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

The Case for Pakistan!

The Case for Pakistan
-By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

I’ve recently commenced a series of video interviews with eminent Pakistanis who have occupied positions of significant authority, power and influence in Pakistan.

The objective was and is to discuss and debate serious issues in a serious manner with serious people who know what they’re talking about.

A common attribute amongst these people is that by and large all of them have great reputations, outstanding achievements and are generally considered amongst the best in their areas of expertise. By and large.

Our conversations have focussed on what ails Pakistan, what brought us to this stage and what are some possible solutions.

I believe these interviews are different from the run of the mill narratives one hears on TV because these opinions, insights, perspectives and solutions carry the weight of the trophies these people have achieved in life.

I also recommend two books for those serious about what ails Pakistan.

“Governing the ungovernable” by Dr. Ishrat Hussain”*
and

“The Faltering State” by Tariq Khosa.

Both gentlemen have agreed to being interviewed for these special series as well, which I hope to start airing in a few days!

Hopefully these conversations will give us much better and informed insights about our challenges and opportunities.

Interestingly, each speaking from their vantage point and unbeknownst to others, unainimously agreed that the root causes behind the deliberate destruction of our state institutions were political interference and patronage, leadership incompetence, lack of meritocracy and lack of accountability.

All leading to our current dismal state and the terrible corruption, loot and plunder we’ve  seen, especially in the last 10 years.

The big picture emerging from the conversations to date is:

Pakistan’s recovery can ONLY happen if deep and widespread systemic institutional reform and overall is undertaken to ensure that

1.All public sector institutions are freed and made independant from damaging political and executive interference and given constitutional protection.

They must be headed by competent and honest leadership who will preside over a transparent, accountable and merit driven culture and perform their functions without fear or favor.

2. Very strong regulatory oversight regimes are put in place not only to check irregularities and corruption but also create an enabling environment for the public and business.

3. A Judicial system that supports and enables social order and economic growth. Today our society and business sector is hamstrung by a slow, overworked, mostly corrupt judicial system unable to decide cases for decades. One senior executive said off the record, they are “Pakistan’s Biggest Mafia” and have caused the most damage. Either they are corrupt, incompetent, lazy or overworked or they go on a rampage of judicial activism which scares the daylights out of everybody, especially the innocent. Where in the world do you find a judicial system which pretty much convicts a person facing only a NAB inquiry?

There was also near consensus that unless there’s serious and uncompromising political will by a leader and party in power, any party, no change is possible. Guaranteed no change!

And if we continue the path we are on, we will continue to sail in stormy waters bereft of sails, at the mercy of the elements, and the inevitable tragic consequences!

The terrible acts of terror in Peshawar, Bannu and Mastung are heartbreaking and evidence of how fragile we have become! The loss of life and limb just unbearable. Young Bilor and Raisani two symbols of a tolerant Pakistan, their lives nipped in the bud!

Only a committed political government headed by an uncompromising and honest leader can mobilise our economic resources. Collect more Taxes. Increase exports. Initiate rapid Industrialization. Attract investments and create jobs for the nearly 3 million people joining the employment market every year!

Only a committed political government can ensure that we benefit from CPEC ensuring that net net, our exports increase, our tax collection is higher and our employment increases.

Only a committed political government can begin the process of providing security of life and property, a speedy and cheap judicial system, equal access to quality education, healthcare and employment opportunities!

And even more interestingly, to the chagrin of some, I’m sure who read this, all seemed to agree, in some cases a trifle grudgingly, that Imran’s success of doing this in KP is evidence that such reforms are possible.

And if anyone can do it, it’s perhaps him.

While we can find many things to criticise him for not doing enough in KP, in my opinion even what he’s achieved in KP is revolutionary by Pakistani standards.

As I shared with someone earlier today, people’s view of Imran range from godlike adoration to incompetent buffoon.

Personally I think both views are wrong.

On the one hand people either grossly underestimate him expecting him to fail miserably or overly overestimate him, having unrealistic and sky-high expectations.

My personal sense is that he will deliver much more than his detractors think he’s capable off, and a trifle less than those who adore him like a rock star.

But if there’s any person and an opportune time in our history for deep systemic reform then this is it.

This is perhaps the first time in our history that all key state institutions are fully aligned, especially if Imran were to win.

Our Executive, Legislatures, Judiciary and of course the Army will, for the first time, under a civilian government, stand fully committed to reform and redeem Pakistan.

Will this be sustainable? What are the chances that we will revert to our older habits, even if a new government brought about these changes?

The answer. I don’t know.

But what I do know is that at least we would have started the journey and that’s half the battle!!

I’m often accused of my single minded support for Imran and my visceral hatred of the Sharifs and the Zardaris.

Let me rephrase it as I see it. There is no personal hate or love for anybody, but only and only love for the well-being of Pakistan.

I genuinely believe that the direct responsibility of the systematic destruction of our state institutions lies at the doorsteps of the Sharifs and the Zardaris and our military rulers.

I’m not a journalist, nor a disinterested geo political commentator making a living by writing “……on the one hand and on the other hand…..”, trying to please everybody!

Fortunately I only have one hand which carries the Flag of Pakistan

And after a very very long time I simply see Imran as Pakistan’s best fighting chance to keep the Flag flying, given the near Divine alignment amongst all our key state institutions!

This is not about politics. ,It’s about Pakistan!

It’s as simple as that!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

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 Gen. Zia took over!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Much has been written about Zia’s period, so I will only briefly dwell on a few major factors which caused immense damage to Pakistan.

The first was our entry into the Afghan theater against the Soviets at the behest of the USA.

An act which has led to the devastation of our society and the rampant culture of sectarianism, terrorism, guns, violence and drugs.

I remember the words of the late Air Marshal Asghar Khan who tried to convince our nation of this “myopic thinking” as Gen. Bajwa put it so aptly in his address to the Munich Security Conference in Feb, 2018.

Asghar Khan, said as far back as 1980 that “The fire we are helping ingnite in Afghanistan will also consume Pakistan”.

Many people called him a coward, a traitor and stupid. But, sadly he was right and Gen. Zia plunged us into a fire which continues to burn us.

The second was his advocacy and implementation of his personal brand and version of Islam with Salafi/Wahabi roots.

This destroyed the fragile but still intact culture of reasonably peaceful co-existence between the various muslim sects, especially sunnis and shias.

Pakistan which till now had a benign non violent Barelvi brand of Sunni Islam and living peacefully with Shias saw groups morphing into a violent, obscurantist, non inclusive wahabi brand funded by Saudi dollars.

This set in motion violent sectarian strife all across the country, resulting in thousands of deaths and assassinations, which still bedevil and haunt our society.

It set in motion the intolerance we see today.

It set in motion the burning of mosques, churches, hindu temples.

It set in motion the rise of highly obscurantist an intolerant society.

It set in motion the rise of religious preachers urging the killing of others.

It gave rise to the sectarian killing machines like the Lashkar e Jhangvi and Sipah e Sahaba now renamed the Ahle Sunnath Wal Jamaath (ASWJ).

Such is the impact of his thought that the ASWJ, an openly sectarian outfits, which openly advocates the killing of Shias, was last week, declared a non terrorist outfit, taken out of the 4th schedule and allowed to contest the 2018 elections.

Such were Zia’s gifts to Pakistan.

The third was the use of non state actors as agents of state policy in Kashmir.

This led to the rise of the jihadi militias and nexus berween the State and the aforementioned highly militant sectarian outfits.

These sectarian outfits were in return given a free hand to commit Shia genocide, with the State looking the other way.

While the policy may have given India some temporary grief in Kashmir, its impact on our own society was and still is, devastating and deep.

For decades violence has wrecked our wretched country. Tens of thousands if not more of our finest brains have left the country. Our economy suffered. Our society disintegrated and our people suffered

Our international image also suffered, dramatically. But for his death, a civilian hiatus from 1988 to 1999 and 9/11 and the consequent reprieve, we would have suffered grievous international sanctions and perhaps a pariah Iran like status.

While the Kashmir cause is a highly emotional one for many Pakistanis, the answer lies in a political settlement and not formal or informal military or militant actions.

One of our biggest white elephants today is what to do with the thousands of highly armed jihadi militant, mostly in the Punjab heartland, we nurtured for decades?

Another Zia legacy!

The attempt to mainstream these Jihadis into politics, in my opinion is the only viable practical option. Those who criticise this, must remember, that there are two options. Fight them or tame them.

The former is just not an option because we cannot afford another civil war in the Country’s heartland.

Our only option is to wean them off their diet of Jihadism and militancy and feed them a less toxic one of political activism!

And finally Zia masterfully used an unscrupulous class of politicians to serve his political interests.

Some who were honest and didn’t or wouldn’t toe his line, such as his own hand picked Prime Minister, Mohammed Khan Junejo, perhaps our finest civilian PM, were summarily and humiliatingly dismissed.

PM Junejo, is arguably considered one of our most honest Prime Ministers. He had set in motion major administrative reforms and the country was slowly recovering after the ravages of Bhutto’s so called socialism and Zia’s fascism.

But Zia would have none of it and destroyed the fledgling embers of this brave but unsuccessful attempt at change and recovery.

Another gift to Pakistan was the creation and sponsoship of the MQM to counter the PPP in Sind and Karachi.

Another strategy with very serious consequences for Pakistan, especially, Karachi. The MQM monster went out of control and wreaked havoc in Karachi.

Importantly it also shows how the seeds of ethnic division sowed by Bhutto, eventually gave rise to a violent, militant fascist political group like the MQM.

And that the Urdu speaking community was perfectly happy to follow a half insane megalomaniacal demagogue and accept the violence his party wreaked, in exchange for political participation and access to rights, which the state was progressively unable to provide.

But Zia’s crowning glory and final “gift” to Pakistan was Mian Muhammed Nawaz Sharif.

And along with with Nawaz, came a whole coterie of crooked, corrupt politicians.

Barring the odd exception all subsequently looted and plundered at will, whether in the PPP or PMLN or Gen. Musharraf’s administrations.

I believe, it was Zia’s dark period which has really divided the nation into the pro and anti army camps, quite visible today.

A schism smartly used by Nawaz to muddy the waters and convert his corruption into a battle between “Democracy and Army”

This, in my opinion is sad, because the current Army and its leadership, is very different from that off Zia’s time and even Musharraf’s.

The current Army has partially paid for the acts of commission by its former Chiefs, by its sacrifices in battling extremism and terrorism, and saving the country from near civil war.

But I digress. Insha Allah more on this in a later piece and back to Zia and to my conclusion

Zia, like Musharraf also presented Pakistan’s view internationally, successfully and forcefully. The nuclear program achieved much success during this time. Economic progress was made.

But his lasting legacy will remain of a man who brought sectarianism, terrorism, drugs, violence and fascism to Pakistan and wreaked even greater havoc on our civilian public government institutions!

*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