Prisoners of Our Own Narrative


Since the devastating string of terrorist attacks last week which ultimately bore the horror of Lal Shahbaz shrine suicide bombing, the national discussion has been dominated by questions: How did it come to this, and what do we do now? Both of these are very sensitive questions whose acceptable answers are largely limited by how close they come to challenging certain national narratives.

As quickly as security agencies moved against militant bases (begging the question being asked by many why they didn’t go after these militants before they attacked rather waited until after), media warriors were at work winning the battle to control the narrative. Army’s official spokesmen immediately posted on social media once again pointing all blame at hostile foreign powers.

Army broke all diplomatic norms and usurped the Foreign Minister’s power completely by summoning Afghan diplomats to GHQ where they were demanded to take immediate action against militant camps on Afghan soil or else face the possibility of cross border attacks by our own forces. Meanwhile, unofficial spokesmen were busy writing saber rattling articles that promote this official narrative. Two examples are a piece for Dawn by disgraced former Ambassador Munir Akram who claims that ‘We know the ‘hostile powers’ that have sponsored these attacks: the intelligence agencies of Afghanistan and India’ and calls on Islamabad to answer by stepping up support for anti-Indian jihadi groups.

Next is a piece by another former Ambassador Zamir Akram who like his disgraced older brother also sees an Indian conspiracy behind every one of Pakistan’s problems. Ambassador Akram does not mention the Sehwan attack. Actually, it seems that his piece was written before the last week since he awkwardly repeats the mantra that Zarb-e-Azb has ‘broken the back of the al Qaeda while the TTP and its allies are on the run’. Rather his piece appears to have been written with another enemy in mind: Washington Think Tanks critical of Pakistan’s national security policy.

One can be grateful that the former Ambassador was better behaved than his colleagues at the Washington Embassy who embarrassed the country with their own response to a critical think tank report. However even though it is well written, still the facts are the facts and this piece is a better example of the kind of ‘alternative facts’ that we hear so much of these days.

Ambassador Akram complains that these Washington Think Tanks ignore all the evidence that Afghanistan’s NDS and India’s RAW intelligence agencies are responsible for terrorism in Pakistan quoting the case of Kulbhushan Yadav. Perhaps we should consider why that is? If we do, we might remember that none other than Sartaj Aziz admitted that the case against Yadav was weak, telling media in early December that “So far, we have just statements about the involvement of the Indian spy in terror activities in Pakistan” adding that further evidence needs to be gathered. PM’s Advisor on Foreign Affairs later told the Senate that ‘The (provided) material, in our view, was insufficient’. The dossier was shortly handed to Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, but received no attention anywhere. Even Pakistani media reported that same as with previous dossiers, ‘these dossiers were weak in their provision of evidence, and the government knew this’.

There is more evidence against Kulbhushan Yadav than there is to support Ambassador Akram’s claim that ‘it is also possible that their paymaster is the Indian — American lobby rather than the institutions to which they are affiliated’, for which he offers no evidence other than that the report is critical of Pakistan having a confusing policy towards militancy, a reality that is not even denied by state agencies following last week’s attacks. What else could be meant by COAS’s statement, ‘no more restrain for anyone‘? Even the Army Chief admits that the state was showing restraint towards some groups while fighting others. It should be noted that it’s not only American Think Tanks that are critical of our policy towards militancy. Just a few days ago, it was reported that Saudi Arabia has deported over 40,000 Pakistanis out of terrorism fears! Does our dear Ambassador believe that the Saudis are on Indian lobby payroll also?

We can call everyone RAW, fully cooked, or half-baked agents, but it won’t change the reality of how the world, including even our Muslim allies, sees us which is as an increasing hot bed militancy that has gotten beyond our control. If we are going to change this, we will have to first break free from the prison of our own narrative.


Author: Mukhtar Ahmed