Can you untangle FO’s statement on ISIS?

Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah

Earlier this year, Foreign Secretary Azaz Ahmed Chaudhry admitted that Islamic State poses a “serious threat” to Pakistan. What seems obvious is newsworthy because it contradicted the long standing position of the Foreign Office that there is “no evidence” of ISIS presence in the country despite all evidence to the contrary. This week, the government returned to previous denials, but with a bit of a twist. Speaking at the weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Qazi Khalilullah gave the following statement:

“There is no footprint of ISIL in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan have no ideological, ethnic or linguistic affinities with the organisation and its members. However, we have seen some pamphlets and wall-chalking. That is no proof of the presence of ISIL in Pakistan. Nevertheless, we are cognizant of the threat the ISIL poses. Our security agencies are aware of this threat and will take appropriate measures, if needed.”

This statement is an amazingly twisted web of contradictions that leaves little confidence in the government. How can the government say that no one in Pakistan has ideological affinities with the organisation? Has the FO spokesperson not seen the video of Jamia Hafsa students?


The FO even admits in its statement that “we have seen some pamphlets and wall-chalking“, but then terms all of this as “no proof.” Actually, pamphlets have been distributed since months demanding cooperation of people and recruiting supporters.

This is not “proof” for the government? Are they waiting for the self-described Khalifa to open its Embassy?

Then there is the claim that “our security agencies are aware of this threat and will take appropriate measures”. If there is no Islamic State presence in Pakistan, how can it be a threat that our security agencies are aware of?

Trying to unravel this web of doublespeak has only given me a headache. I am left with this question, how can we be expected to trust that the state to take the jihadi threat seriously when it continues to issue blatant denials that contradict obvious reality?

Leaks Galore

spying-on-imran-khan

Saulat Mirza’s alleged death-cell confession has sparked innumerable questions, not only about his sensational allegations, but about how the video was recorded from a jail cell, and how it managed to make its way into the hands of private TV stations. It is believed by many to be part of an attempt to pressurize MQM leaders. Unfortunately, we will never know the answer since the committee formed to answer these questions was suddenly dissolved with no explanation.

Now there is also the leaked recording of an alleged private phone call between Imran Khan and Arif Alvi discussing attack on PTV. Some are claiming that the recording is actually spliced together from different conversations, but as Arif Alvi himself noted on Twitter, the fact is that ‘somebody’ is recording and leaking private phone calls.

Arif Alvi may not want to make any accusations about ‘who’ would be recording his phone calls, but it is not a long list who has the ability to do this. Many believe that intelligence agencies have been recording and documenting everything under the sun in order to blackmail since long. Even the judiciary has allegedly felt the sting of these ‘dirty tricks’ such as when agencies allegedly blackmailed Supreme Court Justices with secret sex tapes during Gen Musharraf regime.

It’s not just secret recordings that are seeing the light of day, either. Earlier this year, an ISI report on extremist ties of Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz was leaked.

ISI report abdul aziz

This one may have been leaked in order to pressurize Lal Masjid, but the problem is that leaks are hard to contain. Abbottabad Commission report which noted that “connivance, collaboration and cooperation at some levels cannot be entirely discounted” was leaked to at the embarrassment of intelligence agencies. Even documents allegedly exposing intelligence agencies secret support for Taliban have even surfaced including this letter from a Taliban commander to Military Intelligence about aiding Taliban supply routes across the border into Afghanistan.

Taliban letter to Pakistan MI

Translation

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
South West Zone (Helmand province)
Date: May 28, 2008

Respected Brother Janab Usman sahab
Director, Military Intelligence
Assalam-o-Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barkatuhu
Two vehicles which are laden with goods for the Taliban mujahideen brothers are entering Afghanistan through Naushki and Dalbandin. Hope you will secure passage for these two vehicles:
Number plate – Karachi CK 8091
Number plate – Karachi CH 9316
I have sent my representative Mullah Musa. Hope that you will provide assistance.

Mullah Abdur Raheem
Governor, Helmand

Actually, it is not the leaks that are the real problem, it is what these leaks, both the allegedly ‘authorised’ ones and the more embarrassing ones, reveal about agencies activities. As Pakistan faces a serious and existential threat from terrorism, the appearance from alleged leaks is that agencies are more busy playing games than actually securing the country.

Raid on 90 sign of a dysfunctional system

Pakistan Rangers raid nine zero

Pakistan Rangers raid on MQM headquarters in Karachi has taken over the national discussion. By Wednesday afternoon there were no less than four different hashtags related to the raid trending on Twitter. Unsurprisingly, attitudes are divided about whether the raid was a positive or negative. I find myself in the second camp, not because of any love for MQM but because I think the action will do more harm to democracy and the armed forces than it will against any criminal elements hiding in 90.

Continue reading

If APS Attack Was A Turning Point, Have We Turned Full Circle?

Pakistan's ostrich mentality

The attack against APS Boys Peshawar that killed over 140 innocents was termed as a ‘turning point‘ in the war on terrorism. The sheer brutality of such an attack meant we could no longer ignore difficult realities and the nation was united against all militants without favour. This was made apparent by the unprecedented move of issuing a non-bailable arrest warrant for Lal Masjid Abdul Aziz. After two months have passed, though, it appears that we have finally turned full circle and today we find ourselves back in the same place we were the on 15th December.

Continue reading

JuD, Lal Masjid Undermining What’s Left of Pakistani State

Jamaat-ud-Dawa

The Foreign Office gave a briefing that appeared to be cleverly designed to provide the illusion that the state was putting actions behind its words about ‘zero tolerance’ policy against militant groups. Media dutifully reported that govt had imposed a ‘ban’ on Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Haqqani Group, but journalist Salman Masood and many others were quick to note that the Foreign Office’s statement was actually hollow. Never mind, though, because Jamaat-ud-Dawa released its own statement almost immediately afterwards saying that the state’s threats were meaningless and they will continue to operate without interruption regardless of what the state says or does.

JuD’s statement has far-reaching implications for the ‘writ of state’. If the state is unwilling or unable to back up its words with actions against JuD, every other militant group will receive the clear message that Pakistan has become an effective ‘free zone’ for terrorists.

Continue reading