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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Justice for Balochistan

The US Congress held a hearing on Balochistan this week. If this seems strange, that’s because it is. The US holding hearings on Balochistan seems rather like the National Assembly holding hearings on racism and human rights violations in the US – the right issue, but the wrong forum. After all, what do American Congressmen know about the situation in Balochistan? Isn’t it possible that they could be manipulated and actually make things worse? The Foreign Office has taken notice of the hearing and Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit told the media that “Our concerns have been forcefully conveyed in Washington”. But while concerns are conveyed about hearings on Baluchistan being held in Washington, we should also be expressing concerns that so little attention is being paid in Islamabad.

The day before the American hearing, an informal debate on Balochistan situation took place at the National Assembly, and several MNAs gave passionate statements about the situation.

“A volcano is active in Balochistan and can explode anytime,” warned Gul Mohammad Jhakrani, a ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker who was of the view that Balochistan had been ruled by the Inspector General Frontier Constabulary instead of civilian government.

“The FC is the ‘de facto master’ of Balochistan while on the contrary the chief minister seems helpless to control the provincial affairs,” he said, adding that ‘some elements’ were deliberately creating law and order situation in the province which he warned might create another “Bangladesh” if problems of Baloch people were not addressed seriously.

Unfortunately, attendance at this important discussion was disturbingly low. Only 54 members were present at the start and the number was reduced to 48 when the sitting was adjourned. This is turning a blind eye to an important issue of national security.

Watching the online video of the American hearing on Balochistan, I was not surprised by comments that seemed, well, crazy. This is to be expected. What struck me was seeing the attendance at the event. In addition to the American Congressmen present on the panel, there were no less than five official speakers who were allowed to give statements including Christine Fair (who I have criticised in the past but actually gave one of the more thoughtful statements) and Pakistan Director Human Rights Watch Ali Dayan Hasan.

When the cameras showed the speakers, I could see behind them a room filled with Pakistani faces. This made me think, why should we have to go to Washington to have an open discussion about such important issues at home.

Amnesty International has released a new report highlighting the danger of ignoring the growing security threat in Balochistan. As their report notes, this is not a one-sided security threat but the combination of military abuses, armed Baloch groups targeting civilians, militant groups, sectarian groups, and criminal gangs.

“Balochistan is one of the most militarised regions of Pakistan, with the military, paramilitary Frontier Corp and levies, and police stationed across this vast province,” the Amnesty briefing said. “Despite this presence, or perhaps because of it, Balochistan is one of the most dangerous parts of Pakistan, with armed groups affiliated with the state, sectarian armed groups, armed groups hostile to the state, and criminal gangs operating with near complete impunity,” noted the briefing paper.

It warned that the province is “gradually heading to a state of perpetual conflict that threatens stability not only in Pakistan but also in the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan and Iran, and throughout the region”.

Just as the threat is internal, though, so is the solution. By raising the issue in National Assembly, MNAs like Gul Mohammad Jhakrani, Humayun Aziz Kurd, Farahnaz Ispahani, and Abdul Qadir Baloch are leading the way towards peace.

Pakistan researcher at Amnesty International Mustafa Qadri Tweeted on Wednesday, ‘International attention of Balochistan is welcome but must not be used for selfish point scoring. This is a matter of justice not politics.’ It should be noted that the MNAs who addressed the issue in parliament were from coalition and opposition parties also. Human rights is not a political issue. Neither should the situation in Balochistan be considered one.

Shireen Mazari’s Hilarious China Mistake

Shireen Mazari

Shireen Mazari has released another screeching tirade upon the masses, this time on the pages of The Express Tribune where she requests that we re-evaluate our ties with America.

In the first paragraph, Shireen makes a curious comparison of the Raymond Davis case to the killing of Chinese nationals.

If the whole ‘strategic’ edifice is under threat over the issue of Raymond Davis, one really wonders whether there ever was a relationship to begin with. Take the example of our longstanding strategic ally China: Has this relationship ended despite the targeted killings of Chinese nationals working in Pakistan?

But does Shireen Mazari realize that she just argued that Raymond Davis killing Pakistanis is like the killing of Chinese nationals near Peshawar?  And since the Chinese did not cut ties with us for killing their people, the logical conclusion is that we should not cut ties with Americans?

But that’s not the only bizarre part of Shireen’s article. Shireen of course invokes the Ghairat Brigade’s favourite angel of foreign relations – China, but as the American professor Dr Christine Fair recently wrote, China is not a better friend to Pakistan than the US.

What has China done for Pakistan? It did not help Pakistan in any of its wars with India in 1965, 1971 or the Kargil crisis of 1999, when it took the same line as the US and even India. It did little to help Pakistan in the 2001-2002 crisis with India and it even voted in the UN Security Council to declare Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) a terrorist organisation in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror outrage.

The roads and ports and other infrastructure that the Chinese are building in Pakistan principally benefit China. Pakistanis are an afterthought. The Chinese obtain contracts on favourable and profitable investment terms, use their own employees, and contribute little to the local economy ultimately to build projects that facilitate the movement and sales of cheap (but also dangerous and poorly crafted) Chinese goods and products into and through Pakistan.

It is a sad fact that China uses Pakistan for its foreign policy aims as well. It provides Pakistan nuclear assistance and large amounts of military assistance to purchase subpar military platforms in hopes of sustaining Pakistan’s anti-status quo policy towards India. By encouraging Pakistani adventurism towards India, Beijing hopes that India’s massive defence modernisation and status of forces remain focused upon Pakistan — not China. China wants to sustain the animosity between India and Pakistan but it certainly does not want an actual conflict to ensue as it would then be forced to show its hand again — by not supporting Pakistan in such a conflict.

Shireen Mazari’s choice of China as a paragon of virtue and international friendship is also hilarious considering the recent case of Chinese captain Zhan Qixiong who bashed a Japanese patrol boat in Japanese waters.

In the end, it came down to economic ties versus national pride. Business concerns prevailed—and so did China, in a sense. A bitter feud with Japan had been escalating since September 7th, when a Chinese fishing boat ran into a Japanese patrol in waters which both countries claim as sovereign territory. Today Japan released the boat’s Chinese skipper, who had been accused of bashing into the two Japanese vessels deliberately. With the release of the captain, Zhan Qixiong, the diplomatic world breathes a sigh of relief.

And this was far from a friendly case, either. China exerted much more pressure on Japan to release the captain who certainly had no claim to diplomatic immunity, controversial or not.

Japan’s prosecutors chose not to indict Mr Zhan on the grounds that his act was not premeditated, according to Kyodo, the Japanese news agency. But the real reason was the vehemence of China’s reaction. Since the fishing crew and its captain were arrested, China has continually ratcheted up the pressure to have them returned. It cut diplomatic communications and even arrested four Japanese nationals, allegedly for filming in a restricted military area. China’s response seemed to take an especially nefarious turn when it apparently suspended its export of rare-earth minerals, which are vital to making electronics components used in everything from handheld gadgets to cars. On September 23rd China emphatically denied that it is blocking exports. And this may be true: there probably isn’t a formal directive. But in a country where informal rules abound, exporters know that it can pay to withhold shipments—in solidarity with a government that is angry at its neighbour.

China’s actions hurt its image in the world, just as America was looking somewhat callous until Senator John Kerry ensured that Raymond Davis will be subjected to a full criminal investigation and trial in the US. But China showed that it will put its national interests before any neighbor, just as all countries do. It also showed that once the Japanese returned the Chinese captain, the world did not come to an end.

Obviously, the point of Shireen Mazari’s entire article was for the First Lady of the Ghairat Brigade to sing her one-note-tune about cutting ties with America. As usual, she has no idea what she’s talking about and ends up undermining her own argument. Shireen Mazari’s work is so riddled with mistakes, is it any wonder that her by line now has each of her titles preceded by the term ‘former’?

Tough Love

jalebiWhen I was a boy, my friend Hasan LOVED jalebis. I don’t know many people who don’t love jalebis, but Hasan really went nuts for them. I distinctly remember one day daadi grabbing my friend Hasan by the ear and telling him that he was going to be fat and get diabetes if he did not stop eating so many sweetmeats. He cried home to his mother who came around wanting to know who daadi thought she was yelling at her son and telling him how to live. My grandmother looked at her with crossed arms and said, “Look here, I have known you since you were born and I have known your son also. Our families have always been close and I call Hasan my own son. Do you think I would scold him if I did not love him also?”

This is what my mother always referred to as ‘tough love’. She had no patience for mothers who lied to themselves while their sons were getting into mischief. “Angels are in heaven”, she used to say, “on Earth I have to deal with regular boys.” Today, too many of our analysts and commentators are like the mothers who lied to themselves about what was going on under their very roofs. And, like Hasan’s mother, they are quick to take offense when someone points out the unpleasant truths.

I was reminded of my mother talking about ‘tough love’ when I read Christine Fair’s column in Daily Times, “Choosing sovereignty over servitude”.

There are a few popular talking points used by the Ghairat Brigade. The most common of these is ‘SOVEREIGNTY’. This was the repeated phrase during the debate about Kerry-Lugar bill. It is the phrase repeated whenever there is discussion of drone strikes. Now it is again coming up as some American Congressmen have threatened to cut aid due to the standoff over Raymond Davis. This has created the expected howls of unfair “American pressure” from the same circles.

And then in walks an American, Christine Fair, and says, “If you won’t stop eating jalebis, don’t complain that you’re getting sick.”

What does it mean for a state to be sovereign? Apart from exercising monopoly of force and writ of law, more or less homogenously over the state territory, one of the most important elements of state sovereignty is the ability to pay its own bills. While Pakistan is making strides in the former, it has made no progress in the latter.

To free it of international meddling, Pakistan’s political leaders need only to subject themselves and their patronage networks to an agricultural and industrial tax, a move which Pakistan’s leadership has steadfastly avoided throughout the state’s entire history. Of course, it must improve income tax compliance too.

Now, accusing elites of not paying taxes is another favourite pastime of the Ghairat Brigade, but they don’t really mean it. The same reason you hear so many of these guys wishing for another military government even though they always turn out horribly is also why they’re constantly talking about kicking out the Americans and relying on China and Saudi Arabia. They hate feeling like servants of America, but they still have a servant mentality.

The Ghairat Brigades are like the mothers who lie to themselves that their demon son is actually an angel. Christine Fair is having none of it.

What has China done for Pakistan? It did not help Pakistan in any of its wars with India in 1965, 1971 or the Kargil crisis of 1999, when it took the same line as the US and even India. It did little to help Pakistan in the 2001-2002 crisis with India and it even voted in the UN Security Council to declare Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) a terrorist organisation in 2009 in the wake of the Mumbai terror outrage.

The roads and ports and other infrastructure that the Chinese are building in Pakistan principally benefit China. Pakistanis are an afterthought. The Chinese obtain contracts on favourable and profitable investment terms, use their own employees, and contribute little to the local economy ultimately to build projects that facilitate the movement and sales of cheap (but also dangerous and poorly crafted) Chinese goods and products into and through Pakistan.

It is a sad fact that China uses Pakistan for its foreign policy aims as well. It provides Pakistan nuclear assistance and large amounts of military assistance to purchase subpar military platforms in hopes of sustaining Pakistan’s anti-status quo policy towards India. By encouraging Pakistani adventurism towards India, Beijing hopes that India’s massive defence modernisation and status of forces remain focused upon Pakistan — not China. China wants to sustain the animosity between India and Pakistan but it certainly does not want an actual conflict to ensue as it would then be forced to show its hand again — by not supporting Pakistan in such a conflict.

What about Saudi Arabia? The increasingly broke US citizen provided more assistance to Pakistan’s flood victims than Pakistan’s Islamic, oil tycoon brethren in Saudi Arabia. While the US government has not figured out how to give aid in a way that minimises corruption and maximises benefit, Pakistanis should note that at least the US tries to do so in contrast to Saudi Arabia, which simply abdicates.

Saudi Arabia does fund madrassas, albeit of a highly sectarian variety. Yet, Pakistan does not need more madrassas. In fact, the educational market shows that Pakistani interest in madrassa education is stagnant while interest in private schooling is expanding. Unfortunately, those madrassas and Islamic institutions that Saudi Arabia does support have contributed to a bloody sectarian divide in Pakistan that has killed far more innocent Pakistanis than the inaccurately reviled US drone programme a thousand times over.

In short, Saudi Arabia too uses Pakistan to isolate Shia Iran and to promote the dominance of Wahabiism over other Sunni maslaks (sub-sects) and over all Shia maslaks. Pakistan has paid a bloody price for the Saudis’ assistance.

Today’s pain in the national gut is Raymond Davis. Here’s an American who shot two Pakistanis who were either robbers or intelligence agents (or both) and apparently took some photos that would certainly make a strange addition to a tourist’s photo album. Asif Ezdi writes in The News that,

The government will do a great service not only to the nation but also to itself if it does not bow to US demands on Davis. It will give some credibility to our claim of being a sovereign country and do a lot of good to national self-esteem. God knows we need it badly. Countries that succumb to the first signs of international pressure never attain their national goals.

Great. We thumb our nose over Raymond Davis, hang him in the street – or better yet, bravely shoot him 26 times in the back. Then what? We all feel better for a few days, maybe a week, and we will find that nothing has changed. Actually, things would probably even be worse.

Regardless of what is said by those who have made fortunes hawking conspiracy theories and stories about secret American designs on Pakistan, the best way to get rid of the Raymond Davis’s in Pakistan is to get our own issues under control ourselves. Here’s what Christine Fair says:

If Pakistanis genuinely want to toss off the yoke of financial servitude and gain a genuine stake in their government, they should stop howling at the US government. Instead, the street power mobilised to support a flawed law and a murderer should be redirected to policy issues that are critical to the state’s survival. And rest assured, financial sovereignty is one such issue.

Perhaps such advice is not as easy or as fun as burning effigies or shouting and stomping our feet outside the LHC. But if we’re really worried about Pakistani sovereignty, it might be the best advice there is. And it came from an American. I guess they understand the concept of ‘tough love’ also.