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Pakistan - Shedding the liabilities

By - Afrasiab Khattak

Building on the theme of “cleaning our house”, Khawaja Asif, Foreign Minister of Pakistan, has now publicly said that Hafiz Saeed and Haqqanis are not assets but liabilities and the country needs time to get rid of them. Addressing a function in the US earlier this week, Khawaja Asif reminded his American hosts, who now criticize Pakistan for not effectively dealing with terrorism, that in the past, they themselves once supported the same elements.
It’s an important departure from the past position, particularly in regard to the Haqqani network. Instead of denying its existence in Pakistan, our Foreign Minister is now asking for time to get rid of the liability (which used to be regarded as an “asset” at one stage). Khawaja Asif was right in reminding Americans about their patronage of Haqqanis along with other elements known as the Afghan Mujahideen during the Afghan war in 1980s. Hafiz Saeed’s Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is a different story altogether as it has only recently increased its footprint in fighting inside Afghanistan. It was originally created to deal with the Indian front.
Bringing the focus back to this theme on the part of Khawaja Asif is interesting because the patrons of these liabilities had done everything to make sure that issues like these do not figure in political discourse in Pakistan and political debates remain confined only to Panama Leaks (that also to the extent of Nawaz Sharif’s or his family’s involvement in it). The charade of accountability is meant not only to politically demolish a Prime Minister (now former) who wants to normalize relations with the neighboring countries but it is also aimed at keeping the real issues like extremism and terrorism out of political discourse. If one looks at the newspaper headlines or TV talk shows of the last few years, this effort has been by and large successful.
It’s quite rare that political analysts would raise questions about implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP). Approved by an APC in December 2014 for elimination of extremism and terrorism, extremist violence was declared to be an existential threat for the country on that occasion. However, this post-APS Peshawar massacre narrative could not exist alongside the policy of making a distinction between “good” and “bad” terrorists. It was gradually pushed out of the political discourse of the country by spicier material presented in the name of accountability. We have witnessed the fact that Panama and Iqama have successfully stolen the show on media.
The constant forgiving and ignoring of terrorists is not something new. We have been here before. After all, the “good Taliban” were able to survive the “enlightened moderation” of General Pervez Musharraf after 9/11. The deep state is quite experienced in handling media when it comes to shaping the national narrative in general and narrative on extremist militancy in particular. For some “defense analysts”, it is a full time job.
So how is it that the question of “Jihadist assets” turning into “liabilities” has broken out into public discourse of the country during the crusade on Panama and Iqama? It is obviously the development on international front that has forced the country’s political leadership to address the issue of extremist militancy in the country. President Donald Trump’s new strategy on Afghanistan and Pakistan and the declaration of BRIC’s summit has reminded Pakistani leadership that the fallout of the extremist militancy isn’t just an internal problem as it threatens peace in the entire region and the world at large. Most of the other countries, including some of Pakistan’s best friends, wouldn’t put up with the theory and practice of “good terrorists” anymore. The country is faced with a stark choice. It has to either get rid of these liabilities or face complete isolation.
There have been questions about the position of political parties on extremist militancy. Some of the major political parties were complicit in denying the existence of this problem in Pakistan for quite some time. Most of the rightist political parties used to say that fighting against terrorism isn’t Pakistan’s war although thousands of Pakistanis were killed by terrorists. It was only after massacre of children in APS Peshawar that NAP was approved by an All Parties Conference. Even after that, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) has not been consistent on the question of defeating extremism and terrorism. Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) was also reluctant in taking determined and effective action against extremist militancy in Punjab. Some of its provincial ministers were known for flirting with militants for garnering votes during elections. But now it seems to have realized that the country can’t afford to ignore this problem in its own interest. The Ministry of Interior has taken a bold step in the right direction by writing a letter to Election Commission opposing registration of the mainstreamed militant outfits masquerading as political parties. This has punctured and exposed the effort for projecting the liability as an asset yet again under the garb of peaceful political parties.
Khawaja Asif is asking the world for time to overcome the challenge of extremist militancy. However, what Pakistan actually requires is the political will to wrap up the Jihadist project started in 1980s. There is no doubt about the valiant sacrifices by the people of Pakistan and rank and file of the security forces in fighting this menace. But the state (or its effective part) has been reluctant to address the root causes of this problem. For example, there is zero progress in purging curricula of hate materials. So much so that some reform introduced in syllabus in Pakhtunkhwa province by the previous government was brazenly reversed by the Jamat-e-Islami (JI) dominated government (led by PTI). Religious seminaries remain unreformed and are still producing huge numbers of brainwashed youth every year. Support for Afghan Taliban isn’t possible without some sort of Talibanization on local level. FATA remains unintegrated in the state system. Banned outfits publicly operate and collect funds for militant activities. COAS General Bajwa is on the dot when he says that Jihad is a state function. But this position will become meaningful only when Jihadist activities of the non-state actors are criminalized and stopped inside Pakistan.
We have to realize that implementing NAP even after some delay would be serving the best interest of the country. It wouldn’t amount to “doing more” on the diktat of others.


Pakistan’s consensual foreign policy response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s critique of Islamabad’s terrorist “safe havens” is based on the presumption of a “fatal foreign policy blunder”—that of joining America’s war against terrorism. When General Zia joined the “deniable” war against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, no one thought it was a blunder. After an interregnum of isolationism under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the Army thought it was getting back among nations that took on the Soviet Union collectively. Above all, when America went to the United Nations on the issue, it had found India missing. That was enough for Pakistan: India was left out of the most powerful consensus against the existence of the Soviet Union.
Hence, it was okay to get on the bandwagon of a war that Pakistan liked because it was “deniable”: look we are not involved! A much-weakened post-Bhutto economy got a boost as the purse-strings in the United States and Saudi Arabia were loosened dollar-for-dollar and Pakistan was given the freedom to deal with the private warriors zeroing in on Pakistan from Indonesia to Algeria. Above all, the general-president in Islamabad got the free space he needed in which to push forward Pakistan’s “nuclear program”—which had become the central point of Pakistan’s India-centric nationalism after the loss of East Pakistan. From Pakistan’s control of the anti-Soviet covert war in Afghanistan sprang the covert jihad of Kashmir. It was not a “blunder” to have joined “America’s war”; it was a boon for a troubled Pakistan. It got the money and it got the non-state warriors to fight the “asymmetric” war against India.
No one else but Pakistan is to blame. Least of all America on whose money Pakistan got back the equilibrium it had lost by overturning democracy and killing an elected prime minister. The non-state actors have returned from Pakistan’s covert war to trouble a state that has lost its writ to their localized tyranny in almost half of its territory, including the megacity of Karachi. It has seen Mangal Bagh ruling in Khyber Agency, Fazlullah ruling in Swat and the Taliban-Al Qaeda ruling in Waziristan. It “mainstreamed” the Afghan Taliban in Quetta Shura while most of Balochistan remained a no-go area. It steadily “mainstreamed” Sipah-e-Sahaba by renaming it Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat in South Punjab and let ex-ISI chief General Hamid Gul “mainstream” the rest through the Defense of Pakistan Council now in the control of a “charity” warlord on the U.N.’s list of internationally designated terrorists.

Pakistan - Khursheed Shah criticizes PTI for ‘dividing opposition’

Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah once again on Saturday criticised Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s attempts to remove him from office, saying the party has introduced divisions in the opposition.
Addressing media here, Shah said that alliance of PTI and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) to replace the incumbent opposition leader has cause irreparable damage to a united opposition.
Shah rebutted claims that the Pakistan People Party (PPP) takes “solo flight” and does not take the PTI onboard on matters, reminding PTI that the last PPP govt had appointed Justice Fakrukhdin G. Ebrahim as the Chief Election Commissioner on its advice.
“If the PTI wanted an opposition leader of its choice, they could have asked me, I would have fulfilled their desire; it was wrong to divide the opposition,” he said.

132,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Pakistan: survey

There are currently around 132,000 HIV/AIDS patients in Pakistan, a staggering increase of 39,000 in comparison with last year’s figure.
These figures have been disclosed in a recently-concluded nationwide survey of HIV/AIDS patients. The report will be made public next week, Express News reported.
Some 60 teams visited 20 cities nationwide and collected data from 5,000 locations. The survey revealed that in a span of one year, the number of patients suffering from the life-long disease has increased by 39,000, climbing to 132,000 patients in the country.
According to the survey, Pakistan’s most populous province, Punjab, has the highest number of HIV/AIDS patients — 60,000. There are up to 52,000 patients in Sindh and 11,000 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, while three cases were reported in Balochistan. In the federal capital Islamabad, there are 6,000 registered HIV/AIDS patients.
The initial report shows intravenous drugs users are the largest group of people infected by the disease.
According to MedlinePlus, HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms a person’s immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. This puts them at risk for serious infections and certain cancers. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the final stage of infection with HIV. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.
HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person. It may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person. Women can give it to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.
The first signs of HIV infection may be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. These may come and go within two to four weeks. Severe symptoms may not appear until months or years later.
A blood test can tell if you have HIV infection. There is no cure so far, but there are many medicines that fight HIV infection and lower the risk of infecting others. People who get early treatment can live with the disease for a long time.

Imam Hussain’s sacrifice a call to resist tyranny and falsehood: Bilawal Bhutto

Chairman Pakistan People’s Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that the sacrifices rendered by Hazrat Imam Hussain and his companions called upon every Muslim to keep aloft the banner of truth and resist oppression and falsehood even under the most trying of circumstances.

In a message on the Yom-e-Ashur tomorrow on Sunday, he said that Imam Hussain will also be remembered in history for redefining the meanings of life and death on the one hand and the victor and vanquished on the other.
Today Imam Hussain is alive and victorious while his tormentors are dead and vanquished, he said. Tyranny and falsehood appear from time to time under different garbs and a Hussain is needed at every point of time in history. The falsehood and oppression of our time has reared its head in the garb of religiosity.
We need to emulate the example of Imam Hussain in resisting tyranny, oppression and falsehood, he said. Let us therefore reiterate our resolve today that we shall neither submit before oppression and injustice nor let the evil have its sway, the PPP Chairman said.
On this day we also pay homage to the immortal martyrs of Karbala. May Allah be pleased with them all.