EXCLUSIVE: Imran’s Energy Plan Revealed

Imran Khan has a new promise, and it’s one that is likely to please the masses. If elected, Imran Khan promises to solve the energy crisis within five years. Now, I know what you are thinking. How is Imran Khan going to do what no other government till date has been able to accomplish, and within five years only? Is this just another empty promise from a man who will say absolutely anything to get elected? Or does he know something we don’t?

Today we have an exclusive report that will answer the question. Leaked information reveals Imran’s secret plan to solve the energy crisis so quickly, and it just might work. What is the secret? By five years time PTI will have finally unhooked all the kundas used for its jalsas.

Internet Censorship, 2012 Edition

Is it that time of year already? You know, the time of year when someone decides that the solution to all the nation’s problems lies in censoring the internet? As you may have seen, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has issued a Request For Proposals (RFP) for companies to provide national URL filtering and blocking system.

A couple of years ago, when it was judiciary and PTA that had the bright idea of censoring the internet, I wrote that electronic purdah is neither necessary nor workable. Someone at MIB obviously thinks that the solution can be found in a narrow censorship rather than a blanket censorship, but again I think this misses the point. Whatever is on the internet is on the internet, and people who want to find it are going to find a way around whatever filtering software is in place. Just ask the Chinese.

But I’m not going to make technical argument for why this is a silly venture. Instead, I’m going to ask one simple question. Why is the government willing to go to such lengths to censor what people are posting on the internet when this is what they are posting on the streets of Islamabad.

Islamabad poster

PTI’s New Election Strategy Same as Old Election Strategy

Imran KhanPTI has never managed to do well in the polls. In the 15 years since Imran Khan began his one man political show, the only seat his party has ever managed to win was Imran’s. In 2008, PTI didn’t even bother to compete in elections. But the past few months have seen the rise of Imran’s “tsunami”, and hundreds of thousands of supporters turning out to free concerts rallies across the country. But while PTI seems to have figured out a winning marketing strategy, it’s still clinging to the same old failed election strategy of the past.

Sitting on the Sidelines

The first glimpse of the PTI “tsunami” is coming up in by seven upcoming by-polls. According to a report in Dawn, the strategy is the same as in 2008 – sit on the sidelines and complain.

In by-polls for five National and two Punjab assemblies’ seats to be held on Feb 25, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) being a silent spectator is likely to lose the ground once held by its leaders.

Of the seven by-poll seats, four National and one Punjab assemblies’ seats were held by PTI leaders who vacated them to join hands with Imran Khan, chairman of the PTI. Later, as the PTI made a policy not to take part in by-polls, the former parliamentarians are in a fix either to stay away from the process or support their traditional rivals.

Dynasty Denied

One of Imran Khan’s PTI Vice-Chairman Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi wants his son to inherit his old National Assembly seat (NA-148). Imran Khan didn’t think he could cover up for such blatant dynastic politics, though, and rejected the idea. Rather than suggest a ‘clean’ politician for the seat, though, PTI is preparing to run…nobody. According to Dawn, “Mr Qureshi wants his supporters not to vote in by-polls”. I guess SMQ thinks that if his son can’t inherit his old seat, nobody should have it.

All Kings and No Soldiers

The dilemma with NA-148 is an extreme example, but it is also indicative of a larger problem in PTI. With the induction of big wigs from other parties, PTI has been plagued with the problem of having too many ‘Kings’ and not enough soldiers. Take former PML-N leader Javed Hashmi. He jumped on the PTI bandwagon in December after feeling that the Sharifs ignored his desire for advancement.

Of course, Javed Hashmi is not the only political big wig to switch to PTI in hopes of a promotion. This has caused all manner of jealousy and infighting among the PTI ranks, even causing Imran to announce that he’s going to have to dissolve the whole organisation so that he can come up with a new structure that pleases everyone. Oh, and this new party structure, “will not be elected but carefully selected”.

Perhaps no greater example of the impending problem, however, is NA-140 where two PTI big wigs are actually supporting opposing candidates – neither of them representing PTI. Of course, this is just a taste of what’s to come once the general elections are scheduled.

Both Ali and Kasuri recently joined the PTI and were aspiring to contest the next general election from the NA-140 constituency from where they contested the last general election from PPP and PML-Q platforms, respectively

Luckily, PTI already has a strategy for this type of problem – nobody runs and everyone can complain about how unfair elections are.

Bad Omen

Ultimately, whether or not PTI has a losing election strategy is not only something that should concern PTI supporters. As I noted, PTI does is good at marketing and they have managed to attract a lot of new supporters lately – that can’t be ignored. But we should ask ourselves this: If Imran Khan can’t even manage his own party during elections, how is he supposed to manage a government where he doesn’t get to reinvent the entire structure and ‘carefully select’ the players each time things go wrong? Is he going to follow in the footsteps of his political mentor Gen Zia-ul-Haq and persecute opposition members rather than try to find common ground with them?

Mainstream political leaders like Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Fazl-ur-Rehman, and Altaf Hussain are often disparaged by Imran Khan because they make deals and compromises. But that’s how politics works in a democracy. There’s no supreme leader who gets to ‘carefully select’ whoever he wants and ignore or imprison those who disagree with him.

It remains to be seen whether PTI can translate Facebook fans into votes. Imran Khan’s ‘tsunami’ may be more hype than reality, but many sober analysts do believe that PTI has the opportunity steal several seats from PML-N in Punjab during the next elections. Of course, even this possibility requires Imran Khan to get his party in order and to develop a better election strategy than he’s had in the past. So far, it’s not looking promising.

Criticism on Balochistan is not anti-military, it’s pro-Pakistan

Balochistan

The discussion about the situation in Balochistan shows no signs of letting up, and we should seize the opportunity to apologise for past mistakes and correct our course so that all Pakistani citizens are afforded their rights. As I have written already this month, a sustainable solution can only come as the result of the democratic political process and not political point scoring – this means not using it as an excuse for establishment bashing, but not using it as a whitewash either.

For example, Ahmed Quraishi argues that the APC should ignore any mistakes made by security forces and instead use the opportunity to create a forum for BLA bashing. As usual, Ahmed Quraishi misses the point completely and even contradicts himself as he does so.

Responding to the bill introduced in the US Congress, Ahmed says “governance in our southwestern province is a domestic issue”. This is true, of course, but human rights are not domestic issues. Just as recognising the rights of Palestinians is not limited to people who live in Palestine or Israel, recognising the rights of Baloch should not be limited to Pakistanis only. This doesn’t excuse the inappropriateness of Dana Rohrabacher’s actions, but it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the situation in Balochistan either.

Ironically, a few paragraphs after declaring Balochistan a domestic issue, the self-appointed defender of Pakistan’s sovereignty actually requests the CIA to send its agents into Balochistan to fight a covert war on our own citizens.

[America] could start by designating the BLA a terrorist group and ordering the CIA to cooperate with Pakistan in eliminating its terror bases in US-controlled Afghanistan.

That’s right. Brig. Ahmed Quraishi (Ghairat Brigade, Sovereignty Division) is requesting the CIA to send assassins to kill Pakistani citizens. Don’t worry, though, he flip-flops again later.

[APC] should take a clear position on rejecting foreign interference in domestic issues. It should outlaw individuals cooperating with foreign governments and spy agencies under the pretext of rights and grievances.

We don’t need CIA agents in Balochistan killing BLA members. We don’t need to escalate the conflict at all – we need to end it. To do this, the APC needs to openly address the concerns and frustrations of the common man in Balochistan whose only desire is to live and work peacefully with his family without the threats from separatist militants or overzealous security forces.

Ahmed Quraishi wants to pretend like security forces never cross the line, as if we had a military made up of angels and not men. A year ago I wrote about how real love requires us to face the imperfections of the ones we love so that we can help them improve. I have said it many times – it is your friends who tell you when there is food in your teeth. It is your enemies who let you walk around look foolish. There is nothing wrong with the APC taking up the issue of abuses by security forces so long as it is done in a fair and constructive manner and not a ‘witch hunt’.

The military is strong enough to take criticism as long as it is fair and constructive. It is the military itself that has brought Brig. Ali Khan to book for ties to extremist groups, and working together with the support of the APC they can also stop any excesses carried out in Balochistan also. That isn’t an attack on the military, it’s supporting it. And it’s the only way to defend both Baloch rights and Pakistani sovereignty – which is real patriotism.

Responding to Rohrabacher

dana rohrabacher

American Congressman Dana Rohrabacher sent sparks flying when he touched the live wire of Balochistan by tabling a bill in the US Congress supporting Baloch separatism. The entire government displayed a showing of unity by responding strongly to the tabling of a bill in the US Congress supporting Balochistan separatists. PM Gilani slammed the bill, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar termed it a violation of UN charter, and the Embassy in Washington issued a strongly worded statement. By responding strongly, is the government turning a blind eye to the situation in Balochistan? Actually, I think it might not be the government that is acting blindly.

Some have questioned whether the government should have responded so strongly when clearly there are problems in Balochistan that need to be addressed. But let me offer another way of looking at it – the government has to respond to the perception of American interference if the issues of Baloch rights can be properly addressed.

Pakistan is not a monolithic country. Just as we have a diversity of languages, ethnicities and religions, we also have a very diverse political makeup. While some are complaining that the government has responded too harshly, there are others who think that the only way to deal with Balochistan is to pretend like there are no legitimate complaints and that it is all part of a Hindu-Zionist conspiracy to destabilise the country and therefore should be dealt with through sheer force and intimidation. This is the same attitude that pushed the Bengalis past the point of no return in 1971, and it is a mistake that should not be repeated.

If the issues of Baloch rights is going to be settled properly and senseless bloodshed finally ended, it will have to be done through the democratic political process. In order for that to happen, parliamentarians and government officials must have the political space required to enact necessary reforms. Dana Rohrabacher reduced that space and in doing so actually hurt the cause for justice in Balochistan.

We don’t live in the world as we might wish it to be, we live in the world as it is. And in the wold as it is, actions of the US are seen as very suspect. This goes back to the 1953 CIA sponsored coup in Iran that overthrew a democratic government and has been reinforced by American foreign policy mistakes many times since. That isn’t anti-Americanism, it’s history. There’s a lot of good that America has done, too – so just as we should not be reduced to our own policy mistakes, neither should the Americans.

But in the world as it is, it is also a fact of life that when an American Congressman tables a resolution supporting Baloch separatism, many very loud and influential voices will point to this as evidence of a foreign conspiracy to break up Pakistan. They will use it to marginalise legitimate Baloch leaders and to dismiss legitimate complaints. The iron fist will be hardened, and the political space required for a political solution will shrink.

And it’s not only Pakistani politics that should be considered here.

Is Dana Rohrabacher really unable to sleep because of the situation in Balochistan? Maybe. Watching the hearing online, though, I couldn’t help but notice that the Congressman didn’t even know how to pronounce the name of the province that he was so concerned about. I also noticed that much of the conversation centered not on actual Baloch rights, but whether this was a good excuse to cut all aid to Pakistan.

With our own political circus in fine form, it is easy to forget that other countries also play politics for a domestic gallery also. I have been informed that Mr Rohrabacher is not being challenged for his seat and that the Congressman Brad Sherman is a Democrat, therefore they cannot be playing politics. But this is silly. As a Republican, Rohrabacher is going to want to make President Obama look like he is not being hard enough on Pakistan. As a Democrat, Brad Sherman is going to want to act tough against Pakistan.

Of course, maybe the Congressmen have heard about atrocities in Balochistan (there’s no denying that there have been some) and were troubled by what they heard. Again, given the benefit of doubt that the Congressmen are truly troubled by the situation in Balochistan (as we all are) we have to ask how this bill could possibly serve to advance Baloch rights. As I have shown, it actually does the opposite.

Dana Rohrabacher can table as many bills in the US Congress as he wants to, but they will not pave a path to peace and justice in Balochistan. That path only exists in Majlis-e-Shura, and in order to move down that path, the elected representatives of the people must have the political space to enact reforms. Unfortunately, thanks to Dana Rohrabacher, that space just got smaller.