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.

Ehtram-e-Ramazan Vigilantes Attack Journalists In Islamabad

Haqqania Masjid VigilantesIn May I predicted ‘will we see Ehtram-e-Ramzan lynch mobs‘ this year due to government and media whipping up hysteria over anyone smoking or eating or drinking during Ramzan. With Eid only a few days away, I thought my prediction was completely wrong, but now thanks to these Haqqania Masjid vigilantes it has been proven partially correct.

On Tuesday, a crew of journalists was attacked by some Mullahs on an out of control rampage in the capital. According to reports, cameraman Rashid Azeem was performing ablution at Haqqania Masjid to offer Zuhr prayers when he was confronted by a cleric who based on nothing accused him not being honest about observing his fast. After being corrected mistake, the cleric became enraged. When the journalists went outside to begin their recording, clerics and students of Haqqania Masjid viciously attacked the journalists even sending cameraman Rashid to Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS) for a medical examination.

As a result, officials have threatened to throw the journalists in prison for violating Ehtram-e-Ramazan Ordinance even though there is no evidence that any one of them has committed any crime and that they were the actual victims of these violent and out of control Mullahs.

Eid Mubarak.

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.

If a drone falls in Fata and nobody calls for dharna, does it even make a sound?

 

Sabir Nazar cartoon on drone strikeEarlier this week a senior commander of Haqqani Network and two other militants were killed by a US drone strike in Fata. COAS casually repeated the mantra that drone strikes are ‘counterproductive‘, but for the most part the incident has been quietly ignored. Only Shireen Mazari has been beating the drum of war against America while criticising the Army Chief for being too sheepish. This raises the question, what is different about this drone strike from others that have been turned into national

For one thing, there is the obvious. Pakistan is poised to win the Champions Trophy, and against none other than India itself. The truth is right now is the perfect time to do any dastardly thing that you don’t want anyone to notice because quite honestly everyone is paying attention to one thing and one thing only and that will continue till at least the next few days.

However, there is something else going on I think which is that there is uncertainty in the halls of power about just how far to push the Americans in the Trump era. Just a few days ago, Ambassador Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhary told the Americans that Haqqani Network ‘have moved into Afghanistan and need to be taken care of there’. Was he lying or was he merely uninformed? Either way, the fact that the Americans carried out a drone strike against Haqqani Network militants in Fata just days later shows that they already knew he was trying to sell them counterfeit goods. Was this strike the Americans sending a message that the old ways were not going to be tolerated any longer?

There have been other messages sent loud and clear, such as the American Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announcing that ‘The president has asked the question specifically about our level of support and funding to Pakistan’ and that the US is ‘beginning an inter-agency policy review towards Pakistan’. Is it a coincidence that these announcements came on the heels of a drone strike against Haqqani Network militants in a place that our government swore they could not be?

Whatever our past strategies toward the Americans have been, the election of Donald Trump as president has changed matters by creating much more uncertainty about how we will be viewed and whether our strategic concerns will be appreciated. Strategies of the past that involved turning a blind eye to pro-Pakistan militants are not going to go unnoticed today. That is something, unlike this week’s drone strike, that we cannot simply ignore.

Fake News Strikes Again With ‘Saudi Slaves’ Rumour

The latest outrage this week has been over comments by Saudi Defence Minister Muhammad Bin Suleiman that Pakistanis are ‘Saudi slaves’. Only problem…

He never said it.

If the Saudi Defence Minister never called Pakistanis ‘Saudi slaves’ (or anyone’s slaves for that matter), why do so many of our fellow countrymen believe he did? The answer goes back to a ‘news report’ by Arabi21, a Lebanon-based news site.

Arabi21 News Report

Curiously, the story is not even from Lebanon, it is quoting an Iranian news agency. But that doesn’t really matter at all, because nowhere in the story does it say anything about the Saudi Defence Minister terming anyone as anyone else’s slave. So why do so many people believe that it does?

The answer comes down to two important facts. First, the media report being quoted is in Arabic, which most Pakistanis can’t read (disclosure: neither can I – I had to ask a friend to translate for me!) Second fact: A Pakistani ‘security analyst’ said so on social media:

The problems with this fake rumour were almost immediately noted by other journalists on Twitter

However even after several days since it was disproven, the original Tweet is still there and being passed around as ‘proof’. The fake rumour has received massive attention in large part because of controversies and worries about our role in the Saudi military alliance and the more recent crisis in Gulf over the isolation of Qatar. This has led to a spike in fake news stories over these issues meant to, in the trendy terminology, ‘shape perceptions’.

There is another issue at play, though, which is our sense of pride. After taking billions of dollars in foreign aid from Saudi, and watching millions of Pakistanis emigrating to KSA for jobs that bring billions more in remittances…why are we so quick to react to every piece of fake news that stings our pride a little bit?

We swing back and forth from one extreme to the other. First we fit our cars with number plates that refer to a fictional ‘al Bakistan‘ because we don’t actually know Arabic, then we get outraged over fake news – again, because we don’t know Arabic.

This outrage, like so many outrages over fake news, could easily be stopped before they start with one simple task: Fact checking. If you receive something on WhatsApp or even if someone tells you directly, why not ask for the facts. Where did they learn this information? Can you see the story? Where did it come from? Can you read it? If not, can you get a translation? Has it been verified by any other journalists or media agencies?

We are living in particularly sensitive times. There are forces at play that do not have our best interests in mind, and the internet and social media especially have made the spread of fake news so fast and so real looking that we cannot believe everything we hear or read. Thankfully, the same technology that makes fake news spread is also the antidote to the disease. Next time, before you get angry and quickly react, take the time to fact check.