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by Lt. Gen. Ghulam Mustafa (R)

Porcupine Syndrome isn’t a well-known term. In fact, it isn’t a term at all and therefore, not understood. I am just trying to coin one hoping for it to find traction.

What is Porcupine Syndrome? Those of us from the rural background will find it easier to comprehend while others may not. And many may find faults with it. But it is still worth a try even if it agitates a few minds.

Porcupine is an animal with very sharp, naturally grown and detachable needles around its body which can grow to be six to eight inches long. It has very sharp clutches and teeth as well. It mostly lives underground but emerges when hungry and is devastating for almost all crops because it digs through to devour whatever is there; roots and all. In world of forests even lions and tigers may be afraid of picking up a fight it; such is the reputation of “porcupine”. In our villages, farmers enmity with this nocturnal animal is natural, as old as the wretched creature and farming itself. There are many ways to hunt it down, the most challenging and dangerous being the one using trained dogs at night.

Area of interest is surrounded by few men and 2-3 trained dogs. As soon as it appears, the men form the outer circle while the dogs move in and circle around, barking all the time to scare the porcupine. When threatened and afraid for its life, this ferocious life form reacts by spraying its detachable needles all around with much of force. Being very sharp, these can penetrate normal thick clothing and, depending on the distance, penetration can be pretty deep and very painful. Can kill if too close and a great number of needles strike vital organs of the body. Normal dogs won’t go close. Only the trained ones do and that too when they have compelled it to shed its needles at least once. At times it gets away and sometimes gets killed. Dogs also get hurt pretty often. Even men involved in the hunt can receive serious injuries. But its not only about dogs and men; Google today is full of images of lions and tigers sucking their wounds after an encounter with a porcupine. “Porcupine Syndrome” can thus be summed up as, ” Striking out ferociously as a reaction to perceived threat regardless of the consequences, The results are mostly against porcupine if the hunters, men, and dogs, are well trained. But such is its spirit, that it won’t care; and it may even survive to fight another day.

It is a pretty long winded explanation of a nonexistent term, at least so far. Subconsciously, I was also keen to show off a little after having come off a successful porcupine hunt recently. And it appeared the perfect fit for Ch Nisar’s press conference yesterday in response to Supreme Court Report on Quetta Terrorism of Aug 8, in which more than half the lawyers in the city were martyred. Media and all his political opponents went after him with a vengeance.


And the mighty Chaudhry from Chakri reacted like a porcupine. His needles hurt almost everyone, some from his own party who had joined in the game hoping to rid their Quaid of at least one danger from within. To them, Chaudhry of Chakri is a serious danger lurking on the fringes. He controls his own group and has access to lots of “actionable intelligence” against everyone, who matters. He made it known to all; some directly and some, even more directly. Apparently, quite a few in the hunt weren’t trained fully. It is pretty obvious that Ch Nisar also got hurt in the process. It isn’t over yet. The hunt is on, so to speak. Most probably, all concerned will gradually back away. Change of arena is another possibility if SC gets involved somehow. Ch Nisar might be forced out as well because after all this seems to be the real objective.

The fallout of such an outcome will be very damaging for friends and foes alike.While all this goes on there is another, very subtle but even more important aspect of this report which hasn’t been registered as yet. We must at least be willing to ponder: Could this be a deliberate move too? It is a well-established fact that many elements within, as well as outside the government, leave no stone unturned to paint “establishment” as the villain harboring banned outfits. The report has negated this perception to a large extent and has exposed the complicity of our political elite in the game as well. It has also put to lie the claim of Punjab Government that all is kosher here.

The actors behind, and the reason for, Dawn Leaks, aren’t a mystery anymore. Surprisingly, the inquiry committee has yet to complete its task and submit findings of the “National Security Breach”. The impression being conveyed is that it is probably not a priority anymore. While we are at it, where is Justice Baqir Najafi’s report on Model Town Incident? Much is buried in the public documents that needs to see the light of the day. Just as an aside, about three and a half pages have been removed from Hamoodur Rehman Commission Report about 1971 when I saw it last. It would make a very interesting reading for some of us.

I have come to like the term and what it means to me. I hope you do as well; PORCUPINE SYNDROME. Regardless, Supreme Court Report compiled by Justice Qazi Faez Essa will leave some marks somewhere.

The writer, General Ghulam Mustafa (Retd.) is a prominent Defense Analyst and Political Commentator on TV & Newspapers and tweets at @_GhulamMustafa. This opinion piece was first published at his WordPress blog on Dec 19, 2016 as “Porcupine Syndrome” and appears here with his permission. GVS may not necessarily agree with his opinions or analysis. 

Ghulam Mustafa is a retired Lieutenant General of Pakistan Army. He is credited with raising the Army Strategic Forces Command. He is an analyst of security and geopolitical affairs.

1 COMMENT

  1. With all my reservations against Ch. Nisar, in all his capacities, I still feel that PMLN Govt has once again fouled the game of intra-party politics. There have been a lot of whispers against him in the corridors of power that have now turned into murmurs; however, from the top down, PMLN still lacks the moral courage to confront Ch. Nisar and make him accountable. Therefore, they are once again playing dirty and this time, PPP, because of its anti-Nisar stance is out in the front to give them the required leverage!

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