Wednesday, March 29, 2017

OPED: The Greater Game



Published Global Affairs / March 2017. Written in August 2016.


They say that ‘the Taliban are coming to Islamabad’ was a common refrain among some diplomatic circles. They cannot be faulted for having such a stark worldview. From 2007 onwards the region registered a dramatic spike in terror and the world feared for the integrity of a nuclear armed nation in the face of a rapidly deteriorating law and order situation.

Some might argue that now that Pakistan has finally taken the war to the enemy within, a modicum of peace seems to have descended. Zarb-e-Azb, classified as a full scale operation against terrorists of all shades and denominations enters its third year. And a prominent name linked to JuD is finally under arrest.

Tracking battlefront gains can be tricky since the operations are still ongoing. There have been rough patches along the way. And the nation suffered tragic setbacks with devastating attacks on police academies, shrines and hospitals.

Back home the military’s track record came into question every time a suicide bomber got through, while the world continued to gauge its performance from a special set of parameters.

The Afghan Taliban’s misuse of Pak territory had been cited as the reason for withholding $300 million reimbursements. The sight of radical groups (ASWJ) etc pottering about did not exactly inspire confidence and a selective targeting approach (alleged) naturally tipped the scale of global opinion adversely. The spotlight refused to shift from the strange categorization of terror syndicates that often led to a blurring of lines between good & bad Taliban.

Foreign media remained dismissive of any claims regarding Kabul’s role in stoking the fire within Pak borders even in its most balanced pieces like ‘Pakistani Militants and the State: Friends, Foes, and Frenemies’ (Jul 5, 2016) by Stephen Tankel, senior editor War on Rocks. Consequently, it failed to factor in imprints of RAW, NDS, or MOIS occasionally spotted in the mix.

Admittedly, the fear of blowback that prevented military strategists from confronting certain threats may have been real. Pakistanis in the crosshairs of terrorists however would have preferred that no such distinctions are made. Blind-spots regarding jihadist outfits and Haqqanis only served to muddy the waters, provide belligerent nations ammo to scapegoat Pakistan, forcing allies to question their loyalties. Besides, such gambits tend to misfire. But the other side of the picture that stays buried under the debris of distrust and accusations of duplicity leaves gaps in the narrative.

Like when the Swat operation Rah-e-Rast dislodged HVT’s (High Value Target) like Fazlullah, many who fled to Afghanistan, sought sanctuary later directing attacks against the Pakistani state. Two observations have been offered by Mr. Tankel to explain this phenomenon. One of them declares that “…after years in which Afghanistan was on the receiving end of attacks by Pakistan-supported militants, elements in the Afghan intelligence service (the National Directorate of Security or NDS) reportedly began enabling these cross-border attacks.”

The other insists that that the NDS involvement is unclear in this scenario. Again, both Iranian and NDS connections with possible ties to RAW (Indian spy agency) unearthed in a recent intelligence coup are left out. Instead, the new Afghan President appears making overtures to Pakistani people in the next passage. The casual remark that capacity strapped Afghan security forces would be more focused on fighting insurgency within its borders than facilitating terrorists using its soil to target Pakistan lets them off easy. Also, an NDS hand in destabilizing its neighbor seems to be mere payback for all that supposed meddling Pakistan did post Soviet withdrawal.

Since Pakistan’s Indian centric approach remains a key policy driver, it becomes an important point of reference. Stephen conceded that New Delhi aided abetted separatist movements in the past adding that there is no open source evidence of Indian support. The article written after the arrest of a high level Indian spy in Baluchistan probably means it discounts Pakistan’s case against Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav and his coteries of spies.

Finally, the military’s alleged fondness for harboring proxies generally attributed to the Indian bogie forever hovering in the background came up for review. And when the dreaded anti-Shia LeJ were shown enjoying political patronage, Pakistan’s crackdown on their lieutenants linked to ISIL was also considered thereby maintaining a fairly even tone. But there’s a sudden shift implying that “…..resurrecting JeM also had potential utility against India. In January 2016, a team of JeM militants attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station...” A key update where a joint team went to probe the incident and Indian investigators cleared Pakistan of involvement was not a part of this analysis.

Notwithstanding the fact that some of these elements may have been wielded as anti-Qaeda propaganda machines in the past, their presence jeopardized the ally’s position in leading the good fight and gave way to dangerous speculations. They also widened sectarian rifts, endangering the vision of a progressive nuclear state. No one cared about Taliban’s top leadership vacationing in Iran when his motorcade was targeted the second he entered Pakistani territory. Or that the road blocks to the peace were centered in Kabul and reportedly funded by New Delhi.

The Pak-Afghan border fencing initiatives proposed by Pakistan that sparked a fresh feud and led to casualties on both side was a case in point. At its core lies the hope that such a structure can curtail the insurgent’s ability to launch the cross border attacks. The cooperation and joint patrol squads probably needed for this to succeed have yet to see the light of day. The sight of banned organization members roaming the streets only added to the trust deficit.

At this stage taking control of the runaway narrative may look difficult. The implication that non-state actors have been used with state connivance inevitably shaped perceptions about Pak military and stoked suspicions about their motivations.

Consequently those hard won victories went unnoticed; as did the fallen soldiers and citizens in line of fire. The cloud that hung over the establishment followed them when they raised the plight of Kashmiri’s on international forums, attempted to resolve trivial border disputes or tried to get clearance for military hardware from the US Congress for fighting insurgency. And though the visiting dignitaries no longer envisage a Taliban invasion in the Capital, it continued to be seen as a dangerous destination – its leadership beset with scandals, setbacks and, possibly surrounded by saboteurs. Islamabad’s counter-narrative may take time to gain traction along with its efforts at elevating Pakistan’s global stature.


OP-ED: Business as Usual

Published in Global Affairs / March 2017. Written / Sep 2016.

Third world nations that remain daggers drawn have yet to ascend to that stage of nirvana marked by regional cooperation and economic reforms; the kind that defines Sino - US relations for instance. Former US ambassador to China described their emerging relationship as “controlled enmity.” It had remained on course despite Washington’s concerns over the militarization of South China Sea, or indictment of Chinese hackers by a US court. The world’s biggest economy and the largest US foreign creditor and the superpower had learnt to prioritize and steer their relations towards a semblance of normality.

No one really knows which direction they will take under a Donald Trump Presidency. But economic considerations trumped personal differences at the time. And now judging from the list of banned nations devised by the White House where some obvious names have been pointedly left out – at least for the time being, it still appears to take precedence over security concerns.

South Asian nations operate differently. Common grounds they have aplenty - common foes too. Yet, Kabul bickers over trade routes and refugee repatriation while India threatens to renege on water treaties (which would be an open declaration of war) amid dubious declarations of ‘surgical strikes’ in Pakistani territory. And Islamabad’s misgivings about the ever expanding Indian footprint remain in place especially after India ratcheted up the propaganda against Pakistan and war hysteria in the region. They have spent seven decades stoking the flames of resentment while keeping old flashpoints in place. Here fronts multiply on a dizzying scale, followed by attempts to reach for the nearest nuclear arsenal to resolve differences. It has never been a healthy relationship.

Such conflicts color their policies and keep them in a negative holding pattern. While Pakistan and Afghanistan were embroiled in yet another feud over the transportation of consumer goods, India went on the warpath after the 18 September 2016 attack on its army base. No evidence had been provided that tied Pakistan to the terrorists before their relations went south. The subsequent war of words between Pakistan and India over the Uri attack quickly escalated, leading to an exchange of fire across the line of control. Trade talk took backseat. Nuclear war became the lead headline.

The ties binding Islamabad, Kabul and Delhi are flimsy, and break easily. The Afghan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement – APTTA was signed in 2010 and meant to regulate bilateral trade between a landlocked Afghanistan and its Pakistani neighbor. It gave Kabul access to Pakistan based seaports and dry ports including the Wagah border to import duty free goods. The wordings that allow one-sided trade from Afghanistan to India via Pakistan and prevent Indian goods from reaching Afghanistan created a fresh unpleasantness.

Afghan President Muhammad Ashraf Ghani threatened to return the favor by blocking trade routes to Central Asian nations for Pakistan. Afghanistan does not have much leverage at the moment so the loss of these Central Asian transit routes may not register on an economic level. But the loss of goodwill manifests itself in Kabul’s pivot towards India through the establishment of an air corridor proposed by Afghanistan and India – the acrimonious language by its President and the general air of suspicion that clouds the Af-Pak relationship.

The eastern front is no better. The retaliatory firing across the LOC (Line of Control) and failed attempts to breach the parameter from Indian side had been presented as surgical strike on Pakistani militant camps by Modi to mirror the OBL raid, which is a stretch, even for India. The collateral damage as a result of a firefight was the only sign that something was afoot.

Their respective stock market plummeted in the wake of the stand-off. They then attempted to stifle the few avenues left standing by banning each other’s cinema and actors. Cable TV’s came under pressure to follow suit. And celebrities were shamed for not taking sides.

Pakistan - India trade accounts for less than half percent of India’s global trade. Their economies will not be crippled given that trade stands at $ 2.61 billion dollars as of (2015-2016). But the commotion at the border that allows India to sweep its human rights record under the mat distracts from more pressing matters – that includes regional economic uplift and counter terrorism efforts.

There is no easy fix for the endless provocations emanating from the neighborhood. Economic and security cooperation between Pakistan - Afghanistan appears to be a pipedream under the circumstances. India wants a slice of the APTTA/ PTTTA pie and there had been suggestions of a trilateral transit trade.

But India by its own admission is also playing the long game. It seeks a higher power differential outgunning Pakistan in military, economic and diplomacy by 2025. All its energies are therefore directed at isolating Pakistan. But a few interesting developments have happened since then that put Islamabad on surer ground. Namely, the BRICS summit where China and Russia refused to denounce Pakistan; Pak-Russian rapprochement and joint military exercises by former Cold War adversaries on Pakistani soil.

Meanwhile, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan remain deadlocked. What would the landscape be like should these three nations ever decide to partner up for commerce instead of finding themselves engaged in a zero sum game? Perhaps they are then less likely to think sabotage, with major investments on the line. Or burn cultural bridges that took years to build and devise strategies to undercut the opposing players in the bid for the brass ring. China, despite the relationship woes with its neighbor happens to be India’s ‘largest trading partner.’ The Indo-China trade is reportedly $100 billion dollars (2015).

The region that had been reverberating with the drumbeats of war has no safeguards in place to check neighbors with hegemonic designs or encourage conflict resolution. An economic stake may assure that both nuclear nations would perhaps think twice before dusting off war slogans to appease national honor and push each other to the brink of an Armageddon to assuage wounded pride or imagined slights.



Thursday, March 23, 2017

OPED: NAP - the Second Coming



Published by National Herald Tribune March 2017



A 20 point National Action Plan devised in January 2015 identified key issues that needed to be resolved on an urgent basis. It looked perfect on paper and ceded space to military courts; kick-started the process of refugee reparation; proposed actions against banned organizations and recommended the registration of seminaries. The proposal though ambitious appeared to be well crafted and would ultimately become the cornerstone of Operation Zarb-e-Azb. Its implementation however left a lot to be desired.

NAP was supposed to bring sweeping reforms in the realm of education, criminal justice, religious seminaries, FATA; have zero tolerance for militancy in Punjab, strengthen NACTA - National Counter Terrorism Authority and fortify the security parameters.

It led to a marked improvement in Karachi’s security. Fencing was considered along the Western front despite resistance by the neighbors. And the moratorium was lifted on death penalties for terror suspects. An uneasy calm had descended, only to be shattered soon since all the elements of the NAP couldn’t be put in motion. It had failed to factor in the political will or lack thereof and the limitations of its reach.

There were too many working parts to the plan and not enough qualified handlers to supervise its seamless coordination. There were Machiavellian politics at play while the fate of the nation hung in balance.

Though 2300 Seminaries were reportedly shuttered in Sindh, the rest of the provinces lagged behind in the geo-tagging and registration department. Havens in Punjab were left untouched; the floundering justice system that enables a corrupt mindset kept festering. And a civil military divide appeared instead of the unity everyone expected. Corruption would be the leading headline and the as yet unreformed justice system was expected to deliver a fair verdict for cases against the ruling elite.

After a month of violence, NAP is back on the table; as are the military tribunals. Now that the conversation has circled back to the unrealized vision, the path has to be cleared for its speedy implementation. And though the army wants to fast track the process, how realistic is their wish-list given the fundamental flaws in the basic premise?

It would need tweaking to compensate for the flailing system. It may require the leaders to reinforce the message and fix misplaced priorities. It will need an intervention when the debate turns to regressive policies that hearken to the Talibanization era in the academic circles by enforcing mandatory head gear for female students instead of initiating educational reforms. And when crucial time is wasted playing to the mullah gallery by chasing blasphemous content across the cyber-world, threatening bans on social media, and issuing threats against liberal voices on behalf of extremist agendas. Or, when complacency sets in and petty politics and power-plays take precedence over more pressing matters like life, liberty and the integrity of a nation.

The first NAP misread the commitment. It was a glossy piece of paper that assumed the existence of well oiled cogs in the state machinery ready to spring into action when called to battle. In reality the civilian infrastructure has deteriorated to a point that bringing it back to life will require serious negotiations along with investments in time, resources, and trusty watch-dogs to oversee and deliver results via progress reports.

It would need to assess the difficulties encountered in the first round and devise practical solutions that make room for stakeholders concerns without compromising its core agenda. The Action Plan is basically ‘terraforming’ – in that it is now attempting to alter the very fabric of national disunity to encourage the return of its founding fathers original design that proposed the highest standards of excellence. It will have resistance not just from the ideology it is trying to expunge – but also the powers that be who benefit from the politicized security forces at their beck and call and a blanket immunity to permit the blatant misuse of the taxpayers’ money. The blowback that comes from pulling the plug on their power source should have an appropriate response handy.

Is the new improved vision ready to fix those oversights? Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad launched in February in response to the bloody wave of terror that swept through the region is supposedly an extension of NAP I. There is a deweaponization drive, awareness campaigns to mobilize the nation and broad spectrum security CT (counter terrorism) operations authorized in previously no go areas like Punjab. And yes, FATA is set to join KPK.

Despite these optimistic indicators – expectations are low. Unless the bold vision can clear through the rubble in time to convince stakeholders that the show of unity and strength across the board may turn the tide in Pakistan’s favor. That the impenetrable wall of resistance they aim to build can only be fortified with intuitive policies designed to adapt to a changing threat matrix on a priority basis. And that this will be a mission critical component to the overarching goal of nation-building. NAP II cannot become a hatchet job and must succeed because if it falls short in any department – the entire scheme will start to unravel. Will Pakistan be able to survive another betrayal?

Image Link: 1

Sunday, March 19, 2017

OPED: Mending Fences – along the Af-Pak Border


Published in Lead Pakistan / Feb 2017


Pakistan and Afghanistan find themselves at crossroads. Pakistanis can rattle off all the reasons they think they have qualified for Afghanistan’s gratitude starting from their help in liberating them from the Soviet occupation to hosting millions of displaced Afghans and training their security forces to name but a few. Their Afghan neighbors on the other hand keep a list of grievances nearby to trump any grand gestures made in the past 4 decades.

Their relations may have soured over time but there are avenues of cooperation left open that can be explored. Overtures made by Pakistani State lately testify to their attempts at mending fences and the reciprocal moves by their Afghan counterparts may signal that peace and reconciliation may still be on the table. Pak COAS Qamar Javed Bajwa’s New Year phone call to Afghan leadership and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s invitation to visit make these important milestones. That momentum must not be lost in the fog of war. The stakes are too high and time is short.

The revival of the ISI – NDS agreement that promised intelligence sharing and security cooperation formulated in May 2015 comes at a crucial moment. At the time the deal was termed as against Afghan national interest. Now it may just be the lifeline needed to keep their joint national interest afloat. Earlier in February 2017, Pakistan is said to have captured and handed over suspected IS terrorists to Afghanistan that had entered its territory. After the Sehwan attack, Pak military reportedly provided the names of 76 terrorists to their Afghan counterparts in the hopes that Afghan security forces will take action. They have not done so. Pakistan in turn, targeted militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan, a first.

While fears that this could potentially wreck the fragile bonds of trust and deepen the divide remain – the incident highlights the urgency of solidifying a cohesive strategy to eliminate sanctuaries on either side of the divide. To that end, Pakistan has launched multiple operations to clear and secure its badlands and needs Afghanistan’s help in ensuring its success. That cannot happen if militants like JuA (splinter group TTP), that claimed the recent wave of attacks on Pakistani citizens continue to find safe havens beyond the wall. The rationale that a stick will not eliminate the threat may have some merit but not acting at all also has consequences. If those areas are beyond Afghanistan’s control and ISAF is unwilling or unable to strike the enemy camps, would Afghans prefer a joint military action (Af-Pak) against a common foe? At the same time, Afghanistan’s concerns about similar havens on Pak turf will also need to be allayed.

In an Al Jazeera segment, Davood Moradian - Director-General of the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies decried the parallel approach towards Afghan Taliban and Afghanistan’s elected representatives implying that Pak State treated Afghan consulates spread across the country on par with the Taliban leadership mission in Quetta.

Not pushing the Taliban as stakeholders was laid out as a benchmark for CBM’s in future dialogues. The Pakistani State has been encouraged to take on the role of mediators between them on more than one occasion – and its sole interest has been to facilitate peace talks at the behest of Afghans. They no longer envision a 1990’s stylized Taliban led powerbase. And they withdrew support post 9/11 and paid the price in the form of blowback. Such characterizations, unfair though they may be, need to countered, especially since they can be used to fuel old fears and create fresh paranoia’s.

Both sides must find ways around the breach exacerbated by the Indian footprint, cross-border terrorism, Afghan leaderships' belligerent outlook and border disputes. Past the exodus of refugees which continues to generate negative publicity; and the rejection of monetary aid for said refugees from Pakistan that evokes widespread dismay. And recent attacks on Pakistani soil that elicited strong worded responses regarding Afghan based sanctuaries and led to a closure of Spin Boldak and Torkham gate. That threatens what little trade is left between these two neighbors and requires a diplomatic offensive to salvage relations.

For years Pakistan’s dry ports and sea ports have been used for bilateral trade with its landlocked neighbor. Afghanistan remains in search of greener pastures and Iran is their newest trading partner. They have also entered into a strategic partnership with India. Trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan has suffered of late. Cementing economic ties in times of war will be challenging given the stringent checks enforced at border crossings and outbreak of firefights across the LOC. It is inevitably the common man at the receiving end of these actions so keeping the supply lines running would make sense to safeguard the people’s trust.

For decades, Pakistan was considered to be second home to the displaced Afghan population. Of the 1.3 million registered and 1 million undocumented, 600,000 have already left. The State has extended their stay till December 2017. Refugee Repartition is a difficult decision and needs to be handled with compassion.

President Ghani recently alluded to a world ‘where order has been redefined’. “Now it is up to us to make it beneficial, damaging or disastrous.” It is good advice. They can also take a page out of the Chinese playbook. Afghans, do not air grievances in public. And Pakistan must keep the lines of communications open no matter what.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

OP-ED: New Roadmaps


Published by Global Village Space 13 March 2017

With the Armed Forces to protect the borders - agencies to safeguard its national interests and weaponry to deter military invasions, Pakistan can honestly say that its security is in good hands. Generally this would be enough for conventional warfare. It now needs its citizen’s support to tackle the new age phenomena of terrorism. For that there must be a narrative in place and it should have no ambiguity this time around.

The decade long war efforts have been marred by confusion, dissent, resistance and doubts. Whether it is foreign agencies or home-grown networks in the payroll pulling the strings – their support system lay within. And that is where the fight also lies. And though the ‘hidden hands’ remained the go to theory, the spotlight never could stay for long on the sympathizers, financers, facilitators that walk among us. A vicious and unrelenting terror campaign failed to bring the political leadership on the same page.

The time to have the conversation was perhaps a decade ago when militants first declared war on Pakistan. But the floor is still open and citizens must be brought in on the loop. And while there are awareness campaigns regularly beamed across the airwaves; emergency hotlines set up; while movie theaters air promos warning about suspicious people, acts, and packages - beseeching the public to do its part, more needs to be done.
There is the morale for starters.

1. First restore the public’s confidence in the States ability to safeguard their life and property. While the sight of Rangers patrolling the streets may set a few minds at ease, and rewards for exemplary performance for departments (CTD) that saved Karachi make residents breathe easier, pouring in resources in upgrading and streamlining the system will go a long way in getting the people’s attention.

The citizens must not feel their security is secondary to a privileged few. They will need reassurances. Standing in the midst of a crumbling infrastructure and hearing about the blatant misuse of funds when nothing around them functions is asking too much. In the case of the Sehwan bombing in February 2017, medical facilities were lacking. In any crisis, rescue efforts generally leave much to be desired. Navy helicopters and PAF C-130s had to be called in to airlift the injured from the shrine. Rangers and Army assisted in the efforts. Against that bleak backdrop, the decision to upgrade Sindh’s bomb disposal squad needs to be highlighted and mirrored across the provinces. And community uplift projects and investments in public safety should be visible to boost confidence.

Pakistan has seen war before. The nation owes a debt of gratitude to MM Alam, Younus, Aziz Bhatti and Rafiqui etc. Their exceptional courage and powerful legacy motivated citizens to pull their weight, survive trenches, endure blackouts; enroll for military training in schoolyards and line up for blood drives. People had faith in the system and it was repaid. The theme of patriotism remains the mainstay and sacrifices of their men are never far from mind. Also, the sight of containers, security gates; check-posts and sniffer dogs is the new norm. And HUMNIT can only do so much.

But sub-conventional warfare cannot be fought by sophisticated flying machines, unmanned drones or covert ops alone. It will need the public’s cooperation and support and round the clock vigilance from LEAs. Operations launched to rid the land of terror once limited to badlands have now gone nationwide. ‘Radd-ul-Fasaad’ plans to take the fight to the enemy within. It includes, among other things, a deweaponisation drive that could alter the dynamics particularly of the tribal belt that serves as a veritable arms bazar.

2. The first order of business will be to reinforce the message put out in the aftermath of APS massacre – Dec 2014. That it is either us or them; that the ‘they’ in question walk among us and this is a fight to the end. That message keeps getting lost in the din. And once the enemy has been identified, take care that accusations of profiling do not mar the process. Mistakes that can sow division will have to be instantly rectified. Reports of profiling Pashtuns and Afghan refugees recently surfaced that could have potentially damaging consequences for provincial harmony- such as it is. If the stories are false, they need to be rebutted immediately. If it’s a case of miscommunication, retract and amend the statement. For if an entire community believes it is being persecuted or feels ostracized, any efforts made to rally support will ultimately fail should it lose the core audience.

3. The role of LEA’s at the front line may have undergone a dramatic shift. Yet the wall of suspicion between people and those entrusted to serve and protect them remains intact. And fixing that breach may help make their jobs a little easier. Laudatory comments regarding security forces at the PSL Super League held in Lahore recently are a refreshing sight. That good will must not be squandered. As the first line of defense, security agencies need to be outfitted, trained and prepared for the tempest and their sacrifices acknowledged, and PAF’s newly minted Uqaab force ready to fight alongside law enforcement comes at an opportune time.
Counter terrorism has a steep learning curve and since terrorists adapt and evolve accordingly, so must the security plans. It can never be truly foolproof. But the State should be able to truthfully say that they did their very best. Terror took time to manifest. And will take time to die out. Patience will be expected.

4. The stakeholders concerns must have a place in this new world order. Where there are mistakes and lapses do not cover up. Own up and allow for an open discourse. Use them as a sounding board. A short on France 24 regarding the Swat makeover also added a less than flattering portrait of the saviors in the post Taliban valley. It was based on interviews with disgruntled elders afraid their land was being usurped by the military stationed there to protect them.

Grievances can be exploited. Trivializing them would be a mistake. A sympathetic approach will ensure that residents who have endured so much and form the heart of resistance are not disheartened or disillusioned. Strong arming opposition and media blackouts are never the solution.

Such missteps aside, the resilience of the nation has never been doubted. And it must be clarified that the people are in it for the long haul; that they will not be left to fend for themselves - the defenders will be there with them every step of the way. They must also know that a constant state of red alert is unrealistic. And it is not a deterrent. Every soft target cannot be manned; every single person / vehicle cannot be searched. Getting the nation on board is key, and citizens need to be engaged on all fronts.
It may not look it but Pakistan is on war footing, which means that smallest mistakes can be extremely costly and any dereliction of duty can lead to mass casualties.

5. If there are CCTV cameras they must be functional; ditto for the handheld scanners and walk through metal detectors. Sindh Chief Ministers’ statements about how load shedding reportedly affected the video quality of cameras along with claims that Sehwan’s security had been compromised due to some unnamed VVIP’s need to be investigated. And at the same time ensure that there is zero tolerance for a breach of security protocols – for any misuse of power that could jeopardize public safety. Checks and balances should be enforced on an equal basis for the Minister, the Major and the common man. It is the only way to ensure compliance. A political party head being subjected to snap checking in Karachi just like any other mortal is a good precedent.

Perhaps a dose of accountability might help remove doubts about the States sincerity in reforming the system. That accountability extends to the citizens as well. Once they stop searching for scapegoats and start looking inwards – the support system that permits values incompatible with their founding fathers vision will start losing its patrons.

With mass surveillance and draconian laws - privacy is no longer an inalienable right. Citizens agree to forego freedom and face inconveniences (mobile jammers, random searches, excruciating delays) for the sake of their collective safety. With ten Security breaches in the span of 2 weeks – confidence in the system has been understandably shaken. And the outpouring of sympathy and support is conspicuously absent from the global scene.

The world does not see Pakistan as the victim of terror perhaps because the specter of hardliner mullah, corrupt politicians, urban legends of proxies and loyalty issues always rise unbidden. The return of Cricket at such a juncture has overturned that narrative if for a little while. It has also rejuvenated the flagging spirit and sent a powerful message to the world. That Pakistan’s head may be bloody – but it is unbowed.

Unprecedented security measures came into play to make the PSL dream a reality. Such a costly template may not be recommended for every event because of the extraordinary drain on resources. It may not have been the wisest move to hold sporting events in the midst of suicide bombings – but in hindsight it becomes a significant game-changer in the way Pakistan is perceived and how its citizens respond to the clarion calls for unity.

This could be an opportunity to build a better Pakistan based on equality and justice for all since its CPEC inspired dreams of economic prosperity are dependent on assuring its integrity.
And said integrity can only be guaranteed by clearing the debris of sectarian violence, social disparity, and religious bigotry. Defeating such a complex threat with global outreach will require joint operations across the board– but at least the State can make it easier to identify toxic elements and choke the supply-lines. There is still time. The threat of terrorism has already pushed Karachi to clean up its act. Ideally a visionary leadership should be on hand to guide their flock to safety. In this case, a series of CBM’s and proof of an iron resolve would have to do.

Image link 1
PSL Image Link
CTD Image Link