The “Insider Crowd”

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?)

And now.

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.

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!