“Alea iacta est” Your Lordships, The Die is Cast!

“Alea iacta est”  Your Lordships, The Die is Cast!

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

With these famous words Julius Caesar on January 10, 49 B.C, crossed the Rubicon river in Northern Italy in defiance of the Senate and began his long civil war.

Today both phrases, “the die is cast” and “crossing the Rubicon” symbolically represent “a point of no return”.

Has the Supreme Court cast the die and crossed the Rubicon in convicting Nehal Hashmi? To many they have. To others, more skeptical, this may be just a more serious and threatening warning shot across Nawaz’s bows to desist him and his daughter and other courtiers like Talal etc from further criticism and just stop short of awarding a similar judgement as Nehal’s!

Just for context.

Our Superior Judiciary doesn’t boast a very glorious and honourable past of courageous acts or stands against tyrants and crooks. Time and again it has bowed, bended, swayed, sometimes willingly, sometimes unwillingly, at times being bought, at times threatened and cowed into submission. And always given the OK to our Men on Horseback!

It has the dishonorable honour of turning against its own in the infamous case of the Supreme Court coup lead by a Nawaz minion Saeed uz Zaman Siddiqui, who turned against his own sitting Chief Justice, that most honourable and dignified personage Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah. History records their legacies very differently.

Then we have had the PCO and non PCO judges, the Iftikhar Chaudhry episode, the Dogar Supreme Court etc etc.

Sufficeth to say that this institution has had its days of running with the hares and hunting with the hounds, meekly acquiesing to the powerful and the mighty.

Justice Khosa quoted from The Godfather in his earlier minority judgement in the Panama case. But we must also remember that there existed and still exists a very tight close and evil mafia like nexus between the bench and the bar in Pakistan. It’s like a club where both scratch each other’s backs, suck the money and blood from the poor and the hapless, unfortunate enough to fall prey to the judicial system. Judges who were partners with lawyers from the same chambers stage a macabre hypocrtical drama in the courtrooms everyday. For a drama it is, while the hapless public looks on trying to make a sense of the never ending stay orders, the endless dates, the 15 minute rushed hearings, the hearings that never take place, and the lawyers and the court staff milking the litigants. Ask me. I know. Having run from pillar to post, as have many others reading this, completely helpless, held hostage by the Judicial Mafia!

But in recent times the Supreme Court has redeemed it’s honour in ways that one couldn’t even contemplate, let alone expect. CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry, to his everlasting credit, and perhaps his only real credit, was able to snatch away the administrative power of the EXECUTIVE to appoint judges to the Superior Judiciary, and in that one act he has changed the destiny of this Institution. And for this the legal fraternity owes him an everlasting debt for conjuring this miracle!

Thank God for this miracle, that we have witnessed, perhaps for the first time in our history, the crooked and the corrupt occupying our highest office being caught by the scruff of their necks, while in office, and meted justice for their crimes.

The Supreme Court judges clearly have a spine that I for one didnt think existed. But the events of the past year or so has changed all that. This dramatic change has shocked everbody. Some with joy others devastated! Especially their fraternity in the bar and many others used to the spineless lot of the past.

In a strange way the Supreme Court has rebelled against their own community in asserting their independence and the bar is incensed at what they consider a “betrayal”.

The shocked silence and failure of all the bar councils across the length and breadth of Pakistan in standing up for the bench against the daily slander by Nawaz and co is testimony to this deduction.

This silence of the Bar councils who should be celebrating this “born again Supreme Court” speaks volumes of their professional integrity and values and where their loyalties lie.

And the one council that spoke up, the Karachi Bar Council, is actually planning to go on strike to protest Nehal Hashmi’s conviction and sentencing. Subhan Allah!

And this is where the Supreme Court must display its spine again, without fear or favour, without being blackmailed or being threatened. We cannot afford to give in now and compromise or be again browbeaten into submission.

Your Lordships! Now that the die has been cast and the Rubicon crossed with Nehal’s conviction and sentencing, the Nation and Justice expects you to complete the job you started with him.

Not convicting Nawaz, Maryam, Talal and Saad Rafiq and others guilty of the same crime of defaming the Court, would be a travesty of justice. There are already voices, not mine, saying that Nehal got this harsh punishment because he is a Muhajir and Urdu speaking! And the others being Punjabis will be spared and let off with a gentle wrap on the knuckles “in the interest of the State and public order” etc etc.

Well, Your Lordships, in all humility, since I have no intentions to join Nehal, either the Honourable Court shouldn’t have convicted him, which I and the vast majority think you should have, and thereby set the precedent which then leaves the Honourable Court very little room to forgive the others.

Howrver, if for some unearthly reason and in your wisdom your Honourable Lordships were to let Nawaz and company off the hook, it’ll be a resounding slap on your own faces, on the Court, on Pakistan and on Justice.

Nawaz, Maryam, Talal, Danyal, Saad Rafiq and others must also be punished as has Nehal.

If you do not, Pakistan will face the serious consequences of this abject surrender by the Honourable Court, however beautifully or artfully your Lordships may pen your poetic travesty.

The Nation is watching, Your Lordships!

You have done much to redeem the honour of this your institution and of this nation. Much more remains to be done!

-Haider Mehdi

Pakistan’s Schizophrenia or the death of (un) common sense!

Pakistan’s Schizophrenia or the death of (un) common sense!

*Pakistan’s Schizophrenia or the death of (un) common sense!*

*By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi.*

My recent piece on Bilawal’s Davos interview which set hearts aflutter, drew lots of feedback. Both for and against.

Comments ranged from unqualified support to qualified support, given the harsh language and phrases used for which I apologise to all those who were offended including Bilawal and take full responsibility for crossing the line of social propriety and good manners.

The brickbats were total condemnation of my perspective and full support for Bilawal as a potential leader for Pakistan.

While I fully understand people’s objections to the language used, one still cannot understand comments from those who I’ve personally known to have struggled against Gen. Zia’s dark years of militarism and Gen. Musharraf’s Martial laws and strived for the rule of law and democracy in Pakistan.

It’s painful to see those who fought against military rule and for democracy, becoming silent spectators if not, in many cases, willing supporters to the corruption, misrule, loot and plunder of civilian so called democratic regimes.

I know two former editors of leading publications, both brave souls. One in particular took on the mullahs, the drug cartels, the fascism of political parties, the underworld, putting her life at stake but has now succumbed to this “mirage”, for reasons which are incomprehensible!

Then one sees the romance that many have with the PPP, the Bhuttos or Zardari (ouch) and the Sharifs.

While it’s easy to understand this support by people hostage to their subjective and personal vested interests of wealth, business interests, political influence, feudalism, and family, ethnic and linguistic ties, the support of others, educated, aware, who are unable see through the democratic facade these rulers adopt, is mind boggling.

This to me is Pakistan’s Schizophrenia and the death of our (un) common sense!

Look at Benazir Bhutto 1, 2 and Zardari 1. Nawaz Sharif 1, 2 and 3 regimes. A total period of 21 years and 1 Martial Law regime of 8 years under Gen. Musharraf.

In these 21 years of civilian rule except for one, all goverments were dismissed on charges of corruption and misrule under the then constitutional clauses.

Let’s not forget that under Benazir, Nawaz Sharif and Zardari and the false facade of a democratic order, these rulers lorded over a period which can only be described as one of sheer incompetence, corruption, loot and plunder, resulting in the total and complete breakdown and destruction of all our public sector institutions.

Not defending any Martial Law regime, but we did not witness this massive loot and plunder and wholescale destruction of our public sector under Gen. Musharraf as we’ve seen under the PPP and the PMLN.

And the answer to why they get away with this loot and plunder is simple.

Our current democratic order and electoral process is so weak that it is consistently hijacked by these people and parties and then simply used as a means to grab power and loot and plunder.

Here’s how it happens. Get a certain number of electables, rig the elections through administrative measures and or the silent support of the Army high command, for which the hands of this institution is also stained with blood for the murder of good governance, and come into power.

This is what they call “democracy” and the “will of the people”. 13% of registered vote to Zardari in 2008 and 17% to Nawaz in 2013. This means that more than 87% and 83% of registered voters respectively either voted against them or chose not to vote, so disenchanted and disillusioned were they with the electoral process. They didnt see any hope and were resigned to the inevitable rape.

But even worse are our systems of public accountability and transparency which are unable to hold public office holders accountable for misgovernance or corruption and their malafide decisions and actions.

And the above is not a deduction but a fact.

Had it not been so, Benazir, Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, their relatives like Faryal Talpur and Ishaq Dar, cronies like Saad Rafiq, offsprings like, Hamza Shahbaz, Salman Shahbaz and Maryam Safdar and hundreds of others would be cooling their heels in the jails of Adiala or Landhi!

Who doesn’t know or believe, unless they lived on Mars, that Benazir along with Zardari looted and plundered.? The scores of offshore companies they owned managing their stolen hundreds of millions in real estate overseas, in wealth stashed in secretive bank accounts in Switzerland and other safe havens?

Who doesn’t know about the massive loot and plunder of the Sharifs and their cronies, especially Ishaq Dar, leading this dishonourable muster?

Who doesn’t know that they did so by destroying the efficacy of the State and it’s institutions and appointing cronies and loyalists to positions of power and authority, so they could loot and plunder at will?

And those who hide behind this snowflake excuse that “the courts found them innocent” is in itself the biggest symbol of this terrible rot that our system has become and of a judiciary which had in the past become a handmaiden of these corrupt rulers!

Name one public sector institution which improved under these terrible terrible people? Just one?

The only two state institutions that have managed to survive their savagery are the Armed forces and the Superior judiciary. The latter, coming of age more recently because it forcibly took away from the Executive their power and authority to appoint their own Judges. And for this act alone, former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry should be absolved of all his sins, plenty they maybe!

While I’m all for the Armed forces to be subservient to a true democratic order, I will fight tooth and nail and till my dying breath, to save them from the fate of our other state institutions. Yes it is unacceptable for an Army Chief to stage a coup! It is unacceptable that the military governs, but it is completely unacceptable for them to become the Punjab Police or the Sind Police. Rana Sanaullah and Rao Anwar are two of the biggest symbols of this terrible rot.

The Army has saved itself by fending off direct interference in the way they manage themselves,and consequently, whether we like it or not, has saved this country from near total anarchy and civil war. But and its a sad but, its leadership has been guilty of the very mess that we are in today, because of their acts of commission and ommission in the past.

Pakistan is a great country with immense potential. The damage can still be contained. The haemmoraging stopped. The downward slide the slippery slope stopped. Because we all know the issues, we know the solutions, but we’re challenged by the process of making it from the problem to the solution.

The issues are simple. Our institutions are weak and virtually toothless. Our rulers dishonest, corrupt and incompetent. Our electoral process recycles the same garbage back into power. The institutions cannot hold them accountable, consequently the misgovernance, loot and plunder continues and the institutions become even weaker. Come next election and the cycle repeats.

And Nawaz and Zardari are now setting up their offspring to take over. And that is why folks, my outburst against Bilawal! An interview does not a leader make. Nor will time! He has no experience except privilege and biology! And is hostage to the current corrupt system!

The solution.

An electoral process that allows for competent people of integrity to occupy positions of public power, governance influence and authority who can rebuild our institutions for sustainable success!

Several key changes in the electoral laws will help.

1. 25%to 50% seats on proportional representation basis. This allows parties to nominate subject matter experts and specialists to become legislators, without going through an electoral process, so we can produce quality legislation.

2. Majorality win to replace first past the post. This breaks the hold of the baradaris and ensures greater people participation.

3. Subject matter experts and specialists can be appointed to cabinet positions, without being elected to legislature, as in the USA and subject to the approval by a National Assembly committee. This would significantly raise the bar of policy making and governance in highly complex and specialised sectors. Who says we cannot have technocrats in a democratic set up?

4. Independent governance of all Public Sector institutions, free of political influence. We have 341 such state run institutions. But about 27 key ones. This by itself is a game changer. Just look at how the Superior Judiciary has come out of the gutter and asserted itself, because of its ability to manage itself!

5. Complete bar on development funds to legislators, so the lure of money and corruption is significantly less attractive.

Longer-term we must have more administrative units, at least 20 vs the current 6, to bring governance down to the masses and break the dominance of larger or dominant groups. This is a ticking time bomb. The fascism of the MQM is rooted in the perceived deprivation of the Mohajirs, the problems in Baluchistan in the perceived deprivation of many Baluchis. Encouraged and fanned by our enemies!

This also means a much more empowered local government system answerable to the people on a daily basis and not an autocratic Chief Minister in a far of city. And it should be responsive to the differing needs of our society ranging from more empowered Local Governments in the highly urbanized areas to less relatively empwered in underdeveloped and rural areas. The latter important, so that local government capacity and capability is developed in these rural environments.

This means there’s a strong case to develop a hybrid of the old commissionerate system along with local government, especially in the rural areas.

Who will do all of this and how?

Like I said earlier, the issues and solutions are known, the who and the how is the question?

A simple way is for the current legislatures to bring about these changes. Clearly they will not as it sounds their death knell!

Elect a new leader who has the stamina and the will to potentially bring about these changes. And that is why I’ve consistently advocated for Imran Khan. Despite his warts and inconsistencies, today he clearly holds the greatest hope and promise!

He may perhaps also fail, but it will certainly not be for lack of will or effort or trying, but because the forces of status quo are so strong and so powerful, fuelled by decades of money and nepotism that they will crush all such attempts!

But I genuinely and sincerely believe he’s a real hope, despite, that at times, he’s his own worst enemy. And that is why the entire political mafia of the current status quo so relentlessly attacks him day in day out! And they pick on his weaknesses, occasionally helped by his own actions and words, which by the way are nowhere existential, to destroy his credibility.

They do so because they fear him and the change he promises to bring! And if we join these criminals in not giving Imran and Pakistan a chance then we deserve our fate. For those with a religious inclination should re-read Ayat 11 of Suraa Raad!

Otherwise folks it’s back to the stink, stench and vomit of the PMLN, the PPP, the Sharifs, Zardaris. Bilawal or no Bilawal. Maryam or no Maryam. They are just newly minted coins from the same old garbage!

And here are the inevitable consequences if we are unable to change the system.

Pakistan will not survive in its present shape and state if the current system survives and we do not eliminate its most powerful and potent symbols. Nawaz, Zardari, Shahbaz, Ishaq Dar, Faryal Talpur, Maryam, Hamza etc. All to ne suitably charged and convicted for their crimes. The Supreme Court and The High Courts must not succumb to threats and blackmail!

But if we do not or cannot do so, and the current system continues, with a very heavy heart, I say, in a decade or even less we can kiss Pakistan goodbye as we know it, today.

This is not a prophecy but a considered conclusion

Expect total anarchy and lawlessness. And the Army will be helpless. Read history and see the inevitable consequences of continous misrule, misgovernance, corruption, loot and plunder and the wholescale destruction of State institutions.

And I also fear that this will also put great strains on the Army’s unity with the possibility of some young Turks or even an older Turk deciding to take matters in their own hands and run amok. Not a probability but a possibility. And yet again the inevitable consequences of this foolhardy act!

Be prepared to see your DHA’s and Bahrias and General Colonies and the villas, businesses and street line boulevards of all our cities in flames. Be prepared for marauding mobs, finally fed up and unable to distinguish the good and the guilty from amongst us.

Once the dam breaks nothing can stop the deluge. And then we will lament why it happened and see our country engulfed in destruction.

The international forces arrayed against us are very powerful. Our internal fissures and fractures deep and painful and we think that a Sharif or a Zardari or a Maryam or a Bilawal offer hope?

And sadly it will not be a revolution but just mayhem, bloodshed, chaos and anarchy!

So the time to act is now, Pakistanis, or face the consequences.

And then don’t cry for me, Pakistan!

-Haider Mehdi