Iran Is A Dangerous Frenemy

Also published at Ground Zero.

A Brief History of Iran-Pakistan Pre-Islamic Revolution Relations: 

When Pakistan gained independence in 1947, Iran was the first country in the world to internationally recognize Pakistan as a sovereign nation and Shah of Iran was the first head of state of any country who came to Pakistan on a state visit in 1950. Pakistan’s founder Muhammad Ali Jinnah, being a Shia himself, was a great supporter of strong relations between Iran and Pakistan since the beginning. He debated the idea of close Iran-Pakistan relations in his meetings with people in his political circle as well as publicly. Iran was also the new neighbor of Pakistan, which further gave boost to Mr Jinnah’s case for strong Pakistan-Iran relations. Mr Jinnah appointed Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan as the first Pakistani ambassador to Iran. In 1949, Pakistan’s first PM Mr Liaquat Ali Khan made his first state visit to Iran and cemented Pakistan’s strong relations with Iran in the years to come.  In May 1950, a treaty of friendship was signed by Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr Liaquat Ali Khan and the Shah of Iran.

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Iskander Mirza, the first Governor General of Pakistan, with a young Shah of Iran.

Pakistan’s friendship treaty with Iran also had geopolitical implications, since Pakistan found Shah of Iran a natural ally as a counter to Egypt’s Pan-Arab ideologist Abdel Nasser, who was being supported by the Indian government. Many Arab monarchies at the time were also allied with Shah of Iran.  Pakistan-Iran relationship at the time went well beyond geopolitics since both had granted each other MFN status for easy trade and there was also some military cooperation between both in Baluchistan. Since both Iran and Pakistan were pro-U.S. at the time, both entered U.S.-led Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) which was meant to be a defensive alliance against Soviet Union. Despite having Turkey, Iraq and UK in it, CENTO was largely a failure and is considered by most experts as one of the least effective Cold War alliances. Iran under Shah also played a role in the Indo-Pakistani war of 1965, providing Pakistan with medical help including nurses as well as a gift of 5,000 tons of petroleum. Iran also nearly imposed an embargo on Iranian oil supplies to India for the duration of the war. Iran again played a vital role in Pakistan’s 1971 conflict with India, this time supplying military equipment as well as diplomatic support against India. The Shah of Iran condemned the Indian attack on East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) as aggression and in an interview he reiterated his support for Pakistan, saying “We are one hundred percent behind Pakistan”. Iranian Prime Minister Amir-Abbas Hoveida wasn’t far behind, saying in a speech that “Pakistan has been subjected to violence and force.” Moreover, throughout the conflict Iranian leadership repeatedly expressed its opposition to the dismemberment of Pakistan. Iran under Shah also helped Pakistan quell an armed uprising in Baluchistan in 1973 and provided Pakistan military hardware, including thirty Huey cobra attack helicopters, as well as intelligence sharing and $200 million in aid. The armed uprising was successfully defeated by Pakistan within 3 years. Shah had even proposed the idea of a confederation of Iran and Pakistan with a single army and with him as head of the state. The Indo-Pakistan wars of 1965 and 1971 played a major role in changing Iran’s views towards Pakistan and compelled Iran to make friendly advances towards India.

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Zulfikar Ali Bhutto with Queen of Iran Farah Pahlavi in 1972
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An Iranian postage stamp, issued in 1976, features Pakistan’s founder Jinnah

Islamic Revolution Hits Iran:

The first signs of tensions between Iran and Pakistan were observed when in 1974 Iran’s Reza Pahlavi refused to attend the second Islamic Summit that was being held in Lahore because of the presence of Libya’s Gaddafi. The then Pakistani PM Mr Bhutto and his soft corner towards the Arab world annoyed the already frustrated Shah. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto played the Arab card very well. Before the Islamic Summit of 1974, Pakistan had not received direct financial aid from any Arab country but the Islamic Summit (also sometimes referred to as Lahore Summit) immensely improved Pakistan’s ties with the Arab world and Arab money started flowing in. After the military coupe in Pakistan and hanging of Bhutto, the new Pakistani head of state General Ziaul Haq, whose government was ideologically conservative, also adopted a pro-Arab approach after efforts towards building trust with Tehran proved futile. Two years after Ziaul Haq came to power, in 1979, the Islamic Revolution hit Iran with full force. This was the time when the romance between Iran and Pakistan went downhill. The new Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Khomeini pulled Iran out of CENTO and ended Iran’s close relations with the United States. In the first few months, Pakistan and Iran pretended to be partners; in 1979 Ziaul Haq famously said “Khomeini is a symbol of Islamic insurgence” which was reciprocated by the Ayatollah, in a letter, declared Pakistan an Islamic friend and called for ‘Muslim unity’. Even though Pakistan was one of the first countries to recognize the new revolutionary regime in Iran, Pakistan-Iran relations couldn’t get back on the right track because by 1981 Ziaul Haq had once again allied Pakistan with U.S. and opened up backdoor links with Israel while Iran continued to remain staunchly anti-U.S. and anti-Israel.

Since 1987, Pakistan has steadily blocked any Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons but at the same time Pakistan has supported Iran’s view on the issue of its nuclear energy programme, maintaining that “Iran has the right to develop its nuclear programme within the ambit of NPT.” In 1987 Pakistan and Iran signed an agreement on civil nuclear energy cooperation, with Zia-ul-Haq personally visiting Iran as part of its “Atoms for Peace” program. Pakistan officially announced its own nuclear capability on 7th September 1998. Before making the announcement, the then Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif sent a secret courier to Israel via Pakistani ambassador to United Nations Inam-ul-Haq and Pakistan Ambassador to the U.S. Dr. Maliha Lodhi, in which Pakistan gave complete assurance to Israel that Pakistan would not transfer any aspects of its nuclear technology or materials to Iran in any scenario.  In 2005, evidence provided by the IAEA proved that Pakistani cooperation with Iran’s nuclear program was limited to “non-military spheres” and was entirely peaceful in nature.

Throughout the Iran-Iraq war, Pakistan officially stayed neutral but Iran’s attempts to export the Islamic Revolution were being seen with increased suspicion by Sunnis in Pakistan. Once it became clear that Saddam Hussein is going to invade Iran, Pakistan immediately deployed its military contingent to protect the Gulf states against the Iranian threat, placing around 40,000 military personnel in Saudi Arabia. At the same time, Zia regime secretly sold U.S.-made weapons (including Stinger missiles) meant for Afghan Mujahideen to Iran and made huge profits. It is also worth noting here that both Iran and Pakistan supported the anti-Communist struggle of Afghan Mujahideen while Soviet Union, after invading Afghanistan in 1979, declared support for Saddam’s Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, which opened up new doors for Iran-Pakistan relations. While Zia had allied Pakistan with U.S. and officially maintained neutrality in the Iran-Iraq war, he understood well that Pakistan could not afford to mess up its relations with Iran, a neighbor, for the sake of U.S. and therefore he saw helping Iranians covertly as a mutually beneficial way to maintain Pakistan’s ties with Iran. And indeed, Pakistan’s help proved to be decisive for an Iranian repulsion of Iraqi forces. Stinger missiles provided by Pakistan made their impact and greatly improved Iran’s position in the ‘Tanker War‘.

Following Soviet pullout from Afghanistan, Pakistan-Iran had a new fallout. Both countries diverged on their policies in Afghanistan, with Pakistan explicitly backing the Sunni Taliban regime while Iran was opposed to the idea of a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. Since India was supporting the enemies of Taliban, the Northern Alliance, the Afghan theater became a reason for closer ties with India and Iran. It is also important to note that during this time Pakistan was having very close relations with U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel – the three countries Iran’s revolutionary regime hated the most. While Benazir Bhutto tried to iron out Iran-Pakistan relations by paying a lengthy visit to Iran in 1995, the growing Iranian proxy militia presence in Pakistan generated further distrust in the Pakistani public regarding Iran. Relations of both countries hit another snag when in 1998 Taliban forces captured Mazar-i-Sharif where thousands of Shias were allegedly massacred and then later when Iran accused Taliban of kidnapping its diplomats and killing them. The killing of the Iranian diplomats resulted in Iran amassing its troops on the Afghan border and threatening to attack the Taliban government in Afghanistan. In 1998 Iran accused Pakistani troops of war crimes at Bamiyan in Afghanistan and claimed that Pakistani warplanes had, in support of the Taliban, bombarded Afghanistan’s major Shia stronghold.

After 9/11, Pakistan joined America’s War on Terror and Iran initially supported removal of Taliban government from Afghanistan but became wary of the U.S. designs and feared that U.S. wanted to encircle Iran. This diluted of goodwill created between U.S. and Iran under Khatami government in Tehran. Under the Musharraf era, Pakistan-Iran ties significantly improved. In 2001 Hassan Rouhani, the current President of Iran, paid a visit to Pakistan where Pakistan and Iran decided to refresh their relationship and approach Afghanistan with a new understanding. In 2002, Mohammad Khatami visited Pakistan which further helped in improving relations between both countries. Khatami’s 2002 visit was the first visit to Pakistan by an Iranian head of state since 1992. Khatami also delivered a speech on “Dialogue Among Civilizations” at The Institute of Strategic Studies, a Pakistani think tank.

Kashmir Issue:

Iran has consistently supported Kashmir’s freedom struggle and sympathizes with and endorses Pakistani stance on Kashmir. Ayatollah Khamenei had visited Jammu and Kashmir in the early 1980s and delivered a sermon at Srinagar’s Jama Masjid mosque. In 2010 Ayatollah Khamenei appealed to Muslims worldwide to support the freedom struggle in Kashmir and equated the dispute with the ongoing conflicts in Middle East region.

The Present: 

Chabahar Spy Network:

The present relations between Iran and Pakistan have been marred by distrust and divergence of interests in some key areas. On 3rd March 2016, Pakistan arrested an Indian naval intelligence officer Kulbhushan Yadhav working for Indian intelligence agency R&AW, who was using his cover name Hussain Mubarak Patel, from Baluchistan province in a counter-intelligence operation. Pakistan charged him with espionage and terrorism activities and on 10th April 2017, Yadhav was sentenced to death by a Field General Court Martial (FGCM). India has also accepted that Mr Yadhav is affiliated with Indian Navy. Mr Yadhav was based in Chabahar, Iran from where he operated for years, posing as a businessman. The reason Mr Yadhav was able to operate from Iran is probably because of close India-Iran defense ties, as per India-Iran defense agreement of 2003. Indian intelligence maintains heavy presence in Chabahar, where India is engaged in port project in partnership with Iran which is also meant to be a counter to Pakistan and China’s Gwadar port project.

In Pakistan, Kulbhushan Yadhav was running a whole network of agents and informants and while Pakistan has taken down most of the network, there still appear to be some sleeper cells. Another link of Mr Yadhav’s Chabahar spy network is Uzair Baloch, the notorious gangster from Lyari of Karachi, who is currently in the custody of Pakistan Army. While Uzair Baloch has been accused and has since confessed to hundreds of murders in Karachi as well as extortion, kidnapping, etc, Pakistani intelligence community has also pointed him out as a part of Kulbhushan Yadhav’s Chabahar network and is believed to have been actively involved in espionage activities against Pakistani state and Pakistan Army. But the twist in this case was that Mr Baloch was not only spying for Indian intelligence agency R&AW but was also spying for Iranian intelligence MOIS. In fact, initially when Mr Baloch was arrested from Pak-Iran border, Iranian authorities reportedly claimed him as their own and wanted his custody; they backed their claim by pointing out Mr Baloch is carrying Iranian passport, which was true. Recently it was also reported in Pakistani and Indian media that Iran has asked for access to Mr Kulbhushan Yadhav, although these reports were later rejected by Iranian envoy to Pakistan. Mr Baloch these days is waiting for his trial which will be held in a military court.

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Uzair Baloch, seated in the middle of two hooded Rangers troopers, pictured as he’s taken away in a paramilitary vehicle

Another link in the Chabahar network is Uzair Baloch’s close aide Mullah Nisar, who was also recently arrested from Pak-Iran border after a gunfight. Mullah Nisar is believed to be a confidante of Uzair Baloch and may divulge more critical intelligence which may prove helpful for Pakistani intelligence community to track down last remaining links of this spy network.

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The only photograph available of Mullah Nisar, believed to be the ‘Right hand man’ of spy-gangster Uzair Baloch

Iran Proxies In Pakistan:

Another boiling point in Pakistan’s relations with Iran is active Iranian subversion in Pakistan via its proxies and consistent attempts to export its ‘Islamic Revolution’ to Pakistan via subversion of Pakistani Shia population while at the same time creating divisions among Sunnis. This is a model that Iran has already used in other Middle Eastern states and is still using it in countries like Bahrain, etc. In Lebanon, Iranian proxy Hezbollah now sits in the government, is the most powerful player in Lebanon and actively runs Lebanon’s foreign policy. In this way, Iran has carved a state within a state in Lebanon via its proxy Hezbollah. In Syria, Iran has done something similar by sending in Hezbollah units to support Assad-backed forces to crackdown on West-backed rebels with increased air support from Russia. The same model that Iran has already successfully used in other countries, where it first destabilizes them and then tries to take over the country or at least gain as much power & influence as possible via its proxies, is already being quietly applied on Pakistan.

In Pakistan, individuals like Faisal Raza Abidi not only openly talk about but have already raised private Shia armies while at the same time praising Pakistan Army to avoid heat, a tactic similar to how Hezbollah took control of Lebanon while appeasing the Lebanese Army. Faisal Raza Abidi has been accused to be involved in several killings of Sunnis in Karachi, his stronghold, and was recently arrested over double murders but was later released on bail.

On the other hand, while Pakistan has banned militant groups like Sipah-e-Muhammad, other more subversive groups that have been accused of having deep links with Tehran as well as taking Iranian funds, like Imamia Students Organization (ISO), continue to operate in Pakistan with impunity. Another heavily Iran-influenced group is Majlis Wahdat Muslimeen (MWM), that presents itself as a ‘Muslim unity’ group but its top members have consistently supported Tehran over Islamabad in all significant matters. In 2015 prominent MWM leaders were arrested for allegedly lambasting Saudi Arabia, one of the closest allies of Pakistan, and creating sectarian tensions while calling for support for Houthis, which directly undermined Pakistan’s interests since Pakistan has since the beginning recognized, in line with international community, the legitimate Yemeni government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi which is fighting against Iran-backed Houthis led by Ali Abdullah Saleh. The arrested MWM leaders have since been released on bail.

Iran has also recruited Pakistani Shias to fight its proxy war in Syria alongside Hezbollah and Assad forces. For this purpose, Iran formed the Zainabiyoun Brigade, which is still operating in Syria. Under this recruitment drive, Iranian spies as well as diplomats quietly recruited Pakistani Shias who were disgruntled with the state. Many of these Shias had lost a family member or relative in last 8 years in the sectarian killings in Pakistan with quite a significant presence of the Hazara Shia community as well. These people were led into the trap by Iranians who offered them high-paying jobs and a new home for themselves as well as their families. Most naive people believed the promises and agreed to leave Pakistan for Iran, where they were coldly told to go fight in Syria and in exchange Iran would give their families a place to live. Most of these people had little choice but to move ahead. Some who later returned were arrested by Pakistani security services. Others expect to be either buried in Syria or in case of survival hope to spend the rest of their days wherever Iran fits them in; whether a refugee camp somewhere in Lebanon or a small house on the outskirts of Iran, no one can guarantee. Unfortunately, Pakistani government has since not raised this issue publicly with Iran, even though Iran has not been shy to threaten Pakistan, which it recently did when it threatened to strike into Pakistan to hit alleged terrorist camps, something which Pakistan’s eternal enemy India praised.

Continued Iranian Aggression Against Pakistan:

While Iran has threatened strikes into Pakistan publicly for the first time, Iran has been attacking Pakistani territory for a long time now. In last few years, there has not been a single year when Iran didn’t attack Pakistani territory. Here’s a timeline from 2014 on-wards of Iranian attacks into Pakistani territory: 20142015, 2016, 2017. Moreover, Iran attacked Pakistani territory with mortars mere hours after India claimed ‘surgical strike‘ into Pakistan in 2016, which unsurprisingly was praised by India. The response of the current Pakistani government to unprovoked Iranian aggression, apart from appeasement, has been mostly timid. Although Pakistan has formed a joint border management system with Iran to avoid further similar incidents, such initiatives have been taken before but have failed to stop Iranian aggression against Pakistan.

On the same day of Iran’s most recent mortar attack into Pakistani territory, Pakistani PM Nawaz Sharif congratulated Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for winning his second term. Just a couple of days later, Pakistani Opposition leader and chief of PTI Mr Imran Khan was found lambasting PM Nawaz for not taking a stand for Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas at the Riyadh Summit.  The absurdity of the situation is quite evident; with the current leadership and no reforms in diplomatic and bureaucratic structure, Pakistan is bound to continue to move forward with failed policies based on misreadings and miscalculations.

Some Convergence on Afghanistan:

Pakistan and Iran, for now, have both so far followed two parallel policies in Afghanistan where both engage with U.S.-NATO backed Kabul regime led by Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah while at the same time supporting Afghan Taliban in different ways. While Iran has been directly supporting Taliban insurgency by arming and funding Taliban as well as providing safe haven to Taliban leaders and their families, Pakistan maintains moral support for the Afghan Taliban and has offered medical care and sanctuary to some pro-Pakistan Taliban leaders in the past. While Pakistan’s moral support for Afghan Taliban exists because of Kabul regime’s extremely pro-India and anti-Pakistan policies and while Pakistan has never supported Taliban only to undermine U.S.-NATO, Iran’s pivotal support for Taliban is based on very different factors since Iran doesn’t need to worry about Kabul’s pro-India policies as Iran-India are already closely allied. So what drives Iran to support Taliban? Here are some applicable answers:

  1. A hatred for U.S. and West as a whole which compels Iran to undermine its interests wherever it can, like Putin’s Russia does.
  2. Fear of being encircled by U.S. but these fears may be overblown since U.S. is definitely not leaving the region as long as Afghanistan continues to be the hub of terrorism.
  3. Iran’s expansionist nature. Iran just can’t stop expanding its influence and Tehran’s interests, not fear, may be the leading factor behind this expansionism. Since Iran feels the Kabul regime is too influenced by the West, it feels it is necessary to protect its interests by actively supporting Taliban in the mineral-rich Afghanistan.
  4. The rise of ISIS in Afghanistan also ultimately plays into Iran’s interests, which Iran points out as a valid reason behind its support for Taliban, even though ISIS has never attacked Iran. Ever. ISIS has attacked Israel but not Iran. Not once. ISIS has also repeatedly attacked Pakistan and Pakistan has also been actively fighting against ISIS branch in Afghanistan, ISIS-K; Pakistan recently hit several terrorist camps in Afghanistan.
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Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei
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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

All in all, while both Iran and Pakistan have some convergence of interests in Afghanistan, it’s not much. Iran and Pakistan both have very different reasons for supporting the Taliban. While Pakistan is worried about Indian influence and anti-Pakistan activities in Afghanistan, Iran has no such worries. Pakistan should also not forget that another party supporting the Taliban is Russia, a close ally of both Iran and India. While Pakistan has improved its relations with Russia recently, they’re still nowhere as strong as Russia’s ties with Iran or India. Russia, on its part, has its own interests behind its support for Taliban. Among Taliban too, there’s a growing segment of fighters and commanders who see Iran and Russia, both anti-U.S., as more reliable allies than Pakistan, which joined America’s War on Terror and is now increasingly seen among Taliban ranks as unreliable at best and treasonous at worst. For all these reasons and more, Pakistan cannot afford to rely on Iran and Russia alone for its Afghanistan policy and would eventually need to protect its interests not only from West-backed Kabul regime and India but also from other allies of Afghan Taliban.

Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT):

Pakistan’s leadership of IMAFT was a tough decision for Pakistan to make but it was absolutely in Pakistan’s interests for reasons I have explained in an article from March. But this decision ruffled feathers in both Tehran and New Delhi. For a whole year Iran quietly lobbied in Pakistan via its proxies and mouthpieces (such as the political party PTI, which opposed Gen. Raheel’s appointment at IMAFT) to make Pakistan reject the Saudi offer to lead IMAFT, similar to how Iran lobbied Pakistan to reject Saudi request to send troops for Yemen, which Pakistan did (initially). When lobbying didn’t work and Pakistani government went on to allow former Pak Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to lead IMAFT, Iranian envoy to Pakistan publicly voiced Tehran’s concerns. When Pakistan requested Iran to join IMAFT, Iran rejected that offer.

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Riyadh Summit:

The fallout from President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and his speech at Riyadh Summit is still being felt in Pakistan, both in media as well as in politics and diplomatic circles. While some Pakistani analysts have resorted to unnecessary fear-mongering about a looming war on Iran, the truth may be somewhere in the middle. While it is true that Trump-led U.S. has been pushing for an Arab-Israel alliance against Iran, their common enemy, it is also true that U.S. itself, at least for now, is unwilling to play a direct role in this alliance. This is evident from the statement from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson where he hinted that U.S. is still open to talks with Iran and Hassan Rouhani’s re-election has practically cemented this. Trump-led U.S. has also so far kept U.S. part of the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), which Trump during his campaign said he wanted to ‘tear up’, even though Iran has been clearly violating the deal. It is clear that U.S. is not interested in war on Iran. But this doesn’t mean there will be no pressure on Iran. Indeed, U.S., Israel and Arab allies will put more pressure on Iran to rein in its proxies and end its ballistic missile programme, both of which along with possible-in-future Iranian nuclear weapons are also a credible threat to Pakistan and this is why Pakistan has consistently stood against Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

The Future: 

Following the Riyadh Summit where representatives of 56 countries including U.S. and Saudi Arabia passed a joint declaration against global and regional terrorism as well as Iran’s proxy terrorism while stressing on the need for Muslim countries to play a leading role in eradicating terrorism from their soil, Pakistan must plan its own policy backed up by a viable strategy. While Pakistan has successfully ridden itself of Taliban insurgency, there are still sleeper cells in the country. Moreover, there are still groups and individuals (like Abdul Aziz of Red Mosque, etc) with whom Pakistani state would have to deal with sooner or later. These groups and individuals, if not dealt with wisely, can become future proxies of Pakistan’s enemies. Then there is ISIS recruitment drive in Pakistan, where many people have been arrested in recent past for either directly plotting attacks for ISIS or having ISIS links. Most recent are the arrests from Karachi by Pakistan’s counter-terror forces where five people, including a university professor, were nabbed over ISIS links. Then there’s sectarian terrorism where Iran’s proxies are heavily involved and which is expected to increase in near future as Iran and Saudi Arabia both play the religion card against each other in the international arena and as Pakistan increasingly becomes a part of Middle East theater with its inclusion and then leadership of IMAFT. Here some people would argue that Pakistan should not involve itself in Middle East but I would retaliate by saying that Pakistan cannot afford to leave vacuum, which will be quickly filled by India. Pakistan is the only nuclear Muslim majority state and a regional power. Pakistan is also one of the leading players in China’s game-changing Belt And Road initiative and one of the main pillars of the new multipolar world order. Pakistan should move ahead wisely and play itself out as a regional power and a future superpower. To do that, Pakistan needs proactive diplomacy and an effective policy backed up by a well-war-gamed strategy for Middle East. It must be reiterated that leaving vacuum isn’t an option.

Policy Change For Middle East:

Pakistan’s old policy of neutrality in Middle East has been repeatedly beaten by the test of time. Pakistan currently risks alienating both Iran and Saudi Arabia. While Iran is already in open defense and geostrategic alliance with India, it is alienating Saudi Arabia that Pakistan needs to worry about. Alienating Saudis would mean Pakistan will also be alienating 55 other countries including U.S. While Pakistan’s relations with U.S. are still fraught, Pakistan can use its ties with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s own growing influence in the South Asia region to improve its ties with U.S. Not to mention the spiritual connection of the majority in Pakistan with Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s own old defense ties with Saudi Arabia. It is evident that in the Middle East theater, Pakistan needs to take a clear stand and that stand would likely see Pakistan working closely alongside Saudi Arabia as a renewed global effort against terrorism gets started.

The Neighbor Factor and Pakistan-Iran Bilateral Relations:

Pakistan will need to take a page out of Tehran’s playbook and tell Tehran that Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia and leadership of IMAFT should not be a problem for Iran if Iran’s strategic alliance with India isn’t a problem for Pakistan. For a long time Iran has been a two-faced friend to Pakistan; it has been quietly facilitating India in its hybrid war on Pakistan while Tehran’s representatives told Islamabad that there’s no reason for Pakistan to worry. Pakistan will need to offer Tehran to maintain bilateral relations and work on common interests, such as in Afghan theater, in exchange for Pakistan ensuring that Pakistan’s territory isn’t used against Iran. Since Iran is Pakistan’s neighbor and Pakistan would wisely not want to engage in open conflict with Iran, Pakistan will need to stress it to Iran that it is best for both countries to continue bilateral engagement. If U.S. or Saudi Arabia raise any concerns about Pakistan and Iran relations, Pakistan can always point out Iran’s strategic and defense partnership with India, a country that also happens to be a strategic partner of U.S. and has good relations with Saudi Arabia. Surely if India’s strategic and defense alliance with Iran isn’t a problem for U.S. and Saudi Arabia, then Pakistan-Iran’s bilateral relations shouldn’t be either.

Pakistan will need to continue to engage in bilateral trade and border management operations with Iran and try to work on common interests but from the position of strength.

Dealing With Iran From a Position Of Strength: 

To make Pakistan-Iran bilateral relations work, Pakistan will need to deal with Iran from a position of strength. So far, Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership has avoided giving any public statements calling out Iran’s close alliance with India, which directly and indirectly undermines Pakistan’s regional as well as domestic interests. Pakistan’s leadership also didn’t publicly call out Iran on how Indian spy terrorist Kulbhushan Yadhav was able to operate from Iran for decades since it is impossible that Iranian intelligence was unaware. Iran’s own espionage activities against Pakistan via spies like Uzair Baloch have raised considerable concerns in Pakistan’s intelligence community. Iran’s recent unprecedented threats of launching surgical strikes against alleged terror camps within Pakistani territory have also angered Pakistani public as well as Pakistani military. Weak leadership in Islamabad with its old beaten policies has, so far, largely allowed Iran to get away with things which no other country would allow.

The changing global dynamics and the regional situation are indicative of the dire need for Pakistan to abandon its old policy of non-stop appeasement towards Iran and devise a comprehensive strategy to back a well-thought-out new policy to deal with Iran from a position of strength.

Crackdown on Iran’s proxies in Pakistan:

To deal with Iran from a position of strength, Pakistan will need to devise a strategy to crackdown on Iran’s proxies in Pakistan. This crackdown would not necessarily need to be violent. Pakistan will need to cut Iranian funding for Pakistan-based groups as well as block Iranian recruitment drives in Pakistan. Leaders of militant proxy groups will need to be neutralized and the groups themselves will need to be disarmed, dismantled and de-radicalized before those who haven’t been involved in any crimes could be released back into the public. Those who are involved in crimes like targeted assassinations of Sunnis, etc should be tried in military courts and hanged. Pakistan will also need to consider sanctioning Iranians who are directly involved in funding terrorism in Pakistan.

Militant proxy groups are not the only proxies of Iran in Pakistan. Iran has also penetrated deep into Pakistani politics as well as in the media and think tank establishment. While extremely pro-Iran papers and thesis are being published by some think tanks in Pakistan, pro-Iran mouthpieces can be found all over Pakistani mainstream media busy giving a shoulder to Tehran’s narrative in Pakistan. Many of these pro-Iran mouthpieces have successfully played their role in creating increased suspicion among Pakistani public regarding Saudi Arabia and Pakistan’s other Gulf allies. This manufactured suspicion eventually ends up undermining Pakistan’s interests. This is not to say that Saudi Arabia hasn’t funded madrassas in the past and played a role in growing Sunni extremism in Pakistan. But much of that funding has since been blocked by Pakistan and many of those madrassas have since been shut down. Saudi Kingdom itself has faced incredible backlash all over the world for their funding of madrassas which preach extreme Sunni Islam. Saudis have learned, with time, that it is much beneficial to invest their money in other areas. But on the other hand, Iran’s penetration into Pakistani society already runs far deeper than Saudi’s at any point in history. While Pakistan will need to forcefully take down Iran proxy militant groups, at the same time Pakistan will also need to try to cut back Iranian influence in Pakistani politics, media and think tanks; influence which is detrimental to Pakistan’s interests and has already done significant damage. The state possesses several non-violent ways to achieve this objective.

Afghanistan Theater:

Pakistan will need to work alongside Iran and Russia, two of the biggest backers of Taliban, in Afghanistan as U.S. encourages India to increase its influence in Afghan theater. But while Pakistan’s interests somewhat converge with Iran’s in Afghanistan, Pakistan will also need to be ready to prevent Iran and Russia from hijacking the Taliban movement in the future, which would be a huge blow to Pakistan’s interests. So far Iran has been consistently supporting Taliban with cash and arms but has also managed to escape international scrutiny thanks to the unwillingness of Obama administration as well as Iran’s own strong ties with Kabul regime and India.

In short, while Pakistan’s and Iran’s interests in Afghanistan somewhat converge in the short-term, they will clash with full force in the long-term. For this reason, Pakistan needs to be fully prepared in advance.

Conclusion:

Pakistan-Iran relations before the Islamic Revolution in Iran were friendly and based on common interests. For decades Iran and Pakistan cooperated and engaged in bilateral and regional ties and Iran offered Pakistan material and moral support during Pakistan’s early wars with India. But since the takeover of Iran by the Ayatollahs, it has drifted towards away from Pakistan and towards India and somewhere in the early 2000s Iran began to see India as a strategic partner. Since then Iran has consistently engaged in behavior that has undermined Pakistan’s interests; at first covertly and more recently quite publicly as a resurgent hybrid expansionist Tehran feels emboldened by the legitimacy given to it by the Obama administration as well as by successes on the Syrian front. All the factors discussed above compel Pakistan to reconsider its approach towards Iran, Iran’s proxies in Pakistan as well as Pakistan’s policy in Middle East. Pakistan should not remain fearful of power projection and should start acting like the regional power and a future superpower it imagines itself to be. Pakistan must follow a policy of carrot and stick with Iran and should work towards its interests in Afghanistan and the Middle East simultaneously while controlling the security situation within its territory. Dealing with Iran from a position of strength will help Pakistan move towards achieving its domestic and regional interests.

 

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This article is the property of the author Faran Jeffery, who is a natsec analyst and a commentator on geopolitics and foreign policy. 

 

What is World Muhajir Congress and who is behind this shady group?

On 28th April 2017 some Indian outlets ran a story which announced that members of a new mysterious group called World Muhajir Congress met with members of The House Foreign Affairs Committee and briefed them on “strong connection between the ISI and terrorist groups”. The story was mostly ignored by Pakistani media for a few days except for Daily Pakistan. The word ‘Muhajir’ is an Arabic-origin term used in Pakistan to refer to Muslim immigrants and their descendants of multi-ethnic origin who migrated from different regions of India after the Partition of India to settle in the newly formed state of Pakistan. Today Muhajirs are considered an ethnic minority in Pakistan and their political stronghold is Karachi. The general meaning of the word ‘Muhajir’ in Arabic and Urdu is the same: Muslim immigrants.

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At this point some questions come to mind: what exactly is World Muhajir Congress? Who is behind it? Why is it lobbying U.S. government against Pakistan? And so on. To get answers, we will have to go all the way back to 22nd August 2016.

The MQM-London Connection

Last year on 22nd August, founder and leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Mr Altaf Hussein, during a live audio speech to MQM members in Pakistan who were protesting at the time, made some highly provocative comments, bordering on incitement to violence and treason, about Pakistan and Pakistani Army. These comments were not against the government but against the state and the national army. While Mr Hussain had made similar comments with lesser intensity in the past in private functions of MQM in U.S., Canada, etc, this was the first time this happened in Pakistan during a public protest and was instantly covered by all national media. On Mr Hussain’s part, the speech was no accident and was well-timed. None of the main MQM leaders in Pakistan knew this was going to happen until it was too late. Local MQM leaders went into damage control mode later that night but it was too late and soon after that a crackdown started against MQM’s political activities. The crackdown left MQM, which was already divided into three groups by then (PSP, Haqiqi and Altaf group) was now divided into four groups; a new group emerged with the name of MQM-Pakistan which was led by Mr Farooq Sattar and Mr Amir. The remaining pro-Altaf Hussain group emerged as MQM-London but since it is not a registered party in Pakistan, its activities were banned and several of its members were arrested. But even today MQM-London has many supporters in Pakistan, who are no more concentrated in Karachi. Instead, MQM-London’s operatives have scattered themselves across the country as well as abroad. Very recently MQM-L operatives were arrested from Islamabad along with heavy weaponry while similar raids across Karachi continue to expose large quantities of weapons, explosives and ammo hidden by MQM-L members. By analyzing the kind of weapons, explosives and ammo found hidden across Karachi by MQM-L members any security expert reaches the same conclusion: these caches of weapons weren’t meant for petty crimes but to wage a small war against a national army as anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons were included in these caches.

Since getting all but outlawed in Pakistan, MQM-L’s rhetoric against Pakistan and its state institutions has increased as they have little to lose now. Very recently Mr Altaf Hussain said in a statement, which was widely quoted in Indian media, that Pakistan Army and Rangers is pushing Sindh towards civil war. Amusingly, Altaf didn’t explain if Pakistan Army was pushing Sindh towards civil war then why were MQM-L’s members preparing to wage civil war in Pakistan since as far back as 2008 and why does everyone from Pakistani media to BBC accuse MQM-L to be involved in heinous crimes including burning alive the very same Muhajirs they claim to represent.

The Haqqani Network

Another piece in the puzzle is Pakistan’s former ambassador to United States of America Mr Husain Haqqani, who has been accused of treason in Pakistan in a major scandal dubbed Memogate scandal. Mr Husain Haqqani also recently admitted in his own article published in Washington Post that while he was ambassador, visas were issued to CIA agents apparently to locate and kill or capture Osama Bin Laden. These days Mr Haqqani is enjoying a nice quiet life in United States after nicely having played the role for which he was chosen as ambassador to U.S. by his boss who took over a political party after the mysterious assassination of his wife which he never investigated during his five year rule. Makes one wonder that it all sounds too good to be a coincidence.

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Mr Haqqani with President G. W. Bush 

Today Mr Haqqani works for Hudson Institute, a pro-India and anti-Pakistan think tank, and is very close to all major Indian lobbyists in DC, while his wife Farahnaz Isphani is getting great book deals. In last ten years, Mr Haqqani has actively undermined Pakistan’s interests and more recently he has stepped out of the bag and has established himself as someone who has a narrow anti-Pakistan agenda, which is what makes him popular in India as well as among pro-India lobbyists in U.S. Mr Haqqani is now playing a leading role in the ‘recruitment’ of Pakistanis based in U.S. who may be disgruntled from the state or maybe easily influenced. These Pakistanis will be eventually used to undermine Pakistan’s interests in various ways. More on that later.

The London Meeting

On October 28-30, 2016 a mysterious conference was held in London where many anti-state/anti-military leftists and liberals were invited and which was officially backed and funded by SAATH Forum, which was launched specifically to act as a front group and financier-on-paper of this conference.

When we visit the website of SAATH Forum, we see this suspicious message:

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Reading the message, it becomes clear that the main reason behind the conference as well as launch of SAATH Forum was to begin collaboration between anti-state and anti-Pak Army Pakistanis. It also becomes somewhat evident that the ideas those behind this conference want to mainstream among Pakistan’s youth are more than just secular ideas since this conference included only anti-state left-wingers and a had an obvious anti-Pakistan Army theme.  If there’s one thing that is most dangerous for the secular movement in Pakistan, it is association with a bunch of anti-state left-wingers.

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Further exploring tells us SAATH Forum is based in Austin, Texas.

One of the first tweets sent out by SAATH Forum is this unsubtle post that may give us a hint who is behind this group:

 

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All the people invited in this conference were staunch anti-Pak Army people while many genuine secularists and liberals, whether based in West or Pakistan, who want to see Pakistan thrive and prosper were ignored. The funding of this conference was provided by MQM-London group which itself is funded by India, according to BBC and Pakistan’s intelligence community.

On the sidelines of this conference, another meeting was held between Mr Altaf Hussain and Mr Haqqani, where it was decided that MQM-L and Mr Haqqani’s network will collaborate in their fight against the Pakistani state and military in particular, which they both see as a righteous fight. This information comes from highly credible well-placed sources. It is worthy to note here that Mr Haqqani himself is a Muhajir and even though he was associated with Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami and then secular PPP in the past, he has recently made statements on Pakistani media that indicate he is pushing himself as a ‘Muhajir voice’.

In the photo below, Altaf Hussain can be seen seated in the front while Mr Husain Haqqani can be seen right behind him, standing beside Mr Murtaza Solangi, who works for Capital TV.

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A photo from the London meeting 

Below are some more photos from the conference featuring usual suspects:

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Two well-known journalists seen in this image: Miss Asma Shirazi, who works for AAJ TV, and Faizan Lakhani, who works for Geo Network.

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World Muhajir Congress As Proxy Lobby Group

Coming back to World Muhajir Congress, which emerged 6 months after the London meeting, and after analyzing the first story published in media relating to this group it is safe to say that the designated purpose for this group is to be used as a proxy lobby group to undermine Pakistan’s interests and lobby for Indian interests in Washington DC and possibly other capitals of the West. The fact that this new shady group was able to meet with U.S. government officials signals it has the backing of some very influential individuals in U.S. Mr Haqqani himself has major connections with DC elite, from being friends with a former CIA Director to having connections with influential think tank fellows and DC lobbyists. Mr Haqqani played a major role in bringing his former boss Mr Zardari to power in Pakistan, which is why readers will never find Mr Zardari being very vocal against Mr Haqqani. An investigation would most definitely lead to Mr Haqqani’s role in the emergence of World Muhajir Congress in some capacity. This is part of the collaboration that was decided between the anti-state elements in the London conference, an event which had indirect backing from New Delhi. As part of this collaboration, World Muhajir Congress will be used in future to lobby Washington against Pakistani military and intelligence community while lobbying for well-placed foreign assets in Pakistan. For anyone who understands how DC works, this would be no surprise. Indeed, similar proxy lobby groups consisting of disgruntled immigrants and dual nationals have been used in the past against the regimes in other countries to further the foreign policy interests of U.S. Since U.S. is a strategic partner of India and views Pakistan with suspicion, it has willingly become part and parcel of the India-backed campaign against Pakistan.

How has Pakistan decided to tackle this new threat is yet to be seen but not much can be expected from a government that simply refuses to appoint a strong Foreign Minister, which is by design. But what can be said for sure is that Pakistan will likely see more anti-Pakistan lobbying by World Muhajir Congress as well as similar groups that may be created in future to portray to represent other Pakistani ethnic groups. It has been part of the Indian hybrid war strategy to create and promote ethnic fault-lines in Pakistan to create and strengthen divisions may eventually lead Pakistan towards civil war. Unlike what Altaf Hussain recently said, it is not Pakistan Army or Rangers who are pushing Sindh towards civil war; instead, it is the domestic and foreign enemies of Pakistan who want to see a civil war not just in Sindh but in whole Pakistan that would weaken and controversialize the Pakistani military and allow Pakistan’s foreign enemies to use it as an excuse to start openly backing their assets in Pakistan for a final proxy takeover of the country.

Pakistan, on its part, is already well aware of all the plans of its foreign enemies and is effectively fighting back. Pakistan will stumble here and there but as a state it will move on. But what will happen to traitors of Pakistan? Being liberal, secular, atheist or whatever you identify as is never a problem; traitors who hide behind these labels are not fooling anyone except themselves. But collaborating with foreign agents and lobbying for the interests of an enemy state is treason under every law and in any case cannot be ignored or forgiven.

 

The Triangle of Leftist Stupidity: Refuting Mohammed Hanif’s Incredulous NYT Article

A recent article published in fake news New York Times (according to the President of the United States of America Mr Donald Trump) by a British-Pakistani dual national leftist writer Mohammed Hanif who is known for his book The Case of Exploding Mangoes, has been the topic of discussion on Pakistani Twittersphere.  The article was allegedly censored by the Pakistani affiliate of New York Times. Perhaps an explanation is needed by the paper. Below is a photo of the self-censored paper:

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While I have never endorsed media bans or censorship in the past nor I will in the future and I don’t know why Express Tribune censored it (they shouldn’t have), I personally took issue to the article because it is completely divorced from ground realities and a basic understanding of security and intelligence matters. So I decided to refute the whole absurd article, which can only get published in fake news NYT. Here it goes.

Pakistan has found a new ally in its never-ending war against India — and he is the public face of our most ruthless killers. For years Liaquat Ali, better known as Ehsanullah Ehsan, was a familiar and dreaded figure on national media. It seems that after every atrocity committed by the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), he would make triumphant statements in audio messages or bloodcurdling videos, putting the fear of God in Pakistani media and causing revulsion among Pakistani people.

Pakistan has not “found a new ally” in the form of Ehsanullah Ehsan and it is unclear how exactly the author reached that conclusion but it is obvious that it involves some over-the-top crazy assumptions. No Pakistani leader, including the leaders of Pakistan’s Armed Forces and intelligence agencies, said that the state sees Ehsanullah Ehsan as an ally. There’s no evidence to back up this absurd assumption by the author. Ehsanullah Ehsan was and is a terrorist, period. That being said, where was the author when the bastion of liberal media Geo News used to take Ehsanullah Ehsan live on TV and which continued until Pakistani state officially banned all TV channels from taking Ehsanullah Ehsan or any other terrorist on TV? How many articles in NYT did Mr Hanif write on Geo News’ interest in Ehsanullah Ehsan and the fact that it was Geo News that scored a TV interview with Ehsanullah Ehsan after his surrender? Or is it necessary for the author to bash the state and its one particular institution while absolving everyone else of everything? Since the author himself is a propagandist and an active part of U.S. deep state and India’s joint information war on Pakistan (read more here), he must also know that Ehsanullah Ehsan was also a propagandist just like him and just like the author, Ehsan was also paid for his services. Ehsanullah Ehsan’s affair with the Pakistani media was also not one-sided and the media itself, specially Geo News, went out of its way to generate ‘Breaking News’ and run Ehsan’s statements back to back. It was also the media and lefties like Mr Hanif who took Ehsanullah Ehsan’s statements when he was the spokesperson of a terrorist group at face value and never actually questioned them. Until he named India. But more on that later.

 

Soon after the TTP killed three employees of Express TV in January 2014, the television channel invited Ehsan on the air by phone. He very calmly explained the reasons for the murder, and the interviewer promised — respectfully, repeatedly — to give him more airtime, while begging for guarantees that there would be no further attacks.

The attack on Express TV staffers was unfortunate and condemned by Pakistanis from all backgrounds and at least two of the terrorists involved in the attack were killed in an encounter by Pakistani counter-terror police in the following days. No surprise that the author didn’t mention this crucial fact.

It is a known tactic of terrorists to attack and threaten the media in hopes that these tactics will help get them better coverage, so it doesn’t help when media owners willingly walk into that trap while essentially back-stabbing their low-level employees. Why has the author got nothing to say about media owners who care more about profits and ratings than their employees? Clearly they’re more harmful to the integrity of media and free expression than the terrorists.

Ehsan later claimed responsibility for an Easter Day attack in a park in Lahore last year, which killed dozens of people. He had previously claimed responsibility for an attack on a girl named Malala, who was shot in the head on her way to school, adding that the TPP would hunt her down if she survived.

The Easter Day attack in Lahore in 2016 that the author mentions was one of the most horrible attacks on innocent civilians by any terrorist group. The attack was claimed by Ehsanullah Ehsan who was working as a spokesperson of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar at that time. Yes, the same Afghanistan-based Jamaat-ul-Ahrar whose website is run from India and about which Pakistani intelligence agencies have repeatedly said that the group is supported by Indian intelligence agency R&AW and Afghan intelligence agency NDS. But it is understandable why Mr Hanif doesn’t care to mention any of that, because he will get fired from New York Times op-ed section before these crucial facts are ever published in fake news NYT.

What followed 2016’s Easter Day attack in Lahore was a province-wide paramilitary operation ordered by Pakistani Army that resulted in the seizure of cache of weapons and explosives and also the initial arrests of 5000 Pakistanis, 200 of whom were kept in custody. This also doesn’t score a mention in Mr Hanif’s article. Moreover, Pakistani intelligence agencies the Military Intelligence and Inter-Services Intelligence foiled another terrorist attack targeting Christians on Easter Day this very year, which was lauded by Pakistani Christians as well as Vatican officials.

The author mentions another TTP attack: the reprehensible attack on Pakistan’s pride and now a Nobel Laureate Malala. What the author ‘forgets’ to mention is the fact that Pakistan arrested and sentenced the two terrorists involved in shooting Malala to life in prison. What the author forgets to mention is that it was Pakistani military, the army he passionately hates, that stepped in and provided Malala with all the necessary facilities: from her rescue in army choppers to her medical operation in an army hospital to helping with her eventual transportation to United Kingdom for advanced medical care. Unfortunately, none of these facts make it to Mr Hanif’s article. Moreover, Ehsanullah Ehsan didn’t shoot Malala but accepted the responsibility for the attack just like he accepted responsibility for every other attack by the group he was representing. That was his job as a spokesperson.

With his appearance, the Pakistani Army seemed to be sending this message: You can kill thousands of Pakistanis, but if you later testify that you hate India as much as we do, everything will be forgiven.

The author once again devolves into dangerous and precarious assumptions. Ehsanullah Ehsan’s “appearance” as he calls it was basically a 5 minute long video where he confesses to his crimes and gives details about the foreign financiers of the terrorist groups (TTP and JuA) he used to be a spokesperson of. This was an extremely important development because Pakistani military and intelligence professionals have long accused India of using proxies and Afghan soil against Pakistan and which has also been acknowledged by U.S. officials, such as Obama-era Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. I have written more on that here and here.

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The line “You can kill thousands of Pakistanis, but if you later testify that you hate India as much as we do, everything will be forgiven” is a figment of the author’s wildly childish imagination as no state institution including Pakistani military has even remotely hinted at that. Ehsanullah Ehsan will not be forgiven by Pakistani military or any other institution and I say that with responsibility. But hang on, isn’t this the same Mohammed Hanif who penned another article in fake news New York Times earlier this year in January in which he railed against Pakistan’s anti-terror military courts that have played a pivotal role in minimizing terrorism in Pakistan? Lefties like Mohammed Hanif are a hindrance for the state in its fight against terrorism because they agitate no matter what the state does.

There was some pushback. State media regulators banned a detailed interview with Ehsan before it aired after families of Taliban victims expressed outrage. The parents of students slain at the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014, where Taliban attackers butchered more than 140 people, mostly students, wanted Ehsan hanged in front of the school.

Pakistani media regulator PEMRA banned Ehsanullah Ehsan’s interview on the request of Pakistani PM Nawaz who in turn received the request from Indian business tycoon Sajjan Jindal during his secret meeting with PM Nawaz in Murree because Indians knew he was going to give earth-shattering details about India-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan. This information comes from highly credible sources and I would stand by it in any case but it is understandable why a contributor to fake news NYT like Mr Hanif doesn’t have this information.

The anger of the families of the victims of APS massacre was exploited by the very same people who, like Mr Hanif, rail against Pakistan’s anti-terror military courts. It makes no sense why the same people who want mercy for terrorists who have facilitated or are directly involved in heinous attacks want a propagandist like Ehsanullah Ehsan hanged immediately. Unless one realizes that immediate hanging of Ehsanullah Ehsan without any statements or video would have been a dream come true for India. Who would have been the ideal person to educate Pakistanis about the Indian sponsored terrorism in Pakistan if not Ehsanullah Ehsan, the public face of Pakistani Taliban? The anger of APS massacre families is understandable but those people are seeing things through the prism of emotions, which again is completely understandable, but that doesn’t make them right when it comes to how Ehsanullah Ehsan should be handled by the state. Emotions, sadly but rightly, have no place in state decisions taken for state interests. Similarly, the demand to hang Ehsanullah Ehsan in front of Army Public School is understandable but illogical since it serves no purpose other than satisfying the human urge for revenge while also radicalizing our children who would have to witness a public hanging after going through a massacre. The only thing that is surprising yet amusing is that the public hanging advocacy is coming from lefties, who were vehemently against hangings of terrorists ordered by military courts just a few weeks back. Amusing indeed.

But the army has preferred to parade him and his winning smile in front of TV cameras, and to release footage of him telling salacious stories about how his Taliban colleagues had three wives or how the current TTP leader took away his teacher’s daughter by force. The purpose seems to be to suggest that the Taliban are not a formidable force with an ideology and deep roots in Pakistani society, but rather a bunch of sexual perverts bankrolled by India. India, forever our existential enemy.

This isn’t the first time a video confessional statement of a terrorist has been made public by Pakistani state. Previously Pakistan had made public the confessional video statements of Indian spy terrorist Kulbhushan Yadhav (who was also smiling and laughing throughout the video), senior Taliban leader Latif ullah Mehsud (who was also smiling), wannabe-ISIS Pakistani girl Naureen Laghari and MQM’s assassin Saulat Mirza, just to name a few. The smiling part isn’t edited out from the videos so that conspiracy theorists couldn’t say the confession was obtained under torture or stress. But it appears the author here is more outraged about why Pakistani military made public any kind of video confessional statement of Ehsanullah Ehsan pointing towards Indian and Afghan agencies as main backers of terrorism in Pakistan, than anything else. How dare Ehsanullah Ehsan expose his former terrorist brothers in TTP/JuA for what they are, the author seems to be wailing. The author further implies that Ehsanullah Ehsan may be reading from a script, which is what a conspiracy theorist would say. These video confessional statements are approved by Pakistan’s intelligence community and evidence exists to support almost all the claims made in these confessional videos. Perhaps the author should talk to relevant authorities before forming his own conclusions from his wild imagination.

Ehsanullah Ehsan’s confessional statement also did not absolve religion’s role in the terrorist activities of TTP/JuA. Ehsan clearly says in his statement, and later in his interview which was banned, that TTP/JuA employed rigorous religious brainwashing of lower level terrorists who were supposed to carry out or facilitate field operations. As Ehsan explained, this religious brainwashing was not only carried out in their own camps and madrassas but also on social media in an effort to recruit volunteers online. Pakistani military itself has made public the role of religion and mass brainwashing operations when it paraded local and international media in the Taliban compounds and brainwashing centers following Pakistan’s military operation in North Waziristan. This can also be cross-checked with claims from Afghan intelligence agency NDS that says some Afghan Taliban bombers were trained and brainwashed in Pakistan’s North Waziristan before Pakistan’s grand military operation.

Why is the author incapable of recognizing India as Pakistan’s enemy when Indian leaders, including Indian NSA Ajit Doval, openly talk about using terrorism and proxies as a strategic tool against Pakistan?

There is, it’s true, evidence that India has funded groups to strike at Pakistan for interfering in Kashmir. But do we really need to enlist our children’s killers in our campaign against India?

How does the author know for sure that India has funded groups to strike at Pakistan for interfering in Kashmir? Because as I have previously written in my articles, India’s proxy war on Pakistan goes way beyond than countering Pakistan on Kashmir issue. India’s proxy war on Pakistan is a small part of its grand hybrid war on Pakistan, in which U.S. is at best silent and at worst complicit partner of India. The objectives of India’s hybrid war on Pakistan go well beyond Kashmir and include sabotaging CPEC, breaking away mineral-rich Balochistan from Pakistan and designating Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism, for starters. But obviously the author is either uneducated on security matters or is intentionally agenda-driven. Which one is it?

The author also implies that Pakistan is leading some sort of campaign against India, when only the opposite is true. It is India that is leading a campaign against Pakistan. The simple fact that the current Indian PM Modi won election on the promise of “teaching Pakistan a lesson” while the current Pakistani PM Nawaz got elected after campaigning on the slogan of “India-Pakistan friendship” is enough to tell any idiot on the block who is leading a campaign against who. Clearly the author is not that idiot.

Pakistani society is still deeply divided over what the Taliban represent. Some see them as barbarians at our door who want to destroy the last vestiges of our faltering democratic and civil order. Others think of them as our misguided brothers: The Taliban, too, want a just society; it’s only their methods that are unacceptable. They are brave, and we are a little bit proud of them: In Afghanistan, these fallen brothers, our creation, are still managing to keep America at bay.

For once, the author is right as he notes that Pakistani society is divided; but it is divided over not only what the Taliban represent but also on how to tackle Islamist extremism. This division is not entirely unique to Pakistan and exists in some form in almost every country that has faced Jihadist terrorism, including United Kingdom and United States. Indeed, there are religious extremists in Pakistan who sympathize with Taliban and/or their cause(s). Here it is important to make the distinction between Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban, which obviously the author conveniently doesn’t make. There are two major aspects to this: a religious aspect and a geopolitical one. Both Taliban groups are vastly different from each other in both these aspects. While Pakistani Taliban kill civilians indiscriminately and mount attacks on schoolchildren and also shot Malala, Afghan Taliban don’t attack children and instead call on their members to plant more trees, collect utility bills and even offer security to protect development projects in Afghanistan. To even hint that Afghan Taliban are same as Pakistani Taliban of today or of 2008 highlights the ignorance of the author and his inability to understand the topic he has decided to write about. The author also fails to mention the pivotal role of United States in the backing of Afghan Taliban during the Afghan Jihad against Soviets, when the CIA was still pro-Jihad.

But when they wage the same brave fight in Pakistan, we recoil.

The Taliban were supposed to be our assets in our historic feud with India. When India and Pakistan were on the verge of another war in 2008, the Taliban leaders of the day vowed to fight alongside Pakistan’s soldiers.

Once again, the author either deliberately or ignorantly fails to draw a distinction between Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Taliban. While Pakistani Taliban have mounted attacks against the Pakistani state, Afghan Taliban have never attacked Pakistani state or its interests in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, was formed in December 2007 after several Pakistani Sunni militant groups based in FATA merged together mainly in opposition to the pro-America policies of the then President of Pakistan Mr Pervez Musharraf as well as to implement Sharia law across Pakistan. It was at this point that their religious extremism blinded them to the interests of Pakistan and they started mounting attacks against the Pakistani state. On Pakistan’s part, the situation was handled poorly and Pakistani Taliban were further pushed against the wall. Pakistani state did not see the Pakistani Taliban as just assets against India but back in 2008 when TTP was newly formed and there was still room for negotiations, the Pakistani Taliban leaders hoped to send a message to Pakistani state that they were willing to fight against India in case of war between India and Pakistan. On Taliban’s part, this message was meant to woo the Pakistani state as well as the public. But it didn’t hit the target and the message they got from Pakistani state in return was that they won’t be allowed to undermine Pakistan’s interests or implement an extremist form of religion, no matter what.

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“If they dare to attack Pakistan, then, God willing, we will share happiness and grief with all Pakistanis,” said Maulvi Omar, the Pakistani Taliban’s spokesman then. “We will put the animosity and fighting with the Pakistani army behind us, and the Taliban will defend their frontiers, their boundaries, their country with their weapons.”

The offer to fight against India is not an offer that was only made by Pakistani Taliban in 2008. Similar offers have been made by some other non-Taliban militias too, like Baloch tribal leaders and their militias recently said they will fight against India alongside Pakistan. Pakistani Taliban are also Pakistani citizens at the end of the day and their offer from 2008 to fight against India in case of India-Pak war should surprise no one as it was a desperate attempt by a militant group fighting the state to curry some favor from the same state. Did Pakistan use them to fight against India? No, it did not. That is what’s important, and that is what the author either deliberately or ignorantly fails to mention.

Today, while the nation is still trying to decide if yesterday’s monster can be today’s patriot, the Pakistani Army has already made it clear that it wants to have the last word on the subject.

Again, no one I know or heard of except the author has implied that Ehsanullah Ehsan or Pakistani Taliban who surrender are suddenly patriots. No, they’re not. But should the state discourage militants from surrendering? Should war and drone strikes be the only way to tackle militancy? If there are a bunch of militants who want to surrender, what should the state tell them? How is pushing back against militants who want to surrender and want to have another chance at life good for the state or anyone else for that matter? The surrendering militants are no patriots and they should and will face some sort of punishment before being sent through a long deradicalization program before the state can even think about releasing them back into public. And even after that, those who show 100% normal behavior would likely be kept under surveillance after their initial release for a long period of time. In any case, these decisions are not solely Pakistan Army’s decisions but in fact involve the input of counter-terror and security experts as well as intelligence professionals from Pakistan’s various intelligence agencies.

The leading English daily Dawn reported last year that the civilian and military leaderships were divided over what to do with Pakistani anti-India militant groups, which are often accused of waging attacks in India. The army declared that the story was a national security breach, and demanded stern action against both the people who had leaked information about those disagreements and the people who had dared to write about them. A high-powered investigation was set up to look into what has come to be known as the Dawn Leaks.

Is it surprising that the author, while writing in fake news NYT which I have already said is part of the information war on Pakistan, mentions one of the biggest media influence operations in not just Pakistan’s history but in the overall history of foreign-backed influence operations? I have written about how Dawn Leaks was a classic media influence operation and the overall target of which was Pakistan’s national security and Pakistani military in particular.

Last week, after reviewing the results, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif ordered the removal of two of his close aides and referred a journalist to a newspapers’ representative body. The army spokesman tweeted: “Notification is rejected.” The army won’t abide any discussion with civilians over who is a good or bad militant, or a good or bad Pakistani.

First of all, Pakistani PM has since denied that he ordered the release of the notification. Secondly, the military had already conveyed its stance to the civilian government all the way back in 2016 when General Raheel Sharif was still the Army Chief. This is a unique case since according to the assessment of Pakistan’s intelligence community the people believed to be involved in planting the fake news story in Dawn are part of the civilian government setup. Naturally, the intelligence community will have the last say in this matter since they’re the ones with the expertise and the tools to gather necessary evidence. Anyone who has trouble understanding this should read up on why Trump’s pick for National Security Adviser Mike Flynn had to resign after a strong case was built up by the U.S. intelligence community against him which involved charges of working for foreign interests and receiving foreign payments. No American asked the question why is the intelligence community having the final say on Mike Flynn. No American called it a conspiracy against democracy. Sadly, Pakistan’s civilian leaders are not as democratic as Mike Flynn and cannot be expected to resign unless someone forcefully removes them.

Many Pakistanis still love the army. And many politicians fear it. They look to it to remove their rivals, accusing one another of being security threats, if not outright traitors. Many political parties are asking for Mr. Sharif’s head for daring to have a closed-door discussion about what might be wrong with the army’s idea of good and bad.

Many most Pakistanis still love their military and their intelligence community and the only politicians who fear the military are the corrupt, compromised politicians who take orders from the establishments of the countries where they keep their assets, and none of those countries are named Pakistan. Hijacking of political parties and political leaders is an old hybrid warfare tactic which we have seen both Americans and Russians employ around the world in the near and far past. But not all politicians can be compromised and there are still some leaders in Pakistan who make Pakistan’s national security and its interests a vital part of their political rhetoric and campaigning. I wonder what the author has to say about Democratic Party leaders in U.S. who claim that Trump is Putin’s man in United States and that Russia intervened in U.S. election and helped Trump win? Who are they trying to make happy? CIA? Pentagon?

The “close-door discussion” the author mentions here is the Sajjan Jindal-PM Nawaz close-door secret meeting in Murree which I have already mentioned above. For some weird reason, the author doesn’t see any problem with an elected PM secretly meeting an Indian business tycoon who is known to have deep links with Indian intelligence agency R&AW at a time when India-Pakistan tensions were high, following Pakistan’s sentencing of Indian spy terrorist Kulbhushan Yadhav and video confessional statement of Ehsanullah Ehsan. Although the Americans not only called for Mike Flynn’s head but also got Mike Flynn’s head for having a phone conversation with the Russian ambassador. I wonder if Pakistan is more democratic than America? Or is the author simply ignorant? Take your pick. Moreover, Pakistani military never publicly said anything about the Jindal-Sharif meeting but most Pakistani political parties and leaders saw it as problematic and a cold-blooded murder of all democratic norms in broad daylight, and rightly so.

Most countries have an army, but in Pakistan it’s the army that has a country, goes the saying. If the politicians want to take the country back, they’ll have to stop calling one another traitor just to please the army.

“Most countries have an army, but in Pakistan it’s the army that has a country, goes the saying” – This same thing can be argued for United States of America, that has waged more wars and foreign interventions in last 100 years than all the countries of the world combined. Will it be okay to say that “most countries have an army but in the United States of America the military-industrial-intelligence complex has a country”? I would love to know.

If the politicians want to take the country back, they’ll have to stop calling one another traitor just to please the army. – Yes, the word traitor has become quite meaningless and its value and impact should be restored by getting rid of a few actual traitors, but why does the author think that Pakistani politicians must take the country back from the military? Why does the author appear to be endorsing the Indian narrative that the civilians (not just the civilian govt) and the military are not on the same page or have clashing interests? Pakistani military is Pakistan’s national army and it has the support of all civilians. That being said, Pakistan has several political parties and no one party can claim to represent all civilians. Moreover, state interests, and national security in particular, are above any political leader/party and partisan politics. It is the same way in every democracy and Pakistan is not unique in this case. Pakistani civilians don’t need to take back the country from the army; Pakistani civilians need to take back the country from people like Mr Mohammed Hanif who further foreign interests in Pakistan, endorse Indian propaganda and misguide young liberals who’re seeking the right direction for themselves and for their country.

 Ending –

Since the author is a British-Pakistani, perhaps he would know about another British-Pakistani whose example can be quoted in the discussion about Ehsanullah Ehsan. His name is Maajid Nawaz. Maajid was born in Essex to a British-Pakistani family. He once used to be a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, an Islamist pro-Jihad organization against which Pakistan (amusingly enough) has acted more forcefully than the United Kingdom. His elder brother went on to become the UK leader of Hizb ut Tahrir. Maajid became a leading personality in UK Hizb branch and was extensively involved in Hizb’s propaganda as well as recruitment drive domestically as well as abroad. Maajid was arrested in 2001 by the Egyptian police and remained in an Egyptian jail until 2006. He was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and later brought back to London, soon after which he resigned from Hizb and started educating British Muslims about the dangers of Islamic extremism. In his counter-extremism drive, Maajid was supported and encouraged by Britons as well as think tanks, security organizations and even government institutions. So far, Maajid has played quite a leading role in shaping the counter-extremism debate in UK. Just like Ehsanullah Ehsan, Maajid Nawaz also didn’t carry out any attack himself even though many other Hizb members have been involved in terrorism across the globe. Just like Maajid Nawaz is doing some incredibly important work for counter-extremism in Britain, Ehsanullah Ehsan can be Pakistan’s Maajid Nawaz who can go on to educate Pakistanis about the dangers of Islamist extremism and India’s proxy war on Pakistan. There could be no one better to do that job than Ehsanullah Ehsan and that should be his ultimate punishment, in my own opinion of course.

 

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Dawn Leaks: A classic media influence operation directly targeting Pakistan’s national security

Also published at Ground Zero and Command Eleven.

 

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The Dawn Leaks report is finally here and a notification has been issued from the PM House. Four people and an institution have been blamed for Dawn Leaks that include Rao Tehsin Ali, Principal Information Officer in the Ministry of Information, and Tariq Fatemi, the Special Assistant to the PM. Moreover, ‘disciplinary action’ has been suggested against the journalist Cyril Almeida as well as Dawn’s editor Zaffar Abbas. Most insiders who are anything significant know that this notification is inaccurate and has been changed over time. This is certainly not part of the report that General Raheel Sharif endorsed and I’m not so sure that he will be willing to endorse this one. ISPR has already rejected this notification in a tweet. It is likely that the government will have to reconsider and reevaluate this notification and instead make the complete report public. On the other hand, Dawn News is trying to cover up what the notification says about its editor and journalist. While many will indeed continue to debate this, and rightly so, in this article I will revisit this whole ‘event’ to get a better perspective.

 

What Is Dawn Leaks?

Dawn Leaks was a classic media influence operation that was backed by Pakistan’s foreign enemies and carried out primarily by Dawn News, Pakistan’s oldest English paper, on 6th October 2016. Cyril Almeida, a young ambitious Christian journalist who also once worked for Geo News, was chosen for this operation. The story he published can be read here. The essence of the story was that in a high-level meeting between civilian leaders and military & intelligence leaders, the civilian leadership told their military colleagues to ‘act’ against ‘terrorists’ or get ready to face international isolation. This story gave the impression that Pakistani military is supporting, or at best willingly not acting against, some terrorist groups. This was the same narrative that has been imposed on Pakistan from India and it’s international allies. Moreover, the story was published at a time when it could do the most damage, and it did. Just a few days ago, on 29 September 2016 India had claimed to carry out surgical strikes in Pakistani territory that later turned out to be a cross-border attack that was successfully repelled by Pakistan. But India claimed to have hit “terrorist launch pads” in Pakistani territory, directly accusing Pakistan of harboring anti-India terrorists. Just 7 days later, Dawn published the story that directly validated India’s claim that Pakistan supports, or doesn’t act against, some terrorists. Was this connected? Any intelligence professional will tell you “you bet it was”. Moreover, the story published in Dawn also intended to portray to the audience that Pakistan’s civilian leaders agree with India’s narrative but the military may is the main hurdle. This portrayal was deliberate. Anyone who has observed the rhetoric of Indian analysts and Western anti-Pakistan analysts like Christine Fair knows they don’t badmouth civilian leaders or civilians in general but instead they single out Pakistani military and Pakistan’s Intelligence Community (IC) but primarily ISI. And yet, the story in Dawn also gave the same impression. This may be because the international establishment as well as India see Pakistani military and its IC as the main hurdle in the way of their grand designs for Pakistan and the region.

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Cyril Almeida
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Zaffar Abbas, editor at Dawn News

The Dawn story was slammed by Pakistan’s defence circles and Opposition political leaders as well as by Corps Commanders of Pakistani Army in at least two different Corps Commanders Conferences (CCC). General Raheel Sharif and Corps Commanders of Pak Army called the story concocted and planted. This was very significant since they didn’t simply call it one or the other. And they were right. The story was indeed fabricated first and then planted at a time when it did the maximum damage to Pakistan’s national security and its international standing.

If the story was fabricated first, which it was, then this goes way beyond just a journalist or a media group. This report could have only been fabricated by a civilian government insider. I say a civilian government insider and not a military insider simply based on the fact that the story was meant to portray civilian leaders as a whole as steadfast against terrorism while Pakistani military was intentionally portrayed as an institution that was allied with terrorists. Many Pakistani journalists have actually already reported the names of government insiders that were behind this operation but I will avoid taking any names here. But what can be definitively said is only someone in the top tier civilian leadership can fabricate this and then try to get away with it. This is also why despite being a matter of national security the report was delayed for so long even though it was expected to be made public last year. It is feared that if the real names come out, the current civilian setup may not survive since the investigation will lead to some very nasty things and the investigation may even eventually lead to some foreign players.

Certain domestic and international elements also waged a social media campaign against DG ISPR over his tweet rejecting the notification. Even though Pakistan’s civilian leaders, from Bilawal Bhutto to PM Nawaz’s daughter Maryam Nawaz Sharif, use Twitter extensively. So why is tweeting suddenly wrong when it’s the military informing the public about its stance on a case to which military is a party? That is a question that can only be answered by those usual suspects who waged this propaganda campaign. In fact, what followed DG ISPR’s tweet was another influence operation that was successful in moving the discussion from Ehsanullah Ehsan and what he said to “Pak Army is bad”. This influence operation neutralized much of the impact of Ehsanullah Ehsan’s video confessional statement.

What Now?

Pak Army has already rejected the notification that was issued, calling it incomplete, and it is yet to be seen where this goes from here. Clearly there’s still some confusion over this. The report has already been delayed for too long and if it was up to me, I would advocate for making the *real* report public today. But since those in the top tier leadership who are involved in this national security crime will try their best to wriggle their way out of this, the *real* report may take some more time. Unless institutions responsible for Pakistan’s national security take matters into their own hands. Pakistan as a state is above any civilian government setup or any individual(s) and it cannot afford such attacks on its national security from within. Pakistan has been a victim of hybrid warfare for last several years. Media influence operations and political infiltration/manipulation are a pivotal part of hybrid warfare. Dawn Leaks case is a test case in this area. If Pakistan’s national security institutions failed to deliver justice to the nation on Dawn Leaks case, it will be a victory for the enemy and will forever undermine Pakistan’s national security. For these and many more reasons, the *real* report of Dawn Leaks must be made public and a *real* investigation must be carried out and every single person behind this national security breach should face the music.

 

 

 

Ehsanullah Ehsan: Just another small piece in a grand puzzle

Published at Command Eleven.

 

It was recently announced by ISPR that Ehsanullah Ehsan has surrendered himself to the Pak Army and now we have his partial video confessional statement. There has been some speculation how Ehsanullah Ehsan ended up in the custody of Pakistan and whether he surrendered willingly as ISPR said in its statement or was he captured in a Pakistani SpecOp in Afghanistan. The fact that Pakistan’s forces have been targeting TTP/JuA camps in Afghanistan recently and maybe even ventured inside Afghanistan in pursuit of terrorists, as reported by some local Afghan journalists, gives weight to the argument that maybe Ehsan was captured in an op. But this is just pure speculation at this point and there’s little to no solid evidence to back it up.

Ehsanullah Ehsan is just another piece in the puzzle of the grand hybrid war that has been waged on Pakistan primarily by India but also backed up in various ways by its allies like Kabul regime in Afghanistan, etc. Ehsanullah Ehsan served as the spokesperson of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and later as a spokesperson of Jamaat-ul-Ahrar. He has cheerfully accepted responsibility for hundreds of terrorist attacks in Pakistan in written and recorded audio statements. He has calmly justified the killings of innocent Pakistani civilians and Armed Forces in his fatwas. Ehsanullah Ehsan, by all means, is inhumane and a terrorist. That being said, it is also important to remember here that there are degrees of terrorism and while Ehsanullah Ehsan served as a spokesperson and a propagandist, he never carried out an attack on his own. Instead, he justified the attacks that were carried out by field terrorists, most of who didn’t receive orders by Ehsanullah Ehsan but by someone else, usually a commander or the Emir. Ehsanullah Ehsan has also provided Pakistan with priceless intelligence on his former brothers in TTP/JuA, which Pakistan has likely already used in the operations that it secretly carried out recently in Afghanistan. It is also rumoured that Pakistan may have provided intelligence that came from Ehsanullah Ehsan to U.S. for the MOAB strike on ISIS-K in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. The same MOAB strike that also left over a dozen Indians dead, about who questions are being raised in Pakistan that what were Indians doing with ISIS-K in Nangarhar. While India obviously says that the Indians killed in MOAB strike left India to join ISIS on their own, credible intelligence sources say that they were Indian intelligence operatives who were there to handle and train ISIS-K terrorists. At this point it is important to remember that ISIS-K consists of mostly Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants along with some Uzbeks, who were chased away from Pakistan during Operation Zarb-e-Azb. In reality, ISIS-K is nothing more than a rebranding of old groups and militants. These proxy groups are being used primarily by India and on a lesser extent by Afghan intelligence agency NDS against Pakistan.

If Ehsanullah Ehsan surrendered like the Pak Army says he does, it also means he probably surrendered after striking a deal which probably included assurance from Pakistan that he won’t be hanged in return for intelligence and shunning of militancy. If Ehsanullah Ehsan publicly shuns militancy and apologizes to Pakistani nation on LIVE tv, it is safe to say that he could be given a chance to eventually rehabilitate after serving his punishment and going through a deradicalization program. Ehsanullah Ehsan deserves no mercy, make no mistake about it. And this isn’t about mercy. This is about a state taking wise decisions. So far Ehsanullah Ehsan has served as a pawn of India. Now he must serve as a pawn of Pakistan. Imagine the same Ehsanullah Ehsan, who once defended Taliban and their attacks, starts playing a role in educating the Pakistani public about why his fellow TTP Taliban are wrong and why their ideology is not the real Islam. Ehsan could be instrumental in turning away radicalized Pakistani youth from TTP/JuA and similar groups. That will be a major blow to TTP’s and JuA’s credibility and their overall propaganda effort. This should be Ehsanullah Ehsan’s punishment because hanging him will be too lenient and won’t help Pakistan in a way that keeping him alive would. Keeping him alive will also help bring more possible defections from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which will not only bring a treasure trove of intelligence to Pakistan’s table while neutralizing Pakistan’s enemies without firing a bullet but will also break the morale of the remaining terrorists of TTP and JuA. In any case, the state will decide what should be done with Ehsanullah Ehsan. What should happen to Ehsanullah Ehsan shouldn’t distract us from the real story here that once again highlights the Indian hybrid war on Pakistan. In his confessional statement, Ehsanullah Ehsan vindicates what Pakistan has said about India-backed and Afghan facilitated terrorism for a long time and has been acknowledged by the likes of ex U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel but also by Indian NSA Ajit Doval himself, who has spent 7 years as a spy in Pakistan and is also the former Director of India’s Intelligence Bureau. Moreover, Ehsanullah Ehsan’s statement also confirms what Indian spy terrorist Kulbhushan Yadhav said about his activities against Pakistan which included financing and directing TTP terrorists. All this is unprecedented.

Now it all depends on Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who are too lazy to appoint a Foreign Minister, to present Pakistan’s case in front of the world for if these opportunities are lost, Pakistan may not get another opportunity to educate the world about the hybrid war that has been imposed on it and will continue to be seen as a perpetrator of terrorism instead of being seen as a victim of terrorism.

The Syria Quagmire, From Pakistan’s Perspective

This article was also published at Ground Zero.

 

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A Syrian rebel surveys the surrounding area

As Syria war continues and as Pakistan’s ex-Army Chief General Raheel Sharif is nominated the chief of Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT), it may be time for Pakistanis to revisit the Syrian conflict for a better understanding to reach consensus on what should be Pakistan’s Syria policy, especially after the election of Donald Trump, whose Syria strategy is still unclear even after a clear shift in policy after recent strikes on Syrian Army airbase, which were in response to a chemical attack allegedly by Assad according to U.S. and its allies but disputed by Syrian regime and its allies Russia and Iran. Pakistan, who itself is a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), condemned the chemical attack and called on all parties to find a peaceful resolution to the Syrian conflict. What initially started as a civil war has become such a nonsensical quagmire that even the parties involved have little idea where to go from here.

The Parties In Syrian Conflict: 

Turkey

The goal of Turkey in Syria is to oust the Assad regime as well as wage war on and curtail Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, also known as PKK. The conflict between Turkey and Kurds goes back all the way to 1978. In late July 2015 the third phase of this long Kurdish-Turkish conflict started following the failure of a two and a half year long peace dialogue. One of the major reasons behind the failure of the peace process was the war in Syria and the security situation at Turkey-Syria border. Indeed, PKK has been accused of several terrorist attacks in Turkey, including suicide bombings. In Syria, Turkey opposes Assad and supports Syrian rebel and Opposition groups including Free Syrian Army, Ahrar-al-Sham and Jaysh-al-Islam as well as its own proxy groups like Turkish Free Syrian Army.

Saudi Arabia –

The goal of Saudi Arabia in Syria is to limit the Iranian influence which can only be done by ousting Assad, a key Iran regime ally. Saudi Arabia, like Turkey, wants a peaceful resolution for Syrian conflict which would remove Assad. Saudis are also concerned about the rise of Islamic State in Syria and intends to fight it. For these purposes, Saudis support Syrian Opposition and rebel groups financially, which includes financing weapons. Saudi Arabia is the largest financial supporter of Syrian rebels. Saudi Arabia supports groups like Jaish al-Fatah, Jaish al-Islam, Free Syrian Army, Ahrar al-Sham, etc. Saudi Arabia also has limited participation in U.S.-led airstrikes against Islamic State in Syria.

Qatar –

The Qatari involvement in the Syrian civil war started in 2012 and has expanded with time. According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Qatar has been the number one supplier of weapons to the Syrian rebels. Qatar has been supporting a wide range of rebel groups, from West-approved moderate Syrian rebel groups to Al-Qaeda-allied groups. The goal of Qatar, like other backers of the Syrian Opposition and rebels, is to remove Assad but it also shares some common ground with the Saudi goal to cut back Iranian influence. Qatar also operates a training base for Syrian rebels in its own country, training over 1000 rebel fighters in one year. Qatar has also participated in peace talks between Assad regime and its backers and the Syrian Opposition and its backers.

United States of America –

United States, like its Middle Eastern allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar, has been backing the Syrian rebels with money, logistics, training and weapons through Pentagon and CIA. U.S. has tried to support only vetted moderate rebels groups but there have been accusations from the Syrian regime as well Russia that U.S. is supporting extremist groups, accusations firmly denied by Washington. U.S. program to fund and train Syrian rebels also suffered from lack of resources, miscalculations and a broken Washington system. Where on one hand CIA wanted to back anyone it can find who can fight Bashar-ul-Assad’s forces even if it meant funding and arming Al-Qaeda, the Department of Defense and Obama administration officials disagreed and opposed CIA as they wanted to support only the U.S.-vetted moderate groups. This bickering in DC eventually helped Russia to crush both CIA and Pentagon backed rebel groups. United States has also been fighting Islamic State in Syria under Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF–OIR), an alliance against Islamic State in Syria and Levant of more than 30 countries. The CJTF-OIR is fighting ISIS by engaging in targeted airstrikes as well as supporting some Kurdish and Arab groups on the ground. These groups include YPG, YPJ, Jaysh al-Thuwar (JaT), Syriac Military Council (MFS) and International Freedom Battalion (IFB). The apparent goals of United States in Syria include fighting Islamic State and removing Assad preferably through a peaceful process which includes Syrian Opposition.

Russia –

Russia has historically enjoyed excellent relations with Syria and was invited into the Syrian conflict by the Syrian dictator Assad himself. Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean for its Black Fleet is located in the port of Tartus, Syria. In 2011 and 2012 Moscow used its veto-power in the United Nations Security Council against resolutions promoted by Western and Arab countries to prevent possible sanctions or military intervention against the Assad regime, and Moscow continued to supply large amounts of arms that Syria had earlier contracted to buy. On 30 September 2015, Russia started its direct military intervention in the Syrian to aid the Assad regime, which was about to collapse at that time, consisting of air strikes against militant groups opposed to the government. Russia maintains active intelligence sharing link with the Bashar-ul-Assad’s regime and Russian military advisers have been advising Syrian Army. Russia’s goals in Syria include defending the Assad regime and making sure that it does not fall to Al-Qaeda or Islamic State, protect Russia’s only naval base in the Mediterranean, fight Islamic State (which Russian President Putin has publicly accused of being funded and supported by Western allies) and cut back U.S. influence in the Middle East.

Iran –

Iran, like Russia, is a key ally of Syria’s Bashar-ul-Assad regime and has been called Syria’s closest ally. Iran, like Russia, wants to make sure that Assad regime stays and for that purpose Iran has consistently supported Assad regime in a strategy designed to increase Iranian influence and cut back Saudi/Sunni influence. In 2011 Iran was reported to be helping the Syrian regime crackdown on protesters, which was the point when peaceful Syrian protesters turned violent and resorted to militancy against the regime. Iran’s IRGC shares intelligence with the Syrian military, provides technical and personnel support and also allows its advisers to help the Syrian military develop military strategies to counter West and Arab backed rebels groups as well as Islamic State. In 2011 the news was leaked to the media by Western intelligence agencies that Iran has agreed to fund a new multi-million-dollar military base on the Syrian coast to make it easier to ship weapons and other military hardware between the two countries. Indeed, Iran has been consistently supplying Assad regime with weapons via Iraq, Turkey and Lebanon, which is in violation of UN arms embargo on Iran. Iran has also used commercial planes to smuggle weapons into Syria. Iran has also been sending IRGC fighters and officers into Syria to aid the Syrian military. Several Iranian military fighters and officers have been killed in Syria.

In a rare public comment about Iran-Syria military ties, Gen. Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, commander of Iran’s regular Army ground forces, said the Islamic Republic of Iran is prepared to provide military training to the Syrian Army. “As a Muslim nation, we back Syria, and if there is need for training we will provide them with the training.”

Iran also uses Syria as a counter-weight to Israel and by extension United States. Iranian Foreign Policy Advisor Ali Akbar Velayati once declared about Syria regime, “Iran is not prepared to lose this golden counterweight [to Israel].” Iran also funds, arms and trains different militias which are fighting against Islamic State as well as Arab-backed rebel groups. These militias include Al-Abbas Brigade, Fatimiyoun Brigade and the Zainabiyoun Brigade, which mainly consists of Pakistani Shi’ite Jihadis fighting for Iran. The primary recruiters, financers, and handlers for the Pakistani fighters in Syria are the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Al-Quds Force. Apart from these brigades, Iran has also helped raise a strong military presence of Hezbollah, the Lebanese pro-Iran anti-Israel Shi’ite militia. Hezbollah’s presence is so strong in Syria that many experts have said that among all the parties involved in Syria, it is Hezbollah that is winning. Hezbollah’s presence near the Israel-Syria border has worried Israeli military experts who fear that Hezbollah may use a two-front strategy against Israel in the next war, which could be nearer than most experts think. Indeed, Syrian officials have said that in case of a Hezbollah vs Israel war, Syria will support Hezbollah. Syrian regime itself has been providing arms to Hezbollah, which has rung alarm bells in Tel Aviv. Besides propping up Assad regime, countering U.S. and Saudi influence and fighting Islamic State, Iran’s goals in Syria also include using Syria as a second front against Israel.

Israel –

Israel, for now, has largely stayed away from active military intervention in Syria to oust Assad even though it shares this goal of U.S. and Arab countries. Instead, Israel’s efforts have focused on medically treated Syrian civilians as well as rebels fighters seeking help in Israeli hospitals. Israel has treated over 2000 injured Syrians in Israeli hospitals since the start of Syria war. Apart from medically treating Syrians, Israeli action in Syria has sometimes included targeted airstrikes on Hezbollah sites, weapon shipments to Hezbollah and Assad regime facilities linked with Hezbollah. There is fear in Israel that involvement and winning position of Hezbollah in Syria war will embolden the militia to seek a war with Israel. Israel’s official position in the Syria war is neutrality.

Where Does Pakistan Stand?

Pakistan has largely stayed neutral in the Syria conflict so far but it will need to devise an effective foreign policy strategy to play its role since Pakistan shares border with Iran, a party in Syria conflict, and Pakistan is also leading the IMAFT, which is meant to fight against terrorism which may include Syria-linked terrorism spilling outside. Islamic State also has presence in Syria and more recently in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, which should also compel Pakistan to reevaluate its policy on Syria. Pakistan will have to balance its policy on Syria delicately between trying not to alienate either side: the backers of Assad regime and the backers of Syrian rebels. Pakistan has good relations with Saudi, Qatar and other Arab states and wouldn’t want to harm them. Yet Pakistan now also has good relations with Russia, which is proving to be a possibly crucial ally of Pakistan in Afghanistan war theater. Yet some Middle East commentators have also claimed that Pakistan’s Syria policy tilts towards Assad regime and its backers Russia, Iran. This may be because Pakistan has opposed regime change in Syria via military intervention. But in Pakistan’s defense, this stance of Pakistan is in accordance of UN and international law. Pakistan also points out that the Assad regime is recognized by the UN and therefore it is not realistic for Pakistan to reject it and support regime change. Indeed, the popular narrative in Pakistan has been mixed where commentators and officials in Islamabad largely blame foreign powers, and United States in particular, for the Syrian quagmire. Yet some argue that Pakistan’s position is morally wrong since Assad has engaged in mass-slaughter of his own people and he is not backed by United States but Russia.

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A Syrian Army tank

In terms of counter-terrorism and security, Pakistan will also need to create a national deradicalization program and educational programs to help aid Pakistan in the fallout of the proxy war in Syria, which is bound to create ripple effects in Pakistan’s ideological narrative. Average Pakistanis will have a hard time following who is supporting who in Syria and why and it will be hard to explain all the clashing interests in Syria. Since Pakistan is an ideological state, it needs not only to come up with a counter-narrative not only against ISIS but also to explain to its public why Muslims have been fighting against Muslims in Syria. This is the job of the state as well as country’s academics, scholars, religious leaders and political pundits. Sunni and Shi’ite fighters returning from Syria, after serving their sentence, should be put through a deradicalization program for 6-12 months before they can be allowed back into the society. Some countries have adopted the policy of revoking citizenship of citizens who went to fight in Syria for any group, especially Islamic State. Which policy to adopt is up to the Pakistani state but in any case a national deradicalization program is much needed.

For now Pakistan has stayed away from picking obvious sides in Syria conflict as it is not a party to the conflict and has its own problems to take care of but if the conflict in Syria escalates into a full-blown international conflict, Pakistan won’t be able to afford to ignore Syria anymore. Pakistan needs to start preparing for that inevitable time.

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An explosion in Kobani, result of an ISIS suicide car bombing, in 2014

The Monkey Who Got Caught

An edited version also posted at GroundZero

 

“Your monkey is with us”

Those were the words Pakistani intelligence services used to inform their Indian counterparts that their spy terrorist Kulbhushan Yadav has been caught and is in Pakistan’s custody. That was last year. Kulbhushan Yadav was arrested 3 March 2016 by Pakistani intelligence services in a counter-intelligence operation from deep inside Balochistan where he entered via Iran, where in Chabahar he was running a gold business while posing as a Muslim businessman, complete with a nice Muslim name Hussain Mubarak Patel. Yadav joined the Indian National Defence Academy in 1987 and was commissioned in the engineering branch of Indian Navy in 1991. After 14 years of service he launched into intelligence operations in 2003 and established a small business in Chabahar in Iran. Yadav is a serving officer in the Indian Navy and was due for retirement by 2022 as a commissioned officer. Kulbhushan Yadav has confessed to funding and facilitating terrorism and separatism in Pakistan’s Karachi and Balochistan. He was also deeply involved in sabotage operations against China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which Indian government openly opposes. Here is the full confessional statement of Kulbhushan Yadav.

 

 

India initially denied that Kulbhushan Yadav is its man but then quickly backtracked and admitted that indeed Kulbhushan Yadav is an Indian from Indian Navy but he had retired. This spin also didn’t work for very long as many experts pointed out that if Kulbhushan Yadav is not an active Indian spy then how can he give accurate information about his seniors in Indian intelligence. This spin was also destroyed by India’s own Mumbai Mirror that, after confirming from Indian intelligence officials, published a report that Kulbhushan Yadav is indeed an Indian spy and was caught by Pakistani intelligence services after he was heard speaking in Marathi with his family in India. Yadav also revealed that there are several more Indian spies in Pakistan who are actively working against Pakistan’s interests. The network of agents and proxies Yadav was running in Pakistan was itself unbelievably huge. Yadav helped in exposing dozens, some say hundreds, of agents and proxies that were active in Yadav’s network, from Balochistan to Karachi. Indeed,  Kulbhushan Yadav’s arrest is being hailed in intelligence circles as a major victory of Pakistani Intelligence Community (IC). Such examples are very hard to find even in the shadowy world of spies.

 

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Connection Of Colonel Habib Abduction With Kulbhushan Yadav

There are a lot of rumors in Islamabad right now. Questions are being raised. India has recently kidnapped a retired Pakistan Army colonel Mr Habib from Nepal, who was trapped by Indian intelligence services into flying to Nepal to apply for a job which was offered to him by a front dummy company set up by Indian intelligence specifically for this purpose. Once he landed in Nepal, he was abducted by the Indian intelligence services and his abduction is currently being investigated by Nepal government as well since any foreign citizen who goes missing from Nepal’s soil is also Nepal’s responsibility. Besides, Nepal itself is all too aware of India’s bullying of its neighbors. In a masterstroke which neutralized India’s evil plan, Pakistani intelligence services leaked the news of Col. Habib’s abduction to Pakistani media and in a matter of minutes it was in international headlines. While India may have abducted Colonel Habib to use him as a swap for Kulbhushan Yadav, as most Pakistani and even Indian observers agree, Pakistan foiled India’s plan by rushing ahead with the trial of Kulbhushan Yadav, who has been given death sentence by Pakistani military court under the Pakistan Army Act (PAA). This is not the first time a spy has been given a death sentence; indeed there’s a long history of spies around the world who have been put to death for their extraordinary crimes. This is also not the first case of an Indian spy being caught by Pakistan and India denying involvement, only to admit it later. Surjeet Singh was another Indian spy, in the long list of Indian spies, who was spying in Pakistan for Indian intelligence agency R&AW and yet he denied it the whole time. Except when he was released after 30 years and set foot on Indian soil, he then promptly admitted that he was indeed a spy.

There are some questions to be asked at this point: was the news that Pakistan is about to give a death sentence to Kulbhushan Yadav leaked from Islamabad to New Delhi, which resulted in the kidnapping of Colonel Habib? Moreover, did someone in Pakistan inform on the movements of Colonel Habib to New Delhi? Was Colonel Habib under surveillance in Pakistan? If YES, then there needs to be an official investigation led by Pakistan’s superior intelligence agency ISI into this. According to my own assessment, there may be mole(s) who may have passed some information to New Delhi.

 

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Not A Spy But A Spy Terrorist

India is in panic mode because for the first time, since the invention of social media, a major Indian spy has been caught red-handed by Pakistan and there is a video confessional statement of him. But this is no ordinary spy. Espionage is one thing. Hybrid warfare is a completely different thing. Kulbhushan Yadav is not a simple spy. He was leading the Indian hybrid war in Pakistan. A hybrid war is a mixture of several things: proxy warfare (includes terrorism, sectarian terror, separatism, etc), economic warfare, diplomatic warfare, political warfare, cyber warfare, influence operations (includes media operations), PSYOPS, etc. To learn more about hybrid warfare, read what Western defence analysts have to say about Russian hybrid warfare, which is adopted from Soviet hybrid warfare tactics. India, for quite some time now, has been engaged in hybrid war against Pakistan since India knows it cannot face Pakistan in a conventional or nuclear war.
Kulbhushan Yadav was also in contact with Uzair Baloch, who was also working for Iranian intelligence and had deep connections with gangwar criminals in Karachi, India-backed Baloch separatists in Balochistan as well as Pakistan’s political elite. This connection between Iran and India in anti-Pakistan activities is just the tip of the iceberg and the complete details of this evil nexus and its full past activities will probably be kept secret by Pakistan for strategic reasons for a long time. This is also partially why Kulbhushan Yadav’s trial could not have been an open trial in a civilian court, as some in India and in Pakistan have ignorantly called for. An Indian spy who has been active since 14 years in operations against Pakistan will surely divulge some very sensitive information in court proceedings, and if the trial is publicly open it could jeopardize Pakistan’s national security.  Pakistan is also not obligated to provide consular access to Kulbhushan Yadav or show him mercy because he is not a normal spy who was simply involved in espionage. In the past, Pakistan has quietly sent back Indian spies who were involved in standard spy activities. Kulbhushan Yadav is a spy terrorist who has been leading India’s hybrid war on Pakistan in his capacity and in his own confessional statement he admits that his actions have resulted in the killing and maiming of Pakistani citizens. We live in a world where some intelligence agencies are not simply involved in standard spy stuff but they’re also actively involved in hybrid warfare against other rival countries. When U.S. nabbed Jonathan Pollard in 1984, who was an intelligence analyst and was spying for Israel, U.S. sentenced him to life imprisonment even though U.S. and Israel are closest allies. His crime was passing classified information to Israeli government. Standard espionage. And it wasn’t even aimed against U.S. but mostly only to benefit Israel. And yet he got life imprisonment and was only recently released on parole after spending thirty years in incarceration. On the other hand, Kulbhushan Yadav was not only involved in espionage but in many heinous crimes against civilians. Under every international law, Kulbhushan Yadav is a terrorist. Therefore, Pakistan is right to give him the death sentence and should immediately proceed ahead with it as it is what justice, to all those who were killed, wounded or lost family members because of the actions of Kulbhushan Yadav, really demands. Kulbhushan Yadav has blood of innocent Pakistani citizens on his hands. Every breath he takes is a stab in the hearts of those who have seen their loved ones maimed, their limbs torn, their dreams broken.
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What Next?

India has threatened “consequences” if Pakistan moves ahead with the death sentence of Kulbhushan Yadav. India can also blackmail Pakistan with Colonel Habib, who is believed to be in Indian custody. Here I would argue that Pakistan should not get blackmailed as Pakistan is on the right side of history. Colonel Habib is innocent while Kulbhushan Yadav is a spy terrorist. Swapping one for the other would be senseless and a grave injustice to all those whose lives have been destroyed as a direct or indirect result of Kulbhushan Yadav’s actions and it will be rejected by Pakistanis. Instead, Pakistan should execute Yadav and get ready to counter India diplomatically and covertly if India blackmails Pakistan with Colonel Habib. Pakistan’s diplomats need to build their case on Indian terrorism in Pakistan and present it at every small and big international forum. Declare total diplomatic war on India. If there was ever a time when Pakistan needed an effective, strong foreign policy, it is now. There needs to be some firing and hiring in Islamabad. Pakistan will find a way to bring Colonel Habib back home, but not by getting bullied by India.
India is setting a dangerous precedent by kidnapping innocent Pakistanis and if India doesn’t back off, Pakistan has the right to engage in tit for tat actions, which will open doors to something to which there is no end. No Indian or Pakistani around the world will be safe anymore. It is not Pakistan but India that needs to think of the consequences. Pakistan is ready to play the game. But is India up for it?
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Urdu Interview With Director of Pakistan-Israel Alliance Noor Dahri (with English Translation)

 

Following is the English translation of the recent Facebook LIVE talk between founder of Rabwah Times Ehsan Rehman and co-editor of Rabwah Times & Director of Pakistan-Israel Alliance Mr Noor Dahri.

 

Ehsan Rehman (Rabwah Times founder): Hello Assalamuwalaikum everyone, welcome back to another episode of Rabwah Times Live. I do apologize for the long gap in between our last episode but due to some reasons we couldn’t start this live program for some time. And after quite a wide gap of quite a few months I believe we have started this program again. And in this program my co-host is Mr Noor Dahri, who is also a co-editor of Rabwah Times as well as the founder of Pakistan-Israel Alliance. And we’ll start our discussion today with, you know, what has happened in the last two weeks in terms of persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan..that…you know..two Ahmadis have been shot dead within the past ten days. And Pakistan refuses to even accept that there is a state-sponsored persecution of Ahmadis going on in the country and we’re gonna start our discussion on that and I’m gonna go to Noor Dahri for his views on that issue. Yes, brother Noor.

Noor Dahri: First of all Assaamuwalaikum Warehmatullah. Thank you very much brother Ehsan for inviting me on this show. We were thinking for quite some time about such a live program where we can pass on a positive message to the people. Your question is important for Pakistani community all around the world. I have also heard through a message that Pakistani Ambassador (to U.S.) denied Ahmadi persecution. To me it is completely a joke. How can you deny an ongoing persecution where killings..target killings are going on..how can you deny that on international forums. Not only Pakistanis around the world but international world is also looking at you and watching Pakistan that what you’re doing.

E.R.: He is sitting in an int’l forum in Washington DC you’re trying to present a good image of yourself on behalf of the government because that’s your job, and I understand that, but you cannot just deny that fact. And after that Pakistani people at the UN say that they should talk about human rights of Kashmiris…that Kashmiris are being oppressed..and that India is persecuting Kashmiris..And then India keeps denying that persecution of Kashmiris. But at the same time when it comes to their own persecution of Ahmadis they deny it and you know, they don’t even acknowledge it. India is at least trying to solve that problem. They don’t go out and stop Kashmiris from praying in Kashmir or they don’t stop people from praying as Muslims or they don’t stop them from doing what Islamic stuff is..the Islamic traditions. They don’t stop Kashmiris from celebrating Eid. In India they don’t stop Kashmiris from offering Namaz or Azaan…and at the same time you know the sort of persecution Ahmadis are facing in Pakistan is much worse than what is being done in India..or what Muslims are facing in India. I mean, they have a place in the govt, they can participate in elections, they can vote, they have all these rights. But at the same time Ahmadis don’t even have those basic rights.

N.D.: Look, the first thing is….look, first of all…question, I can raise probably two questions. Are they (Ahmadis) not Pakistani citizens? Yes they are. Have they been declared second class citizens? No. Alright? Do they have the right to vote? Or they can’t find a job? Look, the problem arises when you have made a nation..a community selective. By selecting it you have started persecution against them. Look, we are Pakistanis. We have Hindus in Pakistan living among us, we have Christians, Shia Muslims, Ahmadis..this is a multicultural diverse community in Pakistan. We have diverse culture in our Pakistan. What message do you want to give to the world. Why do you want to tell the world this country is only for Muslims and no one else has a right to live, to pray, freedom of speech..why are you taking away these rights from someone. These are basic human rights. The least you can do is to give people basic human rights. Wherever there are Pakistani Ahmadis around the world, they’re representing Pakistan. Have they taken Indian nationality while being abroad? Have they taken Indian nationality? Have they received training from somewhere to fight against other communities in Pakistan? They’re tolerating it for decades. Geo (tv channel) is being oppressed, in Hazara many Shias have been killed..Shias are being persecuted.

E.R.: So what started as a persecution of Ahmadis has now reached Shias and you know it’s funny…well, it’s not even funny but sad, in a sense that how Shias allied with Sunnis to declare Ahmadis non-Muslims and today this persecution has reached to Shias. Shia community is being attacked right and left. So how do we make people understand that this is not the way your country is going to go forward. Or how do you make the Pakistani government understand that they have to include everybody. They have to be more inclusive towards the Shias, towards Ahmadis. You are the Director of Pakistan-Israel alliance and your organization is very different as in you are trying to create relations between Israel and Pakistan. So if you look at Israel, there are a lot of diverse communities..20 percent of the population in Israel is Muslim, right. And ninety percent of those 20 percent are of Arab descent,right. So if we consider that in Pakistan too there are diverse communities including Ahmadis, Sunnis, Shias, Bahais, they’re all living together. So how can you apply the same Israeli model in Pakistan?

N.D.: Look, there are human rights in israel. Israel is Middle East’s biggest democracy. There is Arab community in Israel. There are Muslims living including Shias, Sunnis, Salafis, Ahmadis, Bahais, Christians. They’re not persecuted. Name me one case where an Israeli killed an Ahmadi or shut down their mosque or oppressed them or tried to crush their voice and human rights. In Israel they have their mosques which are prospering. Their Shias are also prospering. Why is it that Israel as a non-Islamic country they have freedom for minorities while Pakistan as a Isamic country, created in the name of Islam, where every minority community is suffering..why is that..when will we get out of this? From Fatwa-baazi and from Takfeer…please come out of it. Our Pakistani community is worldwide shamed for these things. For how long will we continue to shoulder this shame around the world. We are one nation. Why don’t you think as one nation? The world is watching you. And you have created a joke out of everything. You have made a joke of your traditions, your culture, your identity. Everything is a joke for you. This is 21st century..you can talk about conquering the world on social media…on social media you say that Pakistan has more human rights than anywhere else in the world..on social media you say Muslims in Pakistan have more rights than anywhere else. Brother, where are they? You have to prove it in real life. You’re living in a real life, not in a dream life..not in a social media life.

E.R.: (audio not available due to technical fault)

N.D.: Look, people who don’t have the guts to give rights to their neighbor..the nation which can’t give its minorites basic rights..so what do they do? They call people ‘Kaafir’. Prophet Muhammad has said if the person you’re calling ‘Kaafir’ is not a ‘Kaafir’, then you’re definitely a ‘Kaafir’. Come out of these fatwas. This Kaafir fatwa started from 1970s..In Zia-ul-Haq era’s when this fatwa-baazi started..come out of it..this is not Zia’s era anymore…this is 21st century. For how long will you kidnap, murder people after giving fatwa on them. For how long will you destroy whole communities and burn their houses after giving the ‘Kaafir’ fatwa. The world is laughing at you. You are beheading your own countrymen after declaring them ‘Kaafir’…you’re killing them. And then you tell the world that you’re a civilized nation. At least act civilized. I’m not an Ahmadi…I’m a Salafi. I talk about human rights. To me, every human being…every Pakistani, whether he is Christian, Hindu, Shia, Ahmadi or whether he belongs to any party..or whether he is an atheist..someone who doesn’t believe in Allah..alright? we don’t have any right to take someone’s life by giving fatwas. God has kept the responsibility of takin life in his own hands. we don’t have any justification, religious or legal, that we could declare someone ‘Kaafir’ and set their bus on fire. For God’s sake, let people live in their country.

E.R.: (audio not available due to technical fault)

N.D.: Look Mr Ehsan, Pakistan-Israel Alliance is an educational reform organization. Through this alliance I want to bring a reform in Pakistan. An educational reform. I want to bring revolution..educational revolution. To make people understand that the era of hate has ended. You have to move forward. India imposed three wars on you but you talk about love and harmony with them. And where Israel has not fought a single war nor has killed a single Pakistani ever..it (Israel) sits thousands of miles across…you’re talking about enmity with it? On what basis? You should either have the guts or reason for enmity. Who do you want as your enemy. Sometimes you talk abut enmity with Afghanistan, sometimes you talk about enmity with Israel, sometimes with Bangladesh. Is there any country that you have considered your friend? You must walk with unity with other countries in the world. You are one nation. Act like a nation. Don’t become a group…

E.R.: You’re right.

N.D.:  ..that keeps fighting with others. Israel is a superpower in the world. If you can make good relations with America, if you can make good relations with Britain, If you can make good relations with Europe, if you talk about having good relations with India..you talk about peace talks..so why don’t you come to the table to create good relations with Israel? Do you want Palestinian issue to be resolved? how will you solve it? For 70 years you have given ‘kufr’ fatwas..persecuted people..but you couldn’t get justice for Palestinian nation. If you want this issue to be resolved, then come to the table for table talk with Israel. You have to talk to each other. You cannot defeat them.

E.R.: As far as religious freedom is concerned, yesterday we did a poll on Rabwah Times where we asked in which three countries from India, Pakistan, Israel do Ahmadis have most rights? So it was very interesting that the poll which we ran on Twitter and Facebook, the top country was India, after India it was Israel and Pakistan was last. So it is interesting that Ahmadis have more freedom in a country like Israel..and it is not only because they’re Ahmadis but also because they’re Muslim. Because Muslim community as a whole lives in Israel without sectarianism even though just across the border in Palestinian society there is a lot of sectarian bloodshed. The fire of sectarianism didn’t reach Israel, and there are Muslims, Bahais, Jews, Christians living together there. Just last year, in the Palestinian Authority controlled area, a woman who had converted to Ahmaddiya was declared a ‘Kaafir’ and her marriage was broken up by Palestinian courts. At the same time in Israeli courts, Ahmadis are taking part in politics. there are Muslims who’re taking part in politics. Same thing with Ahmadis in India in Qadian. That Pakistani Ahmadis who helped in the creation of Pakistan go to India to practice their religion while in Pakistan two Ahmadis cannot even gather in public or read Quran. So if you see this situation, for instance when there was talk of ban on Azaan and in Israeli Parliament a Muslim member of Parliament gave Azaan and said that don’t ban Azaan and in Pakistan too many people condemned it and said look what Israel is doing. But at the same time if you look at the situation of Ahmadis in Pakistan, there’s a blanket ban on Azaan by the Pakistani govt on Ahmadis. Ahmadis cannot even give Azaan in the mosque let alone use loudspeakers. At the same time they’re condemning Israel’s actions that oh look Israel is banning Azaan. And it wasn’t still a ban..they said that please turn down the speaker volume or don’t give Azaan during particular timing..but Azaan itself still wasn’t banned. So you see this conflict going on. And there are many similarities in Pakistan and Israel. Pakistan was made in the name of Islam. Israel was made in the name of Judaism. So when you see that and then you see the religious extremism in Pakistan and religious freedom in Israel. So then what do you think after seeing this?

N.D.: Look, first of all, we don’t have religious tolerance in us. Unfortunately. It is very sad..in fact, it is a shame. The time for sadness is gone, now it is a shame for us that we don’t have religious tolerance in our country. we are killing our own brothers but give fatwas against Israel. We are killing Shias but we will give fatwa against Israel. This is no religious tolerance. There should be pluralism in the country. This extremist monopoly in the country should end. If you talk about democracy then bring democracy. Everyone should have the right to free speech and practice their religion. Where does Islam say that you cannot give rights to other people? You think yourself as a fort of Islam but the rules and basic rights that Islam has put forward, you have shot holes in them. Look, if you want to learn then learn. Learn from Westerners. Learn human rights. There is a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad which says that even if a ‘Kaafir’ speaks the truth, you have to accept that. And here we are killing our own Muslim brothers because they’re speaking the truth.

E.R.: A Mr Hafiz is commenting that you are a Qadiani *chuckle*

N.D.: Look when I have told you that I’m a Salafi then I’m a Salafi. The world knows me. The person who has given this comment, I want to tell them, I don’t know you and maybe no one in the world knows you except your family, alright? The world knows me. I cannot hide any personal thing. If I was a Qadiani or an Ahmadi or whatever, then I would have declared so. I am not sitting in Pakistan. I am sitting in England. Whoever I would be I would have declared so. When I’m a Muslim Zionist and I’m declaring that, then I can declare anything. Alright? You don’t have to worry, my brother. Whether I’m a Qadiani, a Muslim Zionist, Shia or whatever I am, no need to worry. Your problems won’t be solved by fatwas. If you want to learn, learn from your enemies. I am not talking about friends. Because unfortunately you haven’t made friends in the world. You’ve only made enemies. So learn from your enemies. Educate yourself. Knowledge is a power. Pen is mightier than a sword..You teach children about toy weapons. You teach them about guns in books..abroad they shoot guns in marriages…have you given them books in their hands? Have you ever said that education is the biggest power. The first verse in Quran was that you should educate yourself….but you threw it away and you’re walking with fatwas. Whose fatwa? Every sect is going around with the fatwa given by their sect’s leaders…talking against other sects…waging Jihad against other sects. Think about humanity. Don’t give fatwas about Qadianis or who is what…instead see what is your national interest. How is your country benefiting and from what? Talk about bringing people together, not about dividing them. That era has ended.

E.R.: So in your view, as you have started Pakistan-Israel Alliance, which has been quite a while now, so the communication you have had including with people in Israel as well as with Pakistanis and Muslims, as there are many Pakistani members of Pakistan-Israel Alliance, so what do you think the current affairs will lead this towards, specially after Trump presidency..you know in Washington DC, Israel has a big lobby..so if Pakistan creates good relations with Israel so can that lobby help Pakistan for a better relationship with the U.S.?

N.D.: Look, yes, it can be definitely done. When Musharraf was in the government, Israel offered them that if Pakistan recognizes Israel and creates good relations, Israel will even pay all the debt of Pakistan. They were ready to give billions in donations. And Musharraf was the only Pakistani leader who openly….I’m not talking about backdoor relations..if you talk about backdoor relations then Benazir Bhutto also maintained backdoor relations with Israel, Nawaz Sharif also used relations with Israel even for doing personal businesses…

E.R.: Let’s talk about this in detail as I have also read your articles at Times of Israel where you gave much details how through backdoor channels Pakistan-Israel diplomacy has continued over the years. This is a very controversial topic about which no one in Pakistan is willing to talk. And discussing this is considered a taboo. So what kind of backdoor diplomacy was it that has been going on between Pakistan and Israel?

N.D.: Look, the first thing is Pakistani politicians have blinded the Pakistani people. By keeping on lying they have blindfolded Pakistani nation. The blindfold has become so strong that even when someone tries to tell them the truth, they think he’s their enemy and lying. Because the blindfold of lie is so deep on the eyes of Pakistanis. No one is willing to accept. Look my brother, the people you have been voting for have stayed in touch with Israel through backdoor diplomacy. Take Nawaz Sharif, the first and second era of Nawaz Sharif..he has always used his relations with Israel…he has sent his religious ministers there..the ones who give you fatwa that there’s a ‘Kaafir’ go kill him…they go to Israel and arrange meetings and have lunch together with Israelis and have lived with them and sign secret pacts with them…and then they go back to Pakistan and advice their PM that Israel is a good state..

E.R.: Please name one such minister..as an interesting fact *laughter* Please tell please tell, nothing will happen *chuckle*

N.D.: *laughter* Right now I can’t remember the name of that person..I think he was from Jamiat-e-Ullema Fazlur-Rehman or maybe Sami-ul-Haq…*trying to remember*… well, he belonged to their party. It was someone named Qadri or something like that…I can’t remember the name right now…I will tell you the exact name next time. Okay so these parties are religious extremist parties. But their backdoor dealings with Israel are there. Now take the Army, take ISI..ISI and Army, talking against which is condidered treason..you can talk against politicians but nothing will happen..talk agianst judges and nothing will happen..but if you talk agianst the army you are called a traitor..and after that even if you leave Pakistan it will stay with you and you can’t go back like myself..the truth is why doesn’t the army tells the nation that we (army) has relations with Israel since before 1970. We have done joint military operations with them. Look at Operation Cyclone…in the war in Afghanistan against Russia, CIA Mossad ISI jointly supported and trained the mujahideen..they did this together… ISI cannot do an international operation without support from CIA and Mossad. They have intelligence cooperation among them. And yes there should be, it is a good thing..but what I mean to say is that when you have backdoor relations then why don’t you bring them to the front? By bringing it on the front your country benefits. Atleast be selfish..look at your national interests…your national interests right now are saying that you should shake hands with Israel…Look, on whose sake have you rejected Israel since last 70 years? Arabs? Arabs have pacts with Israel. There are Israeli officials working in Saudi Arabia. There is an Israeli consulate in UAE. There is an Israeli consulate in Qatar…

E.R.: ..ok so because of this there are allegations that Ahmadis/Qadianis are Israel’s agents or Jewish agents..but I have read articles that religious minorities are serving in Israeli Army…and such news items go viral in Urdu newspapers every other day… so do you what is the history of Ahmadis in Israel..you were telling about an Ahmadi village in Haifa which dated before creation of Israel? You must know..

N.D.: Look, if some people are relating Ahmadis with Pakistan and India then it is their ignorance in my view. Look, Ahmaddiya is a religious group which is spread everywhere outside India and Pakistan…they’re in Western countries..in Israel..in America..In israel they have their own community consisting of thousands of people..their have their own mosques there…if you say Ahmadis are Israeli agents then I ask how can they be Israeli agents? In your Army (Pak Army) there are generals and brigadiers who are Qadiani. You tell me which pacts have they done with Israel against their country? Ahmadis are working inside your ISI (intelligence agency). Ahmadis are working in your national defence. Ahmadis are working in your Cabinet. Ahmadis have played a role in the creation of your country. Who are you calling traitor? Has Pakistani Army said that Ahmadis are traitors?

E.R.: You’re right…yes please continue from here but I want to tell you an interesting thing..even though Ahmadis are officially not considered Muslims in Pakistan but in Pakistan Army any Ahmadi who is killed in the line of fire..against terrorists and extremists..they are given the title of martyr by Pak Army officially. Which is technically against govt rules because govt doesn’t declare Ahmadis are martyrs but Pak Army’s list of men killed in action contains the title of ‘martyr’ (shaheed) for Ahmadis.

N.D.: Look, there is no persecution against Ahmadis in Pak Army. There is a bloc in Pak Army…there is a group of Ahmadis in Pak Army..just like there is a bloc of Shias..Sunnis have their brigades…the same way there is a bloc of Ahmadis…there is no persecution in Pakistani Army like we see outside among civilians

E.R.: So like the persecution in the civilian govt there is no such persecution in Pak Army.

N.D.: Yes absolutely it doesn’t exist, persecution doesn’t exist in Pak Army. So whoever these Ahmadis or Qadian or whatever who fight for Pak Army against Pakistan’s enemies, they are given the same respect and honour as everyone else. They are a community. How can they deny them the honour. They are part of your country. They are born there and raised there. If their belief is different it doesn’t mean that you start killing them. Stop this killing in the name of Islam…in the name of religion..if no then at least learn from Israel what are human rights..learn from Israel what are minority rights..yes, it’s true..

E.R.: People will say this is a controversial thing to say considering the treatment of Palestinians by Israel..so this question will always be raised when you say Israel has human rights and minority rights..you must have heard that question a lot..you know when you talk about Israel and what it is doing against Palestinians and I do see some issues..in fact everyone sees it..there are videos from Israel depicting brutality..so  how will you respond to that?

N.D.: Looks, the first thing is that Israel was created in 1948. Since 1948 till now name once occasion when Israel attacked any country or community deliberately. You won’t find it anywhere. You will find in every operation who attacked and who defended. Second thing is when you will attack a country, it has the right to self-defense. Whether it is Pakistan, India, America, UK, or whether it is Israel. If you’re going to conduct killings in a country, wage terrorism, so obviously they have a right to defend their country, their people, so they have a right to defend, same as the right of any other democratic country. Another thing that is said is that Israel is oppressing Palestinians. First of all, you can’t fight the state. Secondly, I have nothing said that Israel is 100% right. I have always compared Israel with others, with Islamic and Western countries…Look, Israel is not a heaven…alright? Israel is not a heaven. It has bad policies, good policies, bad people and good people, their political policy and military strategy could be right somewhere and wrong somewhere else…you have to balance..if an Israeli soldier beats a Palestinian with sticks and throws him in jail and its footage is seen all over the world so in Pakistan there’s 10% more cruelty than that. The footage of that cruelty doesn’t go in the world. It means that no matter how much oppression is in Pakistan and there is no international or local coverage…even local coverage isn’t allowed..if you talk about human rights then international media is present in every corner and street of Israel… If someone is even slapped there, it is told with 3% more exaggeration on international media. At least Israel is giving freedom of speech and freedom of journalism.

E.R.: Yes that’s true..there is freedom of speech and freedom of movement in Israel..it is true..but in Pakistan the topic of Ahmadis is such a taboo that when I started Rabwah Times in 2006, the situation at that time was so bad that in Pakistan to use the word Qadiani was considered like you have invited ‘kufr’ fatwa on yourself. If you are even only reporting things about them, whether it is persecution or any news, whether it is the murder of an Ahmadi or an achievement of an Ahmadi, to even report that as an Ahmadi was a taboo. Ten years ago. But since social media and how people are using Twitter and Facebook, the taboo has ended. And the blanket ban and self-censorship that existed in people…that no we shouldn’t talk about it or something will happen..like the situation of Hamza Ali Abbasi last year..who wanted to talk in mainstream media about it…but they got his show banned. I mean that sort of, you know, at least in Israeli media you don’t face these issues.. their Palestinians can stand up in the Knesset and speak and give Azaan and debate but an Ahmadi can’t even stand at the Parliament’s door and talk.

N.D.: Look, what is this. This is called persecution. Is this not oppression? You challenge the human rights of Israel. But in your country where there is 10% more violation of human rights, you’re ignoring it. Why this hypocrisy. Stop this hypocrisy. if you want to compare yourself with Israel then come, correct your institutions. At least give freedom of speech. What freedom of speech are you giving. You conducted operations in the name of Zarb-e-Azb in the areas of Waziristan, thousands of people died, we have proof of that. why don’t you allow media to go there?

E.R.: Recently they started Radd-ul-Fasaad in which they said they will take action against hate speech..and the action they took, you know the hate speech against Shias by extremist groups like Ahle-Wal-Sunnat Jamaat, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba,..they’re openly blatantly taking out rallies in Islamabad and Karachi. But Radd-ul-Fasaad isn’t in action in this case. But if Ahmadis try to gather or want to hold an event, they’re not allowed to do so, their libraries have been emptied, their books taken..Ahmadis are afraid of keeping Quran in their houses. There is so much persecution that if a Quran is found in your home during operation, then they will try you under anti-terrorism law and throw you in jail. And I believe at least 4 to 5 Ahmadis are arrested under this operation so far. There is a Shakoor bhai who has been arrested for keeping Islamic books in his shop and he has been charged under anti-terrorism law. Then there’s an editor from the Ahmaddiya community paper, their editor is being charged under the same anti-terrorism law in Pakistan. And then two other Ahmadis were picked up from Lahore which hasn’t been confirmed yet..I mean, they have gone missing..only because a Quran and some Islamic book were found on them..so they were arrested from Lahore. So you know this is the sort of persecution..where did Radd-ul-Fasaad go? Is it only meant to be for the peaceful communities because your Radd-ul-Fasaad doesn’t work on terrorists but the locals, the peaceful people who won’t give you any reaction, you take action against them.

N.D.: Look, Radd-ul-Fasaad or similar operations are all against our own people. Name one high profile terrorist who has been killed in these operations.

E.R.: Look at Hafiz Saeed..they don’t even consider him a terrorist.

N.D.: yes yes that is what I’m talking about. I’m coming to that. I am saying that if you’re talking about Punjab, there are 450 banned terrorist orgs in Punjab. And they’re operating there. Those 450 orgs have merged into around 75 orgs. First there were smaller groups of 450 terrorist orgs. Now they have merged into 75 bigger groups and they’re operating in Punjab and in other areas. If you talk about Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, so Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is Muslim League Nawaz’s religious group. Votes from the all the areas under LeJ go to Nawaz. Rana Sanaullah is Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s man. They have gotten people killed there. Rana Sanaullah is involved in the murder of Shias. Rana Sanaullah and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi are behind killings of Shias and Ahmadis.

E.R.: And Punjab govt you know, they don’t ever take any action against those outfits. Because they need help from them..you know, they use them as pawns..to create influence in Pakistani communities in Western Punjab you know..

N.D.: See, some years back a Christian colony was torched in Lahore and later there was a report in which it was said that Muslim League N’s MNAs and MPAs were involved. But that inquiry was ended later on because Muslim League N was behind it. Call an inquiry on all the Ahmadis who have been killed. Where is the justice? Where is human rights commission? Where is high court and supreme court? Why isn’t suo moto action being taken by the supreme court? Why are minorities not being given rights? Why is there wholesale slaughter of people of a community? One human’s death is the death of all humanity. Have you forgotten Quran verses and Hadith in this case? I don’t understand why are you persecuting Ahmadis, Shias. Do you have no trust on your faith?

E.R.: Yeah faith is apparently endangered by these things.

N.D.: If you think that your religion, your Islam is strong, No one can move it, then why are you engaged in persecution? What are you afraid of?

E.R.: One Aziz Tariq is saying that you may face fatwa that you’re a Qadiani *chuckle* He’s right though

N.D.: No this Qadiani fatwa is nothing for me, I have bigger fatwas on me, leave it. Reformation is needed in your country. The Islam you have adopted in your country, there’s a a need to reform. You have to use relations with your neighbors. Move forward for the interest of your country. The whole nation has to become one. If you keep stuck in Shia, Qadiania, Barelvi, Biddati, Mushrik, then this attitude will prevent you from prospering nationally, let alone internationally. You have to present positive behavior, your attitude. You’re not doing that. Who has given the right to give fatwas on someone. Your every group has its own Mufti Azam. How many Muftis will you create? Fatwas and slips of ‘Kafir’ are in your pocket. You see someone and you say take them out.

E.R.: So an outsider you see human rights abuses by Pakistan, how do you see it..Ahmadi community, Shia community, Christian community, how can they counter this narrative?

N.D.: Look, you have to end religious monopoly in the country. End this right to fatwa-baazi. All the mosques that are sectarian, present a way forward for them. The govt has to present a strategy in this area. Go look at Saudi Arabia or other Muslim nations. Every Friday before prayers one Khutba is given in all the mosques which is approved by the govt. No Imam is allowed to give Khutba in his own words or terms.

E.R.: Standard government issued Khutba, right

N.D.: You have to present something like this. All these loudspeakers in the country and the religious monopoly in mosques, you have to restrict them. I’m not talking against mosques. I’m not talking against madrassas. I’m not talking against religion. I’m a mosque’s guy myself, I’m a madrassa guy myself. I have faith in religious books..I’m a religious person myself. I am against the unjust use of religion which you’re doing against your nation, your country, against your minorities..you have to stop it. You have to ban it.

E.R.: You’re right. So our Pakistan’s future relating to this…well, this is a long debate..when will we create a standard…because politicians enter the govt by using religious monopoly…and you know they owe them favors and that’s how they do all of those things…you favor religious extremists and they favor you..they increase your influence in their areas..and you sort of have unofficial control over that…When you go in the govt the police is under your control, but you’re not in the govt you use those extremist outfits to keep control in your areas..so it will take time to end this monopoly..We’ll see InshAllah, it has to end one day. And if people like you keep coming forward….

N.D.: Look, I can only hope. I have hope from Allah. I don’t have hope from this nation. If Allah wills He can bring a revolution so they become human beings…whenever I look at them, my heart lights out..It is not as if they don’t have the potential. There is very high level potential in this nation. There are intelligent people in this nation…there is brain..there is cream..this nation has living human beings who can raise awareness to change this world..there is a lot of potential in this nation..but problem is this nation has been misled…by fatwas and by calling other traitors, this nation has been misled…open the mind of this nation…give them some freedom…give them freedom and give them ability to think….this nation has the ability and it wants to move forward and has great potential..let this nation move ahead…

E.R.: Shahzad Panhwar is saying that you have missed something..the role in Black September of General Zia, can you please highlight some of that?

N.D.: Look, General Zia-ul-Haq was a colonel…posted in Jordan..when…well, this operation has a long history..I will give you a brief overview..PLO, Palestine Liberation Organization, it is famous in the world..you must have also heard about it. Their badluck is that in whichever country they take refuge in, this organization tries to overthrow that country..they went to Syria and started conspiring against them..Syrians then kicked them out…they went to Lebanon and Lebanon gave them refuge, to save them from persecution from Israelis..there they started conspiring against Lebanon..they tried to hijack Lebanon’s government..they also kicked PLO out..Jordan gave them refuge…

E.R.: If this is the case brother Noor then who represents Palestinians? According to you they’re extremists, and of course Hamas is obviously an extremist org.. so then who represents Palestinian people at this time?

N.D.: Look, first of all there is no democracy in Palestinians..After Yasser Arafat’s death Mahmoud Abbas was made the President..those elections were held 13 years ago…since 13 years there have been no elections in the Palestinian Authority. There is no opposition party. Whenever a leader rises up in opposition, Palestinian Authority quietly kills him..so that no one dares to oppose the PA President..You talk about taking a country from Israel? You don’t even have roots of democracy in you….you don’t have an opposition party that can contest elections against you….how will you take a state from Israel? Okay so even if you got a state…by making a fool out of UN and Western countries even if you got a state..first of all this state that you have taken, who will rule this state? Because a Palestinian state will have Gaza, it will have Palestinian Authority, some area of Jerusalem..there is Area A , B, C…tell me, you will start fighting again..like in 2006 when Hamas..Palestinians started slaying each other…they dragged the dead bodies of Palestinians by tying them at the back of trucks…the world saw it..

E.R.: Who, the PLO did it?

N.D.: Palestinians did it among themselves…Hamas and Palestinian Authority..they started killing each other’s members for rule and power…so if you get a state, then tell me who will rule that state? Fatah or Hamas? If Hamas rules, then Fatah won’t accept it. If Fatah rules, then Hamas won’t accept it. And then again a war will start..first of all you have to bring democracy in your nation..you have to create unity first….you have ten groups within you..you engage in wholesale slaughter of each other…and you talk about taking a state and you talk about rights with Israel? You’re not together among yourselves, how will you take a state from Israel?

E.R.: Junaid is commenting that you’re a Zionist agent. You’re an honorary member though..you’re a member, not an agent, no?

N.D.: Look, I am an honorary member of Zionist Federation (UK).

E.R.: Ok there’s a lot of misconception about..when we published about you being our editor so Pakistanis were very confused that one one hand you look like a maulvi, and on the other hand you say you are a member of Zionist Federation and a supporter of Israel. So how do you carry all three identities together.

N.D.: Look, listen to me. If to be a member of Zionist Federation or to be a Zionist means you are expelled from Islam, so then 20% Muslims who’re in Israel who have Israeli passport, Israeli citizenship, sing Israeli national anthem, raise Israeli flag, so all of them are then expelled from Islam.

E.R.: What does Zionist mean? If you identify as a Zionist, what is the definition of a Zionist for you? What’s a Zionist?

N.D.: Yes, first of all you have to understand…our 90% Pakistani nation doesn’t know what is Zionism. First of all you have to understand what is the definition of Zionism? Because Zionism is an ideology. And based on that ideology there is an organization..Zionist Federation..which is 100 years old…Somewhere around 1894 the foundations of Zionist Federation were laid…Okay so first of all address what is Zionism..Zionism is a political ideology..if you accept Israel’s right to exist on that land, if you accept Israelis as a nation, as a state in the land where Israel was founded..you have become a Zionist.

E.R.: So a Muslim living in Israel who accept its right to exist because they have the citizenship of Israel..so technically they can be counted as Zionists. Muslims living in Israel would naturally be called Zionists..Because they accept that Israel has the right to exist and they’re living in Israel..

N.D.: Look whether they’re called Zionists or not, the point of Zionism is that you accept Israel as a democratic separate Jewish state for the Jewish people..you accept it, you are a Zionist…any Muslim or Christian in the world who is supporting Israel, supporting their rights, supporting Israelis, in that land..so he’s automatically a Zionist, whether he calls himself a Zionist or not.

N.D.: This is like…if a Pakistani or an American says that Pakistan has a right to exist or that Pakistani people should have a separate Muslim state of their own…like Quaid-e-Azam said that there should be an Islamic country..well, not Islamic but a country for Muslims..so that..if we change the words and replace Muslims with Jews, then technically Quaid-e-Azam would be a Zionist for calling for a Jewish state…or a Muslim state.

E.R.: Yes, exactly. At that time there were two wars between nations…There was All India Muslim League, which was fighting for a separate state for Muslims..political movement..the second was the Zionist Federation..which was fighting politically for Jews on that land…Motives of both were the same..Muslims who were being persecuted, they should have a land of their own where they can freely practice their religion, their culture, their tradition, their identity, without any persecution..Zionist Federation shared the same motive, that there should be a land for Jews..who have been persecuted….around the world..the Jewish nation…Or the 6 million Jews killed…so there should be a state for them where they can practice their rights without any persecution or barrier. These are two reasons behind the establishment of Israel and Pakistan..There is no difference between Zionist Federation and All India Muslim League. The objectives and motives of both were the same.

E.R.: So politically they were the same…as they were working for the Jewish state and All India Muslim League was working for a Muslim state. So technically the ambition was the same even though religion was different..political ambitions were the same…Right

N.D.: I only want to say this that Zionist Federation has two histories…two angles..two objectives…their motive before the creation of Israel was to create a political mission to help create Israel…when Israel was formed, since then till today Zionist Federation’s objective is to morally support Israel…the meaning of Zionist Federation, whether it is the Zionist Federation in US, or the one in Israel the World Zionist Organization…or the Zionist Federation UK..and similar Zionist orgs around the world…their objective is to morally support Israel…their objective is not to persecute Muslims or to talk against Islam or to open fronts against Islamic countries, to wage war on Muslims…to demonize or single out Muslims..Zionist Federation has nothing to do with it…in Zionist Federation there are people of all cultures, traditions, religions who is supporting Israel and are Zionist….they’re the part of the Zionists….and they are exercising their rights within the Zionist Federation..

E.R.: So whether they define themselves as Zionists or not, by definition they are.

N.D.: Yes, any person who accepts the right of Israel, who accept Israel’s right in Israel, they are Zionists…

E.R.: We have feedback from Abdul Shakoor who says so far your program is going great..and after that…Shah Haroon Saifi is saying MashaAllah very knowledgeable program…Dr Shaan is saying that Mr Noor Dahri are you with Muslims or Jews? What response do you have for this, please tell *chuckle*

N.D.: Look, I am a Muslim, Alhumdulillah..it’s my identity…I was with Muslims, I am with Muslims and I will stay with Muslims…To support Jews is not against Islam. Islam defends Jews. Quran defends Jews. If you don’t believe in Judaism, you’re not a Muslim. If you don’t believe Torah, then you’re not a Muslim. If you don’t believe in their Prophet Moses then you’re not a Muslim. What are you talking about? Our Islam has support for Jews in it. The rights Islam has given to Jews..Prophet Mohammad (SWAT) had two wives who were from Jewish families… brother read history of Islam. Read Islamic history, see how many rights Jews have been given in Islam..if Jews were enemies of Muslims, why would Prophet Mohammad (SWAT) marry women from Jewish families…Secondly, Quran says you can marry Ahl-e-Kitab (believers of the book)..how can it be that on one hand Islam allows marriage with Jews and on the other hand it says Jews are your enemies and you should kill them..you have contradicted your Islam, your Quranic verses…You should open the Quran read the Tafseer (translation), you will understand things..that what has Allah said..there’s a huge difference between marriage and friendship…On one hand people tell me that Islam says that don’t make friendship with Jews..Ahl-e-Kitab (believers of the book)…answer my one question..in Islam, is the relationship of marriage more important or the relationship of friendship? You’re friends today but maybe you won’t be friends tomorrow..But the relationship of marriage is a relation through which races spread…Quran says that you can marry them..where does it say in Quran that you can only marry Ahl-e-Kitab if they convert to Islam….no , it says you can marry Ahl-e-Kitab..you can eat Halal food of Jews…if you can eat their food, if you can live with them, if you can marry them, then how can it be that you cannot be friends with them?

E.R.: Very nice…Mr Khadim Ahmad has commented Thank you Mr Noor Dahri for defending the rights, may Allah reward you for these efforts, and open the eyes of other Muslims who declare Ahmadis as ‘Kafirs’. Discrimination has no right whatsoever in Islam. These are Muslim, that’s a fact. Let’s unite together again against intolerance and extremism.

N.D.: Thank you gentleman. All I say is this..leave everything, if you look at all the minorities in your country from one angle, that they are Pakistanis…look at them from only one perspective..that they are Pakistanis…Stand with Shias, Ahmadis, Hindus, stand together and hold hands like one Pakistani nation..I can say I swear to Allah no one will be able to defeat you…Eradicate hatred from inside yourself….this hate has been planted to divide you…to end your unity…open your eyes…get out of this political, religious monopoly….Educate yourself…as long as you will be ignorant and not educated, you will stay a slave to your political and religious leaders…get out of their trap..they have relations with Israel, they have relations with India, they have relations with all those nations who they presented as an enemy in front of you…take Benazir Bhutto, take Nawaz Sharif, their ministers, they have relations, they have businesses with Israeli boards in America…they have investments with Israelis…they make a fool out of you…you have to end their monopoly…move forward…Israel, the Israeli nation is ready to welcome you with open arms…they are a very generous nation…if you take a step towards them, they will take three steps towards you…

E.R.: Okay Mr Dahri thank you so much it was a lovely program I think, it will continue but at least we had an introduction of you…and some introduction of mine, because I’ve stayed in the background for a long time..I started this website in 2006 but I have been in the background, I’ve never come forward in public in such a way until recently…My work and the work of volunteers of Rabwah Times is that Pakistani minorities including Hindus, Ahmadis, Shias, who are being persecuted for , you know, no reason..only being persecuted because of their faith…and the culture communities that are being persecuted in Pakistan….they must be provided with a platform because in Pakistan..I started this website in 2006 and at that time in Pakistan there was no such platform..to talk about Ahmadis was a taboo and people were scared, and at that time social media was new and still coming out, it was still emerging, there was not much influence of social media at that time..Facebook and Twitter were also new at that time around 2006 2008..So at that time I started Rabwah Times and I thought that I need to get everybody onboard..the Hindu community in Pakistan, the Shia community in Pakistan, the Shia community around Rabwah, the Sunni community, who want a reformation of Pakistani society, to bring them together and give them a plaform… at that time if I wanted to publish a story..well, Express Tribune didn’t exist at that time I believe, and Dawn, and English media of Pakistan was also very reluctant to talk about minority rights…so I started that website to make sure that we get our voice heard…And Alhumdulillah right now we have partnership with a lot of the big news networks..with Google News, with Bing News, with Apple News we have partnership…which is why every time there’s an attack on Ahmadis in Pakistan, Shias in Pakistan or Hindus in Pakistan, we can make sure that our part, our view is also heard..that what is being done with us in Pakistan with Ahmadis..I’m an Ahmadi myself…so I want people to know even if media doesn’t cover it, like recently the two Ahmadis who have been martyred in Pakistan within ten days, and I asked that question in Washington DC to the ambassador of Pakistan the other day, that do you accept the state persecution, and he blanketly denied that no there is no state sponsored persecution of Ahmadis in Pakistan…so the same way the persecution that is now being going on of Shias, of Hazaras, of Hindus…forced marriages, to forcefully marry Hindu women…I think you also belong from Sindh so you must be better aware about the oppression being done against Hindu community…so our objective is to raise voice for them, and we can get our voice heard on international level, I go to Washington DC, so at least the questions that we cannot raise in Pakistan, we can raise those questions living here in US, UK, Canada, especially the incident of Chakwal and the coverage that Rabwah Times provided that was used by all of the mainstream news media. Because no one even in Pakistan was talking about that attack…And the Rabwah Times report was used by Canadian newspapers, the U.S. Justice Department, and UK government used information from Rabwah Times about that attack…And the facts that were raised.. and then an attacker who involved who was a Canadian citizen named Rasheed Ahmed, when he ran away from Pakistan, and after that the follow up story that came was published by Rabwah Times and because of that there is an investigation going on right now by the Canadian Consulate in Pakistan into how he ran away from Pakistan and if he was really involved, hopefully we can use Rabwah Times as a platform, we can use your expertise in fighting extremism..and your training and your skills, as you’ve also worked for the Metropolitan police in UK as well..so we can use all of those skills and make sure that Pakistani minorities and religious minorities, get their voices heard. We’re also working with Hindu community and trying to build a network…stories that no one in Pakistan is willing to publish, people for whom no one raises their voice, because it is a taboo. Even mainstream channels like Geo Tv and Bol also don’t publish those things because they get labeled blasphemers and if they go missing they say they had it coming and it is a good thing…there’s a person named Nasir Sultani who claimed to be a Muslim reformer, and he was arrested. But no one has published his story in the mainstream media except Rabwah Times. So hopefully we can use your skills and connections to raise these lesser known issues that are not mainstream issues, so we can use Rabwah Times can raise voice for these issues and stay connected with people…..Hopefully we can continue to this program.

N.D.: Thank so very much Mr Ehsan.

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You can also follow Ehsan Rehman and Noor Dahri on Twitter.  You can leave your feedback below in the comments.

 

 

Options for Pakistan-Saudi alliance

In a move that was in the making for quite some time now, Pakistan’s civilian government has formerly allowed Pakistan’s former Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to lead the Saudi-led anti-terrorism Muslim alliance, officially known as Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism (IMAFT). This decision was reached upon Saudi’s request with Pakistani government led by PM Nawaz, who also happens to have close personal ties with members of Saudi Royal family. The popular opinion within the Pakistani Army itself was also largely in favor of this decision. Saudi Arabia holds a special place for Pakistanis as it is not only a close strategic ally of Pakistan but also the custodian of the two holiest cities of Islam. Last year Pakistani officials issued statements assuring Saudi Arabia that Pakistan will defend the Saudi Kingdom if it is threatened by external factors. Indeed, Saudi Arabia has faced increased external threats such as unprovoked attacks from Houthis when last year Houthis launched a missile attack targeting Mecca, a holy city of Islam.

Good for Pakistan, Annoying for Pakistan’s Enemies

A former Pakistan Army Chief leading a Saudi-led 41 nation anti-terrorism military alliance is among the best things that can happen to Pakistan in a time when Pakistan’s eternal enemy India has been trying to isolate Pakistan, regionally and globally, but has so far also largely failed in doing so. Indeed, when Pakistan politely turned down Saudi request for troop deployment to fight for Saudis in Yemen, there was much anger in Saudi Arabia. Saudis accused Pakistan of back-stabbing their Saudi brothers and turning their back. On Pakistan’s part, both the civilian govt and the Pakistani military was opposed to Pakistani troop deployment in Yemen and the fact that Pakistan was busy fighting its own war on terror at that time played a role in the final decision. Pakistan also had reservations regarding the IMAFT after its initial announcement since it did not include Iran and gave a look of a sectarian alliance rather than an anti-terror one. Pakistan also conveyed its reservations to the Saudis, which may have annoyed Saudis. This was proven when Indian PM Narendra Modi, seizing the opportunity, flew to Riyadh in an effort to strengthen Indo-Saudi relations and possibly to convince Saudis to favor India over Pakistan. It did work to some extent as Saudis, for the first time in history, gave an Indian head of state Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian award. But at the same it also failed since only ten days after PM Modi’s Saudi visit, Saudi Arabia reiterated its position on India-occupied Kashmir, sending a message that Indo-Saudi ties cannot be Pakistan-focused. Indeed, Saudis have very different interests with India and Pakistan and they wouldn’t want to harm either. But what is not widely known is the fact that India has also secretly tried, and failed, to lobby Saudi to avoid appointing a former Pakistani Army Chief, especially General Raheel, to lead IMAFT. In these efforts, India was quietly being encouraged by Iran (a strategic partner of India), which also did not want a former Pakistani Army chief leading IMAFT. Pakistan has the second largest population of Shi’ites in the world who also hold some political power in Pakistan. Several Shi’ite/pro-Iran interest groups and influential individuals in Pakistan quietly lobbied Pakistani government to bar General Raheel from leading IMAFT as well as tried to make the appointment as publicly controversial as possible. Iranian ambassador, during an interview, openly declared his “concerns” about Pakistan’s leadership of IMAFT, which Pakistan at least publicly ignored. But as we now know, all those efforts have failed. Pakistan Army’s spokesperson came out and affirmed that the decision to allow General Raheel Sharif was a state decision taken in national interests. He also clarified that Pakistan wants good relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary also clarified that Saudi-led military alliance isn’t any country but against terrorism. Pakistan’s current Army Chief is also expected to visit Iran in near future to iron out matters with Tehran.

Pakistan’s former Army Chief General Raheel Sharif who will lead the IMAFT as its first chief.

Leading IMAFT will be good for Pakistan’s soft-power in the Middle East and help cut back Indian influence from the region. It will also increase Pakistan’s own knowledge and experience of counter-terrorism (CT) and counter insurgency (COIN) which will be useful for future. Due to CPEC Pakistan’s international stature is already growing but when a former Pakistani Army Chief, who is not only widely popular in Pakistan but also in almost entire Middle East and especially in Saudi Arabia, will be leading the 41 nation Muslim anti-terror alliance it will be very effective in once again erecting Pakistan’s somewhat lost soft-power in the Middle East region to great heights.

What May And What Won’t Work

Pakistan trying to convince Saudis to hug Iran, let go of their critical interests and play ‘Ummah, Ummah’ won’t work. Everything else may work.

Regardless of what nation states claim, most modern terrorism today is directly linked with geopolitics and foreign policy. In Middle East, an emboldened Iran has been wreaking havoc with its proxy wars in Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Yemen. With Iran’s full support to Houthi militants in Yemen where Iran is challenging the legitimate Yemeni government, this proxy war has quite literally reached Saudi border. Moreover, Iran is also engaged in a proxy war within Saudi Arabia where it continues to subvert the Shi’ite population in an attempt to turn them into proxies against Saudi Arabia. Pakistan must realize that Iran’s mullahs cannot be reasoned with or convinced to abandon their interests, which include regional hegemony and Iranian hold on Islam’s two holiest cities in Saudi Arabia, for the sake of ‘Ummah’. Pakistan may believe in the concept of ‘Ummah’ but Iran believes in the concept of the Ayatollah. Iran, at all times, is trying to challenge Saudi ‘leadership’ role among Muslim-majority countries, which is counter to Saudi and Pakistan’s interests. For these reasons as well as for several other reasons (energy policy, religious hierarchy of leadership, etc) Saudi Arabia or Iran cannot be convinced to hug it out. Terrorism and counter-terrorism, for instance in this case, has become part and parcel of geopolitics and foreign policy. This is why it would be nonsensical for Saudi Arabia to invite Iran to join IMAFT because of clashing geopolitical interests and this is why Pakistan’s attempts to bridge the gap between Saudis and Iranians will likely end in vain. Here I would suggest that Pakistan should protect its own interests and devise a strategy for a scenario where IMAFT, which is being called ‘Muslim NATO’ by some observers, goes to war against Iran. The chances of this happening in the near future are very high especially considering the election of Trump and his stand on Iran. In such a scenario, Pakistan would need a fool-proof COIN+CT strategy within its own borders to counter pro-Iran elements/proxies who may try to engage in terrorist activities in Pakistan. Moreover, Pakistan would need an effective foreign policy which must have sufficient input from Pakistani military as well as Pakistan’s superior intelligence agency the ISI. Pakistan would also need an effective border management control system as it shares a border with Iran, which Iran has often used against Pakistan in various ways; from allowing Indian spies + its own spies to enter Pakistan via Pak-Iran border to just shelling Pakistani territory across the border. In any war scenario between Saudi-led IMAFT and Iran, Pakistan would likely side with Saudi Arabia regardless of what Pakistani leaders say today. And it makes sense since Pakistan’s interests would be best served by allying with the Saudis (who will likely also have U.S. and Israel as their allies) instead of Iran.

Regardless of what happens tomorrow, the fact is that today Pakistan is not isolated as its enemies intended but in fact Pakistan is proud to lead the 41 national anti-terror Muslim alliance.

 

Also published at Ground Zero.pk 

NATO Supreme Commander says what I said last year: Russia may be supplying Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan

Russia may be supplying Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, the top US commander in Europe has said.

Army General Curtis Scaparrotti, who is also Nato’s Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, told a senate hearing he had seen Russian influence on Afghan Taliban insurgents growing.

“I’ve seen the influence of Russia of late — increased influence in terms of association and perhaps even supply to the Taliban,” Mr Scaparotti said.

It comes after Taliban fighters captured the strategic district of Sangin in the southern Afghan province of Helmand after security forces pulled out, officials said.

Helmand, which accounts for the bulk of Afghanistan’s billion dollar opium crop, is already largely in the hands of the Taliban but the capture of Sangin, where US and British forces once suffered heavy casualties, underlines their growing strength in the south.

SOURCE: The Independent

 

What General Curtis is saying today is what I have been saying since nearly two years while most pro-India DC analysts were busy making Pakistan the boogeyman in Afghanistan. Here are some of my tweets from the past on the subject: