Let us start our discussion with a simple fact: spy agencies cannot reveal the details of their operations to the public. It would be like shooting themselves in the foot if they did, would it not? Their profession demands that they work in the shadows, stay well below the radar of public attention and do everything within their means to avoid media scrutiny.
In national security states like Pakistan though, where intelligence agencies already have tremendous control over the state machinery, this rule of secrecy is sometimes compromised. That should not be a surprise. With the best of intentions, they raise their heads above the ground under arduous circumstances to maintain public appeal, to cast fear in the hearts of nonconformists and to uphold the general narrative of “virtuous us” versus the “evil enemy”. Portrayed as an evil yet powerful character, according to the agencies, the enemy is eager to wipe us off the face of the earth. Is it our unfaltering faith that scares the enemy, who knows it all too well that, being true believers, we are destined to lead the human race! He may just want to steal all our wealth as we are rich, at least on paper and in natural resources! He intends to keep us weak and vulnerable so that our potential to rule the world can be thwarted.
Can you share the list of our current enemies? Probably not, since that is a mystery. All I can assure you is that the process is dynamic. It is not a single entry ticket that proclaims you will always stay in that red list. For all practical purposes, consider it to be a two-way street. Remember the English proverb: ‘Today’s enemy is tomorrow’s friend’? Yes, just like that. Once we settle the issues, we ‘un-enemy’ the enemy, just the same as we un-friend friends on Facebook. Simple, is it not?
Moving to the next step: how do we spot our foes? There are no fixed guidelines. However, we can provide some basic rules. First, bear in mind that not all enemies are foreign. Most of them are in fact local. Second, whether it is a Supreme Court (SC) judge or a bureaucrat, a police officer or a nuclear scientist, an advocate or a practicing physician, professional excellence does not matter. Last, the enemy does not have to be a single individual at all. It can be a sovereign state, an organisation, a civilisation or merely an idea. What matters is that once the decision is made to take the combatant down, be it the prime minister, a federal minister or a human rights activist, there must be tools available at the behest of the agencies to make it possible.
Simply put, it is this absolute control on that list that makes the agencies powerful and intimidating, even more powerful than controlling the state apparatus. It provides them the moral authority to censure you without being concerned about a push back. It gives them the power, way beyond their legal jurisdiction, rendering them untouchables, to go after anyone, even when they are sleeping with the enemy themselves.
Perhaps you are thinking that I am exaggerating or being too accusatory about the people who have nothing else but the betterment of Pakistan in their hearts, the people who put their lives in harm’s way to protect us. Sure, you have every right to disagree with me and you must. Just do me a favour: consider opposing them once on a national issue. Trust me, soon you will realise that they have launched a war against you, declaring you an enemy of the state. Or raise your voice against their policies on a public forum and you will discover your new identity propagated as a paid foreign agent working only to weaken the defence of Pakistan.
If it is your first mistake, this will be the perfect time to take a U-turn and back off, if you will. However, if you are a politician, a political activist or a repeat offender who has not yet learnt your lesson and insist on defying their authority, then you must get ready to face a tsunami, a huge destructive wave will be on its way. Soon, they will fling themselves into a full blown war to quell your obduracy targeting at least two out of five areas of potential vulnerability: patriotism, faith, ethnicity, family, personal character and financial corruption. If you are a female, they will most likely hurl abuses at your personal character and faith; if you are male then financial corruption and patriotism take precedence.
All those who have been burnt understand these games well and recognise the standard operating procedures (SOPs). The show, for them, has been played before, its script written, the cast selected, the actors identified and the climax revealed. Out of nowhere, they reckon a certain group of unpopular and corrupt politicians who have lost the elections will, one day, start banging the drums on issues like corruption, nepotism, law and order or social injustice; nowadays, the most popular slogans being the election reforms, the unjust electoral system and claims of rigging. Once activated, a part of the media will also reinforce these assertions. A flood of information will reach their tables revealing new scandals on a daily basis. After that, columns, programmes, blogs and social media updates, everyone will zoom in on those issues creating a storm that may even destabilise the foundations of democracy.
A few days into it, new political alliances form under their supervision. The same old king’s League comes into action again, divided into two halves, first with the revolution and the other with the azaadi (independence) march. To further substantiate the deal, meetings are arranged between partners. People who used to make tall claims of transparency, honesty and truthfulness will be talking more about strategy, secrecy and political moves from now on. Those who were calling each other foreign agents will now pay tribute to each other as revolutionaries. This, you guessed right, is called the London plan, a plan made to create a crisis when the country needs stability.