Trump is obviously wrong…But so are we

Trump

US President Donald Trump announced America’s new Afghanistan policy today, which sounded very familiarly like America’s old Afghanistan policy. What has received the most attention, though, are his claims about our policy.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations,” he said, warning that vital aid could be cut.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said. “That will have to change and that will change immediately.”

The response from official quarters has been quick and strong. Politicians of all stripes  raced to the microphone to respond and remind the American President of how much Pakistan has suffered at the hands of terrorists, and some, like PTI’s Shireen Mazari, added empty threats of ‘a befitting response’.

The most honest and important reply actually came before Trump’s speech. Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor told reporters, referring to theh possibility that Trump would take a hard line against Pakistan, “Even if it comes…Pakistan shall do whatever is best in the national interest.” In other words, no change on our part. We will keep doing what we have always done.

Unfortunately, what we have always done is a failure. Despite the pleasing words from official sources, we have seen the state declare victory of Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, only to see the same ‘defeated’ terrorists carry out massive attacks against innocent citizens. We have heard pleasing words about abandoning ‘good Taliban’ policies and support for so-called ‘pro-Pakistan’ militants, only to see the same militants announce that they are now preparing to enter the National Assembly.

America may be out of ideas in Afghanistan, but we are the ones suffering from our own failure to accept new ideas and new policies. We hold tightly to the same old failed policies like an anchor that is dragging us to the bottom of the ocean. Blaming Donald Trump and the Americans is easy and convenient. They may be wrong, after all. But we are victims of our own policies, and we have only ourselves to blame. It’s too bad none of our so-called leaders have the guts to say it.

 

 

Matthew Barrett: American Agent or Pakistan’s Pawn?

Matthew BarrettThe case of arrested American citizen Matthew Barrett is very strange. According to media reports, he is supposedly sent to spy on our nuclear installations. However, some things don’t quite make sense about the whole story.

First, if it is true that he is a spy who was caught red-handed and blacklisted by agencies, how did he get a visa? Supposedly the Interior Ministry is holding an investigation into this question, but already it has put the heat on FIA officials, immigration officials, Consulate officials, and others. Without an Ambassador we can scapegoat, we are left facing the idea that there is a widespread conspiracy within our own government to bring American agents into the country to spy on our sensitive installations.

Then there is the question of how incompetent the American agencies must be to send the same spy who had been caught red-handed just a few years ago. Certainly they must have realised he would be caught again. Or was this the idea all along?

The timing of the arrest must be noted as it comes only a few days after the US announced that it is withholding $300 Million funding to Pakistan Army. Was Matthew Barrett given a visa so that he would come to Pakistan where he could be arrested and used as a bargaining chip for Army to get its hands on those millions? Or is he just being used to whip up anti-Americanism in retaliation?

Unlike Kulbhushan Yadav, there are no claims that Matthew Barrett is an American military officer. Actually, there are reports that he has a Pakistani wife and children who he has been kept from visiting. The last time he was deported was in 2011 – the lowest year of Pakistan-US relations when we suffered the Raymond Davis incident, Salala attack, and Abbottabad raid. Is Matthew Barrett really a spy? Or are he and his poor family just unfortunate pawns in a game much bigger than they realise?

Is US funding corruption in Pakistan Army?

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A high level defence delegation led by Lt. Gen (Retd) Muhammad Alam Khattak has headed to Washington to attend the 24th Meeting of Pakistan-US Defence Consultative Group. The Pakistani delegation has a clear brief: Ask for more money.

Pakistan side will stress for a way forward on issues related to Coalition Support Fund, its reimbursement continuation and enhancement. It remains high on agenda that Pakistan requires security equipment for capacity building and counter-terrorism operations.

Pakistan is in the front line on the war against terrorists. We have sacrificed more than any other nation and operation Zarb-e-Azb has also done more to break the backbone of terrorists than any other operation. None of this is denied. Still there need to be some questions asked about where all the billions are going. In the case of the military budget, the question does not always have a pleasing answer.

Auditor General of Pakistan has found over Rs5 BILLION in funds embezzled from defense budget in one year alone. Earlier this year Defence Ministry admitted that 81 officials were  found guilty of embezzeling Rs1.53 billion from accounts of the Military Engineering Services (MES). Almost none of these funds could be recovered.

These are only two incidents that have been reported. Other reports suggest the problem may be much larger such as how former Chief of Army Staff and military dictator Gen Mushasrraf became a billionaire? Who knows how much has been stolen from defence funds?

Being the richest country in the world, America may not think much about billions going missing, but without proper accounting and accountability for these funds they could be funding the corruption that is destroying the nation’s economy.

How earthquakes and terrorism are connected

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Hundreds of people have died from the massive earthquake that hit the country on Monday. This is tragic enough, but adding salt to the wound is the tragic response that is taking place which is telling the people that the earthquake was Allah’s warning to us. This message is being spread by religious leaders from all sects, threatening the people that if they do not change their behaviour than Allah will unleash more punishment. Actually, we know what causes earthquakes. It is a simple question that science answered long ago. Since we already know this, why are religious groups trying to scare people by telling them that Allah is punishing them? The answer is because it is a proven way to control their behaviour. It is religious blackmail. Think about it: Will these clerics tell the people that Allah is punishing us for how we treat Ahmadis and other minorities? Will they tell the people that Allah is punishing us for continuing to use blasphemy laws to settle scores and intimidate people? Will the clerics tell the people that natural disasters are Allah’s punishment for our nuclear weapons program which threatens to kill millions? Never. The reason given will always be something that advances their own agenda, not Allah’s.

The same week, a new survey has found that maximum number of Pakistanis believe that foreign powers are behind terrorism in the country.

According to the survey, about 55 percent of respondents believe India is involved behind terrorism in Pakistan. Another 29 percent blame the US for sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan. Overall, 79 percent of the respondents see a foreign hand behind terrorism in Pakistan.

This belief is firmly held even though the people caught for committing the terrorist acts are never Indians or Americans but always Pakistanis. Salmaan Taseer killer? Pakistani. Sabeen Mahmud killer? Pakistani. PAF Badaber attackers? Pakistani. APS Peshawar attackers? Pakistani. Wagah bomber? Pakistani. Jacobabad attackers? Pakistani. The list goes on and on and on.

So why do so many people believe that it is foreign powers and not extremist mindset spreading among our own society that is responsible? The answer is because they are told so over and over and over again. Aizaz Chaudhry declares it from the government. Even Army has declared it. Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif has even declared that terrorism in the country was defeated months ago, but terrorist attacks continue. And they continue to be done by Pakistanis, not Indians or Americans. Why are we told that foreign powers and not extremist mindset? Because it advances an agenda: Unifying the country.

While everyone is sacrificing the truth for their agendas, the people are suffering. Earthquakes and terrorism become connected because religious clerics use earthquakes to promote an extremist mindset that serves their agenda, and the powers that be ignore the extremist mindset being spread by these clerics because their agenda requires attacking India and America, not clerics. The cycle continues, and the disastrous result really is a punishment for for our own behaviour.

How we respond to India-US declaration will write our future

India-US joint declaration on terrorism has caused extreme discomfort in powerful quarters as it specifically mentions Pakistan in a negative light including our inability or unwillingness to bring to justice the perpetrators of 26/11 attacks as well as condemning favoured groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba. Chairman Senate’s Committee on Interior Senator Rehman Malik gave a strong statement against the declaration which reflects the popular anger against it. Instead of just complaining about it being unfair to Pakistan, though, the declaration should serve as a wake up call. Dawn newspaper notes a very important point that should become the center of our attention.

This country and its leadership need to ask themselves a hard question: why does Pakistan continue to be such a hospitable place for extremist and militants elements that threaten the region and friendly countries further away?

There may be a right-wing government in India hostile to Pakistan, but the latter’s terrorism problem has much deeper roots. Zero tolerance for extremism and militancy is in Pakistan’s interest. Such a policy though has yet to manifest itself here.

The world needs to pay more attention to India’s actions especially inside Balochistan and Afghanistan. However that does not mean that we do not have a serious problem in our own borders that is of our own making. This Eid jihadi groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa and others that are even supposedly banned were openly advertising and collecting hides. Despite the success of military operations in reducing attacks, jihadi terrorists still have ability to carry out massive attacks inside Pakistan. This was proven by PAF Badaber attack which, like almost every attack, was done by some Pakistani terrorists and had to have the help of even more sympathisers in the country.

Our policy of ‘Good Taliban Bad Taliban’ has hurt the sympathy that the world had for our sacrifices in the war on terrorism since everyone is now saying “If you are suffering so much why don’t you put an end to extremism?” And we are pointing fingers at India while obviously ignoring the extremists like Hafiz Saeed that we don’t want to deal with. How we choose to respond to this India-US declaration will write our future. We can give angry statements against it and nothing will change, or we can finally end this policy of ‘Good Taliban Bad Taliban’ and stop the growing isolation and suffering that we are facing.