“Ambivalence” – An interim perspective on PM Imran Khan’s performance

“Ambivalence” – An interim perspective on PM Imran Khan’s performance (published on 07 Dec 19)
By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Not sure if there’s such a phrase as positive ambivalence.  Something bordering on lack of clarity with some glimmers of hope. Or negative ambivalence with confusion wrapped in pessimism!

Been back and busy seeking insights, views, opinions, perspectives from a wide cross section of people.  Politicians from across the spectrum, members of our rich, corrupt & spoilt elite, crony capitalists, comrades in khaki, business people, social activists, technology gurus, serving and retired bureaucrats and that most important stakeholder, the salt of the earth, the person on the street. So has anything changed for the better since I was here 6 months ago?

And that’s where the “ambivalence” comes in as I attempted to seek answers. Has PM Imran, finally come of age?

Does he now understand the science and art of governance enough to provide the kind of leadership expected from a PM? The kind of leadership that goes beyond long lectures and motivational talks during cabinet meetings. Is he less stubborn around issues which bedevil even his closest advisors and confidantes.  Buzdar and Firdaus Awan being two such enigmas.

 The former in whose hands lies the political fate of Imran and may I daresay the future of what may be our best fighting chance for our country. Or Firdaus, a face that “turns off a million TV sets”. Somebody who does an outstanding job, much superior to anything Ahsan Iqbal and Maryum Aurangzeb  can ever do, in destroying Imran’s and his Government’s image.

Is he beginning to make the right people choices in appointing quality people, at least in positions over which he has total discretionary powers? Or is the cronyism we’ve seen in some cases of appointing friends to head crucial government bodies coming to an end with horror stories of one such crony usually found inebriated night and day? Or putting square pegs in round holes.

Will his flagship programs like Ehsas for poverty alleviation, Naya Pakistan Housing, Kamyab Jawan, and the most recent one on Digital Pakistan be game changers, or flashes in the pan?

I attended the last event and expected a bit more, beyond the rhetoric of a Digital economy, which for the last decade or so is fairly common knowledge. When are we going to move beyond the *”what is the problem”* to *”here is how we’ll fix it”* or better *”here’s how we’ve fixed it”.* Has Imran seriously begun to look at the negative impact many of his cabinet members have on his and his Government’s image? Is he serious in bringing sweeping changes and bring better people from his party into the cabinet? Is he becoming more statesmanlike or still stuck in his Dharna mode?

Are we seeing a tapering off in the angry, harsh, conflict laden rhetoric that he employs in his various speeches or is it becoming more shrill, negative and counter productive, which he thinks plays to his constituents? Are we seeing any early signs of green shoots after nearly 17 months in power? Are the economic and business indicators of reduction in the current account deficit, fiscal deficit, increase in exports, a rocketing stock market, Moody’s outlook change from negative to stable, Internationally a “buy” advice on the Pakistani Rs, with anticipations of a stronger Rupee in the forthcoming quarters, harbingers of a genuine recovery based on strong fundamentals or are flashes in the pan?

Has governance in Punjab and KP improved?

In 17 months have we seen any structural changes and improvements in health care delivery, in the manner in which the police deals with people, in quality of education, in the judicial system, especially the lower judiciary? Is there any evidence of improvement in government processes resulting in more efficient and effective delivery of public services? Does the common person feel any change? Any change, at all! Will Imran’s latest experiment in Punjab, as I’ve heard, of handing over pretty much all administrative and executive powers to the newly appointed Chief Secretary and IG, be successful in improving good governance in Punjab?   And will he continue in his stubbornness to impose Buzdar on a hapless, Punjab.

Is the tax reform resulting in behaviour change of people paying more taxes? The evidence says, yes!  Has political interference stopped or significantly reduced in the functioning of the police and bureaucracy ? Has the Zardari / Nawaz culture of friends and family members accompanying state delegations on foreign visits stopped, especially to China? I’ve seen disturbing evidence of such people accompanying the PM to China. Perhaps without his knowledge or perhaps with!

Do we see conflict of interest involving his cabinet members diminishing or do foreign firms find partnering with commercial concerns owned by advisors and people close to him, the easiest means to land lucrative contracts? Will the new NAB ordinance change the way people are arrested, investigated, forced to plea bargain, simply to get out?

I’ve personally witnessed a horror story of a man arrested without any complainant, who is being forced to plea bargain, because there’s no case which will stand up in court, and because of the very large percentage of the plea bargain amount, which officially goes to NAB staff. Will we see more genuine accountability and less victimization?

Will we see less double speak from the Government’s anti corruption point person, as we saw in the recent £190 million funds transfer from the UK, where he desperately tried to whitewash, “Angel” Malik Riaz?

How will the recent run in regarding the Army Chief’s terms of appointment, extension, with the superior judiciary, pan out?  How has this impacted civil military relations and Imran’s ability to govern effectively? How badly has the Army Chief’s reputation and his office been affected by this event?  Is the entire military leadership on the same page with their current Chief?

Is it more of the same, with an odd good thing here and there or are we seeing a weakening of the status quo?

Finally the universal messages I received. He’s working incredibly hard. Harder than any other person in his team! Excellent!  The question is. Is that enough The bigger question is. Does he have a team that can deliver?

In my humble view, Pakistan’s and Imran’s biggest challenge is still “Governance”. Nothing else.  We have to get the right people, make correct policies, fix processes. But as one senior government functionary told me, hitting me with an uppercut.  “Haider it’s easy to write analytical articles sitting comfortably on the sidelines and something entirely different to be in the arena!”. I agree. There’s much merit in what he says and perhaps also some merit in an armchair analyst, like me, asking questions to gain insights.

I also agree that the entire system is polluted and changing it is a Herculean task! And that Imran has limited choices! But having said that!  There’s nothing stopping Imran to up his own game and even more importantly bring in a much much better team, to give Pakistan a fighting chance!

All we wanted and still want from him were and are two things. Meritocracy and appointing the right people in the right places to deliver good governance.  For this ask from him I don’t have to be in the arena. All I have to do is look at the people he’s surrounded himself with! For these two things, he alone is responsible and answerable! Meritocracy and the right person in the right role!

This is what he promised. This is what he must deliver. 

The Day of The “Diesel”!

The Day of the “Diesel”!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi*

As the political temperature rises and falls in Islamabad, there is still confusion, ambiguity, ambivalence, perhaps even a fear of violence and unrest as a result of an intemperate action by Fazlur Rehman or his cohorts.

That Fazlur Rehman is way over the line. Any line, is absolutely clear!

Whether its political, moral, ethical, electoral or diesel, it’s not even worth repeating, how wrong he is in what’s he doing.

Or how wrong he is in attempting to blackmail the country, peace loving citizens, the government, Imran, the Army, with his implied threat of unleashing his goons and hounds on Islamabad!

I don’t think there’s anybody who actually likes him!

His political allies don’t, but they know he’s useful in bringing people on the streets, which none of them could.

And he’s also consistently blackmailed them with his half a dozen or dozen or so seats!

Nawaz and the PMLN, the most aggrieved, don’t like him, reluctant fundamentalists, them, but they go along, hoping his anarchy may save them!

Nor does the PPP like him! PPP is a party most at risk and tottering on disintegration as the Zardari / Faryal hold weakens and the Bhutto magic fades. And Bilawal continues to make a fool of himself, embarrassing himself and others and Pakistan, as soon as he opens his mouth, to try and emulate his grandfather’s demagoguery.

But, sadly, making a pathetic spectacle of himself in attempting to be seen as a firebrand political leader.

I shudder to picture what international leaders think as they see our political stalwarts brown nosing and sucking upto this thirty something, whose only claim to fame is biology!  From what we know he’s not done a day’s honest labor on his own merit, or has any other accomplishment to his credit, academic, professional, political or any other!

Hmmm! Well perhaps? But let me not go there!

Perhaps his only other claim to notoriety, is knowing the details of all off shore bank accounts left by his mother and his father, where the siphoned off corrupt booty is stashed!  Allegedly the one other person, other than Asif Zardari and Bilawal, it is said, who has most of that information is Monsieur Rahman Malik! It is also said by many, that NAB may uncover some interesting insights were the “Honourable” Rahman Malik saheb receive an MBS type “hospitality” shakedown for some days and nights!

But I have lurking and sad feeling that Mr. Malik may perhaps be “working” for some “people” and hence walks free! And unbeknownst to Master Bilawal is reporting everything to “them”! Even his highly questionable actions on the day Benazir Bhutto was assassinated, haven’t caused him grief!

So he’s clearly got someone looking out for him!

But really it’s a national tragedy that Bilawal can become a leader of a major political party.  But a bigger tragedy is how he is propped up by his courtiers, so they can continue to remain politically relevant and leech off and ride the political gravy train.

Tragic and shameful that many educated and aware people amongst us actually believe that Bilawal is a political leader.  As tragic as those who suck upto Maryam and Hamza as heir apparents!

And our biggest tragedy?

While one can forgive the ignorant, the poor, the exploited to fall into believing that Bilawal, Maryam, Hamza etc are political leaders, but the educated and the aware?  The less said the better!

 And that, dear Pakistanis, is our biggest political tragedy!

And the PPP is also in a quandary.  It is most at risk of losing power in Sind were they to fall into Fazlur Rehman’s trap of resigning from the assemblies.

And then we have Diesel’s other allies! Die hard secularists and leftists in bed with him!

What a horrible sight! All pretence of political values thrown to the winds as they publicly exchange vows, hugs, embraces and who knows what else!

Look at “Brave” Asfandyar Wali Khan, who “didnt” run away, when the going got tough! (He did!)  Himself another symbol of this terrible hereditary political order or moroosi siyasat, as we call it in Urdu, leeching off his Grandfather’s legacy, as did his father, Wali Khan.

And not to be forgotten that Bacha Saheb, his grandfather, opposed Pakistan, was a Leader of the Indian Congress Party and till his death never accepted Pakistan and asked to be buried in Afghanistan.

He and his supporters did not participate in the referendum for Pakistan because, they objected that it did not offer them any choices of either declaring themselves an independent country or join Afghanistan.

While he acquired significant political stature and was known as the Frontier Gandhi etc, the reason to share these facts is not to belittle him but to illustrate his position and views about Pakistan. A political legacy inherited by Wali Khan’s NAP and Asfandyar Wali’s current ANP!

It is no secret that the NAP under Wali Khan openly and continously advocated an Independent Pashtunistan and also had very close ties to India.  It is not commonly known that the ANP under Asfandyar Wali, tried to Trojan themselves into creating near anarchy and civil war, through the PTM. Mohsin Dawar, the PTM leader, formerly being their Youth wing, President.

This is how PTM was able to draw all these crowds. it was mostly the ANP rank and file. A dupliticous and most dangerous game they played!  Finally when confronted they had to kick out Bushra Gohar and Afrasiyab Khattak, two senior ANP leaders, who were openly supporting, siding and were seen at the forefront of the PTM!

Or take Achakzai. Another Fazlu supporter.

 Another symbol of hereditary dynastic politics living off his father, Abdus Samad Khan Achakzai’s legacy, another Congressite who also never accepted Pakistan!  Achakzai was also at the forefront of supporting the PTM, not for their rights but their ability to create anarchy.  When this great so called “democrat” acquired political power, amongst his first acts was to get his brother appointed, Governor, Baluchistan!

And our good old Fazlur Rehman? Another symbol of hereditary politics, living off his father’s legacy, Mufti Mahmud. As legend has it. Even his father was very vary of Fazlur Rehman’s shenanigans!

It is commonly said that as CM of Balochistan, Mufti Mahmood had publicly informed and advised his entire cabinet and the bureaucracy to be careful of Fazlur Rehman and to immediately bring to his notice any attempt by Fazlur Rehman to use Mufti Mahmood’s name for any financial or political gain!

So there you have it!

Really no one likes Fazlur Rehman!

But all have been blackmailed by him as a result of his political strength emanating from his father’s legacy, now diminishing, plus the petrodollar largesse to his party and madrassahs to counter Iranian influence, now also drying up.

Internationally he had no qualms sucking up to the then US Ambassador to Pakistan, Ann Patterson, swearing utter loyalty to the USA, in exchange for being appointed PM.

What a guy! What a guy!

And all these tricks, got him 17 odd years occupancy of a cabinet minister’s house and the Chairmanship of the Kashmir Committee which he fully milked with foreign junkets and privileges plus cabinet slots for his brother!

One could go on and on, endlessly, to describe his “virtues” and of those whose cause and survival he’s fighting for. Other than his own, of course.

But to the current situation!

Fazlur Rehman, in my view, because of his ability to get several thousand fierce looking, stick brandishing people in Islamabad, is spearheading the  desperate and hopefully last ditch attempt of a deeply entrenched exploitative and corrupt system, represented today, most visibly in Pakistan, by the likes mentioned earlier.

But here’s the roll call again, lest we forget!

Sharifs, Zardari, Bilawal, Maryam, Hamza, their families and their infamous courtiers.

And the so called secular left.  Achakzai and Asfandyar, and others like them and then finally the obscurantist religious right of the likes of Diesel!

Let us be very clear, my dear country people! These people and the forces and political interests they represent are the remnants of centuries of despotic, exploitative, extractive rule by small groups of elite.

Plutocrats, kleptocrats, foreign invaders, military dictators, imperial colonists, religious charlatans, especially those who purveyed religion and their souls for political power. Fazlur Rehman belongs to this last category.

In recent times, rapidly joining this exploitative elite capture of Pakistan are our bureaucrats, our businessman and traders, our Army and Police, the lawyers mafia and the entire judiciary, and tragically, our media as well, especially media owners and most TV anchors.

They have all milked, raped, looted, plundered and exploited this wretched nation at will! Without exception!

But my harshest criticism is for our so called liberal intellectuals who’s anger, venom and bile against the Pakistan Army is more akin to Modi’s, and who do not understand that this is also an institution in transition as we are a nation in transition.

That this is not the army leadership of Gen. Zia or even that of Gen. Musharraf but of an avowed believer in civilian supremacy and democracy and the constitution. Gen. Bajwa.

I could be wrong and he may be hiding his Bonapartist intentions well, or he may have changed his views, but I’m fairly certain I’m right about him and his democratic credentials.  And in any case any Bonapartism overt and covert will not last in today’s Pakistan

That our so called intelligentsia must understand that the only way to decrease the Army’s massve footprint and overbearing influence is by strengthening civilian public sector institutions and not supporting crooked criminals and looters and plunderers like the Sharifs or Zardari and others.

That Imran, whether you like him or hate him, is still our best fighting chance to break this terrible status quo in partnership with Gen. Bajwa!

That despite his many follies, early foibles & inexperience and some questionable team appointments and political compulsions, Imran is still the man we need!  I have a whole laundry list of issues against Imran, but the more desperate I see the opposition become, the more militant Fazlur Rehman’s calls,  the more I’m convinced that Imran beginning to crack the foundations of the old order!

That by supporting the so called democratic system, which in fact is a monarchical political order, these so called liberals give oxygen to these corrupt forces represented by the Sharifs, Zardari, Bilawal, Asfandyar, Achakzai.

They do not understand that they are consciously destroying any fighting chance Pakistan has to be rid of this evil, putrid, rancid order, which has sucked the lifeblood of the poor!

And it is my considered opinion, that in a manner of speaking, Gen. Bajwa may perhaps do a “Gorbachev” not in presiding over the disintegration of the Army as an institution, but in ensuring that civilian institutions are strengthened, meritocracy prevails, civilian supremacy is regained and the Army’s influence and footprint considerably reduced.

But let me also add!

It will take a decade or more of continous civilian institutional rebuilding, a new electoral and governance model, before we stop seeing and hearing sermons from ISPR or hushed whispers about the DG ISI running his own circus, etc!

And more importantly seeing an Army Chief, firmly under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence and not a supreme power unto himself.

Where corrupt generals, serving or retired are also put in chains, deprived of rank and privileges, sentenced to class C jail and not side kicked into lucrative appointments to head civilian institutions!

And if Gen. Bajwa is reading this, he knows who I’m talking about!

But, and as it should be and as we see in all first world countries as well, the military and security establishments will always be an extremely powerful force and voice in matters of national security and national power!

But today we cannot wish away the Army’s massive footprint.

33 years of military rule and a decade of quasi will not vanish overnight! Unfortunately, yes, unfortunately the Military is today our only functioning institution. In a perverse reversal of fortunes, PM Imran and Gen. Bajwa may be presiding over the baton change as Gen. Bajwa uses the military to strengthen civilian institutions.

Some may find this hard to believe, but if ever there was a chance towards civilian supremacy, it’s under Gen. Bajwa.

And if I may hazard another intuitive thought.

I believe never has a time been more opportune to revamp our political and electoral process to get rid of the current fossilized electoral system, hijacked by these kleptocrats to be replaced by one which engages subject matter experts and specialists, who otherwise would never make it to parliament or to high public and policy making office to handle the most complex art of political governance in a highly complex, technology driven world.

And also never has a time been more opportune to revamp our judicial system, especially our Superior Judiciary, who allow criminals to go free, using the letter of the law and sadly, also playing god!  It is this destruction of the current order and privilege and elite capture which everyone fears!

The desperation is very high. The stakes massive. Financial, political, social power, all up for grabs.

Were Imran, despite his own struggles and challenges, succeed in uprooting this putrid status quo and rid our society of its elite capture, it is clearly the end of the road for these guys and these institutions in their current shape and form.

And it is in that context that we must view the antics of Fazlur Rehman and his comrades in arms and why they are so desperate to get rid of Imran!

Is Fazlur Rehman dangerous? Is a cornered animal dangerous? Is a rotting order seeing its destruction, dangerous? Yes!

So will he go all the way or slink away? My sense of the man and his history says, he may slink away. But looking at the stakes and the fact that these guys may be finally put to sleep, the chances are that Fazlur Rehman may go beyond his usual blackmailing and brinkmanship!

I’m not a soothsayer and can’t say what will happen! But I can hazard, what should happen!

In my humble opinion, the Diesel has had his day in the sun. This is now the time to take him on, fully and without fear! His bluff or his act must be called.  It may result in violence or may not. But the Mulla has to be put down, politically, once and for all times to come! Were he to walk away today with some sort of a victory or even a draw, or even some egg on his face, to fight another day, he and the forces he represents will be further emboldened. It is a tough call to take him on or call his bluff!

But if Pakistan has to be saved and given a fighting chance for a better future, we must finally rid ourselves of these vermin. This is our only option! No pussyfooting and no compromise!

And it is the only way to also defend ourselves from the conspiracies of foreign powers like the USA or India and others who would love to keep us continuously unstable, weak and nuclear defanged and not allow us to unleash our potential and use people like The Diesel!

And Fazlu seems to be  playing their game! If I were PM Imran and Gen. Bajwa, I would ensure Fazlu has had his final day in the political sun!

This is what I would be planning to execute!

The Myth of the “Deep State”! Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on Civil – Military Relations in Pakistan

 

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi – 4 August, 2019

It’s time to take this ‘Deep State” bull by the horns. But first a full disclosure.

I’ve served in the Pakistan Army from 1974 to 1981, resigned as a Captain, and have a very soft corner for the institution. My father served it with distinction, as did my uncle and scores of other family members. I am very proud that I and my family have served Pakistan in this manner!

I think it is, without question or doubt, our finest, most professional, most well led, most merit driven, most process driven, most reliable and the least corrupt, of all our state institutions.

Its is my considered opinion that if every able bodied young man and woman of this great nation could serve two years in the military and undergo the physical and emotional experiences that the rank and file undergo, Pakistan and Pakistani society would be far better and it’s enemies, both internal and external, would not be able to mislead our people, especially our youth against this institution.

For this, I urge PM Imran, Defense Minister Khattak, Human Resources Minister Zulfi Bukhari and Army Chief, Gen. Bajwa to institute this great public service.

I think if there is one institution that has been saved, thank God from the massive institutional decay suffered by other institutions, it is the Army!

I also think that a major factor which saved them from the destruction faced by civilian institutions were the repeated Martial Laws and their 33 years in power, leaving them as the proverbial last man standing and all powerful!

Sad but true!

And here is where I must admit that military rule, despite the strong economic growth during the three military governments, has been the major cause of most of our problems. To name a few

1. The rise of a corrupt coterie of politicians.

2. The the elite capture of Pakistan and all its sources of power, wealth and governance.

3. The hijacking of a very weak electoral process by this small mafia like coterie of political kleptocrats and plutocrats symbolized by the political dynasties and the likes of the Bhuttos, Sharifs, Zardari, Ilahis, Khar’s, Fazlur Rehmans, Achakzais, Bizenjos, Mengals and many many others, who like the ladies of the night would and still bed any party, any leader, as long as they could stay in power.

4. The systematic destruction of all state institutions. This last was perhaps the deepest cut! Nearly fatal!

Once these groups had captured power, such as Benazir in the post euphoria of Gen. Zia’s terrible dark years, or Nawaz Sharif, propped by Gen. Zia or Zardari through Gen. Musharraf’s infamous NRO, all of them, Benazir, Nawaz Sharif, Zardari, systematically set about weakening and destroying every major state institutions, so that not only could they rule like feudal monarchs, but loot and plunder the nation’s wealth, at will, and not be held accountable.

They systematically hijacked, bribed, cowed, destroyed and weakened the entire Federal and Provincial infrastructure, the superior and lower judiciary, the law enforcing agencies, institutions which hold public office holders accountable, like the NAB, FIA, Anti corription. Economic and planning and development institutions like the FBR, SECP, State Bank, Planning Commission etc.

They did this by deliberately appointing corrupt cronies, corrupt and weak officials on positions of authority, power and influence, who would do their bidding.

All these politicians and their families, with very few exceptions, have walked, lived, eaten, slept with every mistress or master. Whether it was Gen. Ayub, Gen Zia, Benazir, Nawaz, Gen. Musharraf, Zardari and Imran.

This includes our so called intellectuals, symbolized in persons like Mushahid Hussain and Najam Sethi, the vast majority of our media anchors and journalusts (yes journaLUSTS) and many others who have and still are willing to sell their souls for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver!

This political mafia launched large scale massive infrastructure projects, not because of economic or developmental or social priorities, but because it was easy to skim off huge amounts from these massive projects.

Funds were not invested in major public impact sectors like clean drinking water, public transportation (not one bus or train service for a few cities) empowering local governments, low cost housing, education, schools, colleges, heath care, hospitals, population control, agriculture and very importantly in improving the capability and capacity of the police and other law enforcement agencies.

The last used as personal militias to extend monarchist and fascist like control.

No effort was undertaken to reform the judiciary, because it served their purpose of buying judges and judgments whenever they so wanted.

It is my considered opinion that our judicial system, both the Superior and the Lower judiciary, has been one of the greatest causes of the greatest misery inflicted on the poor people of Pakistan!

Enrobed in their dark robes, they daily and darkly inflict death by a thousand cuts on our society.

And for all this mess, I hold the 3 military dictators directly responsible. Not the Army, but these three individuals.

Gen. Ayub because he short circuited the evolving political process of this agrarian feudal newly born country, blundered us into the 1965 war and worst of all, handed power over to another military dictator, Gen. Yahya, rather than to the Speaker of The National Assembly, a symbol of his own created political system.

Strangely, though, Pakistan’s fairest elections were held under Gen.Yahya in 1970 but under whose watch we also lost half our country and suffered a humiliating military defeat. The causes for the latter requires another article!

But perhaps Gen. Ayub’s greatest sin during his 10 year rule, was in creating a class of self serving, corrupt politicians who were willing to truck with military dictators and who have subsequently trucked with every civilian and political ruler since.

The genuine, true blue blooded democrats, starved of political power and platforms just died, politically! As did Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah, the Quaid’s sister who was cheated out of a Presidential win by Gen. Ayub.

And it was then that we also saw the emergence, for the first time, of dynastic politics, at the head of state level in the shape of Gohar Ayub Khan, Gen. Ayub’s son!

So this is how people like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, gained access to prominence and political power in Gen. Ayub’s cabinet.

This subsequently provided him the springboard to launch his political career and his party the PPP, by literally stabbing his benefactor, Gen. Ayub, in the back.

But for Gen. Ayub, ZAB would possibly not even have won a councilor’s election from Larkana and we would have been spared his administration which set us back 50 years in terms of our economy, education and health care, because of his ill thought through and disastrous policies of nationalization.

And lest we forget, Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto is the same person, who before he started sucking up to Gen. Ayub, calling him uncle, wrote to then President Iskandar Mirza, in his now infamous and public letter, calling him a leader greater than Quaid e Azam.

Let me say it without mincing words to those who are so still enamored in their love for Bhutto.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was NOT A DEMOCRAT but a FASCIST!

Yes he did come into power through the ballot as did Hitler and many others who destroyed their countries, by the way.

There’s no doubt that ZAB was brilliant, perhaps touching genuis. He was very charismatic and an outstanding orator. And he used these attributes to craft a very powerful message of hope of a better future for the most exploited segments of Pakistani society.

They loved him and he cheated them.

For in reality he was a truly evil man, part Devil, part Saint. Unfortunately the Devil won!

He was a fascist through and through, a haughty, arrogant, brutish autocrat, and as most autocrats, extremely petty and mean and very very vengeful!

This may shock those who do not know. But such was this person’s nature that he had the aging J. A Rahim, his own Party’s Secretary General, and co founder, sodomized by a jail sweeper, simply because J A Rahim saheb would not put up with his autocratic pretensions.

He had similar treatment meted out to Maulana Tufail, the then Amir of the Jamaat e Islami.

He had his own nominated successor Mairaj Mohammed Khan brutally tortured in jail. Mairaj saheb never really fully recovered from the physical and emotional trauma and inhumane treatment he met at ZAB’s hands! Hundreds, perhaps thousands of political opponents suffered great physical torture during his period.

ZAB’s and Zia’s periods were our darkest periods of political repression

Many of our young today do not know about a Para Military force called the Federal Security Force, established by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

A personal note here.

Our father, the late Col. S.G. Mehdi, considered an SSG pioneer and its third Commander, was approached by Gen. (Retd) Akbar, Bhutto’s National Security Adviser, in January or February 1972 to set up this Federal Security Force for the Government and the People’s Guard for the Pakistan People’s Party.

Our father Col. Mehdi refused the offer, saying that these militias would turn into Hitler’s Blackshirts or Mussolini’s Brownshirts and will lead to a fascist state and urged him to advise Bhutto not to go this route.

But Bhutto did.

And they did become his fascist militia and ironically also the eventual cause of his hanging!

For it was the FSF, who on his orders, while attempting to assassinate Ahmad Raza Khan Kasuri, a dissenting PPP party MNA, killed his father!

While I agree that the case did not warrant a death sentence, simply because Bhutto did not pull the trigger or commit the act himself, but as they say, one day our sins catch up with us and Nature has its own ways of delivering justice!

Gen. Zia’s present to Pakistan in the shape of Nawaz Sharif and Gen. Musharraf’s in the shape of Zardari and the NRO is recent history, so don’t want to dwell too much on them.

Sufficeth that what Benazir, Zardari, Nawaz, Shahbaz and company, subsequently did to Pakistan is now no secret!

Their loot and plunder is now public knowledge. Panama, Corruption, Money laundering, Fake accounts etc are there for everyone to see, except those whose political and business interests and futures are tied to these criminals and hence are blind, deaf and dumb

And for all this.

Yes, I’m afraid, a large part of the responsibility lies with Gen. Ayub, Gen. Zia and Gen. Musharraf! And we haven’t even discussed our involvement in the Afghan Jihad or the War on Terror, or giving space to sectarian and Jihadi outfits and using these non state actors as instruments of State and Foreign policy!

So there we have it.

Corrupt politicians, a broken hijacked electoral system, weakened or near destroyed civilian institutions, a bankrupt economy, a dysfunctional society polarized on ethnic, linguistic, religious and sectarian grounds.

But the most serious issue today are the attempts to polarize Pakistani society on pro and anti ‘Establishment” basis (read Army).

This is fraught with extremely serious and even existential consequences for us.

Yet it is the same institution, along with other para military institutions which successfully defended the country against terrorists for 9 years, giving tremendous sacrifices.

It is the same institution which responds most effectively to every natural and man made calamity, disaster or security situation, we face everyday.

It is the same institution, despite its terrible past and despite its current inordinate influence, which believes that the future of Pakistan lies in strong civilian institutions, not dominated by the Military.

It is the same institution which believes Pakistan’s well being is best served by a strong and corruption free governance model, fully representing the will of the people, their hopes, desires and aspirations of a just, equitable society where everyone has the same opportunities.

It is the same institution which is very clear that non state actors, militant jihadi outfits and sectarian religious groups have no role in the affairs of the State and will never and should never be used as instruments of State policy.

It is the same institution which believes that we have punched well above our weight in the Region and that we must live in peace with our neighbors, especially India and Afghanistan!

It is the same institution which believes that Pakistani has been grossly misgoverned and sucked dry by all its past leaders, military and civilian and they must do whatever they can to support the current PTI government, despite its weaknesses, to cleanse the system, so we have a fighting chance to rebuild the Nation!

It is the same institution whose current leadership realizes the terrible effects, a military coup has on the Country, its People and its Institutions!

It is the same institutions whose past two leaders, Gen. Kayani and Gen. Raheel, despite their weaknesses, and the current Chief, Gen. Bajwa, have studiously stayed away from directly interfering in the affairs of the state, but, and we must and should say, have exercised or attempted to exercise indirect influence to try and limit the unbridled loot and plunder that prevailed under Zardari and Nawaz Sharif.

But for Panama, no government institution, no individual, no judiciary, no media would have been able to stop Nawaz from coming back in power by hijacking a highly compromised electoral process, using the entire force of the State machinery at his disposal.

In fact, on 29th May, 2018, then PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a day before their government was dissolved, told a senior diplomat, “Don’t worry we will be back in July”. So sure where they of their total grip on the electoral process and their ability to rig the results!

So what is this “Deep State” or the “Security Establishment” that we throw about with abandon?

Well in simple terms it is no different to the ones existing in the USA or UK or the democracies of the Western World or India, with one difference.

Because of our past military rule of 33 years and the consequent destruction of our civilian institutions, the Army Chief, who heads your so called “Deep State” or the “Security Establishment” or whatever name you want to call it, seemingly exercises greater influence as compared to other countries.

However the ground reality is that agencies like the CIA, MI5, MI6, RAW, MOSSAD or the Defence establishment of countries like the USA and India exercise huge behind the scenes influence on every aspect of society in their countries.

Does that justify the influence the Pakistan Army Chief exercises. Of course not.

There is no deep state! There is no “establishment”.

Its just the Army Chief heading an extremely powerful monolithic well run military machine, which happens to be the only functioning state institution, today!

But do not forget that there is also a very very dark and dirty side to national and international politics and someone has to do the dirty work as well!

So today we have a dysfunctional state a near bankrupt economy, civilian institutions in ruins and just “one man standing” The Pakistan Army!

And if you were an enemy of Pakistan like Modi or you wanted to regain political power like Nawaz or save your dad from imprisonment like Mrs. Safdar or Master Bilawal, and thought that the Pakistan Army or Imran Khan stood in your way, what would you do?

Well if you were Master Bilawal or Mrs. Safdar, or Modi or other enemies of the country, you would do everything in your power to weaken the Army, weaken Imran and bring them both down!

And how would you do it.

You would polarize the country against the Army and Imran.

You would attack the Army and Imran in direct and indirect ways.

You would launch slogans like “Khalai Makhlooq” Dayshath Gardi kay Peechay Wardi Hay”.

You would ridicule imran with labels of “selected”.

You would fund, launch and support movements like the PTM, under the garb of democracy and freedom of speech.

You would employ Cambridge Analytica type tactics to fill mainstream and social media, that Pakistan’s problem is not corruption, not misgovernance, but its Army.

You would buy media anchors and hacks to promote this theme of the Army running the country. That Imran is a puppet and continuously building resentment and animosity against Imran and the Army.

You would use the likes of Master Bilawal and Mrs. Safdar, to attack the Army. Two biological absurdities of zero ability, zero achievements, zero experience, terrible values, propped up by their Rasputins, because the entire status quo of the corrupt mafia, their political future, financial wealth, power and influence is at stake.

You would use the slogans of “Democacy” and “freedom of expression” to sully the name of the Army!

Or like Hasil Bizenjo, himself a beneficiary of Rs. 5 lakh from the ISI in 1988, boldy name the ISI chief as being responsible for not being elected Senate Chairman. By the way quite a cheapskate to sell his soul for a mere Rs. 5 lakhs, I must say!

And By God, you would have a lot ammo because today the economy is in a slump, thanks to Nawaz Sharif and Zardari, prices are sky high, people have lost jobs, there’s been significant erosion of wealth, a significant economic downturn and loss of business confidence.

On top of all this the military’ footprint and influence is quite visible and ISPR ensures we dont forget it!

But!

And, and it’s a very very very important BUT for us to understand.

In an environment which has been raped, looted, pillaged and plundered by Nawaz Sharif and Zardari, we have no option but to rely on an institution like the Army to tide us over this extremely difficult period in our history simply because no other institution today stands strong and firm!

It is difficult for me to say this because, like the vast majority of Pakistanis, I strongly object to the way the Army exercises its influence and is not held accountable and answerable!

Also like the vast majority of us, I abhor Martial Laws and military dictatorships, and in fact joined Air Marshal Asghar Khan’s, Tehrik e Istiqlal, immediately after I left the Army in 1981, to campaign against Gen. Zia’s rule.

But, I know that today, whether we like it or not, we have no option but to successfully navigate through these very difficult times.

We have to work diligently to rebuild and strengthen our civilian institutions and the Country.

And for this the Nation needs the whole hearted support of the very institution which we ironically also must, when the task is done help retreat and confine itself to its constitutionally defined role. The Pakistan Army.

It’s not going to be an easy ride. No individual or institution gives up power and influence easily, but this is the only way and it will take time.

We cannot undo the consequences of 33 years of military rule and 35 years of loot and plunder by the Sharifs Bhuttos and Zardari in one or two years.

My assessment is that this transition will take anything from 5 to 10 years before we have very strong civilian institutions, a revamped electoral process, based on proportional representation, which allows for competent professionals, specialists and subject matter experts to come into politics, legislatures and government so we don’t have to elect the same corrupt politicians from the same gutter over and over again.

But most importantly that we have complete civilian, legislative and executive oversight and control over all affairs of the State, including the Military!

And despite my personal aversion to any extension to the Army’s current Chief, Gen Bajwa, I think between PM Imran and Gen. Bajwa, the stars could not be more auspiciously aligned for Pakistan to get us to that state!

A lot is riding on the PTI government to deliver good governance and on the military to help rebuild Pakistani institutions.

And hence a lot is riding on the shoulders of PM Imran and Army Chief, Gen. Bajwa!

A piece of unsolicited advice for the Chief and his ISPR.

Please keep a low profile. Do not keep reminding us and the world how powerful and influential you are. Everyone knows it.

Just focus and help in rebuilding Pakistan and at the same time ensure that the Army is also accountable.

If a serving 2 star Maj. Gen or 3 star Lt. Gen is found to be corrupt, kindly revoke his commission, strip him of his rank, privileges and benefits, name him and shame him. Publicly indict him, prosecute him and convict him as harshly as you can and then send him to jail in handcuffs in the full glare of media publicity so you make an example out of him, so that the people of Pakistan know that there are no sacred cows!

But for God’s sake, don’t give him a cushy job to head a civilian institution!

So before I end, let me repeat what I said earlier, lest we’ve forgotten.

I think, the Pakistan Army, is without question or doubt, our finest, most professional, most well led, most process and merit driven, most reliable and the least corrupt, of all our state institutions.

It is my considered opinion that if every able bodied young man and woman of this great nation could serve two years in the military and undergo the physical and emotional experiences that the rank and file undergo, Pakistan and Pakistanis would be a far better country and society

Pakistan’s enemies, both external and internal, Master Bilawal and Mrs. Safdar, especially, would not be able to mislead our people, especially our youth against this institution.

This is the Pakistan Army, not the Indian Army, for God’s Sake

I urge PM Imran, Defense Minister Khattak, Human Resources Minister Zulfi Bukhari and Gen. Bajwa to institute this great public service.

And now Kashmir on the brink of a major conflagration!

Time to dump Master Bilawal and Mrs. Safdar!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

Tread carefully Khan saheb! A short note!

 

 

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi – 27 July, 2019

Khan saheb,

Our key challenges are

1. Economic recovery so our people can get relief from back breaking inflation, business confidence is restored, industry is revived, exports and taxes increase and foreign direct and local investments restart.

2. Rebuilding and strengthening state institutions and improving governance. This also means reducing corruption and holding crooks accountable. But this also does not mean we use heavy handed and harsh measures to crack down on political dissenters and low life’s, however third rate they may be. This also means the delivery of quality services to our citizens! Health, Education, Employment, Safety and Security etc!

3. Reforming the Judiciary and law enforcement agencies so our poor can get quick and real justice.

4. Strengthening the Executive and ensuring the Army’s influence is limited to its defined security related roles. So we’re not headed towards a dark dystopian, fascist future. This is a hugely polarizing phenomena in Pakistan even amongst your supporters!

5. Rebuilding our relationships with our neighbours.

6. Reforming our electoral and governance system to allow people of competence, skills, subject matter expertise into positions of governance, power, policy making and legislating!

This is crucial so that you and future administrators are not held hostage by the small corrupt coteries from which we elect our lawmakers and cabinets under the garb of parliamentary democracy! Something quite unsuited to us.

So that we have professionals making laws and policies and overseeing and managing public sector institutions with professional expertise.

So that Pakistan is saved from the “Elite Captured” claws of this small bunch of corrupt rich and powerful!

So we forever bury the Sharifs, the Bhuttos, Zardaris, Asfandyars, Fazlur Rehman’s and who they represent!

This in a nutshell is what we need, Khan saheb!.

Please do not open too many fronts to take your eyes off these goals.

Do not take on others Estates like the media. Now is not the time and place for this battle.

Like the rest of our society our media is also like a Mafia. Yes, they’ve been bought over by the corrupt mafias of the Zardaris and the Sharifs. Yes they must be held responsible through strong libel laws and strict punishnents!

But do not allow the kind of media optics and very poor handling of arresting and handcuffing a 78 year old journalist, on charges as flaky as a snowflake, despite his questionable character and third class attributes.

Do not allow the opposition to get to you, upset you, rile you with personal attacks and and use of words like “selected”. If they do, they’ve succeeded. Because it takes you away from fixing Pakistan.

Because our entire institutional infrastructure is dead, dysfunctional, corrupt, inefficient, ineffective, very weak, the task is huge, complex and very challenging.

But if anyone can begin to tackle it, its you, Imran.

You cannot afford to waste this great opportunity for the sake of Pakistan.

Tread carefully, Khan saheb!

Not fearfully, but carefully!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi