Who’s afraid of General Raheel?

Now when we need clarity more than ever, a host of media commentators seem to be on an insidious mission to add to the chaos. As if belittling the achievements of General Raheel was not enough, they’d like to go further and find excuses to lay the blame for the new wave of terror at his door. The cynical narrative they spin is like a double-edged sword. It seeks to tarnish the brilliance of a national hero while camouflaging the real culprits responsible for our woes.

I’m not suggesting that he is beyond criticism. Despite all the good things he did for our country, there’s nothing wrong with critically evaluating his tenure as the army chief and discussing the pros and cons of how he went about discharging his duty. What I find disturbing is the unrelenting vilification campaign in the media that started targeting him on one pretext or another from the day he retired. Where is all this vitriol coming from? More importantly: Whose purpose does it serve?

It is as if the holier-than-thou, know-it-all detractors of General Raheel would like to revise history before it is even recorded. They’d like to smudge his name with unwarranted slurs and dirty his legacy with devious distortions. They are obviously determined to undermine the dedication and sincerity with which he served the country, and to diminish his leading role in saving us from the fate of Syria while he served.

There is nothing balanced or constructive about the criticism heaped upon General Raheel by the battery of detractors who have taken upon themselves to target him personally. They have nothing positive to say about his game-changing tenure and are bent upon discrediting him. They pounced upon rumours about his acceptance of the Saudi offer to head the so-called counter-terrorism coalition of Islamic countries and used it as an excuse to paint him as someone who would sell his soul for money. They discussed the rumour for days with relish, without ascertaining the facts.

Of course, it didn’t end there. Soon enough, a big issue was made about the land allotted to him under the prevalent rules and a devious debate ensued which was clearly directed at casting him in a negative light. They focused on the norm as if it were an anomaly, and refused to give him credit for his exemplary act of donating a significant part of his official entitlement for the benefit of families of martyrs.

The vilification campaign against General Raheel has continued in a vacuum of context. There is no reference to the corrupt corridors of power within which he was constrained to serve. There is no mention of the hollowness of our constitutional order and the façade that our democratic governance is. Couched in the clichés of politically-correct civil-military discourse, the detractors of General Raheel can’t stop blaming him for encroaching upon the holy turf of civilian supremacy. They don’t wish to touch the issues that put him at odds with our supreme civilians.

Have they gone away with his retirement? Aren’t we talking about NAP again? Isn’t the military operation in Punjab still an issue? Don’t we need to reform our madrassahs and apportion sufficient resources for the rehabilitation of TDPs? Isn’t the government tabling a bill next week to revive military courts? Hasn’t it finally announced to release the funds required to operationalise NACTA? Has ‘Dawnleaks’ gone away? Isn’t corruption the issue at the centre of our political debate today?

Would we be better off if General Raheel had not started the Operation Zarb-e-Azb when he did and waited forever for the government to conclude its never-ending farcical dialogue with the TTP even as they continued to launch terrorist attacks on our citizens and soldiers? Would we be better off if he had sent the troops to join the Saudi war of aggression against Yemen, as desired by the Nawaz government?

Would we be better off if he had not affected a reorientation of our foreign policy by putting all his weight behind the CPEC? Was he not right to press the government on forming an apex committee to oversee the game-changing project? That would have saved us from the embarrassment of the Chinese government stepping in and inviting representatives from all provinces and regions to Beijing for diffusing the controversies caused by the bungling of the Nawaz government.

If anything, the stances of General Raheel that brought him at odds with our oh-so-supreme civilians are being vindicated every day. Instead of blaming him for pushing the political leadership in the direction of our national interest, we should perhaps blame him for not pushing them enough. Instead of blaming him for the new wave of terrorism, shouldn’t we blame the political leadership that refused to do its part despite all the prodding and nudging by the General?

So, where is this vitriol against him coming from? Is it just an expression of impotent rage that self-important writers feel when their sermons are ignored by those who call the shots? Or is it the projection of their petty selves and warped understanding? Are his detractors so blindfolded by democratic theory that they have lost all touch with reality, their minds dizzied by going round and round the democracy bush? Or are they conscious mouthpieces of a political correctness that is designed to serve the status quo, clauses of the constitution duly earmarked for their selective reading?

Probably it is a mix of all these factors that inform the campaign against General Raheel, each determined detractor driven by his individual reason. Some of them might be well-meaning useful idiots and some of them driven by personal ambition, their pointed pontifications from the pedestal little more than self-serving spools. Given the glut in the media of such stuff, I won’t be surprised if some of them were literally hired tools.

A bit of research could tell us who is who, but let’s not go there. Just like the campaign against General Raheel, vilification of individual detractors will not help us overcome the challenges we face. Calling out their concerted campaign should suffice.

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be contacted at hazirjalees@hotmail.com

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