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Implausible Deniability in Pakistan’s Institutions: A Complex and Enigmatic Issue

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zuhra Nadeem

Pakistan is facing a significant challenge in distinguishing right from wrong, which is complex and increasingly difficult to navigate. The problem is pervasive at all levels of society, from the lower-middle class to the elite. Compounding this complexity is the prevalence of implausible deniability, also known as pantomime secrecy, in political circles. This practice is often observed within Pakistan’s political system, where state actors may carry out actions that are not publicly acknowledged but are intentionally made known to the public, creating a translucent veil of secrecy and uncertainty.

While this practice may have some benefits for institutions, such as adding communicative value, injecting uncertainty into domestic or foreign relations, creating fear among the public domestically, or steering election results, it may also have unintended consequences. It often leads to a ‘paranoid style’ of politics in Pakistan, where people are increasingly suspicious and mistrustful of their leaders, institutions, and the political system as a whole. This can have a profound impact on the stability of the country and the public’s faith in the institutions to make decisions in their best interest.

The use of unofficial narratives aided by implausible deniability is not uncommon to cater to domestic audiences. Institutions may resort to leaks and planted stories to convey confidential information without having to face the potential consequences of an official acknowledgement. These tactics are often employed as a way to circumvent official channels of communication and to transfer sensitive information discreetly to the intended recipients.

However, if these actions were to be openly acknowledged, it could potentially lead to condemnation, escalation, and retaliation by both the domestic and international community. Therefore, ambiguity and implausible deniability are employed to create space for myths to emerge and allow fear to take hold. This approach enables institutions to construct powerful narratives that can shape and influence public opinion. By creating space for myths to emerge, institutions can manipulate public perception and control the narrative. This tactic is also employed to spread fear and anxiety among the general public, which can have detrimental consequences for society and the political system as a whole.

This lack of clarity can have serious constitutional implications, as it can undermine the principles of transparency, fairness, and due process that are essential to any legal or political system. And, potentially, damaging the institution’s reputation and eroding public trust. The erosion of public trust is a critical issue, as people need to know who is responsible for making important decisions and taking actions that affect their lives. If they do not have this information, they may lose confidence in the system and those who run it, highlighting the urgency of addressing this issue.

In the present-day world, civil society has transformed into a globalized entity, where investigative journalists, human rights lawyers, and whistleblowers can easily communicate and collaborate with each other. This has led to a significant increase in the challenges against state secrecy and implausible deniability, which has made it more difficult for institutions to conceal their actions from the public. As a reader, you play a crucial role in this landscape by being more critical of the information you consume and supporting independent journalism.

However, despite claims of the ‘end of secrecy’, institutions across Pakistan are fighting back against journalists and whistleblowers, making it even more difficult for them to uncover the truth. These efforts by institutions have resulted in the creation of stringent laws and regulations, which aim to curb the freedom of the press and restrict the access to sensitive information. It is essential for all of us, as informed citizens, to recognize the challenges posed by the changing media landscape and work towards creating a more transparent and accountable system that upholds the principles of freedom of speech and the right to information. Our collective advocacy can make a difference.

The concept of “implausible deniability” has been observed as a strategy commonly employed by Pakistan’s institutions. This strategy refers to the practice of denying any involvement or knowledge of controversial or illegal actions, even when evidence suggests otherwise. It is a means for institutions to distance themselves from any perceived wrongdoing while still reaping the benefits of such actions. While this tactic is often criticized for being unethical, it has been used by institutions, particularly in situations where the actions of the institutions may be controversial or illegal.

This quandary poses a significant challenge in both analytical and practical domains. It creates ambiguity around accountability, making it difficult to assign responsibility for actions taken or decisions made. Additionally, it can obscure the identity of actors involved in a particular situation, further complicating efforts to determine responsibility.

Therefore, the issue of implausible deniability in Pakistan’s institutions is a complex and enigmatic issue that requires careful consideration. While it may have some benefits for institutions, it may also have unintended consequences that can have a profound impact on the stability of the country and the public’s faith in the institutions to make decisions in their best interest. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize the challenges posed by the changing media landscape and the need to work towards creating a more transparent and accountable system that upholds the principles of freedom of speech and the right to information.

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