The American government has always tried to control the American people’s minds because it cannot control their speech, outlined in great depth and insight by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in their seminal book entitled Manufacturing Consent.
In Pakistan, something more sinister is at work. Local groups, or should I say paid shock troops, represent the reverse of Manufacturing Consent because they manufacture dissent in society disguised as legitimate struggle by people with grievances.
The truth, however, is very complex. Earlier it was the Tehreek-e-Taliban and now the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, more commonly known as PTM.
I attended a talk by ex-CIA director Michael V Hayden in Houston. His talk was focused on the changing CIA approach of creating instability in other nations before and after 9/11.
The Cold War era CIA method was to either assassinate leaders the United States did not like because of the former’s ties to the Soviet Union, or else send shock troops (local Islamists) to create instability.
The purpose, Hayden explained, was to weaken the communist strongmen. After 911, he outlined that instead of weakening the leaders, we had to strengthen them to counter the local Jihadist groups, which until a few years before 9/11 were Langley’s favoured shock troops.
Pakistan’s current civilian and military leadership have compelled the shot callers to pick out from their playbook the weakening of the leadership method as highlighted by Hayden.
Hence, the manufacture of dissent using grievances that sound legit. The PTM claims to be fighting for the rights of the Pashtuns but why is the West so supportive of their struggle when more Pashtuns from the erstwhile Fata have been slaughtered by CIA’s drone strikes?
The Washington Post has published an opinion column titled “Why Pashtuns in Pakistan are rising up” written by Mohsin Dawar. The Washington Post and The New York Times have always reflexively labelled his fellow tribesmen (Pashtuns) ‘suspected militants’ after the CIA’s drones were done tearing them into pieces.
In the opinion piece mentioned above, Dawar writes, “The PTM has emerged as a reaction to the death and destruction unleashed upon the roughly 50 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan for years…”
He so comfortably fails to mention the one country that caused that “death and destruction”. He does know about the destruction caused in Afghanistan by the Soviets though, because he writes, “The Pashtuns’ sufferings can be traced back to the Soviet invasion and occupation of the 1980s, which devastated Afghanistan.” But not a single word about who caused it after 9/11. There are rants about how the Pakistani security establishment allegedly caused all the trouble for his people.
The “death and destruction” caused by the drone strikes do not pass Dawar’s test of misery of his fellow tribesmen. In fact, he has endorsed the drone strikes in his tweets. In the column, he writes, “At the most basic level, the PTM is campaigning for the right to live”. What about the right to live of those ‘suspected militants’? Their Twitter posts boast of massive crowd gathered around their cause. I wonder who pays for such massive power plays.
The struggle for rights comfortably and very meticulously ignores the corruption of such a struggle. The PTM claims to be fighting for the rights of Pashtuns against enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and so forth. All sounds perfectly legitimate on the surface.
Yes, there should be free speech and free journalism. However, the speech should not just be suppression-free but also strings-free. Even in the freest country in the world, public officials got imprisoned recently, including Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort for not disclosing his job as lobbying for the then Ukrainian president, Victor Yanukovych, who was pro-Russia.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2019.