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COMEY’S BOOK AND PAKISTAN’S LEADERS

James Brien Comey Jr served as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for four years till fired by President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017. Trump initially claimed this was because of Comey’s mishandling of the investigation into the private email of Hillary Clinton. The overriding perception prevailing is that the real reason was Special Counsel (and former FBI Chief) Robert Muller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.

Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies and Leadership” reached bestseller status even prior to its publication on April 17. In retaliation, the US President let loose scathing tweets about “lying James Comey” and “sanctimonious James Comey”. While repeatedly calling Comey  “a slimeball” hardly becomes the august office of the US President, on his part Comey’s calling Trump “morally unfit to be President” compromises not only the privileged access he had as FBI Chief to the President and his association with an ongoing FBI investigation but the sanctity of confidentiality and neutrality  inherent to his office. CNN’s senior media correspondent, commented that, “Trump’s anti-Comey tweets gave a huge boost to Comey’s book”. Sacked as FBI Chief Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the President had demanded his “loyalty”, pressed him to drop an enquiry into ex-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and repeatedly pressured him to publicly declare that he was not under investigation.

A career prosecutor, Comey helped dismantle the Gambino crime family before heading the FBI – his Book draws a direct analogy between the Mafia bosses and President Trump. Comey could well be writing about Pakistani politicians, particularly PML (N) and  PPP running the govt for the past decade.  In June last year  the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan had compared the PML(N)-led federal govt to the “Sicilian Mafia” after a party leader had openly hurled vile threats to the judges, their children and members of the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probing the Sharif family’s business dealings abroad. Consider the recent firing incidents in Lahore at the house of Justice Ijazul Ahsan, the Judge monitoring the PanamaGate trial?  Comey writes, “The silent circle of assent. The boss in complete control. The loyalty oaths. The us versus them worldview. In service to some code of loyalty that puts the organisation above morality and above the truth”.

Comey charges “this President is unethical, and untethered to the truth and institutional values. His leadership is transactional, ego-driven and about personal loyalty”. Eerie how these words and “Trump’s rule is a “forest fire” which is doing great damage to America”  also hold good in Pakistan. Threatening, intimidating and obstructing the rule of law while occupying the seat of power, Nawaz and his party stalwarts have excelled in telling lies and half-truths, not disclosing complete facts, submitting forged documents, engaging others to give false testimony and prompting people to falsify documents. Using extremely objectionable language against the superior judiciary and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on numerous occasions, their targeting of the Army has been by inference only and not directly, discretion being the better part of valour,.

Bizarre as it may be, Comey’s description,  “We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalised and unethical behaviour is ignored, excused or rewarded,” appears Pakistan-specific. Nawaz Sharif also believes Trump-like he has the mandate of everyone in Pakistan, surrounding himself by ‘Yes Men’ ever ready to endorse or support their chief’s every opinion or proposal without criticism. Many making up his inner circle act like darbaris (courtiers) carrying out their master’s bidding without question, excelling in filling his ears in instigating him past the political fail-safe line.

DNI Director James Clapper was present during Comey’s first meeting with the President soon after his election when Trump launched into a strategy session about how to “spin for the public what we’d just told them” about Russia’s election interference. Compare the Trump and Putin relationship with Nawaz and Modi, Maryam’s uncle Modi openly pursues a hard-line policy towards Pakistan, using both state and non-state actors to harm Pakistan. Keeping alive their “friendship” with Modi, Nawaz Sharif and his family have no qualms about keeping mum over the killings of innocent civilians and other atrocities committed in Indian-Held Kashmir (IHK).  While recently ordering dozens of Russian diplomats out of the US because of the Skripal poisoning and ordering an air offensive against Russian-supported Syria because of alleged chemical attacks against civilians, while Trump’s personal friendship with Putin reportedly persists, national interest prevails over personal and/or commercial interests.

Comey explores the toxic consequences of choosing loyalty to an individual over truth and the rule of law. With dishonesty, bullying, peer pressure and groupthink central “to the entire enterprise of organized crime,” he says these repellent traits were shared by Trump and company.  Loyalty to an individual being more important than the truth and the State is also pervasive in our political culture. Party faithful fall over each other in decrying the SC and NAB almost on a daily basis, flouting the rule of law, spouting venom against anyone and everyone deemed anti-Sharif, twisting facts and giving spin to facts in order to appear truthful. The lies and fabrication that Nawaz, his sons, daughter and cronies disseminate are endless, these can be heard almost every day on television talk shows, they seem to really believe whatever they say.

Five judges of the SC unanimously ruled on April 13 that former PM Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification in July 2017 under Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution was for life. With judgment of PanamaGate case to be announced and with many cases being opened by accountability courts against the former PM, Capt Safdar, Maryam, Hassan and Hussain Nawaz, the worst is yet to come Trump’s recent pardoning of Scooter Libby, former VP Cheney’s aide envisages a parallel to Mamnoom Hussain’s possibly granting a Presidential pardon to Nawaz and family once they are convicted. This is dangling a possible Presidential pardon for other aides because they could well otherwise serve time in prison.  With a Caretaker govt due soon, Mamnoon can  possibly run out of time?  Consider a telling quote from Comey’s book, “it is wrong to stay idly by, or worse stay silent when you know better, while a President brazenly seeks to undermine public confidence in law enforcement agencies that were established to keep our leaders in check.” Unquote. Can we keep the excesses of our leaders in check, let alone hold them accountable?

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HOLDING KARACHI’S CITIZENS HOSTAGE

With supply of gas from Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGC) to the metropolis’ power utility, K-Electric (KE) far below that is required to run the KE’s gas-fired power plants, consumers across Karachi city are suffering from additional load-shedding. The SSGC and KE stalemate has resulted in a power shortfall of around 500MW which started 10 days ago and continues without any sign of solution.

SSGC initially denied that there had been any reduction in the gas supply to KE. Reports were then circulated that facing a shortage of gas supply from different fields SSGC was unable to meet the demands of existing customers. In reality SSGC has a different problem with KE, claiming that KE was not making payments for the gas being supplied. On the other hand KE gave proof of making regular payments of its monthly gas bills, the capital amount being payable was not in dispute, the interest amounting of Rs 60bn was.  In a letter to the Commissioner Karachi, SSGC made a conditional offer to increase the gas supply if KE agreed (1) to settle its arr­ears (2) sign a Gas Supply Agreement (GSA) and (3) pay a security deposit. For its part KE claimed that the amount payable to SSGC was only Rs 13.7bn whereas the rest of the amount was disputed, Rs 60bn arrears as interest and late payment surcharge both sub-judice without KE’s having the requisite gas to run its gas-based power stations, the shortfall of about 500MW will continue.

Unfortunately for the citizens of Karachi, SSGC has chosen the hot weather crisis to push through its own selfish agenda with KE.  Possibly Shanghai Electric Power (SEP) proposed taking over KE was another consideration. No thought was given as to the ramifications of load shed for the city’s industrial capacity causing losses amounting to billions, obviously the resulting unemployment does not concern SSGC.  Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Bin Qasim Association of Trade and Industry (BQATI), etc have raised the alarm. Industry analysts suggest the revisiting of the “Gas Load Management Policy” by working out a solution to allocate gas supply from least priority sectors such as CNG sector to Power sector which comes second on the priority list.

Committed to resolve this ongoing row so that the people of the city do not continue suffering because of the sweltering weather, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah summoned officials from both KE and SSGC over the weekend, categorically stating that he would not allow them to punish the people of the city due to their disputes. In a bold and welcome move CM Murad not only gave both sides an ultimatum to find a solution but also sought immediate intervention of PM Khaqan Abbasi to resolve issues between SSGC and KE to provide some relief to citizens and businesses in Karachi.  A second letter from the CM to the PM within 10 days highlighted the urgency of providing relief to the city’s people from load-shedding.

According to the CM, SSGC has offered “in the public interest” to increase the volume of gas supply to the KE through the gas management plan, provided the electric supply company pays security deposit, resolves outstanding payment issue and signs a GSA (gas supply agreement). KE on the other hand has committed to providing security deposit and showed readiness to sign the GSA on mutually agreed terms. In an emergency board meeting on Sunday the SSGC reportedly approved supply of 120mmcfd (million cubic feet per day) gas to the KE upon furnishing Rs6 billion security deposit, equivalent to three-month average bill of 150mmcfd gas supply and signing of mutually agreed terms of reference for the appointment of an independent chartered accountant firm. On its part KE maintains that payment of mark-up/late payment surcharge to the SSGC is a complex matter and in turn, involves recovery of outstanding electricity dues from the Federal Government (tariff differential subsidy) and other strategic bulk consumers. According to the CM’s letter, a Committee has been recommended to be constituted comprising representatives of the Federal and Provincial governments, SSGC and KE to sort out the outstanding issues.

SSGC refusing to increase the gas supply to KE given the rising power generation requirements over the matter of dues sets an alarming and dangerous precedent – having graver implication that is simply not acceptable. This mode for recovering among public sector/semi-public sector entities has not only many ramifications but complications in the future for both all stakeholders involved and the public at large.  This precedent might see PSO cutting the fuel supply of PIA on account of PKR 26 billion dues or ceasing supplies to Sui Northern Gas Pipelines (SNGPL), the main supplier of re-gasified liquefied natural gas in the country which owes PSO at least Rs 28 billion or allow KE to disconnect the power supply of KWSB due to PKR 32 billion dues going forward. For its part SSGC owes PPL and OGDCL amounts to the tune of PKR 112 Billion. Should these companies also curb gas supplies to SSGC, we will then have city (and a country) without gas, power and water.  Does the management of SSGC want to hold Karachi’s citizens to ransom?

Who can forget the many deaths in Karachi and Sindh due to heatstroke in the past two years? Silence or indifference on the subject by the country’s leadership consisting political representatives, government and administration will exacerbate the sufferings of the citizens who are already in misery the economic activity which is being disrupted has its own cyclical impact.  Limited production by industrial units of Karachi will affect the overall economic performance of the country by further plunging the exports and trimming supplies in the local markets, this will raise the levels of poverty and unemployment.

Better sense must prevail and the power supply to Karachi city must be restored. Companies in the public domain must ethically never be allowed to use “dues and receivables” as an excuse to hamper the provision of essential services and utilities to the citizens. At the moment SSGC is holding the citizens of Karachi hostage to pursue its own selfish objectives. Militants of the MQM were holding Karachi to ransom, after the militants is this a new way to blackmail Karachi citizens? To drag us back to the dark 2000-2010 years full of turmoil for old times’ sake, on what motivation?  For humanitarian considerations if nothing else, some gas supply must be restored immediately while an empowered Committee must resolve this dispute without further delay.

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LEST WE FORGET

The pulsating cheering crowd in the National Stadium Karachi for the PSL Final, and subsequently for the three international T20s, underscored the return of peace to a city (and country) torn by internal strife.  Bereft of any sports spectacle and living in cold fear for life and limb of their (and their families) because of open-ended threats from terrorists, political, religious and the criminal kind, the people of Karachi had very good reason to celebrate, both their “freedom” and Pakistan’s return from sports “exile”. When the speakers playing the National Anthem failed during its rendition before the start of the match, the entire audience spontaneously started singing the anthem, could anyone have stage-managed patriotism better?

The gains made in 1994-1995 by the decimation of MQM’s militants by Gen Babar and the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) was reversed by Gen Musharraf because of the military dictator’s personal ambitions. The Rangers were ordered to stand helplessly by as the MQM ran riot. One expected the PPP to crack down after Musharraf’s rule ended in 2008 but Zardari needed the MQM politically to stay in power far more than Musharraf did, Rahman Malik the bagman facilitating Altaf Hussain’s drugs, drinks, gambling and (various other) addictions in London.  Without the special powers to arrest the miscreants affiliated with political parties who did their dirty work with complete impunity, with the Sindh Police compromised by vested personal/political interest and without coordinated intelligence gathering, the Rangers remained in “forced stupor” as mere spectators. Even when arrested the militants were treated as royalty in the police stations, being garlanded on being set free. The para-military force’s discipline and motivation suffered grievously during this decade of inaction, their capacity and potential deteriorating and diminishing considerably from 2000 to 2010, a sorry reflection on successive two stars in command during this time.

Militant political activists and armed criminal gangs took over entire localities in Karachi, MQM’s sector offices acting as enforcement arms for Altaf’s whims and caprices. With militants being now “legal” as part of the Sindh ruling coalition Karachi’s citizens started screaming and Kayani finally lost his patience.  He moved Maj Gen Ijaz Chaudhry post-haste started from his Division conducting counter-insurgency operations in South Waziristan  as DG Rangers in April 2010.  Re-organising his command Ijaz weeded out undesirable elements and re-trained them for their mission statement.  The first “acid test” was a major operation against the Kallu gang in Dalmia, thereafter with Gen Kayani’s support Ijaz persisted with low-key operations. In September 2011 when the Supreme Court (SC) summoned him, he handed over a sealed list of criminals from the political parties constituting the Sindh Coalition to Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Chaudhry. Stunned by this stark description of “democracy’s” governance mode in the Province, the SC gave DG Rangers the go-ahead to continue with his mission, monitoring the Rangers activity on weekly reports. The by-product was smooth conduct of 2013 elections, at least in the urban areas of Sindh. Promoted in Oct 2011 Ijaz stayed as DG Rangers as a Lt Gen for six months till taking over as Comd 5 Corps in March 2012 and persisting with anti-militant operations. Only two weeks before Kayani retired, he replaced Ijaz with a bizarre posting, a quite awful favourite who was to retire after only 9 months. Sajjad Akram was succeeded by Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar as Commander 5 Corps. Once Gen Raheel Shareef took over as COAS, the pace of this operation quickened considerably. After the Peshawar APS incident and the subsequent launch of “Operation Zarb-i-Azb”, the Karachi operation went into overdrive!

Karachi city remained on another plane of criminality with the Rangers battling both criminals and terrorists in the field, while facing die-hard opposition from their mentors in the govt in Sindh. To top it all the Sindh Assembly adopted a Resolution in 2015 asking for checks and conditions on Rangers’ special powers to raid and arrest suspects. Calling for the break-up of Pakistan on August 22, 2016 Altaf Hussain’s hatred filled speech had a far more sinister purpose, he predicted that the country would cease to exist soon. The speed of the mob’s reaction to Altaf’s speech suggested that this was neither spur-of-the-moment nor spontaneous, there was method in his madness. Armed to the teeth MQM activists had taken up ambush positions in and around Zainab Market. Had the Rangers not been delayed by traffic, hundreds of innocent civilians would have been murdered in cold blood and blamed on the Rangers. The MQM gameplan engineered by India’s RAW was to defame the Army by default.

With full backing from Gen Raheel Sharif, Naveed Mukhtar took immediate and decisive action on Aug 23. All 122 MQM unit/sector offices meant to maintain control by use of terror in these localities were demolished in two days.  The tacit political and administrative support of the Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah notwithstanding, this decision to eradicate MQM’s terror complexes is a watershed in Karachi’s history. Comd 5 Corps delivered the maximum impact by applying quantum of force at the right timing and the right place. With MQM disintegrating into small factions, the back of this once powerful political party was broken and Karachi got its freedom!

From being 6th most dangerous city out of 300 cities in 2014, Karachi dropped in rank to 50th in 2016, amply demonstrating the wonderful work done by the Rangers (read the Army). The touchstone of the continuing success of Comd 5 Corps. Lt Gen Shahid Baig Mirza, who succeeded Naveed and Maj Gen Mohammad Saeed replacing Maj Gen (now Lt Gen) Bilal Akbar as DG Rangers, lies in their firm but quiet enforcing of writ of law like Ijaz, Naveed and Bilal Akbar did before them, this notwithstanding the many political hurdles placed before them by the Sindh Govt. With those criminals and terrorists not apprehended going into hiding, what will happen to the city if Army backs off? There is no “Doctrine of Necessity” derailing democracy as alleged by the politicians and their paid media hacks, it is being derailed by the penchant of our politicians to corrupt the prime institutions of governance for their own vested interest.

Hogging all the credit for cricket’s return to Pakistan, PSL grudgingly mentioned the role of security agencies but did not give even passing mention to the tremendous ultimate sacrifice rendered by our soldiers over the years to make Pakistan safe. Lest we forget, it is their sacrifice which made cricket a domestic happening instead of PSL remaining a “Yatra” filling Dubai’s coffers.

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“JUDICIAL” MARTIAL LAW

Our Republic Day being an appropriate occasion to reflect on the meaning of the day, most thought provoking comments were made by the Chief Justice (CJ) of Pakistan’s Supreme Court (SC) in Lahore on March 23. Referring to remarks made by the Awami Muslim League Chief Sheikh Rasheed urging a 90-day ‘judicial martial law’ in the run-up to the upcoming general elections,  ruled out any such possibility. Terming the supremacy of law, the independence of the judiciary and the impartial provision of justice “most important aspects for a country to progress”, he stressed that the country needed being run in accordance with its supreme law – the Constitution.

Unfortunately the imposition of martial law by the military and approval thereof by the judiciary represents a certain sorry tradition in Pakistan. Instead of carrying out their task to uphold, interpret and apply the Constitution our superior judiciary effectively abrogated the authority vested in the SC by the Constitution by saying “martial Law was right”. They even gave powers to military dictator Gen Musharraf to “amend” the Constitution as he saw fit! Neither Pakistani society nor its civilian, military and judicial institutions have understood the essence of the state, a democracy must be run based on the rule of law and the pre-condition is that all Pakistanis understand and accept that the Constitution being the supreme law of the land, to be respected and implemented first and foremost.

The German philosopher Hegel explained two hundred years ago that freedom means to understand and accept necessity – the necessity to make laws and keep to the rule of law in order to build a peaceful progressive society. In our case the necessity is to obey the law and to defend it out of our free will because we understand that without law and order we will not be able to progress. All our smaller private, political and even economic endeavours have to be subjugated to the rule of law, the judiciary is there to make sure that this happens.  The problem arises in strictly adhering to the wording of the law instead of abiding by the spirit of it.

The movers of the Lahore Resolution on March 23, 1940 asked not only for freedom from the British but for the freedom for Muslims to render their lives according to the tenets of Islam based on the British political majority system. Freedom from British rule and India came  true on 14 August 1947, Pakistan is struggling today to understand and accept the second part – the supremacy of the Constitution in a “British-style” democracy. This freedom acknowledges the necessity of rule of law – not accepted by a large part of our society and political leaders. Our feudal background makes us think that a selected few are so special, so important and so wonderful that laws apply only to the others but not to them. Motivated interest rather than the national compulsion goes with the feudal mentality of our elite.   Imagine the incongruity of having someone who renounced his Pakistani citizenship as far back as 2008 being named on the elite panel announced by the Chief Justice to recover illegal wealth?  For years this scoundrel faked his “Pakistani” presence to get access to Boards of sensitive public sector entities, those “elite club” friends are using the SC to rehabilitate him.

The former PM,  family and close aides think that they are above the law. Getting 15 million votes out of a population of 190 million (at that time), “industrial feudal” Mian Nawaz Sharif fuels the perception that the verdict of the SC disqualifying him is false by holding massive public rallies.  Does getting slightly more than 20% votes cast of the actual 2013 electoral turnout represent the “mandate” of the entire population of Pakistan?  This exposes how ridiculous and bankrupt our British-adopted “first past the post” system is. Not once in the last 9 months has Nawaz Sharif given credible counter-arguments about his enormous wealth and assets abroad, “Panama Gate” represents only a tip of the “illegal” iceberg. Nawaz Sharif’s public stance and rhetoric negates the necessity to accept the supremacy of the law and the Constitution and the role of the judiciary to uphold it by telling lies blatantly and constantly. Those supporting him demonstrate graphically that they also do not accept the necessity of the rule of law. Our dominant feudal mentality does not need a judiciary at all, we might as well have a King like in the Middle Ages who is the maker, sole interpreter and applier of the law all-in-one.

To quote my article of Dec 30, 2016 “Wishes for 2017”, “The calibre and integrity of the incoming Chief Justice of Supreme Court, Mian Saqib Nisar, does not merit the insidious slander campaign on the social media. His predecessor said a lot of good things in public forums but did little about it in the Court. History does not forgive those who favour expediency and personalities over principles. One of our outstanding jurists, Justice Munir, is remembered in posterity only for authoring the infamous “Doctrine of Necessity”. Justice is represented by a blindfolded Greek god favouring neither friend nor foe, imparting justice equally for the rich and the poor. The poor can hardly afford rich lawyers who play with words to circumvent the spirit of the law. Given his track record, one knows that the incoming Chief Justice will not be selective in being deaf, dumb and blind. Mian Saqib Nisar is literally Pakistan’s last hope, he must remain true to his integrity and character, and to his calling”, unquote. With the experience of dealing with thousands of manpower, it is satisfying to get one’s assessment of a person right.

CJ Saqib Nisar promises that monarchy-based democracy will not be allowed to happen, hopefully he and his fellow justices will insist on the correct interpretation and implementation of the laws of the land. The current COAS (and his two predecessors) have ruled out any military rule. Without this ‘Sword of Damocles’ hanging over our heads we could go straight ahead to improve our political set-up. Whether the forthcoming elections are conducted without rigging will be the “acid test” for democracy.  Can (and will) the ECP bar those who do not qualify paras 62 and 63 of the Constitution?

The CJ has been reinforcing his words with deeds, this has given strength and determination to Chairman NAB Justice Javaid Iqbal for NAB not to remain a silent spectator to nepotism and corruption but to prosecute whoever it may be. (the writer is a defence and security analyst).

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NO MORE PSLs ABROAD

Rameez Raja recently made some suggestions how to attract good quality players for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and to resolve the problem of low spectator turnout in the UAE cricket stadiums.  His contention is that in PSL “each team has to stay under a predetermined salary cap set and cannot go over the budget – a restriction that keeps the absolute cream of world cricket away from the league”. The open auction system instead of the present draft system for player recruitment does have some merit. Teams pay a fixed price for each player purchase in the draft system i.e. with fixed wages instead of the preferred method of open bidding as done in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and the other Twenty20 leagues. Attracting some of the best international cricketers, an auction will encourage each team to make an extra effort to get the best players. Big names in the teams will give cricket lovers that much more incentive to go to stadiums and see their favourite stars in action.

Rameez Raja’s other suggestion on how to fill up the near empty stadiums in Dubai and Sharjah by “hiring international tour operators to take fans from Pakistan to the UAE” is not only shocking, it is sheer and utter nonsense.  As one of the handful of Pakistanis “acceptable” to the IPL, was Rameez campaigning on someone else’s behalf to keep the PSL from ever being staged in Pakistan? Can foreign exchange-strapped Pakistan (US$ “spiking” from Rs 110 to 115 only yesterday) afford such luxury as their cricket-starved citizens spending hard earned foreign exchange on hotels, meals and taxis in cash-rich Dubai for nearly one month long tournaments or even only the few days when their favourite teams are on display with only about stadiums less than 10% full, even on Thursday nights and Fridays. Flying Emirates, Etihad or Fly Dubai, would 15000 from Pakistan fill even half the capacity of the UAE stadiums? Can Dubai and Sharjah Stadiums financially survive without the PSL funding them for 31 out of 34 PSL matches? Given the Pakistanis’ love and passion for cricket, one can safely guarantee that stadiums in Pakistan will be 100% full. Just look at the crowds for the “Eliminators” in Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium, someone please get me some tickets in “black” for the Karachi Final! The huge rentals for UAE Stadiums should be diverted to improving stadiums in Pakistan.

Even the 3 out of the 34 matches in the HBL PSL’s 3rd editions played in Pakistan provided some solace to our cricket hungry fans. Earning substantial revenues from the PSL, PCB spends a huge amount on travel, boarding and lodging plus other administrative expenses in the UAE for players (local and international), team officials, contingent of PCB officials and staff members, etc, etc. Add the expenses of the players, team officials, team owners, their families/friends, sponsor’s officials, staff members, TV engineers, crew, helpers, etc. Add also the Pakistanis travelling to Dubai for the PSL on their own. Rameez Raja could well be UAE’s Roving Ambassador, trying to augment the oil-rich, tourist-rich Gulf economies at the cost of Pakistan.

PCB direct expenses in UAE notwithstanding, count the direct and indirect expenditures and huge savings in foreign exchange. The amount that PCB spends hosting the event in the UAE would be at least ten times more than what the tournament would cost in Pakistan and would directly and indirectly economically boost local economy. With capacity crowds cheering the players for every match, PCB will earn more revenues than what it does in the UAE, this enables them to possibly double or even triple the amount of money and provide more incentives to foreign players to play in Pakistan. Moreover PCB’s overall profit of $2.6 million from the first Twenty20 League and around $6 million earned from television rights and gate money would increase significantly if the PSL is played in Pakistan.

To Najam Sethi’s credit, other than staging the PSL extravaganza, it would be fair to say that the PSL really has produced a good amount of talent in just 3 years. This can be force-multiplied many times over like the IPL has done for the Indian cricket team. There is wealth of untapped talent waiting to be discovered. With people coming to see their stars in action, if the tournament is held in Pakistan, the Sponsors’ message will also get increased exposure. A PSL on Pakistani soil will prove to be a huge boost in helping revive international cricket in Pakistan, a win-win situation for everyone involved.

More than any other sport cricket arouses widespread emotion.   The frenzy and enthusiasm of the Lahore crowd on Mar 20 and 21 said it all, it was stupendous.   Sports capture the dormant patriotism and evokes it to cement the unity of the nation.   Would this fervour be any less in Quetta, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Multan, Islamabad, Hyderabad, etc? For a country scarred by long years of terrorism, the collective activity of cheering for one’s teams and favorites will both heal and bind the nation.

More importantly despite Pakistan paying a heavy price in the “war against terrorism”, what is the perception the world gets by not holding the PSL in Pakistan? Despite all the heroics and ultimate sacrifice of our brave soldiers this graphically suggests that our security establishment is not confident about preserving the peace in Pakistan.  In effect PSL being staged outside Pakistan is an adverse propaganda against Pakistan’s national security, the irony is that PCB is inadvertently funding anti-Pakistan campaign to the world that Pakistan is still not safe for sports. No wonder this provides international cricketers with a tailor-made reason for not coming to Pakistan.

A team of global security experts had reviewed the security preparations for the Final to be held in Karachi. With thousands of troops, military helicopters, armed police and guards earmarked to ensure the safety of foreign players, they had expressed complete satisfaction that the arrangements met with international standards required for foreign teams to visit Pakistan.  Considering this green light once PCB makes the PSL lucrative for foreign players, they will come to Pakistan.  Najam Sethi has done a tremendous job providing Pakistani cricket with a world class stage to showcase its talent. Being on record that he hoped the entire 2019 tournament would be played in Pakistan, Najam must oversee the transition for the tournament to be played in Pakistan. No more PSL’s abroad please!

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THE “INDIRECT” FRAUD

The ruling coalition says the Senate elections has been ‘stolen’ from them, the Opposition panel winning far more votes than expected. You can ‘steal’ things from a person only when he owns it, did Nawaz Sharif already “own” the Senate before the elections actually took place? Having purchased the votes are they now upset that they didn’t get their money’s worth? With Nawaz Sharif’s (and Maryam’s) very unique and weird understanding of democracy that election results prove court judgments right or wrong, they have every reason to be shocked by the opposition winning. That logic would confirm that the judiciary was right in disqualifying him! This Senate controversy has been force-multiplied by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) by conveniently bailing out the PML-N candidates by letting them run as “independents”. What rot! With their nomination papers being subject to challenges, is the Senate legally constituted?

The Senate’s indirect elections has been under severe  criticism for years because of the vote purchasing going on unabated over the years, it continues as a horror story for those really interested in the progress of democracy in Pakistan. Can anyone explain the travesty why it resembles the un-elected House of Lords rather than the directly elected US Senate? Modelled on this British system where our National Assembly is directly elected and the Senate is not, our present version of democracy is colonial, feudal and farcical, only selectively democratic. The Magna Carta eleven centuries ago proved that it is in the DNA of the feudals to make promises that can be easily broken without fearing any accountability. Blatantly camouflaging their inherent feudalism over the centuries as a “democracy”, the British successfully call theirs a “constitutional monarchy”.  To counter the widespread anti-German protest in Britain during World War I, the royalty persisted with the “constitutional royalty” fraud by changing their very German “Saxe-Coburg and Gotha” name in 1917 to the more British-sounding “House of Windsor”. The basic principle “of the people, by the people and for the people” was mutilated by our “democracy” being intrinsically more flawed than a “constitutional monarchy”. Why do you think that our “democratic” feudal leaders never allow the “Local Bodies” to function? Being scathingly critical in The Telegraph in Aug 2015 Leo McKinstry could well be talking of the indirectly elected Pakistani Senate, “the continuing survival of the Lords is an indictment of the cowardice and inertia in British politics. Such an obese, obsolescent body should have no place in a modern democracy. …. every argument used to justify its existence is wrong. Its supporters like to pretend that it is packed with wise elder statesman, brilliant experts and distinguished public servants. This could not be further from the truth: most if its members are souped-up councillors, political apparatchiks, failed MPs and party donors.” Subject to fraud and manipulation, indirect election is an enduring disgrace which only serves to perpetuate feudalism, an insult to the concept of democracy.

Indirectly elected individuals becoming the electoral college for an indirectly elected president further corrupts the system. Most high officials in the Roman Republic, including members of the Senate, came from a few wealthy and noble families. A minority of powerful Romans got overwhelming control through a system of gerry-mandering. Our indirectly elected Senators not having claims to electability because of their popularity, competence and/or integrity through universal franchise, are they really any different from the 20 centuries-old Roman Senate?

While we stopped short of making Senate seats a ‘birthright’ of some people, indirect election seems to be the second worst option. Over the years Senate seats have been used by the leaders of our political parties to accommodate their favourites or reward people for favours already done or expected from them later. This undemocratic practice fosters corruption, nepotism and favouritism to be a part of Pakistan’s political system. Criticised by all over “democratic” parties the Senate Elections 2018 has graphically shown why the electoral process needs correction.

Giving an equal representation to all four provinces is not enough. To successfully fulfil their tasks towards good governance the Senators need to have a precise understanding of the Federal System in Pakistan and why it doesn’t function well. They not only need to know all rules and regulations for running a proper Senate meeting but extensive experience in public service, professions or other qualifications that enable them to work efficiently and achieve change in their terms in office. Given the manner candidates for Senate seats are “selected” and then indirectly “elected”, horse trading of the worst kind calls the whole process of democracy into question. There is demand for reforms in the Senate election for an open ballot system and direct elections. In addition, the Senate has to be made more meaningful by giving it budgetary oversight.

Although the Senate was conceived to be a forum for representation of provinces, it has become a representative of political parties which is contrary to its intended task. That was demonstrated by this election of the Senate Chairman and Deputy Chairman with the political parties dealing and wheeling who would support which candidate, the names of whom were withheld until the last minute. The conduct of the Senate Elections 2018 records how weird the understanding of what democracy is in the heads of our politicians, and how it has to be implemented. The Senate elections has cast another shadow on our political landscape as well: the forthcoming general elections. One can only hope that the buying and selling of loyalties does not symbolise the way the next general elections (whenever) will be fought. Nawaz Sharif having declared that the electoral vote is the real judgment about his conviction by the Supreme Court will go overboard to prove himself right. By doing so he may well upset the proverbial apple-cart of democracy in Pakistan.

Instead of the traditional “doctrine of necessity” route the Armed Forces usually follow to “fix” things, the present circumstances makes it justifiable for the superior judiciary despite the patience exercised by them to apply a judicial ‘doctrine of necessity’. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes’s concept of combatting “clear and present danger” inculcates the spirit of the law rather than blindly following its wording. Can one give blind adherence to the Constitution when democracy is used as a camouflage to deliberately criminalise society? Because of one’s bounden duty and obligation to do what is morally right for the nation and its people, it is not only dishonest to take refuge in verbatim interpretation of the words of the Constitution but cowardly, too.

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THE CALIBRI FONT

This adverse media focus propagating perceptions quite contrary to reality about the “Calibri Font” is meant to discredit the allegations of alleged forging pertaining to trust deeds in which Maryam Nawaz figures prominently.  This concerted “whitewash” campaign implies that Robert Radley, the forensic expert who analyzed the trust deeds, accepted in cross-examination that while the Font came into commercial use in 2007 it was possible to be used in 2005.  Other than the normal paid hacks even credible analysts are being used to propagate a coloured version of the witnesses’ statements, engaged in making of fake news real and real news fake. This deliberate misreporting has swayed great many people who were once convinced that the documents were forged and that Maryam had plainly committed perjury. Goebbels would have been proud!

The video-link testimony and cross-examination of the two witnesses, the Prosecution/Investigation team by the two defence counsels took place in the actual presence in the premises of the Pakistan High Commission London on 22 Feb, 2018.

The first Prosecution Witness (PW) Robert Radley is a forensic expert and belongs to the Radley Forensic Document Laboratory. Established for over five decades ago, this practice is one the longest existing private independent laboratories in UK dealing exclusively in the forensic examination of signatures, handwriting and the general forensic examination of documents. It deals with the examination of questioned documents for a variety of courts in the UK and abroad, both Civil and Criminal. Not an ordinary run-of-the mill institution, it has to be extra careful about its credibility. Areas of examination include: (1) signature examination to determine authenticity (2)  handwriting identification (3)  identification of ESDA impressions (electrostatic or indented writing impressions on documents from other documents) (4)  sequence determination of writing/impressions (5)  nondestructive differentiation of inks (6) printing/typewriting comparisons to determine common sources (7)  determination of common sources of photocopies (8) identification of alterations, page substitution etc (9)  deciphering of erasures and obliterations (10)  determination of sequence of writings (11)  dating of documents (12)  paper examination. Radley Laboratory also assesses reports of other experts, commenting, supplementing and, if necessary, criticising the same so that clients can fully appreciate the significance of the evidence presented.

Radley deposed that he received a copy of set of two trust deeds from “Quist Solicitors” London, one pertained to Neilson & Nescol {BVI Companies) owning Avenfield properties, whereas the other pertained to Coomber {BVI Company) comprising of 03 pages each. The forensic examination of the two trust deeds revealed that pages no. 2 & 3 of two deeds were identical. Moreover the deeds clipped with eyelets were appeared to be removed with some instrument and re-locked again. Further the two trust deeds also bore multiple staple pin holes, however the number of staple holes on top pages of two deeds and below appended pages were different, leading to the finding that the subsequent pages were substituted. Radley further deposed that he could also determine the relative age of staple holes on top pages and subsequent pages of two deeds if court allowed him to unlock the eyelets. The notarization date on both the deeds were found tampered and the date digits of 2006 were actually 2004 which was tampered to 2006. He was sent another set of two deeds subsequently comprising of fine coloured copies (provided by JIT submitted by accused while their appearance before JIT). The Coomber deed was different from the previous one whereas the Neilson/Nescol deed was identical to the previous one.

Cross-examined Radley stated before 2007 there was no commercial use of the Calibri Font and that it would be impossible for anyone to download the Calibri Font in 2005 without a particular “software engine” which could only be operated by IT experts, etc.  Even then it would take quite some time to do this.  Why should it be used especially for one particular trust deed?  Why not for others?

The Defence cross-examined Radley about the Calibri Font {one of the program of Windows Vista software). The PW explained that the beta version (prototype) of software was introduced in 2005 purely for trial testing by restricting it only to licensed IT expert, hardware manufacturer for rectifying bugs, problems, etc.  It was commercially launched on 31st Jan, 2007 for usage purpose, hence prior to that it was not available for regular/routine usage.   While explaining this he was referring to his research notes. The Defence objected to the PW reading his notes.  Radley replied that he was authorized to do so under British law and that he also discussed his research notes with the Prosecution team before. Whereupon, the defence then made a cardinal mistake by asking for the copy for their cross-examination, this became marked as evidence. On being read out his testimony, Radley objected to two narrations wrongly attributed to him. The judge corrected these after going through the video recording and confirming Radley’s contention.

The second witness Raja Akhtar recorded his statement covering his commentary on Orders of Queen’s Court London regarding Al-Tufeeq litigation (involving Avenfield Properties) and his correspondence with Notary Public Jeremy Freeman, who notarised/witnessed the alleged two trust deeds in 2006. He had sent an email along with scanned copies of two trust deeds, notarized by Freeman, raising queries regarding the notarization date and fulfillment of other pre-requisites while notarizing the deeds. Freeman responded that he notarized the documents in the presence of Hussain Nawaz and Mr. Waqar (Manager of Hussain Nawaz). Raja Akhtar emphasized that the close analysis of the two alleged trust deeds prima-facie revealed forgeries and that was why he referred the matter to forensic expert on the instructions of JIT.

Given the power that the placement of ads has influence over the media whether printed as news, comments, opinion, services, etc, the recent ads opposing each other’s stance published by the APNS and the CPNE highlights how payment for ads placed by the govt never reaches those  media considered anti-govt.  This has driven the “disloyal” print media to bankruptcy, conversely the “loyal” media in connivance with govt has the power (and financial clout) to twist facts into fiction.   This indulging in such malpractices must be investigated by a JIT and other than being jailed, should be blacklisted from having anything to do with the fourth estate.

Misrepresenting court proceedings is a crime, the actual version of events had to be brought on record so that white collar criminals, with financial clout and/or influence out of the ordinary, should not be allowed to get away with their committed criminal acts.

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MUTINY BY THE BLUE-EYED

Arrested on Feb 22 by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for corruption in the Ashiana Housing scandal under Section 2 of the Schedule of NAO, 1999, Ahad Cheema, formerly Lahore Development Authority (LDA) Chief and now heading Quaid-e-Azam Thermal Power Limited, had failed to appear before  NAB twice despite summons. Showing flagrant disrespect for the rule of law this BPS-19 officer rudely questioned with rank insolence NAB’s laws, competence, etc. This blatant arrogance is a sorry manifestation of having Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, newly elected Interim President PML (N), as a most powerful patron.

Cheema’s guilt is for NAB to prove, however in a most dangerous development his arrest drew a sharp reaction from a handful of the vested interest in the all-powerful Pakistan Administrative Service (PAS), previously the District Management Group (DMG), the most coveted administrative service groups of the Civil Service of Pakistan (CSP). Vociferously orchestrated by Punjab’s Additional Chief Secretary, Umar Rasool, a handful of PAS and Punjab Management Services (PMS) officers locked down their offices on Feb 23 to protest “Cheema’s unlawful arrest”. Instead of condemning,  PML-N members of Punjab Assembly joined the protest and passed a resolution against NAB. The other two Additional Chief Secretaries, including Maj (Retd) Azam Suleman, incharge of the Provincial Home Department were not part of this calumny.  Chief Secretary (CS) Punjab Zahid Saeed ostensibly had no active role in the “pen down” strike, could the protesters have the audacity to run afoul of the Punjab ESTA Code 2013 indulging in sedition without the CS’ benign silence? The stakes have force-multiplied with Shahbaz Sharif and the PM’s all-powerful Principal Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad being “mentioned in dispatches” by NAB in the Ashiana scandal.

Then PCS officers filed a Constitutional Petition in 2010 in the Supreme Court (SC) (still pending), wherein besides other issues blue-eyed boy Cheema’s illegal posting, then BPS-18 to a BPS-21 post, was challenged. According to rules the promotion of an officer is stopped even if an enquiry is pending against him. Consider why was Cheema  incongruously promoted to BS-20 contrary to the rules the day after his arrest? His educational qualification, MA in Mass Communications, has no relevance with the thermal power company of which he is the CEO.

The “strikers” threatened and cajoled their PAS colleague and PMS, (previously the Provincial Civil Service (PCS)) officers to join their illegal protest. Only a handful of PAS (about 18 out of 250, less than 10%) and about 18-20 PMS officers out of 1400 (less than 2%) joined in.  Individual protest because of genuine grievance can be condoned but a deliberate collective attempt from the very heart of government to threaten and intimidate others makes it mutiny, pure and simple, and incitement thereof. An overwhelming majority of PAS and PMS officers displayed tremendous discipline by remaining loyal to the institution despite dire threats from the influential strikers. To their credit the Punjab Police hierarchy led by the IG refused the mutineers’ incitement to take armed action against NAB officials, this could have escalated into violence. Many eminent legal counsel labelled this as outright treason. My good friend Aitzaz Ahsan said, “Imran Khan may or may not be a ladla (spoiled brat), they were “Bigre ladla” (misguided brats).

Everyone who participated in the strike should immediately be suspended. Did bureaucrats resort to defiance of the rule of law and good governance in this fashion in Balochistan, Sindh, and KPK when officers were arrested over corruption charges? Who and what is the mutineers’ motivation and influence thereof needs questioning. With Nawaz Sharif berating the judiciary (and the Army) in most derogatory language for months, this was inevitable as a desperate final ploy. Bureaucrats close to the Sharifs feel they are above the law, rumours are that this mutiny was initiated on behest of the Sharifs to test the system. Those taking part in the mutiny must be investigated for living beyond their known means of income. Projecting the strike as “total” and “peaceful”, what were elements in the media paid for propagating the blatantly fake news that gave a public perception of outright revolt against NAB’s actions? On the other hand, to stop NAB or the SC being pressurized, retired civil and armed forces personnel in a show of unity and patriotism voiced their opposition to the unlawful boycott and offered their services to replace the mutineers without any remuneration.

Criminal Penal Code (CrPC) 196 bars legal proceeding in cases against state officials based on FIR only and requires a formal complaint in the court by an officer formally nominated by the govt (Federal or Provincial) depending on the jurisdiction. Can this happen with complete control in the hands of the criminals themselves? CrPC, Ch-6, Sec 124-A the charge of sedition, comes closest to incitement. Not responding to NAB’s repeated summons tantamounts to considering oneself above the Law, the State and any prevailing order in the Country. Section 31 of NAO pertaining to prohibition to hamper investigation lays boundaries because of which Umar Rasool and Shahbaz’s other “blue-eyed” can get rigorous imprisonment upto ten years. Officials of PAS Group indulging in misconduct ran afoul of Punjab Esta Code 2013, the rules of business and the oath administered upon them. NAB can lodge an FIR against the mutineers under section 189 P.P.C and 186 P.P.C for causing obstruction to discharge of public functions by NAB’s officers, leading to imprisonment and heavy fines as a future deterrent for other politicized bureaucracy. NAB has all the evidence it needs to indict the mutineers for consciously, deliberately and with malice, compromise, hamper, mislead, jeopardise and/or derail an inquiry under process before NAB. At the very minimum they should be tried for mutiny, or incitement to mutiny thereof, etc.  NAB’s magnificent performance, particularly NAB Punjab’s, must be commended, NAB Chairman Honourable Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal must stay the course!

No mean coincidence that 100% of the mutineers were known Shahbaz’s blue-eyed bureaucratic coterie? Could they act without the blessings of the Interim PML (N) President? Has he condemned it? Devoted to serving the people a skilled, motivated and efficient civil service with professional ethos is an effective mechanism for good governance. Those who plot against the State and resort to mutiny must never be allowed to remain in government for even one day. The crime against an individual can be condoned but anything against the state tantamounts to destroying the whole edifice and razing it to ground, the country will head into anarchy if action is not taken immediately.

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THE ELECTIONS’ MOSAIC

With general elections due somewhere after mid-2018, the expectations of the people and the stakes thereof has evolved dramatically with the political scenario changing almost on a daily basis. The Supreme Court (SC) verdict voiding Election Act 2017 and thus disqualifying Nawaz Sharif as party head has confounded all elections predictions by throwing what amounts to a monkey wrench into the electoral process.

In the NA-120 bye election held in Sept 2017 Begum Kulsoom Nawaz of PML-N polled over 61000 votes defeating PTI’s Dr. Yasmin Rashid’s 47000 votes. Ali Khan Tareen, son of PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen who held the Lodhran NA-154 seat before being disqualified in Dec last, received over 90000 votes but lost by a considerable margin to PML(N)’s  Iqbal Shah.      Lodhran was a significant PML(N) victory, for the PTI a major upset in a stronghold from where Jahangir Tareen’s margin of victory in 2015 was almost 40000 votes. Even with PML (N) dominant, expectations for mostly a straight PML(N)-PTI fight in the Punjab will change. There is now likely a late PTI surge to coincide with defections by the disenchanted in the PML (N) camp, this process force-multiplying after Nawaz’s convictions in the PanamaGate case.

Sindh’s rural areas remain a strong support base of the PPP. Except for individual PML (F) exceptions, PPP’s candidates have won every election hands down since the party’s inception in late 1967, this despite not bringing about any major change in the lives of the common man. The backing of the entire administrative machinery makes pre-poll rigging very much a certainty. With the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) becoming a laughing stock and in a meltdown, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) of former Mayor Mustafa Kamal, stands to gain. The joker in the pack be-devilling PPP is Rao Anwar who Zardari inadvertently confirmed as his rumoured “hitman” by labelling him “a brave kid” in a recent interview.  There was method in Zardari’s seeming madness publicly sending a message of support to Rao Anwar, his possibly turning “approver” adds to Uzair Baloch as a Zardari nightmare! Unfortunately Rao Anwar’s Catch-22 is that his detractors want him alive to face trial but his “friends”, and there many in the Sindh Police, want him dead.  Given the sorry history of witnesses against Zardari being murdered, not surprising that knowing this “routine” this “walking dead man” has done the disappearing act, from friend and foe alike.

Nawaz Sharif’s recent massive election rally in Peshawar notwithstanding he cannot overtake PTI in KPK. Following the PML (N), JI and JUI (F), PPP and Aftab Sherpao’s JWP may get the odd seat or two. Without an outright majority, PTI may well continue with a coalition govt with the JI. In our first-past-the-post system the loss of Nawaz the “vote getter” as opposed to Shahbaz Sharif the “doer” in the campaign trail will be badly felt by the PML(N).  Even given that they still get maximum seats in the Punjab, PML(N) will need the PPP and independents to form the govt in the Center. While the once-vaunted PPP may not have far more than a dozen seats or so, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto has come of political age, being “re-launched” post Davos 2018. Interviewed by an Indian publication while attending the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos recently, he vowed critics by deftly answering some very loaded questions.

The recent run-up to the Senate Elections shows that manipulation and horse trading of the worst kind is the order of the day. Former Speaker of the Senate Wasim Sajjad has expressed forcefully that there must be direct elections to the Senate. An indirect election is always riddled with corruption, the whole process of democracy being called into question. The PML(N) faces a potential electoral disaster in the Senate by taking an emotional instead of a calculated risk by having the Senate applications signed by Nawaz Sharif, conceivably all PML (N) Senate aspirants could have their papers declared “void”. Subject to legal challenges, one can be sure that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will bail the PML (N) out somehow.

During the hearing of   whether a person disqualified by the SC can head a political party, some remarks were passed by the Court, the PML (N) is militating against this. Across most country judges do pass such remarks but what is relevant is the contents of their eventual judgment. While he was eloquent about the right of Parliament to enact laws without direction from anyone, implying the Supreme Court (SC) (and maybe the Army?).  The PM’s parliamentary initiative out of the blue was certainly a desperate attempt at a pre-emptive strike.  While he was correct, Shahid Khaqan should have added that it is also the moral and bounden duty of the SC to strike down laws repugnant to the Constitution.  On Wednesday last the SC gave a fitting reply by exercising “their” prerogative under the Constitution to strike down Election Act 2017.

Convicted or not, Maryam Nawaz is clearly not acceptable to the hard core PML(N) loyalists like Ch Nisar Ali Khan who has openly called her “inept to hold office” and that he will “not work under her”. Those who know her or have worked with Maryam do praise her political acumen and other qualities, unfortunately in public perception she comes across as a spoilt brat. Logic demands Shahbaz becomes PM but Hamza’s taking over as Chief Minister (CM) Punjab will be opposed by cousin Maryam with Shahbaz unlikely to trust Punjab to anyone else, he will most likely stay on as CM. The PML(N) will have to compromise like they did earlier in choosing as stopgap Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. PM Abbasi has surprised everyone, people generally across the board are more than happy with his commendable performance. Some hard-bitten foreign journalists asked me in Davos, “where have you been hiding him?” If the Establishment continues being comfortable with him, he will be the odds-on choice to be the next elected Prime Minister.

Given our bleak financial circumstances and other national headaches general elections may be delayed till September, or maybe even October. However the present political momentum and the damning court verdict gives PML (N) adequate reason for the elections announcement to come sooner than later, maybe soon after the Senate results, the elections being held 90 days thereafter.  Is electioneering possible during Ramzan and the heat? God may then well listen to the fervent prayers of all Pakistanis to rid us of the looters and murderers proliferating in our political leadership

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COURAGE BEYOND COMPARE

On Feb 13 at about 1210 hours an armoured cash-in-transit (CIT) vehicle of a private security services company was parked outside the Tarnol branch of Meezan Bank in Islamabad to pick up cash amounting to Rs. 14 million from the bank . As the two security guards, Supervisor Muhammad Afsar and Armed Guard Muhammad Safoor Khan came out of the branch carrying two satchels full of money, they were attacked by five dacoits. Safoor (a former NCO from Air Defence), who was carrying the satchels, received a bullet in his chest when fired upon at point blank range (a later autopsy showed the bullet wound tearing the side of his heart).  As the dacoits tried to snatch the bags he turned even though gravely wounded, ran towards the bank branch with the satchels containing the money in his hand. The critical injury notwithstanding, his first instinct, developed through weeks of pre-job training and hundreds of hours of valuable experience gained while on the job, was to carry out his assigned mission of protecting his responsibility at all costs. Safoor collapsed and died just 20 feet short of the door of the bank.  What words can describe this selfless attempt to fulfil his prime mission?

Seeing this opportunity the other dacoit tried to grab one of the two bags but the Supervisor Afsar (formerly a Naib Subedar from 8 AK) acted quickly, firing a round on the dacoit he managed to snatch the bag back.  Taking hold of the other bag from Safoor who by this time had died, he started running towards the bank. One of the dacoits shot at him hitting him in the groin, badly injuring Afsar who nevertheless managed to enter the door of the branch where he handed over the two bags to bank officials. Only then did Afsar collapse gasping in pain and discomfort. The bullet is still lodged close to his femoral vein, surgically difficult to dislodge.

Supervisor Khalid (ex-16 FF) protecting the CIT vehicle had in the meantime engaged the other dacoits, Driver Noor Khan seeing his colleagues in danger left the safety of his vehicle contrary to the SOP. In the melee the dacoits left empty-handed, the prompt action by the CIT crew had saved the day. The bank’s cash was intact but it came at a heavy price from a dedicated professional who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty. Safoor gave his life and Afsar was injured. The bravery, dedication and commitment displayed by the crew was extraordinary. Their performance in an extremely dangerous situation was exceptional and exemplary. The injured Afsar could just as easily have stood by and watched while the armed dacoits took the bags and escaped, no one would have censured or blamed him, it being a matter of life and death. His partner had already died having already done his bit.

While it will not be fair to comment on the action, or the lack of it, of security guards on duty at the Bank’s branch, the fact is they did nothing to try and come to the support of our CIT guards even as the sordid episode was being played out. The first instinct of any good security guard would have been to challenge anyone trying to steal the bank’s money and if shots were fired, to respond in the same manner!

This incident highlights how given the right leadership and good governance environment Pakistanis are truly exceptional. Many have left their mark by demonstrating an unwavering commitment to their profession, and our success has been achieved through their aptitude and sheer hard work fully exploiting their capabilities. Risking their lives on many occasions only underlines the exemplary character of our uniformed personnel. Besides being a hardworking and industrious lot, Pakistanis are brave, patriotic, honest and dedicated to their responsibilities. Men with courage exist in all countries but not in the exceptional numbers as Pakistanis. A typical Pakistani is exceptionally so!  The Army’s rank and file is universally recognized as being among the bravest and most professional in the world.

An important trait of a security guard is that he must be honest, he should also be self-motivated to keep clients safe and secure by maintaining professional integrity.  He tries to represent the company and client to the same standard of quality they represent themselves. Whether he works at a bank, an office building, or residence, etc, a security guard has the vital responsibility of being vigilant and steadfast in protecting his responsibility.  Due consideration must be given to lives of personnel performing such security duties. These personnel must have adequate firearms training, including regular live firing. Because of the lack of proper oversight procedures, this aspect is again given mere lip-service, untrained guards without adequate experience of handling firearms are a hazard for themselves and those they are meant to protect without training and experience of how to react in such situations.

Our three guards (and the driver) performed well beyond the call of normal duty even when outgunned and outnumbered against five desperate dacoits who were willing to kill. The brave sons of the soil who were shot were both ex-servicemen, one was with us for 10 years while the other had service of over15 years. Their outstanding commitment and devotion to duty is a matter of great pride for us. Endowed with qualities of bravery, honesty and responsibility, their response exhibited these qualities to the fullest. Two days earlier guard Amin prevented a client being robbed outside Summit Bank in Karachi in the Bank’s car park by scaring off the dacoits by firing warning shots. Considered to be ordinary and lowly individuals, these security guards have stoic courage and are dedicated to their profession beyond the normal calling. Their overwhelming sense of duty secures a peaceful environment for our many clients.

Our unsung armed uniformed personnel carry out their assigned duties, unnamed and unrecognized, their performance saves precious lives by putting themselves in harm’s way. They have very little reward except for their salary and at times, overtime. Disregarding their personal safety they invariably display commendable initiative and courage when faced with very threatening situations. They are a selfless lot, not complaining but being satisfied with what they have and striving always to perform beyond the call of duty. One’s heart is filled with pride in having the selfless devotion to duty of such remarkable men of courage.  The rhetorical question, what have we done to deserve the loyalties and dedication of such magnificent men?

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