Are Pakistan Elections Wikileaks Next Target?

Imran Khan

Wikileaks has returned to the headlines after tweeting a four years old story about US and UK ‘stealing‘ NADRA data. This is a serious report that deserves a complete explanation from the government, but it should also be a fair and reliable inquiry and we should not walk into a trap of becoming the next target of foreign political meddling.

There are a few problems with the NADRA story as it is being reported. The obvious problem is that what is being circulated is quoting an interview between Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and PTI chief Imran Khan and not a leaked document.

While Assange’s motivations are not known, there are some questions about his group’s meddling in political affairs not only of the US but France also. In the past, Wikileaks has also been accused of being an ‘psyop’ operation of some foreign agency. The truth is still unknown, but it would be wise to take precautions, especially when the contents are being presented in such an obvious political manner.

This is certainly the case with this story as the information in the Wikileaks cable is being discussed with the leader of an opposition political party. Whether or not you agree with him, it is undeniable that Imran Khan has a specific political agenda and is not a neutral party.

Instead of letting Imran Khan tell us what the document says, let us look at what the cable actually says:

NADRA —– 8. (S//NF) Both PM Gilani and Interior Minister Malik pointed out that the National Data Registration Agency (NADRA) already collects a wide spectrum of information on Pakistani citizens, from driving records to DNA. Malik offered to share NADRA-generated information on Pakistani citizens, within the constraints imposed by privacy concerns. NADRA is at the heart of what the GOP intends to be an integrated border management system, Malik said, and suggested that API/PNR sharing could be a subset of this larger system. The system is currently connected through passport data, but the GOP is adding voice and facial recognition capability and has installed a pilot biometrics system at the Chaman border crossing, where 30-35,000 people cross each day. Reiterating that he welcomed both USG assistance and the arrival of a DHS team to discuss PNR, Malik agreed to set up a joint U.S.-Pakistan task force to work out a way forward.

What the Wikileaks cable says is that the Interior Minister offered to “share NADRA-generated information…withing the contraints imposed by privacy concerns” and that he “agreed to set up a joint U.S.-Pakistan task force to work out a way forward”. As far as we know, no information was ever shared. Or if it was, it was in limited fashion that respected Pakistani laws and privacy concerns.

Nowhere does the Wikileaks document say anything about US or UK stealing any data. Nowhere does it say anything about a front company set up in the UK to steal any data. Those claims were made during the interview but till date there has been no evidence provided to back up these sensational claims. Until there is evidence, these are conspiracy theories only.

So what is the truth? The best way to know is for the government to provide a full explanation for what actually happened. As the present government is not from the same party as was in power during the alleged incident, it cannot be accused of covering up its tracks to protect itself. With elections coming up, Pakistan is in a sensitive position and there is no reason to believe that we will not be the next target of foreign meddling by anonymous and unknown actors.

Bomb Proof Passports and Bullet Proof Denial

Pakistan Bomb Proof PassportWhen American media announced that Taliban chief Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone strike in Balochistan, the response of the state was silence. Soon came posts on social media with photos of a Pakistani passport and CNIC that were supposedly recovered from the scene. This was met with laughter by not only the hyper-nationalist crowd but even liberals. Jokes began to go around saying security forces were issuing new bullet proof jackets made of Pakistani passports. Even those criticising our Afghan policy found the situation ridiculous. How is it that a car and two people are completely incinerated by a hell fire missile but his Pakistani IDs just HAPPEN to survive in perfect condition? The answer was in the question: We were being framed. Again.

Only, this time at least, it appears that there was no framing. Sartaj Aziz has confirmed that the person killed in the attack was Mullah Mansour and that Pakistani authorities had identified him by DNA test. More surprising, though, was that the government confirmed that the official government documents that were recovered, the passport and CNIC, were authentic. They had a fake name, but they were real documents issued by NADRA. Interior Ministry has ordered a ‘crackdown‘ against officials for issuing the documents, but it is well known that those behind such things do not answer to the Interior Ministry.

Sometimes, ridiculous things happen. As ridiculous as it sounds, a hell fire missile did incinerate a car and two people yet a Pakistani passport and CNIC somehow survived intact. Does it matter that even the state has confirmed it? No, we will prefer to stick to our denials and our jokes about ‘bomb proof passports’. It may be a ridiculous mindset that refuses to believe what has already been confirmed, but if we start accepting these things then we will be forced to face the most ridiculous thing of all, which is our own foreign policy that causes such things in the first place. After all, Amir-ul-Momineen will come and go…but our denialism is truly bomb proof.

Did ISI accidentally work against itself?

Usman Khan

Interesting developments in the case of Usman Khan, an alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba militant captured by Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur on Wednesday. According to Indian sources, “Usman and his group were motivated by Pakistan’s Army and its external intelligence agency ISI to launch attacks against India”, a claim that the Foreign Office has rejected.

Unfortunately, the Foreign Office infamously lacks any credibility on this issue after repeated attempts to cover up similar embarrassing scenarios through misleading statements. However in this case, the FO’s rejection has been backed by another important institutional player: NADRA.

According to media reports, “NADRA dismissed Indian allegations on Thursday stating Usman Khan aka Qasim aka Mohammed Naveed is not Pakistani”. This certainly complicates matters of Indian claims that Usman is a LeT militant working under motivation of Pakistan’s security agencies. At least, it would, if another blockbuster report did not sink NADRA’s credibility also.

According to a breaking report, NADRA has been providing fake documents and covering up the identities of terrorists. Before you dismiss this report as Indian propaganda, please take note – NADRA is not being accused by RAW, but by ISI.

According to the ISI report — a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune — the agency, after a comprehensive intelligence scrutiny as part of its counter-terror operations, found many NADRA officials involved in facilitating attempts by terrorists and miscreants to obtain fake identity cards.

This ISI report describes the involvement of top ranking NADRA officials including retired military officers in helping terrorists obtain fake Pakistan passports and CNICs. If NADRA is exposed as working to help terrorists obscure their identities, how can they be trusted in their dismissal of Usman’s identity?

Ironically, Usman is accused of being a Lashkar militant working with the motivation of ISI, the very agency that has now discredited the institution that was trying to save him. Usman’s true identity as well as his objectives remains to be fully proven, but if he was a Lashkar operative it would appear that ISI may have accidentally worked against itself.

Solutions for Karachi

On Friday, the National Assembly passed a unanimous resolution to bring all parties together to review the worsening situation in Karachi. The resolution underscores the sense of urgency, as hundreds have died in the last few months, victims of brutal target killings and senseless murders.

The worsening crisis in Karachi is nothing short of a matter of national security; the National Assembly is right to pursue its responsibility, and gather to assess the law and order of the city, and to offer solutions going forward.

The Corps Commanders agree. The 141st Corps Commanders Conference was held, with General Ashfaq Kayani presiding over it. In the released statement, the Commanders declared their concern about the deteriorating security, but expressed confidence in measures “taken by the government that will help resolve the situation.”

One really has to look at Pakistan’s history military interventions to understand the enormity of this Commanders statement. Because of the army’s history of intervening in domestic affairs, people looked to them to “fix” Karachi. But amidst calls for the military to tackle the violence, the army insists the civilian government is the rightful authority on domestic issues.

More guns in Karachi are certainly not the answer. In their statement, the army decided that all arms licenses issued by the Ministry of the Interior would be canceled as of September 1st, and license holders should go to the NADRA offices to obtain new license. This policy will stop the gross misuse and forgery of many existing licenses. It is important to note that it is the Ministry of the Interior that will be overseeing this process. More guns and more force will simply add to the downward spiral. The army has made a wise and very intelligent decision to keep an eye on the city, while supporting the civilian government’s role.

Coalition and opposition parties need to now take the opportunity and work together to find a political solution that addresses the concerns of all Karachiites.

The Problem With Using Religion in Politics

Imran Khan has built his political party largely on the basis of establishing a ‘truly Islamic’ Paksitan. While his party communications are careful to say comforting things like, ‘a truly Islamic society advocates tolerance, moderation and freedom to practice the religion of one’s choice without fear’, when Imran Khan speaks to the people it looks more like this.

Imran Khan supports sharia

But what happens when PTI officers find themselves faced with sharia restrictions? Recently Shireen Mazari was not allowed to renew her ID card because she appeared at the NADRA office in F-8 without a mehram.

Two prominent citizens of Islamabad, Tahira Abdullah, a human right activist, and Dr Shireen Mazari, CEO of Strategic Technology Resource, were both denied fresh ID cards because they did not bring their male members or their ID cards to provide to Nadra.

Obviously this is ridiculous and Shireen Mazari was right to protest. She is no teenage girl and she should be able to get her ID card renewed without being accompanied. But this just proves a larger point which is that when religion gets dragged into politics, it is bound to create problems. After all, if Shireen Mazari is a PTI officer and PTI supports implementing sharia…shouldn’t Mazari have thanked the NADRA workers for denying her?

Imran Khan likes to play the religion card to make up for his lack of political support. But it’s easy to say that you support shariat – when you get into trouble is when it comes time to define what that actually means. Unfortunately, extremists have the upper hand by terming anything they don’t like as bid’ah or shirk and manipulating people’s emotions so they will accept their own interpretations.

Shireen Mazari should not need a mehram to renew her ID card. If a woman wants to take a man to accompany her that should be her right, but if she wants to go by herself to the NADRA office that should be her right also. Let her decide based on her own faith, not the orders of the state.

The vision for Pakistan laid out by Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was for a Pakistan that exemplified the beauty of Islam found in the names of Allah from the very first words of Qur’an: ar-Rahman (Compassionate), ar-Rahim (Merciful). Jinnah did not want to create an Islamic version of the intolerance that he saw in India, but sought to create a nation where all could be free from religion persecution – both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.