It has been less than one month since I made this prediction after Husain Haqqani’s last piece published by the New York Times:
Instead, what comes after the social media abuse calms down is completely predictable: Op-eds will be published in The Nation, Pakistan Observer, and Express Tribune. Urdu talk shows, especially on ARY, News One, and Bol will feature talking heads parroting the same talking points about how Haqqani was a member of IJT 30 or 40 years ago, even though he obviously grew out of such ideas before most of the audience was even born. They will call for Haqqani to be brought back to Pakistan and be tried for treason. After a few days of chest beating, something else will take over the media’s attention and the Haqqani Hate Squad will quiet down until he writes something else and the ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ is repeated.
As if taking a cue, once again the keyboard commandos have rallied in obscurity. First there was SM Hali’s disorganized rambling in Pakistan Observer. It seems that he could not figure out what he wanted to say, so tried to throw everything possible into his incoherent piece. Perhaps this lack of focus is why he was never able to make it past Group Captain or the pages of Pakistan Observer.
Now he has been followed by another keyboard commando, this one is an ex-Pakistani sitting in his office in Canada accusing others of being ‘traitors’ to Pakistan. This man is named Haider Mehdi and his only claim to fame appears to be attempting to hold world’s record for number of WhatsApp groups joined. His piece was not even worthy of Pakistan Observer, so he was resigned to posting on a free Canadian blogging website.
Mehdi suffered severe indigestion when he discovered that the former Ambassador had written a piece on disqualification of Nawaz Sharif that was published by an Indian newspaper. He begins by apologising for such a harsh indictment of Haqqani, but what he should have apologised for what wasting so much time writing insults and accusations instead of answering Haqqani’s arguments. Or was it that Haider was driven to such mental anguish by Haqqani’s piece that he completely forgot to mention it except in the title? Instead, he uses almost 2,000 words to rehash the same old tired cliches and the same old worn out ‘traitor’ stamp. There is actually no debate presented, just insult after insult, even stooping to making pathetic insults about Haqqani’s appearance. Imagine how much time and energy this old man spent ranting and raving alone at his dining table in Canada, only to press ‘post’ on a freebie blog website! It would be comical if it was not so sad.
Could it be that these men’s anger is not really at Husain Haqqani at all, but at themselves? With Haider Mehdi, here is another former Army man who reportedly couldn’t make it beyond the rank of Captain. He entered the corporate world, but after decades of doing his best, he is still working for a mobile store in Canada and posting angry rants on the internet while joining every conceivable Pakistani WhatsApp. From wannabe General to wannabe writer is a great fall indeed, but that does not stop people like Haider and SM Hali from their loud outbursts of patriotism. At least Hali has made a name for himself in third-rate newspapers like Pakistan Observer. Haider has not even achieved that minimum of success. How depressing and angry it must make him! I was laughing halfway through reading his blog post, but by the end I actually just felt sorry for the old man.
They could do better for themselves if they made any reasonable or intelligent arguments instead of accusing everyone they disagree with of being foreign agents and cutting and pasting the word ‘TRAITOR!!!!’ over and over again. Except when it comes to their beloved Army, however. Then the tone changes 180 degrees: “I’m a nationalist and will not poison the well to kill the entire village, simply because I’ve a beef with the local strongman.” No, instead he will scream insults into the night sky, as if the moon will hear him and deliver him from his misery. Like a schoolgirl who dreams that her Romero will someday finally notice that she is the one, Haider Mehdi will never criticise the Army that had no use for him so long ago.
It is a sad psychological case, and one that deserves our pity. However, it also provides a lesson about how easy it is to debase oneself on the internet. There is a reason that real media groups hire editors and publishers. They protect their own reputations, but they also spare wannabe writers and analysts the humiliation of being seen as a crazy person ranting in the streets. In the global marketplace of ideas, there are those whose ideas and intellect get them invited to sit at the table, and there are those who are left yelling in the alley behind the office building.
We need more intellectuals at the table, and less screaming and throwing trash outside the door.