VIP: Very Inconsiderate Politicians

Sitting in a plane waiting for a delayed flight is possibly one of the most uncomfortable experiences in the world. Let’s be honest, unless you’re quite wealthy, the days of a relaxing travel experience are long gone. Even for those with the means to fly First Class, the discomfort of sitting on a parked airplane is only moderated by the frills. Nobody would choose to sit on a parked plane, even in the best of seats. So when passengers on a PIA flight came to believe that they had been forced to endure their cramped accommodations because some VIPs were running late, their response was only natural.

For its part, PIA has explained that the flight was delayed due to technical issue and not due to any VIP protocol. Whether or not this was the case in this particular instance, however, is beside the point. Everyone can quickly recall instances in which they were horribly inconvenienced in order to appeal to the egos of a VIP. What VIPs do not seem to realise, however, is that every time they do this, they actually make themselves less secure.

Some inconveniences to protect political leaders are unfortunately necessary. Blast walls and redirected traffic around certain locations are sadly required due to the reality of the deteriorating security situation and the threats that some politicians face from militant groups and other threats. The same people who blame Benazir Bhutto for taking risks with her safety, however, are the same people who say that other political figures should not be allowed to live behind walls and travel in security caravans. Which is it?

The problem is not providing security for political leaders, but that some politicians take advantage of their legitimate security status simply to make themselves more comfortable. For example, if the PIA flight was delayed due to technical issue, why was Rehman Malik not sitting on board suffering like everyone else? Was he given special consideration to wait in a lounge until the technical issue was solved?

Certain allowances must be made for the security of political leaders. This is recognised not only in Pakistan but in every country of the world. The difference is in how some of our politicians treat those allowances as a God Given Right instead of a privilege granted by the people.

The next time a political leader finds himself on a flight that is delayed for ‘technical issues’, he would be smart to insist that he sit on the plane with the other passengers and suffer the same sweat and cramp that they do. Then, when he is driven away in his security caravan after landing, the people will wave their hands to him, not their fists.

Zarb-e-Azb: More declarations of success followed by more attacks

One month ago, ISPR announced that Taliban were “on the run” after successful Zarb-e-Azb operations. This was soon followed by attacks against military posts across the country. Yesterday, Army spokesman Gen Asim Bajwa repeated the claim, announcing that Army had neutralised the terrorists who were now only able to carry out “random attacks”. As if on cue, jihadi militants carried out another attack against Pakistan security forces, martyring three Frontier Corps soldiers.

Army is powerful, but it is not all powerful. It can not shape reality through statements. Just because attacks are not widely reported, it does not mean they did not happen.

Back in July, I warned against making premature declarations of success. The fear is that every time Army declares victory only to have it followed by a fresh attack, the people will begin to lose faith in what the Army is telling.

And then who will we turn to?

Karachi Naval Dockyard and Punjabi Taliban

Punjabi Taliban chief Ismatullah Muawiya

Two very troubling facts have come out of the recent terrorist attack against Karachi Naval Dockyard. The first, obviously, is that our own military officers helped carry out the attack. As has been noted, this is unfortunately not new, rather it is merely the latest in a string of incidents in which terrorists have had inside help from our own security forces.

The second troubling fact is related to the first, I believe, and that is this important sentence in a report on the arrest of the military officers involved in the attack:

“The suspects were trying to escape to Afghanistan, when they were intercepted by security forces”.

Since long, our military has invested in an Afghan strategy that helped build up the strength of the Taliban. This may have been seen as a policy of ‘strategic depth’, or it may have been seen as aiding a legitimate insurgency against a foreign occupier, or it may have been justified as both. The end result, however, is that whether or not Pakistan has ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, extremist militants do.

News that a faction of Punjabi Taliban have declared a halt to armed struggle in Pakistan has been received as if it were a sign that anti-militant operations have been a success, but militants in Punjab were never targeted in these operations. Actually, it should be noted that Punjabi Taliban even said they are halting operations against Pakistan to focus on Afghanistan. In other words, they are not done fighting, they are simply making a strategic change. We get a reprieve, but it will most likely be temporary.

One newspaper declared on Sunday that ‘Zarb-e-azb will in all probability fail’ because we have failed to eliminate the root cause of extremism. The continued involvement of military personnel in terrorist attacks against our own security forces is a grave warning that the Punjabi Taliban and other militants are shifting away from attacks against Pakistan not because they believe the are losing, but because they believe they have already won.

Saving Our National Pride: We Must Remove Extremists From The Ranks

Pakistan Army

In 2011, terrorists attacked PNS Mehran with help from inside the military. In 2012, terrorists carried out a brazen operation that freed nearly 400 prisoners from Bannu jail. The militant commander who planned the attack said it was a success thanks to inside help. Later that same year, Brig Ali Khan and four other Army officers were convicted over links to extremist groups. And now, terrorists have attacked Karachi Naval Dockyard, again with inside help. These are only a few examples, but they are more than enough to point to a pattern, and more insidiously, a serious national security crisis.

Since long, Army spokesman and their surrogates have rejected concerns about extremist infiltration in the military as something that cannot happen due to the strict policies and procedures for identifying such risks. But there is no explanation for how the world’s most wanted terrorist Osama bin Laden was able to live and run his operation in the shadow of PMA Kakul. If it is not possible for terrorists and their sympathisers to infiltrate the military, how is it that the terrorists continue to carry out attacks with inside help?

Army is our national pride. When something is said that seems to cast that pride in a light, our natural response is to immediately reject it. This is natural, but it is not healthy, nor is it helpful. If a doctor discovers a cancer in someone we love, we do not call them liar and demand that such is impossible. Rather we come to accept the painful reality and do the needful which is to have the cancer removed so that the patient may be saved.

We love our Army. Let’s save it before it’s too late.

UPDATE: NAVY OFFICIALS ARRESTED IN CONNECTION WITH TERRORIST ATTACK

A security official, who requested anonymity, told Dawn.com that acting on intelligence reports, security forces conducted raids in the outskirts of Quetta and picked up three suspects.

“The suspects are Navy officials,” he added, giving no details about their ranks.

They were shifted to Karachi on a plane from Quetta for further interrogation.

The suspects were trying to escape to Afghanistan, when they were intercepted by security forces.

Army’s ‘Coup Committee’

DG ISIS Zaheer-ul-Islam

Of the many questions have risen from the dual PTI-PAT protests that have rocked the nation, one of the most mysterious has been the question of timing. If the protests were really about election rigging, why now? Why over a year after elections? And why is it so important that PM resign immediately? The government may not have ushered in a new golden era for Pakistan, but it’s performance has not been outside an expected range. The mystery may be clearing up, though, as inside reports reveal that a group of Generals may have gone behind the back of the Chief of Army Staff and formed a ‘coup committee’ dedicated to overthrowing the government by hook or by crook – and their time is running out.

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