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.

 

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Why You Should Be Wary of Pakistan’s State Propaganda About Kashmir

Source: Dawn

Following the shocking move of the revocation of Article 370 that grants special autonomous status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Government in India has cracked down on civil liberties. The state has been in a virtual state of a shutdown for more than 10 days and restrictions such as suspension of landline are recently being eased.

The Central Government in India has incarcerated the major political leaders including former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, his son Umer Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti. The Hurriyet leaders are a no-brainer. The state is under a communication blackout to this day and only one major protest has been tolerated to date. Anyone within India and outside with concern about democracy and human rights was appalled by the situation. However, the malicious Indian right-wing in their urge for greatness have sadly turned a blind eye to this coercion.

Of course, this sudden and shocking development slowly provoked a negative reaction in Pakistan. The country’s ruling party PTI came back with a Modi/Hitler and BJP/RSS/Nazi Party analogy campaign. They and the Prime Minister are still going in full flow against the Modi administration. This came after a rather mellow speech from the Prime Minister in the joint session of the parliament, in which he criticized the “fascism” of the Indian government and for locking up the entire opposition. This immediately attracted criticism and right after the speech, the PML-N leader of opposition Shahbaz Sharif accused him of being a worse oppressor of the opposition than the Indian government.

However, many commentators did not take a lot of time to point out that Pakistan had little credibility to lecture India on violation of democracy and human rights, thanks to its own dismal record at home. Currently, Pakistan is making headlines around the world on curbing the press while jailing the entire opposition and other dissenting activists. Designed to appeal to its global audience, the bombardment of tweets of its social media team of copywriters and graphic designers on overtime were particularly embarrassing and disconnected to history.

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While there is little doubt about the fascism of BJP, it is more comparable to that of the Pakistani Islamist nationalists supportive of the Pakistani military and the PTI itself instead of Nazis in Germany. And if we are at comparisons of Nazi’s treatment of the Jews, the treatment of Ahmedis in Pakistan strikes an eerie similarity. Furthermore, Pakistan has done far worse in East Pakistan, tribal areas, and Baluchistan than what India can ever hope to do in Kashmir. The following tweet is actually more accurately reflective of how the right-wingers on both sides are indeed coming together to validate the two-nation theory.

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There are a couple of reasons why the Pakistani administration’s official narrative reeks of intellectual dishonesty. Pakistan does not recognize the problem created by the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits (Native Hindus) from the valley. Furthermore, analysts such as Tariq Pirzada are openly inciting violence or genocide against any Hindu citizens that settle in Kashmir. Aren’t elements of Pakistan promoting communal supremacy in the State too? And if that is not the case, why is the mention of Hindu Pandits absent from the communication of Pakistani propaganda.

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Now you can dismiss this as an opinion of an individual but the Pakistani state has backed Islamist militancy in the State for a long time. Not only this influence has resulted in the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits from the State but has also seriously hampered the legitimacy of the Kashmiri struggle for autonomy.

Some of the Kashmiri Pandit opinion leaders on social media, especially the notable actor Anupam Kher, often sound bitter and quite a few of them have been cheerleading the draconian measures of the BJP government in Kashmir. However, such voices should not mislead the focus on the need to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in the valley. Any political resolution in the valley is incomplete without their voices.

Pakistan’s so-called moral case of Kashmir on the international forum is plagued with its own share of hypocrisy and intellectual dishonesty. The following tweet of the Pakistan Ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, lauds China, Pakistan’s usual partner on the Security Council forum, for “as always standing up firmly on principles and upholding international law.” Though you can be pretty sure that Madame Ambassador would never have bothered to call China out on the treatment of Uighur Muslims (something where PTI’s Nazism and “Final Solution” analogies are conveniently missing) since she is such a huge proponent of principles and upholding international law. Even though some people would be laughing at a Pakistani diplomat invoking principles and international law.

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Pakistan would like you to believe that India is already committing. There is some degree of truth to the targeting of Kashmiri Muslims by the Indian state in recent years, well before the Modi administration, but the Islamist trends in the Kashmir separatist movement are the major reason behind them. To this date, the Prime Minister is continuing his tweets to condemn Narendra Modi as Hitler and his party as Nazis. That also raises questions about the maturity of this narrative. Does this mean that Pakistan has rejected the Indian administration and will not engage in talks with them for peace in the future?

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Pakistan has already taken the issue with the United Nations, which has disapproved of India changing the status of Kashmir. But that is where its influence ends for now. While it is positive to see that India is being held accountable at some kind of international platform for its recklessness but that still does not legitimize the reckless misrepresentation of facts and intellectual dishonesty of the Pakistani Prime Minister and the ruling party who could themselves be criticized for their own fascism any given day.

The Culture of False Expectations

Source: ARY News

You would hear quite a few people complain about PTI being targeted for walking back on its vows and claims and election promises. Who doesn’t walk back on their election vows and promises, right? Well, in the case of the PTI, there is a reason why they should catch some flak more than usual.

PTI has spent the years before coming to power forming a mindset of its gullible and morally constipated followers which has worsened cynicism astronomically in politics in Pakistan. Feeding on the Caliphate Syndrome that all conservative nationalist and Islamist leaders in Pakistan have been guilty of, this culture of false expectations and detachment from reality. Apart from progressing the military and bureaucratic establishment-backed anti-corruption narrative.

There are several problems with the narrative of the PTI. While they do not really concede that even their party is not ideological but a personality worship cult, the colossal swings in their positions on issues have been devastating to their faithful fan base. The continuous decline in the purchasing power of the Pakistan Rupee is devastating an economy used to heavy subsidies from the government, and a system that PTI heavily endorsed until it assumed power. It is amusing to see how the party leadership and fanbase espousing the Medina State

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One of the most shocking yet pleasantly surprising u-turn was PTI’s stance on privatization. Actually, it was a huge surprise that a party heavily advocating government subsidies and welfare state interventions would support privatization so strongly. The talk of privatizing public hospitals made even PML-N look like social democrats.

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PTI started with burning passion and I wish them all the best to take the country on the road to prosperity, especially since Abdul Hafeez Sheikh has taken over the treasury. We are not rooting for ourselves if we are not rooting for them. But the party leadership must understand that you only have so much tolerance for bullshit.

The problem with such rhetoric is that it creates such a cynical and toxic political environment that enables and feeds both the prevalent Messiah complex of the nation and the military and bureaucratic establishment. The corrupt and the incompetent will keep on falling short and the unaccountable will continue to reign.

Therefore, the PTI must not campaign as if it’s the last time they are asking for votes because there will always be a next time.

Minorities Gasp for Air in a More Undemocratic Pakistan

Source: The Nation

Seventy years since Muhammad Ali Jinnah made his famous August 11 speech about the freedom of religious minorities, Pakistan has become a much darker place than what its founders intended to be. His understanding of the logical consequence of founding Pakistan is astounding to anyone with even a remote understanding of the reasons for a separate state for the Muslim community. However, his words remain to be a beacon of inspiration for those who intend to make the social contract in Pakistan fair and humane, even though in reality it is nothing more than a speech.

The founder of the nation must have been shocked out of his senses seeing the covert military dictatorship that goes on behind democracy. The way the deep state has been censoring and manipulating the electronic media has been so astounding that even mainstream journalists could not resist raising their voices on alternative media sources. While the military and bureaucratic regime of the country has not yet considered social media such a threat, but as we have witnessed a couple of instances before, it is not beyond the Pakistani deep state to deprive its citizens of this modern but basic source of self-expression.

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It is an even greater disgrace, and perhaps a consequence of the authoritarian regime, that the current election was held as a virtual referendum on the discriminatory and undemocratic Second Amendment. The military and the theocratic mullah establishment clearly joined hands against one political party Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), which had taken a relatively secular turn of late. Some Sunni clerics even went so far as to declare voting for the party haraam or forbidden according to Sharia. The two million votes and two Sindh assembly seats for the Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah Pakistan are a testament to the fact.

This is the consequence of establishing a constitution that requires Pakistan to be an Islamic Republic. It is a travesty that in such a country people would even claim that the religious minority citizens have equal rights. And then to maintain that Islam offers the best alternative to secularism. It is because of these faux intellectuals and theocratic bigots that Pakistan is in such a dismal state of civil rights and individual freedom. Relatively more liberal and progressive parties such as the PPP continue to offer representatives from religious minority groups opportunities on general seats but all of this remains meaningless unless constitutional reforms are brought into place. Something that remains impossible due to more nationalist and populist elements coming to power.

People continue to be killed in the name of blasphemy. Forget the minority religions, even members of the majority religion are not safe either. Recently, a Sindhi artist Qutb Rind was pushed from a building in Lahore because of an alleged blasphemy. To my mind, artists such as Rind are indeed minorities in an obscurantist nation blinded by bigotry and religious hate.

I can only be ashamed of being a citizen of such a country where minority communities are treated with such brutality and hang my hand low in shame this independence day.

Furious About Malala Returning Home?

Malala and family with the Prime Minister – Source: VOA

Who would have thought that we would see the day when Malala would be able to return home?

Well, that day has finally arrived. Reminding the entire patriotic nation of what a traitor she is and has been and that instead of welcoming her back, it is the perfect time to condemn her for being a Western, “Zionist” agent.

Believe it or not, this is the way a good number of social conservative nationalists are actually reacting to Malala Yousafzai returning to Pakistan.

The local conservative media, many of them backed by the military, is actually on the forefront of spreading propaganda against Malala. It is ironic because Malala is used by the military to promote its anti-Taliban stance. There are also no shortages of endorsement of the military by Malala, who tries her best to steer clear of controversy.

The Private School Association has actually declared the day of Malala’s return to be observed as a black day. What is worse, some schools are going as low as forcing young and vulnerable minds to

Here is a little specimen whether you talk about the local schools or some of our conservative nationalist news pundits.

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I am lost for words. The allegation is that Malala has tarnished the image of Pakistan and its armed forces, as heard in this video. Could be but I can hardly recall the last time Malala made a negative statement about Pakistan. Ironically, her returning to Pakistan is one of the rare times when a positive headline about the country made it to the international market. Maybe Malala should change her strategy.

Source: AFP

But of course, when Malala gets together with another alleged “traitor” Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, obviously she is going to attract a lot of flak.

The conspiracy theory among Malala-hating social conservative nationalists is that the incident of her getting shot was fake and was set up by the NGO mafia. Apart from the insane fact that Malala will never be the same again and it is a miracle that she is even alive considering the hole the bullets had put in her head, there is one way this “drama” could have actually worked. It has worked in exposing the filth in the collective minds of the conservative nationalist mindset in Pakistan.

Now imagine if you were a nine year old and were shot by terrorists and were forced to live away from your home for years and would be deprived of a normal childhood. But then again what is the point of arguing with people who are furious that a young girl has returned to her home after forced to leave it for several years.

What Diplomatic Isolation Looks Like

Source: The News

There finally comes a time in the relationships between nations when you start seeing the end of the concessions given to a party.

Pakistan has been given the warning that many have talked about around the world and finally has been put into the terrorism funding watchlist by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), perhaps only a day or two after the Pakistani diplomats were boasting of evading the banking and economic sanction. This was probably because they had decided to formally do that in the next meeting in June 2018, when the term of the current elected government of PML-N will pretty much be completed and had not made the announcement earlier. The last time Pakistan was on the watchlist was 2012, until 2015 when it was removed from the list by the body.

While Khawaja Asif’s delegation had thought that Saudi Arabia and China had done just enough to keep them off the list, especially ahead of Pakistan sending a thousand troops to the Kingdom, probably for the Yemen campaign, it wasn’t to be. The United States had particularly lobbied following the US administration’s tough stance against Pakistan’s policy on fighting terrorism.

While the Chief of Army Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa made quite a few important comments in his speech at the Munich Security Conference, such as the premature withdrawal of military resources from Afghanistan by the US government, his overall case apparently failed to make an impression on the international community. Time and time again, the response of Pakistani military and diplomats have been pointing fingers back at the West for this failed policies. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has also brought up the US-Afghan Policy during the latter years of Cold War and has even gone far enough to say that it was a mistake to follow that path.

Listen to the speech of the Army Chief and you will get an impression as if the militant Jihad is some sort of a recent invention. He also probably does not realize that his speech really got weird for a foreign audience at a point when he said that a body of Islamic clerics from all sects had passed a decree that Jihad and suicide bombing were not permitted “until sanctioned by the state.” Yeah, right. That’s precisely what the security officials from around the world wanted to hear. I just hope I am wrong or he should fire his communications director.

Source: RFE/RL

But really our military establishment has more people’s performance to worry about than just their communications team. We can make it a national issue because of our bloated egos as in the case of the “Dawn leaks,” but the inaction of the security establishment to take. We are talking about a country where Hafiz Saeed, a certified terrorist in the eyes of India and the West and pretty much the rest of the world, has formed a political party which is contesting elections. And of course, anyone who claims that his Difa-e-Pakistan Council has no support from the military establishment is obviously living in a fool’s paradise.

Pakistan finally needs to decide whether it wants international acceptance or not. It is up to the Pakistani state to decide if we want to become Iran or North Korea in the world’s eyes or a progressive democratic nation. Pakistan is nowhere near going to be acceptable to the international community with the same course of action. The government and the military simply cannot keep on distracting and diverging when answered a simple question about taking action against terrorist elements within the country. The FATF restrictions are only going to make the people suffer from the horrific policies of their ruling state.

Yes, more is needed to be done indeed.

My Pakistani Person of the Year 2017: The Missing Blogger

Source: Beena Sarwar

Ahmed Waqas Goraya, Aasim Saeed, Salman Haider and the original Bhensa, with all of them largely unrelated but contributing in their own right to the cause of free speech, other than many more bloggers that have been abducted by the Pakistani deep state have made an impact on the society never seen before in the country.

This is the effect of the age of social media.

The year 2017 revealed the ugly, draconian face of the government and the state of Pakistan to its relatively insulated urban population like never before. I came to know first about the urgency of the issue when American scholar Christine Fair tweeted about the safety of Bhensa, a satirical antithetical blogger known for his scathing criticism of Islam in particular, and who obviously got harassed by patriotic bloggers in return.

Pakistan has always been an undemocratic and authoritarian country in its true essence. Meet its figures in the government, even including many in elected office, and their view on state affairs and the people of Pakistan are bound to disappoint the democrat.However, the abduction of the dissident bloggers finally truly revealed the state of democracy and freedom of speech in Pakistan to the entire world, with the most prominent news media around the globe covering the news from the New York Times to the Daily Telegraph.

The civil protest against the abduction of the bloggers still was not quite near as strong as it should have been but it did attract attention around the world. One nightmare that the Pakistani military establishment is not used to is the urban civilian educated population protesting against it.

The way the Pakistani deep state entities have approached the dissenting bloggers really reveal the thought process behind repressing political dissidents in the country. Things were going all smooth with the detention and extrajudicial killings of the Baloch resistance at home but considering the local backlash and the critical coverage in the international media about the blogger issue, perhaps this is the reason why all three of the most prominent bloggers were returned home unlike people finding their roadside corpse as previously found in the case of journalists like Saleem Shahzad.

The page Bhensa reappeared as well. However, there are still question marks behind the true identity of Bhensa thought to be Ahmed Raza Naseer of Nankana Sahib, another one of detained and acquitted bloggers, but one way or the other, the page has arguably never been restored to its original expression since the abduction. On facebook, the Bhensa ID is used to actually run an anti-liberal page.

All the returned bloggers said that they were tortured in their own way. Some like Netherlands based Goraya, perhaps the most defiant of them all, were more vocal and more explicit about what happened to them. He also directly accused the Pakistani military while speaking in the a side event of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Others like Salman Haider were far subtler, being a gentle, poetic soul caught up in the storm.

A national campaign of disinformation was launched by the trolls and journalists on the dark side to accuse the detained bloggers of blasphemy. Prominent news anchors and social conservative anchors, some of which are often the usual suspects for any cause backed by the deep state, were in the forefront to build up public anger and hate against the liberal bloggers.

Something which the state apparatus strongly backs to this day as new ways of legitimizing the hunt to crack down on free speech are being put into effect. Blogger Taimur Raza became the first to be sentenced to death for blasphemy on social media by a “counter-terrorism court.” What a joke! Another Ayaz Nizami is under detention for the same accusations. Back in August, even Punhal Sario, a Sindhi activist campaigning for the return of missing activists is thought to go missing himself. Most recently, peace activist Raza Khan has gone missing with no resolution to his case to this last day of 2017.

But it was not revealed who the great souls of justice were who were dispensing justice to the blaspheming bloggers. Only recently have the bloggers been acquitted by the courts of any such allegations due to the complete lack of evidence. Which begs the question why the dangerous tradition of blasphemy hunting goes unpunished and without reprimand in Pakistan. And like always, you could count on the disgusting goons of Tehreek-e-Labaik Ya Rasool Allah to harass and pelt stones at the activists supporting the bloggers.

However, I do not consider this verdict as a moment to celebrate as such since the legitimacy of these courts has already been tarnished for standing behind the draconian blasphemy law and announcing death sentences to freethinking citizens who committed no offense to humanity.

Despite the efforts of cover up by mainstream media in Pakistan, which is in the complete clutches of the military establishment, and despite other distractions on the political front, the impact the missing blogger has made on the civil society has proved to be the most moving. This issue has raised questions about the conscience of the society claiming to protect free speech and democracy.

They have been currently haunting M. Jibran Nasir, arguably the most progressive voice in mainstream politics, and an honorable mention is due for my Pakistani of the year 2014. The notorious TV Channel Bol Network has been in the forefront of targeting Jibran Nasir for raising his voice for the rights of Ahmedi citizens, which in his opinion is due to his opposition to the acquittal of the murder of a Karachi youth named Shahzeb at the hands of the son of a feudal from the Jatoi tribe. Whatever may be Jibran Nasir’s reasons, I don’t think there is anything wrong with talking about changing the Second Amendment, and same goes for Minister Zaid Hamid et al.

In 2017, an elected Prime Minister was disqualified and ejected by the Supreme Court and when a group of Barelvi clerics brought the state down to its knees. But none of that matters and have had an impact on the consciousness of a nation like the missing blogger, perhaps only second to the brutal murder of Mishaal Khan, which arguably was largely ignored anyway.

But these missing bloggers still came from some layers of privilege in the Pakistani society, but as many of them have been pointing out like Sabeen, who is going to care about the struggle of the missing persons in Baluchistan?

Read about my Pakistani person of the year 2017 here.