On 20th August 2017, Altaf Hussain (enemy of the state) wrote an open letter to Nawaz Sharif (ex yet disqualified PM of Pakistan). This is the nexus of anti-state elements coming full circle that security analysts have talked about for so long. Following is the English translation of the open letter so the English Pakistani audience can easily read it.
Mian Mohammed Nawaz Sharif,
I hope you are well. I was very happy to see that after leaving your designation as PM, you have finally started talking openly to your party workers and supporters about the real disease infecting the country and the nation and the damage done because of that.
Mr Nawaz Sharif!
During your recent speeches you announced a one point agenda that “the sanctity of the vote should be maintained; because of the respect for the sanctity of the vote, Pakistan has faced problems in the past, this ‘circus’ should stop now.” While this admission is a positive thing, we also have a complain with you that the sanctity of the votes that gave MQM the mandate wasn’t respected…the sanctity of the votes MQM got wasn’t respected. As during your previous governments, operation against MQM also took place under your present government…With the help of Army, Rangers and other state institutions there were attempts to crush MQM…Thousands of MQM workers were killed in extrajudicial killings…thousands were arrested out of which several are still missing…We informed the federal government and specially you about this brutality against us from time to time and as Prime Minister we requested you again and again to take notice of this brutality. But we are very sad to say that you didn’t take any notice of it.
Mr Nawaz Sharif!
This horrible dangerous campaign of brutality against ‘the mohajir nation’ is still going on today.
Mr Nawaz Sharif!
We also contacted the Supreme Court about the recovery of the missing workers but Supreme Court also did not take any notice of it…from there too the innocent families of workers couldn’t get any justice. Like Mohajirs, innocent Balochis arranged a sit in protest outside Supreme Court for the recovery of their missing persons for several days but the Supreme Court or any past or present judge didn’t take a shred of any notice. Innocent tribal people are also protesting against state oppression as well as innocent Sindhis, but sadly no one comforted them. With great sadness we are forced to say that the blind, dead and paralyzed courts in Pakistan are not at all independent but are instead working on the instructions of the establishment and the tragedy is that the elected government in Pakistan is also unable to do anything about it.
Mr Nawaz Sharif!
On 8th August 2017 the current Chief Justice of Supreme Court Mr Saqib Nisar, while addressing the gathering in mourning of the first anniversary of the martyrs of 8th August, used racist. fascist and derogatory words about the Hindu community while talking about the Two Nation Theory..He said, “according to Two Nation Theory there was one Muslim nation and I don’t want to take the name of the other nation.” These fascist remarks are not only an insult to the Hindu community but all non-Muslim Pakistanis were also deeply hurt by it…these remarks are also against the constitution and law of Pakistan..action should have been taken by the President, Prime Minister and the Parliament against the Chief Justice but no action was taken against it.
Mr Nawaz Sharif!
During the proceedings of Panama case, the Supreme Court judges called you “godfather” and “Sicilian mafia”, the Speaker of the National Assembly was called your “loyal” and was accused of bias but you didn’t say anything on that. I’m addressing conscious people in the Parliament that the Supreme Court’s Chief Justice is giving statements against minorities, the judges of the Supreme Court gave unconstitutional remarks about the Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Assembly. Judiciary is a fundamental and well-respected institution of the state but the kind of derogatory and disrespectful remarks given by the judges present in the Supreme Court against Prime Minster and the Speaker were very unfortunate and are not representative of anyone of the stature of a judge, instead it is equal to disrespecting the constitution, law and the mandate of millions of peoples. I also want to say this to the Prime Minister Shahid Khakan Abbasi, the federal government and the Parliament that action must be taken according to constitution and the law against the judges who violate the constitution and the law and such judges should be removed or suspended from the posts.
Mr Nawaz Sharif!
It is true that after being disqualified by the Supreme Court and being removed as Prime Minister, you have rather bravely started voicing your opinion about the supremacy of the Parliament and the sanctity of the vote but half truth is not the full truth and half bravery is not bravery at all. You have to be brave like Altaf Hussain. Including my brother and nephew, thousands of my companions were killed in extrajudicial killings, thousands of companions were arrested and are even being arrested today, my speeches and statements were unconstitutionally and unlawfully banned on the media, since 26 years this same joke and cruelty is happening with me, but even after this cruelty I did not surrender. I did not retreat. Even today I’m still standing like a rock on my mission and ideology..and have been actively raising my voice against cruelty. Even some days ago, DG Rangers Sindh Major general Mohammed Saeed used unimaginable, disrespectful, uneducated, unconstitutional and unlawful, inappropriate and very unethical words against Mohajirs in which Major general Mohammed Saeed is even invited Mohajirs to become Muslims, he gave insulting remarks about Mohajirs so I gave an open response to it. My response is available on MQM website from you to listen.
Mr Nawaz Sharif!
When National assembly Speaker Ayyaz Sadiq and other Parliamentarians were informing the public about filing a reference against these inappropriate remarks, who threatened the Speaker of the National Assembly and people of PML-N that you refrained from filing the reference? People of PML-N should not be cowards after showing bravery and should take brave steps. If you are brave,you should show complete bravery because half bravery is no bravery. And learn some lesson from me and my companions who are still showing bravery after facing so much cruelty and difficulties. Apart from several of my companions, my cousin and nephew went missing after getting arrested. Convener Nadeem Nusrat’s brother in law, Member Rabbita Committee Mustafa Azizabadi’s elder brother are missing. Our companions are being disappeared by we didn’t quit our struggle.
Mr Nawaz Sharif!
You were elected by the people but the judges of the Supreme Court removed you from the post of Prime Minister after disqualifying you and now some conspiracy elements are hatching a conspiracy to completely remove you and your family from the political scene. Not only this but now there are unlawful efforts to get your speeches banned on the media. My advice to you would be you should leave Pakistan and expose the conspiracies that are being hatched against the democratic system. Raise awareness in the democratic world about the judges who don’t respect the mandate of the people and the army, ISI and establishment that is behind the judges. The world will listen to you, will honor your bravery and will respect you. If this time you proved to be completely brave and proved that you’re an ideological person, the conspiracies of the forces who plot against the democratic system will forever die and you will be successful in creating a revolution in the country for the sanctity of the vote and supremacy of the Parliament.
People’s…your’s….Speaker National Assembly’s position’s….and Parliament’s well-wisher.
Founder and Quaid of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (Pakistan)
This 14th August Pakistan from all walks of life celebrated their 70th independence day with great fervor. Pakistanis belonging to all religions and ethnicities came together to take part in what, as far as I can remember, was the biggest celebration of Pakistan’s independence day I’ve seen in my lifetime.
On this occasion, Pakistan Air Force organized an airshow in Islamabad and Karachi – where Turkish and Saudi Air Force also participated – and which was also the biggest airshow in Pakistan’s history so far.
The airshow also included a performance by Pakistan’s famous singer Atif Aslam. Now, Mr Atif Aslam is a professional singer who has a large fan following in Pakistan and no one would expect him to do a show for free any other time of the year. At the same time one would also expect a Pakistani artist to try to give something back to the country that made them famous on an occasion like 14th August. But Mr Atif Aslam obviously didn’t think so. Because Mr Atif Aslam charged Pakistan Air Force a bloody 45 Lakh Rupees for the Islamabad show. Let that sink in for a moment.
Now, I understand this was a deal that worked both ways: Pakistan Air Force wanted the show to be big and break all previous records, while Mr Atif Aslam was getting a chance to perform in this historic show. But if Mr Atif Aslam was considerate and actually thought that maybe he owes something to his country, he would not have charged that sum of money from his own country’s Air Force on 14th August. Pakistan gave Mr Atif recognition and his Pakistani fans made him what he is today. Sure, today he can fly out to India and other countries and attract huge audiences but he should never forget where it all started: the country he just ripped off when he could have chosen to settle for less. You can always make a few extra bucks any day of the year if you’re Mr Atif Aslam, but every thoughtful person tries to give something back to their country in their own way on an occasion like 14th August. For instance, take a look at this old man who repairs shoes somewhere in Mianwali. He decided to do his job for free on 14th August, because why not?
This is the very least an average citizen can do for their country. As someone who thought he owed something to his country, this old man decided to give something back. He didn’t need to. Nobody forced him to. He could have chosen to make EXTRA bucks on 14th August (after all, shoe cobblers are hard to find on such an occasion) but he chose not to. This man, unlike Mr Atif Aslam, chose to give something back to his country that made him a shoe cobbler. He is considerate enough, Mr Atif Aslam is not.
Mr Atif Aslam should know that he lost at least one fan for ripping off his country on 14th August. And I sincerely hope he loses more.
For decades Pakistanis have been told that Afghanistan is a “brotherly Islamic country” with cultural and people-to-people ties with Pakistan. For decades Pakistan has also consistently faced long and short waves of terrorism and crimes, a good proportion of which can be traced to Afghanistan. When Pakistan helped Afghans against the invading Soviets, Pakistan made the biggest mistake since its independence by giving a safe passage to Afghan refugees into Pakistan. At the time, Pakistan had little idea that it will be stuck with the refugees for the next 30-40 years. Pakistan was hoping to end the war in Afghanistan soon and send back the refugees. What Pakistan didn’t expect was exactly what happened: Pakistan was slapped with sanctions by US government right after Pakistan helped US and Afghans defeat the Red Army in Afghanistan, which eventually led to the collapse of USSR in 1991. Here is almost-US President Hillary Clinton explaining it all very nicely:
Today Pakistan has realized most of its mistakes related to Afghanistan, even though US clearly hasn’t. But there’s one thing Pakistani leaders are still repeating: Afghanistan is our brotherly Islamic neighbor country.
No, it’s not. That is simply a crappy diplomatic line which no one in Pakistan buys anymore. At least not without rolling their eyes. Afghanistan was never a friend of Pakistan. The history of anti-Pakistan terrorism waged from or with support of Afghanistan is quite long and bloody. Here is a declassified CIA document explaining in detail the terrorist activities of Soviet-backed KHAD (Afghan intelligence agency) in and against Pakistan. Editorials and columns in American media addressing Afghan terrorism against Pakistan were a routine back in the day. Here are two from 1988: one from Washington Post and the other from LA Times. Both articles documented here sympathize with Pakistan and talk about the Afghan war of terror, backed by USSR, against Pakistan.
The only difference today is that most of the terrorism in Pakistan is supported in various ways by India-trained NDS (current Afghan intelligence agency) as it wages a war of terror against Pakistan right under the nose of the United States. Today, US is allied with India, the former ally of Soviets. Perhaps in the excitement to counter China, US has forgotten the sacrifices of Pakistan and its people, both of far past and near past. Today several Washington DC think tanks and talking heads blame Pakistan for the terrorism it faces despite Pakistan’s countless anti-terror military ops, all of them proving to be highly successful. The successes of these operations have been acknowledged by US Army’s General John Nicholson, UK Army Chief General Nicholas Patrick Carter and a senior Russian Army delegation. Most recently, a high level US Congressional delegation visited Pakistan and acknowledged Pakistan’s successes against terrorism. But despite all this, the policy in DC so far has been to blame Pakistan for all the troubles in Afghanistan, which is in stark contrast to how US defended and sympathized with Pakistan just a couple of decades back. All the players are still the same, the battlefield is the same, but interests have changed. This is true for both US and Pakistan.
Pakistan-Afghanistan also have nothing in common in culture or people. For starters, Pakistanis are not ungrateful like the Afghans. Afghan culture comes with baggage like abuse of women and children, pedophilia, bestiality, etc. That’s Afghan culture, not Pakistani culture.
Right now the most important thing for Pakistan is to counter the imminent terror threats originating from Afghan soil. That includes ISIS as well as the dozens of madrasas being run by Kabul regime and its intelligence agency where students are being taught to wage Jihad against Pakistan. Pakistan can no longer afford to tolerate this activity in its backyard. For years Pakistan has tried to be apologetic and balance its own interests with the US policy. It is time for Pakistan to put its interests 100% at the top.
Recently Pakistan Army’s spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor, during a press conference, got a question from a PTV journalist. He asked, “for how long will Pakistan be apologetic and when will Pakistan strike terror camps in Afghanistan with cruise missiles?” That question got an amused reaction from the General. But I think the journalist had a point. Pakistan needs to go on full offensive in Afghanistan. The time for apologia is over, as has been evident from Pak Army Chief’s recent tough statement made during meeting with General John Nicholson.
Pakistan’s policy makers can take their time debating which cruise missiles to hit the terror camps in Afghanistan with, but meanwhile it would be a good idea for Pakistan’s policymakers to stop telling Pakistanis that Afghanistan is a brotherly Islamic country.
It is that time of the year again. Once again the tensions between Israel and Palestinians are rising. From September 2015, a new wave of Palestinian stabbing and car ramming attacks started targeting Israelis. As part of this wave of terrorism, recently three Palestinians smuggled weapons into Al-Aqsa mosque and went on to kill two Israeli Druze policemen. Israeli security forces, following their shoot-to-kill policy for terrorists, shot dead the three attackers on the spot. Israeli authorities proceeded to shut down Al-Aqsa for all activity for two days. During this time Israeli security forces conducted a search operation and recovered several light weapons, including machetes. The mosque was reopened for worshippers with a small change: Israel had installed metal detectors at the Al-Aqsa entrance. This measure was meant for the security of both Muslims and Jews but to Palestinians this constituted as a change in status quo. Palestinian leaders rejected the measure and condemned Israel for daring to protect its citizens. Palestinians went on to boycott prayers at Al-Aqsa and instead chose to pray outside Al-Aqsa on the street. Everyone knew this was for show. Israel would never put the lives of its citizens in jeopardy just because Palestinians are emotionally disturbed. But this stupidity was encouraged by leaders across Muslim majority world. Leaders such as Turkey’s Erdogan and Jordan’s King Abdullah. The hypocrisy of King Abdullah condemning Israel is quite remarkable since Jordan itself tried to install security cameras at Al-Aqsa in 2016 but the initiative was put on hold because of (surprise!) opposition from Palestinians. This happened despite the fact that Al-Aqsa is under custody of Jordan-backed Islamic Waqf. Even though both Israel and Jordan want the same things, the chance of ‘appealing’ to emotional sentiments of the gullible sheep is rarely ever missed in the Muslim majority world.
Palestinians were further encouraged to continue their boycott and rioting by Abbas of Palestinian Authority who announced that he’s freezing ties with Israel. While this move is obviously hypocritical of Abbas since his government has survived for this long precisely because of Israel, it was also not surprising since Abbas has Hamas in mind. Taking a strong line against Israel at this time, in Abbas’ mind, would help Palestinian Authority gain some of the credibility among the extreme segment of Palestinians that it lost to Hamas.
The situation further escalated when Israeli security forces opened tear gas on rioting Palestinians which resulted in clashes that killed at least one Palestinian and injured half a dozen Israeli police personnel. This was followed by a gruesome stabbing attack by Palestinian terrorists in West Bank where three Israelis of the same family were brutally killed. The funeral of the family members was attended by thousands of Israelis.
There was also a shooting incident at the Israeli embassy in Amman where an Israeli guard shot dead a Jordanian attacker and another Jordanian injured in the shooting later died in the hospital. After this incident, Israel closed its embassy and consulates in Turkey.
Now let’s be clear. Israel is in the position of power and has no reason to back down except its own goodwill. Surely, no country would tolerate attacks on its citizens and security forces. Israel is also very lenient for a country that is considered an occupation. When rebels in British-held India used to attack British forces, they were sometimes skinned alive. For a country of people routinely compared with their own oppressors (Nazis), Israelis are anything but Nazi-like. If Israelis were actually Nazis, there would be no Palestinians today. 70 years are enough to get rid of a whole population of a continent. It took Nazis less than 10 years to kill millions in Europe, including Jews. It took Mao and Stalin less than 70 years to kill millions. So why is it that Palestinians still exist and are actually growing in number faster than Jews in Israel? Maybe that is because Israel is NOT engaged in ethnic cleansing. Similarly, today there are once again cries throughout the Muslim majority world that Israel is about to demolish Al-Aqsa. This, again, is something that we are hearing since around last 88 years – yes, even before Israel was created. Indeed, even before Israel’s formation, Arabs routinely accused the Jews living in Middle East of trying to take over or dismantle Al-Aqsa. If Israel actually wanted to dismantle Al-Aqsa, it can do that tomorrow and there’s NOTHING Muslim majority world would be able to do about it. Sure, there will be violence but Israel will likely survive that phase. Israel is a nuclear power that has the Samson Option for tough times. It is a country that has developed value for the life of its citizens in the eyes of the world and which takes its security very seriously. No country can afford to provoke a nuclear war with Israel without causing the end of the world. So if Israel wanted to dismantle Al-Aqsa, it would have done that by now. Yet, after 88 years of Palestinian propaganda, Al-Aqsa mosque continues to stand in all its glory. This is not to say that there are no Israelis who don’t want to get rid of Al-Aqsa for a temple. There indeed are – a fringe extremist element that wants Jewish right on the holy sites in the Old City. But Israel has done more to discourage them than Palestinian leadership ever has to discourage Palestinians from engaging in violence. Very recently Israeli police arrested a popular Jewish Rabbi for trying to pray near Al-Aqsa. Israeli law not only guarantees freedom of access to Al-Aqsa for Muslims and guaranteed protection to holy sites of all religions but goes one step ahead by banning non-Muslims, including Jews, from praying at Al-Aqsa. Yes, you read that correct. These inconvenient facts don’t usually make it to the media coverage on Israel in most Muslim majority countries.
Palestinians have way more freedom in Israel than Kashmiris have under Indian rule. Despite being the only country that has been berated this much at the UN for decades, Israel continues to be one of the most modern and advanced countries not only in Middle East but in the world. Many in Arab world have understood that Israel cannot be defeated – and if you can’t beat them, join them. But not everyone has understood this. There are still some delusional people who think that condemning Israel makes a difference.
When Muslims were in power, they pillaged and conquered. When Britain was an empire, it was the boss in the town. Israel, on the other hand, is a tiny country trying very hard to live in peace in its difficult neighborhood. Now only if Arabs can stop trying to provoke another war and end up giving even more land to Israel. Meanwhile it would be better for everyone to sit down and ask this one simple question: are metal detectors really worth it?
Sincs this article was published, it has been reported that Israel has reached a deal with Jordan – Israel will remove the metal detectors in exchange for the return of the Israeli guard from Jordan who shot dead a Jordanian attacker and the installation of advanced security cameras around Al-Aqsa. Israel has since then removed the metal detectors.
For years Pakistan has been told by the governments in Washington DC to “do more” against terrorism. But the fact is Pakistan HAS done more, and sacrificed the most, than any other US ally in the fight against terrorism. While there have been constant attempts by New Delhi and Kabul to undermine these successes by continuing to wage terrorism in Pakistan from Afghan soil while employing their assets in media for systematic disinformation, anyone who wants to witness these successes with their own eyes can visit Pakistan and do so. More recently, Sir General John Nicholson, a delegation of US politicians including Lindsay Graham and John McCain, and a Russian Army delegation separately visited Pakistan and acknowledged Pakistan’s successes against terrorism. Beijing, being Pakistan’s closest ally as well as a neighbor, is already aware of Pakistan’s successes and has acknowledged them publicly, repeatedly.
Pakistan recently launched its new anti-ISIS terrorist Operation Khyber-4 as part of the bigger Operation Rudd-ul-Fasaad. Operation Khyber-4 focuses on eliminating ISIS presence from near Pak-Afghan border. The Rajgal Valley, to be more precise. This area is one of main terrorist routes that has been posing a threat to Pakistan’s security for some time now. The takeover of Tora Bora, which is just across the area that is the focus of Operation Khyber-4, by ISIS-Khorasan fighters proved to be the final nail in the coffin. Pak Army decided to act and launched this operation to tackle this threat before it escalates. Two of the best combat units of Pak Army as well as SSG commandos were deployed to take part in this operation. In days, Pakistan was able to announce major strategic victories, including the capture of the strategic top of Brekh.
Now latest reports suggest ISIS-K fighters are on the run towards Afghanistan, which indicates they see Afghanistan as a safe haven. Indeed, several recent reports have suggested that ISIS-K is being quietly supported by elements within Afghan establishment. Besides statements by Russian Foreign Ministry and Afghan MPs indicating US may be helping ISIS-K, there has also been a US surveillance aircraft flying over the area believed to be infested by ISIS-K. Perhaps someone should check if that aircraft is still there.
Regardless of who exactly is supporting ISIS-K in Afghanistan, it is important for Pakistan to take matters into its own hands. While Pakistan has conveyed it to Resolute Support (RS) mission as well as Afghan Army about the anti-ISIS Operation Khyber-4 and requested that they act on the other side of the border, there’s no evidence to suggest that it is happening. DG ISPR said in his last press conference that RS mission and Afghans had not sent forces across the border to make sure ISIS-K fighters don’t flee into Afghanistan. My own assessment says RS and Kabul are not going to help Pakistan a lot in Pakistan’s fight against ISIS-K. Among the major reasons for that is the fact that US doesn’t officially consider ISIS-K as a bigger threat than Afghan Taliban whereas Kabul regime secretly sees ISIS-K as a necessary evil required to keep Afghan Taliban busy. In short, Pakistan shouldn’t expect much from either RS mission or Kabul in the fight against ISIS.
As Pakistan goes after terrorists and as terrorists once again flee into the global safe haven of terrorists known as Afghanistan, there’s only one question left:
Mainstream media (MSM), in any country, plays a pivotal role in not only educating the public with facts and in-depth stories, but also in forming a national narrative. Every country, be it US or Russia or India, has its own national narrative which is based on its own realities. As is the case with people, the reality of one state may vastly differ from the reality of another state. A country’s media represents the interests of the state as well as the public opinion. In US, the MSM is basically establishment’s media. Outlets like Washington Post, New York Times, etc are known for propagating the US establishment’s point of view. It would be fair to say that in US the MSM has played a major role in forming the public opinion and pushing US interests, whether you agree with their narrative and interests or not. With the emergence of President Donald Trump, who has a reputation for being anti-establishment, previously little known outlets like Breitbart and Daily Caller became the voice of the Trump White House. This partially happened because the grip of US establishment on US MSM is still quite strong.
Now enter Pakistan. Another country where the MSM is pushing the interests of an establishment. But the question is, which establishment? Pakistan’s establishment or a foreign establishment? Unlike the MSM in US, Pakistani establishment doesn’t spend a lot of money on MSM for narrative building, which is mostly due to lack of resources. Being one of the least funded military in the region, Pakistani military is often subtly portrayed as the all powerful villain in Pakistani MSM, a view adopted from foreign MSM. But if Pakistani military was so powerful, wouldn’t it at least be able to guarantee positive coverage in the MSM? While Pakistani establishment suffers from lack of resources, foreign establishments swoop in throwing large sums of money and lucrative packages at the Pakistani MSM. I have a famous saying, “if you won’t do it, the enemy will.” I have found this to be true so far.
Let’s take Dawn Leaks, a story that attacked and maligned Pakistani establishment but was buried by the same Pakistani establishment for reasons. What reasons, one may ask? For starters, the establishment knew where Panama Papers case was headed. When Rana Sanullah recently said the JIT report was compiled in four years, and not six months, he actually had a vague point. Do we really think Pakistani Intelligence Community (IC) didn’t know about anything before JIT started their own investigation? Of course not. It is the job of the IC to know what the leaders are cooking in the PM house or the GHQ for that matter. Do we really believe that ISI and MI don’t ‘keep track’ of their own chiefs? Because that’s standard procedure. Hence, it would be ignorant to think that Pakistani establishment didn’t know that Sharif had screwed up in the Panama Papers case and had no real evidence to get himself out of it. And assuming that they did know this during the time of Dawn Leaks case, it makes sense that they thought it would be wise to bury Dawn Leaks because Sharif is going down and out in the Panama Papers case anyway. Had the establishment pursued Dawn Leaks any further, it would have brought down the government since elements within the PM House were involved. That is also what the Sharif family wanted. Sharifs never expected to be buried under Panama Papers case. Analyzing Dawn Leaks case today while going through the coverage of Pakistani MSM on Panama Papers-JIT report, things may start making more sense to an average Pakistani. As I have written before, Dawn Leaks was a classic influence operation that was initiated with the help of elements within Pakistani government and which sought to establish the narrative of Indian + US establishments. For the establishment, demolishing the Nawaz govt over Dawn Leaks was appealing but not wise; it would have created an unnecessary political martyr who was already stuck in the Panama Papers case. But just because the military decided to bury it and Mr Asif Ghafoor amusingly told us it is in “national interests”, does this mean everyone has forgotten it too? No, we haven’t. And we won’t.
Dawn Leaks was not the only story of its kind. It was the most explosive and most harmful to Pakistan’s national interests, but there have been several other similar but less impactful stories and articles in Pakistani MSM that were meant to propagate the viewpoint of foreign establishments and harm Pakistan’s interests.
For instance, take this article in Express Tribune by one Feisal Naqvi. The headline is “Kabhi Apni Shakal Dekhi Hai”, meaning “have you ever seen your face?”. The article discusses violence in Kashmir and peddles Indian narrative that points towards Pakistan’s flaws in retaliation against Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir. This also happens to be the popular narrative among Pakistan’s liberals. And this is exactly how disinformation, influence operations and raw propaganda works. Enemy propaganda can never work without existing narratives and half truths. Why I say enemy propaganda? Because this article has been doing the rounds in Indian Army.
Coming back to Dawn Leaks, while the author of the Dawn story and the owners of Dawn media group claim to be anti-establishment liberals, one may ask are they just against Pakistani establishment or all establishments everywhere? Because it increasingly looks like they are *only* against Pakistani establishment, which should raise some eyebrows.
Here is Dawn CEO Hameed Haroon hanging out in India:
Will Indians welcome Mr Haroon this way if, let’s say, he was anti-Indian establishment? I don’t think so.
Here is Mr Haroon hanging out with US ambassador to Pakistan David Hale:
This meeting was held when Dawn media group was under pressure from Pakistani public over Dawn Leaks. So the CEO of Dawn, who portrays himself as a principled anti-establishment liberal, runs like a puppy dog to the Americans at the first sign of trouble with Pakistani public? What does that tell us?
Take this story by Dawn on Pakistan’s defence budget. The headline reads:
Seeking help from the American ambassador while publishing headlines like the one above. Are the readers thinking what I am thinking?
To be fair, Dawn and Express Tribune are not in this alone, which is why this article carries the term ‘mainstream media’. There’s a long list of TV channels, anchors and journalists who form their coverage and narrative as per the wishes of the highest bidder. Don’t forget the same MSM takes $50 billion annually from USG. Here is almost-US President Hillary Clinton talking about USA’s information war:
Here is Pakistan correspondent of Reuters using Quora, a Q/A website, as a source:
Here are the lists of MSM outlets consisting of figures in Rupees on who made how much from federal advertisements:
While federal advertisements are a major source of profit for MSM and it comes handy when the government is in trouble, it is not the only means of profit for the MSM. In fact, it’s just a fraction of it.
Another example of MSM’s corruption is the latest The Friday Times editorial by one Najam Sethi, who accuses Pakistani “deep state” of plotting against Nawaz government. Yes, this is the same Najam Sethi who was given the top post at Pakistan Cricket Board by Nawaz government despite his complete lack of experience in the cricket field. Believe it or not, a job like that at PCB comes with more “lucrative packages” than a job at a MSM outlet like Geo News, which is why when the choice had to be made Mr Sethi opted to stick with PCB instead of Geo even though his relationship with Geo/Jang group is still the same. All this obviously doesn’t account his wife Jugnu Mohsin’s close relation with the Nawaz government but hopefully some ‘real’ journalist will do a story on that soon.
Another example of MSM’s utter moral bankruptcy and corruption bordering on treason is the case of Jang group journalist Ahmad Noorani and his recent #fakenews story to malign the ISI and provide cover for PM Nawaz and the government.
And no, apologizing doesn’t cut it. You’re a journalist, not a kindergarten kid who just smelled his finger after inserting it into his anus. Also, the story itself has still not been taken down. All this is not only in gross violation of Supreme Court of Pakistan and the right of free speech the MSM is afforded by the state (which, frankly, helps all of us) but also a direct attack on the public of Pakistan since it is the public that is the primary target and victim of these influence operations.
Pakistani MSM is corrupted, rogue and must be held accountable. It is time to bring MSM to the book. And only Supreme Court of Pakistan can do it. All eyes on the independent courts now.
India and Israel recently celebrated 25 years of their diplomatic relations, which began in 1992. India recognized the State of Israel on 17 September 1950. Following India’s recognition of Israel in 1950, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru stated, “we would have [recognised Israel] long ago, because Israel is a fact. We refrained because of our desire not to offend the sentiments of our friends in the Arab countries.”
Now on the anniversary of India-Israel’s 25 year old diplomatic relations and yet in another diplomatic masterstroke, India’s Modi has now fully aligned India with Israel. While India has been enjoying great relations with Israel for a long time, this new realignment is being seen by analysts as Modi’s confidence in India and what it can bring to the table. Indeed, good relations with Israel have and will continue to benefit India, something that is hard to digest for Pakistan, where many actually hate Israel more than India even though Pakistan and Israel have never gone to war. Modi has also all but trashed Pakistan’s old, burnt out argument that Pakistan doesn’t make relations with Israel because it doesn’t want to anger the Arabs. One may inquire how was Modi able to align India with Israel after he got Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian award. To that, many in Pakistan would say India is an economic giant and can afford to do something like that, but to me those are just lame excuses to cover up own shortcomings and failures.
Now India has cashed in its Israel card and while Pakistanis will continue to ignorantly dismiss it as nothing significant, this new alignment comes at a great cost to Pakistan. This will be proven in the years to come. Modi has also sent a message to US and Russia which goes something like this: we’re no longer dependent on your defense industry alone and we will go where our interests take us.
It is important to note that even without formal diplomatic relations, Indo-Israeli military ties existed during the Cold War. These ties have certainly increased in volume since the 1990s. A constant theme in the history of Indo-Israeli relations has been that their public visibility has been conditioned on who is in power in New Delhi. To be precise, every time a Hindu nationalist government is in power in New Delhi, the visibility of India-Israel ties increases, but not the substance. On the other hand, India’s more liberal Congress Party has historically downplayed India’s ties to the Jewish state. In short, the key difference between the secular-liberal Congress Party and the Hindu nationalist BJP lies in their public-relations management of India-Israel bilateral relationship. The former publicly downplays strategic ties between India and Israel while the latter loudly champions them. Beyond these semantics, however, both political parties maintain largely similar ties with the Jewish state.
In 1996, India purchased 32 IAI Searcher UAVs, Electronic Support Measure sensors and an Air Combat Manoeuvering Instrumentation simulator system from Israel. Since then Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has serviced several large contracts with the Indian Air Force including the upgrading of the IAF’s Russian-made MiG-21 ground attack aircraft. There have been further sales of laser-guided bombs.
In 1997, Israel’s President Ezer Weizman visited India as the first Israeli President to do so and negotiated the first weapons deal with India, involving the purchase of Barak 1 vertically-launched surface-to-air (SAM) missiles. This purchase of Israeli Barak-1 missiles by India was a tactical move against Pakistan since Pakistan had earlier purchased Lockheed P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft and 27 Harpoon sea-skimming anti-ship missiles from the United States.
3. In 2003, India purchased three Phalcon AWACS, fitted with IAI radar equipment mounted on Russian IL-76 transport aircraft at cost of $1 billion from Israel.
4. In 2005, India purchased 50 Israeli drones for $220 million.
5. In 2007, Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd signed a US$2.5 billion deal with India to develop an anti-aircraft system and missiles. This was the biggest defence contract in the history of Israel at the time. IAI CEO Yitzhak Nissan visited India to finalise the agreement. IAI has also developed the Barak 8 missile for the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force which is capable of protecting sea vessels and ground facilities from enemy aircraft and cruise missiles. The missile has a range of over 70 kms.
6. On 10th November 2008, a delegation of Indian military officials visited Israel to discuss joint weapons development projects, additional sales of Israeli equipment to the Indian military, and anti-terrorism strategies. This visit was seen as a significant expansion in the Indian-Israeli strategic partnership.
7. Following the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Israel offered a team of about 40 SOF and help with the investigations. Magen David Adom dispatched a team of paramedics, medics and other professionals to assist with rescue efforts. However, Manmohan government turned down an offer by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to send counter-terrorist units to help fight the attackers.
8. In December 2009, IDF’s Lt GenGabi Ashkenazi made a visit to India to cement the defence ties and pledged assistance to India in fighting terrorism.
9. In March 2011, a new deal was reached between India and Israel as Modi took office as India’s new Prime Minister. Under this new deal, India would buy 8356 Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles, 321 launchers, 15 training simulators and peripheral equipment for $1 billion from Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
10. In September 2015, New Delhi approved Indian Air Force’s request to purchase 10 Heron TP drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
11. In 2015, a delegation from Israel’s Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs led by former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold visited India. Apart from shared strategic interests, Islamist terrorism and the security situation in the Middle East and South Asia, two very important topics were also discussed in these meetings: Pakistan and Kashmir.
12. In 2016, New Delhi approved the purchase of two more Phalcon AWACS from Israel.
13. Israel and India have maintained strong intelligence sharing. India’s premier intelligence agency R&AW and Mossad have worked in close coordination in the past, including in Kashmir. In 1990s, Pakistan feared excessive Israeli involvement in Kashmir and Pakistani intelligence assets in Kashmir attacked Israelis, who Pakistan believed were IDF soldiers posing as Israeli tourists. In one such case, an Israeli was kidnapped by Kashmir Liberation Front in 1991. Later the kidnapped Israeli was released without any harm because Kashmiris feared that Israeli lobby in US will turn against them and lobby US government against Kashmiri groups.
14. An explosive story in 2003 revealed clandestine links between R&AW and Mossad. This story involving R&AW and Mossad spies was extensively covered by Indian media, which was still not as pro-Israel as it is today. For intelligence analysts, this story was a goldmine.
15. In 2015, The Times of Indiareported that secret agents from Mossad and MI5 protected Indian PM Narendra Modi during his visit to Turkey.
16. India has also been quietly taking advice from Israeli military experts on how to handle the situation in Kashmir. In 2015, Jerusalem Post reported that Indian government has sparked anger, not just among Kashmiri Muslims but also Hindus, by trying to adopt an Israel-inspired settlement policy in India-held Kashmir.
17. Israel has also greatly helped India against Pakistan in 1965, 1971 and Kargil War of 1999. Israel also helped India in its 1962 war against China. Moreover, Israel was among the first countries to recognize Bangladesh as an independent country, right after it had helped India defeat Pakistan. But amusingly enough, despite being among the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and playing an important role in Pakistan’s defeat, Bangladesh didn’t return the favor and still doesn’t recognize Israel. That makes Bangladesh one of the 29 UN member states that don’t recognize Israel.
18. In 2009, India successfully launchedRISAT-2, a synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite. RISAT-2 was manufactured by Israel Aerospace Industries in conjunction with ISRO.
19. In 2005, Israel launchedTecSAR, its first synthetic aperture radar imaging satellite, on India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, or PSLV. In 2008, TecSAR was successfully inserted into orbit by India’s PSLV. One of its primary functions is to monitor Iran’s military activities.
20. India helped Israel in the Six Day War of 1967 war by providing Israel with spare parts for French-made Mystere and Ouragan aircraft as well as AX-13 tanks.
Israel sees India as a reliable strategic, defense and trade partner in Asia while it sees Pakistan as a potential enemy and China as merely a trading partner. While China-Israel relations are excellent, Pakistan has not helped its case over the years and is still seen by most Israeli strategists as the “Islamic bomb“, a liability.
India is Israel’s top destination for arms exports, buying 41% of Israel’s arms export between 2012 and 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Israel is India’s third-largest source of arms, with a 7.2% share of imports between 2012 and 2016, next to the USA (14%) and Russia (68%).
In September 2016, India conducted successful tests of a new India-Israel jointly developed Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile with a range of 70 km, intended to equip three guided-missile destroyers of the Indian Navy.
In 2017, India successfully tested the Israeli-made SPYDER quick-reaction surface-to-air missile in May. The Indian Air Force plans to deploy this system on India’s western border.
India and Israel also closely cooperate on counter-terrorism. This cooperation is only expected to grow after Modi’s visit to Israel.
Indian media was up in arms about Israeli PM Netanyahu referring to India-Israel friendship as a “marriage made in heaven”, which is exactly what Netanyahu said about Israel-China relations earlier while visiting China. While all serious analysts understand that these are just diplomatic one-liners, a question arises here: How does China see Israel’s defense deals with India, considering they not only challenge Pakistan’s position in the region but also China’s. And needless to say, Beijing is eyeing this alliance with much suspicion but at the same time Beijing also understands what’s in it for Israel. Israelis are great businessmen and understanding that, China has started pouring in a lot of money into Israel, hoping to buy as much influence as it can. This influence, however, will be mostly used in China’s interests, not Pakistan’s, regardless how close are China-Pakistan relations.
On Indian PM’s Israel visit, Indian companies have signed twelve strategic agreements with Israel for air defense systems, radars, anti-ship missiles, medium altitude UAVs under tech transfer worth $4.3 billion.
The two CoChairs of the India Israel CEO Forum sign and exchange the Joint Intentions document. Very smooth discussion and conclusion. pic.twitter.com/xpu8FQwe9A
Bangalore-based Dynamatic Technologies and Elcom signed a ‘Strategic Teaming Agreement’ to produce, assemble and support UAVs in India with IAI as part of the Made in India campaign. The joint venture is targeting the lucrative medium altitude long endurance (MALE) UAV market in India under technology transfer from IAI. The Indian defense ministry invited a response from indigenous manufacturers for procurement of MALE UAVs for use by Indian Army, Air Force and Navy.
Indian company Alpha Design has signed a joint venture agreement with Elbit Security Systems worth $500 million. This deal will provide much needed indigenously manufactured thermal image-based sights and fire control systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, long range reconnaissance and observation systems (LORROS), coolant dewar detector, eye-safe laser range finders under technology transfer.
Indian company Garware-Wall Ropes Ltd (GWRL) and Israel’s Aero-T signed the agreement to manufacturing and supplying advanced aerostat systems for India. The aerostat is served as early warning systems against enemy air attacks as well as for low-level ground surveillance. Mahindra Telephonics and Shachaf Engineering of Israel will jointly design, develop and manufacture strategic electronics systems for aerospace projects.
India’s Texmaco Rail and Engineering Ltd of Adventz Group and Israel’s LeshmanLesico Group will execute light rail projects worth $2 billion including Greenfield light rail projects in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
These are some of the most significant latest defense deals that have been reached between India and Israel. When completed, these deals and the side deals they come with will transform Indian military’s might and posture.
Pakistan In The Wrong Camp
Pakistan-Israel don’t recognize each other and don’t have diplomatic relations. That being said, Pakistan and Israel do enjoy backdoor ties in some areas but they are there out of necessity, not will or friendship. While Pakistan’s security establishment, understanding Israel’s importance, has always wanted good ties with Israel, the same attitude isn’t found among much of Pakistani public. Pakistan’s politicians, while quietly enjoying business ties with Israelis in countries like US, continue to misguide Pakistani youth about Israel and no one in Pakistan blinks an eye when someone engages in antisemitism or anti-Israel conspiracy theories. Hearing hatred for Jews from Pakistani politicians and media persons, not to mention the average citizens, is considered normal and politicians casually label their opponents “Yahoodi agent” without facing any consequences. Similarly, in Israel there are a lot of misconceptions about Pakistan and many Israelis still mistake Pakistan for an Arab country. Israeli strategists still see Pakistan’s nuclear assets as a liability despite Pakistan’s assurances that it won’t transfer nuclear tech to Iran. Recently Pakistan’s defense minister tweeted a nuclear threat to Israel after reading fake news. The threat was dismissed by Israeli government which issued a clarification rejecting the fake news. This little goof up made international headlines. Due to such level of miscommunication, or to be more precise lack of communication, both Pakistan and Israel still view each other with suspicion.
In 2016, Pakistan Air Force and Israeli Air Force conducted a joint drill with UAE Air Force in United States. Later Israeli Air Force praised the drill and the professionalism of Pakistani pilots. Indeed, it was Pakistan’s security establishment that made ties with Israel during Afghan Jihad (some say the ties have existed well before that but this is up for debate) when Israel supplied Soviet weapons to the Afghan mujahideen via Pakistan. Pakistan’s ruler at that time, General Zia, established a special desk at the ISI (Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency) to deal with their counterparts in Mossad. Since that time, Pakistan and Israel have maintained on and off intelligence ties out of necessity. While both Pakistan and Israel were allied with the American bloc during Cold War, history seems to be repeating itself as once again Israel and Pakistan are more or less standing on the same ground: Both countries have somewhat drifted away from the United States and have balanced their relations with US – with China and Russia.
In 2013, Britain’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills revealed that Israel had exported military technology to Pakistan. In 2011, Israel sought to purchase from Britain equipment that would then be exported to Pakistan. These included electronic warfare systems and aircraft parts. Both Pak Army and Israel denied the report, with Pak Army spokesperson calling it “misleading”, but analysts with intelligence sources know it happened and both countries have good reasons to cover it up. For Pakistan, the main concern is rebellion by hardcore anti-Israel elements within Pakistani military as well as massive protests and even armed clashes with Islamists. For Israel, the main reasons to cover it up were Pakistan’s concerns as well as the possibility of outrage in Israeli public, which would not have wanted their government to arm the only Muslim nuclear state. Israel, like all countries, lies to its public when necessary. Moreover, there are many more rumors of covert ‘arrangements’ between Israel and Pakistan but the details of those arrangements likely won’t be coming out anytime soon. Unless there are unauthorized leaks by groups such as WikiLeaks, Anonymous, etc.
Pakistan’s security establishment has been eyeing the latest deals between Israel and India very ‘keenly’, and while Pakistan has its own reasons to feel threatened, there’s also the China factor at play here. Right now the ties between Pakistan and United States, a close ally of Israel, are at an all time low due to the war in Afghanistan but Pakistan can strike a balance by reaching out to Israel via Beijing, which is in the best position right now to bring Pakistan and Israel close.
While some excellent progress was made between Israel and Pakistan relations during the era of Musharraf, that progress wasn’t enough to remove the distrust that exists between the two nations. Musharraf’s removal and his failure in politics further alienated those who argued in favor of Musharraf’s Israel initiative. Today Pakistan is more or less back to square one where it is worried about India-Israel defense and strategic relations without giving much thought to the fact that Pakistan has berated Israel at the UN for decades, rejected several Israeli offers to normalize relations and continues to be a haven of antisemitism in the region. While India enjoyed close relations with both Palestinians and Israel, Pakistan ignored Israel and stuck with Arabs who were never able to give good returns on Pakistan’s diplomatic support, not even on Kashmir issue. So far Arabs have paid mostly lip service to the Kashmir issue while Palestinians sided with India, not Pakistan, on Kashmir. In short, Pakistan’s relationship with Arabs and Palestinians have been give, give give and ask for nothing in return. Many Pakistani analysts today complain that Israel is disturbing the balance in South Asia region but here’s my question: What was Pakistan thinking when it blindly sided with the Arabs against Israel for decades? That disturbed the balance too, as Arabs felt more powerful because of Pakistan’s support when in reality they were not even worth fighting the IDF. Today Arabs are scattered and fleeing their countries for Europe partially because of their rejection of Israel. The chaos in Syria, Iraq and much of Middle East is indirectly part of those past mistakes where Arabs consistently rejected repeated Israeli offers for peace. Today, having learnt that Israel cannot be defeated, Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, etc are trying to move close to Israel but it may be too late for them. Israel will now not deal with Arabs the way it was ready to deal with Arabs three or four decades ago. Today Israel is a regional power, has nukes pointed at every major city of the world, has some of the best tech in the world and has become economically more powerful than ever before. Israel has no reason whatsoever to deal with Arabs on their terms. No, Israel will now deal with Arabs on Israel’s terms and Arabs, too desperate to save their remaining governments, will have no other option but to go along with it. While Pakistan has historically sided with Arabs, it is not a party to the conflict and should protect its own interests first and foremost. Pakistan has already realized how foolish Arabs can be at times, which is why Pakistan is not siding with the Arabs blindly anymore. This was proven in the Saudi-Iran rift as well as in GCC-Qatar rift. While Pakistan’s foreign policy is somewhat maturing, it still needs to be more realistic and focused on Pakistan’s national interests instead of appeasing the sentiments of some segment(s) of the public or ‘brotherly Islamic nations’.
While Modi would want to create a US-India-Israel alliance against China-Pakistan-Iran and push it as an alliance of freedom lovers against Commies and Jihadis, Pakistan should be doing everything it can to bring down this little scheme of New Delhi.
In part 2 of this series, I will write about the diplomatic and propaganda implications of India-Israel alliance for Pakistan.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 2014, 2015, 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:
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.
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.
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.
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 attackedIsrael 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 similarraids 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 heinouscrimes 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.
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:
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.
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:
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.
Below are some more photos from the conference featuring usual suspects:
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.
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:
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.
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 ofthe 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.
“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.
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.