The “New” Saudi Arabia!

The “New” Saudi Arabia
– By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi
(5 – 7 minute read)

Recently we saw an assertive Saudi Arabia slam Canada with a volley of diplomatic and economic punches which left Canada reeling and a trifle stunned.

They expelled the Canadian Ambassador, recalled their’s, ordered 15000 college and university students and 900 medical students and doctors to leave Canada by September.

They announced they won’t buy Canadian wheat and barley, and also stopped direct airline flights to Toronto.

But they stopped short of halting oil exports to Canada and cancelling a $15 Billion light armoured vehicles deal. Two actions which would have had far more serious economic impact on Saudi Arabia then the other actions they announced.

MBS may appear impetuous and reckless which he is, in my opinion, but he’s also pretty smart as well, when it comes to money!

The Saudis have demanded nothing short of a full and unqualified apology from Canada for “…..interfering in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia….”

And all this because of an ill thought through tweet by the Canadian Foreign office on the arrest of Samar Badawi, sister of the already arrested and convicted Saudi Blogger and human rights activist, Raif Badawi.

The world’s silence was deafening!

The so-called human rights leaders, the crocodile and hypocritical tear shedding USA and UK, asked Canada to clean up their own mess.

Germany and Sweden, still smarting from Saudi knuckle raps in 2015 and 2017, offered no comment. The EU requested “more information” which really means “Sorry, Saudis, we have to do it for the sake of form, but kindly ignore”

Egypt, UAE and Pakistan announced support.

Pakistan’s stance perhaps the most surprising, indicating the emerging influence Saudi Arabia has again begun to exercise on us, which had considerably waned given our neutral positions on Syria, Iran and Yemen. They likely arm twisted and demanded this statement, in exchange for financial favors to follow.

Pakistan readily obliged given our dire economic condition and our desperation for financial help.

This position, will, in my view, come to haunt us tomorrow when we condemn human rights abuses in Indian held Kashmir or Assam or Myanmar or on Palestinians in Israeli occupied territories.

Smugly, I can then foresee India and Israel turning around and telling us to shut up and “stop interfering in the internal affairs of other countries”.

Whatever our compulsions and whoever the architect, this was a stupid and ill thought through decision!

The three calls from King Salman and Crown Prince MBS to PM elect Imran Khan, and the invitation to visit Saudi Arabia, all within the space of a week are also unprecedented!

But this piece isn’t about the Canadian Saudi dispute but more trying to understand what’s happening in the Kingdom!

So what’s going on in Saudi Arabia?

Kamran Bokhari, Vice President at Center for Global Policy, a Washington-based research and policy think tank and author of Political Islam in the age of Democratization, believes that since MBS’s taking over as Crown Prince in 2017, and effectively the reins of Saudi Arabia, a massive sea change has taken place in their internal traditional power structures and their foreign policy.

For example the 90-year-old symbiotic and close relationship between the Saudi State and the Religious Clergy has ended.

He believes that the power and influence of the ultra conservative Wahabi Clergy was highly overrated to begin with, and today, MBS has easily managed to defang them by either buying them off, browbeating them into submission and in some cases putting the very few who didn’t toe his line, behind bars.

There’s also a common view amongst young Saudis, that MBS is as much a conservative Wahabi or traditional Muslim as is Netanyahu, the Israeli PM, an Iranian Shia!

MBS’s secular outlook is driving his desire to purge Saudi society of its centuries old baggage of religious conservatism and obscurantism and open it to modernization.

But, and here is where the problem lies, at the same time, he wants total and unquestionable power and autocratic control and absolutely no political dissent.

This approach of modernization and religious secularism endears him to a large segment of the 60% Saudi youth of both genders, his main constituency. Hence the widely welcomed curbs on the activities of the religious police, the limitations and restrictions on issuing religious Fatwas and the permission to women to drive cars.

But to retain total power, he realizes that the traditional power sharing structure with other members of the Royal family and power centers in the country would always pose an existential danger to his authority and writ!

Hence in one extremely risky but daring move, he imprisoned thousands of the very rich and powerful from within and without the Royal circle for several weeks, and defanged them by taking away their most lethal weapons, their wealth and their positions in government.

He must have surmised that as long they had wealth and political power, the Royals and other powerful people would continue to be a threat. By taking away their wealth and political clout, he believes he’s neutralized or minimised this threat.

Externally, he’s cleverly allied himself to Trump’s America and Netanyahu’s Israel to forestall any serious external pressures and threats.

This alignment gave him the space to play havoc with hapless Yemen, launch a political and economic boycott of Qatar, kick Canada in the shins, and assert Saudi Arabia’s new-found independance of no longer being a USA appendage, but an emerging regional power and partner.

A partner which, he thinks, will look after US interests and by proxy, Israel interests, as a regional policeman, especially in the context of Iran, Syria, Iraq and perhaps even Afghanistan.

The above makes sense to him, as the USA attempts to exit from very expensive operations in the Region, such as in Afghanistan, a $45 Billion hole. MBS believes this is the time to assert Saudi credentials as a regional power. The last more significant now given the serious disputes between Turkey and USA.

Easier said then done!

So who is MBS? This is how I read him!

He’s first and foremost a complete autocrat, wanting total and absolute power like a Kim Jong un of North Korea.

He’s secondly a Saudi, wanting to modernize the country but in his own way and style, much like the opening up of China by the Chinese Communist leadership and harshly stamping out any dissent by activists like Rauf and Samar Badawi, who can potentially snowball a tiny movement into a major political reform movement in which he is not a player!

Third, he’s an ambitious Arab nationalist, wanting to dominate the Region vying against Iranian or Turkish or even Pakistani, domination and influence.

And last and definitely the least, he’s a secular, indifferent Muslim who doesn’t really care a flying frog about religion or Muslim Unity or the so-called mirage of the Ummah, a daily dream of many simple Pakistanis!

So the big question is?

Will he succeed in his objectives in modernizing Saudi Arabia, becoming a dominant regional player and simultaneously retaining absolute and total control of the country?

I think he will partially succeed in opening up the country to modernization but not at the pace and manner he would want. A genie or movement once let loose no longer listens to its master and takes a life of their own. I don’t think he will be able to manage or control this “guided modernization”!

On becoming the Regional Policeman, the environment is even harsher!

His support from a more inward looking USA will no longer be a long-term guarantee. And may become even more questionable if Trump doesn’t win a second term.

The Turkish-USA divide, while seemingly an opportunity for MBS’s ambitions will create more instability as the battle heats up and as the big boys, Russia and China also step into the fray.

A post USA withdrawal Afghanistan conjures up several nightmare scenarios of the Warlordism of the 90’s or even Balkanization of the country but most likely the collapse of the Ghani government.

In any of these scenarious, Saudi Arabia has much less influence in Afghanistan then say, Pakistan and their arch-enemy, Iran.

So pretty much, no dice here.

And as we are seeing they will not be able to exercise any influence over an increasingly assertive Assad ruled Syria, now silently supported by the US, fearing a return of the Daesh phenomenon and their alliance with the Kurds, as well as a much more stable Iraq.

And finally closer to home in Pakistan.

Here we have a PM elect like Imran who unlike Nawaz, owes no personal loyalty or obligation to them, has no financial interests at stake in the Kingdom, and importantly has publicly stated to take a neutral policy in inter regional disputes and act as a mediator!

Given all this and their extremely limited military clout, despite their modern weaponry but poor training and small size, I don’t think his dream of being a regional Arab power will come true.

But he may get some short-term traction as he continues to exercise his economic clout, and for want of a better word, economic blackmail as used against Qatar and Canada, and silently against the Europeans and now becoming more visible in our case as well.

This clout becomes more potent given the recently imposed US sanctions on Iran and US tariffs on Turkey!

Internally, he will continue his path to modernization, which is quite the Catch-22 for him!

The more he modernizes Saudi society and “we are open for business” the stronger will be the demand by people for even more reform and more rights, especially given the large number of Saudis educated in Western Universities and the vibrant and extensive use of social media, especially Twitter in the Kingdom.

This will, in my opinion, set in motion harsher repressive measures by him to stamp out such activism and here is where I fear, the proverbial tipping point will happen.

Either towards a much more open society or leading towards an internal implosion.

If the former than its great for everybody, except MBS, unless he morphs his role into a Constitutional Monarchy. This seems unlikely given his style and character and autocratism!

The latter is a very real possibility given the presence of a large number of highly militant elements of the DAESH ilk stepping in and taking advantage of the chaos.

This, in my opinion, will be a far more serious nightmare scenario than any we have seen unfolding in the Middle East, thus far!

Young MBS must remember that controlled change or controlled chaos, has never succeeded! He will become a victim of his own change! And there’s no turning back now, as he rides the Saudi Tiger!

And Pakistan?

While we must retain our close ties and relations with the Saudi state, we must closely and privately work with MBS to ensure he takes measures which don’t implode Saudi society, resulting in its horrifying consequences for the Region and Pakistan.

We must caution and advise him against any further foolhardy military adventurism in the region, or exacerbate existing ones. More importantly, urge him to pull back and stop where they are involved, such as Yemen. It’s here where we can play a very effective mediation role!

We must not take or be seen taking sides and or partisan positions in regional disputes or get drawn into major military arrangements with Saudi Arabia or any other country in exchange for money.

And it will truly be a crowning glory for Pakistan if we can bring Iran and Saudi Arabia closer and to the negotiating table!

As the current Army Chief, General Bajwa stated in a conference in Germany in February 2018, with reference to regional conflicts:

“……… the Frankenstein was actually created by the liberal free world, with willing, but myopic cooperation from our side after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979…..”

Let not any myopic policies be adopted today!

Imran and Pakistan have to walk a very tight rope with great care, keeping our long-term national interests, paramount!

The three calls from the King and the Crown Prince and those from the Iranian President must be seen in this context as well !

Pakistan must not punch above its weight, but work for peace all around, including with India!

More later, on options with India!

Salaams and Prayers
Haider Mehdi

“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

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

A Message to My Son!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.

My son, Syed Shaan-e Ali Mehdi, joined the millions of Pakistanis in rejoicing Imran’s victory. He said.

*”I’ve waited for this day my entire life. Waking up to a new Pakistan. For the first time in our history we have a leader who toils away not for himself, but for the future of the nation. Wazir-e-Azam Imran Khan….”*

My eyes moisted and I couldnt help, but respond as under.

Well said Syed Shaan-e Ali Mehdi. When your grandfather would narrate the incredible euphoria of achieving the dream of Pakistan, his eyes would moist and tears would roll down his cheeks.

I always wondered what that feeling must have been like. Today I understand and experienced it myself! I cried as well!

You’re very lucky as are all Pakistanis to be experiencing this defining moment in our history!

May Allah SWT Bless Pakistan. May He Keep Imran and his team on the straight and narrow.

Many a ditch they have to cross. Many a mountain to climb. Many minefields to navigate. Many Quislings out to stop them. Many who will fall by the wayside. Many who will give up!

But if Imran remains strong, remains true to his word, remains steadfast in his resolve, without fear or favor, we will achieve our dream of a better, brighter, prosperous, inclusive, tolerant, transparent and merit driven Pakistan.

A Pakistan where all its citizens will be free and equal in the eyes of the law and free to practice any faith without fear.

Where rich and poor, young and old will all have access to the same equitable opportunities for health care, education, jobs.

Where all will have security of life, home and property. Where justice is speedy and fair.

This is what that incredible man, Quaid e Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah had dreamed for Pakistan!

This is our Naya Pakistan. But really this was the dream of our original Pakistan which people like your grandfather struggled and sacrificed for!

It won’t be easy, it won’t be overnight. But if we stay the course. Through the coldest blizzards and the most blistering heat. If we dont give up, despite the many serious challenges of turning a country which is on its near deathbed.

And above all if we have unwavering Faith in the Almighty. We will succeed. We will overcome. We will reach our destination. Ilahi Aameen.

Pay no heed to attention seekers, petty minds, ignorant, young and old, having done nothing in their own lives. Some just beginning their life’s journeys with silver spoons, and not having faced the challenges of life.

Orhers who have lived off this beautiful land, looted and plundered at will.

Small minds who are still trying to criticise and put down Imran with their ignorance, stupidity and highly inflated egos. Let them be. The caravan doesn’t stop for barking dogs!

This is your time. This is the time of our youth. Of those who are selfless. This is your time to make Pakistan great!

May Allah SWT Bless you and all those who will fight, struggle and toil day and night for Pakistan!

Pakistan Zindabad !

-Haider Mehdi

The protests in Iran

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

These protests are both a natural consequence of a fascist totalitarian regime which limits personal freedom and imposes its harsh version of Islam and the overt and covert external interventions and attempts for regime change, lead by the USA, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The current Iranian dispensation is into their 37th year. I’m surprised it’s actually lasted that long. But having said that, several factors contributed to its longevity. Firstly, the savagery of the Pahlavi regime and the subsequent amelioration of 90% of the population following the downfall of said exploitative and elitist regime.

Secondly, homogeneity of race, culture, religion and sect is a big help which binds the people together over 2500 years of recorded history and common culture.

Next, the 10 year Iran-Iraq war in which millions of Iranians died gave rise to an unprecedented wave of nationalist fervour and an insular mentality and was further aggravated by USA led economic sanctions.

Having said that, even the Soviet Union’s fascism couldn’t last beyond 80 years, even though it was a much more powerful and regressive police state. Eventually all such political models die because of the innate weakness of a totalitarian system in trying to regulate the personal lives of people to an extent that it becomes oppressive.

Such are the Iranian and Saudi regimes. Both realise the inevitable consequences of fascist type controls. And both have recently loosened controls on personal choices and liberty and freedom.

For example Iranian women not adhering to strict hijab standards in public will no longer be arrested. Similar steps have been taken in Saudi Arabia such as allowing women to drive, opening of cinema halls and a public declaration by MBS to move away from their oppressive and exclusivist version of Wahabi Islam.

For the Saudis these are huge paradigm shifts, having known nothing better, and one reason that MBS has been able to carry the day so far. But in Iran, the freedom of pre revolutionary Iran is still a reality and not too distant memory.  Hence a desirable objective, sans the cruelty of the Pahlavi Savak driven autocratic rule or the oppressive fascism of the Iranian clergy.

The first big reaction against theocratic totalitarianism in Iran came in 2009, termed the Green Revolution. This movement was against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s questionable re-election. It was huge but crushed. It’s main leaders, former Prime Minister Mir Hussein Moosavi, Mehdi Karroubi, former Foreign Minister Ebrahim Yazdi and thousands more were arrested. Its leaders still under arrest, even after 8 years.

The current system is not going to go away soon, because the people supporting it are still in an overwhelming majority, especially within the poorer segments of society.

Broadly speaking there are three big segments in Iranian society today.

The “Revolutionaries” who support the Revolutionary regime and are still in a majority accounting for perhaps 60% or more of the population.

The second group, very vibrant, active and growing are the “Nationalists” and comprise 30 to 35%, some say even 40% of the population. Accurate statistics are hard to come by. This group is more liberal in thought and action and were behind the Green Revolution movement of 2009. Today they have some representation in the government in the likes of foreign minister Javed Zarif. They are much more liberal in thought than the Revolutionaries and advocate much more openess in society while also being fiercely patriotic. They also advocate for closer ties to the USA but on equitable terms. This explains the close relationship between Foreign Minister Javed Zarif and former US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Obama administration.

The last and the smallest group are the “monarchists” who are about 5% to 10% of the population. This group is comprised of those who could not or did not leave Iran after the Islamic Revolution. They have deep ties to the extremely rich and wealthy Iranian diaspora spread across the globe, especially in the USA, mostly who fled Iran following the Revolution. Though small in number they are potentially critical to any regime change moves being orchestrated by external forces, especially in the areas of funding and information.

The last two groups can potentially align in instigating a regime change.

Since the Revolution,the USA has been assiduously cultivating the liberals and monarchists but have been consistently checkmated by the Islamic Revoutionary Guards Council, which today have their own Army, Navy and Air force and report directly to the Rahber, Ayatollah Khamenei.

The IRGC nearly upended the nuclear deal with the USA and EEC and are still virulently against any moves to mend ties with the USA and Saudi Arabia, considering them both extensions of Israeli / Zionist power in the region. A view also held by their Rahber and Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.

Therefore based on the above and in my opinion, the current anti government demonstrations in Iran, fueled by economic pressures and reaction against curbs on  personal freedoms are actively, directly and indirectly financially supported by the USA, Saudi Arabia and Israel to create internal unrest leading to regime change.

The factors working in favor of such a move are of course the poor economy, the innate desire in people for more personal freedom and choices, the limitations and controls imposed on Iranians across the globe and the incessant stress of continuous warfare.

Factors against the US, Saudi and Israeli moves are a deep rooted suspicion and even hatred by Iran for all three, based on history. Current and past.

Secondly an economy thats on the up and on the mend, perhaps not as fast as the people want. Oil exports have doubled. Trade with Europe and China has increased in several multiples. This coupled with a robust and indigenous technology base, developed in response to international sanctions and serving both the civilian and military sectors.

Thirdly it’s increasing regional power.

Fourth. A loosening of the oppression of personal freedoms and finally and perhaps, certainly in the short run, the IRGC.

The IRGC, much like the Pakistan Army, is perhaps the most powerful institution in Iran both militarily and commercially and will counter any attempts as will the State apparatus to upend the current regime.

Iran will eventually have to allow greater personal freedom to control and mitigate dissent.

But two questions remain.

Will the IRGC and the Rahber, Ayatollah Khamenei, supported by the conservative clergy, many of whom if not most have accumulated enormous wealth and privilege, allow this ?

And the other question is whether the USA, supported by Saudi Arabia  and Israel will allow this?

Because one thing that will be hard to overcome is the hostility between Iran and the three countries attempting regime range. The very strong Iranian nationalist segment, while though not as rabidly anti USA, Saudi Arabia and Israel, as the Revolutionary group is, are hyper nationalists by nature and definition and will not agree to any relationship dictated by these three.

So one doesn’t see a major upheaval in the offing. If anything it gives hope for a much more open and less totalitarian government in Iran.

A big indicator of the direction the Iranian regime is taking will be the choice of the next Supreme leader after Ayatollah Khanenei. If it is somebody like President Rouhani then once can see the beginnings of a much more liberal regime.

For Pakistan this is a golden opportunity to continue to re-establish it’s close ties with Iran and wean them away from India. This is crucial to build our bulwark against the USA and her attempts to weaken us and nuclear defang us.

Only a strong Pakistani Chinese Russian and Iranian bloc will thwart USA and Indian designs !

– Haider Mehdi

Dr Kamran Bokhari on Haider Mehdi’s Perspectives- Trump’s Jerusalem Dec…

Dr. Kamran Bokhari, author of the book “Political Islam in the Age of Democratization” and a leading geopolitical analyst on Jihadism and The Middle East talks about the consequences of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital. 

Why did he do it, especially now? 
Will this lead to more turmoil or kick start the Mideast peace process? 
Who wins who loses? 
Will Iran and Saudi Arabia reconcile? Will MBS survive? 
The shifting power game in the Middle East between Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey? 
Will Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah retaliate militarily? What are the chances of a new war in the middle east? What should Pakistan do? The pros and cons of engaging with recognising Israel!
And much much more