PTI’s Role as Junior Partner to ISI in Witch-Hunts and Repression

The PTI government of Mr Imran Khan appears to be doing everything he promised he as Mr Clean was fighting against: media censorship, suppression of freedom of expression, and witch hunts against opposition.

According to author and journalist Zahid Hussain “Few leaders have seen such a steep fall from a high pedestal within months of coming to power. A panic-stricken prime minister seems to have lost all sense of proportion. His most recent harangue in the National Assembly and his midnight address to the nation leave one wondering about his capabilities when it comes to navigating the country through the present financial and political morass. It’s a Greek tragedy unfolding. It was reminiscent of the sordid game that has long plagued Pakistani politics when the prime minister recently met some opposition legislators reportedly willing to cross the floor. A federal minister claims there were many more from Punjab waiting in line to shift their political allegiance.”

According to Husain, “Khan’s ‘Wasim Akram-plus’ seems to have finally blossomed into a fine craftsman engineering defections within the opposition ranks. Mean­while, a dexterous provincial governor through a ‘magic wand’ is said to have won enough numbers to change the PPP government in Sindh. “It’s a matter of time when the PTI will form the government in the province,” boasted a federal minister. What was unholy in the past has now been declared kosher under the rule of a self-proclaimed crusader against corruption. It’s certainly not awakening conscience that compels the opposition members to revolt against their ‘corrupt’ party leaders. Those of us who are familiar with our sleazy political culture know well how political engineering is done. There is no difference between the infamous ‘Changa Manga’ episode and the ‘Banigala’ meeting though the mechanics may vary. It is so pathetic to see PTI ministers hailing the turncoats selling their political loyalty.”

Finally he warns “One lesson of history that Khan should have learnt is that neither horse-trading nor political witch-hunts can provide stability to the government. It is a siege mentality that he needs to break for his own good. Facing a vociferous opposition is also part of the democratic political process.”

Pakistan’s Deep State Intensifies Media Censorship

Pakistan has one of the worst records when it comes to media freedom. This was demonstrated once again this week when on Monday an interview of former president Asif Ali Zardari was stopped from being aired shortly after it started on Geo News.

The interviewer, Hamid Mir “took to Twitter to express his outrage over the incident. “I can only say sorry to my viewers that an interview was started and stopped on Geo New[s] I will share the details soon but it’s easy to understand who stopped it? We are not living in a free country,” he wrote. In a series of tweets, Mr Mir said that within few minutes during the telecast Geo News announced Mr Zardari’s interview would not be aired. “I am getting calls from all over the world people asking what happened? State of Pakistan giving bad name to this country we don’t need enemies,” he said. In a snippet of the interview circulated on social media, the former president disclosed that an investigation into a big scandal, involving Prime Minister Imran Khan, was under way. “What’s wrong in it? I asked some questions to ex President of Pakistan Asif Ali Zardari he responded? Is he bigger criminal than Ehsanullah Ehsan former spokesman of TTP? Remember Ehsanullah Ehsan gave interview from official custody I interviewed Asif Zardari in Parliament House,” asked Mr Mir.”

Media watchdogs “took notice of the incident and condemned press censorship in the country. “Freedom Network slams what appears case of enforced #censorship as #interview of @AAliZardari with @HamidMirPAK is stopped minutes after it started,” the watchdog stated. The Asia Desk of the Committee to Protect Journalists termed it an “outrageous infringement on freedom of the press!”

The Government of Pakistan, however, argued that the interview was pulled off for special reasons. According to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan “the interview was pulled under Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) rules for three reasons. “[Firstly], an under-trial suspect who is in the custody of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) can not appear in an interview before cameras in the parliament,” she explained. “[Secondly] the permission of the National Assembly speaker is a prerequisite for bringing in cameras into the parliament,” she said, adding that “[Finally], there is a designated spot outside the parliament for media talks [where such interviews should be held].” “The interview was [therefore] conducted in violation of the rules of parliament,” she concluded, adding that Pemra rules too do not allow the broadcasting of an interview of an accused who is under investigation and on remand.”

Russian Psy-Ops continue to Target Pakistan

The Nation may have pulled down its story on Husain Haqqani, but Russian psy-ops operatives continue to target Pakistan.

Prominent among them is Adam Garrie of Eurasia Futures fame, the same person whom NP has written about consistently in the last two years. In 2018 Eurasia Futures had to issue an apology to Jang Group over false allegations related to Cambridge Analytica. In 2019 Garrie wrote a piece praising Imran Khan as best Prime Minister Since Quaid e Azam.

As an expose of Adam Garrie, carried out by the Washington Examiner shows, “A unique hybrid of Ceaser Flickerman (from the “Hunger Games”) Withnail (from Withnail and I), and a fat Sherlock Holmes, Garrie is someone who wants to be noticed.” Titled ‘Adam Garrie, or how Russian propagandists play their game,’ The Washington Examiner story argues “Russia loves folks who can go onto its propaganda networks and spew Kremlin talking points in English.”

Further, “Garrie’s performance was a true gem. Not for any analytical substance, but rather in the insight it provides us on Russian propaganda messaging towards the West. Garrie begins by explaining how the United States is “no longer a democracy,” but instead a kleptocracy. Here we see the Kremlin’s never-ending effort to spread scorn about American political credibility and social stability.” As The Wash Examiner story points out “It’s all nonsense, of course, but the Russians know all they have to do is persuade one more viewer to become just a little bit more disillusioned. They’re in this for the long game. And while their tactics might be simple, they’re also extremely clever.”

Just recently Adam Garrie wrote a piece titled ‘Pakistanis Confuse Enlightened Despotism For Presidential Systems,’ in which on the one hand he undertakes Russian Psy ops targeting democracies especially Presidential ones (like the US) arguing that “presidential systems are the least efficient, most corruptible, most prone to deadlock, most conflicted and the most pseudo-democratic.” Ironic that a Russian psy ops operative would target Presidential systems as that is what Russian is itself!

Turning to Pakistan, Garrie argues that Pakistan’s problem is not the parliamentary system as much as its leaders. “the fault lies with the fact that so-called strongman presidents (the worst of which was Musharraf) have often subsumed power during times of crisis and in so doing, they suspended the normal operations of the parliament – thus stunting the nation’s political development in the process. This has allowed dynastic political mafias masquerading as normal political parties to take turns monopolising rule during times when a fledgling and immature parliamentary system has been restored. In this sense, Pakistan’s parliamentary system has not been allowed to develop properly because of multiple presidential figures who have interrupted the natural course of its development.”

According to Garrie what Pakistan needs is “a strong patriotic party political system was able to take the place of the corrupt dynastic mafioso party political system that has for decades been dominant in Pakistan, true progress could be made. This ought to be the goal of those who seek the stability of enlightened despotism without its clear drawbacks. Instead of one enlightened individual, proper parliamentary systems allow for enlightened groups of individuals to form meritocratic and patriotic parties that lead to vastly more  sustainable progress and stability than even the best versions of enlightened despotism ever could do.”

So Garrie calls for Pakistan to create “a new military-police force ought to be formed to enforce anti-corruption laws with all the vigour and professionalism of the Army and ISI.” And for there to be “a High Council of Foreign Affairs And Regional Security. Such a Council would be comprised of a combination of highly patriotic independent experts, military commanders, ISI officials, some elected members of the National Assembly, representatives of all provinces and a small number of directly elected individuals. All and all, the Council ought to start with 15 members with the aim to expand as credible, strategic and intelligent patriotic voices rise to the fore.”

The Nation withdraws ISI-inspired Article After Haqqani Threatens to Sue

On June 25th NP had published a post on Russian Psy-Ops, ‘Tie-up Between Russian Psy-War Operatives and Pakistan’s ISI’ exposing what we perceive as Russian operatives “sowing chaos” and “causing conflicts” within countries including Pakistan.

On June 23rd The Nation had published an article by a Russian psy-ops operative Andrew Korbyko titled ‘Pakistan picked the right spy chief and got the right people upset’ in which Mr Korbyko falsely accused to former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Husain Haqqani, as an American and Indian spy.

Mr Haqqani immediately “initiated legal proceedings against The Nation newspaper of Pakistan, for calling him an American agent and saying he is a fugitive under the Pakistan law. According to a statement from Mr. Haqqani, his lawyer Yasser Latif Hamdani has sent a legal notice to The Nation asking for an apology and retraction of an offending article. Failing this, Mr. Hamdani “would start legal proceedings not only in Pakistan but also in the U.K. and other jurisdictions where the newspaper’s online edition is read, seeking damages to the tune of Pakistan Rupees 15 billion [$95 million]”, Mr. Haqqani’s statement read. Mr. Hamdani’s notice said that Mr. Haqqani “has always endeavoured lawfully and constitutionally to uphold democracy and civilian supremacy in Pakistan and that contrary to propaganda he had not been found guilty of any crime in any court of law”, as per the statement.”

By this morning The Nation had taken down the article from its website.

Pakistan continues to be threatened by FATF Blacklisting

Pakistan’s leaders may be relieved that at last week’s meeting of the UN FATF (Financial Action Task Force), Pakistan remained on the ‘grey list’ and was not placed on the ‘black list.’ However, if they paid attention to the remarks of the outgoing President of FATF, Marshall Billingslea, they would not be as sanguine.

According to Billingslea, “Pakistan had “significant” work to do and was, with regard to an action plan agreed in June 2018, “lacking in almost every respect. Pakistan was cautioned in February at the plenary that they had missed almost all of their January milestones. And they were urged to not fail to meet the milestones in May. Unfortunately, Pakistan has yet again missed its May milestones. Now the action plan itself is set to complete in September. So this [the June 16-21 Orlando plenary] was not the plenary where we would discuss a blacklisting issue. This was the plenary where we examine how far and how far behind Pakistan is on its action plan … and I must say they are far behind. There is much that must be done by September. If they fail to implement the action plan by September then the FATF has made clear that we will consider next steps.” Further, “Pakistan does not either appreciate or chooses not to acknowledge the transnational, trans-border terrorist financing risk they face. Even though they did issue an addendum, an annex, to their national risk assessment following the February discussion. There are also a number of other structural and legal changes that have to be undertaken, including successful prosecution of terrorist financing cases.”

If Pakistan is placed on the FATF blacklist “which currently only has Iran and North Korea on it, could severely cripple and isolate a country financially, resulting in a downgraded credit rating and denying it loans and development assistance.”

Maybe it is time for Pakistan’s leadership to collectively decide that support for terrorism needs to be given up at all levels and for all time.