One boy pretending to be a soldier interviews another

Dunya News’s Wajahat S Khan lends himself to easy caricature. Even though, as per the Long Tail principle, one is sure that he, too, would have a fan following yet one can’t help but wonder why anyone would take him seriously.

The level of giddy excitement that he has whenever he is around military types is unacceptable for anyone other than eight-year-olds watching March 23 parades.

The voice (impressive bass, one has to concede), the mannerisms, the penchant for guns, the peppering of the discussion with military terms, it’s all a bit of a pantomime. One feels he is not Wajahat S Khan but a talented young man doing a parody of Wajahat S Khan.

Putting on a uniform – figuratively speaking – and pretending one is a soldier is something young boys do. But interactions with several generals, serving and retired, have revealed that they are also young boys – figuratively speaking – who are pretending that they are soldiers.

Despite what one might think of him, one had to admit that, in his interview of former President Pervez Musharraf, he wasn’t the gushing fanboy that he had been in the past and actually asked some tough questions. Some have criticised his laughing when the former chief said that Pakistan should hire assassins abroad, but that was probably because he was finding it ridiculous and didn’t know how to respond. He even went ahead and said, “loag kahenge ke Musharraf paagal ho gaya hai.” A tad uncouth, this line but the generalissimo, to his credit, took it in his stride. Unless any dressing down was edited out by Wajahat’s team.

On the issue of taking out hits abroad: the former president said that we should have “proactive diplomacy,” which he defined as assassinating hostile leaders abroad. But this isn’t proactive diplomacy, exclaimed Wajahat; this is proactive assassination. In response, Musharraf took the “But Mom! All the cool kids are doing it!” line of reasoning. He said that such is the way of the world and that we should adapt to it.

This is the problem with our generals. These young boys pretending to be soldiers partake in whatever they think is this Great Game of smoke and mirrors. And then their actions come to bite us. Since decades, an ecosystem has been created that seems impossible to clamp down on. One suspects that even if the Boys finally decided to ditch their outdated policies, it would be difficult to divest ourselves of the wretched assets that our self-styled Von Clausewitzes have riddled us with.

Post-script: Wajahat spoke plainly to Musharraf about the fact that he is not coming back into power. Musharraf took this in his stride too but did not accept this to be the case. The general seemed to have taken a fancy to the idea that him and Imran Khan would together be able to make a viable third political force. When asked about the coalition of 23 political parties that he had cobbled together, Musharraf corrected Wajahat. It is 27. Okay, so what are these parties. The general said he did not know the names of these parties by heart but he could fetch the list from his study room. He asked a servant to bring over the list and then started reading out the illustrious names. Apart from the once sort of marginally relevant (in Karachi only) Sunni Tehrik of Sarwat Ijaz Qadri, one hadn’t heard of these parties. I couldn’t place a single one. And, as Musharraf had proved a couple of moments ago, neither could he.

As The Dependent, Pakistan Today’s satirical newspaper put it: Musharraf puts together coalition of 23 parties, voters.

The Tube

Media Watch column is meant to offer commentary on the affairs of the media.



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