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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?”

Written by Imran Khan

August 15, 2013 at 5:02 am

Martyrs or Vermicelli?

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There is one thing that you have to give credit to the Taliban for, which is that their brutality can exceed the wildest imagination of most fiction writers.

Consider the recent attack in Quetta. 38 people butchered of which 19 were police officials. The attack was on a funeral, which too was arranged for by the Taliban. For that they attacked an SHO who had taken out his children for Eid shopping. The children were injured but their father was dead. An eid gift from the bearded Talib uncle. Ramzan, children, funeral, and all of that planned to the finest detail, can one be more heartless?

These 20 police officials did not have any personal enmity with the Taliban. Their sole crime was to wear their uniform, the one that they had donned to defend the likes of you and me.

In other words, these men were killed in the name of Pakistan. And the motive most probably was to send a message to us Pakistanis.

But the vilest of villains might just have met their match, in the form of the most indifferent of victims. Turns out TTP’s thunder was stolen by Mufti Muneeb and his promise of vermicelli. Because what mattered to Pakistanis on the eve of 8th of August was if they will be waking up for sehri or will there be vermicelli for breakfast? Shaheed gai bhaar main.

In my opinion we probably told the TTP to try harder. The bond of the word “Pakistani” is not that strong to make strangers ache for each other. The people that they did impact were the immediate family and friends of the deceased and those are a pretty small proportion of the Pakistani population.

I mean we could actually calculate an estimate of the people that the Taliban did affect in their last ten years of carnage. A rough estimate of TTP related deaths stands at around 40,000. Lets assume a family size of 7, and they have actually affected about 280,000 immediate family members. Throw in a circle of friends and extended family of around 14, and that’s another 560,000. Add these up and it’s a total of 840,000, add in a few suffering from Pakistaniat and we have a nice total of around 1 million affectees.

In proportionate terms that is nothing, as it is only 0.5% of Pakistan. If the TTP thinks its hurting the 180 million strong Pakistani nation by bombing and decapitating an insignificant minority then they are being deluded.

To many, our ability to not care about such incidents represents defiance and it somehow shows our “resilience”. I agree that we cannot give up on our way of life by succumbing to terror. But did we really show our defiance this Eid?

Defiance would have begun with a complete official focus on the incident. The Prime Minister, President, Federal Interior Minister, CM Balochistan and Governor should have all reached out to Balochistan police in every way possible. Making sure that the enemy knows that the elected symbols of state stand by its uniformed defenders. Our flag should have flown half-mast for the entirety of Eid, and our PM should have announced that this Eid be dedicated to the martyrs of Quetta.

Our clergy should have made a point in mentioning this incident in the two khutbas that day and castigated those who use Islam in such actions. Duas should have been dedicated to these martyrs and also to the families that they have left behind.

Our media should have focused on the sacrifice that our police is rendering, with the aim to galvanize this nation into honoring its defenders. It would have made these martyrs household names for the nation to cherish.

And with all that, we could have eaten our vermicelli, worn news clothes, and hugged each other Eid Mubarik. In doing so, we would have sent a strong message of resilience and defiance, that we still remember those who sacrificed their lives for us but we are not going to give up on our way of life. We are grateful to our martyrs and we will bring their murderers to justice.

But was it this way?

Well, not even close.

The Government’s response was pathetic at best. Nawaz Sharif, fresh from his umrah trip, simply sent his condolences and said that his Government is committed to eliminating terrorism. As usual, this “promise for future action” failed to name the Tehreek I Taliban Pakistan who had proudly taken responsibility of the incident. While the flag flew full mast on his office, the PM sahib was gracious enough to cancel an “Eid Milan party”.

Our Interior Minister saw it fit to spend Eid with his family rather than to rush to Quetta like he did after the Balochistan Medical Complex (BMC) attack. He showed up in Quetta on the 11th, i.e. 3 days after the blast to give this statementI pay tribute to the martyrs and the deceased who have lost their lives in the recent attacks and we want to assure everyone that an investigation is underway.” I wonder if someone could tell Chaudhry Sb, that the guilty have admitted to their guilt for the 100th time now. What exactly would he be investigating?

One wonders what happened to the Chaudhry sb, who only a month ago lashed out this strongly at the security agencies for the BMC attack? He has been awfully silent after that outburst.

And if you thought that the straight shooters of the nationalist government of Balochistan would come to the fore and reply to the TTP, then that too would be a pretty high expectation. When IG Balochistan did his press conference, there was no one from the federal or the provincial government by his side.

This was such a contrast to this press conference after the BMC attack, in which Nawaz Sharif was flanked by Mahmood Khan Achakzai, Mir Hasil Bizenjo and accompanied by DG ISI and DG IB. Where were these same people after this recent massacre? Didn’t they promise us the world after BMC?

This Friday gave our clergy that rare opportunity to give two khutbas. From what I could gather on twitter as well as from relatives and friends, almost every other mosque had nimazis chanting “ameen” for success of “Mujahideen”. Conveniently forgotten was the fact that the “success” of Mujahideen was in splattering the innards of these very nimazis on the floors of their mosques.  And that the sole hurdle to that success was dressed in a police uniform and standing guard outside, ready to sacrifice his own life for the safety of those who were praying for his death.

PoliceNimaz2

Pakistani media was no less disappointing than the clergy that prayed for the success of our killers. On the day of the bombing, by 9 pm the news had become the second most important news of the day i.e. before the martyrs were even buried. Here is GEO’s 9 pm bulletin and here is Dunya’s. Notice that in Dunya’s bulletin, the story of Quetta attack comes at around 27th minute. It was preceded by reports such as Reshma taunting Meera and interviews of people coming out of aitikaaf.

Media anchors were a mixed bunch on the 8th of August. Talat Hussain, Abdul Malik, Ejaz Haider and Javed Choudhry, canceled their regular Eid shows to cover this incident, and perhaps represented the only concerted and dedicated effort from our electronic media on this issue. Nadeem Malik and Abdul Moiz Jaffri added the incident to their regular topics.

But then we had Mehr Abbasi who was out on the streets talking about Eid shopping. Fareeha Idrees cashed in on the comic value of Sheikh Rasheed which has become so necessary for getting a rating push these days. Mr. Kharra Such, Mubashir Luqman invited two palmists. He actually began the show by claiming that he invites palmists when he has “no other topics to cover”. Asma Sherazi did a “gup shup” eid show to do “khushi key batain” while Moeed Pirzada focused on India Pakistan LoC tension. And then Waseem Badami along with Junaid Jamshed pondered if their “Shaan e Ramzan” show was as good as the show that they were trying to copy.

Talat especially pointed out the absurdity of our media in focusing on Eid shopping and Mufti Muneeb. Ironically, his own program got interrupted to facilitate Mufti Muneeb’s announcement. Watch his show, at around 4:25, when the reporter from Quetta is cut off mid sentence to beam Mufti Muneeb’s announcement live.

The owners of all media channels who make tall claims of bringing about a revolution in this country seemed very reluctant to cancel on their money making plans of fun and masti for the next three days. There were no exceptions. As from the 9th of August, the Quetta incident simply disappeared from all programming and gup shup shows featuring our giggling media anchors came to the fore.

But what takes the cake for me is this cartoon from Roznama Nai Baat on its Quetta edition for the 9th of August. This was on the back page, while the front page carried the news of the Quetta massacre.

Policecartoon

This pretty much sums up what we think of our police. A bunch of corrupt thieves whose sole aim in life is to rip us off of our money. Forget about this being in very bad taste because that would be too much to expect. But the irony is that this concern about corruption, that clearly outweighs the sacrifice of our police martyrs, is coming from a nation that has one of the lowest tax/GDP ratio in the world, i.e. a nation of tax thieves.

If this Eid signified our resilience then we need to redefine this word. We need to redefine it as the ability to not give a damn about tragedies befalling those who are neither friends nor family, the word Pakistani should not matter.

Define it like that, and yes, we might be the most resilient nation in the world.

A salute to our martyrs who have definitely been spared from this particular national trait.

I just wonder how many more of them are left?

Written by Imran Khan

August 12, 2013 at 6:52 am

2012: the year in bombings

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In the terrorist’s arsenal, the bomb is perhaps the most devastating and cost effective. Its cost effectiveness is apparent when compared with armed assaults or other types of attacks. Detonate a bomb from a distance, and you don’t lose any of your people, strap it on to one of yours, and that turns him/her into the worlds smartest smart bomb, one that is capable of doing the maximum damage by fine tuning its target till the final moment.

As a country that has been rocked by bombings since the 80s, Pakistan is one of the worst victims of bomb attacks. Such has been the death toll from these attacks, that bombings with single digit causality figures hardly make it to our 9 pm headlines.

There is no doubt that Pakistan is the front line state in the war on terror, but then, is all of Pakistan a front line state, or does this front line of ours have corners of bliss? Ones where the sound of a bombing comes only through the ticker on news channels?

In my search for answers, I stumbled upon this excellent data source: the South Asian Terrorism Portal (SATP). It has statistics on terrorism in Pakistan as well as other countries in the region.

One such data series was the number of bomb blasts detailed according to cities. Using this data I mapped* the bombings for 2012.

One thing to remember is that this mapping is limited to just bombings and not armed assaults like the ones that happened in Gilgit Baltistan, when Shias were lined up outside buses and shot. Its important to point out that target killings, ambushes, beheadings as well as kidnappings occur frequently in Pakistan. Especially the violence in Karachi appears much low when only bombings are taken into account. According to SATP for 2012, the highest number or terrorism related deaths amongst the provinces were reported from Sindh at 1553, followed by Balochistan at 954, KP at 656, and Punjab at 104. But I could not find the district level breakup of this data, any leads to other data sources would be much appreciated.

What I mapped is an indicator for the overall damage. Since the website provides the number of dead and injured for each bombing, I randomly assigned weights to these numbers; 0.8 for the dead and 0.2 for the injured. So a bombing with 10 dead and 20 injured gets a damage score of 12. While one with 10 dead and 40 injured gets a higher score of 16, thus differentiating between their level of damage.

The figure below shows the cumulative annual district wise scores across Pakistan. A total of 648 bombings were reported across the country in 2012 leading to 1007 deaths.

DistrictLevelDamage

The mapping points out three zones of high incidence of bomb attacks. Districts marked in red fall in the “Very HIGH” category of damage. In total the districts/agencies marked in red account for 61% of the incidents and 79% of the deaths.  These red areas are concentrated in three distinct zones.

Zone 1 includes, Peshawar, Kohat, Nowshehra and D.I.Khan from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while Khyber, Kurram, Bajaur, Orakzai, and Mohmand agencies from FATA. This zone accounts for 39% percent of all the bomb blasts in 2012, and 59% of the deaths as a result of bomb blasts. The worst bombing of the year was carried out in Jamrud bazaar on the 10th of January 2012, in which 35 people died while 78 were injured.

Zone 2 includes the districts of Quetta, Mastung, Dera Bugti and Sibi from Balochistan, where the damage is in the “Very HIGH” category. This zone accounts for 16% percent of all the bomb blasts and 16% percent of the deaths in 2012.

Zone 3 includes the various districts of Karachi and Malir, this accounts for 7% percent of the total bomb blasts and 4% percent of the killings.

The provincial break up of incidents and killed vs injured also reveal the share of the damage between provinces.

If we lump FATA and KP together, then it accounts for 65% of the incidents and 71% of the bombing related deaths in 2012.

Incidents Killed

There is a big difference among incidents in terms of impact; a cycle bomb and a C4 laden water tanker would both be qualified as “incidents” in our listing but then in terms of impact and the ruthlessness as well as capabilities of its planners, there is a huge difference. So which districts are at the mercy of the worst villains?

For this we look at the damage per incident or the average damage for these districts. I am keeping districts with less than 15 bombings out of this calculation, as a lower denominator is not good for a representative average. Again the districts from Zone 1 show the highest damage per attack.

DIST_NAME KILLED INJURED INCIDENTS DAMAGE = (0.2*Injured) + (0.8*Killed) Average Damage
Bajaur Agency 53 107 12 445.4 37.11666667
Kurram Agency 67 152 19 566.4 29.81052632
Khyber Agency 229 369 90 1905.8 21.17555556
Peshawar 144 413 75 1234.6 16.46133333
Kohat 37 62 19 308.4 16.23157895
South Waziristan Agency 19 41 10 160.2 16.02
Quetta 93 408 52 825.6 15.87692308
Karachi 40 280 45 376 8.355555556
North Waziristan Agency 11 35 12 95 7.916666667
Nowshera 13 93 22 122.6 5.572727273
Mohmand Agency 26 34 41 214.8 5.23902439
Dera Bugti 22 58 43 187.6 4.362790698
Charsadda 4 36 27 39.2 1.451851852
Swabi 1 25 24 13 0.541666667

Here is the district wise list of incidents and damage, ranked according to damage. Only those districts are included that came under atleast one bombing attack during 2012.

DISTRICT NAME KILLED INJURED INCIDENTS DAMAGE = (0.2*Injured) + (0.8*Killed)
Khyber Agency 229 369 90 1905.8
Peshawar 144 413 75 1234.6
Quetta 93 408 52 825.6
Kurram Agency 67 152 19 566.4
Bajaur Agency 53 107 12 445.4
Karachi 40 280 45 376
Kohat 37 62 19 308.4
Orakzai Agency 34 42 8 280.4
Mastung 29 67 4 245.4
Mohmand Agency 26 34 41 214.8
Dera Bugti 22 58 43 187.6
Rawalpindi 21 30 1 174
Rahim Yar Khan 21 27 1 173.4
Sibi 19 59 4 163.8
South Waziristan Agency 19 41 10 160.2
D. I. Khan 18 51 5 154.2
Lower Dir 17 17 4 139.4
Nowshera 13 93 22 122.6
Killa Abdullah 14 7 1 113.4
North Waziristan Agency 11 35 12 95
Bannu 10 36 4 87.2
Upper Dir 8 19 3 67.8
Kech 7 16 4 59.2
Buner 7 5 1 57
Lahore 5 67 3 53.4
Jaffarabad 5 2 6 40.4
Charsadda 4 36 27 39.2
Nasirabad 4 31 9 38.2
Kohlu 4 3 6 32.6
Lakki Marwat 4 2 9 32.4
Hangu 3 10 8 26
Bhakkar 3 0 1 24
Jacobabad 2 10 1 18
Bolan 2 6 4 17.2
Zhob 2 0 1 16
Swabi 1 25 24 13
Panjgur 1 10 3 10
Kalat 1 4 2 8.8
Shangla 1 4 1 8.8
Vehari 1 2 1 8.4
Khuzdar 1 1 2 8.2
Loralai 1 1 1 8.2
Malakand PA 1 1 1 8.2
Tribal Area adj Tank 1 1 1 8.2
Tribal Area adj Kohat 1 0 1 8
Hyderabad 0 9 12 1.8
Mardan 0 8 13 1.6
Tribal Area adj Bannu 0 6 2 1.2
Tank 0 5 5 1
Barkhan 0 3 1 0.6
Nawabshah 0 3 4 0.6
Attock 0 2 1 0.4
Mansehra 0 2 1 0.4
Pishin 0 2 1 0.4
Chagai 0 1 1 0.2
Islamabad 0 1 1 0.2
Larkana 0 1 2 0.2
Badin 0 0 1 0
Ghotki 0 0 1 0
Khairpur 0 0 3 0
Multan 0 0 1 0
Naushahro Feroze 0 0 3 0
Shikarpur 0 0 1 0
Sukkur 0 0 1 0
Ziarat 0 0 1 0

——————————————————–

Notes:

* One thing that I want to point out here is that I am using a .shp file for mapping. I got this file for free from the good people at citypulse.com. The file is a bit dated, and it does not show the latest district break up. For some of the newer districts, I am using their older parent district.

Written by Imran Khan

February 26, 2013 at 3:57 pm

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

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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