Supposedly, there is big news happening in Pakistan right now with ‘in-camera’ parliamentary hearings, unanimous resolutions on the Abbottabad operation, civil-military dialogue, and the like. Or, maybe, its just small news masquerading as big news. Certainly, news is “breaking” in a huge avalanche on every TV channel. But, then, news is Pakistan is a fragile commodity. It is always breaking!
But this post is not about fragile news. Its about fragile politicians, militarymen and media. This post is about a slightly frivolous observation. Frivolous, but only slightly.
It all started with a call from a journalist in Pakistan who wanted me to comment on the then-still-ongoing closed-door session of parliament on the Abbottabad operation. The question asked was: “What do you think about what was said in the closed-door meeting in parliament today?” I jokingly responded that I could not do so because it was a closed door session and therefore I did not know what was being said! So, my journalist friend told me exactly what was being said – verbatim, word for word, a more detailed report of exactly who said what than anything I have ever heard from or about the Pakistan parliament!
And all of this, in a closed-door, in-camera session! Interestingly, the journalist who called me or the media who reported the session statement-by-statement seem to see nothing odd about this. Every institution in the country – politicians, government, military, intelligence, media – is leaking like a sieve with extra holes, and we wonder why no one trusts us with sensitive secrets!
Obviously, some people inside parliament (seemingly many parliamentarians and/or intelligence and security operatives, maybe everyone) was leaking all that is being said in what is supposed to be the most confidential meeting on the most sensitive national security issue at the very highest level and in real time. And obviously journalists all across the country were spreading these leaks far an wide, maybe even embellishing some of what they heard and certainly adorning it with loaded commentary and innuendo.
Maybe it is just me and my readers also find nothing odd about this. But here is the thought that crossed my mind: Maybe the Americans were on to something after all when they chose not to share the details of the Abbottabad operation with anyone in Pakistan: If this is a demonstration of our very top politicians, military brass, and security agencies in keeping a secret, then can they really be trusted? Would you really want to trust them with any sensitive information on anything!
And what about the media? Less said the better. Maybe, we should hold a second “closed-door” “in-camera” session about what the media and its role and responsibility in dealing with “confidential” “national security:” “in camera” briefings. Would love to find out how that would go. And, obviously, we will!
RANT ALERT: Reader beware, as you can see I am in one of those moods today.. so let me continue the rant. The other thought that has struck me in these recent days is about what facts are really facts. It gets to me how everyone around me seems to have this uncanny ability to not only have an opinion on everything, but to also have facts. Facts seem especially easy to make up on issues on which there are no facts. Maybe we are just a really smart people. Everyone seems to know everything – all you need to do is to add “as you know” (aap tou jantey haiN) before anything and then pontificate with certainty and conviction even when it is clear you are making things up as you speak! Maybe it is my training as an academic researcher that is causing this bad mood – whoever came up with this idea that facts are not ideas that you think “must be” true, but things that you or someone has demonstrated to be true knows nothing about how facts are constructed in Pakistani society: A cup of tea, maybe three, and a few friends shouting at each other is all its takes for all of us to become convinced that the fancies we just constructed are, in fact, fact!
So be it. Facts are facts. Except when they are not. And if everyone starts believing in fancy, then fancy becomes fact. That, too, is a fact!