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

In conversation with Ehsan Ali Malik, CEO, Pakistan Business Council

Assalaam Alaykum,

Posted below is the first in a series of interviews, also on my Youtube Channel

These are with subject matter specialists and experts of Pakistan. In a wide ranging conversation with Ehsan Ali Malik, CEO of Pakistan Business Council, Pakistan’s largest business advocacy group we discussed the challenges and solutions facing Pakistan, especially possible solutions on how to kick start Pakistan’s economy and industry.

Should we go to the IMF? What has undermined local industry and possible solutions? Why have countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam sped ahead of Pakistan? How to broaden the Tax base, improve exports, reduce imports? CPEC and its impact; Kick-starting the Agriculture sector. What measures can be taken to generate employment for the 3 million entering the work force every year?

While It is a long interview, but very insightful about the above issues. Please do watch and spread it so we get substantive and informed insights on our challenges and solutions, well beyond the superficial chatter we hear on mainstream media and social media.

Thank you.
Salaams and Prayers

The return of Nawaz and Maryam – A short note!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

A non-establishment but very knowledgeable pigeon whispered in my ear that Nawaz, after the Avenfield judgement, had approached several quarters requesting that he and Maryam, and unsurprisingly no mention of Safdar Luggar buggar, be granted judicial relief from punishment and jail.

In return both will publicly renounce all forms of political and electoral politics and permanently live outside Pakistan.

The answer. We have nothing to do with the judicial process nor had or have any influence. Your decision to return or not return, seek relief and get it or not get it, and renounce politics is yours and yours alone!

So that’s that!

Senior voices in the PMLN are divided on their return.

One camp is against their returning.

They think a free Nawaz and Maryam, located in London, are far more potent and effective than in jail in Pakistan.

They argue that by being in London they will continue to have access to both Pakistani and International media, and use this access, to continue to hammer away at the Army and the Judiciary and protest their “victimhood”!

They also argue, that even if the PMLN loses this election, the fact that they are not in jail, gives their supporters hope that in a few years the situation might change and a good possibility of returning to Pakistan in triumph, like Benazir!

Those advising Nawaz not to return to Pakistan also advise that both Nawaz and Maryam get political asylum in the UK. They believe that by doing so they strengthen their case of being politically victimized in the Avenfield case and therefore saving their foreign assets from being seized and confiscated by any foreign government such as the UK, in line with the decision of the Pakistani courts.

Additionally, by staying out, also allows them to fight any case more effectively brought against them under the recently promulgated UK “Unexplained Wealth Orders” which asks people to explain their sources of wealth.

Here’s the link for those interested in this UK order https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/circular-0032018-criminal-finances-act-unexplained-wealth-orders/circular-0032018-unexplained-wealth-orders

In summary this gives them a better chance of saving their ill-gotten wealth and assets, retain their freedom with access to media to continue to hammer away at the Army and the Judiciary and keep the flame alive of a possible triumphant return to Pakistan, at a future date.

The other group insists that Nawaz and Maryam come back and face the judicial consequences and even go to jail, if they have to.

They believe that like Zardari, both will emerge politically stronger and that a future judicial review of their cases may allow them to come back into mainstream politics with the focus on Maryam picking up the mantle, now having achieved the ultimate political badge of imprisonment!

They argue that if Nawaz and Maryam don’t return, the damage to the party and its morale will be irreparable and destroy any chances of a possible comeback, especially for Maryam.

They also believe that their return may generate a huge sympathy vote wave in PMLN’s favor, just before the election, and just enought to spoil Imran’s chances of an outright majority at the Center and in Punjab, with the field open for a coalition which may look more benignly at their case later, when in power.

When I asked about the “Kulsoom” factor, one pigeon said that if her condition is what’s being rumoured then by returning under such circumstances would result in a massive funeral, Ghaibaana Namaaz e Janazas all across the country and an even bigger synpathy vote wave.

Additionally this may thwart any plans by the authorities to either divert the flight to Islamabad or the possibility of heli lifting them from Lahore to avoid a tumultuous welcome, a possible serious law and order situation and a long procession from Lahore to Islamabad.

All covered, second by second, by local and international media!!

Because if the “Kulsoom” factor does play out, it will be very difficult for the authorities to divert the plane or heli lift them from Lahore, till the final rites are done!

So what will Nawaz and Maryam do?

Come back or stay away?

If I were him, and knowing how he cannot bear life in jail I would save my wealth, fight my unexplained wealth orders case, get political asylum and stay away.

And live to fight another day!

Or perhaps come himself and leave Maryam behind!

But who knows how the future unfolds.

Vote ko Izzath Do! 25 July 2018!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi*.

The sanctity of our vote, especially of those who have voted in the past, is reflected in the manner this trust was manifested by those who acquired power.

PPP got 13% of registered vote in 2008.

PMLN got 17% of registered vote in 2013

But whatever the percentage it is supposed to manifest.

In the quality of governance.

In our institutions responsible for delivering public services, becoming more efficient, effective, stronger and less corrupt.

In improved law and order and security of life and property.

In better health care, better education, better employment opportunities.

In a Parliament which acts as an eagle eyed watchdog on the Executive, ensuring this trust is not breached.

In public office holders being transparently and swiftly held accountable when they misuse public office for private gain.

In public institutions headed by honest and competent professionals who do their jobs without fear or favor.

And ultimately it is all about improving the quality of life of the citizens of Pakistan!

But this sanctity of the vote is not an unchallegeable license to kill, murder, loot, plunder and pillage our national wealth, misuse authority and destroy our institutions.

It’s not a shield to save a public leader from corruption, criminality and blatant and brazen abuse of office.

It’s not a “victimhood” card when a leader and his family is caught with their hands in the till for the entire world to see.

It’s not a means to weaken and destroy public sector institutions so the corrupt cannot be held accountable.

It’s not to flood government positions of authority and power and influence with toadies and cronies who are both corrupt and incompetent and their only attribute being loyalty to an individual and their ability to use these positions to illegally siphon off public funds and taxpayers money for themselves and the leader.

It’s not to foist their incompetent children on the country, as heirs to a throne.

It’s not to weaken other State institutions who they fear can check their unbridled loot and plunder.

It’s not to plunder obscene amounts of ill begotten and stolen wealth and , stash them away in overseas properties and assets and bank accounts in UK, Dubai, France, Switzerland, Spain, Malaysia etc.

*It is a sacred public trust to be honoured and not betrayed.*

On 25th July, vote with your feet and your heads.

Vote for those who you think are most likely to honour and not betray this trust.

Vote for those who you think will actually give “Izzath to your vote”.

Vote for Pakistan, for its future, for your own future and for our coming generations.

Vote for those who will give us a “fighting chance” to once and for all rid ourselves of this mafia of looters and plunderers.

*Salaams and Prayers*
*Haider Mehdi*

5th July 1977 -The day Bhutto was ousted

By Syed Haider Raza Haider Mehdi

As the PPP celebrates 5th July as a day of darkness, which it certainly was, here’s a perspective on how Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto betrayed the people of Pakistan as well.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was part Devil, part Saint and an enigma. Unfortunately the Devil won!

A person who was brilliant and brutal with inordinate ambition and a massive ego, finally falling victim to the betrayal of his own political values and the end he deserved!

Not for that crime of murder, which was a tragic travesty of justice, but for unspeakable horrors he committed against his own, like J.A Rahim and his son and Mairaj Mohammed Khan his own cabinet minister, and his political opponents like Mian Tufail of Jamaat e Islami.

Horrors that cannot be repeated here! But such is Nature’s nemesis.

With his brilliance, his amazing grasp of history, and the adulation by the masses, the nation at his feet, broken and shattered after its breakup, Bhutto could have turned and moulded this nation into a great power.

But tragically for him and Pakistan, he couldn’t rise above his own terrible inconsistencies and his personal ambitions and failed us!

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, he was directly responsible for the breakup of Pakistan.

Brilliant and cunning, calling Iskander Mirza a leader greater than the Quaid, addressing Ayub as “Daddy”, Bhutto wormed his way into the corridors of power, and as always happens to people of inordinate ambition, finally turned against his own benefactor. Ayub.

And as his own chosen Army Chief, Gen. Zia, who once reportedly followed him meekly a few steps behind him, carrying his glass of scotch at a military function, turned against him and hanged him!

His period and that of Gen. Zia’s, in my opinion, caused perhaps the greatest damage to our country.

On 1st January, 1972, Chief Martial Law Administrator Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, with one stroke of the pen, destroyed everything that we had achieved since independence.

He destroyed Pakistan’s economic engine, its industries, its financial sector, it’s educational and health care systems by nationalizing them all and setting us back decades.

He marginalized the Mohajir community by closing the chapter on evacuee trust property. His nationalization hit the Mohajirs badly as they had been the main drivers behind Pakistan’s industrial and educational sectors. And concurrently he let loose the monster of ethnic Sindhi nationalism.

These actions eventually giving rise to the MQM fascist monster we saw emerge in later years.

But a little discussed act with huge repercussions was his destruction of the Civil Services of Pakistan. He removed their constitutional protection of service and tenure and allowed direct lateral entry into the Civil Services.

For the first time in our history political favorites were appointed directly into government positions. And It was for the first time we saw the blatant rise of political control and patronage of ‘loyal and pliant government servants”.

This culture, later extensively used by Benazir and Zardari to loot and plunder and finally transformed into an art form by the Sharif brothers.

The rot and destruction of our institions we see today, was started by Bhutto.

Bhutto also attempted to curb the power and influence of the Army by creating the Federal Security Force, a new para military force. Ironically this eventually led to his death, convicted for Nawab Kasuri’s murder, who was murdered by Bhutto’s own FSF goons.

My late father, Col. S.G. Mehdi M.C, was initially offered the post to create and head the FSF by Bhutto’s National Security Advisor, General Akber. He politely refused, saying that it would become ZAB’s private militia, much like Mussolini’s and Hitler’s Blackshirts and Brownshrts! This they eventually did under his handpicked man, Mahmood Masood who ironically turned state witness against Bhutto in the murder trial.

To his credit. He gave hope to the poor and the exploited. But then, tragically betrayed them.

As a person, Bhutto was cruel, sadistic, vindictive, unforgiving, petty and mean.

He never forgot a slight. And this last attribute finally got him to the gallows!

By 1977, Bhutto’s luck had run out.

Economic distress, erratic policies, angry business people who had been ruined, fuelled the street agitation against him.

Then the large-scale attempt by him to rig the 1977 elections, another first, and use the Army to browbeat his political opponents eventually caused his downfall.

Theories of international hands cannot also be discounted in the context of our nuclear program.

Sufficeth, that he created the perfect storm against himself!

He left behind a devastated economy, a highly politicised bureaucracy and a divided nation!

And into the hands of the Army and a decade of infamy and darkness under Gen. Zia!

Brilliant he was, no doubt. But not in the mould of great leaders, but that of a charismatic con man!

-Haider Mehdi