Are Pakistan Elections Wikileaks Next Target?

Imran Khan

Wikileaks has returned to the headlines after tweeting a four years old story about US and UK ‘stealing‘ NADRA data. This is a serious report that deserves a complete explanation from the government, but it should also be a fair and reliable inquiry and we should not walk into a trap of becoming the next target of foreign political meddling.

There are a few problems with the NADRA story as it is being reported. The obvious problem is that what is being circulated is quoting an interview between Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and PTI chief Imran Khan and not a leaked document.

While Assange’s motivations are not known, there are some questions about his group’s meddling in political affairs not only of the US but France also. In the past, Wikileaks has also been accused of being an ‘psyop’ operation of some foreign agency. The truth is still unknown, but it would be wise to take precautions, especially when the contents are being presented in such an obvious political manner.

This is certainly the case with this story as the information in the Wikileaks cable is being discussed with the leader of an opposition political party. Whether or not you agree with him, it is undeniable that Imran Khan has a specific political agenda and is not a neutral party.

Instead of letting Imran Khan tell us what the document says, let us look at what the cable actually says:

NADRA —– 8. (S//NF) Both PM Gilani and Interior Minister Malik pointed out that the National Data Registration Agency (NADRA) already collects a wide spectrum of information on Pakistani citizens, from driving records to DNA. Malik offered to share NADRA-generated information on Pakistani citizens, within the constraints imposed by privacy concerns. NADRA is at the heart of what the GOP intends to be an integrated border management system, Malik said, and suggested that API/PNR sharing could be a subset of this larger system. The system is currently connected through passport data, but the GOP is adding voice and facial recognition capability and has installed a pilot biometrics system at the Chaman border crossing, where 30-35,000 people cross each day. Reiterating that he welcomed both USG assistance and the arrival of a DHS team to discuss PNR, Malik agreed to set up a joint U.S.-Pakistan task force to work out a way forward.

What the Wikileaks cable says is that the Interior Minister offered to “share NADRA-generated information…withing the contraints imposed by privacy concerns” and that he “agreed to set up a joint U.S.-Pakistan task force to work out a way forward”. As far as we know, no information was ever shared. Or if it was, it was in limited fashion that respected Pakistani laws and privacy concerns.

Nowhere does the Wikileaks document say anything about US or UK stealing any data. Nowhere does it say anything about a front company set up in the UK to steal any data. Those claims were made during the interview but till date there has been no evidence provided to back up these sensational claims. Until there is evidence, these are conspiracy theories only.

So what is the truth? The best way to know is for the government to provide a full explanation for what actually happened. As the present government is not from the same party as was in power during the alleged incident, it cannot be accused of covering up its tracks to protect itself. With elections coming up, Pakistan is in a sensitive position and there is no reason to believe that we will not be the next target of foreign meddling by anonymous and unknown actors.

Shehrbano Taseer: Hatred that killed my father hurts all Pakistan

Shehrbano TaseerFive months ago, my father Salmaan Taseer was assassinated by his security guard Mumtaz Qadri for opposing misuse of Pakistan’s draconian blasphemy laws. During the investigation, we were shown a video that made my blood freeze. In a tiny madrassa in Rawalpindi, the chief cleric of a little known Sunni religious group, Shabab-e-Islami, was frothing at the mouth, screeching to 150 swaying men inciting them to kill my father, “the blasphemer”.

Qadri was in the audience, nodding and listening intently. A few days later, on January 4, he casually strolled up behind my father and shot him 27 times. As was reported this week, the blasphemy laws are still being used to persecute Christians, while Qadri, who has still not stood trial, is treated as a hero.

How did it come to this? In the 1979 Soviet-Afghan war, the intelligence agencies of the US, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia joined together to fight a covert operation against the Soviet Union. The US offered huge amounts of aid as Pakistan became a conduit for assistance to the Mujahidin. About 20,000 to 30,000 fighters from 20 Muslim countries joined the battle, including Osama bin Laden. In local madrassas they were taught to hate and kill, and indoctrinated with extremist Wahhabi ideology. We thought the nightmare would end when Soviet troops withdrew from Afghanistan in 1989. But it’s thriving and has come back to haunt us.

Madrassas are still the breeding ground of Islamic radicalism. More than 15,000 have mushroomed all over the country and 80 per cent teach militant Islam. Clerics can preach whatever they please, and are raising a generation of children to be merchants of hatred, who believe that their only contribution to Islam is jihad and that the only way to achieve it is violence.

Not all madrassas are evil. My grandfather was educated in one and he was a poet, the first South Asian to receive a doctorate in literature from Cambridge. But nowadays rabid clerics hijack the minds of young children, denying them contact with the outside world and teaching them to be bitterly antagonistic to non-Muslims and other sects of Islam alike.

A boy of 8 or 9 in a madrassa will not know much about history, maths or science but will know how to fire a Kalashnikov and strap on a suicide bomb vest. These children are being trained not how to live, but how to die. My father’s murder is the perfect example of the hatred and violence spewed daily to children who go out into the world deluded in this warped piety where murder and violence are legitimised in the name of Islam.

The weak Pakistani Government appeases extremist demands and allows these hate-mongers a platform. The ruthless military and intelligence agencies play a double game, dividing terrorists into good and bad, funding and arming those deemed “good”.

But Pakistan too is a victim of the ideology. We have lost an estimated 3,000 soldiers and 35,000 civilians in the War on Terror. Our mosques and market places are bombed every month. Police and military bases and training academies are attacked weekly. As a people, we are exhausted with the bombings, violence and assassinations. We are suffering because of an extremist ideology exported from Saudi Arabia.

The role of wealthy Saudi families in funding al-Qaeda and other terrorists has been kept in the background. But according to a US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, $100 million a year makes its way from Saudi Arabia and the UAE to extremist recruitment networks in Punjab. Given Saudi Arabia’s importance as an oil producer, the presence of Saudi financial support is, perhaps, a big complication for the UK and US anti-terror effort. But it has reached the point of passive sponsorship.

An international effort to cut off the financial tentacles of the Islamist terrorist apparatus is needed urgently. No other family should have to suffer what mine have had to. No other nation should lose its brave heart because of this madness in the name of religion.

The writer, the daughter of the assassinated governor of Punjab, Salmaan Taseer, is a journalist with Newsweek Pakistan. This piece was originally published in The Times (UK).


Attack on PNS Mehran Clarifies Sides In This War

Militants attack PNS MehranLast night’s attack on PNS Mehran clears the fog and offers stark clarification about the sides in this war that ravages the nation. First of all, to everyone who continues to say that this is not our war, that there is a difference between TTP and al Qaeda and other militant groups, last night’s attack destroyed that lie for good. These groups may operate under different banners during individual attacks, but they have shared goals and when necessary they even share operations.

Well-placed sources in the Pakistani security agencies believe the Sunday night attack might be a jointly coordinated terrorist operation conducted by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and al-Qaeda to avenge the May 2 killing of Osama bin Laden.

Now we must ask why the terrorists chose their specific target. Attacking PNS Mehran was a suicide mission, that much is obvious, and it was a suicide mission targeting not drones or NATO supply lines. No. They attacked our defences against India.

Let’s pause for the message here. The Orions are supplied by the United States, something of a bribe for Pakistan’s counterterrorism aid. They play absolutely no role against al-Qaida: Orions hunt submarines — Indian submarines. It’s possible that the bin Laden killing prompted the Taliban to target any U.S.-supplied spycraft. But they attacked a navy base, not the Shamsi airfield used for the drone war. The Pakistani Taliban appear to be saying: Continue your alliance with the Americans, and your struggle with the Indians — Islamabad’s major strategic concern — will be a casualty.

What this means is that the militant groups are working as a united front to destroy Pakistan from within. To do this, they are even willing to destroy our ability to defend the nation vis-a-vis India. We do not have to believe this in theory, they have proven it in their own acts. Compare this with the actions of our so-called enemy America – after 26/11, the US increased military aid to build Pakistan’s defences against India.

Less than a year after the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the United States Mission in Islamabad urged Washington to commit $2 billion over a five-year period beginning April 2011 to enable the Pakistan military to address, among other security needs, its “growing conventional disadvantage vis-à-vis India,” in order to secure its cooperation in the “war on terror.”

The U.S. Government accepted the recommendation. A report in the Washington Post on October 22, 2010 said: “The Obama administration will ask Congress to expand military aid to Pakistan, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday, announcing a five-year, $2 billion package that would increase current financing for weapons purchases by about one-third.”

So who is the real enemy here? America that provided the Orion spy planes allowing us to detect Indian submarines, or the jihadis who destroyed them? The Americans who increased military supplies to strengthen our defences against Indian attack in response to 26/11, or the militants who attempted to provoke an Indian attack on Pakistan? Is our sovereignty threatened by American drones targeting foreign militants or foreign militants targeting our military bases?

Faisal Kapadia’s most excellent post for Dawn reflects my feelings exactly.

I think it’s about time that we as a country understand that our establishment engages in saber rattling because we are unwilling to accept the truth. After all if any one of us had a choice of getting the enemy from up above or sending troops on the ground where some of us might die, we all know which route we would ourselves choose don’t we? The pacifists can go on chanting their mantras of “we don’t need this American war” but we all know that the only way out of this is to finish those against this country by any means possible.

What I am not willing to see any longer is my land desecrated by the blood of my countrymen who are being slaughtered by foreign militants. I am not willing to let this constantly hanging sword of Damocles threaten mine and my loved ones security anymore. I am not willing to sit and cry over the Leaks which tell me what I have known all along. I want to see results and if they come at a faster rate with US involvement let’s go for it now, while there is still a Pakistan to fight for and save. Don’t you agree?

I do agree. 100%.

Leader of Bayghairat Brigade – Jihadi War Monger Hamid Gul

The term ‘Ghairat Brigade’ has been used sarcastically to describe those media talking heads that chatter on endlessly about the national honour without actually doing anything to improve the nation itself. ‘Honour’ for them is nothing but a rhetorical weapon used to distract people from real issues. The sarcasm, however, seems to be lost as these hyper-nationalists and pseudo-patriots have responded by terming people who want to see a modern and successful Pakistan as Bayghairat Brigade. If the government is not going to conduct a full investigation into how Osama bin Laden was living in Abbottabad, maybe we should do our own.

The past few days I’ve been getting links to this video of some American conspiracywala talking to none other than Gen. Hamid Gul on the phone about how the whole thing was a fake. Somehow because he’s talking to a gora people think it must be a legitimate show. The guy Gen Gul is talking to, though, is not a real journalist, he’s a conspiracy theorist whose other guests include “experts” on how the world is being invaded by ‘reptilian shapeshifting’ aliens from outer space. Actually this is probably the best program for Hamid Gul to appear as a guest. He fits right in with the other clowns.

What is worst about Hamid Gul, though, is that he’s not just another paranoid schizophrenic ranting about alien invasions. He’s a former DG ISI who has been actively encouraging an invasion of Pakistan by foreign jihadis and their alien ideology.

In 2010, Al Jazeera asked Hamid Gul about evidence from Wikileaks that points to Hamid Gul aiding the Taliban. Of course, he immediately dismisses this evidence as the product of Afghan intelligence, RAW and Mossad. The Al Jazeera anchor jokes about this ridiculous claim saying, “they must be very busy with 90,000 reports”. Oh, maybe Al Jazeera is infiltrated by RAW and Mossad too!!!

Hamid Gul says that he’s merely a simple retired man who may have moral support for the Taliban but “there is no physical dimension to it”. Really? The Wikileaks documents revealed, for example, that far from no physical dimension, Hamid Gul was meeting with militants in South Waziristan. And he has physically joined rallies with Hafiz Saeed also.

Hamid Gul with  Hafiz Saeed

Actually, when he’s not in the hot seat, Hamid Gul tells a completely different story .

General (r) Hamid Gul is another maverick gung-ho about Iftikhar Chaudhry’s restoration. But he also makes the peaceniks mad with his call for jihad and continues to spread his ‘poison’ against America. “I am controversial. People either hate me or love me,” he blusters. Gul wants Shariat enforced in Swat “but it must be based on the Holy Quran which does not prohibit education for girls.” The ex-ISI chief is Taliban-friendly: “Their resistance is keeping the wolf (US) away from the door,” he says. As a sympathizer of Osama bin Laden, he declares: “In the absence of evidence (that he masterminded 9/11), I’m not prepared to call him a blood-thirsty animal.” And hence, he’s chums with beards of all shades and size who want to take Pakistan back to the age of jahiliya.

And for providing only moral support with “no physical dimension”, Hamid Gul knows intricate details about al Qaeda attacks against Pakistan.

The suicide bomb that targeted the hotel in the heart of the capital, killed at least 53 people and injured more than 266 others, a short distance from the country’s parliament building.

There were conflicting reports that Pakistan’s political and military leaders were expected to dine at the hotel on Saturday night and changed their plans at the last minute.

Former Pakistani spy master, Retired Lt. General Hamid Gul said that the militants had watched their target for days and then selected a vehicle carrying construction materials and loaded the vehicle with over 600 kilogrammes of explosives.

Jalaluddin Haqaani and Hamid GulEven today he openly provides plans for supporting militants live on TV. On Khari Baat he said that as a professional soldier he recommends that cutting off supply lines for 15 days would defeat the international forces in Afghanistan. Are these the words of a retired man or a rogue element? After all isn’t it his old friends from the glory days that he’s still supporting?

One of the common points being made is that the US and Pakistan don’t trust each other and that the Americans think there are some elements connected to ISI that are against cooperation. Why would they think that? Maybe because the former DG ISI is going on live television almost every day and giving these statements! Honestly, I find it hard to believe that Gen Pasha and current ISI were involved with Osama. What would they gain from this? But current officers need to stop protecting people like Hamid Gul who have clearly gone rogue. Loyalty is one thing, but aik gandi machli pooray talab ko ganda kar deti hai.

Hamid Gul is no patriot. He’s a washed up war mongering jihadi who has done more harm to Pakistan’s honour than any liberal writer. How many Pakistanis have to be killed by Hamid Gul’s old war buddies before playing jihad before we stop defending these guys. Whatever honour Hamid Gul had in the past is gone. He is the worst of the Bayghairat brigade and should be treated as such.

Anti-American Pathology

Syed Yahya HussainyPakistan’s political system is suffering from a debilitating illness. It is neither corruption, nor nepotism, nor most of the usual symptoms that our commentators point to, but a pathological anti-Americanism that paralyzes the nation and prevents us from achieving our potential.

The usual excuse given for this strident anti-Americanism is that we don’t hate the American people, we only hate the policies of their government. But this is a poor excuse, and it ignores the fact that we react differently to the same policies if the US or other countries adopt them. At every turn, American intentions are assumed to be anti-Pakistan, despite the fact that none of the predictions of American plans to clip Pakistan’s wings have ever come true. We readily accept that US policies are anti-Islam, while we turn a blind eye when Muslims adopt these same policies.

In many ways, America has been a fickle friend to Pakistan, that is true. They have been cozy with both our civilian leaders and the military dictators that overthrew them. The Americans were always there when they needed us, and then walked away when we were no longer useful to their policy goals.

But have we been a better friend to America? In 1979, we burned down the US embassy, killing two American diplomats following false reports that the US had bombed the Masjid al-Haram. These false reports came from Iran, and the street protests outside the Embassy were exacerbated by busloads of young people brought in by Jamaat-i-Islami. Islamic militants carried out the attack, yet we accepted the Iranian propaganda without question. We burned an Embassy and killed two people because of a lie.

In 1986, the US launched a retaliatory strike against Libya following acts of terrorism including the bombing of a Berlin discotheque. The response in Pakistan was fervent anti-Americanism, including large street protests organized by religious parties in support of the military dictator Col. Mommar al-Gaddafi. When that same dictator turned his arsenal on his own people this month, attacking pro-democracy protestors with air strikes, our religious parties were united in their silence.

In 1991, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded a Muslim country (Kuwait) and the Americans were requested to help stop his imperialist agenda. Nawaz Sharif sent soldiers to Saudia Arabia to fight alongside American troops, but the public reaction, encouraged by religious parties and the ISI chief at the time, Gen. Aslam Beg, rapidly turned anti-American and pro-Saddam. We blame the Americans for supporting Saddam in the 1980s, but we were in the streets loudly supporting him in the 1990s.

In 2000, when Nawaz Sharif sought reprieve from the punishment he was given under Musharraf, it was not America that bailed him out, rather it was Saudi Arabia that secretly negotiated his release and gave him sanctuary.

Saudi Arabia was also the new home for the Ugandan dictator Idi Amin where he lived in comfort until his death in 2003. It was this same Saudi Arabia that warned US President Barack Obama not to encourage the Egyptian people to overthrow their own dictator, Hosni Mubarak. If Raymond Davis was from Saudi Arabia and not the US, would we still be talking about imperial arrogance and support for dictators?

Actually, we have some clue as to the answer. In 2008, three gunmen from Hayatabad abducted Heshmatollah Attarzadeh Niyaki, a commercial attaché at the Iranian consulate in Peshawar. They killed his guard during the assault. After the Iranian diplomat was missing for two years, Ramin Mehmanparast, the Iranian foreign ministry spokesman, announced last year that “the location where Attarzadeh was held was identified by Iranian intelligence agents, and through a series of complex operations he was brought home”.

Ansar Abbasi wrote that security has been tightened around Raymond Davis to prevent “a possible Hollywood Rambo-style sting operation”. But such a breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty, honour, and national security has already happened. Only it wasn’t American forces, but Iranian intelligence agents that crossed our borders, violated our sovereignty, and carried out covert operations without informing our own military intelligence agencies. And none of the religious parties or Ghairat Brigade spokesmen has been moved to say a word against it.

It was also in 2008 that Prince Muqran bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the chief of Saudi intelligence, visited Gen. Musharraf, Nawaz Sharif, and Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to “play its role in Pakistan’s present political circumstances”. And we learned from the American diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks that Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the US Adel al-Jubeir told American Charge D’Affaires Michael Gfoeller that, “We in Saudi Arabia are not observers in Pakistan, we are participants.”

Far from being a slave to American hegemony, we have been a willing puppet of dictators in Muslim dress. The Americans may have short memories, unable to remember their overthrowing of Mohammad Mossadegh in 1953, their support for Saddam Hussein in the 1970s, and their wavering on the Arab democracy movement. Our memories may be longer, but they are selective. How easily we forget our own support for dictators, our own complicity in the slaughter of Muslims and the imperialist ambitions of those same Arab dictators.

America may have been inconsistent in its relations with us, supplying our military with weapons and training but ignoring the much-needed development of our civilian institutions. But this is finally changing. Despite any imperfections in the Kerry-Lugar-Berman bill, it represented a shift in American attitudes from using our military establishment to expand US power to investing in the long-term development of democracy and civilian infrastructure. Despite the threats of violence by our own right-wing, the greatest threat made by the US over Raymond Davis has been to reduce aid.

If the US cuts aid to Pakistan, it will weaken our civilian institutions – not the elite and the military establishment. The US will always keep close relations with the military and the ISI, an outcome those institutions are certain of. They know that their power in the country will be strengthened. The real victim of the Raymond Davis fiasco will be neither our sovereignty nor our pride. What is at risk is the very change that we have been demanding – a change in the relationship between our two countries that has been paralyzed by a pathological anti-Americanism. This is our revolution. The question is, are we willing to seize it?