Whose war is it anyway?

Quetta shuraSartaj Aziz has stated clearly that ‘Pakistan cannot fight Afghanistan’s war‘ on our own soil. This is an interesting change of policy as for long we have been told that it was ‘America’s war’. The one consistent piece of our policy is that we refuse to accept that it is ‘our war’.

We refuse to accept this war even though Taliban commanders are regularly caught on our soil and even carry official documents issued by our government. Isn’t this the same complaint we make that the Afghan government is doing for India? ISPR said that gate at Torkham border was needed due to Afghanistan permitting terrorists entering Pakistan to carry out attacks. Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has accused Afghanistan of supporting TTP, and COAS has even demanded that America bomb TTP camps in Afghanistan.

But what is good for the goose is also good for the gander, isn’t it? Couldn’t Afghanistan say that fighting TTP is ‘not our war’ also? Or America could say the same? We cannot ignore foreign militants inside our borders and expect others to take actions against anti-Pakistan militants inside their borders. Instead of pointing fingers and playing victim, we should face the reality that there are no ‘good terrorists’ and ‘bad terrorists’.  The war is against all terrorists, and it is our war too.

What really killed Major Jawad Changezi

Major Jawad ChangeziMajor Jawad Changezi’s martyrdom earlier this week is well known. Though this has been reported many times in the media, there remains a lack of honest discussion about what killed him. According to the official statement of ISPR “Major Ali Jawad who was injured in firing by the Afghan army embraced martyrdom in hospital on Tuesday”. Why was Afghan soldiers firing on our soldiers? According to ISPR “firing by Afghan forces was aimed at disrupting the construction of a gate well inside Pakistani territory at the border so that terrorists and illegal Afghans could enter Pakistan without any checking”.

So the official story is that Major Ali Jawad was killed by Afghan army who was trying to protect terrorist routes into Pakistan. Even if we accept that this is correct, isn’t the story still incomplete? Why would Afghan army want to help terrorists sneak into Pakistan? This is where the story begins to break down. Simple facts turn into complicated conspiracy theories, evidences turns into rumours, and honest speaking turns into raised eyebrows and silent stares.

The problem is that one cannot give the real answer without speaking about unspeakable things. Things like how Taliban come and go from Pakistan so freely carrying official Pakistan documents. One would have to discuss how we continue to talk about these same Taliban are continuing to do suicide attacks while their leaders are planning from our soil. We would have to talk about how Taliban killed 11,000 innocent Afghan civilians last year. We would have to talk about our own Army refuses to take any action against Taliban even while they are on our own soil.

In other words, honestly answering the question ‘What really killed Major Ali Jawad?’ one would have to talk about his own Army’s national security plans. This is a conversation no one wants to have.

Snakes and Ladders

snakesandladdersThere is a new game being played. Everything that we thought we knew is now wrong. It is different players and different rules now. Old allies are now our enemies, and old enemies are still our enemies too. This is the claim of the Munir Akram in his latest analysis of our national security, and it is probably the most important analysis to understand where we are going. I say this not because I am a huge admirer of Munir Akram, but because I was told it was important by Army itself.

Sometimes we are given signs in the streets. Yesterday we were given a sign on Twitter. Either way, we must read the signs to know where we are headed. So where has this latest sign pointed us? First let us understand who are the players.

According to the latest ISPR-approved analysis, our enemies are now India, Iran, Afghanistan, and the US. Our allies are China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. One might think this is not a good sign to have three of our neighbors as enemies, but then one sees our friends and everything starts to balance out. One problem, though. China is an atheist country that even bans fasting in Ramazan. Saudi Arabia funds radical madrassehs in Pakistan. What will happen if jihadi militants trained in Pakistan keep doing attacks in China? And what about the problem of radicalism in Turkey? How will this affect our strategic thinking if two-thirds of our allies are projecting radicalism?

On the other side of the table are sitting Iran, India, and Afghanistan who have been working together towards economic and diplomatic improvements. The most obvious result of this has been the new agreement on Chabahar. Dr Haider Shah explained this in his piece.

While Pakistan has relied heavily on its strategic assets like the Haqqani network to remain a key player in the Afghan game, India has been enhancing its influence by forging stronger economic ties with the war-battered country. As Pakistan has not facilitated Indo-Afghan trade by extending the transit land route to India, India aims to use the new link for a maritime route to enter Afghanistan. In times of estranged relations, the US may also like to use this route thus minimising its reliance on Pakistan.

The project is important for Iran as well. After years of economic sanctions the reformist government wants to play a more active role in the world affairs. Without economic revival such a vision is however not achievable. The Iranian hardliners, on the other hand, want to see President Hassan Rouhani fail in his attempts, as the state of despondency is always beneficial for radical elements. Chabahar is the first sign of international investment coming to Iran. Tehran is opening itself up to the world.

Our new enemies are all working together to build each other up, while our new allies all have very different priorities based on what is good for themselves alone, not the greater good of all. In this new game we are playing, those we are calling our enemies are quickly climbing ladders. We should beware that we do not find ourselves landing on snakes.

Bomb Proof Passports and Bullet Proof Denial

Pakistan Bomb Proof PassportWhen American media announced that Taliban chief Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone strike in Balochistan, the response of the state was silence. Soon came posts on social media with photos of a Pakistani passport and CNIC that were supposedly recovered from the scene. This was met with laughter by not only the hyper-nationalist crowd but even liberals. Jokes began to go around saying security forces were issuing new bullet proof jackets made of Pakistani passports. Even those criticising our Afghan policy found the situation ridiculous. How is it that a car and two people are completely incinerated by a hell fire missile but his Pakistani IDs just HAPPEN to survive in perfect condition? The answer was in the question: We were being framed. Again.

Only, this time at least, it appears that there was no framing. Sartaj Aziz has confirmed that the person killed in the attack was Mullah Mansour and that Pakistani authorities had identified him by DNA test. More surprising, though, was that the government confirmed that the official government documents that were recovered, the passport and CNIC, were authentic. They had a fake name, but they were real documents issued by NADRA. Interior Ministry has ordered a ‘crackdown‘ against officials for issuing the documents, but it is well known that those behind such things do not answer to the Interior Ministry.

Sometimes, ridiculous things happen. As ridiculous as it sounds, a hell fire missile did incinerate a car and two people yet a Pakistani passport and CNIC somehow survived intact. Does it matter that even the state has confirmed it? No, we will prefer to stick to our denials and our jokes about ‘bomb proof passports’. It may be a ridiculous mindset that refuses to believe what has already been confirmed, but if we start accepting these things then we will be forced to face the most ridiculous thing of all, which is our own foreign policy that causes such things in the first place. After all, Amir-ul-Momineen will come and go…but our denialism is truly bomb proof.

Have we chosen to live or die by Taliban?

f4rft5ung5634vThe US Congress has passed another law that threatens to cut off aid to Pakistan unless we take action against Haqqani network militants. Sirajuddin Haqqani was a top deputy of Mullah Mansour, and now it is expected that he will be named Amir of Taliban following Mansour’s death in an American drone strike. Haqqani is also considered by some quarters to be pro-Pakistan. Several years ago the top American military commander termed Haqqani network as ‘a veritable arm of ISI‘, secret US documents say ISI paid Haqqani to attack a CIA base in Afghanistan, and even when Army carried out attacks against the Haqqani network, they were ‘tipped off‘ in time to get away.

The death of Mullah Mansour has put Pakistan in a dangerous position. If Haqqani is named as Amir, will we be willing to carry out attacks, or will we finally put an end to our alliance with the international community in the fight against the Taliban? In 2001, US President George Bush gave the choice ‘you are either with us or against us’. It looks like we are facing the same question again. Will we make the same choice this time?