The thought-control exercised by the ‘deep state’ in Pakistan over not just gullible common folk but also the so-called ‘intelligentsia’ (a misnomer for most Pakistani academicians, analysts and journalists) is so overwhelming that most of them don’t even realise the tripe they parrot in their articles, papers, TV shows and, more seriously, in international conferences and global forums. But what is even more scandalous is the fact that their false and almost always self-serving arguments are never challenged by anyone. While Pakistanis unquestioningly internalise the half-truths and full lies that is fed to them by the disinformation machinery of the ‘deep state’, what is it about the non-Pakistanis that they never fact-check the bunkum that is sold to them by the Pakistanis?
Take for instance the oft-quoted figure of Pakistan having sacrificed 70,000 lives in the war on terror. The Pakistanis repeat this number ad nauseam in every available forum to convince the audience of Pakistan’s bona fides in the fight against terrorism. After all, how can a country which has paid such a heavy price ever be complicit with jihadist terror groups, or so the argument goes. The counter-argument that Pakistani casualties in the war on terror are nothing more than a blow-back of their own terrorist-friendly policies is ignored, as is the bit about how in the larger strategic calculus of the Pakistani state, 70,000 casualties is nothing more than collateral damage, mostly riff-raff and cannon fodder whose only use was that their deaths could be leveraged to seek the indulgence of the Western countries where mindless liberals, incapable of seeing through Pakistan’s unconscionably duplicitous behaviour, fell hook, line and sinker.
But the real problem with the 70,000 casualty count is that it is a number conjured up by the Pakistanis to suit their narrative of “we are victims, not villains”. If anything, this number is a gross exaggeration, and is continuously inflated to extract money, sympathy, and in recent years, acknowledgement for the ‘sacrifices’ made by Pakistan. The idea is to disarm Pakistan’s detractors and deflect any pressure that could come on Pakistan to sever its organic links with terrorist outfits. Strangely enough, no one has ever bothered to actually tabulate the actual number of casualties caused by terrorism in Pakistan. What is even more strange is that fact that even after the Ministry of Interior in Pakistan announced in August 2013 that the actual number of Pakistanis killed in terrorism in the period 2002-2013 was only 12,795, both the Pakistani media (which is understandable) and the international media (which is inexplicable) continue to quote the palpably false figure of 70,000 dead.
Amazingly enough, since 2013 – the number that was commonly bandied about in the Pakistani media at that time was 40,000 – every year, almost by default, this number goes up by about 10,000. In 2017 it has crossed 70,000. According to the former Interior Minister, however, the total casualty count till 2017 was only 26,000. But for argument’s sake, even if the 40,000 number in 2013 is accepted, it means that in the last four years, over 30,000 people have died in terrorism related incidents. In other words, while 40k died in the first 12 years, almost as many have died in the last four years. Similarly, if the 12,000 figure in 2013 is taken as more accurate, which has now doubled in the last four years, questions are bound to be asked about the efficacy of the ‘world’s most successful anti-terrorism operations ever’. After all, since 2014, Pakistanis have been boasting that they have broken the back of terrorism, haven’t they? Remember the great ‘Operation Zarb-e-Azb’ and all those much vaunted ‘intelligence based operations’, and now the latest ‘Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad’? So, then how come over 700 people have been dying every month in the last 4 years; or if we take the lower figure, the casualty count has doubled in these four years of ‘amazingly successful’ operations against the terrorists?
This means either the Pakistanis have been fighting a phoney war, or their numbers are totally spurious. The truth really is that not only are the numbers fudged, but also the claims about the successes in the war on terror are mostly phoney. As far as numbers are concerned, the Pakistanis have a legendary proclivity to arbitrarily manufacture the most incredulous data. This is so not just in the case of terror fatalities in Pakistan but also the financial losses caused by terrorism. According to the Pakistanis, the war on terror has cost them $123 billion in direct losses and opportunity costs. But clearly this is an utterly ridiculous figure which isn’t based on any facts but on conjecture and guesstimates. The reality is that on the eve of 9/11 the Pakistani economy was virtually bankrupt, and would have collapsed if it were not for the billions of dollars that poured in after 9/11. Therefore, Pakistani claims that they have lost double of what they received is nothing more than the complaint of an incorrigible ingrate. Such is the chutzpah of the Pakistanis that despite having received billions of dollars from the Americans as Coalition Support Funds (CSF), they deny this is a hand-out and claim that this is mere reimbursement for their services (incidentally they used to inflate the bills significantly before the Americans became wise to their financial fiddle). Clearly, unless Pakistan is a mercenary state (which it is), why would they seek reimbursement for fighting, as they claim, for the world? And if they were indeed getting paid for their services, then the claims of fighting to save the world fall flat on their face. Interestingly, the Pakistanis also conjure up ridiculous numbers on Kashmir, over-inflating not just the casualties in the Indian state (which in the jaundiced Pakistani brain are all caused by security forces even though the reality is that an overwhelming number of people were killed by the Pakistani terror proxies) but also the force levels maintained by the Indian state to restore law and order in the terrorism afflicted state.
Asides of the enormous fiddle played by the Pakistanis in the number game, there is also the phoney claims of combating terrorism made by the Pakistanis. While there is no denying that the Pakistanis have conducted some military operations against the ‘bad terrorists’, Pakistani claims that they fought the ‘world’s biggest anti-terror war’ or that they are fighting to save the world from terrorism, are quite over the top. These claims are blatant falsehoods because the fact is that the Pakistan army has only fought against groups that challenged the Pakistani state, not against terrorists who worked for the Pakistani state. When top Pakistani officials like Sartaj Aziz ask “why should Pakistan target those who do not pose any threat to its security?”, they effectively admit that they only act against their enemies and not against the enemies of the world. Why then should the world acknowledge any so-called sacrifice that the Pakistanis make in their own cause? A related duplicity is over the issue of ‘banned groups’ which are anything but banned because they operate openly and freely. The Pakistani justify this by saying they don’t act against these guys because they don’t harm Pakistan, which is a tacit acceptance of that they don’t take indiscriminate action against all Islamist terror groups. Some Pakistani ‘analysts’ (read retired military officials) even admit publicly that these monsters are needed as leverage against India.
Another pet Pakistani argument is that there are no terrorist safe havens inside Pakistan. This flies in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary: the finance man of Haqqani Network was killed in a suburb of Islamabad; the Taliban chief Mansoor was killed in Balochistan and his successor was elected in a Quetta suburb of Kuchlak; even the Taliban spokesman was found tweeting from Karachi. When confronted, the standard Pakistani response is “give us evidence and we will act”. When evidence is given, the terrorists are quietly spirited away. Other times, the Pakistanis say the evidence is not good enough. When pressure mounts, an eyewash action is taken. Sometimes a terrorist is arrested and even a trial staged. But guess what? The courts release the guy. At that stage the Pakistanis plead with injured innocence that there is rule of law in Pakistan and the government’s hands are bound by the courts. But when it comes to ‘bad terrorists’, without batting an eyelid due process is junked in favour of summary executions.
Another favourite Pakistani lament is that the ‘mujahideen’ were created by the Americans – a half truth that even the former secretary of state Hillary Clinton quite ignorantly endorsed even though Pakistan’s flirtation with the Afghan jihadists had preceded Soviet intervention and American involvement in Afghanistan by almost a decade – and that after the US had achieved its purpose of ousting the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the Mujahideen were abandoned and Pakistan was left alone to handle the consequences. The Pakistanis however have totally whitewashed their own sordid role in gleefully using these Islamist terrorists as instruments of foreign policy after the Americans left the region. Not only did Pakistanis use the jihadists to extend their sway over Afghanistan, they also used these guys and the terror training infrastructure in Afghanistan to train Kashmiri terrorists. In fact, the Pakistanis were so enamoured of the jihadist enterprise, that they used them to extend their own footprint globally – from Somalia to Sudan, from Kenya to Kuala Lumpur, from Bosnia to Bali, these jihadists wreaked havoc, and all the links were ultimately traced back to Pakistan. The virtual who’s who of the jihadist pantheon – Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al Zarkawi, the Bali bomber, the London Tube bomber, you name it, and the guy had a Pakistani link. But this sordid role is always brushed under the carpet.
The list of lies that Pakistanis peddle is endless, and their capacity for dissemble, deception, and double-speak is unparalleled. But the reason they get away with it is because nobody fact-checks the snake oil they sell.
By Sushant Sareen, Senior Fellow at VIF