Jan Achakzai |
Turning countrymen against the government through false accusations and defamation etc, how much can be justified under the title of “Free Speech”?
Stealing Khan’s 23 Years of Struggle
The opposition is singing in the chorus that the current government is “selected” and how it is the army which had “selected” Imran Khan as Prime Minister, instead of the people of Pakistan and Parliament.
The establishment is apparently downplaying the importance of these allegations, refusing to acknowledge them as malicious to the refutation of security institutions, on one hand, and calling such allegations as violation of the constitution—banning any legislative party or politician dragging the army in politics and maligning it in political discourse day in and day out—on the other.
The opposition, which has already vowed that it may carry out protests, might also be tempted to test limits with what more it can get away with before the establishment reacts.
Free Speech or Anti-government Strategy?
This may be intended to indicate that the Establishment is committed to free speech but it carries significant risks by allowing the opposition to achieve strategic and political gains.
Sending a message that it is not bothered by these allegations, the establishment seems to believe that it does not violate the opposition’s apparent promise not to directly name or drag it (I.e, the Army) in politics.
With this perception, the establishment—intentionally or not—is sending a signal to the opposition that it can continue using words like “selected” in their narrative. This is destabilizing in many ways.
Read more: Will opposition bring down government?
Allowing this narrative with impunity to continue, this might be the opposition’s opportunity to improvise its strategy of aiming at the establishment but using Khan’s government as a smokescreen. This manoeuvre compromises the establishment’s own desire not to allow political dissent to create a wedge between the people and it’s institutions.
The Establishment is committed to free speech but it carries significant risks by allowing the opposition to achieve strategic and political gains.
The opposition, which has already vowed that it may carry out protests, might also be tempted to test limits with what more it can get away with before the establishment reacts. Through this narrative, it (e.g., opposition) may also be orchestrating an International campaign via lobbies and strong connections in Washington, London and Delhi to ultimately corner the Army.
The opposition also might try to create differences between the Khan government and the Army. At the moment, there is complete unanimity on all issues between the civil and military leadership: Imran Khan also insists on such convergence. The Army leadership has chosen to emphasize on being on the same proverbial page with the civilian government time and again. However, the Army may face pressure if the opposition’s myth-based narrative of “select government” gets widespread currency.
The Army’s Silence and the Picture it Paints
More broadly, the Army’s silence on these allegations allows opposition’s own narrative about the charges to continue without correction. In pro-opposition media, It is justifying the discourse as a tactic to delegitimize Khan’s government and use the Army as a punching bag, albeit indirectly. The media under the name of free speech is amplifying this false narrative with a distinct sense of déjà vu; PML-N’s social media trolling is skillfully promoting the propaganda.
The opposition also might try to create differences between the Khan government and the Army.
The opposition is also defending itself from corruption cases by stating that they are actually undoing the “unlawful” government. Not countering such narrative sends the wrong message to the opposition. The establishment may be avoiding an immediate clash with the opposition but this will not narrow the gulf between the opposition and the Army in support of Khan’s government—a prerequisite for the institution to back a sitting government as per the constitution.
In the past, the ISPR might have refuted these allegations by saying they have not intervened in elections beyond their mandate (i.e. providing security). It is unclear how much the ISPR weighs in these charges as of now. But these allegations must not be tolerated or abetted through a non-stop 24/7 media projection- the job of drawing the line falls within the domain of PEMRA.
Jan Achakzai is a geopolitical analyst, a politician from Baluchistan, ex-advisor to the Baluchistan Government on media and strategic communication and remains associated with BBC World Service. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village.