During my reporting days in the Nineties, every six months or so, I would come across an identical news report, tucked in some corner of the back pages of one or the other Urdu newspaper informing us that RAW (R&AW) had infiltrated haseen do-sheezaen (femme fatale) into Pakistan for subversive activities.
The stories never really told us who these presumed honeytraps were meant for and, most importantly, from where and how the reporter or in certain cases the news desk, got their information. I do recall asking a reporter once if I could get lucky with the next batch of honeytraps sent in by R&AW. Since he had filed one such story, my impression from many years ago is that he wasn’t amused.
I was reminded of that a couple of days ago when someone Whatsapped me a gem by Narendra Modi. Apparently, while campaigning for the Gujarat elections, Modi said that Pakistan was interfering in the polls on the side of the Congress. Given today’s alt-facts world, I have trained myself to begin with scepticism about anything I receive on social media platforms so I decided to check mainstream Indian media to see what was going on. And voila! There it was. Modi, speaking at an election rally, had indeed spoken about Pakistan’s “interference” and said that some retired Pakistan Army officers were involved in a plot to ensure that Ahmed Patel — I had never heard of him before — could become the next chief minister of Gujarat.
Another report mentioned a name: Sardar Arshad Rafiq. The gentleman, according to Modi, was a former director-general of the Pakistan Army. Really? What’s a DG of Pakistan Army? Sure, there are functional appointments: DG-SPD, DG-I, DGMO, DGs-Rangers, DG-FWO, DG-W&E; DG-Infantry, DG-ASF, DG-ANF, DG-AC etcetera. The list is long and while some are three-star, most are two-star appointments. But what we do not have is a DG-Pakistan Army. The top man is called COAS and I believe on good authority that that’s what the Numero Uno in India is also called.
So, I did the obvious, messaging some former generals to see if they knew anything about Rafiq, the latest Modi flame or bugbear, depending on how one looks at it. I came up with nothing.
In the middle of all this Rafiq brouhaha, I also came across another allegation by Modi. Apparently, the conspiracy went deeper and involved the Congress directly. Here’s a direct quote from Modi, as reported in the Indian press: “There were media reports yesterday about a meeting at Mani Shankar Aiyar’s house. It was attended by Pakistan’s high commissioner, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, India’s former vice-president and former prime minister Manmohan Singh. The meeting at Aiyar’s house carried on for almost three hours.” Does one say hallelujah at this point?
Don’t get me wrong. As a Pakistani, I would very much like to have the capability to drag India around like a head-lugged bear, arrange opposition rallies, influence elections, choose chief ministers and, yes, prime ministers, even the weather patterns. And of course, we would want this to happen without the Indians getting even a whiff of it. You see it’s important in a democracy for the voters to act under the illusion that they and their vote have agency, that while exercising their franchise, they are not being influenced by any external agent; that, somehow, the value of their choices inheres in them. Sod those scholars to Hades who write books to tell us that that is not true. The illusion must remain or the concept of democracy, sacralised by everyone, will be shattered.
But back to my nefarious Pakistani thoughts. Sadly, we just don’t have the capacity to translate our perfidy into real actions. Hell, we can’t even get rid of a small band of beards who arrived from Lahore to Islamabad and conveniently captured the strategic nodal point connecting Islamabad with Rawalpindi, sat there for over 20 days, cocked a snook at the government and forced it to sign an instrument of surrender.
It will be one helluva state that genuflects to the miscreants at home but has the presumed capability to do unto India what Mr Modi thinks it can. But let it be said in fairness to Modi that he isn’t the first leader and will certainly not be the last to invoke a “foreign hand” for reasons of domestic politicking. Almost every leader in the Subcontinent has done it. The late Mrs Gandhi, going by reports, was quite adept at it. In Pakistan, we call it khufia haath (hidden hand). When nothing else works or seems to be working, use this as a sure clincher.
Meanwhile, The Indian Express did some real reporting work by digging up Rafiq and speaking to him. He did not serve in the army, or not long enough to attain any rank, much less holding the fictional appointment of DG-Pakistan Army. He claims to have done a stint in the Intelligence Bureau, though it seems unlikely that he is or was from the Police Service of Pakistan. But that doesn’t matter. He is famous, not because he can make Ahmed Patel the chief minister of Gujarat but because Modi thinks he is working towards that end. For what purpose or to what end is a question that mustn’t be asked. Invoking Pakistan is enough reason. Allah be praised!