Want to know who is issuing visas? Follow the money…

COAS-Bajwa-and-General-John-Nicholson-Commander-RSM-1

The latest twist in the visa drama is once again shining lights into places that prefer to be in the shadows. First there was the leaked document requesting visas for alleged CIA agents signed not by Husain Haqqani or Asif Zardari but by Lt Gen Nazir Ahmed Butt who was then a Brigadier and the Defence & Army Attache at the Embassy in Washington. Now another evidence of GHQ’s involvement in issuing visas to US agents has come to light, and this time it was sitting in plain sight the whole time.

Former Interior Minister Rehman Malik noted that visas are still being secretly issued to US officials in exchange for American funding to Pakistan Army. This may seem like a conspiracy theory, but actually there is evidence this time. In 2012, the US Congress introduced a new law with requirements for Coalition Support Funds paid to Pakistan that includes “issuing visas in a timely manner for United States visitors engaged in counterterrorism efforts and assistance programs in Pakistan”. Since this new law was passed, the US has paid Pakistan hundreds of millions of dollars.

It must be noted that all of this has taken place years after Husain Haqqani resigned his post as Ambassador in 2011! One can disagree with Haqqani’s analysis on geopolitics, but it is irrefutable that he has not had the ability to issue any visas since the past several years. That power has been handed over to intelligence agencies.

It is unclear what those who have reanimated the corpse of the entire visa conspiracy hope to achieve, but it is clear that what is actually happening is that more and more evidence is coming to light that it was not Husain Haqqani or civilian politicians behind it at all. It is also becoming quite clear that those who were responsible for issuing of visas are still doing. All one needs to do is follow the money. The question remaining is just how long this media drama will be allowed to continue, and if so what new evidences will come to light next.

Visa leaks: A political strategy that backfired?

Nawaz Sharif

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been five years since PMLN dominated the polls and Nawaz Sharif returned for a third term as Prime Minister. Elections are not expected for one more year, however it seems that election season has arrived already. That is the best explanation I have been able to think of for the sudden return of the old visa controversy.

There are several theories about what is behind the leaks of documents related to Husain Haqqani’s time as Ambassador. Cyril Almeida believes it is to remind the civilians of who’s boss, but I have my doubts this time. The usual Army proxies are unusually silent. Not only this, but whoever is behind this whole drama hasn’t thought it through very well.

The first leaked document was a letter granting Husain Haqqani greater authority in expediting visas for some US officials without first sending requests to Islamabad for clearance. What first seemed like a smoking gun turned out to be nothing but dust when Haqqani himself noted that this was nothing new and had actually been reported long ago.

It was the next document that really gave away the incompetence of the conspirators, though. A memo from the Foreign Office marked as ‘Confidential’ directs Missions not to issue visas to a list of 36 alleged CIA agents. There are three major red flags with this leak.

  1. Obviously, we do not know if visas were actually issued to any of these people.
  2. If this list is authentic, it is unlikely that our agencies would want it published because it will cause serious problems for our own intelligence agents who are working undercover. There is a tradition of agencies respecting each other and not exposing the other sides agents except in extreme circumstances. Publishing a list of undercover agents would risk upsetting the very delicate balance of trust with foreign agencies and put our own agents at risk of being exposed.
  3. This is the biggest mistake: Whoever leaked overlooked that the list of alleged CIA agents includes a hand written request for their visas signed not by Husain Haqqani or Asif Zardari but by the Defence & Army Attache who is himself now a Corps Commander!!!

Defence Attache visa request

Husain Haqqani has insisted that ‘military was not bypassed. period‘. Even if the Ambassador was granted authority to issue visas without review by Islamabad, there has never been any evidence that visas were issued without full cooperation and review of Defence agencies located withing the Embassy. Till date there has been no evidence that any visas were issued without the approval of agencies stationed at the Embassy. In fact, this latest leak suggests that Defence officials were fully informed. Just as publishing lists of foreign agents is not in our own agencies interest, also we should ask if publishing documents that show the Defence officials who reviewed and approved visa requests is in our national interest.

If the boys are not behind this one, then, who is? To find the answer we should look at the narrative that is being promoted. It is not just Haqqani who is being targeted, it is PPP leadership. The former President Asif Zardari and PM Gilani are clearly in the sights of the leakers and those who are pushing the narrative that PPP government went around the military to help US agents. It was Khawaja Asif who called for a full investigation, apparently having forgotten that there already was one, and that if anyone wants to get to the bottom of things they can simply release the full contents of the Abbottabad Commission Report.

Until someone comes forward and admits being behind the leaks, this will all be left to speculation. However, it is hard to see how any of this benefits the boys at this time. Much more likely is that someone in PMLN got too clever for their own good and decided to start campaigning early by knocking out PPP by re-introducing old civil-military divides. This was both unnecessary and counterproductive. Unnecessary because PPP is too busy making their own bad decisions to be a real political threat, and also because it sppears that someone within PMLN leadership is trying to drag the Army into politics. 2018 is looking good for Nawaz Sharif. As this drama shows, he needs to make sure it is his own people who don’t bungle it!

Husain Haqqani Controversy: The Real Cover Up

cover upThe latest controversy surrounding Husain Haqqani continues to grow as different parties try to score some political points. Whether it is PMLN trying to solidify its power, or PPP’s unseemly willingness to turn on one of its own, everyone knows that piling on someone who has openly criticised the Army’s policies towards militants is a low risk proposition. The reality is that this latest episode is nothing but a repeat of past dramas, and like those too nothing will come of it except distracting from the actual problems facing the nation.

As it has already been pointed out, there is not any new information in Haqqani’s latest article. There was never a denial that he issued visas to Americans working for the US government, but as already explained in his statement to the Abbottabad Commission that no unauthorised visas were issued to Americans agents while he was Ambassador. This brings up an important point: There has already been a commission to investigate these claims, and it has already produced a report! However, as always, it has been kept secret from the people opening the door to conspiracy theories and confusion. If there is some great concern over Haqqani’s article, the obvious answer is to follow advice of Justice Javed Iqbal, who headed the Abbottabad Commission and publish the complete report so the people can know the actual findings.

This raises another important point: While we have already had a commission investigate Abbottabad raid, nothing has been done to investigate and explain any of the following:

This is only a partial list of unanswered questions that the state has shown no interest in investigating. Do we have nothing better to do than try to interpret and decode hidden messages in Husain Haqqani’s writings?

In Husain Haqqani’s latest article he gave the example of passing messages between US officials and Pakistan officials. As was obvious to anyone who can read, he was explaining that this is the job of a diplomat – to pass messages back and forth. Nowhere does he say that he issued any unauthorised visas, and no one has shown any evidence that he did. Does the state really want to push things to the limit that records of every visa and who authorised them (including military personnel) are leaked to the public?

The obvious next step is not to constitute a new commission but to release to the public the report already compiled by Abbottabad Commission and once again face the inevitable questions about how Osama bin Laden was able to enter Pakistan and live next door to PMA Kakul without ever being noticed by our own agencies. Next we can answer questions about why officials continue to accuse civilians of treason for any contacts with CIA when it is well known that most cooperation was with Army and ISI agents and not civilians. Most importantly, though, we must stop allowing this pathetic political point scoring to continue as cover up for the lies and failures of state policy that continue to plague our nation and cause the deaths of hundreds of innocents.

Who is issuing Taliban visas?

Imran Khan

Imran Khan told Hamid Mir today during his programme that a senior Taliban commander was treated at Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital in Lahore. With Imran Khan’s history of openly supporting the Taliban, many immediately took this news as more proof of the PTI chief’s ‘Taliban Khan’ moniker. However, doctors are correctly pointing out that treatment is given to any patient without asking about their religion or politics. In Afghanistan, wounded Taliban militants are even treated next to Afghan soldiers. Therefore, the question is not why a Imran Khan’s hospital treated a Taliban commander, but why he was not treated in Afghanistan but rather in Lahore.  Continue reading

Pakistanis Not Welcome

visa denied

Pakistan’s global isolation continues to settle in as even our Muslim brothers are now shutting the gates to Pakistanis due to concerns about our role in exporting terrorism. Yesterday, Gulf News reported that Kuwait has barred Pakistanis from entering the country due to security concerns.

The minister, Shaikh Muhammad Al Khalid, had issued instructions to the Citizenship and Travel Documents and the Immigration departments “to work in coordination with the Ministry of Interior and the hotels sector which can also engage in the process of issuing all kinds of visas to Kuwait — commercial, tourist or family.”

However, security sources told local daily Al Rai that the new rules do not extend to nationals from Iran, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan who have been barred from entering Kuwait.

It should be noted that the six countries excluded from Kuwait’s visa regime are all nations known to be centers of regional and global terrorism. Our inclusion on such a list is sad reflection on Pakistan’s current situation.