Security and National Responsibility

Security and National Responsibility

Modi, a born Chanakya disciple, never spares an opportunity to be truly himself – as he was two years ago in his visit to Dhaka where he gloated over the role his country played in the 1971 dismemberment of Pakistan. He cannot also resist being spiteful of Pakistan as he was at the last BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit that he hosted in Goa. In his speech, he badmouthed his favourite innuendo calling Pakistan a “mothership of terrorism.” Modi surely sees his own image in the mirror whenever he accuses Pakistan of ‘cross-border’ terrorism. If anything, his recent claims on Balochistan and notorious Kulbhushan Yadav case are clear evidence of this stark reality.

Lately, Modi has also been claiming that he will isolate Pakistan. To this end, his cold-blooded realpolitik is already at its peak with his aggressive narrative increasingly finding resonance in our own media, a part of which in collusion with the internal as well as external vested interests is playing the Trojan Horse in this sordid game. Modi’s objective is to destabilize Pakistan and weaken its armed forces which over the decades have emerged as the only cohesive force defending the country against external and internal threats. He may have been kept from conducting a military ‘surgical strike’ across the Line of Control but he surely has managed an intrusive media ‘surgical strike’ in the heart of Pakistan.

It was through a ‘false and fabricated story’ on the proceedings of an extraordinary high-level, closed-door meeting planted in a major English daily of Pakistan. The story soon became talk of the town. The government initially tried to deny the story but with the messenger refusing to disown it, came out with another statement on October 10 expressing concern over the publication of a “fabricated news story” which was termed as “clearly violative of universally-acknowledged principles of reporting on National Security issues.” According to the statement, the published story with its inaccurate and misleading contents which had no relevance to actual discussion had risked the vital state interests.

Taking serious notice of the violation, the Prime Minister “directed that those responsible should be identified for stern action.” Interestingly, five days later, a strongly worded statement issued by ISPR after army chief Gen Raheel Sharif chaired a meeting of his Corps Commanders also expressed serious concern over what was claimed as “feeding of false and fabricated story of an important security meeting at PM House” and viewed it as “breach of national security”. This statement clearly suggested the story in question was planted with malafide purpose and the reporter only played into the hands of vested interests who wanted to show the country in a poor light.

To complicate things, the government having first tried to rubbish the report then quickly placed the reporter on Exit Control List. It all looked part of the script when the travel ban was lifted the next day with no explanation. A delegation of the All Pakistan Newspapers Society (APNS) and the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) after a meeting with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan claimed they had persuaded him to withdraw the ban. As the government was looking for the people who ‘leaked’ the story, the debate in Pakistan quickly turned to whether the newspaper and its reporter should have done the story at all. Most people were of the view that by accepting a story fed from vested interests both had either acted irresponsibly or had fallen into a trap laid out by the enemy.

On its part, the newspaper in question took no time in stating on the record that “it handled the story in a professional manner and carried it only after verification from multiple sources.” With media going into its usual frenzy, feigning anger and frustration, speculating outlandish scenarios and spinning all sorts of wild theories, one was left with one question as to who really was behind this ‘false and fabricated’ story drama, and why. A federal minister in charge of Information and Broadcasting was suddenly asked to step down for what was stated as a ‘lapse’ on his part in preventing the false and fabricated story. A commission was then established to investigate the whole episode.

Whatever the findings of investigation, one thing is beyond doubt. Given the timing and overall backdrop of domestic as well as external security situation, the whole episode smacks of an intrigue. If it is really so, there is nothing new for us because we have seen such intrigues before. The 2011 Memogate was perhaps the most sophisticated version of a Byzantine intrigue in which the state itself was seen conspiring against its own sovereignty, integrity and national honour. The disgraceful ‘Memo’ had solicited Washington’s behind-the-scenes intervention to put the Pakistani army on the spot. In the present case, according to The Hindustan Times, this ‘leaked’ story was also meant to show the army in a bad light.

Indeed, a generation of civilian and non-civilian rulers have brought us to a point where we are witnessing a remorseless tug and pull between the civilian and military hierarchies on the one hand, and between liberal and religious forces on the other. With no credibility of their own, the ruling oligarchs got used to ruling the country in collusion with, if not with total dependence, on the civil and military bureaucracy. In fact, since 2008, political ineptitude and vulnerability in Islamabad has been the order of the day, with elected rulers doing all sorts of things in the name of democracy only to remain in power with no checks and balances. In this pursuit, they have been excessively involving the armed forces in civil matters in order to apportion the blame for their own governance failures.

One question always asked is whether military interventions in Pakistan could have been avoided had the political system and the civilian governments been performing and delivering on their mandates. At least during the last eight years of civilian rule, despite provocations, the army remained steadfast in its constitutional role giving every opportunity to the elected rulers to do their job. It has in fact held them by hand in doing good things. Pakistan cannot afford any more institutional clashes. They weaken the state. Vested foreign and local interests exploit the situation. The disgraceful Memogate and now the surreptitious mishandling of the civil-military equation only shows how weak and insecure the political cadres continue to feel.

What should be clear to them by now is that on vital security-related issues in a perilously-located country as ours, the pivotal role of so-called ‘establishment’ is indispensable for the preservation of the state’s independence and integrity on which is predicated their rulership. They should be looking at the country’s armed forces not as an adversary but as their strength and an asset. Pakistan cannot afford any more institutional clashes. They weaken the state. Vested foreign and local interests exploit the situation. A country remains vulnerable externally if it is weak domestically.

In order to be immune to external exploitation, Pakistan needs to be strong militarily, stable politically and self-reliant economically. Today, Pakistan is facing an exceptionally dangerous challenge with aggressive rhetoric as well as belligerent threats from India with equally hostile and ominous narratives emanating from Afghanistan and Washington. As we remain engaged in a decisive battle for our security and survival, Pakistan is being subverted from within. Instead of walking into the traps, we should be joining together in reinforcing the elements of our nationhood.

We badly need domestic cohesion and mutual confidence among the state institutions. To keep our country strong and stable, we must also root out from our body-politic the mindset of heresy, sedition and treachery that provides fertile ground for enemy maneuvers against Pakistan. It is also time our mainstream media owned its national responsibility by upholding our national ethos and defending the country’s independence, security and national integrity.

The writer is a former foreign secretary

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