Gen (r) Janjua’s advise for Afghanistan is good advise for Pakistan also

Gen (r) Naseer Khan JanjuaNational Security Advisor Lt Gen (r) Naseer Khan Janjua has found himself widely ridiculed on social media after claiming that US is only a superpower due to Pakistan. However, there are other claims made by the retired officer that are much less amusing. Actually, they should be taken very seriously if we are to ever find a way out of the cycle of madness that we seem to be stuck in.

Gen Janjua also asked at the same gathering, “It is said Pakistan is supporting Taliban. If that is true then why are Pakistani Taliban fighting a war against us?” Is the NSA not aware of the difference between Afghan Taliban and TTP? Is he not aware of the state’s different policies towards these two groups, seeing one as a legitimate political force and the other as an illegitimate anti-state terrorist group?

This brings up another curious point made in an exclusive interview the NSA gave to Geo where he blamed Afghanistan and un-named ‘hostile intelligence agencies’ for hosting anti-Pakistan militants like TTP. Here is what he said:

As a result of the successful conduct of Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the terrorists ran for their lives and crossed over to into Afghanistan, where they were hosted by the Hostile Intelligence Agencies (HIAs). After absorbing the initial set back, these terrorists relocated and re-established themselves.

Over time, they have reorganised, regrouped, and recuperated. The recent series of attacks show that they are now well-established and have adequate support of Hostile Intelligence Agencies to restart their heinous activities.

I am not making any disagreement with the NSA’s statement, but there is an important point missing which is that what he is describing is exactly what Pakistan is doing also.

Last year, Sartaj Aziz admitted what was already obvious which is that Pakistan has been hosting Taliban leaders and providing safe haven where they were able to reorganise, regroup, and recuperate. Former COAS Gen Musharraf also admitted that ISI cultivated Taliban to counter any Indian influence in Kabul. In other words, everything we have blamed Afghanistan for doing that has fueled this terrible war, we have admitted doing also!

NSA Lt Gen Janjua said that “continuous way of war, and the intent to gain a position of strength, has made the war perpetual in Afghanistan.” If this is something he truly believes and is not just reciting sweet talking points, the obvious result is for our own state agencies to end our obsession with the way of war and intent to gain a position of strength in Afghanistan. If we are sincere in wanting to see peace in Afghanistan and at home, we need to take our own advise and stop our ‘good Taliban’ ‘bad Taliban’ policies.

Another Embassy Blunder

It’s barely been over one month since the last blunder in Washington, but the Embassy has done it again. This time it was the new Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry who gave an appearance at US Institute for Peace in Washington, a favourite venue for state officials to give presentations no doubt thanks to the placement of Moeed Yusuf who believes Pakistanis need to do more to defend Pakistan’s narrative at US think tanks. Unfortunately, even Moeed was unable to prevent the Ambassador from reading from a set of talking points that left the world laughing. However, was it really a blunder? Or is this a perfect case of our diplomatic corps reflecting our preferred strategy for international diplomacy.

What gained the most attention was the Ambassador’s bizarre answer to a question from the audience about state persecution of Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. Here is the question and Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry’s unedited answer:

The ridiculous non-answer was immediately met with ridicule on social media.

Denying state persecution of Ahmadiyya community is impossible. When police demolish places of worship, and when Courts order police to take action against a religious community, that is state persecution. The persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan is decades old and extensively documented. So how can the Ambassador say with a straight face that no persecution exists, and even go on and claim that Ahmadis are treated equal in Pakistan?

Before we come to understand the answer, let us take note of another claim made by the Ambassador.

If this is true, what is Zarb-e-Azb? What is Radd-ul-Fasaad? Why does COAS Gen Bajwa and Gen Raheel before him claim that terrorists are defeated because of Army? Is the Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry terming the Army chiefs as liars?

No, of course not. This has been the line fed to American officials since long in order to convince them not to interfere with our issues but only to give the Army more money and weapons. We tell them that there can not be any military solution to terrorism because we do not want Americans to ask why we are not willing to help against Taliban in Afghanistan or groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa who entire world sees as terrorists but we see as patriots.

Actually, even though the Embassy has looked foolish to the rest of the world, the powers that be probably believe it was a huge success. Ambassador’s answers make no sense, but they are the official narrative that is being presented. He is not going off his scripted talking points and admitting any mistakes or problems like some previous diplomats whose tendency toward honesty on sensitive issues has resulted in being black listed at home.

There is another point, also. As usual, I can find no trace of any American or Western media paying any attention to this event. The Ambassador gave a presentation, but it is as if it never happened except in Pakistan. Here the Ambassador’s remarks are spun as a huge success of presenting a positive image of Pakistan in front of an audience of foreign dignitaries and scholars. For most Pakistanis, the truth of what happened will never be known. But maybe that was the point anyway.

‘Zardari TV’ won’t restore People’s Party or media freedom

Zardari Bol TVAsif Ali Zardari has become the second former president to find a new career in media after Gen Musharraf was announced as having a new show last month. Just like when the former military dictators show was announced, the civilian politician’s announcement was also met with jokes on social media.

Some PPP supporters were not impressed with the move.

Others are making the more obvious point about Zardari joining none other than the controversial Bol TV.

However, this last point may be the point completely. Pakistan media has been under extreme pressure from GHQ which has only increased since arrival of new COAS Gen Qamar Bajwa. What better way to counter allegations of Army censorship than to have someone like Asif Zardari appear on a channel allegedly supported by agencies? Surely no one can accuse Zardari of being an establishment stooge.

It is true that Zardari is no establishment stooge, but it is also true that the former president is well known as an excellent politician who knows ‘the art of the deal’. PPP has seen its fortunes steadily sinking since its historic losses in 2013. Since that time, the party has been grasping as any opportunity to reinvent itself away from ‘Roti, Kapra aur Makaan’ to some sort of generic political party with a broader middle class appeal. Bilawal was rebooted as Kashmir mujahid, party leaders came out in support of military courts by blaming civilian institutions, and the party that has stood strongest for religious minorities has shown weakness on important issues like forced conversion. Zardari is no stooge, but does seem like PPP leaders have been taking some very bad advise and now are once again trying to be overly clever by taking the opportunity to get on TV in exchange for providing cover for Army’s media managers.

Whatever the true reasoning is impossible to know, and those who actually know will never tell it. What we can be sure of is that the antidote for military media managers is not political media managers. In this era of ‘fake news’ and media manipulation, it is becoming harder and harder to know what is true. The solution is to increase the number of professional journalists who are investigating and reporting the facts without ideological bias. Adding more politicians to the mix only adds to the confusion, which is something neither People’s Party nor media cannot afford.

“Standard Operating Procedure: Deny, then deny the denial”

Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria

Nawaz Sharif claimed another victory yesterday, as Kuwait has decided to lift six-years old visa ban for Pakistanis after the PM discussed the matter with his counterpart Sheikh Jaber al Mubarak al Hamad al Sabah. However, this victory has been somewhat overshadowed by scandal because by announcing the good news, the government has also exposed itself as making false attacks against those who tell inconvenient truths.

The issue of Kuwait’s visa ban surfaced during debate about American President Donald Trump’s order to ban visas for several Muslim countries known as a ‘Muslim Ban’. During this discussion it was noted by former Ambassador Husain Haqqani that actually Kuwait also had also banned visas for Pakistani citizens since six years ago. Haqqani was immediately attacked by the Foreign Office in an official statement.

Meanwhile, as “fake news” against Pakistan was doing the rounds, the spokesman came down heavily on Pakistan’s former US ambassador Hussain Haqqani who was caught while retweeting five years old news, claiming that Kuwait had put a ban on Pakistani visas.

“It is highly regrettable and deplorable that a person who was honoured to represent Pakistan has been indulging in activities that would hurt Pakistan’s national interests. Unfortunately, he is doing all this at a time when the world is increasingly acknowledging Pakistan’s growing economic potential in the wake of tremendous improvement in the security situation, investor friendly policies and strengthening of democratic institutions”, responded the spokesman.

He added that the more Mr. Haqqani does such malicious and unethical acts, more he exposes his character. “He has not only lost respect among Pakistanis but also among those who attach importance to values”, said the spokesman.

By announcing the reversal of the ban, though, the government has shown that the ‘Fake News’ was coming from none other than spokesman for the Foreign Office Nafees Zakaria!

Haqqani responded to the situation with his famous wit before quickly moving on to more pressing matters:

Whatever one thinks about Husain Haqqani, he has hit the nail on the head this time. “Standard Operating Procedure: Deny, then deny the denial”. We have seen this over and over again, especially with attacks against anyone and everyone who dares to point out inconvenient facts that don’t fit a particular ‘narrative’ of how we wish reality was.

Will the FO apologise for attacking Haqqani’s character when he obviously did nothing but tell the truth? Or was the FO really unaware of Kuwait’s visa ban? If this is the case, then they not only owe Haqqani an apology, but a sincere ‘thank you’ for alerting them to the situation. Either way, the conclusion is clear: Officials need to do more listening, and less attacking, if they want to solve national problems. That is undeniable.

Is the state setting itself up for another international embarrassment?

InterpolLast week, government suffered another embarrassment when Interpol refused its request to issue a red warrant against MQM founder Altaf Hussain saying it does not involve itself in politics. By giving this explanation, the global law enforcement agency has essentially said that the charges against Altaf Hussain are purely political and are not backed by actual evidences. However, government officials appear to have learned nothing from this as they have already approached Interpol for another red warrant, this time against Baloch nationalist leader Brahumdagh Bugti and his aide Sher Mohammad Bugti, who have been granted asylum in Switzerland due to life threats.

Brahamdagh BugtiThe question must be asked why officials are so determined to get their hands on these political leaders who they have already driven out of the country rather than trying to find a political solution to political problems? As Interpol has confirmed, these are cases of politics, not law enforcement and national security. It should be noted that the global police agency has been willing to issue red warrants against actual militants like Maulana Masood Azhar when there is adequate evidence presented.

Maulana Masood Azhar Red WarrantOne cannot help but think of another case when state officials tried to convince international agencies to accept their narrative, only to fall flat on the global stage: The infamous ‘dossiers‘ on Indian involvement in terrorism. Instead of trying to convince the rest of the world to accept our national security narrative, state officials should be working to find political solutions to political disagreements, and save law enforcement resources for cracking down on actual militants.