Defence Minister Khawaja Asif is having a terrible time after coming under criticism for comments he made in response to statement made by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif that Army will ‘preserve its own dignity’, a comment made in context of the treason trial of former COAS Gen Musharraf. Next day, Defence Minister gave his statement that ‘Parliament is a supreme organ of the state and it would preserve its dignity besides having a respect for all other institutions’. Army officers expressed their anger at the Defence Minister in a Core Commanders meeting.
Attacks against the Defence Minister took to new heights, however, after TV stations began airing a speech by Khawaja Asif to the National Assembly criticising the 1999 coup against the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif.
Predictably, this sent hyper-nationalists into a hyperventilating frenzy.
So why did the Defence Minister make such a speech at this time? The answer may surprise you…he didn’t.
The speech that was broadcast was actually given in 2006…eight years ago! No one would recognise this fact, however, since the TV anchors withheld the information from their broadcasts, giving the false impression that the Defence Minister was upping the ante in tensions with the Army. Not so. Kamran Shafi explains the reality:
Let’s be fair and get the context right. Even about the much-hyped statement issued after the Corps Commanders’ conference on the same day that the EIGHT-year old speech was constantly being shown on some channels as if a mutiny was brewing. Indeed, this newspaper of record has responsibly quoted the press release. But leave it to some raucous TV channels and their anchors to pretend they had an “in’ to what else was said in the meeting. Such as the Corps Commanders expressing “displeasure” at the defence minister’s “statement” making the viewer believe that the EIGHT-year old speech was made on April 9, 2014.
Even if they meant that the Corps Commanders had shown “displeasure” at the statements attributed to Asif about the Commando’s trial, the ISPR release said no such thing. Additionally, the anchors should have also reported the truth: that Asif had not said one word against the army itself. But will they ever stop stirring the pot?
Army and politicians both play a critical role in our society. Both roles include responsibilities that bring much tension along with them. At times, those roles can come into conflict and disagreements will result. This is normal, and will sort itself out naturally if left alone. It is acceptable for media to report on tensions between the military and civilians, but it is irresponsible to whip up those tensions and add fuel to the fire.
Media’s role is to report the news, not to help settle old scores or judge patriotism. Gen Raheel and Khawaja Asif have each defended their institutions, as is natural, but there is no valid defence for the behaviour of media in this case.