Goebbels had Lord Haw Haw, Asif Ghafoor Could Only Find Cynthia Ritchie!

For some time now, an American non-entity has been applauded by Pakistan’s hyper-nationalists as the ideal foreign observer and commentator on Pakistan’s affairs. Cynthia D. Ritchie describes herself as ‘World Traveler. Communications Consultant. Producer.’ On her website. But her biodata is, to put it mildly, skimp. She has yet to complete her Master’s in Strategic Communications from George Washington University and, except a strong social media presence and occasional articles in Pakistani media, she has no serious track record as a Communications Consultant.

Cynthia Rithchie

Cynthia Ritchie is an entirely Pakistani phenomenon. She claims that “I Attempt To Brush Off The Dust Of Propaganda in Search of Objective Human Interest Stories in Various Cultures” and often argues that she wants the world to see the good side of Pakistan. But her knowledge of Pakistan’s history and politics is poor and her approach to showing the good side of Pakistan is to praise its people and its landscape. Of course, it is quite another thing that the international criticism of Pakistan is based on its policies, not its landscape or people.

Recently ‘Cynthia Baji’ (as some on social media describe her) had a meltdown on twitter, abusing several prominent Pakistani liberals and defending Pakistan’s policies against Ahmadi Muslims (which have been criticized repeatedly by the United Nations.) Her critics suggested that she might be on the payroll of Pakistan’s deep state or ISPR. Her knee-jerk defense of Pakistan’s military and the puppet Imran Khan regime is definitely suspicious even if there is no evidence so far of Cynthia Ritchie being sponsored by the deep state.

Asif Ghafoor

If Cynthia Ritchie is being sponsored to ‘improve Pakistan’s image,’ the question arises, whether she is even doing what she is supported/paid/sponsored to do? Her propaganda is all directed at Pakistanis. Non-Pakistanis do not take her seriously. She in neither published in the international media nor is her name or voice recognized outside the circle of hyper-nationalist Pakistanis who might want to get their ‘positive views’ reinforced by a Caucasian woman (‘Gori’.) 

According to her website, Cynthia’s only significant work outside Pakistan was “ TV commercials for AT&T, Political Campaigns, HGTV.” What political campaigns did she work on? What did she do on HGTV—”an American basic cable and satellite television channel,” which primarily broadcasts reality programming related to home improvement and real estate.” How does any of that qualify her to become the principal foreign defender of Pakistan’s policies and chequered history?

It is not unusual for governments, deep state machines, or political parties to prop up foreigners as propaganda tools. The Nazis, through their Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, hosted a number of English speakers who broadcast glowing accounts of German accomplishments abroad. The most famous of these was Lord Haw-Haw ,  the nickname applied to the Irish-American William Joyce, who broadcast Nazi propaganda to Britain from Germany during the Second World War.

circa 1942: William Joyce, known as Lord Haw Haw, who broadcast Nazi propaganda in English from Germany. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)

But these broadcasts, which opened with “Germany calling, Germany calling,” were directed outwards, not at the German people. Their purpose was “to discourage and demoralise American, Australian, British, and Canadian troops, and the British population, to suppress the effectiveness of the Allied war effort through propaganda, and to motivate the Allies to agree to peace terms leaving the Nazi regime intact and in power.”

It is a pity that Goebbels, the Nazi German Propaganda Minister, managed to get the services of Lord Haw-Haw but our media czars could only find Cynthia D. Ritchie. If Pakistan’s image is to be improved abroad, our version of Lord Haw-Haw needs to be heard and believed outside Pakistan.

If our propaganda is turned only on our own people, we will only attract con-men and con-women who might look cute denigrating our liberals on social media but who serve no function beyond our own boundaries and diaspora. The rest of the world will still believe what real news sources and credible scholars and public figures tell them while Cynthia baji remains a non-entity outside Pakistan.

What Does Pakistan Want in Afghanistan?

The Pakistani establishment has always believed that Pakistan has the right to decide the government and future of Afghanistan. With the recent decision by the Trump administration to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the question facing Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan is: Does Pakistan know what it wants in Afghanistan?

A recent editorial in Dawn stated the challenge facing Pakistan: “helping achieve an Afghan peace settlement that has the support of internal and external powers” before asking whether “Pakistan has a plan or ability to help achieve a region-wide desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan.”

It seems that Pakistan’s quarter-century support of the Taliban has left Pakistan with few genuine friends in Afghanistan. Even before the Taliban, Pakistan favored Pashtun fundamentalists as Afghanistan’s rulers after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. 

It would be a tragedy if Pakistan uses the U.S. withdrawal as an excuse to instal extremists in power in Afghanistan again.

At least the latest talks have led to an end to lies that Pakistan has nothing to do with the Afghan Taliban as the ISI acts as facilitator for American contacts with Taliban leaders enjoying safe haven in Peshawar, Quetta, Karachi, and Rawalpindi. 

According to the editorial in Dawn, “Abandoning Afghanistan after the Soviets were defeated, waging war in Afghanistan in response to 9/11 and allowing itself to be distracted by a disastrous war of choice in Afghanistan are some of the well-known reasons offered for US failure in that country.”

However, “as the US appears to be attempting to fashion a hasty exit after a prolonged stay, the US may create yet more problems for the region. A withdrawal without a peace settlement would risk not just plunging Afghanistan into chaos but could also have disastrous effects across the region.”

Yet, “as a Pentagon report this week has asserted, reintegration of Taliban fighters will take place if the fighters and Taliban leadership believe that they may be on the verge of outright victory?”

Targeted Killings Return to Karachi

Targeted killing is back in Karachi with the killing of 46-year old Syed Ali Raza Abidi outside his home in Karachi on Christmas. Mr Abidi previously led the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) but resigned from the party in September for “personal reasons.” His assassination comes soon after a drive-by shooting which killed two members of the the establishment-created Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) in Karachi.

According to news reports, “unidentified gunmen opened fire on Mr Abidi’s car as he arrived home. The assailants fled on a motorbike. Mr Abidi later died in hospital. “It’s hard to tell what the motive behind the attack is,” a Karachi police spokesperson told Dawn.com. “Whether it is a personal, political or religious issue. It is being investigated from all angles.”

That Mr Abidi was a voice of reason is reflected in the outpouring of condolence messages on social media from people from every avenue of life and different political parties.

Mr Abidi “was elected to the National Assembly in the 2013 general elections from Karachi’s NA-251 constituency on an MQM ticket. In November 2017, he had opposed Sattar and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) Chairman Mustafa Kamal’s short-lived alliance, and even announced that he was resigning from his NA seat as “this is not what I believed in and stood for”. Abidi was one of the leaders who had stood with former convener Sattar in the buildup to the 2018 elections when MQM-P was subject to an internal power battle. He contested the July 25 elections from Karachi’s NA-243 constituency, but was defeated by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In September this year, Abidi tendered in his resignation from the MQM-Pakistan’s “basic membership” citing “personal reasons”.”

Mr Abidi “He was a liberal, progressive politician who was very vocal against religious extremism, sectarianism and intolerance,” said Owais Tohid, a veteran journalist and political analyst. “He was well entrenched in the civil society and campaigned for the rights of the religious minorities and the oppressed. His killing has come as a big shock,” he added. “He told me about receiving death threats when I spoke with him earlier this month,” Mr. Tohid said. “He said he was thinking of leaving the country. There could be political reasons behind his killing due to internal rivalries or his activism for rights groups.”

The SAATH (South Asians Against Terrorism and For Human Rights) Forum, comprising progressive Pakistanis, released a statement by members on the assassination of former member of Mr Abidi

Ordeal of Balochistan’s “forcibly disappeared continues

As previously noted in New Pakistan, as of end November 2018,  the Commission of Inquiry on Enforced Disappearances reported that it has yet to solve 2,116 cases of forcible disappearances in Balochistan.

In a statement issued on December 24, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) stated “unequivocally that it stands in solidarity with the families that had initially camped outside the Quetta Press Club in November until they were forced to move away to the Chief Minister’s House to continue their sit-in, demanding reassurance from the government that they will have recourse to due legal process. HRCP is appalled that what has always been an intolerable situation for the families of the forcibly disappeared, should even have been allowed to reach this point – with women, children and the elderly camped out in large numbers in the open in Quetta’s winter, asking merely that they be heard and their constitutional rights respected. HRCP’s Quetta chapter, council members and vice-chair have attended the sit-in regularly to reinforce the Commission’s clear position on enforced disappearances and its solidarity with the victims’ families.”

While the HRCP welcomed the “government’s promises that it will listen to the protestors’ demands, and is relieved to hear reports that the latter have now returned from the Chief Minister’s House, it strongly urges the state to take the issue of enforced disappearances far more seriously than it is currently doing. Regrettably, the state has done nothing substantial to mitigate the anxiety of victims’ families. Indeed, disallowing civil rights activists from other provinces such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to join the camp in solidarity earlier, has only fuelled people’s anxiety and anger. HRCP urges the government yet again to take concrete measures not only to trace and safely recover the forcibly disappeared, but also to ensure that the perpetrators are punished; and to criminalise enforced disappearance and ratify the relevant UN conventions in line with the country’s international obligations and its moral responsibility to Pakistan’s people.”

‘Hybrid War’ is Only an Excuse to Suppress Dissent

Dissent is patriotic but in Naya Pakistan, like in many other parts of the world today, states view any form of dissent as being anti-national and seek to repress it.

In an article in The Daily Times, Ailia Zehra argues that the Pakistani state must understand that “peaceful dissenters of the state are not the threat, the groups who incite violence in the name of religion are.” According to Zehra, the deep state is using the narrative of “fifth generation hybrid warfare” to suppress dissent and justify censorship.

The non-violent and peaceful Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) is one target of the deep state. “Two democratically-elected parliamentarians Ali Wazir and Mohsin Dawar were recently placed on the Exit Control List — a decision which was later reversed by the federal cabinet following outrage on social media. Earlier, on November 30, the two Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM)-linked MPs from North Waziristan were offloaded from a Dubai-bound flight and informed that their names have been placed on the no-fly list due to a case registered against them in Swabi over their participation in a PTM public meeting. The MPs were detained by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for three days. There is no law that stops citizens from participating in a peaceful gathering. Even after u-turn on the decision, there has been no explanation from the relevant authorities as to why the public representatives were mistreated.”

Further, “Attempts to forcibly restrict the activities of the PTM have been going on ever since the movement started getting international recognition because of the large crowds it was able to attract despite having no formal organisational structure. The demands put forth by the PTM resonate with the countless victims and affectees of the war on terror in Pakistan’s tribal areas. DG ISPR Asif Ghafoor, in a recent press briefing, reiterated the commitment to holding talks with the aggrieved Pashtun youngsters, but warned them against crossing ‘red lines’ in the same breath. We have been told by the military that fifth generation hybrid warfare is underway, and that media should cover “positive” news to counter the threats.”

Yet, the state is “shying away from taking a meaningful and decisive action against Khadim Rizvi’s outfit. Meanwhile, leader of extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik (TLP) Khadim Rizvi was (finally!) detained along with several workers a few weeks ago. Terrorism and treason charges were placed on him, but nothing has come out of those cases as yet. We were told by Information Minister Fawad Chahudhry that Rizvi was taken into ‘protective custody’ in order to maintain law and order. Needless to say, a known hate preacher does not need to be ‘protected’. There are now sufficient grounds for a blanket ban on Khadim Rizvi’s group and initiation of a proper trial against him after consultation with legal counsels. But the government seems to be satisfied with its decision of detaining Rizvi in ‘protective custody’ and does not plan to do more. This is because the group had clearly been receiving some kind of patronage from the deep state. And removing this patronage will have to be a gradual process. Because — as has always been the case — the act of patronising extremist groups to subjugate elected governments backfired. And now they will have to be handled with care. The deep state seems clueless as to what to do with Rizvi and his ilk. To begin with, it should be decided once and for all that the practice of backing any kind of extremist group for vested interests will be put to a halt. Former Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) leader Ehsanullah Ehsan should also be tried for his crimes.”