How our leaders let their own ambition undo our case on Kashmir

Kashmir or IslamabadIt’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago there was political unity as all parties, both civil and military, had come together to bring the world’s attention to the Kashmiri cause. Today, unity has reverted back to fighting, and the world’s attention is focused not on the chaos in Kashmir, but the chaos in Islamabad. If our political leaders failed to get any media attention during the diplomatic missions earlier this month, they have succeeded in getting the world’s attention now.

Nawaz Sharif has taken a page from Modi’s book by heavily cracking down on opposition protestors. The images on TV are similar with crowds of unarmed people fleeing clouds of tear gas and facing walls of armed security forces. The result has been the same, too. Next time our diplomats mention statements against Indian oppression in Kashmir from international human rights groups like Kashmir, how will they answer when India’s diplomats note that the same human rights groups are condemning our own reactions to protestors?

Nawaz Sharif is not the only one to blame for this disaster, though. Equal blame is shared by Imran Khan for inciting the entire situation. This is not an excuse for corruption or defence of Panama Papers accusations. If Nawaz had broken the law, let him be held accountable. Imran Khan had many choices for how to handle this issue and he chose the one that he knew would provoke the government to overreact. It was a strategic choice made by PTI’s top leadership to cause chaos. The government was stupid for falling for this trick, but there is no doubt that it has not worked out exactly as Imran Khan hoped.

ISPR has reported that cross border firing from India continues along the LoC, but our ability to make this case in the international forums is quickly becoming moot. The world is finally paying attention, but it’s the insecurity in Islamabad that is making headlines, not Kashmir.

Jalsa Wars 2: Wrath of Khan

Sipah-e-Sahaba flag flying at PTI dharna Karachi

SSP and JI flags flying at PTI dharna earlier this year

As N-league’s innings in the 2011 Jalsa Wars have ended, we prepare to meet the challenger. To learn more about Imran’s strategy, I turned to PTI HQ, also known as Facebook. The official Facebook page for Hakumat Hatao Mulk Bachao Jalsa in Lahore describes the event as:

“This is the official Event for the movement launched by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf during the Karachi Dharna on 23-24 May 2011. This Event will mobilize the nation for the next sit-in Lahore.””

In other words, PTI held a dharna in May to organize a jalsa in October to mobilize the nation for a sit-in at some time in the future. Truly, an extraordinary strategy for solving the many issues facing the nation.

Sunday’s rally will also find political watchers looking for the answer to the question of whether or not SMQ will finally announce if he is switching parties. He was noticeably absent from Friday’s PML-N rally, leaving many to wonder if it’s a sign that he has chosen PTI as his new home. Such a decision, of course, would raise questions such as how Zardari’s Foreign Minister fits into the PTI talking point of being ‘untested’ leadership. But I suppose Pir Imran Khan’s blessing washes away all sins.

FM Qureshi with US Secretary of State Clinton

As Jalsa Wars continue, though, I can hardly wait to see what a great effect these rallies will have. Will dengue finally be eradicated out as machar are bored to death by endless speeches? Will Imran’s electric personality finally solve load shedding? Will sectarianism finally be wiped out as the whole nation unites as Shi’atu Imran?

One thing is certain. If democracy and electoral process are not solving the national problems fast enough, rallies and sit-ins are sure to do the trick. Otherwise, we might have to think that Imran Khan doesn’t know what he’s doing…

Rabid Dogs

An interesting article in The News makes a compelling case that outsourcing war by using private contractors is a losing strategy. This was most clearly proven in Iraq when the private security company Blackwater did more harm than good to efforts to bring peace to the country. The Blackwater mercenaries were accused of murder by Iraqi officials and a case against Blackwater agents continues in the US courts. More powerful than any specific action of Blackwater agents, though, was the way the use of mercenaries tarnished the world image of America’s fight against terrorists after 9/11. Using contract fighters like Blackwater that operated outside the laws undercut the moral authority of US and made even sympathetic minds question American intentions.

America may be the world’s super power, but it is not the only country to use mercenaries to fight its battles. Actually, close parallels can be drawn between groups like Blackwater and LeT, Taliban, and other militant groups used as proxies in Pakistan. Just as US guards its choice to use Blackwater and Dyncorp type proxy forces, some in our security agencies also jealously defend the right to keep lashkars on hand for future use against Indian aggression in Kashmir, Afghanistan, or anywhere else.

Our lashkars are different from the American lashkars in name only. We can claim that our militants are driven by ideology and not greed, but I suspect you would find the same answer from American apologists for Blackwater. All extremists resort to the excuse of ideology. If you wear a blindfold, separating the groups is harder than you might think. Both kill indiscriminately. Both operate outside the laws. Both have undercut the moral authority of the nations that sponsor them. For all of our complaints about America’s illegal and self-defeating actions, aren’t we doing the same thing? And for what? Kashmir is no more free today than it was before the lashkars were unleashed. In decades they have accomplished nothing but death.

There’s another part of this story that I think deserves an even closer look also. The author of the article in The News notes that “The idea that a personal army comprising soldiers-of-fortune will stay loyal in extremis may well be wishful thinking”.

This is something that our own experience is proving all too true. At Imran Khan’s dharna in Karachi there were SSP, LeJ and LeT flags flying. Surely this will get some sympathies from people fed up with drone strikes. But these groups also call Osama bin Laden as a martyr and murder innocent Pakistani citizens.

Sipah-e-Sahaba flag flying at PTI dharna Karachi

Outsourcing war is a self-defeating strategy for security. A man can keep rabid dogs in his home to keep thieves away, but eventually those same dogs will turn on him also.We may take the opinion that lashkars and militant groups are a necessary evil, but evil never produces any good. SSP flags flying at protests against drones send a strong message to the world that Pakistan tolerates extremism and murder of its own citizens. We lose any moral standing that we have to protest against violence when we march with perpetrators of violence. And while SSP will gladly march against American drones, tomorrow they will just as gladly kill some innocent Pakistani Muslims. Rabid dogs are in the house…