Why are we criticising ISPR?
“Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less”, George RR Martin could not have penned it better.
The narrative making the rounds is that there is a civil-military imbalance, and that the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) must immediately reconsider its course of action and dispel any notion of a “soft coup”. It is peculiar; critics first shower praise upon the ISPR for its performance, then highlight the credibility a single tweet by Director General (DG) ISPR commands, and later conclude by recommending that ISPR cease and desist.
From the British Army to the Indian Army, a simple search on the internet reveals an unending list of social media accounts by militaries of the world. The military in most democratic countries maintains an active line of communication with the press and public, and having a presence in social media forms an integral part of any successful communications strategy in the world today.
After noting the lack of a coherent national narrative, be it the Karachi Operation, China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), National Anti-Terrorism Policy or any other important issue, a critic proceeds to recommend that the ISPR should also resign itself to the virtues of silence.
Mum’s the word.
If, in the eyes of the Pakistani public, the uniform is more popular and credible than the sherwani today, then whose fault is it, really?
When campaign promises are routinely broken, national institutions are publically pillaged, merit is shamelessly replaced by political subservience and foreign policy confined to lavish trips across the globe, then this nation is not stupid, we can tell that the elected royalty is unconcerned about performance, for it is far too busy bickering with rivals and hoarding wealth.
Civil authorities and politicians were fashionably meek in their response to the APS attack, along with target killings and sectarian violence plaguing the country. Moreover, let’s not forget that some politicians couldn’t even decide whether terrorists were ‘terrorists’ or ‘shaheeds’ (martyrs). In under a year, this national indecision has fortunately changed, and a spade is finally being called a spade.
The fact that the ISPR has managed to get its perspective across to the nation on matters pertaining to the national narrative and national interest should not be held against them. They have actually managed to do their job right, and should be recognised for it.
Critics are quick to point that the ISPR is assisting the Pakistani cinema, but fail to mention that many militaries of the democratic world do exactly the same. Top Gun, one of the best performing movies by Hollywood, was produced with support from the United States Military, as were a host of other films including, Act of Valor, Pearl Harbor, Iron Man and Transformers, amongst others. The United States Military has a Community Relations Department, the Air Force Entertainment Liaison Office and the Film Liaison Office to coordinate such productions, these departments all function seamlessly within their respective jurisdictions.
If the script portrays the United States Military in a positive light, then it is eligible for support. In the oldest democracy of the world, the military has jurisdiction in filmmaking and actively shapes and propagates the national narrative.
The alignment of the Indian Military with Bollywood is significantly less transparent, but clearly much closer. Bollywood continues churning out hate-filled propaganda against Pakistan with the firm support of the Indian military and civil establishment. Pakistanis are portrayed as terrorists, our institutions as rogue and our society as bloodthirsty. Films like Phantom are a clear indication of this. In season after season, and movie after movie, Pakistan always graduates to the next degree of negativity.
There is no counter to this hate-filled propaganda from the Pakistani side, and nor have successive governments developed a comprehensive national strategy to counter this.
Few, if any, have even bothered to analyse the state of Pakistan’s film and ancillary industries. There is no inquisition into the outright non-performance by concerned authorities and the stinging lack of developing an effective counter to the hate-mongering from across the border.
News channels routinely broadcast the sorry state of our performers and legends from the past generation. Star after star suffers in poverty and are often unable to meet their basic needs, while successive governments continue to ignore their plight and fail to act. There is no national policy, no targeted initiative and no articulated piece of legislation to revive the Pakistani cinema, arts and entertainment.
It feels like we have committed cultural suicide, and have outsourced our entertainment to the religious bigots of the Indian right.
The infrastructure and capabilities of the Pakistan Army belong to Pakistan and to all Pakistanis. The soldiers of the Pakistan Army are Pakistanis, and they have an equal right to tell their stories of sacrifice and suffering in defence of our borders and national interest. It is rare to be criticised for delivering performance, and yet the ISPR is being criticised by a select few for delivering precisely that. Why should the ISPR not exercise its jurisdiction in national interest when other prominent militaries of the democratic world actively do?
The job of dispelling the “soft coup” narrative is not ISPR’s; it starts and stops with the many other national institutions of this blessed nation, and their respective performance.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.