The insidious propaganda

One doesn’t know who the supposed author, Shahid Khan, of the Whatsapp message being now circulated is, but it is being forwarded by a certain retired lieutenant general of the Pakistan army, who claims to be close to serving leaderships of the army, claims at times to speak for them (as in the case of General Raheel Sharif’s Saudi job), and has at least once made public the ISI’s intended strategies and plans. About a year and a half ago, he divulged on national television the ISI’s proposal to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to mainstream religious terrorists and extremists (which the then prime minister naturally rejected).

Indeed, the plan came to fore with the mainstreaming of LeT/JuD, with Hafiz Saeed forming a political party and contesting elections since last year, Mulla Khadim Hussain’s political party coming into existence in 2017 and his utility in obtaining the resignation of yet another minister of the federal government, the dry cleaning of TTP’s Ahsanullah Ashan and TNSM’s Sufi Mohammed. Also of note is the fact that the military did not issue any statement denying the general speaking for former COAS Raheel Sharif at the time his plans to take up the Saudi job became controversial.

The Whatsapp this particular retired officer is now circulating is a study in the desperate measures that are being deployed in the face of an utterly failed attempt to brainwash the public in favour of the establishment’s narratives. The complete text (roughly translated), goes thus:

“They can never be victorious till your army exists, they could not defeat the army, hence now they want to accomplish (it) through you. This is the very fifth generation war.

“If you do not want to commit suicide, then stop targeting your army. And if you wish to fight these elements, then consider your social media accounts as bunkers.

“Basically, you have three types of obvious enemies: Liberals, who are enemies of faith; Kharijis, who are enemies of life; and Democrats, who are enemies of wealth. All three have attractive slogans: Liberals have the slogan of humanity, Kharijis of Islam, and Democrats of rights. But in reality, the one makes you a non-believer, the second kills and the third robs. All three have an unannounced alliance.

“Think: People’s party has funded and given health treatment to terrorists; PMLN has ensured the failure of the National Action Plan against terrorism; Liberals have fought the case of BLA in the name of missing persons; Asma Jahangir has military courts verdicts against the TTP overturned; terrorists go to Model Town to fight for Nawaz Sharif; Waqas Goraya fights Nawaz Sharif’s case on social media.

“And who is the common enemy of all three? Pakistan Army! Kharijis attack Pakistan Army calling it enemy of Islam, Liberals attack the army calling it terrorist, and politicians attack it calling it enemy of democracy, and these three groups have strong backing of America, the UK and India.

“How are they to be fought off: Never share material posted against the Pak Army; do not ‘like’ or comment upon such posts as even commenting in disagreement will increase its reach; report to Facebook if you can; un-friend and unlike such social media accounts; such accounts are usually fake, so report them to Facebook; circulate material supporting the Pakistan Army on social media and Whatsapp to the maximum; like and follow pages and accounts made in the support of Pak Army; try to write yourself also (in favour of the army); and this army is sacrificing lives for you, trust it, in matters not obvious the enemy tries to disgruntle you against the army, do not listen to them.

“They deceive you with ‘The army is good, the generals are bad’. While pretending to be sad at news of Pak Army sacrifices, they will tell you ‘this is such and such general’s fault’ and thus only criticise Pakistan Army. If the enemy strikes, you will see them censuring the army with ‘Now where is your selfless army’. There is nothing on their timelines except criticism of the army but they will create hue and cry of ‘which holy cow is it that cannot be permitted to be criticised’. You should know that Pakistan Army is criticised fearlessly like no other army of the world. Understand their tricks.

“Those running blasphemous pages, those blowing you to smithereens with bombs, and those looting your wealth can never be your well wishers. Swear upon God, if your army is destroyed, Afghanistan and India will devour you. Not just them, you will not even be able to deal with these khawarij, who have been readied for you only. In the war of Islam, Pakistan is an important fortress, and Pakistan cannot be defeated till Pakistan Army is in existence. Do not help the enemy in defeating your own army.

“Note: Begin the war by sharing this essay.”

The environment in which this has been written is important. The establishment has come under increasingly public criticism in recent times for its interference in politics, social and political engineering, human rights violations, mainstreaming of terrorists, attempts at silencing dissent from its policies, forced monopoly on security and foreign policies, and its ever expanding business empire among other things. It has tried through social and mainstream media to stopper the criticism and portray the dissenters as enemies. However, this ‘essay’ goes a step further. First, it lumps all real and imaginary enemies of the people together. Surely the Khawarjis/ TTP are enemies of the people, but it lumps liberals and democrats with them. One is not sure how many liberals comprise this nation, but almost the entire population are democrats – be they politicians or voters, which makes this essay laughable to say the least as it makes out the people as enemies of themselves. In this process, the ‘essay’ bandies about the new coalition of bogymen India, Afghanistan, the USA and the UK, in an attempt to induce unreasoned paranoia to curry sympathy with a failed narrative.

It seeks to equate those who work for humanity and human rights with the ilk of the Taliban, portray them as enemies, and vilify them just because they do not take violations lying down and are fighting for a just, kind, democratic and bright future of this country. It has once again labeled bloggers, who never hurt a hair on anyone’s head, as blasphemers, even though they have been exonerated in court – this after their condemnable abductions and torture. In the face of a losing narrative, it seeks to discredit anyone who does not agree with the establishment’s policies. And it targets Pakistani civilian citizens in the ugliest, most dangerous and remorseless fashion yet seen, with patently false and malicious accusations against the PMLN, the PPP and some individuals. Note: the blue-eyed PTI is missing from this vicious campaign.

It makes the Pakistan army one with Pakistan, and the people their enemy. Who is this addressed to, one wonders? If all ‘liberals’ like Asma Jahangir who fight for law and justice and the fundamental rights of citizens, all democrats who speak of rights, be they politicians or voters, are enemies of the people, who is left behind? The rag tag Defence Pakistan Council?

It is important to realise this: people’s third time elected prime minister, and several of his cabinet members have already been thrown out on trumped up corruption charges. Yet, recent by elections, political rallies, and the social media reflect the reality that the ‘corruption’ narrative has not stuck either on Nawaz Sharif or on his government, instead it has been vehemently rejected and the PMLN is heading for another landslide victory. This seems to be giving nightmares to those whose ‘secret plans and clever tricks’ (a la Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile) to force public opinion have failed spectacularly.

But to defeat a political party, peaceful citizens of the country are being targeted with the most dangerous propaganda and being lumped with the Taliban. This would be funny if it weren’t so shocking and terrifying. The most horrifying aspect of this all is that all this is being propagated by not just any ex-army officer, but a senior retired general who is regularly seen on mainstream media, and who is perceived as close to the military and the ISI.


n            The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.

The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist. She can be contacted at Follow her on Twitter