Sadiq & Ameen vs Security and Economy

panama papersLet us save the theatrics for the script writers for a moment and admit what appear to be some basic truths. Nawaz Sharif’s family lives a lifestyle that exceeds their reported income. Okay, this is increasingly obvious, but is it really so unexplained? Let’s consider a few other facts:

  1. There are more people on planes at any given moment than people paying their due taxes.
  2. The ‘informal’ economy in Pakistan is nearly as large as the formal economy – around $160 Billion.

Yes, but it’s not our fault, you say. We expect more from our leaders, you say. And we would pay our taxes if we knew our leaders were not pocketing our money, you say.

Really? Okay. Then let’s talk about our leaders. Nawaz goes, who is the sadiq & ameen who will replace him? Asif Zardari? Imran Khan? Don’t make me laugh.

This is why we need Army to take over and clean house, you say. But how clean is Army’s house? Will we see another ‘Panama Papers’ type leak about Gen Musharraf’s unexplained wealth? The worst kept secret in the country is the rampant corruption and looting by Army officers.

Okay, then, so what does this mean? There is no hope? No. I don’t think we have to be so fatalistic. However, I do think that we need to decide what is important. Is it most important to see our political rivals humiliated? This seems to be how we are deciding things now, and what has it earned us? We are a nation that is divided, insecure within our own borders, overwhelmed by religious extremism, all while in a state of economic stagnation. Instead of taking our problems seriously, we have tried to outsource them – first to America, now to China. You take care of our security and economy, we say, while we entertain ourselves with petty political dramas.

This may well be the end for Nawaz Sharif. If he goes, he goes. But what comes next? The same will be repeated with the next, and the next, and the next. We have no intention of changing. And why should we? Are you not amused? After all, surely the Chinese will take care of us….

Parachinar and Sectarianism: Are Shia Becoming Next Bengalis?

The tragic situation in Parachinar has turned from bad to worst. First, the people are attacked repeatedly and agencies appear to be completely outfoxed as even in most secure areas, still terrorists are able to carry out attacks easily. The most recent attack which killed scores of innocents was virtually ignored, as PM preferred to condole those killed in Bahawalpur accident, and COAS preferred to spend his time at LoC.

Meanwhile, as the poor people of Parachinar protested their treatment, their cries were virtually ignored by major media groups adding to confusion and making the people feel helpless and abandoned. Then, the insult became injury as self-styled social media ‘defence analysts’ began a campaign to defame and threaten these Pakistani citizens as ‘traitors’ because they are Shia.

Faran Jeffrey CommandEleven.com sectarianism

After remaining silent, ISPR was forced to confront the anti-Shia sectarianism being projected across social media by these accounts with links to Army.

ISPR press release

However, it must be noted that the meaning of the official statement is unclear as it does not note who exactly Army is holding responsible for spreading sectarian hatred. Actually, this message is being promoted even by those spreading sectarianism.

So what is the message exactly? Those pro-Army accounts who are terming Shia as ‘traitors’ obviously believe that Army has endorsed their hate speech. This only puts Shia citizens in even more dangerous position.

To clear the air, ISPR needs to issue an official clarification to inform whether they endorse or condemn the sectarian hate speech being spread by Zaid Hamid, Faran Jeffrey, and other Army-linked social media commandos. Otherwise, is it the case that Army is reading from the same playbook that tried to silence Bengalis and then Mohajirs by spreading the narrative that they are ‘traitors’ to Pakistan?

Why can we shoot down Iranian drones but not American ones? Answer is simple.

Iranian drone shot downJust as quickly as the news spread that PAF had shot down an Iranian drone that violated Pakistani airspace, the predictable question began pouring in:

If this seems like the government is caught in cowardice or hypocrisy, it is wrong. There is an obvious answer, only no one wants to hear it.

PAF doesn’t shoot down US drones because GHQ and ISI want them.

I know what you are going to say: COAS has termed the drone strikes as counterproductive. But let me give you some facts:

Ex-COAS Gen Kayani also termed the drone strikes as counterproductive in his public statements. In secret, though, Gen Kayani begged the Americans for more drone strikes.

Gen Musharraf also secretly gave the Americans permission to carry out drone strikes in Pakistan.

American drone strikes continued under Gen Raheel and now Gen Bajwa. Like their predecessors, each COAS gives some empty statement to Pakistani media about how these strikes are counterproductive but then does nothing. Why?

Like so much about our national security policy, what we are told is a mixture of lies, half-truths, and mixed messages. GHQ cannot take direct action against US drones for two reasons: One, the US drone strikes are killing anti-Pakistan militants from TTP. In other words, they are helping us. Two, the US drone strikes are killing pro-Pakistan militants in Pakistan that do not ‘officially’ exist. Admitting that they do exist would also be admitting that our agencies are either completely unaware or are lying to the world.

So why can we shoot down Iranian drones but not American drones? The answer is simple.

Because GHQ does not oppose American drone strikes. They’re just too scared to tell you the truth.

When all you have is an Army, everything looks like a war

It is hard for me to write anything since I haven’t had enough sleep in the past 48 hours. I’m still not sure whether I’m actually asleep and dreaming. If that is true, I hope I never wake up from this beautiful dream. However, like all dreams, there are some elements of anxiety that have creeped in also.

Despite the awesome victory, some of our fellow countrymen are not satisfied to celebrate they have to turn it into a weapon for their personal wars. In politics, Imran Khan’s Army ‘celebrated’ by attacking Najam Sethi. In case you thought this was the actions of some unruly youths and not part of PTI’s culture, please note that PTI’s official social media channels even posted the embarrassing event.

If PTI’s official channels are trying to use the victory to advance their political war, other official channels tried to use the victory to advance another war.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, messages posted that were both humble and gracious in defeat.

If I am thinking about why we can’t enjoy a victory without turning it into a weapon, I have to think that when all you have is an Army, everything looks like a war. But I am not thinking about it anymore. I am choosing to enjoy the sweet victory for what it really is – proof that this country is more than an Army, and that we have more to offer than war.

America Gives Us a Model For Official Inquiries

There are many times that people point to America as an excuse for doing something. We should not use proxies. “America does it.” We do not need to spend so much on weapons. “America does it.” We should not interfere in other countries affairs. “America does it.” However last night we saw the Americans do something amazing. I am writing of course about the inquiry into Donald Trump and the testimony before the Congress by the ex-FBI Director James Comey.

If you did not watch this incredible event, you should. The full and unedited video is posted online

Now let us discuss what we saw. First, the former FBI chief who was fired by the President was ordered to testify and answer questions from both Republicans and Democrats. During his statement, James Comey termed the President and his aides as liars. No shouting broke out. No threats were made or disruptions took place. The entire event was calm and taken seriously.

Next, the political leaders from each party both asked difficult but fair questions. When James Comey responded that he could not answer in public due to the sensitivity of the issue but he would answer behind closed doors, his reply was accepted. When he criticised the President, even the President’s own party members accepted his statements. The President’s party members did not attack him and term him as a traitor or a paid agent. Everyone involved in the inquiry appeared to have one thing in mind: Getting to the truth, whatever the truth might be.

It also must be noted how we know all of this. The entire hearing which took place in the Halls of Congress was broadcast by all media and streamed online. Even the full video of the hearing posted above was provided by the New York Times which the President has attacked as ‘fake news’. However no attempt was made to hide the contents or the criticism. To say the entire world was watching would not be an exaggeration, and nobody could watch and think that it made President Trump look good.

Now compare to how we have handled sensitive inquiries here. Panama Papers, Memogate, Dawn Leaks…each of these has been handled in the complete opposite manner. Public hearings have mostly been done by TV anchors pushing sensational narratives rather than calm and unbiased questioning by elected leaders. Political loyalties and personal biases have often been placed before the facts, even in cases of national security. And in the end, what has been uncovered by officials has been hidden from the public only feeding the confusion and conspiracies.

There are many things that we should not copy from American politics and actions, and we should always make our own decisions what is based on the good of our own country first and last. In the case of how to handle an official investigation, though, this is one where we should be taking notes.