South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

Criticism is a healthy thing for society, if the intention is to point towards the loopholes or problems. As an analyst, journalist or writer, one needs to identify the weaknesses that are prevailing in society. Quite often while criticizing or analysing situations we, the journalists and writers, sometimes become activists instead, thus breaching the rule of objective journalism.


In modern times criticizing the armed forces, spy agencies and law enforcement agencies has become a fashionable thing. With the rise of digital media, the war of propaganda has taken a new shape and dimension. To criticize the armed forces’ policies is something else and to bash one’s own institutions is altogether a different phenomenon. Being a strong critic of the armed forces, for their intentional or unintentional role in politics, I feel there is a proper time and manner for criticism.

Like any other institution in the world, the armed forces can also sometimes make mistakes, but it does not mean that one should start bashing them pointlessly. As a matter of fact, there are lots of activists who in the disguise of journalists, writers, and analysts are actually working on the enemies’ agenda. In the modern age, battles are won on the ideological front and to win on this front propaganda through every age of the media is considered the most effective and lethal weapon. We as a society need to understand that everything that is presented through the media is not an established fact or truth, and analysts and writers including myself can sometime be wrong in assessments. We also need to think critically in order to get all sides of a story or column analysis.

The Pakistan Army is fighting a multidimensional war. It is fighting terrorists inside the country and also has to fight terrorists along the borders of Afghanistan, Iran and India. This is by no means an easy thing to do. In this war the enemy is not only banking on the conventional methods of war but they are actually using the media to their advantage as well.

To understand the propaganda a clear example is the coverage from the media and human rights activists during the terrorist attacks. Every time an incident of terrorism occurs, the media and rights activists start criticizing the Army and spy agencies for not being able to prevent it. No one talks about or gives the facts to the masses that there are hundreds of cases where the Army and spy agencies have successfully foiled the terrorists’ attacks. Likewise with regard to missing persons, the blame is always put on the agencies and Army without any concrete evidence. The Army or spy agencies never kidnap a person who is merely dissenting; they only trap those who intentionally or unintentionally become a pawn in the hands of enemies. This is actually a standard procedure around the globe and intelligence agencies in the developed world act the same way.

If a person is being used and did not know about it, he is released after the warning, but if someone is a traitor and is aligning with the enemies then the case is different. But to put the disappearance of every single person on the Pakistan Army or the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is not right. There are anti-state actors, the banned outfits, Indian, Afghan and Iran intelligence agencies operating covertly in Pakistan and they too are responsible for abducting and killing many citizens of Pakistan.

The Sabeen Mahmud case and that of the Lahore journalist Zeenat Shahzadi are clear examples in this regard. Sabeen Mahmud was a human rights activist who used to criticize the Army over the Baluchistan issue. She was shot dead in front of her house and journalists and human rights activists, without any evidence, started blaming the army and its intelligence agencies for her murder, which actually was not true. Sabeen was criticizing the Army and armed forces for many years but was never threatened or harassed by them or its spy agencies, so there was no need to kill her and earn a bad name. The Indian involvement in Baluchistan says it all that the beneficiary of Sabeen Mahmud’s murder was India. It was India that benefited from her murder as the bashing of the Armed forces of Pakistan started and again the Baluchistan problem was given coverage globally in a negative way.

Likewise the journalist from Lahore who raised her voice for an Indian citizen coming in Pakistan for love marriage and arrested under the suspicion of being a spy, went missing and everyone began to say that she had been kidnapped by the Army. Again in this case the beneficiary of the whole episode was India. There are a lot of cases where individuals, under the influence of propaganda from terrorist organizations, leave their home to wage a self-proclaimed jihad, but no one talks about or researches it. So, for the new journalists, analysts and bloggers the advice is to thoroughly research and check the facts before commenting or writing. Dissenting from policies is not a crime but to put blame on our own institutions without any proof is neither objective journalism nor neutral analysis.

In recent times social and electronic media have become a battleground through which many are misguided. As a responsible journalist, analyst, human rights activist or common citizen it is our obligation to not become another mind influenced by propaganda. The lines that define the truth or a fact or propaganda are very thin and invisible. Making sure that we are not getting used by someone from behind the enemy lines is necessary to not fall in the trap. The soldiers and officers fighting the war against terrorists and enemies need our support and backing and we must back them as it is very easy to write or talk from the comfort of sitting at home or a TV or radio studio, but it takes a great amount of courage and bravery to fight in the battlefields and sacrifice the lives for the sake of one’s countrymen. Let’s keep dissenting, but with an understanding of the difference between dissent and bashing.

updated On: May 17, 2017