Qadri Saga: Who Won?

This article has been published in the Sunday edition (DNA) of Pakistan Today, dated 29th June 2014

(For online version: http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/06/28/comment/qadri-saga-who-won/ )

(For published version: Page 8 at http://issuu.com/abidoon/docs/dna_issue_30.compressed?e=3820687/8427707 )

 

Qadri Saga: Who Won?

More than meets the eye

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

The author is a leading economist, a qualified chartered accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who is helping reshape businesses at Millennium Law Company. He can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

Pakistan is often said to be the most ‘happening’ country on the planet. The last couple of weeks have been remarkable even by Pakistan’s standards. There was a daring attack exploiting security failures at the Karachi Airport followed-up by valiant sacrifices to eliminate the attackers leading to a much awaited operation in North Waziristan, which seemed ill-planned for tackling the fall-out particularly the IDP’s. As if that was not enough, there was a brutal police assault on civilians at Minhaj-Ul-Quran headquarters in Lahore followed by Dr Tahir-Ul-Qadri’s return to Pakistan. The focus of this article is on the behind-the-scene story of the Minhaj assault and who gained the most from the fall-out.

Having announced the operation in North Waziristan a day after American Congress tied Pakistan’s aid to the same, the incumbent government was sitting pretty politically. The country was at war after-all and public sentiment was high following the Karachi airport assault. No political party could afford to agitate anymore and with Ramzan looming ahead it seemed at least a couple of months of total political stability were at hand. The impact of this “maneuver” was clear. PML-N government was able to satisfy both the army and America by supporting the North-Waziristan operation, while at the same time realizing that being bogged down there would mean the army would be less able to intervene. Similarly, public sentiment ensured that all parties had to rally behind the national armed forces that were in a war now. To agitate now or question would be perceived as an anti-state act.

Having announced the operation in North Waziristan a day after American Congress tied Pakistan’s aid to the same, the incumbent government was sitting pretty politically. The country was at war after-all and public sentiment was high following the Karachi airport assault.

The people’s opposition leader Imran Khan had to call off the 22nd June public gathering, while the lone ranger Shiekh Rasheed cancelled his train march. The pressure on Qadri to postpone his “revolution movement” and impending return on 22nd June was getting tougher by the day. PPP was already seen to be following the alleged agreement of taking full turns with PML-N in the name of saving the system. It seemed the incumbent government did not have a single serious political worry in the world and could concentrate fully on its business.

But it was not to be. PM Nawaz Sharif went on a short foreign tour. Meanwhile an operation, which with the benefit of hindsight can be termed as not only ill-planned and ill-timed but simply madness, was ordered to “remove illegal barricades outside Minhaj-Ul-Quran’s headquarter and Qadri’s residence”. The timing to remove the barricades, which had been there for five years per some accounts, raised questions. But what stunned the nation was the ferociousness of the assault, which ended up taking 11 lives to date with around a hundred injured. The now infamous icon “Gullu car smasher Butt” was also a by-product of the same operation.

CM Punjab, Shabaz Sharif, whose media team has crafted an image of a successful, hands-on and in-control chief minister, immediately announced about his ignorance of the operation. He went to the extent to claim that despite his orders twice, the police did not disengage. The question on everyone’s mind was and still is that how can such an operation be executed in Lahore and that too in the CM’s neighbourhood without his knowledge?

Not many people know that Shahbaz Sharif is not the person he used to be. Serious illnesses and a heart condition means he has to rely on a trusted troika comprising his son Hamza Shahbaz, Rana SanaUllah and Dr Tauqeer Shah (his ex-PS) to run Punjab. While it seems far-fetched that the police would dare to disobey his clear orders to disengage, it is possible that the orders may not have been communicated timely.

Not many people know that Shahbaz Sharif is not the person he used to be. Serious illnesses and a heart condition means he has to rely on a trusted troika comprising his son Hamza Shahbaz, Rana SanaUllah and Dr Tauqeer Shah (his ex-PS) to run Punjab.

The popular theory doing rounds is that Sharif was totally aware and in command of the whole operation undertaken to teach Qadri a “lesson” to avert his return to Pakistan. Moreover, it is believed that the “sacrifice” of Rana SanaUllah and Dr Tauqeer is a temporary measure to cool public sentiment while taking the heat off the CM. The basis of this is the same image created by CM’s PR team which has benefitted him and PML-N a lot over the years. The image effectively communicates that not a leaf can move without his knowledge and consent in Punjab, that he is always in control and that he’s there 24/7.

There is an alternate but lesser known version. As per this version the troika or at least two of them planned and authorised the operation at Minhaj to scare off Qadri and his supporters. The CM was not totally aware of the exact plan as it was masked as a “routine” operation against “encroachments”. The plan was for a quick assault to thrash and did not expect the kind of resistance experienced. The media factor was also discounted.

This alternate version is based on the fact that ever since his heart-treatments Mr. Shahbaz Sharif has relegated most of his duties to his trusted troika. Also he’s no more the 24/7 and always in control CM he used to be. Mr. SanaUllah and Mr. Tauqeer had before too strived for his pleasure and brownie points by taking initiatives on their own due to the trust earned over the years. This is also supported by the confidential reports that during the meeting of the PM with CM and IG Punjab the latter presented evidence including call logs implicating Dr. Tauqeer while Rana SanaUllah has been the public face of the operation.

What exactly happened that fateful day may never be known. But whatever the exact truth, two things are pretty clear. The first is that the PML-N government once against shot itself in the foot and undid the perfect maneuver of its leader PM Mian Nawaz Sharif. The second is that the army seemed to be the one who gained the most out of this as not only is the political government is on the defensive now but the public and media attention was taken off the unfortunate misery borne by hundreds of thousands of IDP’s who migrated from North Waziristan.

As the FIA directed to investigate money-laundering allegations against Qadri, the drop-scene of his much-hyped arrival makes it clear that he is on the losing side too, apparently having served his purpose for now. The important question to ponder for all is whether there could be more to this incident than meets the eye, perhaps pointing in the direction of the ongoing civil-military power tussle?

Manufactured Consent

This article has been published in the Sunday edition of Pakistan Today, dated 30th March 2014

( http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/03/29/comment/manufactured-consent/ )

(For published version: Page 7 at http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/03/30/dna/dna-issue-17/ )

Manufactured Consent

The media is the modern weapon of choice

By:

The author is a leading economist, a qualified chartered accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who is helping reshape businesses at Millennium Law Company. He can be reached on Twitter and http://www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

Malcolm X once said that if you are not careful, the news (media) may make you hate the oppressed while loving the oppressor. This has never been truer than the present times. The rising influence of media in shaping public opinion has granted it powers unlike anything before in human history. So much so that now media campaigns are launched for reasons ranging from protecting corporate interests to larger world order dominance battles, without an average user suspecting.

If one thinks about it, it actually makes perfect sense that media entities, which run as corporate profit-driven institutions, tend to subscribe to and further the agendas and vested interests of their sponsors. Opinions are manufactured to serve these interest groups using consistent media attention on a particular line. This reality was explored by Noam Chomsky in his work with Edward Herman in “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media”.

When analyzing the situation in Pakistan, we can see the relevance and actual implementation of the mass media campaign to mould popular opinion in the country. But what is the need? Who would want that? All valid questions. So let us examine, shall we?

Pakistan has been blessed with a key strategic geographical position. With a weak leadership, the same blessing however has turned into a curse with different regional and global powers unfolding their desired world-order games in the country. The USA’s interests are related to the great-game currently in a complicated phase in Afghanistan. India, of course, is interested because of the inherent dogma of animosity against Pakistan. And the age-old Persian-Arab rivalry is also being played out at the expense of Pakistan, not just in Afghanistan, but very much within Pakistan. Add to that the clash of regional economic interests with Pakistan’s and you have a quagmire at your hands.

The question arises as to how to tame a vital country such as Pakistan without been seen as doing so? There needed to be an answer and it was found with the advent of private electronic media in Pakistan.

However, a nuclear power possessing a highly disciplined and sixth largest army in the world is not an easy cookie to swallow, even if one holds some sway on it. This has been proven by several steps taken over the last few decades. The prime examples of “alleged” nuclear sharing with friendly countries (which was not illegal by a non-signee of NPT), backing of “strategic assets” in Afghanistan (largely due to the dubious American track record of dumping Pakistan) and the blocking of NATO supply for months, had driven the above point to global policy makers planning their moves on the global stage to protect their national interests.

The question arises as to how to tame a vital country such as Pakistan without been seen as doing so? There needed to be an answer and it was found with the advent of private electronic media in Pakistan. The leading strategists in the global powers burning their brain cells at leading think tanks, both private and state-funded, saw an opening to be seized upon.

Media corporations are corporate entities driven by profits. The USA began the trend by pouring billions of rupees into the Pakistani media. This way the following of a certain perspective was nurtured right from the beginning.

This is not to totally dismiss the positive aspects of the electronic media revolution in Pakistan. Without doubt, the media has greatly enhanced the access of an ordinary citizen to information. Also, there are positive exceptions too. But even if one ignores the quality of information provided, the access to information alone is not enough without detailed knowledge and framework of understanding necessary for forming independent opinions, which is hard to expect from an average citizen in a country with a miserable literacy record. This can be proven with several examples where the national mood was made to swing in one direction only to be swung back to the opposite extreme later on, when it suited the “sponsors”.

In April 1971, the ‘success’ of an operation against Indian-sponsored Mukhti-Bahini in the then East-Pakistan was announced only to be followed by the worst nightmare just eight months later, culminating in Bangladesh. Today most of the intelligentsia curse the forces for alleged atrocities back then, while neutral writers even from India expose these myths as hugely fabricated. Similarly about Balochistan operations, the national opinion is made to swing like a pendulum from absolute support under Bhutto to major backing under Musharaf to major detestation at present.

In April 1971, the ‘success’ of an operation against Indian-sponsored Mukhti-Bahini in the then East-Pakistan was announced only to be followed by the worst nightmare just eight months later, culminating in Bangladesh.

If we recall the recent past, the episode of Lal-Masjid saga is all too fresh. The electronic media created a war-hysteria, pressurising a government facing its biggest challenge from lawyers movement and itself ready to oblige. Once the operation ensued the same media pointed out the massive human-rights abuses, turning the national support into nation-wide shock and anger. Problems, unfortunately, compounded in all these instances.

These days we’re facing yet another challenge in deciding the solution to TTP’s terror. It’s a complicated subject with more than fifty groups operating loosely under the TTP umbrella, warranting a detailed write-up. However, history has taught us that internal disorder can turn into chaos and possibly civil war with use of armed forces without proper strategies, especially to ensure avoidance of civilian miseries.

In the light of the above, one would have expected the media to be objective and to guide the nation towards logic rather than cashing in on popular sentiments. Opinion makers are expected to be neutral, and receptive to perspectives challenging mainstream sentiments of revenge against the inhumane terror unleashed by TTP factions. Instead, what we witness is a total dismissal of anything challenging the popular narrative of absolute use of force as sympathy for terrorism. So much so that the sane voices drawing on the East-Pakistan experience and asking for protection of civilians while proposing a strategy of disengaging from a foreign war to take away the narrative of “Jihad”, isolating the non-reformable TTP elements by getting as many to lay arms as possible, and then using targeted force to eliminate the non-reformable, are dismissed with bias by key opinion makers.

Sadly it has reached a stage where Imran Khan, who is leading this balanced alternate narrative at a heavy political cost and is the head of the second largest political party in terms of votes, is called “a man who sold Pakistan” and “Taliban apologist” for trying to put forward an alternate strategy, which his party believes to be best for Pakistan. Sadly this has bought us to a point where what seems to be another “manufactured consent” is now popularised. Let’s hope against hope that the cost is not as dear as it has been in the past.

Rejoinder to “Futility and bombast” in ET

Rejoinder to “Futility and bombast” in ET

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

(Below is my response within 400 words, to the Express Tribune (ET) editorial titled Futility and bombast dated 7th December 2013.

It was published in Express Tribune on 11th December 2013

http://tribune.com.pk/story/644080/in-defence-of-the-ptis-stance-on-nato-supplies/#comment-1885823 )

Surprisingly it seems from the editorial that we as a nation have reached a state of mind where not raising a voice for our rights seems logical to us. With American drones hitting settled areas of Pakistan after killing the peace process by hitting Hakimullah at the wrong time despite letting him go at-least two/three times before this could well have been the beginning of the end with American strikes in Islamabad, Karachi, Quetta, e.t.c. at will.

If anything PTI’s protest has managed to stop just that. Also this sent out a strong message and strengthened Pakistan’s position resulting in Chuck Hagel, the American Defense Secretary visiting Pakistan for the first time in 4 years. This also raises the question that if the alternate routes are so viable and the rhetoric of “I couldn’t care less” propagated by American administration is not a bluff than why Mr. Hagel needed to meet PM Pakistan to request the lifting of the blockade?

Internationally most NATO countries support the stance that these drone strikes are illegal and that US should sell Pakistan the technology to takeout any unwanted elements.  It is now up-to the federal government whose responsibility it is in the first place to defend Pakistan’s sovereignty, how they utilize this position of strength for Pakistan.

As to the “goods” transported via Pakistan one can see armored carriers to totally covered “equipment” in the pictures published in most national newspapers. If one believes the propaganda that they are “least” important then PTI’s success in putting immense pressure on the US administration using this “least valuable” asset of a route is tremendous to say the least.

One needs to remember that the American establishment realizes the potential and strength of Pakistan but plays with our psychological fears to achieve its strategic ends. We should realize our potential and get out of the quagmire of fear Musharraf left us in. Only this way can we begin to build and strengthen our nation.

Lastly the continuous focus on the supposed “massive” loss to economy is neither material not these peanuts are going to last forever. The focus should be on building a lasting economy and not feasting on temporary blood money at the cost of massive destruction and losses of over $ 100 billion.

Rejoinder to perplexing “Whither PTI?”

Rejoinder to perplexing “Whither PTI?” (28 Nov13)

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

(Below was written with 400 words limit in response to an article titled “Whither PTI?” published in The News dated 28th Nov 13)

Comparing a political party’s struggle for its people to a mafia amounts to tainting the glorious struggles for just causes across the globe transversely through time and nations. Does the writer believe all those heroes to be mafias too? Perspective and intentions are everything. Just like a soldier’s war for a just cause cannot be compared with mafia wars, similarly a political party protesting for its peoples’ lives cannot be either.

What is an honest leader and a political party supposed to do if their federal government does not fulfill its social contract to protect its citizens from foreign aggression? Stay silent on the massacres?

The drone attack inside KPK was on mainland Pakistan and if unchecked can lead to our major cities getting bombed at will. If anything, PTI should be praised and appreciated for not only are they allowing people to retain faith in the system but also strengthening the hands of the federal government on a national issue.

The transporters’ income mentioned repeatedly in the article is neither material macro-economically nor going to last forever. It is better to make permanent alternates now. In any case the losses of over $ 100 billion (much more than total foreign debt of Pakistan), along with 50,000 lives sacrificed makes this seems like a peanut anyway.

As for USAID projects, Mr. Imran Khan has repeatedly clarified that they’re from previous government’s tenure and that  PTI did not enter into any new ones. It is flawed logic to justify foreign aggression on this pretext. Humanitarian aid does not give a license to kill to the donors.

It is high time that we think out of the box with an open mind and break the shackles of fears Musharraf gifted us. Pakistan is not Libya, Iraq or Afghanistan. It’s a vital nuclear armed nation, which the US in financial crisis, in an increasingly multi-polar world is dependent on in more ways than one. Problem is that we, ourselves fail to realize and capitalize on this.

Remember if there’s a problem within your home you do not allow outsiders to punish your family members. Pakistan has repeatedly offered USA to transfer predator drone technology so that we can ourselves take care of the unwanted elements. If USA is sincere why it refuses to do so and instead act to destabilize Pakistan?

Pak Politics (II) – Imran Khan vs the rest

Published in Pakistan Today on 3rd December 2013

http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/12/02/comment/perspective-on-pakistani-politics-ii/ )

Short Link (for sharing on social media): http://wp.me/p1UdGw-1gOH

Link to part (I): https://omerzaheermeer.wordpress.com/2013/11/28/pak-politics-imran-khan-vs-machiavellians-i/

Perspective on Pakistani politics (II)

Imran Khan vs the rest

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

 

 Then again we know it is the same Imran Khan who began his journey to fame by challenging the commonly held notions through hard-work, faith and utmost dedication.

He was told he can never be a fast bowler due to physical issues yet the world witnessed the greatness he achieved. Pakistan were deemed not to have even an outside chance at the crown jewel of cricket mid-way into the 92 cricket world cup but he led the team like cornered tigers and succeeded in fetching victory from the jaws of defeat.

Another mile stone was achieved for Pakistan when Khan was once again told about another impossible. This time the leading medical experts opined that a cancer hospital with mostly free services was not even feasible in USA let alone Pakistan yet today we all know about the glorious standards and services emanating from Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (SKMCHRCwhich has won several excellence awards servicing about 75% of its patients for free.

Imran Khan then focused his attention on the much neglected area of education. He dreamed of creating a world standard institute ultimately transforming into a knowledge city where education and degrees of international standards would be conferred upon students. Further he as usual wanted the doors of this opportunity to be open for those less fortunate segments of our society who could not afford such a dream otherwise. That is why Namal College, the only college in Pakistan to offer a foreign degree, came into being. As Chancellor of Bradford University (UK), Khan set-up links between it and Namal College. As with SKMCHRC, deserving students are provided with free education. Namal is on its way to becoming the first education city of Pakistan in one of the least-developed part of the country.

After delivering in fields ranging from sports to health to education there was still a sense of un-fulfilment resulting from a caring heart disturbed at the massive miseries of a nation in the clutches of ruthless rulers feasting on its resources. It was then that Imran Khan realized that he cannot bring the kind of positive change in the lives of ordinary Pakistanis that he dreamed of. But politics was an ultimate challenge for an honest and non-corrupt person facing the traditional linchpins; the adherents of Machiavelli who would go to any extend to save their fiefdoms built on the carnage of human misery. But Khan has never backed off in the face of adversity. And so began the journey of Change via PTI.

The relentless efforts of a struggle spanning 17 years is a tale of utmost commitment, dedication and perseverance in the face of stiff resistance by forces opposed to change.

First time in the history of not only Pakistan but entire South-Asian region, proper and large-scale intra-party elections were held as per the true democratic norms. This was unprecedented and a slap on the faces of traditional parties who continue to act as family limited companies.

The way Imran Khan galvanized youth is unprecedented in Pakistan. It ensured that other parties realized the importance of youth and started projects to entice youth, the credit for which ultimately goes to Imran too. He made the youth realized their own importance and how they need to take matters in their own hands to change the destiny of Pakistan. That indifference was no longer a feasible option.

The infamous “tsunami” hit the overseas Pakistanis much before it arrived in Pakistan. Having firsthand experienced the facilities offered by welfare states, the rights given and the liberties offered, they were the first to affirm Imran’s message of Change for a better Pakistan. They worked day and night for the cause. First time a political party in Pakistan had a base of paid members. Donations of millions of dollars poured in from all over the world. This was all evident of the faith; the brightest and affluent of Pakistan’s children have in Imran Khan.

Some people criticize some mistakes made and Imran Khan has shown the courage to openly accept when there is one, another sign of great leadership. With survival of status-co at stake local, regional as well as international players have invested heavily in the media. If we follow the money trail it becomes obvious that the disproportionate and often distorted criticism of Imran Khan is at the behest of these vested interests.

Despite any drawbacks in PTI, for no human(s) in this age can be perfect, even the worst of his critics agree that he is still the best available option for Pakistan. He is the only one politician who gave Pakistan a lot and even sacrificed his own family life for that. Above all, Imran Khan gave hope and self-respect to a disillusioned nation and politically motivated those, specially the youth, who were indifferent to the process defining their nation’s future.

Imran Khan’s stance on drones and war on terror has remained unchanged. When USA hit the peace dialogues with another drone, despite been in KPK government, Khan stood up for his promises and stance. He refused to compromises whatever may be the cost. A historic public gathering marked the beginning of protests and sit-ins to block supply to NATO via KPK sending out a very strong message to USA to respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. However PMLN’s response was incongruous. Instead of standing by their stance during election campaign and last few years, albeit developed following the lead of Imran Khan, they took a U-turn and opposed his brave move. One can be forgiven for confusing PMLN with PPPP as it put forward the exact arguments PPPP used to and which PMLN had oppose vehemently before coming into power.

Let us rise above any prejudices and self-interests and ask ourselves whether any other politician except Imran Khan has given so much to Pakistan in terms of fame, recognition, social work, awareness, self-respect and hope?  Is there any other politician(s) who has done even a fraction of what Imran has done for this nation without been in power? Is there any other leader whose honesty, courage and positive intent are beyond doubt? Is there any current political leader who has even sacrificed his family life for Pakistan?

If your answer is, and any neutral answer will be, that there is no such politician except Imran Khan then it is high time that we unify to strengthen his hands and work together to make our Pakistan better under his leadership.

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

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

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

The untold story of another ‘Malala’

The following article is published in today’s Daily Times dated 15th Oct 2013:

http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2013\10\15\story_15-10-2013_pg3_3#

The untold story of another ‘Malala’

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

It is high time that we rise to defend the rights of helpless females across the globe without consideration of underlying geo-political interests, race, caste, colour or creed

She did not know that such a beautiful morning could be the beginning of something so ugly and horrendous. She went to her school as usual but was stopped by a group of armed men at a check post, belonging to the force that now ruled her town. While teasing and harassment on the way to and back from school was a routine, this time around she was frisked by men, something alien to her culture. The comments and way of frisking to the terrified young girl were anything but professional. Scared, she rushed towards her home hearing the lewd comments directed at her. She asked her younger siblings to not tell their parents, as she did not want her education to end.

Slowly, but surely the transgressions by the armed extremists started increasing. She felt helpless as she did not want to leave her studies and they would not let her continue in peace without harassment. The matter eventually came to the notice of her parents. Being the strong and determined teenager that she was, she assured them that she could handle the situation, but her parents were scared. They knew those psychopaths could do anything. Their State and governments were helpless and would not be able to protect them. They used to hear many disturbing stories of abductions and violations of young girls in their area by these people ‘governing’ them now. Seeing the love of their daughter for her education they let her continue though with strict instructions of extreme caution and avoidance.

She ignored the harassment and eve-teasing, determined to continue her studies, which she rightly believed was the most important right of every girl.

A few days later, one day after coming home from school she was looking after her beloved plants in the little garden in their house. There were strong bangs on the door. Her father answered the door. She looked up and saw those same men who used to man the check-post on her way to school. Scared, she ran inside her home to her mother. One of them saw her and ran after her while others started beating her father. They took him inside too. The armed men now ordered the entire family to line up for a ‘detailed’ body search.

It became a routine occurrence. The men would often break into the house demanding a detailed body search of the family. During one such instance one of them ran his index finger down her cheek. It terrified her and her family.

Her father immediately stopped her from going to school. She cried and pleaded to be allowed to continue her education. But her family was terrified. More so, because they had been warned by their neighbours about the armed men on the check post (just 200 metres from their home), watching the teen girl gardening and other chores. Her father had told them that it was no big deal as she was just a kid. He did not know how wrong he was.

Her mother went to young girl’s uncle to tell their relatives the worrying situation. She shared that several times she had caught the occupying men staring at her daughter, who would raise their thumbs up to her, pointing towards her teen daughter saying, “Very good, very good.” Disgusted and concerned they decided the teenager needed protection and planned for her to spend nights with her uncle’s family.

On that fateful day, the teenaged girl, sad for not been able to continue her studies like many of her friends due to the armed men now ruling her town, was asking her parents to let her go to school. Just then five armed men barged in their home. They were pointing their guns and screaming. One of them took her mother, six-year-old sister and father to one room while others took her to another. They started taking turns raping the 14-year-old girl who was crying for help and screaming, asking what her crime was. What did she do wrong? She only wanted to study. But the brutal, shameful laughter conveyed to her that she was not amongst humanity anymore.

As if the humiliation and brutality were not enough the armed man from the other room came out, proudly announcing killing her father, mother and young sister. Her world came down trembling. The barbaric animal disguised in human skin then proceeded to rape her while she continued her pleading. When done with the heinous crime he started beating the little girl as if she was a punching bag. Still, unsatisfied, he proceeded to shoot her in the head. To satisfy some evil urge he then set alight her body and went back to fry some wings to eat. After they left the fire started spreading. Seeing the smoke, the neighbours rushed and saw the carnage.

This young ‘Malala’ brutalised was Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. Her town is Al-Mahmudiyah, Iraq and the brutal animals forcing her and several other girls off education and then committing the monstrous acts were five of the six soldiers from a check-post near her home belonging to the 502nd infantry regiment of the US Army.

Following a successful initial cover-up, one of the men broke down during a psychological counseling session, which he claimed to have asked for to “bypass a command structure prone to cover-ups and get an audience with Army investigators.”

It is high time that we rise to defend the rights of helpless females across the globe without consideration of underlying geo-political interests, race, caste, colour or creed. The message would not go through until Malalas attacked by Taliban are given protection and even honoured but Malalas brutalised by the American soldiers are buried in the wilderness. We must remember that hypocrisy breeds contempt even for the noblest of causes.

The writer is an economist, a chartered accountant, financial analyst and anti-money laundering expert. He can be reached on twitter and www.myMFB.com IDs of Omer Zaheer Meer