Trump is obviously wrong…But so are we

Trump

US President Donald Trump announced America’s new Afghanistan policy today, which sounded very familiarly like America’s old Afghanistan policy. What has received the most attention, though, are his claims about our policy.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations,” he said, warning that vital aid could be cut.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said. “That will have to change and that will change immediately.”

The response from official quarters has been quick and strong. Politicians of all stripes  raced to the microphone to respond and remind the American President of how much Pakistan has suffered at the hands of terrorists, and some, like PTI’s Shireen Mazari, added empty threats of ‘a befitting response’.

The most honest and important reply actually came before Trump’s speech. Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor told reporters, referring to theh possibility that Trump would take a hard line against Pakistan, “Even if it comes…Pakistan shall do whatever is best in the national interest.” In other words, no change on our part. We will keep doing what we have always done.

Unfortunately, what we have always done is a failure. Despite the pleasing words from official sources, we have seen the state declare victory of Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, only to see the same ‘defeated’ terrorists carry out massive attacks against innocent citizens. We have heard pleasing words about abandoning ‘good Taliban’ policies and support for so-called ‘pro-Pakistan’ militants, only to see the same militants announce that they are now preparing to enter the National Assembly.

America may be out of ideas in Afghanistan, but we are the ones suffering from our own failure to accept new ideas and new policies. We hold tightly to the same old failed policies like an anchor that is dragging us to the bottom of the ocean. Blaming Donald Trump and the Americans is easy and convenient. They may be wrong, after all. But we are victims of our own policies, and we have only ourselves to blame. It’s too bad none of our so-called leaders have the guts to say it.

 

 

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.