The Pak­istani mil­i­tary is caught in an im­age cri­sis and is fight­ing hard to re­gain its lost pres­tige as a guardian of the na­tion’s ge­o­graph­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal fron­tiers.

Southasia - - Front page - By Ikram Se­h­gal

Our cover story this month at­tempts to highlight the role of Pak­istan’s armed forces in up­hold­ing the sovereignty of the coun­try and how it can re­gain the

con­fi­dence of the peo­ple.

Democ­racy be­ing the ce­ment­ing fac­tor for Pak­istan’s unity is good in the­ory, the hard fact re­mains that it is the Armed Forces that ce­ments the unity. Thus, the Army has an in­her­ent re­spon­si­bil­ity to en­sure that even as it re­mains the prime guar­an­tor of our sovereignty it does not be­come masters of the realm. But more of­ten than not it does ex­actly that be­cause of cir­cum­stances, not nec­es­sar­ily out of choice. This, cou­pled with other fac­tors has made the Army vul­ner­a­ble to the pro­pa­ganda of ex­ter­nal forces that are in­im­i­cal to the ex­is­tence of Pak­istan. One can un­der­stand the mo­tive be­hind the bile and venom that flows across in­ter­na­tional borders. Many within the coun­try who are ei­ther ig­no­rant about the crass mo­tives of the cheer­lead­ers against the uni­form, or are on the pay­roll of their masters abroad, jump onto the band­wagon. The aim is the de­struc­tion of what­ever is left of the Pak­istan that came into ex­is­tence after 1971. Ev­ery Pak­istani knows that our nu­clear prow­ess acts as the strong­est de­ter­rent; guard­ing our free­dom, it acts as a bul­wark against ad­ven­tur­ism.

One of the prime ploys since cen­turies is that if you can­not beat some­body on the bat­tle­field, use psy­cho­log­i­cal and other forms of sub­terfuge to un­der­cut the base of sup­port and gain vic­tory, hence, the re­sort to psy­cho­log­i­cal war­fare or Psy war in the form of pro­pa­ganda to dis­credit and de­fame the Pak­istan Army. Make no mis­take, the ul­ti­mate aim is to rid us of our nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity. The re­al­ity of a nu­clear-armed Mus­lim coun­try just does not go down well with the world where the bo­gey of Is­lamic ter­ror­ism was care­fully cre­ated with a pur­pose.

A con­certed cam­paign has been set in mo­tion to de­fame the Army with the ISI tak­ing the brunt of the as­saults. While the for­eign me­dia has been es­pe­cially vo­cal in ma­lign­ing and con­demn­ing the ISI; a section of our own me­dia has fol­lowed suit without wor­ry­ing about the con­se­quences. After the kid­nap­ping and mur­der of jour­nal­ist Saleem Shahzad, a section of our me­dia went over­board al­leg- ing ISI’s in­volve­ment in the af­fair; this was not only un­fair, it bor­dered on ir­re­spon­si­ble re­port­ing. The me­dia must not in­dulge in spec­u­la­tion - this is one of the ba­sic laws of fair and ac­cu­rate re­port­ing. The ef­fects of pol­lu­tion and vi­ti­a­tion un­leashed against the ISI are now dis­cernible in a section of our me­dia. Many of those who are spread­ing venom and ha­tred on the elec­tronic and print me­dia may cer­tainly have very jus­ti­fi­able griev­ances be­cause of ex­cesses against them dur­ing Mar­tial Laws (and even af­ter­wards). The un­for­tu­nate fact, how­ever, is that even those with mo­ti­vated bias and/or even a paid agenda, can­not jus­tify the scathing de­nun­ci­a­tion of the en­tire Army’s rank and file even as they are fight­ing and dy­ing for what is es­sen­tially the sins of the few. It is in our self-in­ter­est to sus­tain and mo­ti­vate this fine Army and not re­sort to self­flag­el­la­tion. Crit­i­cism, if any, should be well-con­ceived and ob­jec­tively tar­geted without slur­ring the rep­u­ta­tion of the Army as a whole.

On July 8, the New York Times in its editorial claimed that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has ev­i­dence im­pli­cat­ing the ISI in the Shahzad killing and that new in­tel­li­gence in­di­cates that se­nior ISI of­fi­cials or­dered the at­tack to si­lence him. This was fol­lowed by com­ments by the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Ad­mi­ral Mike Mullen that the Pak­istani gov­ern­ment had “sanc­tioned” the killing of Shahzad but he

did not tie the death to the ISI. This is how wars are fought to­day, by dis­sem­i­nat­ing dis­in­for­ma­tion, pure and sim­ple and the gov­ern­ment of Pak­istan has been left to fend off these al­le­ga­tions as best as it can. These ac­cu­sa­tions have been made without proof, at least none has been pro­vided but such is the power of the me­dia to­day that once the seeds of doubt have been sowed noth­ing else mat­ters - the Army and the ISI stand “dis­graced” once again. It does not stop there. The NY Times then urges the U.S. “to use its in­flu­ence to has­ten Mr. Pasha’s de­par­ture. It should tell Pak­istan’s se­cu­rity lead­er­ship that if Wash­ing­ton iden­ti­fies any­one in the ISI or the army as abet­ting ter­ror­ists, those in­di­vid­u­als will face sanc­tions like travel bans or other mea­sures. The ISI has be­come in­im­i­cal to Pak­istani and Amer­i­can in­ter­ests.”

The NY Times is con­sid­ered to be a news­pa­per with a fine rep­u­ta­tion; how­ever, to even sug­gest that the U.S. de­mand the re­moval of the head of an in­tel­li­gence agency of a sov­er­eign na­tion, one that is touted as an ally in the war on ter­ror and is also a ma­jor nonNATO ally, amounts to gross in­ter­fer­ence in our na­tional af­fairs. The case of Ray­mond Davis is still fresh in our minds. Davis was a CIA con­trac­tor who was ar­rested for killing two Pak­istani civil­ians but ev­ery­one in Wash­ing­ton from the Pres­i­dent down as­serted he was pro­tected by diplo­matic im­mu­nity which cer­tainly was not the case. So much pres­sure was ex­erted that Pak­istan had to re­lease Davis. Such are the lengths that those with vested in­ter­ests will go to arm-twist Pak­istan and ma­lign the Pak­istan Army. It is time for those rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the peo­ple that one truly had faith and trust in to not join the “crit­i­cism” band­wagon without think­ing about the mo­tive be­hind the bar­rage of lies and half-truths that ap­pear so con­sis­tently and the con­se­quences that will be­fall upon the coun­try. The ISI is our first line of de­fence against ex­ter­nal en­e­mies and the at­tacks on the Army and the ISI have grave reper­cus­sions for us.

How­ever, one must ac­cept the ero­sion in the Army’s im­age on a num­ber of counts in­ter­nally. One of the scan­dals came, rightly and wrongly, from man­ag­ing the De­fence Hous­ing Au­thor­i­ties (DHAs) in Karachi and Lahore. Some in­di­vid­u­als have made bil­lions in real es­tate trans­ac­tions. The whole mil­i­tary gets a bad name by plot ma­nip­u­la­tions by the ‘un­touch­ables.’ To safe­guard against this an in­ter­nal con­fi­den­tial ac­count­abil­ity process should en­sure a max­i­mum of one house in the army hous­ing scheme. Gen. Kayani is dis­tanc­ing the Army from pol­i­tics (and from the bu­reau­cracy); he should also give pri­or­ity to dis­tanc­ing the Army from the un­de­served per­cep­tion of per­va­sive cor­rup­tion. The Na­tional Ac­count­abil­ity Bureau has pros­e­cuted many bu­reau­crats for “liv­ing be­yond their means,” yet those in uni­form clearly break­ing the same covenant have es­caped jus­tice.

Mil­i­tary pro­cure­ment is an­other area that the Army gets a bad name for but cor­rup­tion in mil­i­tary pur­chases is not Pak­istan-spe­cific; it is ram­pant all over the world. How­ever, two wrongs do not make a right and if the laws are fol­lowed to the let­ter and the prin­ci­pals or their agents (or lob­by­ists) are dis­cour­aged, cor­rup­tion can be rooted out but this will take time be­cause these agents wield con­sid­er­able clout and have their roots deep in­side the cor­ri­dors of power. It is our mis­for­tune that de­spite a wealth of ev­i­dence avail­able (and fla­grantly dis­played com­men­su­rate affluence) not a sin­gle agent has been pros­e­cuted.

Both the civil and mil­i­tary me­dia units have not done a good job of pro­ject­ing the army’s im­age abroad where it counts. A com­pre­hen­sive me­dia strat­egy must in­cor­po­rate the new ground re­al­i­ties with im­age-build­ing handed over to pro­fes­sion­als who ex- cel as spe­cial­ists. Some of the most ef­fec­tive means of neu­tral­iz­ing neg­a­tiv­ity against the Army and the uni­form, as spelt out by a dy­namic ad­ver­tis­ing en­tre­pre­neur, are, (1) counter mis­un­der­stand­ings through change cam­paign and (2) cre­ate pos­i­tive news to­wards the agenda of Pak­istan. In coun­ter­ing mis­un­der­stand­ings one has to (1) do dam­age con­trol on a day to day ba­sis (2) an­nounce process of change and can­didly ex­plain sit­u­a­tions, chal­lenges and plans for progress within the mil­i­tary (3) facelift all ex­ist­ing touch points in­clud­ing TV Ads, songs, on­line touch points and oth­ers around this process of change (4) re­mind the pub­lic of past and present achieve­ments and (5) em­pha­size young mil­i­tary faces for greater con­nec­tion with the au­di­ence. In short the mil­i­tary has to be more trans­par­ent and more proac­tive.

The Army has no rea­son to be de­fen­sive, es­pe­cially be­cause of the va­garies of a few mis­guided in­di­vid­u­als and has noth­ing to be ashamed of. The Ab­bot­tabad in­ci­dent was es­pe­cially dam­ag­ing for the Army’s rep­u­ta­tion but de­spite this, re­cent polls con­ducted by ex­ter­nal agen­cies show that 79% of the peo­ple of Pak­istan still re­tain im­mense faith in them. This is an in­di­ca­tion of the trust and es­teem of the peo­ple in their Armed Forces, where the Army is es­pe­cially adu­lated.

In a wel­come change from the past, the Army is be­ing taken in the right di­rec­tion by Gen Kayani, re-fo­cus­ing army of­fi­cers on the task of se­cur­ing the coun­try from ter­ror­ists rather than play­ing pol­i­tics or vy­ing for pub­lic perks. The Army is cru­cial to our ex­is­tence as a na­tion, what­ever the demo­cratic na­ture of its Con­sti­tu­tion and they re­main the guardians of the in­tegrity and the sovereignty of the State.

Pak­istan’s mil­i­tary needs

the na­tion’s sup­port.

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