Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif has declared that 2016 will be the year when terrorism is eliminated from Pakistan. This is something that the entire nation hopes and prays for, but if it is to come true there will need to be a significant change in counter-terrorism operations.
Overseas Pakistanis are in the headlines, but not for positive reasons. Authorities have identified Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik as the terrorists responsible for murdering 14 innocents this week before being killed in an encounter with US police. Farook was an American citizen of Pakistani descent. His parents moved from Pakistan to the US, but after the troubled marriage fell apart, his father returned to Karachi. Tashfeen Malik is from Karor Lal Esan, but lived most of her life in Saudi Arabia until returning to Pakistan to enroll in Bahauddin Zakariya University in Multan. The two met using an internet matchmaking site and the two were married in Saudi Arabia before returning to United States.
Media has reported a connection between Tashfeen Malik and Lal Masjid even claiming photos of her with Maulana Abdul Aziz. Pakistani security agencies have been investigating Malik’s family in Karor and have found connections with militants, but people who know the family are telling that her family members are involved in sectarian activities.
What is of particular interest however is that all of this detailed information has been presented in just a few days after the attack was carried out, and it has been shared openly with the media. Compare this to the infamous dossiers on Indian involvement in terrorism that were highlighted by all media groups before Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi delivered them to the UN and Prime Minister Sharif gave copies to American President Barack Obama. What has become of these?
Sartaj Aziz did say that the dossiers contained no material evidence, and only “contained the “pattern and narrative” of Indian involvement”. It is not clear what this means, but many believe the dossiers only contain news clippings and statements, not hard proofs. The actual contents are not known, but what is known is that there has been no response from either the UN or the Americans. Whatever was given, it did not leave much of a mark.
What do these two stories have in common? Though it may seem little, the truth is that it may be a lot. The dossiers are looking like something that was presented for the benefit of Pakistani audience, not international leaders. They were created to support the national narrative that terrorism and extremism are not a problem of Pakistan but are the result of foreign elements. Unlike government’s dossiers, the evidence against Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik is becoming more and more clear and impossible to deny. Once again, it is pointing to extremist and terrorist elements in Pakistan that are spreading to foreign countries, not in the opposite direction.
Many are worried that Western countries will react strongly against Muslims after the attacks in Paris and California. However the first thing we need to do is stop trying to cover up and ignore the problem of extremism in our own country. It is these extremist elements that are putting majority of peace loving Muslims at greatest risk both here and in the West.
In the past two posts, I have already looked at how the justice system allows cases to hang over the heads of politicians for decades without ever coming to any resolution while speedily dispatching cases against extremist elements (usually in the form of acquittal). I have also discussed the way that evidence is handled, namely that there can never be too little against politicians and never enough against militants. Today, I want to take a look at another piece of the puzzle which is the selective way that justice is meted in the first place.
Saulat Mirza’s alleged death-cell confession has sparked innumerable questions, not only about his sensational allegations, but about how the video was recorded from a jail cell, and how it managed to make its way into the hands of private TV stations. It is believed by many to be part of an attempt to pressurize MQM leaders. Unfortunately, we will never know the answer since the committee formed to answer these questions was suddenly dissolved with no explanation.
Now there is also the leaked recording of an alleged private phone call between Imran Khan and Arif Alvi discussing attack on PTV. Some are claiming that the recording is actually spliced together from different conversations, but as Arif Alvi himself noted on Twitter, the fact is that ‘somebody’ is recording and leaking private phone calls.
Even to splice a conversation, ‘to mix & match & patch’ somebody is recording phone calls without legal authority
— Dr. Arif Alvi (@ArifAlvi) March 27, 2015
Arif Alvi may not want to make any accusations about ‘who’ would be recording his phone calls, but it is not a long list who has the ability to do this. Many believe that intelligence agencies have been recording and documenting everything under the sun in order to blackmail since long. Even the judiciary has allegedly felt the sting of these ‘dirty tricks’ such as when agencies allegedly blackmailed Supreme Court Justices with secret sex tapes during Gen Musharraf regime.
It’s not just secret recordings that are seeing the light of day, either. Earlier this year, an ISI report on extremist ties of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz was leaked.
This one may have been leaked in order to pressurize Lal Masjid, but the problem is that leaks are hard to contain. Abbottabad Commission report which noted that “connivance, collaboration and cooperation at some levels cannot be entirely discounted” was leaked to at the embarrassment of intelligence agencies. Even documents allegedly exposing intelligence agencies secret support for Taliban have even surfaced including this letter from a Taliban commander to Military Intelligence about aiding Taliban supply routes across the border into Afghanistan.
Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
South West Zone (Helmand province)
Date: May 28, 2008
Respected Brother Janab Usman sahab
Director, Military Intelligence
Assalam-o-Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barkatuhu
Two vehicles which are laden with goods for the Taliban mujahideen brothers are entering Afghanistan through Naushki and Dalbandin. Hope you will secure passage for these two vehicles:
Number plate – Karachi CK 8091
Number plate – Karachi CH 9316
I have sent my representative Mullah Musa. Hope that you will provide assistance.
Mullah Abdur Raheem
Actually, it is not the leaks that are the real problem, it is what these leaks, both the allegedly ‘authorised’ ones and the more embarrassing ones, reveal about agencies activities. As Pakistan faces a serious and existential threat from terrorism, the appearance from alleged leaks is that agencies are more busy playing games than actually securing the country.
Pakistan Rangers raid on MQM headquarters in Karachi has taken over the national discussion. By Wednesday afternoon there were no less than four different hashtags related to the raid trending on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, attitudes are divided about whether the raid was a positive or negative. I find myself in the second camp, not because of any love for MQM but because I think the action will do more harm to democracy and the armed forces than it will against any criminal elements hiding in 90.