Bahawalpur and Parachinar: Where Is Accountability?

Parachinar attack

Across media, there has been a common reaction to the tragedy in Bahawalpur. How do we hold those responsible accountable? However, as much as it is receiving the most attention, Bahawalpur was not the only city to suffer an immense tragedy.

Death tolls from twin terrorist attacks in Parachinar and Quetta have climbed to 85, with hundreds more injured and more deaths to possibly come. Meanwhile, four police officers were killed during iftar by unknown gunmen in Karachi.

The treatment of these events in the public discussion is worth noting. Here is what Dawn had to say about Bahawalpur:

Bahawalpur tragedy is numbing not only because of the vast number of dead and injured, but also because it was totally avoidable.

This raises the question, have we become numb to terrorist attacks because we have decided they are not totally avoidable?

Parachinar in particular is a warning sign. It is a heavily guarded place that has been the target of repeated attacks. After an attack earlier this year, Army established 24 new security posts in Parachinar in April. Two months later, terrorists once again carried out an attack. Is it unavoidable?

In its editorial on Saturday, Dawn hit the nail on the head perfectly:

The problem appears to be that any particular attack is not regarded as a failure of defensive networks and that none has led to meaningful accountability or change in standard operating procedure.

With Bahawalpur, the question might be who to hold accountable. In Parachinar and Quetta, the questions are much more difficult. Is it even possible to change ‘standard operating procedure’? Are we willing to accept the victims as mere ‘collateral damage’ (as an ex-DG ISI termed the victims of APS massacre) of our national security policies? It’s hard not to believe that this decision has already been made in higher quarters.

After years of denying that we provided sanctuary to Taliban, PM’s advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz finally admitted what everyone already knew: We had been hosting Taliban on Pakistani soil for long. So too FO has claimed that there are no anti-Iran militants on Pakistani soil, despite the obvious. So too we see ex-ISI men gathered around LeT chief Hafiz Saeed rallying for jihad against India.

It is hard not to believe that jihad and militancy is part of our official national security policy. But if it is not, it is hard to believe that we are doing everything possible to eliminate jihadi mindset and militancy from society. The question is not who to hold accountable, though. That is obvious. The question is whether accountability is even possible.

What do you think?

Musharraf

Dawn’s Dangerous Defence Delusions

nuclear explosion

It was inevitable that reports of India increasing its defence budget once again would be met with concern in certain quarters. Unfortunately, even more moderate voices are perpetuating dangerous narratives. In fact, for anyone interested in improving Pakistan’s national security, Dawn’s analysis is terrifyingly misguided.

Continue reading

Money Talks: Why India is getting closer to US while Pakistan is not

Obama and Modi

A Tweet by Jang Group correspondent Murtaza Ali Shah caught my attention this morning.

Unfortunately, the link clicked through to an article by Ansar Abbasi reporting the worn out claim that Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a welfare organisation and that anyone who says otherwise is parroting Indian propaganda. Abbasi gained this information from “highly placed sources” with inside access to what was communicated to US Secretary of State John Kerry during his recent visit. The fact of the matter is that anyone with eyes and ears can see and hear what kind of “charity” Hafiz Saeed and his JuD have been operating – No propaganda necessary. So unless JuD itself is being sponsored by RAW, Abbasi’s report is not only baseless, it’s comedic. But what this has to do with US and India and business deals? That is what I was interested in. If Murtaza’s link would not provide the information, though, my interest was piqued enough that I would have to look for it myself.

It didn’t take me long to find a better fitting link for Murtaza’s Tweet, a recent article from Forbes about President Obama’s upcoming trip to India that reports that the US president will be joined by a cadre of American CEOs. Now this is interesting.

CEOs from top U.S. companies are joining the President on his trip this weekend to the world’s biggest democracy.

When President Obama flies off to India this weekend for a historic second trip to the newly-arrived economic giant, he’ll have a blue-chip roster of CEOs in tow.

The delegation of business chiefs so far includes Ajay Banga of Mastercard MA 0.01% , Dave Cote of Honeywell HON 3.13% , Bob Iger of Disney DIS -0.45% , Indra Nooyi of Pepsi PEP -0.37% , Arne Sorenson of Marriott MAR 0.04% , and Vivek Ranadive of Tibco TIBX , Fortune has learned.

Officially, Obama is traveling to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations as the guest of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (the President even scrambled scheduling of his State of the Union address to accommodate his attendance). But the presence of the corporate captains the White House hustled to recruit for the mission indicates the economic stakes. Warming diplomatic ties between the world’s oldest democracy and its largest are encouraging American companies seeking expanded access to India’s $2 trillion economy.

Modi is pushing to make his country friendlier to foreign investment with new incentives and regulatory reforms. He unveiled a “Make in India” campaign in September aimed at promoting the country as a manufacturing haven. And the US and India are chasing a five-fold increase in bilateral trade, to $500 billion, by 2020.

This is eye-popping, and should serve as a wake up call to our national strategists and policy makers in Islamabad.

India has never been America’s close ally. Actually, quite the opposite has been true. This doesn’t mean that the Indians haven’t tried to warm relations with the US, just that their attempts have usually received a cool response as the Americans have treated India with a healthy suspicion since their non-alignment during the Cold War. Washington saw Indians as always looking out for themselves, and therefore untrustworthy. This is why India’s attempts to poison relations between Pakistan and the US have never been successful – their machinations were always too obvious. Now, however, India has discovered the way to America’s heart, and it’s not through “national security”, it’s through “national exchequer”.

Here is the one area where American can accept that the Indians are looking out for themselves. In business, everyone is looking out for themselves. But in business, even though everyone understands that they are looking out for themselves, they are also looking to work together to improve their returns. In business, US and India can work closely together without any pretense of brotherly affection or timeless bonds. The only “bonds” they will be discussing will be the financial kind.

Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to base its relations with the US on issues of national security. We are a “strategically important nation” because of our geolocation in a dangerous part of the world. America needs to work with us because we are the front line in the war on terrorism. Problem is, this is the same rationale we have been using since over 50 years, and the Americans have started asking when they’re going to see returns on their investment. As the state dithers on questions about jihadi groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa, our relationship looks less and less like one of mutual benefit and more and more like extortion. As a sovereign nation, we have the right to decide whether or not certain groups are actually supporting our national security objectives, but other countries also have the right to decide that they don’t support those objectives and to pull out of their investments.

The one area where everyone has the same interest is in business. We want to make money. They want to make money. This is the one area that all nations have in common. It is why historical enemies like India and America can become allies. It is even why nations like China and America can overcome all odds of being enemies and become allies – or at least develop an understanding that precludes military conflict.

Our national security strategy has failed us. We are not only not safer, we are becoming less and less secure almost daily. It’s time to re-think a national security strategy that prioritizes military strength and begin to develop one that prioritizes economic strength. American is not as large as India or China, but it far outpaces them in military strength because it first built its economic strength. Moreover, it has neutralized those countries who might challenge its hegemony by placing economic interests in the way. This is a proven model of success, and one that we should be following.

Shooting the Messenger

We are repeatedly told that no effort is being spared in the fight against militants across all the country. What is the reality? A new report by ARY News has found a shocking lapse in the national security.

An investigative team was able to easily smuggle weapons and bomb making materials without being detected by Railways Police. When they arrived, the reporters opened the packages and revealed the materials so they could be confiscated. So what happened next?

On viewing the dangerous contents of the package, the on duty Pakistan Railways personnel arrested Asif Shehzad and took all the items in their possession. An FIR number 197/14 was registered against Asif in which he was charged with sections 13/20/65, 9A CNSA, 3/14 and 109 of PPC for possession of illegal arms, narcotics trafficking and connivance/aid in crime. Two other ARY men were also nominated in the FIR.

GM has said that it will be up to the Court the fate of the arrested journalists. If there is any justice, they will be given a medal.

Wagah Warning

Wagah mourning

Sunday’s attack at Wagah border killed over 50 people and injured hundreds. It was the worst attack since months in Pakistan, and serves as a terrible warning of the direction the country is headed if the existing national security strategy is not radically changed.

Continue reading