17 May 2018
Storm in Gilgit-Baltistan
By I.A. Rehman
Your ‘New’ Pakistan
By F.S. Aijazuddin
No First Time
By Muhammad Ali Siddiqi
Up Against the Wall
By Reema Shaukat
Us Withdrawal from JCPOA
By Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal
The Wages of Disinformation
By Khurram Husain
Compiled By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
May 17, 2018
AS if it did not have enough crises on its
hands in the final days of its tenure, the government has stirred up a hornet’s
nest by preparing a highly controversial scheme of constitutional reforms for
The National Security Committee is reported
to have discussed the draft of the measure titled ‘Government of
Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018’, on May 3 and advised the federal government to
further consult the stakeholders. Any other observer might have said the same
thing because, among other objections, a lack of consultation with the people
concerned is writ large on the document.
Claiming to “provide for greater
empowerment so as to bring Gilgit-Baltistan at par with other provinces”, the
draft order proposes substantial changes in the political structure created
vide the Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order of 2009 but
it does not raise GB to the status of a province of Pakistan. The most
significant features of the new order are:
The draft of ‘Government of
Gilgit-Baltistan Order, 2018’ has been severely criticised.
• The government of Pakistan will oversee
the management of Gilgit-Baltistan affairs through the federal prime minister
instead of the GB Council as hitherto.
• The prime minister will perform in
relation to GB the functions assigned to the president of Pakistan. He will
have the power to make laws for GB and a law made by him will override a law
made by the territory’s legislature, now called GB Assembly, after deletion of
the word ‘legislative’ from its title.
• All Pakistanis recognised by the Pakistan
Citizenship Act of 1951 as well as residents and those holding GB domicile will
be citizens of the area (the only word used to describe GB, as the word
‘province’ is never used for it). This definition of citizenship will give Pakistanis
from outside GB significant advantages over the natives.
• The order incorporates the fundamental
rights (with additional constraints on the right to freedom of association and
deletion of the reference to freedom of the press from the article on freedom
of expression) and the Principles of Policy given in the Constitution of
• Also incorporated are the articles from
the Constitution of Pakistan dealing with the definition of a voter and the
election of members of the assembly (with some pruning of the parliamentarians’
• The GB assembly shall not discuss
“matters relating to foreign affairs, defence, and internal security” and the
conduct of a judge.
• No citizen of GB is likely to become the
chief judge of the Supreme Appellate Court because only retired judges of
Pakistan’s Supreme Court and retired chief justices of high courts of Pakistan
On the grounds mentioned here and for
various other reasons. the draft order has been severely criticised by the
alliance of opposition parties, the GB Bar Council and the High Court Bar
One of the grounds for opposition is
non-acceptance of the demand made by the GB Assembly, following an August 2014
resolution by the Pakistan Senate, calling upon the federal government to
include the people of the area in the national mainstream by granting
Gilgit-Baltistan the status of Pakistan’s fifth province and ensuring their
representation in the National Assembly and the Senate of Pakistan.
Another complaint is that the
constitutional reform committee did not heed the GB Assembly’s request of March
15 last for taking its members into confidence before finalising its
Before the reform order came into the
public debate, students from GB enrolled at universities in Lahore started
voicing their political, cultural and educational concerns at public seminars.
The first of these seminars, that the present writer was able to join, was a
unique affair in the sense that it was attended by representatives of the
opposition as well as members and spokesmen of the GB government, and the
latter showed appreciation of the students’ point of view to an extent rarely
displayed by the authorities anywhere else in Pakistan.
They were even apologetic about the conviction
of Baba Jan, the Attabad lake hero who has been sentenced to 40 years in
prison, and the case under the Anti-Terrorism Act against the widely respected
advocate Ehsan Ali — two issues the students passionately raised. The large
body of GB students studying outside their home area has many other complaints
that can easily be sorted out.
The students too protested against the
exclusion of GB citizens from consultations on reform measures. According to
them, the Sartaj Aziz committee had only one member from GB, the chief
minister, who is alleged to be under the influence of the Kashmiri lobby that
opposes the area’s demand for provincial status.
The educational and administrative
authorities across the country sometimes fret about the extracurricular
activities of students belonging to what were once aptly described as oppressed
nationalities of Pakistan. These students remind one of the young men and women
from the subcontinent who went to study in Europe in the last century and were
encouraged by the environment of relative freedom there to voice their people’s
political aspirations. Instead of being shown the rod every now and then, these
students deserve to be listened to with due consideration.
The issue about the constitutional status
of Gilgit-Baltistan framed by politicians and students both is that if GB is
accepted as a part of Pakistan. it should be treated at par with its provinces
in every respect, and if it is a disputed territory, in the context of the
Kashmir issue, it may be given the status allowed to Azad Kashmir or India-held
This matter is not beyond resolution,
especially in view of Article 125 in the Order 2018, which says: “The
provisions of this Order shall not derogate from, or in any manner prejudice,
the declared stand of the Government of Pakistan regarding the right of
self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the
United National Resolutions.”
May 17, 201
DESPONDENT Pakistanis would put their heads
on the railway tracks, if they could be sure trains would arrive on time. Or
they would swallow phials of cyanide, if these were not adulterated. They could
always electrocute themselves, if they knew when load-shedding would occur. And
they could shoot themselves, if guns were not snug in the holsters of security
personnel or in the hands of militants.
Meanwhile, Pakistanis are forced to expire
slowly every day.
Take our dying parliament. It is dependent
upon last-minute whiffs of oxygen, desperately resuscitating itself by passing
insidious resolutions unanimously in a near-empty house. The most recent one
will remain on our conscience for longer than it will stay on the statute books
— the attempt to obliterate at the Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, the name
of Dr Abdus Salam, our first Nobel laureate.
Many years ago, someone wrote that Dr Salam
loved Pakistan more than Socrates loved Athens. Socrates had to drink the cup
of hemlock at the hands of the Athenians only once; Dr Salam has been made to
drink it by his fellow Pakistanis repeatedly. By excising his name, Pakistan
has not only done him a disservice; it has lobotomised the minds of its future
Pakistanis are forced to expire slowly
Take our toothless foreign policy. After 70
years of cohabitation with the United States, we have decided that even a
belated too little is more than enough. We have chosen to confront our
long-term benefactor the US, this time over one of its Islamabad-based
officials — Col Joseph Hall, defence and air attaché. He was charged with
manslaughter. It must have been galling for Washington to fly a C-130 from
Afghanistan to Islamabad to collect him, and then have to return empty-handed.
(He has since left the country on another aircraft.) Exactly seven years ago,
in May 2011, US Stealth Black Hawk helicopters made a similar sortie, with
They flew at leisure in and out of
Abbottabad, and took back as cargo Osama Bin Laden. Yet, at this fragile time,
when we stand eyeball to eyeball with the US, our government has decided to
replace a seasoned diplomat by a callow businessman reared in the Karachi Stock
Exchange. His nomination to Wall Street might have been more appropriate.
Take our economic policy. Our annual budget
has been passed without a debate, without a glance. It has become yesterday’s
rubbish, relegated to the grubby hands of those who buy waste by weight.
Take our judiciary. The public is used to
seeing lawyers punch each other in courtrooms. The paper-screen reputation of
the judiciary has been perforated as now judges criticise each other. Over the
years, many of the principles of British jurisprudence and legal canons were
adopted by us. The only one left was to reincarnate another Judge Jeffries.
Of late, the cacophony at public rallies
has drowned the voices of reason and common sense. Millions of rupees are being
spent on banners and leaflets, not one on party manifestos. Perhaps in an age
of technology, instant replays are the substitute. Who needs manifestos when
broken electoral promises can be retrieved at the press of a button?
The public is told that an interim prime
minister has been agreed between the prime minister and the leader of the
opposition. The name is being withheld. Rightly so. The public should be the
last to know. The date of the elections should be announced, and for two tiring
months, the political juggernaut will lumber to its destination. And to what
One wonders whether anyone has factored in
the possibility of the final result being rejected by a major political party.
Imran Khan’s PTI tried that with flaccid success after the last elections in
2013. Mr Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s and his PPP did just that after the ‘free and
fair’ elections of December 1970. What will happen should Mr Nawaz Sharif and
his PML refuse to accept the result? Will he be tempted to resort to public
demonstrations and Dharnas to express his dissatisfaction and repudiation of
Will the next National Assembly fulfil the
expectations of 104,267,581 registered voters? Will it even matter? Or will it
be no better than the committee of Richard Harkness’s definition: “a group of
the unwilling, picked from the unfit, to do the unnecessary”.
What will the Pakistan of 2023 be? Voters
have been told to expect a ‘new Pakistan’. They should be prepared for the
disappointment, similar to the one Francis Younghusband felt during his travels
to Lahaul in the 1880s: “So I asked again how far Dadh was and the man said two
miles. So I asked whether I could see the village, so he said yes, and showed
me a village behind.”
Voters beware. Your ‘new’ Pakistan is
IT is not for the first time that a
democracy — America under President Donald Trump — has denounced a multilateral
accord it was party to; there are other examples too: Israel and, nearer home,
India. However, Trump is lucky, for some of his predecessors, too, do not come
clean on this.
History shows that at least two American
presidents felt helpless as agreements brokered by them after years of hard
work, and sometimes in diplomatic silence in distant lands, were repudiated by
Israel, which first equivocated and temporised and later went on record.
Nevertheless, Bill Clinton and George Bush Jr had the grace not to flaunt their
crime, nor were they as callous and gleeful as Trump, who seemed to gloat over
The 1978-79 Camp David agreement was a
brilliant piece of diplomacy, for Jimmy Carter achieved something seemingly
impossible: it brought face to face the leaders of two countries —Egypt and
Israel — which had no diplomatic relations and had just fought a war. The
landmark deal made Egypt, the Arab world’s most important country; recognise
Israel in return for the Jewish state’s withdrawal from the Sinai.
Both Anwar Sadat and Carter were criticised
by the Arab world for concentrating solely on bilateral Egyptian-Israeli issues
and forgetting the occupied territories, especially Jerusalem. However, the
truth was that the Camp David accords pledged all sides to UN resolution 242,
which calls for Israel’s withdrawal from the territories and the Arabs’
recognition of the Zionist state.
At least two US leaders felt helpless as
Israel violated peace deals.
On Jewish settlements, the treaty was
indeed silent, but in his book, Palestine: Peace, not Apartheid, Carter says
Begin committed to him personally that he would halt settlement activity. Begin
reneged on his promise and the construction of new colonies and the expansion
of the existing ones continued. Carter was no more in the White House when he
woke up to the breach of the promise, but the former Belorussian terrorist was
still the prime minister. Since then the colonies have multiplied, and recently
the Likud high command recommended ‘extending’ Israeli sovereignty to the
settlements on the West Bank.
Aware of the gradual shift in America’s
policy, Carter noted that “until recently” America was “known and expected to
exert maximum influence in an objective, non-biased way to achieve peace in the
In order to resume this vital role, he
wrote Washington must be “a trusted participant, even-handed, consistent,
unwavering, and enthusiastic — a partner with both sides and not a judge of
either”. Although he conceded that “at times there will be a tilt one way or
the other, in the long run the role of honest broker must once again be played
by Washington”. Obviously, what was to follow was more than “a tilt”, for the
passage of time has seen a shocking surrender by successive American
administrations to Zionist diktat.
Clinton was very much in power to see the
Declaration of Principles destroyed by his Israeli friends. The signing of the
DoP in 1993 was a tour de force, which saw Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin
and Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat shaking hands on the White
House lawns. Even though tilted in Israel’s favour, the DoP endorsed the
principle of two states and laid down a timetable for the withdrawal of
occupying forces and the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state, with the
final status of Jerusalem to be decided later. Rightly proud of his
achievement, Clinton called it “the peace of the brave”.
However, Rabin’s life was cut short by a
Zionist fanatic, and the prime ministers who followed him, especially Benjamin
Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon, made America renegotiate and virtually
repudiate the DoP. Millions watched on TV Sharon’s tanks retaking the areas
Israel had vacated under the DoP and destroying Arafat’s headquarters brick by
brick. Clinton made a last attempt at Camp David in 1990 to clinch a deal, but
failed, and has lived on to see the DoP’s fate.
Let’s also note the farce the Annapolis
affair was. Organised by George Bush Jr. at the Maryland capital, the
conference, held in November 2007 and attended among others by the Arab League,
passed a resolution providing for an independent Palestinian state by the end
of 2008. Having signed the agreement, Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert
returned home to say, when the ink was hardly dry, that he was not bound by the
In December 2011, the pro-Israel lobby in
America was up in arms against New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman for
what to it was blasphemy. In an article titled Newt, Mitt, Bibi and Vladimir,
he wrote: “I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,
understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year (2011) was
not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel
SOMEHOW Indian or international media is
always looking for reasons to create hype about Pakistan and prove that it’s a
state which is sponsoring terrorism. Mumbai attacks saga is one incident which
after so many years, India is not able to digest its proven false ploy and
whenever it gets a chance, it uses Mumbai attacks as a tool to malign Pakistan.
Ten years since the Mumbai attacks which took place from November 26 to
November 29 of the year 2008, the relations between both countries had receding
tides. India criticised Pakistan and its security forces for the training of
terrorists and fully created drama to grab attention of international
community. If the details of Mumbai attack are followed one can clearly
understand that such organized attacks were not easy to carry out without
preparations and scouting about the areas.
While initial reports from India suggested
the Mumbai carnage was a localized attack by militant malcontents in India
because of the “Deccan Mujahedeen” decoy that was used to claim responsibility,
evidence cited by Indian army and security experts based on phone intercepts,
nature of weaponry, mode of entry by sea etc., has quickly focused the
attention on Pakistan.” Likewise Washington Post on November 28, 2008 cited,
“The US media has centred its attention on the links between the Mumbai attack
and the resurgent terrorist groups which enjoy havens in Pakistan’s tribal
areas as well as alleged protection or support from elements of Pakistani
intelligence.” Indian media while blaming Pakistan forgot that during the time
of Mumbai attack Pakistan was working closely with CIA and the question comes
to mind is that with so much of liaison, why not the CIA had any prior
information about this saga?
This incident after so many years of
occurrence is now a declared false flag operation. This was also revealed by
American academic and political scholar Dr. Kevin Barrett that President Obama
at that time never wanted to distinguish between terrorist groups attacking
India or USA. India, being a darling of the US was never questioned for Kashmir
atrocities or blame game on Pakistan. President Obama at that time favoured
official version of Mumbai attack and said that US was just as interested in
prosecuting the attackers of the 2008 Mumbai carnage as India was. But those
attacks have proven to be a false flag by the elements of the Indian government
itself in partnership with the US. According to Dr Barret, a book titled “The
betrayal of India” by “Elias Davidson” proves Mumbai attack as a created drama.
Recently, in an interview to daily Dawn,
the three times, and ex-Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif said,
“Militant organizations are active. Call them non-state actors, should we allow
them to cross the border and kill 150 people in Mumbai? Explain it to me. Why
can’t we complete the trial?” Pandora box is now open and Indian media has
started making large pronouncements that India was always right that Pakistan
sponsors terrorism. Such statements by Nawaz Sharif show that he has now
reached a level where he does not bother about national interests. As the
investigations about charged cases against him are reaching to turning point,
he out of mere frustrations has started pointing towards judiciary and defence
forces, without thinking how it will tarnish image of Pakistan internationally.
He has reached a stage where he for last attempt to show to the world, “save
me, I am the last wall standing between terror sponsoring establishment and the
will of free world and democratic forces in Pakistan”.
These kinds of avowals show as if Pakistan
is in a state of no war, no peace and emergency laws do apply in this period of
hybrid warfare. Timings of this interview are crucial for Pakistan as the
watchdog FATF has to take decision for Pakistan in June. As the seasons of
elections will be in full swing, interim government will have to handle all the
mess left by the previous government decisions. When on social media the war
against defence forces is on by PTM, such confessions by ex PM give RAW, NDS,
Western media, foreign funded NGO’s to target Pakistani youth for their vested
interests. Likewise when Pakistan’s ties with Russia and China are improving in
the region, such accounts lead towards mistrust.
After this interview of Nawaz Sharif, the
present government called National Security Committee meeting and termed it as
incorrect and misleading. In meeting, it was stated that India denied Pakistani
investigators access to Ajmal Kasab, the convicted attacker who was hanged by
India. The statement said that Kasab’s hurried hanging by India impeded the
investigation of the case, while India repeatedly denied assistance in the
probe when there was complete cooperation from Pakistan. Whereas rejecting the
allegations and condemning the false assertions, NSC meeting concluded that,
“At the same time, Pakistan continues to wait for cooperation from India on the
infamous Kulbhushan Jadhav and Samjhauta Express episodes,” Pakistan will
continue its efforts to eliminate terrorism on all fronts. Though NSC meeting
clarified misleading statements but such irresponsible statements surely leave
a question for us that even though Pakistan has made huge sacrifices to
eradicate militancy, and when the hybrid war is taking steps towards kinetic
warfare, are we able to keep our streets safe and let not turn into another
Libya or Iraq?
US Withdrawal from JCPOA
THE increasing influence of Iran in the
Middle Eastern political landscape frustrates the United States and its
regional allies. They are worried about Iranians’ fissile material production
potential and long-range ballistic missile program. They seem convinced that
without the regime change, subjugating Tehran is impossible. Politically, they
are incapable to change the regime; therefore, they are contemplating to jeopardize
the economic growth of Iran and also initiate military action against it.
President Trump announced the United States withdrawal from the 2015 Iran
nuclear deal, formally termed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and
reimpose of sanctions on Iran on May 8, 2018. He expressed his dissatisfaction
on deal because it does not minimise or curtail Tehran’s role in Middle Eastern
politics, it does not curb its conventional military potential including
ballistic missile development programme and above all, it does not transform
Iran’s political system.
President Donald Trump’s latest Middle
Eastern adventure is not only disturbing Tehran but also unnerving the other
members of the JCPOA. It was signed by the United States, Iran, United Kingdom,
France, Russia, China, and Germany to prevent Tehran from acquiring
weapons-grade fissile material capability. Many analysts predicted that
quashing of JCPOA could unleash horizontal nuclear weapons proliferation.
Hence, the remaining members of JCPOA have been struggling to protect the
agreement. Ironically, the Trump administration is ignoring the probability of
Tehran’s withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The scuttle of
JCPOA also undermines UK, France, Germany, and EU economic interest.
Conversely, it provides Russia and China diplomatic, economic and military
advantages. Therefore, any move in the United Nations Security Council against
Iran’s will be vetoed by China and Russia.
The Security Council under Chapter VII of
the UN Charter adopted JCPOA unanimously. It is legally binding on all the
United Nations member states. Therefore, the US unilateral imposing of
sanctions, which were explicitly lifted under the JCPOA, is a violation of
Security Council resolutions and international law. President Hassan Rouhani
stated that Iran would continue to adhere to its commitments under the JCPOA.
Hence, Tehran continues observing the moratorium on uranium enrichment and
plutonium reprocessing. Being a party to NPT, Iran can enrich uranium or reprocess
the spent fuel of the nuclear reactor for peaceful purposes. However, it is not
allowed to acquire high-enriched uranium or weapons-grade plutonium. The JCPOA
barred Iran from Uranium enrichment and reprocessing. Despite it, Tehran has
been struggling to save the nuclear deal. On May 14, 2018, its Foreign Minister
Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Moscow aimed at saving the Iran nuclear deal
following the United States’ withdrawal. On May 13, 2018, he visited Beijing
for securing China’s support in encountering the American’s sanctions and
saving the JCPOA. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi assured his Iranian
counterpart that “China will take an objective, fair and responsible attitude,
keep communication and cooperation with all parties concerned, and continue to
work to maintain the deal.”
Presently, except the United States,
remaining six parties to JCPOA has expressed their willingness to continue
their adherence to the Agreement. They believe that JCPOA is the appropriate
arrangement to keep Iran within the NPT framework and prevent it to accumulate
weapon-grade fissile material clandestinely. For instance, JCPOA resulted in
the dismantling of two-thirds of Iran’s nearly 20000 uranium centrifuges, its
entire plutonium facility and relinquished about 97% percent of its nearly
eight tons of low enriched uranium stockpile. In addition, the International
Atomic Energy Agency inspectors’ received unprecedented powers to monitor
Iran’s nuclear facilities in perpetuity. The Americans presently have no
substantial trade with Iran, therefore, its economic sanctions will not be
having much impact on Iran’s economy. However, the US European allies are
having trade with Iran. The Europeans desire to keep Iran’s oil and gas
products selling, continue sea, land, air and rail transportation relations
with Tehran, maintaining effective banking transactions and protecting European
investments in Iran. The Americans can destabilise Iranian economy through the
secondary sanctions. It was reported that the US has given all firms, not just
European ones, between three and six months to wind down their business
dealings with Iran. After the expiring of the date, the Trump administration
will demand that those countries choose between the US financial system and
Iran. Indeed, the European firms will choose American financial system. To
conclude, the economic sanctions may create economic fragility entailing
political instability or popular revolt for a transformation of the political
system. The military adventurism against Iran either by American forces or
Israel to destroy its nuclear facility(s) will be having serious repercussions
for the regional security and international economy. Iran has a potential to
retaliate against Israeli surgical strikes and is also capable to disturb the
Persian/Arabian Gulf trade.
The Wages Of Disinformation
IT struck me as oddly profound when, as a
child, I first learned that aphorism that all schoolchildren are taught at some
point in their education: a little learning is a dangerous thing. The
paradoxical nature of the formulation was arresting to me as a child, because
we had all along been taught that learning is something good. The fact that
learning has its dangers was a new thought altogether.
With the passage of time, I have repeatedly
seen with my own eyes how true this aphorism is. Too often we meet people in
our journey through life whose minds have been poisoned, or otherwise
incapacitated, with a small kernel of knowledge that their meagre mental
endowment is unable to digest. With the spread of the internet, small kernels
of information now parade as knowledge, and those without the ability to put
these kernels in their proper context often suffer the most debilitating forms
of cognitive indigestion.
In the language of social media, these
people are referred to as ‘trolls’. In older times, trolls were creatures who
dwelt in caves and were stripped of all forms of empathy or self-awareness.
They were depicted as ugly beings, vengeful and consumed with hate. They could
not be reasoned with, nor could their minds be changed with any presentation of
the facts, because their minds were governed more by emotion than reason.
When trolls come into power, they have a
built-in interest in keeping the population armed only with a little learning.
With the rapid proliferation of
information, the boundary being facts, information, knowledge and wisdom have
now been so thoroughly obliterated that anything can be packaged and served up
to the mob and there will be at least some takers. Ridiculous things can now
set large wheels into motion, because disinformation at the service of
factional politics means there need not be any grounding to what one is saying
any longer. Just so long as it vibes with somebody’s idea of how things ought
This would still be fine were it not for
the enormous damage it can do to the collective life of a society. A recent
example from India provides an example. Two years ago, a bridge collapsed in
Kolkata, Bengal. More than 50 people died and many more were injured in that
terrible accident. Shortly after, the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi,
showed up at a political rally and loudly proclaimed that the bridge collapse
was divine wrath (Bengal was governed by the All India Trinamool Congress party
at the time, with whom the BJP had clashed violently in the Panchayat
Now suddenly a bridge collapsed in
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, ruled by the BJP’s Yogi Adityanath, hatemonger par
excellence. So ground elements in the Indian media now wish to know: whose
wrath is this tragedy owed to?
This is only the most recent example of
such absurdities that are increasingly dominating political life of many
countries. When the collective life comes unhinged from any anchor in reality,
the door is opened to the theatre of the absurd. Anything anyone says can fuel
the political engine, provided that the someone in question has the means to
get his or her word out, and the word in question provides the right grist for
the right mills that are currently in motion.
When trolls come into power, they have a
built-in interest in keeping the population armed only with a little learning.
That way people’s emotions can be activated easily for purposes of factional
politics. Reality can be buried easily beneath layers and layers of slogans
that are perceived by those chanting them to be facts. Legal categories or
economic data can be used like epithets.
Look at how our political space is
dominated by allegations of people calling each other ‘traitor’ or ‘blasphemer’
or ‘looter’ for example. Those casually hurling these allegations should look
up how the Constitution actually defines treason, and reflect on the fate of
those who have, in reality, committed treason. But they won’t because reality
is a nuisance in the era of trolls.
The blurring of the boundary between
reality and an emotive perception of it carries grave risks for social
stability. Today we have a movement proclaiming that growing numbers of people
are being picked up for unknown reasons, only to be labelled as ‘terrorists’
and treated accordingly. They have to shout to be heard above the din.
The scale of the misrepresentation, the
awful smear campaign against this movement, borrows heavily from the tools with
which reality is chopped up and manufactured. A single line uttered by someone
at a rally, a pictorial meme, is usually enough for many people to stamp the
whole enterprise with the label of ‘traitor’, and dismiss their claims and
demands. Of course that does not solve the problem. It only postpones its
settlement for another day, in another form.
Meanwhile, the world of policymaking is
also not immune from the corrosive effects of this world of decreed facts. We
also have an accountability bureau that cannot look up how estimates of global
remittances are drawn up in a World Bank document, and feels the need to launch
an investigation to get to the bottom of a matter that could easily be reached
with a Google search. We have people who call themselves economists telling
those in power that a mythical ‘$200 billion’ have been stashed away in Swiss
bank accounts by Pakistanis, when there is absolutely no evidence of this. It’s
enough that people want to believe this, so they will.
The list is endless. Fact is that a post
factual order is now almost completely upon us. And all the while, the real
criminals, those who have genuinely looted the country and violated its
Constitution, can still be the arbiters of what is real, what is good, and what