Did Hafiz Saeed Just Overtake Gen Raheel’s Throne?

_56949135_jex_1246109_de27-1The country’s most recent Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar recently gave a controversial interview to Geo News in which she declared that Pakistan cannot win Kashmir through war. According to the former FM, making progress on Kashmir will actually require improving relations with India so that a productive dialogue can be held.

The interview was published shortly after jihadis supported by Jamaat-ud-Dawa carried out fedayeen attack killing 8 police in Indian-controlled Kashmir. The attack was widely celebrated by official JuD accounts.

Pampore attack was also done three days after Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel declared that Pakistan is against all proxy wars, leaving him humiliated in the eyes of the world as it appears obvious that the Army Chief has either given a bald faced lie or Army has completely lost control of its Frankenstein Monster.

Analysts have debated whether military and civilians are actually on the same page. Jamaat-ud-Dawa’s latest attack has shown that it may be neither civilians or officers who are driving the national agenda.

The blame game

Not my fault

Pakistan faces severe threats and challenges and we have suffered more than anyone in the world. This we are reminded of often. This week we have also been reminded of the second part of our national identity which is that we are not responsible for any of our problems. We are only the helpless victims.

Yesterday PM’s Foreign Advisor Sartaj Aziz accused former Ambassador Husain Haqqani of being responsible for failure of Pakistan’s diplomatic efforts. This is not the first time that a government official has given this excuse as Defence Minister Khawaja Asif has also blamed Husain Haqqani for his own failure to secure F-16s.

This may be a national emergency. If the entire diplomatic corps including even Gen. Raheel’s ceremonious efforts can be completely undone by a single person sitting in a think tank, what hope have we of ever overcoming our troubles? Is all of Pakistan unable to overcome one man?

Today we are also reminded that Pakistan has been abandoned by the whole world to face terrorists on our own. This was declared by no less than Army spokesman DG-ISPR Gen Asim Bajwa. However, this statement left many scratching their heads in confusion. Didn’t the US give Pakistan Army billions? Didn’t the US kill TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, capture TTP commander Latifullah Mehsud and hand him over to Pakistan Army? Isn’t US still funding Pakistan Army?

It is true that Pakistan is facing a declining relationship with historic allies including the US. However facts are facts and it is simply too much to say that we have been ‘abandoned’ yet. It is also unrealistic to blame a scholar for all of our problems. So why are we facing such a difficult time, and if we are not exactly ‘abandoned’, why are we becoming more isolated? Ironically, the answer may have been given by Husain Haqqani himself:

“Pakistan’s difficulties in the US were the result of years of supporting ‘jihadis’ and making excuses that are having less and less effect on Americans. Moreover, Pakistan’s dependence on US aid made it susceptible to changes in the US national mood and attitude,” elaborated Haqqani in the statement released.

Our top leaders, especially those at the level of Minister and General, need to give an honest assessment of our situation and take responsibility for putting the nation back on the right path. Blaming others and playing helpless victim will fix nothing. We need real leadership that is willing to speak the truth and take necessary action.

The Ugly Face in the Gulshan-i-Iqbal Mirror

Gulshan-i-Iqbal

Something has bothered me about the deadly Gulshan-i-Iqbal blast but I could not put my finger on it. Yes, the senseless killing of children at a park is almost too horrible to imagine. And, yes, the fact that the attack was carried out in Lahore and not some remote area brings the war closer to home. However, still there was something else that was lingering in the back of mind. After reading Asif Aqeel’s piece in The Friday Times, today, I think I have finally figured out what has been bothering me so much.

Actually, it was the title of Aqeel’s piece that first hit me hard. ‘Bombs do not discriminate between Muslims and Christians’. This is something that I heard many people saying after the blast. I was told over and over not to call it an attack on Christians because more Muslims were killed in the blast. It wasn’t until this headline showed up in my email that I realised what bothered me so much. It was a simply question: What if bombs did discriminate?

The evil behind the Easter blast was easily understood as the dead were mostly innocent women and children. When asked about this, the Taliban spokesman said women and children were not their target it was the male members of the Christian community. The women and children were ‘collateral damage’. What if the Taliban had been successful in their plot to target only male Christians? Would we still be as horrified?

What if the bombs did not kill any Muslims? Would Army still be talking about Punjab operation? Killing of Christians is not new. Are we only reacting to this attack because the bomb did not discriminate? Are we only angry because we believe that we are not being spared? Are we willing to sacrifice our Christian brothers to save our own skin?

The answers to these questions make me as scared as the possibility of being in the wrong place during the next jihadi attack. We know that bombs don’t discriminate. What scares me now is that I’m not sure we don’t. So what does that make us?

Pakistan Negotiating Terms of Surrender

Federal Ministers meeting with Religious Party LeadersWhile government and military leaders promise a fight till the end against religious extremists, the reality appears to be carefully working out the terms of surrender. PM Nawaz and his Cabinet have agreed not to carry out any counter-terrorist operations in Punjab after the deadly suicide blast at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore on Sunday. According to the PM, “There is no room for any [military] operation in Punjab as there are neither any safe havens of terrorists here nor a territory is controlled by militants”. While PM is taking responsibility for this decision, there is little doubt who really makes such calls. GHQ has decided that militancy and extremism will be permitted to spread in Punjab.

While the militants remain free to spread their poisonous ideology and prepare fresh attacks, the state is also taking its marching orders from religious extremists. This was recently shown when Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah permitted Ulema to re-write a women protection law that after it was passed by the people’s elected representatives. Now it appears that surrender has once again been the result of religious extremists using threats to hold the nation hostage.

After supporters of a convicted killer seized the capital, government has reportedly given in to a series of their demands:

‘1. All arrested during the sit-in will be released.

2. All cases against various Ullema will be reevaluated.

3. Section 295-C of Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law will neither be changed nor reevaluated.

4. No person involved in blasphemy will be spared.

5. Ministry of religious affairs will be told about the implications of Nizam-e-Mustafa (SAW).

6. The schedule list will be evaluated and the names of innocent will be extracted from the list.

7. All cases against protestors will be annulled’

Pressed with questions about the surrender, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar did not deny the agreement, only responded that there has been no ‘written’ agreement. Nisar further explained why saying that “No one has the authority from the government to finalize any deal in writing.” Interior Minister appears to be trying to fool the people by speaking vaguely while actually giving everyone the understanding that the agreement was actually made verbally as per the statement of the extremist leaders.

More and more analysts and experts are recognising that military operations alone are not enough to rid the nation of the scourge of terrorism. The extremist mindset must be addressed also. However, just as the state has ruled out military operations against terrorists in certain parts of the country, the state also appears to have decided to give in to the demands of unelected clerics and extremist religious party leaders. Let us call this strategy by its name: Surrender.

Shot in the Heart

Lahore attack

Two weeks ago, a bus exploded while driving through Peshawar. 15 innocent people were killed in the terrorist bomb attack. If you were not aware of this tragedy, do not feel too guilty. It was barely mentioned by the media. Some government and military leaders gave a short tweet condemning the attack, but mostly the entire nation went on with our busy lives, watching cricket, visiting friends, and complaining about how the Western media only makes a big deal when Westerners are killed. In other words, it could have been any other day. Yesterday, another blast was carried out. This one got our attention. It was a shot right in the heart.

This time it was not a bus in Peshawar, it Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in Lahore. And it wasn’t 15 government employees who were martyred, it was 70 innocent people including women and children. Just how sick the minds of these terrorists are was shown when a suicide bomber detonated himself next to children’s rides to maximise the inhumanity and brutality of his evil deed.

Reaction has been quick and coming from all corners, but the response also includes the common problems that have kept us from successfully defeating the terrorist threat since many years.

The Army has declared an operation against all militants in Punjab, but it is unclear if we are still using the old definition of ‘militant’ that quietly excludes supposedly ‘pro-Pakistan’ militants like Jamaat-ud-Dawa and Jaish-e-Mohammad. These groups have been protected from previous operations because they are seen as no threat to the state, even though there is increasing evidence that by radicalising people they are feeding recruits to Daesh and TTP and other anti-Pakistan groups. Will the Army finally give up its delusions that some jihadi groups are no threat?

Whatever Army does, there is also the problem that military operations alone cannot solve the problem which is rooted in a radicalised public. This was also made clear by the fact that while security forces were responding to the suicide blast in Lahore, they also had to respond to over 25,000 extremists marching on parliament. These were not TTP militants, they were our neighbors. The people we pass in the street every day. And they have been so radicalised that they were taking out a violent march against our own government. By definition, that should make them anti-state militants, but if we accept that fact, then how much of our population must be considered as such? The answer is too terrifying to think about.

Our leaders are giving the same excuses and circular thinking that brought us to this point. Khawaja Asif is denying that the attackers are not Muslims or Pakistanis.

TV anchors are preaching appeasement of terrorists

Or trying to shift the attention away from jihadi terrorists to India

Meanwhile, the rest of us are complaining about whether the Eiffel Tower was lit up green and whether the West is giving us the same respect as Brussels and Paris. At a time when we need to look inwards and heal our own country, instead we are looking outward and wallowing in our victim mentality.

I am going to say this now: Who cares how the West responds? Who cares if London and New York and Paris are showing solidarity with us in our time of grief? They will or they will not. Do you think that the terrorists will be so shocked by a green Eiffel Tower and give up their jihad? Do you think Facebook profile pics or Twitter hashtags will cause extremists to wake up and walk away from their guns and bombs? It is a meaningless waste of time and energy.

We are facing a life and death situation. It is not going to be fixed by Western solidarity, and it is not going to be fixed by Army operations. It is not going to be fixed by appeasement. It is not going to be fixed by blaming India. Our country is going to live or die based on whether you – yes YOU – decide whether you are willing to take your country back from the extremist elements that have hijacked it.