Tag Archives: national security

Pakistan’s increasing isolation

Imran Khan leads protest

The Lahore High Court this week tightened restrictions on screening foreign films – a move clearly targeted at India’s prolific Bollywood industry. This follows a campaign by some in Pakistan’s TV industry last year to secure a ban on foreign content. The provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa officially banned a 12-year-old academic book by Suranjan Das, the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University in India. No rationale for the ban was given, and the Government of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, recently banned the teaching of comparative religion. YouTube remains inaccessible in Pakistan, and earlier this week access to IMDb was temporarily blocked, with a Pakistan Telecommunications Authority describing the site as, “anti-state, anti-religion, and anti-social.”

But cutting itself off from foreign media is not the only isolationism that is gaining popularity in Pakistan. In the wake of a drone strike that killed senior members of the Haqqani Network, a group designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, Pakistan’s Interior Minister publicly questioned how Pakistan could continue to regard the US as a friendly nation. Populist politician Imran Khan took the rhetoric a step further, declaring the strike to be “a declaration of war” between Pakistan and the United States and announced that he would organize a permanent blockade of NATO supply routes beginning today. Protests led by Imran Khan have begun, but it’s unclear whether they will actually be able to sustain an effective blockade of NATO supplies. What is clear is that, while Taliban militants continue to attack Pakistan, Imran Khan and other populist leaders are focused on casting the US as the real enemy, fostering sympathy for terrorists.

While Pakistan may be looking to replace American patronage by more closely aligning with China, it is unlikely that this would relieve Pakistan from pressure to tackle extremism. US and Chinese interests increasingly align in Pakistan, and earlier this year Pakistan was forced to take action against three militant groups due to pressure from China. The legality and efficacy of the US drone program can be debated, but it does not alleviate Pakistan of the responsibility to ensure that it is not becoming a safe haven for terrorists, as desired by al Qaeda.

Pakistan is facing a number of difficult challenges. Closing itself off from the rest of the world is not the solution.

Hafiz Saeed…Democrat?

Hafiz Saeed with Tahirul Ashrafi

On Friday, Hussain Nadim explained for Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel why Pakistan won’t give up Hafiz Saeed. In his piece, Mr. Nadim suggests, as many have before him, that Pakistan does not view the Jamaat-ud-Dawa leader as a direct threat but rather sees him a useful proxy in Pakistan’s ongoing struggle with India for control of Kashmir. The author then adds to this banal analysis by suggesting that Hafiz Saeed has “rebranded himself as a political and social actor renouncing violence altogether.” This is a dangerous fantasy.

Almost exactly one year ago, Hafiz Saeed addressed a rally in Lahore to raise money for jihad against the United States. And lest we be mistaken, Saeed’s idea of jihad is not one of a personal and intellectual struggle against evil – he’s talking about guns and bombs.

In a fiery Friday sermon, Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed called on the people to wage jihad against America in order to save Pakistan and Islam. “Come to us. We will teach you the meaning of jihad… The time to fight has come.”

The sermon was held at the JuD head office Jamia Markaz al-Qadsia in Lahore, where Saeed had his own security. Some of the security personnel were also seen carrying weapons with silencers. A box was placed at the exit and men asked for people exiting the mosque to give funds for jihad.

In December, Hafiz Saeed met with Kashmiri separatist leaders and assured them that “militancy in Kashmir would escalate after the US-led international troops depart from Afghanistan in 2014.”

This is the same Hafiz Saeed that Hussain Nadim claims has renounced violence.

Hussain Nadim also repeats the myth that Hafiz Saeed’s organization Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) is a “charity organization.” But JuD is a charity organization in the mold of HAMAS and other militant organizations. Yes, they do conduct some relief work, but even that seems to be more part of a PR campaign designed to build sympathies among the people for their less charitable works. And JuD includes in its arsenal an impressive multi-national PR machine.

Tweeting last year, the “charity organization” called on God to destroy the United States.

 

And in Pakistan, away from gullible Western journalists, JuD is very open about their broader mission. The following amateur video shows a JuD procession accompanied by chants of “Only one cure for America – Jihad! Jihad!”

And as for the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), which Hussain Nadim describes as “one of the movements led by Hafiz Saeed that has united and mobilized followers of different radical ideologies, which Pakistani officials hope will create a force to broker peace between the government and militants,” we’ll let Hafiz Saeed speak for himself:

“We have only one objective: to form a civilian force for the defence of Pakistan, which can work alongside Pakistan forces, because Pakistan is facing very severe threats from both sides – India is one side, America and NATO forces are on the other and the agenda of both is Pakistan.”

Pakistani police may believe, as Hussain Nadim claims, that “Saeed has been redirected and is now being used as a tool to ensure the disarmament and evolution of militant groups in Pakistan,” but there is little evidence to suggest this is the case. What is far more evident is that Hafiz Saeed is doing what he’s always done – running a sophisticated paramilitary operation under the cover of a religious charity.

Willfully ignoring reality is unlikely to magically transform Saeed from mujahideen to statesman. And, unfortuantely, whether or not “Pakistan will have to live with the burden of being blamed for supporting militants like Hafiz Saeed” is beside the point. As long as militant leaders like Hafiz Saeed are allowed to act with impunity, Pakistan will continue to suffer the carnage and internal destabilization that they sow.

Recent Developments Offer Signs Of Normalization In US-Pakistan Relations

Adam DiMaioAny marriage counselor will tell you that relationships suffering from degrading lines of communication are fraught with peril. The Pakistan-US alliance is a living example that this truth is not restricted to struggling couples. Dysfunction has pock-marked the last two years of the alliance, with impacts that have spilled over into the wider region. The Raymond Davis incident, the execution of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, the Salala affair and subsequent closure of NATO supply lines ushered in a murky fog that engulfed the partnership, obscuring the mutual interests that had long united both democracies.

Thankfully, for those who longed for the normalization of the US-Pakistan relationship, recent developments should offer some satisfaction.

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Why is Pakistan’s military spying on journalists?

Pakistan Army

Pakistan’s military would be far better served in its public relations efforts by ignoring the instinct to be defensive, and instead accentuating its positive efforts at achieving peace in the region.

The News International, an English-language daily in Pakistan, reported this week that the country’s Military Intelligence (MI) has been collecting detailed information about journalists in a door-to-door canvassing operation raising troubling questions about media freedom.

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Apology Accepted

A statement by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton marked the beginning of a new chapter in US-Pakistan relations on Tuesday. During a phone call with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Secretary Clinton uttered the words Pakistan had been longing to hear: “We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.” Pakistan accepted the apology, and it seems everyone finally got what they wanted. Well, almost.

The US got what it wanted – a reopening of the Ground Lines of Communication (GLOCs) into Afghanistan. Alternate routes were secured, proving that the Pakistani routes are not essential, but they are much more efficient. Reopening transit routes through Pakistan will save the US billions of dollars.

Access to the trans-Pakistan routes will also help facilitate the process of drawing down troops from Afghanistan, something desired by both US lawmakers and, presumably, the Taliban.

The Pakistani Military also gets what they wanted – namely, $1.1 billion from the Coalition Support Fund. And while the agreement does prohibit the transportation of lethal cargo, there is an exception for supplies for the Afghan military, which will help equip the Afghans to take over responsibility for their own security as NATO forces leave.

Opposing the agreement are the Taliban, the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) – a coalition of militant groups and religious political parties, and Imran Khan who reiterated his opposition to Pakistani support for the war on terrorism and told Pakistani talk show host Hamid Mir on Tuesday night that he does not accept the apology and suggested the CIA was responsibility for sectarian killings in Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Ambassador the US, Sherry Rehman, expressed confidence that US-Pakistan cooperation will improve going forward, and Senator John Kerry issued a statement saying that “mutual issues of interest and concern should be our focus going forward despite our differences.”

Unfortunately, while civilian officials are actively working to bridge differences and get bilateral relations back on track, military officials are more withdrawn. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued a short statement repeating his commitment “to improving our partnership with Pakistan and to working closely together as our two nations confront common security challenges in the region.” Though Gen. Allen welcomed the decision and paid tribute to the sacrifices of Pakistan’s military. Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff said he appreciated Gen. Allen’s apology for last November’s attack, but considered it “insufficient.” And despite the presence of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and three other service chiefs on the Defence Committee of the Cabinet that decided to reopen the GLOCs, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) – the military’s official press channel – has not issued a statement in support of the decision, leaving civilian politicians to bear the brunt of public backlash.

This is, perhaps, the worrisome part of the deal. Pakistan’s military was clearly a party to the agreement to reopen NATO supply routes, but they appear to be taking a back seat in explaining to the Pakistani people why the decision was in the country’s best interest. Such decisions are well within the purview of democratically elected civilians, but the military’s silence could undermine the authority of the civilian government if anti-democratic groups like the DPC exploit the situation to convince the people that the civilians are acting against the recommendations of the military. To prevent such a scenario, Gen. Kayani Gen. Zaheerul Islam (Director General of the ISI) should issue public statements supporting the decision of the DCC.

The US isn’t going to carry out raids inside Pakistan

Haqqani militants

On the phone with a friend in Islamabad last week, I was full of questions about the Supreme Court, the election for a new Prime Minister, and her evaluation of the current political field in Pakistan. She had one question for me: “Is the US planning to launch attacks in Pakistan to take out the Haqqanis?”

I chuckled a bit when she asked the question. Just a few days earlier I had debunked another rumor about impending US military aggression, and this one seemed even more far fetched.

The next day, however, the Associated Press ran a story about just that: “US considers launching joint US-Afghan raids in Pakistan to hunt down militant groups.” So, was I wrong in dismissing this a bunch of fear-mongering? I don’t think so.

This story has, predictably, proliferated across the Pakistani media. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to be reading as far as the second paragraph of the AP report:

But the idea, which U.S. officials say comes up every couple of months, has been consistently rejected because the White House believes the chance of successfully rooting out the deadly Haqqani network would not be worth the intense diplomatic blowback from Pakistan that inevitably would ensue.

The 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden was a unique situation. As the celebrity jihadist behind the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden was the holy grail of terrorists and there was no way any US president would have let him get away. Killing bin Laden may have been more symbolic than it was blow to al Qaeda’s organizational capacity, but it was an important symbol for an American public that needed closure.

Unlike Osama bin Laden, it’s likely most Americans have never heard of the Haqqani network. They do, however, represent a strategic problem. The Afghans themselves claim to have evidence that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network is carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.

“Afghan national security forces and coalition military sources acknowledge that this attack bears the signature of the Haqqani network, which continues to target and kill innocent Afghans,” [General John] Allen said.

But any strategic gains from taking out the Haqqani network through cross-border strikes would be more than negated by the costs. US military raids into Pakistan would not only enflame existing anti-American sentiments, they would serve as a recruiting call for jihadist organizations throughout the world. While the Haqqani network presents a nuisance as it exists, an American attack in Pakistan would result in a tsunami of new jihadists crossing the border to carry out attacks against American targets.

And forget any chance of re-opening transit lines through Pakistan, or the type of counterterrorism cooperation that resulted in a key al Qaeda operative being captured by Pakistani security forces earlier this week.

The political costs, too, make any such military action unlikely. To say the American people are war weary would be an understatement. According to Pew’s latest research, 60 percent of Americans favor removing troops as soon as possible. Expanding an unpopular war into a nuclear armed country of 180 million is simply not going to happen in an election year, or any time soon.

The US military – like all militaries – includes unrealistic scenarios in debates about strategies and possible outcomes. Somewhere in the basement of the Pentagon is probably a detailed strategy for taking out France’s nuclear capability. That doesn’t mean it’s ever going to happen.

Leaks about strategic discussions by anonymous American officials are far more likely intended to put pressure on Pakistan’s military leadership than to warn of any impending attack. If there’s one thing that the 2011 raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound taught us, it’s that when the US is going to launch unilateral raids, they’re not going to announce them beforehand.  The fact that anonymous reports are appearing all over the media suggests that the US isn’t going to carry out raids inside Pakistan anytime soon.

The dawning of a new era?

Pakistan-India-Trip-2012

This month has seen significant developments in the hope for peace and stability in South Asia. President Zardari traveled to Delhi for one-on-one talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Both sides reported that the meeting went very well, and Prime Minister Singh has accepted an invitation from the Pakistani president to visit Pakistan soon.

The bilateral meeting preceded an unrelated trade fair in New Delhi where Pakistani businesses showed off their products to Indian buyers and investors, and India opening up to foreign investment from Pakistan “to deepen our economic engagement.”

But it isn’t just economic ties that have improved recently. President Zardari’s trip almost didn’t happen after an avalanche buried over 100 Pakistani soldiers stationed on the remote Siachen glacier a few days prior.

The tragedy at Siachen served as a stark reminder of the decades-long military standoff that has dominated security concerns in the region, diverting vast resources to defense budgets in both Pakistan and India. From Delhi, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Tweeted, “It is such a shame tht 2 countries w/ such large segments of our population live in desperate poverty must spend so much on weapons” – a sentiment soon echoed by Pakistan’s military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

“Peaceful coexistence between the two neighbours is very important so that everybody can concentrate on the well-being of the people,” he told reporters…“We in the army understand very well that there should be a very good balance between defence and development. You cannot be spending on defence alone and forgetting about development,” he said.

“Ultimately the security of a country is not only that you secure boundaries and borders but it is when people that live in the country feel happy, their needs are being met. Only in that case will a country be truly safe.” He said national security should be a comprehensive concept.

In a further sign of progress, India’s Defense Minister, M.M. Pallam Raju, welcomed Gen. Kayani’s remarks.

With general elections expected in Pakistan next year and the year after in India, either government could change hands. Fortunately, the political environment appears to have changed to such an extent that even President Zardari’s biggest rival, Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N) President Nawaz Sharif praised Zardari’s visit to Delhi and encouraged further efforts to improve bilateral relations.

Looking back over the past four years of democratic rule, Pakistanis are asking themselves what democracy has delivered. With the economy and internal security situation suffering from the effects of terrorism, it is a complicated question for many. A breakthrough on resolving longstanding differences with India, however, could lay the foundation for a new era of peace and prosperity in the region. That’s a success many long believed unachievable.

Is Pakistan at war with the United States?

That’s the alarming headline of a blog post by Walter Russell Mead, James Clarke Chace Professor of Foreign Affairs and Humanities at Bard College and Editor-at-Large of The American Interest. The impetus for Mead’s question is the recent allegation that links exist between Pakistan’s government and the Haqqani network of militants in North Waziristan that is believed to be responsible for attacks on American soliders in Afghanistan. But Mead’s concerns are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the way Pakistan’s government operates, and his conclusion, founded in this misunderstanding, recommends a self-defeating policy for anyone that wants to promote democracy and justice in Pakistan.

US Ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said over the weekend that “There is evidence linking the Haqqani network to the Pakistani government.” But we must take care when discussing “the Pakistani government” not to fall into the trap of mirror-imaging, assuming the Pakistani “government” operates in the same cohesive manner that the US government does.

Ambassador Munter’s statements alleging official support for the Haqqani network refer to evidence against the ISI – not the civilian leadership.

[Admiral] Mullen believes that “elements” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as the ISI, “directly support” the Haqqani network, Kirby said.

The Haqqani network is aligned with the Taliban and al Qaeda and is considered one the most significant threats to stability in Afghanistan. U.S. officials believe Haqqani operatives are moving unfettered across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and are responsible for several recent high-profile attacks in Kabul, including this week’s assault.

In late April, Mullen said on Pakistan’s Geo TV that the ISI has a “long-standing relationship” with the Haqqani network.

Confusion arises because Americans tend to think of intelligence agencies as working at the behest and under the oversight of their respective governments, as if all nations operate in a post-Church Committee environment. But the relationship between Pakistan’s civilian government and its ISI is quite different. In fact, in many ways the ISI operates not just independently of civilian oversight, but often in opposition to it.

The most recent example of the ISI operating outside the oversight of the civilian government could be seen on the pages of the Wall Street Journal this past 9/11. A half-page ad asked, “Which country can do more for your peace?” and included statistics about the losses Pakistan has suffered in the war on terrorism. While the bottom of the ad said, “Government of Pakistan,” the Journal’s South Asia reporter, Tom Wright, found that the ad was not approved through the regular government channels.

Pakistani media blog Cafe Pyala called their own sources and found evidence that the ad was a politically tone-deaf attempt by the ISI to influence American opinion.

Well, our sources inform us that the problem about the source of the ad arose because neither the Pakistan Embassy in Washington nor the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) nor the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MoI&B) were the sources of the ad. In fact, our sources confirm that none of these three Pakistani government entities was even consulted about the ad. In fact, the ad, designed by the Pakistani advertising agency Midas, was placed directly from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat.

Why, you might ask, would the Prime Minister’s Secretariat bypass its own subordinate media departments and its representatives who are specifically tasked with international relations work? Could it be, as our sources indicate, that the advertisement was the first instance of the country’s premier intelligence agency directly placing an advertisement in a foreign publication?

Nor is this the first time that the ISI has made an end run around the civilian leadership in Pakistan. Shortly after Pakistan’s civilian government took power in 2008, Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani announced that control of the ISI would be shifted to the portfolio of the civilian Interior Ministry. It was only a matter of hours before Army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told the media that no such change would occur. The civilians promptly retracted the announcement.

The government’s backtracking has prompted plenty of comment among politicians and in the Pakistan media.

An ex-army officer and defence analyst, Ikram Sehgal, told the Dawn News TV channel that the government retracted its decision when the army “showed its teeth”.

Formally, the ISI currently reports to the prime minister. But many observers believe it is answerable to no one.

This split between the democratically-elected civilian government and Pakistan’s spy agency was shown in stark relief during the Raymond Davis fiasco. Writing for the English-language newspaper Dawn, Pakistani analyst Cyril Almeida noted that when push comes to shove, it’s not the civilians who hold the upper hand in matters that concern the ISI.

When the interior minister, the ex-foreign minister and the all-powerful spy chief met to decide the fate of Raymond Davis, two of those gents were of the opinion that Davis doesn’t enjoy ‘full immunity’.

One of those two has now been fired by Zardari. The other, well, if Zardari tried to fire him, the president might find himself out of a job first.

Walter Read says he supports a continued US-Pakistan relationship, “but in our view the US has to be ready to walk away for the relationship to have a chance.” We suggest that walking away is the wrong prescription.

The Pakistani government is fighting multiple wars, but none is against the United States. The primary war, the one that has claimed the lives of 30,000 Pakistanis, is against Taliban militants who will go so far as to attack a bus filled with school children. The other war is for Pakistan’s soul, and is being waged quietly behind the scenes as democratically oriented civilian leaders struggle to wrest control of the nation from undemocratic forces leftover from previous dictatorships. Walking away from the democratic civilian leaders will only strengthen the undemocratic forces in Pakistan. It’s a mistake the US has made in the past, and one that it should be careful not to repeat.

It may seem counterintuitive to speak of Pakistan’s government and intelligence agencies as separate institutions, but the distinction matters. Pakistan’s civilian leadership – though weak – is trying to implement democratic reforms; and those efforts are often held back by unaccountable military and intelligence officials who are loath to cede their power to civilians. Rather than paint all institutions with the same broad brush, US officials should seek to strengthen civilian democratic institutions so that they can effectively reign in those parts of the military and intelligence services that are acting outside of civilian oversight.