PAKISTAN ARMY PREPARING ITS NEXT PREMIER

Pakistan Army averse to criticism 

Pakistan Army appointed Major General Asif Ghafoor as its spokesperson and chief of its media wing in 2016. Since then the ex-cdr of a Swat division has come a long way totally overshadowing his predecessors and becoming the face of Pakistan Army. To be honest, General Ghafoor is more in news than the COAS or the PM of Pakistan.

Unlike the previous DG’s of ISPR who only hailed the COAS, Ghafoor’s tactics allow him to rule the hearts of millions of Pakistani’s. The social media bug has really caught upon this IT-media savvy general and he takes out time to keep his personal twitter account also buzzing with spicey news and public interaction. Such is his popularity (1.5M official, 106K personal) that he holds ‘meet & greet day’, ‘fans meeting me day’ just like an emperor of Mughal times. No wonder he has been rewarded the Hilali-i-Imtiaz(M) this 14 Aug.

Role of public relation cell in other militaries vis a vis Pakistan

All over both the military and the media have strong programs for training their public relation officers in ethics and both have a justifiable pride in their ethical conduct. However, each army treats its ethical obligations regarding information differently. The military ethical obligation focuses on protecting user information and denying access to information to any potential enemy. The media ethical obligation focuses on acquiring information and distributing it to the widest possible audience.

As is seen Pakistan Army’s media cell ISPR has a role which is far more intruding compared to that of regular army media cells. It is seen that Pakistan’s public affairs officers have a story that they want to sell to the public as opposed to the story that their journalists want to tell. Activists accuse the Pakistani military of pressuring journalists into toeing its line – portraying the army as “savior” and the politicians as corrupt.

DG ISPR more inclined towards tweeting about #Kashmir than #Baluchistan, GB, FATA, Karachi- the mess in home ground

Tweeting more on political and strategical issues which is not the role of ISPR, FM, External Affairs taken over all

It is amusing to see that the charter of duties of DG ISPR which encompasses him to personally address political-social key issues of Pakistan. A stark contrast in how Armies all over the world use this podium strictly for posting updates on military activities. Right from Pakistan-India relations, Kashmir issue, General Elections 2018, the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, BLA, PTI activists social media propaganda, among others Gen Ghafoor goes tweeting all guns blazing with total disregard to military ethos.

Another example is in the way Pakistan army has made sure that Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad receive massive media promotion. Consequently, from the ISPR tweets to the military-funded patriotic songs and heaps of praise for the operation from many security analysts, the Pakistani people have been told that peace has been restored all across the country. However, major flaws in the military’s anti-terror strategy have been exposed.

Pakistan Army is averse to criticism

Recently, Major General Asif Ghafoor openly warned to exercise restraint and take action if people started questioning and targeting the Army. To a journalist’s comment once that the army seemed to be “exercising restraint” under Gen Bajwa, Maj Gen Ghafoor responded: “We have been tolerating a lot for Pakistan, and we will continue tolerating it for Pakistan. The day we feel the criticism is going to harm Pakistan, there will be no restraint. Turning to social media, however, it was clear the army is unhappy with how things have been progressing. “Please give us this due,” he said as he displayed a slide on the rapid rise in the number of social media ‘troll’ accounts operating in Pakistan.

Pakistan Army is averse to criticism. Are critics traitors? Every ruling party has an opposition party to keep it in check for successful governance. Pakistan Army does not like to be checked. In recent months, particularly in times of crisis (during Pakistan General Elections 2018), the demand for information was often seen to be a sticking point between the media and the Pakistan Army. The responsibility for facilitating the education of both the media and the military lied with ISPR however, it was seen that ISPR is working as an advertising and propaganda agency for the deep state. Instead of being an ethical advocate for the media, helping to understand the need to embrace transparency it was seen throttling media on various occasions.

The endless list of silenced and harassed activists & journalists

Recently, GulBukari a Pakistani journalist who has openly criticised the military was briefly kidnapped by masked men in Lahore. She had been on her way to work when she was stopped late at night in the city’s army-controlled cantonment area. A colleague said men in “army uniforms” were present at the abduction, along with others in plainclothes.

Pakistan’s most famous TV journalist, Hamid Mir, took six bullets and remains off the air and under guard after returning from treatment abroad. And the country’s most famous TV host, Shaista Wahdi, had to flee the country overnight after she was accused of having shown disrespect towards the prophet’s family by playing a wedding song in her morning TV show.

Taha Siddiqui a well-known journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian and won the Albert Londres Prix award, the French equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize, too faced the ire of the military. In his own country, he is known for critical comments on social media about the powerful military. For the same, he has faced life-threatening consequences. While Mr. Siddiqui has dodged death and remains physically unhurt, others have not been as lucky.

Last year an Islamabad-based reporter of the Jang group of newspapers, Ahmad Noorani, was severely beaten by six men wielding iron knuckles, chains, and knives. His investigations into the recent Panama Papers case hearings unearthed embarrassing revelations about the role of the military that led to what some saw as the “forced” disqualification of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Waqass Goraya, a liberal Pakistani activist who went missing in 2017 said a “government institution” with links to the military held him and tortured him. Mr. Goraya believes he was detained because he ran a satirical Facebook page critical of the influence of the Pakistani military in the country’s political system. The page had also criticised military policy in Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.

Baluchistan has been under the virtual control of the military for almost 15 years. Journalists in the province are reluctant to speak on the record. In private conversations, they say they are caught in an impossible dilemma. “If we report human rights violations by the military or the religious groups, we are harassed and our government-sponsored advertisements are blocked to choke us financially. If we don’t, the separatists threaten us.”

Viewpoint

Pakistan does not belong to any general, or any bureaucrat, or a capitalist or a feudal lord; it belongs to its people. Crossing the mandate in the greed of power will cost heavily in times to come. General Ghafoor can be seen slowly paving way for his premiership in the near future, but he must tread carefully, mindful of being axed midway by his very own, as is the norm in Pakistan.

 

27 Aug 18/Monday.                Written by Afsana