The writer is a former editor of Dawn
The writer is a former editor of Dawn

Were there to be a ranking of the most self-destructive people around, we’d be high up on the list, perhaps even on top, and our favourite shoot- ourselves-in-the foot weapon would be Twitter — though this is not to say that social media is the only preferred weapon of self-destruction (WSD).

As if it weren’t enough that we constantly reach out for WSDs, consider the global and regional environment in which we do it. All considerations for the long-term well-being of the country are shunned; personal and institutional gain in a futile power game is held supreme.

All this as India continues to make hostile noises, with its elected politicians and military high command threatening Pakistan, as its security forces struggle to contain the latest popular uprising in India-held Kashmir despite the use of disproportionate force including the shooting of unarmed young protesters.


Maryam Nawaz had started out steadily but of late seems to be receiving very unwise advice.


On the other hand, whether it is the result of our past policy blunders or the current alleged duplicity, we continue to alienate Afghanistan and push it into the welcoming arms of arch-rival India. Is this where our regional security challenges end?

Not quite. Let us remind ourselves of when the then army chief Gen Raheel Sharif decided to deliver an aggressive and robust message in the wake of Kulbhushan Jadhav’s capture to the visiting Iranian president, the details of which were tweeted by his spokesman.

Of course, it was mere embarrassment then for both the visiting dignitary and the civilian government in Pakistan that the army chief felt obliged to take up the issue when several official meetings were taking place at the highest levels; but later it would acquire a graver meaning.

It was not too long after that Gen Raheel Sharif’s appointment as head of a Saudi-led coalition was announced and sources close to the general were suggesting that the Saudi deputy crown prince who employed him must have met his preconditions.

These supposedly included having an Iranian presence, even if token, in the coalition and a mandate to mediate between various Muslim nations to remove misunderstandings between them and bring them onto the same page. It was also said that Iran had been taken into confidence.

However, first Iran denied assertions that it was happy with the appointment and just this week the Saudi deputy crown prince, who is also defence minister, ruled out any thaw in relations with Iran, which he accused of being committed to spreading an “extremist ideology”, in a reference to Shia beliefs.

The killing of several Iranian border guards in an attack by a religious militant group allegedly operating from Pakistan is the latest source of strained ties with Iran, and an Iranian delegation led by the foreign minister and senior military officials was in Islamabad this week to express concern.

While we remain smug about our relations with the Chinese and excited at CPEC prospects, one can be sure instability in the region will be a concern for Beijing.

It may be asking its private sector to invest at least $50 billion for its own strategic goals, but who knows how it’ll react if we fail to mend fences with most of our neighbours and provide a safe environment for that investment.

And how do we react? Instead of appearing united given the challenges, the military spokesman tweets an over-the-top reaction to a notification of the prime minister following the report of a commission of inquiry into a Dawn report last year on the civil-military discord in key security spheres.

This tweet may have made the military leadership appear very robust in the eyes of its rank and file and the government’s political opponents. But was anyone bothered that internationally it may have confirmed the worst suspicions and allegations of our critics and adversaries that a key Pakistani institution could consider itself above the Constitution and civilian authority?

If the security establishment had concerns, these should have been conveyed in private and addressed in the proper manner rather than being allowed to assume the form of a public spat.

Twitter is freer, much more so than traditional media in Pakistan, and while some of the cheerleaders may have applauded, there were other comments that served as unpalatable reminders.

While the military’s favourite weapon seems to be Twitter these days, the PPP’s Khursheed Shah took to the TV channels and microphones to endorse the military statement. For a party whose founder was executed by the military and another leader killed during the military’s rule, and that also suffered other hardships at the hands of the security establishment, this reaction was no more than hara-kiri and rank opportunism.

But this was not all. While the controversy triggered by the tweet was still simmering, the prime minister’s heir apparent Maryam Nawaz, possibly acting on very poor counsel of ‘pae jayo’ (attack), tweeted vitriol against the reporters of the Pulitzer Prize-winning International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that worked on the Panama Papers story.

This turned into a full-fledged battle when she called the leak a ‘conspiracy’ against the government. Not only did ICIJ’s Pakistan representative respond to her in the same tone but the two German journalists who first revealed the leak retorted that the story was about ‘corruption’ and nothing else.

Maryam Nawaz had started out steadily but of late seems to be either receiving very unwise advice or simply feeling the pressure of the continuing Panama Papers inquiry and of the latest twist in relations between her party’s government and the country’s powerful security establishment.

Discretion is the better part of valour, it is said. When our men in khaki exercise very little of it and those civilians who are desperate to assume power discard the advice contemptuously, what is the point of discussing anything else including the role of an often partisan and cacophonous media?

All one can say is that it is all utterly depressing.

The writer is a former editor of Dawn.

abbas.nasir@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2017

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