This is a very popular TV talk show, and today’s discussion is on electoral reforms in the country. One guest is from Pakistan Muslim League — Nawaz (PML-N), one from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), one from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and, lo and behold, one guest is introduced as a defence analyst. The topic of another talk show is the performance of our local body system. Again, there are three guests from the three major political parties and, again there is one defence analyst. Here is a talk show on the latest constitutional amendment and the guests include a senator, a well-known senior lawyer, a journalist and, one defence analyst. It will perhaps be naïve on our part to think that when someone is introduced as a defence analyst, and not as a journalist or a political worker, then he is one who is an expert on matters related to defence, or security or, perhaps, international affairs. But here we have people who cannot be introduced as anything but defence analysts, and are made a compulsory part of every talk show, giving their “expert” opinions on everything under the Sun. Just imagine a series of talk shows on the subject of the status of objectives resolution in the constitution of Pakistan, and, apart from constitutional experts, a cricketer from Pakistani cricket team is made part of every program. A couple of years ago there was a trend among some TV channels to invite a couple of Pakistani actresses whose only claim to fame was because of some scenes that they had done in some Indian movies. These actresses were invited in the holy month of Ramazan to give their expert opinions on the significance of this month in Islam. The participants of our talk shows usually belong to one of the two categories: either they are experts in their stated fields, or they belong to some political party and they present their party’s position on different matters. But our defence analysts belong to none of these categories. The army has nothing to do with these defence analysts. Our defence forces are the real defenders of the ideological and geographical boundaries of Pakistan. How can we expect them to be part of petty politics that is going on in the country these days? Neither do they have any claim to be experts on a given topic, nor do they represent a specific political ideology. Or, perhaps, they do? Maybe they belong to a political party that is in the offing, or a party that used to exist but is no more. Or, they belong to a ghost party about which we cannot say with certainty whether it exists or not! The question then is: what qualifies these defence analysts to give their opinion on everything? Have they written some articles or books on the topic under discussion? Are they researchers, and writing theses on these issues? There is an aura of mystery surrounding them. Who actually are they? Who sends them? Why can’t they be done away with? There is another peculiar feature of these defence analysts. They seem to come in batches corresponding to their seasons. They all seem to have the same training or briefings, so that, they will orchestrate the same point of view on all matters that are under discussion during a particular time period. At this moment, the current batch seems to hate the PMLN and Nawaz Sharif. This was not the case with the previous batch. In a different season, you will see a different batch, with all of them keeping their own corresponding viewpoints. During a briefing in the Senate in December, the present Chief of Army Staff (COAS) made it clear that the army has nothing to do with these defence analysts who appear on TV shows. Of course, they don’t. In fact, this issue should never have been raised in the Senate. Our defence forces are the real defenders of the ideological and geographical boundaries of Pakistan. How can we expect them to be part of petty politics that is going on in the country these days? And, this is so obvious that almost every COAS has made it clear that the army has nothing to do with the political games that are played in the country. But, just a second: there is another category of commentators on our TV screens as well. These people are not defence analysts and are not introduced as such, but if you listen to them carefully, and try to make sense of their theses, you will realize that they are, in fact, more defence analysts than our real defence analysts! The writer is a faculty member at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org Published in Daily Times, July 22nd 2018.