*Why are poor people poor ?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Why are poor people poor ? What efforts have they done to get out of their poverty is what I ask them when I meet them!*

This question, a trifle misguided and patronising by a well wisher on Facebook, prompted the following!

Friend! That’s a pretty tough question and if I may say rather patronizing and perhaps even cruel.

I’m not sure if you’ve experienced real and abject poverty.

Neither have I.

But I’ve been bankrupt twice. Had occasions when I couldn’t even buy a loaf of bread or even my $1.79 Tim Hortons Medium black. Or pay rent on time. Or put gas in the Car. Or pay bills on time.

But never the debilitating phenomenon of abject poverty.

The kind where there is no hope, no support, no money, just an endless cycle of hunger and a desperate battle to simply exist and get through the day. No friends or family to help. No skills and experience. No education.

Just a life of total exploitation and misery.  And unbelievable financial debt. A life that eventually results in crime, drugs and male and female prostitution. And in some cases. Suicide!

So while your question may have value in some situations,  in most cases the terrible destructive and  corrosive effects of poverty destroy everything.

Mind, body, soul.

So we must be cautious when we ask such a question from the poverty stricken!

I can only talk from my limited experience of running a self funded micro finance poverty alleviation project over a two year period, several years ago.

The vast majority are poor because of an unfair, inequitable highly exploitative system as exists in countries like Pakistan and India. Results of terrible governance, corruption, centuries old embedded caste, class, religious, cultural and ethnic biases and prejudices.

My battle against Nawaz Sharif is not political but more social because of their exploitation, corruption and accumulation of wealth with the very few.

They deprive people not just of their rights to healthcare,  education, employment, security etc. But even their last bastion of survival. Hope!

The most marginalized, I discovered, usually belonged to either a minority segment or leftovers ftom the Hindu Caste system.

It’s important to first get them out of the utter despair and hopelessness that completely envelopes their entire day to day existence by giving them some financial space.

It is only then, that the journey to leverage their existing marketable skills or build new ones, begins.

Through tools, assets, training, a lot of tolerance and a lot of patience and a very thick skin.

Even more crucial is to support and systain this journey.

It’s a tough journey.

Not a one day lecture or patronising advice, emanating from our own life paradigms, complete irrelevant and Greek to them.

But only through sustained effort over months, till their income generating engine starts.

A word of caution. Avoid getting enmeshed in value based judgements of character, ethics and morality when one works with the most at risk segments.

Values are the privilege that comes with a full stomach and a ray of hope.

As Imam Ali said, the biggest enemy of human character is poverty.

So hold judgement.

Trust this helps.

Gen.Raheel Sharif, President Trump and Pakistan’s humiliation in Riyadh

 By Haider Mehdi.

In an indirect way, Gen. Raheel, by becoming an employee of Mohammed Bin Salman and the Al Saud, has further reinforced the Saudis traditional view of Pakistan and Pakistanis.

To them we were always hired hands, inferior people, slaves, laborers and beggars. Always, “Miskeen”.

Saudi men were till recently, forbidden to marry Pakistani women!

Boasted the Saudi Prince AL Waleed Bin Talal that, our current PM Nawaz Sharif, “is our man in Pakistan”.

But never had they captured a prize trophy, as important as that of the Head of Pakistan’s iconic and arguably, most respected institution, the Pakistan Army.

Even during Gen. Zia’s days with our military contingents in Saudi Arabia, the relationship was one of respect. In fact Gen. Zia rejected outright and bluntly a Saudi request to only send Sunni troops and officers.

But then in 2017, we had the great honour of a former Army Chief joining the long ranks of employees of the House of Al Saud!

Thanks to some  brilliant behind the scene machinations, by PM Nawaz Sharif the Saudis succeeded in finally roping in someone, who to most Pakistanis and Army rank and file, and to some still is, a near godlike figure.  Perhaps our most popular and beloved Army Chief ever.Gen. Raheel Sharif!

But then, as it turned out, the good general was made an “offer he couldnt refuse”  and putting everything at stake, joined the Saudis, happily under the illusion of becoming the Commander in Chief of a non existent, paper based, Muslim Military alliance against terrorism. But in actual fact a Saudi ploy to attract Pakistani support in their fight against Iran.

Raheel’s decision and actions were driven by, and I say this with a lot of pain, personal interests, an overblown ego and, in my opinion, insensitivity to the self respect and honour of being a former Army Chief, the honour and self respect of the Pakistan Army, and most importantly, the honour and respect of the Country.

There were certainly no geo political considerations and or long term Pakistani national interests. Geo politics change. National interest doesn’t.

To the Saudis, he is in the category of their many other highly paid emoyees of different nationalities, and no more.

He has joined a non existent coalition, only in name and only to counter the common enemy of USA, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Iran. Not terrorism.

And we heard an earful on the subject from The Trumpeter at the “Muslim Ummah Big Bash Summit”

It is surprising that Gen. Raheel couldn’t forsee the impact and consequences of his personal decision on Pakistan, regional geo politics and our foreign policy. It was and remains an ill advised and ill thought through decision.

And more disconcerting were the earlier claims that one of his pre conditions to join, was for Iran to become a member of the coalition.

At least that illusion, should now be clear to him, as he listened  to the bashing given by The Trumpeter to the Muslim Ummah and calling Iran the greatest threat to world peace, echoed by King Salman.

I think Raheel’s joining may also have contributed to the humiliation and public diplomatic snub, PM Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan received at the “Muslim Ummah Big Bash Summit” .

Pakistan must now remember and accept, that for the Saudis, we are nothing but paid servants, always were, always will be, till we assert ourselves and regain our honour and dignity.

But, till that time, we should accept the insults and humiliation and the kind of  treatment our PM received at the Big Bash Summit and will receive in the forseeable future.

Because that’s what a nation and a society of mercenaries and beggars, with no honour, self respect and dignity, get!

Unless, of course, I live in another universe.

*End Note.*
I’ve often been accused of being “pro Iran” or seeing things through an Iranian perspective.

For the record. I’ve no love for Iran. And certainly not over and above Pakistan, ever!

My consistent contention is that it is suicidal for Pakistan to take sides or get embroiled in an internecine battle for regional hegemony, fuelled by hatred of each other’s regimes, between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Because both are to blame for this mess!

My late father, late Col. S.G.Mehdi M.C,  May Allah SWT Bless his dear departed Soul, would often say.

*”Always play to the galleries of your conscience.  Not to the galleries of public acclaim. And enjoy the rare occasions when the two align. Otherwise walk your lonely, solitary path of Yuk-e Az Azaan-e-Mehdi!”*

The Trumpeter in Riyadh!

By Haider Mehdi

Trump’s visit and speech, in my opinion, sounded like the final nail in the Al Saud Coffin.

It was embarrassing, to say the least, watching him preach to the leaders of the so called “Islamic” World about “Islamic Extremism” and “Islamic Terrorism”. Words he used throughout his Presidential campaign to slander Islam and the Muslim world, followed by his infamous 6 country Visa ban!

And now, thanks to King Salman and Mohammed bin Salman, today we had the great pleasure of seeing and hearing the leader of a country, responsible for over 4 million deaths in the Middle East and South Asia, slapping each leader of the Muslim world with these insults. Insults couched in flowery barbs!

And they all sat like sheep.

Dumb, deaf and squirming, some lucky ones dozing off, listening to this megalomaniac’s verbal abuse!

How ironic, standing in the heartland of Islam, The Trumpeter lauds the Saudis, the prime fountainhead of terrorist thought, terrorist organisations and terrorist funding, and the country which has caused the most death and destruction, then hands them a 300 billion dollars bill which they will happily pay!

You’ve got to give it to this guy. Comes into your house, calls you extremists and terrorists and walks away with 300 Billion dollars! What a deal!

His speech and presence in Riyadh, may well be the start of the inevitable authoritarian meltdown of the Al Saud regime.

I say this, because he’s now presented the extremists and terrorists, both inside and outside Saudi Arabia, the “perfect argument” that the Al Saud regime are mere USA puppets, a known fact, but never brought home so starkly and “in your face” !

And providing the fodder and a powerful rallying cry by extremist outfits lead by DAESH to recruit large numbers of angry youth to their cause, especially the highly radicalized and testosteroned Muslim youth in Europe and North America!

In my opinion, the Al Saud couldn’t have committed a greater political blunder, than showcasing this megalomaniac,  lecturing the Ummah, listening sheepishly to his “Islamic terrorist and extremism” harangue and signing their own death warrants!

We should be thankful he didn’t mention Pakistan in his speech, thanks to India and our CPEC.  But the insult to PM Nawaz in not being allowed to speak on the occassion, and neither a meeting with Trump, is in my opinion a huge insult to him, personally and not to Pakistan. Perhaps his sins of corruption in Panamagate, may have caught up with him!

Pakistan must not be caught in this firestorm soon to engulf Saudi Arabia and Monarchist Middle East, with serious consequences to follow.

Consequences for regional stability and peace and for the Al Saud family, despite their futile and desperate attempts to hold onto power.

In my opinion, Trump’s speech may have set in motion the downfall of the Al Saud regime. The likely outcome is fairly clear, irrespective of how many weapons they buy to stave off the inevitable. It’s not a question of if, but when!

For Pakistan, there is urgent need to mend ties with Iran, as the Monarchist Middle East begins to meltdown.

Iranians are a pragmatic nation and will do business with anyone, including the US as demonstrated in their nuclear deal with the US. They’re  not called a nation of shopkeepers, for nothing.

All Pakistan needs to do is to balance their concerns regarding our engagement with the Saudis.  As long as Iran doesn’t feel threatened by our relationship with the Saudis or any stupid and active military actions by Pakistan against Iran at the behest of the Saudi Arabia  -US combine we should be OK. Raheel Sharif’s faux pas,  notwithstanding!

Ideally, our long term interests lie in engaging with Iran more proactively and not follow the US, Saudi and Israeli line of “Iran being the greatest threat to world peace”!

This party has just started!

Kulbashan -ICJ -& Nawaz Sharif. Part 4

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

So, as expected, either through a series of incredibly incompetent actions or active and deliberate connivance with India, Pakistan failed in convincing the ICJ, that it had no jurisdiction, after having updated a freshly submitted “declaration” to the ICJ on 29 March 2017, accepting their “compulsory” jurisdiction.

And so the ICJ gave immediate relief to India and stayed Yadav’s execution.

Khawaja Aamer Raza, Khawaja Saad Rafiq’s first cousin and a former VP of PMLN, with very close political ties to PM Nawaz and CM Shahbaz, having served as spokesman to both, has raised the following questions, earlier today.

1. Why did Pakistan not appoint ad hoc judge which we had a right to?

2. Why did we choose a lawyer who has not a single int law case reported from the U.K. Supreme Court?

3. Why did the FO not take legal advice before writing letters?

4. Why did Pakistan choose a London QC who is Qatar based?

5. Why did we send a first year associate from AG office instead of AG to ICJ?

6. Why did we choose a lawyer who has never argued a case independently before ICJ.

 7. Why did we not submit a written defence before 15 May?

And here’s a quick timeline of contextual activities.

29th March, 2017 – Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan Permanent Rep to the UN, files a revised and qualified declaration on behalf of the Government of Pakistan “accepting the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction over cases brought against Pakistan”

8th April, 2017 –Gen. Qamar Bajwa, Pakistan Army COAS, confirms Kulbashan Yadav’s death sentence.

10th April, 2017 – Kulbashan Yadav’s sentenced made public.

27th April, 2017 – Sajjan Jindall, an Indian businessman, along with two Indian associates, arrives in Islamabad, mysteriously, secretly, from Kabul, and meets PM Nawaz Sharif in Murree. No official handout has been issued to date, by any Government agency, about the nature and purpose of the visit.

 8th May, 2017 – India instituted proceedings against Pakistan in the ICJ under the Vienna Convention.

10th May, 2017 – ICJ send Pakistan notice to appear on May 15th.

15th May, 2017 – Pakistani and Indian lawyers present preliminary arguments. Pakistani lawyer completes his arguments well before the full 90 minutes allotted to him.

18th May, 2017 – ICJ, stays Yadav’s execution

Given the above and all that I’ve written in my last 3 articles on the issue, I say with great sadness, that this case is either one of active commission and or omission or pure  incompetence of Herculean proportions.

All Pakistanis would want to believe the latter, that it was incompetence and not active collusion with India.

Because accepting the former of active collusion with India, means our National Security is compromised at our highest levels.

And if we so believe that there was and is active collusion between Pakistan and India to provide relief to Kulbashan, then the finger points right to the top and to none other than PM NAWAZ SHARIF.

PM Nawaz Sharif has to directly answer the many questions which have been raised.

And answer them in detail, to parliament and to the public, himself directly, fully, and to the complete satisfaction of the two legislatures and the common person.

And if we, the Pakistani Nation, don’t get the answers and believe he is once again lying as he did in Panamagate, then the Supreme Court must be approached to initiate an inquiry and for impeachment proceedings against him for endangering National Security, colluding with the enemy and passing classified information to India.

PM Nawaz Sharif must answer these questions, fully, squarely and directly, to avoid being labeled a traitor.

Or failing which, face the consequences of being one!

A sad day for Pakistan!

Kulbashan Case and The ICJ – Part 3. A bombshell!

By Haider Mehdi.

It gets curioser and curioser. And, God Forbid, of an extremely tragic and high handed conspiracy at the highest levels of our Government!

Pakistan filed a declaration in the United Nations, submitted by Dr. Maleeha Lodhi, accepting the International Court of Justice’s compulsory jurisdiction on all cases brought by or against Pakistan.

Pakistan being one of 72 Countries which has filed this declaration. India has also filed a similar declaration.

But theirs a big difference.

India filed theirs in 1974.

Pakistan filed theirs on 29th March, 2017. A few days before Kulbashan was sentenced to death in Pakistan.

By submitting this declaration Pakistan has accepted the “compulsory jurisdiction” of the International Court of Justice.

So If this isn’t doesnt stink of a conspiracy to get Kulbashan freed, than Altaf Hussain must be Pakistan’s Greatest Patriot!

Some questions.

1. While the declaration does specify conditions to the compulsory jurisdiction, the question is why now?

2. What was the urgency to submit this now just a few days before Kulbashan’s sentencing?

3. Why did it take the Nawaz Government in power for 4 years, to file it a few days before Kulbashan’s sentencing.

4. Why didn’t ANY GOVERNMENT OF PAKISTAN, thought it useful for Pakistan to file such a declaration since 1947?

5. Why was this major commitment given to the ICJ without any consultation,  debate or discussion in Parliament?

6. Is their a record of it being discussed and debated in the Cabinet?

The following extract from the ICJ website explains what “compulsory jurisdiction” means.

“Declarations Recognizing the Jurisdiction of the Court as Compulsory

The States parties to the Statute of the Court may “at any time declare that they recognize as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, in relation to any other State accepting the same obligation, the jurisdiction of the Court” (Art 36, para. 2 of the Statute).

Each State which has recognized the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court has in principle the right to bring any one or more other State which has accepted the same obligation before the Court by filing an application instituting proceedings with the Court, and, conversely, it has undertaken to appear before the Court should proceedings be instituted against it by one or more such other States.

The Declarations Recognizing as Compulsory the Jurisdiction of the Court take the form of a unilateral act of the State concerned and are deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The texts of declarations under Article 36, paragraph 2, of the Statute, which, based on the information provided by the depository, had not expired by effluxion of time, or whose withdrawal or replacement had not been notified by 17 May 2017 will be found below.

The fact that a declaration is or is not included in this section, is without prejudice to its possible application by the Court in a particular case.

In view of the provisions of Article 36, paragraph 5, of the Statute of the International Court of Justice, the present section also contains the texts of declarations made under the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice which have not lapsed or been withdrawn. There are now six such declarations.

The declarations, deposited by a total of 72 States, are given here in English. Where this is not the original language of the declaration, the translations used, except where otherwise indicated, are by the Secretariat of the United Nations or of the League of Nations.

The following declaration have been filed with the Secretary-General of the United Nations (the date shown after the name of the State is that on which the declaration was deposited) :

Pakistan. 29 March, 2017.

Here’s the  link to the INTERNATIONAL COURT OF JUSTICE Jurisdiction web site and the list of countries who have submitted similar declaration.

To see click the URL and scroll down and click on Pakistan!

Kulbashan and ICJ -The Case. Part 2.

By Haider Mehdi

It appears that somehow Kulbashan’s  signed letter to the Indian Government, seeking ICJ Intervention, reached India.

Having researched some more and consulted some legal minds. Here’s what it looks like in summary.

1. ICJ Jurisdiction is only based on consent of both parties. The key principle is that the Court only has jurisdiction on the basis of consent. The court has no true compulsory jurisdiction.

2. Unless under another treaty, multilateral or bilateral, the two nations have accepted ICJ’S jurisdiction on a particular issue or those covered by the treaty. Don’t know if Kulbashan’s case falls under this clause!

3. India has moved their case on the basis of *”Diplomatic protection”*, explained below.

“……..In international law, diplomatic protection (or diplomatic espousal) is a means for a State to take diplomatic and other action against another State on behalf of its national whose rights and interests have been injured by the other State. Diplomatic protection, which has been confirmed in different cases of the Permanent Court of International Justice and the International Court of Justice, is a discretionary right of a State and may take any form that is not prohibited by international law. It can include consular action, negotiations with the other State, political and economic pressure, judicial or arbitral proceedings or other forms of peaceful dispute settlement……”

The interesting thing is that Kulbashan had to give a signed undertaking to the Indian Government to take up his case at the ICJ.

He used the undermentioned rule to ask India to take up his case at the ICJ.

*”Exhaustion of local remedies*

*Diplomatic espousal of a national’s claims will not be internationally acceptable unless the national in question has given the host state the chance to correct the wrong done to him through its own national remedies. Exhaustion of local remedies usually means that the individual must first pursue his claims against the host state through its national courts up to the highest level before he can ask the state of his nationality to take up those claims and that state can validly do so.*

The question is how did his signed undertaking reached Indian hands, when he had no access to any Indian consular services in Pakistan?

Some conspiracy theory questions?

Was this given to Jandal by Nawaz Sharif, who hand carried it back to India?

If so, who acquired it from Kulbashan and gave it to Nawaz Sharif?

Even more questions.

The Kulbashan case in the ICJ & The Court Rules of Procedures.

By Haider Mehdi.

Short and Sweet!

The ICJ will not hear a
case, if the state against whom a case is filed, does not accept ICJ’s jurisdiction.

Clearly, Pakistan consented, hence proceedings commenced.

The Big question.

Why did Pakistan formally “consent” to ICJ’S jurisdiction in this case?

Here’s the operating rule extracted from their rules of business.

 *It shall not however be entered in the General List, nor any action be taken in the proceedings, unless and until the State against which such application is made consents to the Court’s jurisdiction for the purposes of the case*

Clearly Pakistan accepted the ICJ’s jurisdiction in this case after receiving the formal complaint from the ICJ, which was filed by India.

The question is.

*2.  Who granted this consent?*

*Certainly this cannot be anybody else other than our very own patriotic PM, Nawaz Sharif.*

The second question and perhaps a much bigger question.

*2. Why did PM Nawaz accord this consent to ICJ?*

Here’s the full section on this ruling!

SECTION C. PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE COURT

Subsection 1. Institution of Proceedings

Article 38

          1. When proceedings before the Court are instituted by means of an application addressed as specified in Article 40, paragraph 1, of the Statute, the application shall indicate the party making it, the State against which the claim is brought, and the subject of the dispute.

          2. The application shall specify as far as possible the legal grounds upon which the jurisdiction of the Court is said to be based;  it shall also specify the precise nature of the claim, together with a succinct statement of the facts and grounds on which the claim is based.

          3. The original of the application shall be signed either by the agent of the party submitting it, or by the diplomatic representative of that party in the country in which the Court has its seat, or by some other duly authorized person.  If the application bears the signature of someone other than such diplomatic  representative, the signature must be authenticated by the latter or by the competent authority of the applicant’s foreign ministry.

          4. The Registrar shall forthwith transmit to the respondent a certified copy of the application.

          5. When the applicant State proposes to found the jurisdiction of the Court upon a consent thereto yet to be given or manifested by the State against which such application is made, the application shall be transmitted to that State.  It shall not however be entered in the General List, nor any action be taken in the proceedings, unless and until the State against which such application is made consents to the Court’s jurisdiction for the purposes of the case.

*While I do not have any pretensions of being a black coat (a blackguard maybe !)*

*I was drawn to this by Dr. Babar Awan’s comment on this point and hence prompted my ardous Google research!*

If anything, at a minimum, this is highly questionable.

And clearly,  High Treason, at the other end of the Spectrum.

Jandal’s visit now begins to make much more sense.

Why he came in person, met PM in Murree, away from “prying eyes and listening ears”.

Nawaz Sharif has lots to answer!

The Settlement

“The Settlement”
By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

*”…… Moral cowardice is fear of upholding the good because it is good, and fear of opposing the evil because it is evil. Moral cowardice is the necessary consequence of discarding morality as inconsequential. It is the common symptom of all intellectual appeasers…..”*

So finally it’s “Settled”.

A “settlement” between two Kings, between two highly privileged and un touchable  institutions, between two forces, one teetering at the brink of immorality and questionable ethics, the other wallowing in the filth of unethical and moral degradation.

This perspective is not about who was or is right in the infamous Dawn Leaks.

It is not about whether it was Maryam Safdar who leaked it, or told Zafar Abbas that she authenticates the news on behalf of the PM. In fact it is also not about the PM himself who allegedly ordered the “hit” on the Army.

Its also not about poor Maj. Gen.Ghafoor who “rejected” it and was consequently, mercilessly trampled in the fight between the elephants. Real or Noora. Only time will tell.

This is about Gen. Bajwa and his leadership.

Because  whatever his reasons to first issue the “rejection” tweet and then subsequently “retract” it, he really comes out smelling about twice as bad as Nawaz. And God knows how Nawaz stinks!

I still vividly remember in PMA being mercilesdly pounded with the mantra that the character of a true “leader” revolved around “Moral Courage, more than Physical courage”.

Quite frankly one didnt quite get this “moral courage thing” in those early bohemian PMA days, where sleep and food were the only values one cherished. Moral courage brought instant slumber to our already sleep deprived eyes. And, quite frankly, who cared, really!

But soon, very soon, one began to understand and also imbibe this value. To do the right thing. To admit when one makes a mistake and take it on the chin.  To take responsibility for ones actions and those who you command, irrespective of consequences.  To say the right thing (very politely, of course).

Especially if in your first term, you lost your way and lead your platoon up and down half a dozen peaks and valleys, during Yarmuk, because you and your closest advisor sucked at map reading!

And you’re then hauled to explain in writing who was to blame and “withdrawal” from the Academy a real possibility and “relegation” a sure thing!

So for a military leader, taking total and full responsibility for the people under your command is cast in cement.

It was and hopefully still is the prime value they teach at these very expensive schools of military instruction in Pakistan where Gen. Bajwa and most of our military leaders have been both, instructors and students!

And then of course, at the other end of the spectrum, is the one who hides behind “process” and “protocol” and lets others take the fall, and especially more despicable and abhorrent, when that leader was himself directly responsible for that fiasco.

In my opinion Gen. Bajwa displayed two attributes to perfection.

An absence of moral courage and a stark manifestation of moral cowardice.

The “rejection” tweet by DG ISPR was obnoxious clearly. Much as I enjoyed it.

But clearly out of line, showing gross insubordination and a slap on protocol.

And no one but Gen. Bajwa with perhaps his principal advisers (some retired but still pulling strings)  approved it.

Poor Ghafoor was the willing or unwilling (likely the latter) messenger.

Without getting into the back and forth between the PM and Gen. Bajwa (enough said on that by everybody and their uncle), the manner in which it was “retracted”  was not only personally  humiliating and insulting to the DG ISPR Ghafoor, but a slap on the Army.

There’s a difference in a Ch. Nisar, or a Danyal Aziz, or a Talal Chaudhry or a Pervez Rashid, squirming and double talking their way out of the cesspools created by their political masters, but throwing a uniformed Maj. General under the proverbial bus, which Gen. Bajwa, unfortunately did, was horrifying!

This one incident  speaks volumes of Bajwa’s moral courage and leadership.

So, admittedly, a mistake and gross error of judgement and absence of good sense resulted in the “rejected”  tweet.

It is here that Gen. Bajwa should have showed his mettle, all 6 feet 3 inches of it, and stepped up himself, owned the tweet, addressed a press conference, taken full responsibility, offered to resign, and like a leader taken it on his chest and chin.

But what he did shows a man devoid of moral courage. He hid behind the DG ISPR and let that poor fellow take the fall.

From hindsight, any concerns about the Dawn Leaks, should have been communicated in private to the PM. But because these were not done, even this whole topi drama becomes questionable. Either he lacked the moral courage to do so face to face or there’s much more than meets the eye.

The Army as an institution and its rank and file have been humiliated, insulted, embarrassed not by the PM, but by Gen. Bajwa.

The damage to his personal credibility and maturity and to the institution is huge. And no one is to blame but the good General himself,  for having stooped so low in people’s perceptions. especially in the eyes of the Army rank and file.

Whether a politician can buy the “toe of his shoe” or not, as he apparently said while subsequently addressing officers in Quetta, to try and explain his actions, only time will tell.

Whether the Dawn Leaks report will be made public, only time will tell.

Whether the Panamagate JIT with military representation will also deliver a “Settlement” only time will tell.

Whether we will have free and fair elections under the Army or Bajwa’s watch, only time will tell.

But, for now, in my opinion, Gen. Bajwa failed his first real test of leadership!

On Iranian Maj. Gen. Mohammed Baqeri’s threat to Pakistan and Iranian internal politics

  
By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

The unprecedented threat to Pakistan by Maj. Gen Mohammed Baqeri, the Chief of General Staff of the Iranian Army is a serious one. It has opened another negative chapter in the relationship between the two countries, going back to the Afghanistan civil war of the 90’s.

It was then that both countries found themselves on opposite sides of the Conflict.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia supporting the predominantly Sunni and pashtun warlords, at that time lead by Gulbadin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasool Sayyaf, and later the Taliban.

Iran supporting the predominantly non Pashtun, Shia Northern Alliance or United  Front, lead by the Lion of Panjshir, Ahmad Shah Massoud, a Tajik Sunni.

The ties further deteriorated when under US and Saudi pressure, Pakistan cut off economic ties with Iran, during the economic sanctions imposed against Iran.

This lead to the cancellation of work on the gas pipeline, the electricity import from Iran and extremely cheap oil offers from a desperate Iran, looking for much needed foreign exchange and economic support and now virtually on its knees.

India observing this geo political shift and waiting in the sidelines, ignored all US sanctions, jumped in and started buying Iranian goods and cheap oil, thereby bolstering a near dead economy.

Their quid pro quo was a “Defence Pact” which Iran willingly signed to ensure Indian purchases. This was a major shift in Iranian foreign policy.  As they say. Beggars can’t be choosers. And consequently Pakistan started to eye them with greater suspicion.

Another huge factor was the changing dynamics of Iranian internal politics.

These had now become very polarized between the hard line revolutionary group lead by their current Rahbar Ayatollah Khamenei and fully supported by the IRGC,  and now opposed by the emerging and fast growing more liberal segments.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Council, is a 125,000 military force with its own land, sea and airforce, with its Commander reporting directly to the Rahbar, Ayatollah Khamenei and not the President of Iran.

This group comprising the IRGC and the hard line conservatives in Iran, earlier supported the former President Mohammed  Ahmedinijad,  and hence his highly militant and uncompromising stand against the US and others.

However, the Iranian nation, by now tired of economic sanctions and the consequential unemployment and misery, now voted in a more liberal person as President, the current incumbent, Hassan Rouhani. It was then that serious talks started between the US and Iran on the nuclear issue leading to the agreement.

The point person in all this was their current foreign minister Javed Zarif, who recently visited Pakistan and met PM Nawaz Sharif and Gen. Bajwa.

The conservative clergy, the IRGC and the conservative segment actively opposed this engagement between the US and Iran and moved to scuttle the talks and the nuclear talks and deal with the US.

Ayatollah Khamenei frequently gave hard line statements against the USA, hoping to give the USA cold feet and to back off. He did it cleverly so as not to also show a clear divide between himself and President Rouhani, but enough to tell the Americans, that he was still master and keep them unhinged and unsure.

But the Obama administration lead by John Kerry, the Secretary of State, who had developed a strong personal relationship with the Iranian foreign minister Zarif, ploughed on, finally resulting in the deal.

During the talks there was a near successful sabotage by the IRGC when they captured a US naval vessel, and aired very humiliating pictures of US military personnel sitting on the deck of their ship with hands up.

Zarif was able to convince John Kerry that this was not sanctioned by the President and the incident passed without too much damage.

With the deal, Iranian sanctions were loosened, the US administration developing better ties with Iran. Along with that we saw a cooling of their relations with Saudi Arabia, especially in the context of support to Assad and the fight against Daesh.

In this, we also saw an emerging perspective in US policy, more aligned to the Iranian perspective that the bigger threat to the Region was not Assad but Daesh and the Saudi funding finding it’s way to Daesh and AL Qaeda and their proxies under the garb of “rebel forces”, who were in essence, AL Qaeda and their proxies.

Consequently Saudi Arabia embarked independantly to thwart Iran’s growing influence, by launching it’s ill planned, poorly implemented Yemen campaign, which to date has caused 10,000 civilian casualties and with silent facilitation by UAE, established very close ties with Israel, against their common enemy, Iran.

Two things changed this. Trump’s election and the forthcoming Presidential elections in Iran.

Trump has rolled back the USA’s, Iran outreach most starkly manifested by his first overseas visit to Saudi Arabia. This change has emboldened the twenty something Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Saman to ratchet up the rhetoric against Iran, even alluding to a military conflict.

This change has given the conservatives in Iran, especially the IRGC, the opportunity to say to the electorate, “Didn’t we tell you not  to trust the US. And look at what the Saudis are now saying?”

Consequently two things by Pakistan further reinforced the conservatives perspective that Saudi belligerence was now also being actively supported by Pakistan.

First was Gen. Raheel Sharif’s acceptance of the IMAFT role, which really is nothing but a Saudi wolf, in “Ummah” clothes.

The second was the killing of 10 Iranian border guards by hard core Wahabi sectarian terrorist groups operating from Pakistani soil in Balochistan.

Clearly the Pakistani government or Army was not involved, directly or indirectly in this heinous attack. But clearly it was done at the behest and under orders from forces or countries wanting to drive an even greater wedge, than already exists, between Pakistan and Iran.

Who these countries are leaves very little to the imagination.

So now the final act of the threat to Pakistan by Maj. Gen. Mohammed Baqeri.

Gen. Baqeri is an IRGC General, now posted to the Iranian Army as its Chief of General Staff and  belongs to the hard line anti Rouhani, anti Zarif camp.

His threat immediately following Javed Zarif’s visit to Pakistan was aimed to scuttle and sabotage Zarif’s and President Rouhani’s attempts to come closer to Pakistan, especially given Trump’s election, Raheel’s joining the Saudis and the threats from Mohammed Bin Salman.

It was also a message to their hard line electoral constituency to vote against President Rouhani’s second term re election.

This in my opinion, explains, Maj. Gen. Baqeri’s statement, especially the fact that it came just two days after Zarif had visited Pakistan.

All this bodes for very difficult times ahead for us.

Pakistan must take decisions in their own selfish National interests. The Saudis are undergoing an “authoritarian meltdown”. There is serious infighting amongst the Royal family. The barbarians are not just at the gates but also inside Saudi Arabia. The Saudi meltdown is not a question of “if” but “when”.

US interests in the Region are very transactional and short tern.

Iran is a neighbour, whether we like it or not.

The choices are evident!

Welcome to The Islamic Republic of Vested Interests of Pakistan -Dawn Leaks, Gen. Bajwa and PM Nawaz. Part 2

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Nawaz’s ability to hang on is driven by external support and the acceptance of a perception by the USA and their South Asian proxy partner, India, that he is the sole option available to them to advocate peace with India and Afghanistan, but it’s this “Rogue” Army that dents and checkmates his efforts towards better relations.

Reinforcing this perception in the USA and India are countries like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf States. For all of them Nawaz is a much more benign option, irrespective of his corruption and incompetence and the dangers he poses to Pakistan, because he serves their national interests more than Pakistan’s, primarily geo political and economic.

Iran is a mixed bag. Still struggling to survive and reaching out to all who support their position. In that process their reach out to India has significantly dented their equity in Pakistan. In this they will have to make a clear choice, at least for now, between Pakistan and India.

For them it’s both about economic survival and maintaining a geo political dominance against an arch rival, Saudi Arabia, which they’ve never had in the Region in the recent centuries.

Hence Iran is doing everything to support their friends, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon to maintain their position and dominance and in this context would be happier with Nawaz gone, given his support from and to Saudi Arabia.

The Army, I’m sure, must be cognizant of these factors, both external and the obvious internal ones.

What Gen. Bajwa and Co have to decide is whether they will support the external selfish self interests of countries supporting Nawaz, or align to our internal self centered national interests.

National interests in which there is no space for Nawaz or people like him in our Governance.

The Dawn Leaks episode must be seen in this context and it seems for now, Gen. Bajwa may be towing the line of the external forces, especially USA and Saudi Arabia, in maintaining the status quo, and given reports of now publicly lauding Gen. Raheel’s role about which he had a different view, earlier. The hurried visit of the Iranian foreign minister is also to be seen in this context.

Clearly discernible from the “chatter” is an emerging picture that Nawaz may have somehow convinced Gen. Bajwa, that all this noise on Social and Electronic media about Dawn Leaks and Panamagate is a figment of hyperventilating people, including the Supreme Court Judges, and hence perhaps, bought himself some more time by negotiating a “deal” with the Army Chief.

In my opinion, I think, he’s taking advantage of Gen. Bajwa’s apolitical, overzealous and in my opinion, misplaced, view of supporting the civil administration.

Misplaced not because it’s the wrong thing, but because Nawaz’s position as a legitimate PM has become extremely controversial given the Panamagate Judgement.

Hence any support to handle Nawaz with “kids gloves”, which in local parlance is called “Noora Kushthee” between Nawaz and Gen. Bajwa becomes seriously questionable!

We must remember that for people like Nawaz or his family, Maryam Safdar, topping that list, waving the ethics or moral card is irrelevant.  Their only objective is to politically survive and remain in power, in any way possible.

Ethics, morality, conflict of interest, due process, honour, dignity, self respect are alien to these people brought up in a family and value system where their God is money and hence “buying” their way to power and survival the only language they know.

So he will say and do anything to convince the General.

There’s news that in his recent address to the garrison in Hyderabad the Chief, amongst a host of other things,  explained that Jindal’s visit to meet Nawaz was part of so called “back door diplomacy” with India.

If true, this explanation by him to his constituency is very insightful.

The key question is,  Why has the General taken it upon himself to offer this rationale about a very dubious, very secretive and extremely suspicious visit, when the entire governance infrastructure is quiet?

Not a peep from the “Sher khaay ga Kaboothar” PM, nor the effervescent Interior Minister, nor the Minister of Information Maryam with rapidly improving make up, nor the “koi haya honi Chahyay” Khawaja Asif and most importantly the impotently, rudder less and clueless step son, our poor Foreign office.

Why should the Army Chief explain an Indian’s highly controversial visit to meet an under siege PM, when all others are quiet?

How Gen. Bajwa can buy into this hogwash, if he has or done so, beats me, given his intellect?

I honestly believe Gen. Bajwa is being lead a merry dance like his predecessor was, by Nawaz, a past master at these Machiavellian strategies and tactics.

I’m not implying that some elements in the Army rank and file, may do something stupid and foolhardy, but Gen. Bajwa must not forget that the anger and polarization we see in our society is similarly manifested in the Army.

The differences in the mood of younger officers and rank and file and the highly privileged 2 and 3 stars is very high.

There’s a high wall between these two groups in the Army, built on the power, privileges, plots, enjoyed by senior officers during service and on retirement. An elitist military bureaucracy!

He must tread carefully, lest events overtake him.