A series of acerbic exchanges on twitter this week, each of them more of a dumpster fire than the last. And all of them relating to the military, a topic that can only make its away online given the constraints that the mainstream media is under these days.
The first was an exchange between columnist and anchor Ejaz Haider and academic Nida Kirmani. Now Haider, a former army officer, and Dr Kirmani, an academic who isn’t shy of expressing her support for the PTM, were clearly divided over the incident at the Kharqamar checkpost. But a twitter exchange between the two became the centre of attention in some circles because of a disproportionate response by Haider to a remark by Kirmani.
Kirmani had merely said the Haider was ‘amplifying the ISPR narrative.’ One wonders why he was so offended, because in this particular instance, he had endorsed the military’s narrative about the issue. He replied with an asinine comment about how academics who were also activists, like Dr Kirmani, shouldn’t be allowed to teach since their set beliefs would get in the way of the students learning on their own. By these standards, all the professors in the west, including the ones teaching the sciences and math, should be barred from teaching, because the academics are big on activism there.
As Kirmani’s supporters came to her defence, Haider eventually deleted his original, offensive tweet. However, it was strange to see his colleagues, including Fahd Hussain and the usually very sound Babar Sattar, coming to his defence. All of them did a she-started-it and said his ‘integrity’ had been questioned. Which, again, it wasn’t. Just a statement of fact that he was furthering the ISPR’s case.
A word here, though, about accusations of misogyny by some. Now one doesn’t know Haider and whether he is sexist or not, but this particular exchange doesn’t seem to imply that one way or the other. The fellow has been taking this line on the issue with everyone, male or female. And being as condescending about it.
The other issue was the BBC’s indictment of the Pakistani state in the war on terror. The piece, titled “Uncovering Pakistan’s Secret Human Rights Abuses,” was also translated into Urdu and went viral.
The ISPR, unsurprisingly, called it a ‘pack of lies.’ But this piece is not about that denial; it is about the strange reaction of Human Rights Minister Dr Shireen Mazari, who took to attacking the BBC as an institution for some sort of anti-Pakistan bias. She blamed Dawn Editor Zafar Abbas, who used to work for the BBC, for referring to AJK as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Abbas took to twitter and denied that he ever used the POK term that the Indian media uses and challenged her to look up the BBC archives. She then conceded that she was wrong about the usage of the term but how, somehow, her “point remains.”
Anchor Sana Bucha left a snide comment under the DG ISPR’s tweet about a budget cut. Don’t cut the salaries of the social media kids, she said.
The response: “I hope all your dues have been cleared by ISPR? If any balance payment pending on our side you have a right to claim. Thanks for your services you have done while you were associated with ISPR.”
This led to a pandemonium on twitter, with the sense that Sana Bucha had somehow been #XpoZed. Many from both the pro and anti military camps took to deriding her, with some in the anti-military camp asking the DG whether this was an admission that the organisation has journalists on its payroll.
The truth of the matter isn’t quite as sinister. Bucha wasn’t taking money in some sort of clandestine manner. Her association was quite open and declared. It does open the question – back in the day, not now – whether journalists should take PR (broadly speaking) jobs when they take a break from journalism.
She did have a response. Something about participating in some function for the martyrs. But it was all drowned out in the noise of both the pro and anti military camps.