By Agha Iqrar Haroon
Communication experts believe that anonymity and accessibility of social media provide a free ground for spreading hate and malignant propaganda while in print media, anonymity gets compromised and everyone avoids writing unauthentic, illogical, and manipulative discourse.
Prague-based Communication practitioner Shazia Anwer Cheema in one of her articles writes that individuals and groups with personal self-serving agendas avoid verifiable platforms where their authenticity can be directly questioned, that’s why their preferred means of communication is social media where they can create trends and hashtags without exposing their true identities.
Politicians were made responsible for every ill that could take place anywhere in Pakistan and politicians were held responsible even for the death of a patient in an ambulance while reaching the hospital
A recent report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) indicates that hate speech serves two purposes; one it affects the population having no or minimal knowledge of the mechanism of fake news and rumors and the majority of people due to their ignorance or innocence take everything as it looks and become victims and later become part of hate-driven propaganda, the second purpose is a deviation from actual problems.
In Pakistan, we have observed that social media is playing havoc with our social norms and the state institutions are at the target board. We must remember that important state institutions are not only the Judiciary and Armed forces but the Parliament is also a major stakeholder as a state institution. The Constitution that actually delegates terms of references to all state institutions is considered as “Supreme Institution” in democratic societies but in Pakistan, the 1973 Constitution is one of the main targets of hate speech, and slur and a majority of panelists sitting on television screens “keyboard warriors” are making a mockery of the Constitution but the state did not take any action against them. The state kept silent at the beginning of what we are facing today and now slur brigades are spreading hate against almost all state institutions. We know it was the demand of the first and second decade of the 21st century in Pakistan to tell the public that Constitution has (had) no value, parliamentarians are (were) corrupt, bureaucracy is (was) ineffective, and the country cannot (could not) be run unless and until the saviour Imran Khan would not be elected.
Thousands of “philosophers of fears” were gathered for spreading hopelessness and pessimist approach among the public stating that Pakistan has (had) no future under the prevailing system. Politicians were made responsible for every ill that could take place anywhere in the country. Politicians were held responsible even for the death of a patient in an ambulance while reaching the hospital. Live coverages were planned to tell people that the man died in an ambulance because the roads of the city were badly shaped and the ambulance failed to reach the hospital before he died. If a woman gave birth to a baby in Rakshaw or bus while reaching to hospital, she was in television frames with a background narrative that the government had failed to provide health care at the doorstep of pregnant women.
Several such scenes are still in my memories that were intended to pitch hate against the political system in the minds of the public. It actually did work and people started losing trust, faith, and hope in the system, demanding an overhaul or a new system. The target was achieved and Naya Pakistan emerged and “philosophers of fear” converted themselves into “philosophers of hope” and started telling the public that saviour had arrived. During the next 42 months, philosophers of hope kept telling the nation that tomorrow would bring prosperity but people like me knew that “tomorrow never comes” and actually it never came because corrupt politicians sitting in the then opposition hatched conspiracy to de-trekked the tomorrow that lost its way to Islamabad. Of course, corrupt politicians were responsible for everything that happened in 42 months of the rule of savior because savior cannot be incompetent or a failure.
The semiotic tool that was used to defame state machinery was “hate” and like an Akash Bael (Cuscuta), it started engulfing the entire fabric of social norms and kept sucking energy and life from an already complex and confused society. The message of hate speech was simple—everybody is corrupt except saviour and everybody must be hated if he or she is against the saviour.
I have been writing for a long that when the hate was nurtured against parliamentarians and the constitution, it was inevitable that the tendency would later or sooner harm other state institutions because the theme of the campaign was that “everyone who refuses to follow the saviour must be snubbed and trolled”. The mechanism being used for spreading hate against certain institutions (like parliament) was making these institutions “Othered”. Othering is a way of negating another person’s individuality, presence of a group or usefulness of an institution, and, consequently, those that have been othered are seen as less worthy of dignity and respect. On an individual level, othering plays a role in the formation of prejudices against people and groups. In the last 10 years, whosoever differs saviour, he or she was “othered”. With the passage of time, the span of “othered” had been expanded and almost all important institutions are now facing the situation of being an “othered”.
Now the majority of state administrators are showing their concern over the situation and saying that “enough is enough”. I believe they want to fix the situation and I am of the view we must break the cycle of “Othering” if we are really serious and honest about fixing the situation. Today PTI could be honest in stating that it had not encouraged or ordered to launch a ruthless and shameless campaign against martyrs of the Pakistan Army but PTI cannot deny that it invested too much in injecting “Othering” among youth and telling followers that whosoever does not follow saviour is corrupt, traitor, infidel and must be punished.
If we critically examine the PTI media campaign, we can find that its discourse, that is hate speech is based on blame supported by a predominant discourse of us vs them, good vs evil, and promoting “Othering”.
I strongly demand exemplary punishments for those who are “Othering” our state institutions and the only solution to break this cycle is strong action against such elements. Compromised, half-hearted, and docile responses from state institutions would further harm the situation. Is it not enough what we have seen last week when martyrs of the Pakistan Army faced the wrath of hate on social media?
Instead of going into detail about who did the design and who did encourage this “Othering”, we have to snub it with full social and administrative force and I hope that a six-member committee comprising members from the FIA, Intelligence Bureau (IB) and ISI that would probe negative campaign being launched post helicopter crash in Lasbela would table its report for public and would not spare anybody irrespective of political background and social status of culprits. I believe that the Committee comprising Lieutenant Colonel Saad from ISI, Deputy Director IB Waqar Nisar, Director FIA Waqaruddin Syed, deputy director Ayaz and Imran Haider would serve this nation by finding ruthless creatures living within our society and place them in front of people in minimum possible time. According to terms of reference, the committee will identify those who launched a campaign on social media after the Helicopter crash in Lasbela leaving five Army officers martyred.
I am ready to accept that PTI leadership is not fanning hatred against Pakistan Army. However, where institutions would fit such statements coming from a US citizen who is chief of staff of Chairman PTI? Is it not a sheer attempt for injecting a sense of division within the Pakistan Army?
What Shahbaz Gill has said is tantamount to incitement of mutiny within the rank and file of the armed forces. He must be arrested immediately and thoroughly investigated.
On whose orders Shahbaz Gill made the statement about armed forces and on whose orders was it allowed to go on air? Someone needs to give answers.
Is the Ministry of Defense doing something? Why has there not been any condemnation of Shahbaz Gill’s statement from their side?
Is the Government of Pakistan doing something after the inciteful comments made by Shahbaz Gill? No condemnation, no action, nothing. Imran khan and his aides are on a rampage. They will go to any extent to bring the head clown back as PM. Even if they have to attack the institution of the Army by trying to incite mutiny.
While most people seem to be focusing on Shahbaz Gill’s inappropriate comments about the Army, very few are asking the real question.
History testifies that nations several were ruined when “hate” became the driving force of their social relations. Should we not avoid becoming victims of hate before we become a living “lost civilization”?
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 Agency.