The existential threat is not terrorism

Lal Shahbaz

I had planned to write a short piece about this week’s suicide attack, but then there was another one. And another one. And then there was another one. The big one. Lal Shahbaz shrine attacked and close to 100 innocents killed, with hundreds more wounded.

This wasn’t supposed to be possible. Gen Raheel had broken the back of terrorists. Gen Bajwa reassured us, terrorism had successfully been defeated. The war was over. We won. Yes, there were still some acts of violence, but these were acts of sabotage by foreign agencies who wanted to derail CPEC. Or PSL.

A foreign conspiracy could be found for every attack, and we were told that if it wasn’t for world powers fear of our coming rise to super power status, this would be a land of peace and prosperity. But what economic route runs through Lal Shahbaz? What cricket tournament was being hosted there? What sensitive installations were hidden underneath? The only thing there was a crowd of common Pakistanis looking for peace.

Lal Shahbaz blast was a wake up call. The state swiftly responded with promises of ‘no more restraint for anyone’. The nation was now in a state of ‘all out war.’ The words were right, but they were met with confusion. What does this mean ‘no restraint against anyone’? Wasn’t that the National Action Plan that is now two years old? What does this mean ‘all out war’? Wasn’t that Zarb-e-Azb launched three years ago? If now we are done showing restraint, does that mean we have been lied to since before?

What came next left even more questions. Under what authority does GHQ summon foreign diplomats? Is the state really so gullible to allow militants to enter Pakistan if they ‘disavow terrorism‘? Why are we sealing Torkham border when the militants are coming from places like Multan? The state’s response to this week’s terror operations has been to repeat the same old script. Terrorists are foreign agents. We will not rest until they are stopped. Problem is, we have heard it all before. What is new this time?

Many so-called ‘liberal’ writers and bloggers have been criticised for not supporting Army’s efforts against terrorism since the past few years. But is reality ‘liberal’ or is it just reality? On this blog we have warned that terrorism was flourishing despite Zarb-e-Azb. We noted that despite all claims that terrorists werer foreigners, it was always Pakistanis being arrested. We warned that double-standards for different militants was a dangerous policy that would undermine our security. Every time, we are accused of being ‘anti-Army’. But everything we reported was just reality. It wasn’t anti-Army, even if it was critical of national security strategy. If national security strategy is in conflict with reality, isn’t it actually pro-Army to let them know?

Some in our agencies have tried to bend reality to match their national security strategy. It is a complete and total failure, and the damning evidence are the innocent lives lost in this week’s terrorist attacks. Terrorism is not the existential threat to Pakistan. The existential threat to Pakistan is the desire to bend reality to match our national security strategy instead of adapting our strategy to match reality. If we cannot do that, I’m afraid there is not much hope for us.

Pakistani media: a noise box

Shaharyar Niazi on Geo

Due to the “absence of adequate evidence”, the Scotland Yard cleared, MQM chief Altaf Hussain in the money laundering case. According to Pakistan media, Metropolitan Police confirmed it that the investigation into the money laundering case against the MQM chief and others has been concluded.

Altaf Hussain was facing the media trial on the above mentioned case for more than three years. While his case was under investigation by the Law Enforcers of United Kingdom, the electronic media in Pakistan had convicted him with the crime.

Pakistani electronic media especially the evening talk shows are losing the credibility among the viewers. They have become more like a noise box than informative medium for the public. When it comes to journalistic ethics and norms, Pakistan electronic media has opted it out for the choice “Pay as you go” trend. The International Journal of Communication from the University of Southern California did a study called “Beyond the Western masses: Demography and Pakistani Media Credibility Perception” based on survey. The study examined Pakistani media’s credibility among the people of Pakistan with respect to their ethnic backgrounds. They found out that ethnicity is a key indicator in predicting media credibility. According to their result, the minority ethnic groups tend to find domestic television to be less credible, and international television to be more credible, than do members of the majority Punjabi group. In the study, “local television” was used for any type of television channel run by government or private media companies and serviced through aerial or cable/satellite connections in Pakistan, distinguishable from international television. But according to survey, in Pakistan the International media like CNN, BBC, and Al-Jazeera has smaller audiences as compared to Urdu-speaking channels.

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Bomb Proof Passports and Bullet Proof Denial

Pakistan Bomb Proof PassportWhen American media announced that Taliban chief Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone strike in Balochistan, the response of the state was silence. Soon came posts on social media with photos of a Pakistani passport and CNIC that were supposedly recovered from the scene. This was met with laughter by not only the hyper-nationalist crowd but even liberals. Jokes began to go around saying security forces were issuing new bullet proof jackets made of Pakistani passports. Even those criticising our Afghan policy found the situation ridiculous. How is it that a car and two people are completely incinerated by a hell fire missile but his Pakistani IDs just HAPPEN to survive in perfect condition? The answer was in the question: We were being framed. Again.

Only, this time at least, it appears that there was no framing. Sartaj Aziz has confirmed that the person killed in the attack was Mullah Mansour and that Pakistani authorities had identified him by DNA test. More surprising, though, was that the government confirmed that the official government documents that were recovered, the passport and CNIC, were authentic. They had a fake name, but they were real documents issued by NADRA. Interior Ministry has ordered a ‘crackdown‘ against officials for issuing the documents, but it is well known that those behind such things do not answer to the Interior Ministry.

Sometimes, ridiculous things happen. As ridiculous as it sounds, a hell fire missile did incinerate a car and two people yet a Pakistani passport and CNIC somehow survived intact. Does it matter that even the state has confirmed it? No, we will prefer to stick to our denials and our jokes about ‘bomb proof passports’. It may be a ridiculous mindset that refuses to believe what has already been confirmed, but if we start accepting these things then we will be forced to face the most ridiculous thing of all, which is our own foreign policy that causes such things in the first place. After all, Amir-ul-Momineen will come and go…but our denialism is truly bomb proof.

Panama Papers RAW Connection

Mossack FonsecaThe ‘Panama Papers’, the latest treasure trove of secrets to be leaked on the internet didn’t bring any amazing revelations. They just confirmed what was basically an open secret: The world’s rich and powerful protect their wealth by hiding it in secret overseas accounts. The leaks have brought down at least one Prime Minister and sent the global elite scrambling. In Pakistan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif finds himself in the cross hairs, but he is hardly alone.

Rehman Malik has also found himself getting attention for his ownership of a company in the Virgin Islands during the 2000s. The former Interior Minister has admitted that he was an owner of the company but that it was dissolved after a few years due to suffering losses and insists that everything about the business was perfectly legal and legitimate. Rehman Malik may be telling the truth about the legitimacy of this business, but what is more interesting was his first response to the leak, which was to term it a ‘RAW conspiracy‘, even though the documents exposed over 500 prominent Indians also. This is worth noting because it actually tells more about our problems than corruption.

If one thing has been learned from the ‘Panama Papers’, it is that corruption is not a Pakistani enterprise. It is a human one. What is a Pakistani enterprise, though, is trying to dismiss everything negative as a foreign conspiracy instead of admitting fault and fixing the problem.

Corruption in Pakistan is a Pakistani problem, just like corruption in India is an Indian problem. So also, terrorism in Pakistan is a Pakistani problem. Whatever Kulbashan Yadav was involved with, it does not explain every act of terrorism in Pakistan. Terming terrorism as a ‘RAW conspiracy’ to destabilise Pakistan only distracts from stopping the problem just like terming the Panama Papers as a RAW conspiracy attempts to distract from the corruption that is taking place here. Let us stop blaming RAW for everything. It gives too much credit to the Indian agency, and it prevents us from addressing our own problems.

Here’s Why Ansar Abbasi’s Pathankot Conspiracy Makes No Sense

Mohammad TanzilMohammad Tanzil, inspector of India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) involved in investigation of the Pathankot terrorist attack, was gunned down in UP while returning home from a wedding. According to Ansar Abbasi, this adds to doubts about veracity of Pathankot attack because Tanzil was Muslim.

Pakistani security agency sources believed that India appears to have started to eliminate those “doubtful” Indians who actually came to know during the course of investigations of the drama of the ‘False Flag Operation’ at Pathankot.

Questions are being raised as to why the wife of the NIA officer has also been hit. Was it the result of possible fears that the officer might have divulged anything to his wife? Can the state be so callous that it starts killing its own citizen and a serving officer whose only crime was that he was a Muslim who had come to know the dark secrets of Indian statecraft?

There is so much wrong with this report. Are questions really being raised as to why the officers wife was hit? Isn’t the obvious answer that when gunmen carry out their hit they are not using laser guided bullets, and when they are spraying their target they will kill anything and everything in their path? Mohammad Tanzil was hit 21 times. That does not sound like a precise assassination, it sounds like a hail of gunfire. This may be the stupidest question of Ansar Abbasi’s, but it is not the only one.

Ansar Abbasi’s entire conspiracy theory is based on the idea that the investigator was killed because he was Muslim. This says more about Ansar Abbasi than anything else, however if it is true that he is reporting what he is told by our own security agencies, then it also explains a lot about our own national insecurity.

The assumption being made is that because Mohammad Tanzil was a Muslim, he would have discovered that the attack was a ‘false flag’ operation and therefore had to be eliminated before he spilled the beans. There are some obvious problems with this. If Mohammad Tanzil could discover that the attack was fake, so can others. Will India kill all of its investigators to keep them quiet? If the other investigators are willing to go along with the conspiracy because they are Indian, why wouldn’t Mohammad Tanzil? Are we supposed to think that because he was Muslim he was sympathetic to Pakistan? If so, why didn’t he remain Indian till his death? Could it be that he was a proud Muslim and a proud Indian, just like there are proud Hindus who are also proud Pakistanis?

As with most conspiracy theories, there is a much more obvious answer to who killed Mohammad Tanzil and why. Isn’t it also possible that he was killed by the jihadis who orchestrated the attack as revenge against a Muslim who was siding with India over Pakistan?

Jihadi groups inclulding Jaish-e-Mohammad who is suspected in Pathankot attack spoke openly about their plans to increase attacks against Indian targets. Do we believe they are lying? Or are certain quarters trying to ‘muddy the waters’ by spreading conspiracy theories in order to protect strategic assets? These are questions we are not likely to get answered by the likes of Ansar Abbasi.