Bahawalpur and Parachinar: Where Is Accountability?

Parachinar attack

Across media, there has been a common reaction to the tragedy in Bahawalpur. How do we hold those responsible accountable? However, as much as it is receiving the most attention, Bahawalpur was not the only city to suffer an immense tragedy.

Death tolls from twin terrorist attacks in Parachinar and Quetta have climbed to 85, with hundreds more injured and more deaths to possibly come. Meanwhile, four police officers were killed during iftar by unknown gunmen in Karachi.

The treatment of these events in the public discussion is worth noting. Here is what Dawn had to say about Bahawalpur:

Bahawalpur tragedy is numbing not only because of the vast number of dead and injured, but also because it was totally avoidable.

This raises the question, have we become numb to terrorist attacks because we have decided they are not totally avoidable?

Parachinar in particular is a warning sign. It is a heavily guarded place that has been the target of repeated attacks. After an attack earlier this year, Army established 24 new security posts in Parachinar in April. Two months later, terrorists once again carried out an attack. Is it unavoidable?

In its editorial on Saturday, Dawn hit the nail on the head perfectly:

The problem appears to be that any particular attack is not regarded as a failure of defensive networks and that none has led to meaningful accountability or change in standard operating procedure.

With Bahawalpur, the question might be who to hold accountable. In Parachinar and Quetta, the questions are much more difficult. Is it even possible to change ‘standard operating procedure’? Are we willing to accept the victims as mere ‘collateral damage’ (as an ex-DG ISI termed the victims of APS massacre) of our national security policies? It’s hard not to believe that this decision has already been made in higher quarters.

After years of denying that we provided sanctuary to Taliban, PM’s advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz finally admitted what everyone already knew: We had been hosting Taliban on Pakistani soil for long. So too FO has claimed that there are no anti-Iran militants on Pakistani soil, despite the obvious. So too we see ex-ISI men gathered around LeT chief Hafiz Saeed rallying for jihad against India.

It is hard not to believe that jihad and militancy is part of our official national security policy. But if it is not, it is hard to believe that we are doing everything possible to eliminate jihadi mindset and militancy from society. The question is not who to hold accountable, though. That is obvious. The question is whether accountability is even possible.

What do you think?

Musharraf

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.