Rahman Malik, the Prime Minister’s Advisor on the Interior, calls on the nation of Pakistan to party like it’s 1965. Which is to say – unite, be nationalistic, perceive an external threat to the borders and stand behind state institutions as they do battle.
We do not know who we are battling and Mr. Malik is not particularly helpful when the question is put to him. He has implicated Afghans, Uzbeks, “external agencies” and foreign actors in today’s 8-hour siege of Manawan police training school. When asked to connect this event to the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team or to other terrorist attacks all the way to the assassination of the Benazir Bhutto, his response is, “Listen, as a nation, I think we should be a bit positive.”
Silly reporter, connections are for kids. For the adults, for the leadership, the course of action is to proffer patronizing smiles and urge the people to unite and be positive.
Rahman Malik is shooting his rhetorical guns into the air much as the security forces fired their rifles from the roof of the training facility after it had been regained from the attackers. His tone is celebratory: he is speaking of the bravery of the police personnel and the precision of the anti-terrorist operation that has resulted in the arrest of three suspected terrorists.
It is the nationalist trifecta: a common enemy, heroic defenders and the certainty of future attacks. Far from providing the people with information, it seems that the current government’s public relations policy is to gloss over the details of the attacks, evade responsibility and enthuse about the brave muhafiz and the brave jawan, the virile, strong, protective men who will defend us from… well, that thing we’re not naming just now.
“Unity” is the first pillar of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s founding motto and exhortation to the nation, followed by “Faith” and “Discipline”. Whatever Jinnah might have meant by those words sixty-two years ago, deployed now, in the wake of this attack, the call to unite is a cynical manipulation of a beleaguered nation’s fears and aspirations.
If there is one thing that emerges again and again in op-eds and blogs, vox pops and talk shows, on the radio, in print, on television, it’s that Pakistanis would like to be proud of their country and not ashamed. Rahman Malik, who is asking for support without providing any real information on what is happening, any assurances that the people are protected, any confirmation that, had this happened in a civilian setting like the Sri Lankan team attacks did, police personnel would have been just as efficient, believes that a call to the people’s more patriotic angels will suffice for his purposes.
But Mr. Malik misunderstands the questions put to him: the people are indeed united, but they are united in their search for answers, in their desire for safety and a good life, and in their determination to hold the leadership accountable.