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.

Fake News Strikes Again With ‘Saudi Slaves’ Rumour

The latest outrage this week has been over comments by Saudi Defence Minister Muhammad Bin Suleiman that Pakistanis are ‘Saudi slaves’. Only problem…

He never said it.

If the Saudi Defence Minister never called Pakistanis ‘Saudi slaves’ (or anyone’s slaves for that matter), why do so many of our fellow countrymen believe he did? The answer goes back to a ‘news report’ by Arabi21, a Lebanon-based news site.

Arabi21 News Report

Curiously, the story is not even from Lebanon, it is quoting an Iranian news agency. But that doesn’t really matter at all, because nowhere in the story does it say anything about the Saudi Defence Minister terming anyone as anyone else’s slave. So why do so many people believe that it does?

The answer comes down to two important facts. First, the media report being quoted is in Arabic, which most Pakistanis can’t read (disclosure: neither can I – I had to ask a friend to translate for me!) Second fact: A Pakistani ‘security analyst’ said so on social media:

The problems with this fake rumour were almost immediately noted by other journalists on Twitter

However even after several days since it was disproven, the original Tweet is still there and being passed around as ‘proof’. The fake rumour has received massive attention in large part because of controversies and worries about our role in the Saudi military alliance and the more recent crisis in Gulf over the isolation of Qatar. This has led to a spike in fake news stories over these issues meant to, in the trendy terminology, ‘shape perceptions’.

There is another issue at play, though, which is our sense of pride. After taking billions of dollars in foreign aid from Saudi, and watching millions of Pakistanis emigrating to KSA for jobs that bring billions more in remittances…why are we so quick to react to every piece of fake news that stings our pride a little bit?

We swing back and forth from one extreme to the other. First we fit our cars with number plates that refer to a fictional ‘al Bakistan‘ because we don’t actually know Arabic, then we get outraged over fake news – again, because we don’t know Arabic.

This outrage, like so many outrages over fake news, could easily be stopped before they start with one simple task: Fact checking. If you receive something on WhatsApp or even if someone tells you directly, why not ask for the facts. Where did they learn this information? Can you see the story? Where did it come from? Can you read it? If not, can you get a translation? Has it been verified by any other journalists or media agencies?

We are living in particularly sensitive times. There are forces at play that do not have our best interests in mind, and the internet and social media especially have made the spread of fake news so fast and so real looking that we cannot believe everything we hear or read. Thankfully, the same technology that makes fake news spread is also the antidote to the disease. Next time, before you get angry and quickly react, take the time to fact check.

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.