Secret Meetings In Washington: Is PTI sabotaging PM’s UN trip?

US Institute of Peace

PM Nawaz Sharif is in New York for the 70th session of United Nations General Assembly which is scheduled to take place on 30th of this month. As usual, there is much speculation being reported. Will he take a sideline meeting with Modi? Will he give Kashmir a front and center place on the agenda? Will he reveal damning evidence about Indian involvement in terrorism? There have been strong statements coming out of the capital, and expectations are running high. However, some new facts that have not been reported could find the PM meeting some unexpected hostility.

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Leaks Galore


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.

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.

ISI report abdul aziz

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.

Taliban letter to Pakistan MI


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
Governor, Helmand

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.

Time for #PTI to #ShutDownToRebuild?

Arif Alvi gup shup during PTI sit in

PTI leadership are very good at some things. They are second to none at thinking up slogans. They can put on a rock concert better than most professional entertainment companies. They have an almost magical way of entrancing the media. And lets be honest, they have the top social media team of the country. PTI is a successful marketing machine, but even the best marketing team cannot make a delicacy out of old meat.

PTI’s most recent marketing campaign, branded with the hashtag #ShutDownToRebuild, threatened to bring Karachi, the financial capital, to its knees. What actually too place, however, was more like a pain in the neck. PTI sat down in the street and blocked traffic. Imran Khan made speeches. Youthias shouted slogans. And as the sun went down, they packed up and went home. The demonstration was inconvenient, but tomorrow everything will go back to normal as if nothing happened.

Now PTI is taking their road show (literally sitting in the road) to Lahore in a few days. There they will follow Imran Khan around chanting slogans. Arif Alvi will chat on the phone while sitting in the middle of the street. Wealthy PTI leaders will have their photos taken while drinking tea at a dhaba and their social media wing will spread them as evidence of their leaders humble authenticity. When the lights are off and the cameras put away, though, those humble leaders will return to their mansions and armies of servants.

How this helps the country, I don’t know. Actually, I’m not even sure how this helps PTI. Is their plan to annoy the country into handing over the reins of power? PTI’s leadership has proven to be masters of political showmanship, but they can’t seem to figure out how to get beyond sitting in the middle of the road inconveniencing people who just want to go about their lives. And so as another day comes and goes, so too another PTI demonstration that promised to bring things to a halt once again falls flat. Maybe it’s time for PTI itself to #ShutDownToRebuild.

Arif Alvi’s co-education controversy – Shahryar Khan

The writer is a student at Ohio Wesleyan University, currently working as an associate at Green Peak International Sports Management. He tweets @Shahryar92

Recently, a controversial statement was made by MNA Arif Alvi, who also happens to be the chief whip of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He felt, during a television talk show, that it was perfectly acceptable to give in to the Taliban’s demand for the abolition of co-educational schooling. He voiced his opinion on this topic and stated that segregated schooling was something cultural and acceptable.

Some Pakistanis, including myself, might believe that giving into anything that the Taliban demand by force is as bad a blow to Pakistani sovereignty as illegal drone strikes, but that’s just the pseudo-liberal lot and besides the point.

Alvi later took to Twitter to clarify his stance and spoke about how parents had the right to choose whichever kind of schooling they wanted their children to receive and that kind of schooling, (whether co-ed or single-sex) in any given constituency, should be decided democratically.

It is worthwhile to mention that the effectiveness of Twitter clarifications is also questionable due to the amount of Pakistanis that might use Twitter and Pakistan’s low percentage of internet penetration. The number of television viewers, on the other hand, has to be far greater. Also, such a clarification, after a massive wave of criticism, seems more like damage control than airing an actual political stance, and once something of this sort is said, true opinion seems to come to light and it is very difficult to put the cat back in the bag.

Later, revelations aside, during the said show, Alvi made some very interesting points. He thought co-education was not exactly compatible with all of Pakistan. Again, most of Pakistan, including myself, might disagree and feel regardless of all politics and democratic decrees that both single-sex and co-ed options should be available to constituents and that whereever women’s rights are are under attack, those rights should be imposed irrespective of cultural norms or traditions.

On the topic of women’s rights, Imran Khan also, quite recently, voiced his discontent over reserved seats for women in parliament and later went on to have his party represent the lowest percentage of women contesting on general seats during the 2013 election. The icing on the cake though has to be the agreement that the PTI co-signed with a number of political parties in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), which it currently rules, to bar women from voting in Upper and Lower Dir. Let’s also not forget that the PTI is currently a coalition partner of the Jamaat-e-Islami in K-P, which has also historically not been the strongest supporters of women’s rights either.

Coming back to MNA Alvi, it is indeed very interesting that he supports the idea of the abolition of co-ed schooling, particularly in regions where the Taliban menace is rampant because the Taliban have also had a history of attacking girls’ schools and colleges and are very opposed to girls being educated, the attack on Malala Yousufzai being a case in point.

This whole business of negotiating with irrational savages just seems confusing and futile. It has to be reiterated, so that there is no middle ground to accommodate what the Taliban want, while obeying the laws and regulations set by the Constitution of Pakistan.

To conclude, it is ironic how Alvi was voted in after immense controversy by the so-called educated, urban elite of Karachi; one must wonder whether this was the Naya Pakistan they spent hours in line to vote for, not once but twice, and then even risked their lives by protesting outside on the streets for days on end.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2013.


Would you entrust your mother to an untested doctor?

Imagine that your mother has taken an infection and she requires surgery as part of the cure. You want maximum quality medical care for your mother, so you decide before the surgery, you will interview the doctors and select the best to save her life.

The first doctor has been practicing medicine since 20 years. He has saved many lives, but some he has lost also. He started his career as a resident, working under senior physicians and learning from their experiences. During his 20 years experience, he has made some mistakes, but he has also made some courageous recoveries. He has a record of 80 per cent success.

The second doctor has been practicing medicine since 25 years. He, too, has saved many lives but has lost some also. Like the first doctor, he started his career as a resident, working under senior physicians and learning from their experiences. During his 20 years experience, he has made some mistakes, but he has also made some courageous recoveries. He has a record of 85 per cent success.

The third doctor has been practicing medicine since 5 years. He has never performed a surgery, and has never been in residency. He was a very famous actor in romantic films, and is very tall and handsome. Compared to the other doctors, he looks much better in his uniform. He has never lost any patients, but he has never saved any either because actually he has never even had any patients.

Which doctor will you trust with the life of your mother? Will you choose the doctor with the 80 per cent success rate? Will you choose the doctor with the 85 per cent success rate? Each of these has done some good, but also they have made mistakes and lost patients. Will you, then, choose the ‘untested’ doctor who has never performed a surgery in his life? Would you entrust your mother to an untested doctor?

This is the argument I continue to hear from those who suggest that the fate of our motherland should be given to ‘the untested’, Imran Khan. To them, Imran Khan’s complete lack of experience is seen as a positive. But what happens if he is a complete blunder? Then what?

This gets to my real question. Why does Imran Khan have to be PM or President? Why can’t he be MNA and gain some experience with what is required to actually govern. So far Imran Khan has given emotional speeches and held dharnas, but he has never actually created any solutions to any problems. Maybe he should learn to crawl before he tries running a marathon?

Another question – if we are to believe Dr Alvi and the other PTI walas in the media, PTI is going to dominate the 2013 elections. In order for this to happen, though, there has to be enough candidates to win majority of seats in parliament. In 2002 general elections, PTI had 95 candidates. In 2008, they had zero. Who are these mystery people that we are asked to vote for in 2013? They are not only ‘untested’, they are completely unknown!

General Secretary PTI is Dr Arif Alvi, a Karachi dentist. Would Dr Alvi entrust his own mother to a man who had never passed a single dental exam and had never practised dentistry? Why is he asking us to entrust our motherland to a man who has never governed even a single district? Governance is not an experiment that we can afford to let fail. You do not put a hospital under the charge of a man who has never passed one medical exam. And you don’t put an entire nation under the charge of a man who has never passed one single political test.