Why are we criticising ISPR?

Published: October 23, 2015
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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?

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? DG ISPR says militants won't stop them from helping out the people in Balochistan. 
PHOTO: AFP

“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.

Why?

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 ValorPearl HarborIron 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.

Syed Ali Raza

Syed Ali Raza

The writer is a current affairs analyst.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • wb

    I think you should call yourself as confused affairs analyst.

    Without even getting into the Bollywood-military nexus and Indian-religious-right entertainment, I just suggest that you take a class or two of creative writing.

    You start off with ISPR interfering in civilian affairs. Then I don’t know when you shifted the gear towards entertainment. Very poor writing. And most importantly, no substance, no originality.Recommend

  • ajeet

    The ISPR should learn subtlety and not follow Chinese or North Korean style of propaganda dissemination.The mature democracies like USA and India do it in a subtle manner.Recommend

  • Ali S

    The author writes: “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”. Does he have zero sense of irony?Recommend

  • Sadaf Karachi

    Kudos Ali, spot on .Not only the comment sections of newspapers ,but also childlike fake twitter accounts are used to create fake trends .Goebel is dead but his legacy continues till date by those you mentioned in pakistan.Recommend

  • Asjad

    You talk about everything national, ISPR ponders upon stuff which is political not national. In going political they are hell bent on selling the conspiracy narrative directly or through their mouth pieces.

    You mentioned international examples. Labour party’s newly elected leader said he shall never go for a nuclear attack and there are numerous Generals in the Brit army who support his stance. There was condemnation among the civilians and media etc but the British General did not jump into it.

    Imagine such a situation in Pakistan. Remember Zardari hinted at giving away his 1st strike option early in his tenure in an interview to Indian TV. Mumbai happened not so long after. I am not implicating the whole institution but it elements within.

    National is acceptable but the definition of national is not at ISPR’s disposal.Recommend

  • Nadeem

    1000 peoples writing 10000 articles like this.
    You say civilians did not deliver etc. But u can’t discuss failures or corruptions in uniforms. That is the cause people discuss such topics in private and on social media.Recommend

  • Brain Think

    What a non-sense article.

    The holy cow syndrome has a long way to go before it can make itself disappear. If anything, the generals of this country have done a great job of making themselves angels.Recommend

  • Saad Hasan

    ISPR reports the ongoings on the military side factually. There is no “propaganda” as you claim. Its getting the military point of view across to the nation. We don’t need to ape the US (perhaps Indians have a need or a tendency to do that) as we do things that suit our needs.Recommend

  • Saad Hasan

    There is corruption in the US military as well. What is your point? Can you disagree with the point made by the writer that when the going gets tough in Pakistan the military delivers in a much more proactive manner than our civilian leadership? When and how many times did Zardari or Nawaz head out to visit our troops locked in combat in the FATA? What has the interior ministry done about projecting the progress in law enforcement in Sind? There are gaps that the civilian government needs to fill yet they are too busy filling their coffers.

    Corruption in the military happens and is known to be a world wide phenomena. The easiest canard used by military bashers is to throw this accusation of “corruption in uniform goes on at unprecedented scale” but nothing factual ever comes out besides “they get plots at cheap rates and sell them making millions.” There are no holy cows but the fact is that some organizations are run better in Pakistan than others. We should accept this and feel proud that the rot isn’t prevalent everywhere.Recommend

  • Waron Dafe

    Useless article, nothing but ISPR propoganda.Recommend

  • greywolf

    ALLAH HU!Recommend

  • Parvez

    Universal fact : A boss who blows his own trumpet can never be a popular boss.
    In institutions like the civil government, the judiciary, the military……common sense says that performance speaks for itself.Recommend

  • An Indian

    “defence of our borders and national interest”.
    Both of these are pretty subjective in the case of Pakistan.Recommend

  • wb

    Factually? So tell me factually how many soldiers died at Kargil? Factually why their bodies weren’t even recognized? Factually, how many civilians are head in Zarb e Azb? Factually, how many soldiers have died in Zarb e Azb? Factually, where is the evidence of India’s sponsorship of TTP? Factually, what happened in Ojhri?Recommend

  • MEHMOOD

    One of the best article on the subj and what a response to jokersRecommend

  • talha usmani

    Nicely written…and I would just like to inform the Pakistani democracy and political party lovers that it is only due to army that Pakistan is still existent on the world map. No matter how much good you try to highlight about the politicians but the fact is that they are the worst lot in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Saad Hasan

    Pakistan lost 313 troops @ Kargil. What do you mean by bodies weren’t even recognized? That we did not take ownership is simply because that was necessitated by the mission. Covert operations sometime require the state to deny certain things and those who volunteered knew this. It has happened in the past as well. We honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice at Kargil.

    As to how many soldiers have died in Zarb-e-Azb, the numbers have been published many times. No state secret there. Just google it. Close to 50,000 killed. Military and civilian LEA casualties (KIA and WIA) are around 15000 as per a report released to the courts by the ministries of interior and defence.

    Evidence of India’s sponsorship fits in the same boat as Indian claims of Pakistan’s sponsorship of LET. Its not an overt sponsorship yet it happens and we know it. Can your side factually prove anything they try to stick on Pakistan?

    Ojhri camp? Seriously?Recommend

  • Vaqas Asghar

    When politicians do their jobs, we say they were doing what they were elected to do. When soldiers do their job, we (the public and the media) act like they’ve done us a favour.
    When politicians do wrong, we criticise them. When soldiers do wrong, we either blame the politicians or say nothing out of fear of turning into the next Saleem Shahzad.
    The army responds to the elected government, not the other way around. They, like the government, are responsible to the people.
    There can’t be any sacred cows.Recommend

  • AliShahid

    It’s quite the opposite, my friend Nadeem, quite the opposite. There are thousands of people writing thousands of articles and saying things against ISPR and the Army all over the social media. This article was much, much needed.Recommend

  • AliShahid

    Nonsense? Can you prove any of the author’s claims wrong? Is it nonsense that the US Army does have its own public relations department? Is it nonsense that they help the film industry? Is it nonsense that they have social media accounts?

    Everything this article says is true. You are only ‘upset’ because it does not defame the Army.Recommend

  • AliShahid

    You’ve got it wrong. Politicians rarely do their job. And the ‘jobs’ soldiers do are not their job’s at all – that’s why we act like they’ve done us a favour.

    It’s not the Army’s job to watch over elections. It’s not the Army’s job to police Karachi. It’s not the Army’s job to fight corruption. It’s not the Army’s job to guard transport routes for CPEC.

    But it becomes their job because the politicians are so inept that it threatens national security.

    In all those cases, they’ve done things that are not their job – maybe not favours, but they deserve some respect.Recommend

  • AliShahid

    What a load of regurgitated garbage you are spewing – did you even read the article? Your ”mature democracies” do the same things ISPR does, only much, much more than how much ISPR does it.

    Why do Indians need to come to Pakistani websites to remind us of how ”mature” their ”democracy” is? Go worry about your ‘mature democracy’, leave our ‘immature democracy’ to us.Recommend