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

Putting the ‘media’ in ‘comedians’

John Mccain

One of my favourite parts of Eid is always the new comedies that are released for the holiday. For example, ARY “News” reported that US Senator John McCain has called for Gen Raheel to be given an extension. To proof this report, ARY posted a Tweet by the American Senator showing a photo of him awkwardly shaking hands with our Army Chief.

John Mccain and Gen Raheel

Even US Senators are saying #ThankYouRaheelSharif! I can’t wait for the next ARY “News” reports about other important John McCain statements. For example, surely this is the US Senator telling Afghanistan that Taliban are the true freedom fighters!

John McCain Abdullah

Surely this is the US Senator telling American troops that they will now follow orders from the World’s Number One General COAS Raheel Sharif! Why don’t they show the American troops celebrating their liberation and raising the Pakistani flag?

John McCain talking to US troops

ARY was not the only channel carrying truly great comedies this Eid. There was also this hilarious news report by Ahmed ‘Qurazy’ for Neo

Don’t believe what you read about international isolation! American officials are the MOST PATRIOTIC Pakistanis! F-16s? Didn’t you see ARY’s report about US Senators singing the praises of our Army Chief? What? What about F-16s? The American Congress said they wouldn’t sell us F-16s because they want us to have EVEN BETTER planes than F-16s! Being such Pakistani Super Patriots, of course the American officials hate Husain Haqqani!

With so much tragedy in the world this year, it was so wonderful to know that I can always count on our professional co-media-ns to bring a lighthearted laugh on this blessed holiday. What is even better, though, is knowing that they will continue to bring us such comedies all year!

Army’s Media Operations: Who Are They Trying To Convince?

Hypernationalist Military Media AllianceAnother report has appeared in the international media about Army’s use of media to raise their own image as national saviours but disparaging civilians as ruining the country. This is a topic that has been discussed many times in the international press, including global media power houses BBC and New York Times. If the whole world sees through GHQ’s spin operation, the question is what are they getting out of the billions spent on these official and ‘un-official’ media operations?

It doesn’t makes sense as long as we believe the media operations are meant to convince the outside world. But what if, instead, Army’s media operations were never meant to convince the outside world. What if all these billions being spent were meant only to convince ourselves?

There is nothing wrong with reporting good news. Actually, it is important that people be informed of Army’s successes so that we do not lose hope during a time of war. However it is equally important that people not be given false hopes by reporting that things are better than they are. We have been told since day one that terrorists had their back broken and were no longer a threat, but attacks continued! Yes it is true that attacks have declined, and we should be proud of this,  but we should not pretend that the problem is gone. Giving the people a false hope is begging for disappointment.

Same is true for Army’s treatment of civilian officials. Nobody denies that there is corruption in the government and that it is a problem, but why do we ignore the same or even greater corruption in Army? This is no secret either, but by not reporting the facts what happens is we are left with rumours. Media reports can give some information on this, but because the Army is controlling the media, nobody knows what to believe anyway.

The world is not fooled by ISPR. This is clear from the reports that the international media gives exposing ISPR’s operations. So who are they trying to fool? And is it working? These are the questions we should be asking.

AQ Khan’s Offshore Accounts Exposed: Military Officers to Follow?

A Q KhanThe Panama Papers are not going away. Nawaz Sharif spent the day in parliament discussing the scandal, and there appears to be little sign of resolution as opposition parties walked out in response. After calling for Nawaz to resign, Imran Khan has also found himself facing problems as he was exposed as having offshore accounts also. At least Immy was honest and admitted that his offshore company was created so he could avoid paying taxes. However Imran turns out not to be the only ‘Khan’ exposed in the scandal that won’t go away. It is not learnt that AQ Khan has also been exposed in Panama Papers.

AQ Khan has denied having any offshore companies and claimed that his family members signatures were all forged as part of a huge conspiracy against him by Habib Bank.

“I have never even heard the name of this company,” A.Q. Khan told Dawn over phone. “Neither did my wife and daughters. My brother, who died a few years ago, was with Habib Bank and, as you know, bankers are always up to their tricks and hanky panky,” he said without mincing words. “My wife and daughters never signed any documents to create this company. The signatures (on the incorporation paperwork) are surely false. My brother never discussed it with me and my family only heard about this company after the Panama Papers release.”

It’s not just what AQ Khan knew about these companies that is now coming under scrutiny, though. Many are also asking how this was not discovered until so late. One name that appeared in Panama Papers list was wife of AQ Khan, Hendrina. This is not a very common name and surely a researcher would have noted it, especially a researcher like Umar Cheema who is not only a Jang/Geo reporter but also a member of the ICIJ that broke the story! Is this another case of Army’s strangle hold on media?

Surely the powers that be knew that things could not be hidden forever. Now questions are being asked who else has been ‘missed’ in the long list of offenders? So far it has been civilians who have been in the bulls eye of the Panama Papers scandal, but we know thanks to former DG-ISPR Maj-Gen (r) Rashid Qureshi that Army has been covering up corruption among military officers since long. Will we soon learn than the names of military officers appear in the Panama Papers but were not previously reported? Will these too be blamed on ‘hanky panky’ at Habib Bank?

Media Mujahideen’s Silly Selfies

After Ahmed Quraishi’s unceremonious departure from Express News, it was only a brief delay until he was back on the air. This time he has been given a platform on Neo TV, the new private TV channel launched by Chaudhry Abdul Rehman who believes that ‘Pakistan is in a cultural and ideological war‘ and promised to ‘defend Pakistan’s culture and ideology from the Platform of Neo’.

Ahmed Quraishi should feel right at home with Neos idea of media not as means of informing people but a propaganda tool for fighting wars. What is funny, though, is when the media mujahideen get so involved in their soldier fantasies that they lose all perspective and begin to believe that they really ARE soldiers.

We saw this first hand with Zaid Hamid who filled the internet with photos of himself playing dress up like a child.

zaid hamid clown 1zaid hamid clown 2Now Ahmed Quraishi is also suffering from the same delusions.

ahmed quraishi clownWhy does this happen? Is it the massive insecurity from being around real soldiers so often? These clowns would be very funny but unfortunately it is hard to laugh because they, and those who are funding them, obviously think this is helpful for the country. It is bad enough that real journalists are trying to work with a boot on their neck, but this is just too much.

Phony anchors spinning propaganda ‘narratives’ are not soldiers and they are not defending the country. They are only defending their careers at the expense of the real journalists. And please stop taking selfies with guns, boys. You are only embarrassing yourself!