Gen. Bajwa’s Extension …….a Historical gallop – Part 2 of a 3 part series on Civil Military Relations in Pakistan

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi – 21 Aug 2019

 Alea iacta est “The die is cast”!

Gen. Bajwa remains in the saddle for three more years and the air is rife with pros and cons including those who hold, private, their counsel!  This isn’t a simple black and white binary issue but reopens the whole issue of civilian vs military supremacy in the affairs of the State and our history of Martial Laws.

Hence, here’s a  perspective about military rule, their power and influence and the issue of Gen. Bajwa’s extension.

Most Pakistan Army Chiefs, since Gen. Ayub, barring Gen. Musa and Gen. Tikka and the operational heads who administered the Army during Martial Law regimes, like Gen. Arif, Gen. Iqbal, etc, have all been powerful & exercising influence and control, beyond their mandate.

So, let’s get this reality out of the way and not quibble further that four Martial Laws, 33 years of military rule, a series of very weak and corrupt civilian administrations, always looking askance at the Army to bring down the “other guy” have resulted in this current state of affairs.

But in my view, perhaps the more important question, is, whether these military takeovers were simply a consequence of unbridled personal ambition by the individuals who undertook them or were their significant extenuating circumstances which lead to such acts, all clearly illegal and unconstitutional when undertaken and before they were validated by a spineless and pliant judiciary.

And let’s also not forget, in all cases widely welcomed and acclaimed by the people on the streets and the political class whose political enemy was removed!.

So let’s rewind back to the 1947 -1958 period before Gen. Ayub’s Martial Law.

In our first 11 years  from 1947 to 1958, we had 7 Prime Ministers, with tenures ranging from 4 years to 1 month.

If PM Liaquat’s 4-year period is excluded, we had 6 Prime Ministers in 7 years, averaging 14 months per Prime Minister.

India had 1 Prime Minister for 13 years, from 1947 to 1964. 

Here’s the roll call!

  1. Liaquat Ali Khan

14 Aug 47 -16 Oct 51.

Tenure: 4 Years 2 Months, 2 Days.

Reason tenure ended: Assassinated.

  1. Khawaja Nazimuddin

17 Oct 51- 17 Apr 53

Tenure:  1 Year 6 Months.

Reason tenure ended: Dismissed by Governor-General Malik Ghulam Muhammad who also dissolved the Constituent Assembly.

  1. Mohammad Ali Bogra.

17 Apr 53 to 12 Aug 55

Tenure: 2 Years, 3 Months, 26 Days.

Reason tenure ended: Dismissed by Governor General Ghulam Mohammed.

  1. Ch. Mohammad Ali.

12 Aug 55 to 12 Sep 56,

Tenure: 1 Year.

Reason tenure ended. Removed by his own party through vote of no-confidence.

  1. Hussain S Suhrawardy

12 Sep 56 to 17 Oct 57.

Tenure: 1year 1month

Reason tenure ended: Resigned because of a revolt in own party and withdrawal of support from coalition partners

  1. I I Chundrigar;

17 Oct 57 to 16 Dec 57

Tenure: Shortest: 1 Month, 29 Days.

Reason tenure ended: Vote of no-confidence by own party and coalition partners.

  1. Sir Feroze Khan Noon

16 Dec 57 to 7 Oct 58

Tenure 9 Mo, 21 Days.

Reason tenure ended:  Dismissed by Governor General Iskandar Mirza who declared Martial Law and appointed himself President

So!

One assassination, three dismissals by Governor General, three removed by own party.

The tenures getting shorter, dismissals more frequent and political infighting at its worst. This was democracy at work in Pakistan in its earliest years! A bunch of cats and dogs squabbling over political power!

While many of us haven’t personally lived through this period, but by researching and seeking primary insights from those who have, clearly the country was fed up and tired of this gory, cut and thrust and palace intrigues between a squabbling bunch of power hungry politicians, pouncing on each other in the dog eat dog political arena of Pakistan.

Gen. Ayub’s Martial Law – 1958.

While its hard to predict a hypothetical future of what may have happened had Martial Law not been declared by Governor General Iskandar Mirza in October 1958, appointing himself President and then being unceremoniously dismissed 13 days later by the Army Chief, Gen. Ayub Khan, who was Minister of Defence in his Cabinet and declaring himself President, but here’s a hypothesis worth reflecting upon.

In my considered opinion, given what was happening in the political landscape of Pakistan as briefly narrated above, Iskandar Mirza’s and Ayub’s Martial Laws and takeovers were inevitable. If Gen. Ayub had not taken over in 1958 he would have done so in 1959 or in1960.

This military takeover was inevitable, especially given that Gen. Ayub had been already been brought into the Cabinet as early as 1954, as a serving Army Chief, and had been witnessing first hand the serious political instability and infighting that ensued and of course supported by our “good friend”, the USA.

USA had decided that Pakistan was to be their “front line state” against the spread of Communism in Asia, with India having cast its lot with the then USSR.

Hence for them a military strongman was a much better option than a bunch of squabbling cats and dogs to deal with.

They clearly had a huge hand in Gen. Ayub’s takeover and the subsequent red-carpet treatment he got on his visit to the USA, videos of which we so proudly share nowadays, were nothing but to flatter and fan Gen. Ayub’s ego and not a testimony to our “greatness”, as we mistakenly  assume!

Pakistan was a classic USA foreign policy strategy which they have followed for decades, and visible even now, in their support of the many monarchist and quasi dictatorial governments in the Middle East.

But to 1954 to show how it all started!

After Governor General Ghulam Mohammed, dismissed PM Khwaja Nazimuddin he also dismissed the legally elected Constituent Assembly to prevent it from changing the constitution, and restrict his powers as Governor-General.

In so doing he sought the support of Gen Ayub, who provided troops to control communications with London and avoid any possibility of the Queen being advised to replace the Governor-General.

Gen. Ayub, was also inducted in the subsequent “Cabinet of Talents” as it was called, as Minister of Defence.

And then treachery!

Our Courts, weak kneed and spineless as always, supported Khawaja Nazimuddin’s illegal dismissal and in an inglorious shameful judgement by Justice Mohammad Munir, the then Chief Justice, who in my opinion along with Governor General Ghulam Mohammed have been two of the biggest villains of Pakistan’s political history, far greater than any Military dictator, upheld the illegal dismissal as “lawful”.

These two wretched creatures stabbed deep into the entrails and soul of this young fledgling nation and upheld this terrible unconstitutional act under the infamous “Doctrine of Necessity” which formed the legal Casus Belli” for subsequent military takeovers by Generals Ayub, Yahya, Zia and Musharraf, against legally elected governments, weak and corrupt they may be.

Justice Munir had to go back into canons of British law dating to the 13th Century to justify this constitutional murder and Ghulam Mohammad’s illegal dismissal of the Prime Minister and the Constituent Assembly.

This man, Munir, quoted amongst other things the Maxim by Henry De Brocton’s, an English jurist of the 13th Century (1210 to 1268)  “that which is otherwise not lawful is made lawful by necessity”, and the Roman law Maxim of Sir William Ivor Jennings, a British lawyer and academic (1903 to 1965) that  “the well-being of the people is the supreme law”.

In my opinion, Governor General Ghulam Mohammad’s and Justice Munir’s citizenship and all privileges, honors and awards be withdrawn, they should be posthumously tried, and convicted for High Treason.

Their names and any references removed and blacked out from all official records.

So the civilian Governor General invites the proverbial Camel, Gen. Ayub Khan into his tent in 1954, make him the Defence Minister in the Cabinet member, ask him to do a lot of his political dirty work and then stupidly expects him to quietly ride away into the “sunset”.

That’s why, in my view, the civilian rulers of Pakistan simply invited Gen. Ayub’s inevitable 1958 Martial Law! And this of course in no way condones or supports this illegal act!

Also lets not forget our intellectuals who have been part and parcel of conspiracies against elected governments.

In the famous but failed 1951 Rawalpindi conspiracy by Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan, against PM Liaquat Ali Khan, we had the great Faiz Ahmed Faiz, our famous poet laureate, who we quote endlessly, as one of the main co-conspirators, along with several other civilian left wing intellectuals like Sajjad Zaheer other writers, poets and a sprinkling of left leaning military officers.

Unfortunately, the seeds of dissension, discord and conspiracies are embedded deep in our psyche, whether it is a military general, a politician, a Judge, or an intellectual.

Iss humaam may sub nungay haen!! 

There’s an interesting end-note to Maj. Gen. Akbar Khan. He subsequently, in Dec 1971, went on to become Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto’s National Security Advisor and the architect of his two infamous fascist jackbooted semi military organizations, the Federal Security Force and the People’s Guard. In early 1972, Gen. Akbar visited our house in Islamabad and asked our father, Col. S. G. Mehdi, a former SSG Group Commander, then retired, to establish these two organizations for Bhutto. Our father refused saying that they would turn into Hitler and Mussolini type Brownshirts and Blackshirts, which they did and the FSF becoming the ultimate cause of his hanging!

So, hence, should we also, like was done to Cromwell, dig up their bones, put them on trial and hang them as we demand of others, who we condemn for subverting Pakistan’s democratic order?

Gen. Yahya’s Martial Law – 1969.

Of the four military takeovers, in my opinion, this had the weakest credentials and pretensions of being forced upon the Army.

This was a clear grab of power by one man, Gen. Yahya.

After 11 years of Gen. Ayub’s rule, there was in place some sort of a semi democratic order and a functioning government and parliament.

When pressured to resign by Gen. Yahya, Gen. Ayub, who should have handed over power to the Speaker of the National Assembly as per his own Constitution, did not, but as is said, asked Gen. Yahya to take over, because Gen. Yahya did not allow him to hand over to the Speaker.

I differ.

However weak and powerless he may have been, he should have had the moral courage, something he always lacked, to even make this last token act of handing over power to the Speaker, at least in writing and at least earning some respect in history. But he didn’t and will forever be remembered for this lack of moral courage!

Gen. Yahya’s Martial law was a disaster.  We lost half the country. Our Army defeated, and a devil incarnate in the shape of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

Bhutto and Gen. Za’s Martial Law – 1977

For starters, Bhutto was our first and hopefully last Civilian Chief Martial Law Administrator.

Using these draconian powers, Chief Martial Law Administrator Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, at the stroke of midnight on 1st January 1972, nationalized our entire Industrial, Business, Health Care and Education sectors, a Caligula type act of total insanity, from which we have never really recovered and also disenfranchised all Urdu speaking migrants from India, living in Sind, mostly Karachi, from their evacuee property rights.

He appointed a weak pliant loyal yes man, Gen. Tikka Khan, as his Army Chief, but was eventually trapped in his own Machiavellian web when in March 1976, he appointed another seemingly innocent, very loyal, very pliable, Lt. Gen. Zia ul Haq as the Army Chief.

He did so by superseding 7 generals, thinking that Gen. Zia would be as loyal and pliant as Gen. Tikka Khan.  The reason being the obsequiousness and flattery the then Lt. Gen Zia had apparently showered on Bhutto when he had earlier visited Multan in November, 1974, for his installation ceremony as the Colonel in Chief of the Armoured Corps, another “honour” bestowed on him by Gen. Tikka Khan.

Rumour has it that Gen. Zia never forgot the insults meted out to him by Bhutto on that occasion as Bhutto mingled with officers and guests with Lt. Gen Zia, following close behind, holding Bhutto’s glass of Scotch Whiskey, from which Bhutto would periodically sip and then arrogantly hand back to Gen Zia to hold and not the waiter with the tray.

This must have been very humiliating for Gen. Zia, himself a teetotaller, and known for his outward religious piety and 5 times daily prayers! But some say he did it readily and willingly to ingratiate himself with the Prime Minister.

In March 1977, Bhutto massively rigged the national elections and faced huge street protests and nationwide agitation. He declared Martial Law in three cities, Karachi, Lahore and Hyderabad, imposed an Emergency in the country and acquired vast dictatorial powers. Three Brigadiers refused to carry out orders to fire against civilian demonstrators and the Army for the first time faced serious mutiny in their ranks.

On 5th July, Gen. Zia, reluctantly, as quoted by Gen. Faiz Ai Chisti, Gen. Zia’s closest advisor then, ousted Bhutto in a coup, declared Martial Law and became the Chief Martial Law Administrator.

Gen. Chishti famously narrates how Gen. Zia told him when the coup was being planned. “Murshid Marwa na dayna” “…..My Teacher, hope you don’t get us killed!……”

So again, yes the Coup was clearly unconstitutional and illegal! But was it inevitable?

If you know your history and understand how Pakistan was heading towards a one-party fascist state, under a very ambitious and megalomaniac individual with dictatorial intent then clearly yes!

In my opinion it was Bhutto, through his own unbridled ambition and  actions, who we must hold directly responsible for Gen. Zia’s takeover and for the terrible dark years of Gen. Zia’s regime!

Civilian Governments – 1988 to 1999 and 2008 and 2019

The Army has by now been in power for 25 years, very powerful with influence across all sectors of the Pakistani state. Its Chief continuing to exercise immense power and influence and becoming the “mediator” in the political and palace intrigues between the PPP and PMLN Government.

Basically Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, both highly corrupt and deliberately weakening State institutions so they could loot and plunder at will.

It is sad to hear from PPP supporters and many others as well, many well educated, about “Benazir the Democrat” who valiantly fought against the “vile dictator” Gen. Zia, from the safe confines of overseas exile, leaving her people to be jailed and whipped, but being totally deaf, dumb and blind to her and her husband’s corruption, her misgovernance and her deliberate destruction of civilian institutions.

And Nawaz. Oh that odious man!

Except for his most ardent supporter whose pockets have been filled with Nawaz’s largesse or those whose entire political and business interests are aligned to him and his family, who today can look me straight in the eye and say that Nawaz is an honest man?

In my view he perhaps has been the most destructive of all our civilian rulers!

This odious man consciously, systematically and deliberately dismantled the infrastructure of all our civilian state institutions to the extent that today in 2019, they are completely dysfunctional.

But the 2008 to 2018 period will perhaps be long remembered as one of total institutional destruction of state institutions and unbridled loot and plunder by both Zardari and Nawaz, in complete control of all State institutions except the Army!

Gen. Kayani, arguably, perhaps our most brilliant and effective military Chief, who basically won the war on terror by clearing 6 of the 7 agencies of the TTP and the terrorists, was a major influence during Zardari’s period, including bringing the lawyers movement to an end!

Unfortunately, his personal reputation has been deeply scarred by the alleged corruption of his brothers or at least one brother. My only request to him is that he must come out and publicly clear his name and not sit silent, provided he is not guilty of any personal misconduct either directly or in facilitating those of his brothers.

His silence is deafening!

Gen. Raheel, who seemingly seemed to exercise a lot of influence over Nawaz, thanks to ISPR and his own physical persona, really didn’t. Nawaz had him wrapped around his fingers! And, as is common knowledge, owes his Saudi assignment to Nawaz Sharif!

But post Musharraf, the Army Chief had acquired even more power as evidenced from Gen. Kyani’s 6 years as Army Chief.

So the questions is why did Gen. Musharraf take over?

Was he a power hungry ambitious general hell bent on taking over, or a well meaning albeit an ambitious military commander who wanted to solve the Kashmir issue via Kargil, tactically brilliant but strategically and politically stupid and unworkable, which set him and Nawaz on a collision course and the inevitable consequence of the October 1999, coup!

1999 – Nawaz Sharif and Gen. Musharraf’s Martial Law!

This is now post Kargil and the relationship between the PM and Army Chief, Gen. Musharraf is frosty.

Nawaz has already had two unsavory encounters with two previous military Chief. Once with Gen. Waheed Kakar, who mediated in the spat between him and President Ghulam Ishaq and made both resign in 1993 and then later in 1998, forcing Gen. Jehangir Karamat to resign as the Army Chief.

What happened on October 12th, 1999 is a dark episode in our history. A sitting Prime Minister orders that the plane in which the Army Chief is returning from Sri Lanka should not be allowed to land in Pakistan, endangering not just his life but all the other passengers. He then appoints another Lt. Gen as his Chief.

Constitutionally and legally Nawaz was absolutely in his rights to appoint a new Army Chief, but the way he did it was extremely dangerous and could have potentially incited a mutiny within the Army.

So again, sadly, what happened subsequently was inevitable!

The Army, as is its DNA, stood by its Chief and removed an elected Prime Minister!

Why does the Pakistan Army follow its Chief, right or wrong is a question many ask!

The answer is simple!

Indoctrinated in their core DNA is the phrase “Ours is not to question why but to do and die”

I say this not for cheap hurrahs but to make a non military mind understand that if officers and troops in an army start to question the orders of their superiors then the Army splits into rogue militias as we see so often in Africa, the Middle East and earlier in South America and results in civil war, killing, violence and destruction.

Imagine a Pakistan in which we have our military generals fighting each other across the length and breadth or Pakistan, a nightmarish doomsday scenario!

Gen. Bajwa’s extension

It is controversial.  My opinion voiced many time earlier, is that no Army Chief should be given an extension and the institution must be stronger than the individual!

But the question is why the extension?

Here’s my view.

Gen. Bajwa, ever since he was a young officer, has publicly advocated civilian supremacy over military rule.  He was very critical of Gen. Musharraf’s take over and stated it many times as a young Lt. Col, risking his promotion and future career prospects. In fact, the main reason he was appointed Army Chief by Nawaz was because of these views and his strong criticism in Corps Commander meetings during Gen. Raheel’s tenure of any actions to interfere or take over whenever such talk surfaced!

As Army Chief he’s walked a very difficult line, studiously avoiding interference, wherever possible, especially in the post Panama period.

Like many even he was not aware of the level of corruption that Nawaz had done.

He and the army have been the victim of a very powerful and malicious campaign, orchestrated by Cambridge Analytica through a $20 million consulting assignment given to them by Nawaz Sharif, before they shut down in the scandal.

But even today, Cambridge Analytica, now under another name, continue to provide Maryam Safdar and the PMLN, the anti Imran and anti Army narrative which feeds and has fed the social media pipelines for several years. “Wardi kay peechay Dayshath Gardi” and “Khalai Makhlooq” and “Selected” were coined by Cambridge Analytica types, as were many others.

Gen. Bajwa has a sterling reputation of being clean, authentic and transparent.  Sometimes too transparent as he has shared his concerns about Pakistan and its future in addresses to military gatherings.

Like many Pakistanis, he believes that PM Imran is sincere and a great hope for Pakistan, despite his and his governments many challenges and inadequacies and they have both developed an extremely close and strong personal and professional relationship based on mutual trust and respect!

He also believes that non state actors should not be instruments of state policy and hence the Afghan deal with the USA achieved great breakthroughs under his watch! He has been a strong advocate for peace with India,  and but for Modi, we would have had much better relations!

Consequently, PM Imran values Gen. Bajwa as one of his most effective and closest advisors, and given the paucity of competence around the PM, this is a rare silver lining amongst the pack of jokers surrounding the PM!

PM Imran also believes that Gen. Bajwa has displayed and in some cases delivered on his clear intent to help strengthen and rebuild civilian institutions and doesn’t want to stop this momentum by bringing in a new green behind the ears Chief.

Gen Bajwa’s international reputation is also a plus for the PTI government, were he not to turn rogue.

Will he?

I cannot answer this definitively, but my gut and what I know of him, says, no!

But if he did, then we can say goodbye to all that he and Imran have worked towards, which is civilian supremacy and rebuilding Pakistan!

So hence the extension gets a wary and qualified yes, even though past extensions do not give us much comfort. But only time and Gen. Bajwa’s conduct will tell us if PM Imran made the right decision.

Downsides. Every new Chief brings in his own team. At least a dozen positions are re shuffled which brings in dynamism, renewed energy & vigour. Extensions do not as the incumbent relies on his old team!

And extensions strengthen the individual over the institution.

What now?

I think this is the best opportunity for the government to institute the five-star, Chief of Defence Staff position and elevate Gen. Bajwa to this role when his current terms expires in November, 2019 with full operational authority over the three service, including the Army so he retains operational control.

And also create a 4 star Vice Chief of the Army Staff position which acts as the CDS’s second in command and a 4 star Chief of Strategic Command (our nukes) post.

In the current scenario these two can easily be filled by the two senior most Lt. Generals. Nadeem Raza and Sarfraz Sattar, in November 2019, and hence doesn’t stop the upward movement of promotions.

One great benefit of this system in the long run is that the CDS, who must be from the Army, given their overwhelming preponderance will invariably be filled by one of the 4-star Army posts, hence ensuring continuity.

Gen. Bajwa, the nation watches with bated breath, the trust entrusted to you!

Your tasks are to help rebuild Pakistan, strengthen civilian institutions, restrict military footprint to their constitutionally mandated role and ensure civilian supremacy in all affairs of the State!

For this, a grateful nation will forever be indebted to you!

Haider Mehdi

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

The Khan USA Visit….Veni Vidi Vici (I came, I saw, I conquered) Plus a lot of work to do at home!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi – 25 July, 2019

So first the euphoria!

Never felt so good, so proud, head held high, to be a Pakistani as we did watching the Khan weave his magic in all his public interactions in the US.

The Presser with Trump; The Fox Interview, the USIP Dialogue, the Talk at the Capitol and of course the “Dharna at The Arena!

And in his private meetings as well!

The World Bank President went away in awe as quoted by an insider

* …..The (IMF) President is happy with the discussions….. felt that there is a genuine leader who cares about the country…..*

This is the impression Imran left people with. A genuine leader who cares about his country

I think this is perhaps his second “finest hour” since his election as PM!

This is what he does best when he speaks from the heart, with honour dignity and huge amount of self respect.

This is what he does best. Articulating an uplifting powerful message and a wonderful vision of the future!

So were there any tangible outcomes from the visit.

Perhaps a few by my count!

1. A strong personal relationship and direct communication between Imran and Trump. Hopefully ensuring that Trump and his administration are not misled about Pakistani actions or intentions by the anti Pakistan lobby, especially the Indian lobby!

2. In 3 days he’s quite literally changed the perception about Pakistan in a large part of the US administration, especially with hawks like Pompeo and Lindsay Graham, in the US Media and perhaps even amongst think tanks and opinion makers. Something we’ve not been able to do in decades.

3. A possible resumption of $1.3 billion US annual aid, enhanced trade and investment, and repayment of outstanding Coalition Support Funds, estimated at $9 Billion, owed to us by the USA. I think CSF repayment and aid will likely follow a successful deal with the Taliban and the USA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan

4. Renewal of military ties!

But perhaps an invisible benefit is the ouster of India from the Regional policeman role, given to it by the USA, especially in relation to Afghanistan and USA withdrawal.

Mediation on Kashmir? I’d not take it seriously!

As the joke doing the rounds when Trump asked Modi “Yo Mo you should relax more…you got bad bad body odour” (this after the embrace) Modi replies “I do meditation in Kashmir” “Oh, Mediation on Kashmir” said Trump…No..no Meditation says Modi.

“..Mediation, Meditation same thing says Trump” and the rest, as they say is, history!

But here’s a word of caution about Trump! Imran probably already knows this but worth reiterating.

Trump is known to be all sweet, honey and charming face to face, and then can bite back via a sarcastic tweet and throw his best friend under the bus.

Tillerson, Mattis and scores of other corpses litter the White House as Trump ruthlessly dumps people he finds no longer useful to his interests or serve his objectives.

He’s a “man of the moment” and clearly relished the limelight which he got from Imran’s visit and used it to greatly benefit his domestic electoral agenda.

He has a two point interest in Pakistan.

1. Save American money, by pulling out of Afghanistan and save American lives from Terrorism in mainland USA, after the pull out.

For this he needs our help in getting the Taliban as part of a stable Afghan government, post USA withdrawal. It also gives him huge political and electoral mileage.

2. Sell as many American goods and services to Pakistan to help create more jobs in the USA and dilute Chinese, political and economic influence over Pakistan. Also giving him domestic political benefits.

Both helping him in his relection campaign in 2020.

But the Afghanistan withdrawal and post withdrawal stability is the Crown Jewel, Trump desperately needs for his re-election. Chinese influence, vis a vis Pakistan for now takes a back seat, for a while!

The more realistic the expectations Pakistan sets with him about what we can or cannot do in Afghanistan, the greater the possibility of remaining on Trump’s right side!

So there you have it on the US trip and Trump!

Imran shouldn’t get too overawed or taken in by Trump’s charm. He has the values and ethics of a Cattle Rustler!

And now to the realities facing PM Imran at home!

1. The Economy. Especially Industrial and agricultural growth, exports and increased revenue. Reducing 1.7 trillion of circular debt, 1.4 trillion of state subsidies to high loss incurring and mismanaged State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s). This is a make or break factor. Existential if we fail. People are under back breaking high prices!

One leading private sector businessperson whose huge empire pays all taxes and doesn’t under or over invoice, wistfully told me last night. Every economic decision that the government has taken, when viewed individually, makes perfect sense. Rupee devaluation; Tax reforms; IMF loan; Reducing external account deficit, removing subsidies from electricity and gas, etc etc. But collectively we are just not getting the traction we’re waiting for.

And we’re still waiting! He said with a sigh!

Imran is a great visionary but greatly hampered by a weak team who are unable to integrate and implement his vision, because implementation, operational expertise and integration is not his strength, he said quoting Gino Wickman, founder of the EOS framework!

2. Rebuilding our completely destroyed civilian public sector institutions by appointing competent persons of integrity to leadership roles who in turn bring in similar professionals, implement effective and transparent operational processes and technology to pre-empt corruption and deliver quality public services to the common man.

Shabbar Zaidi, Chairman, FBR, is an example of one such person and what he’s doing in FBR.

Imran must now get similar competent professionals and subject matter experts and not rely on friends and cronies or the permanent Islamabad group of mercenaries to fill professional leadership slots, simply because “he or she is very bright” but have zero experience or achievements in that area.

Dr. Sania Nishtar heading Ehsaas, his flagship Poverty Alleviation program, now sexily renamed Poverty Graduation, and several others, some whom I know personally (they will know who they are when I write this) are cases in point of not putting the right person in the right slot.

Appointing an ex Army General, a recently retired Adjutant General of the Army, as Chairman of Naya Pakistan Housing Authority, is in my opinion, also a questionable decision. While understanding that the AG looks after Army Housing and has insights and expertise that could be useful, my view is that he has some really competent people in his own party with expertise in this area, such as Najeeb Haroon, the MNA from Karachi to head this. There are many other ways of seeking Army’s expertise and insights in this area.

I think he should task a team headed by Jehangir Tareen, Ehsan Malik (CEO of Pakistan Business Council) MNA Najeeb Haroon to source top talent for our Public sector institutions!

3. Fixing relations with India, Afghanistan, Iran and the USA. Afghanistan and USA is on an upward trajectory. India is a long haul. But given the final delinking with the Jihadi outfits and USA’s new found love for Imran, there may be some minor moves forward with India.

But with Modi around, forget any serious discussions on Kashmir. Trade yes! Kashmir No!

Iran is complex. At a minimum we cannot take sides. We must not allow our territory to be used against them. And if we can, to try and mediate between them and Saudi Arabia and perhaps even the USA.

4. Returning the balance of power from the Army to the Civilian Executive!
The Army is today the only State institution which has fortunately escaped the rape by our politicians, considerably helped by their 33 years in power. But also, as people forget, by having a very merit driven system of promotions, placements and transfers.

Their best and brightest go as Instructors to the premier training institutions, PMA, Staff College, NDU, ensuring that the trainees learn from the best. Compare this to the police and the civilian bureaucracy, where instructional assignments are “punishment” posts.

Hence today by default, because civilian institutions are dysfunctional, the Army’s footprint is overwhelming and overpowering! And the ISPR makes sure we do not forget this for a moment. It is unbelievable how those guys, living in an echo chamber, don’t understand how they’re polarizing public opinion about the Army and Gen. Bajwa.

But let’s be real. But for the Army, we would today be in a far worse situation then we are!

That’s reality! So lets move on from here!

Gen. Bajwa has done a marvellous job in cracking down on non state actors, putting his and the institutions full weight and support behind the civilian administration!

In my opinion he’s as committed to a corruption free Pakistan as is Imran and wants Imran to succeed for the sake of Pakistan.

As an interim arrangement, this is essential for our survival today to help tide over these very difficult times and defeat the current very powerful and corrupt status quo.

Take the USA visit. Gen. Bajwa’s presence and discussions with the US military High Command were essential to give USA comfort.

But in the long term this continuing influence in the civilian realm is very harmful, even existential for Pakistan as it will move us towards a harsh, fascist society!

The big white elephant in the room?

Should Gen. Bajwa get an extension? Should he be offered one? Should he accept one?

My personal opinion is a NO to all three.

While he’s done an outstanding job, I think he should retire gracefully, let the system continue and let the institution continue to support the Executive as its doing now! He could continue to serve as a National Security Advisor or Minister of Defence!

Having said that, there is a strong argument in many circles that because of his deep understanding of the issues facing Pakistan and his strong relationship with Imran, there’s a case for him to continue on.

But my view is that there will always be exceptional circumstances. There will always be an argument to break a rule! But the system must go on!

I have NEVER heard of a retiring Lt. General being given an extension! Never an extension to an Air Chief or the Naval Chief!

So why the Army Chief?

In summary, Imran faces a huge Herculean task at home!

We are a hugely dysfunctional society and country.

Our institutions do not work effectively.

Our past rulers, both military and civilians have systematically destroyed our institutions resulting in the elite capture of all our institutions and sources of power by a small group of corrupt, rich and powerful people, who’ve either used the hypocritical garb of democracy (our politicians) or the Doctrine of Necessity (our military rulers) to grab and hold onto power.

This elite capture has resulted in an environment of desperate survival by the poor and the exploited, desperately latching on to those who represent this corrupt ststem to seek recourse, justice, employment and succour.

Just sheer survival!

The masses accept as a given, a system of plunder, loot and handouts as symbolised by the Sharifs and Zardaris and their courtiers and hence accept the status quo, because their self interest and survival are now also interlinked to this corrupt system.

They do not believe that Imran or anybody can change the system to a more equitable one with equal opportunity for all!

Their hopes have been dashed to the ground again and again! Bhutto, Zia, Musharraf….now Imran!

This is a battle for the Soul of Pakistan and our future and those of our children and beyond.

It is a battle to provide equitable opportunities of healthcare, education, employment, entrepreneurship, business etc.

We hope this rotten political and electoral system is destroyed which continues to elect from a small, corrupt coterie of looting, plundering mafia like Plutocrats and Kleptocrats!

We hope no son, daughter, brother, nephew, uncle of any politician gets into power simply because of a biological event!

Mrs. Safdar and Master Bilawal being two of the ugliest most evil symbols of this terrible accursed system!

We hope our civilian institutions are strengthened so our Army retreats into its defined role and does not exercise the immense and inordinate power they exercise now, directly and indirectly and their support is indispensable to remain in power.

We hope we have a media of serious objective analysts, journalists and anchors who do not sell their souls to the highest bidder.

We hope of a judicial system which dispenses quick and fair justice and holds everyone accountable, high and low. We hope sons and daughters, sons and daughter in laws, nieces and nephews of former and serving Judges are not the only ones elevated to our High Courts and the Supreme Court

We hope we have an electoral process which allows people of competence and integrity to get into positions of power, authority, governance and into our legislatures.

Mrs. Safdar and Master Bilawal do not represent these hopes for Pakistan.

PM Imran does!

With all his inadequacies, which he is fast overcoming, he is still our best fighting chance!

The poor await a Pakistan where they live in peace and security, get quality healthcare and education, earn a decent livelihood and get speedy and fair justice!

Today they are burdened with massive back breaking inflation, high prices, but they still wait patiently!

Now its time for you to conquer Pakistan, PM Khan!

And you can only do it if you have competent people of integrity around you. A great team that can execute and implement effectively!

Because its a long hard tough battle and there is no such thing as “Spontaneous Combustion”, or a “Magic Wand”, PM Khan!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

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

There’s still time to redeem yourself!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Just look at the enemies attacking Imran, the Supreme Court, NAB and the Army!

Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari, Asfandyar Wali, Achakzai, Fazal Diesel, Altaf Hussain.

Then the misguided and the misinformed.

Then those whose political, economic and social stakes are wedded to this terrible status quo of corruption, loot, plunder and institutional destruction.

And most dangerously those who want a weak Pakistan ruled by the corrupt. A Pakistan with a weak Army. A nuclear defanged Pakistan.

They certainly don’t want a progressive, forward looking, democratic Pakistan with strong institutions and strong leadership, working for its people and not the current rich and corrupt elite!

And then look at the media and writers and intellectuals who make fun of him. Deride him. Run him down.

And they do it so very cleverly. They cloak their daggers in silky narratives of “Saving democracy” “Army political meddling” “Judicial Activism” ” NAB witch hunt”, “Religious obscurantism”!

They are blind to the efforts of institutional reform in KP. They are blind to the massive efforts in the police, in healthcare and education. In strengthening the local bodies. And blind to their impact.

Not perfect, I agree, but substantial enough for everyone to see.

All they can see is the resignation of the Ehtesaab Chief.

But none will highight that for 4 years NAB was under a Nawaz toady called Ch. Qamarruzaman and were unable to investigate and or file a reference of any substantial corruption or wrongdoing in KP or against those who are close to Imran.

They lambast the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice for exceeding his mandate, but forget that the same Court, disqualified Jehangir Tareen.

They forget that with all state institutions lying on a death bed, the SC had to step in.

They question the Panama and accountability court’s judgements but forget the criminality of the Sharifs and the Zardaris and their terrible and abject deliberate misgovernance and criminality.

They question Hanif Abbasi’s conviction as a witch hunt, forgetting that this man has possibly been responsible for sending tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands into the dark abyss of lifelong drug addiction and abuse!

And Shaukat Siddiqi. The evil maniac one who calls himself a Judge! Muddying the waters of his corruption and misuse of authority and nearing his convuction, wants to die as a political martyr in a hail of his own calumny! A petty, hypocrital liar, worthy of nothing but contempt.

They question Imran’s monetary handout to Sami ul Haq’s seminary as evidence of his support for Taliban like organizations.

So, if that’s true is KP now a more radicalized province then it was before?

I also questioned him on this in my interview. His answer which he has shared publicly hundreds of time.

Do we leave the hundreds of thousands of madrassah kids, failed by the State, to the mercies of obscurantist thought or do we attempt to exercise oversight over them and teach them skills so they become positive contributors in our society vs being brainwashed into a life of intolerance, guns and violence?

So yes we paid them to establish a teacher training college, upgrade their facilities with computers and curriculum to teach non religious subjects.

In return we got membership on their board and management control and most importantly, authority of approval of their curriculm and complete oversight by the KP Board of Education.

Sami ul Haq also countered the Fatwa by the TTP/DAESH/AL QAEDA, supported by Fazal Diesel, that polio drops were haraam. Sammy’s people accompanied polio teams to address this Fatwa.

But who wants to talk about the rationale and the impact?

Who wants to talk about the crippled life that awaits those thousands of children without polio drops, because their parents and guardians were brainwashed by an obscurantist thought?

And finally lets get real. Sammy and Diesel are political enemies. What would you do if Fazal was your political enemy?

Internationally just look at the Indian and Western press and segments of our own media!

Look at the slander and the pettiness of the filth being heaped on our Judiciary, our Army, the NAB and Imran by his political opponents and many so called enlightened and educated!

So here are my questions to all who have joined this battle to defame Imran and hit out at our Judiciary, our Army and the NAB!

Why would you support known criminals, crooks, plunderers, money launderers like Nawaz and Zardari?

Why would you NOT support people and forces who are desperately trying to save Pakistan from collapsing and anarchy?

Why are you all pointing your guns at the Supreme Court, NAB, Imran and the Army?

Why are all of you desperately trying to scuttle and sabotage efforts to strengthen Pakistan?

Where were you alongwith all anti Imran, anti Judiciary, anti Army political forces when the wholescale loot and plunder in Pakistan was taking place these last 10 years?

Where were you when all our institutions were being royally raped and destroyed by Zardari and Nawaz from 2008?

Where were you when cronies and toadies were appointed to powerful posts so they could loot and plunder with abandon?

Why on earth would you support criminals like Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari?

Why for God’s sake? What have they given us, except deprivation, destruction, corruption, loot and plunder and large projects to fill their own pockets?

You are either ignorant, misinformed, or have deep political, social and economic vested interests with the current mafia like status quo.

And many amongst you with full stomachs, wealth, power and access to state power are not directly affected, so far by this massive institutional destruction and plunder of our wealth.

Woe the day when the pain and the cries of the anguished and underprivileged burst out on the streets!

They will douse your lights, loot and plunder your wealth, burn your houses and end your lives!

Woe that day which is not far off, if this system continues.

Many of you, like me living overseas, in safe environments, are completely oblivious to the horrors, our poor and exploited face everyday.

You the rich and powerful and privilged, are untouched and unfazed by the cries and agony of the millions who suffer everyday.

You do not hear the cries and death throes of the hungry, undernourished malnutritioned poor child, man and woman.

The only cries you hear are of two convicts. The criminal Nawaz and the forgerer Maryam!

You do not suffer the agonies nor do you hear the cries of the millions of suffering sick as your sickness is attended to by the expensive private hospitals in Pakistan!

Or like Nawaz, Shahbaz, Kulsoom, Zardari, Asim Hussain and others like you, you fly off to hospitals in Europe and North America to save your blighted health!

Your ignorance of what’s happening, deliberate or unconscious, is a curse on your insensitive skins, your conscience and your souls.

Your ignorance and insensitivity is a far greater curse then the curse of ignorance which millions of our youth are blighted with. Our schools and colleges failing them, providing an education which offers them nothing. No skills. No competencies. No employment!

Your ignorance pervades because you do not face the fascism of our police and others, either buying your way out or using your influence.

You are a miserable, sick, prostituted lot.

Prostituted by your arrogance, your power, your wealth, your egos, your privileged lifestyle, your vested interests and above all your insensitivity and your ignorance!

And because you’ve sold your souls, your self respect, your honour and your dignity, you will do everything in your power to bring down the man and the institutions, who for once in a long long time, in a rare moment in our blighted God Forsaken history, are desperately trying to fix our corrupted body politic and fight for the under dog, the poor, the marginalized and the socially and economically disadvantaged.

You want to kill this rare moment in our history!

If God Forbid, we are unsuccessful now in changing our system then please remember it was you who stabbed Pakistan in the back!

And then cry not when the flames engulf us all!

But there is still time to redeem yourself.

Please Vote for Pakistan and not this terrible band of looters and plunderers of the Sharifs and the Zardaris!

*Salaams and Prayers*
*Haider Mehdi*

Pakistan’s transformation from a Kleptocracy /Plutocracy to a Democracy and the onslaught on the Army!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Given the massive onslaught on the Pakistan Army by International media, specifically USA and India and parts of our national media as we saw recently in Hameed Haroon’s recent BBC Hard Talk interview, a historical gallop is essential.

Historically one thing is clear. Our military interventions have sorely impacted the evolution of our State into a genuine and strong democratic polity

Notwithstanding the fact that we had the strongest economic performances during the three military regimes of Ayub, Zia and Musharraf, they used the same category of carpetbagger politicians to further their individual rules. Each blundered us into conflicts which had major impact on our political evolution and development.

Take our five military adventures under our military rulers. 65 war under Ayub, 71 war under Yahya, the Afghan cauldron under Zia, and most recently Kargil and the war on terror under Musharraf.

All these Military interventions grossly weakened the State.

Internally their administrations nurtured and strengtened the political mafias represented by the likes of the Bhuttos, the Zardaris and the Sharifs and gave rise to this kleptocratic and plutocratic class of politicians.

Kleptocracy and Plutocracy means a governing order of the rich and the corrupt, ruling a country!

This evil order has deliberately weakened and destroyed our state institutions, so they could loot and plunder unchecked, leading to the near social and economic collapse we face today.

Thus the responsibility for our current state lies squarely on the shoulders of both our military rulers and our politicians.

So lets get this “but what about the Army….” out of the way!

But today’s Army and its military leadership is starkly different.

The rank and file have been bloodied in a 14 year long conflict, sadly and as a consequence of decisions by its own leaders in the past.

But It has sacrificed with blood, sweat and tears, as have our law enforcement institutions and tragically, as have we, the people of Pakistan.

It has been steeled and forged in battle. It has the highest officer to troops casualty ratio in the world.

This is an Army that has paid and is still paying for the sins of their forefathers and in the process have saved the country from near destruction and total anarchy.

It has withstood the onslaught that destroyed civilian institutions, partly because its leaders ruled for 33 years and partly because it defended its turf jealously even under civilian rule. And thank God for their institutional discipline, for God forbid, had it gone the way of our civilian institutions, I shudder to think of the consequences.

This is a different Army with a different leadership and mindset.

They have seen the follies of their own myopic decisions in 1979 and 2004, as the current Chief has publicly stated.

This is no longer an Army with a “security mindset”. It is now truly a national army, which has come of age.

There is absolute unainimity of views in the Army that Pakistan’s future lies not in any military intervention nor in any backdoor manipulation, but in deep systemic internal reform and long term peaceful relations with its neighbors, especially India and Afghanistan.

Apologies for this tangent.

But its important to share this insight of the so called military economic complex, especially for many civilians brought up on a brainwashed diet of the Army’s domination of the economic sector!

Today our Defence expenditure is 2.5% of GDP vs 5.8% in 1960 and 9% of total expenditure vs 28.3% in 1960.

The collective value of all military owned businsses is a mere 4% of total market capitalization on the stock exchange. A drop in the ocean.

Their main military conglomerate is Fauji Foundation running 18 enterprises.

Four are wholly owned. Fourteen are associated companies. Another nine are public unlisted companies.

The Foundation earned dividends of Rs.13 billion in 2016. Of this Rs.11 billion was spent on ex servicemen welfare. Rs. 1 billion on Corporate Social Responsibility welfare projects. Only Rs. 1 billion was retained as earnings and another Rs. 1 billion on administrative expenses. No money goes into making anybody rich.

The Defence Societies have overwhelmingly benefited the civilians in a housing starved society!

So why do they exist?

These military businesses exist because the State of Pakistan does not provide any post service support to ex service people, except pension.

There is no “Veterans Program” as exists in the USA and all other developed western democracies to cater to the needs of ex-servicemen!

Unlike the private sector and the civilian bureaucracy, where everyone retires at 60, the vast majority of armed forces officers retire at the prime of their life at age 45 and troops at age 37, with no means of income, other than a very small pension, usually a growing family, with children still in school or college or university.

The entire military economic complex caters to these people by providing jobs, health care, education, retraining and most importantly, financial and employment support to the families of shaheeds.

And all this because the State cannot.

The Foundation runs 11 hospitals, 103 medical centers, 104 schools, 2 colleges and 77 technical and vocational training insitutes.

All business enterprises are not money making exercises to fill the pockets of serving officers or troops. Nor is this an attempt to control our economic engine.

No business owned by any armed forces foundation is exempt from taxes, other than what is directly attributable to verifiable welfare spend. The same as for any civilian welfare project.

In 2016 Fauji paid Rs 17.8 billion in taxes. Employing tens of thousands of people. Both civilians and ex service. *Their welfare activities impact over 10 million people, directly and indirectly.*

Can you imagine the disaster if the Army had not catered to their ex employees?

While one can criticise Martial Laws and military interventions as I have done, the terrible propaganda unleashed against the institution is a very deliberate effort to divide the country, sow serious dissension and conduct highly inflammable politics, as Nawaz is doing.

So here we are in 2018, with Nawaz convicted and imprisoned!

Let’s understand one thing clearly.

Nawaz is no innocent lamb or brave gladiator, valiantly fighting the cause of democracy and civilian supremacy over the military.

He is desperately fighting not just to save and his daughter’s political future and his wealth, but to save the sordid and evil kleptocratic/plutocratic order that he, Benazir and Zardari, presided over in turns.

Over 14 articles have been written in the US press and 27 in the Indian press in recent weeks and countless in our national press, all criticising the Army for political interference in the electoral process.

But strangely not a word about the wholescale corruption, loot and plunder and destruction of State institutions by Nawaz Sharif or Zardari.

Not a word about questioning the snowflake defence offered by Nawaz in defence of his Avenfield properties.

Not a word about his and his brother’s misrule and misgovernance. Nor anything about foisting their children on the nation!

Hameed Haroon’s BBC Hard Talk interview was perhaps the lowest depths that the once mighty Dawn has fallen. A media house which was once the pride of our nation, where I also once worked. And sadly, from a person who I’ve known personally, worked under and respect deeply.

A strong Pakistan with strong leadership is not something the USA or India relishes, despite their hollow protestations.

The USA would much rather have a malleable person like Nawaz or Zardari, or even a military strongman, who are easy to manage. But not a strong democratic order!

Internally those whose political and economic stakes are wedded to this mafia, including those in the media, have also come out in their support, masking their financial interests with high sounding defence of democracy, protestations!

And then those tragic souls who are still fighting a Don Quixote “cold war” against militarism, which they commenced during Zia’s rule! A sad and misguided lot, living in cuckooland!

These are the gangs that Nawaz has rallied to his “cause”!

Let’s get real folks.

The kleptocratic /plutocratic mafia has a stranglehold on Pakistan’s body politic.

Nawaz sits on top of this mafia. Zardari a close second!

They will not go easily and certainly not willingly. They will fight till the end, even if it means creating dissension in the country. Even if it means throwing the country into unprcedented turmoil, even civil war.

They will use every ruse, every trick up their sleeve to turn this battle against an evil order into one against “democracy” and “civilian supremacy”.

They will attempt to turn the nation against the Army, using all resources and people in their fight for survival.

And while all this is happening, does anyone seriously expect the Army to sit demurely, hands folded, like a shy blushing bride, while Nawaz, his misguided supporters, and sections of the media and our society, misinformed and ill informed, go on the rampage, putting the State’s existence and future at stake?

Well. Apparently not! And let’s leave it here! This is not a picnic we are talking about. This is about our survival and our future!

Clearly a strong, democratic, well governed and corruption free Pakistan is a political death warrant for Nawaz and Zardari!

Hence the battle!

So where do we go from here?

Pakistan’s salvation lies not in individuals be they Imran, Saqib or Bajwa or any others etc.

Our salvation lies in building strong public institutions, rigorous regulatory regimes with strong accountability and parliamentary oversight.

Our salvation lies in empowered legislatures and local governments.

But most importantly our salvation lies in the alignment of our four key institutions. The Executive, the Judiciary, the Legislatures and like it or not, the Army.

All four standing shoulder to shoulder and fully aligned towards the clear goal of a better governed and corruption free Pakistan.

Yes the Army, has become the fourth pillar in our country with influence far beyond its mandate. Something not to relish and a sad reality!

And it is my considered view that when the three real pillars of the state become strong, the Army’s role as the fourth will automatically diminish and eventually finish and should and must finish.

It won’t happen overnight, but sooner than most expect.

And if Imran wins, this will be the first time in Pakistan’s civilian history that we will have this strategic alignment between these key State institutions which matter!

And herein lies our salvation and transformation from a kleptocracy /plutocracy to a democracy!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

The Case for Pakistan!

The Case for Pakistan
-By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Faltering State” by Tariq Khosa.

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

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

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

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

The big picture emerging from the conversations to date is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Personally I think both views are wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer. I don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s as simple as that!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

The return of Nawaz and Maryam – A short note!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

A non-establishment but very knowledgeable pigeon whispered in my ear that Nawaz, after the Avenfield judgement, had approached several quarters requesting that he and Maryam, and unsurprisingly no mention of Safdar Luggar buggar, be granted judicial relief from punishment and jail.

In return both will publicly renounce all forms of political and electoral politics and permanently live outside Pakistan.

The answer. We have nothing to do with the judicial process nor had or have any influence. Your decision to return or not return, seek relief and get it or not get it, and renounce politics is yours and yours alone!

So that’s that!

Senior voices in the PMLN are divided on their return.

One camp is against their returning.

They think a free Nawaz and Maryam, located in London, are far more potent and effective than in jail in Pakistan.

They argue that by being in London they will continue to have access to both Pakistani and International media, and use this access, to continue to hammer away at the Army and the Judiciary and protest their “victimhood”!

They also argue, that even if the PMLN loses this election, the fact that they are not in jail, gives their supporters hope that in a few years the situation might change and a good possibility of returning to Pakistan in triumph, like Benazir!

Those advising Nawaz not to return to Pakistan also advise that both Nawaz and Maryam get political asylum in the UK. They believe that by doing so they strengthen their case of being politically victimized in the Avenfield case and therefore saving their foreign assets from being seized and confiscated by any foreign government such as the UK, in line with the decision of the Pakistani courts.

Additionally, by staying out, also allows them to fight any case more effectively brought against them under the recently promulgated UK “Unexplained Wealth Orders” which asks people to explain their sources of wealth.

Here’s the link for those interested in this UK order https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/circular-0032018-criminal-finances-act-unexplained-wealth-orders/circular-0032018-unexplained-wealth-orders

In summary this gives them a better chance of saving their ill-gotten wealth and assets, retain their freedom with access to media to continue to hammer away at the Army and the Judiciary and keep the flame alive of a possible triumphant return to Pakistan, at a future date.

The other group insists that Nawaz and Maryam come back and face the judicial consequences and even go to jail, if they have to.

They believe that like Zardari, both will emerge politically stronger and that a future judicial review of their cases may allow them to come back into mainstream politics with the focus on Maryam picking up the mantle, now having achieved the ultimate political badge of imprisonment!

They argue that if Nawaz and Maryam don’t return, the damage to the party and its morale will be irreparable and destroy any chances of a possible comeback, especially for Maryam.

They also believe that their return may generate a huge sympathy vote wave in PMLN’s favor, just before the election, and just enought to spoil Imran’s chances of an outright majority at the Center and in Punjab, with the field open for a coalition which may look more benignly at their case later, when in power.

When I asked about the “Kulsoom” factor, one pigeon said that if her condition is what’s being rumoured then by returning under such circumstances would result in a massive funeral, Ghaibaana Namaaz e Janazas all across the country and an even bigger synpathy vote wave.

Additionally this may thwart any plans by the authorities to either divert the flight to Islamabad or the possibility of heli lifting them from Lahore to avoid a tumultuous welcome, a possible serious law and order situation and a long procession from Lahore to Islamabad.

All covered, second by second, by local and international media!!

Because if the “Kulsoom” factor does play out, it will be very difficult for the authorities to divert the plane or heli lift them from Lahore, till the final rites are done!

So what will Nawaz and Maryam do?

Come back or stay away?

If I were him, and knowing how he cannot bear life in jail I would save my wealth, fight my unexplained wealth orders case, get political asylum and stay away.

And live to fight another day!

Or perhaps come himself and leave Maryam behind!

But who knows how the future unfolds.

Alea iacta est. The Die is Cast and no turning back!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

The die is cast. There’s no turning back now.

No matter how much Nawaz and company try to muddy the waters by a narrative of establishment high handedness because he wanted to control them, the inexorable march of accountability, will not stop.

One may find our judicial system leaky and full of loopholes but even this rickety system was able to nail Nawaz, so blatant and brazen was his loot and plunder.

One must question why not Musharraf or X or Y or Z?

Great question. And yes, why not?

But we can’t get to Lahore if you dont start the journey and stop at Soan! It’s a journey. As the Chinese say, all journeys start with the first step.

Perhaps our initial steps are clumsy and not perfect or sure footed.

But if we are headed in the right direction and on the right path, however clumsily, we will eventually get to our goals of holding everybody accountable.

Generals and Judges included. Guaranteed!

If an institution, read the Army, did NOT COME TO HIS AID, to bail him out.

Or another institution refused to be bought. Read the Supreme Court.

Or he was unable to get recourse from a former very pliant NAB as he earlier got from his toady, Ch. Qamaruzzaman.

Or he was unable to buy off the JIT and the NAB judge.

It doesn’t mean he’s being victimised.

It just means we are finally growing a few spines here and there and have commenced our journey.

But there’s no turning back!

Mark my words. No turning back, despite all the hoopla and the fierce resistance of these mafiosos of the status quo.

Despite playing the victim and martyr card. There’s no turning back!

And If Imran fails, then somebody else. Hopefully, he won’t!

Alea iacta est. Enough is enough!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi