Releasing the Indian Pilot -Weakness of Wisdom?

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Did PM Imran Khan do the right thing in releasing the Indian Wing Commander in Pakistan’s custody?

Was it a sign of weakness or a statesman’s leadership act of great wisdom? Or was it something called the “weakness of wisdom”.  A wise act appearing like a weakness!

We can argue both perspectives with cogent arguments, very forcefully and sway the conclusion to our desired end.

But really, the biggest issue that should determine the label of, weakness or wisdom is whether both countries were ready for a war?

Conventional or Nuclear!

Whether this would have remained confined to short and limited engagements, as we saw, or quickly expanded to a larger, perhaps even a full scale military conventional engagement or even our worse nightmare, the  horrifying spectre of an existential nuclear conflict?

This, to me, is the defining narrative, and reality that confronted us these past few days.

More importantly both countries must have war gamed and scenario planned a spectrum of possible scenarios ranging from a “least likely to happen with no damage”, meaning that no country would attack the other and no damage would be inflicted on either side.

To the other extreme spectrum of a worst case scenario of “most likely to happen and worst outcome”. Which in this case would mean attacks and counter attacks by both countries, expanding to a larger conflict and leading to a suicidal nuclear war.

This latter scenario was clearly what both countries must have concluded.

It did appear for a heart stopping 24 hours that Modi’s brinkmanship or miscalculation, call it what you may, of pushing his luck and striking Pakistan with conventional missiles, especially after the public humiliation of the two downed planes and the captured pilot, may well have scripted through to Armageddon!

This would have been compounded by Pakistan’s clear intention communicated to India of a 3 to 1 counterstrike, which meant for every 1 strike by India, Pakistan would hit 3 targets.

And thus the fires of hell would have rained on both countries as they initially unleashed their conventional arsenals and then their nuclear.

So where and how did this slide of insanity down the slope of a  nuclear holocaust stop?

Perhaps two things. And one can debate which came first or had more impact.

But clearly the decision to release the pilot greatly mollified the terribly bruised Indian ego, humiliated in their own country and outside.

And secondly then of course Big Brother USA who stepped in and said. Ok guys, that’s enough.

But I think, and this is a pure assessment, a third factor may also have played a role. I think the Indian military leadership may have, and I say may have been reluctant to follow Modi’s midnight madness.

It is in all that one can safely conclude that PM Imran Khan may have averted a very likely nuclear disaster by demonstrating great sagacity, tremendous magnanimity and most importantly, brilliant statesmanship in releasing the pilot!

We’re not out of the woods. The Indians are still smarting. They are angry and hurt. They feel insulted, humiliated.

Despite Modi’s putting up a brave face, he’s clearly got egg all over his face. This is not to gloat over their discomfort or misadventure, which I would love to do, but simply to state the obvious. They screwed up, royally!

But, tragically these events also showed how isolated we are, today.

Not one country, including *Taller then the Mountains and Deeper then the Oceans, friend forever BFF China, so called brotherly Ummah Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia and UAE, the latter host to “Guest of Honour, Sushma Swaraj, what a kick in our backsides, except Turkey, condemned the Indian attacks and pointed at Kashmir as the root cause.*

Not one!

*Our Foreign Policy is in tatters. Let’s not kid ourselves folks!*

All these recent foreign junkets by the PM and the Army Chief, and the chest thumping PR of how successful this person did this thing and that thing and saved the day etc etc are, in my opinion, in the final analysis, complete foreign policy failures.

Yes we did manage to get some money, but also a kick on our faces and on our backsides, with UAE’s invitation to Sushma as Guest of Honour, perhaps alongside “et tu Brute” go down in history as another most sad act of treachery, given the recent bonhomie between Pakistan and UAE!

But here is the light at the end of this dark tunnel. The silver lining. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Name all the cliches one can but this truly is *Pakistan’s best opportunity to cleanse our Augean stables of all the filth and crap we’ve collected and nurtured for decades.*

Call them what you may. Strategic Assets. Non State Actors. We don’t need them! We must root them out mercilessly or they will be responsible for our destruction, God Forbid!

And the World, rightly or wrongly, now just doesn’t have the patience to listen to our stories.

Beware the proverbial Ides of March has yet to come! Let’s fix our house before it’s too late! It’s only then that Kashmir will get a willing ear and we may have another friend or two!

*-Haider Mehdi*

The Modi Miscalculation!

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Modi had 3 reasons to resort to this brinkmanship by either orchestrating Pulwama as a false flag operation or taking advantage of a completely indigenous occupied Kashmiri action in their fight for self determination and freedom!

1. Gain Political mileage for April elections.

2. Tell the West that Pakistan continues to sponsor militancy in occupied Kashmir.

3. Hence, Kashmir has been militarized and therefore we, India have to crack down harshly with an Iron fist. And when we do, please don’t accuse us of human rights abuses, as western governments and organizations have been doing so lately.

But he grossly miscalculated Pakistan’s response, as we did in Kargil, as well as the uncontrollable hype created by the Indian media. The latter putting him in a very difficult situation of now taking action. Pretty much damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

So he did, hoping the “non-action on a deserted hill side will not provoke Pakistan to retaliate”!

But the reaction was sharp, swift and disastrous for India and its mad jingoism and media optics.

The damage to their collective national ego is colossal. The two downed aircrafts and the two captured pilots do not show themassive mourning that’s hit the Indian Nation!

What was planned as a cake walk by Modi has turned into a terrible PR disaster and an embarrassment and humiliation of olympian proportions.

So he either suffers the terrible humiliation of keeping quiet after receiving a Pakistani backhander and kick in the curlies or he responds to save some face! My sense is that the chances of an Indian action are more than not!

And it is this Indian retaliation which is worrisome because here is where things can go out of control.

The most desirable action by the Indians is call it a cease fire. But it seems that there are greater chances that the Indians will try and sneak across the LOC to attack an isolated Pakistani border post and try and bring back a Pakistani officer or two as captive, to even the score of the two Indian pilots in Pakistani custody and try and redeem the public humiliation they’ve suffered.

This can escalate to a much more large scale ground attack supported by Artillery, Amour and Air in Azad Kashmir or the Shakargarh salient, our most vulnerable defended area because of its peculiar geography.

We have to be vigilant!

They won’t give up easily with all this egg on their faces and the abject humiliation they’ve suffered.

*- Haider Mehdi*

The TLP Case Judgement!-A personal view!

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

While directionally, I think the judgement is powerful and correct, but also sadly, the obvious biases of His Lordships against Imran and the Army are there for everyone to see and read, as well!

We were and still are in exceptional circumstances which required exceptional responses.

In the future when we have robust and strong civilian institutions, strong political institutions, strong governance structures and implementation architectures, the military’s footprint will and should recede automatically.

We can of course argue till the cows come home about the chicken and egg.

Who is responsible for our Mess?

Martial Laws or incompetent and corrupt politicians?

Was it the first Martial law, which opened the floodgates of subsequent ones, the consequence of political causes and corruption or was it vice versa?

My personal view supports the former.

In my view, our Martial Laws are directly and indirectly responsible for the kind of corrupt political leaders that acquired power in Pakistan and the consequential governance mess, loot and plunder and weakened civilian institutions!

BUT and this a big BUT, like it or not, the Army, today, is THE ONLY strong, disciplined surviving institution and hence has progressively filled the vacuum left by weakened civilian institutions.

Many, as stated earlier, through their own creation, directly or indirectly!

They will only vacate, recede and reduce their footprint as we start to strengthen our civilian and political institutions.

To that extent the judgement is futuristic, directionally correct and powerful.

But the language used in penning the judgement betrayed the Honourable Judge’s very obviously bias!

While covering a large historical canvas from 2007 to 2018, the Honourable Judge did not deem it fit to even give a passing mention to the loot, plunder and rape wreaked on this hapless nation by the Zardari and Sharif administrations and to the total destruction and havoc they deliberately wreaked on civilian institutions!

And that is why this terribly weakened civilian edifice gave the military a power vacuum which they filled! And hence the heightened and very visible and prominent role of institutions like the ISI and MI etc.

They did not feel the need to mention the sedition of a Husain Haqqani, living in the President’s house, the then President harbouring a person charged with high treason, which caused serious concerns about National security.

They did not deem it appropriate to even give a token passing mention of the loot of Nawaz, the rape by Zardari. No Sir! Not at all!

It is as if the Army was the cause of all our ills. As if we lived in Lala land under Zardari and Nawaz, these 11 years, flowing with rivers and honey.

Of course the military has overextended itself.

Of course it must confine itself to its mandate.

But for now it’s in the saddle in areas it should not be. Like it or not!

Therefore it’s a journey and we will get there! But it will not happen overnight.

For now, our enemies are out to defame and weaken our Army, knowing, sadly that they really are our “last man o woman standing”!

Get them, for now, and you get Pakistan!

We must not fall into this trap of weakening the Army, sowing doubts in our own youth, to further our politics as Nawaz and Zardari are doing. Or as India and Afghanistan are doing, including Ashraf Ghani.

We must not fall into the trap of furthering those who fan the flames of conflict and sedition as in PTM, playing and preying on genuine grievances!

We must work towards strengthening our civilian institutions.

And my request to our current and future military leadership. Please do everything you can to strengthen civilian institutions and reduce your footprints in areas where you can, so others in the civilian space can breathe, stretch and grow.

Let’s not forget that the peace and freedom all of us enjoy today, including the freedom our Honourable Judges enjoy to write this judgement is because of the blood and tears of those whose dying breaths kept the flag fluttering when the terrorists were 100 kms from Islamabad!

Let none of us ever forget those sacrifices.

We sleep well today, because they sleep forever!

Salaams and Prayers.
Haider Mehdi

The Rumour Mill!

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Three huge rumours are doing the rounds. In my opinion, all quite serious, worrying and not good for the State of Pakistan.

*Rumour 1*Nawaz Sharif is being facilitated “out of Pakistan” under that terrible, now so cliched term, made famous by Gen. Musharraf, an NRO.

*Few questions, if true!*

Who is facilitating this and to what end?

Why should a criminal who has looted and plundered this country, alongwith his cronies, and his daughter, be the beneficiary of an NRO and escape their punishment and jail time?

Why should this criminal not be treated like any other criminal and left to rot in a jail cell, he fully deserves?

Why should any person or persons or any institution in their wisdom not allow due process and in the “interest of the country” deem it wise to let this man and his daughter off the hook?

One sincerely hopes this rumour is untrue!

If there’s even a remote possibility of some backdoor engagement, then this Nation looks at CJ Khosa to not allow this cataclysmic tragedy to happen, irrespective from where it emanates.

*Rumour 2*
A one year extension for the soon retiring COAS Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa (Nov 2019).

And a variation.

Increasing the Army Chief’s tenure to 4 years from the existing 3 years. This is to be implemented with the current incumbent, Gen. Bajwa who will consequently become the first beneficiary and get another year on the job!

If both true, then here’s a brief comment. Gen. Bajwa has been a very balanced Army Chief. He is a down to earth person, very humble, no pretentions and this has been manifested in the cool and calm manner he has handled his ship. He has a lot to do with Pakistan’s current internal and external stability. Of course he has detractors and one can, may and should fault him where he faltered. But he has played a very good solid, positive and productive innings. And that really is his legacy.

After over 40 years of great service to this institution and to the country, he, I am sure, even if offered an extension, will not accept and retire gracefully. And in my opinion, an extension should also not be offered.

If there is talk of increasing the Army Chief’s tenure from 3 to 4, then this should be applied from the time the new Chief is appointed and not during Gen. Bajwa’s incumbency to avoid the impression of changing an institutional policy to oblige a person.

The institution is and should always be bigger than the person. And from what I know of and about Gen. Bajwa, he will insist that this new policy be made effective for the new Chief being appointed in November, 2019.

*Rumour 3*
The recent busting of a major spy ring involving very senior people. If true, they must be punished publicly and let not the case be hushed up in the interest of *”institution ki baysthee ho gee!”*

-Haider Mehdi

The Sahiwal Encounter- A shory sad note

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

While Sahiwal casts a huge shadow and a sad question mark, it merely manifests in the most stark, cruel and tragic way the absolute destruction and breakdown of our institutional processes, competence, accountability and governance structures.

If anything it gives us a huge warning of a potential unstoppable meltdown, where even those in the bureaucracy, who are competent, will not take action, as is happening now.

It reflects institutional breakdown, lack of merit, lack of competence, lack of training, lack of process and lack of controls.

And the consequences are horrific.

A future encounter with a terrorist now runs the risk of inaction.

Such is the situation we are in.

It also manifests, in this case, the consequences zero accountability of the infamous police encounters introduced by Shahbaz Sharif and Asif Zardari! The Abid Boxers, Omer Virks, Rao Anwars etc.

The solution.

Reform, reform and reform. Will not happen overnight, unfortunately.

50 years of destruction of governance structures and institutional breakdown will not be fixed overnight.

But we will have hope if at the least, we see actions which tell us we are heading im the right direction and we see competent administrators at the helm.

A Governance reforms committee under Dr. Ishrat, and CM Buzdar in Punjab, does not give us that hope and comfort.

-Haider Mehdi