I had purchased a small flag to celebrate the Independence Day. This is what I usually do, besides listening to national songs.
Then I saw a video clip on Facebook, in which a self-styled ‘security analyst’ and a former MD of PTV, an anchor of repute, were discussing terrorism in Gilgit-Baltistan. Two other individuals were present during the debate, but they didn’t say much on the topic.
What blasted my mind away was an assertion made by General (r) Shoaib Amjad. He, instead of giving a historical analysis of the genesis of violence and militancy in the Gilgit-Baltistan region, blamed “highly educated” Baltis working in the Middle East, calling them either “perpetrators” or “abettors” of the violence that recently hit Diamer district and Kargah Nala of Gilgit.
The retired general, who is almost every day on one or the other TV channel, spreading his pearls of wisdom, claimed that India has trained Baltis working in the Middle East, and taken them to India, and ‘brainwashed’ them. I hope that he can prove these allegations in a court of law.
And, I also hope he realizes that his irresponsible comments can widen the gap between the Baltis and the people of Diamer. I further hope that he is aware of the incidents of the burning of buses, and shooting of passengers from a certain sect, because of similar propaganda, hearsay and conspiracy theories.
Muhammad Malik, the anchor, who claims to be an “old school” journalist, and who has headed the national television corporation, then shifted the discussion towards the Ismaili Muslims living mostly in Ghizer and Hunza districts, saying they were working for the creation of a state in the area. Mind boggling!!
The fact of the matter is that the terrorists involved in the incidents are well know; some of them even had head money on them, many of them have surrendered to the local Jirga. Their ideologies, identities, histories, and affiliations of these individuals and groups are also known by all and sundry. But, our ‘analysts’ and ‘journalists’ need scapegoats, to cover up their own ignorance, lack of insight, or inefficiency and failures of their benefactors.
It appears that the online activism of the educated youth of Gilgit-Baltistan, who are demanding political, economic, constitutional and cultural rights, are bothering the powers that be because they are not used to hearing dissenting voices from the mountains.
Unable to reason, and take responsibility, they are resorting to the old, rotten, world of conspiracy theories.
These conspiracy theories are not new; they were confined to cheap, sectarian and hateful Urdu magazines mostly published in Karachi. But, the fact that such fallacious conspiracy theories are now openly being propagated through a TV channel, watched by millions of people, is very worrying. Such propaganda can be weaponized and used against the already at-risk communities.
The retired general and the “seasoned”, or weathered, anchors must be aware of the history of the Rwandan genocide, which started with propaganda through radio, and then led to the murder of around 2 million people, within a few weeks.
PEMRA, as usual, is sleeping. The TV channel should explain its position, and the so-called analyst and anchor should apologize for hurting the sentiments of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding, loyal, hardworking people who move abroad to earn and support their families.
I have the small flag, and the national songs are there on youtube. I will listen to the songs again, but today my head is heavy, and my heart is sad. The bodies of my uncles, and the hundreds of other Ismaili and Balti soldiers, wrapped in the national flag, flash in front of my eyes, and I keep thinking about Amjad Shoaib and Muhammad Malik’s statements.
It appears that despite all our sacrifices, and despite all our loyalties, we will always be looked at with suspicion and hate. It is a heavy feeling.