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.

The Durrani Network: What Jihadi Generals Can Get Away With

Traitor stamp

Gen Musharraf has never been known for being tight lipped. Recently, he has been speaking openly to international media and admitting that Pakistan has been supporting the Taliban and other jihadi militant groups who Army sees as a useful proxy against Indian influence in Afghanistan while also cooperating with NATO. Musharraf says that Army is not playing a double game, but then admits the obvious: It is. “Pakistan’s interest comes first,” he said. “But is this also the interest of ISAF? I don’t know.” He doesn’t know if it is in the interest of ISAF for a frontline ally to support their enemy?

Musharraf’s confirmation of Army support for Taliban is particularly important in the context of facts revealed by Wikileaks documents a few years ago. One leaked document discusses the involvement of another former General, Hamid Gul, in supporting Taliban. According to one document, “It was not known whether Hamid Gul was acting with the knowledge or consent of ISI, or whether any portions of ISI were aware of his activities.” While the knowledge or consent of secret agencies will always be difficult to prove beyond any doubt, it would be fairly naive to believe that Hamid Gul’s pro-Jihad activities were done without at least tacit approval of the Army leadership. Hamid Gul has described himself as “an ideologue of jihad“. It is increasingly apparent that he is not the only General who subscribes to this ideology.

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US on Pakistan’s new resolve against terrorism: “The proof is in the pudding”

US Department of State

Following the visit of American Secretary of State John Kerry to Pakistan, the US State Department gave a candid assessment of the state’s new ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards terrorism, and the point appears to be, “We’ll believe it when we see it.” Following are some key quotes from the briefing:

Question: Do you get the sense that in the wake of this brutal attack that the Pakistani leadership is actually changing its orientation and willing to go after groups like LET and Haqqani and so on, or not?

Senior State Department Official One: Well, keeping in mind [Senior State Department Official]’s kind of cautionary note that the proof is in the pudding, and I mean, it relies on kind of what actual operational steps are taken.

And certainly, and saying publicly and privately that they were not making any sort of distinction between terrorist groups is something that we’ve heard more uniformly, more robustly than we’ve ever heard.

Question: And are you just – do you believe it?

Senior State Department Official One: I hope to believe it. We’ll have to see kind of what develops…

Senior State Department Official Two: The Pakistani delegation told us several times today they won’t differentiate between good and bad Taliban, and there are two important things inherent to that kind of a statement. One is acknowledgment that there had been or was a policy of good Taliban and bad Taliban, which I think is interesting. But secondly, it’s a – that’s a measurable proposition going forward.

They’ve now put themselves – committed themselves to something that we can actually more easily observe and measure, because if there is no differentiation, then all Taliban and all militants should be within the specter of their operations. And that’s something that makes it much easier for us to engage with them. So I think it is a very forward-looking thing, and now it gives us the ability to kind of go back to that, and it simplifies this part of the dialogue. But we are going to have to watch and see how this plays out.

The message is pretty clear. The US is encouraged by what they are hearing from military and civilian leaders, but they will be watching closely to see if policy matches rhetoric.