Don’t shoot the messenger!

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Ali Ashraf Khan

DAWN reporter Cyril Almeida decided to file his highly controversial story divulging details of a sensitive national security meeting in which the civilian and military leadership had taken part. He was reporting that Foreign Secretary Aizaz Choudhry had complained about Pakistan’s diplomatic isolation that had primarily been caused by the worsening relations of Pakistan with its immediate neighbours India, Afghanistan and Iran during the rule of the current government and blamed it on the fact that despite militant organizations being banned the militants themselves are sometimes not consequently caught and prosecuted when police gets hold of them they are released because there is a lot of sympathy for them and their cause within the police and the ISI and other security organizations at least in the lower ranks.
Almeida’s article revealed discussions at the highest level that involved the security institutions like ISI for this situation and while this complaint may have some substance it was not considered right to share it with the public because national interest requires, that the armed forces should be perceived as perfect and above criticism and secondly, by this leakage the enemy – mainly India stands to gain in their blame game, and may be Afghanistan’s government and the international community- may use this information to further blame Pakistan as hub of terrorism and ask ‘to do more’. There is a hunch even that Almeida was used by India and RAW to undermine the ISI who had failed in their false-flag Pathankot and Uri base attacks miserably that was followed by another false claim of surgical strikes on militants within Pakistan that never happened as has been proven Indian investigators.
Allegations that our security forces are not blocking supporters of Kashmiri and other jihadis is also seen as to please the Indian lobby in Pakistan. But claims that the U-turn in 2001 leaving the Taliban in the lurch was not prepared and properly communicated to anyone including the lower ranks of the agencies at that time seem to be true and that is why some of that ideology does probably persists within the ranks of the intelligence agencies (as in the public at large). We know that some of the steadfast jihadis after 2001 left the army and security agencies in protest and changed sides. Others may have remained and keep a low profile. Militant ideology needs time to be neutralized; it cannot be changed within a few years. We have to be vigilant on these vital issues and have to counter them whenever they turn up.
Thus it is a fact that the former D.G. ISI during Nawaz Sharif second tenure Gen. Ziauddin Butt had identified RAW infiltration in Pakistan and claims to have established a special RAW wing under a two-star officer in Pakistan; now we see our government tight-lipped to expose Gulbushan Yadav and his RAW network working to destabilize our national unity and territorial integrity that in FATA was prevented due to very timely action under Operation Zarb-e-Azb by the Pakistan army and intelligence agencies. Dealing with these U-turns in our policy includes that we talk about it openly and argue why this is right and why it had been wrong before.
That seems to have been discussed in the meeting and as a consequence–according to Almeida’s article- a new effort was made to ‘follow through’ and warn the ISI and others to keep to the National Action Plan. Almeida’s article may have been written not in order to blame the armed forces but in order to report a very much needed and welcome effort to improve the implementation of our National Action Plan in which certain elements of the civilian government were not sincere from day one.
Mistakes have been made and it should be allowed to mention them especially when they are in the process of being put right honestly. It is true that the armed forces are not beyond accountability and the COAS himself has proved that by prosecuting serving generals and officers for corruption. On the contrary, the national fabric includes both armed forces and civilians and it is damaged when one of the two is above criticism or the law. National Action Plan is an enterprise of both armed forces and civilians – the whole nation and both part should see eye to eye and accept each other including the critical points that have to be made instead of hatching conspiracies against each other that suits our enemy agenda.
—The writer is a senior columnist based in Karachi.