“Jashn e Azadi Mubarak”

By Syed Haider Raza Mehd

As we celebrate our 71st Independance day with a feeling of much greater hope and renewed vigour as a new administration takes over under Imran’s leadership, here’s something from 14th August, 1944, three years before Independance to the day.

On 14th August 1944, 3 years before Pakistan, a young, passionate supporter of Pakistan, then 23 year old, Lt. S.G. Mehdi (our father) of 1/15 Punjab Regiment, writes to our great Quaid e Azam on his Regiment’s letterhead, completely unafraid of the disciplinary consequences of writing openly to a political leader in British India.

The letter is in Urdu but even today quickens the pulse and the heart as we experience young Mehdi’s raw emotion as he bares his heart out to the Quaid praying for the establishment of Pakistan.

The Quaid’s reply, in English, dated 24 August 1944, is also attached. The Quaid’s reply was rare, according to late Khalid Shamsul Hassan saheb, son of late Shamsul Hassan the Quaid’s Private Secretary, because of the emotional overtones expressed by the Quaid, something he was not known for.

Such was this great hope, emotions and expectations about Pakistan in those days and such is our hope and expectations as we restart our journey.

As Imran said “Inshallah this country will rise and one day fulfil its great potentiai. I see great times ahead”.

I have often wondered how our father felt when he wrote those words, 74 years ago in 1944, as a young 23 year old, filled with hopes for Pakistan!

I think I do now. At 2:40 am on Monday, 13th August (also our 37th wedding anniversary as well), I sat in front of the TV in Toronto, Canada, watching history unfolding and seeing Imran and his team sitting on the treasury benches in the National Assembly!

It was the culmination of the first part of Imran’s dream, a dream which people thought was near impossible and delusional, to finally get to a position to lead this great Nation to great heights!

I don’t think he ever had doubts about his destiny! And if he did, he certainly didn’t show them!

But, I also thought about how my generation had failed Pakistan, Quaid e Azam, Allama Iqbal and the hopes and dreams of all those who sacrificed so much for this country. I’m ashamed to admit that most from my generation including myself, who could have done so much more for our country, lead extremely selfish and self centered lives!

But miraculously, it seems, Imran, from our generation may just redeem us.

His unbelievable and superhuman strength of character, faith, discipline, persistence and committment has brought him to this place. I have no doubts that Allah SWT has Blessed him to lead this nation to good fortune!.

I know he will not fail Allah SWT’s Trust. Nor will he fail his own conscience. And Insha Allah will not fail this Nation, especially its poor and exploited!

It will not be easy, but if there’s anyone who can do it, its this man with the Blessings of the Almighty. Ilahi Aameen.

Its a time to rally around Imran, putting our political differences aside and help rebuild this country. If he falls, help him up. Not keep him down. If he errs, correct him, not let him go astray.

This is not a match in which one side wins or loses. Either both win or both lose. We have been given a God Given chance to change this country, save it from the loot, plunder, rape, pillage and corruption and take it to great heights!

May Allah SWT Bless Imran and his team and all those working for a Better and Brighter Pakistan. Ilahi Aameen!

May Allah SWT Bless Pakistan and the people of Pakistan. Ilahi Aameen!

Pakistan Zindabad!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

Judicial and Institutional Witchunt! A short note!

*Judicial and Institutional Witchunt! A short note!

*By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi*

In recent months we have seen a plethora of actions by the Superior Judiciary and NAB in taking cognizance of an offence, conducting inquiries and investigation, conducting prosecution and convicting people.

NAB has all these powers vested in one person, the NAB Chairman.

While we have seen laudable and necessary actions both by the Supreme Court and NAB, it has also created an environment of fear, intimidation and helplessness amongst those who are clean, honest and competent, both in the public and private sectors!

Many such people have had their reputations torn to shreds, insulted and humiliated by institutions and their leaders because of unbridled power and authority vested in one person.

The old adage about power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely is very relevant in this context.

Information is deliberately leaked to the media and the media trial commences at the very early stages of taking cognizance of a potential crime, even before basic fact finding and inquiries commence. Forget formal investigation, prosecution and conviction.

With the advent of the new administration in Pakistan, it is imperative that the NAB law is totally reviewed to ensure that while the guilty are speedily brought to justice, the innocent are not destroyed!

Pakistan today desperately needs top professional talent from the private sector who are honest and competent to become an active part of the new administration.

But such is the fear of being hauled up and made to stand like errant schoochildren or common criminals, that many will baulk at taking up critical roles in government!

And even more importantly, honest and competent public servants will not work without fear or favor! Everyone will play safe, not take required decisions and only cover their posteriors!

No organization or institution should have unlimited, unbridled power and authority to play havoc.

In the hands of incompetent or even competent people such absolute power will corrupt anyone, absolutely! And corruption does not mean financial corruption.

Corruption of the ego, and misguided Jihad is far more dangerous!

Imran’s core fundamentals are that transparency, competency, due diligence and due process is essential for Justice to be served, as was done in Nawaz Sharif’s case!

This must be the norm not the exception!

Salaams and Prayers.
Haider Mehdi

Where do we start- Good governance and performance?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

As we enter a new phase in governance in Pakistan, expectations are high as are the challenges we face.

Here’s a high level view!

At the top of the pyramid, at a macro level, is the looming economic crisis Pakistan faces. The immediate challenge being the balance of payment crisis and the need for $12 billion inflow to plug this near existential gap.

The obvious options are a recourse to the IMF for the bailout. Recent reports suggest a $4 billion from the Islamic Development bank, IDB. There’s also talk of issuing and floating conventional and Sukuk bonds, internationally. Some reports are about additional help from China and Saudi Arabia etc.

Personally my view is that the new administration will somehow manage to overcome this immediate challenge and plug the hole.

But the really big question is what then?

This is where we will see whether the new administration can deliver.

The answer lies in putting in place the foundations of a long term, sustainable system which kick starts industrialization in a big way, increases exports, generates much larger volumes of income from domestic and international sources and stops the hemorrhaging of state enterprises.

To generate more domestic income requires a major overhaul and reform of our tax regime, both policy making and collections. Creating separate policy making and collection will be key, now both currently under the FBR. A clear conflict of interest. Agricultural tax will be key. Broadening the tax base vs taxing the same segments is essential

The next is a complete overhaul of economic, development and banking and credit policies which take a long term view and are sustainable, to revive local industry. This results in huge dividends such as establishment of new industries, expansions in existing ones and revival of sick industries.

This generates more employment, more tax revenue and on the international front, with the right policies results in significant import substitution (less imports of foreign goods now being produced locally), resulting in critical foreign exchange savings. An agriculture revolution is the big one. We import $500 million of nuts and fruits and over $2 billion worth of palm oil and soya bean oil. A major push towards local cultivation is essential and stoppage of subsidies on crops such as wheat and cotton!

One of the biggest benefits of such policies will be a significant increase in exports, earning highly valuable foreign exchange. In this area providing competitive energy tariffs and renegotiating our Free Trade Agreements with other countries, especially China and Turkey would be critical.

A critical and thorough review of the terms planned for the Special Economic Zones, under CPEC is essential to ensure our local industry doesn’t suffer or become uncompetitive!

There’s talk of a 10 year tax holiday, lower energy rates and lower labor rates for companies operating in these zones. While these are important to attract Chinese and other companies to come and invest, it is important that it does not come at the expense of our local industry.

Any policy for these SEZ’s must deliver three things for Pakistan. Net increase in tax revenue. Net increase in our local industrial growth. Net increase in exports. Anything else means we’ve handed over these benefits to others and killed our local industry. A corollary is a clearly defined non negotiable policy on the use of local Pakistani labor.

Plugging the resource gap which senselessly feeds, bleeding state owned enterprises from State revenues is critical. PIA, Steel Mills symbolically represent this terrible terrible rot. The strategy here is simple. Classify these State Owned Enterprises (SOE’s) into three categories.

One for fire sale. Sell them as is. Don’t spend any more time and money to try to resurrect them. These are one’s that are purely commercial. Let whoever in the private sector wants to buy them, as is. If no buyers. Close them. There will be social fallouts as employees lose jobs. Can be mitigated by handsome golden handshakes, but we can’t afford to keep shovelling precious state resources into this never ending, bottomless pit!

Two. Fix and sell. These require professional, honest and competent management to turn them around, make profitable and then sell. These are also organizations that are purely commercial but will get a better price if turned around. Again social impact of job losses etc and golden handshakes to mitigate the issue.

Three. Fix and retain for strategic and national interest reasons. These are those that represent critical national interests and even if they have a commercial aspect, should be retained. But they must be managed under independent boards, competent and honest management and free of undue political and government control.

Then is fixing the energy issue. The current circular debt by some accounts is now over Rs 1 trillion. This requires not just fixing the distribution and collection system but also building dams, using wind and solar, changing the fuel mix, implementing net metering and renegotiating tariffs with the IPPS.

The current tariffs are unsustainable. Both residential and commercial consumers cannot sustain these extraordinary high tariffs. A huge cement block around Industry’s ability to regain international export competitiveness are these very high tariffs, nearly double of countries like India, Bangladesh, Vietnam etc.

While renegotiating tariffs may give us breathing space, the long term solution, as said earlier lies in building dams, adopting wind and solar power generation, fuel substitution from liquid fuels to gas!

Exploration in oil and gas must be a top priority, including inviting foreign firms to invest. ExxonMobil has returned to Pakistan after nearly 40 years and investing heavily in oil and gas exploration. Estimates range from 3 to 7 billion dollars of investments over 5 to 7 years with a potential of making Pakistan an LNG exporter and increase its current oil production seven fold!

A country that generates huge income from its domestic and international activities, creates the right environment for its economic and industrial engine will then have much more resources to spend on its infrastructure, law and order, clean drinking water, better health care and education and jobs for its people.

If the country has resources to spend on its people, then for a committed and honest administration to organise the key elements of good governance become minor details. Right structure, with the right people, implementing right processes, using appropriate technologies to deliver the right solutions.

Organisation. People. Process. Technology. Solutions. It’s that simple

I’ll offer my views on issues of law and order, justice, transparency and accountability, civil military relations, foreign policy etc in a subsequent article!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

Short note on nomination of Mehmood Khan as CM KP

 

-Haider Mehdi

I’ve been burning the wires for several hours today, talking to people who are much better informed than I am, seeking insights on Mehmood Khan’s surprise and unexpected nomination as CM PK, especially given some of the social media chatter against it.

Here’s what I’ve discovered. Mehmood comes from a very humble background from Matta in Swat, where the TTP had its strongest hold. Interestingly Matta is perhaps one of the most feudal areas in KP where the entire land was owned by just three families, most well known being Afzal Lala or Afzal Khan of ANP. In the recent rout, Afzal’s nephew and son both lost miserably in the elections

Mehmood and his family were the few rare ones that stood their ground and fought the TTP when most people had left Matta.

Mehmood is also credited with the clean sweep that PTI achieved in the district. 8 MPA’s and 3 MNA’s and has the reputation of being a very honest and capable person, loved by his people.

Clearly, the nomination was a surprise given the tussle and tug of war between Pervez Khattak on the one hand and the Atif Khan / Shahram Tarakai combine on the other and an expectation that the nominee would be either Atif or PK.

However, as I’ve always maintained, Imran always takes a decision which he thinks and believes is in the best interest of Pakistan and in this case, the province and its people and lastly the party. Mehmood checked all three boxes.

There’s absolutely no authenticity in the conjecture that Mehmood is Pervez Khattak’s proxy or that a past financial transaction, when he was Minister of Sports, tars his integrity.

It would be suicidal for Imran to nominate a questionable character or play party politics.

Given all that we know about Imran, he could make a wrong decision, and he has made some faulty ones.

But he has never done so, knowingly or deliberately compromising the interests of Pakistan, but more perhaps due to lack of due diligence, ill advice and poor process.

In this case, my view is that Imran took a very well thought through, comprehensively considered and correct decision, given the time he took to announce his choice. Of course, only time will tell whether it was the correct choice.

Of course the anti Imran brigade have unsheathed their daggers and will continue to question it, alluding darker motives and compromises other than the fact that he is a decent and honest fellow and the best choice, under the circumstances!

Don’t underestimate Imran! Most everything that he’s done these last 22 years have brought him to this stage. Do you think he’ll throw it all away on such a decision?

Salaams and Prayers.
Haider Mehdi

A Time for Reconciliation and Rebuilding!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

The Nation has spoken! In someplaces resoundingly in favor of change and Imran. In others with qualified support. In some, ousting the old guard. Some barely scraping through!

The sentiment is clear. PTI from 70 lac votes in 2013 to 167 lacs in 2018, shows the massive shift in preferences. This despite the 10 years of PMLN in power in Punjab and PPP in Sind.

Karachi, the most urban of our population centers, politically very astute, also voted for massive change, dumping its traditional support for MQM or its morphed entities like the PSP.

The GDA inroads against the PPP in interior Sind, despite its performance less than expectations, is still an eye opener for things to come.

The winds of change are clear. They are sweeping across the country.

It’s now a time for reconciliation, not for recriminations!

Reconciliation doesn’t mean forgiving criminals who have looted and plundered our national wealth! The law should, must and will be applied, across the board. But no political witch hunting as Imran promised!

Its time for looking forward and not backwards.

It’s time to take a leaf from Imran’s speech to forgive the anger, the bile, the poison, the hatred of the past.

Its a time to reconcile and come together.

And above all, despite our political differences, our likes and dislikes, its now time to think about our future, about Pakistan’s future, about a future for our children.

Its about a future of a better, brighter, prosperous, corruption free, merit driven Pakistan!

Imran, whether you supported him or didn’t, has laid out a clear agenda which every Pakistani cannot but support.

Who in Pakistan does not support an agenda of economic stability and development?

Of strong independant institutions which will eliminate corruption and hold all and sundry accountable, including those in his own party!

Of a massive effort to lift people out of poverty and remove the terrible chasm berween the haves and the have nots.

As he says it’s impossible for a nation to survive where a small corrupt rich island of the elite rule over an ocean of the poor, the helpless and the exploited!

Of equal opportunities for quality health care!
Of equal opportunities for quality education!
Of jobs for our youth, trained and skilled!
Of law and order and safety of life, hearth and home!
Of speedy and cheap justice!

Of a Pakistan, where irrespective of your faith, you are free and equal citizens of this soon to be great nation!

Of a Pakistan living in peace with it’s neighbours!

Who can fault this?

It’s time to reconcile and work together to help implement this agenda, for this is not about PTI or Imran, its about Pakistan!

You voted. It doesn’t matter who you voted for. That is now done.

Be a honeybee not a fly! Now let’s join to build a great Nation!

*Salaams and Prayers.*
*Haider Mehdi*

P.S. to explain the Honeybee and the Fly

*The Honeybee or the Fly?*

By Haider Mehdi

Imam Ali ibn e Abi Talib Karam Allah Wajaho, said “…..anybody looking for an evil (evil example) is like a fly that leaves all the beautiful things around it and sits on the wound…..”

The people of Pakistan voted with their minds and their feet. Especially of KP who again gave a resounding mandate to PTI, as did large segments in Punjab and Karachi.

As the great Imam said. We all have choices of what we want to see.

We can be like the filth fly which only sees and zeroes in on the one place in the garden that is soiled with dirt and filth, or like a honey bee, see the beautiful garden full of flowers and suck the nectar.

I guess KP people and those who who voted for Imran and change saw the garden.

Yet we still see others, like the Fly which can see only filth, zeroing in on the filth, despite the beautiful day that seems to be dawning in Pakistan.

I’m accused of being biased in Imran’s favor!

And I thank God that I am biased. Thank God that I’m not in that schizophrenic screwed up mindset where people don’t know who and what they stand for!

One’s political biases are understandable. But for those who are educated and aware, and unable to see the good or at least the potential good in Imran’s success is a very serious miserable mental and emotional condition bordering on intellectual dementia.

Talat Hussain in his interview to BBC perfectly symbolised this sick perverted mindset. Najam Sethi in his latest article. Cyril Almeida. And of course the less said the better of the likes of Husain Haqqani, Ahmed Rashid etc.

Crap flies who can only see filth around them!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

The Fly or the Honeybee?

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Imam Ali ibn e Abi Talib, said anybody looking for an evil (evil example) is like a fly that leaves all the beautiful things around it and sits on the wound.”

The people of Pakistan voted with their minds and their feet. Especially of KP who again gave a resounding mandate to PTI, as did large segments in Punjab and Karachi.

As the great Imam said. We all have choices of what we want to see.

We can be like the filth fly which only sees and zeroes in on the one place in the garden that is soiled with dirt and filth, or like a honey bee, see the beautiful garden full of flowers and suck the nectar.

I guess KP people and those who who voted for Imran and change saw the garden.

Yet we still see others, like the Fly which can see only filth, zeroing in on the filth, despite the beautiful day that seems to be dawning in Pakistan.

I’m accused of being biased in Imran’s favor!

And I thank God that I am biased. Thank God that I’m not in that schizophrenic screwed up mindset where people don’t know who and what they stand for!

One’s political biases are understandable. But for those who are educated and aware, and unable to see the good or at least the potential good in Imran’s success is a very serious miserable mental and emotional condition bordering on intellectual dementia.

Talat Hussain in his interview to BBC perfectly symbolised this sick perverted mindset. Najam Sethi in his latest article. Cyril Almeida. And of course the less said the better of the likes of Husain Haqqani, Ahmed Rashid etc.

Crap flies who can only see filth around them!

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

In conversation with Ehsan Ali Malik, CEO, Pakistan Business Council

Assalaam Alaykum,

Posted below is the first in a series of interviews, also on my Youtube Channel

These are with subject matter specialists and experts of Pakistan. In a wide ranging conversation with Ehsan Ali Malik, CEO of Pakistan Business Council, Pakistan’s largest business advocacy group we discussed the challenges and solutions facing Pakistan, especially possible solutions on how to kick start Pakistan’s economy and industry.

Should we go to the IMF? What has undermined local industry and possible solutions? Why have countries like Bangladesh and Vietnam sped ahead of Pakistan? How to broaden the Tax base, improve exports, reduce imports? CPEC and its impact; Kick-starting the Agriculture sector. What measures can be taken to generate employment for the 3 million entering the work force every year?

While It is a long interview, but very insightful about the above issues. Please do watch and spread it so we get substantive and informed insights on our challenges and solutions, well beyond the superficial chatter we hear on mainstream media and social media.

Thank you.
Salaams and Prayers

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