CPEC? TRANSPARENCY NEEDED!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

Here’s something that needs the immediate attention of all non PMLN economic experts.

CPEC.

Currently information about CPEC is like a black hole and must be questioned like the JIT is doing.

We must force the PMLN government to fully disclose the terms and conditions of all contractual obligations we are signing with China.

For the sake of our future and our integrity, sovereignty and  independance we must force Nawaz Sharif, Ishaq Dar and that empty suit, Ahsan Iqbal to come clean with full disclosure and transparency.

There are well founded fears that the government is giving away everything to the Chinese without substantial returns to Pakistan.

For example, as earlier stated, we have no idea under what terms and conditions we’ve contracted with China and the different Chinese companies.

What are the financial terms?

What other business terms govern these contracts?

Couple of key things are essential for all CPEC projects for local Industry development.

1. By law, every Chinese company must have a local Pakistani partner with bona-fide credentials and transfer of technology clauses.

2. A minimum of 50% Pakistanis must be employed in all projects. Skilled and Unskilled. There is evidence that in many projects only Chinese labor is being employed. Chinese companies must train Pakistani manpower if the skills are not available.

3. No Chinese company should be allowed exclusive rights on any project and it’s use.

Apparently, unconfirmed reports indicate that only Chinese cargo trains will ply on the new cargo railway tracks being laid.

People like Dr. Salman Shah, Dr. Hafeez Sheikh, Dr. Shahid Kardar, Asad Umar must go after CPEC, like Imran Khan is going after Panamagate.

Otherwise these Noonie Goonies will sell this country and its future.

The Chinese are shrewd businessmen. They will take anything and everything. And once like the proverbial camel, if they’re in and we haven’t safeguarded our national interests, we will have no recourse.

The time is now that we get a fair and equitable deal.

China is a friend but it will look after its own interests as we have to look after ours.

CPEC is essential for us.

But we must not sell the family silver.

Here’s the latest Forbes article pointing to a possible financial disaster in the future.

Cpec-will-take-pakistan-to-a-place-it-doesnt-want-to-be

The “Kafirs” of Parachinar and (perhaps) Quetta and Karachi and the Muslims of Bahawalpur!

by Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
26th June, 2017

Friday, 23rd June, Parachinar. 74 Shia “Kafirs”, who happened to be fasting on Jummat ul Widaa, are killed in a terrorist attack by a great Muslim suicide bomber.

Friday, 23rd June, 2017. Quetta. 13 Muslims (didn’t check if any of them were Shia Kafirs) have their poor lives cut shot by another great Muslim suicide bomber.

Friday, 23rd June. Karachi. Unidentified gunmen (definitely Muslims) opened fire on four policemen (most likely Muslims) observing Iftar, and killing them on the spot.

And an unholy cowardly, spineless silence descends on the Nation. Not everybody. But most!

After the rhetorical statement condemning the attack, not a peep from the PM, gallivanting in Saudi Arabia, desperately seeking forgiveness from Allah, for his sins of misrule, misgovernance and corruption and a get out jail card from Panamagate. And then off he goes to London, to spend Eid in his ill begotten flats and enjoy some respite from the daily flogging he gets on Panamagate. And, as his chief daughter, Maryam “Antoinette” Safdar, explains later, to attend her son’s graduation in London. But, following the Bahawalpur tragedy, tweets, “ He will not be attending the ceremony & is returning to Pak immediately. Says his foremost duty is towards the country & the People”. Because Bahawalpur is in Pakistan and Parachinar, Quetta and Karachi are in Afghanistan!

 But younger Grinch says, it was some medical tests, which took the elder Grinch to London.

In London, the elder Grinch addresses a press conference, and explains in a voice full of pain and anguish, how he and his family are being hounded by the Joint Investigation team, investigating his money laundering and corruption.  He cries when explaining the terrible tragedies which have befallen him and his family.

And then in full view of the world and International media, flogs the joint investigation team set up by the Supreme Court, casting doubts on his Nation’s highest judicial institution.  And after he’s done speaking, they all wait for him to offer the token words of remorse and condolences on the tragedies of Parachinar, Quetta and Karachi.  But this great PM of Pakistan has nothing to say.  Nothing.  Not a word. Till someone questions and then comes out a peep, some words of condolences for the unfortunate “Kafirs” killed in Parachinar!

And the great Khan, in Nathia Gali or Bani Gala. And frankly, I don’t give a damn. Pretender to the Takht e Lahore.  What a man! Pounces on every opportunity to pontificate on everything under the Sun, but only in the Panamagate Universe.  The hot winds of the suicide bomber didn’t reach him in the cool breeze of this Hill Resort or Bani Gala. And like his foe, Nawaz Sharif, also suffered from a major bout of conscience constipation. And all he could come up with was a pathetic tweet. Didn’t call a press conference or issue a detailed full statement. While it would have been wonderful to see him cut short his wonderful breezy holiday and make a token attempt to visit Parachinar. But a “tweet”? Just a tweet? A total of 90 People killed and the person who wants to be King has time for just one stupid, idiotic tweet! Yes, I’m mad, very mad at the Khan. He needs to put himself in some pain, some sacrifice, beyond the confines of Bani Gala, or delivering a rousing indictment of Nawaz Sharif in a Jalsa. He, as many times before, has once again failed to rise to the occasion and display genuine leadership!

But while one is upset at the PM, because truly, one cannot expect anything good and decent and honourable from someone who has sold his soul and is completely blinded by his wealth and devoid of self-respect.  A person who has no shame in rubbishing the legacy of his forefathers and shaming himself in front of his three children as they help him in his loot and plunder. One cannot think of a more tragic example of losing one’s self respect, then have to steal, loot and plunder in connivance with you own children, have them lie for you and then expect them to respect you. What father will do that! But he has! What kind of children will respect a crook and a criminal, but his children do.

And what of our great Sipah Salar of this Muslim nuclear armed Army of Pakistan All that our Chief Raddul Fasadi had to say via his ever effervescent ISPR Tweeter in Chief of the “It is rejected fame” “Enemy to fail against resilience of Pakistan: COAS!” that’s it! 8 words in a tweet! And then this cop out “Attacks linked to militant sanctuaries in neighbouring Afghanistan” and promises greater border security.

How can a town which has several security cordons around it, comprising police, FC and Army, attacked twice before this year in January and March, 2017, have this happen to it.  The Sipah Salar and the Twitter in Chief, have to do better than this for an explanation!   And with all the helicopters and security at his disposal, this 6 feet 2 inch, or is it 3 inch, “brave” man couldn’t fly and be with them for a few hours. Or even to relatively “safe” Quetta. But his twitter in chief will flaunt his ‘V” victory sign, all across Social Media, after the Pakistan India Championship cricket match. Are these guys for real?

Such is our legacy, and our destiny and our leaders.  The Plunderer! The Pretender! And The Phantom!

And what about our glorious media. After token acknowledgement, it was back to their verbal diarrhea! To me the insensitivity of this terrible nation is reflected in the apathy and thick-skinned insensitivity of its media. And us. All of us. The rest of this insensitive spineless, Pakistani Nation. Silent lambs.  Except a few. This nation of sheep, lambs and spineless people kept quiet

Where was a “#IamParachinar” or “#IamQuetta” or even a “#IamKarachi” hashtag on twitter or Facebook?.  Where were our great Facebook warriors who draped their Social media accounts with the #jesuischarlie hashtag and the Eiffel Tower?

But then this is the same nation which forgets the two prior attacks in Parachinar.  A nation that forgets the Army Public School carnage, where 154 children were slaughtered and also died, Mrs. Raheela Qazi, the brave sister in law of a dear friend.  A nation which forgets the death of 60,000 women, children and men killed by the TTP. Forgets the 14 mercilessly mowed down in Model Town, in broad daylight on the orders of a sitting Chief Minster and his Law Minister, Rana Sanaullah. Forgets the 88 killed in the Sehwan Sharif massacre, the Bacha Khan University massacre, the killings at the Quetta police cadet academy, the blast at the Shah Noorani mazar in Khuzdar, the 70 killed in the Quetta hospital bomb blast. And above all we forget the loot and plunder of our leaders and defend them to death.

But most tragically we forget that these same people and institutions responsible to find the guilty and the perpetrators of these terrible crimes are in most cases, either hand in glove or responsible because of their abject incompetence and their politics.
We forget that our great Interior Minister provides Abdul Aziz, safe sanctuary in Islamabad.  We forget that our Army has used and in some cases still uses these same terror groups to advance their objectives, to do their dirty work in Baluchistan, and then having to give them their pound of flesh.

We forget that the National Action Plan is the most visible testimony to the terrible rot and absolute incompetence of our highest levels of leadership both civilian and military.  And its Chief Military architect now sits as the “Commander” of a Phantom alliance in Saudi Arabia. The prime source of the very thought and ideology, and money and weapons which created these terrorists and groups

25th June, 2017. Oil Tanker explodes in Bahawalpur.  And the poor teeming masses living in terrible servitude and robbed of every decent right to exist flock to get their hands on some “free petrol” and the whole nation wakes up. Suddenly.  While all deaths are tragic, but the devastating silence at the killings in Parachinar, Quetta and Karachi, and the sudden uproar at the Bahawalpur tragedy, leaves me speechless.

The Plunderer cuts short his London visit and visits the injured in hospital as does the younger Grinch, hat and all, and the Sipah Salar!

Perhaps we haven’t sacrificed enough.

Perhaps like France who lost over 2.4 million in the two world wars, we will reject the old order and then elect a Macron.

We may need to sacrifice a few millions to wake us up!

Otherwise sleep well my dear nation, sleep well till the deluge!

Wither Pakistan?

The Ummah – Part 2 – The Fresh Princes of Bel Arabia & Mohammed Bin Salman’s ascent into Chaos!

 

 

Image result for Mohammed Bin Salman Mohammed Bin zayed Sh ThaniTamim bin Hamad al-Thani 2015.jpg
By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
King Salman, by elevating his son, the 31 year Mohammed Bin Salman, or MBS, as Crown Prince, may actually have signed MBS’s death warrant, leading to the downfall of the Al Saud regime!

Whether this will remain undisputed or challenged overtly or covertly, by others, royal, non-royal and the highly militant jihadists, is a question mark. There are unconfirmed reports of serious infighting amongst the Royal family. It’s MBS’s ascent into Chaos!

 

My view it will be challenged and increasingly so from within the Saudi establishment.  Despite all the power that MBS has, the politics of patronage by previous kings and decades of loyalties from their cliques, will eventually result in an inevitable showdown.

But hugely worrying, is the potential for greater instability and heightened conflict in the Region. And the two main antagonists, Iran and Saudi Arabia, getting ready for a series of destabilizing events, triggered by this fresh prince and the total chaos that will inevitably follow MBS’s departure and the end of the Al Saud ruling regime!  One shudder’s to think of the post Al Saud anarchy and violence! But this, to me, clearly is the beginning of the end!
Then there is the second Prince. Mohammed Bin Zayed, (MBZ) Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of UAE. His elder brother, the current President, Khalifa Bin Zayed, who suffered a stroke in January 2014 has not been seen in public, since.
MBZ, is a major supporter of the Al Saud in their battle against Iran, and the prime interlocutor in bringing Israel and Saudi Arabia, closer.  UAE already has strong, warm and friendly relations with Israel, just short of formal diplomatic ties.  It’s their insurance policy against their common enemy, Iran and the perceived existential threat from them. Were the Saudi regime to fall, the next likely domino after Bahrain would be the Al Nahyans of UAE. Kuwait may survive because of its fairly robust democratic framework and Qatar and Oman, likely much later.  Qatar because of US troops presence, but were the USA to change policy, Qatar would fall in months. Oman, much longer, because it’s likely moving towards a Constitutional monarchy.
In the next 5 years the landscape of Monarchist Middle East will change dramatically!
Another common national interest binding the Saudis and the Emiratis is their deep animosity for the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood (MB).  This despite the safe haven, Saudi Arabia provided to them in the mid 60’s, when they were fleeing Gamal Nasser’s crackdown and their leader, Syed Qutb was hanged. But the MB members, such as Mohammed Qutb, brother of Syed Qutb, who relocated to Saudi Arabia, alongwith many others laid the seeds of Al Qaeda, which called for the overthrow of the Saudi regime. Ayman Al Zawahiri, Osama bin laden and others, were the product of this indoctrination!
UAE got a big scare in January 2013, when they uncovered and arrested 11 Egyptians, many long term residents of the UAE and 94 Emirati citizens, all member of a UAE based Al Islah party, with ties to the MB in Egypt. They were charged with conspiring to overthrow the ruling Al Nahyan monarchy and replace it with an Islamist government. This sent shock waves within the ruling Nahyans, fearing an Iranian or Egyptian type upheaval to overthrow them. They subsequently heavily funded and supported the anti Morsi uprising, which lead to the Sisi coup.
The third Prince to make up the threesome is the ruler of Qatar, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.
Though technically not a Prince, he behaves like the other two, trying to punch well above his weight and all three attempting to stave of the inevitable demise of their monarchies. He deposed his father, Sheikh Hamad, in a palace coup, politely described as an “abdication” in his favor.
Qatar has always been one of the two GCC outliers, the other being Oman. And despite being a staunch Hanbali / Wahabi/Salafi society, the country has, or at least till now, enjoyed good relations with Iran, with whom they share a common gas field and simultaneously have relations with Israel, Hamas and even Hezbollah! This amazing set of bedfellows is a mystery that only their massive wealth can explain which also explains why they decided to venture into the minefield of Middle Eastern geo politics and increase their influence.

Qatar has actively supported Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and was the main source of funding of the uprising against Hosni Mubarak and subsequent aid to ex-President Morsi’s government.

 

The dissent between Qatar, who supported Morsi and the MB and the Saudi Arabia/ UAE combine, who opposed them and MB, erupted in full force in 2012 when Hosni Mubarak was overthrown and Morsi came to power.
And It’s important to understand why Qatar supports the MB.
This dates back to when MB members were fleeing Gamal Nasser’s crackdown and also found safe haven in Qatar.  Unlike Saudi Arabia, in Qatar they established close ties with the royal family, and were recruited by the hundreds, as teachers to develop Qatar’s educational system. Youssef Al Qaradawi, a spiritual guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, is Qatar’s most well-known religious figure.
In 2014, when Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and UAE recalled their ambassadors from Qatar, one demand by them was for Qatar to expel him.  Two others were the closing down of Al Jazeera and the Middle Eastern office of the Brookings Institute.  The latter two highly critical of the Saudi regime in particular.  And the big one was to break ties with Iran. Qatar refused all 4. The US stepped in to patch up!
But it was in the Syrian conflict, when Qatar supported those anti-Assad groups who while fighting Assad, also fought against groups backed and funded by Saudi Arabia and UAE. The GCC members were now involved in a proxy war against each other. The Syrian civil war is more complicated than a spaghetti bowl with sometimes a group fighting with itself!
An incident in 2015, caused Saudi Arabia great distress. Qatar paid $1 billion in ransom to groups in Iraq for the release of 26 members of the Qatari Royal family who had been kidnapped, while on a hunting expedition inside Iraq.  These groups were closely allied to Iran, and Saudi Arabia and UAE believe this ransom money, eventually reached Iran.
So Qatar was clearly in their cross hairs now and had to be sorted out.  The inevitable had to happen in June 2017, when these two and others broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar.

So there we have it.

 

Saudi Arabia and UAE and tiny Bahrain, in a Sikkim and Bhutan like relationship with Saudi Arabia, have now broken ties with Qatar.  Many reasons.  But the real big one was their refusal to support Trump’s and Saudi Arabia’s call to target Iran. The Gulf Cooperation Council, or the GCC has split right down the middle.  Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain on one side. And Kuwait and Oman refusing to break ties with Qatar.

 

And in all this melee, The Trumpeter signs a $300 Billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia and a few weeks later, a $12 Billion fighter aircraft deal with Qatar.  What a guy!
So how did the Region get into this “Royal” mess?
A likely answer lies somewhere in the key events of the last 4 decades, starting in the mid 70’s and leading to the recent ones, with religion, sectarianism and ethnicity being used by all to achieve their geo political objectives.  Here then is a brief gallop across the decades, which helps us understand the major reasons behind the Iran – Saudi conflict and the current imbroglio!
In 1973, OPEC imposed an Oil embargo on the West and Saudi oil revenues quadrupled. As a result, in 1975, a 4 decade long proselytising of the Saudi /Wahabi version of Islam, commenced across the Muslim world, especially Pakistan, as well as across Europe and North America.  This was later to morph into terror groups like Al Qaeda, Daesh and their proxies in Syria, Iraq and Pakistan.
In Pakistan their biggest manifestations was the TTP, later joined by sectarian groups like the Sipah Sahaba, Lashkare Jhangvi and Ahle Sunnat Waal Jammat.  But its biggest impact was the transformation of Pakistani from a predominat Sunni Barelvi Sufi version of Islam, who had no problems with the Shias, to the harsh, exclusivist and violent, Wahabi version, who considered and consider Shias infidels. This resulted in the subsequent large dcale targeted killing of Shias by these Wahabi sectarian groups. More than 5000 Shias have been killed in Pakistan as a result of Saudi influence. Most of them professionals, doctors, engineers, lawyers and corporate leaders. TTP caused the loss of over 60,000 Pakistanis.  Mostly Sunnis. And more than 6000 officers and men of the Pakistan Army. Such was the gift from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan in addition to their petrodollars.

Estimates range from 100 billion US $ to 120 billion US$ spent by Saudi Arabia since 1975 on this effort to propagate Wahabiism, across the Muslim world and the globe.

 

This is more than twice what the world’s most renowned brand, Coca Cola has ever spent in its entire existence on building its brand! Al Qaeda and Daesh, being the most visible brands of this Saudi proselytizing!

In 1979 three events happened which super charged this Saudi effort.

 

The 1979, Islamic Revolution in Iran, which resulted in very aggressive and provocative Shia proselytizing, in response to the Saudi propagation. Iran targeted the Shia populations in the Shia majority Eastern provinces of Saudi Arabia, Shia majorities in Bahrain and Iraq, then under Saddam and Shias in Lebanon and Pakistan. Thus commenced, in earnest this sectarian battle, enveloping not just the Region, but the Muslim world.

 

In November 1979, a group of hard core Wahhabi fundamentalists, taking a cue from the Islamists who had overthrown the Shah of Iran in Iran, took over the Holy Kaaba, proclaiming their leader as the promised Mehdi.  They called for the overthrow of the Al Saud ruling family, labelling them “corrupt and degenerate”! The Saudis ruling regime was taken by complete surprise.  Though the uprising was crushed, it left a fear in them, of an Iran type copycat revolution in Saudi Arabia by hard core Saudi extremists. Hence this visible symbol of an Iranian Shia Islamic State was seen as a constant threat to the Saudi regime, and therefore had to be eliminated.
In December 1979, the Russians invaded Afghanistan, providing a golden opportunity for Saudi Arabia to extend its influence. They funded the war against the USSR, the USA provided the weapons and Pakistan trained the Mujahedeen as they were then called. Also providing the staging ground for them to fight against the Soviets.  It also provided an opportunity for the Saudis to “export” (good riddance in their eyes) the hard core militants and extremists, to Afghanistan.  More than 25,000 Saudi fighters eventually made their way to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets.

In 1980, the Saudis spurred Saddam to launch an invasion against the Iranian fledgling revolutionary regime. The objective was to oust the regime of the Ayatollahs and replaced by a more benign regime, which would no longer pose a threat to the Saudi regime and or inspire Saudi extremists to oust the Al Saud.

 

The USA was more than happy to see the Iranian clerics dethroned, incensed at the attack on their embassy and their staff taken hostage.
Saddam was also worried at the restiveness of the Shia majority in Iraq, actively being provoked by Iran to overthrow him.  He viewed this Saudi request as a golden opportunity to replace Iran as the policeman of the Gulf and also permanently annex some of the oil rich areas of Iran. It seemed like a slam dunk operation, expected to end in a few months with a triumphant Iraqi army entering Tehran, overthrowing the Ayatollahs and installing a liberal regime, or whatever was acceptable to him and the Saudis.

Funded by a 37 $ Billion war chest from Saudi Arabia, Saddam invaded Iran in September 1980.

 

The Iranians fought back with ferocity. After the initial setbacks, they regained lost ground. And the war continued for 8 futile years,  finally ending in 1988. Iran lost nearly 800,000 dead. Iraq, 500,000. Over 1.3 million killed and an economic loss of nearly $1.3 trillion to both countries.
Iran, to this day has not forgiven, Saudi Arabia for instigating and inciting this massive bloodbath!
In 1993, after the Soviet sponsored regime in Afghanistan collapsed, both Saudi Arabia and Iran, backed opposing groups in the ensuing civil war and again faced each other in military conflict through their proxies in Afghanistan. This continued till  the Taliban were ousted by the USA invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
In 2002, courtesy George Bush Jr, Iran became part of the “Axis of Evil”, along with North Korea and Saddam Hussain, now no longer a US ally.
Saudis had been successful in internationally isolating the Iranians who had been under US economic sanctions since the revolution in 1979.  These were expanded in 1995 and further in 2006 when the UN passed a resolution expanding the sanctions to their  oil, gas, and petrochemicals sectors and all exports of refined petroleum products, and any business dealings with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. Also included were banking and insurance transactions, including the Central Bank of Iran, shipping, web-hosting services for commercial endeavors, and domain name registration services.
In other words Iran was choked.

Pakistan, once a good friend, but now firmly in the Saudi and USA camp, refused to buy Iranian goods, especially oil, offered at cheaper rates than the Saudis. It scuttled Iranian overtures to sell power, citing the US and UN sanctions. And in stepped India, sensing an opportunity of a lifetime to establish close ties with a country on Pakistan’s borders and woo them even further away from us.

 

They disdainfully flouted all sanctions, both USA and UN, given their economic clout, buying and bought Iranian oil and goods, pouring hard foreign currency investments into a starving, desperate Iran, at the brink of economic meltdown. A grateful Iran, on its knees and close to economic and political collapse, accepted India’s request to sign a defence pact with them. India’s geo- political slap on Pakistan’s face! Pakistan was taken aback and thus Pakistan lost its third neighbour.

In 2011, after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, Iran established diplomatic ties with Egypt, severed in 1980 because of Egypt’s recognition of Israel and for giving safe haven to the deposed Shah of Iran. This brought them closer to Qatar and against the Saudi / UAE axis. Then President Morsi also visited Iran.

 

While President Sisi has not been actively anti-Iran, but on the Qatar issue, he fully threw his weight behind Saudi Arabia, thankful of the massive financial support from Saudi Arabia and UAE.

 

In 2011, the so called Arab Spring, now more the Arab winter, ousted four dictatorships.That of Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen. It seemed the Gulf Monarchies would be next.
Saudi Arabia, now under serious pressure from both its Sunni majority and Shia minority decided to launch a campaign to reduce Iran’s influence in the Region.

Iran, for years surrounded by hostile neighbours, now had a friendly Iraq, a friendly Assad in Syria, strong support in Lebanon, and the Houthis in Yemen, Saudis soft southern underbelly. Iran, in the eyes of the Al Saud regime, had encircled them.  The Shia crescent was now a full moon! And the Saudis were panicking!

So, Syria became the target of Saudi and UAE efforts to overthrow Assad, from the minority Alawite sect and to be replaced by a friendlier Sunni regime. This  brought the Saudi – Iran conflict center stage.
Along with Jordan and Turkey, the latter who had their own axe to grind with the Kurds, they funded, armed, trained and unleashed the anti-Assad forces agains the Syrian Army. These groups were predominantly off shoots of Al Qaeda. And one such off shoot became Daesh.

Iran responded with equal ferocity sending its elite troops to fight alongside Assad’s troops, realising the consequences of Assad’s defeat and ouster. The Russians who had been watching from the sidelines, fearing the threat from a Daesh dominated Syria, stepped in and salvaged Assad from certain defeat.

 

Over half a million have died in this senseless conflict. Mostly victims of the carnage and genocide inflicted by Daesh and Al Qaeda and their proxies.

 

In the south, the Saudis with UAE support, attacked Yemen, their abjectly poor Arab neighbour, with full force and anger, to defeat the Houthis, causing widespread devastation. More than 10,000 people have died, mostly civilians in aerial bombardments by Saudi and UAE jets.
And MBS was the prime architect of this terrible campaign.

In 2015, Iran signed its nuclear deal with the 5 permanent security Council members, USA, UK, Russia, France, and China, plus Germany, and the European Union, comprising 29 European countries.  This deal, at that time, signalled the end of Iran’s international isolation and economic sanctions.  But as was expected, it caused major consternation in Saudi circles of a stronger, resurgent Iran, possibly now an even bigger threat to the rule of the Al Saud and the other Gulf Monarchies.

 

The Saudi regime, once the USA’s blue eyed boy, now found themselves cold shouldered by the USA and watched with seething anger the ever warming relationship between Iran and the USA, personified in the close personal relationship between John Kerry, the then US Secretary of State and Iranian Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif.

But in 2017, fate bowled a “Doosra” and Trump was elected President, and brought with it a major shift in US policy. Trump, threw his weight behind the Saudis, threatening to undo the nuclear deal, and targeting Iran as the source of all terrorism much to Saudi delight.

 

In his now infamous tongue lashing of 53 heads of the so called Muslim Ummah, at the “Big Bash Muslim Ummah Summit” in Riyadh in May 2017, Trump laid out his war on terror poicy. Iran!

53 Muslim heads of state listened meekly to the dressing down by Trump, lecturing them on terrorism, including the head of the best Army in the Muslim world, and the only nuclear power, Pakistan.

Only tiny Qatar, had the brass to object at Iran being targeted!

What, said the enraged Al Saud and the Nahyans of UAE?  How dare they!

And the rest is history! So now you know why Qatar got it!
Given all this background, one thing is clear.

The Saudis and Iran are not coming together soon. Both consider each other’s regimes, existential threats. For the Al Saud ruling regime the threat to their rule is far greater than it is to the rule of the Clerics in Iran.

MBS will do anything and everything to hold onto power. Including starting a regional conflict.  The UAE knows that if the Al Saud domino falls, their turn is just round the corner. So does Egypt, now bolstered by money by these two. So does Bahrain

What should Pakistan do?

Iran and Pakistan have progressively viewed each other with increasing suspicion for about a decade now.  Iranians have accused Pakistan of attacks on its border guards and terrorist attacks inside Iran, by hard core Wahhabi sectarian terrorist outfits, allegedly, Saudi funded, according to the Iranians, and operating from inside Pakistani, Baluchistan.

 

Some of these outfits, are allegedly, operating in a grey murky zone of “quasi establishment” support, to fight the Baloch insurgents and in return being “allowed” the space to attack Shia Hazaras and operate across the border, with the establishment, in many cases, looking the other way.

 

However this seems to be changing since Gen. Bajwa’s took over, himself a victim of the ultra-right wing extremists and labelled an Ahmadi, just before he took over, by Prof. Sajid Mir, a coalition partner of PM Nawaz Sharif.
For Pakistan, Iran’s close economic ties with India and the Kulbashan Yadav spy case has raised serious concerns.  Especially at the deep ingress of Indian intelligence, inside Iran.  This presents a strategic opportunity to the USA, Saudi Arabia, India and Israel, to widen this split between Pakistan and Iran.  And, if I were one of them or all four, I would actively work towards this objective.
Pakistan and Iran have to be very careful that they don’t fall into this trap of being goaded against each other.  These are very sensitive times. Take the recent Threat by Iranian, Maj Gen Mohammed Baqeri to Pakistan to rein in these attacks.  Then the recent shooting down of an Iranian drone by Pakistan. All these show a visible escalation of the rhetoric and actions from both sides. And before we know it, could easily escalate to a much higher level of belligerence and conflict. An ideal outcome for the USA, Saudi Arabia, India and Israel.
Therefore we cannot fall into this trap of getting into a conflict with Iran or take sides in this nearly 40 year conflict between the two. It will destroy us!

In my opinion, the Al Saud regime will not last long. What replaces them will be the start of another hellish nightmare, unless they move towards a constitutional monarchy and allow political freedom.

 

But the Iranian regime is here to stay. President Rouhani, by Iranian standards is a left wing revolutionary. Given another 5 years, Iran will be much more open and liberal.

 

And then geography. Iran is our conjoined neighbour. Like it or not, we cannot have three countries on our borders as our enemies.  We need to re-establish ties with them, and break them away from India’s embrace.  We need to ensure that they do not allow their land to be used against us or we allow ours to be used against them.

Saudi funded sectarian outfits operating in Baluchistan are out to destabilise the Iranian regime and create major enmity between us. India is using Iranian soil to destabilize Pakistan, unleashing the Kulbashan Yadav’s and creating friction between us.  Israel and the USA want to neuter both Iran and Pakistan. What better than to have them have a go at each other.

 

This game is so obvious, one would have to be as blind as a bat or as senile as Sartaj Aziz to not see through this!

 

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as the Ummah. The Riyadh Summit proved it.
There is no such thing as a Shia- Sunni Sectarian war.  The Iran – Iraq war, the Afghanistan tragedy, the heartbreaking Syrian Civil war and the devastation of Syria and Yemen and most importantly the Qatar crisis, proves it.
It is only power and dominance, and the desperate need to hold on to it and destroy anybody, anything and any country that threatens it, which drives all these countries towards Armageddon!

Our future lies in aligning with China, Iran, Russia and Turkey! Not the USA, Israel, India and Saudi nexus.

 

For Pakistan, only and only our own National interest must reign supreme. Not Iran’s. Not Saudi Arabia’s. Not the US’s. Not China’s. But ours and ours, alone.

 

And certainly not the personal vested interests of a tainted and compromised Prime Minister, held hostage by his corruption and his personal relationships with foreign rulers!
P.S.
And finally, we should send Zarrar Company to free Raheel from the Saudis!

Prime Minister Imran Khan?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
A possible Prime Minister Imran Khan is perhaps the second most discussed question in Pakistan, after Panamagate. Will he or won’t he?
Will the “Khan” breast the tape, or join the ranks of the heart-achingly “also rans”? An Al Gore, an Asghar Khan, a Hillary Clinton!
Or will he, as he has done several times in the past, overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and emerge victorious, despite the challenges, and quite a few of his own creation, as his detractors and supporters say.
It’s a tough question to answer, given the fickleness of this mistress called “politics.”
So despite my biases, here’s hoping an objective current perspective, also as fickle as the mistress of “politics!”
To try and figure out what’s going on, In addition to my personal insights, I recently spoke to a couple of dozen people connected to Imran; friend and foe, close associates and hard-core enemies, some still close, some silently withdrawn to the sidelines. Some publicly angry, some sulking on the sidelines and a few former die, hard friends, now his mortal political enemies. And of course, I spoke to the Khan himself!
Part 1 -The Rise of PTI and Imran Khan
So this is the story of PTI from a “Tonga Party” in 1996, to arguably becoming by 2017, Pakistan’s most popular party and Imran its most popular political leader. Arguably, I say, because many would disagree! And with much merit in their disagreements.
And it’s not a complete story but a story about things which I think matter.No juicy tidbits of “clandestine one-night stands” or “midnight meetings with the Army Brass.” Just plain old stuff!
So what did Imran tap into? Like Bhutto before him, he tapped into a lot of things.
Imran tapped into a nation, sick and tired of corruption, and desperate to get rid of a system which only benefited the privileged and the rich.
An anger which stemmed from decades of misrule, of military coups gone wrong, of pretentious messiahs with holier than thou demeanors, looting and plundering, victims of their own unbridled and insatiable greed for power, wealth, and influence.
Imran tapped into a nation, sick and tired of corruption, and desperate to get rid of a system which only benefited the privileged and the rich. A system bereft of meritocracy, transparency, and accountability.
A system where the rich and powerful were and are able to hijack a flimsy, tottering electoral process and in the name of “democracy” hoist themselves into power. A system where all ruling groups, civil and military, through deliberate acts of commission or incompetent omissions, systematically destroyed institutions who could challenge them and stop their loot and plunder or deposing them.
A system which allowed desperate people to think that a military ruler, a dictator, an autocratic ruler would come and cleanse the Augean stables. And each time they found that all these “Messiahs” had feet of clay and all failed, leaving behind a system weaker than before!
But the key thing that he was able to tap into was the nation’s desperation for a political leader who had integrity and was honest. Someone they could trust! Whether today his rating on these attributes are as high as it was earlier is something we’ll address later.
I think several factors contributed to Imran’s political success to date.
He was and still is everything a traditional politician is not. He has no political background, no father to son political legacy. He is neither a feudal nor a rich businessman. Just a regular and a trifle privileged, middle-class Zaman Pak/Aitchison College boy, who goes to Oxford, lives the high life in the UK and becomes a cricketing icon. And finally, catapults to super stardom in cricket-mad Pakistan by leading Pakistan to its first 1992 World Cup Victory. The second win, yesterday with the sweet taste still lingering, may perhaps be Divine portents in his favor!
But back to the past. His mother’s passing away a few years earlier, prior to the 1992 World Cup Victory, sowed the seeds for what was to come later: The Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. And when he announced the Cancer hospital, people flocked and gave away their life’s savings. Rich and poor, rural and urban, young and old. This roaring success in social philanthropy convinced him that he could make a difference in politics.
And so in 1996, he launched PTI, and for years, aimlessly roamed the harsh and inhospitable wilderness of the baradari driven system called Pakistani politics. Barely winning one seat in 2002. His own!
But it was the open electronic media, kind courtesy of Gen. Musharraf that from 2002 onwards, gave him the visibility and lifeblood every politician needs.
By 2007, riding the crest of his anti-drone campaign, the Lawyers Movement against Gen. Musharraf, and the dedication of his supporters, PTI now had nearly 70,000 members.
For years we didn’t have more than a thousand members and couldn’t even fund our expenses. It was very tough going. But I kept going”! Imran said.
But then in 2008 the party, along with Jamaat-e-Islami, boycotted the elections. The PPP were voted in by a shell-shocked nation riding a wave of sympathy votes following Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. And Asif Zardari, universally acknowledged as Pakistan’s most corrupt politician, became President”!*
And Imran continued his relentless call against corruption and misgovernance, and on 30th October 2011, in his famous Lahore Jalsa, he and the party came of age. It seemed as if the prodigal son had arrived.
Part 2 – Compromise & Disillusionment
But success came at a price.
The party ideologues found new entrants from the existing political order now occupying positions of power and authority and influence in the party. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Javed Hashmi and Jehangir Tareen, were some of the big names who joined the party from the traditional lot of politicians.
Yet, such was the wave of unquestioned faith and trust in Imran, that the support didn’t waiver, and by the time the 2013 elections came around, he had captured the imagination and support of the vast majority of middle-class urban Pakistanis.
Many of them had till very recently been silent and angry observers of the political process.
And also, by this time, the party had attracted to its ranks, large groups of highly educated professionals, retired public servants, and senior members of the judiciary, senior retired bureaucrats and army officers, many of very high ranks. Young and old, male and female, all flocked to Imran and PTI. All finally convinced that in Imran and the party lay the salvation of Pakistan.
But soon, for many of these new entrants disillusionment with the world of politics and by implication with Imran and PTI, set in.
The vast majority of these people had never participated in politics and were unfamiliar with the cut and thrust of politics. The vicious infighting and groupings shocked them. They were appalled at the disorganization and ill-discipline of a mass of people, all volunteers who were not encumbered by the discipline of a structured corporate organization or the workings of a government office and especially when people did not fear the consequences of not following orders. And everyone wanted a piece of the pie. The new guard or the quasi-new guard on the party now occupied the front seats and more visible. Javed Hashmi, Jehangir Tareen, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, and Aleem Khan vs the old order symbolized by Saifullah Niazi.
“Why”? I asked Imran.
“No one’s walked my political journey. No politician, no military leader, no wadera, no nobody. I have made many mistakes and have learned a lot from them”* he asserts, as I questioned him about the “questionable people joining the party.” The Mustafa Khar’s, the Liaquat Jatoi’s, and the Firdous Ashiq Awan’s etc (Nazar Gondal and Imtiaz Waraich hadn’t yet joined).
“I have seen nearly every possible aspect of politics in Pakistan. From starting a party from scratch with no political background to breaking the hold of an entrenched two-party system of the PML and the PPP. A feat quite impossible, even in highly educated and democratically evolved societies in Europe and North America. People say I don’t understand politics especially constituency politics. What they forget is how I carved out my own constituency in Mianwali, which is as close to the Wild West you can get in Pakistan. Mianwali is a very difficult constituency because it is subdivided even below the baradaris into small “dharras” who flock and vote together. I challenge any of these so called politicians to go into a rural heartland with zero political backgrounds and carve out a constituency for themselves.”
But, while that is all well and good and extremely laudable and impressive, why was he now trucking with the same kind of people he was so critical of – the traditional electables?
“Politics is a Marathon and you have to be in it for the long haul, despite the many obstacles one comes across”, says Imran.
Several types of people join politics. The traditional politicians, from the rural heartlands, who have to participate or lose their power, influence, and clout. Not all are corrupt. But for them, politics is about survival. It’s not about public service but to remain relevant. In this process, they use their power and influence to keep themselves in play, continue to exercise their decades and or centuries hold over the rural peasantry and deliver public service, not as a value but as a favor for their constituents. This is symbolised in the traditional Thana Kutchery politics, which is their lifeblood”*.
”Then is the lot which joins purely to make money through corrupt means. People like Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari and others who hitch their wagons to these politicians. It is this category which is destroying Pakistan. The third join with the hope of changing the system. People like me and others to take back Pakistan from the stranglehold of corrupt politicians, like Nawaz Sharif and Zardari”.
”And this category, though very substantial, is unable to run the Marathon. In my 21 years, I can barely count a handful who have managed to stay the course. And they are all good people who came with sincere intentions and made effective contributions. PTI and I owe them an immense debt of gratitude for their support and insight. And I don’t blame them because they leave.”
“In all fairness to them, politics is a hard and harsh reality. And even harsher is the political victimization that the governing clique imposes on its political opponents. Not many can withstand the personal, professional and financial victimization that you are put under. And, also, its a full-time job. You can’t do it part time. And it’s also a strange Marathon. You can run long and hard and suddenly find yourself having to start all over again. It’s very tiring, very frustrating, very challenging and it drains one of hope and patience and strength. So one has to be very resilient, very tough, mentally and emotionally to keep going!”
”And then, of course, I hear people who sit on the sidelines and give advice. People who have no idea of what politics is about. No idea of the challenges of breaking into an entrenched system of political cronyism, centuries-old feudal culture. I also thought I could do it by bringing in new people, fresh faces. People who were not traditional politicians. But I realized it wasn’t that easy. And over the years I realized that I have to leverage the same system to come into power if I had to bring about change! But many didn’t understand these realities. And many of my colleagues would bombard me with free advice all the time, but when it came to implementing, very few stand up. I tried my best and am continuing to do so. To bring in fresh and new faces. But it’s a big challenge!”
Part 3 – Internal Party Struggles and the 2013 Elections
By 2011, the party had mushroomed, literally overnight, and its membership grew to the hundreds of thousands and then into the millions. Everyone flocked to join the party. By 2012, membership stood at 2.3 million voters.*“We were all taken by complete surprise and overwhelmed.”* says Imran.
So riding this new wave of unprecedented popularity and support, Imran was convinced that a political party which didn’t hold open, free and fair intra-party elections was not worthy of participating in the political process and hence intra-party elections commenced in 2012.
These were a disaster and nearly destroyed the party!
An exercise supposed to finish in 3 months dragged on for nearly a year and pitted party leaders and workers leaders against each other in an internecine battle.
Jehangir Tareen, now a nominated Secretary General, was involved in a free for all with Saifullah Niazi, the additional Secretary General. Despite his best efforts, Saifullah Niazi was perhaps overwhelmed by a party which had grown to mammoth proportions and now required a degree of organizational skills he may have been lacking. But he was a diehard ideologue, very close to Imran and opposed to the new entrants and the change taking place. Factions and groups emerged. Everyone, smelling victory, desperately vied for party office and by implication, party tickets. Ticket allocation was a total disaster, done in haste and, in many cases, given to undeserving candidates.
Imran had learned a bitter lesson, but the party was fated to repeat another fiasco a few years later and finally to the “tick box” election held a few days back on June 12th, 2017. But despite this mess, the “new urban voter” still stayed by him. The infighting was not as visible to the average person. People from overseas came by the planeloads to vote in the 2013 elections. As did I with my two sons on a day trip from Dubai to vote and return the next day! The party came through with 30 odd seats and the stench of a stolen election and a consolation prize of being the largest party in KPK!
Imran, his party, and supporters were incensed!
They thought they had won the election. Or, at a minimum, if not won, had been cheated out of 30 to 40 seats giving them a 60 to 70 seat strength in parliament and maybe a coalition partner’s shot at the Center.
”We knocked every door: parliament, the election commission, the courts, demanding a probe into electoral rigging in four constituencies as a litmus test for the rest of the election process. We published a 2100 page white paper on the rigging. A former member of the election commission disclosed how poll rigging was carried out. Finally, the Supreme Court took notice but dismissed our petition, citing not enough “proof beyond reasonable doubt” of a systematic and planned rigging of the polls. And that is when we decided that going to the people was the only answer”, says Imran
This then lead to the now famous or infamous, “Islamabad Dharna”, depending on one’s sympathies or political affiliation, lasting 126 days from May 2014 to December 2014. For 126 days, the party was headline news every day. It was the ultimate 9 ‘0’ clock news!
For many, the ‘Dharna” changed the landscape of Pakistani politics and created an unprecedented level of awareness about the corruption and misrule of Pakistan’s political masters. To others, it was a colossal waste of time, money and resources and a desperate attempt by Imran to goad the Army into deposing Nawaz and holding elections. Wherever one stands on the issue, one thing everyone agrees. It was the single biggest and longest political event, ever, in the history of Pakistan!
While it brought Imran some great political capital, it also cast some dark shadows! Javed Hashmi’s allegations of back channels with the Army brought up past visions of conspiracies with the Army to depose a legally elected government. Javed Hashmi subsequently left the party in a huff, himself under a cloud of allegations of having taken money in exchange for allocating tickets in the 2013 elections. The Army Public School tragedy finally brought it to an abrupt close.
I think the 2013 Election Campaign and the Dharna tested Imran’s energies to the limit. It was a superhuman effort to keep going non-stop for nearly 2 years and the tremendous toll it took on him, physically, emotionally and mentally. And Jehangir Tareen seemed to be the perfect answer, at least in Imran’s mind, to help him.
Hate him or love him, no one can deny that Jehangir Tareen possesses incredible organizational ability and management competence.
From being called a “control freak”, to a Shahbaz Sharif blue eyed boy and a mole planted in PTI to destroy the party, to Musharraf’s most successful cabinet member to an “aastheen ka saanp”, Jehangir Tareen or JKT, as he’s referred to in the party, has been called pretty much everything in the book.
For Imran, he’s a godsend. Someone who takes care of the day-to-day affairs of the party and frees him up to do what he does best. Politicking. Jalsas. Talk shows. Meetings. Traveling across the country and by God, the plane helps! But Imran also paid some serious political price in his unwavering support of JKT, especially within his party, and outside as well. Many, most, in fact, let’s be honest, every person I’ve spoken to, whether a close Imran personal friend, senior party leader, close advisors, mid-level leaders, members, supporters, detractors and of course mortal enemies, universally say two things about JKT.
1) That he is incredibly bright, organized, has amazing management skills and takes the load of Imran and takes care of all the details.
2) But as a consequence has leveraged his seeming indispensability and 24/7 access to Imran to progressively acquire power and influence within the party, create his own group of loyalists, and in the process, ruthlessly crushing anyone and everyone who opposes him or stands in his way.
For JKT, it’s either his way or the highway. Byzantine politics at their best. Or so is a general perception! And in the process, he has turned everybody off and is perhaps the most disliked person in the party, followed closely by his sidekick, Aleem Khan!
And the other big fairly commonly held view is that JKT would not get elected as the party’s Secretary General in an open, fair and free party election. And this would, therefore, leave Imran without JKT. My sense is, that in Imran’s view, JKT’s strength and benefits to the party and Imran outweigh JKT’s challenges. I think he is fully aware of the mood about JKT. So when I shared these concerns with him, and that he’s perhaps being manipulated and used, his answer was emphatic.
“Absolute nonsense. I’ve never been used nor allowed myself to be used by anybody in my life. While I consult everybody, but I take my own decisions. My answer to these people who criticize me is to bring me a better person than JKT or come and do the job better than he can. As I said before it’s easy to criticize and offer free advice. But when it comes to taking responsibility these same critics are nowhere to be seen”.
Closing off this section on JKT, I’d like to share another side of this person. In a former life, with a couple of friends we had developed a web based free education portal, something like the “Khan Academy” for K-12 in Pakistan, with the aim to provide video based learning content in English, Urdu, Pashto, Baluchi and Sindhi, using the Pakistan Text Book board curriculum. In our search for educationists to test our model, preferably in rural environments, we came across Sami Mustafa, an eminent educationist.  To our surprise we learned how JKT was regularly funding the entire cost of 84 government schools in Lodhran at an annual cost of Rs. 60 million (6 crores), managed and administered by Sami and his team, perhaps the best secondary school educationist in the country
But back to PTI. In 2015 fresh intra-party elections were announced, with Tasnim Noorani, the ex-Secretary Interior, as party election commissioner. Tasnim Noorani, is an exemplary person, and worked diligently to put in place a strong and robust framework. Working with a three-member election commission, they attempted to use the latest technology to access the entire party voter base. Voter lists were updated. But quickly dissent arose. The technology, the commission recommended for voting became questionable. And finally, after a lot of debate, discussion, and serious infighting, the elections were canceled. This again cast a shadow on Imran’s own democratic credentials.
The question is. Did Imran actually compromise on his democratic credentials or did he have valid reasons to support the dissolution?
There are two views within the party. One. That Tasnim Noorani and the election commission may have overstepped their role, which was limited to conducting elections. It was not to determine which positions should be up for elections or for the direct nomination. The other, was that it was their mandate to advice on both, “the what and the how” of these elections. Tasnim Noorani resigned and Imran and PTI suffered another knock.
As an outsider, one can understand the reality of elections being a hard nut to swallow especially when the results are contrary to desire. Hence, perhaps an option for the party is to create nominated vs. elected roles which gives Imran the flexibility and authority to nominate people like JKT, and not create the perception that he’s compromising his principles. Easier said than done, but an option to consider.
And finally, the June 2017 intra-party elections. These were clearly, for want of a better word, “khana poori” to fulfill the Pakistan Election Commission’s requirements of holding party elections and obtain the party’s election symbol. So not much to discuss on that. It’s perhaps “realpolitik” to an uncomfortable degree of compromise. But Imran hasn’t made any bones about why they were held in the manner they were.
Part 4 – A bit of a Revival and Panamagate
In April 2016, fate delivered Panamagate! Perhaps one of the most important events in Pakistan.
It is being seen as an opportunity of a lifetime for Pakistan to rid itself of a terrible lot of corrupt politicians and also bring them to justice.
For the party and Imran, it is a godsend and given the party, which had been a bit at sea since the Supreme Court decision rejecting their election petition, a golden opportunity to go after Nawaz Sharif. For Nawaz Sharif, it was and continues to be a never ending nightmare! His reputation in tatters. His family exposed. Both within and outside the country! And no place to hide!
To many, Imran’s continuous charges against Nawaz Sharif stand justified. As one very senior party, PMLN insider said,
“Panamagate leaves no doubt in anyone’s mind about the corruption of Nawaz Sharif and his family and his cronies. They have used large scale infrastructure projects to take massive kickbacks, and then through the kind courtesy and great skills of his Samdhi, Consigliere Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, ensured that funds are siphoned off via deeply hidden off-shore companies and then used to purchase properties and businesses across the globe in the name of their children”.
For the uninitiated, a Consigliere is a position within the leadership structure of Sicilian, Calabrian and American Mafia, popularized by the novel The Godfather, and in Pakistan by Justice Khosa. This person is an advisor or counselor to the Godfather with the additional responsibility of representing the Godfather in important meetings both within the Godfather’s crime family and with other crime families.
“This description fits Finance Minister Ishaq Dar perfectly”*, says the senior PMLN leader. *“Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s real job is to launder the Nawaz billions, directly supported by another Nawaz crony, Saifur Rahman, who ensures that massive projects are given to Nawaz Sharif’s business partners in Qatar. The same “Prince” who authored the infamous Qatari letter. As well as foot soldiers like the current National Bank President, Saeed Qureshi, and many other “unsung and unknown foot soldiers” working for Don Nawaz.” Not my words but of the PMLN leader, I spoke to.
“So why don’t you leave Nawaz?” I asked this PMLN leader. “I will and so will many others, when the time is right.”
I pressed further, but this was all I could get out of him!
In summary, Panamagate has provided Imran the opportunity to do what he does best. A clear target and objective to attack with the single-minded determination and uncompromising ferocity of a Bull Terrier. And whether we like him or hate him, the entire and single-handed credit for keeping Panamagate alive and the center stage goes only to Imran Khan. And also the credit of the unique sight of a Supreme Court-mandated Joint Investigation team, summoning and questioning PM Nawaz, his two sons, his brother, CM Shahbaz Sharif, his Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and Saeed Qureshi, President of Pakistan’s largest bank, National Bank, on charges of embezzlement, corruption, money laundering, tax evasion and lying under oath.
Will Panamagate be Nawaz Sharif’s Waterloo or his Dunkirk? Will it be Imran Khan’s finest hour or another failed attempt to bringing a corrupt Prime Minister to book? This only time will tell! But Panamagate gave the Imran and the party new vigor and a fresh lease of life
Part 5 – Electoral Prospects – 2018
And now the question. Prime Minister Imran Khan?
For starters, he has to win the election which depends on his electoral strategy to get the magic 172 seats for a majority at the Center or as one party leader told me, about 120+ seats and some coalition partners to be able to form a government at the center.
So what is Imran’s electoral strategy?
Will he continue with his previous strategy of trying to bring new faces in both urban and rural seats and hope that a tidal wave of support will get him the magic numbers? Or has he decided that the only way to win is by;
  1. Increasing his tally of seats from KPK, based on the Party’s track record and also retain the Province.
  2. Winning Punjab both at the center and province through traditional electables in the rural constituencies and his new faces in the big cities. Hence Khar and the PPP politicians who’ve joined!
  3. Grabbing a dozen or so seats in Sindh. Some in Karachi and some through electables in rural Sind. Hence Liaquat Jatoi
  4. Riding the crest of his KPK success, getting more seats in the Pashtun belt in Baluchistan and a few from the Baloch areas.
My sense is that he has opted for the latter strategy.
The success of this strategy, despite the use of electables, also depends, in my opinion, on the public perception of the extent to which Imran has compromised his pristine call for an end to corruption. The moral high ground, to which millions flocked, starry-eyed and full of hope, and which is now attracting elements of that same decrepit system. It also depends on the perception of the damage the party suffered because of its internal electoral challenges.
Will JKT with all his qualities prove to be a millstone around Imran’s neck?
Or will he prove people wrong and deliver Punjab to PTI through people like the clearly unsavory Aleem Khan? And at what price? Has Imran outsourced his party’s operational management to JKT and his group to such an extent that he is now less accessible to the voices of the die-hard party ideologues, the rank, and file, the backbenchers, the very people who form the backbone and strength of any political party?
This approach has significant implications for activities leading up to Election Day.
On that day it’s the ability of a party’s feet on street to get the voters out and be ready to check rigging or poll fraud. Theoretically, a party contesting all 272 seats requires a highly motivated and supercharged electoral engine of millions on the ground. This according to Saifullah Niazi, the now estranged PTI leader, and someone who has driven the length and breadth of Pakistan with Imran and others. *“The party needs about 15 people per polling station and given about 80,000 polling stations across Pakistan, we would require 1.2 million dedicated, motivated party activists on the ground!*
“Why 15”? I asked.
 “2 to 3 per polling booth. 2 to 3 to do last minute canvassing and about 8 to 10 for “muscle” in case things get ugly! And this is not counting those who are bringing people to the polling stations to vote. It’s a massive exercise”, explained Saifullah Niazi, who, I have a feeling, will be soon back in the party folds.
So the question is, given this need, to what extent has Imran outsourced this effort to the newly joined “electables”, sidelining those who have stood by him through thick and thin? And hopefully will still stick by him when the going gets tough and the political nights turn cold, and the fairweathers flock away, as is inevitably fated to happen in politics?
And how much damage has Imran and PTI’s purist ideology suffered from the recent induction of PPP electables? And importantly, its impact on the ballot box?
And the deduction, that despite the damage, this is, perhaps, a considered and calculated risk of using the old guard to bring in the new guard.
Will the charges of also owning an offshore company, Niazi Enterprises, stick? Will the issues of Bani Gala purchase and foreign funding stick?
And even if they don’t, will it affect people’s choice at the polls and to what extent? And in the final analysis, his chances of winning a majority or a significant number of seats depends on who gets tickets.
Does the Party (Imran) have a robust and rigorous enough process to ensure that the most deserving candidate gets the ticket, irrespective of which internal party group they belong? And deserving means candidates with the greatest probability of winning, irrespective whether they belong to JKT’s or Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s group. Both, desperately vying for the Punjab Chief Minister’s slot, were PTI to win Punjab, and both trying to get their preferred candidates, the party tickets. And in this process does the party have a transparent process to ensure this doesn’t happen and the voice of the on ground party “constituents” is heard, clearly, loudly and most importantly, effectively?
And then the biggest unsaid elephant in the room!
How does the army leadership view Imran? This is an unfortunate but real part of our political environment. Do they see him as a threat? Unmanageable or someone they can do business with? My personal opinion is that the Army should have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with politics or interfere and influence election results and outcomes. If anything at all, they should ensure fair and free elections. Ensure that the election commission stays on the straight and narrow. Support the Supreme Court, given the Godfather-like Mafia’s stranglehold over the system, and ensure caretaker governments are not stuffed with Nawaz, Shahbaz and Zardari cronies, who can “rig and steal” the election.
Unfortunately many say, that ultimately and sadly, it all depends on whether the establishment, which really means how the Army and in this particular case, the Army Chief, favors, supports and casts his lot with!  Albeit with a wink and a nod, but enough to get the message across. A sad reality but a reality! Perhaps, many say, the army wants compromised people in power so they can influence them and continue to extend the boundaries of their influence, much beyond their constitutionally mandated role and not be held accountable!
Whatever the reason, if the Army Chief, decides to cast his lot with the old decrepit system and help Nawaz get re-elected, and if by some miracle or “hidden hand” he escapes the JIT investigation, then let me say it clearly.
General Saheb, you will not have a country anymore. But a land devastated by civil war and total anarchy. Because Nawaz and Zardari would destroy what little is left of our institutions in their loot and plunder.
So choose wisely! And the choice is obvious! A nation ruled by a Mafia-like Godfather or someone who has struggled for over 21 years for a better Pakistan?
Part 6 – If elected –The Challenges of Post-election Governance
But, and it’s a big but, winning the election is perhaps the smaller of Imran’s two challenges.
Not that this will not be a challenge, but the bigger question is whether he will be able to govern effectively and deliver on his promises when and if he wins.
The answer to this lies somewhere between PTI’s governance of KPK to prove beyond a “reasonable doubt” that the party and Imran can deliver at the Federal level and whether he is still the same Imran of old. Honest and uncompromising on issues of integrity!
And in both cases above, whether he has been successful in controlling traditional politicians, symbolized by the likes of Pervez Khattak and others and delivered significant value.
If the answer is, that despite all the challenges, he has been able to deliver in KPK, then his claim, that with the right leadership on top, he will be able to control all those, who misgovern, misrule and dip their hands in the gravy train of corruption, rings true. Not only the new electables joining him, but those who even today, stand clearly and seriously compromised, especially in his inner circle, such as Aleem Khan!
And If he is still the same Imran, and despite all the compromises he has made and the damage to his puritanism, then the probability that he will deliver what he promised, perhaps not immediately in 90 days, as he states, a trifle superficially and carelessly, but over the 5 years of PTI rule, also rings true!
Then we can certainly hope that he will successfully bring in a system of across the board accountability, meritocracy, and considerably reduce the current levels of unbridled and galloping corruption, especially by people holding positions of power at the highest offices of government!
Then we have hope that he will be able to build and strengthen public institutions.
And perhaps most importantly deliver for the deprived and poor people of Pakistan in three critical areas.
Education. Healthcare and Employment.
And pursue a foreign policy, based on our national Interests, and not be beholden to personal relationships.  Such as of a Prime Minister with foreign rulers who gave him safe haven!
So that is why I submit that his much bigger challenge will be post-election governance and his ability to control the many tainted people who have become part of what they think is a “winning bandwagon.” Which may just turn into a waterfall, if the JIT disqualifies Nawaz Sharif and the PMLN crumbles, as it did in 1999 and as the PMLQ did in 2013, and starts an exodus from PMLN to PTI. And then, of course, the huge challenges to work with the same bureaucracy, especially at the Federal and Punjab, stuffed with Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif toadies!
He clearly has big challenges and I don’t have the answers.
But I do have a perspective.
In my opinion, Imran Khan is still the best bet and the best option to lead Pakistan. This I say despite all that I’ve said above, of the challenges he has and the compromises he has made and the serious risks in adopting the electables electoral strategy.
In his mind, he believes that once in power, corruption by people who joined his bandwagon will be addressed not as much by him directly, as much by the independent accountability institutions he will create! And only time will tell if an Aleem Khan or a Firdous Ashiq Awan will face the guillotine of uncompromising accountability under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s watch!
I genuinely believe, Imran holds hope for Pakistan. Not a guarantee but a much better hope than Nawaz and Zardari and what they represent. And certainly much better hope than a military takeover. And so one can see how the forces of status quo and vested interests are hammering away at Imran’s biggest strength. His honesty. If they can break or even crack this citadel, the blow could be lethal.
The lunacy of a man being questioned for “bringing money into Pakistan” vs the outrageous loot and plunder of the corruption of Nawaz Sharif, now out in the open via Panamagate, or that of Zardari, who decided that running away is the better part of valour and sitting quietly in Dubai, is mind boggling.
I think, in the daily madness of the idiot box and pontificating anchors and armchair analysts (I being one at the head of the line) we lose sight of the big thing. And the big thing is the choice between Nawaz Sharif, Zardari and Imran.
But the manner in which his actions are being dissected to the minutest detail by people, sitting on the sidelines, never having walked his walk, or talked his talk and nothing at stake, except a desire to criticize people more accomplished than themselves and attempt to elevate themselves to their level.
And despite all this, he still manages to collect more money for Shaukat Khanum every year. Because people still trust him. Which means his honesty is unimpeachable!
We forget that Imran isn’t in politics for the money or fame.
We forget that he sacrificed his personal life at the altar of his politics!
We forget his philanthropy and his ability to create institutions and then let professionals run them.
We forget that he, perhaps more than anybody else, knows his limitations and challenges.
We forget that he came from nowhere 21 years ago to create, arguably the most popular party in Pakistan and broke the back of an entrenched two-party system.
We forget that despite seemingly insurmountable odds he has triumphed.
And hence for the sake of this wretched country and its dismal dark future, I think Pakistan deserves a chance under Imran!
And we hope that Imran doesn’t forget that people flocked to him because of his honesty and incorruptibility, for his freshness and for the change he brought to traditional politics.  We hope he doesn’t forget that people didn’t come to him to see the same old corrupt, discredited faces adorning his stage!
In the words of George Orwell in “Animal farm”
“….Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which….”
(George Orwell, Animal Farm).
Otherwise, as I’ve said many times before, it’s back to the stench and vomit of the Sharifs and the Zardaris.
And worse, civil war and anarchy as their loot and plunder destroy whatever little is left!
Call me an anarchist or an alarmist, but I’ve got a pretty good track record for seeing these kinds of things.
And a piece of unsolicited advice for you, Imran.
Get a dozen or so, clean and non-controversial faces around you. People whose reputations will balance the electables. And they don’t have to be politicians. In fact, they shouldn’t be. But people with major accomplishments and achievements, especially in addressing and helping reform Pakistan’s broken institutions.
And other experts and specialists who can offer much to reform the system. People who otherwise do not have the inclination or the capacity or the temperament to be actively involved in political activities, but have great practical expertise to offer.  I’m out lest someone thinks this is a personal plug. Too many skeletons and no expertise.
Please start being a government in waiting. Formulate public policy and communicate it at two levels. By your party experts to other experts in Pakistan. And in a much more simplified form to the common man, spelling out the benefits to them and how it will impact and better their day to day lives.
And lastly and perhaps most importantly, reconnect with your party rank and file.
Especially the silent majority and the back benchers, the committed ideologues and the old guard, who still believe in you, and who have, and will, always stand by you. For they will help you win the election. Create a two way communication forum with them. Especially share and dialogue with them along with your leadership team, openly and transparently, your ticket allocation criteria, methodology and process. For it is they who will provide the most authentic honest and candid feedback about the best candidate in each constituency, above anyone’s selfish interests!
Nominating the right people is what will get you successfully past the finish line.

Good luck. Mr. Prime Minister in Waiting! A lot depends on what you say and do from now on!

The Snub at Astana !

PM Nawaz and his mysterious “non meeting” with the Chinese President Xi Jinping at the recently concluded SCO Summit!

-by Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

At the recently concluded SCO summit, we have photos and press releases and/or news items of our Great, Corrupt, Dishonourable, Money Laundering Leader, meeting:

1. Modi. A handshake photo opp.
2. Ghani. A meeting.
3. Putin. A meeting.
4. A few others.

But no meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Astana.

No. Not even a handshake photo opp!

And tragedies upon tragedies, not even during the group photo, as leaders mingle before and after the photo shoot.

And there he was, our forlorn PM humiliatingly shoved far back onto the second row, a safe distance away from President Xi, with PM Modi right behind President Xi, who by the way, very publicly and warmly, met PM Modi of India.

In diplomatic parlance, this is a major, deliberate and public snub to PM Nawaz.

This despite the “higher than the mountains and deeper than the oceans  friendship falsetto*” (prodded and prompted by the younger Grimm, the elder, as usual, totally Goldfish-like, having forgotten his lines, in a meeting with the Chinese President a couple of years ago).

So those who say President Xi and PM Nawaz met twice, at some hotel, must help us understand the source of their information, explain why there’s no photo of these meetings and why there’s no press release?

Or if there is, then why hasn’t it been made public?

And much more serious. No mention in the Chinese media. At all!

So either they met in the bathroom, or behind a bush, or in a state where photos would have been an embarrassment, or all cameras mysteriously malfunctioned.

Or, and most likely, they never met!

If true, very unfortunate and extremely sad and humiliating for Pakistan.

In my opinion, President Xi Jinping deliberately avoided being seen with a tainted and corrupt man. So the snub and insult was directed at the person of PM Nawaz Sharif and hopefully, not Pakistan

As many know, President Xi has lead a relentless campaign in China against corruption and money launderers since he took over as President. And is extremely averse to corruption in political leaders and public office holders.

He’s clamped down harshly with sentences ranging from long imprisonment to execution of those found guilty of corruption.

So PM Nawaz probably hit rock bottom with him, despite meeting him recently in China at the OBOR summit in May a few weeks ago. Which, he couldn’t have helped, being the host.

Contrary to speculation that President Xi didn’t meet him because of Chinese anger at the alleged tragic kidnapping and murder of the Chinese couple by Daesh, I think this was all the more a reason to meet Nawaz.

If anything, it was a perfect opportunity for Xi to seek more info and for Nawaz to provide an update.

But President Xi didn’t meet our all-conquering and great money launderer most likely because of news he must have had about the seriousness of the corruption charges against PM Nawaz and his likely disqualification and dismissal.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a “bird or two or three” whispered some inside information which may have reached the Chinese leadership!

So another humiliating backhander on the face of PM Nawaz Sharif, following the first backhander at the Muslim Ummah Big Bash,  by “The Great Trumpeter” bringing further humiliation and embarrassment to Pakistan.

And mercies upon mercies, now he wants to play the role of a mediator between Qatar and Saudi Arabia!

But how does he get rid of the terrible stench of corruption that envelopes him everywhere he goes?

How does he face people who’d much rather not be seen standing next to him?

Can the shameless ever be shamed?

Nawaz Sharif’s Lexus!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

The daily display of increasing power generation by PMLN reminds me of my Toyota days when Nawaz became PM the first time.

One day I received a call from the PM house requesting a Toyota LEXUS for the PM.

It was Capt. Safdar, not married to Maryam Antoinette Safdar then. I think.

His tone was very arrogant ( The PM house has a way of destroying ones values). So, after putting him in his place by asking for his PMA course and sharing mine, knowing he would most likely be junior to me, I pulled rank and said.  Haan Safdar, buthaao. What can I do for you?

His tone changed and very politely asked if we could order a Lexus for the PM.

I said, I’ll check and asked him to call me back the next day. (I had a lot of fun in those days, putting these arrogant type flunkies in their place)

Toyota Japan refused saying Lexus’s could only be exported to countries where they had been launched and a dealer network existed to support them.

This was mid to late 1992, and we still hadn’t launched our locally manufactured Toyota Corolla and neither was our full scale 3S dealership in place. So pretty much a snowball’s chance in hell for a Lexus. PM or no PM.

I conveyed the same to Safdar. All hell broke loose. Safdar pleaded, used the old Army card, then senior staffers got involved. A Rear Admiral etc. And even I felt that our dignity was compromised.

So we pushed the Japanese really hard and they finally gave in but at a very expensive price tag.

We had to buy not 1 but 3 vehicles. 1 for the PM.1 to replace it immediately if it broke down.  And the third as a back up to the back up.

The Japanese are  just an amazing lot!

Plus we had to buy and keep another Rs. 1 million worth of special Lexus service equipment and spares and special training of our Islamabad dealer and their mechanics in Japan. All to be paid by us. And then and only then will they allow a Lexus to be imported.

Long story short.  We  said yes. The Govt paid for one Lexus and we footed the remainder.

Nearly every week the PM house would call for the status till I stopped taking their calls and handed them over to our Fleet Sales Manager, a sweet fellow, who could talk you to death on the phone without committing anything and you felt he’d agreed to everything you said.  And he loved these long conversations with the PM house.

I still vividly remember the day in April 1993, when the ship arrived with Nawaz’s Lexus and the call from the PM house this time a Brigadier (senior to me. He’d been brought in to talk to that “Paagal Kuptaan” Toyota General Manager – me)

I gave him the good news and informed that it’ll be cleared in day or two etc.

The next day Nawaz’s Government was dismissed and the person who ended up driving the Lexus was none other then our very own and very happy and ever smiling Asif Zardari. 😎

I think after achieving this power thing, not the PMLN, but Imran will reap the benefits and  ride the wave of this power generation!

Lexus, anyone?