The Clash of Narratives Swat Military Operation against the Taliban (W-120)

The Clash of Narratives Swat Military Operation against the Taliban (W-120)

Publication details

  • Monday | 31 Oct, 2011
  • Shamil Shams
  • Working Papers
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Abstract

The Pakistani state launched a major military operation against the local Taliban militants on 8th May, 2009 in Swat, which is situated in Pakistan’s north-west province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that borders Afghanistan. The state simultaneously initiated an anti-Taliban propaganda campaign to create legitimacy and consensus for the operation. This study analyses the discourse in anti-Taliban narrative(s) of the Pakistani state, as mediated in the propaganda. The study analyses the anti-Taliban narrative in media texts, where it is mediated. It uses the media reports of Dawn and Nawa-i-Waqt, Pakistan’s leading newspapers, and undertakes a critical discourse analysis to examine the social conditioning of the state propaganda. The study determines that the anti-Taliban narratives of the state clash with the overall state ideology, which has ironically not undergone any radical transformation in the post-9/11 era. The state ideology is ‘Islamic’ and it revolves around a national security discourse in which the Indian threat, both the real and perceived, plays a vital role. Even though the anti-Taliban narratives in the Swat propaganda campaign served the state’s immediate objectives of demonizing the militants, they are inherently ineffective in challenging the entire discourse extremism discourse in Pakistan. The study argues that Pakistan’s war on terror efforts can be best investigated in its communicative practices. The duality of the state’s response to terrorism should be looked at as a discursive practice of the state rather than a tactical problem. Therefore, the Swat Military Operation, or Operation Rah-i-Raast, serves as a case study.