Dr Atique Ur Rehman
A national discourse is indeed the aspirations of a nation, who we are and where we intend to go and the way a nation adopts to progress and move forward. Our national discourse is marred with political follies, lack of judgement and unity of nation. An introspection clearly indicate the lack of ability at leadership level to judge our potential as a nation and see through in the future for long term objectives keeping in view our national potential, challenges ahead and objectives for a sustainable peace and economic prosperity.
Country is in turmoil since beginning of the year 2022.
In April, 2022, Imran Khan, was ousted from the office of Prime Minister by his political opponents through vote of no confidence. Former PM instead of accepting the verdict of highest political forum in the country that is national assembly, decided to go in public through rallies, protest and long march. Imran Khan’s campaign is based on a slogan that a foreign conspiracy has been hatched against him. Present political discourse set by PTI chairman has raised many questions for the state of Pakistan. It is neither a political moment for people’s rights nor is it a revolution to bring some fundamental change in political structure. It is an agitation against change of government. A totally power grabbing tactics for gaining sympathy vote. Imran Khan movement is progressing at a heavy cost; polarisation of society, rise in mistrust on institutions, economic instability and above all political unrest . An atmosphere of animosity, in the society has developed and gained ascendency during last few months.
Pakistani nation at the moment is feeling helpless, shelter-less and narrative-less. Confrontational political environment in the country is basis of narrative failure or national discourse. Since 2011, after the Raymond Davis, OBL raid, memo-leaks, salala, 2014 Dharna, APS attack, NAP,
, Pana Leaks, Dawn Leaks, Supreme Court verdict to punish PM Nawaz Sharif, and subsequent movement against Army and its leadership are the root causes of failure to devise a comprehensive policy to pull country out of crisid. 2018 elections, further fueled the environment and PML(N) started agitation against government of PTI and blamed military establishment for rigging and helping IK to reach to the office of PM.
The widening of gap between political elite and military leadership has created a perception imbalance in society. Today Pakistan stands as the most polarized society which is open target for any external propaganda.
“Big or small, powerful or not, a country or the organization must be able to tell its story itself.” Former RAW chief writes in his book ‘ The ultimate goal’. Facts are not always what they appear to be but are often what they are perceived to be. Thus, the truth is not supreme in affairs of state, and is often hidden within a bundle of lies, half-truths and innuendo. Instead, perceptions built on narratives become the accepted truth. Pakistan is being squeezed in between the narrative woven by our own political elite and external enemies.
Narrative is a special kind of story. It says every thing about a nation, who you are and what are your future aspirations. Narrative doesn’t come out of the usual competitive landscape. It takes a different approach and a shift in thinking led by the leadership.
Political Communication has its persuasive affects. Masses adopt the way politics dictate. Both former Prime Ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, after they lost their governments, turned the barrels of their guns towards military establishment. Public has been deceived to gauge the real motives of their leaders. Masses thought motive of both leaders is the struggle for civil supremacy but actually it is a hidden push and pull to obtain support of the Army to gain the lost power. The political communication of our political leadership was intended to misguide the masses and provoke an element of mistrust against institutions. Thus public voice is not supportive of sane arguments rather is detrimental to national security. External forces have fully exploited this situation. Indian Chronicles, Pakistan’s grading in FATA, India-Afghan nexus to propagate against Pakistan are few of the example to quote.
News do constitute political discourse because political process has major influence over media agenda. Academia and opinion makers also draw their conclusions from political expediencies. News reporting on judicial process has contributed extensively in national narrative. Proceedings, particularly on political issues, in court rooms should stay in court rooms and should not become part of media discourse.
Ability to control the political environment depends on the ability to initiate and control events, regulate the flow of information and mobilise elite support. Polotical environment can only be controlled through Parliament. The Parliament is biggest forum to spread narratives. Unfortunately our political discourse does not move through given process that is parliament. Issues are discussed outside on the roads and in media. It gives rise to a competitive environment in media which also contribute wrongly in formulation of public opinion.
Pakistani strata is mostly composed of middle class. Which is further divided into lower, middle and upper middle class. Middle class is considered back bone of the society. Big part of population is lower middle class. This portion of population is mostly affected by government decisions and propaganda by opposition parties. Social Social media wings of political parties are harbinger of spreading fake news and propaganda among public.
Council for foreign relations is the biggest think tank in US which works in collaboration with Congress. Its membership of 5,103 influencers include retired politicians, secretaries, bankers, lawyers, professors, and senior media figures. Input of the council is valued and incorporated in national policy formulation. Similar type of body is proposed here for issues related to foreign affairs and internal security. Strategic narrative are constructed by few brains basing upon the policy framework of leadership and executed through medium of own choice for a specific audience. This body should constitute some finest brains from retired civil and military senior officers, experts from academia, lawyers, judges, journalists of repute and religious scholars.
US and India heavily rely on their film industry for narrative building. Between 1990-2010, CIA featured in about hundred films and TV serials for their set objectives. Cinema is the most effective way of persuasion of masses. Similarly Web series are getting popularity on digital platforms. We may adopt certain out of way practices to harness the public opinion for good of the state.
Writer is PhD in IR and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Atique Ur Rehman