Sufi clerics victim of our paranoid conspiracy culture

Syed Asif Nizami and Nazim Nizami

The story is as predictable as it is embarrassing. Two Sufi clerics visiting Pakistan from across the border go missing. Indian media immediately jumps to the conclusion that the two were picked up by ISI. Pakistani media immediately reported that the reports were just the latest example of anti-Pakistan Indian propaganda and that the two clerics had simply entered into an area where mobile phone signal was not available. Now that the clerics have returned home, though, the truth is coming out, and it is not quite as neat and clean as we wished.

Actually, the two elderly clerics Syed Asif Nizami and Nazim Nizami were picked up by our intelligence agencies and interrogated about their supposed ‘anti-Pakistan’ activities. And where did our brilliant agencies get their intelligence about these two? Apparently Urdu daily Ummat had published some fake stories accusing them of being secret RAW agents.

Now our media is scrambling to create the narrative that the entire affair was a big misunderstanding from an inaccurate report in Ummat. In the most hilarious example, Express Tribune has even tried to frame work the story as agencies providing ‘VIP treatment‘ to visiting clerics!

Let us review the facts of this case:

  1. Two Muslim clerics visited Pakistan.
  2. An Urdu newspaper falsely accused them as RAW agents.
  3. Our intelligence agencies read the report and picked up the Muslim clerics, holding them ‘incommunicado’.
  4. After realising the mistake, the clerics were allowed to return home and our media is spinning their being picked up and interrogated by agencies as ‘VIP treatment’.

It has been noted that daily Ummat is also the ‘news’ paper that first accused missing bloggers of blasphemy.

The entire affair is an indictment not only of our senseless media, but raises serious questions about intelligence agencies. If they were fooled by fake news in this case, how many other fake reports have they been fooled by? And why are intelligence agencies taking their cues from what they read in media reports anyway? It is a recipe for a national security disaster. Do not expect anyone to demand Parliamentary Commission to investigate this humiliating episode, though.

Pragmatic Moderation: An alternative to failed hyper-nationalism?

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif should be commended for attempting to use diplomacy to highlight the plight of Kashmiri people. However, it is time to face the fact that the hypernationalist narrative that our officials have been promoting has completely failed. This does not mean that the Kashmiri cause is failed, it just means that the way we have been trying to help has actually being hurting. If we truly want to help the Kashmiri people, we need to try something different.

First let us discuss why our current efforts have failed. It is easy to blame the Indian lobby for all of our failures, but we should be honest enough to look in the mirror. Here is one that Jibran Nasir has held up for us.

During the recent diplomatic mission to Washington, Senator Mushahid Hussain found himself facing the usual questions about how Pakistan can be taken seriously on Kashmir when our diplomats are singing the praises of Hizbul Mujahideen commanders at the United Nations. Senator Hussain gave the correct answer, which is that ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. As much as that may make sense to us, though, we need to think about what the rest of the world is hearing which is that ‘your terrorists are our freedom fighters’. We are not convincing anyone that Hizbul Mujahideen are not terrorists. All we are doing is confirming India’s claim that Pakistan is the ‘mothership of terrorism‘.

We can blame whoever we want, but it cannot be denied that our efforts have achieved nothing till date but maintaining the status quo. We can compare Kashmir to Palestine, but in the words of one Pakistani scholar, “In case of Jammu & Kashmir there is not even that level of international support and interest that exists in the Palestinian question.” That scholar is none other than Husain Haqqani, and hate him however much you want, but you cannot deny that he is correct on this point.

That quote was taken from an interview Haqqani gave a few months ago in which he makes several very good points about the Kashmir crisis and how the war between right wing ideologies in both India and Pakistan make this crisis and all other regional crises worse.

Haqqani says that he considers himself a ‘pragmatic moderate’ and notes that ‘solving disputes first and then becoming friends is always more difficult than becoming friends first and then solving disputes’. However we continue to demand that relations can only improve once all disputes are solved. We are putting the cart before the horse.

Despite the failure of our strategy till date, we still have so-called ‘experts’ saying that the way forward is just doing more of the same. As we debate and discuss about enemy narratives and diplomatic offensives, something Haqqani said about his own pragmatic moderation: ‘This is not about winning the argument, this is about winning the peace’. We should ask ourselves whether we are more interested in winning the argument.

Come back Nadeem F Paracha! We need you!

NFPNadeem F Paracha, or ‘NFP’ as he’s also known, has one of the sharpest wits in the country. For a long time I have looked forward to his writings and TV appearances because he has always had a way of cutting through the BS to show the absurdity of so much that was taken too seriously. He was never mean spirited, but always pointed out the ridiculousness of ‘serious’ topics, giving a necessary injection of humour and helping break up the tension. However, something in his satire has changed since the past few years, and the old NFP seems to be missing right when we need him most.
Let me give you an example. This video produced by some Indians is exactly the sort of satire that I would have expected from NFP a few years ago. It’s not point scoring, it’s showing the absurdity of the situation we find ourselves in.

Lately, though, we are getting posts like this:

And Tweets about pigeons.


And articles about pigeons.

pigeonMy god, man…so many posts about pigeons!

Don’t get me wrong. India’s bizarre paranoia about spying pigeons is funny, but you’ve done that joke to death, man! This is the problem, I think. The satire, it has become…well…lazy.

NFP, I understand that you love Gen Raheel. We ALL do. He is the best thing we’ve had in my lifetime. And Modi is an easy target. TOO easy, almost. But we need the old NFP back. The guy who wasn’t going after easy targets, and wasn’t worshiping holy cows. If blind patriotism was going to save this country, WE’D be the world’s biggest superpower. What our country needs is someone with wits sharp enough to cut through the fog of war and show us the way out of this mess.

I know you love this country. We all do. And I know these are tense times. But look: the civilians are finally making their move. NFP, we need you to come back now.

Pakistan’s $51 Billion Nuclear Gamble

cut off own headFor some people, the current period of tension with India is a gift. Social media activists, media walas, hyper-nationalists, trolls, comedians, and satirists have been handed the premiere topic for getting the prized clicks and re-posts that build careers, and the feeding frenzy has created an instant feedback loop that is quickly spinning out of control. Did India cross the LoC? Did Pakistan capture enemy soldiers? At the most extreme, Defence Minister has openly threatened to unleash a nuclear war.

While the nationalistic chest thumping has the benefit of feeding the patriotic sentiments, there are costs as well. Obviously there are the possible costs of millions of dead in the case of an actual nuclear war, but this remains unlikely. There are other costs, though, which are paid in national reputation and can be measured in purely financial costs.

Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal recently said Pakistan is borrowing an additional $5.5 Billion from China to upgrade and modernise the Karachi-Lahore railway, raising total CPEC financing to over $51 Billion. At the same time, China has publicly called on Pakistan to resolve differences and improve bilateral relations with India through dialogue.

So far, officials in Rawalpindi and Islamabad have ignored China’s call for peaceful resolution through diplomacy, instead choosing to escalate tensions to the point of threatening nuclear war. In effect, officials are making a $51 Billion gamble that China will continue to invest in a country that says it is on the brink of nuclear war.

Pak pigeons, RAW milk, and a need for real patriots to step forward

Spy Pigeon

As tensions grow worse between Pakistan and India, Indian security forces have intercepted a Pakistani spy pigeon. I should say “another” Pakistani spy pigeon, as this is not the first time India’s premiere intelligence agency has accused its neighbor of Pakistani birds of invading Indian airspace, though it is unclear whether DNA tests were used to confirm the pigeon’s nationality, or if they were carrying some Pakistani candies also.

Indian “intelligence” is not the only one being challenged in these tense times. Our own Defence Minister has accused Indian border forces of carrying out cross-border targeted attacks against Pakistani buffaloes.

Such nonsense provide a light hearted relief at a much needed time, but the real need of the day are people with the courage to step forward and stand up to the hyper-nationalists who are beating the war drum. As usual, these hyper-nationalist warmongers hide behind a mask of patriotism and fake “pro-Army” slogans while what they are proposing is that our soldiers get killed in order to boost their own pride and egos. Notice how many of the loudest “patriots’ are always chomping at the bit for war from their computer keyboards in the US, UK, or UAE. Even those who are in Pakistan declare they are ready to sacrifice…from their accounting desk.

War with India will not be a one-sided affair where Indian forces simply run, or lay down and die. Our soldiers are willing to sacrifice their lives, but it is an offer that should not be taken lightly. It should only be as a last resort, not a means to make you feel good. Real patriots are those who appreciate their soldiers sacrifice enough not to waste it satisfy their own egos.

Worse, the easy talk of nuclear war is the very definition of insanity. Do you think angels will cover Pakistan with their wings? No, what will take place will be devastating.

Let us laugh at the jokers telling stories about spy pigeons and martyred buffaloes, but we must also realise that war is no joking matter.