The blame game

Not my fault

Pakistan faces severe threats and challenges and we have suffered more than anyone in the world. This we are reminded of often. This week we have also been reminded of the second part of our national identity which is that we are not responsible for any of our problems. We are only the helpless victims.

Yesterday PM’s Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz accused former Ambassador Husain Haqqani of being responsible for failure of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts. This is not the first time that a government official has given this excuse as Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has also blamed Husain Haqqani for his own failure to secure F-16s.

This may be a national emergency. If the entire diplomatic corps including even Gen. Raheel’s ceremonious efforts can be completely undone by a single person sitting in a think tank, what hope have we of ever overcoming our troubles? Is all of Pakistan unable to overcome one man?

Today we are also reminded that Pakistan has been abandoned by the whole world to face terrorists on our own. This was declared by no less than Army spokesman DG-ISPR Gen Asim Bajwa. However, this statement left many scratching their heads in confusion. Didn’t the US give Pakistan Army billions? Didn’t the US kill TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, capture TTP commander Latifullah Mehsud and hand him over to Pakistan Army? Isn’t US still funding Pakistan Army?

It is true that Pakistan is facing a declining relationship with historic allies including the US. However facts are facts and it is simply too much to say that we have been ‘abandoned’ yet. It is also unrealistic to blame a scholar for all of our problems. So why are we facing such a difficult time, and if we are not exactly ‘abandoned’, why are we becoming more isolated? Ironically, the answer may have been given by Husain Haqqani himself:

“Pakistan’s difficulties in the US were the result of years of supporting ‘jihadis’ and making excuses that are having less and less effect on Americans. Moreover, Pakistan’s dependence on US aid made it susceptible to changes in the US national mood and attitude,” elaborated Haqqani in the statement released.

Our top leaders, especially those at the level of Minister and General, need to give an honest assessment of our situation and take responsibility for putting the nation back on the right path. Blaming others and playing helpless victim will fix nothing. We need real leadership that is willing to speak the truth and take necessary action.

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.

Has Gen Bajwa Lost Control of Media Operations?

Gen Bajwa ISPR

DG-ISPR Gen Bajwa has received international recognition as a master of public relations for the media campaign that has lifted COAS to unprecedented heights of popularity. In addition, media has been united behind Army’s efforts to fight terrorists until the bitter end. However, a new trend has appeared within media that has some shaking their heads and wondering if a change for the worst has taken place behind the scenes.

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Army Finally Changing Its Tune?

Gen Asim BajwaFollowing Bacha Khan University attack, DG ISPR Gen Asim Bajwa has given a statement about breakthroughs in identifying the attackers. The statement was short of specifics, asking for patience as the sensitive information is properly processed and analysed. However there was something about the Army spokesman’s words that stood out. For the first time, the Army has admitted that the threat of terrorism is greater than we have been pretending.

The ISPR chief said, “As long as the facilitators and financiers of terrorists are present, they can carry out an attack at any place and time.”

“At any place and time.” This is a far cry from the triumphant claims of victory that Army has been making since the past year and a half. Since day one of Zarb-e-Azb we have been told over and over again how the terrorists are defeated, only to see fresh attacks take place.

Then attack against APS Peshawar was then termed as a game changer, but even though deaths have decreased from the highest levels, terrorist attacks remain constant and unrelenting. We were told that no longer would the Army discriminate between any militant groups, but still today we see ‘pro-Pakistan’ jihadis operating freely right under the noses of security agencies.

It is only a short sentence in the ISPR chief’s statement, and only time will tell if it symbolises a willingness to finally face reality and do the needful to change the course of history, or if it was just an unintended slip of the tongue that will soon be corrected with another premature declaration of victory, the wheel to continue spinning towards its inevitable end.

Even the best media campaigns cannot change reality

Gen Bajwa ISPR

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Gen Bajwa’s elevation to three stars was seen as announcing the arrival not only of the respected general himself but of 4G warfare and the psychological operations that ISPR has perfected under Gen Bajwa’s leadership. To commemorate the anniversary of APS Peshawar attack, ISPR released another excellent video, ‘Mujhe Dushman Kay Bachon Ko Parhana Hai’. The video has received thousands of views and positive coverage in the media. But while ISPR’s media programme was rallying nationalist fervor, another narrative was beginning to take hold. One that is questioning whether everything is really as we’re being told.

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