Where is the national duty to provide security for Pakistani citizens?

Ahsan Iqbal

“Security of Chinese workers is considered as national duty by Pakistani Nation”. This was the statement of Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal Ahsan Iqbal on Monday. His comment was made after officials confirmed that two Chinese nationals were kidnapped and killed by ISIS in Pakistan.

The statement is not a surprise because there is over $50 billion at stake. It would even be reasonable to say that the economic future of Pakistan is at stake since we have been told that CPEC is the ‘game changer’ necessary to bring our nation out of economic disaster.

However the question must be asked where is the national duty for security of Pakistani citizens? Does it sound like an unfair question? Then why after hundreds of students were killed, instead of securing schools, we gave guns to teachers and told them to ‘you have guns. You fight it out‘?

Pakistani teachers told to defend themselves from militantsWhose nation is this anyway?

 

Ian Chappel feels safe. Do you?

If you haven’t seen it, you have probably been in a coma. Ian Chappel said that he felt safer in Pakistan than in England. It was a statement that has been broadcast and re-broadcast and printed and shared over and over again. Why? Because it fits the narrative that the state wants to project and the narrative that we want to hear. But is it true?

Obviously Ian Chappel is not a state mouthpiece, but his actual statement has been taken out of context. Here is what he actually said:

“We have only been here for a few days… we are probably safer in Islamabad than we are in England at the moment”

Why ‘at the moment’? Because at the moment, England was experiencing tension following another terrorist attack. It was not a statement about the security of Pakistan, but the momentary insecurity felt in England.

Making the point even further, let us look at what else is happening at the same time as we are celebrating being ‘safer than England’.

In a breaking development, the state is now saying that the Chinese teachers murdered by ISIS were ‘preaching‘. Authorities have not said what they were allegedly ‘preaching’, but the message is clear that after terming the reports as fake news designed to humiliate the armed forces, now the state is blaming the victims for their own killings.

Is Pakistan safer than England? Who am I to answer this question? Instead let us ask Ian Chappel.

Or maybe we can ask the 38,500 Pakistanis who applied for asylum in UK last year what they think.

Pakistanis-2nd-highest-asylum-seekers-in-britian

America Gives Us a Model For Official Inquiries

There are many times that people point to America as an excuse for doing something. We should not use proxies. “America does it.” We do not need to spend so much on weapons. “America does it.” We should not interfere in other countries affairs. “America does it.” However last night we saw the Americans do something amazing. I am writing of course about the inquiry into Donald Trump and the testimony before the Congress by the ex-FBI Director James Comey.

If you did not watch this incredible event, you should. The full and unedited video is posted online

Now let us discuss what we saw. First, the former FBI chief who was fired by the President was ordered to testify and answer questions from both Republicans and Democrats. During his statement, James Comey termed the President and his aides as liars. No shouting broke out. No threats were made or disruptions took place. The entire event was calm and taken seriously.

Next, the political leaders from each party both asked difficult but fair questions. When James Comey responded that he could not answer in public due to the sensitivity of the issue but he would answer behind closed doors, his reply was accepted. When he criticised the President, even the President’s own party members accepted his statements. The President’s party members did not attack him and term him as a traitor or a paid agent. Everyone involved in the inquiry appeared to have one thing in mind: Getting to the truth, whatever the truth might be.

It also must be noted how we know all of this. The entire hearing which took place in the Halls of Congress was broadcast by all media and streamed online. Even the full video of the hearing posted above was provided by the New York Times which the President has attacked as ‘fake news’. However no attempt was made to hide the contents or the criticism. To say the entire world was watching would not be an exaggeration, and nobody could watch and think that it made President Trump look good.

Now compare to how we have handled sensitive inquiries here. Panama Papers, Memogate, Dawn Leaks…each of these has been handled in the complete opposite manner. Public hearings have mostly been done by TV anchors pushing sensational narratives rather than calm and unbiased questioning by elected leaders. Political loyalties and personal biases have often been placed before the facts, even in cases of national security. And in the end, what has been uncovered by officials has been hidden from the public only feeding the confusion and conspiracies.

There are many things that we should not copy from American politics and actions, and we should always make our own decisions what is based on the good of our own country first and last. In the case of how to handle an official investigation, though, this is one where we should be taking notes.

Are Pakistan Elections Wikileaks Next Target?

Imran Khan

Wikileaks has returned to the headlines after tweeting a four years old story about US and UK ‘stealing‘ NADRA data. This is a serious report that deserves a complete explanation from the government, but it should also be a fair and reliable inquiry and we should not walk into a trap of becoming the next target of foreign political meddling.

There are a few problems with the NADRA story as it is being reported. The obvious problem is that what is being circulated is quoting an interview between Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and PTI chief Imran Khan and not a leaked document.

While Assange’s motivations are not known, there are some questions about his group’s meddling in political affairs not only of the US but France also. In the past, Wikileaks has also been accused of being an ‘psyop’ operation of some foreign agency. The truth is still unknown, but it would be wise to take precautions, especially when the contents are being presented in such an obvious political manner.

This is certainly the case with this story as the information in the Wikileaks cable is being discussed with the leader of an opposition political party. Whether or not you agree with him, it is undeniable that Imran Khan has a specific political agenda and is not a neutral party.

Instead of letting Imran Khan tell us what the document says, let us look at what the cable actually says:

NADRA —– 8. (S//NF) Both PM Gilani and Interior Minister Malik pointed out that the National Data Registration Agency (NADRA) already collects a wide spectrum of information on Pakistani citizens, from driving records to DNA. Malik offered to share NADRA-generated information on Pakistani citizens, within the constraints imposed by privacy concerns. NADRA is at the heart of what the GOP intends to be an integrated border management system, Malik said, and suggested that API/PNR sharing could be a subset of this larger system. The system is currently connected through passport data, but the GOP is adding voice and facial recognition capability and has installed a pilot biometrics system at the Chaman border crossing, where 30-35,000 people cross each day. Reiterating that he welcomed both USG assistance and the arrival of a DHS team to discuss PNR, Malik agreed to set up a joint U.S.-Pakistan task force to work out a way forward.

What the Wikileaks cable says is that the Interior Minister offered to “share NADRA-generated information…withing the contraints imposed by privacy concerns” and that he “agreed to set up a joint U.S.-Pakistan task force to work out a way forward”. As far as we know, no information was ever shared. Or if it was, it was in limited fashion that respected Pakistani laws and privacy concerns.

Nowhere does the Wikileaks document say anything about US or UK stealing any data. Nowhere does it say anything about a front company set up in the UK to steal any data. Those claims were made during the interview but till date there has been no evidence provided to back up these sensational claims. Until there is evidence, these are conspiracy theories only.

So what is the truth? The best way to know is for the government to provide a full explanation for what actually happened. As the present government is not from the same party as was in power during the alleged incident, it cannot be accused of covering up its tracks to protect itself. With elections coming up, Pakistan is in a sensitive position and there is no reason to believe that we will not be the next target of foreign meddling by anonymous and unknown actors.

Recent events prove now is the time for a modern nationalism

Diverse PakistanSeventy years ago, certain social and political ground realities existed which resulted in the political movement that created this country. I am not questioning the motivations or the historical environments which preceded the formation of our proud nation. However, it is also undeniable that since the past 70 years the regional and global order has undergone evolutions that have created new social and geopolitical realities that call for an evolution of our strategic and theoretical thinking to match.

Just as a person must evolve and adapt to take his proper place in the community when he ages, nations and societies must also evolve and adapt otherwise they will be unable to properly achieve their rightful place in the global community. What was necessary and proper 70 years ago has been established just as one’s culture and personality are established as one matures. However, one is not the exact same as he was even 10 or 20 years earlier but rather becomes more complex even as he is still grounded in his past.

Recent events have made clear that we have entered a new era in which the religious nationalism that may have made sense in the past is no longer sufficient to guide us in the new millennium. This has become increasingly obvious with the troubles of our participation in the Saudi military alliance, which was presented as a ‘Muslim NATO’ but was soon exposed as a dangerous experiment that threatens our own national security. The stakes were raised once again when a Saudi-led alliance of Arab states announced cutting diplomatic ties with Qatar and closing borders, putting Pakistan squarely in another bad position.

While alliances with Muslim allies are causing no end of uncomfortable situations for Pakistan, it is ironically the atheist China which is proving to be more sensitive to our own needs. Where Saudi has given some loans that must be repaid, China is investing billions in infrastructure and resources that will advance Pakistani businesses and develop our own economy. It is not just economically that atheist China has proven a strong ally, but also in terms of respecting Pakistan’s positions in global forums such as the UN. Even on Kashmir, China has respected Pakistan’s position but not from any religious motivation as China is not Muslim proving that religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together.

Just as religion is not the only bond that can bring two nations together, also it is not the only bond that can unite our own nation.

Now imagine a Pakistan that would have embraced its diversity instead of treating it with fear and loathing. Imagine a Pakistan that would give equal rights to all its citizens without considerations of religion or gender. Imagine a Pakistan that would not be held hostage by its religious clergy and where the rulers would refuse to be blackmailed by these contractors of faith. Pakistan as a territory blessed with geography, relief, natural resources and a rich cultural heritage.

If its leaders had any vision it would be the magnet for the world both for business and for tourism. The tourism potential alone should have been enough to transform us rapidly into a rich and prosperous nation.

As an example, we can see India is being torn apart by religious chauvinism and majoritarianism. We cannot allow ourselves to fall further into the same trap. Now is the time for an updated nationalism not based on our differences but on our diversity which is our strength.