Is Imran still our best fighting chance?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

5 month’s into administration, is the jury still out on IK and PTI?

Or are we witnessing a sad meltdown not just of governance but of the hopes of the millions who voted for the Khan?

Are we witnessing the tragic spectacle of a group of inept and inexperienced novices, at sea on how to administer this complex country called Pakistan?

Are we seeing the growing footprint of an establishment silently trying to plug this lack of capacity and capability in governance?

Are we fated to see the continuous erosion of civilian public sector institutions and deliberate acts of ommission and commission by other state institutions, keeping these civilian public center institutions on ventilators? Ineffective, weak, toothless!

Are we tragically fated to be administered by silent behind the scenes forces and not through legislatures and governing bodies and civilian institutions peopled by persons of integrity and competence?

Are the early missteps and floundering of a first time party in power at the Center, existential to governance and the Country?

Are we fated to have massively fouled up this best fighting chance in so short a time of taking back the nation from the clutches of the kleptocrats and plutocrats so starkly exemplified by the Sharifs, the Bhuttos and the Zardaris and decades of misrule and loot and plunder, including the periods of military dictatorships?

Are we fated, as a Nation to revert to a rule of charlatans, crooks, robber barons, mafiosi, looters and plunderers, garbed in “democratic robes”?

The same “Democrats” who in the same breath and in a most bizarre manner foist their biological offspring on this wretched nation, in a macabre display of democracy and shamelessly defended by their democratic pretenders?

Are we fated to see the incredibly painful public spectacles of the educated and the aware amongst us, spinelessly and shamelessly, slave worshipping, boot licking and brown nosing Maryam, Bilawal, Hamza?

This Roll of Dishonor is long and painful.  Leading jurists, former superior court judges, military generals, landed feudals, leading business people, multi billionaires, renowned journalists, poets, writers, left wing secular liberals.

All make up this bizarre collage of the shameless!

Other than a pure lust for power, money, influence, and other crumbs that feed the ego, nothing else rationalizes the personal choices these people make in the obsequious manner they humiliate and insult themselves in front of a Bilawal or a Maryam!

So here’s my reality check!

Tragically we are a bloodthirsty lot. We love mayhem, criticism, confusion, blood, gore.

Our prime time TV shows, of which I’m a part, put to shame the Roman Gladiatorial encounters!

Here’s my view of our society after 5 months of being in the thick of things or the opportunity to see and experience things at very close quarters.

1. The entire Pakistani society, from top to bottom is corrupt, ill disciplined and completely self centered and selfish. We do not not operate under any process. Formal Processes being mere facilitators of the “informal process”.

This goes for all of us.  You and me. Each one of us. Rich or poor.

Anytime we have a problem or need some work done or undone, whether right or wrong, especially in Government, we pick up the phone or contact somebody, directly or indirectly.

We either use money or power and influence or our network to get our job done or escape punishment from our misdeeds.

Each one of us regularly, every day, corrupts and pollutes the very system we criticise.

Ungortunately in this jungle, the poor and the weak, suffer the most, held completely hostage by an extractive, cruel, rent seeking environment.

2. The entire government machinery, rare and honourable exceptions aside, has been so politicised and brutally raped by everybody, both civilian and military administrations included, that it has very limited capacity, capability and desire to execute.

They operate on the time old tested principle of  either covering their backsides or making as much money as they can.  Mostly both!

3. For the last 70 years, since partition, our political governance has been in the hands of a corrupt coterie of plutocrats and kleptocrats, comprising rich politicians, landlords, feudals, businesspersons, who were part of every administration, whether civilian or military.

The military dictators, Ayub, Yahya, Zia, Musharraf, all using them to perpetuate their own rules. And civilian administrations using them as handmaidens to loot and plunder

This kleptocracy / plutocracy deliberately weakened our civilian institutions and hijacked our electoral processes, so they could retain political power and loot and plunder at will.

For this dishonorable class of vagabonds, most disguised as upholders of democracy and defenders of the parliament, changing parties is as easy as changing diapers.

They owe no allegiance to any ideology or values but one. How do we remain in power and continue to loot and plunder?

And it is this last value which defines the slavish behaviours of those licking the boots of a Bilawal or a Maryam.

4. Then is the very powerful footprint of our security establishment seen in every sphere of life. This is a natural consequence of 3 decades of military rule and the near death of our public sector civilian institutions.

Its a sad Chicken and Egg story.

But this influence is a reality and in my opinion, very detrimental to civilian public sector institutions becoming strong and effective and for Pakistan’s strength and stability in the long run.

In a counter intuitive way, Pakistan’s future strength, security and stability, lies in our security establishment voluntarily reducing their footprint to allow civilian institutions to breathe, grow strong and prosper.

Recently, I was appalled to read a comment from a retired three star laying down “conditions” under which the Military will cooperate with a Political government.

While we all value the tremendous work and sacrifices of the armed forces in the war against terrorism for which they have our eternal gratitude and prayers.

While we all appreciate and admire the discipline, professionalism and patriotism of the institution.

While we all admire their efficiency, effectiveness and ability to execute.

None of the above justifies in any form or shape their determining the destiny of the nation. Period! As partners, Yes! As Masters, No!

There is and can never be any justification, whether qualified or unqualified to support anything contrarian to this perspective.

When a military spokesperson waxes, however eloquently, on every issue under the sun, be it military, which they should, or economic, political, foreign affairs etc, which they should not, not only do they damage the reputation of the institution, but the Government and the Country.

And perhaps their biggest damage is the fodder of a “Praetorian State” they provide to our enemies inside and outside. The recent article in The Economist magazine being a case in point.

This kind of thinking also provide political lifelines to our plutocrats and kleptocrats like Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari, who distort it to serve their own political objectives and ends.

Having said the above, the massive influence of the miltary establishment is a reality.

It is for them to realise that we have a rare once in a blue moon opportunity of a fighting chance under Imran Khan to strengthen our civilian institutions, break the back of the corrupt mafia of plutocrats and kleptocrats, and make this country strong.

This can only happen if they begin to limit their interference as much as possible and start to reduce their footprint which extends into the exclusively civilian domain.

This they must do in close partnership and collaboration and under the authority of a competent and an honest Executive.

For starters,  they should speak less and be seen less!

So it is in this extremely complex context and very challenging environment environment that Imran has come into.

A corrupted, ill disciplined society.

A corrupt, inefficient, ineffective public sector.

A bunch of rich and powerful politicians who have hijacked the electoral process and a stranglehold on political power.

An overwhelmingly powerful security establishment which influences and exercises power in most if not all key spheres of governance, inhibiting the growth of civilian institutions.

And in all this, if there’s hope in an individual who can overcome the above odds, despite his and his team’s weaknesses and inexperience, it is Imran. Of this I have no doubt.

And the reason for my optimism stems from five things.

1. The efforts by the Government to address root causes. Especially on the economic front. To paraphrase Napoleon. A Nation marches on a full stomach.

2. Imran’s and his inexperienced team, learning the ropes and making better decisions. And hopefully we see some better people coming into the cabinet and some bad eggs leaving

3. The cracks appearing in the power structures of the political mafia. Nawaz in jail. Zardari under pressure.

4. Governance reforms, albeit slow.

5. A genuine realization in our military leadership that this is a rare moment of opportunity to get the country back on track. This thinking will hopefully set in motion a reduction of power and influence and support the strengthening of civilian institutions

Whether he succeeds or not, is another issue. But my money is still on Imran!

And that’s why I believe he’s still our best fighting chance.

*-Haider Mehdi*

PM visits the GHQ. A Short note!

Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

What should have been a norm is seen as a great moment. And yes it is. For once we have A PM, a Government, an Army Chief and an Army to be proud of!

Never felt so elated & full of hope as now.

We’ve wrought a near miracle in Imran’s election and in the near perfect and complete alignment amongst key stakeholders. Executive, Judiciary, Parliament and yes the Army!

And what of the negative media chatter we’ve heard these last days? Absolutely terrible.

Reminds one of the monkeys chatter in the jungle as they swing crazily and madly in frenzied fear from tree top to tree top, seeing their world coming to an end.

It’s a daily media circus of incredibly naive, ill-informed and petty and mostly incorrect commentaries, without which their work is incomplete.

Unfortunately the vast majority of our media anchors had a field day, taking Imran to town on such “existential issues” as the Helicopter. Buzdar. RPO. This appointment. That appointment. Maneka etc. As if these were our greatest governance challenges!

But as I’ve always said, the caravan doesn’t wait or stop for barking dogs!

Dear countrypeople, have faith in Imran, in his decisions, in the institutions of the state as he and his team fixes them, slowly and surely.

Please understand that the winds are furious, the storms massive, the coffers empty, the institutions destroyed, the enemies within and without out to destroy, and on top of all that, these media monkeys with their chatter.

Ignore them!

We have to give Imran the minimum 3 to 6 months learning curve as he understands his new role as we give to everyone in a new role. Let him get a handle on things.

As a politician he surprised everyone. As a PM he will undoubtedly do the same! Wait as his work unfolds as he continues to work on his agenda to build a new Pakistan. Many, myself included have been saying this for many years.

For example just look at his message to the bureaucracy.

Folks, we are not witch hunting!

Even if you happened to work closely with the Sharifs or the Zardaris I have no issues. As long as you’re competent and reasonably honest, you have a place in my administration!

Only a person with his kind of honesty, courage, authenticity and transparency can do something like this.

And he may yet make an honest minor mistake or two or perhaps even more. And that’s ok. If he doesn’t, how will he learn?

Or when CM Buzdar asserting his authority in the most stupid and hamhanded manner in Rizwan Gondal’s case, irrespective of merit, embarrasses him. Or the PTI Punjab Information Minister flies off the handle. These are great learning experiences for Imran. And how he addresses them is key!

But if the TV media monkey chatter bothers you. Put on earplugs or better still listen to human beings or music!

The Blue Moon has finally risen in Pakistan. A great future awaits us. Of that let there be no doubt. Our time has come!

InshaAllah. Ilahi Aameen.

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

Naya Pakistan !

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

This is not a comprehensive review of Imran and PTI’s barely 7 days in office.

While the dung beetles will head for the filth and the non issues or the minor ones, Honeybees will flock to the flowers in the garden!

But what has Imran bought to the table?

First and most importantly! Hope!

Hope for a better, brighter, Pakistan. Last night at a dinner, 4 of 10 people I met have decided to head back to Pakistan.  All extremely comfortable in their lives here in Canada with outstanding professional careers.

What will you do? I asked.

Something. Anything. Teaching. Technology. Social impact projects.

I’m certain similar scenes are being played out all across the non resident Pakistani diaspora.

There is “Hope” with a capital “H”.  Hope  that he and his administration and many others in the millions who have waited all their lives for such a day, will work tirelessly to course correct and steer this very massive ship, slowly but surely, in the right direction and to the shores of a wonderful Pakistan.

People voted and flocked to Imran because of what they believed in about Pakistan. They came for themselves, for their children for their children’s children. For their futures of a safe, secure, merit driven, fair, just and equitable Pakistan!

Euphoria!

Another sentiment that he’s evoked. A feeling of great well being, a surge of happiness, a sense of pride in being a Pakistani!

Recently, a blue blooded white Canadian friend told me “…Your new PM is an awesome dude…..”

Even the optics elate us. The austerity measures, the clear stance on issues, the measured and balanced tones, the sense of purpose and above all a feeling that finally the key to the coffers is in the right hands!

And PTV. My God! Everybody I know is also watching PTV. Just this by itself is a miracle!

While his detractors will continue to criticise the occasional hiccup and relish the odd stumble by him or his administration, one must not forget that he and his administration has to do what they can, with what they have. And what they have is far from perfect. In fact it’s a royal mess.

Èven the images of the old guard on media, Shahbaz, Zardari, Diesel, Ahsan Iqbal, Asfandyar, Achakzai, Kaira, Sherry et al is like this terrible nightmare where one wakes up sweating and trembling!

The contrast is surreal, almost unreal!

He has five huge challenges.

1. Economic revival and stability.

2. Good governance which is transparent, merit driven, especially the elimination of corruption and bringing back the looted wealth.

3. Social equity, especially safety, security, justice and equitable opportunities for all.

4. Foreign policy, especially peace with our neighbours.

5. And perhaps the most challenging is to eradicate the terrible poison of sectarianism, extremism, violence and terrorism and bring the nation together.

These are herculean challenges! And the seas are rough and the storms, massive!

But If anyone can address them, its Imran.  He needs the support of all patriotic Pakistanis.

Those who want him to fail, for whatever reasons are merely cutting their noses to spite their faces!

Even in organizations, sustainable change takes a minimum of three years. I know. I’ve been doing this for nearly 30 years

Year one is about planning and putting in place the right implementation architecture, the right people, the right processes and the right technology.  And pilot testing!

Year two is about implementation. And the period of greatest resistance from the old status quo, which is desperately fighting to defend the old putrid order. This is the period of greatest risk.

Year three is seeing the fruits of the change. This is at a minimum .

Give him and his team, time. A minimum of three years!

Those before him had ample opportunity to do the above. But instead of fixing the system, they consciously and deliberately destroyed the system.

They weakened institutions by appointing corrupt and dishonest people to key posts and deploying processes which allowed them to siphon off our wealth!

They consciously eroded the authority of institutions which could hold them accountable, so no one could hold them accountable!

Can anyone in their right minds believe that Imran would knowingly appoint corrupt and dishonest people on key roles in government?

Can anyone expect that Imran would deliberately weaken institutions so he and his associates can indulge in unbridled loot and plunder?

Can anyone expect that Imran’s personal interests would ever overtake national interests?

I’ve been criticized for going overboard in my support of Imran. That I deliberately turn a blind eye to his shortcomings! That I’m not objective in criticizing him and his actions!

Well the short answer is. Yes!

I am overlooking the minor hiccups and stumbles, because I believe they are inconsequential to the larger objectives stated above.

I believe that honest mistakes and wrong decisions will be made. I understand that the insights and experiences from governing a province by proxy vs the whole country will be challenging. I understand that he’s not surrounded by angels. Many are dyed in the wool old timers who will continue to attempt to go back to the old ways.

Some wrong appointments will be made, not consciously but perhaps because due diligence was not done properly. But given time, as facts emerge, these will be corrected!

But I do know that he is incredibly honest, incredibly committed and also incredibly ruthless.

He may allow himself and his people the occasional honest mistakes or error of judgements or wrong decision, which can be fixed and rectified, but he will not spare anything which speaks of deliberate and wilful sabotage of his agenda.

So while he and his team are fixing Pakistan, do what you can, with what you have, wherever you are.

If you live overseas, and can, go back to Pakistan and see what you can do!

If you have money, set up a business and create jobs for the poor.

If you have money, provide micro finance funding to poor people who have skills so they can come out of abject poverty.

If you have money, fund scholarships for poor children.

If you have money, adopt a government school.

If you have money, fund those who are making a difference especially in health care and education.

If you have money, set up food kitchens to feed the hungry and the poor.

If you have talent. Teach and train the poorest so they can get jobs.

If you have time, volunteer to help the most deprived segments of your society, in government hospitals, schools, colleges.

If you have people working for you, treat them fairly, with honour and dignity! Whether in your homes or in your businesses!

If you can, avoid taking or giving a bribe!

If nothing else, at least support him with your written and spoken words!

There’s so much you can do!

This is your contribution to Naya Pakistan.

*Salaams and Prayers*.
*Haider Mehdi*