Imran Khan’s Twitter Gang haunts Generals
The Pakistan Army is facing one of the most daunting challenges today–its own people mudslinging against it and its senior officers, not in ones and twos but in millions. And there is almost nothing the most powerful institution in Pakistan can do except to issue warnings to social media activists, journalists and others.
So angry and disturbed the leadership has been that the army issues one statement or the other to change the narrative with no great success. The latest came a few days back with the Major General spokesperson taking “strong exception“ to the mud being thrown at the army relentlessly. He said the armed forces take “expect all to abide by the law and keep the Armed Forces out of political discourse in the best interest of the country.” The General would never admit that the army does play a key role in the country’s politics but the public had no right to finger point the Generals.
Criticism of the army has not been new. Last time, such a voluminous public anger was detected during the presidency of General Pervez Musharraf. People spit on his posters. This time it is worse. The Army chief has become the biggest villain of millions of people who take glee in belittling him and his force for ousting their leader, Imran Khan.
General Qamar Bajwa had not imagined that his own protege, whom he helped to reach Islamabad, would turn him against in such a ferocious manner that he cannot hope to come clean in the next few months before his retirement. He is sure to go the Musharraf way.
According to Twitter statistics, where most of the war against the Generals is taking place, anti-army hashtag generated over 69,000 tweets and a similar one over 410,000 tweets and in total there were 17 million tweets against Imran’s critics. By May 6, the number of such tweets numbered 126,607,905. The hashtag `Imported Hukumat na Manzoor ` trended in 20 countries for over 12 days in running. These are huge numbers and show how effective the Imran Khan-inspired slander campaign has been. The reason for a serious disquiet in the Army HQ is not surprising.
What is befuddling the Generals is how to arrest this trend, and fast. All these millions cannot be bombed out or made to disappear into secret prisons, as they have been doing in Balochistan, tribal areas and in Sindh. General Musharraf took artillery guns and combat jets to bomb and kill veteran Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti. Well known journalist, Hamid Mir, was shot at for speaking aloud. Others were less lucky–their mutilated bodies were found dumped outside their homes.
These `dirty tricks` cannot work–not because the army has given up on these brutal methods of suppression but the army leadership is not one on how to deal with their protege and his troll army. This divide within the leadership is more dangerous than the issue at hand.