Why are we celebrating the fall of Kunduz?

Pakistani newspaper writes "America cries, another victory for Taliban"

Afghan forced backed by NATO are reported to have regained control of Kunduz after a three day battle with Taliban fighters. This comes as a disappointment to many of our own countrymen who celebrated reports that Taliban had seized control of the major Afghan city on Monday. This is deserving of reflection. Why are so many of us celebrating advances by Taliban fighters even while we are locked in a battle to the finish with Taliban ourselves? The answers offer important clues to the root of our troubles and, possibly, provide some hope for a solution.

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Murree Talks: Cutting Through the Spin

taliban leaders

Negotiations between Taliban and Afghan government are being heralded as a breakthrough in a war that has lasted since nearly 15 years. The breakthrough is also a moment of shining for Pakistan who has done what many feared was impossible, bringing the Taliban to talks. Along with declining terror attacks, this is the backdrop for Gen Raheel’s gushing statement terming Pakistan as a nation “on the rise“. However, once one cuts through the feel-good spin, the picture becomes a lot less rosy.

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Another Frankenstein’s Monster

Nawaz Sharif met Afghan warlords and religious leaders at his residence during Afghan peace talks in 1993

Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel declared victory in the war on terrorism this week, giving an official statement that “ours is a collective national victory against terrorism“. This is not the first time that we may have prematurely declared victory against terrorism, and now other breaking reports suggest it may not be the last time, either.

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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.

Terrorists Defeated. Again…But is it real this time?

Pakistan Leadership

Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman announced that operation Zarb-e-Azb has ‘backbone of terrorists‘. It is a welcome announcement and one that I pray is true. But forgive me if I greet this declaration of victory with some sense of sceptism. You see, I have heard it before. Several times, actually.

In August of last year, military officials declared that operation Zarb-e-Azb had ‘crippled‘ command and control system of TTP. A few days later, the ‘crippled’ Taliban carried out audacious attacks on Samungli and Khalid airbases.

Next month, DG ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa announced that due to operation Zarb-e-Azb, Taliban capacity to carry out terrorist attacks had been neutralised. Unfortunately, his announcement proved to be premature as it was soon followed by the suicide bomb attack at Wagah border crossing.

PM Nawaz waited a few weeks before echoing ISPR’s line and announced that Zarb-e-Azb had dealt a ‘fatal blow’ to terrorists in December, only to have his statement followed almost immediately by the barbaric attack against APS Peshawar.

Each time the military declares victory against terrorists, the terrorists carry out a brazen attack. This has serious and damaging consequences not only to the credibility of the Army but to the national psyche as well. By making declarations that are not in line with reality, Army leadership not only makes people doubt what they are saying, but what they are doing also.

I hope that this time the military is telling the truth, and that operations against terrorists have finally been dealt a fatal blow. But forgive me if my hopes are tempered with an abundance of caution, as it is a story I have heard before.