A leash of hostile propaganda against Armed Forces and ISI is a move to weaken Pakistan

By Sultan M. Hali

Armed Forces and intelligence agencies render exceptional services to protect national interests. They have offered tremendous sacrifices for the sake of their country and nation. Unfortunately some hostile elements are running a malicious campaign to discredit and defame the Armed Forces of Pakistan especially the Army and Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency ISI. The aim of such negative propaganda is to weaken people’s faith in the professional capabilities and competence of Army and ISI to defend national interests.

These segments of society are trying to undermine the Armed Forces also because they fear their capability of defending Pakistan against the nefarious machinations of its detractors. One of the principles of subversion is that the enemy tries to sow seeds of doubts in the minds of the people of the target country regarding the capability of its armed forces to defend it. If its propaganda war is successful then the next step is physical subversion and ultimately a takeover becomes easy. Another effect of the propaganda against the armed forces is that it weakens their morale and they may lose confidence in their leadership.

In Pakistan, where such an assault has become common practice, indifferent analysis and negative commentaries through print and electronic media are blowing up information which is creating misperceptions about the Armed Forces and “ISI”. Thus general masses are showing signs of collective repulsion and frustration with deep signatures of injured feelings, incorrect impression about the efficacy of Army and ISI and speculative conditions of paranoia. Thus the “New York Times” story of the Army Chief “struggling for his survival” or the possibility of a “Colonels’ coup”, which were then repeated in our own media without verifying the speculative report. The case of Brigadier Ali and his probable links with Hizb-ul-Tahreer could have been better handled by the media managers of the armed forces. When the case had surfaced initially, a small press note could have been released that some members of the armed forces are being investigated for their links with banned organizations, without naming any one. Later on when the news broke, the media managers would not be faulted for suppressing the story since they had already made it public. In this day and age, it is difficult to suppress information; instead, effort should be made that instead of hiding information, it should be managed so that damage is minimized.

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There is a need to develop an understanding that our country is confronted with numerous extraordinary challenges. It is very important to comprehend these issues in their true perspective rather than toeing the line of propagandists. However, if the media managers create the sympathy of our countrymen, they would not fall prey to the propaganda warfare. Pakistan’s capability to tackle the issues and potential of Armed Forces to safeguard its frontiers, besides other positive social factors, remains its strength as a nation. Domestic media must be taken on board by confiding into its responsible managers so that it plays its role to dispel the present state of despondency, conspiracy theories and misperceptions. It is of prime importance that the national spirit is kept high and undesirable state of mind be set right through proper and positive media coverage using realistic and imaginative approach, as state of despondency is directly related to state of mind. Media has a role to correct perceptions and strengthen people’s faith in the professional competence of our Armed Forces. While awareness is positive, the conspiracy theories weaken our convictions by spreading divisive themes and elusive schemes. The nation must maintain cohesive posture in the face of hostile propaganda. Media can suggest to the people to remain firm and resist falling prey to conspiracy theories.

Pakistan is passing through a critical phase as the nation is confronted with extraordinary challenges at internal and external levels. These challenges also offer us the opportunity to face the challenges boldly and make Pakistan a strong and viable country. Defeatism and getting paralyzed is no option. All segments of society including media must put up a collective front to internal and external threats rather than criticizing the Armed Forces, which does not comprise angels but fallible humans but criticism should be objective. Simultaneously, there should be no confusion in our minds that our Armed Forces/intelligence agencies are capable of defending the vital national assets/interests. Unfortunately certain elements are creating speculations and casting aspersions on the capability and competence of our Armed Forces thus enabling the enemy to exploit these conjectures to their best advantage. Politicians, intellectuals and media have a responsibility to protect Pakistan/Armed Forces, defaulters and law breakers not withstanding.  

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Social media including internet/SMS, Twitter have become a major source of exchanging information these days. Various blogs are operating and being used for opinion making. Own media managers must effectively use this media for projecting their view point. In this regard patriotic people must participate in discussion forums through Internet blogs, and make good efforts to project Pakistan’s view point. Exchanging derogatory SMS against own Armed Forces is self defeating and self staggering. People must learn to behave maturely and conduct themselves with dignity. The Arab Spring has amply demonstrated the use of social media in mobilizing the masses for rebellion. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. The same medium can be used to build a positive image of the custodians of the frontiers of Pakistan as well as exposing the nefarious designs of its enemies, especially those who are bent upon painting Pakistan in the worst light, speak of doom and gloom and propagate worst case scenarios.

Armed Forces of Pakistan made unprecedented sacrifices to combat the scourge of terrorism. They played an excellent role during natural disasters especially flood relief operations in 2011. Armed Forces of Pakistan are working vigorously to bring Balochistan and tribal areas of Pakistan in national mainstream through developmental projects including establishment of cadet colleges/ technical institutes and by providing jobs to the youth of these areas and need to be encouraged not abused. They may be reformed but not banished.

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