Tag Archives: Prime Minister Gilani

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.

Giving Credit Where It’s Due

Published in the Daily Times Giving Credit Where It’s Due (April 26th, 2010) looks to change the prevalent thought process in Pakistan. For far too long we have been pessimistic in regards to the future of our country. We have let too many domestic and foreign hands change the course of our tomorrow. It is time we cease to let negative elements contaminate our society. We log for a brighter future and at the critical point in time we find ourselves, now is the time for action. Now is the time to take control of our lives.

Pakistan recently had two major delegations visiting the US. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi led the first contingent under the auspices of a new ‘Strategic Dialogue’ with the US. In the second trip, Prime Minister Gilani led his team to President Obama’s first Nuclear Summit. Attended by over 47 heads of state, the summit was the largest gathering of world leaders to descend upon the US soil since the 1940s. Recognised as one of the world’s safe-keepers of a nuclear stockpile, Pakistan gained a nod of approval from the world’s seven nuclear bomb carriers.

I am unaware if many journalists or citizens in Pakistan read foreign newspapers, magazines or even blogs, but over the course of the nuclear summit, many international media outlets praised our country. From the words of admiration showered on Pakistan by President Obama for keeping its nuclear arsenal safe, to the positive role played by Prime Minister Gilani, it was our time to be in the limelight. Much attention was directed towards the professionalism of Army Chief General Parvez Kayani while the brilliant display of diplomacy carried out by Ambassador Husain Haqqani did not go unnoticed. Penned as a key ally of the US and taking the war to the very militants who threaten the fabric of our peace and security, Pakistan garnered much respect from the world community.

I believe we are witnessing a new dawn. President Zardari has probably received more hate mail in his current tenure than the dictator Pervez Musharraf did in his nine-year rule. But Zardari did not suspend the constitution; he did not depose the chief justice, nor introduce the Legal Framework Order (LFO); nor did he chalk out the 17th Amendment, which put a black mark on our constitution. Rather, the current president put into place the 18th Amendment, which rectified the above-mentioned wrongs done by a military dictator. Giving credit where it is due, I think we have seen the rise of a new dawn.

Ironically, many journalists and media personalities in Pakistan are still unhappy with the current set-up. Earlier they used to admonish Zardari for not shifting the authority granted to him under the 17th Amendment to the rightful heir, the prime minister. With a streak of vengeance, columnists penned articles day after day, inciting anger and hatred towards Mr Zardari. But, like spoilt children, these journalists have not applauded the transfer of power, and have found nothing but faults in the latest legislation. In my humble opinion, they have continued in the age-old habit of misconstruing facts to suit their own needs.

Constantly speculating on motley issues, from clash between the judiciary and the executive to resignation of Mr Zardari after the abolition of the NRO to demanding expulsion of Ambassador Haqqani within 48 hours (which was sometime in October last year), these reporters have used every ploy to bring down the current government. Mind you, I am not arguing that the Zardari administration does not have its flaws, but surely we can give credit where it is due, especially if it is in the interest of our nation.

One of the reasons many Pakistanis showed dissent towards the US over the past decade was due to President Bush’s blind support of General Musharraf. A bitter relationship between Pakistan and the US stemmed from the love affair of these two polarising figures. Citizens of both countries were wary of the other, while public perception of Pakistan in the US was at an all time low and vice versa. During the Busharraf years we constantly heard the mantra of “do more”, while the Bush administration turned a blind eye towards the undemocratic steps taken by General Musharraf.

President Obama strode into office, articulating a new, stronger and secure relationship with the Muslim world, especially with Pakistan, due to our deep involvement in the war on terror. Placing Ambassador Haqqani at the helm of affairs has led to a much-needed boost in what was a tattered relationship with the US. Much criticism was directed at Mr Haqqani during the Kerry-Lugar saga, but many have failed to acknowledge the depth of the strong bond our ambassador has secured with the US. It was through the efforts of Mr Haqqani that Pakistan was able to procure the long-delayed F-16s and the crucial grant of $ 7.5 billion in non-military aid.

If we, as a nation, constantly harp on the past, we may never be able to see the future. We are not out of the woods yet, but that does not mean we will remain in this perpetual cycle of suicide bombings and low standard of living. Constantly bickering over the role of President Zardari or his appointees will lead us nowhere. The primary reason for fighting for an independent judiciary was to have an accountability mechanism in place. A section of the current ‘independent’ media needs to stop finding fault with every positive initiative the government has undertaken. Giving credit where it is due and holding elected officials accountable for their actions while in public office is the way to go and truly enjoy the fruits of democracy we strive for.