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.

Syria shows military alliances are not so simple

US fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Airfield in the first major military operation ordered by Donald Trump. In addition to the serious consequences of deteriorating situation in Syria, this attack highlights the reality that international alliances are not as simple today as they were during the bi-polar Cold War when one was aligned with either American or Soviet side. For Pakistan, the Syrian crisis could have serious consequences, including for our involvement in the controversial Islamic Military Alliance.

One of the greatest concerns about involvement in the Saudi-led military alliance was whether Saudi and Iran would be able to overcome differences and adopt a common policy. Members of the Islamic Military Alliance supporting the attack include Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, and Bahrain. However, Iran has condemned the attack as “dangerous, destructive and violates the principles of international law.”

Russia has also opposed the American missile strike, while China has stayed neutral. The question facing Pakistan now is, how do we fit this reality into our new alliances? Do we support American intervention along with Saudi and Turkey and other Islamic nations? Or do we oppose the American aggression along with Iran and Russia? Or do we try to sit on the sidelines along with China? Is that even an option?

Unfortunately, military alliances are not as simple as slogans about “all weather friendships.” Each nation is going to do what is in its best interest, and unless we are going to be a vassal state who follows a lead whether right or wrong then we also must determine what is in our own interest instead of making decisions based purely on convenient alliances and imagined shared ideologies.

Are we doomed to repeat past mistakes with China?

“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

Are we doomed to repeat past mistakes with China? We believe we have turned a new corner by shedding our reliance on America and becoming closer to our neighbor to the East, but will that allow us to continue past behaviours without facing similar consequences? These are questions that require immediate attention if we are to enjoy the full benefits of CPEC and our strategic alliance with China, and current events warn of looming problems.

On the strategic side, Nawaz Sharif appreciated China’s support in the fight against terrorism, a critical issue during a time when terrorist attacks have once again sky rocketed in Pakistan. Only yesterday there was another suicide blast in Lahore, showing that the militants have much more ability than official statements give credit for.

However if we ask whether China is actually on the same page as our own civil military leadership when it comes to terrorism, there is reason to worry. Chinese authorities have continued passing tighter restrictions on Muslims including banning long beards and burkas. Chinese officials are worried about infiltration of extremist ideology, a problem that the Chinese have blamed Pakistan in the recent past. There is also the question of China’s international anti-terrorism fight. It is also becoming clear that China is secretly working with Kabul in fight against Taliban in Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, our position is less clear. We are united against ‘terrorism’, but we are not united about who is a terrorist. While there are question marks around how Osama bin Laden was able to live outside PMA Kakul without being detected, Sartaj Aziz has famously admitted that we hosted Taliban leadership in Pakistan. Pakistani militants have been killed fighting alongside Taliban in Afghanistan, and JUI-F General Secretary Abdul Ghafoor Haideri on Wednesday even invited Taliban to join his party.

We have not forgotten the past, but our memory has become cloudy and confused as incidents and actions have been buried under decades of conspiracy theories and  ‘narratives’ invented to retell history in a way that favours what we want to believe. In the past, we wanted to have close relationship with America, but support Taliban also. Eventually, this destroyed our relationship with the Americans who saw us as playing a double game. Now we have replaced US with China, but we have kept the Taliban as our ally. However, China also sees Taliban as a threat just as America does also. Will our unwavering support for Taliban destroy our relations with China also?

Arrest Militants Not Scholars

Protest release Dr Riaz AhmedIn January, several bloggers including Professor Salman Haider mysteriously disappeared. After initial outcry about the fate of the disappeared persons, soon they were facing allegations of blasphemy. Soon later, the missing were returned just as mysteriously as they disappeared. There has been no official report of what happened to these bloggers and activists, but according to Ahmad Waqass Goraya there is no question that he was picked up and tortured by state agencies. The state has never admitted any involvement in the incidents, however even after the international embarrassment the Islamabad High Court has now instructed FIA to investigate the victims further and if possible bring them back to Pakistan to prosecute them under laws. While the entire nation was distracted by this case of kidnapping and torture of liberal activists, terrorists carried out a bomb attack that killed 25 and injured almost 100 innocents.

In February, terrorists struck again, this time killing at least 99 people including innocent women and children in a week of bloody attacks across the country.

Week of deadly attacks

Soon after these attacks, Defence Minister demanded a Parliamentary Commission to investigate an article by Husain Haqqani, and Pakistan Rangers arrested two Karachi University professors who were preparing to give a press conference. One professor Dr Riaz Ahmed has been remanded to jail on accusation of supposedly possessing an unlicensed weapon but the real issue was mentioned by SI Shahid Pervez Khan who told the Court that the professor was advocating on Facebook for the release of so-called ‘blasphemous’ bloggers even though the bloggers have faced no charges and no evidence has been given against them. So why security agencies are arresting these scholars?

There have been at least 17 terrorist attacks already so far this year, over double the number during same period last year. Civil and military leaders are on the same page and both claim that terrorists have been defeated even though they are ramping up attacks. Worst, both civil and military leaders have shown more interest in harassing and targeting scholars than actual militants who are carrying out attacks and killing people. If terrorism is going to be defeated in reality and not just in slogans, state agencies will have to carry out operations against extremist militants, not scholars.

Another suicide blast in Parachinar despite ‘strict security’

Parachinar bombing In January, a suicide blast tore through a vegetable market killing dozens and injuring nearly 100 innocents. COAS Gen Bajwa visited the site, and ‘strict security arrangements‘ were made to prevent another attack. Today, less than ten weeks later, another suicide attack has been carried out in a Parachinar market, this time outside a main imambargah. According to police officials, there were multiple attackers who not only used bombs but also fired randomly into crowds of innocents.

Many questions will be asked, but one that must not be overlooked is what happened to the ‘strict security arragements’ that were made after the last terrorist attack only a few weeks ago? Were these withdrawn once the Army chief had left? Or were they never really made in the first place? Or were the security arrangement made, but they were not good enough to stop the terrorists?

We have had enough ISPR videos, enough bold statements, enough victory announcements. What we have not had is the truth. The national leadership including both civil and military leaders need to take the people into confidence. We have had every success explained in full detail, but nobody can explain about the constant failures? If anyone is reading this, please listen. We want to trust you and give our full support, but to do this we need you to trust us and give us your full support also. Right now we are mourning another attack. We are filled with questions and doubts. We do not need to be reassured. We are past that now. We need to know what you are going to do differently, because what has be done till date is obviously not enough.