Technocrats Crises in PTI Government: Problems & Solutions

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Technocrats Crises in PTI Government:

Problems & Solutions

 By:

Omer Zaheer Meer

CFA (USA), CPFA (UK), FCCA (UK), ACA (ICAEW – UK), AMLE (UK)

Prelude:

The economy of Pakistan is in a quagmire with many naysayers painting a doomsday scenario. They’d like you to believe that rock bottom has been hit and there’s no way out. But that’s not true. The change promised by Prime Minister Imran Khan is very much deliverable. His famous and often quoted claim of a 100% increase in taxation revenues is practical and achievable. The solutions are there, out-of-box solutions which “Status  Quo” advisors & bureaucrats would never be able to conceive and/or want to implement. Read on to know more about it.

The fortune and the misfortune:

PM Imran Khan is very lucky as he has a repute of being extremely honest, hardworking and well-meaning. Even his political opponents admit this in private and try to criticize him by attacking his currently deputed team(s). It is a strange predicament for the reasons outlined below.

PTI is also very fortunate political party as it has accumulated the finest of talented Pakistanis including lot of able and proven technocrats. These are the same people who used to stay away from even casting their votes let alone getting indulged in politics. But to his credit, PM Imran Khan changed their way of thinking and made them believe in change. To appreciate the magnitude of this blessing, just realize this that even Zulifqar Ali Bhutto or our great Quaid e Azam did not have as many talented people at their disposal. They had to make do with whatever was available. Our father of the nation himself termed the people he had in his team as mostly “khote sikke”.

There is however a problem. There is no bridge between the PM and the talented people in PTI with the same fire in their hearts as him and the same faith in his vision and leadership as he do.

During its opposition years, the PTI established a shadow cabinet by the name of “National Policy Council”. It had different teams, each headed by a top technocrat to work on the challenges for specific key ministries

Nearer the Church, farther from God:

While, PM Imran Khan is working tirelessly to make things happen and for this looking everywhere to bring in people with technical expertise, for some unknown reasons, the same is overlooked within his party. The insiders within PTI circles confide that the appointments being made are largely based on groupings sans any merits with people having no technical expertise been nominated on highly technical positions in contradiction to the PM’s own vision.

Non-technocrat political workers can and should be accommodated in thousands of non-technical positions. The technical positions however should be left for the technical members of PTI for these positions not only demand highly specialized skill sets but will also determine the outcome and legacy of PM Imran Khan’s government.

There should be a mechanism to identify and link the technocrats within PTI with the leadership in a non-partisan manner. Perhaps, some neutral technocrat within PTI would be best suited for this endeavor to avoid groupings and factions impacting the process.

The three keys to success:

There are three key requisites for success in achieving the PM’s dream of reforms. Normally the discussions about reforms and particularly the keenly discussed topic of reforming the revenue authorities and infrastructure, focuses on competency of key personnel, which is certainly important. What’s missing though, are couple of other equally vital bits.  They’re:

  • party affiliation so there is belief in the vision of the PM and
  • out of box thinking of a doer

The Enigmatic Resemblance:

There’s an uncanny resemblance between the untapped Pakistan with all the gifts of the nature, be it gold, copper, oil, coal, e.t.c. or the unexplored potential of tourism and PTI as a political party filled with all these untapped gifted professionals waiting to be utilized for the good of the country. This resemblance is enigmatic.

Like the symbols, the cures of the diseases are also similar. PTI, just like Pakistan, needs to explore its untapped resources of great minds of technocrats within.

The Reworked Bhutto Solution:

Despite all his ills and issues, Bhutto is normally billed as a genius; some even call him an evil genius for that matter. Irrespective of which side of the divide you are, one thing is for sure that the man knew politics and ground realities of South Asia.

Isn’t it astounding that almost four decades after his demise, he’s still alive in the hearts of millions despite all that unruly and disastrous stuff that has been done in his name, more so in Sindh than elsewhere? What is the magic about him then? Well there are a few. We’ll be discussing briefly the one concerning the topic at hand.

Bhutto famously appointed PPP workers at all key positions claiming that as people voted for his party to implement the agenda, only those loyal to that agenda can help achieve that. He questioned the loyalty and “merits” of the bureaucracy, e.t.c. He did go overboard to the extreme of appointing people solely on the basis of this criterion, leading to often incompetent or illiterate persons on key positions. Still, lessons derived from this can be used to put in motion the “reworked Bhutto solution”.

PTI’s Technocrats:

The solutions should simply involve using a mechanism to identify top quality technocrats within PTI and appointing them at key positions to implement PM Imran Khan’s vision. Care must be taken to ensure that technical competence, relevant experience, out of box thinking, knowledge of the local workings and a proven track record are there. It is vital that the processes be built and run by able technocrats within PTI and not those bound to oblige their groups sans merit.

FBR’s new Chairman:

Just this week, the new Chairman of FBR was announced and notified amid much hue and cry. Mr. Zaidi, a respected Chartered Accountant having no known previous affiliation with PTI and an ex Cabinet Member of the Caretaker Sindh Government setup primarily nominated by the PPP, was the choice. This speaks volume about the problem we’ve been discussing.

The idea was that someone “neutral” and “competent” from the private sector must be tried, having already tried both customs and income tax group officials as well as bureaucrats from other segments, without anyone delivering the “success” and “reforms” desired. However it resulted in two major issues.

The first problem stems from the manner in which this was executed. It’s hard to imagine how nobody was able to point out the famous “Ali Arshad Hakeem” case and take the then incumbent Chairman FBR as well as the board members into confidence before the announcement.

PM Imran Khan, being his bold and confident self, did the best possible to salvage a dire situation.

More importantly, this perfectly showcases the issue of being “nearer the church, farther from God”. The appointment practically meant that PTI felt it did not have anyone of a caliber matching Mr. Zaidi let alone be better. With all due regards to Mr. Zaidi, that is not the case and this is why PTI needs to get its house in order.

PTI National Policy Council Revenue Team:

During its opposition years, PTI established as shadow cabinet by the name of “National Policy Council”. It had different teams, each headed by a top technocrat to work on the challenges for specific key ministries. I was honored to Chair the “Revenue Team”.

Link of National Policy Council Notification

As Chairman of this team, I should disclose that PTI had a full fledge Revenue team working on reforms agenda which continuously and successfully assisted the leadership for several years including during the tough period of being in opposition. The work involved besides other areas, identifying both the major issues and their solutions concerning our taxation framework. Some of the proposals were even shared with other countries in a similar state of affairs as Pakistan at Global forums and these were hugely appreciated. This untapped treasure of PTI should be utilized and implemented. The details of such proposals shall be shared in my future write-ups so keep watching this space.

 Omer Zaheer Meer is a leading economist and tax expert who holds five top professional finance, investment and accountancy qualifications including anti-money laundering specialization along-with substantial experience and represents Pakistan on Global Tax Forum. His profile can be accessed at: https://omerzaheermeer.wordpress.com/about

 

Choose the best available option

The following article has been published in the Sunday Edition of Pakistan Today, dated 7th September 2014
(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/09/06/featured/choose-the-best-available-option/ )

(For Published Version, Page 6:   http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_40/7?e=3820687/9210255 )

Choose the best available option

Learn from history

Prof Dp

 By: Omer Zaheer Meer

The author is a Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer  or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

It was a harsh winter, like winters in Russia are. The mighty advancing army was not only unaccustomed but also ill-equipped to deal with the extremities of climate. The officer in charge contacted his commander in chief detailing the ground realities and proposing a retreat and re-assault in summer. The response was a firm no with orders to march on, citing that their forces had never retreated, defeating all the global forces till then. Soon, the same army was buried in the graveyard of history along-with the commander in chief and his empire.

This is not a fictional story but the real account of the turning point in the history of Adolf Hitler led Nazi Germany. This is not the only example, rather history is filled with such disastrous actions repeated by otherwise brilliant leaders. Refusing to realise ground reality and not saving one’s strength in adversities to fight back later often led to obliteration, as has been the law of nature.

Timing is crucial in politics. But the ongoing fiasco in Islamabad has been a comedy of errors, where political blunders were committed and key opportunities missed. For example, the whole crisis started with the Model Town tragedy for which there was no need or logical basis. Everything was under the government’s control with operation Zarb-e-Azb in place. Though certain PML-N sections claim there was a conspiracy in “police fire” and some firing from the Minhaj secretariat, the decision to send police force to “teach a lesson” to protestors was solely PML-N’s.

When angry protestors who clogged the streets of London were calling for trial and hanging of Tony Blair due to his invasion of Iraq, the British government did not fire, use tear gas or arrest them.

Similarly, there were many missed opportunities. The government denied some logical and basic demands despite making commitments. When the protestors led by Imran Khan were attacked by a mob led by the brother of sitting MPA of PML-N in the constituency of Khurram Dastagir – a powerful MNA deemed close to the PM – there was more bad blood. When the protestors landed with less than expected numbers due to various reasons in extreme weather conditions, key government ministers started mocking instead of showing goodwill by providing food and shelter to co-citizens and Mian Nawaz Sharif taking a delegation to meet Imran Khan at that time. Though some food was sent later on, the moment was missed, and it was returned.

As if that was not enough, brutal police action was used on protestors including women and children. The government’s claim that since protestors had gas masks and sticks, they were akin to dangerous terrorist’ makes one wonder about the state of mind of those in charge. Also an argument was constantly repeated that no one is allowed to protest with cranes, sticks and gas masks anywhere in the world and that prior permission for protests is always taken in the civilised world. Unfortunately even our ‘learned’ electronic media anchors failed to correct this false narrative.

There had been several protests in the west including UK, USA and France where protestors took to streets without any prior permission. The black rights’ movement is a famous part of American history while riots in cities of France including Paris are not too old, and who can forget the infamous million march in the streets of London that choked and effectively closed down the city. None of the above countries used containers to block their own cities or used deadly force to kill the protestors despite even serious havoc in the case of French protests. Yes the protestors are not expected to and should not have sticks or cranes but if we analyse honestly, what are they supposed to do in the face of brutal assaults by the state machinery and road-blocks using containers?

When angry protestors who clogged the streets of London were calling for trial and hanging of Tony Blair due to his invasion of Iraq, the British government did not fire, use tear gas or arrest them. Nor did they use containers to siege entire areas and their own cities. They let the protestors steam off and it ended peacefully. On the other hand when the French authorities used police force to try to quell protests, though avoiding live bullets or cranes for blockades, the protests turned violent and spiraled out of control. This should be a lesson for the government, to let protestors exercise their democratic right of protest instead of using fascist measures that turn protests violent.

When key organisers fail to provide even basic arrangements and when office-bearers could hardly pull out a 100th of the pledged numbers despite widespread support, Imran needs to re-evaluate his options.

Another unfortunate fact is that political divisions in Pakistan have reached the point where it’s believed there are only two views, ones’ own view and the wrong view. This needs to change. Opinion makers, analysts, anchors, leaders and even the general public needs to have an open heart and a receptive brain enabling them to listen and neutrally analyse facts.

The fact of the matter is that PAT never had a widespread following or legitimacy but PTI does command both. Unfortunately despite Imran Khan’s resilience, determination and honesty it has pushed itself in a situation where there are no truly winning options. In such a situation when most of the party is disenfranchised and internal issues warrant serious attention, when key organisers fail to provide even basic arrangements and when office-bearers could hardly pull out a 100th of the pledged numbers despite widespread support, Imran needs to re-evaluate his options.

At the time of writing this we’ve reached a political stalemate, with some positive indications from Shah Mehmood Quraishi’s eloquent address in the joint session of parliament. In the situation detailed above, and with a few dozen elected MNA’s, if Imran can ensure legislation inducing reforms and closing the loopholes in the system, get the election commission reformed and re-constituted with well-reputed and competent officials, and get an independent Supreme Court tribunal to investigate alleged rigging in 2013 elections, it’ll be a very good situation to be in for PTI under the circumstances and the only possible way out of the political impasse Pakistan finds itself in.

What PTI has achieved is unprecedented in Pakistan as thousands of people have braved extreme weather and continue to sit in for three weeks, sacrificing their jobs, family lives and personal comforts for the sake of a merit based system in Pakistan. Let’s hope all this was not for nothing.

Kashmir: The Forgotten Jugular Vein

The following article has been published in the Sunday Edition of Pakistan Today, dated 31st August 2014
(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/08/30/comment/kashmir-the-forgotten-jugular-vein/ )

(For Published Version, Page 9:   http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_39/9?e=3820687/9123742 )

Kashmir: The Forgotten Jugular Vein

What it still means to Pakistan

Prof Dp

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

The author is a Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer  or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

Just like all beautiful things in this world, Kashmir, the heaven on Earth has been a victim of its own charm. While most people in the sub-continent and world over know of the miseries of Kashmiris since 1947, their hardships and slavery has dated back long. It was the fateful year of 1820 when tyranny took over the beautiful region with Ranjeet Singh annexing it. However it was yet to see the worst. In 1846, following the defeat of Sikhs in the first Anglo-Sikh war, the so-called “Maharaja” Gulab Singh “purchased” Kashmir along with all its inhabitants for a paltry 7.5 million Rupees from none other than the torch bearer of civilization and human-rights, the then British Empire. After the worst possible atrocities and subjugation a nation has been subjected to in human history, Kashmiris saw ray of hope with the arrival of 1947.

A new Muslim state was been carved out in the subcontinent named Pakistan. The region comprising this new state shared natural, logistical, economic, cultural, religious as well historic ties with Jammu and Kashmir. The overwhelming majority of Kashmir at the time, according to some studies over 80% was Muslim. The masses believed it was their democratic right as well as natural to become part of Pakistan. However there was a catch. According to the Independence Plan the Indo-Pak region was divided on the basis of religious majority of Muslims and Hindus but the independent princely states were to decide their own faith but encourage to join India or Pakistan while taking into account geographical contiguity and the wishes of their people. Any disputes were to be resolved by holding plebiscites.

The subjugation of Kashmiris ultimately led to an internal revolt in the “Poonch” region against the “Dogra Raj” resulting in declaration of “Azad” Kashmir government. The cries for support against the ruthless Dogra oppressors were answered by the poorly armed Pashton tribes from the mountainous terrains of Pakistan, sharing a strong bond of religion. As a result Hari Singh asked for help from India and was forced to sign an alleged accession document as per Indian claims despite having already signed a “standstill” agreement with Pakistan.

Worried by Indian aggression, Quaid-e-Azam ordered the British commander-in-chief of Pakistan Army, General Gracey to send in Pakistan Army units to aid Kashmiris but he refused setting a despicable blot on his name. A few low-ranking Pakistan Army officers voluntarily joined the warring tribes and reached the outskirts of Srinagar. However unnecessary changes of command, lack of proper arms and ammunitions and deficiency in numbers of the rag-tag militiamen meant they were no match materially for the regular Indian Army. However their passion, skill and bravery they fought with led them to not only liberate a vast region but inflicted such damage that the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru himself took the matter to the United Nations (UN) requesting a cease-fire and asking for a plebiscite in Kashmir under the UN watch, accepting it to be a disputed territory.

Before proceeding further, let me share an interesting excerpt from a historic address with you: “It (Kashmir) is a people with a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Kashmir is not the property of either India or Pakistan. It belongs to the people of Kashmir, and the people of Kashmir alone will decide as to what their future affiliation and course of action will be”. The excerpt you just read is not said by any Pakistani or Kashmiri leader but these are words of the Prime Minister of India Mr. Nehru himself.

It is a sad tragedy that the so-called largest democracy in the world has enslaved an entire people against their will and back-tracked on its own commitments to not only them but the whole world for the seventh decade now. What’s more pitiful is the hypocrisy practiced by India. It annexed Hyderabad and Junagargh, both ruled by Muslim rulers despite the first declaring independence and the latter signing accession to Pakistan. India claimed that since the majority of the population was Hindu in both states, the independence and accession agreement do not hold. But when it came to Kashmir which was exactly a mirror image with a majority of Muslim population ruled by a non-Muslim ruler, India changed its own stance claiming the alleged accession agreement was to hold in this case. In effect, India practiced imperialist hypocrisy null of any principles. What’s more it even refuses to date to honor its own pledge of a plebiscite in Kashmir, which it made to the international community.

As of today, despite the partially successful 1948 liberation war and subsequent events including 1962 Indo-China war, the state of Jammu and Kashmir stands divided into three regions, the Indian-Occupied Jammu, Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, the Pakistan-administered Azad Kashmir and Gilgit–Baltistan and the Chinese-administered regions of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract.

On its part, Pakistan fought several wars with India over the Kashmir dispute but missed some golden opportunities. During the 1962 Indo-China war, Kashmir was virtually “empty” of Indian Army and Pakistan was sent a message by Chinese to move in and take over what was rightfully theirs. However the dictator at the time, Field Marshal Ayub Khan let the opportunity slip. Earlier during the 1948 liberation war, Pakistan accepted a ceasefire when its tribal militia without support of regular Pakistan Army was inflicting serious damage to regular Indian Army, letting an opportunity to liberate Kashmir slip away.

Reading this all, you may be wondering why is Kashmir still so important to Pakistan and do Kashmiris still want to join Pakistan? While the latter can be determined by a plebiscite we can examine the first. All of Pakistan’s rivers flow from Kashmir. The Indian occupation has pursued controversial projects to implement a water control strategy designed to starve Pakistan of its lifeline of water supplies. The consequences of water scarcity require a detailed write-up but it can be safely said that it’ll put the very existence of Pakistan at risk.

It was not without reason that the wise Quaid-e-Azam said “Kashmir is the jugular vein of Pakistan and no nation can allow its jugular vein to be held by the enemy”. Even if one was to think beyond the atrocities by Imperialist India warranting a compassionate response, an independent Kashmir with defense pacts would be better for both Kashmir and Pakistan compared to an Indian Occupied one. Pakistan should therefore continue to stand beside the brave Kashmiris who have given unprecedented sacrifices for freedom and lend all the support possible for their just cause.

PTI, PAT vs PML-N: Sagacity in short supply

The following article has been published in the Sunday Edition of Pakistan Today, dated 24th August 2014
(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/08/23/featured/pti-pat-vs-pml-n-sagacity-in-short-supply/ )

(For Published Version, Page 9:   http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_38/9?e=3820687/9038422 )

PTI, PAT vs PML-N: Sagacity in short supply

Take the third umpire’s advice seriously

Prof Dp

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

The author is a Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer  or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

A small problem that could’ve been resolved easily has been turned into a national crisis. It’s often said that to understand complex issues one should go back to the root-cause of the problem. The current political crisis began with Imran Khan’s very reasonable demands of investigating four selected constituencies for rigging and taking corrective action for the shortcomings. The government logically asked for same number of PTI won constituencies to be investigated too and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) readily agreed to that. Unfortunately there had been no concrete development on the issue since which has led to the stance of PTI getting much more stiffer with the ultimate demand now of PM Mian Nawaz Sharif’s resignation and mid-term polls under a reformed Election Commission after the alleged “culprits” of rigging in 2013’s General Elections are punished.

The government on its part was worried that if there were any issues to be found in the four constituencies, it may lead to the calls for mid-term polls as the legitimacy of the set-up would be called into questions. However the crisis has lead to exactly that situation and this could’ve perhaps been averted had the Government took positive actions before. What’s been interesting is the changing narrative of the incumbent Government which claimed that it was not authorized to and cannot open up the four constituencies after Chaudhary Nisar, the Federal Minister for Interior agreed to open up “40 constituencies” in National Assembly. However as the crisis peaked, the same Government proposed asking Supreme Court for forming a commission to investigate the allegations of rigging while there were also proposals of bringing “Ordinance” to open up the four constituencies initially selected for audit and verification by Mr. Imran Khan’s PTI.

Certain quarters claim that atleast some of the four key ministers, Speaker National Assembly Sardar Ayaz Sadiq, Federal Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Mr. Ahsan Iqbal and Federal Minister of Defense Khawaja Asif did not wish to let their “victories” be examined and as such used their influence to push the PMLN Government to a harder line by selling the above narrative within PMLN in order to ensure their own seats were not in danger.

It wasn’t as if the pressure of the campaign re four constituencies by PTI was sufficient to bring matters to the current boiling point. If we recall, things were actually looking quite comfortable for PMLN Government until that fateful incident of Model Town slaughter. Operation “Zarb-e-Azb” was announced, differences with Military Establishment were substantially reduced, public opinion was against protests during such an important operation, PTI had already announced cancellation of its Bahawalpur Jalsa while Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) was about to do so. Than somewhere, someone decided to “teach a lesson” to Mr. Qadri and set an example for opposition as accepted in less straighter words by ex-Minister for Law (Punjab) Rana SanaUllah during television programs. However the operation on Minhaj-ul-Quran cum PAT secretariat to remove barriers backfired and gave blood of unarmed civilians to the opposition. From there on, the anti-government movement gained momentum culminating into “Azadi” and “Inqilab” marches.

That momentum should make one wonder that how the opposition lost the steam going into the marches. PAT was always going to be the determined religious cult beefed up by the Minhaj associated youth and workers. It was PTI who was deemed the bigger player, the game-changer on its own. However over the past eight days what we’ve witnessed, though unprecedented in terms of the determination and zeal shown by PTI supporters, has left many surprised by a less than expected show of power by PTI. So let us examine what exactly went wrong?

Firstly the administration was ill-planned and organizational communication minimal if any. The arrangements were redundant. Several PTI’s office bearers left Islamabad on 15th owing to a lack of even basic arrangements, non-presence of party representatives/organizers and no-communication from party as to the expected arrival of the main procession led by Imran Khan. A prime example of the mismanagement was that despite the extreme weather forecast, the organizers didn’t bother to arrange for even a basic and cheap item like umbrellas which would not only have protected the participants from elements but also provided shade and sense of safety without the need to hold sticks. Furthermore post the infamous intra-party elections, the losing party workers who are in majority as only one of the five to ten contestants won, feel disgruntled. This majority was not taken on board or reached out to. As a result they didn’t attend or work for the success of the “Azadi March” nor did they ask their supporters to do so.

Against all mainstream analysis and despite all the internal setbacks and unprecedented failure of march organizers, Imran Khan’s own determination, resilience and charisma has done wonders in not only getting a very decent number of supporters out but motivating them enough to stay on the streets for an unprecedented eight days till now. Most of the analyst believed that PTI’s supporters were too soft to stay on roads for long and that too in extreme weather conditions. However the determination of highly motivated PTI cadre has been no less than PAT’s religious zealots.

This whole situation, however, has serious implications for the country. The pride and stubbornness of the Government has resulted in missing key moments for resolving the conflict. For fourteen months PTi kept asking for audit of just four constituencies which was ignored, the deadline by Imran Khan during Ramadan was also brushed aside and more foolishly instead of capitalizing on an initially weak show by PTI on arrival in Islamabad, PTI by mocked by key ministers of PMLN. PTI has since gained much of the lost ground. Khan has now repeatedly stated that he won’t accept anything sans PM’s resignation while PM is as likely to resign as Imran is of backing off his own words. The negotiations ended in cruel joke when Government suddenly decided to put up containers back and IG Islamabad was transferred for allegedly refusing to use force on protestors.

While PMLN rightly states that majority of the parliamentary parties are on its side, this stalemate virtually melting down the economy cannot go on forever. If this situation is not resolved amicably, the army will intervene which may even lead to wrapping up of the whole system. The responsibility for such a disaster would lie more with the incumbent government as not only it has the power, authority and responsibility but also more on stake than the protesting parties. It should therefore act more magnanimously to accommodate rather than ridicule PTI and PAT. Letting loose its own workers would only exacerbate the situation more. As the “third umpire” recently said let sagacity and maturity prevail.

Azadi & Inqilab Marches

The following article is published in the Sunday edition (DNA) of Pakistan Today, dated 10th August 2014

(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/08/09/featured/azadi-and-inqilab-marches/  )

(For published version: Page 8  at:   http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_36/9?e=3820687/8887323    )

Azadi & Inqilab Marches

Game Over?

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

The author is a Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer  or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced its million march towards Islamabad for 14th August calling it the “Azadi” or freedom March whereas “Shiekh-ul-Islam”, “Allama”, Dr. Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Minhaj-ul-Quran (MUQ ) cum Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) is yet to announce a date for its “Inqilab” or revolution march towards federal capital. A lot has been written over the past few days about both these marches and hence I’ll focus more on the lesser explored aspects.

While PMLN ministers and supporters are arguing the marches to be unconstitutional, one wonders whether the same would apply to Mian Nawaz Sharif’s long-marches including the one in recent past against the Zardari government on the issue of restoring judiciary which returned from Gujranwala. If they were constitutional, and they were than how can these marches be termed unconstitutional just because they’re against PMLN?

Settling that question, let us examine the two marches. Mr. Qadri’s march has a precedent from the dying days of Zardari rule when hundreds if not thousands of women, children and elderly were kept waiting in dire cold while Qadri was leading from the comforts of what some termed as a “five-star” container. It ended in a non-conclusive and long-forgotten agreement with “Yazeedi” government amidst chants of “Mubarak Ho” “Mubarak Ho” meaning congratulations by “Hussaini” Qadri. Word within sensitive circles has been that a gift from Zardari government amounting to tens of millions of Rupees was awarded to Qadri for “service” of the country via Minhaj ul Quran. It is not too surprising than that during the early hours of Thursday, 7th August while blockade of Model Town was underway, the ex-Interior Minister of PPP, Mr. Abdul Rehman Malik tweeted whether this was a consented action providing face-saving to Mr. Qadri. It may not be so but history has left serious doubts about the intentions, capabilities and persistence of Tahir-ul-Qadri. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons that despite PMLN’s unprecedented blunder of the infamous model town massacre, PAT has not been able to garner the kind of support PTI would have in a similar situation.

Contrary to Dr. Qadri’s controversial image, PTI’s chairman Mr. Imran Khan enjoys a formidable reputation of being honest, upright and steadfast. Though there is a section within PTI as well as some allies including Shiekh Rashid who argue that an alliance should be forged to direct united force towards the incumbent government of PMLN for the sake of achieving political goals. This, however ignore the questionable repute of Tahir-ul-Qadri often criticized for hypocrisy in his statements on religious issues while in Pakistan and 180 degree opposite ones when in west particularly Canada, amongst other things. A lot of the educated and rational populace which forms the core support base of PTI has a very negative view of Qadri and any such alliance would definitely benefit him at the cost of PTI.

Whether PTI and PAT will overcome their differences and eventually forge a united front is something time will tell but for now PTI has played its cards quite right. It has been successful in mounting pressure on PMLN, has united party workers for a common cause, garnered public support and made its position of “stolen mandate” re 2013 elections widely accepted. The government has now approached PTI showing willingness to not only open four constituencies but reform the electoral process too should PTI call-off its “Azadi” march. All of this seems pretty impressive for a party reeling from a huge psychological setback just about a year ago. The problem, however, is that PMLN has made and not kept similar promises before. Hence not many in PTI and certainly not Imran Khan are too willing to take the bait this time.

Seeing that Khan is in no mood to budge or even listen to his old friend Chaudhary Nisar, hawks within PMLN proposed plan B. There were no offers for Tahir-ul-Qadri before either but an FIR for inciting violence and uprising against the state followed by encirclement of his house cum headquarters were a far cry from the response expected from a government still reeling from the infamous Model Town fiasco. But PMLN’s blunders continue with arrests and harassment of not only PAT workers but those from the much bigger threat of PTI.

Infact the crackdown has been harder on PTI whose workers are rounded up in huge numbers while those harassed numbers even more. As if that wasn’t sufficient, thousands of motorcycles including those belonging to ordinary citizens were locked up following an announcement by PTI that 100,000 bicycles will form the vanguard of its march. Add to that PMLN’s plan of closing down fuel supplies close to the march and you have a very scared and immature reaction at hand. As if that’s not enough Islamabad and Model Town Lahore (having both the secretariats of PTI and PAT) are besieged with containers, some of them sand filled.

What these strictures are actually doing is not only motivating the workers of PTI and PAT but also ensuring the incumbent Government is fast losing its moral authority. Arrest of workers and blockades may actually serve to fuel the fire of rebellious passions of the aggrieved masses already reeling with rising inflation and a stifling power crisis. Even if these measures results in a prevention of the marches, that may be a temporary success for the government, not only setting a dangerous precedent for its future but ensuring another future assault on its rule with more vigor and consensus among the opposition. If you remember the underlying just demand of election reforms by PTI, the PMLN’s response in allowing the situation to reach this stage exposes the bewildering state of mind of its decision makers.

Last but not the least; my sources have revealed that the establishment will intervene if the situation gets out of hand. Though the preferred option, a technocrat setup is not decided upon as yet. Perhaps PMLN needs to take a democratic pause and let the people exercise their democratic right to protest.No hell will break loose from that while oppressing it may actually lead to the very results, PMLN government wants to avoid.

As for my sources, they’re not “chiryas” but you may choose your pick from amongst bat, arrow, lion and/or boots.

Gaza: Holocaust version 2014

The following article is published in the Sunday edition (DNA) of Pakistan Today, dated 20th July 2014

(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/07/19/comment/gaza-holocaust-version-2014/ )

(For published version: Page 6  at:  http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_33/4?e=3820687/8669388    )

Gaza: Holocaust version 2014

Zionist occupiers’ atrocities against Palestinian women, children and elderly make Hitler seem like an angel.

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

The author is a Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, qualified accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer  or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

A sad tragedy ensues when the oppressed becomes the oppressor. Even worse is when it bites the hand that fed it in its worst hour of need. That is precisely the tragedy unfolding in occupied Palestine under the so-called Israeli occupation forces.

The disproportionate use of power is of least concern in a conflict where all international laws are floundered. Banned and illegal weapons like phosphorus, in addition to other internationally banned chemical weapons, are routinely used on civilian populations. Innocent civilians are routinely targeted and killed as are innocent family members of “alleged” Palestinian resistance members. Entire families are wiped out in such Israeli attacks. Children as young as just a few months old are slaughtered while women of all ages are butchered along with the elderly in what is termed collateral damage by Israel. A policy of collective punishment is being pursued by blockading 17 million human beings for eight long years, effectively turning Gaza into the largest open-air prison on the planet.

This Palestinian occupation is truly an asymmetrical conflict with Israel’s sophisticated, top of the range, highly destructive and even internationally banned chemical arsenal largely met with rag-tag home-made crude Palestinian rockets. The comparatively slightly better Palestinian rockets are extremely limited and used rarely by the resistance. Compared to a bomb shelter in almost every new house built in Israel, there is none in Gaza. Only recently the first Israeli fatality of the conflict incurred in over a week compared to over 200 innocent Palestinian children, women and elderly slaughtered in addition to young men. The only Israeli fatality so far was a Zionist volunteer delivering food to Israeli occupation soldiers near the Gaza border. The billions of dollars of annual military aid to Israel by the USA can be compared to a naught for Palestine.

Holocaust, as described by various Jewish as well as Zionist authors, was the alleged systematic and state-sponsored persecution and annihilation of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany.

It is worth mentioning here that present day Imperialist Israel is a fruit of political Zionism whose brutalities against Palestinian civilians are opposed even by moderate Jews across the globe. The genocide of and war crimes against Palestinians perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces, particularly in Gaza, has made atrocities of Nazi Germany seem lighter in comparison.

Let’s visit recent history to draw comparisons. The Nazis believed in racial superiority of Germans, deemed “inferior” Jewish and other non-German races as an alien threat to their survival and supremacy. This is pretty much the same attitude as that showcased by present day Israel against non-Jewish Palestinian Arabs, effectively treating them as a threat to Zionist “supremacy”. It’s even worse since most Israeli Zionists, particularly the impressionable youth, call for the annihilation of even innocent Palestinian children (widely available on social media), unlike Nazi Germany where people even helped Jewish women and children.

Holocaust, as described by various Jewish as well as Zionist authors, was the alleged systematic and state-sponsored persecution and annihilation of millions of Jews by Nazi Germany. The “Holocaust version 2014” by Israel is even worse. Not only are Palestinian Arab Muslims massacred systematically by the occupying Zionist regime, the imperialist state of Israel also controls their life by applying a total blockade particularly on Gaza, where the local population cannot even have emergency medical journeys without a cumbersome process requiring Israeli permission.

What is ironic and perhaps lesser known today is the fact that it was under the Muslim Ottoman rule that Jews fleeing from across the globe were provided sanctuaries and opportunities to prosper. The Jews were heavily persecuted by Byzantines after Christianity was declared the official religion (408 – 450) by Theodosius 11. Forceful conversions of Jews to Christianity were the norm.

With the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Bursa in 1324, a golden era ensued for the previously oppressed Jewish community. The Jews treated the Ottomans as their saviours. The toleration was to the extent that not only were Jews given high public offices, but also allowed to build huge synagogues like the Etz Ha-Hayyim (Tree of Life). Jews from all over Europe came and settled in Muslim Ottoman lands; from Hungary in 1376, France in 1394, Sicily in the early 15th century, Salonika in 1420, Spain in 1492 after Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand expelled the Jews during brutal Spanish Inquisition, and from many more places.

Now let us fast forward to the present era. The memory of the Israeli attack on the Turkish Flotilla carrying civilian aid to Gaza is not too old. More more recent is the case when Israel started bombarding civilians yet again in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on the planet. An ultimatum was given to people in northern and eastern Gaza to leave their homes, raising fear of the worst atrocities to come. However, the fleeing civilians were forced deep within the already congested and tiny Gaza strip by Israel and its ally Egypt, refusing to open border crossings thereby denying them safety. The blockade of Palestinians, resulting in deaths due to starvation and a crippling economy for eight years, has conveniently been forgotten by the world.

With the Ottoman Turkish conquest of Bursa in 1324, a golden era ensued for the previously oppressed Jewish community. The Jews treated the Ottomans as their saviours.

Perhaps it is time that moderate Jews across the globe rise up to confront the extremist Zionists of Israel for the Muslim rulers seem to be sleeping, barring the lip service of a few. These Muslim rulers are so busy in their sectarian fights and protection of their rule that this human tragedy fails to evoke a serious response from them. While people around the world including Europe and North America have shown their discontent over what is commonly referred to as a brutal massacre by Israel, Muslim governments have continued to show little material support for oppressed Palestinians in Gaza.

A lesser explored aspect of the recent turmoil in Gaza is the political maneuvering of Netanyahu with allegations that the Israeli government knew about the whereabouts of the kidnapped illegal Israeli settlers in occupied Palestinian territory but decided to use it for political mileage. The incident was used to incite hatred, culminating in the abduction and brutal burning to death of an innocent Palestinian teen legally living in Jerusalem, by Zionist right-wingers. This observation is supported by the gag-order regarding the incident barring even the Israelis from having access to information about it. Furthermore, there were reports of raids on the Palestinian suspects’ homes two weeks before the occupying Israeli Government announced the names. All these indicate manipulation. Truly right-wing extremist Israelis led by Netanyahu gained the most at the expense of everyone else.

This is not the first atrocity against the Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, nor can it be expected to be the last. What we should strive for is to create awareness and help the helpless, enslaved population of Gaza.

The big question is will moderate Jews recall the favours granted to them by Muslims, which ensued their golden era, and rise up with them to confront the Zionist monster which has unleashed its own version of Holocaust, only upon Muslims this time.