Establishment-cultivated anger starts to backfire

Ever since the Ayub Khan era Pakistan’s establishment has built a narrative that the military is good and politicians are bad. This anger has been cultivated by the security establishment within the average Pakistani – both within the country and in the diaspora – using the educational curricula, the media, social media and films.

Over the last decade or so the establishment has promoted movies like Waar and Maalik that promote not only a jingoistic nationalism but portray politicians as feudal and corrupt, army as pure and selfless, and jihadis either as misguided or brainwashed by India. Waar 2013 film is focused on how a former Pakistani officer uncovers a plot by India’s intelligence agency (R &AW) while Maalik a 2016 film is focused on the story of a former special services commando who is hired to protect a corrupt feudal politician.

This anger cultivated for years was predicated on the fact that the politicians have not only been corrupt but also unpatriotic as they have been willing to speak to India while the army has ensured Pakistan’s survival and continued the eternal struggle for Kashmir. 

What is ignored in this narrative is that it is under army rule that Pakistan has not only lost the wars it fought with India but also lost half its territory and more than half its population (1971).

Ever since India revoked Article 370 and sought to integrate Jammu and Kashmir there has been an upsurge of Pakistani anger. The inability of the government of Pakistan to do anything much beyond speeches and news conferences and social media hashtags has not helped.

One example of Pakistani anger was recently experience by current Ambassador of Pakistan to the United Nations, Maleeha Lodhi. An army friendly former journalist Maleeha Lodhi has served the establishment well for almost two decades. She has represented Pakistan for over two decades – as Ambassador to the US (1994-1997, 1999-2002), to the UN (2015-present) and to the UK (2003-2008).

Lodhi was heckled at the close of an official event hosted by the Consulate General of Pakistan to the UN. In the video below a man heckled and accused her of corruption, saying “You are a thief and don’t deserve to represent Pakistan.” Lodhi is seeing evading questions raised by the Pakistan national during a UN event here. While the diplomat was apparently addressing media persons, the man, who seemed enraged, was heard asking whether she had a minute to answer his questions and then without waiting for a reply asked: “What are you doing from the last 15 to 20 years. You are not representing us.” Interestingly the person was pro establishment enough to be invited to this event.

Video below

Miltestablishment rules with an Iron fist

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan is worse than Purana Pakistan. At least under previous civilian leaders, the Prime Minister had some say. Today, the Miltestablishment has complete control over everything from media to economy to foreign policy and of course domestic politics.

In a recent piece, Agha Haider Raza, a Pakistan-based commentator provides details of the censorship and clampdown on the media. “Khan’s government has been enforcing unprecedented restrictions on the media in Pakistan since coming to power last year.  Under the watchful eye of the hyperactive miltablishment, the current civilian and military rulers have ushered in a new era of media management.  While the civilian government utilizes the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) to silence media houses, anchorpersons and journalists by sending them legal notices, the miltablishment utilizes the popular messenger service, WhatsApp, to impose directives.  Military officers have been known to ring up journalists and media owners in the middle of the night, threatening them to alter media content and have it edited to their liking.”

In his piece “Pakistan Being Ruled With an Iron Fist,” Raza, says, “Not only are public rallies and interviews of political leaders blacked out, but leading journalists have been strictly ordered to pre-record their programs to ensure that content not suitable to the regime is broadcasted.  Today, without any legal notice served, a private TV channel was forced to off-air the program of leading journalist Najam Sethi. Journalists have been pursued to a point where they have been pressurized to close down their twitter accounts in order to stop public rebuking of the PTI government.  Newspapers have seen their distribution curtailed after criticizing the government. Recently, a demonstration was held by a union of journalists to protest the clamping down on the media space.  Calls were immediately made to ensure that no cameras would be sent by TV channels cover the event.”

Further, “The censoring and harassment of the media by the current regime Pakistan is rather ironic given the fact that when in the opposition, Imran Khan and the miltablishment fully exploited the media space.  Nawaz Sharif was barely into his third-term as prime minister when Khan besieged Islamabad by sitting atop a container in the red-zone and demanded Sharif’s resignation.  Khan received non-stop live coverage for his 126-day sit-in.  On many occasions, Khan himself has acknowledged that it was due to the electronic and social media in Pakistan, which gave him the political capital to secure the prime minister house.  Unfortunate that once in power, Khan has sought ways to block and shut down social media sites to avoid criticism of his fledgling government.  Pakistan’s military leadership has put all its eggs in the PTI basket and is working tirelessly, at home and abroad, to ensure that Imran Khan faces no impediments.  The top leadership of opposition parties have already been put behind bars and placed in jails on un-proven charges.”

Finally, “In a recent meeting, Imran Khan had an attendance with the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Bajwa, Director General ISI, General Faiz Hameed and Director General ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor.  One can only hope that they advised each other to focus more on governing and working towards strengthening the economy rather than having a dictatorial approach towards the media and opposition.  In a now iconic photograph, former military dictator Pervez Musharraf is seen patting his brow as he faced the media in his final days of power. Imran Khan and the top brass would be wise to remember the photograph, realizing the pen will always be mightier than the sword.”

New jihad being prepared in Rawalpindi for Kashmir?

Social media has been abuzz with reports that Pakistan’s security establishment is planning another Pulwama-style attack inside Indian controlled Kashmir.

According to the social media account and reports put forth by a US-based advocate of Gilgit-Baltistan, Senge Sering, who has cited stories from the ground inside Pakistan, and analysts like Lawrence Sellin, the Inter-State Services (ISI) has helped militants infiltrate into the Kashmir valley so as to carry out a fidayeen style attack.

After 72 years of emotionalism on Kashmir, is Pakistan finally ready for realism?

For over 72 years, Pakistanis have been brought up on the notion that Kashmir is the shah rug (jugular vein) of Pakistan and that it was the duty of every Pakistani to ensure that the ‘K’ of Pakistan became a part of Pakistani territory.

For years, Pakistan has allowed emotion to prevail over rationality and pragmatism when it comes to any aspect of policy, especially foreign policy.

In a news conference in Muzaffarabad (capital of Azad Kashmir) on August 12, however, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated “You (people) should not in live fool’s paradise. Nobody will be standing there (in the UNSC) with garlands in hands…Nobody will be there waiting for you.”

For decades Pakistan’s foreign policy has centered around the issue of Kashmir: Pakistani leaders – both civilian and military – have always portrayed their close relationships with the Gulf Muslim Arab countries, with China, with the US and with the larger Muslim world as being critical to their effort to get back Kashmir.

India-Pakistan relations have also been viewed purely from the prism of Kashmir. While India and China have a border dispute, and have fought a war, today China is one of India’s top trading partners with $85 billion in annual trade. South Asia is the least economically integrated region thanks primarily to Pakistan’s refusal to allow trade with India unless and until Kashmir is resolved.

Only time will tell if these were isolated remarks made by Qureshi, who was also foreign minister under the PPP government (2008-2010) or if there really is a policy shift.

If it is a policy shift it would require the need for realism in Pakistan’s overall policy towards its neighbors and on the economic foreign policy front as well.

Pakistani doctors with MS, MD degrees sacked in Saudi Arabia & Gulf countries

Since the 1970s, Pakistan’s economy has depended heavily on remittances from its citizens working in the Gulf Arab states. Pakistani doctors, engineers and other white-collar workers are a key source of much needed money for Pakistan’s perilous economy.

In such a situation the news that Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain have rejected the century-old postgraduate degree program of Pakistan — MS (Master of Surgery) and MD (Doctor of Medicine) — removing it from the eligibility list of the highest paid tier. This decision renders hundreds of highly qualified medics liable for deportation.

According to a story in Dawn, “Rejecting Pakistan’s MS/MD degree, the Saudi ministry of health claimed it lacked structured training program, a mandatory requirement to hire medics against important positions. After the Saudi move, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also took the similar step. Most of the affected doctors were hired by a team of the Saudi health ministry in 2016 when it conducted interviews in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad after inviting applications online.”

While “some of the affected doctors and senior health officials in Pakistan blame the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan (CPSP) for damaging their career. A spokesperson for the Association of University Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, Dr Asad Noor Mirza, takes it as a setback for Pakistan’s major degree qualification and disrespect to the highly qualified cream of the nation. He claimed that CPSP delegations during recent visits to Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states had presented distorted facts about Pakistan’s university program to maintain monopoly of the CPSP-sponsored FCPS qualification.”

The government of Pakistan is supposed to take up the matter with health managers in the Arab countries.