Throughout human history, treason charges have been as crucial to militaries’ stranglehold over security states as blasphemy laws have been to organised religions’ stranglehold over theocratic realms. Both ensure that the respective sacred cows remain dissent-proof and that any criticism is automatically dubbed an attack on the state, in turn becoming a punishable offence. From the Spartan military hegemony during the 5th century BC to the National Defence Commission-led modern day North Korea, fingers pointing at the military establishment have been chopped off. And from the Roman Catholic Church exhuming bodies of ‘heretics’ to most of the modern-day Muslim world tormenting sceptics; criticisms of religion have led to beastly atrocities committed by theocratic states.
[quote]JI will always be treated differently because it’s an integral cog in the hegemonic machine[/quote]
Protecting the establishment, through conjuring – and protecting – the treason and blasphemy cards, is an integral feature of military and theocratic regimes. However, when democratic governments nourish sacred cows, not only do they create question marks over their own egalitarian credentials, they provide democratic credence to the establishment: a most wholesome fodder for the cows to graze on.
One of the leading journalists in the country records a video statement that in case of an attack on his life, he would hold a particular person responsible. Said journalist is then shot at with no less than six bullets, and has the nearest of near death experiences. Now, the significance of this journalist’s video statement and allegation all of a sudden reaches astronomic proportions, and is obviously highlighted in reports following the attack. Everything makes perfect sense until one stumbles upon the minor detail that the person earmarked by the journalist as being potentially responsible for any attack on him happens to be the Intelligence chief.
Now that everyone, from politicians to rival media houses, has jumped aboard the ISI bandwagon, following the recent Geo-ISI tussle, there are few points that need to be reiterated; the most important of them being the fact that it was never a Geo-ISI tussle to begin with. Geo merely reported Hamid Mir’s statement in which he had clearly stated who he would hold responsible for any attempts to take his life. And according to judicial procedures, the fact that the statement was recorded before he was shot at – not in the aftermath – makes it even more important.
The Pakistani Constitution debars ‘defamation’ and ‘ridicule’ of the armed forces, but does reporting a targeted journalist’s accusation against an employee constitute ridicule of the entire institution? By the same logic every person associated with the treason trial of Pervez Musharraf, from the prime minister downwards, should be charged with defaming the armed forces.
This is not to suggest that Geo – or Hamid Mir himself for that matter – has never acted ridiculously. Almost every single TV channel has been guilty of being obnoxious, intermittently at best and relentlessly at worst. After all it was Dr Aamir Liaquat’s anti-Ahmaddiya rants on Geo (and Twitter) that directly resulted in the killing of two Ahmadis. Not to mention the constant unsubstantiated jibes against Asif Ali Zardari when he was the president of Pakistan. Mir himself has been at the forefront of mainstreaming Taliban apologia in Pakistan. And while the post-Mir attack circus was being aired on Geo, it was conveniently forgotten that when Raza Rumi was targeted, Geo’s focus was on promoting Inaam Ghar.
If Geo reporting Mir’s accusations against the DG ISI are treasonous, what about the reams of column space and web pages accusing ISI of being directly responsible for Saleem Shahzad’s murder? What about the ‘blatant allegations’ against the military and ISI being involved in indiscriminately lifting and dumping the Baloch – something Mir echoed and cited as the reason he might have been attacked? Just because those accusations weren’t broadcast on the country’s biggest news channel doesn’t mean they should be treated any differently.
If pointing fingers at the Army and ISI equates treason what should the media do when the Rangers are caught slaying Sarfraz Shah on camera? What should journalists do when there is overwhelming evidence of the establishment’s involvement in torturing its own people in Balochistan? What should historians do when history reveals the most atrocious of crimes committed by the Pakistan Army in Bangladesh in the lead up to 1971? Should everyone involved in scribing the Abbottabad and Hamoodur Rahman Commission Reports be hanged for treason?
When the world’s most wanted terrorist is found 1.3 kilometres away from Pakistan Military Academy in Abbottabad, is it owing to incompetence or connivance? Choosing either side of the binary would be treasonous. This is exactly why we as a nation prefer to buy conspiracy theories and bury our collective head in the sand. Because usually all other options are paramount to treason or blasphemy.
If Geo reporting Mir’s statement breaches the constitution’s Article 63 (g), how about the former Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) chief Munawar Hassan claiming that soldiers who fight the Taliban aren’t martyrs? If Geo should be banned, what should be done with JI that never retracted its chief’s statement? JI was and will always be treated differently because it’s an integral cog in the hegemony of the aforementioned sacred cows in Pakistan: Islam and Military. The only way more than one sacred cow can exist in a brainwashed realm is if they work in tandem. Considering the military’s role in nourishing and using jihadi proxies for its own good, one can easily discern the significance of the two sacred cows for one another. And till criticism of religion and the military is labeled blasphemous and treasonous, sacred cows will continue to flourish, as our democratically elected leaders feed them with their own hands.