Questioning the unquestionable…..?

by Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

First, full disclosure.

As a young subaltern in 1976 or 1977 I was a beneficiary of two plots from the DHA Karachi. One if I recall correctly was a 200 yard commercial plot and the other a 1000 yards residential plot in phase 8 for which my father paid 4 times less than the market rate (I could barely pay my mess bill and, like most subalterns, in permanent debt. Nothing much seems to have changed since 🙂

I sold the commercial plot a few years later to supplement my wedding expenses. And the residential plot also sold to help the family through some tough financial straits in the 80’s.

But in 1976 or 77 many amongst us sold these “allotment letters” called “rights” to sharp brokers who trawled the streets of Malir.  And suddenly Malir saw a slew of bright shiny Hondas and Yamaha motorcycles and many happy young campers in uniform!

It didn’t seem wrong or unfair then and perhaps not even now.

Especially for those who rose up to more senior ranks (I left as a captain) the idea of receiving plots of land as you added more stars was perfectly ok, moral, legal and part of the perks and privileges of serving in the Army and of promotion to higher rank.

Which brings us to a bigger moral question!

Can and should a powerful state institution like the Army or any other state institution arrogate to themselves the right to enrich it’s members with public land and other special privileges and benefits which are not available to others?

Especially, in the case of the Army, where it’s Chiefs took over power for nearly four decades and could and did tinker with laws to benefit the institution.

In a discussion with a former Army mate about the allotment of land to an Army Chief, rather than discussing the issue and merits of the case, he kept harking back to a simple argument that “this is an attempt to bring disrepute to the Army, tarnish it’s reputation and the work of an Indian / Jewish Lobby to weaken the only Nuclear Armed Islamic country”.

This kind of counter argument has now become a standard ploy in Pakistan in responding to questions or criticism of any action which is controversial and bordering on the illegal or the unethical.

Ask a PMLN supporter about Panama and they respond with “But Imran Khan….”

 Question the Saudi belligerence and the answer is “Iran has also….” or vice versa.

For me it was quite a stretch to connecting the allotment of state land to Army Chiefs, under a dubious 1959 Martial Law regulation with quite explicit conditions (which by the way  mean nothing in Pakistan) to weakening the “Nuclear Armed Islamic State”.

In an earlier article, when I questioned the wisdom of a former Army Chief entering the minefield of sectarian and geo political conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, a former close army buddy and a PMA platoon mate called me an “Iranian agent” and being “anti Pakistan and anti Pakistan Army” etc.  Hence now a former close friend 🙂

The simple  act of questioning entrenched interests are challenged quoting “national interest” “patriotism” “India” “Jewish lobby”and when all else fails being labelled “anti Islam”, our best fall back position.

My take on this is simple.

Every privilege or benefit to any institution or group, which appears unfair, must be brought into question. Whether it’s the Army, the Judiciary, the Politicians the administrative bureaucracy or any other privileged group or institution.

Everyone. Without fear or favor.

So any questions are good signs and omens for Pakistan. Questioning the perceived unfair actions and powers of any institution or “holy cows” are glimmers of hope.

These actions show the beginnings of a tough journey to evolve into a better, moral and more ethical state and society.

We must question more and more the previously unquestionable.

Everybody, whether in or out uniform must be questioned about what is perceived wrong and or unfair.

Panama, irrespective of the outcomes is a milestone in Pakistan’s attempt to become a more moral, transparent, accountable and most importantly a fair and equitable society.

A society where unbridled or controlled greed, corruption, loot and plunder, illegal or whether sanctioned by laws, must be questioned and institutions must answer and the imbalance corrected.

Let this piece not be construed an attack on the Army. It isn’t.

If anything its a call for institutional self reflection!

But buckle up.

It’s going to be a rough and tough ride!

Ababeel….How many more?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

The successful testing of our latest missile, Ababeel is certainly a great engineering feat and a masterly display of our technological expertise and brilliance.

For that, our sincere felicitations to all those who contributed to its success and especially to a close friend who suggested the name for it’s profound symbolism.

On the other hand, one is also torn between this sense of pride and the need and wisdom of adding another weapon of incredible destructive power to our already formidable arsenal.

From what I know, we have 150 to 200 nuclear warheads. We have over 8 different types of delivery systems to launch these nuclear weapons.  This includes one which gives us 2nd strike capability firing from a submarine.

Which basically means that once someone has flattened your land mass and killed 10’s if not 100’s of millions “believers”, a tiny group in a submarine, deep beneath the ocean will unleash a barrage of similar nuclear destruction to flatten the enemy’s land mass and kill their “heathen” millions.

Which also then makes me wonder, after this is all over, where on earth will these submarine wallahs go to receive their medals?

Clearly we have enough deterrent power to stop our neighbor or other enemies from launching an attack. And we don’t need more.

Chahay wo 2nd strike, ya 3rd strike, ya Hat Trick ya all out, ya kuch aur. (Whether its a 2nd Strike or a 3rd Strike or a hat trick or whatever!)

Bottom line. We would all be roasted in this great big grand barbecue! Which will be another first for us. The biggest barbecue in the world, jointly hosted with our enemies.

That’s why it’s called MAD. Mutually Assured Destruction. MAD really means, curtains for everybody

Hence we need to review our priorities about how we spend our extremely limited resources. And its not rocket science.

We need better education,  better healthcare, better law and order enforcement, better governance, more jobs for our youth, better care for our elderly, much higher levels of economic and social growth for our people.

We certainly dont need more missiles, spending, God only knows how much on these “toys”.

We take so much pride with puffed up chests, in being one of 5 or 6 countries in the world, having achieved this level of missile expertise, while 150 million souls in this land of the “Pure” barely get one decent meal, if at all. Where patients die like flies in our hospitals. Where schools exist only on paper. Where criminals and terrorists roam free. Where voices are hushed.  Where unscrupulous people hijack the state and all its institutions taking advantage of our mass ignorance.

And look at India. Nearly a billion people in abject poverty, permanent bondage to a system which outcasts them and makes them untouchables.  An India which is the global garbage dump, of human misery and exploitation.

This is a totally messed up and screwed up system. It is madness.

My apologies if I’ve offended some sensibilities and sensitivities or someone’s sense of patriotism.

Certainly my patriotism isn’t enhanced by adding another toy, when we are at the bottom of the dog pile in all our social indicators.

The day our green passport is looked at with dignity not because we are a nuclear state but because we are a nation where people’s lives are safe and secure. Where equal opportunities of education, healthcare and access to employment are available to all, rich and poor, without discrimination or favour. Where we can live and walk and go about our lives without fear of life, hearth and home. Where the rich and the powerful criminals can be held accountable.  This gives us pride.

I think this terrible arms race is totally senseless, completely useless and a total waste.

One would much rather these same scientists and engineers work on technologies and products which help us fight our greatest enemy. Poverty.

Poverty which leads to ignorance, which leads to intolerance which leads to violence and ultimately to terrorism.

*Remember our biggest enemy lies within us and its called an empty stomach*.

An empty stomach plus an empty mind and a life without hope, is your best recruiting poster for a terrorist.

 No Babar or Ghaznavi or Ababeel can destroy that. Only social and economic well being can!

On The Donald….

On The Donald.
By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

Don’t under estimate the guy!

He’s the ultimate pragmatist with ZERO ethics and morality and just bordering on the legal. And the ultimate deal maker.

His mantra. Okay here’s what I can do for you ….what can you do for me? And he will use this approach in his Presidency to try and get the best deal for the USA.

All his current posturing on contentious issues is to set the stage for negotiations. His two books “Art of the Deal” and “Think Big” gives us an uncanny insight into his mind. Its just pure business. Winning. Hard negotiations. Get the best deal.

For example repealing or threatening to repeal Obamacare is to get the best deal from the Healthcare Industry and also keep them happy. The Wall with Mexico, to renegotiate a better trade deal.

Threatening Iran, so that Iran buys US goods and as some say, especially change the 700 Airbus order to Boeing. Etc etc. And also keep Saudi and UAE as its largest arms buyer

Whether he succeeds or fails is another question but he’s a hands on guy, who has played slugfest in the dark and dirty real world alleys of American business. And of course an unsavory character. But m
uch as one finds him personally obnoxious and highly unlikeable, he’s what is called a “fixer and a deal-maker”. 

The ultimate American carpetbagger. And interestingly, detests traditional politicians and loves military leaders and corporate CEO’S. 

So finally America has a leader as close to a large segment of that society. Souless. Unethical. Immoral. No holds barred winning. Ruthless. Unbridled greed. And completely self centered.

In my view, the USA never was and never will be an ethical and moral society, as it so pretends to be.  Hence I’ve stopped thinking and commenting on that aspect of their society. Shooting stars like Jimmy Carter or Obama, are exceptions. Intellectuals like Chomsky, rare. Visible, but totally ineffective to change a society so driven by selfish greed and short-term economic gains. After 8 years, a guy like Obama walks away empty handed.

The USA are simply 21st Century Spanish Conquistadors, looting and plundering the wealth of other lands, disguised under labels of “human rights” “democracy” “our way of life” etc And where it suits their economic interests, supporting and bedding with dictatorial regimes such as the Middle East monarchies, especially Saudi Arabia. 

And so finally they get a President who is the plain unvarnished proverbial “Ugly American”

To understand their policies one needs to understand how the 3 big Industry sectors in the USA. Defence, Financial Services and Healthcare will be impacted. These three drive the USA economic agenda and all their internal and external policies.

Being a pragmatist Trump will keep these three big lobbies happy. Healthcare and get the best deal from them. Likewise Financial Services. But, it’s unclear, how he will keep the defence Industry happy. USA’s biggest bulldog in the ring. Especially because the country has had a near permanent and booming defence industry and war economy since 1941.

2nd World War. Korean War. Vietnam War. Afghanistan. Kuwait. Iraq. Afghanistan. Syria. Iraq.

So let’s see what deal he makes with them. Because for all his bluster, he doesn’t appear to be a war monger

Even Professor Obama couldn’t do much against the Big Three.
On the contrary the Financial Services Industry got their biggest bailout from him. The reason Obamacare will morph into ‘Trump’s New Deal” is because he went against this massive powerhouse of Healthcare. Obama did go for the Afghanistan surge which did serve the interests of the defence industry in his first term but he never opened another front, Syria being one, in nothing his second term, partly because he didn’t want to and partly because he didn’t have to with no re election issues.

Part of the reasons behind Hillary defeat was, in my opinion, the lack of support by the big 3, because she would have have continued with Obama’s plans.

On Pakistan. Here’s my gut feeling.

He’s going to ask us. Okay you guys. I’ll fix Kashmir for you with India? What will you give me in return? And even Afghanistan?

So we better be ready with our asks and answers.

So like I said earlier, don’t under estimate this guy. He may surprise many despite being a really unsavory character!

Just a perspective!

Stark choices for Pakistan- CPEC Regional engagement or Saudi Military Coalition?

  Stark choices for Pakistan- CPEC Regional engagement or Saudi Military Coalition?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

With due respect to those actively advocating joining the Saudi military coalition as a golden opportunity for Muslim Unity etc and lauding Gen. Raheel’s possible candidature as its head, here’s my perspective

Those who haven’t learned from history and current Geo political realities are doomed to repeat it. An oft repeated refrain from my dear late father  when his Geo political analysis was questioned, especially when he was fairly sure of his conclusions. When not, he would read, research, seek out the experts in that area, ask questions and patiently listen. Something I try and emulate.

Read history, he would say, understand conflict and friendship between nations, then look at the map and things will be as clear as day!

While Muslim unity is a laudable objective, it requires the two main protagonists, Saudi Arabia and Iran to hug and kiss. Unfortunately, history and current Geo politics tell a very different story.

The Muslim Middle East, especially, is embroiled in serious conflict going back nearly four decades. Ranging from serious political and diplomatic rivalries to outright military confrontation.

Here’s a small extract of these conflicts between the countries.

Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Iran and Bahrain.
Iran and UAE.
Iran and Kuwait.
Iran and Egypt
Iran and Jordan.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt and Turkey.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Qatar and Saudi Arabia
Iraq and Saudi Arabia.
Syria and Saudi Arabia.
Syria and Turkey.
Syria and Egypt.
Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Pakistan and Iran.
UAE and Syria.
UAE and Iraq.

And Israel and India, two happy campers, taking advantage of these conflicts, have established strong ties with key players. Israel with Saudi Arabia and UAE. India with Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Their targets. India and Israel want to weaken Pakistan and defang it’s nuclear program. Israel and Saudi Arabia want the downfall of Iran.

One can go on and on. But the conclusions are simple.

Achieving Muslim unity requires a complete change of mindset of all parties, a magnanimous forgiveness of past wrongs, real or perceived. An alignment of common economic interests like the EU, as well as common Geo political interests.  But most seriously, is getting past the nearly four decades of violent military conflict. It is only then that these nations will commit to long term and sustainable joint military collaboration.

However, given the current environment this is as impossible as Nawaz Sharif publicly announcing his guilt in the Panama Case, expressing deep remorse, apologizing to the nation and asking for punishment for self and cronies.

But back to our main issue.

For Saudi Arabia, the dominant fear was and still is the fear of the overthrow of the ruling Al Saud ruling monarchy. If not for the average Saudi, it is certainly true for the Royal family.

Al Saud survival overtakes everything else in Saudi Arabia. It is this fear which forced them to align with Al Qaeda in Yemen and in Syria, financing and funding them. This is the very group whose stated aim was and still is the ouster of the AL Saud. And this fear which, now not surprisingly, has also forced the Saudis, to reach out to once their biggest foe and arch enemy, Israel and make common cause against their common enemy and arch foe, Iran.

And it this existential fear of dynastic death which drives the Al Saud’s primary goal of overthrowing the current Iranian ruling clergy and any Iranian allies.

And that is why Syria faced the massive brunt of Saudi financed Al Qaeda terrorist groups, Fatah AL Shaam, Jaish Al Islam, Jaish Al Fatah and the erstwhile AL Nusra and indirectly DAESH.

Of course Iran is much to blame for this, as is Saudi Arabia.

Soon after the Iranian Islamic Revolution, in 1979, Iran went into overdrive and started a massive Shia Islam propagation in the neighborhood targeting Shias across the Region. Shia majority Northern Afghanistan, Shia majority Bahrain, Shia majority Eastern Saudi Arabia, Shias in Lebanon, Pakistan and many other countries. They received highly emotive, sectarian biased religious indoctrination and resulted in a massive response of Sunni indoctrination by Saudi Arabia across the Islamic world of their version of Islam.

But their biggest fear was a “copy cat” Islamic revolution in Saudi Arabia by radical Sunni groups, similar to the one that overthrew the Iranian monarchy of Reza Shah Pahlavi in February 1979. These radical extremist Sunni groups, especially in Saudi Arabia, had been radicalized by several factors. First was the US presence in Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden’s casus belli to fight against his own government. The second was Islamic Jihad in Afghanistan against the Soviets, and finally and strangely, efforts by the Saudi state itself, which backfired.

This Al Saud fear, changed to near insanity when in November 1979, a group of radical Saudi militants took over the Kaaba. Their stated aim?  Exactly what the ruling Al Saud family feared. Their overthrow, and the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate in Saudi Arabia. The event, to quote a French diplomat “was the proverbial hangman’s noose for the Al Saud”

So the AL Saud ruling family initiated several major strategic policies.

The first was to actively create a violent and extreme narrative of Jihadist Islam, within the country to show to the Saudi public that the ruling family was very “Islamic” and “Jihadist”.  School and University curriculum now actively and openly advocated Jihad. This backfired with tens if not hundreds of thousands of Saudi youth being indoctrinated by the harsh and exclusivist and violent theology of Wahabiism, as were Muslims across the entire globe.

Then was the financing of the Afghan Jihad against the USSR, in partnership with USA and Pakistan. Close to 25,000 Saudis went to Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight the Soviets. These Saudis and others, subsequently fought the  Shia Northern Alliance of Afghanistan, supported and financed by Iran in the genocidal Afghan Civil War from 1994 to 2001after the Russian withdrawal and the fall of the Communist Afghan regime.

Then in an attempt to overthrow the nascent and fledgling Iranian clergy regime, on its early days,  they launched a full scale proxy war against them via Saddam and a 37$ billion war chest. A fruitless war that lasted 9 years from 1980 to 1989. Over a million causalities and no winner.

Finally they ensured Iran’s isolation by raising the fear of Iran’s nuclear program with the USA and EU, resulting in crippling economic sanctions. Consequently Iran, found itself isolated and very few allies in the Region.  Pakistan, formerly a friend and its eastern neighbor, was now part of the USA/ Saudi camp. Afghanistan was divided. Iraq was still an enemy under Saddam. The GCC states, except Oman, were also enemies. So was Hosni’s Egypt. Only Syria still remained a friend.

And that’s where India stepped in and provided economic support to Iran, ignoring sanctions and buying Iranian oil.

A senior army general once asked me, the causes behind Iran’s move towards India, despite being a Muslim country and at one time a great friend.

A starving beggar doesn’t question who gives them food, I said. Iran was on its knees, economically crippled, and fighting an existential battle for survival. They reached out to us many times for help, but we were by now firmly allied to the USA and Saudi Arabia, and declined their overtures. Its a sad commentary about a country which till 1994, was the only country in the world, other than China, who supported our Kashmir cause on all International forums, and sadly was now closer to our arch enemy, India and even signed a defence pact with them.

Hence it is fairly easy to comprehend the prime causes behind Saudi/Iranian rivalry and understand the deep involvement of both countries in the Syrian civil war. Iran to ensure its major ally does not fall. Saudi Arabia to bring down this Iranian ally.

Analysts have called these efforts by Saudi Arabia as trying to “break the so called Shia crescent stretching from Iran, Iraq, Syria to Lebanon”.

A classic mix of religion, sectarianism and Geo politics at its best.

Iran fought back by supporting all anti Saudi groups in the Region to overthrow the Saudi monarch or their allies. An easy target was to instigate the Shia majority in Bahrain and the Shia majority in oil rich eastern Saudi Arabia. The Houthis in Yemen, now fighting AL QAEDA in Yemen were also willing partners.

In Pakistan this proxy war has destroyed and killed thousands. Mostly Shias. Doctors. Lawyers. Engineers. Professionals. Innocent and tragic statistics in this insane war. Shias are now a beleaguered scared minority.

 Consequently extremist sectarian Sunni outfits mushroomed. Sipah e Sahaba, Lashkar e Jhangvi, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat. Jihadi outfits such as Jaish e Mohammad in the employ of the deep state also acquired strong sectarian biases. So when their day job was over, they would happily go around killing Shias. The TTP while fighting the Pakistani State and heavily infiltrated by the Indians and the USA also went about targeting Shias. All these were and still are, very serious attempts to destabilize Pakistan through armed sectarian conflict and civil war.

So terribly has this schism divided Pakistan and destroyed rationality and sanity that even its Interior Minister, states that ” sectarian terrorist outfits should not be classified in the same way as other terrorist groups”.

It has been and still is a fight to the death for both Iran and Saudi Arabia with sectarianism defining who is allied to who.

Hence that is why, in my opinion, the military coalition of Muslim States, especially one lead by one of the two main countries at war, Saudi Arabia is a non starter. It is juvenile to think that these two, at each others throats, will become a part of the same coalition.Those who think so, don’t know their history or their geography or their regional politics.

Or know it and have an agenda!

Only with shared common, economic and political interests can this journey begin. And this is where CPEC can become the real game changer, not just for Pakistan but the entire Region.

The solution is simple, its execution more complex but not impossible.  Money makes the mare go.  Pakistan has to create and allow EAST WEST trade linkages into CPEC, in addition to the NORTH SOUTH route.

This means bringing the many regional countries into the fold by linking their roads and other communication infrastructure to feed into the main CPEC artery.

Gwador and Chabahar and Jebel Ali free port can all be part of this network, each serving markets which they serve best. Rather than competing,  these ports and other trade linkages and roads will complement and enhance the economic and trade volumes of many countries such as

Sri Lanka.
Saudi Arabia.

By tying the economic interests of these countries through trade via CPEC, especially our immediate neighbors, Iran, India, Afghanistan, will current enemies be more favorably inclined towards Pakistan to preserve their own economic interests.

Therefore it is critical that we first set our own house in order and not get involved in any highly polarized military coalition pipe dream. A coalition unlikely to see the light of day, or even if it does, will just be a Saudi force, with a sprinkling from UAE, as it is now.

Internally we must eradicate the twin terrors of sectarian terrorists and Jihadi outfits, many, allegedly, still in the employ of the deep state as silent and unofficial  instruments of state policy.

This is a policy  which has failed to deliver on any account.

Externally It has targeted us as a state sponsoring terrorism. Internally It has widened and deepened sectarian and religious fissures.

We must finish off these demon. We have to, if we want a prosperous, peaceful, stable Pakistan.

Otherwise, be ready for a violent sectarian civil war which will engulf Pakistan. And even the Pakistan Army, always our last bastion of hope,  will be unable to stop it.

Therefore, before this madness takes over we have to fix governance and all our institutions. Create employment for our youth. Provide healthcare, safety and security of property and life. Radically reform our law and order and our judicial system and entire infrastructure.

We must root out the cancer of widespread corruption, especially at the top.  Especially  in our politics, governance, military, police and judiciary. We must hold leaders accountable and punish them with exemplary punishments. Panama is a huge opportunity.

We have to conduct systemic and major electoral and administrative reforms to allow honest and competent people to acquire leadership roles in politics and governance

These are and should be our priorities.

Externally, its setting our immediate neighborhood in order. India, Afghanistan and Iran to start with.

CPEC is a God send. We must leverage it’s full potential.

So the conclusion is that, for now, Muslim Unity is a very tall order. A very very tall order.

Hence let’s park this Saudi lead controversial coalition on the side.

As far as Gen. Raheel is concerned.

He has to make his own personal decision, evaluating it’s pros and cons. Much has been said on this issue and he has much to mull over.  So let us leave it him to decide what he wants to do.

But for Pakistan, we have a clear objective of engaging other countries and CPEC and need a team of seasoned diplomats to be tasked in moving this forward as our CPEC Ambassadors.

My personal choices. Sherry Rehman, Mushahid Hussain, Hina Rabbani Khar,  Dr. Maleeha Lodhi and others

Hence clearly. CPEC and not Saudi Coalition.

Let’s fix our house first!

Saudi anti terror alliance and Gen. Raheel Sharif. Pipe dream or positive reality?

Saudi Alliance – Gen. Raheel.
Pipe dream or positive reality?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

Our loyalties lie with the Nation and it’s institutions.

The hallmark of objective perspectives is to look at decisions and actions and see beyond individuals.

Many amongst us have a deeper understanding of our institutional ethos, the sanctity of the office of the Army Chief, especially the issue of re employment of an ex Army Chief, after retirement, than others.

Gen. Musharraf’s talks for which he was paid, and his paid for book, and Gen. Karamat’s re employment as Ambassador, didn’t go down well with the institution.

As a former Army Chief said.  The Army looks after us really well and there is no job bigger than this. Re-employment within and especially outside Pakistan is therefore, a big no.

We should play golf, and if asked, advise the government and the institution, and that too without compensation.

Because our role and the impact of our actions is so visible and always under scrutiny, we cannot afford to involve ourselves in anything controversial. Especially something which has national and international repercussions.

Once our job is done we must retire gracefully and not meddle in national or regional geo politics.

Let those responsible, and in positions of power,  now pick up the baton and address the problems and deal with them.  Otherwise we are creating complication for them, for Pakistan and it’s Army. End quote.

Our national fissures and regional geo politics and power struggles are huge. And therefore Its important to keep all this in context before we let our personal emotions about an individual, however popular and likeable, color our analysis and hence our conclusions.

It is important to look at the objective reality through the prism of Pakistani National interests and that of our Army, before we cast aspersions on others and calling critical commentaries, such as this and others as a “Jewish” or “Iranian” conspiracy to destroy the Pakistan Army under the guise of objective analysis.

I may have been harsh in my commentary, but it was done deliberately so,  because of the enormity of potential consequences for us as a nation and for the precedent set for the institution of the Army.

Anybody with a most basic understanding of the culture of the Pakistan Army and of our current complex regional geo politics has not approved or would ever approve of an alleged decision of a former Army chief to head a Muslim military coalition.

Of course we still don’t know if the decision has been made. So all this is subject to that fact.

Emotionalism and pipe dreams of Muslim Ummah unity and Shia Sunni bonhomie aside. The reality is painful, sad and tragically fraught with serious consequences.

No one disagrees with genuine attempts at forging Muslim Unity or creating a Pan Muslim force. But unfortunatelyhistorical realities and precedents indicate that this attempt will also fail. However we cannot deny people the right to dream a wonderful dream.

Any Pan National organization, Muslim or non Muslim, only survives as long they have common aligned economic and geo political interests, which are closely tied to each nations  national interests. And these are also not permanent and change.

Today even a cursory look at the major players indicates no alignment but major existential conflicts. Super powers couldn’t bring unity. A common religion couldn’t bring unity. Pan Arabism couldn’t align Arab states.

Therefore the conclusion is simple. Nothing else ties nations, or groups together. No religion.  No dogma. No central strong power holds nations together but only and only self centered, selfish interest.

In recent times, the USSR is the biggest example of the failure of a powerful central force trying to keep countries together tied by the bond of communism. That dream now lies in tatters.

But of course we can argue for and or against any issue, equally logically. Only time will tell the outcomes.

I’m sure all the great powers who entered Afghanistan after great war gaming and intellectual analysis did so because they thought this was the best decision, when all historical factors and the prevailing environment and geo political realities said to the contrary.

So we’re not alone in our pipe dreams.  One doesn’t have to say, wait and see.

It’s there to see for all and sundry.

If we haven’t been able to forge Muslim Unity in 1400 years, what  will change so dramatically now?

Principles of War and Geo Politics are as fundamental as those of the sciences.

Ignore them at your peril!

Gen. Raheel Sharif and the Saudi Arabian Military Advisor role!

On the news that Gen. Raheel Sharif may accept a military advisor role in the Saudi sponsored so called anti terror coalition.

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

I hope the news isn’t true. If it is, then possibly this one of the most ill thought through decisions that Gen. Raheel has taken in his entire career.

For several reasons.

One. He must understand that he’s no Guderian or Rommel or Manstein. And he was able to deliver in Pakistan as a consequence of the brilliant well oiled machine called the Pakistan Army and it’s superior General Staff.

Two. While he must be credited with the decision to launch Zarb e Azb, it was the strategic and professional brilliance of Lt. Gen Ishfaq Nadeem his first CGS who masterminded and planned and executed all those brilliant successes which we lay at Raheel’s feet. The Raheel of the Ishfaq Nadeem CGS period vs the Raheel of the Zubair CGS period are two very different Raheel’s.

 The former in command and control with successes in the war against terror and Karachi and the move against corruption within the Army. The latter Raheel, adrift, with Nawaz running rings around him, as I had warned in one of my earlier articles.

Let us also not forget the tremendous work done by Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani in this war against terror and the battles fought in SWAT and BAJAUR by the likes of Lt. Gen Tariq and others much before Raheel took over.

While I don’t have first hand knowledge but many people who I spoke to and were close to the high command also credit Lt. Gen. Tariq Khan for his very critical, strategic and operational inputs in the planning and execution of Zarb e Azb.

Gen. Kayani’s military successes and brilliant strategic planning in cleansing 6 of the 7 FATA regions, except North Waziristan, have unfortunately been overshadowed by other events.

Or as one recently retired 3 star, a person of unimpeacable integrity, said “Exaggerated reporting of non-events”.

Gen. Kayani’s deserves much more credit than he gets and hopefully with time his true contributions will be acknowledged and the unfortunate shadows on his name, cleared, if that be the truth.

All the above is to illustrate that our military successes were the result of great minds coming together. And Raheel being Chief deserves all praise for taking the final decision.

Three and most importantly he cannot be seen to be siding with Saudi Arabia in its battle for Regional hegemony against Iran and clearly divided on sectarian grounds.  For that is exactly what the Saudi sponsored so called anti terror coalition is. It’s a hugely divisive issue across the Muslim world and especially in Pakistan. Also irrespective of the sectarian contours, a very large segment of Pakistani society squarely blame Saudi Arabia as the prime mover behind Pakistan’s terrible journey of terror.

How can he in his right mind, therefore,  support a country, Saudi Arabia which has been the prime source of terrorism not just in Pakistan,  the Muslim world but the entire globe?

A country that has directly and indirectly financed and equipped Daesh, Al Qaeda and their proxies in Syria and Iraq in its battle against Assad and Iran.

A country that has bombed a poor impoverished fellow country, Yemen, to the stone age, killing tens of thousands of innocent people, women and children.

Finally, the Saudis will use him and discard him like tissue paper, leaving him without honour and reputation which he has so painstakingly built up in Pakistan.

And Nawaz Sharif wringing his hands in glee having cut down to size a larger than life figure.

Some people have equated taking up this assignment as being similar to a business consultant like myself making their services available to whoever can pay the price.

Here’s how I see this

Military consulting as one could call it, also goes by another name,  “A Mercenary for hire”.

This is a soldier of fortune who will go and fight for anybody who pays him the right price

Raheel is not a mercenary but will be if he takes up this assignment, despite what he has done for Pakistan.  Which was his duty, by the way!

Our Army has never had in its entire history a former Army chief, selling his services to another country, irrespective of objective.

The only formal process is where we offer our services under the UN flag.

That’s principle number one.

Of course we have had occasions where senior officers have been employed by foreign governments.

Recently we had Gen. Pasha being employed by UAE. This was and is frowned upon and not liked.

In earlier days NO RETIRED ARMY OFFICER could be employed by a foreign government under the rules, unless expressly approved by the Army Chief and the President of Pakistan.  This may have changed.

Of course we sent military contingents and or advisers, all in service and in uniform to other countries such as Saudi Arabia, UAE, Jordan, Zimbabwe etc under a government to government formal agreement.

But never retired Pakistan Army Chiefs up for sale! And that too negotiating his assignment while in office. What’s depths have we fallen to?

It’s like Malik Riaz was the Chief!

The second thing is that this so called Saudi anti terror coalition is nothing but a front created by Saudi Arabia to legitimize their proxy war and battle with Iran, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon and Yemen.

It is really strange that all these five countries, who are in the forefront in fighting DAESH and ALQAEDA are the only five countries not included in this so called  coalition?

Lest we forget, Raheel will join a coalition, which Pakistan refused to join based on a Parliamentary vote.

 So while I laud everyone’s love for Raheel, which I also have and I also consider him a national hero, but I will always call a spade a spade.

And in this case the Emperor is not wearing any clothes!

And yes in many ways, all those who ‘sell” their services to other countries, including me, are also mercenaries of sorts.

Because we also sell our services to the highest bidder. Money being the only criteria.

And hence we are no different to those wonderful people of the “oldest profession”!

But this doesn’t make us being either a mercenary, or a member of the oldest profession, a nice thing!

Raheel you played a good innings and the nation is forever indebted to you for Zarb e Azb. This is not to take away your tremendous leadership and clarity of command.

You took a bold decision and you are our National hero!

One wished you had thrown that evil woman Maryam Safdar behind bars for leaking the Cyril Almeida story with the full connivance of her father Nawaz Sharif to the Press and bring public disrepute to the Pakistan Army.

One would have hoped that you had used the Rangers in Punjab, much the same way as you did in SIND.  One would have hoped that you had somehow evicted these leeches Nawaz Sharif and Zardari from their stranglehold over Pakistan for a better and brighter future for all of us.

One would have hoped much more but we understand you couldn’t.

You did what you could and we are grateful to you and the Army for that!

But for God’s sake.

For your own sake and for Pakistan and  for the sake of this army which has given you so much honour and respect do not take this stupid and foolhardy decision to go and work like a mercenary for a country and a ruling family whose hands have the blood of millions of innocent people.

You and all Pakistanis will always be “Miskeen” running to them with our tails between our legs when they throw money at us. And I’m sure they’ve thrown plenty.

But, Raheel we all know you are a person of unimpeachable integrity and honour. There have been unconfirmed reports of your donation to a Shuhada Foundation. If true, clearly you don’t néed the money nor the prestige.

 What more prestige can you ask for over and above than being the Chief of this great Army?

I smell a great conspiracy to besmirch your hard earned reputation and that of this Army through this “money trap”.

Beware the evil plans of Nawaz Sharif. Nothing is beyond him in his desire for total control. Including using his Arab “friends” as he did in the infamous Qatari letters in Panama.

Nawaz Sharif is capable of anything.

If as some say; he can get the Indians to start firing across the LOC when he’s in trouble, he can go to any limits to destroy this Army and bring it to heel and use Saudi Arabia to do his dirty work.

So please for the sake of your honour, dignity and self respect and do not accept this “money trap”!

You owe it to your country, to your Army to your family and to yourself!


This is postscript to my piece on Raheel’s role as Military Advisor or Commander in Saudi Arabia.

It appears and from what one hears, Raheel may be finally accepting the role, after all. Or perhaps has already accepted.

Perhaps he has reasons and or compulsions that we don’t know and clearly he thinks its the right thing to do.

And also, for a person like him, money is not the lure.

He may have a vision of playing a greater role for the Muslim commonwealth, perhaps in uniting them and save them from destroying each other, as they are doing in Yemen, Iraq and Syria and other sectarian conflict environments like Pakistan.

So, unfortunately, if he has decided to go and take up the offer, and the proverbial die is cast, here are some suggestions for him to make an impact. Or make an honourable face saving exit, if the Saudis don’t agree

Leverage your role Raheel, and your stature and your equity.

Rather than take on the role of a military commander or advisor, use your equity with the Saudis to engage the OIC and under the aegis of the OIC,  take on the task of “Special Ambassador of Unity” or some such title.

This will then convey to main belligerents within the Muslim world that you are apolitical and not aligned to one group, such as Saudi Arabia.

The first objective of this role should be to bring the two major warring parties, Saudi Arabia and Iran to the conversation table.

Negotiations will come later.  They must come together first to start conversations.

You should become the major interlocutor, facilitator, prime mover between the two countries and have them start negotiations to agree on some key common denominators and end this terrible proxy war which is destroying the Muslim world.

Chiefly, here are five things OR objectives you can set for yourself.

1. Everyone to agree that DAESH and AL Qaeda and their proxies such as Fatha Al Shaam are the common enemy.

2. Iran will not attempt, directly or indirectly, to destabilize or attack the Saudi monarchy and other Gulf monarchies.

3. Saudi Arabia will withdraw all direct and indirect, support to Al Qaeda and their proxies in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.

4. Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries and Iran will stop funding and financing Sunni and Shia sectarian outfits in other countries. This includes clamping down on funding by non government groups and citizena and residents of these countries.

5. The creation of a NATO type, military alliance, under the OIC, and not Saudi Arabia, to fight the war on terror against, Daesh, Al Qaeda and their proxies.  This alliance must include Iran, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, the only five countries actively fighting Daesh and Al Qaeda.  Raheel, you can then head this body, staffed by outstanding planners from member countries, including Pakistan. Especially senior Field Commanders and General Staff planners from Pakistan ( e.g Ishfaq Nadeem, Tariq Khan) as well as others from Iran, Iraq and Syria, and other countries who have the greatest experience in fighting DAESH and AL Qaeda. Another major goal should be to have a united policy approach towards the USA, Russia, China and the EU

Raheel, you have taken on a huge task. Controversial no doubt and complex.

Please remember, you will be judged, not by what you say about your intentions or what your well wishers say, but what history says about you and what you were able to accomplish or not accomplish.

Your success will be conditional to being seen as an independant leader, and not in the pay of one country or the other.

Please also remember, that the Pakistan Army is perhaps the finest fighting force, certainly amongst the Muslim countries. And it has the huge added force multiplier of its nuclear capability and missile delivery systems.

It is the biggest bulwark against the enemies of Pakistan and in many ways, the enemies of other Muslim countries.

The enemies of Pakistan are making and will continue to make every effort to cut down and destroy this Army, its leadership and its soldiery, with very willing partners in crime within our own country.

The Quislings of Pakistan.

And we all know who these people are and how they want to bring this great Army to its knees.

Nawaz Sharif, tops this list!

So, whatever you do, remember, it will have huge repercussions, both good and or bad.

Tread carefully, my friend. History’s judgement awaits you!

Your legacy will be written by your final acts.

Either a De Gaulle or a Petain.