Part the dark clouds, let the sun shine in

Light Shining Through CloudsPM has convened an independent commission to investigate the Abbottabad incident and ascertain the full facts regarding the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. This is a commendable decision and one that should be fully backed by those whose primary concern is truth and justice. It is time that we part the dark clouds hanging over the nation and let the sun shine in.

The 2/5 operation may have come at the first of the month, but the past few weeks have been a string of incidents. After Abbottabad we saw the terrorist attack on PNS Mehran. We saw suicide bombings almost daily. Yesterday the sad news was announced that the body of another journalist was found tortured to death. Surrounding each of these incidents has been an aura of suspicion, doubt, and conspiracy. This is not unusual and may even be considered as ‘status quo’. When tragedy strikes, it is hard to part the dark clouds to see clearly.

But these tragic events are not the only events that have caused confusion. There continue to be questions about visas issued to American nationals, even after the Embassy in Washington has made multiple press statements including providing access to the data on these visas to show that there has been nothing out of the ordinary.

Najam Sethi got the memo and corrected the record on Aapas Ki Baat recently, but obviously this information is not being made widely available since Javed Chaudhry and Shireen Mazari continued to perpetuate the conspiracy on Kal Tak that 7,000 Americans were issued visas without proper security checks.

Drones is another issue that is surrounded by dark clouds of confusion and misinformation. Listening to Imran Khan and others talk about drone attacks, it is easy to come away with the belief that 30,000 innocent Pakistanis have been killed by drones and not one single terrorist. But actually none other than the terrorist leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed by drones. Actually, according to data confirmed by independent news reports, maximum number of drone deaths are militants. This fact was also confirmed by GHQ when General Officer Commanding 7-Division Maj-Gen Ghayur Mehmood said in a briefing earlier this year:

“Myths and rumours about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners.

“Yes there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements.”

Never the less, incorrect statements and conspiracies continue about both visa policy and drone strikes. Now we have talking heads on TV telling that Osama bin Laden was not killed at Abbottabad, PNS Mehran attack was a CIA-RAW-al Qaeda conspiracy, and now there are even those saying Saleem Shahzad’s murder was a conspiracy to harm the image of the farishtas in our agencies.

We all know that good Muslisms cannot lie, therefore the people who are perpetuating these statements must be like so many people mistaken due to not having the facts. The only solution to this problem is to have an independent commission verify the facts so that the confusion can be resolved and we can move forward to solve the grave issues facing the nation. Abbottabad is a good place to start since it was the first incident in the past weeks (though surely not the first incident in history).

But we should also convene independent commissions to investigate the other issues also – PNS Mehran, Saleem Shahzad murder, visas, drones etc – and take the nation into confidence so that myths, conspiracies, and confusion can be buried for good. In order to ensure that there is no doubt about the results of these findings, the independent commissions should be open and transparent for all citizens to inspect.

We have been living for too long under the weight of dark clouds. It is time to let the light shine upon the truth. Only then will we fund real justice.

US Congress Requests Revoking Visas For Qadri Supporters

In a letter to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday four American Members of Congress requested the US government to revoke visas to anyone supporting Mumtaz Qadri.

A copy of the letter which has been received by email terms the assassination of Salmaan Taseer “an unspeakable tragedy” and “heinous crime”.

We have now become aware that some of the most prominent clerics, journalists and lawyers who have praised Taseer’s death and have demonstrated support of his murderer, are people who frequently travel to the United States and hold American visas. We urge you to identify those Pakistani citizens that have shown demonstrable support of the assassination of Governor Taseer. We further request that visas not be issued to such people and that applications for new visas from those who have endorsed this heinous crime be denied.

The letter states that “it is imperative that we show our dedication to peace and not further violence” and requests the US State Department to increase diplomatic efforts and investment to support growth of democracy and tolerance in Pakistan.

The letter is signed by two Republicans and two Democrats in the US Congress: Steve Israel, Gary Ackerman, Peter King and Michael McCaul.

Visa Bogey Man

Pakistan VisaThis old story about diplomatic visas for the US is like a stomach ache that just won’t go away. It follows a pretty typical pattern, though – Ahmed Quraishi invents some conspiracy theory, it gets repeated by The Nation, then The News, then it just starts floating around the internet message boards. Let’s see if we can find a cure, though, and get rid of this stomach ache before it gets worse.

Discredited conspiracy wallah Ahmed Quraishi first devised this ridiculous story around the capture of the American bin Laden-hunter Gary Faulkner. Quraishi suggested that the Ambassador in Washington mistakenly believed this man to be CIA, a preposterous idea that was roundly debunked by the site Pakistan Media Watch.

Abdul Zahoor Khan Marwat picked up the theme in The News recently – another story that was exposed by the Pakistan Media Watch and described as “such poor quality that they do not even qualify as legitimate journalism”.

Now Mohammad Jamil is writing the same old story in Pakistan Observer. Mr Jamil’s article is so bad he even says, “let us hope this news is not correct”. If even you don’t believe it, why write it? Jamil then spends the rest of the page repeating the same tired old conspiracy theories. Please, sir, let them rest.

Which raises the question, who is afraid of visas?

In the 21st century, progressing countries have open visa regimes. It’s necessary for business and diplomacy to run smoothly. The US issues hundreds of visas to Pakistan, thank God. There have even been demands that more US visa sections be opened in the country to speed matters along. Why would we expect it to be any different in the reverse? Do these isolationists really think that Pakistan will benefit from less business and trade between our two countries?

The truth is, it’s all just political nonsense. The Nation, for example, praises the liberalisation of visa regimes between Pakistan and Turkey, and complains when they think there is some delay in issuing visas to Pakistani diplomats, but when it comes to Pakistan returning the gesture, it is a conspiracy!

But what is the problem, really, with granting diplomatic visas to US citizens? How many diplomatic visa holders from the US have been involved in suicide bombings? How many have been shooting up mosques? None. Are they really the problem we need to be worried about? The whole premise is ridiculous, as we’ve pointed out before.

Partly this is a mindset left over from the Soviet era. “Keep the foreigners out!” But mostly it’s just opportunism.

Truth is, all of this isolationist chatter is just a cynical attempt to get famous. Look at the people who are saying these things most. They’re wearing a European suit and sitting in AC praising jihadis and attacking Westerners on the internet. What a joke.

You can scour the pages of their websites and all you find are silly conspiracy theories about the West and excuses for jihadis. Just a few months ago I showed extensive evidence that The Nation for one has been supporting pro-Taliban narratives.

The truth is, this has nothing to do with visas and everything to do with a bizarre personal hatred for Pakistan’s ‘Man in Washington’, Ambassador Husain Haqqani. Ahmed Quraishi’s fixation on Haqqani is well documented. Now even Mohammad Jamil’s column makes a strange turn at the end to launch a ridiculous attack on the Ambassador.

Recall that it was not even a year ago The Nation and Ahmed Quraishi were declaring that Haqqani was to be sacked, in part over the granting of visas. But like the rest of their conspiracy theories, it was nothing but hot air. Just as the world didn’t end when American diplomats were granted visas, Ambassador Haqqani was not sacked.

In fact, rather than being sacked, Haqqani has been publicly praised by the Army and Air Force chiefs. The Pakistani-Americans have even given him the Pakistan Independence Day Award, which he was unable to accept because he was working to raise money for flood relief. The only people that seem to think there’s a problem with him are the ones who want Pakistan to be isolated – the crazy jihadis and their useful idiots in the right wing media. After all, isn’t it curious that it’s only American diplomatic visas that are criticised, and never visas for people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammad who are tied to Taliban and al Qaeda?

Even trying to blame Haqqani for visa policy is ridiculous. Husain Haqqani is an Ambassador. He sdoes not make visa policy, he only follows it. Husain Haqqani takes direction from Islamabad just as Anne Patterson takes direction from Washington, DC.

Mohammad Jamil’s latest repeat of this theme also repeats the old canard about how Haqqani’s book is against Pakistan. Don’t you wonder if these people have even read the book? If it was so bad, why was it the best seller in Pakistan for a long time? Many analysts think it is once of the best books on Pakistan. It doesn’t attack the Army or other institutions, but attacks the jihadi influence.

Is that really so strange? Even the ISI called “the greatest threat to national security”? Even greater than India! So why are Mohammad Jamil the rest of these fake nationalists attacking a book that says the same thing? They should take up their complaints with the ISI, perhaps.

Look, if you don’t like Husain Haqqani, so what. Don’t invite him over to dinner. But these silly stories about visa conspiracies are boring and counterproductive. In the middle of the greatest disaster in history, do we really want to be isolating ourselves? The US is giving hundreds of millions in aid, and here these guys like AQ and Mohammad Jamil are obsessing over visas and attacking our Ambassador. Give it a rest, guys.