Dangerous mischief

Published: April 10, 2014
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

The sight that always hits me hardest after a murderous bombing attack by terrorists such as the one in the vegetable and fruit market in Islamabad on April 9, is the old and tattered plastic chappals strewn about among the blood and gore, showing like nothing else that most of those killed and horribly maimed in such wanton attacks are the poorest of the poor trying to eke out a living.

A van driver from my village of Wah who goes into the market every dawn to bring fruits and vegetables to the village shops told me that he was barely 50 yards from the blast and had seen small children from the nearby slums scavenging discarded vegetables at the time that the bomb went off. God alone knows how many of the poor little things were just blown away; evaporated so to say, into thin air. Damn whoever did this; the banned United Baloch Army as claimed, or any other terrorist outfit.

The terrified young man was still shaking with dread, 12 hours after the blast, as he described how body parts flew in all directions, raining down on terrified people who had been spared. One has to ask again and again if the people who kill and maim the poor and the innocent who have nothing whatever to do with the affairs of state and government are human beings at all? Damn their eyes, I say.

And now to the storm in the Pakistani teacup as whipped up by our various TV channels on the evening of that same day. Whilst some of our anchors stir up frenzy on some matter or the other every single evening, this particular “storm” (on a TV channel out of Lahore) had to do with my junior schoolmate, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif’s speech to the National Assembly in June 2006, fully EIGHT years ago! I ask you!

You might ask, dear reader, why I am writing in such detail about this one matter. Simple: this country has had enough of mischief-making, the horrific results of which we have repeatedly seen. Enough, I say.

Now then, while the anchor did say it was an old clip in his introduction (I apologise as promised on Twitter last night), he did not give the date or year when the speech was made. Neither was the date given in bold letters at the top of the picture which makes clear to the viewer exactly when the speech was made. To compound matters, and to make that storm-in-the-teacup even stronger, he had the temerity to say this was Asif’s “Sadabahar muaqif” (evergreen belief/stand/position) as if he had asked him just that day and he had said it was still so.

The clip had to do with a speech in which Asif had criticised the Napoleons who had carried out the 1999 coup against Nawaz Sharif’s government; those who had first jailed and then exiled his leader and his entire family including aged parents and children; those who had even jailed and humiliated Asif himself in trumped-up cases. He was dragged from house arrest to police stations to Chamba House to Attock Fort where he was lodged in a six feet by four cell complete with a steel door. When his wife and little daughters used to be allowed to visit him he was presented before them in handcuffs. This was a seven-time elected member of the National Assembly and former federal minister, please note. So, it was as an affectee of the high-handedness and the cruelty of a coterie of officers around the Commando that Asif made that speech.

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?

I have said it before; I will say it again: the present COAS seems clear-eyed about most matters and comes across as a straight-forward soldier; the army is conducting itself as it should, the elected government is working as best it can; the parliament is lively with the opposition doing its job (such as opposing the PPO, for one) and there is no cause for despondency or alarm. It is imperative, of course, that the media, particularly the TV channels, immediately stop their anchors and talk-show hosts from dramatising matters merely for ratings and therefore, increased revenues.

Going back to Khawaja Asif’s speech, I have to add that Brigadier (retd) Masudul Hassan, a very senior retired officer; General Secretary of the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen’s Association, and my Para school instructor and senior friend TM’s older brother, had this to say in an email to someone criticising the defence minister: “(The) clip that I saw is about his speech before he became defence minister. I think he has not said any such thing after becoming defence minister. I give him more marks than anyone else in the cabinet.”

So, let’s get real ladies and gentlemen and stop all this mischievousness, and at this most difficult time stand solidly behind parliament, the elected government, our soldiers and airmen and sailors. And, as I have said before, let all of us Pakistanis put our collective shoulder to the wheel. No single institution can do it all on its own.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 11th, 2014.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Cheema
    Apr 10, 2014 - 11:23PM

    All I have to say is that, why are you so worried. you are destined for UK where your great services will be fully utilized by PM.


  • Parvez
    Apr 10, 2014 - 11:28PM

    Fair….balanced…..and informative. As a common man-on-the-street. I have come to the conclusion that all our State institutions smell putrid. Its just a matter of opinion as to which one smells worse. In your closing para you have called on the people to stand solid…. etc.
    and that’s a tough call because in my view the stench first needs to be cleared, otherwise you will have no takers.


  • Mirza
    Apr 10, 2014 - 11:42PM

    Kh. Asif has been right all along and kudos to him. However, he has to learn to live with all past and present atrocities of establishment without any cry for justice or open court. He has to learn from Bhutto family which has lost two generations of its leaders and are still not coming out openly and demanding justice. Sad to say but every crime committed against people of Pakistan has been swept under the rug without unmasking let punishing the culprits. No wonder people are disappearing and being presented by establishment after months and years in terrible shape. Kh. Asif (whom I have met long ago) would live in history but his tormentors would die.


  • Ch. Allah Daad
    Apr 11, 2014 - 1:41AM

    Khawaja Asif is a real gem and bravest leader in Pakistan. He was right then and he is right now.


  • Apr 11, 2014 - 4:04AM

    So a politician, a former federal minister, a current cabinet
    member is allowed to change his statements. According to
    the prevailing winds? A person such as Asif is stuck with
    his statements,..for life. They can come back to haunt you.
    A politician’s statements are like a book about him. No matter
    how far they go back. And should always be made very very
    carefully…..Should never be vituperative.


  • Afzal
    Apr 11, 2014 - 4:47AM

    your tongue n cheek comment will be understood by very few :)


  • Nadir
    Apr 11, 2014 - 4:56AM

    With a raging insurgency and bombs going off across the country you would think that the Army would have bigger fish to fry than to worry about its grace, image and PR. Lets face it. Its budget time and the Army is trying to get exactly what it wants and not settle for the largest slice of the cake.


  • Apr 11, 2014 - 5:45AM

    Exactly,..this man need to stop beating the drums
    against Musharraf. He thinks people who can read
    English, are still dense,..that they canotn see this anti
    Musharraf diatribe. [Could be looking for any outside
    posting, anywhere …by Nawaz’s Govt,]

    ET moderator,..this is a fair opinion. free speech.


  • Ali
    Apr 11, 2014 - 10:52AM

    I witnessed the program Mr. Shafi was invited to last night. He is right that all the institutions need to be in harmony if this country is to progress. However, I think Mr. Shafi transgresses way too much in criticizing Gen (R) Musharraf.

    Being ward of a serviceman I was off the view that a soldier does not disparage his fellow soldier in public, but Mr. Shafi is an exception. Why the author possess ill thought towards Musharraf I fail to fathom.

    His post army resume solicits that he feels more snugged around politicians enjoying lucrative positions. Sir as & when you depart for UK please convey my regards to the Queen & love to George.


  • Col Azmat Hayat Malik (Retd)
    Apr 11, 2014 - 11:17AM

    Kamran Sb. He had spitted venom against the Army as a whole. Had his tirade been directed at military dictators the reaction may not have so pungent. Please listen to his speech again.Recommend

  • excalibur
    Apr 11, 2014 - 11:34AM

    The venom spewed against the army by Khwaja in 2006 should be condoned and he should not be tried for treason as per the Constitution but Musharraf must be tried for 2007

    Politicians are free to evolve and get sanitised , soldiers are not allowed the same privilege Why ?

    Psuedo intellectuals either shoot for being apart of Taleban committe members or beg for diplomatic assignments


  • Akash
    Apr 11, 2014 - 11:40AM

    Those who speak truth has to suffer the grudge of the paid trolls of you know whose????
    Criticize with argument (IF ANY) otherwise……..
    You know what I mean.


  • Lt Col Imtiaz A;lam (retd)
    Apr 11, 2014 - 11:54AM

    Never knew you were tongue & Cheek with Kh.Asef. Birds of the same feather flock together. He needs to tried under Article 6. If he had any Grace he would resign.


  • Babar Ayaz
    Apr 11, 2014 - 12:27PM

    Kamran I think such mischief makers anchors and TV channels should be named, as they should be exposed. Not everybody saw that programme. Media should be equally candid to criticise the journalists who violate the basic code, as it is when it comes to politicians and other section of society. Babar Ayaz


  • rashid
    Apr 11, 2014 - 12:33PM

    PML-N politician or impartial columnist.. anyways, do convey my respect to the queen! ;-)


  • Pervaiz
    Apr 11, 2014 - 2:17PM

    Man weither it is Eight year to Eight days that is what the situation today is on a boiling poing


  • Rumormonger
    Apr 11, 2014 - 3:42PM

    Kh. Asif does not think the same way as he did eight years ago and should not be punished for it. Musharraf imposed emergency seven years ago, maybe he regrets it and should not be punished,….. like Asif pleads.


  • Uzair
    Apr 11, 2014 - 4:25PM

    Also, to add to my previous comment, was the Army NOT standing behind Musharraf during and after his coup? If it supported Musharraf in his unconstitutional acts, then it can be just as criticized as Musharraf.


  • Parvez
    Apr 11, 2014 - 4:53PM

    The army, read ISPR, has done nothing to distance itself from Musharraf and his junta. Hence the people will keep confusing the two. The army is known to protect its corrupt (NLC and railway fame generals) and, therefore, must get blamed. An apology from army for its forays into politics would be quite a gracious act.


  • Abid P. Khan
    Apr 11, 2014 - 5:26PM

    “….He has to learn from Bhutto family which has lost two generations of its leaders and are still not coming out openly and demanding justice. …”
    According to alterative narrative, we would keep hearing the same old litany by the progenies of the famous dynasty for generations to come, unless of course……


  • SM
    Apr 11, 2014 - 6:02PM

    The problem is that all these politicians are corrupt; our entire system reeks of corruption be it the politicians, judges, government servants, JOURNALISTS… Pakistan is rotten to the core.. We need a shock to the system to fix our country.


  • AnisAqeel
    Apr 11, 2014 - 6:11PM

    Well balanced with a good advice especially the last paragraph that summarizes the whole article. “No single institution can do it all on its own”. Unfortunately if one institution is drugged with a very wrong unity that supports only the institution and their past and present members while ignoring limits of their own. There must be repercussions on wrong decisions that some individuals took/take otherwise it is defamed and lose its dignity.


  • Sexton Blake
    Apr 11, 2014 - 8:34PM

    Dear Kamran Shafi,
    You are correct in a limited fashion that not one organization can solve the problems, but I am afraid that one organization caused most of the problems. As a result of that overseas organization invading Afghanistan in 2001 and ensuring that over 270,000 people are no longer with us a huge number of people have become radicalized, and moved over the border into Pakistan. I do not have the solution, but neither does Pakistan and the overseas organization, which will semi leave the Sub-Continent shortly and leave the locals to pick up the pieces just the way it happened in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Libya, Iran and approximately 50 other countries. I noticed of course that you did not mention the children blown to pieces in North Waziristan by drones and fighter strafing/bombing attacks. Best of luck Pakistan.


  • ahsan
    Apr 12, 2014 - 10:12AM

    no one can match the corruption of generals.


  • kk
    Apr 12, 2014 - 2:19PM

    where r the social media aids of our brave commando .why r they not coming on roads to protest


  • excalibur
    Apr 12, 2014 - 8:26PM

    @ KK APML is not Taleban Khan arty of hypocrites. The fabricated cases have no legs to stand on so there is no need

    The Persecutor Akram Shaikh had claimed that once indictment is made the case will finish in 10 days maximum Today is the 14th day after the indictment !


  • Jack Straw
    Apr 24, 2014 - 1:15AM

    @Afzal: never under estimate your audience …we hear see and understand also …


  • Sexton Blake
    Apr 24, 2014 - 12:40PM

    @Jack Straw:
    Dear Jack,
    You are half right.. I will take an even bet that less than 5% of Afzal’s audience understand the technical aspects of Malaysian airlines MH370, and how they are being manipulated by Government gobbledygook. I have some idea only because I have friends who are electronic experts and one who is an experienced military aircrew person.


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