The delicate peace in Miran Shah seems to be unraveling – and at the heart of this troublesome conflict lies a disagreement between the military and the residents of the region on what happened, and what was promised.

A day ago the facts – what actually happened – seemed pretty clear. Enraged residents of the area had started the protest at Shana Khwarra, a small town on DattaKhel Road, after two unarmed civilians died and at least 10 were injured in firing apparently by security personnel at an earlier protest held in Hamzoni village. After negotiations between officials of security forces and an 11-member committee – led by the newly elected MNA Mohsin Dawar – the protest was called off. The military promised a full inquiry, action against personnel if any of them was found involved in the firing incident, Rs1.5 million as compensation each to legal heirs of the deceased while every wounded person would get Rs1m.

Guilt had to be determined but the facts were clear – the military was involved in the shooting incident and had moved to placate the protestors

However, what has followed is truly bizarre. DG ISPR, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, tweeted – in apparent contradiction of the facts – that no assurances had been given, and that no one had been injured or killed by the army. This makes one wonder why did the military agree to conduct an inquiry into itself in the first place if no one was shot and the army wasn’t involved.

To make matters worse, upon being called out for “backtracking” the DG ISPR responded with his most troubling tweet yet. Instead of elaborating on the issue or looking to reach a compromise, Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor launched into a speech about patriotism, how the army has always served the people, and how the truth about ‘inimical forces” will soon come out. Within the space of a few tweets the conversation had shifted from disagreements over specifics to challenges of nationalism and accusations – implicit, but accusations nonetheless – of treasonous activity.

This latest tweet has now further deepened the chasm between military forces and the residents of the area.

The protestors’ worst fears will be realized – that instead of responding to their legitimate demands – two people are dead and ten injured from bullet wounds – their motivations and intentions are being questioned. For the “pro-military” camp, the tweet seemingly confirms their vague unfounded suspicions – that protests in the area are manufactured by “foreign agents” and that the protestors are out to destroy Pakistan.
Perpetuating such stark dichotomies is ultimately damaging to the nation. Challenging individuals on their perceived lack of patriotism is not going to earn the military goodwill either.

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