CENSORED: The Myth We Believe In

The following op-ed was originally published by The Nation on 17th Sept. It was quickly deleted from the newspaper’s website due to unknown orders from unknown offices. We are re-posting the piece in accordance with Articles 19 and 19(A) of the Constitution which guarantee “the right to freedom of speech and expression, and…freedom of the press” as well as “the right to have access to information in all matters of public importance”.

Gen Raheel

In Pakistan your patriotism is gauged by your love for the uniform. Not just any uniform though. Not blue, not white nor the greys. The respect is deeply attached to the Khaki tone. If you worship the cloth you are a true Pakistani, if not you’re simply a traitor.

Choosing sides is fairly easy when it comes to the skirmishes involving the khakis. One fairly common battle is the khaki vs the sherwanis. Everyone knows who wins these. The Sherwanis’ squeaky attempt at going head to head with the former has been a sore retelling throughout our history. The dabs of corruption and opportunism give an outrageous edge to the Khaki’s who manage to woo the crowd. Not much good happens when the crowd sides with the Khaki’s alone. However, the support is not up for debate. It never has been; as far as the unsaid laws of this country go.

There are other battles as well; or at least there should be. The Khaki has been a bully dominating a playground that was made for others to play in. Take the real estate for example. Retired khakis who have only retired officially but maintain their kahki ego and influence, monopolise some of the most lucrative endeavors in the real estate business. Somehow, the field in question is a money minting machine if you’re a khaki. Besides a certain rarity (who himself has often exhibited himself as an accessory to the Khakis), those who don’t wear the color usually don’t prosper as much. Why this happens is a matter of perspective. The ex-Chief’s brother and his adventures give some insight. The Ferrari crash too, clears the picture. And then there is so much more. There are the banks. There are the factories. And indeed, so much more.

The khakis have managed to maintain dominance in the setting of other uniforms as well. The mammoth budget directed to the uniforms out of our tax money has the lion share go to the them. No other uniform ever protests this. Then there is the obvious usurping of power sectors that the other uniforms -thankfully so- don’t even dream to venture into. The populace has believed in the myth the Khakis want them to believe in. In times of despair or political frustration, the chief in Khaki is looked upon. As time has taught the nation of Pakistan, these expectations are never really a good idea.

No one dares challenge the might of the Khakis. Those who do simply don’t exist. The rules of the game in this country dictates it as so. However, someone just did. A person bearing the grey uniform did what he was paid to do. The khakis didn’t like that. Figures of an elite force were called in to help their khaki brothers. The greys were beaten. There are pictures and first and second person accounts. The beating was not the end for the greys were then forcefully kept at Attock fort.

The said incident does not raise many eyebrows. The term ‘bloody civilian’ has been often repeated by men who believe being rude dictates authority. Similarly, the traffic police too have not had to face the anger of a disappointed influential who’ve insisted on not paying their dues. This incident is but a usual affair in our country.

What is interesting however is how the country has reacted. The reaction takes us back to the initial premise of this article whereby one’s patriotism is dictated by having complete faith in the army. There have been ludicrous justifications to the incident. Those who seek to justify the actions of the men involved have just made a mockery out of the institution. ISPR too has brushed this aside with a rather casual term: sad. Now there is supposed to be an internal inquiry of the men involved. Strange, why the said men are not being brought to the civil courts for more transparent proceedings. After all, wasn’t this the expectations the civilians attached to the civilian cases sent in to the military courts?

If this incident is not brushed under the carpet it will make an impact that has been much awaited. However, those found guilty must be held accountable to the public at large as well. With secret proceedings and rulings, not many of us will know what exactly happened with the case. Most of us will forget about it much sooner than we should. Here is to hoping that the ISPR does a better job at this than the tweets it has most recently become fond of. A detailed ruling must be shared with the public. The Khakis are good at making the public believe in their myth; let’s hope they can make the public believe the truth too.

The writer is working as a health economist in a think-tank based  in Islamabad

Pakistan Under Occupation?

By now you have certainly seen the photos of Motorway Police being attacked by truckloads of out of control Army personnel brandishing automatic weapons.

motorway police attacked by out of control Army men

Despite a near media blackout on the topic, it has become such an embarrassment on social media that GHQ has been forced to face the music and ISPR issued a public statement promising an inquiry.

Unfortunately, this is not the first ‘sad incident’ that has taken place. Who can forget the tragic story of Sarfaraz Shah, gunned down in cold blood by Pakistan Rangers.

This encounter, like the attack on Motorway Police, was caught on film otherwise what is the possibility of any inquiry? How many others were not so lucky? How many were never even reported? The answer is unknown, but there is a clue in one province where thousands of citizens simply vanish into thin air and thousands of bullet riddled and mutilated corpses appear later.

In the case where the attackers are caught on video, there is some chance that they will be punished. It will be termed as an ‘isolated incident’ and one or two will face some punishment to protect the reputation of the institution. The mindset, though, is laid bare on social media by other Army men who celebrate such attacks on their own fellow citizens.

army-man army-man-2 army-man-3

If this were taking place in Kashmir or Palestine we would not hesitate to call it an occupation. So what is it when the same is taking place in Pakistan?

Decline in FDI a reflection of world’s faith in Army?

Corps CommandersForeign Direct Investment (FDI) appears to be in free fall, down over 14 pc. Even inflows from China, supposedly our great hope, are dragging.This is serious economic crisis as the FDI has been falling for years. During the previous cycle, FDI declined by 58 pc. That this negative trend is continuing even after the $46 billion CPEC agreement was signed is extremely worrying, especially since Chinese investments are also declining. All signs point to global investors seeing Pakistan as a risk not worth taking. The question we must be asking is why?

Sticking to his script, Imran Khan has blamed corruption, particularly referring to the Sharifs involvement in the Panama Papers scandal. However, the PTI chief may be half-right. Fears of corruption may be a factor, but it is not likely to be because of the Sharifs simply because they have faced corruption charges since long before coming to power in 2013. Any investors would have been able to factor the costs of doing business with the Sharifs. What is it then? It could be the Army.

Earlier this year, Gen Raheel removed six Army officers including 2 generals for corruption. This was actually not a surprise. Recently, Auditor General of Pakistan discovered billions being lost to corruption in the defence sector. Last year, 81 officers were found guilty of stealing billions more. Former COAS Gen Musharraf is well known to have billions in unaccounted for funds, and now his replacement former COAS Gen Kayani is finding his family embroiled in another corruption scandal along with other former senior military officers.

A corruption investigation has looked into senior retired officers, including relatives of the army’s former chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who for many years was the most powerful figure in the country.

Also under examination are three former managers of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), a wing of the army that builds developments to house senior retired officers and also makes enormous profits selling homes to civilians.

Army has usurped more and more power in the country. While carefully avoiding a coup, the military has been placing its own men in civilian positions, and working to seize control of CPEC, the most important economic project the country has even seen. Admitting this, how can we ignore the frightening possibility that growing unwillingness of global investors to do business in Pakistan is a direct reflection of their lack of faith in a state that is being controlled behind the scenes by the military establishment?

Army has expanded its reach into every corner of the state, and is now the single most powerful institution not only in national security but the economy also. As the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”. If the Army wants the power to dictate the country’s terms, it has to take responsibility for the country’s failures.

The Producers: Has Lollywood become Pindiwood?

MaalikCanadian director Ashir Azeem’s new film ‘Maalik’ is being met with great controversy as many are asking what is going on with this film. Why is ISPR making movies? What is this narrative we are pushing? Who is paying for this?

Supporters of these films will quickly point out that if Hollywood works with the American military what is wrong with Pakistan military helping make authentic war films. The answer is that there is nothing wrong with the Army consulting on films to help make sure they are authentic. The problem comes when the Army goes from advising on authenticity to controlling the strings and using films as pro-war propaganda. This is a problem that even Americans question, so why can’t we question it also?

However there is also a big difference between the relationship between American and Pakistani military films which is that in America the movie producers pay the military for their help.

“The rule of thumb for us is that there’s no additional cost to the US government,” says Strub. “So if they’re filming typical flight operations on an aircraft carrier, we wouldn’t charge. But if you wanted to control the aircraft, then we would charge exactly what it costs the squadron.” These costs vary: from $1,000 an hour for a tank, to more than $25,000 for an F-15 jet fighter.

Who paid for all of the soldiers and equipment used in Maalik? Did this come from the military budget? If so, why is Army spending so much making movies when it is also once again demanding that it does not have enough funds? How do movies help the defense of the realm?

There is also the issue that the film is enflaming ethnic divisions by projecting certain ethnicities as corrupt, some as target killers, and others as ‘saviours’. This becomes obvious as the ‘heroes’ of the story are Punjabi and the ‘villains’ are Sindhi. Is it coincidence that this film is released while Rangers are conducting Karachi operation?

Privately, some analysts are also expressing concern that the rise of Mumtaz Qadri phenomenon is being driven from certain quarters who are trying to counter the influence of out of control Deobandi groups by building up Barelvi groups as an alternative. However, this clever game is having the result of militantising Barelvis and creating a society that is quickly becoming even more radicalised, not less.

The biggest question, though, is why the military is being involved in making action films while the nation faces serious threats from enemies within and without. There is also a growing feeling of unease with the problematic narrative that is being promoted as can be seen from reactions on social media. This is the obvious point that those behind such efforts are missing. ‘Maalik’ is actually dividing the country, not uniting it. The military has a critical role to play in defence of the country. Making poorly-conceived action movies is not part of it.

Demanding land rights is not terrorism

By Farooq Tariq

Army's anti-farmer operations in OkaraA massive repression of the peaceful peasant movement, the Anjuman Mozareen Punjab (AMP), is underway. Most of its leadership has been arrested under false anti-terrorist laws. Dozens of members are missing, while over 50 remain behind bars. All have been declared “terrorists” by the Okara district police, working hand in hand with the Military Farms administration, which mainly serves military officers.

The source of the problem is that while 14000 acres of land in the Okara district is owned by the Punjab government, it is occupied by the Military Farms administration. Since 2001, the tenants of the Military farms have refused to turn over half of their crops (bitai), which they and their families had been paying for over 90 years. How could ordinary people dare to say no to the military officers? That is their real “crime”; their demand of their land rights.

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