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 Were these withdrawn once the Army chief had left?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.

 

Another Embassy Blunder

It’s barely been over one month since the last blunder in Washington, but the Embassy has done it again. This time it was the new Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry who gave an appearance at US Institute for Peace in Washington, a favourite venue for state officials to give presentations no doubt thanks to the placement of Moeed Yusuf who believes Pakistanis need to do more to defend Pakistan’s narrative at US think tanks. Unfortunately, even Moeed was unable to prevent the Ambassador from reading from a set of talking points that left the world laughing. However, was it really a blunder? Or is this a perfect case of our diplomatic corps reflecting our preferred strategy for international diplomacy.

What gained the most attention was the Ambassador’s bizarre answer to a question from the audience about state persecution of Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan. Here is the question and Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry’s unedited answer:

The ridiculous non-answer was immediately met with ridicule on social media.

Denying state persecution of Ahmadiyya community is impossible. When police demolish places of worship, and when Courts order police to take action against a religious community, that is state persecution. The persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan is decades old and extensively documented. So how can the Ambassador say with a straight face that no persecution exists, and even go on and claim that Ahmadis are treated equal in Pakistan?

Before we come to understand the answer, let us take note of another claim made by the Ambassador.

If this is true, what is Zarb-e-Azb? What is Radd-ul-Fasaad? Why does COAS Gen Bajwa and Gen Raheel before him claim that terrorists are defeated because of Army? Is the Ambassador Aizaz Chaudhry terming the Army chiefs as liars?

No, of course not. This has been the line fed to American officials since long in order to convince them not to interfere with our issues but only to give the Army more money and weapons. We tell them that there can not be any military solution to terrorism because we do not want Americans to ask why we are not willing to help against Taliban in Afghanistan or groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa who entire world sees as terrorists but we see as patriots.

Actually, even though the Embassy has looked foolish to the rest of the world, the powers that be probably believe it was a huge success. Ambassador’s answers make no sense, but they are the official narrative that is being presented. He is not going off his scripted talking points and admitting any mistakes or problems like some previous diplomats whose tendency toward honesty on sensitive issues has resulted in being black listed at home.

There is another point, also. As usual, I can find no trace of any American or Western media paying any attention to this event. The Ambassador gave a presentation, but it is as if it never happened except in Pakistan. Here the Ambassador’s remarks are spun as a huge success of presenting a positive image of Pakistan in front of an audience of foreign dignitaries and scholars. For most Pakistanis, the truth of what happened will never be known. But maybe that was the point anyway.

Want to know who is issuing visas? Follow the money…

COAS-Bajwa-and-General-John-Nicholson-Commander-RSM-1

The latest twist in the visa drama is once again shining lights into places that prefer to be in the shadows. First there was the leaked document requesting visas for alleged CIA agents signed not by Husain Haqqani or Asif Zardari but by Lt Gen Nazir Ahmed Butt who was then a Brigadier and the Defence & Army Attache at the Embassy in Washington. Now another evidence of GHQ’s involvement in issuing visas to US agents has come to light, and this time it was sitting in plain sight the whole time.

Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik noted that visas are still being secretly issued to US officials in exchange for American funding to Pakistan Army. This may seem like a conspiracy theory, but actually there is evidence this time. In 2012, the US Congress introduced a new law with requirements for Coalition Support Funds paid to Pakistan that includes “issuing visas in a timely manner for United States visitors engaged in counterterrorism efforts and assistance programs in Pakistan”. Since this new law was passed, the US has paid Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars.

It must be noted that all of this has taken place years after Husain Haqqani resigned his post as Ambassador in 2011! One can disagree with Haqqani’s analysis on geopolitics, but it is irrefutable that he has not had the ability to issue any visas since the past several years. That power has been handed over to intelligence agencies.

It is unclear what those who have reanimated the corpse of the entire visa conspiracy hope to achieve, but it is clear that what is actually happening is that more and more evidence is coming to light that it was not Husain Haqqani or civilian politicians behind it at all. It is also becoming quite clear that those who were responsible for issuing of visas are still doing. All one needs to do is follow the money. The question remaining is just how long this media drama will be allowed to continue, and if so what new evidences will come to light next.

Visa leaks: A political strategy that backfired?

Nawaz Sharif

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been five years since PMLN dominated the polls and Nawaz Sharif returned for a third term as Prime Minister. Elections are not expected for one more year, however it seems that election season has arrived already. That is the best explanation I have been able to think of for the sudden return of the old visa controversy.

There are several theories about what is behind the leaks of documents related to Husain Haqqani’s time as Ambassador. Cyril Almeida believes it is to remind the civilians of who’s boss, but I have my doubts this time. The usual Army proxies are unusually silent. Not only this, but whoever is behind this whole drama hasn’t thought it through very well.

The first leaked document was a letter granting Husain Haqqani greater authority in expediting visas for some US officials without first sending requests to Islamabad for clearance. What first seemed like a smoking gun turned out to be nothing but dust when Haqqani himself noted that this was nothing new and had actually been reported long ago.

It was the next document that really gave away the incompetence of the conspirators, though. A memo from the Foreign Office marked as ‘Confidential’ directs Missions not to issue visas to a list of 36 alleged CIA agents. There are three major red flags with this leak.

  1. Obviously, we do not know if visas were actually issued to any of these people.
  2. If this list is authentic, it is unlikely that our agencies would want it published because it will cause serious problems for our own intelligence agents who are working undercover. There is a tradition of agencies respecting each other and not exposing the other sides agents except in extreme circumstances. Publishing a list of undercover agents would risk upsetting the very delicate balance of trust with foreign agencies and put our own agents at risk of being exposed.
  3. This is the biggest mistake: Whoever leaked overlooked that the list of alleged CIA agents includes a hand written request for their visas signed not by Husain Haqqani or Asif Zardari but by the Defence & Army Attache who is himself now a Corps Commander!!!

Defence Attache visa request

Husain Haqqani has insisted that ‘military was not bypassed. period‘. Even if the Ambassador was granted authority to issue visas without review by Islamabad, there has never been any evidence that visas were issued without full cooperation and review of Defence agencies located withing the Embassy. Till date there has been no evidence that any visas were issued without the approval of agencies stationed at the Embassy. In fact, this latest leak suggests that Defence officials were fully informed. Just as publishing lists of foreign agents is not in our own agencies interest, also we should ask if publishing documents that show the Defence officials who reviewed and approved visa requests is in our national interest.

If the boys are not behind this one, then, who is? To find the answer we should look at the narrative that is being promoted. It is not just Haqqani who is being targeted, it is PPP leadership. The former President Asif Zardari and PM Gilani are clearly in the sights of the leakers and those who are pushing the narrative that PPP government went around the military to help US agents. It was Khawaja Asif who called for a full investigation, apparently having forgotten that there already was one, and that if anyone wants to get to the bottom of things they can simply release the full contents of the Abbottabad Commission Report.

Until someone comes forward and admits being behind the leaks, this will all be left to speculation. However, it is hard to see how any of this benefits the boys at this time. Much more likely is that someone in PMLN got too clever for their own good and decided to start campaigning early by knocking out PPP by re-introducing old civil-military divides. This was both unnecessary and counterproductive. Unnecessary because PPP is too busy making their own bad decisions to be a real political threat, and also because it sppears that someone within PMLN leadership is trying to drag the Army into politics. 2018 is looking good for Nawaz Sharif. As this drama shows, he needs to make sure it is his own people who don’t bungle it!

Are we living up to the promise of the Lahore Resolution?

Lahore SessionAs we all ignore the obvious neo-colonialist overtones of foreign troops parading through the capital on Pakistan Day, I want to draw our attention back away from the militarism that has come to dominate our entire national narrative to the actual words of the Lahore Resolution.

We are all aware of the key component which called for “territorial readjustments as may be necessary that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority”. But do any of us remember the promise that we made along with this demand?

That adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards should be specifically provided in the constitution for minorities in these units in the regions for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultations with them and in other parts of India where the Mussalmans are in a majority adequate, effective and mandatory safeguards shall be specifically provided in constitution for them and other minorities for the protection of their religious, cultural, economic, political, administrative and other rights and interests in consultation with them.

In 1947, almost 23 percent of Pakistan’s population were non-Muslim citizens. Today, the proportion of non-Muslims has declined to approximately 3 percent. Instead of constitutional protections for religious minorities, we have created constitutional persecution.

Instead of celebrating missile technology and Chinese funds, we should reflect on the vision laid out in the Lahore Resolution, and ask ourselves honestly: Have we lived up to its promises?