London Calling

July 16, 2013

By Ahsan Waheed

BBC 2 NEWSNIGHT program on July 10th anchored by Jeremy Archer included a segment on the MQM leader Altaf Hussain. This segment was brilliantly presented by Owen Benet – Jones. The short but comprehensive presentation focused on the refuge or sanctuary given to Mr Altaf Hussain for more than two decades in Britain during which period he had acquired British nationality. The allegations against Mr Hussain included the fact that from a refuge in North London he was controlling a most feared political organization in Pakistan, that he was possibly involved in over 30 murders and that without a doubt he was the brains as well as the brawn behind the MQM. The September 16, 2010 brutal murder of an MQM leader outside his home in London was described – including the arrest of two men in Pakistan who were part of the investigation. The latest twist in the investigation was the arrest of an associate of the MQM leader at a London airport and the very recent raids on the offices and residences of Mr Hussain in London in which documents and a total of 350000 British pounds in cash were discovered and so far remain unexplained.

Snippets from Mr Hussain’s frequent prolonged telephone addresses were screened to give an idea of the threats, incitements and abuse hurled by him including threats to The UK government after the raids on his facilities and his ‘headquarters’ on Edgeware Road in London. The question asked was whether there was any breach of British law if he was indeed using his base in London to incite violence besides exercising total control over his organization in Pakistan.

A British Barrister Mr Bajwa was interviewed and he stated that the threats could be interpreted as incitement to violence. The main MQM leader in Pakistan, Mr Farooq Sattar, completely denied such a possibility even rejecting the actual footage shown of Mr Hussain’s telephonic addresses. The presenter mentioned that MQM members asked to comment had refused – possibly fearful of the consequences. Many MQM leaders and workers have been murdered in the past and hundreds of workers have lost their lives in mysterious street violence. One former MQM member Naim Ahmed did speak out and stated clearly that the MQM was a party of militants and mafias that acted on orders ‘from London’ and that over 80% of the terrorists involved in violence in Karachi were from the MQM and that more than 20 police personnel had been killed to make sure that no one agreed to investigate or give evidence. The result was zero convictions and hardly any arrests.

It was pointed out in the presentation that Mr Hussain remained a charismatic and eccentric leader but that it was fear that kept people in line. His visitors in London included Pakistani political leaders and officials. Apparently MQM personnel could get British visas without difficulty possibly because of a letter written to the British authorities after 911 offering HUMINT services inside Pakistan in support of the war on terror. The British possibly saw MQM influence as protection against ‘jihadis’ and extremists. Britain was however under pressure to put Mr Hussain on trial. The BBC presentation included a personal appearance by Mr Farooq Sattar who stoutly denied all the allegations, insinuations and facts presented. He did not comment on the possibility of money laundering and the investigation into Mr Imran Farooq’s murder on the grounds that these were ongoing event legal aspects to these issues and that there were legal issues involved.

Area 14/8: The Upside to Divisive Power-play

May 23, 2013

Area 14/8

While western scholars deem it necessary to permit a revolution in Pakistan, the question of whether or not we require a messiah has often boggled the intelligentsia. While nationalism and tradition hailed in Balochistan and Punjab respectively, a ghastly series of repercussions garnered results such as the killing of PTI leader Zahra Shahid Hussain in Sindh. Common sense dictates that Sindh is desperately in need for a political messiah to alleviate the town in lieu of target killings, ethnic violence harboring separatism and a scraped social fabric and security. The general disputation among the intelligentsia regarding the failing political situation of Karachi, the hub of the most influential political party in Sindh, has been to chalk out the cause and effect of the town’s social tumult. Without doubt, MQM is an important power-player that has repatriated ethnic devises and fuelled ethnocentrism of the Muhajir, directly as well as indirectly. Reduced to victimized manipulation, the people of Karachi have fixated on this politics of division and extortion. With an alarming number of people losing their lives to a lack of social security, the solution to a monochromatic political representation of Karachi has been wishy-washy. The Election of 2013, however, reworked the political dynamics of Karachi and managed to considerably compromise the strain exacted by the MQM influence on the region.

Read more…

Spearhead Analysis: Pakistan’s dance with the democracy

May 10, 2013

By Zoon Ahmad Khan, Enum Naseer & Sarah Eleazar
Research Analysts, Spearhead Research – Pakistan

As the Pakistani voter heads for the polling station tomorrow, on May 11, 2013, Pakistan will for the first time in history, allow an elected government to complete its tenure. Despite the multiple and enormous challenges it faces, the nation sees itself united and hopeful for strong stable years to come and democracy to mature. The transition has not been an easy one.

The nation has spent a considerable time under military dictatorships and is currently struggling to keep multiple crises at bay. While rooting for the ideals of democracy has its place and will go a long way in paving way for robust and independent institutions, a true understanding of the metamorphosis is essential in order to internalize democratic values.

Following is an analysis of political discourse, security dilemmas and the economic backdrop behind each election conducted in the country so far. With the aim that reading trends and appreciating lessons from history will help create a more informed opinion.

Read more…

ANP: Never say die!

May 10, 2013

By Benazir Shah


The ANP has been mercilessly attacked by the Taliban in the run-up to the elections. As a result your party has been unable to campaign freely. At any point, did you consider not participating in the May 11 polls?

In the last four years, our party has lost a total of 819 workers. Why are we being targeted? Simple: [the Pakistani Taliban] want to keep us out of the elections. For Pakistan these are not just any elections, the new Parliament will have to deal with 2014, when NATO and ISAF forces withdraw from the region. When 2014 comes around, they do not want liberal people to be in the government. These forces want a free hand to do whatever they want, but they will not keep us out. This is not just a war between ANP and the Taliban or Asfandyar Wali and [Taliban kingpin] Hakimullah Mehsud, this is a war between two mindsets. The liberal, progressive, and democratic are on one side. On the other end are those who ruled Afghanistan and later surfaced in Swat. If we back off now, we let them win. The more the elections are delayed, the more bloodshed there will be. It is not going to get any better.

How is your party campaigning?

We cannot run advertisements like the other parties. We just don’t have that kind of money. It is common knowledge how much these [cable news] channels charge for broadcasting ads. Our local workers move door to door. The day Haroon and Ghulam Ahmed Bilour were attacked in Peshawar [on April 16], we lost 17 workers. The very next day pamphlets were distributed in the city warning people not to hoist any flags of the ANP or display its posters and stickers. And the same evening in Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Swabi, and Mardan our party circulated thousands of stickers. The stickers had the party’s [electoral] symbol on it, which is the lantern, and a slogan, “Country or Coffin.”

Your partner parties the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan Peoples Party have also been specifically targeted by the Taliban.

There is some misunderstanding. ANP has not gone into an electoral alliance with the MQM. PPP, MQM, and ANP have borne the brunt of terrorist attacks. We thought that if we got together to raise our voice against the bloodshed, the impact would be different. But let me clarify, again, that this is not an electoral alliance. It might not help the situation, but the three of us share an enemy. The people of Pakistan had been fooled for a very long time in believing that Karachi is the turf of the MQM and ANP. Now at least everyone knows the truth.

Is it accurate to say that the bloodshed in Karachi over the past five years is a result of turf wars among militias affiliated with the ANP, MQM, and PPP?

If I had a Pakhtun militant wing in Karachi, would I be targeted the way I am today? Please do not push us to the wall. That is my biggest fear. Do not push us to a situation where we decide to defend ourselves. The day we start defending ourselves, things are going to take a very ugly turn! If I had a militant wing in Karachi, I don’t think anyone would have had the guts to attack me.

‘The true referee of the electoral showdown is Hakimullah Mehsud.’

Will election results accurately reflect voters’ choice?

Let me make it very clear, ANP has been shoved into a wrestling ring with its hands tied. The opponents stand across from us and their hands are free. Until now, we were under the impression that the referee for these elections was the chief of the Election Commission of Pakistan, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim. I have the utmost respect for him. But the true referee of the electoral showdown is Hakimullah Mehsud. Look at his statements, he’s “allowed” Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl), Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to hold public rallies, and he’s not “permitted” ANP, MQM or PPP to do the same. Is this his decision to make? Mehsud has clearly defined his friends and his foes.

After the attack on Haroon Bilour, you wrote to the Election Commission demanding more security. What became of that?

Copies of the letter were also sent to the president, the caretaker prime minister, and to the chief justice. Nine days lapsed and nothing happened. There wasn’t a word from the ECP. On the 10th day, Ebrahim showed up on television claiming he never received any such letter. That is the last I heard of that. The Election Commission is telling us to make our own security arrangements. Use your own untrained security guards, they say. Now, if these untrained security guards are enough to guard me and my candidates, then they must be capable of also guarding the country? The government took my security away in a very awkward manner, at 9:30 p.m. one night, without even informing me. The security that had been provided to me consisted of one policeman and four guards. The Election Commission denies it ordered it, but then there is written evidence proving it requested all security be withdrawn.

Will you accept the election results without any hesitation?

No, that will depend. It will depend on the results and how things shape up. As far as electoral alliances are concerned, it is still too early to decide that. Let me repeat, since this is a war between two mindsets, I will not go for an alliance with a party which belongs to the other camp. Let’s not name anyone. However, I would like to add that of late there is a new phenomenon arising before the elections. A few days ago, two Jamaat-e-Islami workers were caught with 90,000 fake ballot papers. Now new reports are emerging-I am still trying to confirm them-that a Jamaat aspirant’s house was raided and another 30,000 to 35,000 bogus ballot papers have been recovered. If these things start developing then there will be a big question mark on the upcoming elections.

What should be the chief priority of the next elected government?

Terrorism needs to be addressed immediately. One has to take control of the field. Right now, the ownership of the field is being challenged. We can continue to fight among ourselves about what we may want to plant in the field, but first we must own it.


April 5, 2013

By Ghalib Sultan

The Caretakers are in and have started caretaking. The Election Commission under the wise Chief Election Commissioner has swung into action and is working round the clock to clear up all the preparatory work before Election Day. The military and the judiciary are supporting the process staying strictly within their own domains. The media is in frenzy as it keeps pace with all the developments, analyzes events and presents viewers with debates and predictions of the likely outcome. Except for pessimists who always see a half empty glass everyone thinks the elections will be on schedule and that they will be free and fair with the military completely neutral. The stage is set for the dynamics of the elections to play out and the ball is in the courts of the political parties and the Election Commission and of course the Caretakers.

That there is much outside interest is evident from the flurry of diplomatic activity now in progress as preparations are made to monitor the election process and gain as much insight as possible into possible scenarios. The British made waves by releasing a survey that has almost 95% percent of the Pakistanis surveyed saying that they thought their country was headed in the wrong direction. Around 70% view the Army, the Judiciary, the Media and the Religious segments favorably and an equal percentage seems to have negative views of the Federal and Provincial governments and the National and Provincial assemblies. Nearly 38% favor Sharia Law over democracy according to the survey. Obviously the desire is for change that leads to good governance after the elections.

The US Embassy under the new Ambassador is reaching out to the various Baloch groups, the ANP, the ‘establishment’, media and civil society as well as NGO’s. Almost 15 NGO’s may be engaged to monitor the conduct and transparency of the Elections. The first step will probably be an assessment of the political parties-their current standings and prospects-so that these can be updated as the process moves forward. USAID under its Chief Mr Raju Shah is already in contact with the ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) to help with funds and technical assistance in the training of polling staff, as well as ECP staff and journalists and HRCP( Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) representatives in places like Multan, Sheikhupura, Quetta and Khairpur-one such program was organized in Sunfort Hotel Lahore.

The British High Commission has a cell in its political division dedicated to the Election monitoring process. An organization called the Church World Services (CWS) will be closely monitoring the political situation and the actual elections. It will probably finance workshops to train journalists, staff and segments of civil society and link up with NGO’s for monitoring and compilation of results. A senior journalist from Punjab may be used to coordinate on their behalf to avoid allegations of interference. There seems to be much interest and interaction with the MQM probably because the MQM leader is in exile in London and is a British citizen. The MQM local leadership has indicated to British diplomats in contact with them that they think the British government is backing the PPP as well as pressurizing the MQM leader in London-and they cited the raid on an MQM facility in London as an example. MQM has reportedly asked the British to help with the situation in Karachi and Sind as various intelligence agencies and the PPP were tarnishing their image. An invitation to the British High Commissioner to visit MQM Headquarters was regretted as it could send the wrong signals but apparently an MQM sponsored Karachi based NGO-Ehsaas Foundation and Raassta Development Consultants-may be funded and used by DFID. MQM leaders have probably indicated a preference for British economic activity in Karachi if they form a government. There are indications that the MQM decision to part ways from the PPP government was not well received by the British though the MQM justified it on grounds of a biased government in Karachi. Most recently an MQM leader Ms Nasreen Jalil met the British High Commissioner to express their reservations over the ‘delimitation of constituencies’ that, according to her, could lead to increased ‘Talibanization’ in Karachi that could further lead to disruption of NATO logistics through the port city. She sought UK support in the UN on this issue. The British will probably draw their own conclusions on the MQM stance.

Not to leave the PML(N) out the British High Commission representatives met with Mr Nawaz Sharif who discussed his concerns about possible US plans to delay elections and extend the interim governance arrangements and the need to ensure timely free and fair elections. The handing over of Gwadar port to China and the Iran-Pakistan pipeline and US concerns over these were also discussed according to reports. Mr. Nawaz Sharif seems to have indicated his fears of foreign and Pakistani intelligence agencies conniving to disturb the law and order situation. Similar allegations about British intelligence colluding with Pakistan Army in the killing of Akbar Bugti seem to have been voiced by the President Jamhori Watan Party (JWP) Mr Talal Bugti in interaction with British diplomats. According to JWP sources they have been promised funding if British interests were looked after though allegation of British involvement in any past event were firmly denied. Similar contacts were made with Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadees whose leader Allama Zaheer recently visited the UK on a sponsored visit for which he was thankful and in turn was promised funds through DFID. EU Ambassadors have been in contact with the ANP to get a feel of the situation.

On a broader regional note there are reports of a ‘business consultancy’ in Doha Qatar fronting for a focused media watch in the Gulf, Middle East and South Asia. The funding may be from a foreign intelligence agency as over 300 journalists have been employed with about 20 from Pakistan. Besides Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Syria-Pakistan will be of particular interest, especially its active media, to determine and possibly influence trends.

The boy who cried wolf

February 21, 2013


The announcement for the annulment of assemblies on March 16th was a wakeup call for political parties all across Pakistan. The clock is ticking and the time to make changes, stir up electoral issues and leave a lasting impression on voters in now here. It is thus quite remarkable how projects like the Metro Bus in Punjab, the promise of target operation against religious extremists in Quetta and MQM’s concern for Karachi’s insecurity transpired at this momentous time.

Withdrawal of murder cases of Lyari’s criminal gang members’ specifically those belonging to the Peoples Aman Committee and the failed implementation of Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) in Karachi were the last straw for MQM. In a televised briefing on February 16th, Dr. Farooq Sattar, MQM Coordination Committee Deputy Convener, officially terminated MQM’s alliance with PPP at both the federal and provincial level. He accused PPP of delaying the process of justice by harboring criminals identified as absconders by the courts. MQM had expressed its reservations a few days earlier too but PPP representatives either denied the withdrawal order for or gave reassurances of reconciliation efforts.

It must be noted that this is not MQM’s first attempt to break their alliance with PPP. It has done so several times in the past and soon afterwards tends to mend fences. Given this trend, other political parties including Jamaat-e-Islami, Sunni Tehreek, Save Sindh Movement, National Peoples Party and PML-Q (Likeminded) were suspicious of a conspiracy. Chaudhry Nisar, Leader of the Opposition and member of PML-N called MQM’s move a “joke”. He refused to consult MQM in the formation of a caretaker setup.

MQM’s separation will not have an impact on the overall functioning of the government. As far as provincial politics are concerned, MQM continues to have a strong voter bases in Karachi and Hyderabad. PPP might have lost MQM but it would translate to the loss of only a few seats since PPP has a dominating presence in many areas of Sindh.

Many have questioned what MQM can achieve in this short period of time as part of the opposition. If they hope that breaking ties with PPP will exonerate them from being an accessory to the nation’s insecurity and economic downfall and thus prove the sincerity of their motives, they are badly mistaken. Its party leaders argue that an earlier break would have risked derailing the government. It is however, quite unlikely that they would reconcile with PPP since the government is set to be dissolved on March 16th.

So how is this breakup different from the rest? This time MQM may in fact be planning for a pre-election scenario. The government is bound to take into consideration the view of the opposition in installing a caretaker setup. As members of the opposition, MQM will prevail over other nationalist parties especially PML-F in appointing an opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly. This will give MQM a chance to contribute to the selection of a caretaker chief minister and therefore, maintain their influence until the elections. MQM’s move puts the 17-month stalled appointment of a leader of opposition in a new light. It seems that Governor Dr. Ishrat ul Ebad may have been saving the seat for his MQM brothers. The fact that contrary to the claims of MQM leadership, Ebad has not handed in his resignation means that MQM plans to have the cake and eat and eat it too.

Another explanation for PPP withdrawing cases was also offered; it may be seeking voters from People Aman Committee. While this may be true, it is more likely that the MQM-PPP fight is a farce. Contesting elections from both sides of the fence, this duo could crush PML-N, which has been making headway in building alliances with Sindh’s political parties and emerge successful in Sindh. If PPP is unable to win a re-election, as leader of the opposition MQM will still have the opportunity to negotiate a partnership with the ruling party.

On Saturday, MQM chief Altaf Hussain said “When forces, instead of providing protection to the masses, are protecting criminals, the people will take extreme steps for their safety.” What Hussain doesn’t realize is that these very masses also know that he may not be more than just a boy who cried wolf.

ZoneAsia-Pk: The Drone Syndrome

January 15, 2013

By Ahsan Waheed

As another drama-queen-potential-savior explores the niche created by lack of justice and bad governance, we ask ourselves questions about this man’s origins and motivations. Qadri’s history is well known. Part of the Musharraff government, in 2006 he left for Canada and acquired a citizenship. Qadri is the co-founder of a social welfare organization ‘Minhaj-ul-Quran’, currently active in educational pursuits with offices in 80 countries at the moment. In 1991 Qadri also became one of the founders of Pakistan Awami Tehreek and got elected as MNA in 2002. Two years later however Qadri resigned in a dramatic fashion. Blaming the status quo, nepotism and corruption for the suffering of the common man, Qadri left the country in 2006 when his plea for reform fell on deaf ears.

23rd December 2012: Qadri pulled off a rally at the Minar-e-Pakistan much bigger than Khan’s tsunami or any other political or social group has. 2 million people turned up. That was enough to place him in the center of the Pakistani political stage. Who are these people supporting him? And where is his funding coming from? More importantly, whose agenda is he pursuing? As news of Qadri’s success spread like wild fire, the power he had became of more significance than his ideology.

Read more…


January 9, 2013

By Azmaish Ka-waqt

The Pieces of the Puzzle

  1. Renewed interest by Scotland Yard in the Imran Farooq murder in London
  2. The unconditional and abject apology by the MQM before the Supreme Court of Pakistan
  3. The Qadri intervention
  4. MQM’s prompt and total support of the Qadri intervention.
  5. Surge in US Drone attacks with TTP being targeted.
  6. Pakistan military’s changed threat perception with the internal threat identified as the main threat and a public announcement of this realization.
  7. US/UK/NATO compulsion to exit Afghanistan in an orderly manner and the need to protect Afghanistan from external inroads in the vulnerable post exit period
  8. Pakistan’s centrality in the entire exit strategy including safe passage for logistic movement.
  9. The political situation in Pakistan and the US/UK desire for status quo so that their exit strategy continues to get support.

The Mosaic

The US and UK decide that an electoral change in Pakistan that could have unpredictable results is not in their interest at this stage. They need the present political and military set up in Pakistan in 2013-2014 to get out of Afghanistan, push the peace process in Afghanistan forward and not face the ignominy of a post exit chaos in Afghanistan. Pakistan must therefore be accorded a central role and given an assurance of continuity of the status quo.

The US/UK does not favor an internal upheaval in Pakistan and want ‘democracy’ to continue. They sense that the people want change and reform to give them a better future and not more of the same that the elections seem to promise. The US and UK do not want a change that triggers a change in policies that may change the relationship with the US.

Enter Qadri with limitless funds and superb organizational ability. He promises reform and elections under a competent and impartial interim government. The implication being that the interim government will have to be given time for the reforms. The MQM ‘decides’ to join Qadri and clears itself with the Supreme Court-surprising many on both counts. To ward off criticism The MQM leader threatens a political Drone strike-obviously a disclosure of some sort.

The military readies itself to face the new threat and an expected disruption in the already serious internal security situation. Increased Drone strikes ratchet up the pressure on insurgents who may be expected to retaliate in Pakistan’s urban areas heightening the internal threat.

The major power players react as expected. The PPP (government) soft pedals the MQM turnabout and goes along with the evolving situation as status quo suits it. The military and the judiciary are satisfied that the Constitutional provisions are being respected. The PML(N) and the PTI are lost in the fog and likely to remain lost.

The interim government is given access to IMF and World Bank funds and acts to reform not just the electoral process but takes long overdue steps to establish the rule of law, to provide services and security to the people through effective governance, tackles the internal threat and puts the country on the road to economic recovery. The people heave a sigh of relief.

Karachi calling

December 14, 2012


Urban violence has become a permanent affliction in Karachi. Anyone explaining the roots of this violence to you would say ‘it’s complicated’ – and that is indeed an accurate summary of the bloodshed that erupts across the city in random spurts. The plague of violence in Pakistan’s biggest city and commercial hub is multifaceted. From ethnic strife to gang wars to politically motivated crimes to just petty theft – Karachi has it all. Where does it start? And more importantly, where would it end?

This is strange because less merely 25 years, Karachi was the land of opportunity in Pakistan. Once the capital of the country, this economic hub bustled with life and activity with little thought spared to the horrors awaiting citizens a few years down the road. Fast forward to 2012, Karachi faces (in the words of Bilal Baloch) feeble security, over-population, poor public transportation and housing, weak law and order, abuse of public services by the wealthy and powerful, illegal land-grabbing and squatter settlements, pollution so pervasive that it contaminates food and water for all, ethnic divisions, sectarian divisions, meager education; in short, institutional inadequacies on a grand scale. At the same time, it is this city that allows unbridled port access to NATO, fishermen and businessmen. The city has seen the likes of Alexander the Great, Sir Charles Napier, Muhammad Bin Qasim, poets, authors, bloggers and artists. The City of Lights continues to function under such paradoxical circumstances, with violent bloodshed in one corner of the city and celebrations in another.

Read more…

Mirza K.O.s Rehman Malik

August 29, 2011

By Nasim Zehra

The analysis, that springs up in my mind, is based on several well known facts; but two stand out. Mirza and Zardari very close, MQM no more, all the other facts more or less already well known. So? It appears Zardari wants the action action against MQM now to eliminate it as a political challenge as well as get rid of Rehman. Mirza has played Zardari’s game. High stake, but may work. Mirza didnt criticize Zardari, and protected even reputation of BB ferociously.

Editor’s Note: Dr Mirza’s resignation as Vice President PPP Sindh,an MPA & Ministerial post may not have rocked the nation but for the reasons disclosed. The text of his speech is neatly reproduced by THE NATION & can be read : Will Mirza be able to substantiate the allegations with proof? This needs to be investigated & not brushed under the carpet, claiming it to be a diatribe.For the Letter by Altaf Hussain to Britian’s Ex-Prime Minister,click link: If it is so,that too,needs to come out based on facts,not rhetoric. Pakpotpourri2 gives you a balanced analysis by Nasim Zehra.

Pakistani politics witnessed a new first. Holding the Holy Quran in his hand and then placing it upon his head, Sindh’s senior minister Zulfiqar Ali Mirza made some very bold revelations against his friend’s key, even if troubled, political ally as well as his friend’s closest and most handy aide.

President Asif Ali Zardari perhaps now faces the biggest challenge of his political career as none other than his most loyal friend and senior minister Sindh, Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, at a press conference issued a loaded charge sheet. Mirza gave specific information along with alleged evidence, against all those he accused. He said the ongoing operation was meaningless and that the real killers were not being apprehended.

Zulfiqar Mirza’s attack has produced a complex political dynamic. One with the ‘evidence’ that Zulfiqar Mirza claims he has against the MQM’s alleged involvement in target killings, he has put the MQM under pressure. An MQM on the defensive provides political leverage to the PPP in its ongoing negotiations with that party. It may also help to stem the growing alienation of the Sindhis against the PPP leadership, especially earlier the mishandling of the revival of the local bodies.

The claims made by Zulfiqar Mirza can also potentially strengthen the PPP’s hand in the Supreme Court’s suo motto hearing on the Karachi target killing. The SC bench now meeting in Karachi is bound to call Zulfiqar Mirza to make good his claims in court.

But the most challenging for PPP’s internal politics is Mirza’s attack on Rehman Malik. Zulfiqar Mirza has made specific charges against the interior minister, holding him responsible for leading a “farcical operation” and for being primarily committed to keeping the MQM on board. In addition to his criticism at the press conference, Zulfiqar Mirza, later in a television program insisted that the interior minister “is Pakistan’s enemy and if Pakistan breaks up, then Rehman Malik will be responsible for it.”

Although Mirza insisted that he would remain loyal to the president till his dying day and would give his life in the party’s service, within the immediate context he has created major political challenges for the president. He has alleged that the president’s right-hand man is hand in glove with the killers of innocent citizens.

As for whether these extraordinary revelations will lead to any action against Rehman Malik or the MQM, the punch-line comes from Zulfiqar Mirza himself. While speaking on television he said, “I have rolled the ball, now the ball in the court of the president, army chief, the ISI chief, the PM, the speaker of parliament and the chairman of the senate.” Mirza expects them to use the evidence that he has presented to take action against the MQM and the interior minister. He said the moment the CJP asks him to present himself in court, he will do so.

Zulfiqar Mirza may have become a thorn in the president’s side. But Mirza is one PPP leader that the president will not find it easy to sideline. He will also not able to easily brush aside the alleged charge sheet presented against Rehman Malik nor the MQM. Clearly these moves by Zardari’s closest friend puts the Karachi operation in an even greater spotlight and for all the wrong reasons. It also sharply exposes the weaknesses in Zardari’s politics of “mufahimmat.”

The questions that Mirza’s charge sheet raises only confirms public criticism of the operation. Questions that have no easy answers but ones that will now be repeatedly asked by many political and non-political stake-holders from across the country.

Fazl congratulates Altaf on joining opposition

June 29, 2011

Geo News

LONDON: MQM Chief Altaf Hussain called JUI-F Chief Mulana Fazlur Rehman and spoke to him for an hour, Geo News reported.

According to MQM sources, Fazlur Rehman congratulated Altaf Hussain on joining the opposition. Both leaders also expressed their desire to work for a stable and prosperous democracy.

Zardari in Karachi: ‘This is an ideological war’

March 4, 2011

By Hafeez Tunio

Condemning murder of federal Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, President Asif Ali Zardari said on Wednesday that the killing was a manifestation of the continuity of the same ‘mindset’ which had assassinated Pakistan Peoples Party founder Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.

President promises to elect one of murdered minister’s family members on his post

Addressing legislators of the Sindh Assembly at Bilawal House, he said that terrorists wanted to ‘defame’ Pakistan by committing such crimes and wrongly portray Pakistan as an ‘intolerant’ country. “But we will continue Shahbaz Bhatti’s mission by electing one of his family members on his seat,” he said.

The meeting was initially called to review progress made by PPP MPAs, but later it was converted into a condolence meeting.

The president said that they were ready to render sacrifices to save the country and would not surrender before terrorists. “This is an ideological war. We should try to develop a soft image of Pakistan,” he said.

Sources privy to the meeting said that the president directed MPAs who had severely criticised the Sharif brothers during a Sindh Assembly session a few days ago to ‘avoid’ what he termed ‘unparliamentary’ attitude.

During the 30-minute speech, the president talked about Bhatti, the party’s reconciliation policy and terrorism, besides briefing about his visits to Japan and the US.

Sources said that the president said that although Nawaz League had backtracked in Punjab, the PPP was still adhering to its reconciliation policy.

Former adviser Sharmila Farooqui briefed reporters about the meeting.

Earlier, President Zardari telephoned Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain. Sources said that both sides discussed petrol prices. The president assured the MQM leader that their concerns would be addressed. An MQM delegation is also likely to meet the federal finance minister.

Country facing economic threat: Gilani

January 20, 2011

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Wednesday, while citing the grave economic challenges, urged the political leadership to help the government find a way out.

The prime minister said this while addressing journalists at the groundbreaking ceremony of Parliament Lodges phase-II.

He said the war on terrorism had greatly impacted the country’s economy along with global recession, adding, prudent steps were required to deal with the gravity of the economic situation.

He said the government was trying its best to overcome the financial problems.

Gilani said that had proper planning been done by the previous government, the issues of inflation and energy would not have grown to such proportions. He said that the growing population was burdening the economy as well.

To a question regarding a decision on governor rule or deployment of army in Karachi for controlling the law and order situation, Gilani said decisions on the issues would be taken in consultation with all political stakeholders.

The prime minister said he had summoned the session of the National Assembly to discuss the issue of law and order to reach a decision with mutual consultation.

He said intelligence agencies, the provincial government and political parties were giving feedback to the government on the law and order situation and the elements involved in target killings in Karachi. “There have been some reduction in the target killing incidents,” he said. Gilani said he would also be briefed by the Interior Minister Rehman Malik on Karachi’s law and order situation. He said the government was ready to hold dialogue with those terrorists who would lay down their weapons and surrender themselves before the local political agents but there will be no dialogue without surrender.

The premier said the matter was subjudice and the rental power plants against whom there were no complaints, were working. He said action would be taken against controversial rental power plants.

Gilani said PPP was in touch with MQM, ANP and PML-N. He said the finance team had met Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and with the cooperation of all the parties, the issue of load shedding of electricity and gas would be addressed.


January 18, 2011

By Ahsan Waheed

The Governor of Punjab was killed by his religiously motivated guard following a strike on December 31st that shut down the country in support of the Blasphemy Law; the Governor’s murder was followed by a massive street rally in Karachi in support of the same law and indirectly the Governors’ killer; the parents of a Judge of the Supreme Court were murdered in Lahore fuelling all kinds of speculation; most media debates on many TV channels are focusing on the divide in society between extremists and moderates; infiltration of law enforcing and security agencies by extremists; ongoing corruption scandals, lawlessness, the plight of the common man-rising costs, poverty, gas and power shortages etc, rampant (mostly unreported) kidnappings for ransom, lawlessness; and of course there is the non-stop coverage of politicians engaged in political activity that has no relevance to the street in Pakistan.

Summary of current instability in Pakistan reported by the media so far in January:

GEO TV reporter gunned down in Karachi-shot at point blank range in an obvious target killing; General Secretary of ANP (Awami National Party) attacked in Karachi-survives with injuries but one guard killed and the other in serious condition; a police official hacked with a sharp edged weapon in Karachi-seriously injured; Pakistan Railways likely to stop operations as they have run out of fuel and have no money to pay for fuel (have been incurring heavy losses with operations drastically reduced already); GT Road (Grand Trunk Road) blocked for nine hours by people protesting gas and power shortages; main gas supply pipe line in Baluchistan blown up by BLA (Baluch Liberation Army); PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) heavily overstaffed, running in huge loss asking for billions in bail-out and planning to hand over its major European and US routes to Turkish airlines; rail fares and prices of most edibles increased (people already hit by inflation); power shortages to be extended to nine hours per day, gas supply to industry to remain shut (gas and power shortages already torture to people in extremely cold weather); a daring daylight bank robbery in Peshawar and running gunfight in the streets; earlier there had been reports of a major bomb blast in Bannu(north west) and in Peshawer.

Political and Economic Issues:

The retraction of the RGST (revised general sales tax) and withdrawal of increases in gas prices under political compulsions has signaled that there may be no real tax reforms. Tax collection is focused on those already paying taxes and not on broadening the base leading taxpayers to question what they are getting in return in the prevailing human insecurity. Traders routinely evade taxes on sales offering customers tax free prices if they forego receipts. Street level officials offer bill-free power ‘connections’ and there are reports of illegal sale of smuggled fuel. There is no real move towards austerity nor are any steps being taken or examples set—the haves and have-nots are now being clearly seen and this has implications for the divide on religious basis as well as the rise of extremism. The Central Bank is reporting heavy borrowing by the Government to meet its expenditures, growing deficits, falling exports and a very heavy debt burden. Politically motivated ethnic strife is escalating in Baluchistan and Karachi (47 killed over three days including the Chief Ministers’ pilot) with no steps taken so far to bring the situation under control.

The recent defection of a government coalition partner (MQM) has demonstrated the fragility of the ruling coalition and the kind of pressures the government faces—eroding credibility and confidence in governance capacity– and raising fears of the long term consequences of an appeasement policy.

The military remains heavily involved in a counter insurgency campaign in the western border areas with increasing pressure from the US-Pakistan’s strategic partner-to extend operations into the North Waziristan area now seen as a sanctuary not just for those fighting in Afghanistan but for umbrella organizations (FATA and urban Punjab based linked) that harbor criminals and raise revenue from extortion, drugs, weapons, bank robberies and ransom to augment the flow of funds for the freedom struggle in Afghanistan– widely seen as a fight in the cause of Islam— and the insurgency in Pakistan. Anti-US sentiment continues to exist and grow because of the Drone strikes (a policy never fully explained) and the ‘myths’ that Vice President Biden did his best to dispel with little success.

Consequences and Implications:

The evolving situation is leading to a flight of capital and human resources. Except for remittances from Pakistanis working abroad and aid from donors there is no foreign capital coming into Pakistan. What is keeping a lid on what could become an explosive social situation is a semblance of prosperity in rural areas (less expenses on living, higher prices for farm produce), steady growth in consumer and service oriented ventures in urban areas because of quicker returns and the spending power of the urban elite, remittances from abroad and resilience in the average person.

Pakistan remains functional because of its developed institutions that are now under pressure because of a growing lack of competence and an overall degradation as demand sophistication declines. 2011 is being seen as a preparatory year for elections and 2012 as an election year. In spite of shortcomings and media criticism there is acceptance of the existing coalition government as the best alternative under the circumstances and there is still hope that the situation will be turned around.

What is leading to despair and desperation is the absence of a message of hope and reassurance from the leadership and the daily images of politicians locked in petty wrangling, personal agendas and moving in bullet proof vehicles within long motorcades. No one is calling for military intervention-yet, and this gives a time window to start turning the situation around —something that has to be done methodically and deliberately and not through reactive and knee jerk responses to events. This will only happen if there is a realization that the state is being surely and steadily overwhelmed by the forces of extremism and lawlessness in an environment of rapid economic decline —an unacceptable fate for a state armed with nuclear weapons.

Plan of Action: A methodical ‘recapture’ of the state has to be structured around the following major considerations:

A coordinated and integrated civil-military strategy and approach to address, resolve and deal with these crises is urgently needed. In a media dominated environment the military is sensitive for the requirement of full support from civil society. Civil society is being fed a steady diet of the governments shortcomings, corruption, incompetence and insensitivity to the plight of the people with little reaction or response from the government. The military hesitates to risk its credibility and cohesion by extending total support in such an environment. This situation warrants a civil-military discussion to clear the air and come on the same page. The civilian government has to take the initiative.

The image of a government that is in power through manipulation of the system has to change. Public sector enterprises need to be brought under the management of trustees or governors with impeccable records of achievement in the private and public sector. The steps outlined by this body should then be implemented -no matter how unpalatable.

A merit based system should become the norm and discretionary powers and personal or party preferences should be shunned. This will bring competence at all levels. This will include the bureaucracy and police where expediency has brought about serious decline. The people selected for responsible positions should be given job and tenure security and liberty of action within their spheres with zero political interference. This will involve a top down or bottoms up review of the existing structure.

No matter how unacceptable there is a need for federal offices like the Presidency and Governors to be non-political. This will reduce friction and put responsibility squarely where it should be.

The ambiguity in policies like the drone strikes, the US-Pakistan relationship, the war on terror and relations with India and Afghanistan as well as the perception of the military calling the shots is leading to serious problems. A ‘national policy Advisory Board’ with experienced policy makers as members under a rotating chairmanship from within can make credible and rational suggestions giving weight and substance to government policy. The Board will provide only advice and nothing more—with acceptance being at the government’s discretion. If well orchestrated this system can deliver results.

The ‘accountability’ process is turning into a witch hunt with its obsession on the past. A major political party (PML-N) has demanded accountability from 1947! This needs to be rationalized into a limited, ie ten year, time frame so that the past is not used to pressurize the government or target individuals. The judiciary needs to be consulted and involved so that there are no compromises. The country needs to function in a fear free environment.

There is a need to understand the degradation of the internal and external environment. Crime control, traffic laws, and procedures have to be enforced. The menace of kidnapping has to be eliminated. For some time there may have to be a ban on political and religious gatherings for security reasons and to enable officials to concentrate on their real duties. An example of austerity at all levels must be set both in dress, in behavior and requirements for transportation travel and official functions.

Rehman Malik’s “solo missions” anger PPP leaders

January 18, 2011

Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s ‘habit’ of rushing to put out political fires on his own and all by himself is being resented by his PPP colleagues, especially those hailing from the areas concerned.

His latest “solo fire-fighting mission” to Karachi in the wake of a fresh wave of target killingshas left several senior party leaders from Sindh fuming because, like in the past, they were not consulted.

A number of senior legislators from Sindh complained that they were never consulted on matters relating to the political and law and order situation in their province, particularly in Karachi.

“I am an MNA from Karachi, but I do not know what kind of an agreement my party has reached with the MQM,” said a Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawmaker.

He criticised Mr Malik for trying to single-handedly handle the Karachi situation.

He admitted that Mr Malik must have been asked by President Asif Zardari to play this role and hold talks with leaders of the Muttahida Quami Movement and Awami National Party in Karachi.

“However, I believe President Zardari would not have stopped him from taking other PPP members along with him while holding talks with other parties.”

Most people in the PPP do not have faith in Mr Malik’s political acumen and say that there is no dearth of seasoned and experienced political leaders in the party who can handle the situation more deftly.

Some of them claim that the PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto had never given an important political assignment to Mr Malik.

It was only during behind-the-scene talks with representatives of former military ruler Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf in London and Dubai that Mr Malik represented the PPP in some kind of political negotiations.

Another PPP office-bearer accused Mr Malik of trying to go for a solo flight in every matter.

While the interior minister’s role in Karachi was understandable because of the law and order situation, his participation in political wheeling and dealing with other parties like the JUI-F and the PML-N and his recent talks with religious leaders and Ulema on the blasphemy law and other controversial matters was questionable, he said.

The PPP leader said it was surprising to see Mr Malik holding political negotiations with coalition partners, especially when the party had seasoned politicians and parliamentarians in Sindh like Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Syed Khurshid Shah, Naveed Qamar, Raza Rabbani and Aftab Shaaban Mirani.

Similarly in Punjab, he said, the party had people like Jahangir Badr, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar and Qasim Zia who could deal with the PML-N and the PML-Q better than Mr Malik and Law Minister Babar Awan.

Some PPP MNAs even raised their voice on the floor of the National Assembly recently over the party’s handling of the Karachi situation and the role of the interior minister.

When contacted, PPP information secretary Fauzia Wahab, who also is from Karachi, admitted that they had come to know about Mr Malik’s meetings with MQM leaders and a delegation of Ulema in Karachi on Saturday through the media and no one from PPP’s provincial leadership had any prior information.

Ms Wahab said she did not remember any meeting of the central executive committee or any other forum of the party where Mr Malik had been officially assigned the role of a trouble-shooter by the leadership.

“I don’t know,” was her reply when asked if Mr Malik was acting on the directives of the president or the prime minister. Despite repeated attempts, the interior minister could not be contacted for his comments.


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