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The Charming Public Relations Office Of The Pakistan Military

July 1, 2014

Pakistani soldiers

Some global institutions don’t rate Pakistan highly when it comes to various criteria relevant to liberal democracies.

But a combination of internet access, a robust news media, and an English literate populace means average Pakistanis today have ample opportunities to learn about current events .

With the ongoing conflict between the military and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) flaring anew after TTP terrorists launched a spectacular attack on Karachi’s Jinnah International Airport on June 8, strict censorship of the brutal fighting in North Waziristan is not very apparent.

As a matter of fact, the military’s own news bureau is constantly reporting its actions online.

This is where Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) enters the picture. Since Operation Zarb-e-Azb began in the middle of last month, ISPR head Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa has become a public fixture on television and online, ready to share vetted official statements.

Maj. Gen. Bajwa is the nineteenth director general of ISPR, which was founded 65 years ago as the official mouthpiece for the military.

Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa

Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa

Decades later and countless wars since, ISPR is a robust PR office whose sole purpose is ensuring Pakistan’s soldiers are always shown in a good light.

Simply exploring their website reveals this. With its digital camouflage backdrop, the landing page features different portals for civilians to ogle at soldiers, pilots, officers and various hardware.

The ongoing Operation Zarb-e-Azb is given much attention with live streamed updates, a gallery, and a press release archive to chronicle the offensive’s minutiae.

Additional highlights include a downloadable magazine titled Hilal, available in English and Urdu. The latest issue is an entertaining mix of anti-India propaganda, geopolitical analysis, and multiple articles explaining how Pakistan’s military aren’t hogging the national budget.

At the bottom of the landing page visitors can either view recruitment ads or enroll in either paragliding, trekking, or mountaineering courses for a fee.

The ISPR website engages its audience too. Journalists can request credentials, young men can enlist, and visitors are free to post short articles and watch videos extolling the heroism of Pakistan’s soldiers. (Martyred soldiers are memorialized with portraits.)  Those moved by the plight of impoverished Pashtun refugees from Waziristan are encouraged to donate.

via ISPR

via ISPR

Pakistan maintains the largest military—and only nuclear arsenal—among Muslim countries. At 620,000 strong, it’s the single institution holding together the modern Pakistani state, a unique arrangement writers like Christine Fair and T.V. Paul have written entire books about.

While still embroiled in a de facto small-scale civil war against terrorists, Pakistan’s military-industrial complex is competing with its historic rival India in many categories. Much of the previous decade was spent establishing a large indigenous manufacturing base that now produces high tech munitions, third-generation main battle tanks, UAVs, jet fighters, and ballistic missiles.

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