Choosing Sides, Choosing Isolation

Two important news stories have been reported in the international media that point to a digging in of entrenched positions that are further isolating Pakistan in the world community.

First was the story reported in The New York Times that US is considering withholding $255 Million in military aid due to ‘dissatisfaction with Pakistan’s broader intransigence toward confronting the terrorist networks that operate there’. Specifically, the Americans are frustrated because Pakistani agencies refuse to let them talk to a Haqqani Network militant captured in the raid that freed American hostages earlier this year.

It is a very interesting question why our agencies don’t want the Americans to talk to a Haqqani Network militant, even after he was captured in a raid with foreign hostages. Are they afraid of what he might tell them about receiving support from certain elements within the establishment? Even if this is all a conspiracy theory, isn’t it true that preventing him from speaking to American law enforcement only makes the establishment look more guilty?

The second story comes from a recent appearance of Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan Walid Abu Ali on stage at a Difa-e-Pakistan rally standing next to none other than Hafiz Saeed who was freed once again a few weeks ago. Ironically the Jamaatud Dawah chief was set free after “a senior finance ministry official failed to convince the board that the release of Saeed would bring diplomatic and financial problems”. Diplomatic problems have certainly come into play, however, as Palestine has recalled its Ambassador due to his appearance with Hafiz Saeed on the DPC stage.

According to a statement by the Palestinian Foreign Ministry, “The State of Palestine highly appreciates India’s support in its tireless efforts to end the Israeli occupation” and terms attendees of the rally in Rawalpindi as “individuals accused of supporting terrorism”.

Blind and deaf to the diplomatic disaster that had broken, our own Foreign Office issued its own statement defending the recalled Ambassador and defending Hafiz Saeed.

In these two highly sensitive matters, it appears the state has chosen to side with the controversial militants rather than foreign governments. In this case both the US and Palestine. In the case of the Americans, even our own frustration with their unreliability does not explain what we gain from hiding a captured militant and looking guilty of their accusations. The case of Palestine is even more puzzling. By all appearances we have simply decided that these militant groups are more important diplomatic allies than world powers or oppressed Muslims.

Finally, it must be noted with some additional irony that in one report on these stories, Dawn termed Husain Haqqani as ‘disgraced ambassador’. While Pakistan receives multiple black eyes from internationally blacklisted militants, petty journalists continue peddling personal jealousies and prejudices instead of educating the nation about the very dangerous path that these stories show we are heading down. As one international analyst noted on Twitter, far from ‘disgraced,’ these stories appear to have ‘vindicated‘ Husain Haqqani and what he has been trying to warn us about since long.

Arrest of Hafiz Saeed tests state’s credibility

Hafiz Saeed

The surprise arrest of Jamaatud Dawah Amir Hafiz Saeed sent a clear message that military and civilian leaders were serious when they said that extremist groups would be handled with no preferences given. However, as they saying goes, the proof of pudding is in the eating. Having taken the decision to arrest Hafiz Saeed, the state’s credibility is now at stake in how the case is handled.

China, who according to military insiders is the one who pressured for the arrest, will surely be watching how the case is handled. If it is another example of saying one thing while doing another, or if the state has actually turned a corner from differentiating between ‘Good Taliban’ and ‘Bad Taliban’.

Already there are signs that the JUD chief is being given special treatment. Who can forget the infamous raid of Nine-Zero and the treatment of MQM workers by agencies?

Pakistan Rangers raid nine zeroCompare to case of Hafiz Saeed who day after his arrest was releasing videos on social media.

When agencies raided MQM HQ, leaders were taken into custody and remanded for months on end where they were even tortured to death. When Hafiz Saeed was arrested, his own house was declared sub-jail so that he does not face any inconvenience.

Most importantly to note is that JuD has already pulled the same trick that it has always used by getting ‘banned’ to appease some foreign ally and immediately reemerging under a new name while continuing exactly the same activities. Does GHQ believe Beijing is as stupid and blind as America to fall for this trick also?

DG-ISPR officially stated that the arrest was ‘in the national interest.’ This is important because what happens next will speak volumes about how seriously institutions are taking ‘the national interest’ or whether it is nothing but another code word for telling everyone to shut up. So far, there is not much to be hopeful about.

 

The Story Behind the Fake Visa Waiver Story

Fake visa waiver storyIt is not the first time that a fake story has made its way from a satire website into the mainstream media, but a hoax report that the US has added Pakistan to the visa waiver program has generated more buzz more quickly than I can remember. The US Embassy has even been forced to issued an official statement on Twitter calling the report a ‘spoof’ story.

There are stories behind stories like this, and this one has many chapters to it. The first chapter is, of course, about how unprofessional – and untrustworthy – our media is. As I said before, this is not the first time a fake story has made its way into the mass media. It probably won’t be the last time, either. We should be asking what other stories we are being spoon fed are inauthentic? If our so-called ‘professional’ media can’t even bother to check with the Embassy before running a story about a major change in visa policy, how can they be trusted to report on more sensitive issues such as Kashmir or Balochistan?

There is more to this story, though, than just a failure to check sources. The story is reported that Pakistan was added to the US visa waiver program to show appreciation for Zarb-e-Azb. By doing this, the wide spread reporting gives away more than might have been intended. It is not merely a story about poor journalistic practices, it is a story about our own insecurities.

After suffering for so long, we are desperate for Zarb-e-Azb to be a success. But every time we start to feel positive, another attack reminds us that things are not so rosy as official reports tell us. This is why we are desperate for American officials to tell us things are improving. ISPR has been saying it since day one, and even though we listen, we stopped truly believing them long ago. Army’s interest is in maintaining morale, not reporting the truth.

But we are also desperate to be accepted by America. Even your most anti-American friend who always complains about US imperialism and Islamophobia secretly wants to go there. Being added to the visa waiver program says that American looks at us not as possible refugees (or worse – terrorists), but as equals.

The story is obviously a hoax, though. The US recently announced that it would not pay the Army $300 million in Coalition Support Funds because it we are not taking action against Haqqani Network militants. Jamaat ud Dawah Ameer Hafiz Saeed who US has declared a terrorist appears as a special guest on TV shows. Do we really believe that they are going to reward us with a visa waiver?

Today, the story is a hoax. If we want it to be true, we have to change the conditions so that it can become true. If we want Zarb-e-Azb to be a success, we have to stop turning a blind eye to ‘pro-Pakistan’ militants and end our tolerance for militancy completely. If we want to be treated as equals, we have to stop treating militant leaders as our special guests.

Did Hafiz Saeed Just Overtake Gen Raheel’s Throne?

_56949135_jex_1246109_de27-1The country’s most recent Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar recently gave a controversial interview to Geo News in which she declared that Pakistan cannot win Kashmir through war. According to the former FM, making progress on Kashmir will actually require improving relations with India so that a productive dialogue can be held.

The interview was published shortly after jihadis supported by Jamaat-ud-Dawa carried out fedayeen attack killing 8 police in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The attack was widely celebrated by official JuD accounts.

Pampore attack was also done three days after Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel declared that Pakistan is against all proxy wars, leaving him humiliated in the eyes of the world as it appears obvious that the Army Chief has either given a bald faced lie or Army has completely lost control of its Frankenstein Monster.

Analysts have debated whether military and civilians are actually on the same page. Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s latest attack has shown that it may be neither civilians or officers who are driving the national agenda.

Masood Azhar’s ‘Protective’ Custody

Masood Azhar in custodyQuestions were raised about the status of Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar after he was picked up by security forces following Pathankot attack at the beginning of the year. Official reports claimed that authorities were cracking down on the militant group without favour as per its international obligations. However this was quickly cast into doubt when Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah clarified that Azhar was not arrested but being held in ‘protective custody’, a term usually used when the state is protecting someone who faces threats.

Questions about the authenticity of the state’s efforts against ‘good’ militants have returned following reports that Pakistan has refused a request by Indian authorities to join their Pakistani counterparts in questioning the militant leader.

India wanted to send investigators to interrogate Masood Azhar and his brother but Pakistan “politely refused” it, a senior official said.

Pakistan assured India that Islamabad was seriously investigating the case and will not hesitate to act if anyone was found guilty, the official said.

“India wants us to hand over Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed and as we have declined a number of times, they want us to at least give access to the investigators to interrogate them. We have told them it was not possible,” he added.

The refusal to allow Indian investigators to question Masood Azhar confirms for many the belief that his custody is more ‘protective’ that officials are admitting. This belief is also supported by the decision of the Pakistani official to mention Hafiz Saeed who is not even under investigation for Pathankot attack.

India has not asked for Masood Azhar to be handed over. Only they asked for their investigators to join Pakistani investigators in questioning the suspected mastermind. Pakistan’s refusal to cooperate with this request raises questions about whether the state is honestly interested in finding proof against certain elements, or whether they are actually interested in ‘protecting’ them.