Government’s Mixed Messages Are Helping Daesh

DaeshIs Daesh in Pakistan? Answering such a question should be easy, but instead many remain unsure due to contradictory reports from government and military leaders. In few short weeks of this year alone, so many different statements have been given that the public has been left confused and unable to know how to respond. Below is a timeline of official reports that show how

29th December: Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) reports arrest of six Daesh militants in Punjab.

2nd January: Interior Ministry reports that Daesh is recruiting youngsters from Pakistan and training them at camps in Afghanistan.

3rd January: Intelligence agencies report that no evidence of Daesh in Pakistan.

4th January: Punjab Law Minister says ‘not more than 100 Pakistanis‘ have joined Daesh.

That was last month, though. Have things changed?

10th February: DG-IB says Daesh presence in Pakistan is growing.

11th February: Foreign Ministry categorically denies Daesh presence in Pakistan.

Both statements cannot be true. Is Intelligence Bureau or Foreign Ministry misleading? Either way, it gives a terrible image for Pakistan. Some will agree and argue that this is why all agencies must follow the official line, but this too is incorrect. What should be followed is the truth. It is precisely the attempts to cover up the truth that creates confusion and damages the national image.

Speaking of damaging the national image, any post about statements on Daesh must include the top prize for insanity which goes to Pakistan Awami Tehreek chief Dr Tahirul Qadri who claimed that government is importing Daesh militants to undermine success of Army operations. As crazy as this obviously sounds, this is the perfect example of trying to use Daesh issue to score political points at the risk of undermining stability.

This is the point. The problem is not only damaging the national image, it is that Daesh and other extremists use confusion as a cloak to camouflage their presence and their evil intentions. How can someone report suspicious activities if they are told that there is nothing to be suspicious about? What reason will law enforcement agencies go after extremists if officials call them liars when they bust a terrorist cell?

Pakistan faces an existential threat from extremism. We will never defeat the extremists as long as we continue to pretend that they do not exist.

Army’s ‘Coup Committee’

DG ISIS Zaheer-ul-Islam

Of the many questions have risen from the dual PTI-PAT protests that have rocked the nation, one of the most mysterious has been the question of timing. If the protests were really about election rigging, why now? Why over a year after elections? And why is it so important that PM resign immediately? The government may not have ushered in a new golden era for Pakistan, but it’s performance has not been outside an expected range. The mystery may be clearing up, though, as inside reports reveal that a group of Generals may have gone behind the back of the Chief of Army Staff and formed a ‘coup committee’ dedicated to overthrowing the government by hook or by crook – and their time is running out.

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The Coup That Is Not A Coup: Army’s Masterful Checkmate

PM Nawaz and COAS Gen Raheel

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner. After a week of long marches and escalating threats, one side has emerged victorious in the battle for control of Pakistan. While Imran Khan desperately tries to incite bloodshed and Nawaz desperately prays for the protesters to pack up and go home, the Army has brilliantly checkmated.

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Sharifs snatching defeat from the jaws of victory

Lahore protest

For a brief moment, it seemed as if a new dawn was rising in Pakistan. Following an audacious attack against Karachi Airport, the nation seemed to pull together in a rare show of unity. The Prime Minister was giving strong statements announcing the beginning of the end of terrorism. The military were taking the fight straight to the heart of the militant camps in North Waziristan. Even PTI was endorsing the operations, and for a fleeting moment we had a glimpse of what Pakistan could look like without cynical political opportunism and without the civilians and military working at crossed purposes. Then, it happened. Lahore.

There is no question that Tahirul Qadri is a cynical opportunist of the worst sort, and the the timing of his protest was beyond comprehension. None of this, however, can explain or excuse what happened next.

“Clashes between workers of Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri’s PAT party and police started in the morning when police started removing barriers from the road [outside Qadri’s Lahore residence in Model Town],” Sohail Azim, a police officer on the scene, told Newsweek.

“Following complaints from Model Town residents, police sought to remove barriers from Dr. Qadri’s house,” said Azim. “While police were working to remove the barriers, political workers pelted them with stones, injuring three senior officials,” he added.

In response, police baton-charged the protesters and fired tear-gas shells on them. TV footage also showed police officers opening fire on the protesters and Qadri’s residence, resulting in the deaths.

This is more than merely a distraction that the nation cannot afford. It is a division among the people in a time that calls for unity. It undermines faith in the government and security services just when that faith is most desperately needed.

The fragile national unity that was just beginning to emerge has already begun to crumble. Not only are Qadri’s supporters baying for blood, PTI (never one to miss an opportunity to jump in the lime light) has quickly announced that its Bahawalpur jalsa is back on. MQM has announced another day of mourning, shuttering Karachi in response to the attacks on Qadri’s supporters.

The proper response was a simple one. Allow Qadri and his supporters to have their rally which was made completely irrelevant by the new wind that had just begun to blow. Let them protest and let them go home. Instead, the streets were stained with the bodies of the dead. Not terrorists, but innocents. Just when things were starting to look up, chaos has returned. It remains to be seen whether the Sharifs can put things back together, or whether they have finally managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Pakistan’s military messiahs

Pakistan's military dictators

Since its independence, the Pakistan Army’s generals have disturbed the democratic system of the country various times in the name setting the country on the right path. Awam always looks towards a change every time they get fed up of rulers and that gives a chance to a new messiah.

First such messiah was General Ayub Khan, Pakistan’s first military dictator from 1958 until his forced resignation on 1969. After the death of Liaqat Ali Khan in 1951, the country was engulfed in political turmoil that further destabilized it. In 1958, retired Major General and President Iskander Mirza took over the country and declared first martial law on October 7, 1958. President Mirza personally appointed his close associate General Ayub Khan as the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan Army. This closeness would later turn into a rift and

General Ayub Khan’s downfall was his policies of concentrating political power in his own hands, his rule over the press and media, imposing state of emergency in the country, and his interference in religion. Demonstrations and agitation swept the whole country and law and order got out of hand as well. He was also despised by East Pakistanis and as the public resentment against the Ayub’s regime touched a boiling point which forced him hand over charge to his loyal officer, General Yahya Khan.

The second Messiah came in shape of General Yahya Khan who brought with him the second martial law. But he too was responsible for further increasing the rift between east and west Pakistan. Yahya Khan ordered a crack down to restore the writ of the government after the elections of 1970 and thus started Operation Searchlight began on 25 March 1971 which later took the shape of Indo-Pakistan war of 1971. General Yahya is often “credited” with being the personal responsible for Bangladesh Liberation War within Pakistan the scars of which can still be felt till this date.

The dust had not settled from this tumultuous scenario when we saw yet another dictator rise to power. General Zia-ul-Haq was the third military dictator of Pakistan. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s reign was under increasing scrutiny by political opposition and people plus there were rumors fraud in voting ballot. This gave way to allegations and demonstrations by PNA, the allied opposition against Bhutto’s government.  This because the reason for Gen Zia’s coup on 5th July 1977. The then Chief of Army Staff General Zia-ul-Haq appointed himself Chief Martial Law Administrator in 1978. General Zia’s legacy speaks volumes. He gave us proxy wars against the USSR using the Mujahideen, a form of fighting that still haunts us till this date. He also further Islamized the country and his interpretation of Islam further contributed to the rise of fundamentalism, obscurantism and retrogression. It is no surprise that since this death in 1988, Pakistani laws have taken a turn for the worse.

Finally comes the turn of the fourth military dictator of Pakistan, General Pervaiz Musharraf most famous for his coup of 1999. It took Pakistan’s military just 17 hours to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and at 0250 on Wednesday morning, Gen Musharraf addressed the nation in a pre-recorded message, bringing the Sharif era to a close. There were no organised protests within the country to the coup and in fact, Musharraf was welcomed with open arms.

By 2007 it had become that people had had too much Musharraf. He was surrounded by controversies involving the using too much excessive force for Lal Masjib incident, his stance on war on terror but the thing that became his downfall was his orders for suspension of the famous CJ Iftikhar Hussain. He was also widely criticized in public and political circles and hence he officially resigned on 18th Aug 2008 bringing an end to his reign.

And now we see Tahir-ul-Qadri, a self declared religious cleric singing to the same tunes again. With Musharraf’s aide on his side for his long March, and having clearly stated in the past that Army needs to be present during elections, he too has the same message that the past four dictators had; that democracy does not matter. Should we stand for it? Let us not forget that democracy forces both voters and leaders to be more mature, because they have to value the system more than any particular result. Every few years we look towards the sky searching for an answer. Maybe the answer is right in front of us. And no, it is not Tahir-ul-Qadri.