Of all the elements of national power, the media is perhaps the most versatile. It is expansive in its reach and can mould domestic and international opinions. Through print, electronic, information and social media avenues it acquires formidable and multidimensional capabilities to influence target populations. These dynamic faculties of the media must be fruitfully employed to promote all national interests including national security.
It thus becomes imperative that Pakistan’s National Media, in all its manifestations, contributes perceptibly to support and ensure its national security. That it does so of its own free will, voluntarily and as a national patriotic duty is inevitable and basic to its role. Patriotism, national obligations and professional ethics do not necessarily have to be mutually exclusive.
The Ministries of Defence and Information thus, must work jointly with other national agencies to define and secure the paradigms of our national security. Pakistan must evolve a comprehensive National Security Policy in which its national media has specific roles and tasks defined for it.
This policy, in this context, must have a two pronged approach; psychological and physical. The psychological battles to be fought by the national media are long term undertakings that must never slacken in objectivity, pace, intensity or vigour. The physical battles, on the other hand, to be fought by the Armed Forces, are limited by objectives, time and resources. Nevertheless, both efforts have to be harmonized in time and space, with other efforts, to form one total comprehensive national effort to pursue national security objectives.
The National Media through its institutions of debate and discussion must continuously assess, analyse, appraise and define the current and future threat perceptions and challenges to Pakistan’s national security. It must act as the National Think Tank and propose policies, stratagems and plans to counter them.
Concomitantly, with the Armed Forces and other national agencies, our national media must also be allotted specific tasks, vis a vis the enemy, to create specific effects in given areas at given points in time. Leading members of our media and media houses must be incorporated to devise and launch professionally sound psychological and information wars against our internal and external enemies. Ideally, we must always condition the enemy psychologically before its eventual physical and total defeat. This could have been done even more emphatically in our War on Terror within Pakistan and beyond, for example.
At present Pakistan has been totally infested by hostile forces and agencies. On the external front we have the Indians ruthlessly heating up the LoC and Working Boundary trying to gain some advantage from our unpredictable and uncertain political and internal security situations. Unstable Afghanistan is going through the pangs of change with its new national government struggling to finds its bearings and moorings as the US/NATO/ISAF combination egresses the region. Iran too, has felt compelled to rattle sabres at this particular point in time.
Presently, Pakistan’s Armed Forces are totally focused on Operations Zarb e Azb and Khyber One, fending off the Indians in the East, looking after the IDPs, and providing relief to flood and drought affected Pakistanis et al. They too, like the rest of the nation, are at a complete loss to understand the shenanigans of our callous political elite which selfishly continues to pursue its own political agendas totally oblivious of the critical stage the country is passing through.
The Armed Forces and our national media must join hands, devise joint plans and put in joint efforts to steer Pakistan out of these troubled waters. Together, the two must achieve their respective objectives within the National Security regime. While the Armed Forces of Pakistan engage its enemies in the tangible realm, it is the national media that must play its due role now in the intangible one. It must help create the strategic environment for the nation’s and military’s final success. It must play its due role in defeating the enemy psychologically as an essential prelude to its eventual and complete physical defeat.
It must also employ all its multidimensional faculties to highlight our national unity, the inviolability of our national security, our inherent strengths as a nation and our resolve and ability to secure our national interests. It must serve as a major partner in achieving our national security, economic, diplomatic and internal cohesion objectives. It must contribute towards national security by eulogizing the sacrifices, the valor and courage of the Armed Forces and all Pakistanis in the face of multifarious threats and challenges that they have overcome. It must give undying hope and courage to the nation. It must help the nation defeat divisiveness, sectarianism, religion based intolerance, the sense of despair and despondency which have been generated by the terrorists, misguided zealots and certain foreign inspired agents. It must put forth a strong and credible counter narrative to defeat the savage and evil designs of the terrorists and certain deluded sectarian and religious outfits. It must create awareness in the nation to recognize and shun their macabre attempts to fracture, divide and subdue it. It must help create a strong and prosperous vision of a nation united in body, spirit and purpose. It must help the nation regain its unity, self-respect, self-confidence, dignity and pride.
Our penchant to run ourselves down must be negated through a well organized media campaign. Our national media must reassure all that we as a nation will prevail; will surmount all challenges and will emerge successful and victorious in our wars against hostile internal and external forces. It and the Armed Forces must harmoniously merge their multifaceted strengths into a strong, united, determined and focused national effort to defeat all external and internal threats to our national security.
A nation with genuine hope for the future will always secure itself and beat the odds. Our national media has to instil that hope and courage in the nation. It must do so now!
The author is a retired Brigadier, a former Defense Attache’ to Australia and New Zealand and is currently on the faculty of NUST (NIPCONS).