JKT……Imran’s de facto Chief of Staff. Was he a victim of a gross miscarriage of Justice?…A Subjective appraisal!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi – 5th July, 2019

Disclaimer. Every view is biased! Mine, yours and the so called objective one

To say that JKT evokes strong emotions for and against, is the classic understatement.

Opinions about the man fluctuate wildly. One hears about.

His very close and trusted relationship with Imran.

His enormous influence in party and governance matters.

His role in PTI’s electoral success, in corraling independents and political partners to get the required majority numbers in the Center and Punjab.

His being central to the fairly public slugfests with the likes of Shah Mahmood, Ch. Sarwar, Hamid Khan, Saif Niazi and the silent rivalry with Asad Umar and others.

Depending on who you talk to, he’s either a brilliant genius, highly disciplined, organized, professional and meticulous in his planning and execution. An incredibly powerful negotiator, a very successful deal-maker in the cut and thrust of Realpolitik.

Many acknowledge him as the mastermind behind Imran’s and PTI’s electoral success. He is still Imran’s closest confidante and advisor who Imran listens to, respects, and a rainmaker who delivers impossible results.

Or

JKT is an ambitious, ruthless, vicious, selfish, political infighter who mercilessly destroys his political foes, inside or outside the party. He has caused great harm to the party bringing in the traditional corrupt politicos, destroying the party’s clean image. He has an amazing ability to rub people the wrong way, is arrogant and aloof and wants to exercise total control.

Some even allege that he is unscrupulous and leverages his political strength and closeness to Imran to promote his business interests.

So there you have it. An enigma!

Wherein lies reality?

Difficult to answer in a binary black and white. But clearly somewhere in between!

So why am I writing about him, when there’s so much other stuff going on!

Rana Narco behind bars:

Zaradari’s benami properties being attached:

No silver linings for the Sharifs!

Desperation striking the opposition.

BLA being declared a terrorist outfit.

Imran’s forthcoming Trump meeting etc.

And most sadly, Bilawal opening a whole new Pandora’s box by alleging Imran’s “drug habit”.

This coming from a person whose sole claim to fame, as is Maryam’s, is being born into an incredibly evil, wicked and corrupt family, who have looted and plundered Pakistan with abandon!

Be warned that some really ugly allegations on their characters are sure to follow. Sad! Very sad!

But back to JKT!

What piqued my interest was a recent discernible and positive change in the quality of Imran’s decisions who, appearing fairly rudderless a few months ago, seems to be much more confident and in control and taking better decisions!

Why?

In my opinion, other than Imran finally getting a serious handle over governance, overcoming his near existential inexperience, ignorance and incompetence, coming out of the lowest point in his first year, perhaps his worst, the lowest point being Asad Umar’s sacking, and then the slow upward swing with the new economic team, the passing of the budget, the IMF loan, Rana Narcos, AZ in the dock, a successful amnesty scheme, it was JKT’s return back into the active inner sanctums of Imran’s decision making circle, which has a lot to do with Imran’s coming of age, say the “church mice!”

It appears that JKT may have taken over the role of a de facto Chief of Staff to Imran.

A role Imran desperately needed to fend off the bunch of incompetent qaseeda khawaans and lotus eaters surrounding him, help him vet data, information and offer well thought through and objective advice on key policies and decisions.

In my opinion, despite what his detractors may say JKT seems most suited for this role.

A role, critical to Imran’s success, as I’ve stated countless times before.

The Chief of Staff role requires someone who has a brilliant understanding, insights and experience of project planning and implementation in public sector and political environments.

Someone who is also a technocrat and subject matter expert in a critical area, as well as a hard nosed, hard core political animal who understands the vicious cut and thrust of politics.

Someone who Is highly experienced in public sector governance and the ways of the bureaucracy.

Someone who is financially independent and wealthy.

But above all someone who is utterly and fiercely loyal to Imran, has his ear, professional respect and confidence.

Today, who better than JKT? Its that simple!

Let’s face it. The reality is that JKT is now disqualified for life, and hence has no subjective agenda to push through, other than Imran’s and PTI’s success. Which brings me to JKT’s disqualification!

This may seem like a plug for him, but the details of the case and the disqualification truly shocked me!

In in the interest of full disclosure.

I barely know Jehangir Tareen. He is certainly not a friend or even a passing acquaintance. I have only met him once, briefly for 30 odd minutes, and that too, by chance.

We have exchanged the odd WhatsApp text. In fact I have oft held him responsible for many of the ills besetting PTI especially the internecine intra party strife etc.

Also I’m neither a PTI member or an office bearer. In fact my recent comments and articles about Imran and PTI have been harshly critical of many of Imran’s decisions and actions, costing me dearly, including being declared persona non grata around Imran.

But JKT’s disqualification intrigued me!

How could someone as smart and brilliant as JKT, with the best legal and professional advice available to him, be so incredibly stupid to put his entire political career at risk by “hiding” or “not disclosing an asset” bought through an off shore inheritance trust set up by him for his children, in which he, his wife and children were also beneficiaries?

How?

So I decided to dig deeper and pored over the case, the judgement, petitions, the English and Jersey law governing these trusts, plus seeking advice from those who know.

In this I did approach him seeking details of the case, which he kindly provided!

What I discovered was to say the least, surprising and very disturbing.

For context, I regularly read Barrister Babar Sattar’s columns, often disagreeing with his political perspectives, but admiring his legal ones.

His basic contention in many of his articles has been that our Superior Court Lordships have penned judgements, based not on past precedences or solid legal grounds, but in a fairly cavalier manner, perhaps based on personal whims, egos, and or political expediency.

Could petty jealousy, political conspiracies or personal vendetta be causes as well? I don’t know!

Time and again we see benches authoring completely conflicting judgement on cases which are very similar.

And we saw a lot of this during the Ch. Iftikhar and Saqib Nisar reigns.

Yes I call them reigns, because both lorded over their functions like arrogant, despotic and frequently irrational dictators, throwing judicial functioning in complete disarray, through their contradictory judgments and behaviours unbecoming of a Chief Justice!.

In my opinion, JKT’s case was also a sad reflection of the above.

So what was JKT’s case?

Hanif Abbasi, himself now a convicted drug smuggler, filed a petition to disqualify JKT on four grounds.

Insider Trading – Not Guilty.
Misdeclaration of Agricultural income tax – Not Guilty.
Written off loans – Not Guilty.
The Kicker – Property in UK – Guilty

As I stated eatlier I pored over the case and here have attempted to provide a simple overview without getting too much into the mumbo jumbo of the law.

1. JKT earned money in Pakistan legally, and paid the requisite taxes on it.

2. He then transferred a portion of these legally earned, tax paid funds. through official and legal banking channels, to his bank accounts in the UK and onwards into an offshore inheritance trust in the UK as an investment for his children. So there was no intent to “hide” money or “sources” from where money was made. All transfers were through legal banking channels and certified financial instruments.

3. The irrevocable inheritance Trust so created, meaning that JKT could not undo it, then incorporated a company, Shiny View Limited which bought the asset, Hyde House, held in trust by EFG Trust Company Limited. These are absolute standard ways to create trusts, especially for one’s children’s inheritance purposes.

4. Under Laws governing such Trusts, JKT’s role was that of a “Settlor” meaning the guy who “deposits / settles” the funds in the Trust. Absolutely correct, JKT paid the money to form the inheritance trust and acquire the property, for his children.

5. The beneficiaries of the funds in the Trust or any assets it may acquire were his 4 Children and so named in all documentation.

6. All his children regularly, every year, declared their ownership of this “asset”, Hyde House, in their regular tax returns to FBR well before the 2015 nomination papers filed by JKT. This again showed that there was never any attempt by JKT to “hide” the asset” as it always appeared in the tax returns of his children.

7. He and his wife were also named discretionary lifetime beneficiaries of the Trust to preclude the children from dissolving the trust and selling off the assets, in his or her lifetime. But could do so after their demise. This is a fairly standard clause in most inheritance trusts.

Now here’s the tricky legal part. Please read 8 and 9 slowly, preferably twice.

8. JKT set up an irrevocable discretionary inheritance Trust under which complete legal and beneficial ownership of assets of the Trust vested in certified professional Trustees who were trusted to ensure that any funds / assets vested in the trust would be given to JKT’s children, as per the terms of the Trust, after his and his wife’s demise.

9. Unless there is actual transfer of any asset to any discretionary lifetime beneficiary, in this case JKT or his wife, such discretionary beneficiary has a mere expectation and no proprietary interest in the assets held by such Trust. There is decades of unbroken English and Jersey law on this.

In simple words, the asset, Hyde House, belonged to the inheritance Trust, with his children as prime beneficiaries and the asset did not belong to JKT or his wife, under the laws governing such trusts. This is fairly common in Pakistan Trust law as well.

His lawyers advised that because his children already declare Hyde House as their asset in their tax returns in Pakistan, he was not required to do this.

Stupid advice? Perhaps.

Bottom line.

Nothing in the transaction showed any intent to “hide sources of money” “money trails” or “the asset”.

Everything was done through legally earned, tax paid funds, transferred through legal banking channels (not on the backs of Camels) and publicly reported in tax returns by his children who were the beneficiaries of the trust.

So now to the judicial case.

A three judge bench comprising, Chief Justice Saqib, Justices Ata Bandial and Faisal Arab, disqualified JKT by first rejecting that a valid trust was created, which owned the property, Hyde House, calling it a sham front!

Once they did that, they then proceeded to link the property directly to JKT because he was “discretionary lifetime beneficiary” of the trust, by his own admission. The same Trust the Lordships called a sham!!

And then the coup de grace!

And therefore because he had not disclosed his being a beneficiary in this property in his nomination papers, hence under Article 62(1) (f) was declared dishonest and unfit to hold public office under section 99 (1) (f) of the Representation of People Act, 1976.

This is really strange reading.

They reject the Trust as a valid asset holding entity, but accept his being a “lifetime discretionary beneficiary” in the same Trust they say does not exist or was a sham and use this to convict him!

Unbelievable Logic!

Adding further salt to this “remarkable” judgement is the following observation by the learned Judges, perhaps their most damning comment in the judgement which gives away an intent to pronounce a guilty judgement, whatever the facts may be

“…….. Perhaps SVL was created as a repository to hide his tax paid money, sent through banking channels and shown to have been spent on the creation of SVL and the purchase/construction – of the “Hyde House”; but this was done in a clandestine and dubious manner. The object behind this exercise was to hide and stash the said money, SVL and the property from the tax authorities and from the public eyes…..

Stupid Question from me!

Which “brilliant” mind or minds would draw this conclusion or observe that someone would be so stupid as to “HIDE their LEGAL TAX PAID MONEY sent THROUGH LEGAL BANKING CHANNELS”, for the purpose of HIDING these legal tax paid funds FROM TAX AUTHORITIES and then dub these actions as “dubious and clandestine” ?

Speechless! Just speechless.

Bottom line!

Nothing in the transaction showed any intent to “hide sources of money” “disguise money trails” or “hide the asset”.

And to repeat myself again!

Everything was done through legally earned, tax paid funds, transferred through legal banking channels (not on the backs of Camels) and publicly reported in tax returns by his children who were the beneficiaries of the trust.

The Bench did not pay any heed to the fact that he had not displayed any deliberate intent to hide the asset or was deliberately committing a dishonest act.

They paid no heed to the fact that the money was legally earned, tax paid, officially transferred through banking channels and regularly declared in the tax returns of JKT’s children!

I then looked at Khawaja Asif’s case, seemingly an open an shut case of clear guilt, or so it would seem, because he was held “NOT GUILTY” for not declaring an asset in his nomination forms, virtually an identical case under which his party leader, Nawaz Sharif was declared GUILTY for not declaring his salary as an asset he received from his employers as a permanent resident of the UAE.

The Honorable bench in that case comprised Justices Faisal Arab, Umar Bandial (yes the same two who disqualified JKT) and Justice Sajjad Ali Shah.

This judgement, unlike JKT’s, waxes eloquently about “intent” about “clarifying source of income” about “omissions being a case of poor judgement but not of wilful dishonesty”

These phrases are worthy of current Chief Justice Asif Khosa’s judgments.

A man with as strong a spine and as worthy a rare mettle one has seen in the Superior Judiciary. Sadly one cannot say the same for some others.

Khawaja Asif’s case with Nawaz Sharif’s case as a binding precedent, should really have been an open an shut case but for reasons that must be investigated, Justices Ata Bandial, Faisal Arab and Sajjad Ali Shah adopted a very different approach.

In Khawaja Asif’s case Judgement, we come across such beauties!

…..There are many conceivable instances where an omission to declare an asset on the face of it cannot be regarded as dishonest concealment. … Such like omissions at best could be categorized as bad judgment or negligence but certainly not dishonesty… Hence mere omission to list an asset cannot be labelled as dishonesty unless some wrongdoing is associated with its acquisition or retention which is duly established in judicial proceedings. In our view attributing dishonesty to every omission to disclose an asset and disqualify a member for life could never have been the intention of the parliament while incorporating Article 62(1)(f) in the Constitution. All non-disclosures of assets cannot be looked at with the same eye….

Yet in JKT’s case, this principle was not applied.

In their wisdom, they then go on to say…

……Where a matter with regard to an undisclosed asset is taken to court, it would not form the opinion that it is a case of dishonest concealment without first calling upon the elected member to explain the source from which such an asset was acquired…..

And when the source was explained by JKT their laughable response is what was shared earlier.

They then go on to say…..

……It is the credibility of the explanation that would be the determining factor as to whether non-disclosure of an asset carries with it the element of dishonesty or not. The test of honesty with regard to non-disclosure of assets and liabilities is to be applied in that context only and certainly not in a case where a clean asset has not been declared on account of bad judgment or inadvertent omission…..

In JKT’s case non-disclosure of the asset clearly carries with it the element of open transparency and honesty

And thus Khawaja Asif was declared NOT GUILTY because the Honourable Bench determined that it was “inadvertent omission without ill intent”!

Masha Allah! Subhan Allah!

Don’t know how many others have suffered such a travesty of justice. It is shocking, senseless, saddening and appalling.

Over to you, Chief Justice Asif Khosa. I hope you get to read this.

I say this because you’re an honourable man out to reform this rotten system which results in such gross miscarriages of Justice.

I say this so such a travesty is not committed again and past wrongs, set right.

To begin with a Supreme Court review appeal MUST NOT be heard by the same bench which passed the original judgement, but by a different bench so it receives fair and objective treatment.

It is not possible to expect the same bench to review its own judgment, overturn it and bring into question their own competence.

JKT should not have been punished in this case. Because he hid nothing, earned money legally, transferred them through official channels, and his children declared their ownership in their tax returns.

His case must be reopened under a new bench and his review petition heard again.

Many will conjecture on why I wrote this piece.

Some will allege that “JKT bought me”.

For them in the words of Rhett Butler/ Clark Gable in “Gone with The Wind “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn!”

As I stated earlier, JKT, despite the controversies surrounding him, is on the balance a very positive influence on Imran, helping him take good decisions and govern well and effectively!

And that is good for Pakistan, as Imran is still our best fighting chance!

Plus I’ve always had a soft corner for the underdog and those who have suffered grave injustice. Including people like Hamid Khan, who I greatly admire and respect.

I hope JKT reconciles with him, Saif Niazi, Shah Mahmood, Ch. Sarwar and others and distances himself from the likes of Fawad Chaudhry!

Haider Mehdi

The day “Conscience” died!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

Black robed, stern-faced, frowned and steely eyed, the lordships who “dispense” justice, with the scales of blind justice towering over their bench, but not their conscience, delivered a most devastating, perhaps even an existential blow to not just justice but to their own consciences and to the hopes of this nation, hoping against hope that maybe now the high and mighty would not escape their just desserts!

Stern men, having spent their lives studying law. Having spent decades sermonizing that justice must be seen to be delivered. Some quoting Khalil Gibran and extracts from the “Godfather”. Some launching their fire and brimstone tirades on a hapless soul who unknowingly stepped out of line in court, casually allowed a criminal to go free under a line of argument which brought tears to our eyes, shamed our hearts and destroyed our hopes.

Hopes that perhaps now this country could perhaps see the dawn of a time where no one, big or small, was above the law. Where poetry and literature quoting Lordships brought hope of a system in which justice was truly blind.

Where, whether you were a pauper, a prince or an ex PM, you would be dealt in the same manner as all others!

Where we desperately nurtured a hope, that perhaps, now, perhaps once in a blue moon, perhaps in a rare beam of sunlight stream, we have people with spines, with conscience,  with strength of character, with moral courage, to stand up for justice and do the right thing!

But to expect roses from thorn beds, milk from gutter, justice from a place and a system where everything under the sun was fair game.

Where their highest had time for everything under the sun. From bottled water to hospitals to school fees and God knows what else.

To expect fair play, where except for high-sounding hyperbole delivered in self-righteous hypocritical sermonizing anger, there wasn’t even token, even hypocritical, even mildly pretentious effort to reform their own terribly dilapidated, terribly corrosive, terribly destructive institution, would be foolish and stupid.

How could we be so naive to expect justice from a system which is so evil, so terrible, so mafia like, causing untold misery, distress and devastation to tens of millions of this country’s citizenry in the name of law and justice?

How could we ever expect that the high and mighty of this land would suffer the same indignities as all others?

How could we have hoped that we have finally turned the corner?

We hang our heads in shame, in sorrow,  in hopelessness, as we see the death of the collective conscience of what goes for Justice in Pakistan!

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*

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

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

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

Vote ko Izzath Do! 25 July 2018!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi*.

The sanctity of our vote, especially of those who have voted in the past, is reflected in the manner this trust was manifested by those who acquired power.

PPP got 13% of registered vote in 2008.

PMLN got 17% of registered vote in 2013

But whatever the percentage it is supposed to manifest.

In the quality of governance.

In our institutions responsible for delivering public services, becoming more efficient, effective, stronger and less corrupt.

In improved law and order and security of life and property.

In better health care, better education, better employment opportunities.

In a Parliament which acts as an eagle eyed watchdog on the Executive, ensuring this trust is not breached.

In public office holders being transparently and swiftly held accountable when they misuse public office for private gain.

In public institutions headed by honest and competent professionals who do their jobs without fear or favor.

And ultimately it is all about improving the quality of life of the citizens of Pakistan!

But this sanctity of the vote is not an unchallegeable license to kill, murder, loot, plunder and pillage our national wealth, misuse authority and destroy our institutions.

It’s not a shield to save a public leader from corruption, criminality and blatant and brazen abuse of office.

It’s not a “victimhood” card when a leader and his family is caught with their hands in the till for the entire world to see.

It’s not a means to weaken and destroy public sector institutions so the corrupt cannot be held accountable.

It’s not to flood government positions of authority and power and influence with toadies and cronies who are both corrupt and incompetent and their only attribute being loyalty to an individual and their ability to use these positions to illegally siphon off public funds and taxpayers money for themselves and the leader.

It’s not to foist their incompetent children on the country, as heirs to a throne.

It’s not to weaken other State institutions who they fear can check their unbridled loot and plunder.

It’s not to plunder obscene amounts of ill begotten and stolen wealth and , stash them away in overseas properties and assets and bank accounts in UK, Dubai, France, Switzerland, Spain, Malaysia etc.

*It is a sacred public trust to be honoured and not betrayed.*

On 25th July, vote with your feet and your heads.

Vote for those who you think are most likely to honour and not betray this trust.

Vote for those who you think will actually give “Izzath to your vote”.

Vote for Pakistan, for its future, for your own future and for our coming generations.

Vote for those who will give us a “fighting chance” to once and for all rid ourselves of this mafia of looters and plunderers.

*Salaams and Prayers*
*Haider Mehdi*