Nawaz has a problem. His name is Chaudhry Nisar.

Nawaz Sharif Chaudhry NIsarNawaz Sharif gave a commendable speech today in Chakwal, saying that his government is dedicated to improving the lot and lives of religious minorities and promoting the mindset of ‘for you is your religion and for me is mine’. He told the audience that he is prime minister of all Pakistanis and “not just Muslim Pakistanis”. The Prime Minister should be applauded for giving this important message. Unfortunately, he has a problem.

No, it’s not his past flirtation with becoming ‘Ameer ul Momineen‘. The past can be forgiven if the present proves different. In this case, there is a question mark because while Nawaz is saying the right thing, he is keeping in his government powerful ministers who are saying the opposite. Day before PM Nawaz gave his impressive speech, his own Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar told a completely different story, declaring that sectarian militants cannot be considered terrorists. Nisar’s remarks sparked a walkout by opposition Senators.

How can anyone take seriously the PM’s words about ending religious intolerance and sectarianism when his own Interior Minister is seen serving tea to the heads of proscribed hate groups and giving his own speeches defending sectarian militants? Nawaz Sharif has a choice. He can keep Chaudhry Nisar and continue to give empty speeches and have no one believe him, or he can sack Chaudhry Nisar and go down in history as a PM who actually put his words into action to improve the country. He can’t do both.

The Cost of Confusion? $300 Million

Haqqani Network

The US Pentagon has announced that they will not pay Pakistan $300 Million in promised Coalition Support Funds despite “the sacrifices that the Pakistani military has undertakenbecause it is “not yet certified that Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network“. The announcement did not come as a surprise as American officials warned their Pakistani counterparts about it one year ago.

In response, Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria has reiterated the position that Pakistan is taking action against all terrorist groups without distinction. However, at the same time Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar reiterated that Pakistan makes a careful distinction between who it terms as ‘terrorists’ and who is considered as ‘freedom fighters’.

This is the point of divergence between Pakistan and US policy. We agree that some groups, like TTP, are terrorists, but other groups, like Haqqani Network and Jamaat-ud-Dawa, we support as ‘freedom fighters’.

It may have been a clever and lucrative strategy to carefully manage appearances about our policies towards certain militant groups, but now that there is no financial benefit it is time to reevaluate the cost of confusion and give a complete explanation of our policies and priorities. By hiding our true intentions, we were giving unnecessary weight to our critics who say that we are playing a double game. If we support Haqqani Network and other militant groups as ‘freedom fighters’, let us at least be open and honest about it and explain our reasoning. What do we have to lose?

Pakistan Negotiating Terms of Surrender

Federal Ministers meeting with Religious Party LeadersWhile government and military leaders promise a fight till the end against religious extremists, the reality appears to be carefully working out the terms of surrender. PM Nawaz and his Cabinet have agreed not to carry out any counter-terrorist operations in Punjab after the deadly suicide blast at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore on Sunday. According to the PM, “There is no room for any [military] operation in Punjab as there are neither any safe havens of terrorists here nor a territory is controlled by militants”. While PM is taking responsibility for this decision, there is little doubt who really makes such calls. GHQ has decided that militancy and extremism will be permitted to spread in Punjab.

While the militants remain free to spread their poisonous ideology and prepare fresh attacks, the state is also taking its marching orders from religious extremists. This was recently shown when Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah permitted Ulema to re-write a women protection law that after it was passed by the people’s elected representatives. Now it appears that surrender has once again been the result of religious extremists using threats to hold the nation hostage.

After supporters of a convicted killer seized the capital, government has reportedly given in to a series of their demands:

‘1. All arrested during the sit-in will be released.

2. All cases against various Ullema will be reevaluated.

3. Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law will neither be changed nor reevaluated.

4. No person involved in blasphemy will be spared.

5. Ministry of religious affairs will be told about the implications of Nizam-e-Mustafa (SAW).

6. The schedule list will be evaluated and the names of innocent will be extracted from the list.

7. All cases against protestors will be annulled’

Pressed with questions about the surrender, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar did not deny the agreement, only responded that there has been no ‘written’ agreement. Nisar further explained why saying that “No one has the authority from the government to finalize any deal in writing.” Interior Minister appears to be trying to fool the people by speaking vaguely while actually giving everyone the understanding that the agreement was actually made verbally as per the statement of the extremist leaders.

More and more analysts and experts are recognising that military operations alone are not enough to rid the nation of the scourge of terrorism. The extremist mindset must be addressed also. However, just as the state has ruled out military operations against terrorists in certain parts of the country, the state also appears to have decided to give in to the demands of unelected clerics and extremist religious party leaders. Let us call this strategy by its name: Surrender.

Who knows what is true in this country?

What is fact? What is fiction? In our post-modern democracy it is hard to know sometimes what is black and white. Knowing the reality made even more difficult after listening to statements of officials.

Foreign Affairs adviser to PM Sartaj Aziz has admitted that he has no idea about Pakistan’s role in Saudi military alliance. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar denied any presence of Daesh in the country, then piled confusion on top of confusion by denying that he denied anything. Meanwhile intelligence agencies admitted there is not only a presence but it is growing. After Bloomberg warned that Pakistan is facing dangerous risk of defaulting on $50 billions in foreign debt, Finance Ministry rejected the report as ‘not based on facts‘, however the only point that the Ministry argued was the scale of the default, not the default itself.

Analysts believe that Chaudhry Nisar’s refusal to accept the presence of Daesh in Pakistan is attempt to keep the public in the dark in order to prevent panic. This has become the standard trait of official statements, lying to the public ‘for our own good’. However this is not how a democracy works. If officials worry that the people will panic if they know the truth, how will they react once they realise that they have been lied to since long and have no idea of the truth?

What NGO Policy Says About Our ‘Interests’

ASWJ and JUD

NGOs have acquired a particularly bad reputation lately. In reality, NGOs serve an important role in society. First let us define what exactly an NGO is. NGO stands for ‘Non-Governmental Organisation‘:

A non-governmental organization (NGO) is any non-profit, voluntary citizens’ group which is organized on a local, national or international level. Task-oriented and driven by people with a common interest, NGOs perform a variety of service and humanitarian functions, bring citizen concerns to Governments, advocate and monitor policies and encourage political particpation through provision of information. Some are organized around specific issues, such as human rights, environment or health.

Save the Children is an NGO, and so is Edhi Foundation. Catholic Relief Services is an NGO, and so is Islamic Relief. Each of these organisations provides important humanitarian services to people who are not receiving these services from their own government.

Unfortunately, the same government that makes NGOs necessary by failing to provide necessary services is now putting NGOs under suspicion. Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar has said that some NGOs are backed by America, Israel, and India and they were “doing something which was against Pakistan’s interest”. The Interior Minister did not however bother to tell anyone which NGOs were working against the country neither did he tell what exactly they were doing. This was left to the wild imagination.

If it is true that there are any NGOs that are doing something which is against Pakistan’s interest, we should have every right to stop them from operating. My question is why the Interior Ministry is making vague claims about unnamed NGOs backed by America, Israel, and India but at the same time completely ignores NGOs backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries that are openly doing something which is against Pakistan’s interest.

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