Pakistan’s establishment has been in a state of denial for too long. The stories made up to hide unpleasant truths are spread through state controlled media and rightwing parties. The untruths are told in the so-called national interest. Anyone challenging the official truth has been accused of working against the country. This has not helped as truth was bound to be out sooner or later. The policy has harmed the country’s image.
The 1965 war is said to have been forced upon Pakistan by India. This continues to be taught in schoolbooks even now. That the war was in fact a consequence of the Operation Gibraltar initiated covertly in Indian controlled Kashmir by Pakistan is not mentioned. This despite the accounts given by the then army chief Musa Khan, air chief Nur Khan and his predecessor Asghar Khan.
Right up to the fall of Dhaka, the reports aired on government controlled media told of the army in East Pakistan being in full control of the situation. Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi had boasted that the enemy troops could enter the capital city only on his dead body. When the BBC aired the sound of the Indian forces’ firing inside Dhaka people in the West wing termed it as sheer propaganda aimed at demoralising the Pakistan army. For the people in West Pakistan, the report of the fall of Dhaka was simply unbelievable. It was traumatic when they learnt that tens of thousands of troops had surrendered.
During the Musharraf era terrorist training centres operated in a number of places in Pakistan while the state controlled media refused to admit this. Reports about the activity in sections of independent media were vehemently denied. Those who published the reports were accused of working against national interest.
The demands by the Afghan government to dismantle the terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan were dismissed as propaganda. How could Pakistan allow such activity on its soil?
The demands by the Afghan government to dismantle the terrorist sanctuaries in North Waziristan were dismissed as propaganda. How could Pakistan allow such activity on its soil? It was maintained that the Karzai regime was blaming Pakistan for its own failures.
Practiced over decades by the government, promoted by religious outfits, right wing parties and media, the state of denial has become a part of the outlook of many people in Pakistan. Any negative development in any Muslim country is liable to be rejected outright as anti-Muslim propaganda by the West.
There are people in Pakistan who continue to deny that the attacks on 9/11 on World Trade Centre were conducted by 19 men affiliated with al Qaeda, all of them Arabs. They believe it was a Jewish conspiracy to provide the US an excuse to target the Muslim Ummah. There are others who believe the al Qaeda is no more than a figment of imagination. Further that the US did not find OBL in Abbottabad. The story about his being killed and the body carried away was concocted to malign and pressurise Pakistan. The al Qaeda leader had already died long ago, they maintain.
There are people who still believe that no terrorist had attacked Malala Yousafzai. The story was all made up, they say. The girl according to them is an American/Jewish agent. The English medium school version is that she belongs to the secret society of the Illuminati!
The suicide bombers it is maintained are not Pakistani citizens. How could a Muslim commit such a horrendous acts forbidden by Allah? Some believe Indian authorities brainwash death row prisoners and push them into Pakistan to indulge in mass killings.
There are others who maintain that ugly truths should be swept under the rug so that they do not bring bad name to Pakistan. They condemn Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy for maligning the country by making a film about the horrid acid attacks in the country.
They oppose the exposure of the treatment meted out to minorities. Stories about the atrocities committed on the Ahmadi community, attacks on the Hazara and the Christians should not be publicised.
Till recently the federal government was in a state of denial about the madrassas being responsible for producing terrorists. It wanted people to forget that the word Taliban means seminary students. The government was reluctant to get them registered, maintain an oversight over their activities or monitor their financing sources.
Over three years back General Kayani spelt out the “enemy within” as the real internal threat. This was however not the establishment’s collective view. It thus managed to prevent operation against outfits such like LeT, the JeM, and the Haqqani Network. This selective approach practically defeated the stated policy of elimination of al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Waziristan because both lived under the protection of the Haqqanis.
Currently, a debate is going on regarding cherry picking while dealing with the terrorist networks. The army maintains it is acting indiscriminately against all terrorist groups
For years, the government denied the presence of Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan or any contact with them. There was no Quetta Shura, It maintained. The Haqqanis were supposed to have migrated to Afghanistan and no more lived in North Waziristan. Then suddenly it released 33 top and mid-level leaders. Mullah Baradar, who was Mullah Omar’s second in command, was also discovered in Karachi. The latest magical trick was to produce top Taliban leaders as well as a rep of the Haqqani network at a meeting with Afghan government nominees in Murree.
For quite some time it was a taboo on the media to mention the role of the Gulf states particularly Saudi Arabia in disseminating sectarian hatred. All the world, except the Pakistanis, knew about it.
The Punjab government’s attitude towards terrorist outfits has also been characterised by the state of denial. Till recently Sanaullah negated the existence of any organisation calling itself the Punjabi Taliban and maintained that the name was invented to malign the province. For years the Punjab government denied the presence of terrorist groups in the province, claiming that the entire lot came to kill people from KP and the tribal areas.
While graffiti supporting Da’ish appeared in several cities, and a number of TTP leaders announced support for the organisation, Interior Minister Ch Nisar insisted that the organisation did not exist in Pakistan.
Currently, a debate is going on regarding cherry picking while dealing with the terrorist networks. The army maintains it is acting indiscriminately against all terrorist groups. Neither the Afghans nor the US are willing to buy this. Even Russia and China are not convinced.
With the state of denial continuing, no National Action Plan (NAP), military courts or Apex committees in the provinces and at the canter can do away with the threat of terrorism. Serious incidents will lead to temporary uproar followed by silence and then yet another tragic incident.