A Rebuttal: Is Pakistan Army Chief Answerable To The People? – OpEd


Sitting in a class on a subject relating to psychological warfare and how propaganda works can reveal a state’s ambitions and how some individuals continue to work for that state to do propaganda. There are three kinds of psychological narratives as black, grey, and white propaganda.

Leaving the third one aside, grey and black propaganda works completely in which the source of the information remains dubious. In grey propaganda, the source may be true or not, but in black propaganda, it’s obvious that the source remains false. I recently came across an article in ‘The Quint’ on Pakistan Army Chief General Asim Munir based on the propaganda techniques discussed above. The article highlighted that the current Army chief General Asim Munir is very privileged and shrewd in his policies towards the political stratum of the country.

Lt. Gen Singh, in the article, side by side kept relating the whole argument as if something abnormal had occurred by promoting Gen. Munir as Army Chief. Presenting facts about Gen. Munir being a Shia, and not belonging to Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Singh calls these points to be answered by the former. Surreptitiously, he also molded his argument in favor of the narrative that presents Gen. Munir intervening in the political affairs of the state, especially behind the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. Lt. Gen Singh’s affiliation and his interest in Pakistan tell everything and it’s very well-known across the world how Indian officials are found molding a simple truth into a complex and biased narrative. This article aims to counter these arguments of Lt. Gen Bhopinder Singh with some very basic information if anyone wants to understand and remain objective. 

Coming to the claims Singh made about the appointment of Gen. Asim as Army Chief belonging to the Shia community, a sub-sect in Islam. While he also referred that hitherto, two Shia chiefs have served so far as General Yahya Khan and General Musa Khan. Is this a weakness of the Pakistan army or something to be answered to the public to appoint a Shia as its chief? Certainly, it portrays transparency, dignity, and high merit based on institutional principles. Anyone who comes on merit can become the chief of one of the best armies in the world. This is not to be answered. This is to be appreciated. And not just in the army, Shias are serving in many other key offices as well. It shows when it comes to merit, no religious or sectarian affiliation works in the army. Just score it and you get it. There is no ethnic Faultline as Singh has portrayed. I am a Sunni and just a common citizen of the country. And finding Gen Munir as an army chief whether he is a Shia or a Sunni doesn’t affect me. What matters to me the most is his abilities, his courage, and capabilities to lead the most organized institution in the country. 

Secondly, Singh molded the whole narrative as Gen. Asim is all behind the political chaos in the country. On one side, he praised Gen Asim for managing the political situation and side by side portrayed him building the narrative of the Army’s indulgence in political affairs. Singh may be a good influencer, but not a good researcher and a good reader also. I have variously argued in my earlier work that no single institution can dominate a state, as Robinson argued in “The Narrow Corridor”. Institutions are not a part of the government but rather of society.

Both society and government must keep each other accountable. The political chaos in Pakistan today is not because of Gen. Munir or Pak Army, but rather of its political elite. The dynastic politics and multiple political factors can be counted on when referring to the actual problem behind the chaos in the country. Well, it was a good try from Singh to again agitate the public against Gen. Munir and Pak Army.  Like the words he used as “managing unhinged politicians, he has outwitted the hyper-ambitious Pathan from Mianwali”. But he should better try next time with some basic understanding of the state and society. 

Thirdly the Officers Training School (OTS) issue as Gen. Munir belongs to it instead of the PMA. Again, it is not a weakness but rather a strength of the institution that a highly capable officer even from any institution if given opportunity can rise to the top. 

So, to conclude, what Lt. Gen Singh has tried is to aggravate sectarian and ethnic fault lines between Pakistan Army and civilians. Presenting him as a Shia and catering to a Pathan from Mianwali are all molded propagandas whose source Singh himself may not know. Although Sunni and Shia differences are fluid but people have never cared about these complexities at a higher level. If one is capable enough, he must be promoted even to the highest office. By promoting General Asim Munir, Pakistan Army, and society prove its credibility and dignity based on high principles. 

Ali Khan Bangash

Ali Khan Bangash is a student of MPhil in International Relations at Quaid Azam University Islamabad.

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