Masters, Not Friends: Saudi Attack on Pakistani Sailors Shows Limits of Sovereignty

SaudiFive years ago, American forces carried out an airstrike targeting Pakistani soldiers at Salala. The response was swift. Foreign Office immediately summoned the American Ambassador and delivered a strong protest, and American forces were forced to vacate airbases in Pakistan. ISPR released strongly worded condemnation of the attack, and some retired officers were advising the government to shoot down American planes. Media was completely dominated by responses to the attack, with many calling it an act of war. Five years later, the memory of Salala is still bitter and painful.

Tragically, another foreign airstrike has martyred Pakistanis this week. The targeted airstrike attacked a ship killing at least six Pakistani sailors. The response from the Foreign Office and Army has been silence, though. This time the attack was not carried out by Americans. It was carried out by Saudi fighter jets.

Not only have government and military officials been silent on the targeted attack that killed Pakistani sailors, media too has shown no interest in the story. The names and photos of the martyred sailors are not being displayed on TV, they are not being memorialised in the newspapers, and no one is calling for a strong response. No one is calling for any response at all. It is like they never existed.

Would we rather forget our own people than say any word against Saudi Arabia? This seems to be the case. It is no surprise. Saudis have been told not to marry Pakistani women and Saudis treat Pakistani workers like slaves. Every time we are insulted and spit on, we smile and say thank you. When it comes to sovereignty and self respect, our limit is clearly drawn at the border of Saudi Arabia.

Nawaz Sharif just dealt an important blow to extremism

Muhammad Abdus SalamPrime Minister Nawaz Sharif has dealt an important blow to the forces of obscurantism and extremism today by renaming of Quaid-i-Azam University’s (QAU) physics department to the Professor Abdus Salam Center for Physics and creating a new programme named the Professor Abdus Salam Fellowship to grant five annual fellowships for Pakistani PhD students in the field of Physics.

Dr Muhammad Abdus Salam is a national hero, though he has been treated very badly and nearly forgotten only because of his religious sect. By openly recognising Dr Abdus Salam in such a public and lasting way, PM Nawaz has dealt an important blow to extremism in the country. It is a first step only, but it is a crucial one to undoing the normalisation of hate and sectarianism that has taken root in so much of our society.

 

Another case against MQM falls apart

The script is a familiar one by now. LEAs carry out a major raid. Media broadcasts images of political workers being loaded into the back of trucks. Weapons are displayed in photographs while anchors offer grave warnings about foreign agents destabilising the country. The report makes a strong impression, but do we ever ask what happens to these stories? Over and over again we are seeing them fall apart.

In October, three MQM workers arrested and accused of being RAW agents were quietly acquitted by the ATC who noted that prosecutors were totally unable to establish cases against the accused. Then we saw Scotland Yard drop cases against Altaf Hussain himself due to absence of evidence.

Now another major case has fallen apart before our eyes. Just a few weeks ago media was reporting that a major terror bid was thwarted by a raid on a political party in Karachi with RAW links (no extra points for guessing who they meant) that uncovered a massive weapons cache. One month later, however, police themselves were asking the court to suspend the investigation due to lack of evidence.

The plea was submitted by an investigation officer in Karachi’s anti-terrorism court on Tuesday, the plea also requested the court to categorise the case as ‘A-Class’ as police officials failed to produce and submit any substantial evidence.

“Police officials failed to produce and submit any substantial evidence.” It’s the same story over and over again. What’s not known is whether any of these cases were manufactured dramas to chip away at the reputation of MQM. Whatever the truth is, it is certain that these cases have chipped away at the reputation of law enforcement agencies and made them appear to be on a political witch hunt against a particular political party.

 

Why ‘bans’ are worse than futile

Welcome to BanistanOur proclivity for banning things for one reason or another resulted in the hastag #Banistan appearing on social media a few years ago. During this time, YouTube was banned, though it was easily accessible to almost everyone with a little work around. This caused many to note the futility of our obsession with ‘banning’ things that we don’t like. However banning is often worse than just futile, as was noted in an excellent letter to Dawn on Monday.

APROPOS the letter ‘Liquor Shops’ (Nov 23). The writer maintains that liquor shops in Sindh should remain sealed because alcohol is bad for health.

What our perpetual sermonisers do not take into consideration are the following: 1) alcoholism in Pakistan after prohibition was imposed in April 1977 has always remained higher than what it was before prohibition; 2) the curbs have given birth to bootlegging mafias, or worse, those selling tainted alcoholic beverages; and 3) very rarely have any serious crimes been reported in which consumption of alcohol was involved.

Third, many Hindus and Christians known to me are forced to buy alcoholic beverages on the black market since the court ordered the sealing of the licensed wine shops. Interestingly a non-Muslim friend tells me that people meet their needs by driving to Hub, where the sellers are making hay while the sun shines.

The Sindh government must make a more realistic law regarding the sale of alcohol as the current law was made in 1979 and has lost its relevance. Last but not least, should we not be more concerned about the bad health effects of things like extremism, bigotry and domestic violence?

M.M.D.D. Karachiwala

As this person correctly points out, a ban can not only be worked around, but there are also unintended consequences from the workarounds that may make the cure worse than the disease.

Same can also be said not only about bans on alcohol but Bollywood films also. Some argue that such bans will not only protect Pakistani culture but Pakistani film industry also. But does banning Bollywood films actually get rid of them? Obviously it does not, it only takes them out of the legal economy and pushes them into the illegal economy of bootleggers and pirates.

‘Black economy’ of Pakistan, or the informal economy of goods and services that escapes the eye sight of authorities, is estimated over $100 billion. This is where criminal gangs and militant groups get much of their funding. So when we ‘ban’ alcohol or foreign movies, we are really just pushing them into the black economy and providing more funds for terrorists and mafias. In other words, we not only fail at the stated goal of stopping the thing we are banning, we are actually making our society worse by funding the worst criminal and extremist elements.

The greatest challenge for the new Army Chief

General Qamar Javed BajwaThe wait is over, and Pakistan has a new Chief of Army Staff as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has appointed Lt Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as the new COAS. The incoming Army chief faces a number of challenges, as were enumerated by Abbas Nasir in his excellent column for Dawn. These challenges include dealing with a belligerent Modi-Doval regime in India and continuing Army’s successful operations against domestic terrorist groups like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. There is another challenge that the Gen Bajwa will face, though.

Taking over as head of Army from Gen Raheel, Gen Bajwa inherits many successes. One of these successes, though, will actually be a challenge for him. It is the successful PR operation that has elevated Gen Raheel into almost super human status.

By attributing all of Army’s successes to the genius of Gen Raheel, they have built a reputation that will be nearly impossible to live up to. More than ever before, the new COAS will always live under the shadow of his predecessor and will find himself compared to the one who has been made larger than life. If there is an uptick in violence, will it be blamed on the new COAS? Will the people say he is not as good as the previous Army chief? If relations with India continue to deteriorate, will Gen Bajwa be questioned about why tensions have grown worse under him than under Gen Raheel?

During previous transitions, incoming Army chiefs were seen as restoring hope and the possibility of improved relations. This can’t happen for Gen Bajwa without tearing down the impossibly high expectations that were built around Gen Raheel. For Gen Bajwa, the greatest challenge will not be to overcome sectarian militant groups, Indian belligerence, and international pressures, but to overcome the reputation of his predecessor.