Twitter trends normally have a fairly short shelf life – a few hours or a day at best. But sometimes these trends last for days and become metaphors for a sentiment, and a clarion call for action. For nearly a week, #SanctionPakistan has been trending on twitter, making tens of millions of ‘impressions’ from around the world. The hashtag started to trend after the Canadian politician and former diplomat Chris Alexander took up cudgels on behalf of the beleaguered and abandoned Afghans and pulled no punches in naming the real villains behind the monumental tragedy that is visiting Afghanistan and its people.
While about 50% of the tweets with this hashtag emanated from war-torn Afghanistan which is being invaded by the barbaric Taliban proxies of Pakistan, around 10% came from Pakistan, and about an equal number from India. On the face of it, the Pakistani number is surprising. But it is also reflective of the fact that the Pakistani Pashtun community is split right down the middle between the nationalist and progressive Pashtuns who oppose and resent the Taliban onslaught and those in the community who support the Taliban and the Pakistan Army’s backing of the Taliban.
Whether or not the international community gets swayed by this twitter trend and actually imposes sanctions on Pakistan for invading Afghanistan through its proxies, the hashtag did shake up the entire Pakistani establishment – military, political and their media appendages – and set panic bells ringing. The Pakistanis who hadn’t stopped gloating over the dire predicament of the Afghans who are losing their lives, homes, way of life, reacted the way they normally do – clumsily, ham-handedly and obnoxiously. The Pakistani diplomats in Canada thought that their host country was quite like Pakistan where an opposition politician could be shut up and even disappeared and fired a missive demanding action against Alexander, who of course treated this demand with the contempt it deserved.
When that ploy failed miserably, the Pakistanis’ worries increased so much that the real ruler of the country Generalissimo Bajwa summoned a meeting of all top TV news anchors, editors, media managers, retired military and foreign service officers who are nominated by the Army’s public relations wing to appear on tv channels and write in newspapers. In this meeting, the ‘chief selector’ of Pakistan’s Prime Minister instructed the opinion makers on the line they needed to toe to counter the #SanctionPakistan trend. Needless to say, these media lackeys of the military establishment were quick to have talk shows to peddle the narrative of the military and deep state. But soon they realised that they were talking to and among themselves, or if you will, converting the already converted. The audiences they wanted to target didn’t quite understand Urdu. The national broadcaster has such low credibility that even Pakistanis don’t watch it. The rest of the world of course doesn’t take it seriously. The one ‘independent’ English language channel is staffed with lackeys of the military prancing about as great strategic thinkers who think dropping jargon doubles up for strategic analysis. Even this channel gets virtually no eyeballs.
Suddenly the generals and the thought controllers and media manipulators in the military realised how badly they had shot themselves in the foot by suppressing Pakistan’s once vibrant and relatively independent media which actually got traction in rest of the world. But given that under Gen Qamar Bajwa and the former ISPR chief Asif Gafoor, Pakistan’s media had been so emasculated, enslaved and embedded that it had become a caged parrot which had no credibility at all. At this stage the penny dropped that all the calculations and machinations of the military to polish Pakistan’s terrible image as the mothership of terrorism had been ground to dust by one hashtag.
As is normal in such circumstances, Pakistan’s fell back upon conspiracy theories blaming the Afghanistan NDS, Indian R&AW and even Israel’s Mossad for unleashing (and this is the new favourite of Pakistan’s generals when they want to sound profound) “fifth generation warfare”. To counter this, the Pakistanis came up with a howler – a “deep analytics” report by a wing of the information ministry “unveiling” the conspiracy. The report was so embarrassingly puerile and clumsy that it ended up making an international laughing stock of Pakistan. What was also quite hilarious was that this report was presented by none other than Pakistan’s version of Henry Kissinger – National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf – and Pakistan’s own Goebbels – Information minister Fawad Chaudhry. As some tweeple pointed out, not only did the report publish a map showing Kashmir as being part of India (a punishable offence in Pakistan), it also indicted Pakistan for curbing freedom of expression and denying dissidents space on mainstream media.
With this ‘report’ also failing, there is now a real fear in Pakistan that #SanctionPakistan won’t remain a hashtag but could actually become a reality. The generals and even diplomats are sensing a serious international backlash against Pakistan’s perfidy and treachery in Afghanistan. Not just social media but also the international media has been highlighting the villainous role of Pakistan in the destruction of Afghanistan. Once again, feeling the pressure, the Pakistanis are responding as per their standard protocol by resorting to defiance, dissemble, denial and a bit of dragooning. Unfortunately, the Troll Corps of the ISPR has proved to be completely ineffective in this venture and there is no end to the flak that Pakistan is getting internationally.
The big question however remains whether the US and its other Western allies will actually sanction Pakistan. Given the US’ record, this looks a little unlikely. At most, they could block some IMF assistance or take some other cosmetic measures. Beyond that, it doesn’t seem that the US has the appetite for punishing Pakistan. Quite like the Europeans, the US too is being taken over by the woke folk and is reluctant, even effete, to exercise the enormous power it still wields. So, even though #SanctionPakistan made the waves and has dealt a body blow to Pakistan’s already sullied international image, it is probably not going to move from the virtual world to the real world. Pakistan, it seems, will get away with mass murder once again.
Sushant Sareen is Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation and Consultant Editor, Chanakya Forum. He is an expert on Pakistan and Terrorism, his published works include Balochistan: Forgotten War, Forsaken People (2017), Corridor Calculus: China-Pakistan Economic Corridor & China’s Comprador model of investment in Pakistan (2016).
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the views of Chanakya Forum. All information provided in this article including timeliness, completeness, accuracy, suitability or validity of information referenced therein, is the sole responsibility of the author. www.chanakyaforum.com does not assume any responsibility for the same.
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