Tuesday, May 15, 2018

One man demolition squad.

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Nawaz Sharif; One man demolition squad

Elevation of one wrong man to the position of authority can cause more harm than loss of a hundred wise men. (Persian proverb)

A shy young Nawaz Sharif entered the political scene of Pakistan in 1981, as is the routine with the help of soldiers in power. He lacked charisma, public speaking ability and other social graces considered important for political scene so lacked confidence which was too obvious. No one could have predicted that this man will become the most successful and effective politician in the history of Pakistan, more than Bhutto or even Quaid i Azam. His phenomenal rise has practically changed the fabric of our society and nearly created a new society with his mark on most aspects, but unfortunately most of these changes have been harmful rather detrimental to the nation and society. Counting MNSs negative influence on Pakistani society needs a complete book and can hardly be summed up in a small article, however we proceed.

MNS started as a member of Gen Zia’s handpicked majlis i shura and then became a provincial minister able to solve his own and family’s financial problems. His first move was giving generous gifts and grafts to journalists and opinion makers ensuring regular exposure and favorable news. Then he became the CM of the biggest province a few years before becoming the PM. After some hiccups he got elected as the 2/3rd majority PM before being dislodged and exiled. Still he came back to power for the third time with a thumping majority. He has been frequently in power for the last 37years which is much more than ZA Bhutto or the 1.1 years of the poor Quaid I Azam.

After becoming the CM of Punjab by bribing generals he changed his style of politics. Well aware of his limited abilities he snatched rights of people and made them privileges only he could oblige with. Government services, postings and even residential plots became the most sought after privileges. He obliged nearly everyone who approached him and promised personal loyalty and this way most of the police, bureaucracy and government servants became his beneficiaries and loyalists. CMs discretionary quotas were made limitless and even philanthropists like Imran Khan had to be obliged by him personally. Over time he gained control of the state machinery and most senior government servants were indebted to him.

After controlling the bureaucracy it was time for the politicians. Apart from jobs and postings he devised a strategy to bribe them and actually kept then under check by directly making payments in cash or plots. This gave us the shameful operation Changa Manga and Murree changing the political scene forever. Huntington says money becomes evil not when it is used to buy goods but when it is used to buy power...and Nawaz bought lots of power.

Now it was time for the general population which wasn’t easy to influence by personal bribery. Here MNS really showed some genius and announced a strange yellow cab scheme where he encouraged people to get imported new cars tax free financed by nationalized banks without sufficient guarantees. This created havoc with the economy and banks but imparted the impression he used in his favor that ”Nawaz khata hai par khilata bhi hai” a very strange argument that though he is corrupt he shares the spoils.

This generosity at the expense of national coffers was abetted with a large stick he carried for the incompliant. State machinery was frequently unleashed against those who resisted until they subdued and joined him. Rana Sana, Parvez Rasheed and many other examples can be seen. He was generous with new comers, with national coffers off course.

“Jo panah maang le us ki baksh de khata” Jaalib.

After winning a few rigged elections he maneuvered enough to become a popular political leader who knew the tricks to attain power and in 1997 he won fair and square. In 2008/2013 elections despite some unnecessary over doings he would have won anyway.

During this astonishing rise the following happened,

His unscrupulous tactics made politics an indecent dirty game. He started with absolutely indecent attacks on BB where he ridiculed her anatomy and indulged in photoshopping to malign her mother too. Religion was also used with fatwas against women’s rule. He even resuscitated the weak violent MQM of Altaf Hussain in 1997 to curtail the influence of PPP in Sind like his mentor Zia did earlier. As CM of Punjab he preached provincialism and confronted the federal government. He is the only politician who arrested the federal government employees and blatantly destroyed their development schemes. Politics became way too expensive for anyone with modest means to contemplate joining it. Ultimately politics became a way of making money for the mafia and the unscrupulous.

Violence in politics was taken to an extreme. Shooting 100 opponents in Model town at close range and getting away with it speaks volumes about his brutality and stranglehold on the system.

Our society became transactional. Whether anyone wanted a transfer, job, votes or whatever it had to be paid for.

Society got corrupted to the extent that the term corruption lost the menace and guilt associated with it. It became a fully acceptable, rather desirable to be corrupt. Our society where earlier the corrupt used to feel embarrassed hiding their ill-gotten wealth became thing of the past and vulgar display became the norm.

Waye Nakami! Mataa-e-Karwan Jata Raha
Karwan Ke Dil Se Ehsas-e-Ziyan Jata Raha

How disappointing! The caravan’s wealth is gone
The feeling of loss from caravan’s heart is gone

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”  Frederic Bastiat

MNS controlling the resources for so long made sure that others get corrupted and hence pliable. That was why he never trusted or supported a non-corrupt individual and we see many decent people getting in this trap. Corruption and nepotism is the hall mark of his politics and way of planting loyalty. Pakistan’s who is who went along; it is still supporting him for its own sake.

It got so bad that now even the PPP elected members of the ZAB times started appearing as dervishes.

Squandering of national resources and uncouth lavish consumption of state coffers became a status symbol. Mughal style Punjab houses, private jets and other wasteful expenditures for him became a norm. We still see MNS and his ilk travelling in motorcades of expensive cars bought from the taxes of the poor and no one questions.

Many state institutions and its functionaries became loyal to him instead of the state because loyalty to his person was a prerequisite for success in his tenure. He would humiliate bureaucrats and after their absolute submission to his person he would load them with favors. There are many examples that I won’t quote because he crushed many self-respecting people into his toadies begging for his favors. Spread over decades he overcame most resistance with his peculiar strategy.

Media went into his pocket through opinion makers and particular newspaper/TV owners although a few resisted initially. Ultimately prominent journalists shared the spoils of power and wealth while the ordinary fared even worse than before.

Courts and judiciary were his special targets and he enjoyed strange unheard of judgments in his favor. Starting with his manipulation in Justice Fazal Kareem commission to Naseem Hassan Shah restoring his government to the Quetta bench judgment against their own Chief, MNSs maneuvering has been unbelievably successful and effective. When judicial compliance couldn’t be managed he resorted to blatant attack on the highest judiciary, a bit like the Pakistani version of Escobar. Caught red-handed bullying judges by dictating judgments in Justice Qayyum’s case he again got away for some unknown reason when a respected judge couldn’t find any evidence against him. Somehow all technicalities and strange logics always appear to be favoring him in the court of law. Quite a few fortunes were made in the process which I am sure might have been a coincidence.

After pocketing the political scene and other institutions it was military’s turn. The COAS was called and ingeniously offered a bribe by MNSs father appearing as a dignified social gesture but it didn’t work. He kept on trying to buy generals so that no one is left in Pakistan with the ability to challenge his absolute power. He came very close to overpowering the military in Jehangir Karamats time but couldn’t establish his absolute personal authority. He has still not given up and is trying all sorts of techniques including the Ahmadi labels.

Some argue that Pakistan’s main problem is not economy or roads or anything but it’s the moral collapse we are experiencing prompting foreigners to taunt us. Economy needs rule of law, trained manpower and moral/social capital; all that he studiously destroyed along with the national self-esteem.

In the last 37 years all his efforts can be summed up as increasing his personal wealth and power at the expense of Pakistan and the self-esteem of the Pakistanis. Though not completely successful, he certainly gained substantial mileage.

The most interesting but painful part of this tragic story is that he routinely got away with all this, unbelievable. He had changed the society to his advantage using his hold on media ruthlessly. He had hushed up the opinion makers and the whistle blowers by doling favors.

It shouldn’t be unexpected to see Nawaz Sharif’s ascend coincide with descend of Pakistan, kind of inversely proportional. His mantra of development after destroying the education in Pakistan is like the British government in India where after 200 years of rule lot was done but at the end of the day Britain prospered while India languished. Here, Nawaz’s and his cronies got rich while the nation became near bankrupt.

We have to accept that Nawaz Sharif is not a person but a phenomenon, he has singlehandedly changed and corrupted the society despite his very limited abilities and intellect. Societies stand on their morality and institutions and MNS destroyed all. He has totally dominated rather crafted the system for his advantage and neutralizing him won’t be easy or painless. Miraculously he has been caught red-handed and is fighting hard to survive politically and protect his stolen wealth. His history suggests that he would resist unscrupulously and shamelessly jeopardizing everything, even his country. This is nothing unexpected as pygmy megalomaniacs honestly consider themselves the center of the universe, around whom the earth rotates. However it has to be done irrespective of the pain it causes because not removing his ill effects could be disastrous. If he survived this situation where he is caught red-handed by the international institutions there would be no stopping him and we might see a Pakistani version of Saddam Hussain with the powers he tried to get in the proposed 15th amendment, more than a monarch’s.

He is the last of the three deadly legacies of Gen Zia along with jehadis and Altaf Hussain. For the sake of our country and future generation we just can’t afford to let MNS get away with his unexplained billions as Plutarch warned us a few millennia ago, The abuse of buying and selling votes crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread to the law courts. And then to the army, and finally the Republic was subjected to the rule of emperors"

Once we ensure that the law prevails and the crooks get punished we must identify and hold accountable the people who forced such a man through the throats of this nation, whether it is Gen Zia, Jillani, Beg……

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Trump’s tweet, victim of his own success

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Trump’s tweet, victim of his own success

"I think the greatest single enemy is the misuse of information, the perversion of truth in the hands of terribly skillful people.”  John le Carré 

In the early hours of first January 2018 after a lavish new year party US President Donald Trump tweeted,
“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies and deceit, thinking our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”
He has been conducting foreign policy through Tweets for quite some time but this was unique in his peculiar ways too. Although American officials have been criticizing and blaming Pakistan for the setbacks in the Afghan war this was a very hard worded message diplomatically that also coming from the very top, from the person sitting on the most lethal arsenal world has ever known.

This Tweet naturally caused commotions in Pakistan and tumults in the US establishment too.

This message conveys three messages,
  1. US has paid a lot to Pakistan.
  2. Pakistan has cheated and harmed the US interests.
  3. US state apparatus is simple to the extent of naiveté falling into the Pakistani trap.

This appears to be the prevalent narrative in the US carefully built up by the enormous media power it controls but it is far from truth and reality. Such propagandas are for the consumption of ordinary people while those at the helm of affairs are well aware of the reality but the nonpolitical background and superficial knowledge of Trump made him believe it and fall in the pit his men dug.

Let’s see the complete picture of Pakistan and USs transactional relations since its creation,

Immediately after independence a tirade against communists was launched and leftists like Sahir Ludhianvi were harassed to the extent that they left the country. It was done on American pressure.
In the fifties Pakistan joined SEATO and CENTO against Soviet Union on American advise.
Pakistan gave bases to US and earned the wrath of the second superpower the USSR which caused its dismemberment a decade later.
Pakistan helped build Sino US relations in early seventies, a major diplomatic victory for US that put its rival USSR under tremendous pressure.
In eighties Pakistan played a major role in the Afghan war which helped end the cold war with US becoming the sole superpower. World saw a miracle where a war between superpowers was won without a single casualty of the victor costing less than $ 6 Billion.
After 2001 Pakistan gave bases to US, allowed it to use its infra-structure and fought with people fighting the occupation.

The cost of this lackeyism shown by Pakistan has been enormous. It has affected financial, social and political fabric of the country. Let’s enumerate a few,
From the very beginning Pakistan became a target for the USSR and Premier Khrushchev categorically said that he has marked it with red.
It became center of undercover activities of different intelligence agencies.
Democracy got derailed and Pakistan suffered repeated martial laws, all supported by US.
A peaceful country became hotbed of extremism.
Arms and ammunitions reached in large numbers.
Narcotics and drugs entered the society and Pakistan had one of the highest numbers of addicts.
Tolerance in society became a casualty and violence prevailed.
More than 85000 people died in these wars.
As no economy can flourish in war and uncertainty, Pakistan suffered badly economically. While the world was focusing on economy and growth we were discussing wars.
According to most economists Pakistan’s economic loss has been of over $100 Billion for supporting the US in its latest war in Afghanistan not to mention the previous ventures.

In return what has US done for Pakistan?
According to Pres. Trump it paid 33 Billion in the last 15 years. Since creation of Pakistan it received $ 67 Billion in today’s terms which for the immense services is not only a good deal for US but a steal deal; a fabulous bargain at the expense of hapless Pakistanis. Considering that US has spent over 700 B in Afghan war and over 2 Trillion in the banking crises, that amount starts appearing as peanuts especially when you consider the cost incurred on Pakistan.

Media has attained the status in international power politics what armies had enjoyed earlier and the near monopoly of US on opinion can be a major cause of national delusions. Premier Khrushchev once told Pres. Kennedy that US has nothing to worry while it has Hollywood, referring to the power of media and American dominance. Although apparently the media is independent but actually very tightly controlled through different subtle means. False rhetoric repeated enough becomes reality. According to Gore Vidal, "The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent." Only a misguided thankless President could blame Pakistan for ingratitude.
It was this power over the narrative that created the world’s most callous storyline over nuclear bombings, “US saved lives by dropping nuclear bombs”. If dropping nuclear bombs over civilians was a crime this explanation was also one.

One side of story is always unfair and with the hold on media only American side of story is known making look Americans meek and simpletons. It is this euphemistic narrative that apart from fooling the common man has fooled even the President who gave this statement while fully using Pakistan’s meager resources viciously.

The reality is that the US has always used Pakistan ruthlessly for a pittance and later dumped it shamelessly forcing it to deal with its complications. Pakistan was expected to deal with the violent forces created by US alone after 1990, something whole world with enormous resources is finding challenging.

It’s not all America’s fault as they always get accomplices who for the privilege of getting in power can harm their own country. Despite availability of criminal collaborators US can’t shed all blame because leaving a door open might be foolish but still doesn’t justify a break-in. 

US has taken unfair and callous advantage of Pakistan for too long and it is time it accepts reality and starts correcting the problems bred by its actions. Fortunately there are decent people in US who openly acknowledge it but somehow get sidelined.
Let’s stop calling these transactions as aid and call them what they are, Pakistan’s fee for help and make them reasonable.

Finally let’s stop aids and encourage trade which creates a much healthier and productive society whereas mostly aids create cheats in third world who take the money back to donor countries.

History has shown that whenever a superpower is unable to get the desired results in a war it looks for scapegoats. Brutal bombings of Cambodia and Laos are testament to the ruthlessness world powers are capable of. Let’s hope it’s not Pakistan this time.

I would like to end it with a piece of advice by Harold Pinter in his Nobel lecture of 2005,

"The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis." 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Nawaz Sharif on unprecedented offensive

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.
March 27, 2018


Nawaz on unprecedented offensive

“All confrontation is based on deception. Paul Watson”

After the July 28 judgment disqualifying him as Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif has been relentlessly on the offensive. He is proud of his confrontational skills and honestly believes that his incredible political rise was due to them. This time it is a bit different, he is ruthlessly and brutally charging state institutions, military and judiciary in particular, he has immensely benefitted from in the past, along with his opponents. He cannot be oblivious to the effects this apparently suicidal tirade might bring as no state in the world can afford to let the accused dictate judgments, but he goes on. There must be some method to this apparent madness and a focused look reveals a very well planned but dangerous strategy.

Case against Nawaz Sharif, 3 times PM of Pakistan is simple; he has expensive properties abroad that he can’t justify how he bought while being in power. Due to strange international happenings these got exposed, something everyone knew of but he and his family vehemently denied. At different fora he and his family tried different strategies justifying legitimacy of his sources of income but appeared childish or foolish, to put it mildly, landing him in deeper trouble specially the bungled up Calibri font and the dubious Qatari letter. A court case of having property beyond means now also has perjury and document tampering charges attached too.

In the last two years one thing has been established that Nawaz and family cannot show the sources of income to buy this expensive property clearly suggesting illegitimate means. The timing of purchase suggests commission in mega projects, probably of Pakistan’s first motorway.     

Now that an established politician in power for much of last 37 years with a following is caught red-handed and is out of excuses what can he do? Logically the only options were either to accept mistakes like the Japanese and show repentance, but this is Pakistan and Nawaz did what was expected of him and he went on the offensive against those what he perceived had the power to hold him accountable.

He started with making the judiciary controversial making unending allegations against the judiciary in general and the persona of specific judges in particular. Then as judiciary needs force to implement its judgments, he attacked the greatest force of the state, the armed forces. He effectively imparted a narrative which converted a simple case of politician caught in corruption into a democracy vs  dictatorship calling himself a rebel fighting for the common man. He portrays himself as a victim and a rebel while enjoying the complete hold on power at the provincial and federal levels.

With the help of cleverly planted opinion makers he has substantially succeeded in selling him narrative in Punjab for sure.

We the Punjabis, 60% of Pakistan are an interesting bunch. We label Pakistanis from other provinces traitors and turncoats pretty quickly but respond differently if one of ours does even worse. Somebody defying the state and its law enforcement agencies while enjoying privileges and getting away with it hold a special reverence in our culture, our movies are full of such heroes. It can make an interesting study how Punjab would have reacted had a Mohajir, Sindi or Baloch attacked the state and its institutions the way Nawaz has been doing.

Nawaz Sharif’s main attraction derives from his uncanny ability to attain power. After attaining power he has shown extreme generosity (at public expense) to those loyal to him and harshness for those showing even a trace of disobedience. With long stints in power he has certainly managed a following. So now he is acting like a rebel while audaciously displaying all the privileges of power. He rides in large convoys of expensive cars ostentatiously displaying his wealth and power. Wherever he goes he enjoys something we call in Pakistan as security or protocol but actually a brazen display of state power with many security personal at his service. Even his court attendances are most prodigal full of unnecessary pomp and show instead of expected sobriety. Setting new records of uncouth display of power and wealth he even arranged aerial dropping of flowers on his extravagant motorcades on way to address the downtrodden. Being in opposition while enjoying absolute power is one of his inventions.

By this defiance Nawaz appears to be aiming for,
  • A nervous mistake by the establishment or the state apparatus mistake in the corruption case and he takes advantage of. Conviction on a lesser charge like contempt would be his success whereas reactionary military takeover an absolute bonanza.
  • Workup international pressure to force establishment bow down and let him go.
  • Scare the state of his street power and negotiate some sort of compromise and win an NRO.

There is nothing irrational about Nawaz hoping to get away again this time as he has done many times earlier. He has gotten away with judgments of judiciary bordering on ridiculous including some not very long ago.

Despite rationality and cleverness his luck seems to be abandoning him this time, after 37 years of exceptional support. Establishment didn’t take his bait and called his bluff. He has kept his party and support intact by going on the offensive but can’t prolong it forever. He did manage to convince many that he is still relevant and his support would bring benefits but that seems to be ending, along with his support after he finally loses his grip on power, something that seems inevitable.

Nawaz has gotten into a quagmire, going further down the much he struggles. He is fast losing the enormous influence he had carefully cultivated and accumulated in media, bureaucracy, judiciary and many other places over the decades.

The state apparatus has refused to react to his provocations and Nawaz’s future appears doomed. Criminal cases against him are proceeding and he should soon be convicted. His confrontational tone has started changing but appears too little too late. The much noise he created leaves him no options but to prevail absolutely or otherwise, as no one can steamroll the judiciary and the establishment. His old popular clichés like, I was always a front foot player, all my achievements are due to my confrontational abilities and the “either I will stay or he will” have stopped working.

The only practical option Nawaz has is to accept reality and stop manipulation attempts. It is about time he gets honest with people putting the record straight clearly stating what he has been doing for the last 37 years and how he accumulated billions while being in power. He owes it to 210M people to expose how corruption works and ways to curb it in future, who can know these dynamics better than Nawaz. Exposing the dynamics of power and the state functionaries he bribed during his rise would also be helpful.

Pakistanis are very forgiving and magnanimous people and might not only forgive him but embrace him. He is already 70 yrs old with medical conditions and his personal needs won’t be affected by his confessions.

This is the minimum he owes to the 200M who gave him so much honor and love.

However if he insists on his way hoping to get away with everything, we know where he is heading.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Diagonally different lessons learnt at Vienna and Kyoto

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Diagonally different lessons learnt at Vienna and Kyoto

“Oh God, save me from the devil and the Turk”. Popular prayer in the European churches of medieval ages.

In 1683 Ottoman Khilafat was at its peak of power spread across Asia, Africa and Europe. It had already conquered nearly half of Europe and had eyes on the “Golden Apple” Vienna, the greatest city of continental Europe after Rome. Apart from prestige trade routes would be attained bringing financial and political benefits. Europe was divided in religious wars after reformation and had clipped the wings of clergy restraining it from interfering in political matters. On top of it Vienna had just suffered a terrible endemic of plague causing enormous loss of life and suffering. Right time to strike. No wonder Khalifa Sultan Mehmet chose his brilliant Grand Vizier Kara Mustapha Pasha for this noble cause and provided him with war resources abundantly. Marching towards Vienna with over 150 thousand brave men apparently the fate of city was sealed, it was only a matter of time and the Golden Apple would fall in the lap of the great general. Some portions of society had already started preparations of celebrations.

Fate had other plans and it turned otherwise. German and Polish help arrived in time while Ottomans became complacent due to over confidence and got beat badly despite numerical superiority. Now Europeans were the aggressors and Turks the defenders and this scenario lasted centuries.

Such a disastrous debacle was taken seriously by the Sultan and Turkish society. Causes of this tragedy were investigated and conclusions drawn. To begin with death penalty was given to the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha. Being heavily influenced by Muslim Clergy the causes enumerated in medieval Turkish wisdom were about distance from religion and non adherence to the tenants of Islam specially regularity of prayers 5 times a day. Lack of jazba and longing for martyrdom (shahadat), and love for this world were also identified as reasons for this disaster and instilling more of them in the younger generation was recommended through education and indoctrination. In short, closer adherence to the past was recommended and modernity or change was discouraged. These recommendations were followed with zeal all over the empire.

Around 170 years later in 1853 US Commodore Mathew Perry went to a secluded sleepy island nation of Japan still living in the feudal age and threatened it with big ships and fire power. Japanese were wary of foreigners and guarded their borders but its sovereignty was under threat and the proud Japanese were humbled. They had already seen what technology; dependant on education could do to its powerful big neighbor, China. Opium wars had just concluded in 1840s and China was humiliated and forced to buy opium from powerful Europeans and let them destroy its generations.

Foreseeing this tragic fate, Japanese conceded to Perry’s demands and bought time to think and face reality.

During this turmoil a young teenager Prince Matsuhito became Emperor Meiji and transformed the society. Causes for Japan’s weaknesses were explored, identified and recommendations for its remedy enumerated. It was called Charter oath which was signed on 7th April 1868 with 767 prominent signatories and it changed Japan for ever.

“By this oath, we set up as our aim the establishment of the national wealth on a broad basis and the framing of a constitution and laws.
1.     Deliberative assemblies shall be widely established and all matters decided by open discussion.
2.     All classes, high and low, shall be united in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state.
3.     The common people, no less than the civil and military officials, shall all be allowed to pursue their own calling so that there may be no discontent.
4.     Evil customs of the past shall be broken off and everything based upon the just laws of Nature.
5.     Knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundation of imperial rule.”
Books can be written about Meiji revolution but I will try to summarize,
  1. Class system was abolished.
  2. Modern education was promoted and knowledge was gathered from across the globe.
  3. Military was reformed and nationwide conscription instituted.
  4. Economy was industrialized.
  5. Rational way of thinking was promoted.
Sitting comfortably in the twenty first century enjoying the luxuries the Sultans and Emperors couldn’t imagine, observing the effects of these two diagonally different approaches make a very interesting study.
Turkey then a world power, started retreating and this retreat lasted over 200 years. In those 200 years Turkey was repeatedly beaten and humiliated by different Christian nations ultimately labeled as the sick man of Europe. It was only after the young Turks took over during the First World War and fought very hard that ultimately a small Turkey survived, a shadow of the original one.

Much of Muslim world which was being led by Turkish Khilafat was regularly humiliated and subjugated until all but 2 Muslim nations became European colonies. The 2 exceptions were also hardly sovereign.

Muslims who once led the world in sciences, arts and other fields lagged behind other nations with negligible contribution allowing critics to claim the Islamic contribution towards humanity in last 500 years was insignificant.

The entire Islamic world today is unstable and nearly an international pariah suspected and demeaned.

I won’t go and further and let the reader find his/her own realities.

On the contrary Emperor Meiji’s steps resulted in a totally different Japan. In short term during Meiji’s reign Japan won wars against Chinese and Russians and in the Second World War they made the world’s super power go through the biggest embarrassment in surrender of Singapore. Unfortunately they associated with the colonial powers and not their Asian neighbors.

After the terrible defeat and destruction of the world war Japan resurrected from its ashes and within no time became a world economic giant beating the west in its own playing field, industry. In these achievements it finally broke the aura of the white man helping all non whites giving the message that it’s not race but rationality and hard work that makes you effective and successful.

Ultimately Japan today is richer, more prosperous than the west and somewhat enjoys the kind of status the Europeans enjoyed in Asia a hundred years back, everyone enticing them to invest in their country.

A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. History can’t be changed but certainly learnt from. I think it is imperative that every Pakistani child must be taught these two great events that changed the course of history for ever.

We must teach our younger generation true history and not the fancy war stories my generation was fed with giving a strange confusing message. That is if we want to change the four hundred years old direction of history.

“Yeh ummat rivayat mein kho gayi
Haqeeqat kharafat mein kho gayi”

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Pakistani establishment coming of age

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Establishment coming of age

The great Pakistani conspiracy of silence 1985-2016

Competition for power between establishment and the political class is neither new nor restricted to Pakistan alone. It is present everywhere in the world including old democracies, though a bit subtle and played with stricter rules. In Pakistan right at the time of independence the state institutions which were loyally serving the foreign imperialists within no time became the guardians of the new nation. Initially Pakistani establishment was dominated by the civil bureaucracy and the first cabinet mostly consisted of bureaucrats at important posts which at that time seemed a natural thing and was not opposed politically. It was in 1958 that the uniformed bureaucracy finally displaced the civil bureaucracy ultimately prevailing over it as the senior partner.

To strengthen their grip on power Pakistani establishment took many steps to discredit and malign their competitors, the politicians. They were labeled incompetent and corrupt and many honest and competent politicians were humbled and disgraced by the establishment through dubious tribunal like (EBDO) specifically made for this purpose. Interestingly the first such politician maligning tribunal PRODA was created by politicians themselves in 1949 for their opposition.

Later in 1969 uniformed establishment after sufficiently subduing the polity focused on the civil bureaucracy and cut it to size by dismissing 303 thoroughly belittling them. These officers had enjoyed immense aura, the kind gora sahibs had earlier.
Then came Bhutto with huge public support with potential to subdue the powerful establishment of all kinds like a whirlwind. He was dealt with severely by the establishment and removed from the scene. Bhuttos violent removal created a huge vacuum in the political scene.

Lacunas and vacuums don’t exist in nature and soon they get filled. Our establishment created a class of weak and pliable politicians with questionable integrity to fill this vacuum. Allegations of corruption and ineptitude made politicians vulnerable hence more pliable allowing establishment to control them while opportunity to ridicule them was an additional benefit. Naturally such politicians were preferred and nurtured.

Ultimately this tirade with lots of efforts resulted in creating strange icons, Altaf Hussain in Karachi and Nawaz Shariff in Punjab to neutralize Bhutto’s popular appeal. It worked beautifully for the purpose it was made but brought new set of problems, extreme violence in Karachi and corruption in the rest of the country. These were natural consequences , after all what else could be expected by progenitors of Operation Changa Manga where political class was openly traded with blessings of the state apparatus and a political party installed by guns provided again by the state. It got so bad that politicians of pre military era started looking like saints while corruption and violence became the norm.

It couldn’t go on like this and had to be corrected.

The deep state at different times dealt with politicians with brute force lacking tact making them heroes in the process. Mujeeb was made a hero after Agartala case resulting in the Bangladesh disaster. Even Bhuttos judicial murder couldn’t dampen his appeal and his daughter came to power riding the wave of support for her father. Nawaz after being ousted by Musharraf came back to power with great public support after years of exile.

A conspiracy of silence prevailed from 1985 till the of Panama papers exposing corruption of our rulers they had vehemently denied. Everyone was aware of use of politics and violence for monetary gains but remained silent. Even Gen Musharraf after uncovering mega corruption cases preferred to use them for his political blackmailing instead of pursuing it in the courts.

Then came the realization a few years back that in its tirade to secure power establishment had created unaffordable monsters in the last 36 years who had become too powerful and well entrenched. The establishment had created them, made them to prevail and only establishment could dislodge them although at a price and a series of events started.

Then we started seeing coming of age of the establishment and a change in its strategy. Instead of brute use of force subtle manipulations of media and judiciary were used to disseminate and wet the information everyone knew already. Silence gave way to stories of violence and corruption of super rich politicians. Support and physical security was provided to those brave enough to stand up to these post Zia politicians with all their violence and corruption.

After years of efforts Altaf Hassain’s wings were clipped slowly and gradually. For years highly educated, decent people couldn’t dare to criticize Altaf Hussain who wasn’t healthy physically or otherwise. His speeches were absolute mockery of decency and rationality but he would get away with them for a quarter century. It took a long time and many people died in the process but ultimately Altaf was made irrelevant and on the way to political oblivion.

Then came the turn to Asif Zardari tragically using Bhuttos legacy, and months after threatening the establishment he was forced into his senses and is now vehemently trying to oblige and earn a pardon. It is surprising to see a man with Zardari’s past and credentials standing up against the state, needs some brazenness.

Nawaz Sharif’s case was different, despite enormous discrepancies he was tactful and had made deep inroads in most segments of society and international community. 36 years in politics, mostly in power, he had carefully cultivated personal relations and planted beneficiaries and sycophants at every position that matters.  Personal loyalty was what he demanded and ultimately it looked like he had prevailed and would subdue or dislodge the only institutions that retained the ability to resist his absolute hegemony. This was despite probably the darkest past a politician could have. He got away with operation Changa Manga, instigating provincialism, defying the federal government, ridiculing BBs gender and anatomy, openly courting extremists and UBL, squandering national coffers with yellow cabs, unabashed political use for personal business, attack on supreme court, threatening judges; and the list of crimes he got away with appears endless. 

Then came help from nowhere and Panama leaks exposed Shariff’s lies and cunning. No wonder he still thinks that someone at home had initiated it refusing to believe that nature has its own workings as they say in Punjabi, “At Khuda da vair”. He is resisting very skillfully brutally using his enormous influence over media and institutions accumulated over decades. Unfortunately for him it’s not working anymore. The more he tries, the worse it becomes. He is on his way out although how much more he will be humiliated will depend on his future actions.

This time in their tirade against politicians the establishment was helped by incredible luck and their corruption. This might not happen again. Establishment’s frequent short sighted meddling in politics resulted in destruction of politics in Pakistan creating strange self serving leaders harming the country. We lost our peace and prosperity. Once established these establishment created politicians are hard to dislodge and the process is painful and damaging. Still it has to be done for the sake of Pakistan as ordinary people cant afford kleptomaniacs or self styled deliverers anymore.

Final lesson for the establishment is that they created this mess we are in. It should stay away from politics otherwise they would mess it up again and then cleaning up might be even more painful or maybe outright impossible.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ignored heroes of Islamic history

Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Ignored heroes of Islamic history

“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.”

Heroes are people who display outstanding feats of courage, nobility and achievements and all nations need them, and those who are not blessed with them invent them. They serve as role models for the younger generations instilling the qualities in them that the society feels are important. In addition making and glamorizing the heroes is a way of a nation of thanking them. Considering the effects and consequences of heroes in a nation their selection becomes most important. Islamic history is full of heroes mostly winning battles and annexing territory but as a student of history I found it strange that probably 2 most outstanding achiever Muslims with greatest service to Islam and Muslims are absolutely unknown and ignored. After the Sahaba it’s hard to find people with so much service to Muslims and humanity, yet undiscovered and ignored. This is not only unfair with these great men but also with the Islamic history and Muslims too. I am referring to grandson of Genghis, Burke Khan and the great Chinese admiral Zheng He.

Islamic civilization went through an absolute devastation in the early thirteenth century which might be categorized as Islamic holocaust. After killing 11% of the humanity and 40% of Islamic population in early 13th century, Genghis died and his empire was divided in 4 parts. Burke Khan eventually became the ruler of the Golden Horde in areas close to Europe while his cousin Halagu Khan ruled areas comprising modern Iran and Central Asia.

Halagu continued this tirade against Muslims and in 1258 conquered the seat of Khilafat in Baghdad annihilating most of its population and culture. Libraries were burnt, fields and orchards destroyed and centuries old culture of learning absolutely wiped out. This destruction was to the extent that many historians feel that the Islamic society is yet to recover from this devastation eight hundred years ago. Following Baghdad he moved westwards and after subduing Damascus he targeted Egypt, the last bastion of Islamic power whose fate appeared sealed. On the way he got news of death of the Great Khan, Mongke, and had to go to Mongolia. In the meantime his generals with a small army tried to get to Egypt but were beaten at Ain Jalut by the Mamluks, Qutuz and Babrs. Halagu was furious and was returning in 1261 with the single aim to avenge this defeat. He was to punish the locals even more brutally and later he was targeting his wrath towards Mecca and Medina, Islam’s holiest places.

Meanwhile Burke had embraced Islam around 1252 and was disturbed about this tragedy of Baghdad and tried his best to stop Halagu. After Baghdad he wrote a letter to the Great Khan, Mongke Khan, in Mongolia stating,
"He (Halagu) has sacked all the cities of the Muslims. With the help of God I will call him to account for so much innocent blood."
He supported the Mamluks at Ain Jalut and then militarily engaged Halagu, his cousin around Caucuses. Now Mongols were killing Mongols and not Muslims. This Halagu-Berke war was long and indecisive but weakened Halagu as he never regained his strength to attack Muslims again. Soon after Halagu died and the worst nightmare of Muslims ended. Allama Iqbal says,
“Pasban mil gaye Kaabe ko sanam khane se”

Burke Khan fought Halagu just for his adherence and love for Islam and not for any worldly gains. This war weakened him as a Mongol ruler, affected his campaign in Europe but his commitment to Islam was more than anything. Shivers go down the spine when one speculates what could have happened if Halagu had continued his campaign against Muslims unabashed. Islamic culture and society might not have recovered or even survived. Today’s world could have been different. Berke Khan certainly deserves to be included among the greatest Muslims ever born.

Haji Mahmud or Admiral Zheng He 1371-1433 was a Hui Muslim whose father was killed in front of him while he was a child. He was made a eunuch by castration and sent as a servant of a prince where he rose by his valor and qualities. After the prince became king with Zheng He’s support, he made Zheng an admiral with a task to command the greatest armada ever seen and sail the oceans acting as his envoy. He sailed to present day Philippines, Malaya, India, Ceylon Arabian peninsula and Africa. Some even claim that he discovered Australia and America centuries before the Europeans did.

Wherever he went he established settlements with his most trustworthy people many of them being Muslims. He is reported to have supported Muslim communities wherever he went. During one of his 7 journeys he went for Hajj with his 250 ship armada in the footsteps of his late father who had performed Haj travelling by land and prided in getting called a Haji. The next Chinese king called off these voyages and China went into seclusion causing terrible decay ultimately weakening China to the extent that small European nations would colonize and ridicule her. Many believe that Chinese history could have been different and without the humiliating stories like the opium wars had Zhen He’s legacy continued. A significant Muslim population in Mindanao, Malaya, Sri Lanka and many other places owes its allegiance to Islam to this great man, more than any king I know of.

Zheng He showed the world how tragedies and setbacks can be made to work as blessings in disguise, an extraordinary example. He didn’t let his orphaning, castration or enslavement become impediments and worked wonders. He showed the world how Muslims believing in Allah can overcome the impediments. He showed the world that Muslims can be great patriots in a non Muslim world while remaining committed to their faith. He showed the world that Muslims everywhere are a brotherhood and this brotherhood is not against anyone. He also showed how positive, constructive and universal the appeal of Islam could be.

How many of the readers were aware of these heroes and there heroism? Not many I suppose. It’s not the fault of our generation as enough effort, study and thought has not been put in selection of heroes for Islamic history with obvious negative effects. Many of the heroes that we are taught should not be categorized as heroes at all. Most of the great scholars like Ibn I Rushed, philosophers like Bulley Shah and other great men were ostracized in their own times and must be discovered and given a place in history they deserve. All kinds of dishonesty or ignorance are harmful but the intellectual dishonesty can be the most damaging. We in the Islamic world have now produced skillful people in sciences and other trades, although more need to be done, but we haven’t produced a single historian of good standing. History is being constantly rewritten by different extremists criticizing Islam unjustly and we haven’t been able to answer them sufficiently. Hindu extremists have started challenging Aryan invasions which doesn’t suit them and equating Muslim rulers with negativity with dubious reasoning. Anti Muslim rhetoric is going on unabashed and must be countered intellectually.

Saying goes, “If you do not learn history, geography will teach you a lesson” and we have been repeatedly given lessons which we couldn’t learn.
Let us be kind to our history, heroes and the future generations. We need to send our bright minds to this most important science of studying and writing of history. We need to break the monopoly of inadequately educated clergy to lead, determine and interpret our great religion, culture and society. Islamic world needs to reread and rewrite its history with the enlightened mind modern sciences has created and find our real heroes who did so much for the world.
We owe it to our children and our real Heroes.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Pakistan’s too numerous Martyrs

.Dr. Umar Khan
Dr. Khan belongs to a Lahore based Think Tank.


Pakistan’s too numerous Martyrs

It is more difficult, and it calls for higher energies of soul, to live a martyr than to die one. Horace Mann

Turned on the TV early morning and heard the news of more Pakistanis getting martyred. These 7 handsome young men were serving in the disputed area of Kashmir when Indians started firing. The nation again saw the pictures of its martyrs followed by footage of mourning relatives and a dignified funeral with uniformed armed soldiers paying respects in the military way. Have been watching such funerals just too many times, might be time to do something about this tragic issue. A bit of research made me discover the number of martyrs in Pakistan from 2004 until the end of 2013.
Civilian deaths                        48054
Journalists                               45
Civilians killed by drones       416-951
Pakistani security forces         5498
Militants                                  26862
Total                                        81324-81860
Children of APS and students of Bacha Khan University and many later victims are not included in this figure and can make it look worse. Too many for any nation, probably one the highest in the world. The other troublesome fact was that despite losing so many innocent people we are always viewed suspiciously, asked to do more, and blamed for problems around the world. While it is desirable to glorify the martyrs but our glorification zeal should not distract us from questioning why we have so many martyrs, apparently an unending supply. Are we getting too callous with the lives of our young? Were these ultimate sacrifices necessary? Could their deaths be prevented? Was it someone’s complacency and negligence?

We have to establish the fact the martyrs might be our heroes but they are also victims, very tragic victims. Although it is desirable to have people willing to die for a cause but someone lusting for death is certainly abnormal. We must stop venerating death, something we have done too long. On national days most are expressing their desire to die for the country and never to live and work for it. Instead we should encourage our youth to live with ideals, something even more challenging, In our zeal to glorify our dead as martyrs we shouldn’t create a further generation of young men seeking early, violent death to be called martyrs and neither lose sight of the causes of this heavy loss of lives.

Someone who sacrifices his life for his nation or ideology is considered a martyr and glorified. Naturally for their sacrifice and bravado they are held in high esteem in every culture. Our forces are trained to kill and whenever there is a martyr it is a failure somewhere although certain numbers of casualties might be inevitable in a conflict. There are two kinds of martyrs, uniformed and armed soldiers who voluntarily get into dangerous situations, then there are involuntary martyrs who were not fighting or facing danger but got into wrong place at the wrong time like APS children. We have had more than enough of both these kinds. In the second kind, it is always failure of someone or some government organizations that let it happen and must be held responsible.

The major reasons for our extremely troubling high frequency of loss of life are our eagerness to get involved in too many wars and secondly our inability to curtail violence effectively. This is despite having one of the highest numbers of armed uniformed men in Pakistan and many government security agencies enjoying lavish perks and privileges.

Pakistan was born in 1947 with estranged relations with India due to Kashmir, like we say in Punjabi “Sharika”. This hostility did cause and is still causing loss of lives in both covert and open wars. Later we got into a habit of getting into unnecessary foreign wars. We entered the not so cold war in 1979 fighting the Soviet Union in which we sacrificed but US won. We were cunningly sold the narrative that it was our own war giving us an absolute euphoria of beating a world power at the demise of USSR. This led to megalomania of a small but influential segment of Pakistan resulting in its support of fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya, Kashmir and the world over. During this time the world changed and our support for noble jehad became support of terrorism.

This policy of supporting covert operations was a disaster internationally. We were effectively ostracized and even friends like China and Iran have complains against us. Our neighbor Afghanistan for whom we risked our own security, welcomed millions, has become the most venomous critic of Pakistan. Had we not started op Zarb I Azab this isolation would have worsened.

Mushrooming of irregular outfits we called Jihadists overflowed in our society too and we started having sectarian along with communal fights. We fostered strange ideas of strategic depth and tried to influence our neighboring countries. Violence of all kinds and shades became acceptable and the monopoly of the state vanished.

All these series of blunders committed in the 80s and 90s have resulted in the current pathetic condition of Pakistan. Despite having a very high number of martyrs we are the only country in the world whose size has been constantly shrinking whether in 1971 or Kargil or Siachen. Much of the world is annoyed with us and many are fighting their wars in our country resulting in major loss of life and property.

It is pointed out by many academics that Pakistan’s eagerness to get into other’s wars wasn’t as benign as some led us to believe. In the process of entangling us in foreign wars some of us got opportunity to rule long terms, many made fortunes while the common man paid the price in blood. This must stop.

To undo the follies of our past we must start with our commitment not to support or nurture violence of any kind. In one voice the society must give a stern message to armed groups to disarm and anyone who challenges states monopoly over violence must be crushed.

Once we have disinfected ourselves then we ought to find the remnants of interests who put us in this difficult situation and make sure such state of affairs never arise again. We have to build a competent diplomatic core and hand them over the responsibility of running the foreign policy, biggest defense of a nation.  

This will allow us to focus on our people and invest in them as they are our most valuable national asset. Divert resources towards health and education.

Then we must find out the inefficiencies and shortcomings within out state apparatus letting the massacre of APS children and many others happen. If GHQ, air and naval bases can be attacked it has to be someone’s fault but I am not aware of any such inquiry or its report, or the punishment of the negligent. This impunity must end. We should criticize and correct our institutions for their complacency and slackness while refraining from insults or ridicule and punish those responsible of these tragedies.

Pakistanis are the most wonderful people. Intelligent, energetic, enterprising and unbelievably resilient, whenever given an opportunity they have worked miracles. They certainly deserve better. Pakistani blood is valuable and must be protected and valued, even from themselves.

“Na samjho ge mit jao ge ae Hindustan walo
Tumhari dastaan bhi na rahe gi daastanon me” Iqbal
*please substitute word Hindustan with Pakistan