Value of a Pakistani life

Policemen stand next to the body of a man who was killed by unidentified gunmen, at a morgue in Karachi’s Abbasi hospital October 17, 2010
Policemen stand next to the body of a man who was killed by unidentified gunmen, at a morgue in Karachi’s Abbasi hospital October 17, 2010

The NATO attack that killed 28 soldiers over the weekend has ignited national outrage. Gen Abbas told the Americans that an apology is not enough, and rightly so. Others have demanded “blood for blood”, but additional deaths will not return our sons to us. To tell the truth, I don’t know how a tragedy like this can be made right, if it can at all. But while I was thinking about this, the question occurred to me, what is the value of a Pakistani life?

When militants killed 26 in a cross border attack in Chitral in August, the response was muted. When militants killed 29 Shias in September, the response was silence.

Drone strikes that have killed between 300 and 500 innocent people sparked sit-ins and blockades.

Suicide attacks have killed over 4,800 people and injured over 10,000 spark no protests.

Imran Khan condemns Musharraf for hundreds of Pakistani citizens gone missing in the war on terror.

Pakistani citizens from Balochistan are even missing from the headlines.

A sad and disturbing pattern begins to emerge. If your death can be blamed on America, you are a son of the soil. If your death can’t be blamed on someone else…you’re just soil. What is the value of a Pakistani life? Sadly it seems the answer is a few votes.

If we don’t value our own lives, why would we expect anyone else to?

Christine (Un)Fair

Christine Fair, an American professor who Tweets and writes regularly about Pakistan, posted something really unfair about the NATO attack. She wrote:

Irony: Pakistanis howl that NATO killed 28 Pak troops. AMCITs blissfully ignorant that Pak-backed proxies kill thousands of US/NATO troops.

Apparently, AMCIT is code for “American citizens”. (At least, that’s what the Google told me.) So what’s so unfair about this Tweet? Whether or not the respected professor intended it to, the way this was read by me and thousands of other Pakistanis is that we shouldn’t complain about about our boys being killed since our agencies allegedly back proxies (read: Haqqani Network) that are killing American troops. In other words, “tit-for-tat”.

I was embarrassed on the anniversary of 9/11 when I heard people saying that the Americans should “get over” the deaths of thousands of their countrymen in those attacks. I am embarrassed for Christine Fair also. Whether she meant it that way or not, her statement during this difficult time could only be taken as telling us to “get over” our own loss. This war is not a competition about who has suffered more. It is a fight against an enemy that has planned and carried out attacks against innocents in America, Europe, Afghanistan and Pakistan also. Our common enemy is not each other. We must stop acting like it is.

The Americans have apologized for the deaths, and even if you do not doubt their sincerity, as
DG ISPR Gen Abbas correctly said : “This (apology) is not good enough.” There needs to be more than just an apology and another toothless inquiry. We are supposed to be allies in this war, and if we are to be allies in more than just words, we need to stop apologizing and start actually working together.

In response to the attack, PM has vowed no more “business as usual”. That is the right response because obviously “business as usual” was sowing the seeds of distrust and suspicion. We need to stop treating each other as untrustworthy. That means the Americans need to stop treating us as their “ally from Hell”.

When American Army Maj. larry J. Bauguess Jr. was killed in 2007, some in America claimed that it was an act of war by our forces. According to the Pentagon’s own investigation, though, it was the act of a lone gunman who killed him. After this latest attack that martyred two dozen of our soldiers, some in Pakistan are claiming that this was an act of war by NATO forces. What it is is a tragedy that should never be forgotten and never be repeated.

It is clear that our goals and the Americans’ goals in Afghanistan are not 100 per cent aligned. But there are definite areas of overlap, and this is where we should concentrating. The Americans need an Afghanistan that will not serve as a staging ground for terrorists. We need an Afghanistan that will not serve as a staging ground for terrorists also. We want the Americans to go home, and the Americans want to go home also. Surely we can work together towards these common goals.

Our concerns about the alignment of Kabul must be taken into consideration, but let’s think about this rationally for a moment. The only way we can ensure a Kabul that is our ally is if we help to build the country and move it forward. Actually, by helping to stabilize Afghanistan, we will be speeding up the Americans exit also. It’s a win-win. Which is much more effective than “tit-for-tat”.

Demands for “blood against blood” are a natural emotional response, but are ultimately self-defeating and will only result in more loss, and more death. The Americans, though, need to think long and hard about this incident and how to make it right. We are already being killed by Taliban, we don’t need to be killed by our friends also.

Immy on SMQ

Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi

“These loans, along with US and European aid money, are like bribes to the Pakistani political elite to keep fighting America’s war for them. This was painfully evident when in October 2010 Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the European parliament: ‘If you want to help us fight extremism and terrorism, one way of doing that is making Pakistan economically stable.’ Pakistan’s ruling elite threatens the West with fears about Islamic militancy to extract more money out of them”

– Imran Khan, Pakistan: A Personal History. 2011

“Addressing a rally in Ghotki, Khan said that Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s image remained clear during his service as a foreign minister in the PPP-led coalition government.”

– The News, Imran invites Qureshi to join PTI. 2011

NATO attack must be responded to intelligently

NATO helicopter

The NATO attack this morning that martyred 28 of our brave soldiers is a tragedy that should never happen. But it has happened, and as our leaders decide how to respond, we should reflect on what it means for our relationship with the Americans and our security.

Many are obviously going to jump to the conclusion that it was a deliberate attack, and some of our less creative hyper-nationalist brothers are already terming it retaliation for memogate, which makes even less sense than their usual conspiracy theories. I am hard pressed to figure out any plausible goal that the Americans would have for carrying out such an attack, though, so I’m going to pull out my Occam’s Razor and slice off some of the obvious lessons.

The two obvious meanings that I find are not good. First, whether the attack was deliberate or it was not deliberate, it clearly shows a breakdown in communication between our two militaries that are supposed to be working together towards a common goal of rooting out terrorists from the Afghan border.

I’m not talking about communication between Gen Kayani and his American counterpart Gen Martin Dempsey, but the day to day communication between the jawans. If it was not deliberate, if it was a case of both sides not knowing what the other was doing and mistakenly believing that they were threatened until the scene escalated into violence – that is a serious problem.

A more serious problem, however, will be if we discover that the attack was either an unprovoked aggression by the NATO forces or it was a retaliatory strike after taking deliberate fire from our checkpost. This is more serious because it means that more than miscommunication has taken place, rather there is an adversarial position taken by one or both of our countries against the other.

The classic military strategist Sun Tzu wrote, “If he is in superior strength, evade him.” This seems like an obvious strategy – not picking a fight with a bigger and stronger adversary, but I see a lot of people whipping themselves in a nationalist frenzy and saying crazy things about war with America. Let’s not fool ourselves, we’re not going to see American troops lined up on the border and running into Pakistan. Yes, it may be over ten years since the Americans went into Afghanistan and yet still they have not been able to defeat the Taliban, but has the Taliban won either? Sun Tzu also says, “There is no instance of a nation benefitting from prolonged warfare”. No, war with Americans will not be some glorious jihad. The Americans will simply lob their cruise missles from thousands of miles away and “bomb us back to the stone age” in a matter of hours. Remember Baghdad in 2003?

Let’s not make that Islamabad in 2011. America might not be able to win a war against Pakistan, but it is we who will suffer more.

That doesn’t mean we should lay down and let the Americans kill us with impunity, either. The PM was correct to condemn the attack in the strongest terms, and have the Foreign Ministry take up the issue with their American counterparts immediately.

Ironically, this is exactly the sort of situation when you want a talented and well-connected Ambassador who can find out what the hell is going. Unfortunately, we pulled ours out of Washington over some TV drama. It’s also unfortunate for the new Ambassador Sherry Rehman whose first order of business when she lands in Washington will be to handle an extremely sensitive issue with people who she is only beginning to form relationships with. It puts her, too, in quite a bad spot. Once again we acted on emotion rather than reason, and now look where its got us.

If the attack was accidental – the result of a communication breakdown – then we need to immediately identify why our two military’s are not communicating and cooperating properly and we need to fix that breakdown immediately.

If it was deliberate – either an unprovoked aggression or a retaliation for a perceived threat – we need to engage at the highest levels to find a solution that addresses the concerns of both sides without escalating violence.

Twenty-eight of our sons were martyred this morning. They pledged to sacrifice their lives for their country, and their sacrifice was paid in their blood. We cannot let this sacrifice be taken in vain by those who will try to exploit it for a political agenda – either one that is intentionally belligerent, or one that makes us look weak. This is the time when a nation requires intelligent and rationale leaders who can find the path this is best not for the country’s “self esteem” but for the security of our future.

Double-Cross

Mansoor Ijaz Shuja Pasha

That Mansoor Ijaz is an ultra-wealthy and well-connected elite is no question. But in addition to an outsized bank account and an outsized rolodex, the Pakistani-American neocon also has an outsized ego to go with it. Surat Luqman (31:18) says, “And do not turn your cheek toward people and do not walk through the earth exultantly. Indeed, Allah does not like everyone self-deluded and boastful”, and it appears that the clever boaster may be getting his comeuppance.

Mansoor Ijaz has long bragged of his extravagant wealth and his connections to various governments and intelligence agencies, including the ISI. On August 2002, Ijaz bragged to Vanity Fair about his role in connecting Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl with Khalid Khawaja as well as ex-CIA director R. James Woolsey.

Neither was this Ijaz’s, born and raised an American, first encounter with Pakistani officials. He had tried to become a lobbyist for Pakistan when Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi represented the nation in Washington, but she raised questions about his credibility. He was later accused of writing anti-Pakistan pieces after they refused his $15 Million demand to deliver votes in the US Congress – a demand that Ambassador Lodhi undoubtedly saw as a trap.

So this latest episode of international intrigue bears certain hallmarks. Mansoor Ijaz was supposedly a trusted ally of Pakistan, only to end up committing what is supposed to look like a double-cross by outing his alleged secret mission in what he described as the most important paper in the world.

During an interview with Barkha Dutt on NDTV on Sunday, Mansoor Ijaz again bragged of his home in Monaco and described himself as “anti-ISI”. This should come as no surprise to anyone who read his Financial Times op-ed in which he termed the ISI as “terror masters” and on 5th May told an American news programme that our military and intelligence agencies not only knew about Osama bin Laden’s location, but helped him move about the country to avoid detection.

Compare that to Ambassador Husain Haqqani’s 8th May appearance on ABC News in which he strongly argued that neither the civilian government nor the military nor the intelligence agencies had anything to do with Osama bin Laden, and that a full investigation would be launched into the issue.

Then the news broke that DG ISI himself met with Mansoor Ijaz a few weeks ago at Ijaz’s posh London hotel. The meeting was supposed to be to find out what evidence Ijaz had to support his accusations. Obviously many people saw this as evidence of a set-up. Why were secret meetings being held not with ISI analysts or forensics agents, but the DG himself? Perhaps it was because the DG did not need analysts to tell him what the American was holding because he knew exactly what he was going to find before he ever reached Ijaz’s hotel room.

Sources are saying that there may be an unexpected twist in the drama, and that the infamous BBM messages that Mansoor Ijaz has shared did not come from Haqqani but from an ISI officer posing as Haqqani as part of a sting operation against the notorious meddler. The double-crosser was himself actually double-crossed.

After dealing with him in the past, our national agencies would surely have kept a close watch on such a character, especially as he was going around to every American media group aligned with the neoconservatives to spread anti-Pakistan propaganda. Despite his ancestry, Mansoor Ijaz is an American, not a Pakistani, and our agents would have to have the goods before they could put a stop to his anti-Pakistan media campaign.

What better way than to publicly show to his contacts throughout the world that he is a shameless double-crosser, thereby putting an end to his meddling? Our security agents would surely know that he had met Ambassador Haqqani to strike up a friendship, and also knew of his famed ego. What better way to ensnare him than to play on his greatest weakness – his desire to see himself as an international kingmaker. This also explains the contents of the memo that were so obviously fake that our agencies knew that their American counterparts would never take them seriously.

So where does this leave Ambassador Haqqani? The Ambassador has been openly critical of military involvement in politics for years, and it is well known that many in the establishment have been suspicious of him due to his book which is critical of the military’s role in politics. Could it have been that someone saw an opportunity to hit two birds with one stone?