The silence over PTI’s campaign against the Pakistan Army is now more disastrous for politicians than the military

Political DiscourseThe silence over PTI’s campaign against the Pakistan Army is now more...

By Shazia Anwer Cheema

A research article (co-authored by Prior, Hengst, Roozen, and Shipka 2006) based on a home video explained how propaganda manifests itself from the smallest of degrees. The video shows parents and two children playing a “pretend game” suggested by the younger child aged seven; while cleaning the living room they can play a game in which the father will be the vampire bat to defeat the evil hunters of Cruella de Vil, a Disney cartoon villain who had become a regular protagonist in the family’s pretend game.


The father then consulted the older child aged 11 about how to become a vampire bat. Both the kids suggested that the father had to think that they were under attack by evil hunters and the moment he started the game he would then actually start seeing his enemies which would then be attacked easily. Younger girl child even added that if he was having a problem playing pretend game she could help him to see the evil hunters considering dust particles on the rug were evil hunters and a vacuum cleaner could be their auxiliary weapon.

The entire episode was recorded by the mother and later used as research material for understanding the operation of human understanding. This article illustrates how thoroughly and necessarily life involves the historically unfolding blend (and it’s always a blend) of multiple semiotic resources, including oral language, embodied action and gesture, perception of environments, written texts, films, music, and touch.

By not going into the details of the research, I independently probe into the pretend game by combining it with the process of negative propaganda and find it a replica of what the Pakistani nation is going through. The child’s ability to imagine and live an imaginary situation as reality is fundamental for playing pretend games. As an adult being pretentious means that an adult has a conscious awareness of the fact that whatever he/she is trying to pretend is not reality however if a brain is convinced of “perceived reality” as a reality then it becomes much easier to consider a role-play as a reality.

The mass-scale propaganda functions on the same “pretend game” format by imagining a reality, perceiving a fictitious enemy, crafting a non-existing threat, and planning for the mitigation of that threat. If someone does research on PTI campaigns against politicians, parliament, and democracy in the past and now against the Pakistan Army will figure out that it operates on the same “pretend game” format. Before going into detail, I will cite the format hereunder taking two examples from the near past and then we will discuss it further:

Imagining a reality:

Example statements:

We are not independent and we are slaves (Imran Khan). Our sovereignty is sold by army generals (Imran Khan and almost all his YouTubers/writers.

Perceiving a fictitious enemy:

Example statements:

America threatened Pakistan with dire consequences if I was not removed (Imran Khan—Cypher drama).

Crafting a non-existing threat:

Example statements:

I will be killed (Imran Khan). Imran Kahn will be poisoned if he goes to jail. If Imran Khan is removed, Pakistan will be doomed (Imran Khan/PTI leaders)

Planning for the mitigation of that threat:

Example statements:

All PTI workers must come out in the streets and attack the military installations because Imran Khan will be killed in jail. (Announcements of PTI leaders after Imran Khan’s arrest for planning May 9, 2023 attacks on military symbols). PTI leaders released messages through WhatsApp groups that attacking military-related places would result in mutiny within the Army sitting military leadership would be arrested and Imran Khan would be released and will be made Prime Minister again.

Constructing New Understandings

The study of semiotics can provide answers as it explains how all acquired information can be used as a sign to construct new understanding including fictitious and surreal. It starts by connecting a sign to its corresponding signifier and the correlation of signified information. Understanding of semiotic process can well explain how a pretend game can be played, which also answers my inquisitiveness about another pretend game played in Arhus University Denmark which I experienced when I was studying there. A group of adults used to play a pretend game but of course on a larger scale by pretending to be old Vikings living in old-style settlements using a barter system to survive, The game usually lasted for a week and had zero connection to the outside world was mandatory, no digital or physical connection to the outside world and being in the chosen role, good or bad was the crux of the role play.

According to my education and knowledge, propaganda also works on the same cognitive level. As a case study, the recent propaganda by PTI against the Pakistan Army can be studied to understand further. This malignant propaganda against the Pakistan Army prevailed on the same mechanism of a pretend game, an imaginary role of vigilante, an imaginary enemy as Pakistan Army, and an actual action of elimination and safety in terms of bashing and slurring. Let’s give it a detailed step-by-step look together. The negative propaganda and the pretend game are based on a hybrid phenomenon and can be done with different operative mechanics.

Building a Mental Image

The first and foremost aspect of creating a base for negative propaganda as well as a pretend game is building a mental image. So far as Pakistan is concerned the propagandists present an image of what the situation would be if the Pakistan Army stopped the “wrongdoings”, it is important to understand that at this stage explanation of wrongdoing is not necessary, just a pretentious phenomenon of a western-style developed Pakistan. The idea of “if the imaginary wrongs will be made right”, just like the little girl told her father imagine that somebody is in the house, and that is a hunter and that is evil, and act like a terminator and imagine yourself as a vampire bat. Just like that when a better Pakistan was being associated with the wrongs of the Pakistan Army the only picture was that Pakistan could be a first-world country if Pakistan Army was controlled by Imran Khan because “wrongdoings’ would be neutralized and this image was created as a decoy effect to camouflage the actual reasons. The progress of Pakistan was never on agenda of the propagandists. For “wrongdoings”, PTI developed a chain of allegations which includes that Pakistan Army is subservient to United States, controls all businesses, subjugate civilian governments and enjoy luxurious lives. The persistent amplification of “Pakistan can be an ideal state and the Army is stopping it” breaches the Pakistani population buffer zones and makes them respective to internalize the anti-state sentiments. Systematic persistence of the same narrative provides the base ground for being a vigilante or a terminator just like in the pretend game, to become a vampire bat but there have to be evil hunters (they place Pakistan Army as evil hunters). Whether or not they are evil was a question never discussed at that first stage.

As in the case of a notorious PTI propagandist who claims to have informants inside a sensitive intelligence agency are constantly playing a pretend game based on the information provided by a “fictional informer”.

Disgraceful attempt on the part of PTI cult followers to create a wedge in the institution continues. Those propagating dissent within the institution are absolutely ignorant of the structure and functioning of institutions which remains like a solid homogeneous rock under the most adverse of the situations.

The Bandwagon

The second stage of this imaginative scenario convinced the mind that anyone can become a hero (vampire bat) just by using enough imagination. This phase of propaganda pushed the masses to “get on the bandwagon.” Everyone is doing it, so you should be too. That is when a certain fraction of society considers it as a sign of being intellectual if it defames the military. The cognitive process behind this superficial impact is just being within a certain circle and trying to fit in. The social media blame game is the aftermath of getting on the bandwagon and creating an echo chamber of given/suggested voices which is augmented by the dance intensity of echoing inside a chamber.

Generating Fear

Propaganda requires generating fear among the target population and making the Pakistan Army a threat that is a prerequisite for a layman to feel unsafe and unguarded. That fear has been generated with two parameters, one that the Pakistan Army is not faithful to the country and only involved in self-righteousness and self-loth, and second, if some vigilante tries to question the Army, it becomes dangerous for him/her. We all have seen the false testimonies of individuals being threatened by phone calls or otherwise, that is all part of a bigger plan.

Testimonial Propaganda

The pretend game of “making Pakistan great again” provided a hurdle that led to the most fascist campaign against the Pakistan Army. In the beginning, all those who got on the bandwagon just by being on the wagon could have been confused if, for a longer period, they echoed the illusive given words, but the propaganda masterminds are not plain folks, they always plan the entire frame of work beforehand just to keep unhitched band-wagoners onboard. The false testimonial propaganda was launched when known figures reiterated pretend games but this time pretending it to be real. The rhythmic affirmation started by recognized faces reinforcing that the problem behind Pakistan’s prosperity is the Pakistan Army. I can add a number of known figures who had been part of this testimonial wave and unfortunately, all are ex-military men even retired military Generals. Some of them have/had been vloggers and in their vlogs they propagated against their own institution.

False Dilemma

Another type of popular propaganda is the false dilemma. A type of logical fallacy, a false dilemma, is where you are presented with two choices as if they are the only two options. For example, do you need Pakistan or Pakistan Army? It’s telling you that it’s either one or the other, and you need to make the choice. In truth, these aren’t the only options available and neither that is the actual case. Enemies of Pakistan masterfully created a false dilemma that Pakistan could only be saved if the Pakistan Army became a sacrificial lamb.

Using Slogans

Slogans are catchy, and they can catch on fast. If a slogan is repeated enough times, eventually, the public will come to believe it. The “absolutely not”, and “are we slaves” are direct facilitation of the propaganda was not against the United States but against the Pakistan Army. These slogans are designed to articulate that either Pakistan or the Pakistan Army are not slaves and absolutely not to the army’s strategic doctrine that is directly or indirectly linked with the United States. Imran Khan claimed that military Generals always serve the US but he refused to do so because he is not afraid of anybody.

Assertion Propaganda

This presents a fact (here word “fact” is cited in reference to the Aristotelian debate of fact, truth, untrue etc.) without any proof, as in misquoting propaganda and hate campaigns can be summed up. All the establishment-nurtured paratrooper journalists now turned against the establishment are providing tons of unsubstantiated narratives as facts. Do they have any material proof to establish these facts? No, they don’t, instead, they are demanding proof from their targets. By doing that they are putting the burden of proof on those who are at their target. Now the question is why would the accused provide proof of their innocence? Whyn’t the accuser provide the proof? how come the accuser shifts the burden of proof on the accused party? PTI’s paid you-tubers are naive to the fact that they are enjoying the benefit of “conformational biases”, those biases which they have created with systematic effort in order to establish the sole idea of “Pakistan Army is the main culprit”. Interestingly this idea was framed when Imran Khan was kicked out of his office for being a misfit for a seat—a seat that he must not have been facilitated to be in the first place. Before that majority of these YouTubers were on the payroll of the same institution they are bashing now. They used to say that to love the Pakistan Army requires “one’s father has to be one and mother has to be pious”.

The PMLN Information Ministry was practically defunct in the hands of the most incompetent and least bothered headship. All the infrastructure established to launch and promote PTI kept working in the Information Ministry on key posts. Just imagine PDM had no dearth of financial resources because it spent over Rs.10 billion just in 16 months on media advertisements and used state-run television to accommodate journalists of its choice offering exceptionally high packages. However, the PDM government had never asked its hired persons to protect the Army against baseless propaganda rather the demand was promoting PMLN leadership for gaining political interests.

The incompetence of the PDM government fueled the situation. Coming right into power PDM government could have dismantled the PTI’s anti-army propaganda with the logical counter-narrative of questioning PTI about the overnight “love turned hate relationship” with the Army. The only logical answer at that time would have been that Imran Khan due to his utter incompetence would not be experimented anymore, on the contrary PDM especially PMLN decided to sit quiet and enjoy the army’s defamation. There is no need to tell the details of their cynical comfort but that criminal silence at part of PMLN cost the institution’s and their own reputation badly.

The PMLN Information Ministry was practically defunct in the hands of the least bothered headship. All the infrastructure established to launch and promote PTI kept working in the Information Ministry on key posts. Just imagine PDM had no dearth of financial resources because it spent over Rs.10 billion just in 16 months on media advertisements. However, the PDM government had never asked its friendly journalists to protect the Army against baseless propaganda rather the demand was promoting PMLN leadership to gain political interests. Using state funds for political media mileage is not a new phenomenon in Pakistan but laughing at troubled Pakistan Army to face the volleys of bullets of foreign-funded and exceptionally professional propaganda of PTI was not only callous rather a stupidity because backlash over Army had definitely detrimental for PMLN and PDM also. Since an Interim government is in place, it is expected that state funds would not be for gaining political or personal interests but rather to protect the state from foreign-funded PTI slur brigades.

Pakistan Army is not as much suffering from what is being talked about, it is more suffering than what is not talked about. The mechanism of hegemonic silence as part of PDM resulted in the validation of PTI’s anti-army propaganda. The actual motive behind that silence is best known to PDM only but I am certain that it will cost PMLN the most. The lowest graph of PMLN popularity is a byproduct of their mismanagement rather than incompetency in using the state machinery effectively to silence previously state-made paratrooper media men. These paratrooper journalists could have been invalidated and these YouTubers could have been curbed just by disclosing how much funding they were getting from the Imran government. Instead, PDM decided not to be involved in the blame game and tried to enjoy the savagery of the situation where the creature was trying to eat its creator.

In all the mythologies whenever a creature tries to attack its own creator, the creator always survives because only the one who can create, can destroy, and it’s never the other way around. The same is the case now, no matter how unlikely it seems but the creature and its tiny offspring (PTI YouTubers/writers/journalists) are hybrid creatures with a limited time span and their creator knows how to destroy them. They all will see the end soon; their fate was written the day the idea of their creation became reality. The take-home message will be what fate has written for those who decided to remain silent when hybrid creatures were destroying the very fabric of Pakistan just to enjoy a pretend game. Understanding PDM’s collective silence will be my next research topic but I am least worried about the pretend game PTI is playing. I am certain that when they finally will see the evil hunters, only then they will get the realization that they are not the vampire bats, facing the dust particles and their ability to suck the blood of which they are so confident will turn out to be their own bloody vomit upon which they finally get choked. This pretend game has no happy ending just the abhorrent taste of extinction and further humiliation.


Note: Writer Shazia Anwer Cheema is an author, columnist, and foreign affairs expert who writes for national and international media. She did her M.Phil in Semiotics from Arhus University Denmark and now is a doctoral student and researcher in Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University in Prague. She can be reached at her: Twitter @ShaziaAnwerCh Email:


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.

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