“Standard Operating Procedure: Deny, then deny the denial”

Foreign Office Spokesman Nafees Zakaria

Nawaz Sharif claimed another victory yesterday, as Kuwait has decided to lift six-years old visa ban for Pakistanis after the PM discussed the matter with his counterpart Sheikh Jaber al Mubarak al Hamad al Sabah. However, this victory has been somewhat overshadowed by scandal because by announcing the good news, the government has also exposed itself as making false attacks against those who tell inconvenient truths.

The issue of Kuwait’s visa ban surfaced during debate about American President Donald Trump’s order to ban visas for several Muslim countries known as a ‘Muslim Ban’. During this discussion it was noted by former Ambassador Husain Haqqani that actually Kuwait also had also banned visas for Pakistani citizens since six years ago. Haqqani was immediately attacked by the Foreign Office in an official statement.

Meanwhile, as “fake news” against Pakistan was doing the rounds, the spokesman came down heavily on Pakistan’s former US ambassador Hussain Haqqani who was caught while retweeting five years old news, claiming that Kuwait had put a ban on Pakistani visas.

“It is highly regrettable and deplorable that a person who was honoured to represent Pakistan has been indulging in activities that would hurt Pakistan’s national interests. Unfortunately, he is doing all this at a time when the world is increasingly acknowledging Pakistan’s growing economic potential in the wake of tremendous improvement in the security situation, investor friendly policies and strengthening of democratic institutions”, responded the spokesman.

He added that the more Mr. Haqqani does such malicious and unethical acts, more he exposes his character. “He has not only lost respect among Pakistanis but also among those who attach importance to values”, said the spokesman.

By announcing the reversal of the ban, though, the government has shown that the ‘Fake News’ was coming from none other than spokesman for the Foreign Office Nafees Zakaria!

Haqqani responded to the situation with his famous wit before quickly moving on to more pressing matters:

Whatever one thinks about Husain Haqqani, he has hit the nail on the head this time. “Standard Operating Procedure: Deny, then deny the denial”. We have seen this over and over again, especially with attacks against anyone and everyone who dares to point out inconvenient facts that don’t fit a particular ‘narrative’ of how we wish reality was.

Will the FO apologise for attacking Haqqani’s character when he obviously did nothing but tell the truth? Or was the FO really unaware of Kuwait’s visa ban? If this is the case, then they not only owe Haqqani an apology, but a sincere ‘thank you’ for alerting them to the situation. Either way, the conclusion is clear: Officials need to do more listening, and less attacking, if they want to solve national problems. That is undeniable.

Pakistanis Not Welcome

visa denied

Pakistan’s global isolation continues to settle in as even our Muslim brothers are now shutting the gates to Pakistanis due to concerns about our role in exporting terrorism. Yesterday, Gulf News reported that Kuwait has barred Pakistanis from entering the country due to security concerns.

The minister, Shaikh Muhammad Al Khalid, had issued instructions to the Citizenship and Travel Documents and the Immigration departments “to work in coordination with the Ministry of Interior and the hotels sector which can also engage in the process of issuing all kinds of visas to Kuwait — commercial, tourist or family.”

However, security sources told local daily Al Rai that the new rules do not extend to nationals from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have been barred from entering Kuwait.

It should be noted that the six countries excluded from Kuwait’s visa regime are all nations known to be centers of regional and global terrorism. Our inclusion on such a list is sad reflection on Pakistan’s current situation.

Anti-American Pathology

Syed Yahya HussainyPakistan’s political system is suffering from a debilitating illness. It is neither corruption, nor nepotism, nor most of the usual symptoms that our commentators point to, but a pathological anti-Americanism that paralyzes the nation and prevents us from achieving our potential.

The usual excuse given for this strident anti-Americanism is that we don’t hate the American people, we only hate the policies of their government. But this is a poor excuse, and it ignores the fact that we react differently to the same policies if the US or other countries adopt them. At every turn, American intentions are assumed to be anti-Pakistan, despite the fact that none of the predictions of American plans to clip Pakistan’s wings have ever come true. We readily accept that US policies are anti-Islam, while we turn a blind eye when Muslims adopt these same policies.

In many ways, America has been a fickle friend to Pakistan, that is true. They have been cozy with both our civilian leaders and the military dictators that overthrew them. The Americans were always there when they needed us, and then walked away when we were no longer useful to their policy goals.

But have we been a better friend to America? In 1979, we burned down the US embassy, killing two American diplomats following false reports that the US had bombed the Masjid al-Haram. These false reports came from Iran, and the street protests outside the Embassy were exacerbated by busloads of young people brought in by Jamaat-i-Islami. Islamic militants carried out the attack, yet we accepted the Iranian propaganda without question. We burned an Embassy and killed two people because of a lie.

In 1986, the US launched a retaliatory strike against Libya following acts of terrorism including the bombing of a Berlin discotheque. The response in Pakistan was fervent anti-Americanism, including large street protests organized by religious parties in support of the military dictator Col. Mommar al-Gaddafi. When that same dictator turned his arsenal on his own people this month, attacking pro-democracy protestors with air strikes, our religious parties were united in their silence.

In 1991, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded a Muslim country (Kuwait) and the Americans were requested to help stop his imperialist agenda. Nawaz Sharif sent soldiers to Saudia Arabia to fight alongside American troops, but the public reaction, encouraged by religious parties and the ISI chief at the time, Gen. Aslam Beg, rapidly turned anti-American and pro-Saddam. We blame the Americans for supporting Saddam in the 1980s, but we were in the streets loudly supporting him in the 1990s.

In 2000, when Nawaz Sharif sought reprieve from the punishment he was given under Musharraf, it was not America that bailed him out, rather it was Saudi Arabia that secretly negotiated his release and gave him sanctuary.

Saudi Arabia was also the new home for the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin where he lived in comfort until his death in 2003. It was this same Saudi Arabia that warned US President Barack Obama not to encourage the Egyptian people to overthrow their own dictator, Hosni Mubarak. If Raymond Davis was from Saudi Arabia and not the US, would we still be talking about imperial arrogance and support for dictators?

Actually, we have some clue as to the answer. In 2008, three gunmen from Hayatabad abducted Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niyaki, a commercial attaché at the Iranian consulate in Peshawar. They killed his guard during the assault. After the Iranian diplomat was missing for two years, Ramin Mehmanparast, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, announced last year that “the location where Attarzadeh was held was identified by Iranian intelligence agents, and through a series of complex operations he was brought home”.

Ansar Abbasi wrote that security has been tightened around Raymond Davis to prevent “a possible Hollywood Rambo-style sting operation”. But such a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty, honour, and national security has already happened. Only it wasn’t American forces, but Iranian intelligence agents that crossed our borders, violated our sovereignty, and carried out covert operations without informing our own military intelligence agencies. And none of the religious parties or Ghairat Brigade spokesmen has been moved to say a word against it.

It was also in 2008 that Prince Muqran bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the chief of Saudi intelligence, visited Gen. Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif, and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to “play its role in Pakistan’s present political circumstances”. And we learned from the American diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks that Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir told American Charge D’Affaires Michael Gfoeller that, “We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants.”

Far from being a slave to American hegemony, we have been a willing puppet of dictators in Muslim dress. The Americans may have short memories, unable to remember their overthrowing of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, their support for Saddam Hussein in the 1970s, and their wavering on the Arab democracy movement. Our memories may be longer, but they are selective. How easily we forget our own support for dictators, our own complicity in the slaughter of Muslims and the imperialist ambitions of those same Arab dictators.

America may have been inconsistent in its relations with us, supplying our military with weapons and training but ignoring the much-needed development of our civilian institutions. But this is finally changing. Despite any imperfections in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, it represented a shift in American attitudes from using our military establishment to expand US power to investing in the long-term development of democracy and civilian infrastructure. Despite the threats of violence by our own right-wing, the greatest threat made by the US over Raymond Davis has been to reduce aid.

If the US cuts aid to Pakistan, it will weaken our civilian institutions – not the elite and the military establishment. The US will always keep close relations with the military and the ISI, an outcome those institutions are certain of. They know that their power in the country will be strengthened. The real victim of the Raymond Davis fiasco will be neither our sovereignty nor our pride. What is at risk is the very change that we have been demanding – a change in the relationship between our two countries that has been paralyzed by a pathological anti-Americanism. This is our revolution. The question is, are we willing to seize it?