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The Lesser Khakis

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In the aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jail break, Pakhtunkhwa’s minister for Revenue and Estate, Ali Amin Khan Gandapur visited the jail. Talking to reporters he expressed his frustration with both the army and police for being unable to thwart this attack.

He began by pointing out that despite the presence of two brigades in D.I.Khan cantonment, the army did not engage the terrorists. On this, the minister decently expressed some “tahafuzaat” (reservations).

But then he turned his attention towards the police, and out come accolades such as “Nikamay”, “Nikhatu”, and “Buzdil”. The good minister seemed disgusted with the fact that only 5 policemen were martyred. As body counts of “at least 50 if not 100” are decent estimates of bravery.

This disgust for the police and respectful grumbles for army is something not particular to Mr. Gandapur. It reflects the mindset of this nation. From political talk shows to comedy stage shows, castigation and ridicule of our police is the norm.

Those justifying this discrimination, do it by declaring Police to be corrupt, and therefore less respectable than army. But scandals like NLC refute the myth of an incorruptible army. Furthermore, our three military dictatorships can be accredited with most if not all of the problems we face today. Effects of Police bribery seems puny when compared with this.

But blaming the army as a whole is deemed offensive, because an institution should not be blamed for the deeds of some individuals. After all, Zia ul Haq and Major Aziz Bhatti Shaheed were two completely different people. One was a traitor, while the other a martyr.

And I agree, while no institution should be above accountability, generalizations based on uniforms are unfair. Our army is composed of far too many patriots than those who exploit the leverage associated with their uniform. The ultimate proof of their patriotism is a willingness to embrace martyrdom and a long list of those who already have.

But then how is our police any different? Has it not offered its own martyrs? Pakhtunkhwa’s Police, alone has a list of more than 1000 in the last 10 years, add to it those from other provinces and you have many more.

Police constables across Pakistan man check points knowing very well that the next driver might be a suicide bomber. Many of us today owe our lives to a split second decision of some brave police martyr who chose country over life. How is this display of patriotism any different from that of the soldiers who man our borders?

Names like Malik Saad Shaheed, Sifwat Ghayur Shaheed, Fayyaz Ahmad Sumbal Shaheed and many others are no less in stature than names like Major Raja Aziz Bhatti Shaheed, Sawar Muhammad Hussain Shaheed, and Sher Khan Shaheed. Both groups were the sons of this soil, who died with their boots on and presented Pakistan with the ultimate sacrifice. But yet, there is no Noor Jehan to sing for the martyrs of our Police and no national day to celebrate their sacrifice.

On the 8th of August a bombing in Balochistan wiped out some of its top police officials, an attack which in its magnitude seems similar to the one on Malik Saad Shaheed that decimated the top brass of Pakhtunkhwa police, a loss from which the province is yet to recover.

But Pakistan, as a whole, did not care on that blood soaked eve. Instead what came to the fore was the face of Mufti Muneeb and the joys of eating vermicelli. The headline news on PTV at 10 pm began with the Eid announcement, followed by the PM getting a briefing on the LoC situation and then came the news about the 38 martyrs of Quetta. Private news channels were no different.

Any self-respecting nation would have flown its flag half-mast to honor this sacrifice. Instead these martyrs were honored with the cancellation of PM’s “Eid Milan party”, and that alone was deemed as sufficient.

Are we so blind to realize that these men were targeted because of their uniform, a uniform they donned to defend this thankless mob of 180 million? But, forget the rest of Pakistan, even Quetta reverberated with joyous aerial firing on the eve of this massacre.

The aftermath of D.I.Khan’s jailbreak has also been marred by the same bias that underestimates the abilities and courage of our police. Its analysis usually starts with the Taliban arrival at the gates of the jail, ignoring their journey from Waziristan to D.I.Khan and back. By beginning from the gates of the jail, this version conveniently cites “low morale”, “cowardice” and a lack of training as probable reasons of failure. All of which implicate the police.

While there is no doubt that police morale has been lowered due to the inane policies of the current KP government, and that it can definitely do with better equipment and training. But using these excuses for the D.I.Khan incident is a bit of a stretch.

The terrorists originated from Waziristan and went back there unchallenged. If cowardice and low morale is to explain police reluctance to engage, then the same should explain the reluctance at several army checkpoints as well as that of the two brigades present in DI Khan cantt.

It does not make sense to say that thousands of uniformed men from both the police and army had a simultaneous and sudden attack of cowardice. It is possible that these men might have been ordered to stand down, and it is essential that this possibility be investigated. Making a scapegoat of the police will only demoralize them further.

Nations honor and celebrate their martyrs. It is one of those things that differentiates a nation from a mob. This Eid, Pakistan acted like a mob, a shameless and thankless mob. It is high time that we start acting like a nation because acting like one is essential for surviving as one.

 Published in The News on 15th of August 2013, under the title “Police: how many should die?”

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Written by Imran Khan

August 15, 2013 at 5:02 am

Naya Tirah

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A hope was kindled in the hearts of many in the aftermath of the massacre at Quetta’s Alamdar road. In response to Lashkar e Jhangvi’s (LeJ) ownership of the killings, the leader of Pakistan Tehreek I Insaaf (PTI), Imran Khan, openly condemned LeJ by taking its name.

In most countries such a condemnation would be the minimum expected from a politician. But in Pakistan most politicians shy away from naming jihadi perpetrators, even when the killers are taking responsibility.

These politicians overwhelmingly belong to the parties from the center and right of Pakistan’s political spectrum. Imran Khan in particular has been called out by many of his critics for failing to condemn terrorism. Therefore, it was significant that he had condemned the LeJ, especially when one also considers his popularity.

But then, just days after his condemnation, Imran Khan repeated the mantra that has earned him the title of “Taliban Khan”.

In an interview, Khan Sahib offered this three-step solution to the problem of militancy:

Step 1: Disengage from the US led War on Terror (WoT).

Step 2: This will rob Taliban of their reason for Jihad, and most Taliban will renounce militancy.

Step 3: Use the tribes of FATA to take on the remaining Taliban.

This very simple solution is based on some very false assumptions. Consider this conclusion where he claims “Qabaili ilaqay k loag Mujahideen say nahi larain gay” i.e. “People of the tribal areas will not fight against the Mujahideen”. To conclude this is to assume the tribes of FATA to be in an alliance of sorts with the Taliban. It is important to analyze this assumption, because this is the cornerstone of PTI’s solution for militancy.

The implications of assuming a tribal-Taliban alliance are huge as it leads to the conclusion that the Pashtuns of FATA are partners in the crimes committed by the Taliban.

Now consider the fact that the TTP’s list of victims spreads across almost every sect and ethnicity in Pakistan. Try telling the relatives of a Punjabi victim of terror that the Pashtuns of FATA killed their loved one in order to avenge US drones. Sympathy is the last thing that should be expected. It is a highly irresponsible statement to be coming from a national leader.

But then this is not just about maintaining Pakistan’s ethnic harmony, as it is absolutely wrong to assume a tribal-Taliban alliance, because a majority of the people of FATA themselves are victims of the Taliban.

For the rest of us, Taliban rule is a fear that is still part of an uncertain future. But for many in FATA this is an every day reality. A whole generation is being raised without the hope that education provides or the lifeline that a health system extends. Ban on polio drops, enforced prayers and beards, lashings and beheadings. This is the life that no one would want, especially not the tribes of FATA who have always prided themselves on being Azad (free).

Contrary to the preposterous claim by the Chairman of PTI, the tribes of FATA are actually already fighting against the Taliban. The proof for that is overwhelming; anti Taliban Lashkars have been raised across FATA and around 1000 tribal elders have been massacred by the Taliban. A survey conducted by CAMP in 2010 asked the people of FATA about their views on the Pakistani Taliban; mere 11% had positive perceptions, similarly only 20% approved of the Afghan Taliban. Another survey of FATA respondents conducted by the New America Foundation in 2010, whose results have widely been used to oppose drones, also showed a mere 20% support for Pakistani Taliban, while only 29% for Afghan Taliban.

Ironically, this 23rd of March, when the PTI was heralding the beginning of a “Naya Pakistan” in Lahore, the assumptions of its anti terror policy were being blown up in the valley of Tirah (FATA).

The people of Tirah were being driven out en masse.  But neither were they being attacked by CIA drones nor chased by US marines. Instead, they were under attack from the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The same TTP, which the Chairman of PTI assumes to be in alliance with the people of Tirah.

Not only were these “Mujahideen” fighting against the Qabail, but they were fighting in a most despicable manner. Horrific stories are coming out of the area; of an old father shooting his disabled daughter because he could not carry her, and neither did he want to leave her at the mercy of the Taliban. Of men getting beheaded even after they had surrendered.

Imagine being one of these IDPs from Tirah; chased by the Taliban, losing your home and relatives to them, and then being told by a “FATA expert” that you are an ally of the Taliban; just because the US has invaded Afghanistan, and also because your grandfather fought the British. One can only imagine the response.

To an extent the problem also lies in Imran Khan’s romanticized perceptions about Pashtuns. It is very common to hear Khan sahib talk about the tribes of FATA as one would about the Klingons from Star Trek; warrior nation, ready to fight, fearless, undefeatable etc.

Well Tirah was a test case for those abilities; the Qabail did fight but were completely routed by the Taliban. After which they fled to save their lives, just like humans would in any other part of the world. Contrary to popular racist humor, the Pathans of Pakistan are as much insaans as the rest of Pakistan.

The vulnerability of these Pakistanis from Tirah is obvious from their current status as IDPs. Romanticizing their warrior skills is good for works of fiction, but would be ridiculous if done as a policy statement to absolve the state of its responsibility to defend them.

The Pakistanis of Tirah have as much a right to be defended by the state as do the Pakistanis of Bani Gala or Zaman Park, a defense that has very conveniently been declared as “futile” by the architects of Naya Pakistan.

Can we declare our personal freedoms to be not worth fighting for? Would we be ok with a “peace” that comes at the price of polio and illiteracy for our children and of beheading, amputations and lashings for ourselves?

If our freedoms are not worth fighting for then why have we been apportioning the bulk of our budget for defense since independence? What exactly were we planning to defend if not the future of our children?

If our military has failed to contain the Taliban threat, then that asks for the military’s performance review and not that FATA be put up for sale to the buyer with the sharpest knife or the biggest gun. If collateral damage is an issue then that demands a closer scrutiny of military operations and not that our people be handed over to a band of ruthless thugs.

While many Pakistanis are crossing their fingers for a Naya Pakistan, we already have a Naya Tirah. It is a Tirah that is empty of its people, and reeks of rotting dead bodies. It is also a Naya Tirah that is making its residents yearn for the old one.

Lets not end up in a Naya Pakistan that will also make us yearn for this old one.

First appeared in View Point online on the 5th of April 2013

Written by Imran Khan

April 5, 2013 at 5:11 am

Posted in Military, Pakhtunkhwa, Pakhtuns, PTI, Taliban

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Dealing with the Devil

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If the loss of a Pakistani life is the ultimate damage inflicted upon this country, then the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has been far more devastating than any other enemy of Pakistan. Whether its burning buses full of Shias, beheading soldiers, murdering politicians or shooting little children, the TTP has done it all and shamelessly taken responsibility for it. Such has been their onslaught that it has raised our national threshold for shock; bombings with single digit casualties have become somewhat of a norm these days.

But that’s not it, after murdering us in our thousands; the TTP now has the gall to make demands from us. This includes distancing our self from the United States’ War on Terror (WoT) and also that we reform our constitution on more “Islamic principles”.

On the face of it, these demands could seem pretty reasonable to many, as the same is being demanded by parties such as JI, JUI-F, PML-N and PTI.  But while all of these parties would agree on the issue of US’s WoT, one wonders if the Islamic overhaul of the constitution as demanded by the Taliban is the same as that proposed by our political parties?

Afterall, TTP’s Islam doesn’t allow women to get modern education, but the Late Qazi Hussain Ahmad’s daughter has a doctorate. TTP declares democracy to be haram, but Maulana Fazl ur Rehman and his brother are seasoned politicians. TTP considers polio vaccination to be an infidel ploy, but I am very sure that Imran Khan’s sons have been vaccinated.

With these violations the loved ones of these leaders have been guilty of sins as per TTP’s Islam. But then these are “crimes” that we Pakistanis consider to be our basic rights. Conflict is obvious, and so is TTP’s preference for violence as a means of conflict resolution. So then does this threat to our basic freedoms turn this into our war? or is fighting for Atta ur Rehman’s political freedom, Samia Raheel Qazi’s education, and the health of Imran Khan’s sons someone else’s responsibility? While luckily these freedoms are intact for most of us Pakistanis, but that certainly is not the case for many in FATA living under the TTP as well as the “good Taliban”.

However, the emphasis right now is on “negotiating” with the tormentors of FATA. If you listen to the chairman of PTI, it seems like he is suggesting something that has never been tried before. His disappointment is so immense and the look of triumphant vindication so strong, that you wish our rulers had the wisdom to listen to him.

But the Swat accord is not that distant a memory. The people of Swat who had voted for the most secular of political parties were suddenly assumed to be in favor of Shariah. No one ever thought about asking the Swatis, because probably the real fear was that Liberty Chowk or Jinnah Super might become the next Khooni Chowks. Therefore, in the name of “peace”, the Malalas of Swat were handed over to the wolves, just so that the rest of the country could be spared.

It was the TTP’s eagerness to bring speedy justice to the DHAs, E-7s, and Gulbergs of real Pakistan that led to decisive action against them. Ironically it even rang alarm bells among the non-Swati proponents of Nizam i Adl. The TTP apparently had reneged because the deal was to keep the beheadings, lashings and amputations limited to Swat, and NOT Pakistan-proper.

If this is the “negotiation” that we have in mind, and if the Malalas of Waziristan are now to be permanently sacrificed at the altar of the TTP, then we for sure are redefining the word Pakistani.

The freedoms of FATA should be as defense worthy as that of Punjab and Sindh. If the collateral damage from drone strikes is an outrage, then using the same shock algorithm, the subjugation and terrorization of Waziristanis should be a sacrilege. Love for the pathans of FATA shouldn’t only come out when the aggressor is the United States, but also on their continued butchery at the hands of the Taliban, which has been far more devastating than drones.

If military operations are not bearing fruit, then why is it such a taboo to review the army’s performance? Are our freedoms up for sale just because we can’t question our generals? If WAPDA can be blamed for electricity outages, and the police for a lack of crime control, then why can’t Pakistan army be blamed for failures in its military operations?

Lets negotiate but lets not make a distinction between a Waziristani and a Pakistani. Lets think of them as one and then lets choose for Wana what we would choose for Lahore and Islamabad. If it is futile to defend our freedoms then for sure it is futile to have a standing army.

Bad policing requires police reforms, and not that victims be handed over to criminals. Similarly, failures of military operations highlight the needs for accountability of our armed forces. Handing over Waziristan to ensure the peace of Islamabad is not a sustainable strategy, because there is only so much of Waziristan that can be handed out.

An edited version appeared in The News on 15th of Feb 2013.

Written by Imran Khan

February 15, 2013 at 4:55 am

Denialistani Logic – A flow chart.

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DenialistaniLogic-2 copy

Written by Imran Khan

February 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Denialistanis

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Denialistanis are all around us, they look, walk and talk like us. Most have a green passport and quite a few have maroon and blue ones as well.  But what sets denialistanis apart from the rest is the way in which they process bad news; Muslims can never be culprits and thus the infidel is at fault. Let it be a suicide bombing or a flood, it must be the Jews/Hindus/Christians, as they are all out to destroy Muslims.

Who could forget that supposed absence of 3000 Jews from the World Trade Center that implicated Mossad and not Al Qaida for 9/11? And that “RAW conspiracy” to malign Pakistani cricketers? Not to forget Ajmal Kasab’s saffron wrist band which certified him as a RAW agent?

As things stand, Al Qaida has taken responsibility for 9/11, our cricketers were conclusively found to be guilty and Hafiz Saeed has offered funeral prayers for Ajmal Kasab. But despite these resounding slaps on the wrist, what still remains is the quest for more denials in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Denialistanis, it seems, view the world through a special prism; one that shows every thing as a struggle between a feeble Muslim David and a towering infidel Goliath. The eventual victory of David is foreseen to be the proof of being on God’s side.

If one is to look for a prototype of a Muslim David, then one shouldn’t beyond the Taliban. Ill equipped, rag tag, religious and ready for war. For many, cheering them on becomes a religious obligation of sorts. And we Pakistanis did that cheerleading very effectively. At a time when Afghan Malalas were being whipped in public and Afghan Bilours executed in football stadiums, Islamabad proudly declared the Taliban to be “our boys”.

But things changed when from being the official cheerleaders for Afghanistan’s Taliban we became victims of our own Pakistani Taliban. Ideally it should have been the infidel Goliath to blame, but instead the villain turned out to be our own beloved Muslim David.

So how does one explain that?

Accepting the Jihadis as our enemies, poses substantial costs for some. Because at stake is the narrative that fuels Juma sermons, shapes our school curricula and forestalls any cuts in our military spending. Any exceptions to this will simply rob many people of their raison d‘etre. Therefore there is no other option but to twist the obvious and defend the narrative.

Consider the aftermath of the Malala incident; first came the regular “Who did it?” The Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan (TTP) proudly replied with a “We did”. This was responded with; “Who are the Taliban?” “How can one be sure that the TTP exists?” “This must be Black Water.”

Discussion is futile, because these statements are backed with a total distrust in the profession of journalism, and an unwavering faith in the magical powers of video & audio editing. Media reports that implicate the TTP are declared false, and video confessionals are attributed to video editors sitting in Langley Virginia. Interestingly these resolute shoulder-shrugging-fact-checkers are usually the same people who embraced Agha Waqar and his water kit with arms wide open.

The Malala incident was unique in the response that it got from Pakistanis. Here was a girl so focused on education that she defied the Taliban for it. A dream child for any parents worried about the education and future of their children, and thus the sympathy came pouring out.

It is exactly that sort of a response, which is needed to build a much-needed national consensus on tackling the Taliban. But a necessary victim of such a consensus would be the denialistani narrative and naturally the big guns came out to defend it.

Qazi Hussain Ahmad accused Malala’s father of bad parenting. The product of Qazi sahib’s parenting; Dr. Samia Raheel Qazi used doctored shots from a documentary to show Malala colluding with CIA officials. Maulana Fazl ur Rehman brought out the surgeon in him to declare Malala’s wounds to be fake and her recovery a drama. With the leadership stooping so low, the rank and file of these parties stooped even further and launched a hateful smear campaign against Malala.

But Malala doesn’t pose the biggest threat to the denialistani narrative, it is actually the Taliban who do. Every time TTP takes responsibility for the wanton killing of Pakistanis Muslims, it smashes the façade of, an infidel threat and a united Ummah, that has been so painstakingly created by parties such as JI, JUI-F and more recently PTI.

Imagine how smug the leadership of these parties would have been had the Taliban denied involvement in these acts of terror? But while these political parties are in the business of winning votes, the Taliban are in the business of selling fear. Incentives don’t align between the two, as JUI-F and JI have also been victims of Taliban violence.

But despite victim-hood the response of JI and JUI-F has been very different from that of the ANP. Perhaps because for the ANP this carnage is a realization of what Wali Khan had predicted back in the 80s. But for the JI and JUI-F this is a case of the chicken coming home to roost, a taste of the medicine that they prescribed for Afghanistan.

ANP’s vindication and the religious right’s embarrassment come out very clearly in the aftermath of every terrorist attack. The ANP is very clear about naming the TTP and the need for bringing it to justice. However, for the religious right even condemnation comes with reluctance about naming TTP and often the blame is put on CIA/RAW/Mossad etc. The end result is a national confusion in which TTP’s clearly worded confessions are ignored and instead the focus is put on ridiculous conspiracy theories or the futility of a military response.

This national confusion is the TTP’s biggest asset. They can spread fear by owning it, but then don’t face the consequences.

The failure of our State in delivering these consequences is a failure of our army and security agencies. This needs to be dealt with as the failure of any other Government institution. Simply initiating a new military operation would not do, seeking performance review on past military efforts is key in answering effectively to the Taliban threat.

To investigate these failures is to take on the deep state and its strategic calculus, and for that the PPP would need support from all political quarters. But this prevailing confusion robs the Government of the public support that it needs for doing so.

Despite its clarity on the Taliban issue, it’s the ANP that is paying the biggest price for this national confusion. So far the TTP has martyred more than 600 ANP members. No other political party comes close to this sacrifice.

Bashir Bilour Shaheed once said “For the love of God, please embrace this as your war. If you cant, or are too afraid to do so, then please remain silent. Don’t create confusion amongst the people.” No one listened and he paid the ultimate price for his own ideals and someone else’s political expediency. One only wonders how many Bashir Bilours would we have to sacrifice, before those spreading this confusion start paying the price for it as well. Maybe that will bring some clarity?

An edited version appeared in The News on the 3rd of January 2013, under the title “TTP’s most lethal weapon”

Written by Imran Khan

January 3, 2013 at 4:48 am

PTI’s Taliban Solution

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To get a measure of Malala’s courage one only needs to look at pictures of beheaded corpses on display in Mingora’s “Khooni Chowk”. It was no small achievement to write those diaries despite the gruesome warnings. Therefore, it was no exaggeration when Malala was awarded the title of “The Bravest Girl in the World”.

However, this title can be a bit misleading because her courage surpasses not only that of the girls of this world, but also of grown up men. Men such as the Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek I Insaaf (PTI), who confessed on TV that he refrains from criticizing the Taliban for fears of reprisals targeted at PTI.

Fear is a very human emotion and can be a valid reason for maintaining silence, but under no circumstances should it warrant the spreading of disinformation. It is a fact that when Malala was writing her diaries from Mingora and detailing the killings and destruction of schools, the chairman of PTI, from the safety of Islamabad, had declared all such news to be mere “government propaganda”. More than flowers and commiserations, what Mr. Khan owes Malala is an apology for discrediting her efforts.

But expecting such an apology would be a bit too much, because PTI’s campaign of disinformation still continues. Khan Sahib’s proposed solution to the Taliban problem is one such example.

Declaring it as the “only solution”, he presents three main steps towards peace:

Step 1: Pakistan distances itself from United States’ war on terror (WOT), and as a result Taliban lose the reason for their struggle.

Step 2: Convince the tribes of FATA that Pakistan is not fighting the WOT anymore, and thus convince the Taliban to disarm. Mr. Khan believes that 90% of the Taliban would lay their arms down at this point.

Step 3: If the remaining 10% still persist on ideological basis, then a small “chota mota” military operation could be carried out with the help of the tribes of FATA.

This strategy is based on some very flawed assumptions as Khan Sahib assumes the people of FATA to be siding with the Taliban. To back this claim he invokes history and then leaves it at that.

Historical references are important to consider but more important are modern day ones. This “Tribal-Taliban-Unity” straw man stands exposed with the existence of anti-Taliban tribal lashkars that are created through community consensus. These communities have lost centuries old tribal structures to the Taliban onslaught and have endured beheadings of their loved ones on their native soil. As a result rather then being angry with the Americans in Afghanistan, these rational Pakistanis are more perturbed by the barbarians who are unlawfully ruling their villages through fear and intimidation. Why is it that the rebellion of these entirely Pashtun anti Taliban groups does not remind Imran Khan of the indomitable spirit that resisted the British, while he is very eager to declare a motley crew including Chechens, Punjabis, Arabs, Turkmen, and Uighars as “Pashtun resistance”?

Similarly baseless is the claim that 90% of the Taliban are fighting this war because of Pakistan’s support for the WOT.  PTI’s failed attempt to hold a jalsa in Waziristan proves the non-existence of this “90%”. If such an overwhelming number of Taliban agreed with PTI, then PTI would have been embraced as an ideological ally and Khan Sahib would not have been titled as “a slave of the west”.

This “slavery” of Mr. Khan is certainly not about siding with the United States in the WOT, because he has made his opposition quite clear on that front. However, this particular slavery is signified through his beardless face, his approval for female education, polio vaccination and his acceptance of many other freedoms that we Pakistanis consider our basic rights.

It is clear that Taliban’s measure of freedom from the West is for Imran Khan and the rest of Pakistan to be enslaved under Taliban rule. The people of Waziristan and Swat have tasted this and the struggle of Malala was against these exact “freedoms”. The Swat experience showed that Taliban would not settle for anything less than total control and will not desist from expanding through violent means. If the military is not needed to counter such an existential threat, then in my opinion there is no need for a military.

A very common retort to the military option is to ask what exactly have we accomplished through operations so far? But if our military has failed to deliver then that demands that its performance be reviewed, and not that Pakistanis be handed over as hostages to a band of armed thugs.

The bulldozed town of Loi Sum stands testament to the scorched earth and highhanded policies of a military that feels no restraint. The discovery of Osama in Kakul and the presence of Taliban sympathizers within our armed forces raise serious concerns about the inherent weaknesses within our military response. Before declaring the futility of military efforts, we need to consider the overwhelming evidence that indicates both incompetence and/or collusion in the war against Taliban.

If demands are to be made from the Government, then they should be to demand results from the army. If anything the memogate scandal shows that our Government needs support from all political quarters to break the grip that the security establishment has on Islamabad.

The Taliban constitute an existential threat to Pakistan and the Pakistani way of life. Despite the death of thousands of Pakistanis we still lack the resolve to fight this menace. This lack of a resolve emanates directly from the confusion that prevails about this issue. The source of this confusion lies in ridiculous theories that don’t stand up to rational scrutiny.

The price for this confusion is not being equally paid by all of Pakistan. If handing over Swat and Waziristan to buy the safety of Islamabad and Lahore is the “only solution” then it for sure is not a sustainable one, because sooner rather than later Pakistan is bound to run out of these Pashto speaking lesser Pakistanis.
An edited version was published on the 7th of Nov 2012 in The News

Written by Imran Khan

November 7, 2012 at 6:58 am

Posted in Military, Pakhtuns, PTI, Taliban

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Owning a War

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Corruption, illiteracy, epidemics, and fiscal constraints are typical third world problems, ones that Pakistan is no exception to. But one problem that sets us apart from the rest is the unbridled and ever increasing incidence of terrorism.

During 2010 almost 3000 Pakistanis died due to terrorist attacks. These included the more than 100 dead in Lakki Marwat when a car bomber attacked a volleyball match, another 86 were literally hunted down when two Ahmadi mosques were attacked in Lahore, and yet another 50 were killed in the carnage at Daata Darbar.The resulting atmosphere of fear and uncertainty is further aggravating all our other problems; foreign investors are becoming increasingly reluctant, illiteracy is getting exacerbated through the wanton destruction of schools, incidence of polio is on the rise as health workers are under threat, and so on. There is no doubt that this state of affairs needs to change.

Apparently, change is in the air as accredited to the thousands strong jalsa of Pakistan Tehreek i Insaaf (PTI) at Minar i Pakistan.  Many who usually cringe over news of suicide bombings are suddenly upbeat about the “hope” that is Imran Khan. True, the mobilization in Minar I Pakistan was impressive, but in my opinion the rally did not address our main issue i.e. militancy. To Mr. Khan, our biggest problem seems to be that of “corruption”, he even views militancy from the same lens as to him terrorism is simply a response to the American invasion of Afghanistan, an invasion that is facilitated by our “corrupt” Government for the sake of dollars. While there is no doubt that post 9/11 the frequency of terrorist attacks has increased within Pakistan, but is that only because the Americans started bombing Afghanistan?

Before 9/11, we had proudly declared the Taliban as “our boys”, the same boys who were then blamed for supporting insurgencies in India, Iran, Russia, as well as China. If there was much less terror in Pakistan, then it was because we were exporting terror all over the region. Post 9/11 we decided to take a U-turn and the boys who used to be “ours” were not so anymore. What we faced as a result could be termed as the wrath of the proverbial chickens that were coming home to roost. If Mr. Khan is criticizing the crackdown on militancy post 9/11, then he should also defend the support for militancy before 9/11, criticizing both these decisions in the same breath is tantamount to having ones cake and eating it too.

But since Mr. Khan insists on doing both, the question is; what would he have done as a Prime Minister? His current solution is simple; terrorism stops when the US leaves Afghanistan. But then, would his future solutions include the liberation of Kashmir, Kashghar and Chechnya, for terrorism to stop in Pakistan? Because if he is so understanding of the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) need to reach out to their brethren in Afghanistan, then by the same token he should also be very understanding when the TTP reaches out to help insurgencies in China, Russia and Uzbekistan, as currently Uighar, Chechen and Uzbek fighters are part of the TTP.

What option do we leave China, if an insurgency on its soil is being supported from Pakistan, and we simply refuse to do anything about it? But Kashghar is no Kashmir, and it is highly unlikely that even a Government led by Mr. Khan will allow support for an insurgency in China. Then in that case, would a PTI led government also launch a military operation against “our people”? If yes, then how will that be any different from what the current Government is doing?

It wasn’t long ago that Mr. Khan, demanded investigations into the killings of May 12th 2007, and was willing to go to courts in UK to bring the culprits to justice. But that zeal is certainly missing in his response to the Taliban who are not even denying their crimes, ones that are far worse than those attributed to the MQM. The Taliban have not only subjugated the people of FATA, but they are also using the area as a launching pad for attacks into the rest of Pakistan and our neighboring countries. Furthermore, their prolonged influence has the potential to permanently change the perceptions of those living under their rule. Through forced indoctrination of children they are overseeing the radicalization of a whole generation in FATA, and that in itself presents the biggest threat to our country. If there ever was a reason to justify the existence of an army then this is it, therefore declaring the military option as “futile” is tantamount to declaring the existence of our army as useless.

While the military option is necessary, the way it is being exercised needs a closer scrutiny. The FCR backed scorched earth policy that is currently deployed has resulted in the destruction of whole towns and villages. It is obvious that this strategy is counterproductive, and for that, changes are in order, including a transparent system of accountability and performance measurement for our armed forces. Embedding journalists with our military units as well as allowing media access into FATA will bring out the clearer picture about what the Taliban mean to the people of FATA and also act as a check on the execution of military operations. The need is to fine tune our response to the Taliban; saving our people from getting caught in the crossfire doesn’t mean that we should be content with them living under the yoke of the Taliban.

Our recent history has proven that the Taliban threat cannot be contained through appeasement, if the plan is to handover Swat and Waziristan to buy the safety of Islamabad and Lahore, then it is only a matter of time before the latter two also need rescuing. This is our war, let there be no confusion about it, whether we own it over Swat or Lahore simply reflects the way that we define “ourselves”, a real hope would promise a change in that particular definition and not perpetuate the status quo.

Appeared on the daily The News on 18th of November, 2011

Written by Imran Khan

November 23, 2011 at 6:26 am

Posted in Military, Pakhtuns, PTI, Suicide Bombing, Taliban

Tagged with , , ,

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