Pak Politics: Imran Khan vs the rest (I)

Published in Pakistan Today on 28th November 2013 titled:

Perspective on Pakistani politics –

Imran Khan vs the rest

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/11/28/comment/perspective-on-pakistani-politics/ )

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

 

Machiavelli in his acknowledged masterpiece “Il Principe” (translated as “The Prince” in English) has outlined a number of political clichés. Most of these are practiced by the ruling class in Pakistan. While they may be suitable to the pursuit of personal power, their cost is compromising on national interests and all that is good about a considerate human society.

We have the ultimate torch-bearer in Mr. Asif Ali Zardari who has practiced the Machiavellian style of politics like never before in Pakistan. Not only did he manage to assess the “prices” of major stakeholders in the systems be it his allies or foes, he actually used them in a way to ensure completion of his tenure, the first time a democratically elected government did so in Pakistan. The chaos, disasters and calamities faced by Pakistan are, however, a different story. No one in power stopped Mr. Zardari from plunging Pakistan in the depths of misery for all those who could, had their share of the pie. All, that is, except one political leader, Mr. Imran Khan.

The infamous “wikileaks” which exposed the ruling classes across the globe also confirmed what most Pakistanis already knew, that their traditional leaders were docile to US even if not sell-outs. While Mr. Zardari was busy assuring Americans that nothing will be done without their consent, the ex-PM Mr. Yousaf Raza Gillani confirmed his support for the US drone strikes killing innocent Pakistanis while hypocritically issuing public condemnations. Moulana Fazl-ur-Rehman hosted a dinner for American ambassador to try to win over US “support”. The US ambassador Anne Patterson commented afterwards: “He has made it clear that … his still significant number of votes are up for sale”. Perhaps most shocking but lesser known is that the current PM Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif assured the American Ambassador of his loyalty to America by recalling his prior “services” (from Aimal Kansi to supporting the USA stance in Iraq-Iran war, e.t.c.) Mr. Sharif repeatedly told the US ambassador he was “pro-American”, despite his critical public stance as per Guardian. He thanked the US for “arranging” to have Kayani appointed as army chief too. In the midst of them all there’s only one exception Mr. Imran Khan. Americans described him as not under their influence and “lecturing” them about the issues and Pakistan’s national interests.

More recently Mr. Azam Hoti exposed the dual faces of ANP’s top leadership including Mr. Asfand-Yar-Wali, who were selling Pakistan’s national interests to USA for dollars while Imran Khan was challenging American administration to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari who rarely tours Pakistan and cannot survive without bullet proof cars and screens has the audacity to hypocritically call the only political leader who mingles in public without fear and security screens despite threats to his life as “Buzdil”. It’s iconic as Imran Khan has been amongst his people at every major crisis be it bombings, sectarian violence or other unfortunate incidents while Mr. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, on the rare occasions he does visit Pakistan, is confined to limited movements under extreme security. Perhaps Bilawal will learn in due time that badmouthing opponent leaders of international stature not only negatively affects his own image but can also backfire politically. It’s however interesting how all the pro status-co forces have united against Imran Khan, behaving with a belief that he is not a man anymore but a phenomenon.

Khan defied the traditions of corrupt-politics when he recently ended his alliance with “Qoumi Watan Party” of Mr. Sherpao due to corruption by two of his ministers. He ensured they were removed even if he had to let go of the KPK government. This is unprecedented in Pakistan where corruption has become the norm of the day, decaying the country. Here, those who claim to hang the corrupt, end-up attending their farewells and providing assurances, being in the same boat of corruption. They are obviously threatened by such precedents and accuse Imran of trying to get “rid” of KPK government. This is another example of baseless propaganda as his record confirms that he never backed off in the face of adversity.

Even more recently Khan put the national interests before politics by not using the unfortunate incident in Rawalpindi for political mileage at the height of sectarian tensions. Most other parties would have jumped on such a drastic failure of their main rival; in this instance PMLN led Punjab Government.

Being the only politician having his property and investments within Pakistan he is often attacked for his sons’ British residency without the rational view that being minors they are living with their mother, as per Islamic law. Strange is that those same politicians would not answer about their billions amassed abroad in addition to their adult heirs. It is also conveniently forgotten that he had to sacrifice his marriage for his country as Ms. Jemmima Khan was accused in politically motivated fake cases and could not remain in Pakistan while he was not prepared to leave the country.

His faith and honesty has won him many fans. Recently when he showed the real picture of the tragedies culminating from the illegal drone aggression on Pakistan, even Mr. John Kerry was impressed that a Pakistani politician can stand-up for the national pride and dare to challenge the American narrative in front of them.

A leader is someone with a vision and courage to guide a nation even against the popular public discourse, like Imran Khan did. His unchanged stance on the war on terror saw him named “Taliban Khan”, hailed as a visionary and then again termed as “HakimUllah’s supporter” at the turn of the events but he did not weaver. It’s ironic that while some liberal extremists accused Imran of being a Taliban apologist, the likes of Maulana Fazal-Ur-Rehman accused him of being a Jewish agent. Those having nothing in common unifying against Khan without a common principle speaks a lot about the righteous path he’s chosen. Time is proving how right he has been with the confirmation of the extreme economic, social and human losses suffered by Pakistan. While Americans are busy negotiating next door with Afghan Taliban, Pakistan’s accumulated financial losses to economy are estimated at $ 100 billion (much more than the total foreign debt), per month losses are PKR 90 Billion approximately with over 45,000 lost lives. The nation is finally waking up to the mess we’ve been put into.

The writer is a leading economist who is also a qualified chartered accountant, financial analyst and anti-money laundering expert. He can be reached on Twitter and http://www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

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FazalUllah, Time to strike back for peace?

The following article is published in Pakistan Today on Thursday, dated 14th November 2013:

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/11/13/comment/time-to-strike-back-for-peace/

Short Link: http://wp.me/p1UdGw-1gyH

FazalUllah, Time to strike back for peace?

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

 

Hakimullah Mehsud’s death in yet another American drone strike resulted in serious haggling over his successor within the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ranks with some sources claiming FazalUllah’s group going to the extent of threatening to disassociate in case of him not been the successor. That alone cannot be the deciding factor for TTP with mostly tribal fighting force but FazalUllah did succeed in replacing HakimUllah.

It is indeed true that USA has violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by its constant drone attacks. USA claims tacit approval by Pakistani Executive. Whether it’s still in place is another question requiring detailed study as it changes the whole narrative of sovereignty violation. However, showing blatant disregard for the mandate given to the Nawaz-government by the all-parties’ conference for peace-talks with TTP, the USA  choose a time to eliminate Hakimullah just when these talks were to begin. It is indeed a severe a setback to this peace-process as unfortunately US has not shown any more regard for Pakistan’s Constitution, democratic norms and sovereignty than TTP.

It’s also quite perplexing that despite FazalUllah organizing amongst other barbaric acts, the infamous attack on Malala from Afghanistan right under the nose of Americans, he hasn’t been touched by those championing Malala.

Having humble origins, FazalUllah became son-in-law of Sufi Muhammad, the head of Tehrik-e-Nifas e Shariyat Muhammdi and later merged his forces with TTP becoming their chapter head in Swat post the Lal-Masjid fiasco orchestrated by Mr. Musharraf. He shot to fame with his fiery radio-sermons playing on people’s genuine love for Shariah as well as the belief that timely and cost-effective justice has evaded them ever since the inception of Pakistani legal system in Swat which brought with it the kind of corruption plaguing the rest of the country. This gave rise to the popular demand of a return to Shariah-based jirga-system.

Amid growing public pressure a peace accord was brokered which was broken by two major events. One was the reported advances of Swat Taliban into neighboring districts. But what really swung the public opinion against Taliban was a video of a female getting lashed publicly by Taliban. By then people of Swat had largely turned against the rule of Fazalullah too, owing to some brutal tribal customs been implemented in the name of Islam. An interesting point is that the infamous video turned out to be a fake, sponsored by an NGO claimed to be funded by the US but by then the damage was done.

An intense army operation ensued which flushed out the militants. Friends within army shared stories of finding Indian Servicemen’s identity cards on dead militants besides finding out some of the militant “Imams” to be non-Muslim during their burial process. Several pictures found their way on to the internet while more sensitive proofs were presented to American and Indian governments through official channels. The non-existent informant network in Swat led to innocent lives been lost with people settling scores by identifying innocents as Taliban, aware of the lack of an effective mechanism to verify. Army gave many sacrifices against the brutal tactics of Mullah FazalUllah’s gang using beheadings and mutilations to stir-up terror. Despite all, overall the operation was termed a huge success looked at in awe by even the American forces dreaming to repeat the feat in Afghanistan. FazalUllah though managed to escape to Afghanistan where he has been supplied and provided sanctuaries by Afghan Intelligence at the behest of India’s supreme intelligence agency RAW. Surprisingly USA has preferred to turn a blind eye to this despite having thorough knowledge and evidence.

Afterwards, a popular narrative was formed in Pakistan that FazalUllah and by that definition TTP too, were sponsored by and at-least at the leadership level, working for foreign powers unlike the Afghan Taliban fighting a just Jihad for their freedom against the USA led invaders.

Over time, it seems like the TTP has been able to forge closer ties with the Afghan Taliban amidst claims of Mullah Omar finalizing FazalUllah as the latest “Amir” of TTP. If true, this changes the whole scenario.

FazalUllah vehemently opposed peace talks with Pakistan and when HakimUllah decided in their favor, he launched a gruesome attack killing a Major General. Besides, TTP had been carrying out a campaign against Pakistani civilian population as well as targeting the armed forces. While they justify attacks on the later citing Pakistan’s alliance with the US in the so-called war-on-terror, it cannot find many backers in the mainstream for its attacks on civilians as Islam strictly prohibits targeting civilians even during a war with non-Muslims.

The possible repercussions of Fazalullah’s nomination as the new TTP chief are dire for Pakistan’s security, economy and society. With nothing to lose and scores to settle while been controlled by anti-Pakistan powers he’s extremely dangerous for Pakistan. FazalUllah’s first order as TTP chief is to decline negotiations.

With TTP still unnerved with HakimUllah’s elimination and FazalUllah finding his feet at the helm of the affairs being a non-Mehsud chief of the overwhelmingly Mehsud TPP while sitting across the border, it is high time that FazalUllah is eliminated. This will open up doors for a comparatively moderate and independent successor that we might be able to deal with. For those who cite repercussions, we’ll be facing much worse if FazalUllah is allowed time to take control of TTP.

If USA is not ready to eliminate FazalUllah with a drone strike inside NATO-controlled Afghanistan, it will raise serious questions as to its intentions while confirming the strike on HakimUllah was indeed to derail the peace-process. In such a scenario, Pakistan would need to send out its’ own team to eliminate the foreign-controlled “terrorist” in Afghanistan. If USA can justify the strike to target OBL, Pakistan can too for elimination of FazalUllah.

The writer is a leading economist who is also a qualified chartered accountant, financial analyst and anti-money laundering expert. He can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @ OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

Machiavellian Jihad: Bilawal at Karsaz

Machiavellian Jihad: Bilawal at Karsaz

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

There are no absolute black and whites in politics. Context is everything rendering most of the areas grey. A focused study can however lead us closer to the real objectives behind most of the facades put up as necessity of sorts in the political arena.

Machiavelli in his acknowledged masterpiece “Il Principe” (translated as “The Prince” in English) has outlined a number of political clichés. Comparing an inherited prince to a “new prince” he stated the prior must carefully maintain the sociopolitical institutions public is accustomed to; whereas the latter needs to stabilize his power to enable him to build a lasting political structure.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s speech at the “Karsaz” Monument in Karachi commemorating the 6th “anniversary” of the deadly Karsaz attack aimed to achieve exactly what a hereditary prince needs to per Machiavelli’s “The Prince”, a book Zulifqar Ali Bhutto used to keep under his pillow. Trying to stir up the political bias which keeps political parties in third world alive while at the same time exploiting the emotional sentiments of the hardcore Jiyala’s, this seems to be the beginning of attempts to revive PPP by magnifying the narrative of sacrifices and being wronged. There is just one big problem, the non-deliverance and disastrous performance in last five years without having any real scapegoat to blame this time around.

Notwithstanding Mr. Asif Ali Zardari’s politics of “reconciliation”, some would say “deal-making”, Bilawal choose to assault all major political players in competition with PPP. He claimed credit for peacefully ending the “drama” of Dr. Tahir Ul Qadri in Islamabad while pointing out incompetence of PMLN in handling the Sikander episode, criticized the supposedly “Buzdil” Khan, promised to hunt the “hungry lions of Punjab sucking the blood of the masses” and vowed to free “Karachi” from being a “British colony” by cutting the “kite” flown from UK via phone. As if that was not enough he committed himself to exposing the “siyasi Dajjal” who guard justice, an obvious reference to the higher judiciary. To entice the liberals he also declared a war against religious “contractors”, ironically using the term “jihad”.

Is Mr. Bilawal really at odds with his father and party policy to deliver a 180 degree policy speech of his own or is there more to it than meets the eye?

Mr. Zardari, over the years has established for himself a reputation of sorts, of being a Pakistani “Machiavelli”. Using deception, greed, fear, intimidation, withdrawal and exploiting emotions as prominent weapons amongst his never ending arsenal of political strokes. Could this than be another of those political ploys to revive PPP using the golden “good cop, bad cop” policy.

PPP badly battered and bruised with nothing substantial in terms of performance to show to a common man whose life has become so much harder needs a revival.

Though a bit early to pass a conclusive judgment, here is a depiction of the potential landscape conceived post the disastrous May Elections. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is to deliver fiery addresses in typical “Bhutto” style (body language, gestures and dressings of Bilawal’s Karsaaz address already mimicked that of Zulifqar Ali Bhutto’s), targeting all opponents to instill “everyone vs us” feeling in PPP’s core base while exploiting the sentiments of being wronged by pointing to Garhi Khuda Baksh, trying to resuscitate PPP by taking away the focus from the destructive performance of the party in its last tenure.

Mr. Zardari would on the other hand utilize this to maintain pressure on PMLN to ward off any dangers of accountability on charges of corruption using the above along-with PPP’s numbers in the senate. This, in conjunction with a revived “Sindh card” can also build pressure on the Judiciary. To soften up Bilawal’s blows Zardari will continue to offer olive branches to PMLN & MQM, atleast behind closed doors, in order to achieve his goals as well keeping doors open for future alliances while Bilawal continues to take them on publicly.

Imran Khan and PTI are different phenomena though. Initially PPP believed PTI as more of a threat to others with a lack of presence in it’s’ core base of rural Sindh. The indifference to sufferings of the masses and worst performance by the last PPP government however created a vacuum. Already the second largest party in terms of votes PTI has damaged PPP more than PMLN and is looking to replace it as the other major player on the national level. While PMLN is an old rivalry, PTI is very much an existential threat.

Bilawal’s statement claiming Asif Zardari to be the bow and him to be the arrow in 2018 indicates the focus on reviving PPP using this strategy. Whether it’s wishful to believe people will forget the hell they endured from 2008 through 2013 or would they fall for the ploy yet again would depend not just on the emotional appeal of the “Bhutto’s” in the down-trodden but also whether other parties specially PTI would wake up from slumber and penetrate in the PPP heartland of rural Sindh. The performances of PMLN and PTI government in delivering the much needed relief to the masses would be the key deciding factor.

Furthermore another important fact would be the possible relationship between PMLN and PTI acting as either mature political parties engaging in constructive politics or locking horns in a negative all out power-tussle, acting as either a counter-punch or a launching pad respectively for the new PPP doctrine.

On a side note Bilawal’s speechwriters need to understand that badmouthing opponent leaders of national stature not only negatively affects Bilawal’s image but can also backfire politically as it creates sympathy for the affected amongst neutral voters and further push away even the rational supporters of the opponent while adversely affecting the protagonist charging on. PTI has learnt this lesson and now admit it in private discussions. Soon PPP will too.

The writer is a leading economist who is also a qualified chartered accountant, financial analyst and anti-money laundering expert. He can be reached on Twitter & www.myMFB.com IDs of Omer Zaheer Meer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

Is USA indispensable for Pakistan’s Defense?

The following article is published in Pakistan Today’s edition for Wednesday, dated 6th November 2013:

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/11/05/comment/is-the-us-indispensable-for-pakistans-defence/

Is USA indispensable for Pakistan’s Defense?

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

 

In continuation of my last column titled Can Pakistan survive sans aid?” Published on 1st Nov 2013 we can now discuss the second most common myth about the Pakistan-USA relation, the supposed indispensability of USA’s military assistance. This becomes even more relevant and important considering the growing public pressure in Pakistan to redefine Pak-USA ties while getting out of the American led war-on-terror.

Below is the updated perspective put forward by myself during a session at PINA (Pakistan Institute of National Affairs, a leading think tank, to the likes of Mr. Sartaj Aziz (Ex Foreign and Finance Minister Pakistan), Mr. Khursheed M Kasuri (Ex Foreign Minister Pakistan), S M Zafar (Senior lawyer and Senator), Muahid Hassan Shah (Scholar & brother of Musahid H Syed), Mr. Altaf Hassan Qureshi (Senior Journalist and Columnist) and many other eminent dignitaries including experts on National Security issues (Retired Brigadiers and Colonels) and senior editors who were present there. It was highly appreciated and proponents of indispensability of USA aid for Pakistan were left speechless as the myths on the Pakistan-USA relations were shattered.

The generally propagated line is that Pakistan requires the state-of-the-art weapons and relevant spare-parts from USA due to threats from India. This is an argument based on the perceived threats from Indian State to the existence and sovereignty of Pakistan, having reasonable basis due to the history and unresolved conflicts between the two nations.

This notion is based on USA’s state-of-the-art weapons providing Pakistan with credible defense against the Indian threat. While this is indeed true that most of Pakistan’s weaponry is USA manufactured which is believed to be state-of-the-art but there are some interesting considerations. First of all will it actually serve to defend our nation from foreign aggressions especially from India (the new strategic partner of USA) with most of them having features to be remotely jammed by USA (e.g. F-16’s)? Also of equal importance is the question that will we be able to get hold of the supply of spare-parts and ammunition in case of a conflict or left high and dry? Even more relevant is the consideration of, if not this, than what other options do we have?

Well the American weaponry provided under the SEATO and CENTO treaties (in the early days) certainly did not serve the purpose of an effective defense in 1971, in 1965 or for that matter in the battle of Rann of Kuch with American arms embargo pushing Pakistan to the edge of the cliff when it needed those supplies the most. USA claimed the weapons were provided for use against USSR only (implying they were not to be used in the face of an Indian invasion which was effectively the biggest ally of USSR in South Asia at the time). Reliability is what went missing for Pakistan from then onwards.

One could point out to the Pakistani victories in different battles specially the whipping of Indian forces in the Rann of Kuch and the astounding displays during the 1965 war but these Pakistani victories and holding off of enemy attacks were more due to the ultimate acts of bravery and self sacrifices by the men fighting on the fronts than the weaponry which ran out of ammunition due to the American embargoes placed on Pakistan at the most crucial times during the various wars rendering its armed forces effectively disabled in the face of existential threats to Pakistan.

Moreover all our major strategic defense projects in the last few years involved China and not the USA. To list a few, Pakistan and China worked jointly on projects such as:

1) JF-17 Thunder Fighter Aircrafts

2) The Nuclear Submarines Project

3) Civil-Nuclear Co-operation

More importantly, the successful development of the tactical nuclear weapons program by Pakistan has effectively neutralized the Indian “Cold-Start Doctrine” and essentially closed the doors of any open external-only Indian aggression. This has effectively answered the biggest challenge of them all ……. effective defense against an all-out Indian aggression.

What does this mean? It means that Pakistan is now one of the few countries in the world to possess the plutonium based high impact yet small range atomic bombs which can wipe off an entire enemy brigade off the face of the planet or take off an entire enemy naval, army or air-force base without actually annihilating an entire city. We can call these small-range atomic-bombs for simplicity.

This has answered the dilemma against using nuclear weapons for defense in the case of an all-out India aggression with the size of Indian forces at over three (3) times that of Pakistan’s. The devastating impact of nuclear weapons on huge areas in most scenarios was expected to wipe out entire cities which was a serious consideration against their use even in the case being at the receiving end of a foreign aggression.

However, the invent of tactical nuclear weapons program has effectively “killed” the Indian “Cold-Start” Doctrine by allowing Pakistan to bomb an advancing enemy army within its  own territory without causing large-scale devastation and international condemnation resulting in such a scenario. The best thing about the program is that the high damage it can inflict is extremely prohibitive of any military misadventure against Pakistan. The question then is whether we still really require the weapons from USA to protect us from an Indian aggression? The answer is: not anymore.

Proposal:

The above mentioned development has not only closed the doors of foreign aggressions but also provided an opportunity for Pakistan to revamp the security infrastructure and defense programs. Pakistan should start self-reliant defense weapons development programs with technology-transfer arrangements in partnership with interested “friendly” nations ready to deal as equals and not masters, i.e. China, some European States, Turkey, Gulf States, e.t.c.

In addition, we should move towards a leaner but highly effective military. The savings from this and switching to highly cost-effective locally produced weapons can then be diverted towards improving the lives of the masses.

The writer is a leading Economist who is also a qualified Chartered Accountant, Financial Analyst and Anti-Money Laundering Expert. He can be reached on www.myMfb.com, Twitter @OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk