Trump is obviously wrong…But so are we

Trump

US President Donald Trump announced America’s new Afghanistan policy today, which sounded very familiarly like America’s old Afghanistan policy. What has received the most attention, though, are his claims about our policy.

“We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations,” he said, warning that vital aid could be cut.

“We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting,” he said. “That will have to change and that will change immediately.”

The response from official quarters has been quick and strong. Politicians of all stripes  raced to the microphone to respond and remind the American President of how much Pakistan has suffered at the hands of terrorists, and some, like PTI’s Shireen Mazari, added empty threats of ‘a befitting response’.

The most honest and important reply actually came before Trump’s speech. Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor told reporters, referring to theh possibility that Trump would take a hard line against Pakistan, “Even if it comes…Pakistan shall do whatever is best in the national interest.” In other words, no change on our part. We will keep doing what we have always done.

Unfortunately, what we have always done is a failure. Despite the pleasing words from official sources, we have seen the state declare victory of Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fasaad, only to see the same ‘defeated’ terrorists carry out massive attacks against innocent citizens. We have heard pleasing words about abandoning ‘good Taliban’ policies and support for so-called ‘pro-Pakistan’ militants, only to see the same militants announce that they are now preparing to enter the National Assembly.

America may be out of ideas in Afghanistan, but we are the ones suffering from our own failure to accept new ideas and new policies. We hold tightly to the same old failed policies like an anchor that is dragging us to the bottom of the ocean. Blaming Donald Trump and the Americans is easy and convenient. They may be wrong, after all. But we are victims of our own policies, and we have only ourselves to blame. It’s too bad none of our so-called leaders have the guts to say it.

 

 

Kashmir Jihad Going The Way Of Afghanistan

Former J&K CM Farooq Abdullah has warned India that ‘you are losing Kashmir‘. India is unlikely to take his advise and abandon their military approach to putting down the anger that is spreading like wild fire due to the abuses that has caused an ‘epidemic of dead eyes‘. This is because Indian authorities suffer from an ideological blindness that does not allow them to see how their actions are actually counter to their own cause. Unfortunately, we also suffer from an ideological blindness about our policies and strategies in Kashmir.

There have been worrying signs for a while now. Members of Jamaatud Dawah, which has close ties with state agencies, have begun joining Daesh. Black flags of Daesh have been raised along side Pakistan flags in Kashmir. This practise has become so common that even Syed Ali Shah Geelani was forced to publicly comment on it. And now it appears that it is the Pakistani flags that may be disappearing as Kashmir militants are calling for jihad in Pakistan also:

We do love Pakistan because that country was created in the name of Islam. But there is no Islam at present. So, we are unhappy with it. We have to do Jihad with Pakistan as well.

Just as our support for Taliban in Afghanistan spun off the TTP to carry out deadly jihad in Pakistan, now it looks like our support for jihad in Kashmir is having the same effect.

Narratives and Counter Narratives: Who Are We Supposed To Believe?

President Mamnoon Hussain has joined the call for a counter narrative against extremism and terrorism. This statement puts the President on same footing as ex-COAS Gen Raheel Sharif who gave a similar recommendation at World Economic Forum in January. With such luminaries making the case for a counter narrative against extremism and terrorism, one would be sure that the state had finally reached a unified approach to combating the threat of militancy. Despite these lofty remarks, however, the message reaching the people remains divided.

Lt Gen Muhammad Asad Durrani

Ex-DG ISI says terrorism justified

President and ex-COAS have called for counter narrative against terrorism, but former DG ISI Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani has a new piece in Dawn justifying terrorism as a ‘technique of war‘, and possibly just ‘part of human nature’.

Gen Mirza Aslam Beg

Ex-COAS says Taliban ideology is equal to Islam

Lt Gen (r) Asad Durrani’s pro-terrorism stance was quickly supported by no less than  ex-Chief of Army Staff Gen (r) Mirza Aslam Beg who wrote in The Nation that Pakistan’s national security was threatened by anyone who criticises Jamaatud Dawah and Taliban, both of which are black listed in the world as terrorist groups. In case there was any doubt, Gen Beg explained that Taliban can never be defeated because of their ideology which he says is equal to Islam.

Official press releases declare that whole nation is unified against terrorism and extremism, but the reality is not clear. We have always been taught to trust our Generals as beyond doubt. Now they are telling us that we should be for terrorism and that Taliban ideology is Islam. Others are telling us that terrorism is never justified and Taliban ideology is not Islam. Meanwhile whole nation is divided and confused who to believe? Pakistan will continue to suffer.

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.