propecia pregnancy

The Ashiana Scam

After the Panama Papers surfaced it was an even bet that Pakistan would be rocked by revelations about improprieties in many areas, corruption cases would include some of the worst scandals. The difference between corrupt practices at the creation of Pakistan and of today is usually not only mammoth in nature but directly or indirectly politicians are mostly pulling the strings from behind the scenes. Because of the housing scheme scams property cost has soared in Pakistan. In January this year the Senate Sub-Committee on Cabinet Secretariat was informed by the Islamabad Registrar that an audit of six housing societies alone had unveiled massive graft to the tune of Rs 12 billion.

Launched in 2010 the Punjab government’s Ashiana-e-Iqbal Housing Project has been immersed in controversy and negative speculation for low-cost housing scheme projects promising modest accommodation at affordable rates to the middle and lower-middle class were seen as a blessing by the public and were greeted with enthusiasm. Because of speculation, mainly by non-filers of taxes, the prices of urban property have skyrocketed beyond the average man’s reach. Unease began cropping up among customers because of hiccups hindering completion, unexplained delays in balloting and allotment of completed units. As the clamour grew uneasiness soon gave rise to accusations of irregularity, this culminated in 2018 with several high profile arrests.

At the end of December 2017 Ahad Khan Cheema, Director General (DG) Lahore Development Authority (LDA) when the ‘Ashiana’ deal was signed, was summoned by NAB. Failing to appear twice before NAB despite summons, this BPS-19 officer displays flagrant disrespect for the rule of law by rudely questioning NAB’s laws, competence, etc with studied rank insolence. Accused of misusing his authority to award the Rs 14billion contract to a favoured developer in 2015 he was arrested on February 21, 2018 during the tenure of the PML (N) government by NAB for misusing his authority. As a “reward” for his services, Cheema reportedly received 100 kanals of land which he allegedly transferred to various members of his family; NAB claims the land was bought with money transferred into the account of Paragon Housing Society.

The other main accused in the Ashiana scandal, Fawad Hassan Fawad, Director General of Civil Services Academy, was arrested by NAB on July 5, 2018. A BPS-22 officer serving as Principal Secretary to both PML-N former Prime Ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Fawad was a prime suspect in the Dawn Leaks saga. Often termed as a “de facto Premier” he was considered Nawaz Sharif’s most favorite senior bureaucrat. Considered among the “untouchables” on account of the political patronage and power he wielded, Fawad was summoned six times by NAB but joined the investigation only twice. It is believed he was the prime instigator of the pen- down strike by a handful of DMG officers on Cheema’s arrest, now we know why!

As Implementation Secretary to Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Fawad in 2013 allegedly pressurized and threatened the Punjab Land Development Company (PLDC) with dire consequences if they did not reject the Ashiana contract initially awarded to M/s Chaudhry Latif and Sons; this was suspended after eight months and awarded to a favourite company Paragon. The Inquiry Committee report that declared the award of contract to Chaudhry Latif and Sons as legal was also allegedly shelved by Fawad. The illegal cancellation of the contract not only resulted in the government having to cough up Rs5.9 million in damages to the contractor but also considerably delayed the project resulting in escalation of cost to the tune of billions of rupees. Even after three years of being “awarded” the contract the new awardee company failed to initiate the Ashiana project.

With two of their top trusted henchmen in NAB custody awaiting trial, the Sharifs face real trouble. The names of female family members of the accused being used constitute a sorry attempt to play the “victim card” and appear innocent. Some PML-N leaders have gone so far as to publicly opine that the Establishment (read the Pakistan Army) is orchestrating the entire affair, though they have no idea about what the Establishment would gain. They remain very conveniently silent about the how and why 100 kanals prime land near DHA Lahore were given to Ahad Cheema and his “victimized” family members by Paragon owners? The PML (N) also conveniently forgets that it is not the present government which initially investigated the bureaucrats or arresting them but NAB as an independent organization.

After days of refusal Fawad Hassan Fawad finally confirmed that he instructed awarding the Ashiana Housing project to former Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif’s favorite firm on explicit directions of Shahbaz Sharif. On Shahbaz Sharif’s instructions he also pressurized the CEO of PLDC in 2013 to award the contract to Lahore Casa Developers, stated to be a proxy company of Railways Minister Kh Saad Rafique. When confronted with Fawad, Shahbaz Sharif accepted this misuse of authority was on his explicit instructions. On Oct 5 Shahbaz Sharif the PML(N) President was taken into custody by NAB for his involvement in the Ashiana scam, the next day an accountability court granted a 10-day physical remand for further investigation.

According to a 2016 Newsline report, “During 10 months of the ongoing fiscal year, political advertisements worth about five billion rupees were dished out to the media, all aimed at building a good image of the Shahbaz Sharif government. Also, equally important, the government uses the lure of attractive advertisement revenues to keep the mainstream media in line. No wonder, Urdu-language newspapers particularly, publish three-column headlines of Shahbaz Sharif’s propaganda statements on the upper half of the front pages of the newspapers every day. The CM’s statements are published verbatim with the headlines, sub-headlines and words that are issued from the provincial Directorate General of Public Relations (DGPR).” While NAB is doing an excellent work going after the corrupt powerful and bringing them to justice, are we really surprised at the campaign in the media in the face of such outright confessions of misuse of authority ostensibly to benefit political associates at the cost to the exchequer and misery to the public?

Share

Understanding Hybrid Warfare

Gone are the days of fighting wars in the conventional manner; today’s strategy combines conventional warfare, irregular tactics and terrorist acts, including subverting the media by using the advertising power of financial institutions, and maybe of the State itself, other than violence, coercion and cyber warfare. Employing both modern technology and mobilization methods, variety of non-state actors are used, or a combination thereof. Wikipedia describes this new military strategy as “envisaging attacks by nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, improvised explosive devices and information warfare.” Taken together this is called “Hybrid Warfare”. Combining kinetic operations with subversive effort, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution, India has successfully managed this in world perception. Pakistan’s breakup in 1971 was the successful execution of this type of warfare by India.

Subverting our ideology, culture and economy within and outside Pakistan by using proxies or outsourcing the task, is according to a well-crafted Indian game-plan. Using the Hindi phrase ‘kante se kanta nikalna’, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar admitted what has been a home truth for nearly five decades, India’s penchant for employing/outsourcing of terrorists to catch/kill terrorists, “We should do it. Why does my soldier have to do it?” India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Duval attempted damage control by playing down Parrikar’s comment as “it could mean having skills, equipment, tactics, it can have many meanings.” The present architect of India’s “hybrid warfare” “seeking to inflict pain” (in his own words) on Pakistan, Ajit Duval well knows that Parrikar’s statement was a true reflection of how India perpetuates hegemony (or tries to) on the States on its periphery. Trying to tone down the controversy, Parrikar said he was “only in favour of targeted strikes based on intelligence and not covert operations undertaken by civilians or militia”; his U-turn was an afterthought. RAW (and other Indian intelligence agencies) have been targeting Pakistan with “false flag operations” since the 1965 Indo-Pak War.

An example of outsourcing of terrorists for deadly purpose, the Pakistan Naval Station Mehran was attacked in May 2011 by heavily armed gunmen targeting the P-3C Orion aircraft hangars and military personnel destroyed two aircraft while another was damaged. Has anyone ever really questioned why the terrorists walked past dozens of modern (and expensive) warplanes on the tarmac to focus on the P3C-Orions almost 1000 meters away? What earthly motive would the terrorists have destroying Pakistan’s naval eyes and ears capacity? Who other than India was interested in making our Navy temporarily blind and deaf?

The critical weapons used in Hybrid Warfare include “Media and Information Warfare”, attacking both Information Technology (IT) systems on which a military opponent may depend upon, controlling and manipulation of the information available to the civilian populace on both electronic and print media. This includes Command and Control, Intelligence-based Electronic and Psychological warfare, etc, etc. The enemy has been using both its media and our own to influence persons (bribe, compromise, coax or threaten) to achieve its designs. The ‘media reality’ dominates influence over conventional reality by creating perception, especially in political life. A number of media celebrities are, wittingly or otherwise, furthering the cause of India.

The Chief of Afghan NDSI Nabil, incidentally educated in Pakistan as a refugee during the Soviet occupation, candidly justified in a NYT interview using TTP against Pakistan in line with Chanakhya’s tenet, “an enemy of an enemy is a friend”. Training and administering NDSI personnel, RAW has been running almost all their operations till lately. TTP Chief Hakimullah No. 2 Latifullah accompanied by NDSI agents was captured by US Special Forces on his way to Kabul to meet Karzai. Karzai tried desperately to get the US to release him. To President Ashraf Ghani’s credit Latifullah was ultimately handed over by the US to Pakistan with his consent.

To quote my article “Hybrid Warfare” of Feb 04, 2015, “Smart Power” being a judicious mix of Hard and Soft Power, India is force-multiplying “smart power” in conducting “hybrid warfare” against us. With Modi’s Cardinal Richelieu NSA Ajit Doval (very much a “state actor”) in the driving seat, non-kinetic warfare in the form of “false-flag terrorism” has gone into overdrive while kinetic warfare “Cold Start” has now assumed a different dimension in making things hot for Pakistan. We Pakistanis live in self-denial about being subjected to siege under this new warfare, RAW has with impunity masterminded the spreading of misinformation by using its proxies, why do some in our society mirror the Indian media’s animosity towards our Armed Forces and the ISI?

Reviving the 77th Brigade as a new generation of “Facebook” warriors to wage complex and covert information and subversive campaigns, the British Army will use the irregular World War II concept in a variation adapted to fit modern warfare. These modern day CHINDITS according to The Financial Times (FT) will aim to achieve their objectives without violence, using a range of activities to make their adversaries do what they want them to do, a technique known as a “reflexive control”. Their weapons of choice will be social media campaigns on “Twitter” and “Facebook”, spreading disinformation and exposing truths, “false flag” incidents designed to fool people into believing they were carried out by someone else and intelligence gathering. Kremlin’s extensive use of cyber and information warfare blending conventional and irregular warfare is seen in Russia’s “little green men” using this new approach to warfare in Crimea and Ukraine.

FT comments that “the actions of others in a modern battlefield can be effected in ways not necessarily violent. Important lessons from operations in Afghanistan and Iraq will draw together a host of existing and developing capabilities essential to meet the challenges of modern conflict and warfare”. Reforming 77th Brigade initiates the process of taking steps to escape the binary mindset of peace or war, operations or training. Hopefully, our military planners do not remain bogged down in their existing World War II mindset.

“Charity” begins at home, we must directly and/or indirectly attack those cells supporting RAW’s hybrid warfare within Pakistan. Those acting as proxies for RAW are as guilty as the terrorists killing and maiming innocents, they should be dealt with ruthlessly without mercy whatever their stature. Do we have the conviction and courage to physically counter the enemy’s evil intentions by delivering justice with a short shrift?

(Excerpts from a talk delivered at the National Defence University (NDU) recently by this writer) 

Share

HYBRID WARFARE

Hybrid Warfare came to prominence in the 21st century, the “Age of Globalization” that has opened up many new technical and communication options and shrunk distances. According to Prussian general and military theorist Carl von Clausewitz “Every age has its own kind of war, its own limiting conditions, and its own peculiar preconceptions.”  While fighting wars in the conventional manner. Russian General Gerasimov holds that “In the 21st century we have seen a tendency towards blurring the lines between the states of war and peace. Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template”

This new form of warfare avoiding a clear differentiation between war and peace, soldiers and civilians is practices by all sides of the different divides. The US definition characterizes Hybrid Warfare as “Synchronized use of multiple instruments of power tailored to specific vulnerabilities across the full spectrum of societal functions to achieve synergistic effects.” Russian scholar Korybko, on the other hand, says “Hybrid Wars can be defined as “externally provoked identity conflicts, which     exploit historical, ethnic, religious, socio-economic, and geographic differences within geostrategic transit states through the phased transition from Color Revolutions to Unconventional Wars in order to disrupt, control, or influence multipolar transnational connective infrastructure projects by means of Regime Tweaking, Regime Change, and/or Regime Reboot.”

While clear differences may be visible between the two definitions, in common they envisage military strategy that employs political warfare and blends conventional warfare, irregular warfare and cyber warfare with other influencing methods, such as fake news, diplomacy and foreign electoral intervention. By combining kinetic operations with subversive efforts, the aggressor intends to avoid attribution or retribution. Hybrid warfare can be used to describe the flexible and complex dynamics of the battle space requiring a highly adaptable and resilient responses.

A variety of terms are used to refer to the hybrid war concept: hybrid war, hybrid threats, hybrid influencing or hybrid adversary (as well as non-linear war, non-traditional war or special war).  Hybrid warfare employs means other than conventional military troops, tactics and strategies, to include the employment of irregular military and paramilitary forces like guerrillas, paramilitaries, etc. Islamic State, Hamas and Hizbullah use terrorist acts as a means. Use of non-violent means by civilian institutions include psychological assaults using ethnic, religious or national vulnerabilities, provocateurs operating behind enemy lines, economic assaults through sanctions, boycotts and punitive tariffs so as to weaken the enemy economy, cyber assaults at elections and referendums, use of big data for manipulation of referendums like Brexit and the US elections and a vast selection of propaganda warfare via electronic and social media, TV channels and publications. Diplomacy is as much involved into this new type of warfare as are fake news.

The relative novelty of hybrid warfare today lies in the ability of an actor to synchronize multiple instruments of power simultaneously and intentionally exploit creativity, ambiguity, non-linearity and the cognitive elements of warfare.  Conducted by both state and non-state actors Hybrid warfare typically tailored to remain below obvious detection and response thresholds, and often relies on the speed, volume and ubiquity of digital technology that characterizes the present information age. Already prevalent and widespread in the world and in Pakistan Hybrid Warfare is likely to grow as a challenge. For us it is important to understand its character, its underlying ideology and forms in order to be able to devise appropriate answers to it.

The combination of conventional and irregular methods has been in use throughout history. A recent book titled “Hybrid Warfare. Fighting complex opponents from the ancient world to the present” contains articles that acquaint us with different historical examples of hybrid warfare including the British “Great Game” and others. States and militaries use a variety of means to ensure that conventional warfare successful, these include using agents behind enemy lines to collect intelligence of the enemy strength or to influence the enemy by spreading rumours and fake news. Sun Tzu’s  book  “Art of War” written probably in the 5th c. BC describes methods of intelligence gathering behind enemy lines and methods of guerrilla warfare. The work has influenced many war-farers in East Asia from Mao Zedong to Ho Chi Minh. The Indian ‘Arthashastra’ (2 century. BC) is a textbook of statecraft and political economy that provides a detailed account of intelligence collection, processing, consumption, and covert operations, as indispensable means for maintaining and expanding the security and power of the state.

Closer to our time is the British “Great Game” that aimed to stop the Russian advance in Central Asia and defend the British colonial holdings in the subcontinent. As described by Kipling in “Kim”, the British used their intelligence network. They exploited conflicts and jealousies between Afghan tribes to make them proxies for their plans. Both British and Russians used traders, explorers and others to further their respective imperial interest.

One major ‘false flag operation’ by the British secret service was lieutenant (late Colonel) Thomas Edward Lawrence initiative, under the guise of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ successfully incite the Arab tribes to revolt against the Ottoman Empire and helped to Balkanize the Arab world into many small states that could be played against each other of special interest are the Chindits, long range penetration units named after a mythical Burmese beast. Special operations units of the British-Indian army founded in 1942 in Jhansi they saw action in 1943–1944, during the Burma Campaign of World War II raiding operations against the Imperial Japanese Army, especially long-range penetration: attacking Japanese troops, facilities and lines of communication, deep behind Japanese lines.  Not too long ago a special unit was created in the British Armed Forces by Gen Nicholas Carter to carry out Hybrid Warfare, not surprising it is called the 77th Brigade, same as the Chindits.

There is no uniform understanding of the term and its implications of hybrid warfare. The US Department of Defence (DD), NATO and EU see Hybrid Warfare mainly as a means to undermine democratic states and democracy as such. Col. Frank Hoffman’s approach is to see it as a combination of regular and irregular warfare that includes the use of terrorist acts and extreme violence. The US Army Chief of Staff defined a hybrid threat in 2008 as an adversary that incorporates “diverse and dynamic combinations of conventional, irregular, terrorist and criminal capabilities” and the United States Joint Forces Command defined a hybrid threat as, “any adversary that simultaneously and adaptively employs a tailored mix of conventional, irregular, terrorism and criminal means or activities in the operational battle space. Rather than a single entity, a hybrid threat or challenger may be a combination of state and non-state actors”.  In 2011 the U.S. Army defined a hybrid threat as “the diverse and dynamic combination of regular forces, irregular forces, criminal elements, or a combination of these forces and elements all unified to achieve mutually benefiting effects”.

An opposite understanding of this new type of warfare is held by the Russian military. They understand it as a Western ploy against the new Russia-China axis and use Hybrid Warfare to prevent implementation of Eurasian concept and Russia‘s return as a global power. Prominent example is the article of Russian general Valeri Vasilyevitch Gerasimov, the current Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, and first Deputy Defence Minister appointed by President Vladimir Putin in 2012. In February 2013 he published a widely noticed article titled “The Value of Science Is in the Foresight: New Challenges Demand Rethinking the Forms and Methods of Carrying out Combat Operations”. Gen. Gerasimov did not use the term ‘hybrid war’ but called it “indirect and asymmetric methods” – other than sometimes stated he did not attempt to develop a doctrine that was later practiced in Ukraine, but he considers ‘indirect and asymmetric methods’ as tools from the tool box of the West.

Because the article was published approximately a year before the Maidan revolt in Ukraine that set in motion a chain of events ending with the Russian occupation of Crimea and the civil war in Eastern Ukraine the views expressed in the article were understood in the West as an expression of Russia’s understanding of hybrid warfare. Mark Galeotti, Senior Non-Resident Fellow at the Institute of International Relations translated the article into English and posted it in his blog. To make the thing catchier he called it the “Gerasimov doctrine” though even then he admitted that it was not a doctrine. The term “Gerasimov doctrine” was picked up and started a ‘destructive life’ of its own. Today Galeotti is sorry to have created the term admitting “it doesn’t exist, “the longer we pretend it does (exist), the longer we misunderstand the — real, but different — challenge Russia poses.

Charles K. Bartels a Russian linguist and analyst at the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas said that Gerasimov doesn’t use the term ‘hybrid war’ what he mentioned was the idea of “indirect and asymmetric methods” that has been interpreted by the West as hybrid war. From the Russian point of view ‘indirect and asymmetric methods’ are from the tool box of the West. For the Russians Hybrid Warfare is a Western attack on Russia to encroach on what they consider their comfort zone or their territory of influence, when Yugoslavia was divided by an unannounced and unsanctioned by the UN war on Serbia in the 1990ies, foreign interference in Transnistria in the 1990ies, in Georgia in 2008 and in the Ferghana valley in 2010. He writes: “The Russian military has been adamant that they do not practice a hybrid-war strategy.

Western and Russian ideas about and definitions of hybrid warfare are different and much wider that those in the West. Gerasimov rather means irregular warfare or asymmetric tools in an otherwise rather modern but conventional warfare. One figure used by him also shows that he sees war in today’s world conducted by non-military means in a ratio 4:1. That includes false flag operation like use of chemical weapons by rebels that can be blamed on the Syrian government, economic sanctions and rupture of diplomatic ties and even regime change.

A political analyst and a regular contributor to several online journals, Andrew Korybko is a member of the expert council for the Institute of Strategic Studies and Predictions at the People’s Friendship University of Russia. His recent (2015) book “Hybrid wars: The indirect adaptive approach to regime change” which is available online. Written three years after General Gerasimov’s article one can detect the change that has taken place: While Gerasimov was not even using the term Hybrid Warfare Korybko is written a book about it.

The basic understanding between the two seems to be the same in Russian understanding the main aim of Hybrid warfare is regime change – a tool of the West used to encroach upon the Russian sphere of influence. Korybko writes: The  book focuses  on  the  new  strategy  of  indirect  warfare  that  the  US  has  demonstrated  during  the  Syrian  and  Ukrainian  Crises.” Korybko treats Hybrid Warfare not only as an attack against Russia but against the Eurasian concept and the initiatives to implement it, i.e. OBOR and China. He mentions the name of Mackinder, the British geographer who predicted the Eurasian concept to be the ‘pivot of history’. As a motto he uses the Chinese Sun Tzu “Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” From that can be easily deducted that Russian understanding of hybrid warfare is based on Russia’s experience with Western encroachments on what they consider their comfort zone. (First part of extracts from a talk delivered at the National Defence University (NDU) recently by the defence and security analyst).

Share

WE FILERS ARE IDIOTS!

A marked deterioration in the economy, a treasury on the verge of bankruptcy and huge levels of debt made fresh fiscal measures unavoidable, the PTI’s Federal Minister for Finance had perforce to present the Finance Supplementary (Amendment) Bill 2018 in the National Assembly (NA) on Sep 18.

Several positives in the budget notwithstanding some of the measures contained in the ‘mini-budget’ are not only painful but give a perception of the govt’s policy vision becoming blurred and incoherent. Some proposals were perplexing and counterproductive. The lifting of curbs on non-filers of tax returns allowing them to purchase vehicles and property exceeding Rs 4 million triggered widespread disagreement and debate. Imposed (to their credit) by the previous PML(N) govt led by PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi during its last budget, it prompted car manufacturers and real estate dealers/developers to rise up in arms complaining that the decision brought about a sharp decline in vehicle sales between 20% to 50% while sales of property was also affected. The reality, well beyond the reach of even the upper middle class, car and property prices actually came down.

The Asad Umar decision runs contrary to the PTI govt’s stated aim of bringing more people into the tax net. By lifting the ban the PTI govt has given non-filers a carte blanche to make hay by bringing them at par with tax filers’ incentives. The Khaqan Abbasi initiative was one of PML (N)’s better policy actions, the first step towards further penalties/restrictions being imposed on non-filers e.g. renewal of NICs, passports, etc, etc to bring them into the tax net. Asad Umar caved in to the many special interests groups protesting vociferously to have this ban removed, will the opposition take this appeasement as a precedent for the future?

At 12.5%, an appalling tax to GDP ratio, Pakistan has the lowest ratio of income tax payers to the total population lower than the average for the developing world and far behind neighbouring countries India, Sri Lanka and even Nepal. A 2017 World Bank South Asia regional profile of business indicators show Pakistan ranked 172nd out of 190 countries. Only 1.4 million, less than 1% in a country of 220 million, file tax returns, the low tax collection giving woefully insufficient expenditures on health care (0.7% of GDP) and education (2% of GDP). This stifles the country’s growth potential.

Asad Umar makes even less sense claiming that the ban prevented overseas Pakistanis, being non-filers of tax returns, from investing and doing business in Pakistan. People in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) were treated as non-filers, yet a satisfactory solution was found. FBR agreed to treat their active tax payers as filers enabling them to get benefits in money transactions, registration of vehicles, sale and buying of properties as enjoyed by Pakistani tax payers (filers). The same can be done for overseas Pakistanis. One solution could have been to fix different tax rates, substantially more for filers and then for non-filers for the next five years, encouraging people to file returns to pay comparably less tax on passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

Reforms in the finance sector were not allowed to flourish by those with vested interest. Sheer patriotism led to late Moinuddin Khan sacrificing his upwardly mobile career. Having very lucrative terms as the head of Standard Chartered in Hong Kong, he resigned to take over as Chairman of a floundering Central Board of Revenue (CBR) on a salary less than 20% of what he was drawing abroad. While re-structuring was a totally new discipline to Moin known to be a strategic planner par excellence and logistical genius in banking circles, he did turn CBR around to an extent. Unfortunately for Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif’s sincere intent ultimately came to grief at the altar of populism. Going after the major tax evaders, including some of Sharif’s fat cat friends in the Liberty Market, was Moin’s great mistake. Resigning from the CBR, he ultimately died heartbroken. I was privileged to work with this support technocrat uncovering tax dodgers in “Operation FOXHUNT”. Given the go-ahead by Sartaj Aziz as Finance Minister, it was scuttled by Ishaq Dar, who having agreed with the exercise as Federal Minister for Economic Affairs but terminated it when he became Finance Minister.

The stated goal of PTI is to strengthen democracy and national cohesion by closing the gap between rich and poor by uplifting the poor. Paying taxes helps the government financially to improve on social services and create jobs, but feeling included also people across the broad spectrum take ownership of the country by paying taxes. By being interested in policy making they will feel responsible for their country. “No taxation without representation” was the slogan of American settlers in the late 18th century protesting against paying taxes without representation in the British parliament in London. “No representation without taxation” is the slogan for Pakistan to tell non-filers that they have no political and other rights in this country if they do not contribute proportionately to the running of Pakistan. Rights always come with responsibilities and paying taxes is the major responsibility connected to citizen’s rights. Basically each and every citizen should declare his or her income, even small amounts. The act of filing means taking ownership of the state even if no tax or a small amount is paid. Anyone owning a car personally is a potential tax payer and should be a filer.

Simplifying taxation procedures will protect our industries. Our agri-based economy is heavily reliant on the agriculture sector. Agro-based industries being less capital intensive creates employment opportunities in rural areas, raises income of farmers, provides a boost to the agricultural production and increases exports of agricultural goods. Our Agro-based industries include rice and wheat milling, sugar making, oil crushing, poultry, fish processing, dairy products and many others. Instead of providing protection to our industry e.g. bread, butter, cheese, milk, toffees, biscuits and even “lassi”, etc, we import these items that are produced domestically. Imported items line our store shelves, such imports destroy our local industries.

To stop prices soaring, luxury tax must be imposed in a way only the very rich can afford it.  While we gullible stupid million or so filers must bear Atlas-like (with apologies to Ayn Rand and her book “Atlas Shrugged”) the burden of 200 million plus (with30 million non-filers camouflaged among them) Asad Umar seems to believe what we filers really are, certified idiots! One will wait to see what Imran thinks?

Share

NO MORE PSLs ABROAD

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?,” to quote my articleLest we forgetof April 6, 2018.

Pakistan had not hosted a single game at home in more than four years because of the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers’  bus in Lahore. The Pakistan Super League (PSL) launched in 2016 became an instant hit in and outside Pakistan, the real success came with PSL 2017 when the final was played in Lahore. A World XI squad than toured Pakistan in Sept 2017 for a T20 series marking the return of high profile international cricket to the country. In a gesture overflowing with symbolism the Sri Lankans than played the last of their T20s away series in Lahore in Oct.

The good news about the 2019 edition is that the PCB is trying to host the opening ceremony in Pakistan, the bad news is that, including the final in Karachi on March 17, only eight matches are to be played in Pakistan. If the security in Pakistan is safe to host eight matches in Pakistan, does it make any sense to host the remaining 30 odd matches in the UAE?  In March 2018 Ramiz Raja made some rather ridiculous suggestions about (1) attracting better cricketers to PSL and (2) what needed to be done to fill up the stadiums in Dubai and Sharjah. His brainchild “hiring international tour operators to take fans from Pakistan to the UAE to fill up stadiums” was sheer nonsense. To quote my article in the Daily Times “PSL must remain in Pakistan” of March 25, 2018, Can foreign exchange-strapped Pakistan (US$ “spiking” from Rs 110 to 115 only yesterday and now Rs 125) afford the luxury of their cricket-starved citizens spending hard earned foreign exchange on hotels, meals and taxis in cash-rich Dubai for nearly one month long tournaments. UAE stadiums were less than 10% full, even on Thursday nights and Fridays. Would 10000-15000 Pakistanis flown in from Pakistan fill even half the capacity of the UAE stadiums? Can Dubai and Sharjah Stadiums financially survive without the PSL funding them 31 out of 34 PSL matches?” unquote.

Among the handful of Pakistani commentators acceptable to the Indian Premier League (IPL) where Pakistani cricketers are not welcome, was Rameez Raja campaigning on India’s behalf to keep the PSL from being staged in Pakistan?  On the one hand you have Finance Minister Asad Umar struggling to meet the need of the hour in the face of an economic crisis, clamping down on imports to save precious foreign exchange, very rightly carrying out PM Imran Khan’s instructions about an austerity campaign.  On the other we have Imran’s former teammate Rameez Raja strongly recommending the hemorrhaging of foreign exchange from cash-strapped Pakistan to oil rich UAE.

Speaking at the PSL 2017 Final Najam Sethi should have given more than passing mention to the role of security agencies and the tremendous sacrifice rendered by our soldiers and policemen over the years to make Karachi (and Pakistan) safe. Lest we forget, it is these thousands of Shaheeds and many more  wounded which made cricket a domestic happening instead of PSL remaining a Rameez Raja advertised “Yatra” filling Dubai’s coffers. Moreover despite all the heroics and ultimate sacrifice of our brave soldiers, what is the perception the world gets by PCB not holding the PSL in Pakistan? This graphically suggests that our security establishment is not confident about preserving the peace in Pakistan, that is in line with and supports India’s black propaganda against Pakistan.  Staging PSLs outside Pakistan reinforces the adverse perception that Pakistan is an insecure state, the irony is that PCB is inadvertently funding the anti-Pakistan campaign in the world that Pakistan is still not safe for sports.

During the early part of the 21st century, thanks to the dispensation afforded to militant political activists in Karachi by “Pakistan First” Gen Musharraf in 2000, armed criminal gangs took over entire localities in Karachi, with MQM’s sector offices acting as enforcement arms for Altaf’s whims and caprices. With militants belonging to the partners of the Sindh ruling coalition being now “legal” Karachi’s citizens became hostage to their cruelty. This finally evoked a response  operations form the security establishment, and that too with reluctant Federal sanction once things really got out of hand.

From conducting counter-insurgency, in South Waziristan Maj Gen Ijaz Chaudhry was transferred post-haste from his Division engaged in counter-insurgency operation in FATA to DG Rangers Sindh in April 2010.  Re-organising his command Ijaz weeded out undesirable elements and re-trained them for their mission statement and started 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. President Arif Alvi was than a net beneficiary, without the peace imposed by the law enforcement agencies (LEFs) he could have never been elected as the sole PTI MNA in Karachi.  Promoted in Oct 2011 as Lt Gen Ijaz stayed as DG Rangers for six months before taking over as Comd 5 Corps in March 2012. PM Imran Khan’s PTI is now a major beneficiary of the peace process enacted by Ijaz and carried on by successors Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar (who rid us of the 122 illegal MQM office or rather enforcement centres) and Shahid Baig Mirza.    From being 6th most dangerous city out of 300 cities in 2014, Karachi dropped in rank to 50th in 2016, amply demonstrating the sacrifice rendered by our soldiers and policemen done by the Rangers (read the Army).

With a tremendous reputation, PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani brings with him a wealth of experience having served in executive capacities in various cricket bodies. Represented the PCB in the ICC from 1989, he served on the “Advisory Committee” as PCB’s representative during the 1996 and the 1999 Cricket World Cup and on the Asian Cricket Council. In June 2003 he became the ICC President where he served with distinction, leaving this organization in 2006 in a better state for his involvement. Ehsan has “short and long-term strategies” for improvement in domestic cricket and cricketing affairs in general, and to wipe out nepotism from the cricket body in line the new govt’s agenda.

The new PCB Chairman has said that he would like the entire PSL to be played in Pakistan from 2020, Ehsan Mani should do so from the 2019 edition. In 2018 when the last three matches were played in Pakistan as many as 18 international players participated from the West Indies, England, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and England. Cricket commentators from South Africa, Australia, West Indies and England were also there. The stadiums for these three matches were jam-packed with hardly any space left to fill. Taking the success of PSL 2018 and foreign cricketers participation as the yardstick, one can be sure that with the money saved from the logistics being presently gifted to the UAE would be diverted to enhance their remuneration and encourage more foreign players to play in Pakistan.

Not only would cost the PCB at least ten times less hosting the event in in Quetta, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Multan, Islamabad, Hyderabad, etc? as compared to the UAE, this will also directly and indirectly provide a boost to the local economy.  With PCB will stand to earn more revenues than what it does in the UAE where stadiums are always almost empty. the huge rentals that PCB doles out for UAE Stadiums should be diverted to improving the cricket stadiums in Pakistan. In fact let the big banks making big banks bid for improving each of the Stadiums.   This moreover give PCB the advantage of possibly doubling or even tripling the amount of money for more incentives to foreign players to play in Pakistan. And what about the indirect benefit to hundreds of businesses in the cities where the matches will be played?  In 2018 PCB earned a profit of $5 million from the PSL, not taking into account earnings from television rights, this will increase manifold if the entire tournament is played in Pakistan. Looked at in any way this is a win-win situation for Pakistan.

For a country that is scarred by several decades of terrorism, the collective activity of the masses cheering for their teams and favorites players will both heal and bind the nation.  Sports captures the dormant patriotism and evokes it to cement the unity of the nation.  Above all it will go a long way in negating the “Hybrid warfare” being staged by India to isolate Pakistan in sports.  Unfortunately PCB has become an inadvertent tool in the hands of Indian machinations and their agents.  The ball is now in Ehsan Mani’s court, no more PSLs abroad please.

Share

WHY GOOD ADVISERS MATTER?

Two names were recently recommended to the PM for appointment as MD PIA.   One was a former MD who had earlier set PIA on the road to destruction and would probably have been lynched by the PIA rank and file, the other recommendation was about someone professionally unqualified for the job, the individual’s major qualification was being related to someone important.  Not only did the VIP have any idea that his name was being used, he had given strict instructions that if any friend or relative used his name they must not be accommodated.  To his credit the PM turned down both the names.  Some bureaucrats operate on the classic ploy of getting two birds with one stone without taking any blame themselves. Selection of the important person’s unqualified relative would have caused a furore, embarrassing not only the PM but also the VIP in question. With such unscrupulous people around the PM, “Dr Atif Mian” types of blunders are likely to be engineered regularly. Guess who stands to suffer the political fallout?

With a deep understanding and extensive knowledge about a specific topic or field, advisers have cross-functional and multi-disciplinary expertise. This mentor or guide is typically part and parcel of the leadership inner circle, having specific skills and knowledge and the ability to impart sound and sane advice. With specialisation and innovation advisers are now an integral part of businesses, financial institutions, educational institutions, legal firms, insurance houses, govts, etc. They are also part of the decision-making processes of various Ministries, the Prime Minister (PM), the President or whoever at that hierarchical ruling level needs to make sound decisions. They synthesize information rapidly and develop a comprehensive understanding and analysis thereof of the context and key issues at hand to be conveyed as options those in charge. Chosen with the great care and diligence, the advisers’ sole driving motivation must be the country’s interest first and foremost, and thereafter the interest of their leader, and in that order. An adviser having even an iota of personal motivation or his own interest will bring about disastrous consequences for those governing in any capacity.

The history of advisers, good and bad, is very old but quite fascinating. Some famous advisers who were successful in helping their leaders achieve their aims, viz(1) Chanakhya was a master strategist and a shrewd politician who helped Chandragupta of the Maurya dynasty run his empire. His book “Arthashastra” is considered as the holy grail of Hindu politics and diplomacy (2) the Hindu adviser to Mughal Emperor Akbar, Birbal’s, wisdom was unparalleled, he was known for his wit and innovative solutions to many problems faced (3) As the Prime Minister to Wilhelm I of Prussia, and later the German Empire, Otto von Bismarck was instrumental in the unification of various German principalities into the German Empire and building its world-renowned bureaucracy and army. Yelü Chucai was a trusted adviser to Genghis Khan who once ruled most of the known world. Chucai convinced the Mongols to tax conquered cities instead of destroying them as per usual practice, arguing that the money and manpower gained from the cities could fund future conquests. A common feature was their loyalty to their sovereign, instead of being “prima donnas”, their approach was low-key and behind the scenes.

Unfortunately throughout history many advisers have also proven themselves to be neither honest nor efficient, many leaders were duped by their closest advisers. Their own agenda included power, some desired revenge, some hungered for control while others sought to oust a leader they deemed unfit for duty. Many leaders met tragic ends at the hands of their advisers.  With a naive and pious King Henry VI of England not interested in politics or state affairs, a small group of advisers took full control of the country. He was eventually declared unfit to rule by his leading relatives and advisers.  Infamous mystic Rasputin won favor with Nicholas II, the last Czar of Russian and his wife, by convincing them that he had cured their son of the bleeding disorder hemophilia, which even today has no known cure. Though his political influence was relatively minor, the Czarina increasingly listened to his political counsel.

Entrusted by US President Leaders in 1864, General Ulysses S. Grant led the US armies to victory over the Confederacy in the American Civil War in 1865. At age 46, he was elected as the 18th President of the United States in 1869, the youngest in US history until that time.  Although highly scrupulous himself his administration was tainted with scandal. His misfortune was that except his longtime confidante, Gen Rawlins, who functioned as his Chief of Staff, many of his close advisers let him down. Considered by Grant as the most indispensable man he had around him, Rawlins unfortunately died after only five months of service suffering from tuberculosis.

With no check on them Grant’s other Advisers went berserk after Rawlins died. Appointed Secretary to the US President, Orville Babcock became embroiled in corruption charges and was accused of manipulation of both cabinet departments and appointments. Out of loyalty to their shared battlefield experience Grant shielded Babcock from all political attacks. Indicted as a member of the “Whiskey Ring” in 1875 he was protected by Grant providing a written deposition on his behalf resulting in Babcock’s acquittal. However many other scandals resulted in Babcock leaving the White House under pressure from Secretary of State Hamilton Fish who conceivably was one of Grant’s finest Cabinet officers. Unfortunately President Grant’s choices of cabinet members, staff and advisers were notably mostly “hit and miss”. Though scrupulously honest himself he was not a good judge of character, Gen Grant had a penchant for appointing the wrong people, and than being too loyal to those who proved dishonest and opportunistic. His administration’s scandals rocked both of his presidential terms.  Historian Henry Waltmann argued that the Grant’s political naïveté undercut his effectiveness. Well-intentioned but shortsighted he listened now to one faction and then to another among the generals, cabinet members, state politicians and advisers.

Leader of consequence need an adviser or advisers to take sane council from, particularly in times of distress. Individuals and/or groups can expert major influences without being the actual leaders but if they look towards their personal interests, and not of their leader, they can cause havoc. Benefitting not only from thoroughly vetted and stress-tested honest and objective perspectives, a leader can than make good decisions, for the country and for himself.

Share

A MATTER OF SHAME

That the wolves would soon be at the door should not have surprised anybody, what is surprising is that Imran Khan’s people were not better prepared to deal with the hungry pack left out in the political cold. Despite the losers’ calling for mass rejection of the alleged July 25 election rigging, they failed to mobilise the streets. Fazlur Rahman’s vociferously fulminated that the new National Assembly (NA) would not be allowed to go into Session, it did (without him). In an act of sheer hypocrisy he tried being elected from the same platform he condemned, what’s new?  Subsequently when the “helicopter to Banigala” story failed to take traction, Usman Buzdar’s selection as the Chief Minister (CM) Punjab was made a point of contention. Barely 12 days into governance incomplete staff homework led to the “Dr. Atif Mian” fiasco. The opposition has been milking this heaven-sent opportunity for all its worth.

Religious extremists lost out to the Pakistan Armed Forces on the battlefield in their bid to take over the country violently.  Wiped out from their sanctuaries the religious extremists also lost out big on the ballot box, however they remain a virulent violent minority. Including the vote tally of the moderate religious-minded parties like the JI, etc, have polled less than 12% of the vote nationally but still retain considerable nuisance value.  This they exercise by clogging up choke-points in cities like Islamabad, there is nothing more potent a religious issue than the “Ahmadi” one.

Discriminating against a minority means violating the Constitution. Grievances are mostly manufactured and incidents staged to enflame public opinion. To quote extracts from my article of Dec 3, 2015, “Falsely accusing its security officer of burning pages of the Holy Quran, a violent mob consisting of people from the adjoining villages attacked the “Pakistan Chipboard Factory” in Jhelum on Nov 20. Claiming most men in the mob were drunk and were only there to steal valuables. MPA Mehar Muhammad Faiz, sent by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif to investigate, said “Though it had nothing to do with religion, they stormed the factory on the excuse of blasphemy allegations.”  In the “Dr Atif Mian” affair the govt headed off a full-fledged crisis in the making by requesting the renowned economist to fall on his sword. To their credit so did two of his colleagues from the Economic Advisory Council (EAC).  All this left a bad taste in the mouth and opened the doors for future blackmail, particularly on the most sensitive issues of religion.

While we cannot accept discrimination on the basis of sect, caste, race, religion, colour, etc, Imran Khan cannot afford controversies threatening his govt less than a fortnight of into governance.  In the prevailing environment discretion has to be the better part of pragmatism.  His excellent credentials notwithstanding, the cause for Pakistan would have been better served by not making Dr. Atif Mian a “cause célèbre” for all the wrong reasons.   The selection of individuals by govt must be by due process, both the advantages and the backlash must be analyzed through active war-gaming.

As for the Ahmadis and their not being good citizens of Pakistan, flashback to midnight Dec 12, 1971. Lt Col (later Brig) Mohammad Taj SJ & Bar, Commanding Officer (CO) 44 Punjab (now 4 Sindh) assembled his “O” Orders Group adjacent to Sanohi village near Chor.  60 Bde from 33 Div had been moved post-haste from Rahimyar Khan to reinforce the Chor-Umerkot Sector because of the overwhelming Indian pressure on the badly outnumbered out gunned 55 Bde under constant Indian air attacks. The mission given to 44 Punjab was rather desperate, capture the ridge overlooking Sanohi Village in a two-company attack before first light 13 Dec so as to deny the Indians physical domination of Chor and the area surrounding by direct fire.  In many ways it was a last throw of the dice, to deny Indians access to the green belt it was do or die! When the CO asked for questions, one of the company commanders excused himself as having a heart pain, another said his ankle was badly sprained.  There was stunned silence in the makeshift dugout!

To quote my article “The Ides of March Again” on March 2013 “Capt Naseer Tariq and 2/Lt Hanif Butt (or Singawala as we affectionately knew him) vociferously volunteered to go with us into the unknown, cheerfully brave, fighting for country and willing to die for it. Being “Ahmadis” they left the Army a few years later as Majors, retiring as outstanding soldiers. One is proud that these courageous sons of the soil are still my friends 42 years later, notwithstanding their shortened career they still swear by the uniform they wore and the country they boldly defended. Where were “the defenders of the faith” (of the warped version that is) when these two were willing to give the ultimate sacrifice?” unquote. And what answer do I now give to these two outstanding and selfless sons of the soil?  That a small group of bigots are ex-communicating them as citizens misusing our religion for their own crass selfish purposes?

And then comes the matter of how Dr Atif Mian became a controversy. Writing in his blog Haider Mehdi says, “This is not as much a failure of PTI or Imran buckling under the right wing threat, it is a manifestation of a serious lack of a professional, thorough, rigorous and robust, decision making process”. unquote. Relying on real-time correct information this comprehensive process must be thoroughly analysed before a decision is made, not to “debate a decision till death” according to Richard Nixon, Imran Khan must be sanitized from bad or motivated advice by a competent staff system.  He cannot afford incompetence, corruption or motivation in his decision-making circle. To quote Haider Mehdi further, “while he (Imran) probably had nothing to do with the initial decision, every screw up, every stupidity, every unprofessional act, every incompetence, every deliberate sabotage by any member of his team, whether deliberate or in ignorance will lie at Imran’s doorstep and tarnish his brand!”, unquote.  In the present circumstances where the Pakistan Army has with great sacrifice won a victory on the battlefield in a sustained campaign against religious bigots and the electorate has given them a resounding blow at the ballot box, we should have been pragmatic and not given them the space they got.

Leaders must take action to protect the minorities, realizing their responsibilities they must have the courage to go with their conviction. To quote David Seabury, “Courage and conviction are powerful weapons against an enemy who depends only on fists or guns. Animals know when you are afraid; a coward knows when you are not”. Those that raise their hand on the weak and helpless are nothing but animals and cowards.

Share

SOLDIER CITIZEN ALL-AMERICAN JOHN McCAIN

The timing of the death of soldier citizen John McCain has immense ramifications for the dangerous crossroads the US is placed in today. For me personally this extraordinary all-American defender of democracy and freedom symbolized the courage and fairplay that was synonymous with the American persona and character mostly on display in the 20th century, during and immediately after the two World Wars.  That is not to say it does not exist, it does among a vast majority but is increasingly less on display. With emerging threats to its global leadership and to the principles for which the US once stood for in the free world, democratic rule, protection of individual rights and equal justice before law, “his death is either the passing of an era or the rekindling of American purpose”, to quote my good friend Fred Kempe, President Atlantic Council.

Military officer and politician, US Senator from Arizona from 1987 John Sidney McCain III died on Aug. 25. 2018, 81 years of age. Steeped in naval tradition (his father and grandfather both of the same name were Admirals), he graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1958. Becoming a naval aviator, he flew ground attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. Shot down in the Vietnam War over Hanoi during a bombing mission in Operation “Rolling Thunder” in October 1967, he was seriously injured and captured by the North Vietnamese. He experienced episodes of torture as a PW until 1973, refusing an early repatriation offer when his father Admiral John McCain II was commanding all US naval forces off Vietnam and the Vietnamese were hoping for a PR coup with his release. Wounds sustained during the war left him with lifelong physical disabilities.  Even then as a US Senator he later campaigned for restoring diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

Retiring from the Navy as a Captain in 1981 he moved to Arizona and in 1982 was elected to the US House of Representatives. After serving two terms, he entered the US Senate in 1987, winning re-election five times, lastly in 2016. The Republican “maverick” disagreed with his party on some issues. Making campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, he co-sponsored the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002. One of his unusual (for a politician) trails was his willingness to acknowledge his mistakes and weaknesses. Losing the Republican nomination for President in 2000 to George W Bush, he eventually secured the nomination in 2008. McCain was defeated by Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

Opposing President Barack Obama in most of his Presidential initiatives, particularly foreign policy, was done with logic, reason and civility. Consider his former political opponent speaking at his memorial service at the National Cathedral in Wash DC, “John liked being unpredictable, even a little contrarian. He had no interest in conforming to some pre-packaged version of what a Senator should be, and he didn’t want a memorial that was going to be pre-packaged either. President Bush and I are among the fortunate few who competed against John at the highest levels of politics. He made us better Presidents. Just as he made the Senate better. Just as he made this country better. So for someone like John to ask you, while he’s still alive, to stand and speak of him when he’s gone, is a precious and singular honor,” unquote. That sums up the quintessential McCain, having the ultimate confidence to let his lifelong opponents vouch for his character and integrity.

Some American families are truly great, that is the strength of America.  For me an endearing sight at the Memorial Service was his 100 plus mother Roberta McCain in a wheelchair, his wife Cindy stoically calm and two of his sons in service uniform, Navy and Marine respectively. The McCains remind me of the Perots. Privileged to have Ross Perot Jr Chairman of EastWest Institute (EWI), New York as a close friend, one had the privilege of meeting his father Ross Perot Sr. Despite being billionaires all the Perots, grandfather, son and grandson have served in the Armed Forces.  Also a US Presidential candidate like McCain this man was so committed to the employees of the company he built that he launched a private mission to rescue those who were imprisoned in Iran in the late 1970s. In the McCains, the Perots, and many other American families like them, one sees at first hand the great sense of service and commitment to their country that so many Americans have, whatever their wealth and status. The possibility of upward mobility and the lack of importance of one’s birth is the strength of America.

John McCain’s farewell message was read by a close friend and aide after his death, “There is always the temptation to see in the dreams of others for democracy all of the particular reasons why their struggles are different from ours…But if I leave you with one thought tonight, my friends, let it be this: It is our obligation, as free peoples, to look beyond these divisions. To disregard all the arguments that counsel passivity in the fight for human dignity, and to reaffirm that core idea united us all, and: solidarity with the universal longings of the human soul, for basic rights and equality, for liberty under the law, for tolerance and opportunity. We weaken it when we hide behind walls, rather than tear them down; when we doubt the power of our ideals, rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been” unquote.

Ambassador Clint Williamson and Julia Fromholz from the McCain Institute of International Leadership, Washington DC, honoured me with their presence at my family home Amaanibagh, Angoori (near Islamabad) in October 2017 to present to me, in front of family and friends, a signed photograph that Senator John McCain had inscribed  “Thank you for your brave service to Freedom and Democracy”, a treasured possession one displays with great pride.  One does not even dream of comparing myself with this truly great man and wonderful human who was honoured and remembered this past week but given what we had in common, both soldier brats, aviators and POWs, one truly felt his loss.

While being grateful to the McCain Institute and Julia Fromholz for inviting me to the Memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington DC on Saturday Sep 1, 2018 one greatly regret not being able to avail of privilege, feeling my loss even more seeing the ceremony live on TV.  The memorial service brought home to me how a nation should honour its heroes, the eulogies delivered by friend and former foe alike ample recognition of what a great nation America is, was and can be as long as it keep its civility and fairplay paramount, is not influenced by crass motives and machinations of others and remains fair in its dealings with others. This was more than a memorial for a man who had died, it was a celebration of the life of the man as he had lived it, with honour and dignity, his courage and conviction emblazoned like a shining light on his spirit and soul.  Soldier and citizen all-American John McCain, rest in peace!

Share

EURASIAN REAL POLITIK

Europe and Asia are geographically one land mass, British geographer Sir Halford J. Mackinder maintained as far back as 1904 that whoever controlled the Eurasian heartland would control the world. Soon after, Nicolas Spyman countered with the thesis that whoever controlled Eurasia’s rim would control the heartland and the world. China’s Belt and Road Initiative’s (BRI) enterprise of six economic corridors shifts the global developmental initiatives from the Indian and Pacific Oceans to the Eurasian mainland.

Straddling 60 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. BRI’s programme will invest tens of billions of US dollars to augment and upgrade rail, roads, bridges and energy projects. Taking advantage of former Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD) plans, now taken up by an expanded Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) including six former Soviet territories, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is BRI’s flagship project. With power pivoting towards the Eurasian heartland, the rise of China as the world’s largest economy brought hundreds of millions out of poverty, making China the world’s second military power. Given its former territories Russia is still the dominant power in Central Asia and a critical player in the Middle East. It has simultaneously risen Phoenix-like from the ashes, by itself more than a military match for NATO.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (CSO) characterises the reality of the ‘new world order’ in the Eurasian image.  With enormous distances greatly reduced by road and rail connections, saving time and money, the difference between people, economies and cultures east and west of the Ural Mountains is not more than between Eastern and Western European people and cultures.

Most economists agree that impacting nearly every aspect of modern life globalization is an unstoppable force beneficial to the world economy. Pakistan is struggling with the impact of globalization mainly because of our foreign policy. From 1947 Pakistan has been vulnerable being squeezed in between a hostile India opposing partition and an equally hostile Afghanistan refusing to recognize the newly independent state. While the situation seven decades later is not much different, the Pakistan Armed Forces have developed over the past decade into a potent force, their tremendous sacrifices in sweat and blood giving us the option for an independent stance.  The Cold War scenario found Pakistan aligned with the US seeking support for its very existence. Though unavoidable in the circumstances, membership in SEATO and CENTO severely limited Pakistan’s foreign policy options. Nevertheless, US-Pak relations became strained within a decade, during the 1965 war with India the US was neutral, in 1971 it gave only lip-service while Pakistan was dismembered. With Pakistan again becoming “cornerstone of US foreign policy” as its only springboard in the Afghan war in the 80s and then in the 21st century (till even today), US turned it into its “foreign policy gravestone” by imposing sanctions on Pakistan soon after its services were neither needed (1989) or diminished (after 2008).

Situated as a bridge at the crossroads of the Asian mainland between the different regions and powers, Pakistan’s special responsibility is to keep the region stable, our foreign policy commitment must mirror this. With over 1.8 billion people, South Asia has the world’s largest working-age population with a majority work force in the agriculture sector. The workshare of the services sector has increased significantly in the past few years. Sharing borders in Central and South Asia with its four neighbours i.e. China, Afghanistan, India and Iran and the oil-rich Gulf, this geopolitically important region’s natural resources and human capital makes the potential for growth enormous. A national security policy must structure the new geopolitical realities to rethink and create consensus (by public and institutional debate) about our fundamental national interests. The region’s volatility forbids our joining any bloc or having relationships with one country to the exclusion of another. Maintaining our neutral position we must keep balance between our next-door neighbour Iran and an old friend Saudi Arabia as also between our old ally US and our new relations with Russia.   As a concept Eurasianism encourages prevalence of regional relations over distanced ones, the SCO platform holds a promise for stability and options for negotiated resolution of crises for both Pakistan and India.

The Eurasian concept of accumulating economic power is a global-scale strategy that acknowledges the objectivity of globalization and the weakening importance of nation-states. This different scenario entails no unipolar world or united global government but offers several global zones that are not nation-states but a coalition reorganized into continental federations or “democratic empires” with a large degree of inner self-government. An alternative or multipolar version of globalization, the Eurasian Idea accepts globalization as the currently major fundamental world process deciding the main vector of modern history.

The Soviet Union’s disintegration and US’ “clash of civilizations” strategy which resulted in the 9/11 tragedy triggered a new wave of global polarization and warfare that has kept the world disturbed. Having defeated the Pakistani Taliban and eliminating their strongholds in Tribal Areas and Karachi, fencing of Pak-Afghan border, de-radicalization programs for militants and eliminating financing of terrorism, etc. We must promote the peace process in Afghanistan to ward off threats such as Islamic extremism embodied by Islamic State (IS).

CENTO becoming redundant after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the situation has now reversed.  Though Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries are not as vulnerable militarily that they were 50 years ago, even flexing their muscles in Yemen, they still require a military shield. Can the US with its Israeli and Indian partners provide this?  Two of the three major non-Arab Muslim countries making up CENTO, Iran and Turkey, have sanctions imposed by the US, once CENTO’s major sponsor.   Incidentally all three (including Pakistan) have powerful Armed Forces which are intact despite the turmoil in the region.

Military-military (mil-mil) equations with Japan and India respectively defines US strategy to contain China in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  One does not see Japan engaging in any war on the land mass of Asia, after its 1962 experience would India ever try taking on China?  More importantly would the US public support any adventure committing American troops in a land war in Asia?  Particularly given a CENTO “in reverse” and the ominous presence of land-based Chinese and Russian forces?  While denying the Pacific and Indian Ocean sea lanes to Russia and China, the US Fifth and Sixths Fleets may as well go on a permanent pleasure cruise. What BRI’s exploiting the land mass means for Eurasia about sums up the new economic and political reality now obtaining in Eurasia (the writer is a defence and security analyst).

Share

COMMON MAN’S UNCOMMON PM

Imran Khan won over the hearts of the masses by his very candid and honest manner in his address to the nation as PM. Delivered from the heart in plain words, his talking points scribbled in his own handwriting he meant what he said. The nation has been waiting to hear from their leaders for the last 71 years about the poor-rich divide and the vital issues haunting the masses on the poverty line or barely above it. Not attacking the Opposition directly, he held them responsible for the current debt crisis of Rs 28 trillion that 10 years ago (2008) was only Rs. 6 trillion.

Pledging to cut govt spending, end corruption and repatriate public funds,  he promised Pakistani expatriates a conducive investment environment, exhorting them to deposit  their hard-earned money into Pakistani banks through official channels to provide some relief to our current financial crunch. Outlining deficiencies in Pakistan’s human development and the health-care sector, he promised adopting austerity measures to relieve the strain on the economy and tackle foreign debt.  Appealing to the people to team up with him to improve health-care system and provide proper nutrition to children, he said his govt will improve the public sector educational institutions to absorb the more than 20 million children not going to schools. Madaris too would include modern subjects so that students across the broad spectrum could become engineers, doctors, etc.

To symbolise austerity, the PM will himself stay in the 3-bedroom Military Secretary’s residence in the PM’s House keeping only two employees out of the 524 reserved for the sitting premier.  Retaining only two of the 80 cars at the PM house, 33 of them very expensive bullet proof ones, he requested the business community to purchase them at an auction. Promising to convert all existing Governor Houses into public places,  the PM House would be converted into a world class university.

Urging the wealthy to start paying taxes,  a perennial problem with less than 1 percent of the population filing income tax, Pakistan has become notorious for tax dodgers. Instead of trying to rebuild the economy by external loans, he vowed to bring about changes in the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) having lost its credibility because of corruption. Promising to protect the people’s tax money to ensure it is spent on them, he urged the people to start paying taxes not only for a better life but also to lift the destitute out of poverty.

Imran planned to meet the Chairman National Accountability Bureau (NAB)  facilitating making NAB more effective and more transparent in its fight against corruption. Imran Khan hopes to enact a law for “whistleblowers” in the manner he has done in Khyber Pahktunkhwa (KPK), whoever helps identify corruption gets a share of the money that is recovered. The PM has decided to keep the Interior Ministry and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) under himself as “I want to personally oversee our efforts to eradicate corruption”.

Reforming the civil service serving as the backbone of bureaucracy is a priority for the PM, to enforce meritocracy and restore it to its formerly held high standards. “In the 1960s we were considered one of the best in the world,” he said. “It is unfortunate how we have fallen behind. This is largely because of a few corrupt individuals and unbridled political interference” unquote. Dr Ishrat Hussain, former Governor State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has been tasked to form a Committee to bring merit back. Warning that that political interference will not be tolerated in any appointments, the PM announced bonuses for the selfless and efficient employee and penalties for those who failed.

Imran Khan stressed upon transferring the devolution of power saying that previous govts were loathe to introduce local govt or kept creating roadblocks in its implementation, “Power must be given to the bottom-most tier. Nazims will be directly elected in districts, while checks and balances will be kept.” Every attempt to introduce local govts has been met with resistance from the bureaucracy, especially by the District Management Group and the Police Service of Pakistan, who claim superiority over the district administration as a backdrop of their colonial legacy.

The PM stressed increasing Pakistan’s exports by facilitating all the industries to remove bottlenecks and hurdles. He promised to bring back investment into the country by making an environment for investment. Our embassies across the world will engage all overseas Pakistanis (and others) who may wish to take our goods and products. A “Business Advisory Council” is being set up to provide assistance and help address their challenges.

The PM explained his vision of using the examples of governance set by the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) “to bring the nation out of its plight,” in essence creating a Medina-style Islamic Welfare State. Calling the Holy Quran as his fundamental and eternal guide for lifting the country based on such a model, he put forth a five-point agenda 1) Supremacy of law where the law has to be the same for everyone 2) Zakat, where the rich pay more to subsidize the poor 3) Compassion, today this is practiced more in the west where even animals are cared for in ways that would put us to shame, 4) Merit, rulers must be Sadiq and Ameen, they have to be truthful with no conflict of interest and 5) Education, the Holy Prophet stressed education above everything else, even making it incumbent on his people to attain an education.

Treating challenges confronting the nation as opportunities,Imran  Khan spoke aboutrevamping the judiciary, implementing KP model of police in Punjab, repatriate our Pakistanis stuck in jails abroad, increase green cover in cities, water scarcity, building new dams, environmental issues, a crackdown on child sex abuse, etc. In essence all reforms and proposals focussed on safeguarding Pakistan’s resources and their redistribution from the rich to the less advantaged.Such was the sincerity in his tone and such was the power behind his message that even his detractors failed to find any negative aspects, the best they could do was be critical about topics the PM did not dwell upon.

The road to “Naya Pakistan”is littered with challenges and threats which are in fact opportunities. This is indeed a new beginning holding promise for the common man who was energized by hearing Imran speaking the language they wanted to hear. This uncommon man, someone who does not ask for much in return for his promises is now on his way to really becomean “uncommon” PM.

Share