People of the Pen argue that the Gun is merciless; but who has not witnessed the power of eloquence, or experienced the stab of acerbic words which can cut deeper than the gash of a knife?
We have often observed people crowding at the scene of a traffic accident or a street brawl in Pakistan, within seconds of the event; and within minutes, most bystanders will have picked sides in the ensuing argument or fight. Why we make these split second choices to take sides in arguments is quite inexplicable, as is our almost pathological desire to deem one side of the argument as the ‘good’ side and the other as the ‘bad’ one. Most commonly, though, we tend to get involved in disputes that are far removed from us, and which we consider our moral obligation to favor due to our traditionalistic tendencies, since the majority of us belong to clusters of people bound together by the feeling of a common collective identity.
The attack on Geo News’ senior journalist Hamid Mir and the network’s allegations against the country’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, and implicating its senior command in the attack, opened up a pandora box of public sentiments across the country. Much has been said over the merits of the Intelligence Agency’s media trial or its worthlessness thereof, so let us not delve into that; rather, let us explore the psyche behind the emerging pro-Army and anti-Army debate in the country, without labeling anyone a traitor. However, I must add that there is no moral equivalence between good and bad; a traitor and a revolutionary are not the flip sides of the same coin. One does not become a traitor simply for believing in one’s cause and standing up for it; rather, it is the method one adopts to achieve that cause that makes one a traitor.
The pro-Army debate is a simple one. From the bleak uplands of the Siachen glacier to the deep waters of the Arabian Sea, Pakistan’s Armed Forces have always defended our ideological and geographical borders. They are the sentinels of our freedom in every sense of the word. Whether it is in the form of relief work, disaster management or infrastructure development, the services of our Armed Forces are acknowledged, both domestically and across the world. Discipline, organization and patriotism are the backbone of this institution; therefore, the elimination of rogue elements that is meticulously done through a process of successive professional screening stands a better chance compared to any other institute in the country. The Armed Forces’ jawaan has complete faith in his leadership, and it is the beauty of this unity and faith that is reflected in the trust bestowed upon them by the general public. Who would know better to defend the Nation against internal and external threats than an institute which has been doing it since the creation of Pakistan and has been continually evolving, technically and strategically, over the years?
The anti-Army sentiment manifests itself mainly in the detractor’s antagonism, which has deepened gradually due to the bloodbath of the last ten or so years. Militancy in FATA and some settled parts of Khyber-Pukhtunkhwa, Baluchistan and Karachi have made the public insecure and wary of the modus operandi of the Armed Forces. Most noteworthy in this regard is the plight of the families of the missing persons. Their struggle to find the whereabouts of their loved ones is a heart-rending tale of misery. The Armed Forces and intelligence agencies of the country are being confronted by an overwhelming evidence of their culpability in this whole episode. Furthermore, some Pukhtun and Baluch groups accuse the Army of “killing their own people”. Coupled with their past history of political activism, the Armed Forces’ present role in the war against terror is being viewed with skepticism by the anti-Army protagonists.
Hamid Mir, who has always criticized the role of Pakistan’s Armed Forces and intelligence agencies, wrote in one of his recent articles about the epic battle of the Gun versus the Pen. He mentioned a number of personalities of the likes of Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, who bravely and unwaveringly stood against the forces of status quo. He tried to equate his plight with the plight of those great personalities by saying that his struggle is similar to theirs. The way media has evolved and become a powerful tool of shaping people’s perceptions, the odds are rather in favor of the pen. People might have different notions regarding the battle between the Gun and the Pen,but I am of the view that both are equally matched. Just like when a real hunter hunts, he is as much at odds with the elements as his prey and fights a perfectly matched fight; the hunter with his weapon, intellect and the five senses and the beast with its claws, ferocity and strength. People of the Pen argue that the Gun is merciless; but who has not witnessed the power of eloquence, or experienced the stab of acerbic words which can cut deeper than the gash of a knife?
Tragedies can happen to anyone. Whether it is the father or wife or son of a missing person trying to seek an absolution that eludes them or the family of a martyred Police or Army officer trying to come to terms with their grief; the way we respond to our suffering is what defines us. We may become more steadfast in our beliefs and hold fast to our principles or we may lose focus by veering towards extremes, we may even do the unforgivable by reaching out and being manipulated by our real enemy. There is a fine line between standing for your cause and becoming a traitor. It is so easy to slip and cross the threshold, which defeats the purpose of one’s cause eventually!
Our love for our kinfolk blinds us to their faults. Perhaps this is the reason why we shelter and protect them from being persecuted, no matter how horrendous their crimes are. Most live in denial and are not even prepared to acknowledge them as wrong-doers, which is one of the root causes of terrorism in the country. In such a scenario, how wise is it to question the capability of a ‘guard’ who has proved his abilities and trustworthiness many times over and who has been continually facing numerous internal and external challenges?
As I mentioned in the beginning, people come to different conclusions due to many different reasons, some on the basis of past experiences, others prompted by their desire to adhere and belong to a particular mindset, some governed by their so-called maturity of thought, and yet others driven by their baser instincts.
A little discretion is required before one jumps to a conclusion and chooses one side of a debate over another. No one benefits from expanding conflicts. As for the powerful, they must also exercise restraint, because power is a heady intoxicant that corrupts the mind. What goes around certainly comes around, so if both the pro-Army and anti-Army proponents profess to love the country and have Pakistan’s best interest at heart, then it is quite absurd to go to such lengths of dissention to jeopardize the very integrity of the country.