Pig’s breakfast

27 December 2021: The People’s Party is organising the anniversary of Benazir Bhutto’s assassination at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in Sindh

In the past fourteen years, the event has become an established occasion of the show of force by her party and her next of kin

Media on this day instinctively knows not to draw attention away from it

But this time at least one news channel cuts away from the coverage of a rather important breaking news

Maryam Nawaz has just tweeted what Benazir Bhutto meant to her

When on top of the hour the news bulletin begins it leads not with the reports from Garhi Khuda Bakhsh but with Maryam Nawaz’s tweet

This by the way is the news network that finds a mention in Ms Nawaz’s Jayi Thayi media management audio leak beside one of the most controversial media houses in the country

No one asks you to judge the community of journalists, pundits and media owners by any principled standards

Judge them by the standards of simple common sense, at least

January 5, 2022: The Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations holds the first media briefing of the year

It looks like a self-fulfilling prophecy that on this day of Kashmiri significance the journalists present would ask him to comment on the rumours about the alleged second coming (or is it tenth) of Nawaz Sharif through a secret deal

The DG rebuts the rumours and asks the media to demand evidence from the rumour mongers

Then in a heroic segue, a journalist asks him about the possibility of the army chief’s extension


In case you are wondering, these rumours are important because these days they alone pass the gold standard of ace punditry and journalism in the country

I am sure that the defence beat reporters present there were encouraged by their media houses to ask these questions

Because then the answers are used in the prime time talk shows to shore up ratings

But spare a moment to think about the genesis of these rumours and what kind of lethargic and intellectually bankrupt effort went into them

Ready? In a country that has seen four military coups, the matters pertaining to transfers and postings are given more importance than they might deserve

Recently the country’s punditry worked itself into a tizzy when a notification regarding the appointment of the new Director-General Inter-Services Intelligence failed to materialise quickly in line with a press release issued by the ISPR

The subsequent statements by various federal ministers would indicate the presence of a communication gap, misgivings or even tensions

But only in our punditry’s Bollywood addled brain, this would automatically lead to one of three scenarios: a military coup, an in-house change through palace intrigue or a secret deal with one of the major opposition parties

You can rule out the first two because the first would require some extraordinary defiance of the myriad regional exigencies and the second some supernatural level of shift in the number game in the parliament

So what’s left? A deal with a major opposition player? Ok, but which one? Hey, how about the folks I met the other day who were nice and cozy and enjoy exceptional rapport with the media house that employs me

Right? So, a secret deal it is

Don’t worry

The story will grow in the telling

Every group has various political sympathisers within its ranks

They will help embellish the story

And even if it doesn’t pan out, I will say something funny and move on


Except that this kind of media speculation can make a pig’s breakfast of governance in the country like it has for the past fourteen years of the resumption of the political order in the country

Remember that fine 2010 evening in Islamabad when speculative media reports claiming that the then People’s Party government was about to withdraw the notification reinstating the judges deposed by General Musharraf led to an exceptional late night full court session of the Supreme Court which could easily bring an end to the democratic process

This time too, these speculations took attention away from Kashmir and Afghanistan, the two very serious unfolding humanitarian crises and to a dud invented by the punditry whose imagination oscillates around access and privilege

When this happens some very smart, professional and respected senior journalists eventually fall prey to this charade too because tribalism forces them to

Want proof of the tribalistic pudding? Double back and go through this piece again

At no point in this discussion did this scribe suggest that no tension existed along the civil-military divide

Nor that it could never lead to disruption

Or that everything was now hunky-dory

If you thought it was suggested it is because your mind is conditioned by tribalism to project the most simplistic interpretation onto every analysis

If this writer is not agreeing with the notion he must be against it


I cannot do that either because of two facts

One, frictions are built into our system owning to our unique historical experience

Two, there is not enough data to build a case one way or the other

This is not an AP Creative Writing class and I would rather deal with facts than misguide you just to prove that I am in the know

But I can share a few pointers with you based strictly on my personal experiences and deductive reasoning

One, if a disruption comes it will start in Punjab

If you thought the PML-N was in any state to work out a deal it would have already brought down the Punjab government

Its internal divides render it incapable of doing that

That doesn’t mean that disruption cannot still materialise

Just do not count on the PML-N to play any part

Two, with the change in the Balochistan government the next logical step for the former CM was to be elevated to the federal cabinet

Likewise, in the current international scenario, the Governor in Lahore could play a far more important role at the Centre

But because the country’s punditry has no brain cells left to pay heed to these two gentlemen no one is paying attention to the potential advantages

Three, if a disruption were to take place at the Centre it wouldn’t result in a political dispensation but a technocratic one

Not good for any political party

Four, about extensions and appointment of the next army chief

First, if an extension is under consideration at all, it will be a short one

The Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act of 2020 imposes an age limit

The maximum age is 64

Gen Bajwa turns 62 by the end of his current term

So a one- to two-year extension is the extent of it if you do not want to reinvent the wheel

And what happens if that extension is neither sought nor given? Here is another extrapolation

Don’t convince yourself that you know who the next chief might be

If you think you know the name, please note that that fact alone makes it an unlikely choice

Nothing local or political here

This post is not meant for domestic consumption

Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2022

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Date:09-Jan-2022 Reference:View Original Link