Tag Archives: Army

New Year, New Tasks

By: Agha Haider Raza

2011 has been a rather tumultuous year for Pakistan. There have been too many incidents to highlight and ponder over.  With the assassination of Salmaan Taseer in January to the deaths of Pakistani soldiers in November, the land of the pure has taken a lot of bruising. Despite suffering at the hands of homegrown and natural disasters, Pakistan continues to point fingers at the United States and other foreign intelligence agencies.  Now don’t get me wrong, the US has done its fair share to ruffle things up in the region, but I have to ask– how long can the country blame foreign powers for our own misery? Pakistan has failed to create a cohesive narrative at a time when it is most necessary.

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Narrator vs Narrative

By: Agha Haider Raza

Journalists across Pakistan have continuously stressed the importance
of protecting the freedom of speech as way of ensuring the media’s
role as one of the country’s most crucial accountability mechanisms.
However as of late the media seems to have overstepped the very
function they speak so highly of.

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Silence is Not Always Golden

By: Agha Haider Raza

It’s not every day that you are woken up by the statement “oi jaago, Bin Laden ko khatam kur diya hai” (wake up, Bin Laden has been finished).

As soon as I heard the rumor, I did exactly what millions of others around the world must have done, and swiftly turned on the television. Indeed, blaring upfront was the breaking news that the world’s most wanted terrorist had been shot dead.  Tickers were already running below the screen on all news channels, as they anticipated President Obama’s remarks that would turn the rumor into reality. The President of the United States soon came on the air and with a straight face announced the death of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad.  All eyes now turned to Pakistan.

In order to understand the audacity of Osama Bin Laden hiding in Abbottabad, eager news junkies waited for a statement from the Government of Pakistan.  After all, it had been hours since the Operation to eliminate Bin Laden had been carried out on Pakistani soil. President Obama had already made his statement acknowledging the role of Pakistan’s intelligentsia at 8.35AM PST.  “It [is] important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding”.  With pride, I awaited the response from a government I am rarely proud of.  Pakistan had suffered tremendous losses over the past decade because of 19 hijackers on 9/11 and an uncomfortable policy in Afghanistan known as ‘strategic depth’ carried out by the ISI.  But here was our shining moment.  To silence those who consistently called on Pakistan to “do more”.

As the day progressed, the conventional and social media exploded.  Fox News had their stories while MSNBC captured live images of Americans celebrating in the streets in the wee hours of the night.  With little information in regards to the Operation, information released from various media outlets started portraying their own stories.  Questions arose about the extravagant compound Bin Laden was residing in with such close proximity to the PMA, while many inquired about the sincerity of the Pakistan Military.  Sohaib Athar who happened to be tweeting about a low-flying helicopter announced that he heard a loud explosion during the night, became an instant celebrity.  CNN published the news about his tweets and instantly @ReallyVirtual found himself as the most sought out tweeter.  The poor man was bombarded for media interviews from around the world.  I guess that explains how he was able to garner over 90,000 followers (and counting) within a matter of hours.

While the world dissected and deciphered any news story about Osama Bin Laden, the Pakistan Government chose to remain silent.  Soon the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a rather awkward but amusing statement.  “This operation was conducted by the US forces in accordance with declared US policy that Osama bin Laden will be eliminated in a direct action by the US forces, wherever found in the world”.  The press release was truly mesmerizing.  It implied that the United States unilaterally undertook the Operation to root out Bin Laden – in stark contrast to what President Obama had announced earlier.  I tried to find President Zardari’s schedule, to see if there was any slot for a public announcement.  Luckily, via http://www.president.gov.pk I was able to understand Zardari’s absence from a public announcement in regards to Bin Laden’s capture only a 100 kilometers from the Presidency.  Asif Zardari was accepting credentials from newly inducted Ambassadors at Diplomatic Enclave along with presiding over the Oath-taking ceremony for 18 new Ministers (which in itself is shrouded in mystery).

While the international media openly criticized the Government of Pakistan (GoP) and the Pakistan Military for allowing Bin Laden to reside so closely to Islamabad and the PMA, our civilian leader chose to remain away from the mic and camera.  Assuming that the GoP may have let the Military handle such a worldwide story due to the sensitivity of the issue, I scanned the ISPR (Pakistan Military Press Dept.) but found nothing.  Here we were, at the core of the biggest news story of the century and beyond the 243 words of the press released issued by MoFA, nothing.

The entire day has passed by and world leaders have spoken on the death of Osama Bin Laden. Yet, our Government and Military have remained silent.  With hundreds of unanswered questions, the GoP and the Military have lost the opportunity to tackle the bull by the horns. when it missed an occasion to discuss the Operation in the morning.  Rather than acknowledging the role of Pakistan and her military, the Foreign Office snubbed the United States by hinting they operated unilaterally.  I find it rather hard to believe that US Helicopters were in Pakistani Airspace, conducted a 40 minute “solo” mission, and escaped with the body of Osama Bin Laden –without the knowledge of the GoP or Pakistan Military.

By choosing to remain quiet, the GoP and the Pakistan Military have allowed the conspiracy theorists (found in abundance) and international media to construe their own stories and draw their own conclusions.  I cannot fathom the fact that on such a monumental news story, the GoP and the Military would revert to silence. However, this morning President Zardari deemed it necessary to publish an Opinion piece in the Washington Post.  Yet again, President Zardari assumed it was a better approach in reaching out to the American public rather than quashing the fears and queries of Pakistani’s.  Sending out bland statements (by PM Gilani and MoFA) should have been done once the President or Prime Minister addressed the citizens of Pakistan and the world.  It has been more than 24 hours since Bin Laden was shot dead and we are still awaiting a public statement by the President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister or Senior Military Officials.

In a globalized day and age, where social media has brought down dictatorships and reinforced democratic ideals, the sheer recklessness of those in power is mind-boggling.  The tranquility of the Government has only garnered more suspiciousness and resentment towards a fledgling and weak leadership.  At a time when the whole world is eyeing Pakistan for a statement on the death of its most notorious terrorist, it is shocking that Zardari or Prime Minister Gilani would remain silent.  With plenty of damage done to Pakistan’s reputation over the course of 24 hours, I sure hope Firdous Awan has her talking points ready for a media and country that still needs answers to many questions.

Times Square!

Just like the square itself, the news item of a lunatic Faisal Shahzad trying to set a car on fire has attracted millions of viewers.  Without diving into the act itself, the consequences are more important.  Various conspiracy theories have arisen from the right-wing in Pakistan who are exclaiming that with the help of the botched bombing the United States are going to force the Pakistan Army into North Waziristan, whereas the left are trying to break the link between Shahzad and a nation of 180 million. After all, Shahzad is a US citizen who has been residing in the United States for many years.  In an already fractured relationship, Obama and his administration need to tread rather carefully as much anger, resentment and fear lies below the surface. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations has done a wonderful job of explaining where Pakistan is coming from.  From being articulate to comprehensive, a much needed voice needs to be aired in both Pakistan and the United States to continue strengthening the Pak-US relationship.

I apologize in advance, for some reason I cannot add a flash video here. Please do follow the link to see the interview of Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations.  http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6471329n&tag=api

Sick and Tired!

By: Agha Haider Raza

Over the past week Pakistan has read many different news items. From the passing of the 18th amendment to the bomb blast at the US Consulate, much is happening. Some may say the stories are for the betterment of our country while others may disagree. In my mind the successful visit of the Foreign Minister and his entourage to the United States gave Pakistan some much needed positive press. However, the current witch-hunt carried out by the Chief Justice and the ugly battle over the reopening of Zardari’s corruption cases has embarrassed many of those who fought for the independence of the judiciary. Now do not get me wrong, as much as I enjoyed protesting on the streets of Lahore for the reinstatement of the nation’s top judge, I can’t fathom Mr. Iftikhar’s current agenda of picking and choosing his enemies. When will we be able to see actual results from the “democratically” elected officials and the “independent” judiciary we as a nation have struggled to achieve for 62 years? When will stop pointing fingers and vilifying those whom we disagree with? Or have we gotten used to being stuck in this whirlpool of revengeful politics. Honestly, we Pakistanis have gotten sick and tired of the lies and broken promises. Continue reading

I’m Back!

Sorry for the absence – but as per the rules of my dad, academics comes first.  It was getting a bit too hectic juggling work and the blog.  Anyways, getting back to Pakistani politics we are surely seeing a shift in the political environment.  I had written a few weeks ago in regards to a new dawn that was being witnessed with the arrest of key Taliban leaders. With the Rabbani committee signatories having penned down their names on the 18th amendment, the constitution will be reverted to an almost 1973 like condition. Regardless of the political climate we have many calling for the re-opening of corruption cases against the President and as Ansar Abbassi puts it “his cronies”. If Zardari has taken a single penny out of the treasury for his personal use and the umbrella of corruption – then try him by all means necessary. But respect the institutions present in the country rather than pitting them against each other. These tactics are becoming rather monotonous and irritating and its high time these “news analysis” encourage growth and development in the country rather than inviting the military or judiciary to step into the president’s house.

A new dawn

By: Agha Haider Raza

Over the past few days – out-of-public viewing – Pakistan has witnessed a welcoming shift in policy.  With the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Mullah Abdul Salam, the trust deficit between the United States and Pakistan or rather the ISI and CIA is slowly diminishing.  With a joint effort by these two premier intelligence agencies, a significant blow has been dealt to the top brass of the Taliban.  The capture of these Mullahs seems to have brought upon a new dawn upon the horizon. Continue reading

Coming full circle

By: Cyril Almeida

A very interesting analysis presented by Almeida in regards to the role of the Pakistan Army.  Many seem to bypass the role this ‘institution’ has played. Don’t get me wrong, the Army has done a tremendous job for Pakistan on various fronts throughout the course of our history.  But it is high time, they share the brunt of our misery today rather than solely blaming the corrupt elite and politicians. Continue reading

Does the military really need an increase?

It is highly unfortunate when a nuclear powered country is facing shortages in basic commodities, our political and military elite decide to increase the salaries of soldiers and officers.  I understand they have laid sacrifices for this country, but don’t forget that we have lost more civilians than soldiers in the war against the militants. Already the army has the highest portion of the federal budget and at an economically crucial time, cutbacks are necessary!

ISLAMABAD: The cabinet has decided to increase the salaries of the soldiers and officers of the armed forces, Federal Information Minister Qamar-uz-Zaman Kaira told media while addressing press conference Wednesday.

The armed forces are playing an important role in war against terrorism and forces have given greater sacrifices for the people of the country in war against terrorism. They must be given initiatives. Therefore, federal cabinet has decided to raise the salaries of the soldiers by 20 percent while the salaries of the officers would be raised by 15 percent, he added.

The committee has been formed to review the case of the salaries of Balochistan policemen and to give the equal salaries as given to policemen in other provinces, he added.

Kaira said that the government would install the rental power projects in view to the audit report of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on the rental power projects and only those power projects would be installed which had been called as suitable by the ADB.

We are facing the shortage of sugar in the country. The cabinet has ordered Trading Corporation to import 0.5 million tons of sugar, he added.

The federal cabinet has also approved to install new power plant in Guddu, Sindh, he added.

Source: Samaa News

U.S. policy confusion on Pakistan and India

By: Myra MacDonald

What is the U.S. policy towards Pakistan and India, and in particular over how to deal with their rivalry over Afghanistan which complicates U.S. efforts to bring stability there? I’ve been trying to find an answer for weeks now amid a raft of contradictory signals and statements coming from different U.S. officials.

First we had the leaked report by General Stanley McChrystal in September suggesting the issue should be handled with caution given Pakistani sensitivities about a big rise in India’s presence in Afghanistan following the fall of the Pakistani-backed Taliban in 2001. Continue reading