The “New” Saudi Arabia!

The “New” Saudi Arabia
– By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
(5 – 7 minute read)

Recently we saw an assertive Saudi Arabia slam Canada with a volley of diplomatic and economic punches which left Canada reeling and a trifle stunned.

They expelled the Canadian Ambassador, recalled their’s, ordered 15000 college and university students and 900 medical students and doctors to leave Canada by September.

They announced they won’t buy Canadian wheat and barley, and also stopped direct airline flights to Toronto.

But they stopped short of halting oil exports to Canada and cancelling a $15 Billion light armoured vehicles deal. Two actions which would have had far more serious economic impact on Saudi Arabia then the other actions they announced.

MBS may appear impetuous and reckless which he is, in my opinion, but he’s also pretty smart as well, when it comes to money!

The Saudis have demanded nothing short of a full and unqualified apology from Canada for “…..interfering in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia….”

And all this because of an ill thought through tweet by the Canadian Foreign office on the arrest of Samar Badawi, sister of the already arrested and convicted Saudi Blogger and human rights activist, Raif Badawi.

The world’s silence was deafening!

The so-called human rights leaders, the crocodile and hypocritical tear shedding USA and UK, asked Canada to clean up their own mess.

Germany and Sweden, still smarting from Saudi knuckle raps in 2015 and 2017, offered no comment. The EU requested “more information” which really means “Sorry, Saudis, we have to do it for the sake of form, but kindly ignore”

Egypt, UAE and Pakistan announced support.

Pakistan’s stance perhaps the most surprising, indicating the emerging influence Saudi Arabia has again begun to exercise on us, which had considerably waned given our neutral positions on Syria, Iran and Yemen. They likely arm twisted and demanded this statement, in exchange for financial favors to follow.

Pakistan readily obliged given our dire economic condition and our desperation for financial help.

This position, will, in my view, come to haunt us tomorrow when we condemn human rights abuses in Indian held Kashmir or Assam or Myanmar or on Palestinians in Israeli occupied territories.

Smugly, I can then foresee India and Israel turning around and telling us to shut up and “stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries”.

Whatever our compulsions and whoever the architect, this was a stupid and ill thought through decision!

The three calls from King Salman and Crown Prince MBS to PM elect Imran Khan, and the invitation to visit Saudi Arabia, all within the space of a week are also unprecedented!

But this piece isn’t about the Canadian Saudi dispute but more trying to understand what’s happening in the Kingdom!

So what’s going on in Saudi Arabia?

Kamran Bokhari, Vice President at Center for Global Policy, a Washington-based research and policy think tank and author of Political Islam in the age of Democratization, believes that since MBS’s taking over as Crown Prince in 2017, and effectively the reins of Saudi Arabia, a massive sea change has taken place in their internal traditional power structures and their foreign policy.

For example the 90-year-old symbiotic and close relationship between the Saudi State and the Religious Clergy has ended.

He believes that the power and influence of the ultra conservative Wahabi Clergy was highly overrated to begin with, and today, MBS has easily managed to defang them by either buying them off, browbeating them into submission and in some cases putting the very few who didn’t toe his line, behind bars.

There’s also a common view amongst young Saudis, that MBS is as much a conservative Wahabi or traditional Muslim as is Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, an Iranian Shia!

MBS’s secular outlook is driving his desire to purge Saudi society of its centuries old baggage of religious conservatism and obscurantism and open it to modernization.

But, and here is where the problem lies, at the same time, he wants total and unquestionable power and autocratic control and absolutely no political dissent.

This approach of modernization and religious secularism endears him to a large segment of the 60% Saudi youth of both genders, his main constituency. Hence the widely welcomed curbs on the activities of the religious police, the limitations and restrictions on issuing religious Fatwas and the permission to women to drive cars.

But to retain total power, he realizes that the traditional power sharing structure with other members of the Royal family and power centers in the country would always pose an existential danger to his authority and writ!

Hence in one extremely risky but daring move, he imprisoned thousands of the very rich and powerful from within and without the Royal circle for several weeks, and defanged them by taking away their most lethal weapons, their wealth and their positions in government.

He must have surmised that as long they had wealth and political power, the Royals and other powerful people would continue to be a threat. By taking away their wealth and political clout, he believes he’s neutralized or minimised this threat.

Externally, he’s cleverly allied himself to Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel to forestall any serious external pressures and threats.

This alignment gave him the space to play havoc with hapless Yemen, launch a political and economic boycott of Qatar, kick Canada in the shins, and assert Saudi Arabia’s new-found independance of no longer being a USA appendage, but an emerging regional power and partner.

A partner which, he thinks, will look after US interests and by proxy, Israel interests, as a regional policeman, especially in the context of Iran, Syria, Iraq and perhaps even Afghanistan.

The above makes sense to him, as the USA attempts to exit from very expensive operations in the Region, such as in Afghanistan, a $45 Billion hole. MBS believes this is the time to assert Saudi credentials as a regional power. The last more significant now given the serious disputes between Turkey and USA.

Easier said then done!

So who is MBS? This is how I read him!

He’s first and foremost a complete autocrat, wanting total and absolute power like a Kim Jong un of North Korea.

He’s secondly a Saudi, wanting to modernize the country but in his own way and style, much like the opening up of China by the Chinese Communist leadership and harshly stamping out any dissent by activists like Rauf and Samar Badawi, who can potentially snowball a tiny movement into a major political reform movement in which he is not a player!

Third, he’s an ambitious Arab nationalist, wanting to dominate the Region vying against Iranian or Turkish or even Pakistani, domination and influence.

And last and definitely the least, he’s a secular, indifferent Muslim who doesn’t really care a flying frog about religion or Muslim Unity or the so-called mirage of the Ummah, a daily dream of many simple Pakistanis!

So the big question is?

Will he succeed in his objectives in modernizing Saudi Arabia, becoming a dominant regional player and simultaneously retaining absolute and total control of the country?

I think he will partially succeed in opening up the country to modernization but not at the pace and manner he would want. A genie or movement once let loose no longer listens to its master and takes a life of their own. I don’t think he will be able to manage or control this “guided modernization”!

On becoming the Regional Policeman, the environment is even harsher!

His support from a more inward looking USA will no longer be a long-term guarantee. And may become even more questionable if Trump doesn’t win a second term.

The Turkish-USA divide, while seemingly an opportunity for MBS’s ambitions will create more instability as the battle heats up and as the big boys, Russia and China also step into the fray.

A post USA withdrawal Afghanistan conjures up several nightmare scenarios of the Warlordism of the 90’s or even Balkanization of the country but most likely the collapse of the Ghani government.

In any of these scenarious, Saudi Arabia has much less influence in Afghanistan then say, Pakistan and their arch-enemy, Iran.

So pretty much, no dice here.

And as we are seeing they will not be able to exercise any influence over an increasingly assertive Assad ruled Syria, now silently supported by the US, fearing a return of the Daesh phenomenon and their alliance with the Kurds, as well as a much more stable Iraq.

And finally closer to home in Pakistan.

Here we have a PM elect like Imran who unlike Nawaz, owes no personal loyalty or obligation to them, has no financial interests at stake in the Kingdom, and importantly has publicly stated to take a neutral policy in inter regional disputes and act as a mediator!

Given all this and their extremely limited military clout, despite their modern weaponry but poor training and small size, I don’t think his dream of being a regional Arab power will come true.

But he may get some short-term traction as he continues to exercise his economic clout, and for want of a better word, economic blackmail as used against Qatar and Canada, and silently against the Europeans and now becoming more visible in our case as well.

This clout becomes more potent given the recently imposed US sanctions on Iran and US tariffs on Turkey!

Internally, he will continue his path to modernization, which is quite the Catch-22 for him!

The more he modernizes Saudi society and “we are open for business” the stronger will be the demand by people for even more reform and more rights, especially given the large number of Saudis educated in Western Universities and the vibrant and extensive use of social media, especially Twitter in the Kingdom.

This will, in my opinion, set in motion harsher repressive measures by him to stamp out such activism and here is where I fear, the proverbial tipping point will happen.

Either towards a much more open society or leading towards an internal implosion.

If the former than its great for everybody, except MBS, unless he morphs his role into a Constitutional Monarchy. This seems unlikely given his style and character and autocratism!

The latter is a very real possibility given the presence of a large number of highly militant elements of the DAESH ilk stepping in and taking advantage of the chaos.

This, in my opinion, will be a far more serious nightmare scenario than any we have seen unfolding in the Middle East, thus far!

Young MBS must remember that controlled change or controlled chaos, has never succeeded! He will become a victim of his own change! And there’s no turning back now, as he rides the Saudi Tiger!

And Pakistan?

While we must retain our close ties and relations with the Saudi state, we must closely and privately work with MBS to ensure he takes measures which don’t implode Saudi society, resulting in its horrifying consequences for the Region and Pakistan.

We must caution and advise him against any further foolhardy military adventurism in the region, or exacerbate existing ones. More importantly, urge him to pull back and stop where they are involved, such as Yemen. It’s here where we can play a very effective mediation role!

We must not take or be seen taking sides and or partisan positions in regional disputes or get drawn into major military arrangements with Saudi Arabia or any other country in exchange for money.

And it will truly be a crowning glory for Pakistan if we can bring Iran and Saudi Arabia closer and to the negotiating table!

As the current Army Chief, General Bajwa stated in a conference in Germany in February 2018, with reference to regional conflicts:

“……… the Frankenstein was actually created by the liberal free world, with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979…..”

Let not any myopic policies be adopted today!

Imran and Pakistan have to walk a very tight rope with great care, keeping our long-term national interests, paramount!

The three calls from the King and the Crown Prince and those from the Iranian President must be seen in this context as well !

Pakistan must not punch above its weight, but work for peace all around, including with India!

More later, on options with India!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

“Jashn e Azadi Mubarak”

By Syed Haider Raza Mehd

As we celebrate our 71st Independance day with a feeling of much greater hope and renewed vigour as a new administration takes over under Imran’s leadership, here’s something from 14th August, 1944, three years before Independance to the day.

On 14th August 1944, 3 years before Pakistan, a young, passionate supporter of Pakistan, then 23 year old, Lt. S.G. Mehdi (our father) of 1/15 Punjab Regiment, writes to our great Quaid e Azam on his Regiment’s letterhead, completely unafraid of the disciplinary consequences of writing openly to a political leader in British India.

The letter is in Urdu but even today quickens the pulse and the heart as we experience young Mehdi’s raw emotion as he bares his heart out to the Quaid praying for the establishment of Pakistan.

The Quaid’s reply, in English, dated 24 August 1944, is also attached. The Quaid’s reply was rare, according to late Khalid Shamsul Hassan saheb, son of late Shamsul Hassan the Quaid’s Private Secretary, because of the emotional overtones expressed by the Quaid, something he was not known for.

Such was this great hope, emotions and expectations about Pakistan in those days and such is our hope and expectations as we restart our journey.

As Imran said “Inshallah this country will rise and one day fulfil its great potentiai. I see great times ahead”.

I have often wondered how our father felt when he wrote those words, 74 years ago in 1944, as a young 23 year old, filled with hopes for Pakistan!

I think I do now. At 2:40 am on Monday, 13th August (also our 37th wedding anniversary as well), I sat in front of the TV in Toronto, Canada, watching history unfolding and seeing Imran and his team sitting on the treasury benches in the National Assembly!

It was the culmination of the first part of Imran’s dream, a dream which people thought was near impossible and delusional, to finally get to a position to lead this great Nation to great heights!

I don’t think he ever had doubts about his destiny! And if he did, he certainly didn’t show them!

But, I also thought about how my generation had failed Pakistan, Quaid e Azam, Allama Iqbal and the hopes and dreams of all those who sacrificed so much for this country. I’m ashamed to admit that most from my generation including myself, who could have done so much more for our country, lead extremely selfish and self centered lives!

But miraculously, it seems, Imran, from our generation may just redeem us.

His unbelievable and superhuman strength of character, faith, discipline, persistence and committment has brought him to this place. I have no doubts that Allah SWT has Blessed him to lead this nation to good fortune!.

I know he will not fail Allah SWT’s Trust. Nor will he fail his own conscience. And Insha Allah will not fail this Nation, especially its poor and exploited!

It will not be easy, but if there’s anyone who can do it, its this man with the Blessings of the Almighty. Ilahi Aameen.

Its a time to rally around Imran, putting our political differences aside and help rebuild this country. If he falls, help him up. Not keep him down. If he errs, correct him, not let him go astray.

This is not a match in which one side wins or loses. Either both win or both lose. We have been given a God Given chance to change this country, save it from the loot, plunder, rape, pillage and corruption and take it to great heights!

May Allah SWT Bless Imran and his team and all those working for a Better and Brighter Pakistan. Ilahi Aameen!

May Allah SWT Bless Pakistan and the people of Pakistan. Ilahi Aameen!

Pakistan Zindabad!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

Judicial and Institutional Witchunt! A short note!

*Judicial and Institutional Witchunt! A short note!

*By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi*

In recent months we have seen a plethora of actions by the Superior Judiciary and NAB in taking cognizance of an offence, conducting inquiries and investigation, conducting prosecution and convicting people.

NAB has all these powers vested in one person, the NAB Chairman.

While we have seen laudable and necessary actions both by the Supreme Court and NAB, it has also created an environment of fear, intimidation and helplessness amongst those who are clean, honest and competent, both in the public and private sectors!

Many such people have had their reputations torn to shreds, insulted and humiliated by institutions and their leaders because of unbridled power and authority vested in one person.

The old adage about power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is very relevant in this context.

Information is deliberately leaked to the media and the media trial commences at the very early stages of taking cognizance of a potential crime, even before basic fact finding and inquiries commence. Forget formal investigation, prosecution and conviction.

With the advent of the new administration in Pakistan, it is imperative that the NAB law is totally reviewed to ensure that while the guilty are speedily brought to justice, the innocent are not destroyed!

Pakistan today desperately needs top professional talent from the private sector who are honest and competent to become an active part of the new administration.

But such is the fear of being hauled up and made to stand like errant schoochildren or common criminals, that many will baulk at taking up critical roles in government!

And even more importantly, honest and competent public servants will not work without fear or favor! Everyone will play safe, not take required decisions and only cover their posteriors!

No organization or institution should have unlimited, unbridled power and authority to play havoc.

In the hands of incompetent or even competent people such absolute power will corrupt anyone, absolutely! And corruption does not mean financial corruption.

Corruption of the ego, and misguided Jihad is far more dangerous!

Imran’s core fundamentals are that transparency, competency, due diligence and due process is essential for Justice to be served, as was done in Nawaz Sharif’s case!

This must be the norm not the exception!

Salaams and Prayers.
Haider Mehdi

Where do we start- Good governance and performance?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

As we enter a new phase in governance in Pakistan, expectations are high as are the challenges we face.

Here’s a high level view!

At the top of the pyramid, at a macro level, is the looming economic crisis Pakistan faces. The immediate challenge being the balance of payment crisis and the need for $12 billion inflow to plug this near existential gap.

The obvious options are a recourse to the IMF for the bailout. Recent reports suggest a $4 billion from the Islamic Development bank, IDB. There’s also talk of issuing and floating conventional and Sukuk bonds, internationally. Some reports are about additional help from China and Saudi Arabia etc.

Personally my view is that the new administration will somehow manage to overcome this immediate challenge and plug the hole.

But the really big question is what then?

This is where we will see whether the new administration can deliver.

The answer lies in putting in place the foundations of a long term, sustainable system which kick starts industrialization in a big way, increases exports, generates much larger volumes of income from domestic and international sources and stops the hemorrhaging of state enterprises.

To generate more domestic income requires a major overhaul and reform of our tax regime, both policy making and collections. Creating separate policy making and collection will be key, now both currently under the FBR. A clear conflict of interest. Agricultural tax will be key. Broadening the tax base vs taxing the same segments is essential

The next is a complete overhaul of economic, development and banking and credit policies which take a long term view and are sustainable, to revive local industry. This results in huge dividends such as establishment of new industries, expansions in existing ones and revival of sick industries.

This generates more employment, more tax revenue and on the international front, with the right policies results in significant import substitution (less imports of foreign goods now being produced locally), resulting in critical foreign exchange savings. An agriculture revolution is the big one. We import $500 million of nuts and fruits and over $2 billion worth of palm oil and soya bean oil. A major push towards local cultivation is essential and stoppage of subsidies on crops such as wheat and cotton!

One of the biggest benefits of such policies will be a significant increase in exports, earning highly valuable foreign exchange. In this area providing competitive energy tariffs and renegotiating our Free Trade Agreements with other countries, especially China and Turkey would be critical.

A critical and thorough review of the terms planned for the Special Economic Zones, under CPEC is essential to ensure our local industry doesn’t suffer or become uncompetitive!

There’s talk of a 10 year tax holiday, lower energy rates and lower labor rates for companies operating in these zones. While these are important to attract Chinese and other companies to come and invest, it is important that it does not come at the expense of our local industry.

Any policy for these SEZ’s must deliver three things for Pakistan. Net increase in tax revenue. Net increase in our local industrial growth. Net increase in exports. Anything else means we’ve handed over these benefits to others and killed our local industry. A corollary is a clearly defined non negotiable policy on the use of local Pakistani labor.

Plugging the resource gap which senselessly feeds, bleeding state owned enterprises from State revenues is critical. PIA, Steel Mills symbolically represent this terrible terrible rot. The strategy here is simple. Classify these State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) into three categories.

One for fire sale. Sell them as is. Don’t spend any more time and money to try to resurrect them. These are one’s that are purely commercial. Let whoever in the private sector wants to buy them, as is. If no buyers. Close them. There will be social fallouts as employees lose jobs. Can be mitigated by handsome golden handshakes, but we can’t afford to keep shovelling precious state resources into this never ending, bottomless pit!

Two. Fix and sell. These require professional, honest and competent management to turn them around, make profitable and then sell. These are also organizations that are purely commercial but will get a better price if turned around. Again social impact of job losses etc and golden handshakes to mitigate the issue.

Three. Fix and retain for strategic and national interest reasons. These are those that represent critical national interests and even if they have a commercial aspect, should be retained. But they must be managed under independent boards, competent and honest management and free of undue political and government control.

Then is fixing the energy issue. The current circular debt by some accounts is now over Rs 1 trillion. This requires not just fixing the distribution and collection system but also building dams, using wind and solar, changing the fuel mix, implementing net metering and renegotiating tariffs with the IPPS.

The current tariffs are unsustainable. Both residential and commercial consumers cannot sustain these extraordinary high tariffs. A huge cement block around Industry’s ability to regain international export competitiveness are these very high tariffs, nearly double of countries like India, Bangladesh, Vietnam etc.

While renegotiating tariffs may give us breathing space, the long term solution, as said earlier lies in building dams, adopting wind and solar power generation, fuel substitution from liquid fuels to gas!

Exploration in oil and gas must be a top priority, including inviting foreign firms to invest. ExxonMobil has returned to Pakistan after nearly 40 years and investing heavily in oil and gas exploration. Estimates range from 3 to 7 billion dollars of investments over 5 to 7 years with a potential of making Pakistan an LNG exporter and increase its current oil production seven fold!

A country that generates huge income from its domestic and international activities, creates the right environment for its economic and industrial engine will then have much more resources to spend on its infrastructure, law and order, clean drinking water, better health care and education and jobs for its people.

If the country has resources to spend on its people, then for a committed and honest administration to organise the key elements of good governance become minor details. Right structure, with the right people, implementing right processes, using appropriate technologies to deliver the right solutions.

Organisation. People. Process. Technology. Solutions. It’s that simple

I’ll offer my views on issues of law and order, justice, transparency and accountability, civil military relations, foreign policy etc in a subsequent article!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

Short note on nomination of Mehmood Khan as CM KP

 

-Haider Mehdi

I’ve been burning the wires for several hours today, talking to people who are much better informed than I am, seeking insights on Mehmood Khan’s surprise and unexpected nomination as CM PK, especially given some of the social media chatter against it.

Here’s what I’ve discovered. Mehmood comes from a very humble background from Matta in Swat, where the TTP had its strongest hold. Interestingly Matta is perhaps one of the most feudal areas in KP where the entire land was owned by just three families, most well known being Afzal Lala or Afzal Khan of ANP. In the recent rout, Afzal’s nephew and son both lost miserably in the elections

Mehmood and his family were the few rare ones that stood their ground and fought the TTP when most people had left Matta.

Mehmood is also credited with the clean sweep that PTI achieved in the district. 8 MPA’s and 3 MNA’s and has the reputation of being a very honest and capable person, loved by his people.

Clearly, the nomination was a surprise given the tussle and tug of war between Pervez Khattak on the one hand and the Atif Khan / Shahram Tarakai combine on the other and an expectation that the nominee would be either Atif or PK.

However, as I’ve always maintained, Imran always takes a decision which he thinks and believes is in the best interest of Pakistan and in this case, the province and its people and lastly the party. Mehmood checked all three boxes.

There’s absolutely no authenticity in the conjecture that Mehmood is Pervez Khattak’s proxy or that a past financial transaction, when he was Minister of Sports, tars his integrity.

It would be suicidal for Imran to nominate a questionable character or play party politics.

Given all that we know about Imran, he could make a wrong decision, and he has made some faulty ones.

But he has never done so, knowingly or deliberately compromising the interests of Pakistan, but more perhaps due to lack of due diligence, ill advice and poor process.

In this case, my view is that Imran took a very well thought through, comprehensively considered and correct decision, given the time he took to announce his choice. Of course, only time will tell whether it was the correct choice.

Of course the anti Imran brigade have unsheathed their daggers and will continue to question it, alluding darker motives and compromises other than the fact that he is a decent and honest fellow and the best choice, under the circumstances!

Don’t underestimate Imran! Most everything that he’s done these last 22 years have brought him to this stage. Do you think he’ll throw it all away on such a decision?

Salaams and Prayers.
Haider Mehdi

A Time for Reconciliation and Rebuilding!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

The Nation has spoken! In someplaces resoundingly in favor of change and Imran. In others with qualified support. In some, ousting the old guard. Some barely scraping through!

The sentiment is clear. PTI from 70 lac votes in 2013 to 167 lacs in 2018, shows the massive shift in preferences. This despite the 10 years of PMLN in power in Punjab and PPP in Sind.

Karachi, the most urban of our population centers, politically very astute, also voted for massive change, dumping its traditional support for MQM or its morphed entities like the PSP.

The GDA inroads against the PPP in interior Sind, despite its performance less than expectations, is still an eye opener for things to come.

The winds of change are clear. They are sweeping across the country.

It’s now a time for reconciliation, not for recriminations!

Reconciliation doesn’t mean forgiving criminals who have looted and plundered our national wealth! The law should, must and will be applied, across the board. But no political witch hunting as Imran promised!

Its time for looking forward and not backwards.

It’s time to take a leaf from Imran’s speech to forgive the anger, the bile, the poison, the hatred of the past.

Its a time to reconcile and come together.

And above all, despite our political differences, our likes and dislikes, its now time to think about our future, about Pakistan’s future, about a future for our children.

Its about a future of a better, brighter, prosperous, corruption free, merit driven Pakistan!

Imran, whether you supported him or didn’t, has laid out a clear agenda which every Pakistani cannot but support.

Who in Pakistan does not support an agenda of economic stability and development?

Of strong independant institutions which will eliminate corruption and hold all and sundry accountable, including those in his own party!

Of a massive effort to lift people out of poverty and remove the terrible chasm berween the haves and the have nots.

As he says it’s impossible for a nation to survive where a small corrupt rich island of the elite rule over an ocean of the poor, the helpless and the exploited!

Of equal opportunities for quality health care!
Of equal opportunities for quality education!
Of jobs for our youth, trained and skilled!
Of law and order and safety of life, hearth and home!
Of speedy and cheap justice!

Of a Pakistan, where irrespective of your faith, you are free and equal citizens of this soon to be great nation!

Of a Pakistan living in peace with it’s neighbours!

Who can fault this?

It’s time to reconcile and work together to help implement this agenda, for this is not about PTI or Imran, its about Pakistan!

You voted. It doesn’t matter who you voted for. That is now done.

Be a honeybee not a fly! Now let’s join to build a great Nation!

*Salaams and Prayers.*
*Haider Mehdi*

P.S. to explain the Honeybee and the Fly

*The Honeybee or the Fly?*

By Haider Mehdi

Imam Ali ibn e Abi Talib Karam Allah Wajaho, said “…..anybody looking for an evil (evil example) is like a fly that leaves all the beautiful things around it and sits on the wound…..”

The people of Pakistan voted with their minds and their feet. Especially of KP who again gave a resounding mandate to PTI, as did large segments in Punjab and Karachi.

As the great Imam said. We all have choices of what we want to see.

We can be like the filth fly which only sees and zeroes in on the one place in the garden that is soiled with dirt and filth, or like a honey bee, see the beautiful garden full of flowers and suck the nectar.

I guess KP people and those who who voted for Imran and change saw the garden.

Yet we still see others, like the Fly which can see only filth, zeroing in on the filth, despite the beautiful day that seems to be dawning in Pakistan.

I’m accused of being biased in Imran’s favor!

And I thank God that I am biased. Thank God that I’m not in that schizophrenic screwed up mindset where people don’t know who and what they stand for!

One’s political biases are understandable. But for those who are educated and aware, and unable to see the good or at least the potential good in Imran’s success is a very serious miserable mental and emotional condition bordering on intellectual dementia.

Talat Hussain in his interview to BBC perfectly symbolised this sick perverted mindset. Najam Sethi in his latest article. Cyril Almeida. And of course the less said the better of the likes of Husain Haqqani, Ahmed Rashid etc.

Crap flies who can only see filth around them!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

The Fly or the Honeybee?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Imam Ali ibn e Abi Talib, said anybody looking for an evil (evil example) is like a fly that leaves all the beautiful things around it and sits on the wound.”

The people of Pakistan voted with their minds and their feet. Especially of KP who again gave a resounding mandate to PTI, as did large segments in Punjab and Karachi.

As the great Imam said. We all have choices of what we want to see.

We can be like the filth fly which only sees and zeroes in on the one place in the garden that is soiled with dirt and filth, or like a honey bee, see the beautiful garden full of flowers and suck the nectar.

I guess KP people and those who who voted for Imran and change saw the garden.

Yet we still see others, like the Fly which can see only filth, zeroing in on the filth, despite the beautiful day that seems to be dawning in Pakistan.

I’m accused of being biased in Imran’s favor!

And I thank God that I am biased. Thank God that I’m not in that schizophrenic screwed up mindset where people don’t know who and what they stand for!

One’s political biases are understandable. But for those who are educated and aware, and unable to see the good or at least the potential good in Imran’s success is a very serious miserable mental and emotional condition bordering on intellectual dementia.

Talat Hussain in his interview to BBC perfectly symbolised this sick perverted mindset. Najam Sethi in his latest article. Cyril Almeida. And of course the less said the better of the likes of Husain Haqqani, Ahmed Rashid etc.

Crap flies who can only see filth around them!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

A Message to My Son!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

My son, Syed Shaan-e Ali Mehdi, joined the millions of Pakistanis in rejoicing Imran’s victory. He said.

*”I’ve waited for this day my entire life. Waking up to a new Pakistan. For the first time in our history we have a leader who toils away not for himself, but for the future of the nation. Wazir-e-Azam Imran Khan….”*

My eyes moisted and I couldnt help, but respond as under.

Well said Syed Shaan-e Ali Mehdi. When your grandfather would narrate the incredible euphoria of achieving the dream of Pakistan, his eyes would moist and tears would roll down his cheeks.

I always wondered what that feeling must have been like. Today I understand and experienced it myself! I cried as well!

You’re very lucky as are all Pakistanis to be experiencing this defining moment in our history!

May Allah SWT Bless Pakistan. May He Keep Imran and his team on the straight and narrow.

Many a ditch they have to cross. Many a mountain to climb. Many minefields to navigate. Many Quislings out to stop them. Many who will fall by the wayside. Many who will give up!

But if Imran remains strong, remains true to his word, remains steadfast in his resolve, without fear or favor, we will achieve our dream of a better, brighter, prosperous, inclusive, tolerant, transparent and merit driven Pakistan.

A Pakistan where all its citizens will be free and equal in the eyes of the law and free to practice any faith without fear.

Where rich and poor, young and old will all have access to the same equitable opportunities for health care, education, jobs.

Where all will have security of life, home and property. Where justice is speedy and fair.

This is what that incredible man, Quaid e Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah had dreamed for Pakistan!

This is our Naya Pakistan. But really this was the dream of our original Pakistan which people like your grandfather struggled and sacrificed for!

It won’t be easy, it won’t be overnight. But if we stay the course. Through the coldest blizzards and the most blistering heat. If we dont give up, despite the many serious challenges of turning a country which is on its near deathbed.

And above all if we have unwavering Faith in the Almighty. We will succeed. We will overcome. We will reach our destination. Ilahi Aameen.

Pay no heed to attention seekers, petty minds, ignorant, young and old, having done nothing in their own lives. Some just beginning their life’s journeys with silver spoons, and not having faced the challenges of life.

Orhers who have lived off this beautiful land, looted and plundered at will.

Small minds who are still trying to criticise and put down Imran with their ignorance, stupidity and highly inflated egos. Let them be. The caravan doesn’t stop for barking dogs!

This is your time. This is the time of our youth. Of those who are selfless. This is your time to make Pakistan great!

May Allah SWT Bless you and all those who will fight, struggle and toil day and night for Pakistan!

Pakistan Zindabad !

-Haider Mehdi

There’s still time to redeem yourself!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Just look at the enemies attacking Imran, the Supreme Court, NAB and the Army!

Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Asfandyar Wali, Achakzai, Fazal Diesel, Altaf Hussain.

Then the misguided and the misinformed.

Then those whose political, economic and social stakes are wedded to this terrible status quo of corruption, loot, plunder and institutional destruction.

And most dangerously those who want a weak Pakistan ruled by the corrupt. A Pakistan with a weak Army. A nuclear defanged Pakistan.

They certainly don’t want a progressive, forward looking, democratic Pakistan with strong institutions and strong leadership, working for its people and not the current rich and corrupt elite!

And then look at the media and writers and intellectuals who make fun of him. Deride him. Run him down.

And they do it so very cleverly. They cloak their daggers in silky narratives of “Saving democracy” “Army political meddling” “Judicial Activism” ” NAB witch hunt”, “Religious obscurantism”!

They are blind to the efforts of institutional reform in KP. They are blind to the massive efforts in the police, in healthcare and education. In strengthening the local bodies. And blind to their impact.

Not perfect, I agree, but substantial enough for everyone to see.

All they can see is the resignation of the Ehtesaab Chief.

But none will highight that for 4 years NAB was under a Nawaz toady called Ch. Qamarruzaman and were unable to investigate and or file a reference of any substantial corruption or wrongdoing in KP or against those who are close to Imran.

They lambast the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice for exceeding his mandate, but forget that the same Court, disqualified Jehangir Tareen.

They forget that with all state institutions lying on a death bed, the SC had to step in.

They question the Panama and accountability court’s judgements but forget the criminality of the Sharifs and the Zardaris and their terrible and abject deliberate misgovernance and criminality.

They question Hanif Abbasi’s conviction as a witch hunt, forgetting that this man has possibly been responsible for sending tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands into the dark abyss of lifelong drug addiction and abuse!

And Shaukat Siddiqi. The evil maniac one who calls himself a Judge! Muddying the waters of his corruption and misuse of authority and nearing his convuction, wants to die as a political martyr in a hail of his own calumny! A petty, hypocrital liar, worthy of nothing but contempt.

They question Imran’s monetary handout to Sami ul Haq’s seminary as evidence of his support for Taliban like organizations.

So, if that’s true is KP now a more radicalized province then it was before?

I also questioned him on this in my interview. His answer which he has shared publicly hundreds of time.

Do we leave the hundreds of thousands of madrassah kids, failed by the State, to the mercies of obscurantist thought or do we attempt to exercise oversight over them and teach them skills so they become positive contributors in our society vs being brainwashed into a life of intolerance, guns and violence?

So yes we paid them to establish a teacher training college, upgrade their facilities with computers and curriculum to teach non religious subjects.

In return we got membership on their board and management control and most importantly, authority of approval of their curriculm and complete oversight by the KP Board of Education.

Sami ul Haq also countered the Fatwa by the TTP/DAESH/AL QAEDA, supported by Fazal Diesel, that polio drops were haraam. Sammy’s people accompanied polio teams to address this Fatwa.

But who wants to talk about the rationale and the impact?

Who wants to talk about the crippled life that awaits those thousands of children without polio drops, because their parents and guardians were brainwashed by an obscurantist thought?

And finally lets get real. Sammy and Diesel are political enemies. What would you do if Fazal was your political enemy?

Internationally just look at the Indian and Western press and segments of our own media!

Look at the slander and the pettiness of the filth being heaped on our Judiciary, our Army, the NAB and Imran by his political opponents and many so called enlightened and educated!

So here are my questions to all who have joined this battle to defame Imran and hit out at our Judiciary, our Army and the NAB!

Why would you support known criminals, crooks, plunderers, money launderers like Nawaz and Zardari?

Why would you NOT support people and forces who are desperately trying to save Pakistan from collapsing and anarchy?

Why are you all pointing your guns at the Supreme Court, NAB, Imran and the Army?

Why are all of you desperately trying to scuttle and sabotage efforts to strengthen Pakistan?

Where were you alongwith all anti Imran, anti Judiciary, anti Army political forces when the wholescale loot and plunder in Pakistan was taking place these last 10 years?

Where were you when all our institutions were being royally raped and destroyed by Zardari and Nawaz from 2008?

Where were you when cronies and toadies were appointed to powerful posts so they could loot and plunder with abandon?

Why on earth would you support criminals like Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari?

Why for God’s sake? What have they given us, except deprivation, destruction, corruption, loot and plunder and large projects to fill their own pockets?

You are either ignorant, misinformed, or have deep political, social and economic vested interests with the current mafia like status quo.

And many amongst you with full stomachs, wealth, power and access to state power are not directly affected, so far by this massive institutional destruction and plunder of our wealth.

Woe the day when the pain and the cries of the anguished and underprivileged burst out on the streets!

They will douse your lights, loot and plunder your wealth, burn your houses and end your lives!

Woe that day which is not far off, if this system continues.

Many of you, like me living overseas, in safe environments, are completely oblivious to the horrors, our poor and exploited face everyday.

You the rich and powerful and privilged, are untouched and unfazed by the cries and agony of the millions who suffer everyday.

You do not hear the cries and death throes of the hungry, undernourished malnutritioned poor child, man and woman.

The only cries you hear are of two convicts. The criminal Nawaz and the forgerer Maryam!

You do not suffer the agonies nor do you hear the cries of the millions of suffering sick as your sickness is attended to by the expensive private hospitals in Pakistan!

Or like Nawaz, Shahbaz, Kulsoom, Zardari, Asim Hussain and others like you, you fly off to hospitals in Europe and North America to save your blighted health!

Your ignorance of what’s happening, deliberate or unconscious, is a curse on your insensitive skins, your conscience and your souls.

Your ignorance and insensitivity is a far greater curse then the curse of ignorance which millions of our youth are blighted with. Our schools and colleges failing them, providing an education which offers them nothing. No skills. No competencies. No employment!

Your ignorance pervades because you do not face the fascism of our police and others, either buying your way out or using your influence.

You are a miserable, sick, prostituted lot.

Prostituted by your arrogance, your power, your wealth, your egos, your privileged lifestyle, your vested interests and above all your insensitivity and your ignorance!

And because you’ve sold your souls, your self respect, your honour and your dignity, you will do everything in your power to bring down the man and the institutions, who for once in a long long time, in a rare moment in our blighted God Forsaken history, are desperately trying to fix our corrupted body politic and fight for the under dog, the poor, the marginalized and the socially and economically disadvantaged.

You want to kill this rare moment in our history!

If God Forbid, we are unsuccessful now in changing our system then please remember it was you who stabbed Pakistan in the back!

And then cry not when the flames engulf us all!

But there is still time to redeem yourself.

Please Vote for Pakistan and not this terrible band of looters and plunderers of the Sharifs and the Zardaris!

*Salaams and Prayers*
*Haider Mehdi*

Pakistan’s transformation from a Kleptocracy /Plutocracy to a Democracy and the onslaught on the Army!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Given the massive onslaught on the Pakistan Army by International media, specifically USA and India and parts of our national media as we saw recently in Hameed Haroon’s recent BBC Hard Talk interview, a historical gallop is essential.

Historically one thing is clear. Our military interventions have sorely impacted the evolution of our State into a genuine and strong democratic polity

Notwithstanding the fact that we had the strongest economic performances during the three military regimes of Ayub, Zia and Musharraf, they used the same category of carpetbagger politicians to further their individual rules. Each blundered us into conflicts which had major impact on our political evolution and development.

Take our five military adventures under our military rulers. 65 war under Ayub, 71 war under Yahya, the Afghan cauldron under Zia, and most recently Kargil and the war on terror under Musharraf.

All these Military interventions grossly weakened the State.

Internally their administrations nurtured and strengtened the political mafias represented by the likes of the Bhuttos, the Zardaris and the Sharifs and gave rise to this kleptocratic and plutocratic class of politicians.

Kleptocracy and Plutocracy means a governing order of the rich and the corrupt, ruling a country!

This evil order has deliberately weakened and destroyed our state institutions, so they could loot and plunder unchecked, leading to the near social and economic collapse we face today.

Thus the responsibility for our current state lies squarely on the shoulders of both our military rulers and our politicians.

So lets get this “but what about the Army….” out of the way!

But today’s Army and its military leadership is starkly different.

The rank and file have been bloodied in a 14 year long conflict, sadly and as a consequence of decisions by its own leaders in the past.

But It has sacrificed with blood, sweat and tears, as have our law enforcement institutions and tragically, as have we, the people of Pakistan.

It has been steeled and forged in battle. It has the highest officer to troops casualty ratio in the world.

This is an Army that has paid and is still paying for the sins of their forefathers and in the process have saved the country from near destruction and total anarchy.

It has withstood the onslaught that destroyed civilian institutions, partly because its leaders ruled for 33 years and partly because it defended its turf jealously even under civilian rule. And thank God for their institutional discipline, for God forbid, had it gone the way of our civilian institutions, I shudder to think of the consequences.

This is a different Army with a different leadership and mindset.

They have seen the follies of their own myopic decisions in 1979 and 2004, as the current Chief has publicly stated.

This is no longer an Army with a “security mindset”. It is now truly a national army, which has come of age.

There is absolute unainimity of views in the Army that Pakistan’s future lies not in any military intervention nor in any backdoor manipulation, but in deep systemic internal reform and long term peaceful relations with its neighbors, especially India and Afghanistan.

Apologies for this tangent.

But its important to share this insight of the so called military economic complex, especially for many civilians brought up on a brainwashed diet of the Army’s domination of the economic sector!

Today our Defence expenditure is 2.5% of GDP vs 5.8% in 1960 and 9% of total expenditure vs 28.3% in 1960.

The collective value of all military owned businsses is a mere 4% of total market capitalization on the stock exchange. A drop in the ocean.

Their main military conglomerate is Fauji Foundation running 18 enterprises.

Four are wholly owned. Fourteen are associated companies. Another nine are public unlisted companies.

The Foundation earned dividends of Rs.13 billion in 2016. Of this Rs.11 billion was spent on ex servicemen welfare. Rs. 1 billion on Corporate Social Responsibility welfare projects. Only Rs. 1 billion was retained as earnings and another Rs. 1 billion on administrative expenses. No money goes into making anybody rich.

The Defence Societies have overwhelmingly benefited the civilians in a housing starved society!

So why do they exist?

These military businesses exist because the State of Pakistan does not provide any post service support to ex service people, except pension.

There is no “Veterans Program” as exists in the USA and all other developed western democracies to cater to the needs of ex-servicemen!

Unlike the private sector and the civilian bureaucracy, where everyone retires at 60, the vast majority of armed forces officers retire at the prime of their life at age 45 and troops at age 37, with no means of income, other than a very small pension, usually a growing family, with children still in school or college or university.

The entire military economic complex caters to these people by providing jobs, health care, education, retraining and most importantly, financial and employment support to the families of shaheeds.

And all this because the State cannot.

The Foundation runs 11 hospitals, 103 medical centers, 104 schools, 2 colleges and 77 technical and vocational training insitutes.

All business enterprises are not money making exercises to fill the pockets of serving officers or troops. Nor is this an attempt to control our economic engine.

No business owned by any armed forces foundation is exempt from taxes, other than what is directly attributable to verifiable welfare spend. The same as for any civilian welfare project.

In 2016 Fauji paid Rs 17.8 billion in taxes. Employing tens of thousands of people. Both civilians and ex service. *Their welfare activities impact over 10 million people, directly and indirectly.*

Can you imagine the disaster if the Army had not catered to their ex employees?

While one can criticise Martial Laws and military interventions as I have done, the terrible propaganda unleashed against the institution is a very deliberate effort to divide the country, sow serious dissension and conduct highly inflammable politics, as Nawaz is doing.

So here we are in 2018, with Nawaz convicted and imprisoned!

Let’s understand one thing clearly.

Nawaz is no innocent lamb or brave gladiator, valiantly fighting the cause of democracy and civilian supremacy over the military.

He is desperately fighting not just to save and his daughter’s political future and his wealth, but to save the sordid and evil kleptocratic/plutocratic order that he, Benazir and Zardari, presided over in turns.

Over 14 articles have been written in the US press and 27 in the Indian press in recent weeks and countless in our national press, all criticising the Army for political interference in the electoral process.

But strangely not a word about the wholescale corruption, loot and plunder and destruction of State institutions by Nawaz Sharif or Zardari.

Not a word about questioning the snowflake defence offered by Nawaz in defence of his Avenfield properties.

Not a word about his and his brother’s misrule and misgovernance. Nor anything about foisting their children on the nation!

Hameed Haroon’s BBC Hard Talk interview was perhaps the lowest depths that the once mighty Dawn has fallen. A media house which was once the pride of our nation, where I also once worked. And sadly, from a person who I’ve known personally, worked under and respect deeply.

A strong Pakistan with strong leadership is not something the USA or India relishes, despite their hollow protestations.

The USA would much rather have a malleable person like Nawaz or Zardari, or even a military strongman, who are easy to manage. But not a strong democratic order!

Internally those whose political and economic stakes are wedded to this mafia, including those in the media, have also come out in their support, masking their financial interests with high sounding defence of democracy, protestations!

And then those tragic souls who are still fighting a Don Quixote “cold war” against militarism, which they commenced during Zia’s rule! A sad and misguided lot, living in cuckooland!

These are the gangs that Nawaz has rallied to his “cause”!

Let’s get real folks.

The kleptocratic /plutocratic mafia has a stranglehold on Pakistan’s body politic.

Nawaz sits on top of this mafia. Zardari a close second!

They will not go easily and certainly not willingly. They will fight till the end, even if it means creating dissension in the country. Even if it means throwing the country into unprcedented turmoil, even civil war.

They will use every ruse, every trick up their sleeve to turn this battle against an evil order into one against “democracy” and “civilian supremacy”.

They will attempt to turn the nation against the Army, using all resources and people in their fight for survival.

And while all this is happening, does anyone seriously expect the Army to sit demurely, hands folded, like a shy blushing bride, while Nawaz, his misguided supporters, and sections of the media and our society, misinformed and ill informed, go on the rampage, putting the State’s existence and future at stake?

Well. Apparently not! And let’s leave it here! This is not a picnic we are talking about. This is about our survival and our future!

Clearly a strong, democratic, well governed and corruption free Pakistan is a political death warrant for Nawaz and Zardari!

Hence the battle!

So where do we go from here?

Pakistan’s salvation lies not in individuals be they Imran, Saqib or Bajwa or any others etc.

Our salvation lies in building strong public institutions, rigorous regulatory regimes with strong accountability and parliamentary oversight.

Our salvation lies in empowered legislatures and local governments.

But most importantly our salvation lies in the alignment of our four key institutions. The Executive, the Judiciary, the Legislatures and like it or not, the Army.

All four standing shoulder to shoulder and fully aligned towards the clear goal of a better governed and corruption free Pakistan.

Yes the Army, has become the fourth pillar in our country with influence far beyond its mandate. Something not to relish and a sad reality!

And it is my considered view that when the three real pillars of the state become strong, the Army’s role as the fourth will automatically diminish and eventually finish and should and must finish.

It won’t happen overnight, but sooner than most expect.

And if Imran wins, this will be the first time in Pakistan’s civilian history that we will have this strategic alignment between these key State institutions which matter!

And herein lies our salvation and transformation from a kleptocracy /plutocracy to a democracy!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi