Pakistan’s Information War: Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth!

Jawad Raza Khan: This is a PAKPOTPOURRI Exclusive

21st century has brought some exclusive dimensions to the art of warfare, Low intensity conflict, terrorism and covert surgical operations are worthwhile to mention here. The already complex nature of warfare is now multifaceted, and extensively compound in nature. Gaining political victories through above mentioned facets of war and attaining public support, in own and outside world has tempered the honesty of battlefield big time. You must be wandering what is meant by “Battlefield Honesty”? As a matter of fact, old soldiers use to feel pride and honour when they use to talk about battlefield honesty.

Some examples of recognition and battlefield honesty were seen in the Kargil conflict when body of Captain Kernal Sher Khan (Nishan-e-Haider) of Pakistan Army was returned by Indian Army with honour, as the officer got Shaadat while carrying out a hot pursuit against the attackers on his post and went into Indian camp in doing so. Although he killed more than two dozen Indian soldiers before he was laid to rest but honourable burial is of paramount importance in military ethics, even between enemies at war. In the same way uncountable reciprocations were done by Pakistan Army, as and when required from an ethical military institution, just to quote, honourable handing over of IAF pilot back to India after his plane was shot down by Pakistan in its territory, during the conflict. It was 1999, when the said incidents happened, then came 2001, the 9/11, indeed the world was changed but the most effected domain of mankind which suffered extensively is the soldiers integrity and mutual respect for each other.

The end of mutual respect between soldiers has triggered incidents like:

  • Attack on Indian Parliament (2002)- Case designed against Pakistan
  • The Mumbai Attack (2007)- Another fabricated dilemma
  • Attack on Sri Lankan cricket team (2009)- To isolate Pakistan in sports…..
  • And now an ally has been ditched and a comprehensive campaign has been launched to tarnish the image of Pakistan (OBL surgical strike)

Point to ponder here is that, a dignified and honourable profession like soldiery has to be coupled with concocted stories, sheer lies, completely misguiding fabrications along with cruel killings of civilians to achieve the so called victory. And my dear readers this 180 degree vicious change in International diplomacy and the battle field ethics was predominantly noticed after 9/11. Here it should be cleared that this cruel element of warfare was extensively used by super powers well before 9/11 but at a much smaller scale.

It’s high time for Pakistan to learn this art of falsehood, fabrication and cruelty with its effective timely and responsible dissemination and this can be termed as a classic definition of so called Modern Information warfare. As the world is in the effects of globalization so one must remember an old English proverb to attain dignity and honour “In Rome do as the Romans do”.

The most effective and lethal weapon for precise and operative information warfare is Media and this includes paper, electronic and cyber. Pakistan realized the tangible importance of information warfare soon after 9/11, and theoretically speaking moved in a right direction too especially in first half of the first decade of 21st century.

Realization and thereafter:

Things moved in almost the right direction to manufacture a broad based media platform for perception management inside Pakistan and around the world.  Tactical mistakes done at that time:

  • Execution was carried out hurriedly with mere absence of any state owned training institution in this all important field of perception management.
  • The said training was carried out in a disorderly and decentralized manner, which encouraged ingress of foreign elements and their vested interests in the ranks of media.
  • No system of check and balance was devised and enforced before issuing license to the private media companies.
  • Promotion of commercial journalism could not be stopped in favour of ethical and morally strong journalism.

Although the word used in the premise before tabulating mistakes is tactical, but one must remember the importance of strategic communication and its effects on the mindset and perceptions. 

Current Situation:

Observing the prevailing media confusion and 1122 (emergency) efforts by all institutions after every small and big incidents, reminds of the situation created in the aftermath of Soviet defeat in Afghanistan. At that time, world did a blunder to leave Afghanistan and Pakistan, after distributing weapons (without license) like bread in this part of the world. What happened after that is known to all of us; Pakistan suffered the heaviest toll in shape of Kalashnikov and heroine culture, indeed the westerners did this to us, but this time we have spilt the milk ourselves. Issuance of hundreds of media licenses to every Tom Dick and Harry has made us drowned in very deep waters. Modern journalists rightly claim “Hundred guns cannot silence a single camera but one camera can silence hundred guns”. My dear countrymen what we have forgotten is “Man behind the gun matters more than the gun itself” and same goes for the crew behind the camera. Currently the aspect of information warfare is the most neglected, corrupt and inefficient tentacle of Pakistan’s armoury as too many untrained and some dishonest cooks have spoiled the broth for Pakistan.

The Dilemma

Self-proclamation of media as a State Pillar also brings it to the book of rules and regulations. Even a thought of a privatized state pillar does not exist in any theory of political science and journalism (working under no rules at all). Can we develop the concept of private government machinery, can we think of having private judiciary working in courts and can our slightest of imagination take us to a private Army fighting for the country………………it indeed sounds absurd. Pakistan has certainly allowed running privatized perception management houses with their own self-centered constitutions having no direction and aim to achieve as a nation. The inculcation of commercial journalism has added fuel into the situation, which is devastating for the already precarious situation in Pakistan.

The Way Out:

The first sign of some belated improvement can be smelled after the joint session of the parliament in the wake of OBL issue. The perception management platform needs to be thoroughly scrutinized at priority, as anything short of that will minimize any good done in the right direction. It is imperative here to make a mention that leaving a small segment of literate traitors, complete Pakistani media worked in harmony to ensure unity of masses on an extremely important issue. On the other hand black sheep’s are required to be handled with concrete parliamentary steps supported by the executives to ensure damage control. There is a dire need of some centralized means to train our media men through government institutions, where the thumb rule should be centralized planning to deal with information war crisis with de centralized execution with precision and lethality.

  It’s about time for the people at the helm of the affairs that these pseudo-intellectuals are to be made accountable and put to rules and regulations for the unity, prosperity and dignity of the nation.                                                                                        (The writer is a political commentator based in Islamabad).

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  • sumbul  On May 16, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Writer looks to speed up the evolvement of institutions especially media. I personally think it requires both time and effort but indeed its well articulated effort.

  • Salman Abbasy  On May 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    The tactical mistakes identified by the writer were actually pinpointed by the “bloody civilian” Information Ministry in a comprehensive presentation made to General Musharraf when opening up of media sector was under consideration. He rejected them out of hand as “out-of-date thinking” and his generals were equally bullish. Happily, they have been stung the most for their recklessness.

    • jawad  On May 17, 2011 at 3:44 am

      Salman sahab, Dont you think sir that we Pakistanis must start responding to all ills in our society and system without any prejudice to any individual. If Bloody Civilian information ministry has made that presentation, Musharaf have done yet another blunder can be graded more lethal than NRO, which is now making Pakistan culturally bleed and toil not Pakistan Army only. Please give it a consideration thanks

  • imran khan  On May 18, 2011 at 5:27 am

    The writer is asking for “honesty”, here is what I honestly believe who were behind these three terrorist events.
    Attack on Indian Parliament (2002)- create case against Pakistan
    The Mumbai Attack (2007)- Another fake Puzzle
    Attack on Sri Lankan cricket team (2009)- To isolate Pakistan in sports.
    i agree with the writer regarding perception management skills for the paksitani state and its politicians, who seem to live in a world different from the long suffering mass’s there!
    I think Pakistan is doing reasonably well in winning the information war in the alternative media,i wish that people of talent should take that information and make dvd,s or recording for mass distribution for public consumption to amend the negative and evil thoughts against muslims and islam.

  • Nouman  On May 18, 2011 at 6:38 am

    It is imperative for Pakistan to acquire both offensive and defensive Information Warfare capabilities. This is the only way for it to protect its own information.

  • UsmanYNWA  On May 18, 2011 at 7:14 am

    Battle field honesty is surly a thing of the past, in order to implement its famous Cold Start strategy against Pakistan, India must fabricate a Mumbai attack like situation and know it in advance to the extent that its trains in Delhi must be loaded, otherwise its forces will be late in time and space. Long gone are the days of honesty in Battle field.

  • usman  On May 19, 2011 at 6:59 am

    I think Pakistan is doing reasonably well in winning the information war in the alternative media, but as far as the controlled wetsren media goes there is only one group which gets its message across and that is invariably at the expense of truth.

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