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

Trumpistan! The Trumpeter’s policy on Afghanistan is really their Policy on China.

By Syed Haider Raza Mehdi

My late father, Col S.G. Mehdi M.C, would oft say. “Understanding a country’s history, especially events in the recent past and a Map is all one needs to understand their national interests, strategies and tactics.

The USA has no intentions of leaving Afghanistan ever unless it’s like the last soldier clinging onto a helicopter lifting off from the rooftop of the USA embassy in Saigon. This is a bold assessment based on what drives their national interests.

Picture this.  In the last 30 years the USA, both Democrat and Republican administrations, have  waged 13 wars, intervened in over 100 countries, spent over $14 Trillion, of this $1 Trillion alone in Afghanistan and caused 3 million deaths.  2 million in Afghanistan and 1 million in Iraq. Their own casualties. Barely 7000 of their own.  A ratio of 1 to 400. Does this look like a country which will leave Afghanistan?

Why does the USA do this? Why do they wage war all over the world? To answer this in detail is a subject for another time, but for the time being, sufficeth to say that global economic domination is the overriding national interest driven by its most dominant sector, the defense establishment. Annually, the USA spends more money on military spending than next 10 countries combined.  Their current 2018 defense budget is $652 billion. The combined military budgets of the next 10 countries ($660 Billion).

Here are the current defence spending bills for the top 11 countries.
1. USA – $652 Billion ($885 billion if veterans, civil defence and military aid included).
2. China – $215 Billion.
3. Russia – $69 Billion
4. Saudi Arabia $64 Billion.
5. India – $56 Billion.
6. France – $56 Billion.
7. UK – $48 Billion.
8. Japan – $46 Billion.
9. Germany – $41 Billion.
10. South Korea – $37 Billion.
11. Italy – $28 Billion

For context, Pakistan’s defence budget for 2017 is about $9 Billion.

The total current annual global military expenditure is nearly $1.7 trillion ($1,7000,000,000,000) and the USA has a whopping 50% share of global defence expenditure.  America has been in an uninterrupted cycle of war for nearly 80 years since the attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. Today, inarguably, it is the biggest, the most powerful, and the most violent war mongering nation on the planet.  And this is the country Pakistan faces as an adversary in Afghanistan and the Region.

But and it’s a happy but. They have suffered defeats in Korea, Vietnam, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq. Because even if you’re the world’s mightiest military machine on ground, air and sea with the most sophisticated munitions, you still cannot defeat a determined population defending their homelands. You can blow up the whole country but you can’t blow up their ideologies and passion to defend themselves and so it is with the Afghans. And this the USA understands.

So then why will the USA not work towards a peaceful resolution to Afghanistan’s seemingly intractable problem, knowing that they cannot be defeated into submission?

Why should Trump say that the US objective in Afghanistan is not “nation building again but killing terrorists”? Knowing that in 16 years of war and with a 130,000 US troops they could not do it.

The answer – China’s race towards Global economic leadership.

According to Steve Bannon, the former Chief White House Strategist, a role especially created for him and even today considered by many Washington insiders to be Trump’s closest political advisor, China is the biggest threat to USA’ world domination.

He believes China, if not checked by the USA, will become in the next 10 to 15 years the world’s pre-eminent and dominant economic power, ahead of the USA.  And this is what the USA fears most!

Also militarily, while USA defence expenditures have remained fairly constant in the $600 billion to $650 billion range in the last 10 years, with increases above $700 Billion from 2009 to 2012, China more than doubled its military budget from about $100 Billion to $215 billion today.  And if China continues to increase its military budget at the same rate, not only will they gallop ahead of the USA economically, but be very close to matching the US military might.
So stopping China’s economic outreach is the overriding USA strategic objective and thereby its military prowess as well.

The question is how will the USA attempt to do that and the answer lies in OBOR – China’s One Belt, One Road program, Its most ambitious economic initiative to date. An estimated spend of $5 Trillion across 64 countries in Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe, is what keeps the USA awake at night. And OBOR’s three major flagship projects are the $46 billion CPEC, China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a 3,000km high-speed railway connecting China and Singapore, and gas pipelines across central Asia.

USA military presence in Afghanistan provides them the perfect staging ground and opportunity to attempt to disrupt, scuttle and eventually destroy CPEC and thereby significantly dent China’s OBOR strategy.  It’s really as simple as that.

The USA are not there to kill the Taliban as said the Trumpeter, but will be happy to, wherever and whenever they can find them. And simultaneously trying to negotiate mineral mining rights for the estimated $3 Trillion in precious metals and minerals in Afghanistan.

They have no desire to turn Afghanistan into a peaceful country at peace with its neighbours, because then Afghanistan will become an essential extension of OBOR and CPEC.

They have no desire to talk peace with the Taliban and to form an inclusive government of all warring groups, because then it will mean a China and Pakistan friendly Afghanistan.

They know that no “safe havens” exist in Pakistan anymore, given that nearly 50% of Afghanistan is under Taliban control and that, today, they have not been able to find a single Taliban training camp inside Pakistan.  A challenge the Pakistan Army Chief, Gen. Bajwa threw to Gen. Nicholson and all visiting US military and civilian leaders who trooped in recently, to find such a camp, using all their sophisticated wizardry and drones.

They are not here to ensure that terrorists do not attack America because that is now near nigh impossible.  They know that the Taliban have agreed to all conditions to participate in Afghan reconciliation, including accepting the Ghani government, laying down arms, participating in free and fair elections, except one proviso.  The USA must leave Afghanistan.  And this they cannot.

They know that Pakistan has played an extremely constructive and positive role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table, but that is not their intent. They know that Pakistan and its Army are no longer playing a “double game” if one can call looking after one’s own interest, that.  And admittedly this part of our strategy and policy was handled extremely ham handedly in the past.  But then hindsight is always 20/20.

But for the USA to acknowledge that the Taliban want peace.  To acknowledge that Pakistan also wants a peaceful Afghanistan. To acknowledge that all countries in the region, China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran, except India, want a stable Afghanistan is totally contrary to their goals of defeating China.

To accept this means giving China a free hand in the Region and its march towards global domination.

To accept it means that they can no longer feed US and Global public opinion with the narrative that Pakistan is fermenting trouble in Afghanistan and hence the need for US troops to keep Afghanistan “stable and safe”.

To acknowledge full Taliban participation in a peaceful reconciliation of Afghanistan means that a future Afghan government will look east towards Pakistan and China and not west towards the USA. Hence whenever there are serious moves forward to bring the Taliban to the table their leader is bumped off.

And it serves President Ghani of Afghanistan to echo the USA narrative of a Pakistan attempting to destabilize Afghanistan, so they can remain in power and not admit the abject failures to reconcile the warring elements

It is in this context that we must evaluate and analyse Trumpistan as a USA strategy, laden with horrifying consequences to defeat China.  Pakistan is thus in their cross hairs because of CPEC.  The tragedy is that the USA will not succeed in this attempt but in trying to achieve their goals they will wreak havoc on Pakistan.

And this where they are currently out Trumped! How do they get back Pakistan into their sphere and out of China’s grasp? How do they scuttle the CPEC project? And lurking as a close second is their other strategic objective which is totally Pakistan centric. How do they de-nuclearize Pakistan, seen as a potential and catastrophic threat to them, India and Israel?  So good old Pakistan has a handful to deal with and is likely in for a period of serious turmoil and instability.

It is then we understand the prime reason behind the very close USA and India partnership with common and aligned objectives.  Defeat China and de-nuclearize Pakistan.

It is then easy to see why Baluchistan is in turmoil, with India using its Afghan and Iran ingress to attack CPEC.

Iran’s geo-political interests are today closely aligned to China, Pakistan, Russia and for a peaceful Afghanistan.  Iran must realise that allowing India any further ingress into Iran will only be counter productive. Their interests lie in de-linking their relationship with India and reaching out to Pakistan and becoming close friends as they had been in the past.  But the sectarian regional rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia has been a major factor in stopping this re-conciliation. But now with the Saudi influence in Pakistan fading, the time is opportune for Pakistan and Iran to reconcile and adopt a common strategy to counter the USA threat.

In my view the Saudi Arabia as we know it now, is more a question of when and not if. As are the other Gulf states, especially the UAE.  As is now fairly common knowledge that the UAE has been actively attempting to sabotage the Gwadar port because it directly impacts their trade lifeline and free ports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The USA actively supported by India and with help from the Afghan government, will take full advantage of Pakistan’s current political turmoil to instigate even greater instability and violence.  One can expect them to attack our sectarian, religious, social, ethnic and, provincial fault lines to create unrest and armed conflict.

They will try and bring Pakistan to its knees, economically and then ask for their pound of flesh.

They will unleash Quislings like Husain Haqqani as the poster insider of Pakistan establishment and use his invective and poison to feed US public opinion. It is now easy to connect the dots and understand why a two bit hustler, albeit an intelligent two bit hustler like Husain Haqqani says and writes what what he does.  He should be ignored and shunned and castaway in the garbage heap of history as another who sold his soul!

They will also unleash other similar  moles, hidden deep inside our political, civil and military organizations and our media to create turmoil.

We are our own worst enemies.

I don’t think the US will militarily attack Pakistan. Some drone attacks, certainly.  But will do everything to destabilize us politically and destroy us economically.

Our best bet is a strong government and a regional pact between China, Pakistan, Russia and Iran. I think China has too much at stake to let us drift, despite our own best efforts to destroy ourselves. I think China may be able to prevail upon Ghani that the USA bear hug will be their death.

India will up the ante. Europe will not fall for the American narrative. Turkey as well. So lots in our favour except our own desire to commit suicide. Lots of moving parts.

And I can go as far as to hazard that they will attempt to create circumstances of such turmoil and massive civil unrest with the hope that the Army will take over and hoping, as in the past with Zia and Musharraf before to buy off the new strongman!

This is a ploy and a trap our Army and Gen. Bajwa must not fall for and into. They will use you and Pakistan and discard you once the night is over.  They will destroy the country and de-nuclearize us and leave us at the mercy of the dogs of India!

Beware the Greeks bearing gifts!

-Syed Haider Raza Mehdi