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Clarity in a time of chaos

The presser by the ISI chief and the DG ISPR was held on Oct 27, 2022 – exactly 64 years after the first military takeover of Pakistan by General Ayub Khan on Oct 27, 1958.

Some events remind us of others from distant memory that took place on the same date. For example, the massacre of schoolchildren by the Taliban at the Army Public School in Peshawar that claimed nearly 150 lives on Dec 16, 2014 occurred exactly 43 years after Pakistan signed the instrument of surrender on 16 Dec 1971 in Dhaka. The attacks in America on September 11, 2011 came about exactly 28 years after the US-supported coup in Chile in 1973, which claimed the life of Salvador Allende – Chilean socialist politician and democratically elected president. The coup resulted in the establishment of the long-lasting military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet

According to chaos theory, underlying patterns play a significant role in future events that may appear unrelated. It is an interdisciplinary theory, focusing on deterministic laws of systems that are sensitive to initial conditions. We initially think that these happenings have random states of disorder and are quite irregular. Chaos theory shows that within the apparent randomness of chaotic systems there are constant loops that interconnect events into underlying patterns of self-organization. The Butterfly Effect is also a principle of chaos that describes how a change in one state of a nonlinear system can result in a large difference in a later state.

Looking at the presser through the lens of chaos theory, this apparently explosive outburst by the senior military officers is hardly unexpected. Former premier Imran Khan’s extremely confrontational narrative against the military was bound to have some backlash. Similarly, Arshad Sharif’s killing in Kenya presented as a chance occurrence resulting from a case of mistaken identity is not a random incident; a host of other related developments in the past months and years have led to this apparently chaotic state of affairs.

It is true that for the first time in Pakistan’s history the head of the country’s spy agency directly addressed the media. In all other circumstances, perhaps a talk by the DG ISPR would have sufficed; the presence of the ISI chief signified the unusual nature of concern the state is feeling. The killing of journalist Arshad Sharif was just one of the causes that prompted the military to respond in such a fashion. There are other circumstances surrounding that were perhaps even more troubling for the top brass. Looking at the context one feels that facts and fiction were deliberately mixed by Imran Khan and his team, and that is also not a new occurrence.

For the past 25 years, or perhaps even more, Imran Khan has been forming an opinion and then mixing a lot of fiction in it to achieve his desired results. Since he has had a following since the 1980s, his followers fail to distinguish between their leader’s opinionated narrative and the fiction that he builds around it. It is quite natural that – like the rest of Pakistan which idealized him as a brilliant cricketer and a rising star – within the military too there were his genuine supporters. But the real butterfly effect took off when people pinned imaginary and unrealistic hopes on the cricketer and philanthropist.

It was good that the officers addressing the presser duly calcified that they had specially informed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif about the sensitivity of the press conference. In itself it appeared as a departure from past practices when even the PM’s directives and notifications were ‘rejected’ in a blatant and bold manner. The presser demolished the Imran narrative built on a pack of lies. Though the March 27 narrative that used a piece of paper to misguide the people of Pakistan about a ‘conspiracy’ hatched abroad was a non-starter from the beginning, it did manage to mislead throngs of PTI supporters.

The fact that it was Imran Khan who fed the cipher propaganda to his loyal followers, including journalists, has also now become crystal clear. PTI leaders have been maligning some distinguished and well-respected journalists who dared expose him, and simultaneously the PTI fed propaganda and the fountainhead of this falsehood was Imran Khan himself, and still is. The military press talk was pretty clear in denouncing the propaganda that Imran Khan has been peddling. He mutilated the facts behind the cipher to suit his own ends without considering the fallout it may have on the country, both internationally and nationally.

Interestingly, ARY News that was for long a favourite channel for some has now been exposed as a spin doctor. Though one can never support victimization of any media outlet, the way ARY played its dirty tricks was unprecedented in Pakistan’s history and it must be held accountable for all the concocted stories its spread that were detrimental to the country itself. Now the army version has also become known as it has demanded that the concerned authorities should bring ARY CEO Salman Iqbal back to Pakistan.

It turns out that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in August issued a letter on the directives of Chief Minister Mahmood Khan stating that a TTP splinter group was looking to target Sharif. The PTI leadership used that letter to persuade Arshad Sharif to leave the country. If the TTP or any of its splinter groups was planning to target Arshad Sharif, the KP government should have provided security to him rather than facilitating his departure.

The military presser has clarified that Arshad Sharif did not face any threat in Pakistan and no one forced him to leave, something the PTI leadership wanted us to believe. The disclosure that Imran had offered the army chief an extension in March is startling.

There is no doubt now that Imran Khan, by targeting the Election Commission of Pakistan, journalists, the judiciary, institutions, politicians, and even those who facilitated his rise to power and stood by him for over a decade, played an extremely divisive role in society.

That he has managed to create such fissures is unfortunate. When Imran Khan touted the cipher as evidence of a foreign conspiracy to oust his government, most of his supporters fell for the ruse. Security agencies have repeatedly tried to dispel the impression that there was any conspiracy, but the PTI kept on its baseless narrative. In the end, it was important to bring this to the public and both generals did a good job by addressing this conference – with PM Shehbaz Sharif’s knowledge. Now the PTI and its leadership must really stop spreading rumours to gain political mileage.

Imran Khan has defamed Pakistan much more than anybody else has. He even misinterpreted the NSC meeting in the wrong context. Finally, the best part of the presser was the reiteration that the military is no more inclined to intervene in domestic politics. The institution must remain apolitical and neutral – as the good generals have once again announced.

Email: mnazir1964@yahoo.co.uk

Dr Naazir Mahmood, "Clarity in a time of chaos," The News. 2022-10-29.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political mileage , Domestic politics , Politicians , Arshad Sharif , Imran Khan , Pakistan , Kenya , TTP , PTI , ISI