Panamagate Circus – Take aways

It has been more than a year that Panama leaks surfaced. Since then, the Circus has been going on first on media, among political opponents and then for the last six month or so in Supreme Court of Pakistan. Who knows how long will it take to resolve and what would be the outcome? As we speak, irrespective of the final verdict by Supreme Court of Pakistan, there are several takeaways from this episode:

  1. A minuscule group, consisting of politicians, intellectuals and media, day in and day out, talk about nothing but corruption in the system. They, naively believe, that corruption, that you can never completely eliminate, is cause root of all our problems.They harp this tune this while sitting in the comfort of their homes, leading a lavish and comfortable life. They refuse to acknowledge that Pakistan is progressing. This Group has little or no sympathy to the people in the lower cadre of the society, except for drawing room discussions and providing some financial assistance to a very select group. Unfortunately, this group has not demonstrated the capacity to look at the big picture and always try and find shortcomings in everything positive that is happening in the country. Some go on tangents and others provide weak arguments to justify their view point. They simply refuse to accept that Pakistan is moving forward. Their motives are questionable.
  2. On the other hand the workers and the less fortunate show  a better perspective of whats happening in the country. They see that development is taking place and pin their dreams and hope in continuation of the present regime for a better future. They take a holistic and more realistic view than our so called minuscule middle, upper middle and the elite class. The have a very straight forward and credible thought process, that is, who is likely to provide better livelihood for them and their future generations. While our politician and intellectuals harp about education, these people want employment. If they see something tangible done, they appreciate it and pin their hopes around that. They are the real voice of masses who have pin their hopes on the present government for better future for themselves and the next generations. And that where vote shall go
  3. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has shown immaturity and seems to be on a predetermined track to disqualify PM, come what may. In the process, it has lost its mandate and legitimacy. There is also some indications of the age old Judiciary-Army nexus to dislodge an elected PM hasn’t died. Never in the 70 years history of Pakistan, an elected Prime Minister is allowed to complete his term. This is no coincidence and one is forced to assume that the history is repeating itself again. The posturing of the army and the judiciary over the last 4 years suggest that they don’t want to see Nawaz Sharif in Power any more. The two Supreme Court Justices have illegally disqualified PM without a trial. The other judges commissioned a joint investigation team (JIT) to conduct an inquiry, the report produced by JIT is nothing more than the piece of paper it is written on. The judiciary did not follow the law that is the burden of proof lies on the plaintiff. Unfortunately, in this case, the Judiciary has become the plaintiff itself by appointing a JIT under the umbrella of judges who are hearing the case. The Supreme Court has become a trial court, that has nullified its justification for existence, which is to be an appeal court with a responsibility to review judgement from lower courts. Furthermore, by becoming a trial court, it usurped the basic right of every individual to a fair hearing of his appeal by not offering him a different court and a forum. Review petition in front of new judges or a larger bench, unfortunately does not meet the criterion for justice.
  4. The army remains ever hungry for publicity, flexing its muscles and appear to subvert democracy and meddling in politics. As a result, it has to publicly re-assert its position as a neutral player in this and other similar episodes. However, its demeanor does not support that posture. Not too distant in the past the COAS met Imran Khan from among all political parties.The COAS has to be meet almost any foreign dignitary who comes into the country. It has never let go of the fact that there is a civilian government running the country and never attributes anything positive to govt, other than itself (Raad ul Fsaad etc.) A large section of the people feel that the army has not fulfilled its job of routing out terrorism from the country, Their intelligence and execution is weak, resulting into continuing deaths of thousands of brave soldiers and innocent civilians. The COAS and the army wants a pat on the back for doing the job they are supposed to do. This is neither fair nor acceptable. Behind the scenes they refer to civilians as “bloody civilians”. On media, they portray themselves to be their saviors. It is too obvious. The COAS, repeatedly claims the army to be a champion of CPEC, while its sole responsibility is to provide security to Chinese and other companies working in remote areas. The army is subservient to the govt and must act on its orders, yet it refuses to acknowledge this fact and portrays as it is the driver of the good work in the country.  It has protected Musharraf and its COAS have minted wealth. The army Generals do not like to salute the civilian Head of State, and do that unwillingly and with the grudge.
  5. Politicians, instead of fighting their battles in the elections like they are supposed to do, are using  other means. the party in the forefront is Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI). It is a bunch of discarded politicians and is likely to lose in the next elections because they have nothing to show, hence it is resorting to these tactics.
  6. The media is playing a destructive roles. They have the same old faces and so called experts, who have nothing but to criticize and pass judgments. They have nothing positive to say and are not worth listening to. They have become the judge and the jurors. In their round the clock transmissions you hardly see or hear anything positive. The anchors are jack of all trades master of none, including their own profession. Their news begins with a bad news and their experts give points as if they are preaching to kindergarten children. Really disgusting. They are among the top of various mafias operating in the country.

So, In a nutshell, one can clearly see that the so called educated group, media, politicians, army and Judiciary does not want to see a powerful Prime Minister, who is always a strength for any country. They fear that they would lose grip on the country if the Prime Minister becomes too powerful. They want to be ahead in the dirty power play game they are playing. They don`t care if the country suffers in the process. They just do not want to let go of illegally usurped power which is out their own mandated spheres. It also appears that some section of educated class, media and so called experts in the media, politicians are also not happy the progress Pakistan is making. They leave no effort to negate it through frivolous arguments. These people do not want to listen to the voice of people or want them to respect their mandate. This is in justice of the highest lot. In the end, but not least, they want to kill peoples hopes and dreams by removing the present government, simplify because the present govt has its own way of operating and want every institution to work within their sphere of responsibility.

INDIA’S FUTURE HINGES ON RESOLUTION OF KASHMIR ISSUE

They say that foresightedness is one of the greatest virtues people, leaders and communities can have. And by the same token, shortsightedness is the greatest misfortune people or societies can have. Of course, no one has the crystal ball that can accurately foretell what’s stored for you, but an educated assessment of the future is always beneficial.

India aspires to play a greater role for itself in the world affairs. It is demanding an entry into the UN as a permanent member, it also wants to become a member of the nuclear club. It is trying hard to portray itself as a country that hold great prospects for investors and a country with a secular mindset and a tolerant Hindu society. With these messages, India is trying to woo support from the rest of the world for a greater role in the world. Aiming for this objective is fine, but then it needs certain pre-requisites to facilitate the progress towards this goal. The first among those is to ensure that India remains a secular and a progressive Hindu State.

If we look at a couple of thousand yeas of history prior to 1947, the united India has been ruled by minorities. It is only 69 years ago that Hindus got to rule some part of subcontinent, called India. Unfortunately, India risks losing it, and only, due to its short sighted policies and nothing else.

For some reason, Indians believe that offering economic opportunities will enable them to hoodwink the world into believing that India is a peace loving and a just society. This may be true in the short run, but cannot take India far. There are several reasons for that. Among those that, in my opinion, those that strike out are as follows:

  1. India runs the risk of a nuclear war with Pakistan. Its rhetoric and covert activities of RAW inside Pakistan are not in the interest of India. India cannot get away with breaking Pakistan. It will have to face a destructive nuclear war, before that happens
  2. If for argument sake, it does succeed in breaking up Pakistan, it will have unstable nuclear powered neighbors – not a good situation to be  in the longer run
  3. Out of about 1.2 billion population, about 350 million are Muslims. The growth rate among the Muslims is around 3%. By the turn of this century, the number of Muslims living in India would close to a billion people alone. So, we are really talking about another nuclear power Muslim country.
  4. There are about a dozen insurgencies brewing in India. Among them is Kashmir. It’s a question of time that India will have to relinquish Kashmir and let go of other insurgent ethnic groups.

With this backdrop, India needs to introspect and re direct its strategic thinking. It must be viewed as a country that must adhere to the international norms and respect international law, else it will disintegrate and lose international support sooner than later. So what options India has to preserve the Hindu State?

1. Hold referendum in occupied Kashmir to come clean on its long standing commitment to hold plebiscite that it agreed to hold.

2. Over time, integrate Muslims into the mainstream to prevent a violent reaction from Muslims.

3. Make peace with Pakistan to defuse the potential of an undesirable and destructive nuclear war.

India has some choices to make. I hope for Hindu Indians, that Indian leadership makes the right choices.

United States – The Conspirator

I have been hearing conspiracy theories in Pakistan about the United States (US) being the conspirator in the recent events. I must say that the Pakistanis tend to believe in the conspiracy theories more than any other nation in the world. It is beyond me to comprehend why this is the case why we have lost an ability to take things at face value? In the process, we have made our friends our enemies. In particular, there is a great degree of mistrust against the US. Even if the US says we would like to see a stable Pakistan, we take it as if the US wants to destroy Pakistan. I don’t really understand why?

These days the most talked about conspiracy theory is that the US is unhappy over Pakistan’s close relationship with China and their investment in Pakistan, therefore, this attempt to topple the government and create upheaval. Let’s step back and take a dispassionate view on this theory my take on this is as follows:

1)      The US wants to see a stable, strong and prosperous Pakistan. The reasons are:

    • Pakistan is an only country which can pose resistance to Indian onslaught towards the West. India has now started to flex its muscles and the US knows that India is quickly developing a capacity and has a desire to extend its expansion towards its West. At some stage, India could move to extend its reach from the Far East to the Mediterranean. This is not in the interest of the world and the balance in the Region.
    • Pakistan, in spite of its somewhat chequered relationship with the US, has been the most trusted ally. It is only Pakistan that can credibly fight against TTP and nobody else in the world can do that. The US and NATO failed to do so in the last 10 years during which time Indians was their main advisors.
    • Pakistan has a more capacity than India to fight terrorism in the Region. Indian advisory role to the US and NATO failed.
    • India has been playing a double game in Afghanistan with the US and that Pakistan has unfairly suffered the most in the war against Terror.
    • Weak Pakistan will lead to its breakup and could trigger an uncontrollable civil war in the Nuclear State – genuine concern for the World and Pakistan.

2)      The US wants the Chinese influence on Pakistan to increase. Against a general perception among the experts and the pundits that The US wants to see the Chinese investment and influence to reduce, I believe in the contrary. The US would like the Chines influence over Pakistan to remain and increase. The reasons are:

    • In the years to come, Pakistan’s ability to contain India must be maintained. This is only possible if Pakistan becomes economically and militarily strong, which it cannot become until it develops infrastructure quickly.
    • The US ability to provide billions of dollars through its own assistance program or through the donor agencies is limited; hence it has encouraged the Chinese to do that. The Chinese has less red tape.
    • In order for the Chinese to have a credible presence in the Gulf and the Road and Rail link from China to Gwadar is essential. The US wants that.
    • The development of this road and rail links corridor will also allow Pakistan to develop the North and South Waziristan, which would provide a major impetus to the people of the Region to get involved productively and reduce radicalism and drug menace etc.
    • Presently, the US is the only country that is doing the policing job in the World. It wants China to share some of the role, particularly in South Asia, Middle East and Africa. Leasing and development of Gawadar Port, the road and rail link from China to Gawadar are to assist Chines get the logistic support to achieve that.

As Pakistanis, we blame the US for all our shortcomings. There is no doubt it is the stated policy of the US that its interest comes first, but it is true for every other country. The only difference is that the US says that openly. There is no such thing as acting out of love for others in the World. We are naïve to think that China helps out of love of our country. The relationships are built on costs and benefits.  It is my earnest request and a hope that we stop mistrusting and badmouthing the US and take it on the face value when the US says that it wants a strong and prosperous Pakistan. My take is that the US is not our enemy. The US is one of our friends.

Was there Rigging in 2013 Elections?

I am surprised at the so called educated and intelligent class of Pakistan, which includes lawyers politicians, professionals students, anchors, experts at their rhetoric on the poll rigging. I am even more concerned at their callousness and deceitfulness in misleading people of Pakistan in an attempt to dislodge the legitimate government.

Rigging can only take place either with negligence or with connivance of the Parties Representatives (PRs) at the polling booth. Let’s re-enact the polling day at a Polling Booth.

  • It’s about 8 or so in the morning. The Polling Stations (PS) are open for the (PRs) and the Returning Officers (ROs) to settle in.
  • Each PR is handed over the voters list
  • The empty ballot boxes, which are also transparent, arrive. The empty boxes are shown to all PRs and sealed.
  • The ballot papers are then unsealed and show to each PR to ensure that their party’s candidate name is there.
  • The polling begins. Each voter proves his identity. All parties ensure his name is in the voters list. She/he votes and goes away with an ink mark on the thumb and a finger print on the ballot paper. The PRs object to any suspicious voter or those who cannot prove his or hers identity.
  • At the official closing time the polling booths are closed for new voters and those already in the PS are allowed to vote.
  • The counting begins immediately after the closing of the polling time.
  • The votes are counted in front of party’s representative. Final tally is done for each contestant.
  • The results are signed by all PAs.
  • The returning officer takes the tally for final compilation at Election omission of Pakistan’s (ECP’s) designated office(s)
  • The PRs do their own tally at their parties offices based on the results at each polling station.

The above substantially describes the polling process. It can be clearly seen that unless the all PRs collude with each other or are negligent, the rigging cannot take place in the polling booths. I believe, it is unlikely that poling agents of all contestants wre either negligent, or colluded to enable one candidate to win in election 2013

Now let’s step back and try and reason out Imran Khan’s main allegations:

  • Ex-Chief Justice manufactured elections and instructed RO’s to change the results. There is no case, which point towards RO’s changing the results. How can they? For argument sake let’s accept the insinuation. This can be easily challenged and proven in the tribunal by presenting the tallying sheets signed by all party’s PRs at the Polling Booth. It is no rocket science. Why is this not done as the allegations continue? As per the cases handled by Election Tribunal, where there was a doubt, a recounting was done and a decision was given on the basis of facts.
  • Ballot papers were printed in Urdu bazaar. Fine let’s accept they were, so what? Were these used to cast fake votes? All votes casted in the polling booths.
  • Ballot boxes were replaced with new one with fake votes. Possible. This was done where and when and by whom? Is it the army who transported them or by ECP. The results tallies of the PA’s matched the ECP’s count, hence nullify this insinuation.
  • Statement by Afzal Khan as the conclusive proof of rigging. Really does not hold any water. He timing, his demeanor etc., creates doubt on his credibility.

Though may be simplistic, the whole objective of this piece is to give us all a perspective of the election process, which most of the critiques don’t know,  and  arrive at an educated decision whether the rigging allegations are true or not. Allah has given us ability to assess and then make a judgement. Please step back and reflect. You may still reach the same conclusion, but then you would have thought it through.

My personal assessment is that the rigging was not done as claimed by PTI. FAFEN, UNDP and other Neutral Agencies have endorsed this view. Even the internal report of PTI says that PTI lost due to nominating wrong candidates & their own negligence.

Pakistan in Grip of Mafias

Pakistan is probably the only country in the World that has been in the center of wars for about 35 years. In the last 15 years it has faced a civil war like situation, including a battle ground for proxy wars between Gulf countries and Iran. During this period spurious organizations and jihadists mushroomed in Pakistan fully armed, brain washed and given license to kill and cause destruction. Two military take overs left a political vacuum in the country leading to these outfits gaining ground to fill the vacuum.

As we speak, the democracy has returned in the country. The media is free and so are the mafias who are active in their own sphere of operation. They have become increasingly active to serve their self-interest and not the interest of the country. The following is the list of mafias operating in Pakistan in order of their impact on the society.

  • Media: Pakistani media is in the forefront of all the mafias. Its reach is worldwide and its impact is lethal. Unfortunately, it is in grip of owners and anchors who have no sense of what is good for the country and what is good public information?
    1. The Anchors blackmail people in the civil society and extort money from them. They have become self-proclaimed experts on all issues. They play a musical chair game of same faces that come on media to give their opinion. You hardly see experts/ scholars being asked to come and give opinions.
    2. The people who have destructive agenda for Pakistan such as Tahir ul Qadri Imran Khan & likes are given inordinate amount of air time, knowingly that they want to create anarchy.
    3. The motivation to spread sensationalism is so intense that the news, which should not be there, are now the breaking news.
    4. The journalists and so called experts like Hasan Nisar, Haroon Rashid & likes spread too much pessimism in the society. They do not have an ability to look at things positively.
  • Religious: Most madrasahs and religious organizations have developed into dangerously armed cults. They have been allowed to mushroom in all parts of the country, the cult followers are brainwashed and given a license to kill. They kill with impunity and extort money in the name of religion.
  • Political: The political leadership has no sense of allegiance to the country. They have allegiance to their own self-interest. They do not want to give the country the time or an opportunity to develop. Leading among them is PTI and MQM. Imran Khan wants premiership at all cost. Altaf Hussain wants allegiance to him only. PMLQ, as always intriguing to bring others down etc. They do not want stability in the country
  • Institutional: The law enforcing agencies are infested with people who have formed their own gangs and links with extortionists and criminals that give the criminal the umbrella to operate freely
  • Bhatta Khors have infested into political parties and all segment of society and demand ransom money, do bank robberies, steal and kill with impunity. When arrested, the political interference comes to their help.

Having said all that, the silver lining is that all mafias have terminal life. They end is swift and complete so they are not able to surface again. The people get so fed up that they come out and bring them to justice. This will happen in the next 2 to 3 years. The people of Pakistan should rise against all mafias and do their best to stop them from harming Pakistan.

Meeting with Shehbaz Sharif in January 2014

Had an opportunity to meet Shehbaz Sharif in January 2014, and had a conversation with him on the political undercurrents and warned him of dangers facing the PMLN’s government. Below is the breakdown with the conversation with him.

PAKISTAN’S PRESENT POLITICAL SCENE AND CHALLENGES FOR PML-N’S GOVERNMENT

I wish well to PML-N and want the party to complete its full five years term in order to succeed in implementing its plan. If PML-N succeeds in its effort, Pakistan succeeds.

Having said that, there is a real threat that it may not be allowed to complete its full term and is forced out in the next two years. The reasons are several, but the foremost would be to deny PML-N the time and opportunity to perform and increase it popularity and win the next elections. My view is that who ever wins the next election will have a relatively easier and prosperous phase of economy to manage, hence a longer run in the government.

Mid-term elections, therefore, should not be ruled out and PML-N must operate with this perspective (worst case scenario), while doing its best to prevent it from happening. PML-N should adopt a forward-looking strategy and improve its image in the masses and thwart any move to de-rail the government. Unfortunately, at this moment, the public perception is not favorable and Mr. Flip Flop Khan (PTI) is gaining momentum in Punjab with PPP doing the same in Sindh. It must be checked now or else it might be too late. There are several reasons for PML-N losing the momentum:

  • Same Old Faces: The common perception is that same old faces have surfaced and nothing better can be expected from. In particular, Mr. Ishaq Dar, Khawaja Asif and Sartaj Aziz are considered the weakest among the lot.
  • Incompetent Finance Minister: People are not happy that an all-important MOF is handed over to an Accountant rather than an accomplished Economist. Mr. Ishaq Dar’s economic management begins and ends with dollar/ rupee parity rate, which is inconsequential in the overall economic paradigm in Pakistan. He is obsessed with foreign exchange rate and sees this as make or break for the economy. With Trade deficit, Pak Rupee will continue to slide and hence not much can be done about it until Pakistan reaches a Trade surplus situation, which is not expected in the near future.
  • The family members/ relatives are being entrusted responsible positions that they cannot handle. Generally, it is said that Hamza in now de-facto the Chief Minister – a position he is not capable of managing. It is also said that nothing goes thru to CM without his approval. Maryam is entrusted with the youth development scheme. Ishaq Dar and Sartaj Aziz are family relatives.
  • Prime Minister is for Punjab only.
  • No Foreign Minister: This is an important slot, which is unfilled and leading to weak foreign policy initiatives and overall lack of positive projection of Pakistan’s image in the foreign countries.

PTI in Punjab and PPP in Sind respectively are benefitting from PML-N’s loss of momentum and appear to be gaining strength. PML-N must get this momentum back and should endeavor to change its perception by taking steps that would allow them to align themselves to public’s expectations, which is to bring a change. Presently, people do not see PML-N as a dynamic and progressive party that is endeavoring to lead a positive change and development in Pakistan. A new look PMl-N is need of the hour to change people’s perception. If this is not done, all the good work will go in the background and will not strengthen PML-N’s position. Below are some are some specific suggestions in this regard:

  1. Bring new faces in the forefront, particularly the people in key positions such as Finance and Foreign Ministers
  2. The Prime Minister should reach out to other CMs. Spend more time in other provinces and with other CMs
  3. Improve PMl-N’s projection in the media. Appoint some body who is more aggressive and is able to more eloquently deal with people like Shirin Mazari, Asma Jehangir Aitazaz Hasan and likes. He should be fluent in English and positively engage in discussions. I must say that PML-N is the weakest among political parties in defending its policies and projecting a positive image.
  4. Undertake shorter gestation projects to show results.
  5. As PTI has done establish one medium of instruction for school. General public received this action of PTI as a positive step in bringing equality in education system.
  6. Allocate larger budget for education, improve the quality of infrastructure, teachers training program and over all education standard and literacy rate.
  7. Take lead in holding local bodies elections. This will certainly get you ahead of other political parties and help improve PML-N’s image as a progressive party.
  8. Immediately improve working of SMEDA to help the SME business, which is strapped for cash due to heavy government borrowings from commercial banks. This will have a far-reaching effect on the middle market and compliment the youth development program.
  9. Install a new Finance Minister. This is hurting PML-N the most. Not only Ishaq Dar is perceived as incompetent, but also one who put Pakistan under the slavery of IMF, hence price hikes and increased tax burden. We need to better explain to masses the reasons for accepting the IMF dictum. We all know that in countries like Pakistan, where there is a dearth of capital and large investment is needed for infrastructure development and building institutions, the tax collections can never be sufficient to meet the financing needs. Tax and price increases, therefore, need to be managed in a way that they hurt masses the least
  10. Inform people of what is coming. With the large amount of investment in infrastructure and other development project, the economy is likely to go through a hyperinflation phase, such as witnessed by Turkey in 90s, Argentina and Brazil in the 80s. Inform and prepare masses to embrace this change. Indexing the economy may be the answer. It would be very appropriate to get advice from these countries on managing the economy through such phase.
  11. Set up “Virtual Courts”. In ability to try and punish criminals is causing a lot of damage to the law and order in the country and socio economic activity. One of the reasons is inadequate judge and witness protection. We should consider doing trial of criminal cases through electronic means. One such format would be to install a courtroom in the Jail, where the defense and prosecution present their case in front of a camera. The judge, who may be in some other location, is not visible to either the defense or prosecution. A criminal would go through the whole process, including appeals sitting in Jail. Columbia applied this method to get rid of the powerful and dangerous drug Mafia. It may be useful to tap on their experience. For civil cases set up jury from among the citizens.
  12. Create a local vigil to track criminals. Establish “Mohallah Committees” to keep a vigil on the criminal elements in their localities. Neighborhood watch and periodic meeting of Mohallah Committee becomes a considerable deterrent to criminals.
  13. Regulate Madaris. This has become a business and the Madaris are being used to brain wash people. This is a dangerous trend that must be controlled for future of Pakistan. The best solution would be to pass an act in the parliament to bring all Madaris under Govt. control. Any Madarasa found violating the rule would be closed and the management will be criminally prosecuted.

The above are some of the suggestions, which I believe would help PML-N in its governance and improving its image in the short and long run. I earnestly suggest that PML-N do a complete self-assessment and adapt to new ground realities. People want a new look and not old guards in the Government. It is our collectively responsibility towards Pakistan to provide the best talent to manage Pakistan and steer the country on road to socio economic prosperity. By the grace of Allah, Mian Nawaz and Shabaz Sharif have the will, desire and the capability to provide leadership and take the country out of the difficulties, but the people have begun to believe otherwise.