In The War Of Narratives, History Is Being Rewritten Once Again
Ex-ambassador and Benazir Bhutto’s press secretary Kamran Shafi’s recent and well-founded tirade against the rewriting of recent history by the deep state gathered steam on Twitter. The crux of his conversation revolved around how politicians are blamed for terrorism when deep state operatives trained, coddled and funded them in the first place.
Beyond the four conventional modes of warfare there lies the eerie behemoth that we hear the state and its legion of loyal followers talk about in hyperbolic terms day in and day out: fifth generation warfare. A battle for hearts and minds, a battle for perceptions, a cultural and moral war fought for gains in soft power with information operations, Twitter trends and the rallying of populist public opinion. Notable amongst the ISPR’s 5GW counter-narrative is the play Ehd-e-Wafa – a touching tale of a group of friends that call themselves the SSG and where each one except Saad, who joins the army, has questionable morals. Other musical ambushes include ‘Jaa Chorr de Meri Waadi’, ‘Mein ne Dushman ke Bachon ko Parhana hai’, ‘Bara Dushman Bana Phirta hai’ and ‘Har Gharri Tayyar Kamran’ to name a few. Heavily funded works of cinematic grandeur are replete with lessons of loyalty and nationalism.
But where, one might legitimately ask, is the homegrown enemy of our state fighting the 5GW? If one is to buy into the narrative of state-sponsored vloggers and influencers, they are in the liberals that use human rights and blasphemous narratives such as ‘Mera Jism Meri Marzi’ to forward their nefarious agenda. They are in the journalists that dare to question the elite and get picked up outside schools in Islamabad. They are in the political class who question foreign policy misadventures and are labeled traitors and even tried for it. All this hardly makes for a fair battle, one might conclude. When one side, that is only politely critical, gets silenced, maimed, kidnapped or tortured, you can hardly call it warfare.
Recently, SAPM Asim Bajwa reminded citizens of the Islamic Republic that our army is the only one to have successfully rid a country of terrorism.
Many of the 5GW war games and operations seek to erase the failings of the fourth-generation warfare, which consists of irregular or guerrilla warfare. It is no secret that the threat of militias that SAPM Bajwa claims to have rooted out only became a threat when they went rogue and refused to obey commands. Yes, geo-politics and the oft-belaboured Soviet invasion of our friend next door is also to blame but to construct an entire narrative where anyone who questions the fatal mishaps made by the state is silenced is hardly the way to go about it.
Take Maulvi Sufi Muhammad and Mullah Fazlullah’s wanton display of bloodlust and violence in the Swat Valley, something that brewed during the Musharraf regime. Take the convenient escape of the gentleman who claims to have masterminded the APS attack. An attack that killed children, brought all political parties on one page, ended month-long sit-ins and gave our jawans a fresh resolve. Not to mention an attack that inspired glowing 5GW attacks. How then was the mastermind of this attack allowed to conveniently escape? We have been told that Ehsan escaped during an operation where he was assisting our armed forces but it fails to explain how his wife and children also escaped with him. There was not anything that even resembled an apology or admission of a grave mistake by the government. Isn’t it shocking that war criminals can escape so easily?
K.K. Aziz will have you know how older Pakistani history has been completely reoriented to suit a certain kind of blinkered narrative. But in its media offensives, the state is also rewriting recent history to absolve the nonsensically aggressive worldview that dominates the public spaces.
With the wealth of information at their disposal, one hopes that the average Pakistani can make up her mind better than her ancestors.
Zarnaab Adil is a graduate of the Wagner School at NYU. He is an author and a political risk consultant based in Brooklyn, NYC.