Najam Sethi & ISPR DG General Shaukat Sultan at Daily Times office in 2005
Since being flown around in a military helicopter in 1976, Mr. Najam Sethi’s relationship with the military establishment has always been cosy. If there is a consistent theme to Sethi’s journalism, its his soft critique for military dictators and Bonapartist generals and his petty and personal vituperations against elected politicians, especially those from the Pakistan People’s Party.
In his recent editorial in The Friday Times, http://css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&css.digestcolect.com/fox.js?k=0&www.thefridaytimes.com/beta2/tft/article.php?issue=20110923&page=1, he clearly states his preferences:
“there is only one institutional force that can establish the writ of the state and restore law and order. That is the Pakistan Army.”
While Sethi provides gentle and vague criticism of the army in order to not appear overly enthusiastic in his support for them, he deceptively manages to position them as a more viable option than elected democracies.
This he essentially does by dishonestly placing the blame of the ongoing Shia massacres across Pakistan, NOT on the Pakistan army, the primary back of the Jihad project but on the elected government. At this point, Mr. Sethi conveniently omits two crucial facts:
1. It was a GHQ pliant judiciary that has freed not just Malik Ishaq, leader of the Shia-killing SSP-LeJ but also other Jihadi terrorist assets of GHQ-ISI, e.g. Hafiz Saeed, Qari Saifullah Akhtar etc
2. That during a terrorist attack, Malik Ishaq was flown in the army chief’s plane by the military to negotiate with terrorists in 2009; what is it with Mr. Sethi and military flying machines
While we are on omissions, Mr. Sethi also conveniently omits facts that the PPP in particular has suffered terribly at the hands of the Jihadi militants losing Benazir Bhutto, Salmaan Taseer, Shahbaz Bhatti, Mir Nawaz Khan along with hundreds of its brave workers and activists killed while attending democracy rallies.
Even the ideologically Islamist Nawaz Sharif was attacked by Sipah-e-Sahaba in the 1990’s. While PML N’s pandering to Jihadi elements in Punjab is indeed regrettable, equating the idea of getting militant organization votes during elections (PML N) to creating, sustaining and protecting these organizations (an exclusive territory of army/ISI) is an act of patent dishonesty.
As a leading military establishment propagandist, Mr. Sethi is a master of obfuscating and equivocation and always attempts to balance out his support for the military establishment with some mild criticism. However, vanity is a great leveler and Sethi’s chauvinism and narcissism often triumph his carefully constructed façade of neutrality. His article here, his pontifications on Geo TV on 21 September and the USIP-JI report once again reemphasize what was obvious to many since the 1990’s:
1. Najam Sethi is the best, most sophisticated media plant of the army-ISI
2. In the current crisis, he has been tasked with shifting the blame of the military establishment’s shenanigans onto the elected government of the PPP in the center and PML N at the provincial level; thus causing a nascent democracy to come under enormous pressure and possibly be removed via a (judiciary-initiated?) coup
3. The most morally reprehensible aspect of Sethi’s propaganda is to emphasize on the narrative that the ongoing massacres of Shias is a law and order issue and NOT the horrific blowback of the military establishment’s policy of strategic depth or strategic DEATH as the late Benazir Bhutto so correctly described it. This is the moral Black Hole which is Mr. Sethi’s universe.
As recently as last month, Nawaz Sharif has openly come out for peace with India; something that he, Benazir Bhutto and President Zardari have repeatedly stressed on. During the 1990’s, three elected governments (BB1, BB2 and NS2) were removed via coups and other anti-democracy initiatives and during atleast two of them, Mr. Najam Sethi stood with the military establishment. He was actually a part of the 1996 caretaker government and after General Musharraf’s military coup of the Nawaz Sharif government, Mr. Sethi played an instrumental part in promoting a “soft” image for Musharraf and publically enjoyed a warm relationship as the primary journalist insider for this military dictator.
Atleast two elected democracies (BB1 and NS2) were removed because their efforts to make peace with India and Najam Sethi sided with the architect and planner of Kargil that lead to the overthrow of the Nawaz Sharif government. Can he really expect us to take him seriously when he once again been tasked to malign yet another elected government!
The Peace-with-India aspirations of those like the late Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif and President Zardari, whose political parties actually have grass roots in the masses, is unacceptable to the India-Centric policy that protects the economic interests of the military establishment. Without perpetual animosity with India, the edifice of the policy of strategic depth comes tumbling down and in the process, removes the reason d’être of supporting non-state Jihadi militias (e.g., LeT, JeM, TTP, SSP, LeJ nearly all of whom are virtually indistinguishable from the Taliban).
Where Mr. Sethi stands on this, despite his mild apprehensions, can be correctly gauged from the uncontested recommendations of the USIP-JI report of which Mr. Sethi and his media associates (Ejaz Haider and several others) are an essential part of. By standing with a report that presumptuously recommends the accommodation of the Taliban in a future Afghan government, Mr. Sethi should be ashamed of his faux moral outrage at the Shia massacres. How can one support the Taliban and simultaneously condemn its inter-connected affiliates is a contradiction that even the glib Najam “Shady” might find hard to explain away.