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?

Express Tribune’s Jailbreak Spin Helps Nothing

Gilgit District Jail

Militant jailbreaks are not new, but there was something unique about the way that Express Tribune reported the recent escape from Gilgit District Jail. The brazen escape, in which four jihadis managed to break free, has been widely reported as having been carried out with the help of the very men who were supposed to be guarding the hardened terrorists. On 1st March, Dawn reported that Gilgit-Baltistan police chief Zaffar Iqbal Awan ‘conceded that the jailbreak attempt by four prisoners had been assisted by some members of the security staff within the prison’.

Seven jail staff and three religious leaders were immediately arrested on suspicion of aiding the terrorists escape, and the investigation into how the escape could have happened has revealed that security officials at the jail had been recruited by the terrorists, and that ‘companions of the suspects were also in contact with jail officials and tried to take care of their “necessities”.’

Coming during same time as reports of arrest of a Punjab constable attending jihadi training camp in Afghanistan, the entire facts of the case points to a terrifying reality in which terrorists are infiltrating the police forces. So how does Express Tribune report the story? As evidence of success of military courts.

The fear of being sentenced to death by a military court is what spurred two suspects charged with the Nanga Parbat basecamp massacre, along with two other prisoners, to risk a jailbreak in Gilgit, investigators said on Sunday.

Even the headline, ‘Running Scared’, gives the impression that the terrorists were so afraid of their fate at the hands of security forces that they were willing to risk everything. However this ignores the facts. The terrorists were not attempting a panicked and desperate escape, they were leaving with the help of the very guards who were supposed to be keeping them under lock and key.

Express Tribune’s report gives the feeling that the event involved terrified militants and fearless security forces who launched a manhunt that killed one and captured another. The reality is that half of the terrorists escaped unharmed, and at least 10 jail personnel have been arrested in connection with helping them.

I have written before that premature declarations of victory can undermine success. Now is not the time to hide the truth. If we are going to defeat terrorism, we must face the reality, not cover it up.

Jibran Nasir’s Arrest: Worse Than Originally Thought?

Jibran Nasir behind bars

We can argue about whether what happened to Jibran Nasir and fellow peace activists on Thursday was ‘arrest’ or ‘detention’, but this will be arguing over semantics and entirely missing the point of the incident. Similarly, many immediately took to terming the action as evidence of government siding with militants – an understandable response at first glance. But taking a moment to consider the larger context, the actual meaning may be way worse.

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Ulema Council’s Qualified Condemnation of Militancy Highlights Double Standards

Pakistan Ulema Council

Pakistan Ulema Council issued a condemnation of IS militants on Friday as reports of infiltration by the jihadi terrorist group across the country. This condemnation of IS militants by the respected clerics is welcomed, but the qualified statement highlights dangerous double standards toward extremism and militancy that must be addressed.

The PUC statement only addresses one group (IS) and includes the following qualification:

“The PUC appeals to people and youth in Islamic countries to not cooperate with any violent group whose teachings or actions are against the teachings of Islam and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).”

The problem with this statement is that it gives a free pass to violent groups who do believe their teachings and actions are in line with Islam and Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). In other words...all of them.

Freeing Pakistan of the scourge of extremist violence requires a comprehensive, unqualified condemnation of militancy. No exceptions. Until then, qualified condemnations will not only be fruitless, they will continue to provide an ideological justification for terrorists of all stripes.

We Can’t Eradicate Terrorism Without Changing Afghanistan Strategy

Afghan-Pakistan-Strategic-Depth

The top military brass has reaffirmed its commitment to eradicate terrorism. The words are sweet, but the reality is more sour. As we were reading the Army’s new pledge, another suicide attack ripped through Peshawar. Today, another blast, this time against the most vulnerable: IDPs. The problem of our own home grown militancy has been discussed elsewhere, most recently in a highly recommended piece by Aziz-ud-Din Ahmad. There is another obstacle to peace, however, which is our Afghanistan policy.

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