Now with my feet planted firmly on solid ground (and said solid ground being that of sweet England), and being free of being wedged between geniuses at 45,000 feet, I can return to what I was actually meaning to write – though getting the terminology out of the way was kind of an important digression.

Amidst the youthiaistic attacks (now also known as Trump fan attacks), it became quite difficult to even think to oneself – the din was so loud, random, and illogical. The first funny bit from the Angry Birds was this: the story is entirely made up, but an enquiry must find who leaked the story that the reporter had fabricated. Yes. Read that again. In the same breath the Birds insisted the story was the reporter’s fabrication for a lifafa (envelope of a bribe) whilst demanding to unmask the leaker(s). Well, the Happy People kind of pointed out the fallacy of the Angry Birds’ position. Which sent the Birds into a frantic half U-turn: they strangely became mum on the ‘fabricatedness’ of the story, and began to a) bay for the reporter’s blood and b) thunder for the leaker(s) to be hunted down and strung. This represented an unspoken admission of the story being true.

Three denials by the government in quick succession were followed by a ‘high level security meeting’ between the top military brass and the top civilian sods of the saga. Because the establishment was not satisfied by the three denials. God knows what happened in that meeting, but da da… : within hours the reporter was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL). Within minutes of this development the internet started to break with activists, journalists, citizens piling scorn on the Federal Interior Minister of Pakistan. The next day, Cyril-ECLgate graced all major International publications. The ignominy was complete.

Clearly, in an effort to appease the military, the government had thrown the messenger (Cyril) under the bus. The interior minister, who had undertaken this action came on live television to answer the media’s questions to justify this monumental stupidity. Needless to say, his responses would’ve been hilarious were they not so insulting to public intelligence. The pressure continued to grow, with the responses continuing to become more surreal and ludicrous by the minute: we would not have put the reporter on the ECL had he already not been booked on a flight; we would not have put the reporter on the ECL had he not tweeted standing by his story; we have only put the reporter on the ECL to trace the leak; the reporter is a free man; we absolutely believe in the reporter’s right to protect his sources, but we just want him to confirm whether our ‘evidences’ are bonafide. These risible ‘justifications’ were naturally met with a flammable cocktail of anger, indignation, mockery and hilarity that became an Internet Arson event in Pakistan – with foreigners throwing in bits of kerosene here and there.

Next day: the Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan volte-faces. Cyril gets off the ECL (as jerkily as he’d gotten on to it) but the most stupefying questions remained: errr … if it were the leaker(s) you were trying to find, why did you restrain the messenger instead of the participants of the meeting? If you think or say that you respect the right of reporters to protect their sources, why did you put the reporter on the ECL (and no one else)? Were you intending to invite him over to a cup of tea and say, ‘No pressure, but would you please tell me who told you? And if you really don’t want to, we’ll call it a day, mate.’ And if that really was the intention, why the ECL? This could’ve been done over email or upon the reporter’s return. But no.

None of these questions have been answered, obviously. Nor have the more fundamental ones. Like what was so “National Security” about the story anyway? Why did a National Security event get triggered in the first place? How is a story outlining the PM’s warning/ultimatum to his Army Chief a threat to the country? How is a story on the Prime Minister trying to put the country on a sane path a national security threat? And oh! About the Angry Birds baying for the reporter’s blood, the logic (sic) went something like this: the timing was awkward; he should have exercised care about printing what he found/ was told; he can’t be sincere to the cause of Pakistan, Kashmir, Indo-Pak dynamics; he must be hung and quartered. For reporting.

Now there’s a witch-hunt of sorts on, with the military breathing down the neck of the civvies and the civvies trying to find scapegoats. One master chess move the military made was to tell the media off the record that they weren’t interested in the messenger; that they’d never asked for his crucification; that they were interested in the bloody civvie culprits within the elected government. Hence the knickers in the knot now.

So much of the atmosphere and the goings on. But the question does remain as to whodunit? Well, in the words of a PML-N rookie, ‘there are internal party dynamics (read factions) you know’. This is another story (possibly a Part – III Ed?)