Criticism on Balochistan is not anti-military, it’s pro-Pakistan


The discussion about the situation in Balochistan shows no signs of letting up, and we should seize the opportunity to apologise for past mistakes and correct our course so that all Pakistani citizens are afforded their rights. As I have written already this month, a sustainable solution can only come as the result of the democratic political process and not political point scoring – this means not using it as an excuse for establishment bashing, but not using it as a whitewash either.

For example, Ahmed Quraishi argues that the APC should ignore any mistakes made by security forces and instead use the opportunity to create a forum for BLA bashing. As usual, Ahmed Quraishi misses the point completely and even contradicts himself as he does so.

Responding to the bill introduced in the US Congress, Ahmed says “governance in our southwestern province is a domestic issue”. This is true, of course, but human rights are not domestic issues. Just as recognising the rights of Palestinians is not limited to people who live in Palestine or Israel, recognising the rights of Baloch should not be limited to Pakistanis only. This doesn’t excuse the inappropriateness of Dana Rohrabacher’s actions, but it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the situation in Balochistan either.

Ironically, a few paragraphs after declaring Balochistan a domestic issue, the self-appointed defender of Pakistan’s sovereignty actually requests the CIA to send its agents into Balochistan to fight a covert war on our own citizens.

[America] could start by designating the BLA a terrorist group and ordering the CIA to cooperate with Pakistan in eliminating its terror bases in US-controlled Afghanistan.

That’s right. Brig. Ahmed Quraishi (Ghairat Brigade, Sovereignty Division) is requesting the CIA to send assassins to kill Pakistani citizens. Don’t worry, though, he flip-flops again later.

[APC] should take a clear position on rejecting foreign interference in domestic issues. It should outlaw individuals cooperating with foreign governments and spy agencies under the pretext of rights and grievances.

We don’t need CIA agents in Balochistan killing BLA members. We don’t need to escalate the conflict at all – we need to end it. To do this, the APC needs to openly address the concerns and frustrations of the common man in Balochistan whose only desire is to live and work peacefully with his family without the threats from separatist militants or overzealous security forces.

Ahmed Quraishi wants to pretend like security forces never cross the line, as if we had a military made up of angels and not men. A year ago I wrote about how real love requires us to face the imperfections of the ones we love so that we can help them improve. I have said it many times – it is your friends who tell you when there is food in your teeth. It is your enemies who let you walk around look foolish. There is nothing wrong with the APC taking up the issue of abuses by security forces so long as it is done in a fair and constructive manner and not a ‘witch hunt’.

The military is strong enough to take criticism as long as it is fair and constructive. It is the military itself that has brought Brig. Ali Khan to book for ties to extremist groups, and working together with the support of the APC they can also stop any excesses carried out in Balochistan also. That isn’t an attack on the military, it’s supporting it. And it’s the only way to defend both Baloch rights and Pakistani sovereignty – which is real patriotism.

No Terrorism In Pakistan Before 2001? Think Again.

America top terroristA discussion on Twitter the other day brought up a dusty old Ghairat Brigade talking point – there was no terrorism in Pakistan before 2001. Actually, I find that even among my friends and family it’s widely believed that terrorism was brought by the Americans as part of their ‘War on Terror’, and it will leave with the Americans. If it wasn’t for ‘America’s war’, Pakistan would still be as peaceful and tolerant as it was before. This is a great talking point that provides an easy solution to one of the most grave problems facing the nation. Too bad it’s utter non sense.

1986: Pan Am Flight 73 highjacked in Karachi, innocent passengers killed

1987: Bombs kill 72 and wound 250 in Pakistani city.

The bombs exploded half an hour apart amid crowds of rush-hour shoppers in the heart of Karachi, the country’s biggest city.

1995: 2 Americans shot to death in Pakistan.

Gunmen shot and killed two United States diplomats and wounded a third this morning as they were driven to work in Karachi, a sprawling port city that has long been ravaged by violence…

More than 1,000 people have been killed in Karachi since January 1994 in a wave of ethnic, sectarian and factional violence. Of these, more than 275 have been killed this year, including 13 Shiite Muslim men and boys who died last week in a massacre in a Karachi mosque. The victims, who had gone to the mosque for prayers celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan, were lined up against a wall in the mosque and gunned down.

1995: Widespread damage: 40 die in Peshawar car-bomb blast.

PESHAWAR, Dec. 21: At least 40 people were killed and nearly 120 injured when a powerful explosion rocked the central part of the city, blowing up a number of shops and setting others on fire. The blast was said to have been caused by a car bomb.

1995: Suicide bomber attacks Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, kills 15 and wounds 59.

A suicide bomber rammed a pickup truck packed with explosives into the gate of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad today, killing 15 people and wounding 59 others. Islamic militants claimed responsibility.

Most of the dead were Pakistani security guards and people applying for visas. One Egyptian diplomat was also killed, hospital officials said.

1997: Retribution?

The four Americans were killed this morning when unidentified gunmen opened fire on their station wagon. The vehicle’s Pakistani driver was also killed in what police described as a deliberate attack. According to police reports the car carrying the Americans was forced off a road in Central Karachi, then riddled with bullets at close range. The driver and the four passengers died instantly, according to the police. The four Americans worked for the Union Texas Petroleum Company–the largest international oil firm in Pakistan. Today, at Union Texas headquarters in Houston, John Whitmire, the company’s CEO, said he and his colleagues were stunned…

Pakistan was a long-time Cold War ally of the United States and a partner in the decade-long fight to oust the Russians from Afghanistan in the 1980’s. In recent years the country has suffered from political turmoil, ethnic violence, and economic stagnation. So far, no one has taken responsibility for today’s attack. But both Pakistani and U.S. officials speculated that it could be linked to the case of Mir Aimal Kasi–a Pakistani national charged with the murders of two men, both CIA employees.

1999: Explosions rock Islamabad

Several explosions hit Pakistan’s capital today. Rockets struck near the US Embassy, the UN office, an American cultural center and other buildings, rocking Islamabad with at least seven explosions, officials and witnesses said.

These are just a few examples of terrorist incidents that occurred before 2001, putting to rest the false claim that we can sit and do nothing and the problem of terrorism will magically disappear when American troops leave Afghanistan. Also, do you notice how many incidents involved the killing of Americans? These incidents also disprove the false claim that anti-Americanism is a result of drone strikes or American troops in Afghanistan. The fact is that authoritarian tyrants have used the bogey of America to exploit sentiments and manipulate the people for decades. It’s nothing new, and we should stop being fooled by the same old tricks.

These are just a few examples that I was able to easily find news articles about doing some basic research, but it’s just a drop in the bucket. Terrorism in Pakistan was not imported by Americans, and it’s not going to leave when they go home in 2014. We will never be free of this menace until we face the uncomfortable truth that we are allowing the problem to grow as poisonous ideologies fueled by hatred and violence are allowed to spread unchecked. Until we are willing to face the internal threat head on, we are going to continue to suffer. That’s not a talking point, that’s reality.

Dignity, Integrity & Self Respect

In a debate on Twitter recently, Dr Awab Alvi wrote that “Pakistan needs a position of dignity, integrity & self respect vs being run by Foreign nations”. I agree completely. Actually, I suspect Dr Awab and I would agree on a lot of things. Where we diverge, though, is on the path to get there. Some in Pakistan who are jokingly called as the Ghairat Brigade (they call themselves PTI among other things) believe that these traits of dignity, integrity & self respect are found through intransigence, deception and denial.

Intransigence vs Integrity

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. But having strong moral principles does not mean refusing to admit when you are wrong. Anytime some criticism is made of Pakistan, we immediately point fingers in the face of our critics. This is especially the case when any criticism is made of the military. But our military is made of men, not angels, and like all men they make mistakes. This is only natural, and not a humiliation. Even the mightiest armies of history are known to make miscalculations. Oh how Napoleon would take back his invasion of Russia! The Japanese their attack on Pearl Harbor! The Americans their Vietnam! It is the true friend who warns you when you are taking the wrong path. It is your enemy who quietly lets you go astray. Integrity is gained by honesty and responsibility, not stubborn refusal to admit mistakes.

Self Respect vs Deception

To listen to the Ghairat Brigade, we can never have self respect so long as we accept foreign aid. We must stand on our own feet. But standing on your own feet doesn’t meant that you refuse help. Should students refuse scholarships? Should the poor refuse zakat? Actually, the student who humbly accepts his scholarship, just as the poor man who humbly accepts zakat to feed his family are able to stand tall with self respect even though they are accepting help because they are using it to improve their opportunities, to make something of themselves. They are taking responsibility for improving their lives and not blaming others as their excuse to not improve.

The Ghairat Brigades say that all our problems are caused by someone else. If we just cut ties with the Americans, there will be no poverty, no corruption, no violence. Just this week LeJ killed dozens of innocent Pakistanis, and the same day I saw the Keyboard Commandoes of Lashkar-e-Ghairat telling people that there is no such thing as LeJ – it is a RAW conspiracy! As long as we are lying to ourselves, how can we ever hope to respect ourselves?

Dignity vs Denial

In his latest piece for Express Tribune Raza Rumi makes clear the problem with denial.

The anti-Americanism paranoia about India, imagined plots to steal our nuclear weapons and the ultimate ‘terrorists-cannot-be-Muslims’ mantra have entered the popular imagination of Pakistanis. These days, there is an overt attempt by several analysts, opinion-makers and even academics to rationalise conspiracy theories. Reportedly, a UK-based Pakistani academic delivered a talk at a Karachi seminar, rationalising the conspiracy theory that the infamous Blackwater (a US contractor) was responsible for attacks on mosques and shrines in Pakistan.

This is no longer a laughing matter. It is a serious state of collective denial that needs to be unpacked and rectified for our long-term stability and survival. This will lead us nowhere: we deny that there is violence against women, we deny that there is rampant child abuse; and we reject that we have allowed for a large section of society to get radicalised in the recent decades. We deny that our textbooks are poisonous for young minds, for the hate they spread, and we refute that sermons given in the name of a peaceful religion actually talk about killing non-Muslims. Above all, there is a widespread denial that minorities of Pakistan are increasingly under attack, including the Shias, Ahmadis, Zikris, and not just non-Muslims.

Denying our problems doesn’t give us dignity, it gives us problems. Dignity is something you get when you admit your mistakes, admit your problems, and work sincerely towards solving them. When you refuse to admit reality, even in the face of all evidence, you cannot have dignity. Rather you become a laughing stock to the world. Every nation has problems. It is those who admit them and face them that hold their heads high on the world stage. It is tyrants and dictators who try to hide in the shadows so that people can’t see their true face.

The Right Path

Pakistan needs a position of dignity, integrity & self respect, but it’s not going to get this via a programme of intransigence, deception and denial. Dignity, integrity and self respect are the products of honesty, sincerity and responsibility. Most of my friends can recite a hundred year’s worth of mistakes and misdeeds by the Americans. But if asked about certain black marks in our own history, they look totally confused and say that they’ve never heard this before. And why? Because for generations the Ghairat Brigades have been editing history books, inventing conspiracies, and blaming everyone in the world for all of our problems. They have tried for decades to improve the nation by intransigence, deception and denial, and look where it has taken us. Enough.

If we truly want to try the ‘untested’, we should not repeat the same mistakes of the past by basing our hopes in intransigence, deception and denial. We need to take the path of honesty, sincerity and responsibility. Only then we will find ourselves in a position of dignity, integrity & self respect.

Sovereignty Issues

If questions about sovereignty were merely political weapons to be made during the KL debate, the American operation in Abbottabad has put them into start reality. The Americans may have killed their man and left, but the operation highlighted some more disturbing points such as how did the world’s most wanted terrorist mastermind get into and live in Pakistan for years without notice? And if the Americans can enter and leave Pakistan without notice, how secure are we actually?

The problem is not only that Hizb-ut-Tahrir is banned, therefore the members of this group are choosing to break the very laws they are meant to protect, rather it is something much deeper. The stated goal of Hizb-ut-Tahrir is for all Muslim countries to unify under a Khalifa. That means that supporters of Hizb-ut-Tahrir are by definition anti-Pakistan.

For all the worry about sovereignty, it is Hizb-ut-Tahrir that believes that Pakistan does not deserve sovereignty but should be subservient to a foreign dictator (Khaliph). How can members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir be soldiers sworn to defend Pakistan if they do not believe Pakistan should exist? There are some journalists and media celebrities who are defending these arrested officers and trying to claim that it is an attack on Islamic ideology, but this is fundamentally incorrect.

Neither is it simply a matter of technicalities. When the Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan spoke to the media to take credit for the suicide bombing on a police station over the weekend, he bragged that it was carried out by “Uzbek nationals”. This means that Pakistan’s sovereignty was violated once again by foreign agents crossing our borders and carrying out attacks on our security services. As usual, the Ghairat Brigade is silent on this fact.

We have sacrificed too much for this country to let it be slowly eroded away. We should be vigilant about protecting our sovereignty from violation by larger powers like India and US, but in doing so we should not ignore what is going on underneath our very nose.

Whose Side Is Hamid Gul On?

Afghan news agency Tolo News reporter Shakeela Abrahimkhil wrote on Tuesday that Gen (retd) Hamid Gul has asked Mullah Omar to leave Pakistan. The reporter spoke with Afghan security officials who told that the ISI has requested Mullah Omar to leave Pakistan immediately. According to the reporter the message was conveyed by Hamid Gul. But Hamid Gul is not an active ISI officer as he retired in 1992. So what is Hamid Gul doing talking to Mullah Omar, and how does he maintain contacts with such wanted persons?

The answer may be found in Hamid Gul’s own statements and actions. He has claimed in the past that his support for Taliban has “no physical dimension” but despite retiring in 1992 Hamid Gul has been seen and even photographed at meetings with militant leaders. Respected journalist Zahid Hussain wrote in his 2007 book “Frontline Pakistan” that Hamid Gul even attended a 2001 Darul Uloom Haqqania Islamic Conference which declared a religious duty to protect Osama bin Laden and termed the al Qaeda leader as “great Muslim warrior”.

Following 26/11 attacks on Mumbai, government officials acknowledged that Hamid Gul is “godfather” of jihad in Pakistan and Gul himself even admits he is a member of Ummah Tameer-e-Nau which has been linked to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

Hamid Gul continues to protest his innocence and say that he has no connection to militants and that he is only a simple retired man, but the photographs and news reports and even his own words tell a different story.

Hamid Gul with Hafiz Saeed

Now the media is reporting that Hamid Gul is having direct contacts with Mullah Omar.

Hamid Gul said on CNN that he has not visited an ISI office once since 1989. Therefore it means that his connections with militant groups are taken on his own and are not part of ISI or official government policy. As national policy is to fight militants, then Hamid Gul must be working against the nation. What other explanation can there be?

The question then becomes whether or not we will continue to allow someone to support foreign fighters coming into Pakistan and using the country as a base of ‘strategic depth’ against US, NATO, Afghanistan or any other country. According to Al Jazeera reports is is not only against US and NATO but Taliban has declared war against Pakistan also.

And this is not an idle threat being made. 100 jihadis attacked a security check point near Peshawar killing Pakistani police officers. They have declared war on Pakistan and have begun their offensive.

So…Whose side is Hamid Gul on?