Pak pigeons, RAW milk, and a need for real patriots to step forward

Spy Pigeon

As tensions grow worse between Pakistan and India, Indian security forces have intercepted a Pakistani spy pigeon. I should say “another” Pakistani spy pigeon, as this is not the first time India’s premiere intelligence agency has accused its neighbor of Pakistani birds of invading Indian airspace, though it is unclear whether DNA tests were used to confirm the pigeon’s nationality, or if they were carrying some Pakistani candies also.

Indian “intelligence” is not the only one being challenged in these tense times. Our own Defence Minister has accused Indian border forces of carrying out cross-border targeted attacks against Pakistani buffaloes.

Such nonsense provide a light hearted relief at a much needed time, but the real need of the day are people with the courage to step forward and stand up to the hyper-nationalists who are beating the war drum. As usual, these hyper-nationalist warmongers hide behind a mask of patriotism and fake “pro-Army” slogans while what they are proposing is that our soldiers get killed in order to boost their own pride and egos. Notice how many of the loudest “patriots’ are always chomping at the bit for war from their computer keyboards in the US, UK, or UAE. Even those who are in Pakistan declare they are ready to sacrifice…from their accounting desk.

War with India will not be a one-sided affair where Indian forces simply run, or lay down and die. Our soldiers are willing to sacrifice their lives, but it is an offer that should not be taken lightly. It should only be as a last resort, not a means to make you feel good. Real patriots are those who appreciate their soldiers sacrifice enough not to waste it satisfy their own egos.

Worse, the easy talk of nuclear war is the very definition of insanity. Do you think angels will cover Pakistan with their wings? No, what will take place will be devastating.

Let us laugh at the jokers telling stories about spy pigeons and martyred buffaloes, but we must also realise that war is no joking matter.

China to the rescue?

This article today will take issue with the entire notion of China being an “all weather” ally and will try to highlight some of the important things Pak-China dosti promoters fail to mention. This is in no way implying that we should cut off our ties with China but merely emphasizing on how we should be cautious to remember that everyone is looking out for their own interest and there is no such thing as an unconditional alliance.

A very simple example of that conditional alliance would be that USA and USSR were allies in World War II because it served their purpose. Neither of them wanted Germany to take over the world. However, after the war, both these countries continued with their conflicts and hostilities.

Coming back to China, because of the deteriorating relation between Pakistan and America, people are looking at China as the saviour.  Our leaders have used the china angle for leverage for years.  When we negotiate with US we have this tone where we keenly suggest that if US does not help us in ways we want, we will ask China, our true friend, for help.  Our true friend will bend over backwards and fight the US for our interests. A few days back I saw a cartoon character appearing in a renowned national newspaper showing a Chinese man holding a pistol behind the American telling him to keep his hands off another guy who was shown as Pakistani.

Contrary to popular belief, I think it is important to note that China has provided very limited economic aid to Pakistan. Much of it has mainly been infrastructural aid or business investment to Pakistan and most of this aid suits China’s national interests or goals. Daniel Wagner in his article mentions that “While the U.S. has given as much as more than $2 billion in a single year in economic and military aid to Pakistan (peaking in the early 1960s), China’s cumulative bilateral assistance to Pakistan between 2004 and 2009 totaled just $217 million (an average of $36 million per year), and was often driven by disaster relief”.

Actually, I would like to use this sentence out of General Musharraf’s interview to Fareed Zakaria on CNN here, to reflect on my opinion on the above aid figures provided to Pakistan by China.

A bitter fact of the matter is that Chinese aid is driven by a hunger for natural resources.  An article published in Guardian mentions that critics say that a majority of concessional loans provided by china, have gone towards the construction of transportation, communications and electricity infrastructure, while less than 9% has gone towards the development of energy and resources such as oil and minerals. This is very much in contrast to USAID program packages that that focus on subjects ranging from poverty health and education. In addition, China has been investing in securing much of the natural resources around the globe.

Another big reason for that is that we hope China will help us in any conflict with India. It also appeals to the anti-India lot amongst us however, while sympathetic to Pakistan and having an antagonistic relationship with India, China did not do more than offer words and little military assistance to Pakistan in its wars with India.  China has always kept a clear vision of what it wants with Pakistan playing us on our anti-India sentiments to keep India at bay, the next big emerging power in the sub-continent region. My simple question is this: where was China in 1965 war? Or in the 1971 war when we so desperately needed a friend to watch our back for us?

Finally, an important thing to mention here while we’re comparing US-Pak and China-Pak relationship is the number of Pakistanis living in both these countries.  According to 2006 There are roughly 700,000 thousand Pakistanis living in the US while less than half of this number are in China, the worlds most populated country. Huge amount of remittances also exist which flow from US to Pakistan, aiding our ailing economy whereas such is not the case with China.

Pakistan also has cultural ties with US that obviously China does not.  Our mainstream media has western/American-influenced songs, clothes, cars and almost everything in the daily walk of life.  We can certainly not say that about China. How many parents are willing to send their children for higher education to China instead of US?

These are some of the questions that we need to ask ourselves and come to a rational conclusion.

Friends and Enemies

Taliban militants

Do these look like friends to you?

So far in the Afghanistan war there have been so-called “Friendly Fire” incidents that have killed British, Canadian, American, and now Pakistani soldiers. Anytime a fellow soldier dies it is a tragedy. Sadly, these three are not the first Pakistani soldiers to be killed. Actually, thousands have senselessly lost their lives to attacks by extremist militants. Why do we pay less attention to their deaths and only get outraged now?

Yes, the NATO gunships crossed the border and, in pursuit of militants, killed three of our sons. This is a tragedy that should never happen. But this is also a war for our own survival, and do not mistake it. We must respond to this incident intelligently, and not miss an opportunity to set things right.

According to Syed Saleem Shahzad, writing for Asia Times, the closing of the NATO supply route is the result of pressure from anti-American elements in the military.

Hawkish anti-American elements in Pakistan’s military prevailed on pro-United States army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani to close a key North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supply route in Pakistan in a move that signals a possible ominous deterioration in relations between Islamabad and Washington.

The official word from Islamabad appears to be that this is not the case – that the supply route has been closed for security reasons. But even this has a double-meaning. As Shahzad points out, the Foreign Office stated that the route would open when public anger subsided. At the same time, though, TTP began attacking NATO supply trucks headed for Afghanistan.

When the government says the route has to be secured, they are telling the truth. The question is, why is it insecure?

That’s a question with a glaringly obvious answer. It’s not just TTP militants that are attacking the supply routes with guns and bombs, it’s certain elements within the country that are attacking the routes with words and ideas.

A perfect example of this is the editorial page of The Nation. Here’s what they had to say yesterday:

Of course, NATO has declared that it is thinking of stopping sending its supplies through Pakistan. This would be a most welcome move by NATO for the Pakistanis who are suffering not just security-wise from these supplies – which are attractive targets for militants – but also its road infrastructure has been destroyed by the heavy NATO traffic traversing these routes. We also know that smuggling has been given a boost as a direct result of the NATO containers not being subject to proper scrutiny by Pakistani authorities. And from all accounts NATO is barely being charged anything at all.

This is just silly. Are we to honestly believe that a NATO supply route is responsible for mass murders against Shias and Ahmadis? Are we to believe that TTP is attacking NATO supply routes by blowing up schools? Or that if only we could get rid of the NATO trucks, our roads would rival the famous Autobahn in Germany? That, if it weren’t for NATO, there would be no smuggling? Rubbish.

Mosharraf Zaidi says this is just the ridiculous chatter of hypernationalists who are trying to exploit the war to advance their own political agenda.

Pakistani hypernationalists will often spew weak, unsubstantiated and ridiculous things to rail at the imperialism of the US war effort. But what most Pakistanis, hypernationalist or not, have little to say about, is how this problem can be solved without proactive American action. To put it more kindly, and as it is likely framed in for-the-record discussions between Gen Kayani and Gen Patraeus — how can threats from Al-Qaeda and its allies in FATA, be eliminated, without America help?

The Nation and their hypernationalist friends don’t have any plans to protect the country. In fact, they even admit as much in their editorial yesterday when they recommended to the government stop funding the military!

So effectively the US is already conducting military operations inside of Pakistan – begging the question where is the Pakistan military? If it is unable to stop the drones, NATO and the CIA operations targeting Pakistan, how will it protect our strategic assets? At the end of the day it really does not matter whether it is “unable” or “unwilling” – for Pakistan the costs are dire in either case.

So, once again one cannot help but reiterate the point that if the military is unable to protect our borders and the lives of our citizens, why are we diverting vast resources to sustain this state institution?

This is ridiculous. How could anyone take this sort of talk seriously? And yet people do.

“Friendly Fire” is no excuse for what happened. But we cannot pretend, like The Nation does, that the US and NATO are “targeting Pakistani territory and its people at will.” Let’s be honest. The Americans could always pack up and go home and where would that leave us? We’d still be at war, only with less help, fewer resources, and no friends to support us.

The deaths of our proud soldiers should be a wake up call. We need to quit wasting time inventing conspiracy theories to blame someone else for everything and actually look at the facts and develop a plan more sophisticated than simply saying “Kick out the Americans! Stop funding the military!” It’s not a game. It’s our own nation that is at stake.

So Mosharraf Zaidi is right when he says,

Pakistan has to deal with threats to its internal security, such as those posed by the TTP and their ilk. It also has to deal with threats to its national security from outside — including the threat of retaliation if a terrorist group based in Pakistan successfully attacked another country, or indeed even the threat of conspiracies hatched by other countries.

He’s also right when he points out that if we don’t get it together, things will only get worse. “Countries that have no plans of their own are going to have plans made for them”.