Who Is Really Insulting Pakistan Armed Forces? CNN…or…

DG ISPR Maj Gen Asim Bajwa

During an interview with CNN, DG ISPR was asked whether Pakistan military was capable of going after every terrorist in Pakistan. The Army spokesman responded in force: “I would say this is an insult to the Pakistani people and Pakistani forces if you ask this kind of question. When I say we’re very clear and we are capable of dealing with them.” Let us take the Major General Asim Bajwa at his word. Who are we to doubt Army’s insincerity? But let us ask the question whether the insult was coming from CNN or from somewhere else

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Heads to remain firmly in sand until next attack

head in the sand

Following multiple terrorist attacks that killed dozens including high ranking military officers and innocent civilians alike, there appeared a brief moment of clarity in the national discussion. Some even predicted a change in the attitude among the top leadership, pointing to the sudden increase in media stories openly criticising state support for jihadi groups as part of foreign policy. It appears that prediction may have been premature. Once again, as the dust begins to settle after the blast, Jihadi sympathisers and media Talibans are giving full throated support for militant groups.

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Our Continued State Of Denial

Taliban suicide bombing against Christian church kills over 80

Past weeks have been a brought no relief from the rain of blood that continues to flood the streets of Pakistan. Maj Gen Sanaullah Niazi and Col Tauseef embraced shahadat following IED attack by Taliban militants. This was followed by suicide attack against a Christian Church that killed over 80 innocents. Immediate reactions from GHQ and the government condemned the attacks and promised that militants would not dictate to the country. As the smoke began to clear, though, the national mindset was once again in a fog and the confusion that has been a hallmark of our failure to face the militant threat remained blinding.

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The real covert war against Pakistan

The real covert war against Pakistan

Parliament is about to begin debating new terms for cooperation with America in the war on terrorism, but this is issue is anything but new. Actually, it seems like everyone has an opinion on whether and how we should engage with the Americans – from the Difa-e-Pakistan chants of “Go America Go” to the reasoned calls for parliamentarians to “put interests ahead of emotions” and everything in between. But while everyone is focused on what new ‘red lines’ will define new talks with America, we may be ignoring a covert war against Pakistan happening right under our noses.

Claims that hidden hands are waging a cover war against Pakistan are nothing new. Opinion-makers writing in major newspapers and appearing on TV talk shows have been telling about this conspiracy for years. Recently, a retired military officer (naturally) wrote a typical piece in The Nation that describes the common narrative.

Ever since the US/Isaf forces ousted the pro-Pakistan Taliban government from Afghanistan, and the pro-Indian Northern Alliance dominated the government, India’s notorious intelligence agency, the RAW, has become fully entrenched in the war-torn country. Backed by the Afghan Intelligence Agency and allegedly supported by the Mossad, CIA and others, it is aiding and abetting insurgency in Balochistan, FATA and our urban centres. Their common goal seems to be to internally destabilise Pakistan to its ultimate disintegration.

Claims of a Mossad-RAW-CIA-KHAD nexus bent on disintegrating Pakistan have reliably served certain sections of society for decades. Actually, this story is so old that one can’t help but wonder if we really have anything to worry about since these powerful agencies can’t manage to get the job done.

But the fact is that we do have something to worry about because there really is a covert war against Pakistan. Only it’s not being carried out by a secret Mossad-RAW-CIA-KHAD conspiracy.

Taking place right now is a field general court martial of Brigadier Ali Khan who is accused of conspiring to topple the government, trying to instigate a mutiny within the army and planning an attack on the GHQ. These are serious charges of treason against the state. And Brig Ali was not some lone wolf who hatched a crazy scheme on his own – the allegations against him involve ties to the group Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an international group dedicated to the overthrow of sovereign governments to form a new Khalifat.

Islamabad posterHizb-ut-Tahrir, though banned in Pakistan, is openly recruiting and plotting against the state. Recently, 21 activists were taken into custody from a meeting in Islamabad. According to Brigadier Amir Riaz, head of 111 Brigade, Hizb-ut-Tahrir “has prepared a new constitution and a shadow government for Pakistan and that the group was ready to take over anytime”.

Most people shrug off this sort of news saying that such groups are such a small minority that they pose no real threat. But what about when the Jamaat-e-Islami chief himself terms Osama bin Laden as ‘the greatest martyr’ and officials democratically elected by the people of Pakistan as ‘beasts’? Besides, small groups can have an outsized effect, as Jamaat-e-Islami has proven time and again when they take to the streets since they can’t win at the ballot box. And while Hizb-ut-Tahrir might insist that they are a “peaceful” group (though this raises the question why they are so intent on recruiting in the military), others make no attempt to hide their aims.

Last week, security forces in Bajaur Agency seized heavy weapons worth millions of rupees from secret hideouts of terrorists. People will again shrug off this news by claiming that these weapons are for killing Americans in Afghanistan, not Pakistanis. This, of course, ignores the obvious problem of where these heavily armed militants will turn once the Americans leave – a change that is getting closer every day.

It also ignores the open threats made by militant groups against Pakistan. The Jamaat-e-Islami chief is not the only extremist who sees the terrorist Osama bin Laden as a hero, and Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan openly threatened attacks against the state if bin Laden’s widows are not released from Pakistani custody.

“If the family of Osama bin Laden is not released as soon as possible, we will attack the judges, the lawyers and the security officials involved in their trial,” Ehsanullah Ehsan of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told Reuters.

“We will carry out suicide bombings against security forces and the government across the country.”

The Difa-e-Pakistan has threatened force against the state also, threatening to “hold a siege of Parliament House” if the democratically-elected government re-opens NATO supply routes. And once again, familiar faces are making the threats.

Difa-e-Pakistan

The sit-in was addressed by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Ameer Syed Munawwar Hassan, JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq, former ISI DG Lt Gen (R) Hamid Gul, former minister Ijazul Haq, JI secretary general Liaquat Baloch and Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki of Jamaatud Daawa (JuD).

All of this is news that should shock the public, but instead it passes almost unnoticed. You don’t have to believe in hidden hands and secret global conspiracies to make sense of this news. It’s all quite plainly laid out before us. There are militant groups who want to overthrow the government of Pakistan because the majority of people do not accept their worldview. These are the millions of Pakistanis who do not believe Osama bin Laden is “the greatest martyr” and do not support suicide bombings. They are the millions of Pakistanis who believe that the civilised people don’t threaten a siege of parliament if they don’t get their way, they contest elections and try to convince their fellow citizens with reason, not threats.

This is the tragic irony of our times. Newspapers, TV talk shows and street gossip is filled with chatter about a covert war being carried out with the aim of destabilising and ultimately disintegrating Pakistan. But we have become so fixated on fantastic tales of external enemies and their invisible foreign hands that we have failed to notice the real threat, and so we are paralysed to do anything about it.

Parliament will debate new terms of engagement with America, the judiciary will continue chasing memos and BBMs, and retired officers will continue weaving thrilling tales of international intrigue and selling them to media more concerned with ratings than facts. Meanwhile, forces are amassing against Pakistan not in US think tanks, but in dhabas and on verandas in our own cities and villages. Will we wake up in time to avert this tragedy and recognise the real enemy among us?

The other cause of load shedding

Destroyed Power Pylon

Babar Ayaz makes a good overview of causes of and solutions to load shedding in Daily Times. But as usual there is one major cause of power shortage that is conveniently left out of the discussion.

1 April

KOHAT, April 1: Unidentified militants blew up two electricity pylons in Bazid Khel area adjacent to the frontier region of the district here on Thursday night.

Officials said that due to the destruction of 132KV power pylons, electricity was suspended to Mianwali and Dera Ismail Khan.

11 April

GHALANAI – Most areas in Safi Tehsil plunged into darkness after militants blew up two high-transmission power towers in the Mohmand tribal region April 11.

Explosives destroyed pylons in the Qayumabad and Bayankhel areas of Safi Tehsil, local residents said. Several parts of Mohmand and Bajaur agencies lost power, as did the Mamagat grid station.

29 March

The home secretary, Akbar Hussain Durrani, a neatly suited, well-spoken man, sits in a dark and chilly office. Pens, staplers and telephones are neatly laid on the wide desk before him, but his computer is blank. The rebels have blown up a main pylon, he explains, so the power is off.

18 February

Meanwhile, militants blew up three power pylons in Razghar Mela, disrupting electricity to seven villages of Sheikhan tribe.

8 February

QUETTA: Most parts of central and northern Balochistan were without electricity due to the destruction of power pylons in the Aab e Gum area of Bolan district the other day.

According to the Qesco officials, unknown saboteurs blew up four power pylons shouldering 220 kv and 132 kv transmissions line in Aab e Gum on Saturday night, which caused disruption of electricity to 35 power grid stations in Quetta, Zhob, Pishin, Chaman, Noshki, Kalat, Khuzdar and other areas.

And what happens when militants blow up power pylons? The lights go out.

QUETTA: Owing to a shortfall of more than 800 megawatts, the Quetta Electric Supply Company (Qesco) has increased the duration of power loadshedding in most parts of the province.

The Qesco officials said on Saturday that unknown miscreants blew two power pylons shouldering 220kv power transmission line on Feb 18 late at night, near Bakhtyarabad which increased the power shortfall to 800mw.

Currently, out of three transmission lines only one transmission is operative. The Qesco officials further said that National Transmission and Dispatch Company (NTDC) which owns the pylons would launch repair work on the destroyed pylons after receiving security clearance.

The official also said that Saturday afternoon the 220kv NTDC power transmission line between Giddu and Sibi tripped due to a jumper failure causing power shut down in Quetta, Chaman, Pishin, Kalat, Khuzdar, Zhob, Qila Saifullah and other areas. The NTDC experts were able to overcome the fault in some three hours.

Every time NTDC has to use resources to repair and replace infrastructure destroyed by militants, it sets back progress on improving the infrastructure for generating and delivering electricity. You think militants don’t know this? No. This is a deliberate strategy to turn the people against the government when the fault is with the militants.

Why Imran Khan and his friends in JI can organize a protest to block NATO supply lines, but can’t be bothered to organize a protest against militants blowing up our own supply lines? Why SHC can issue orders to Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority to supply maximum gas to avoid loadshedding in Sindh and Balochistan but can’t do anything about militants who are knocking out the power pylons and causing load shedding in the first place?

Sure there are other problems that are factoring into the energy shortage. Some of those factors, like the rising price of fuel on the global market, we can’t do anything about. Other problems like theft should be dealt with, but getting rid of all the power theft would not get the lights back on. Before we complain about things we can’t do anything about – or tiny parts of the problem – we need to stop ignoring the role militants play in causing the whole mess.