The party is over; decision is made; Nawaz is being disqualified; Sicilian Mafia; Godfather; and finally, Imran Khan the true national hero in Parachinar standing with protestors while the corrupt Prime Minister and Chairman PEMRA, Absar Alam, even banned the media from covering the tragedy of Parachinar bombings and protests of the victim families, leave alone going there to sympathise with them or offer them any comfort or financial compensation.
This new ticker would be worrying were it not so comical and so transparent. The world has moved on, it has changed and its high time for those playing games the games of yore wake up to this reality. The tactics of the past don’t work anymore. Someone moved the cheese and the shadowy actors who are used to playing games have been caught unawares wondering who moved their cheese, because they are not accepting the change and not changing with the changed realities.
Social media is that key factor which is not allowing old tricks to work; no matter how much news is censored, it gets out; no matter how much people are threatened, they speak out; no matter how much propaganda is done, social media deconstructs it; no matter how many puppets and muppets are put on mainstream television, social media undercuts it and doesn’t let false narratives be built and become popular. But shadowy actors are not adjusting to these new realities and continue to use their old tricks in a new world.
The narrative of ‘corrupt’, ‘corruption’, ‘thieves’, ‘robbers’, has failed miserably because now the electorate see the false narrative building for what it is, and the electorate resents its will being thwarted in unconstitutional ways – this too is because of social media because unlike print or electronic media, it can neither be controlled nor silenced. Hence, ‘corruption’ having failed, a judicial route has been taken. But even for a judicial coup at least SOME solid evidence is required, hence the JIT route. And no matter what is said, the people are not stupid and they can perceive what is going on. When judges begin to call some one Godfather or Sicilian Mafia, without any evidence whatsoever, they expose themselves in front of the masses. The people can see where they are coming from and from whose hymn book they are singing. The people can see that this is not about corruption, but about undemocratic regime change.
However, even the JIT needs to do a solid investigation to find evidence of white-collar crime. But it knows that several attempts in the years past have failed to turn up evidence good enough to convict the accused. Hence the attempts by JIT to intimidate people into providing false statements to net the Sharifs. But because this is the day and age of social media, almost the entire population became aware of the illegal, immoral and unethical means by which the JIT was attempting to trap the elected prime minister of the country. If the JIT had any real hope of finding anything of substance, the JIT might have concentrated on pursuing that instead of putting together hundreds of hours of media commentary and thousands of twitter and facebook posts to complain to the Supreme Court. This is JIT is being watched and criticised for its behaviour by the people of this country. Instead of correcting its behaviour, the JIT complains to the Supreme Court in an attempt to somehow have the media and particularly social media controlled or banned from criticism.
But that’s not the way the world works. Shadowy characters need to understand that they will have to change and adapt to the new world and get used to it, the world will not turn back for them. But this message does not seem to be getting through: the Prime Minister did not have security clearance to visit Parachinar; the former Interior Minister of the country together with other leaders was not allowed to land in Parachinar and their helicopter was sent back; the media was “told” that the helicopter could not land because of rain and inclement weather; social media users put the lie to that “explanation” with instant uploads of photos of dry weather. The lies don’t go very far in this day and age. False narratives are not, and will not, be allowed to be built.
For almost a week the people of Parachinar were protesting with sit-ins, but coverage of their protests was not allowed. Social media covered it. All the information came out, including the information that three persons had been killed in the shooting ordered by Colonel Omer on unarmed protestors who had lost relatives and friends in the terror bombings a week earlier. The optics of not responding to the cries of the protestors, which by now the whole world could see despite the media blackout, became toxic to the extent that Bol TV and Amir Liaqat were trotted out for damage control.
And dutifully, Amir Liaqat helped to lay it all on the callousness of the ‘corrupt’ Prime Minister who was so heartless he didn’t go to Parachinar, only visited the Bahawalpur victims and announced generous compensation to the victims of the Bahawalpur tragedy (this was in fact offered by the provincial government). Amir Liaqat and Bol were covering a manufactured dharna of the MWM, where the MWM clerics criticised the Prime Minister and his government, put the entire blame on PEMRA chairman Absar Alam for electronic media channels not covering the Parachinar trageday and ensuing sit-ins, blamed the attacks on foreign hands, blamed miscreants of playing into enemy hands by giving the tragedy a sectarian colour (implying the attack was not in fact sectarian in nature), praising the army chief and repeating several times that he would be landing there soon to resolve matters. As an aside, once again it had been social media that had outed the fact that politicians had flown to Parachinar but were not allowed to land.
This Amir Liaqat stunt was so transparent, it was comical. And it did nothing to help create the attempted false narrative. It merely made people laugh. As if to then confirm and put a signature on the whole project, Imran Khan was flown into Parachinar to do his public image building, just as the prime minister’s image had been damaged by propagating his callousness in not visiting Parachinar. The icing however was this: the army chief had reached the protestors and met their representative and negotiated with them in the daytime; a deal was reached with many of the protestors demands being met; the protestors started to leave deal having been struck, but they were asked to stay a while longer because Imran Khan the darling was being flown in to address them!
And then of course the Parachinar hashtag was aflood all of a sudden with ‘true hero’, ‘Imran Khan’, ‘only hope’, and other nonsense. But here’s the thing. Social media demolished this attempt at rigging and engineering too. The refusal of security clearance to the PM and others politicians, and royal assistance to Imran Khan too was exposed by social media. Social media forced the military to acknowledge the protestors, to negotiate with them, to meet their demands. And it did not allow a false picture or narrative to become general perception. Nor will it allow the ‘party to be over’. The best lesson to learn here is that psy-ops don’t really work anymore. Get with the program and stop the engineering that used to work in the past.
The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.