Curiouser and curiouser

Published: November 21, 2014
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The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto 
kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

If Imran Khan boggled our senses last week by asking that Military Intelligence and Inter-services Intelligence representatives should sit on the judicial commission requested by the government to probe the 2013 elections, the prime minister’s adviser on foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz’s needless statement on the Taliban vis-a-vis Pakistan and Afghanistan’s security, boggles our senses this week. Indeed, the FO’s ‘clarification’ of Aziz’s statement has added further confusion to the whole affair.

But to that later. For now, please recall that just days ago the Afghan president was in Pakistan, the third country he has visited after being sworn in, and the great and befitting honour with which he was received by none other than Mr Aziz himself; the deserved respect he got at the GHQ where he not only laid a wreath at the Yadgar-e-Shuhada, but was also given a security briefing; and his reception by, and fruitful meetings with, the president and the prime minister.

Whilst the Afghan president said repeatedly that this was a great opportunity to mend ties and that “partnership with Pakistan is an important pillar (note the word) of Afghanistan’s foreign policy”, our prime minister said there was a need to build a “strong relationship based on mutual respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity”. He also said Pak-Afghan “cooperation was imperative for peace and prosperity in the region” and that “Pakistan is committed to upgrading cooperation in border security, defence, Afghan reconstruction, capacity building, parliamentary exchanges and cultural links”.

Indeed, the PM went on to say that both countries face formidable challenges, including terrorism and security. He said that we could only meet them by exploiting the full potential of cooperation collectively. And that while Pakistan reaffirmed that a “peaceful, prosperous and united Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital interest”, it also “supported the intra-Afghan reconciliation process”, adding that this should be fully “Afghan-led and Afghan owned”.

After all of these friendly and supportive exchanges, it was bewildering to see Mr Sartaj Aziz saying that “Pakistan should not target militants who do not threaten the country’s security”. “Why should America’s enemies unnecessarily become our enemies,” he is quoted as having told BBC Urdu, and that “When the United States attacked Afghanistan, all those that were trained and armed were pushed towards us”.

“Some of them were dangerous for us and some are not. Why must we make enemies out of them all?” he said when speaking about the Haqqani network. He further said that the Afghan Taliban are Afghanistan’s problem and the Haqqani network is a part of it. “It’s the job of the Afghan government to negotiate with them … We can try to convince them, however, things are not the same as they were in the nineties.” Curious, no?

And what does the FO say in its ‘clarification’? Press report: “The adviser made the statement in a historical context,” FO spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said in a statement. “As for [the] present, Pakistan has launched operation Zarb-e-Azb and (is) taking action against all groups without any distinction or discrimination.”

“She added that Sartaj Aziz’s interview with BBC’s Urdu service has created confusion in the official stance of the country. Pakistan’s policy and actions should be seen in the light of its commitment in fighting terrorism in all forms and manifestations, she added. The development comes at a time when Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif was on a visit to the US and Operation Zarb-e-Azb commander Major General Zafarullah Khan had recently stated that the military was targeting all local and foreign militants.” Curiouser, no?

So there you have it reader, confusion worse confounded. “Historical context”, says the FO. What historical context please? Is the FO saying that Mr Aziz is right? That since the Haqqanis did not threaten Pakistan, and were only the enemies of the United States (whose non-Nato ally we were, by the by), we looked away from their violence in Afghanistan that they openly owned and bragged about? Indeed, are he and the FO suggesting that since the Haqqanis are not a threat to us, Pakistan will not stop them spreading mayhem in Afghanistan in the future?

I mean, look at the conciliatory and supportive words of our prime minister, for Afghanistan, and look at the thoughts of the senior adviser on foreign affairs. The PM says a “peaceful Afghanistan” is in Pakistan’s vital interest and Mr Aziz says we should not “target militants” who openly threaten Afghanistan, because they do not threaten our security?

Let’s go elsewhere: Do the TTP threaten our security? I should have thought that they do, seeing the havoc they have wreaked in our country, killing more than 60,000 innocent Pakistanis and counting, and horribly maiming countless others. We should know, too, that more than 8,000 soldiers and paramilitary troops have been cruelly slaughtered, and hundreds most horrendously maimed by the savages. Most critically, we should know that the TTP and the Haqqanis are joined at the hip. Or does our innocence where the Haqqanis are concerned transcend all that we know about them?

There is no good ‘history’ here. If anything, this statement will reignite fears that we have favourites among the brutes, for that is what they are. We must join forces with our Afghan neighbours and together finish off the murdering terrorists. We must realise that it is only a matter of time before the IS sets up shop in this part of the world too, mark my words. The thing for Mr Sartaj Aziz to do is to call an immediate press conference and himself clarify what he meant, or did not mean.

Incidentally, time we made fresh overtures to our Iranian neighbours, too. They have a huge stake in the region and will be enormously helpful in fighting terror. They must be co-opted in a trilateral arrangement with Pakistan and Afghanistan before the balloon goes up in the coming spring and our country finds itself in the middle of it all. Mark my words.

P.S. Could the FO kindly stop using the term ‘in all its forms and manifestations’ when referring to terrorism? Please? It is now much hackneyed and worn-out.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2014.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • Ayesha
    Nov 21, 2014 - 12:39AM

    “When the United States attacked Afghanistan, all those that were trained and armed were pushed towards us”.
    Actually even the Americans acknowledge this is what that happened. Had the american invasion took place from Pakistan, this would not have happened.

    Recommend

  • Hedgefunder
    Nov 21, 2014 - 12:55AM

    Sartaj Aziz’s interview with BBC’s Urdu service has created confusion in the official stance of the country.

    Everything that comes out of this Country is in confused mode, as they themselves do not know as to when they will change their minds !

    Recommend

  • Ranjha
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:00AM

    If Imran Khan boggled our senses last week by asking that Military Intelligence and Inter-services Intelligence representatives should sit on the judicial commission

    Your senses start to boggle at everything. Seems more like nonsenses.

    Recommend

  • sabi
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:07AM

    Mr Sartaj Aziz should be given benefit of age.

    Recommend

  • Anarchist
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:41AM

    You could not resist the temptation to bring IK in. That is understandable given that you have to please a certain audience, including NS.

    IK did not ask MI & ISI to sit on the commission, he asked them to assist the commission. Huge difference and its neither unprecedented nor unconstitutional. What about when NS asked the military to intervene or when Dar brought members of intelligence agencies to negotiations?

    So please stop acting like you are bewildered, behooved, perplexed or whatever adjective you want to use, over inclusion of MI/ISI in evidence gathering. Its sounds funny, in a bad way.

    As far as Sartaj Aziz’s comments are concerned, what can you say when the government has not even appointed a foreign minister. Says a lot about our government’s priorities.

    Recommend

  • truth
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:51AM

    @ author “Mark my words” sir
    After this statement of Mr Aziz Afghans won’t trust you untill they see tangible actions on the ground.

    Recommend

  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:54AM

    ” Indeed, are he and the FO suggesting that since the Haqqanis are not a threat to us, Pakistan will not stop them spreading mayhem in Afghanistan in the future?”
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Yes Sir Mr Aziz is saying that and more: any militant group that doesnt threaten Pakistan will also be free in Pakistan.
    Btw the same very logic supports hosting OBL in Pakistan: he was so beneficial to Pakistan ( the entire US gravy train was there because of him) and never hurt even a Paki fly, where was the question of taking any action him?
    Thank you Mr Aziz for being so candid.

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  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:56AM

    ” We can try to convince them, however, things are not the same as they were in the nineties.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    See the nineties…FO was right its the historical context!.

    Recommend

  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:59AM

    ” the intra-Afghan reconciliation process”, adding that this should be fully “Afghan-led and Afghan owned”.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    with a minority ownership stake of Pakistan represented thru Haqqanis. Does that satisfy your curiosity?

    Recommend

  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 21, 2014 - 2:16AM

    Where is Sartaz Aziz headed to?
    ++++++++++++++++++++
    Obviously, to the museum of Historical context.

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  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 21, 2014 - 2:17AM

    ” The thing for Mr Sartaj Aziz to do is to call an immediate press conference and himself clarify what he meant, or did not mean.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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  • Nov 21, 2014 - 2:43AM

    Sartaj Aziz should be transferred to Landikotal as a clerk at the border post.
    Since he did so much damage to the ongoing policy. Single handedly.
    He can then spend some productive time dealing with the hundreds of people
    ‘good’ or’ bad’ coming into the country. This is where his expertise will be very
    useful.

    Recommend

  • Rahul
    Nov 21, 2014 - 4:26AM

    Mr. Sartaj Aziz just stated the obvious. Why is everybody acting so surprised?

    Recommend

  • Rahul
    Nov 21, 2014 - 4:30AM

    Pakistan army is conducting Zarb-e-Azb because the Americans demanded it as a condition for aid under the Kerry-Lugar bill. Time will tell how much of the operation is real and how much is show. Pakistani establishment is adept at fooling the Americans, the tragedy is that sometimes they end up deluding themselves.

    Recommend

  • Joginder
    Nov 21, 2014 - 7:01AM

    Kamran Shafi is one of the reasons i still click on the ET in the mornings. Sane voices in Pakistan seem to be getting rather subdued in Pakistan these days, otherwise.

    Recommend

  • blackHat
    Nov 21, 2014 - 9:25AM

    There is no need to get all wound up. What Mr. Sartaj Aziz said and FO clarification aside, the world is watching the Pakistani action very closely. There is not a single leader from good Taliban eliminated in this operation since this began. Pentagon report to the congress clearly states this. Nobody believes FO or ISPR press releases or clarifications.

    Opponents will be waiting for Mr. Ghani’s missteps. This statement will make it very hard for him to take some of the steps Pakistan would like to see taken towards establishing cooperative relationship.

    Recommend

  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 21, 2014 - 10:00AM

    ” The thing for Mr Sartaj Aziz to do is to call an immediate press conference and himself clarify what he meant, or did not mean.”
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Mr Aziz will never conduct a Press Conference.
    He is afraid more embarrassing truths in the historical context may tumble out!

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  • fair
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:28PM

    each and every nation seeks his interests, the things cooperation in handling terrorism are more imaginative than practical, no nation would destroy his country for others except Pakistan

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  • Parvez
    Nov 21, 2014 - 1:46PM

    Nicely said…..but let us not forget Shahbaz Sharif telling the religious extremists to go about their business but spare the Punjab……..so Mr. Aziz is following his party’s thought process.
    Sir, in all seriousness does anyone take the utterances of the Foreign Office, on affairs pertaining to Afghanistan or even India, seriously…….so why make this noise.

    Recommend

  • Rex Minor
    Nov 21, 2014 - 2:07PM

    @Peshawar wala:
    Good suggestion! Since the man is old and suffering from demense, the proposed job would do him good.

    Rex Minor

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  • Ranjha
    Nov 21, 2014 - 5:46PM

    @Rahul:

    Pakistan army is conducting Zarb-e-Azb because the Americans demanded it as a condition for aid under the Kerry-Lugar bill.

    Have all indians gone looney or you are just part of the unfortunate ones? I mean, do they have tanks, etc. because of the US dictats? Or that is also a figment of our imagination and they actually don’t have tanks?

    Pathetic comments likes yours only drown out the more serious and productive ones. Learn to do something else with the finger itch every time the word Pakistan is mentioned! It is a disease prevalent in india now.Recommend

  • cautious
    Nov 21, 2014 - 10:00PM

    I suggest the reader take the time to read an Afghan newspaper sometime – it’s obvious how the Aziz statement was perceived in Afghanistan. This was a significant blunder feeding into the anti Pakistani sentiment already prevalent within Afghanistan. Sharif should have publicly rebuked Aziz who should have offered his resignation.

    Recommend

  • Last Word
    Nov 21, 2014 - 10:41PM

    Sartaj Aziz has only spoken what was dictated to him by the foreign policy makers who are known to fire from the shoulders of the civilians which was in context with Army chief’s visit to US. However, his statement has given sufficient fodder to India, Afghanistan and US to nail Pakistan on fighting terrorism selectively and allowing proxies to act against both neighbours.

    Recommend

  • Nov 22, 2014 - 12:48AM

    @Ayesha:

    Not entirely true.

    LeJ, Jundullah, JeM, LeT are all Pakistani groups. Some joined TTP, some didn’t. But, they existed in Pakistan from the 1990s.

    US invasion at best has acted a catalyst. US invasion did not create these groups.

    After all these groups are a symptom of a larger problem – Radicalism.

    What does US invasion have to do with, say, Lal Masjid?Recommend

  • Nov 22, 2014 - 12:51AM

    @sabi:

    The latest Pakistani operation is being carried out in the fear of US Aid ending. Groups like LeT, JeM are still free and their operations have not been targetted.

    South Punjab is a hub of Terror and it will never be subjected to aerial bombardment on the lines of FATA. For proper COIN operation, you need large deployment of troops who are now tied up in India border.

    Azis right..

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  • Sexton Blake
    Nov 22, 2014 - 4:28AM

    I am never really sure what point Major Shafi is getting at, but by using the term” Curiouser and curiouser” perhaps I have to admit I have under-estimated his intellectual rigour. Before discussing it further I should point out that Pakistan, Afghanistan and India should form a Federation, but that would mean banishing about 50,000 politicians of one sort or another down the “Rabbit Hole”. However, moving on a little, Alice discovered when she descended into so called Wonderland, a litigious, unreal world of talking animals and singing flowers (substitute politicians), all of whom were drawing people, such as we into an unreal bizarre world totally removed from reality. Add to that a psychotically disturbed Queen who’s solution to everything was “off with their heads”, and the parallel with today’s world, and our unfortunate, low level leaders, is complete. . .

    Recommend

  • AVMPolpot
    Nov 22, 2014 - 4:33AM

    Suggestion to the Editor
    +++++++++++++++++
    Pls carry a regular column titled Curiouser and curiouser.
    Surely there are many stories befitting that label.

    Recommend

  • numbersnumbers
    Nov 22, 2014 - 9:37AM

    @Ayesha:
    Second try!
    Actually those “trained and armed” were flown Pakistan’s way by the PAF!
    Look up the Kunduz Airlift to see all involved in the “airlift of evil”!!!

    Recommend

  • sabi
    Nov 22, 2014 - 1:16PM

    @BruteForce:
    “Groups like LeT, JeM are still free and their operations have not been targetted”.
    Correct but that’s not the end of the game.
    “South Punjab is a hub of Terror and it will never be subjected to aerial bombardment on the lines of FATA”
    South Punjab is a settled area and has different terrain. Unlike FATA its almost plain area.
    If you think there are armies of taliban roaming free in settled areas then your assertion is wrong.There is absolutely no need to deploy army in southern Punjab in fact police alone is capable enough to tackle them and if need arises a kind of rapid deployment force can be used.

    Recommend

  • Jamor
    Nov 22, 2014 - 1:20PM

    @Ayesha:
    What about those ” Good strategic forces” who were airlifted from Kunduz to Pakistan.They would have been permanently taken care off by the Northern Alliance

    Recommend

  • Lt Col Imtiaz Alam (retd)
    Nov 22, 2014 - 3:27PM

    I am a proud and passionate Pakistani.I must point out at this juncture that I endorse the comments of Sartaj Aziz that we have to be selective when we take on the Terrorists. Those who have supported us all along and are no part of the “Big Game” the US & its Allies are playing . For example , we have known all along that the “Haqqani” net work has been supporting the Afghan Taliban & not the TTP, not engaged in Terrorists activities in Pakistan but carry out damage to the InvadersOccupiers in Afghanistan and supporting their Liberation movement. Do we lack the Moral courage to tell the Americans to stop their”Do more Mantra” & support of the Indians in their Proxy War along with them n Afghanistan. We must look ahead to a new Afghanistan and cannot make everyone our enemies at the behest of the Americans..

    Recommend

  • BlackHat
    Nov 22, 2014 - 6:25PM

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam (retd): If all the patriotic officers like you, both serving and retired, of armed forces, paramilitary and police forces come out and publicly support the righteous policy as stated by Mr. Aziz, it would be more helpful.

    Recommend

  • Author
    Nov 23, 2014 - 5:40PM

    @Lt Col Imtiaz Alam (retd):
    1. If that is so, the GOP in the PM of Pakistan and the COAS should NOT have promised President Ashraf Ghani AND the Americans that we would go after all the terrorists INCLUDING the Haqqanis.
    2. I hope you know that in the days of the Taliban in Afghanistan, when Jalaluddin Haqqani was the Minister for Borders he refused Gen. Moinuddin Haider (the Pakistan’s Interior Minister)’s requests to agree to make the Durand Line a permanent border? Just as Mullah Omar refused to hand over Ilyas Kashmiri to us?
    The Haqqanis are no friends of Pakistan….

    Recommend

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