He said what?


“What I can say is there is a 98 per cent chance he is dead,” Interior Minister Rehman Malik said in an official statement confirming Illyas Kashmiri’s death.

Kashmiri, seen as one of the world’s most wanted militant, was reportedly killed in a drone strike earlier this week. Has nobody asked Mr. Malik the method of deducing such a percentage? Apparently the corpse and DNA report amount for the remaining 2 per cent. (Since there are way too many perils of wisdom frequently coming in from Mr Interior Minister, let’s just call them “malikisms”)

“The Corps Commanders were informed about the decision to reduce the strength of US military personnel in Pakistan to the minimum essential,” stated a press release by the ISPR three days after Bin laden was gunned down less than two kilometers away from the premier military academy.

Strength of US military personals in … Pakistan? You read that right. After years of condemnations of the drones, hue and cry over sovereignty, ISPR tells us, that too in a press release after al Qaeda’s chief gets gunned down right under their noses, that there are in fact American boots on the ground. Shock? Horror? Cries of sovereignty?

“The drones are given out as an instrument to fight terror. Yet, as we have repeatedly said these attacks constitute a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and are counter-productive,” Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani remarked during his speech in the Parliament, on the death of Osama Bin Laden. Not to forget that the speech focusing on taking the Parliament and the nation in confidence on speculations surrounding bin Laden’s death was in English. I’m not quite sure who the Prime Minster’s target audience was.

Wait..What’s that about drones and sovereignty when the ISPR just informed us that there are in fact American troops on ground in Pakistan?

“They were wearing black clothes like in Star Wars movies, one with a suicide vest….” You guessed that one. Malikism again. Interior minister Rehman Malik, in an official statement after 17-hours of gun battle at PNS Mehran, that killed 10 security personnels and destroyed two highly expensive P-3C Orion aircraft.

“The unfortunate and tragic death of Syed Saleem Shahzad is a source of concern for the entire nation but the incident should not be used to target and malign the country’s security agencies,” said an ISI official on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the job. An anonymous statement, when they should have been making public announcements condemning the allegations and disassociating themselves from the severe criticism and blame for the killing of a journalist. This statement however, is neither a condemnation nor an obituary — I assume we are just supposed to take their word for it.

“Yes, there has been an intelligence failure. It is not only ours but of all the intelligence agencies of the world,” unanimous statement, echoed from the Prime Minister to the Foreign office to the ISPR — possibly the only statement that could have made more sense had it not been spoken from a defensive fence.

The fact that American forces attacked Afghanistan and still continue to rage war while Osama rested comfortably in a compound in Abbottabad reflects inexcusable failure of intelligence on CIA’s part, but that doesn’t and shouldn’t absolve us from our own failures.

‘The whole world’ as the statement puts it, isn’t reeling from this global war on terror like we are, 180 million people suffering the consequences of decisions they had no control over. Fighting a war they had never opted for; and still being mulled over as living time bombs waiting to explode. We are but invisible victims, such are our woes.

Amid all the chaos, the shame, the grief, irresponsible, inaccurate and dubious official statements cause inconsiderable damage to global perception about Pakistan. We laugh at these statements when in fact this is no laughing matter.

These statements, so callously being passed as ‘official remarks’ after a huge security breach, they lack professionalism, show apathy towards the gravity of the issue and that there seems to be little or no concocted effort to control the messages that go out from the Pakistani authorities to the rest of the world.

Such incoherence in political discourse has deepened the void between the people and state’s institution. While we, the people, speculate on several fallacies of our institutions, we are in return met with rhetoric that is defensive, more than its honest.

The government has long been the target of criticism whether substantial or otherwise, the judicial system has also come under scrutiny and now the one institute, the untouchable, sacred cow — our military and intelligence have also met with demands of accountability. In such a point in time, rather than camouflaging our faults by national interest and security, lets just be honest for once.

But all is not lost; perhaps for starters our many spokesmen could take a lesson from Ambassador Haqqani himself:

“There will always be some senator from Idaho who will turn around and say, why did the Pakistani Prime Minister say that — not realizing that the Pakistanis are a very proud nation, very sort of cognizant and aware of their sovereignty, a nation that acquired nuclear weapons primarily to prove a point, not because anybody — there are crazies who might want to use it, but then there were crazies like that in this country, too; not because anybody does not understand the significance of nuclear weapons but because it had to do with national pride and identity and security and sovereignty. And so that is the real reason why the US-Pakistan relationship looks so complex: a lot happening together, neither side wanting to give up, but neither side being able to fully sort of announce the layers and layers of cooperation, and for that matter, areas of non-cooperation. As the great Richard Holbrooke summarized it: It’s complicated.”

While answering some tough questions regarding the recent series of event in Pakistan, Ambassador Haqqani wasn’t reluctant, inaccurate or malicious. He was articulate, poignant and honest.

I leave you with a last quote, hoping that this sense of articulation reciprocates and echoes far and wide: Our words represent us, they play a vital role in shaping public opinions, let’s manipulate them no more, lest they too, betray us.

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4 thoughts on “He said what?

  1. Sister Sana, you always produce gems one after another! I look forward to the day you author a book of your own. Will make excellent reading on both sides of Border. Our S-E Asian politicians, cutting across nationalities, party affiliations or ideologies must read this line you have written : “Our words represent us, they play a vital role in shaping public opinions, let’s manipulate them no more, lest they too, betray us.” To me that is THE punch line. It applies universally, whether in India or Pakistan. Brilliant words! Keep enlightening us with more. God Bless.

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