Did Hafiz Saeed Just Overtake Gen Raheel’s Throne?

_56949135_jex_1246109_de27-1The country’s most recent Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar recently gave a controversial interview to Geo News in which she declared that Pakistan cannot win Kashmir through war. According to the former FM, making progress on Kashmir will actually require improving relations with India so that a productive dialogue can be held.

The interview was published shortly after jihadis supported by Jamaat-ud-Dawa carried out fedayeen attack killing 8 police in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The attack was widely celebrated by official JuD accounts.

Pampore attack was also done three days after Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel declared that Pakistan is against all proxy wars, leaving him humiliated in the eyes of the world as it appears obvious that the Army Chief has either given a bald faced lie or Army has completely lost control of its Frankenstein Monster.

Analysts have debated whether military and civilians are actually on the same page. Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s latest attack has shown that it may be neither civilians or officers who are driving the national agenda.

The blame game

Not my fault

Pakistan faces severe threats and challenges and we have suffered more than anyone in the world. This we are reminded of often. This week we have also been reminded of the second part of our national identity which is that we are not responsible for any of our problems. We are only the helpless victims.

Yesterday PM’s Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz accused former Ambassador Husain Haqqani of being responsible for failure of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts. This is not the first time that a government official has given this excuse as Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has also blamed Husain Haqqani for his own failure to secure F-16s.

This may be a national emergency. If the entire diplomatic corps including even Gen. Raheel’s ceremonious efforts can be completely undone by a single person sitting in a think tank, what hope have we of ever overcoming our troubles? Is all of Pakistan unable to overcome one man?

Today we are also reminded that Pakistan has been abandoned by the whole world to face terrorists on our own. This was declared by no less than Army spokesman DG-ISPR Gen Asim Bajwa. However, this statement left many scratching their heads in confusion. Didn’t the US give Pakistan Army billions? Didn’t the US kill TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, capture TTP commander Latifullah Mehsud and hand him over to Pakistan Army? Isn’t US still funding Pakistan Army?

It is true that Pakistan is facing a declining relationship with historic allies including the US. However facts are facts and it is simply too much to say that we have been ‘abandoned’ yet. It is also unrealistic to blame a scholar for all of our problems. So why are we facing such a difficult time, and if we are not exactly ‘abandoned’, why are we becoming more isolated? Ironically, the answer may have been given by Husain Haqqani himself:

“Pakistan’s difficulties in the US were the result of years of supporting ‘jihadis’ and making excuses that are having less and less effect on Americans. Moreover, Pakistan’s dependence on US aid made it susceptible to changes in the US national mood and attitude,” elaborated Haqqani in the statement released.

Our top leaders, especially those at the level of Minister and General, need to give an honest assessment of our situation and take responsibility for putting the nation back on the right path. Blaming others and playing helpless victim will fix nothing. We need real leadership that is willing to speak the truth and take necessary action.

Whose war is it anyway?

Quetta shuraSartaj Aziz has stated clearly that ‘Pakistan cannot fight Afghanistan’s war‘ on our own soil. This is an interesting change of policy as for long we have been told that it was ‘America’s war’. The one consistent piece of our policy is that we refuse to accept that it is ‘our war’.

We refuse to accept this war even though Taliban commanders are regularly caught on our soil and even carry official documents issued by our government. Isn’t this the same complaint we make that the Afghan government is doing for India? ISPR said that gate at Torkham border was needed due to Afghanistan permitting terrorists entering Pakistan to carry out attacks. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has accused Afghanistan of supporting TTP, and COAS has even demanded that America bomb TTP camps in Afghanistan.

But what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, isn’t it? Couldn’t Afghanistan say that fighting TTP is ‘not our war’ also? Or America could say the same? We cannot ignore foreign militants inside our borders and expect others to take actions against anti-Pakistan militants inside their borders. Instead of pointing fingers and playing victim, we should face the reality that there are no ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’.  The war is against all terrorists, and it is our war too.

A is for Allah, B is for Budget

PMLN has been trying to pull the wool over the country’s eyes in Balochistan by claiming that the education budget has been raised. In basic terms this is not an incorrect statement because the amount of funds has been increased. However as education watchdog Alif Ailaan pointed out, this is only trying to hide the fact that education funding as a percentage of the budget actually decreased since last year.

Students in Balochistan may still be better off than students in KP, however, as that province is handing over hundreds of millions from the budget to Maulana Samiul Haq’s extremist madrassah that has been termed as ‘University of Jihad‘.

Even for those who do not attend madrassah, though, the lines are being blurred. Government is working on a new plan to turn students into parrots as whole of education system will be dedicated to memorising Quran in Arabic. The new proposal would make Quranic education mandatory for all schools.

Already Pakistan has sunk to the bottom of global education rankings, scoring only 9.2 points out of 100 in a recent survey compared to India who scored 60.9. The whole country is suffering from negative effects of religious extremism, and still government is giving hundreds of millions to extremist seminaries. How can we expect anything to improve if we continue to follow the failed policies of the past?

There is no shortage of religious instruction in this country. What is missing is critical thinking. Teaching students how to think will not only improve our education rankings in the world, it will also help to counter extremism and sectarianism because people will not be so easily fooled.

Army’s Media Operations: Who Are They Trying To Convince?

Hypernationalist Military Media AllianceAnother report has appeared in the international media about Army’s use of media to raise their own image as national saviours but disparaging civilians as ruining the country. This is a topic that has been discussed many times in the international press, including global media power houses BBC and New York Times. If the whole world sees through GHQ’s spin operation, the question is what are they getting out of the billions spent on these official and ‘un-official’ media operations?

It doesn’t makes sense as long as we believe the media operations are meant to convince the outside world. But what if, instead, Army’s media operations were never meant to convince the outside world. What if all these billions being spent were meant only to convince ourselves?

There is nothing wrong with reporting good news. Actually, it is important that people be informed of Army’s successes so that we do not lose hope during a time of war. However it is equally important that people not be given false hopes by reporting that things are better than they are. We have been told since day one that terrorists had their back broken and were no longer a threat, but attacks continued! Yes it is true that attacks have declined, and we should be proud of this,  but we should not pretend that the problem is gone. Giving the people a false hope is begging for disappointment.

Same is true for Army’s treatment of civilian officials. Nobody denies that there is corruption in the government and that it is a problem, but why do we ignore the same or even greater corruption in Army? This is no secret either, but by not reporting the facts what happens is we are left with rumours. Media reports can give some information on this, but because the Army is controlling the media, nobody knows what to believe anyway.

The world is not fooled by ISPR. This is clear from the reports that the international media gives exposing ISPR’s operations. So who are they trying to fool? And is it working? These are the questions we should be asking.