The legendry playwright, Shakespeare said that real defence lay in offence. Today, under the modern strategies relying upon expediencies and compromises to have solutions to the complex day to day socio-political and socio-economic problems, one may venture to disagree with Shakespeare’s posture of being on offensive to have real defence. However, the fact remains that adage ‘the best offence is a good defence’ still stands in vogue and is being applied to different individual and collective walks of life of various nations, including military, sports and now, perhaps, also in politics.

In a military war, the strategic principle is held in frame that a strong offensive action instead of a passive attitude will preoccupy the opposition. It ultimately hinders its ability to mount an opposing counterattack and hence leading to a strategic advantage. George Washington believed that the offensive operations, often is the surest if not the only means of defence. Mao Zedong maintained that the only real defence is active offense and same was also indicated by Machiavelli. Interestingly, in martial arts there is a maxim used that ‘the hand which strikes also blocks.’ Above all, though with different universal connotations and applications, there shall definitely be some flawless wisdom in the verses when the Holy Quran also enjoins that there is ‘revival in revenge’ while laying down the principles of Qisas.

All is fair in love and war. The idiom seems to have stretched the principle of defence in offence to give effect to the strategic advantage to the contemporary national and international political gimmicks. In international politics in general and in our national politics in particular, the rhetoric is being, unusually, used as an offensive by the governments, maybe in their best wisdom, to counter the attacks likely to be mounted by the opposition. Generally, in the past, it were the oppositions who used to adopt this tool of being always on the offence against the policies of the sitting governments but here the strategy seems to have been reversed.

Donald Trump, may be counted as a precedent on the vanguard in the international politics. He would spare no moment to launch an offensive against the opposition, intelligentsia, technocrats and even the media where he smells that the opposition may mount against his policies in the pipelines or under implementation. At times, it, perhaps, seems that his rhetoric operates like a mortar gun which softens the targets before it is attacked. In a war like situation, it, perhaps, engages the opposition at one part of border and frees the government to launch an offensive on the other part thereof for the implementation of the planned core work to which the oppositions would like to hinder.

It shall not be out of place to define here the words offence and defence (Spelt as offense and defense in American English) and the phrases, to be on the offensive and defensive. Offence, in legal terms connotes a breach of law or rule or an illegal act which is punishable under the law or rule in terms of dose prescribed by the relevant law. Defence, in legal terms is a piece of evidence sufficient to warrant setting aside a default judgment passed against the defendant in a civil litigation. Whereas, to be on the defensive means someone’s being concerned with justifying its actions or words. This is a state of attitude whereby one tries to protect himself from the attacking behaviour of the others and vise-versa. In other words, it may be called here as defence thesis that a person advances to maintain by argument. Whereas, to be on the offensive means of someone’s act or being ready to act aggressively. It involves force, a mechanism, a situation or position in which one attacks or fights against someone or something, maybe soldiers, armies, individuals, groups or parties.

In our parliamentary form of government which entertains freedom of speech, our politics have turned out to have adopted a nomenclature of strange type offence and defence. In the past, oppositions in general used to adopt this tool of offence to shackle the policies of the sitting government. However, this time the government itself has taken up cudgels and seems to have launched a deliberate and planned offensive towards the opposition, especially in the federal and the Punjab governments. Oozing out from the circumstances with its focused nature, it may be having some wisdom and strategy from the government point of view.

Government seems to have belief in and acting upon the adage of real defence in active offence. The rationale behind the move may be traced in certain areas of our recent politics. Firstly, the government might be conscious of its demeanour adopted by it as opposition during its campaign against the previous government and perhaps cannot afford to allow any margin to the opposition of today to follow the suit to launch the offensive in the same coin which obviously has borne fruit for today’s government and yesterday’s opposition. Secondly, the government may be strategizing to counter any direct offensive by the opposition on its policies to protect them in their embryonic stage. Thirdly, the government might be aiming at propelling a domestic and global impression to have strong command and control over state affairs and dispelling traces of any weakness therein, if any, so as to solicit the confidence and support of their domestic as well as international supporters. Last but not least, the government seems to have adopted the policy of engagement towards seemingly a strong opposition at one front by way of rhetoric and litigation and getting free hand on the other front for logical execution of their policies, whatsoever.

The opposition on the other hand criticises the government of having adopted the policy of onslaught on the opposition to veil its weaknesses in formulation and execution of its pragmatic policies for which it allegedly lacks vision and capability. The opposition further maintains that the rhetoric adopted by the government is intentional and damaging for the very sanctity of the parliament and may drag the already worse crude form of political culture back to the worst vicious cycle of tug of war prevailing in the past.

Admittedly, the third group, the general supporters would opt to defend their respective political parties. However, there seems to be an obvious shift amongst various sensible segments of intelligentsia who appear to be disillusioned of their expectations from the government, although which were too high and unrealistic in the perspective of grim socio-economic situation in Pakistan which require both time and seasoned leadership.

The floors of the parliament and the people in general and the opposition and media in particular are not seen on agreement with the deliberate offensive launched by the government. The embargo on the entrance of a key cabinet minister vide a ruling passed by the Chairman, Senate is not only reflective of a certain fact which needs attention but also unfortunate for any such member parliament who intends to criticize the policies of his political predecessors for their genuine defaults, although in a prescribed parliamentary language and manner.

The adage, real defence lies in offence is a double edge sword. It may bear fruit for its reliant but also prove cut throat for him for its improper use or mishandling, even without intervention of any alien element like opposition. Generally, the oppositions become reconciliatory once they are in the government to borrow support of all its secondary oppositions to achieve its prime objectives and hence sustainability. This is more required when the government is already laden with some neck-weight of performance which may cause tumble in case of any lapse. However, the recent interpretation of ‘U-Turn’ as adopted by the government may be sarcastic but meaningful at the same time while placed in juxtaposition, leading either towards some further erosion or acceptable destination.


The writer is a socio-political analyst.