On 6 December 2018, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor held a press conference and called upon the media to play a positive role, do musbat (positive) reporting, and show Pakistan’s potential and progress within and outside for just six months and then see where the country would reach.
Many people still believe that merely a change in the strategy of reporting, even if it were contrived, could make a difference. That is, even if the economy were in the doldrums, governance in tatters, and foreign policy ruined, keep papering over all these realities and the situation would improve. The underlying assumption was that the media had been playing a negative nefarious role which had subdued Pakistan’s potential and downplayed Pakistan’s image.
At the occasion, General Ghafoor lamented for the lost time: “How 70 years have passed and we are still telling the nation that the country is passing through difficult times. Why did these difficult times come and who is responsible? There is a debate on this but no result. We keep on blaming each other.”
These were brilliant questions to ask and these queries are still relevant. Who is responsible for the testing times the country has been passing through? Frequent martial laws and then a semi-martial law couched in the term hybrid regime have undermined democracy. In terms of progress and development after 2018, the country remained stalled. Now, refuge is sought in neutrality and constitutionalism.
Who would be held responsible for unemployment and the economic slump that Pakistan has been experiencing since 2018? On 11 October 2017, on the topic of economy, Karachi witnessed a running commentary delivered to an audience of business and the military leadership in an event organized by the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and the ISPR at the DHA Golf Club. Though the economic jargon used at that time is still relevant today, the whole effort remained futile. At that time, the economy was the major fault line. The economy refused to comply with the dictates of the ISPR. What about now? Since 2018, poverty has been taking its toll. Its emergence is with the reality that, once introduced, poverty consumes decades to get alleviated in a developing country like Pakistan. Now, the mitigation of poverty is the headache of the newly installed government, as the mastermind stands neutral. Refuge has been sought in constitutionalism. What a strategy!
On the occasion, General Ghafoor laid emphasis on the importance of the media as the state’s fourth pillar which had a front line role to play in the fifth generation hybrid warfare imposed on Pakistan. Later on, the youth were invited and encouraged to fight the war and this was how the one-man army on social media was born. Robots were employed to perform the odious, dreary task of re-tweeting the same message time and again to delude both prospective participants and indolent bystanders into believing that Pakistan’s youth were earnestly waging and fighting the fifth generation hybrid warfare. The embattled gallant youth just needed ammunition. The adversary was about to be defeated.
Interestingly, now one of the main targets of the cybernetic missiles launched from the social media war platforms by the same youth is the parent institution of General Ghafoor. The chickens have come home to roost.
At the press conference, General Ghafoor also said, “I have also met owners of the media houses and anchorpersons and requested them to play a role to create a positive image of the country.” He also said that the media should “show all the good things in our country. Create public awareness and show them what has improved in Pakistan.” He advised the anchorperson by saying: “Your target through perception and narrative is to reach the youth.”
Since 2018, most media houses have been showing a positive image of the country and projecting all the good things happening in Pakistan, besides raising public awareness and showing the Pakistanis the improvement yet remained hidden from their eyes. Nevertheless, the youth remained the focus of attention. One of the reasons was that the youth were pliable and easy fodder. They got mesmerized with the glamour shown and got misdirected through slogans of change. In the 2018 elections, the youth remained captivated by the ethnic card (to form a new province of South Punjab) and enthralled by the religious card to make Allama Iqbal’s Pakistan. With that, Jinnah’s Pakistan lost relevance. Progression and tolerance were over. Lynching on mere allegation was practised. First decay the country and then repent on the loss.
General Ghafoor also said, “From a difficult time we are now at what is a watershed of our history.” He thanked God for ending the ugly old days of the winter and heralding the decent new days of the spring. “Can we not move towards a better Pakistan from this watershed? We have to make the decision on whether to stay like this or jump on the roller coaster of success … to move towards the silver line which can be seen from this watershed.” He also said, “If we remain in the past, we cannot move forward. We can learn from the past”. By so saying, he must be expressing the power of clairvoyance. Interestingly, more than before, his words seem more relevant and applicable in April 2022.
At the occasion, General Ghafoor also said, “It is the nation, and not the Army, which gives confidence to a government. The new government comes in when a government loses the nation’s confidence.” He was right, as 10 April 2022 saw the prophecy of General Ghafoor come true.
The words of General Ghafoor are relevant even today. Replacing the old government, the new government is in the saddle. If anyone could call upon the media to play a positive role, do musbat (positive) reporting, and show Pakistan’s potential and progress within and outside for just six months, and then see where the country would reach.