Syed Ali Zia Jaffery
In a tweet, the Director General ISPR, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor termed the notification on Dawn Leaks as “incomplete” and not in line with recommendations. The tweet conveyed the rejection of the notification in no uncertain terms. The tweet which was composed a while back has taken social media by the storm and points towards a visible tension between the civilian and military hierarchy. Interestingly, it comes on the heels of speculations about a so-called compromise between the PML-N and the army on the issue. Many are of the opinion that the actual culprits are protected while small contributors were scapegoated.
Notification on Dawn Leak is incomplete and not in line with recommendations by the Inquiry Board. Notification is rejected.
— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) April 29, 2017
Others opined that the military was soft on an attempt to breach national security. However, amid the fog of disinformation, the actual issue that underlies the importance of publishing Cyril Almeda’s story is being lost. Why is the actual leak important? Why was it tantamount to a threat to national security? The news story was neither a Cold Start thrust by India nor a terrorist attack by miscreants. The story was contrived in a way which could possibly invoke a physical offensive response by inimical forces.
The crux of the story published was that the civilian leadership was distraught with the military’s lack of will to take on the menace of terrorism. More importantly, the story iterated that the military is harboring a network of terrorism which is causing ruckus and mayhem in Pakistan, as well as outside since it was suggested that it is a plank of our foreign policy.
The story gave support to a narrative that is repeatedly dished out to the world by India, Afghanistan and the United States. It is used as a pretext to squeeze, browbeat and isolate Islamabad. To assert that the military fraternity exports terrorism in neighboring countries. In simple words, the feature in Pakistan’s premier is a repudiation of state’s narrative.
At a time when the state of Pakistan is grappling with multifarious challenges from all quarters, any effort to harm the repute and standing of the military is an act which serves the enemies of the country. Hence one can safely say that the story published in Dawn was not mere pedantry.
All this makes this story a hot cake for the international audience. It acts as a credible and actionable lead for hostile forces when they so desire. Menacing, to say the least, it is a precursor for offensive posturing by external powers who are always waiting for a trigger.
More importantly, the content of the story was not only a vilification of a powerful institute of the country: Pakistan Armed Forces. It also showed that the state constituents were at loggerheads, a sign of real weakness. It was these serious ramifications that gave the Dawn leaks affair a critical status.
The fissures between institutions will be a bane for Pakistan in more ways than one. Firstly, given the domestic issues that the government is facing, an institutional tiff is the last thing needed. With the legitimacy of the government being openly challenged, this rift will negatively impact issues of strategic importance.The brewing civil-military crisis will create a trust deficit, which in the process would hamper the already military-heavy Counter Terrorism drive. The political vocabulary will change significantly; instability, chaos, and uncertainty will be ideal for anti-state actors to flourish.
Meanwhile, as aforementioned international pressure would mount on Islamabad. The demand to act more will gain traction. The internal divide will adversely impact the country’s performance to tackle external challenges. A state derives its strength from its citizens and the establishment of workable institutions. The linkage between citizens and the state is created by the trust of the former on the latter.
Common citizens of Pakistan have a high degree of trust in its Armed forces. People laud the valor and the sacrifices rendered by the men in uniform; the forces are considered a bulwark against the enemies of the country.
The recent speculations surrounding the army accepting the Dawn leaks whitewashed report was damaging for the military’s institutional credibility. Pakistani citizens are gritty and emotional when they realize that their security is threatened. Be it a conventional war imposed by India or a wave of terrorism, Pakistanis stand up in unison with their Armed forces, merely because of the belief that the brave sons of the soils will protect them. And many of them consider the Dawn saga as a security breach. Under such dynamics, a perception of a backchannel deal over the leaks was a severe blow to the image of the army in particular. The tweet by the DG ISPR has enabled the army to regain or recover potential lost reputation as suspicions of compromise would have turned into widely-shared opinions and threatened the position the army holds in the Pakistani people’s hearts.
Pitching the people against the Armed forces is sinister by all means. It is an old method in Warfare employed by enemies. At a time when the state of Pakistan is grappling with multifarious challenges from all quarters, any effort to harm the repute and standing of the military is an act which serves the enemies of the country. Hence one can safely say that the story published in Dawn was not mere pedantry.
This article has been published by the consent of the author Mr. Syed Ali Zia Jaffery. He is a Research Associate at the Center For Strategic And Contemporary Research (CSCR), Islamabad. He frequently writes on defense, foreign policy, and Counter Terrorism.