor that appeared a few days ago. The piece accused Professor Christine Fair of America as being involved with anti-Pakistan groups in Balochistan. While the piece was published without identifying the author, clues were left such as the hilarious mistake of misspelling ‘rendezvous’ as ‘rand-e-vous’. Actually there is a fairly basic explanation for this which is that military typically abbreviates ‘rendezvous’ as ‘RV’. An officer coming through PMA would not write out the full term, and while trying to spell it out made an unfortunate guess based on the phonetics. The editor at the newspaper might have caught this obvious error, but would have felt uncomfortable correcting a ‘correspondent’ who holds a higher rank and let it pass without comment.

Sajjad Shaukat

Sajjad Shaukat

Same day, another hit piece appeared on the website ‘Kashmir Watch‘. This piece attacks former MNA Farahnaz Ispahani who has published a new book ‘Purifying the Land of the Pure‘ about treatment of minorities in Pakistan. The author of this piece accuses that ‘Farahnaz Ispahani has totally ignored the plight of religious minorities in India’, which completely misses the point that her book is not about India. However, because she wrote about Pakistan minorities instead of India minorities, she is termed ‘another anti-Pakistan agent’. Unlike the hit piece against Professor Christine Fair, the piece against Farahnaz Ispahani at least identifies who is attacking. The author is Sajjad Shaukat, whose name is probably unfamiliar unless you were a reader of the late Brig Raja Mujtaba’s ‘Opinion-Maker’ website or Gen Hamid Gul’s website ‘Veterans Today’ where he has written pieces singing the high praises of ISI.

Two days later, another crude piece appeared on ‘Pakistan Tribe’ website claiming that international media has started a new anti-Pakistan campaign especially American media. Like the hit piece against Professor Christine Fair, this was also published with no author name. The piece quotes a recent report by Carlotta Gall in New York Times titled ‘Pakistan’s Hand in the Rise of International Jihad‘. However nothing in the piece contradicts anything written by Carlotta Gall, it only terms it as ‘anti-Pakistan’ without providing any proofs that it is not true.

The question has to be asked: What is the point? ISI M-Wing is headed by a Rear Admiral and staffed by several Brigadiers and other officers. Are they only able to post these crude pieces calling names and bullying the writers? Each of the pieces has been in response to something embarrassing to Pakistan, but these were written in major international publications including academic books and newspapers. The responses are crudely published on websites that will probably never be read by anyone outside of Pakistan. They certainly will not have the same effect as a well researched book published by a respected international publishing company or a newspaper as respected as New York Times.

If the information being published by Professor Christine Fair or the New York Times or anyone else is incorrect, wouldn’t the appropriate response be to write a letter to that publication that provides evidence of the inaccuracies? Why don’t our own academics and researchers debate Pakistan’s critics in a public forum? Why is the response always bullying and name calling and never providing facts in a professional and respectable manner? If this is anti-Pakistan propaganda as it is claimed, it is absurd to be responding with attacks in Pakistan media and websites only. Shouldn’t we be softening the stance and responding with facts and convincing arguments?

Also where is Gen Bajwa while all of this is taking place? He has received high praise for his professionalism, and rightly so. So has he lost control of media operations? Now that he has received the third star is he only looking to his retirement? Or is the success of our media operations limited to bullying people in Pakistan media and convincing ourselves of our greatness while the country’s reputation continues to suffer in the rest of the world? Few weeks ago pieces began appearing that projected Pakistan rising. If we are a nation on the rise, we need to be able to politely present ourselves like one, not only at home, but to the world.