PTI’s onslaught over state institutions and the role of think tanks in Pakistan

DND Thought CenterPTI's onslaught over state institutions and the role of think tanks in...

By Shazia Anwer Cheema

As polling day of General Elections 2024 reaches closer in Pakistan, a collaborated, synchronized, and well-calculated campaign against state institutions has intensified and prime targets as usual are the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), Chief Justice Supreme Court Qazi Faez Isa and Pakistan Armed Forces, particularly COAS Gen Asim Munir.

The latest onslaught is well-funded as, according to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), funds are pouring in from abroad through online fundraising campaigns.
It is claimed by senior politicians like former President Asif Ali Zardari, that PTI has always been a foreign-funded project but now things are being unpeeled by PTI itself. Now, the party is not afraid to tell that foreign propaganda companies have been hired, foreign funds have been managed, foreign think tanks and media houses have been contacted and 500 plus foreign journalists and election observers have been picked to cover the February 8, 2024 General Elections.
Overseas Pakistanis sitting abroad have been watching what is going on in Pakistan and Pakistani mainstream media as well as PTI social media have been claiming that nobody from PTI had been allowed to submit nomination papers for elections but documentary proof told a story that PTI is the party whose maximum candidates are in a run and only 33 written complaints were received by the ECP of not accepting nomination papers. Just imagine a party whose nomination papers were rejected (as claimed by the media managers) became the party whose maximum number of candidates are in a run that includes several of those who were seen in videos either ordering attacks on military installations and martyred monuments on May 9, 2023, or were physically attacking such places. Still, this party claims it was targeted by the state and was stopped forcefully from contesting elections.
In its response to PTI’s allegations, the Election Commission rejected PTI’s claims of not providing a level playing field. According to ECP, till December 26, 33 complaints were filed by Tehreek-e-Insaaf across the country, the details of the steps and instructions on the complaints of PTI were also provided to the Supreme Court. On the complaints, the civil administration and Returning Offices also submitted implementation reports. The Election Commission rejects the allegations of not providing level playing in the context of RO’s report as 76.18% of nomination papers of PTI candidates were approved. It may be recalled that on December 22, the Supreme Court while dealing with the request of regarding the level playing field issued an order to the Election Commission to take immediate action on all complaints and resolve them.
The whole scenario is enough to comprehend the skillful propaganda of PTI but strangely the State of Pakistan is yet to confront PTI propaganda globally due to reasons best known only to the State.
This situation also portrays that ECP, CJP Qazi Faez Isa, and the Pakistan Army are standing uncovered in front of deadly propaganda attacks of PTI because the interim government being an impartial component is avoiding taking a firm stance to snub PTI and stating that the interim government is here only to facilitate ECP to hold free and fair elections. Within Pakistan, ECP contacts media men to release its version of the situation but outside Pakistan, ECP has no arrangements to tell its side of the story while PTI has thousands of its supporters abroad to malign ECP and has hired top propaganda firms to spread its side of the story.

think tanks avoid spreading the narrative of the State while considering the threats against the state are of “political” in nature
think tanks avoid spreading the narrative of the State while considering the threats against the state are of “political” in nature.

It is understood that Pakistani missions abroad will keep themselves away from political issues therefore they cannot help ECP to mitigate propaganda against it. While other political parties that could help to present a real side of the story are almost absent globally who will and how to protect the institutions like ECP, Pakistan Army, and CJP Qazi Faez Isa abroad?
Let’s compare Pakistan’s situation with India and Bangladesh because one has gone through the General Election and the other is in the campaigning phase. A critical review of material available in foreign media and academician circles, it is evident that Indian and Bangladeshi think tanks are effectively operating to protect and promote the state side of the story all around the Western world and are playing a pivotal role in endorsing the State agenda. These think tanks sitting in India and Bangladesh are well-knitted and well-connected with Western think tanks and regularly release “Country Updates” among their partners in European as well as in North American countries.

Think tanks avoid spreading the narrative of the State while considering the threats against the state are of “political” in nature

Country updates are actually political, economic, and social situationers designed to mitigate and contest allegations against their state (India/Bangladesh) raised by foreign human rights organizations or opposition parties. These think tanks work on the core term of reference provided by the states the State and the think tanks appreciate one another’s strengths with clearly defined roles that are essential when engaging in collaboration and both are aware of each other’s intentions as well as comparative advantages.
Indian and Bangladeshi think tanks provide an institutional landscape for research and knowledge and work together with the State institutions to reach foreign policymakers, foreign media, foreign civil society organizations, and foreign universities to influence public policy debates by promoting their state’s objectives. They work on the principle that collaboration between think tanks and the State narrative can lead to stronger outputs and enhanced credibility.
If we talk about the situation in Pakistan, over 30 think tanks that are directly or indirectly funded by the State of Pakistan (from different ministries/institutions/public universities) are not involved in any controversy being faced by the State by calling it “political” although everything is political in nature if we look issues at broader and at the macro level. In the last year’s direct attacks on the state of Pakistan by the PTI, not a single think tank has produced a document telling the State side of the story and every one of them stands out of the mess being faced by the state institutions.
Pakistan is experiencing a critical situation in which bureaucrats are cautious to discuss that the state of Pakistan is under attack because they are bureaucrats and they have nothing to do with anything “political”. Diplomats keep themselves away from spreading the truth in countries of their postings about propaganda attacks over state institutions from PTI and its foreign friends because they are diplomats and they must not involve themselves in anything of a “political” nature while political parties are pathetic in initiating debates of an academic nature and think tanks avoid spreading the narrative of the State while considering the threats against the state are of “political” in nature. The rest are only writers and journalists who are always divided over national issues. One senior analyst rightly said in a television discussion that in Pakistan everybody is demanding a “level playing field” except the State of Pakistan because it has no tongue to ask anything and those who can speak, speak only for their interests and do not talk anything that according to them is “political”.
This scenario indicates that the link between think tanks and the state institutions of Pakistan is weak and sporadic and there is no cooperative relationship on important issues think tanks are neither ready to help state institutions globally or academically nor do they consider that having no contribution in protecting the state institutions against vicious propaganda and hatemongering against armed forces, they are actually conforming that their relationships ( if they have any) among state institutions are de- institutionalized, informal, disjointed and personalized, therefore not serving the national cause.

Shazia Anwer Cheema is an author, and analyst and writes articles for national and international media outlets. She did her M.Phil in Cognitive Semiotics from Aarhus University Denmark and is completing her Ph.D. in Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague.


The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of the DND Thought Center and Dispatch News Desk News

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