The firestorm touched off by an ‘infructuous’ tweet seems to have been rained upon and put out, for the time being. But the strong currents of wind that were drawn into the blaze, continue to blow rather furiously, looking to reignite the most destructive of storms. Feeling cheated out of the inferno that would bring the house down, a handful of television anchors and defence analysts continue to try and torch dynamite. In a woefully ironic message, one television anchor tweeted after the DG ISPR announced the end of the storm at his press conference (and I translate): ‘Today, Pakistan and patriotic Pakistanis were defeated, and India and its agents were victorious’, effectively dumping the military chief in the pile of Indian agents. It is tragic for the country that its military as an institution is now having to drink from the poisoned chalice at the hands of its erstwhile instruments and surrogates in the general population.
The resentment of another scarred television anchor was at vivid display with his comparison of the happy resolution of the Dawn Leaks controversy to Pakistan military’s humiliating surrender to India in 1971, in a miserable bid to goad the leadership into reversing its decision to put the matter to bed. Other hurt and injured demagogues of television demanded to know why the matter had been settled peaceably, what comprised the ‘settlement’ as if it were a conspiracy to stabilise Pakistan, and what lay in the yet undisclosed full text of the Dawn Leaks report. Whilst all such reports should be made public, they hope to discover the real culprit of their imagination, the Prime Minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz, cowering somewhere in those pages of the Dawn Leaks JIT report.
The faux defence analysts’ and anchors’ brigades in the PTI, on the other hand, have erupted into a chorus of filthy abuse against the current leadership of the armed forces. At display is a most astonishing phenomenon: the social media accounts with biographies containing ‘I love Pak army’, ‘Forever Imranist’, ‘PTI Family’, ‘Thank you Raheel Sharif’, and ‘Islam’ and pictures of the Khana Ka’aba and the Pakistani flag, have taken to hurling sexualised abuse at the military leadership for abiding by the law and constitution and standing down from the Dawn Leaks tempest it had unleashed late last year.
The misogyny inherent in the abuse is fascinating: it has now turned on the military leadership for displaying feminine or trans traits, which was earlier reserved for the elected leadership of the country. Clearly, these ‘love Pak army’ disciples of Imran Khan had fashioned for themselves an image of the army as the He Man. They see the resolution of the matter not in the context of democratic norms or the constitutional framework, but in the context of weakness and strength, with their understanding of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ being in terms of sex and gender, as evinced by their social media posts. Hence, the sensible retreat the military has made has led to its non-male characterisation at the hands of PTI Pak-army-Islam-Imran lovers.
Another ‘infructuous’ campaign the PTI Family is desperately trying to re-start against General Qamar Javed Bajwa, but miserably failing to, is to label him Ahmedi (and in the pejorative adjective), and questioning his qualification to be the Chief of Army Staff based on this falsehood. Never mind that being Ahmadi does not disqualify anyone from holding the post of COAS per the laws of this country. But interestingly, this bit does hark back to the origins of this insinuation against the chief, when the race to the top of the military was red hot, and a particular faction within the military was encouraging this campaign as a means to create controversy around the person of General Bajwa. It failed then, and now the pathetic campaign is not even taking off.
Another characteristic revealed by PTI Family social media postings, earlier as well as now, is the authoritarianism they subscribe to. It is exactly fashioned in the image of their leader, Imran Khan, who has taught them disregard for the political process, for democratic norms, for the law or the constitution, for honesty, for critical evaluation, for patience, and for a reasoned discourse, in his unbridled and unprincipled pursuit for power at any cost. Their guns, as have his, have turned on the military leadership for not making their dark, furious desires come true; for not allowing a vindication of the blind hatred their leader has carefully cultivated and nursed in their bosoms for the ‘corrupt’ Prime Minister and his political heir apparent daughter.
However, the serving middle and junior cadre of the military on social media appear to have, reluctantly, fallen in line with their boss’s decision to end the witch hunt at three trophies. It is sad and amusing at the same time to see these men in uniform defending their top commander’s decision, and getting abused by the PTI brigades. A series of tweets by one such officer (Name: A Good Soldier; handle: @soldier_pk) is fascinating:
“Today after suffering from uncontrollable abuse from PTI members on twitter, I take all my tweets back which I did in support of PTI” (huge possibility that this tweet reflects a common sentiment within professional soldiers post abuse fiasco);
“Not fair man, no deal was struck, this is max possible without martial law” (responding to accusations of ‘a deal hungry, bargain hunting army’ from a disgruntled PTI supporter who was expressing regret at having supported the army);
“This is max possible without martial law” (in response to ‘REAL PERPETRATORS’ being saved).
The exchanges are fascinating not only in that they reveals how the PTI was popular with the military rank and file, but also in that the rank and file is now stunned with the abuse cannons turned at itself, swearing never to support PTI again and PTI members yelping at ‘the REAL FACE of the army’. The unfriending spectacle unfolds here too.
A collateral benefit of the resolution of Dawn Leaks is the fierce debate now in social and mainstream media questioning the authenticity and motives of the faux defence analysts who purport to represent the military’s viewpoint on television screens every night. Given that these retired generals, brigadiers and AVMs hunt in their packs and speak with one voice, and in this instance were pouring outrage at the resolution, they showed themselves clearly lined up against the current military leadership’s decisions, vision and values. There are now strong calls for retiring these assets and their trouble making from the media.
Mr. Imran Khan too took to twitter reverting to his ‘deal’ playbook saying, “the whole nation now needs to know what was ‘settled’,” and somersaulting in his typical fashion to claim that Dawn Leaks was never about the army and government, that it was about national security. An earlier tweet of his, unfortunately for him, had alleged that Dawn Leaks was a conspiracy against the army by the civilian government. He is livid with tensions simmering down because yet again he feels used, taken off, wrapped in a tissue and binned. Salman Masood of The Nation commenting on the military’s sensible step wrote: “It was enough of a hint to some in the political opposition to also make course correction. But Imran Khan in his characteristic unhinged style, has refused to take the advice.”