Is Maleeha Lodhi The Next Colin Powell?

Will Maleeha Lodhi be the next Colin Powell?

Maleeha Lodhi is in an unforunate position. Less than eight weeks ago she was appointed as Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, a great honour, with a special mission to advance Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. While there she has taken a strong position that “peace needed a fast, not a slow track“. Her attempts at diplomacy at the UN are being openly undermined, however, by the words and actions from certain quarters back home.

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Army Is Playing Nawaz For A Fool In Yemen Crisis

Pakistan Army Saudi Arabia

Nawaz Sharif’s close relationship with Saudi Arabia is no secret. Perhaps it is sheer fate, then, that he happens to be Prime Minister when they come knocking and asking for military cooperation in their plans for Yemen. The reaction against this request has been mixed, with certain segments of society chomping at the bit to join an Arab operation against a supposedly Iranian-backed foe. More rational minds, even those very close to the military, have strongly warned against such a misadventure. One thing that seems to be missing from these warnings, however, is actually holding accountable those in charge of making such bad decisions.

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Leaks Galore

spying-on-imran-khan

Saulat Mirza’s alleged death-cell confession has sparked innumerable questions, not only about his sensational allegations, but about how the video was recorded from a jail cell, and how it managed to make its way into the hands of private TV stations. It is believed by many to be part of an attempt to pressurize MQM leaders. Unfortunately, we will never know the answer since the committee formed to answer these questions was suddenly dissolved with no explanation.

Now there is also the leaked recording of an alleged private phone call between Imran Khan and Arif Alvi discussing attack on PTV. Some are claiming that the recording is actually spliced together from different conversations, but as Arif Alvi himself noted on Twitter, the fact is that ‘somebody’ is recording and leaking private phone calls.

Arif Alvi may not want to make any accusations about ‘who’ would be recording his phone calls, but it is not a long list who has the ability to do this. Many believe that intelligence agencies have been recording and documenting everything under the sun in order to blackmail since long. Even the judiciary has allegedly felt the sting of these ‘dirty tricks’ such as when agencies allegedly blackmailed Supreme Court Justices with secret sex tapes during Gen Musharraf regime.

It’s not just secret recordings that are seeing the light of day, either. Earlier this year, an ISI report on extremist ties of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz was leaked.

ISI report abdul aziz

This one may have been leaked in order to pressurize Lal Masjid, but the problem is that leaks are hard to contain. Abbottabad Commission report which noted that “connivance, collaboration and cooperation at some levels cannot be entirely discounted” was leaked to at the embarrassment of intelligence agencies. Even documents allegedly exposing intelligence agencies secret support for Taliban have even surfaced including this letter from a Taliban commander to Military Intelligence about aiding Taliban supply routes across the border into Afghanistan.

Taliban letter to Pakistan MI

Translation

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
South West Zone (Helmand province)
Date: May 28, 2008

Respected Brother Janab Usman sahab
Director, Military Intelligence
Assalam-o-Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barkatuhu
Two vehicles which are laden with goods for the Taliban mujahideen brothers are entering Afghanistan through Naushki and Dalbandin. Hope you will secure passage for these two vehicles:
Number plate – Karachi CK 8091
Number plate – Karachi CH 9316
I have sent my representative Mullah Musa. Hope that you will provide assistance.

Mullah Abdur Raheem
Governor, Helmand

Actually, it is not the leaks that are the real problem, it is what these leaks, both the allegedly ‘authorised’ ones and the more embarrassing ones, reveal about agencies activities. As Pakistan faces a serious and existential threat from terrorism, the appearance from alleged leaks is that agencies are more busy playing games than actually securing the country.

Terrorists Defeated. Again…But is it real this time?

Pakistan Leadership

Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman announced that operation Zarb-e-Azb has ‘backbone of terrorists‘. It is a welcome announcement and one that I pray is true. But forgive me if I greet this declaration of victory with some sense of sceptism. You see, I have heard it before. Several times, actually.

In August of last year, military officials declared that operation Zarb-e-Azb had ‘crippled‘ command and control system of TTP. A few days later, the ‘crippled’ Taliban carried out audacious attacks on Samungli and Khalid airbases.

Next month, DG ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa announced that due to operation Zarb-e-Azb, Taliban capacity to carry out terrorist attacks had been neutralised. Unfortunately, his announcement proved to be premature as it was soon followed by the suicide bomb attack at Wagah border crossing.

PM Nawaz waited a few weeks before echoing ISPR’s line and announced that Zarb-e-Azb had dealt a ‘fatal blow’ to terrorists in December, only to have his statement followed almost immediately by the barbaric attack against APS Peshawar.

Each time the military declares victory against terrorists, the terrorists carry out a brazen attack. This has serious and damaging consequences not only to the credibility of the Army but to the national psyche as well. By making declarations that are not in line with reality, Army leadership not only makes people doubt what they are saying, but what they are doing also.

I hope that this time the military is telling the truth, and that operations against terrorists have finally been dealt a fatal blow. But forgive me if my hopes are tempered with an abundance of caution, as it is a story I have heard before.

Pakistan Day 2015: Another Missed Opportunity

Pakistan Day Parade

According to the old joke, “all countries have armies, but here, Army has a country”. This was on full display as the nation’s capital came to a full halt for “Pakistan Day Parade” that consisted of little more than a celebration of Army. There was always something that bothered me a little about this, but I couldn’t really say what it was until I read this Tweet.

It’s amazing how something so profound can be captured in so few words, but there it is. I realised what was bothering me wasn’t that the Army was featured in the celebration, but that it felt like Army was the only thing featured. As if Pakistan were an Army, and not a diverse nation of millions.

With the alienation of so many communities, Pakistan Day could have been an opportunity to put on display the various cultures and languages that make up our country. I am imagining a parade in which everyone was not dressed in a uniform, but in the different traditional dress of their community.

I am imagining a parade in which religions were represented: Sunni, Shia, Sufi, Ahmedi, Christian, Hindu…all marching together as a demonstration that even though in some ways we are different, at the end of the day we are all Pakistanis.

I am imagining a parade in which, instead of weapons, there were displayed representations from Punjabis, Sindhis, Pashtuns, Baloch, Hazaras, Saraikis, Kashmiris, Chitralis, Mohajirs. Where everyone is cheering and appreciating each others cultures, and remembering that it is from this combination that Pakistan is made.

Instead we were shown troops. Officers. Missiles. Fighter jets. Drones.

Pakistan Day 2015 was a proud day, but it was also a missed opportunity. We were reminded of the strength of our armed forces, but we once again ignored the essence of what it is that’s worth defending.