The “Insider Crowd”
By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi (originally published on 18 Nov, 2019)
So there’s this amazing group of people, all pretending “to know” having the “inside story” on what’s going on in Pakistan. Boldy they claim to have been informed by “someone” who is an “insider.” Often this implies a senior politician, a cabinet minister, a senior bureaucrat, a High Court or Supreme Court judge and that clincher of all clinchers, a “very senior serving military general” and one that even tops that “a senior officer from Aabpara”.
I became acutely aware of this sickness in the last 5 years as I ventured into the shark infested waters of political activism. Especially last one year when I was active in Pakistani media. Mainstream and Social Media have unleashed this cruel monster of unbelievable pathetic political discourse and opinions which haunts Pakistan 24/7. Pseudo analysts like me and pretentious TV anchors, sit on top of this dung heap, attempting to bless their highly questionable narratives with this “stamp of authenticity” of getting it from an “insider”.
Flaunting words like “Pindi” “Islamabad” “Boots” “Aabpara” tapping their shoulders to imply military rank etc. Their statements usually start with a phrase ” a very senior person told me…..” Many amongst us are victims of the massive power of Social Media to build completely fake narratives, mixing half truths with outright falsehoods and pressing our political, religious, ethnic hot buttons, to power a very believable perspective.
Then we have these legions of politicians, business people, serving and retired bureaucrats, retired military officers who meet the same people saying the same things everyday in the same clubs (Sind Club, Boat Club, Karachi and Lahore Gymkhana, Punjab Club, Defence Club, Islamabad Club, Press Clubs etc etc). Please excuse me if I’ve missed your club. These people, after hearing the same thing over and over again, actually end up believing what they’ve been saying to themselves and to each other.
One person, a highly successful businessman, in particular continues to share his “inside nonsense” with me, despite having been proved wrong every single time over the last 5 years.
Such is the power of a false narrative and how intelligent, educated, successful people can lap up this gutter crap! Not surprised this happens. Just look at Trump’s America. 97% of Republicans still believe he’s a great guy! So why wouldn’t people in Pakistan lap up this garbage about Nawaz and Zardari being innocent. That Bilawal and Maryam are great leaders. That the Army is calling the shots and Imran is a puppet.
But there’s a more dangerous crowd!
Today a large group of people, with seriously dubious credentials and backgrounds and integrity, credibility and ethical issues, have somehow catapulted from nowhere into a positions of influence & wealth, which itself is highly suspicious and are at the forefront of spewing this nonsense. You usually find them projecting themselves on Social Media, rubbing shoulders with power brokers, politicians, government officials, worming their way into military circles and portraying themselves as “insiders” with high level contacts with “Pindi” etc.
These types are very dangerous and most subversive because they deliberately use their platforms, forums, groups and positions to sow dissension, create confusion and spread fear and negativity. Many are ripe to be turned by foreign intelligence agencies because of their clout and influence, their absolute absence of patriotism and their lust for wealth!
Then we have this smirking, smug, patronizing group of intellectuals, social activists, many still waging the “Cold War” against “Zia’s Army” and still not understanding that this is not your Dad’s Army. That the institution is changing and will continue to change as civilian institutions become stronger. This group fails to understand that the shadows of 33 years of military rule cannot be undone in a few years. And that the rape, loot and plunder and near total destruction of civilian institutions at the hands of ZAB, Benazir, Nawaz, Zardari, will not be fixed in a few years. That Imran is hamstrung by a near bankrupt economy a devastated public sector, an incomptent and corrupt bureaucracy, an entrenced elitist mafia which is fighting back.
That change will take time!
So here’s the list of things I’ve heard in the last 5 years.
1. Zardari will be President. Deal done with Gen. Bajwa.
2. Shahbaz Sharif will be PM. Deal done with Gen. Bajwa.
3. National Government for 3 years. Gen. Bajwa will head it.
4. A coalition government with Zardari as President and Imran as PM. Gen. Bajwa has agreed.
5. The Army will never allow Imran to become PM. “They” are scared they won’t be able to control him.
6. Gen. Bajwa is Nawaz’s man. Just wait. Nawaz will never go to jail.
7. Saqib Nisar is Nawaz’s man. Just wait. Nawaz will never go to jail.
8. The Army installed Imran. Just wait and see. (Wait for What?)
9. Imran is a puppet. All decisions are made by Gen. Bajwa.
10. Fazlur Rehman’s Dharna was sponsored by the Army. Just wait and see.
11. The Army has decided that Imran has to go. Just wait and see
12. Finally. “Pindi” facilitated Nawaz’s departure. ( Seems it was true)
Well folks here are a couple of things as an “outsider”.
There is no “They” “Pindi” “Boots” “Aabpara” “Military Establishment”.
There is just one guy! Yes! One guy! And he’s called the Chief of the Army Staff. What he says, goes! Period! And today, that guy is Gen. Bajwa.
One may have views about him, but from what I know and see, as an outsider, three things about him are absolutely crystal clear.
1. He believes in civilian supremacy and authority. Not now but ever since he was a young officer.
2. He has ZERO ambition to control government policy or take over.
3. Imran trusts him and both have a very strong personal and professional relationship.
Imran has actively sought his and the Army’s help in rebuilding civilian institutions and providing interim support till these institutions become strong. Those who know Imran will vouch that he will never ever play second fiddle to anybody. He would much rather resign and leave. Those who know Gen. Bajwa will vouch that Gen. Bajwa is genuinely and passionately committed to civilian supremacy and overlordship and will never overtly or covertly attempt to exercise control. He will only do what he’s ordered and asked.
Despite the fact that one wants the Army to reduce its footprint and influence, it will take time as they remain visible in helping build civilian institutions. My only plea to Gen. Bajwa. Do not allow corrupt serving Generals to go unpunished. This is your Achilles heels. We must understand that the corrupt, elitist mafia that has reigned supreme in Pakistan is fighting tooth and nail to survive. And their two biggest enemies and targets?
1. Imran and his reform agenda.
2. Gen. Bajwa and the Pakistan Army.
So their best strategy is to malign and bring into disrepute both individuals and their efforts. Hence my unsolicited advice to Gen. Bajwa.
There’s still time to not accept the extension even if Imran insists.
You’ve played an excellent innings. Leave at the peak of your career with honour, grace and dignity. Let the system continue. This will also take the wind out of every argument labeling Imran a puppet of the Army and Gen. Bajwa and the Army calling the shots. The Army has to make up for its sins of omission and commission. It is responsible for our state of affairs today and these corrupt politicians. Your not accepting the extension will be one such atonement!
Not that it will stop the Pakistani version of the “Trump” supporters to come up with something else.
A Final comment!
Every single time I’ve asked these “insiders” to name their “Pindi” source or other sources, the answer, vast majority of the time without fail is “Oh I can’t disclose it”. And the reason they refuse to share is because there is no insider source! It’s the echo chamber echoing the same garbage!
People of Pakistan be careful. This is The Battle for Pakistan and our future.