Pakistan’s democracy. Jithay dee Khothee Uthaay Aan Khalothee !

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

There’s a saying in Punjabi. “Jithay dee Khothee uthay aan khalothee”.

Loosely translated.The she donkey (or whatever one calls a female donkey) always comes back to where she started from. In more sophisticated terms its “back to square one”. Basically. No change!

Pakistan’s version of democracy is no different to this Khothee, aimlessly going round and round finally arriving back from where it started.

To move forward, Pakistan needs change as many of us know and want.

Deep systemic change which uproots the old order and brings in the new. Not just a cosmetic one with one bunch of looters and plunderers replacing the other.

Some misguidedly call for military dispensation or a temporary government of technocrats.

But the answer lies in neither, but in institutional reform under the due process of law and that willing handmaiden, the constitution, ever so often used and abused and or locked up, as the case may be.

But because our institutions are so weak, having been systematically debased, degraded, destroyed and debilitated by successive governments, both civilian and military, this reform cannot happen without getting rid of those responsible for this wilful destruction, and making it easy for them to continue their loot and plunder

Our electoral process recycles and elects the same trash and garbage, over and over again. Bhutto, Benazir, Nawaz, Benazir, Nawaz, Zardari, Nawaz. And interspersed by long periods of men on horseback, equally destructive. Clear?

So what now?.
A military intervention?
A short term non elected technocratic administration?
A combination of the two?

Or leveraging some of our strong institutions like the Supreme Court and the NAB, to start to drain the swamp, getting rid of and punishing the most powerful and most corrupt and strengthening key institutions like ECP, FBR, FIA, SECP, Police, PEMRA, Railways etc to give us a fighting chance. All within the law and constitution.

And that is why I fully support the efforts of the Supreme Court in bringing some order, some accountability to our mess.

Many have crticised the “Good Governance and Anti corruption” jihad launched by the Chief Justice. This would have been justified if we were operating in an environment where our public sector institutions of governance, administration and especially of accountability were operating honestly and as per their mandate.

But they’ve failed. No institution could punish Benazir, Zardari, Nawaz Sharif for their institutional destruction and wholescale corruption, loot and plunder.

Nor could they haul up people under military government and many made fortunes. Take the example of the Akhter brothers, Humayun and Haroon, sons of Lt. Gen Akhter Abdur Rahman, or Ejaz ul Haque, Gen. Zia’s son, or Ch. Qamaruzaman the former NAB boss, one time ADC to Gen. Zia. Or those who got a free pass out of jail under Gen. Musharraf.

And the many generals, brigadiers and other officers who’ve been graciously helping themselves.

And then who can ever forget the terrible and infamous Gen. Musharraf, NRO .

So clearly the military is not the answer.

While I have great respect for our Armed forces being an ex Khaki myself and their tremendous efforts in winning the battle against terror and militancy, military interventions are not and will never be the solution, despite the organization’s professional brilliance, discipline and relatively corruption free environment, compared to other government institutions.

Any hopes from another Military government are, to say the least, seriously misplaced. This is because all military governments or administrations, overt or covert, eventually truck with the same kind of people they came to replace. Zia, Musharraf. No change. In fact they leave behind a system and institutions, even weaker.

This happens because of two reasons.

One the military mind while operationally outstanding, operates in a binary of “us” and “them” or “friend” vs “foe”. You’re either “with them” or “against them”.

That’s the nature of military training since time immemorial and rightly so, because they are not trained to operate in shades of grey or ambiguity or uncertainty or compromise. So any person, group, institution who offers a contrarian view, automatically gets pushed into the “other” “enemy” “foe” or “they” camp. Not their fault. In their world you’re either with them or against them.

And people who do not like authoritarianism, will disagree with them, irrespecive of their good intentions or good work.

And this to me explains why many intelligent, educated and aware people will support a known crook and criminal like Nawaz as he cunningly crafted his anti establishment rhetoric, muddying the waters and trying to move the focus away from his own criminal acts, and pretending to stand up to militarism. This despite the fact that he sent over six emissaries to the army desperately seeking a bail out!

Secondly and more critically because they are operationally successful in implementing programs within their own areas of expertise, and observing the abject misgovernance in the civilian sphere, they mistakenly believe that they will achieve similar success when implementing programs in the non military sphere, operating outside their organizational structures, policies, procedures and systems.

This is where they fumble and flounder and finally have to seek support from the “civilians” and the “politicians” to help implement any change agenda.

There they find the same leeches who have stuck to them. Not the bright intelligent ones, who will challenge them and who’ve been thrust away. Honourable exceptions apart. And many honourable exceptions did one find during Gen. Musharrafs regime, especially his first 3 or 4 years. Otherwise tragically once more its back to square one.

So how does one use the tremendous organizational capabilities of a disciplined and relatively corruption free institution like the Pakistan Army in helping Pakistan reform? The Army is a reality in Pakistan. Its latent power and influence in Pakistan is huge, especially coming out of its highly successful war against militancy and terrorism. While technically the Army Chief is a grade 22 officer, subservient to the Minister of Defence, his office is by far the most powerful in the country.

What can and should the Army do to get us out of this hell hole for which it shares equal responsibility with the corrupt politicians?

In my opinion, two things.

Stand behind the constitution and law and support any institution like the Supreme Court and NAB and others who are endeavouring to create space and opportunity for institutional reform, holding the corrupt accountable and ensuring that honest and competent people are appointed to positions of power and authority in key public sector institutions.

2. Ensure that they support the Election Commussion to ensure elections are free and fair, as much can be, given the total hijacking and destruction of our electoral process.

And they MUST NOT tinker with the political process and try and influence the outcome!

Nor should there be any ham handed and stupid attempts at muzzling the press, as one hears nowadays!

A free press even if it runs wild is the greatest shield against unbridled fascism and authoritarianism.

So back to democracy! Many people are of the opinion that in Pakistan, “Democracy” will eventually evolve into a better form than before. I have a very strong opinion to the contrary .

Technically we’ve had “Democracy” in its current form since Gen. Musharraf’s 2004 elections. Since 2008, Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have enjoyed and enjoy nearly as much absolute power as did Gen. Musharraf. Not a twig moves in the Federal and Punjab governments without the Sharif nod or the Zardari nod in Sind.

Yes we have the trappings of federal and provincial legislatures. These have hosted the august bottoms of the same people and families and mindsets since 1940 pre partition days. The only exception being the urban MQM, a party sadly tainted with horrible fascist crimes.

Has anything changed in Pakistan as a consequence of this more than a decade long “Democratic” period?

Are our national leaders less corrupt than before?
Has our law enforcement become better?
Terrorism apart, is our life, property more safe today?
Are our courts, both lower and superior judiciary, delivering better and quicker justice?
Are our government departments less corrupt?
Are public sector appointments made on merit on two fundamental criterion of competence and honesty?
Do we have better and more job opportunities for our youth?
Has our public health care system become better?
Has our public education system become better?
Has our economy grown ?
Have our exports grown?
Have our foreign exchange reserves grown?
Do people pay more taxes?

We live in a dream world of rose tinted glasses and a simplistic construct of “let Democracy continue and evolve.

Yes it must.

But then it must be democracy, a trust of the people, transparent, accountable and delivering good governance. Not a near total dictatorship disguised as a democracy as we see today. It must deliver growth and betterment to the questions asked above

Look at the election statistics. PPP got 13% of the registered vote to come into power in 2008 and PMLN 18% in 2012.

And they governed and govern as if Pakistan was and is their personal fiefdom.

Both parties have mastered the art of hijacking the electoral process through money, patronage and outright criminality called rigging. And then the audacity of foisting their children on this country as one does in a dynasty. Who is Bilawal? Who is Maryam? Who is Hamza? Little twits and nothings with absolute no right but their incident of birth.

Is this democracy?

Will we continue to pay homage to a twenty something twit Bilawal as our next “democratically” selected PM? or that trashy botoxed dumb blonde, Maryam in the same slot?

And their “courtiers” who’s only relevance is that they support such a dysfunctional order. This is no better than North Korea, or Saddam’s Iraq or our “brotherly” Muslim dynastic countries. But this is not democracy!

Gen. Musharraf was a military ruler and one in uniform, but compared to these two so called “democrats” he was far better, in both letter and spirit.

Did he ever try and push his children on us?

Did we not have one of the most effective local government systems under his watch?

Did we not have one of the least corrupt Government’s in his time?

I’m not here to sing his praises or defend him. He also has much to answer in areas of foreign policy, partnering with corrupt politicians, the whole post 9/11 scenario and perhaps the most unforgivable sin of not implementing deep institutional reform.

The last, more tragic, because he had the opportunity, the power and initially the whole hearted support of the Nation.

But in areas of governance, democratic practices, transparency, devolution of power to local bodies, and relatively less corruption, he comes out, smelling like a rose compared to Nawaz Sharif and Zardari!

So this is not “Democracy”.

Nawaz Sharif did not even pay token homage to the trappings of a parliamentary democracy. His record of attending the Parliament and the Senate is shameful. Shouldn’t he have gone to the National Assembly to make his position clear on the Panama Leaks and answer questions?

No. He did what a “dictator” does, hide behind a gentle camera and deliver a pathetic, embarrassing monologue of such juvenile logic that some senior members of his own party were reported to have thrown up! And now is out in the cold!

And trying to stir a near civil war!

So if we have elections again tomorrow and the silent majority does not vote, these criminals, looters and plunderers will come back in power. Not because they’re popular or they got the vote, but because they’ve captured the system.

Therefore cast your vote. Every vote counts and be very careful when you cast your vote. Each and everyone of us.

Look at your choices, Nawaz, Zardari and Imran. One would be daft not to see the obvious choice.

Yes we need an administration of honest and capable technocrats to get into positions of power and authority. Based on his track record, the only person who will appoint such people is Imran.

Get him in. The other’s we’ve tried and seen the outcome. Worst case scenario. Imran cannot be worse then the loot and plunder and the stench and vomit of the Sharifs and the Zardaris

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar is a God send! More power to him and his judicial activism. Either we let him drain the swamp, or wait for the men on horseback or slide further down into anarchy!

He has filled the vacuum created by the abject surrender of governance by the political order. Any vacuum will attract something to fill the emptiness. Thank our stars that he stepped ip to the plate and not the Military or anarchy and lawlessness!

And because of his activism, many others are showing spine.

Pakistan’s vector is heading north.

Please keep it this way.

Use your vote. And use it wisely!

The Hijacked Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement -PTM

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Interesting to see this emergence of PTM before our elections & especially when Pakistan is under constant USA pressure vis-a-vis the Taleban etc, an old mantra which has lost its credibility.

Clearly it is very well-funded and getting a lot of social media support from the usual suspects, Husain Haqqani, Mazdaki (Mohammed Taqi), Raza Rumi, Marvi Sirmed, ostensibly under the facade of “free speech” and “Pashtun rights”. But in reality pushing their “cold war” agenda of anti militarism, another dead dog, forward.

While many of the PTM grievances may be valid such as the large number of security checkpoints, midnight knocks, being subjected to what are perceived as highly unnecessary restrictions. But unfortunately these are an ugly and harsh reality of a geography which has seen war and violence for nearly 40 years.

Lest we forget, post 9/11, even the world’s so-called most vibrant democracy, the USA, has behaved worse than a Nazi fascist state in treating its own citizens and still do. As have others when they felt their security threatened.

I fully sympathise and empathise with those who suffer from the high handedness of the State. And only someone who undergoes the pain and the indignities, can understand what it feels being the victim of extremely harsh security measures. As do the youth of FATA.

Pakistan has been through civil wars and extreme violence and militancy in FATA and Balochistan. Unfortunately and as a consequence the landscape is not just physically scarred but also emotionally and intellectually, scarred on all sides. Including the State. Every shadow is potential terrorist, a suicide bomber. And then of course power also results in its misuse as well.

Clearly no one wants to live in an environment of constant surveillance, security checks, sometimes even being treated as possible criminals or terrorists?

But this is the unfortunate, tragic and sad part of our reality, and while I fully support every effort to normalize the lives of every citizen in our country and for the removal of this very harsh security blanket, we must also understand the rationale.

Several years ago, I remember coming from Dubai to Lahore, and just because my driver had a very long beard and wasn’t carrying his original identity card, we were stopped for three hours, despite my ex military credentials, till his brother brought his genuine ID card!

While this is nothing compared to the many indignities people in FATA or Quetta or other parts suffer, it manifests the paranoia of the State and their own insecurities and experiences where seemingly innocent people wreaked havoc!

Only with time and peace will things become more normal, and the journey has started.

But what for me is seriously questionable and extremely dangerous for Pakistan, is how the PTM has clearly being hijacked by anti state and anti army elements, using the genuine grievances of the people.

And what is also not clear is what this movement wants to achieve other than abusing the Army, shouting platitudes about freedom and “our rights”. There’s clearly much more to this movement than meets the eye.

Running the risk of being dubbed a conspiracy theorist, it does appears that the PTM, in some of its highly inflammable rhetoric, advocates what the USA, Afghans and Indians have been saying about Pakistan and the Pakistan Army.

And to me also offers them the perfect opportunity, to create dissension in Fata and KPK, and bring pressure on Pakistan and the Army.

Also not far behind are possibilities that local politics may also be fueling this.

Nawaz Sharif, ANP and the likes of Mahmood Achakzai have a lot to gain by the PTM stance of constantly abusing and attacking the Army and the State.

And the cherry on the cake is to divide the PTI Pashtun youth vote. Imran’s flagship!

One symathises with any beleaguered community, especially the residents of FATA for the hell they have been through and highlighting and complaining against high handedness by the state, which is every citizen’s right, more so if its outside the bounds of the prevailing law.

But Manzoor Pashteen must be careful that the genuine cause of the movement does not turn into an Army and state bashing exercise, hijacked by our enemies! He is either a willing co-conspirator or stupid enough to be used.

From what Ive seen, he’s far from stupid!

All the current signs tell me that its turning into something sinister. But I could be wrong!

For one, the language used against the Army gives them away!

Secondly I’m very wary when certain types of people begin to endorse any movement in Pakistan.

The final giveaway will be an International Conference!

-Haider Mehdi

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto -Part Devil, part Saint!

  1. By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

Bhutto was an enigma.

Brilliant and brutal. Part Saint, part Devil. Unfortunately the Devil won!

Inordinate ambition, a massive ego and the betrayal of his own political values got him the end he deserved!

Not for that crime of murder, but for the many unspeakable horrors he committed, especially on his own, like J A Rahim and Mairaj Mohammed Khan, and his political opponents like Mian Tufail, which cannot be repeated here!

He could have turned and moulded this nation into a great power but he couldn’t rise above his own terrible inconsistencies and his personal ambitions!

His politics were schizophrenic. His pendulum swinging from the man of the masses to a ruthless fascist dictator.

A flawed angel and a Devil incarnate, directly responsible for the breakup of Pakistan.

As Pakistan’s only Civilian Chief Martial Administrator, with one stroke of the pen on midnight, 1January 1972, he destroyed Pakistan’s economic engine, it’s educational system and it’s health care, by nationalizing all three.

And then the coup de grace in destroying the bureaucracy, which has since become the handmaiden of all administrations!

He set us back decades including, in my opinion, directly responsible for Zia’s takeover.

He was also cruel, sadistic, vindictive, unforgiving, petty and mean. Never forgot a slight. The last got him the gallows!

Brilliant he was, no doubt.

But not in the mould of great leaders, but that of a charismatic con man!

-Haider Mehdi