The Story Behind the Fake Visa Waiver Story

Fake visa waiver storyIt is not the first time that a fake story has made its way from a satire website into the mainstream media, but a hoax report that the US has added Pakistan to the visa waiver program has generated more buzz more quickly than I can remember. The US Embassy has even been forced to issued an official statement on Twitter calling the report a ‘spoof’ story.

There are stories behind stories like this, and this one has many chapters to it. The first chapter is, of course, about how unprofessional – and untrustworthy – our media is. As I said before, this is not the first time a fake story has made its way into the mass media. It probably won’t be the last time, either. We should be asking what other stories we are being spoon fed are inauthentic? If our so-called ‘professional’ media can’t even bother to check with the Embassy before running a story about a major change in visa policy, how can they be trusted to report on more sensitive issues such as Kashmir or Balochistan?

There is more to this story, though, than just a failure to check sources. The story is reported that Pakistan was added to the US visa waiver program to show appreciation for Zarb-e-Azb. By doing this, the wide spread reporting gives away more than might have been intended. It is not merely a story about poor journalistic practices, it is a story about our own insecurities.

After suffering for so long, we are desperate for Zarb-e-Azb to be a success. But every time we start to feel positive, another attack reminds us that things are not so rosy as official reports tell us. This is why we are desperate for American officials to tell us things are improving. ISPR has been saying it since day one, and even though we listen, we stopped truly believing them long ago. Army’s interest is in maintaining morale, not reporting the truth.

But we are also desperate to be accepted by America. Even your most anti-American friend who always complains about US imperialism and Islamophobia secretly wants to go there. Being added to the visa waiver program says that American looks at us not as possible refugees (or worse – terrorists), but as equals.

The story is obviously a hoax, though. The US recently announced that it would not pay the Army $300 million in Coalition Support Funds because it we are not taking action against Haqqani Network militants. Jamaat ud Dawah Ameer Hafiz Saeed who US has declared a terrorist appears as a special guest on TV shows. Do we really believe that they are going to reward us with a visa waiver?

Today, the story is a hoax. If we want it to be true, we have to change the conditions so that it can become true. If we want Zarb-e-Azb to be a success, we have to stop turning a blind eye to ‘pro-Pakistan’ militants and end our tolerance for militancy completely. If we want to be treated as equals, we have to stop treating militant leaders as our special guests.

Zarb-e-Azb in Final Stage…Again

zarb-e-azb final phase

Over 250 terrorists have been killed as Zarb-e-Azb enters the final phase. It is a headline that brings some hope after the senseless bomb attack at Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park in Lahore while thousands of Qadri supporters wrecked the capital.

However, the announcement has some analysts scratching their heads since Army announced that final phase of Zarb-e-Azb was also entered one year ago.

Zarb-e-Azb has been the brain child of Gen Raheel, so it it possible that the operation is entering its final phase just as the General is entering the final few months of his term as Chief of Army Staff. Next year there will be a new COAS, and he will bring a new operation. What will finally rid the country of terrorism is a question no one seems able to answer.

Deja Vu All Over Again: Gen Raheel Declares Victory Against Terrorists

Zarb-e-Azb victory photoApparently it is time for the Spring Media Offensive. According to reports, COAS Gen Raheel has given the order to begin the ‘final phase‘ of Zarb-e-Azb operation. The Army chief said at a briefing that remaining terrorists should be eliminated from their hideouts. It’s very encouraging and shows that the war against terrorists is finally coming to an end.

Hopefully it will come true this year. It didn’t work out after Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman announced that operation Zarb-e-Azb has ‘backbone of terrorists‘ last spring.

It didn’t work out the year before when military officials declared that operation Zarb-e-Azb had ‘crippled‘ command and control system of TTP. A few days later, the ‘crippled’ Taliban carried out audacious attacks on Samungli and Khalid airbases.

It didn’t work out when DG ISPR Major General Asim Bajwa announced that due to operation Zarb-e-Azb, Taliban capacity to carry out terrorist attacks had been neutralised, only to have his announcement followed by the suicide bomb attack at Wagah border crossing.

It didn’t work out when PM Nawaz Sharif announced that Zarb-e-Azb had dealt a ‘fatal blow’ to terrorists in December, only to have his statement followed almost immediately by the barbaric attack against APS Peshawar.

However this is a new year. It is Gen Raheel’s last chance to finally put the nail in the coffin of terrorism and leave office as the hero that he has been built up to be. As for the rest of us? What can we do but hope that this year’s declaration of victory is the one that finally comes true.

Islamic State is expanding to Islamic Republic of Pakistan

ISIS wall chalking in Quetta

Recent articles published in the US media are giving the impression that Islamic State, with a global Jihadi appeal, is struggling hard to get a foothold in Pakistan but the authors of these articles are either downplaying the tell tale signs or the articles lack the necessary framework in which emerging terror organizations flourish.

As the Taliban lose steam as a result of the death of their supreme leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and splintering and internal fighting, stage is set for a new group to take over. A cursory look at the metamorphosis of Jihadi organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past two decades indicate that they are getting deadlier, sophisticated and high tech savvy with every passing year; from Mujahideen groups willing to negotiate to Taliban willing to blow up and finally to Islamic State willing to behead innocent people. This is a worrying development not only for the South Asian region but for the entire world as well.

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Even the best media campaigns cannot change reality

Gen Bajwa ISPR

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Gen Bajwa’s elevation to three stars was seen as announcing the arrival not only of the respected general himself but of 4G warfare and the psychological operations that ISPR has perfected under Gen Bajwa’s leadership. To commemorate the anniversary of APS Peshawar attack, ISPR released another excellent video, ‘Mujhe Dushman Kay Bachon Ko Parhana Hai’. The video has received thousands of views and positive coverage in the media. But while ISPR’s media programme was rallying nationalist fervor, another narrative was beginning to take hold. One that is questioning whether everything is really as we’re being told.

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