The Deadly Faux Pas by Pakistan’s International Man of Peace

Source: ET

Imran Khan is having a ball. He is having the highest point in his sad and depressing career as a Prime Minister ever since he took office. Actually, the Kashmir crisis that coincided with his administration came as a heaven-sent blessing to give Imran Khan’s egotistical ramblings as a self-important and supposed international man of peace.

He has been criticized by the opposition for being selected by the military establishment in Pakistan. Especially, after the current military regime of General Bajwa took upon itself to destroy the political career of former and deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for baseless reasons when Dawn Leaks occurred. Dawn Leaks, which was a leaked report of the Sharif brothers, then in power in federal and Punjab provincial governments respectively, advised the military to curb extremist and terrorist entities in the country. It is ironic that the same leader whose supporters thrive on declaring Nawaz Sharif a traitor would today justify his statements.

In his latest gaffe, Imran Khan revealed that “Pakistan Army and the ISI trained Al-Qaeda” and you can easily hear it in the following statement.

 

He also said that “Pakistan made a huge blunder by joining the US war on terror.” I cannot think of a more disastrous statement coming from a Pakistani head of the government representing the country on such a diplomatic forum is nothing short of disastrous. At least, there is consensus in the international community about the need to dismantle the terrorist Taliban regime in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks, since Osama Bin Laden had been given state asylum over there.

While I personally don’t mind the statement about the military training Al-Qaeda and there are a lot of people pointing out that there is finally a leader who is speaking the truth about the military, it is not exactly historically accurate. The Pakistan army and the ISI never trained Al-Qaeda, the Islamist terrorist organization inspired by Syed Qutb in Egypt and which stemmed out of the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Pakistani Army instead trained and helped arm the Mujahideen, which later would become the Taliban, who would fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan and then with the help of Pakistan would establish an Islamic Caliphate in the country suspending all human rights and persecuting the local population.

For his dream run, this is a massive PR disaster which was being vehemently defended by government and PTI spokespersons, the military, and the nationalist liberals and conservatives who sympathize with him. But it is a costly gaffe to make on a forum like Council on Foreign Relations, even if Imran Khan had confused Mujahideen with Al-Qaeda. This counters the narrative of Pakistani urban nationalists who voted for PTI that Imran Khan is more effective or shining on the international stage. What Imran Khan undoubtedly has is charisma and surely that causes the world to pay attention to a “handsome” celebrity as opposed to serious leaders like his predecessors. But actually, his speaking from the heart often proves damaging to Pakistan’s cause. This is just another example.

Consider this tweet about the support for Kashmir from a UN body.;

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Not sure who briefs Imran Khan on foreign affairs but it clearly was someone overzealous who was overstating the number of member countries in the United Nations Human Rights Commission. And also, it is not the only blunder by the foreign affairs team of the ruling party. Pakistan also missed the deadline to submit the resolution for Kashmir at United Nations Human Rights Council, so there is a lot more trouble on the foreign affairs front for this administration than just the trainwreck tour of the Great Leader.

Here is the full video of Imran Khan’s talk at the Council on Foreign Relations.

 

Pakistan’s Screwed Up Priorities

You would think that Pakistan has learned its lesson after all these years. You would hope that finally, the custodians of this state have decided to put the prosperity of the people ahead of their egos and pretentious nationalism. But it seems we may never live to see that day.

Just when Pakistan is preaching to the world about peace, “Nazism,” and “averting nuclear war,” its military has chosen to send a message to India and the world. Probably anticipating war on the Kashmir front, they tested a nuclear ballistic missile with the sinister name of “Ghaznavi,” named after the Afghan Turkic warrior emperor Mahmud of Ghazni, who invaded several Hindu temples in India.

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Ironically, the government plans to send a very different the next day with observing its first-ever Kashmir Hour. Something that they want to model after the Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel as a part of the rhetoric strategy of the government.

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The recent posts comparing Modi with Hitler and RSS with Nazi Party are evident of that notion.

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Many people supportive of this form of protest believe that it will project a positive image of the nation around the world. However, the appropriation of the Holocaust and Nazi rhetoric is far more problematic than PTI can imagine. But let’s ignore that factor for a second and let’s appreciate the non-violent line of protest Pakistan is taking.

Still, acts such as intimidating India with nuclear ballistic missile tests with this symbolism is not only disturbing but duplicitous. It does not add any confidence whatsoever in a nation which holds the reputation of not staying true to its word whether it comes to eradicating terrorism or supporting or financing terrorism from its soil.

Then again, the international community is not naive enough not to understand the state of democracy in Pakistan. They are aware of the dual narrative from the Pakistan military and the civilian government. But the Pakistani citizens satisfied by this line of rhetoric by the Prime Minister should really be disappointed by the recent missile test. Because there goes your image of being a peace dove in the region.

Antics of a Reckless Regime

Source: Aljazeera

With freedom and authority, comes responsibility. It is one of the quotes our state bureaucracy likes to parrot whenever there is a mention of civil liberties. You can only wish that they applied the same principle to themselves when it comes to their

The policies of our bureaucratic overlords governing the Pakistani state have attracted criticism from all over the world in terms of their commitment to world peace and support for terrorism. Their policy record is also pretty terrible in terms of military interference in India and Afghanistan. But just when they complain about catching too much flak from the public and want us to cut them some slack, they do something so outrageously inappropriate that it reminds you of their character.

Pakistan made sure that it tested its nuclear ballistic missile Shaheen on the occasion of election results in India. Our DG ISPR proudly flaunted the test on the social media reminding the world of its huge range. The test was critical to establish “deterrence stability” in the region. It was absolutely needed. But more than anything, it offers a glimpse into the demented minds of Pakistan’s ruling military establishment elite.

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Unapologetically shameful pro-establishment journalists like Wajahat S. Khan also rose to the occasion and declared the nuclear test an appropriate message. This was really needed to translate the cryptic message the Pakistani military was trying to send randomly to the Indian government. He did not forget to mention an Indian city that fell under the range of the Pakistani missile to make sure that no doubt is left in terms of delivering the message home.

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With the United Nations reporting that the threat of nuclear war is greater than ever since World War II, such steps are really the most responsible line of action. I am pretty sure our strategic depth nationalists will have an appropriate rationale handy. But what this really ends up showing is that Pakistan is a desperate and frightened state that is happy to pull the trigger or push the button when threatened. That it is sort of a more open, more liberal North Korea.

Of course, the once-revolutionary and now-puppet Prime Minister Imran Khan had nothing to say about it. He congratulated Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his massive landslide victory in the elections and Pakistan continues to play good cop-bad cop with the Indian state with its civilian and military entities.

Lasting peace with India will never be possible it seems with the warmongering military regime in charge in Pakistan.

The Fight for Democracy in Venezuela

Source: News Hub

As we speak, protests are underway on the streets of Caracas as pro-Guaido and pro-democracy opposition political activists and defecting soldiers are marching the streets against the draconian dictatorship of Nicolas Maduro. A potential coup is underway in Venezuela and the armed forces of Maduro are suppressing the uprising brutally. Tense for months now, this means that the conflict in the nation has finally reached the tipping point and images like these are making it clear which side is the fascist here.

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It is true that any dictator would resort to brutal measures such as this to hold on to power. But it is important to stay on the right side of history at crossroads like this. While I do not get people who support Maduro, though it’s purely out of the hate of American imperialism, the situation in Venezuela has gone too bad for too long to be able to defend the corruption of Maduro, if you are to still attach some kind of righteous heroics with the late Hugo Chavez. If that is to be believed, Maduro has certainly betrayed his legacy. This VisualPolitik video sums it up perfectly.

Juan Guaido was declared the legitimate head of state by the parliament making his claim to power legitimate. Many Western governments including the United States and Canada have recognized his regime.

The defenders of Maduro from all the regressive powers from Russia and Cuba to the resource-greedy China are targeting the United States for its interference in the country’s affairs. Apart from these countries being enough to give you an idea which side of the debate is democratic, their own vested interests are at stake with the precarious and financially corrupt authoritarian socialist dictatorship.

Removing a dictator is never easy. I always like to analogize it with pulling out a rotten molar. You have to pull it out. All we can do as democracy and liberty-loving citizens of the world can wish the people of Venezuela good luck.

Shooting Yourself in the Foot

Source: Foreign Office/DNA India

Right after Pakistan had a hint of diplomatic upper hand over India by announcing to hand over the captured pilot Abhinandan Varadhaman as a peace gesture, it returns to petulant and self-isolating behavior again. What the ruling party obviously considers its diplomatic victory, Pakistan decides to boycott the Organization of Islamic Conference held in the UAE out of protest because Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had been invited. Because obviously if we did not do something like that, it would not be Pakistani foreign policy.

Of course, the corrupt but the comparatively visionary President Asif Ali Zardari had some better ideas about foreign policy on the National Assembly floor.

The OIC in its tradition has given a more of a pro-Pakistan statement on the Kashmir issue but it is important to notice that the only person who was heard on both Kashmir and terrorism in India and Pakistan was Sushma Swaraj.

 

 

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Despite the relevance of the mention of terrorism at the OIC platform, Pakistan’s commitment to eradicating the menace from the region remains dubious. The way the Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has been dodging questions about the involvement of Jaish-e-Mohammed has been embarrassing, to say the least.

Despite the Foreign Minister and the DG ISPR denying time and time again refusing and embarrassing himself about the presence of terrorist groups that initiate attacks from the Pakistani territory, Pakistan finally decided to take action against certain groups including the brother of Maulana Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammed.

If indeed the Jaish-e-Mohammed was not behind the Pulawama attack and had not taken responsibility, then surely the timing of these attacks is curious. Of course, these could be considered to be among the “any measures to deescalate the situation” as promised by Foreign Minister Qureshi. But what exactly prompted the Government to take this action all of a sudden is interesting. Perhaps it is the upcoming deadline for the FATF grey list review in May.

Of course, the PML-N supporters had a field day with the government taking action against Islamist militant outfits, something that was a part of the controversial Dawn Leaks which became the bone of contention between the military establishment and Nawaz Sharif administration. Former Pakistani Ambassador Hussain Haqqani, often accused of treason back home, had his own words to offer about it.

Others like Pakistani journalists targeted by the local agencies were not buying any of Pakistan’s claims and shared this clip that was critical of releasing the captured Indian pilot Abhinandan. It is abundantly clear through evidence examined by the international media that the Indian claim of targeting a terrorist training camp in Balakot was a gross exaggeration but it is difficult to argue that groups such as Jaish-e-Mohammed have not been spawning and thriving in Pakistan.
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The Pakistani government and security establishment should finally get serious in substantially dealing with these Islamist militant groups if they care about the people of Pakistan. The UN Security Council is all set to vote on Jaish-e-Mohammed and if China does not come to Pakistan’s rescue again, more than just diplomatic isolation and embarrassment will become Pakistan’s fate.

We do not expect the Pakistani security establishment to have any regard for our relations with India, which is causing misery to millions in the Indian subcontinent, or even to care for the financial losses its citizens will suffer, but at least they must watch their own interest. They will probably not care as much for the common citizen but greater diplomatic isolation on terrorism with India’s stronger case will not bode well for the financial and economic future of the country. It is something that is going to impact their own ability to attract finances to a fiscally challenged country.

The new regime focusing on the tourism of the country should not forget how any subsequent developments can hurt the country on that front.

Pakistan’s Iran Opportunity

Source: Al-Arabiya

Pakistan can be very creative in its foreign policy when it comes to Afghanistan. Pakistan has been so nervous about its Western border since the days of the Cold War, that it is running proxies in the shape of Afghan Taliban to this day, manipulating who holds control in Kabul. With such a history, drastic foreign policy moves are not beyond Pakistan.

Pakistan has had a troubled history with terrorism. And now even the United States has lost Pakistan over its support for the Afghan Taliban. This means all the hard work done by the Pakistan ISI and the military to undo the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan has gone down the drain. This means that all the Pakistan efforts for the War Against Terror during Bush and Obama administrations amounted to nothing. This means that Pakistan is not the hero of the Cold War anymore. That’s a huge problem for a nation that heavily depends on lending its military service to political conflicts.

Pakistan is between a rock and a hard place as far as its financial survival is concerned. It can thank Allah for making Saudi Arabia so rich and powerful in the region so that it can bail it out every time, along with the United Arab Emirates. But with its flirtation with China’s Belt and Road, . Then again, is Pakistan the only country to have entered into China’s debt trap? I think the West can live with it. But can it live with Pakistan’s ongoing support for terrorism?

A week ago in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, an alleged Jaish-e-Muhammad suicide bomber, a local Kashmiri youth named Adil Ahmed Dar killed 44 CRPF troopers in a bus. Jaish-e-Muhammad reportedly accepted the responsibility of the attack. India immediately blamed Pakistan for the attack, as well as vowed to retaliate and to diplomatically isolate Pakistan. A day earlier, a bus of Iranian revolutionary guards was attacked killing 27 guards in Zahedan near the Baluchistan border. Iran blamed an alleged Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-ul-Adl for the attack and asked Pakistan to either take action or allow Iran to enter Pakistan to retaliate. Pakistan has dismissed both the complaints while assuring its action on terrorism.

In the wake of these events on the occasion of the state visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to Islamabad, a press conference was held by the Saudi and Pakistani foreign ministers was held. The Pakistani foreign minister was embarrassed by Adel Bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir, the Saudi Foreign Minister for openly addressing Iran’s double standards on terrorism and commented that “it is very strange coming from the foreign minister of the chief sponsor of terrorism was calling out other nations for accusing others to be engaging in terrorism activities in Iran.” And then he went on to list Iran’s alleged contribution to global instability and terrorism.

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This perfectly elaborates how Saudi Arabia views Iran as far as terrorism is concerned. The United States, Israel, and most of the other Sunni countries are pretty much aligned with that viewpoint as well but should these states decide to surround and attack Iran, will Pakistan continue its stance of neutrality?

While nobody in Pakistan is excited at the thought of Iran being attacked, especially due to the way the Shias see Iran, it could still possibly be Pakistan’s “get-out-of-jail-free” card if it becomes a major player to take it down. Even though India has so far been unable to obtain a global consensus on Pakistan being recognized as the state sponsor of terrorism, such a development could further corner its progress. Ideally, Pakistan must do that while cracking down on the terrorists it is alleged to be supporting, but all things equal, this could be Pakistan’s redemption and the West may tolerate its irresponsible policies for one more good reason. This sounds far fetched but will probably not be too improbable especially if Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu are reelected in their respective elections. Trump scrapping the Iran Nuclear Deal negotiated by the Obama administration and calling for the isolation of Iran are steps in that direction. And Iranian generals vowing the annihilation of Israel certainly doesn’t help either.

However, this strategy is not possible without bringing Israel into the equation with Pakistan. As a matter of fact, such a campaign will be the perfect time for Pakistan to establish its diplomatic relations with Israel openly and officially, even if it has to bypass Saudi Arabia’s approval. Though you could argue that if we reach a stage where Iran will undergo such a military siege, Saudi Arabia would arguably have become an open ally to Israel already, paving the path for the rest of the Sunni nations resisting this idea. Currently, Israel is offering unconditional support to India in its fight against terrorism, because frankly they have no motivation to take care of the interest of Pakistan since it has never reached out to them.

Pakistan can not only proactively offer its air bases to Israel and the United States for campaigns against Iran, it can even step up its role in the coalition against Yemen. Many like Kunwar Khuldune Shahid are arguing that Pakistan has already conceded that it is going to be a full Saudi Arabia client state by taking the expected deals worth $20 billion, which implies that it is going to fully become a part of the anti-Iran Sunni coalition despite its earlier reservations.

If that is indeed true then Pakistan is certainly not going to make Iran any happier and cannot change India’s arrangement with Iran. However, right now there is an illusion that Pakistan enjoys good relations with Iran. Such a naked policy will do away with even the comfort of that notion, while also putting to rest the delusion that Pakistan can play the role of a bridge between Saudi Arabia and Iran. So Pakistan can be lazy and wait for Saudi Arabia and China to keep on bailing it out on international forums for the foreseeable future or take a proactive step and reach out to the West again.

But there could even be another factor in Pakistan’s reluctance to call our Iran. Perhaps Pakistan does not want all the attention in the region focused on itself by the Western world for its irresponsibility and support of terrorism.

The American Moral Leader

Source: New York Times

George H. W. Bush, the 41st American President, was no ordinary politician or public servant. More than a surviving World War II veteran, Congressman, Ambassador, CIA Director, and Vice President, he was a man who knew the importance of doing the right thing, despite the odds. Whether it cost him political mileage and popularity, though at one time he enjoyed an approval rating of 84%, and whether it meant turning popular opinion against him, he stuck to what he believed was in the best interest of the American people, the American Empire, and, most importantly, democracy.

This is the reason why I think George H. W. Bush is one of the most important Presidents of our times and is surely one of my favorites. He took it upon himself despite strong opposition on Capitol Hill to initiate action against Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait and managed to build an international coalition. He also showed the world of the right way to do it through the Security Council and withdrew once Iraq surrendered in Kuwait, even though criticized for letting Saddam regime survive in Baghdad, probably unfinished business that his son would complete in 2003.

His realization to do the right thing also guided him to be open to bipartisanship, leading to a number of important pieces of legislation like the Clean Air Act and balanced budget deals despite his unrealistic campaign promise of no new taxes. He was not exactly a libertarian Republican out of touch with fiscal realities, after all, a hint many might get if they revisit his primary run against Ronald Reagan in 1980. He was also instrumental in negotiating the landmark North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement, later to be concluded by President Bill Clinton.

While his approach to domestic issues can be considered rather vague, emotional, and hollow, with perhaps an exaggerated focus on “a thousand points of light,” one which a progressive Democrat could easily destroy as Clinton did in 1992, his vision for the world was unmistakably clear and resolute. Something that the opposition has barely had an answer to since Ronald Reagan. Carrying forward his legacy, George Bush knew what he was doing from the moment he took the oath.

In today’s America that is rapidly falling into the pit of isolationism and nationalism that borders on fascism, the words and actions of President George Bush remain as relevant as they were at the end of the Cold War. A great moment in history, albeit inevitable but one that he worked on in the Reagan administration. He had warned us about the threat of rising terrorism. He had warned us about the threat to liberal democracies. But most of all, he told us about the value of freedom, free speech, and free markets. The ideals of republicanism.

It is important to remember President George Bush because he was a great Republican leader. A party of great ideas that has descended today in petty populism and defending a disgraced Presidency. It is important to remember his stress on a gentler and kinder Republican party in which conservatism need not be synonymous with heartlessness. Today, people are reminded of his Presidency as a time of decency compared to the vicious circus of the Trump administration.

But most important of all, he took action when it mattered. One of the most underappreciated aspects of his leadership was his brilliant foreign policy and its continued legacy in terms of American leadership. He offered his internationalist vision of a new world order that aligned with American values and interests, something which appears to be fading since the end of his son’s term.

Having inherited massive deficits from President Reagan, his fiscal pragmatism, despite his rather misleading rhetoric of “read my lips,” his bipartisan budget deals helped pave way for Clinton’s golden fiscal era of budget surpluses. His letter to President Clinton initiated a beautiful Presidential tradition, indicative of his bipartisanship and fair-mindedness. Many liberals praise him today, but his legacy is still as misunderstood as the more liberal side of conservatism is. That precious centrism is sadly evaporating from the American politics which is giving way to more vicious, albeit passionate, forces on both extreme left and right. What remains underappreciated is the commitment of centrists like him to find the most reasonable path to social harmony and economic prosperity. This talk from Council on Foreign Relations featuring Jon Meacham and John Sununu sheds light on areas often ignored about George Bush.

George Bush for all his qualities and an extremely qualified resume, remained flawed in his handling of domestic affairs, inappropriate in expressing empathy at times, failing to inspire when the economy was down, and being convincing enough to retain the Presidency. However, his name will always remain a shining beacon of a quality that America has been losing for the past decade.

America’s moral leadership.