Sound of the Silenced


Andleeb Abbas

Young. Innocent. Singing. Rallying. Killed. Brutally. Custodial torture. Just Shut up. Silencer is on. Muffle. Distort. Suppress. Gag. And so much else. To what effect? Can you silence the unsilenced? No. Why do it then? Probably, they don’t know better. They know but they won’t. They can but that means defeat. Defeat for whom? Defeat for what? Hush on these queries. Do not ask. Do not question. Do not query. Just do it. That has been the command and control modus operandi, and, in “their” code book that will be it. Combine this with bans, arrests, FIRS and tortures, murders and you can welcome yourself to the banana republic where the public is supposed to be for numbers only. This may seem like a B-grade movie theatre with its daily “whodunnit” episode but it is “the” reality in this country. The difference is that everybody knows who has done it. Everybody knows who is doing it. Everybody is talking about it. Thus, the shut, smack, shoot operation.
The panic in the PDM and allied handlers is understandable. Their worst nightmare is now a reality. Elections in Punjab and KP are expected in end April. This has set them shaking, shrieking and howling. They are sure they will lose these elections by a big margin. Their set formula of rigging has been defeated thrice. Their ability to blackmail ticket holders has failed. Their plan to kill Imran Khan has so far been aborted. This has made them more and more vitriolic and desperate. In this frame of mind, thoughts are seldom organized. In this mindset, actions are rarely logical. What we see is a lot of yelling and screaming for murder, but nothing is working as the work that they are supposed to be doing is left undone. There is a lot of speculation that the elections will not happen. The “forces” cannot afford it. But imagine what if the elections do not happen, what will ensue? Let us look at the possibilities of how this operation “crush” might impact the country:
1. Shut Imran Khan Campaign-The power of credibility is higher than the power of all media and narrative put together. What one says is important but who says is more important. The same words said by one person move mountains and the same words said by another prove their own disaster. That is what is happening to the collective voice of PDM and its handlers and the lone voice of Imran Khan. In fact, the banding together of all political parties and the establishment has severely tarnished their credibility. Due to General Bajwa’s rather indiscreet interviews with columnists, the statements of denial by the handlers on political interference have lost all steam. They are all looking hand in glove with each other and what PDM says is considered a “their” narrative. Meanwhile, Imran Khan’s rhetoric has become almost an undeniable fact. Whatever he says resonates with millions. The “forces” out there are highly upset over this power that he enjoys and how all YouTubers, channels, and chat groups repeat what he says. That is why in this extreme ire, PEMRA not only banned Imran Khan’s speech but also his statements in news bulletins. The portion on which they had a special ban became more viral than the fire. It is not a match of “their” access to media Vs Imran Khan’s access to media. It is a match of their credibility Vs Imran khan’s credibility. This fact is staring at them but they refuse to believe it. They just feel that strangulate him so much that he stops talking and then what “they” say will find space. This is a folly that has made them highly unpopular. With their credibility eroding, if they scream from day to night they will have no buyers.
2. Declare emergency strategy- What else? Tried to shut, shoot, corner, knock out him? It is not really working. On top, the Supreme Court “slipped” out the 3:2 judgement for the election date to be announced by ECP and the governor. That has made the situation very tight for those who are looking for “their” rule long enough to crush this uncontrollable element disturbing the power balance of the country. The government despite all these constitutional obligations is blatant about the delays in the elections. The handlers had started planting the idea of a national government through the Reimagine Pakistan platform of some dissident members of PMLN and PPP. However, that did not take off. The narrative that they are building, and that mainly through the business and intellectual elite, is to say that all politicians are selfish. That Imran khan is creating political instability just because he wants the government. That the only solution is another option that is dedicated to get the country out of this quagmire. In a recent Gallup survey, a leading question asks people about this option and gets a favourable response. But the way the question is framed is designed to get this response-“If another party is formed with honest political members and technocrats, would you join it?” 53% said yes. Such “managed” questions are for planting their own narrative. This is in preparation for their alternative to elections. However, like all previous strategies, this will be a “forced” measure and is likely to face the same consequences the earlier artificial measures did.
3. Judicial and political options- Then there are the courts. Judiciary has been used and abused in the past and the present is no different. What could be more crude than the campaign Maryam Nawaz is running on sitting Supreme court judges? She is showing pictures in public rallies, naming them, and defaming them in an attempt to terrorize the courts into giving orders against legal and constitutional obligations. The fact that there is complete silence on it is self-explanatory. There is no PEMRA ban. There is no contempt of court. There is hardly any media trial. It seems that the 14th party has given her their blessing. It has deterred the judges concerned to recuse themselves from the bench. It has also fed the narrative that the powerful are manipulating courts, the constitution and politics.
This all is aimed at somehow silencing the voice that has the largest echo-an echo that is cracking many poses, postures and positions.
There is nothing louder than a brutal case of voice strangulation. The upfront, open, vicious and visible crushing of voices has made it a special note topic. Youtubers sitting far away thrive on such fodder to expose what cannot be exposed through regular local media. The rule is to ban mainstream and set ablaze the alternative media. Nothing sells more than the prohibited items. Nothing is seen more than the deleted videos. Nothing is heard more than the muted words and statements. It is the hydra effect. Cut one channel. Chop of one talking head and ten more appear. The problem is that the choppers are so busy chopping that every time they finish a row ten more have appeared. They then rush to cut them off. They have provoked the unsilenced zone. That is a zone where the only sound left is the chant that gives the last marching orders.