Sethi’s gestures for the good of Punjabi

By Mushtaq Soofi | 5/31/2013 DAWN

Najam Sethi, after taking over as the care taker chief minister of Punjab, took some measure galvanizing the cultural scene that would have attracted little attention in the normal circumstances but as we all know, we do not live under normal circumstances in the cultural sense.

Thus his action is being perceived as very significant in view of the self-induced cultural amnesia the Punjab suffers from. In order to appreciate the implications of his cultural activism we need a perspective. The Punjab these days seems to be a cultural wasteland despite having more than 5,000 years glorious history. In view of our intellectual inertia, it will seem hard to believe that it was Punjab that created what we call civilization of the subcontinent as a result of confrontation and interaction between the Dravidians and Arya. It was Punjab where the Rig-Veda was composed or revealed to the `Rishis`, the sages. It was the universally celebrated Taxila University in the Punjab where great Panini wrote his Ashtadhyayi, the first book on linguistics and Chanakya Kautilya his famous Arthshastra, analyzing the dirty but real secrets of stat-craft for the first time in the recorded human history.

Ghandhara in Punjab produced some of the finest pieces of sculpture. And again it was Punjab that laid the foundations of synthetic Hindu Muslim culture after the arrival of Arabs from the south and that of Turks from the north, leaving indelible imprint on our collective life.

The visible sign of our cultural deterioration and decline is the disowning or rejection of our language by our elite, wallowing in its self created arrogant ignorance. If you lose language, the most vital element of culture, you are destined to lose your culture as it is language that enduringly preserves and transmits collective memory from generation to generation. Not just that! Language is a mode of thinking and each language has a mode of thinking specific to it. So by losing your lan-guage you lose your intellectual and spiritual evolution as well as your specific way of thinking.

The rot, as far as our language is concerned, started after the annexation of the Punjab by the British in mid nineteenth century. The British colonial administration deliberately demolished the vast network of indigenous system of education. The use of the Punjabi, the Persian and the Sanskrit was almost banned in the new European type schools set up by the colonialists where English was adopted as medium of instruction for upper class and Urdu for middle and lower classes.
Soon after the demolition of old educational infra structure, Punjabis were declared illiterate and ill cultured as Dr GW Leitner, one of the most celebrated linguists and educationists, pointed out in his famous survey known as `A report on education in the Punjab`.

According to Leitner`s findings Punjab was not only most literate in the entire subcontinent but also had the highest female literacy rate. The colonial officials were so hostile to the indigenous education imparted in the independent Punjab that after the occupation, an incentive oriented public order was issued which declared that a person who returned his sword would get prize of one `Anna` and the one who re-turned `Punjabi Qaida`(primer) would be rewarded with six `Annas` After the emergence of Pakistan, muddled vision of culture and language further confounded the issue. Linguistic and cultural diversity of the country was perceived to be a threat to the ill conceived notion of national unity.

The Bengalis, who spearheaded the Pakistan movement, were the first to debunk the newly invented myth of monolithic uniformity that denied the rich diversity of the federating units of the country. They rose in protest and got their language recognized as one of the national languages.

Sindh declared Sindhi its official language. Punjab, Balochistanand Khyber Pakhtunkhwa pretended as if no such issue ever existed in their territories. It is only recently that the government of KPK introduced the teaching of various languages spoken by the people in its area.

As a result of the struggle waged by Punjab`s writers and intellectuals against all odds the department of Punjabi language and literature was established in mid 1970s at the Punjab University. With the passage of time subject of Punjabi literature was offered at BA and FA level that attracted a huge number of students though a few teachers were appointed to meet the requirement. The teachers of other subjects voluntarily offered their services to teach the language and literature to the great delight of the students who opted for the subject.

Sadly top to down approach was adopted which was lopsided to say the least. It should have been other way round. Pakistan Punjabi Adbi Board, a representative cultural body of all the Punjab, brought the situation to the notice of Mr Sethi requesting him to take remedial steps. And steps he took indeed and took very promptly. With no ifs and buts like a culturally conscious intellectual that he is, he approved generous grant for some of the institutions and ordered the immediate release of official ads for the regional newspapers and magazines.

He also discussed the issue of introducing the teaching of mother language at primary level with the officials concerned. He, to the delight of millions whose language is treated with contempt by the bankrupt elite of the Punjab, expressed himself in Punjabi in some of his public appearances.

Thank you Mr Sethi, you have done Punjab proud.
Nothing less was expected from an intellectual of your caliber.

A verse of Shah Latif, the great poet of Sindh, comes to mind: `Not all humans carry mark of beauty nor all birds are swans / rare are the men who emit the fragrance of spring`. Let us hope, the incoming chief minister, Shahbaz Sharif, will build on what Mr Sethi has done in his short stint. Cultural infrastructure is as important as the material one if human development of holistic nature is the goal.

Taunts

Just when the nation is licking its wounds after a most acrimonious election campaign, hounded by suicide bombings, an election rife with controversies thanks to the hapless election commission, all that was needed was for a national leader to come hoisting his petard:

– he taunts Nawaz Sharif, congratulating him on being elected prime minister by the Punjabis.

– he taunts Imran Khan, a man on his sick bed, where has your Tsunami disappeared in Punjab.

– his message for the protesters at ‘Teen Talwar’, ‘If you don’t like our mandate let us go our separate ways.

– ‘if you want we can put the three swords to the sword’.

– Yes Sir, we believe you, is this not what you did on May 12 six years ago when 50 people were put to the sword on your orders, actually fifty families, comprising fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and perhaps even wives and children of the dead ones, Karachi was shut down like it is often now whenever anything displeases you, which is often, the police was disarmed, the rangers were ordered to lock themselves up from the inside in their posts, so Asfandyar Wali khan told us, armed activists replaced the security police on the overhead bridges, so Sherry Rehman told us, I forget now what Talat Husain told us, containers were placed blocking the roads to the airport, to stop a visiting dignitary from entering Karachi, the whole city was made a no-go area, the killers were seen clearly on national television but  no one dare apprehend them, every time an attempt is made to investigate the heinous crime, you threaten to put the high court to the sword.

Yes Sir, we are fully aware of your abilities in this field. But the best is when you come crying about target killing of your people, having invented the game.

Khurshid Anwer

""The Last Day Of PPP’s Government""

Lifted as received

KAL BHI BHUTTO ZINDA THA, AAJ BHI BHUTTO ZINDA HAI !

DAMN THE PARLIAMENTARY DEMOCRACY IN A BACKWARD, ILLITERATE, POOR, FEUDAL AND TRIBAL COUNTRY.

 

PPP’s last day in power epitomizes how it ruled the country for 5 years. The steps taken on the last day are the concentrated version of what the PPP has done ever since it took power i.e. looted the national exchequer, made wrongful appointments and thrashed anyone who stood in their way while they shamelessly pillaged.

 

""The Last Day Of PPP’s Government""

Pakistans-Prime-Minister-Raja-Pervez-Ashraf & Deputy PM Pervez Illahi

70 CNG licenses issued even though the ECC under which the CNG sector had been put at the last in the gas allocation priority list. The ECC had also approved that now more CNG stations would not be built keeping in view the non-availability of the required gas in the country. But on its last day in the power, the government obliged many political figures by extending the licenses allowing more CNG stations to operate[1].

CDA Chairman, Tahir Shahbaz, sacked for resisting allotting choice plots in choice sectors of Islamabad to many key bureaucrats. Tahir Shahbaz, who unlike his predecessors and despite the authority’s policy had refused to get a residential plot from the CDA for being its chairman, has also been under pressure to allot plots to over 100 federal secretaries, four judges, 10 senior officers of the Prime Minister’s Secretariat and some journalists in developed sectors of Islamabad[2].

Speaker NA, Fehmida Mirza, approved 100% increase in benefits and allowances of all members of the NA. Millions of rupees worth of new cars were bought on her orders. Approved life time benefits and perks for Speaker of NA[3].

All ministerial staff from the Information Minister, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira’s office given foreign postings. Before leaving the ministry, the Minister appointed all his office staff to foreign postings.

Sindh Assembly dominated by the PPP approved a bill recommending an increment in legislators’ salaries. The income of the speaker, deputy speakers, ministers and special assistants has also been increased by a massive 40 per cent. What’s more is that the changes are effective July 2011, meaning that the legislators will also be paid arrears amounting to the difference between their old and new salaries over the past two years. But the generous legislators didn’t stop here: two private bills proposing that the chief minister, speaker and deputy speaker receive 70 per cent of their current pay after retiring were also passed[4].agha-siraj-durrani

 

Former Minister of Local Bodies, Agha Siraj Durrani, thrashed a Secretary, Shaukat Jhokio, in his ministry for refusing to sign a list of appointments. Shaukat Jhokio claimed that the local bodies minister came to his office and asked him to sign a document carrying appointment list and on refusal he started beating him[5].

Despite the SC order, the PM appointed his Son-in-Law as the Deputy Managing Director of the Pakistan China Investment Company. This was done after the Governments spent 5 months trying to accommodate the Prime Minister’s Son in Law at the Pakistan Brunei Investment Company.

The government made all-out efforts to appoint the prime minister’s son-in-law Shahnawaz Mahmood as the managing director of Pakistan-Brunei Investment Company in the last five months but the Brunei government has rejected the move[6].

Billions of Rupees worth of funds were released by the government within the last day after making sure the banks remain opened to hand out the money to relevant parties. So much so that the federal government had to declare March 16 a working day so that it could get the bureaucracy to push through the last minute appointments, loans, promotions and transfers.

All the staff at National Bank of Pakistan and State Bank of Pakistan was on high alert throughout the day on March 16, 2013 to accommodate the last whim and desire of the people who were about to lose power within a few hours. Even private banks had to stay open on Saturday, March 16, 2013 so that all the cheques of government or other persons got cleared on that day[7].

PPP’s last day in power represents how it ruled the country for 5 years. The steps taken on the last day are the concentrated version of what the PPP has done ever since it took power i.e. looted the national exchequer, made wrongful appointments and thrashed anyone who stood in their way while they shamelessly pillaged.

http://seedhibaat.com.pk/epic-tale-l…4-hours-power/

The Destabilization of Pakistan

 

By Prof Michel Chossudovsky

Global Research, December 27, 2012

Url of this article:
http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-destabilization-of-pakistan/7705

Author’s Note

This article first published five years ago in December 2007 focuses on the historical process of collapse of Pakistan as a nation state following the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Washington’s intent goes beyond the narrow objective of “regime change”. The thrust of US foreign policy consists in weakening the central government and fracturing the country.

The ongoing US drone attacks under the banner of the “Global War on Terrorism” are part of that process.

Washington had already envisaged a scenario of disintegration and civil war. According to a 2005 report by the US National Intelligence Council and the CIA, Pakistan is slated to become a “failed state” by 2015, “as it would be affected by civil war, complete Talibanisation and struggle for control of its nuclear weapons”.

What is not mentioned in this report is that the destabilization process (including the drone attacks) is part of a longstanding US led intelligence operation.

Michel Chossudovsky, December 27, 2012

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto has created conditions which contribute to the ongoing destabilization and fragmentation of Pakistan as a Nation.

The process of US sponsored “regime change”, which normally consists in the re-formation of a fresh proxy government under new leaders has been broken. Discredited in the eyes of Pakistani public opinion, General Pervez Musharaf cannot remain in the seat of political power. But at the same time, the fake elections supported by the “international community” scheduled for January 2008, even if they were to be carried out, would not be accepted as legitimate, thereby creating a political impasse.

There are indications that the assassination of Benazir Bhutto was anticipated by US officials:

“It has been known for months that the Bush-Cheney administration and its allies have been maneuvering to strengthen their political control of Pakistan, paving the way for the expansion and deepening of the “war on terrorism” across the region.

Various American destabilization plans, known for months by officials and analysts, proposed the toppling of Pakistan’s military…

The assassination of Bhutto appears to have been anticipated. There were even reports of “chatter” among US officials about the possible assassinations of either Pervez Musharraf or Benazir Bhutto, well before the actual attempts took place. (Larry Chin, Global Research, 29 December 2007)

Political Impasse

“Regime change” with a view to ensuring continuity under military rule is no longer the main thrust of US foreign policy. The regime of Pervez Musharraf cannot prevail. Washington’s foreign policy course is to actively promote the political fragmentation and balkanization of Pakistan as a nation.

A new political leadership is anticipated but in all likelihood it will take on a very different shape, in relation to previous US sponsored regimes. One can expect that Washington will push for a compliant political leadership, with no commitment to the national interest, a leadership which will serve US imperial interests, while concurrently contributing under the disguise of “decentralization”, to the weakening of the central government and the fracture of Pakistan’s fragile federal structure.

The political impasse is deliberate. It is part of an evolving US foreign policy agenda, which favors disruption and disarray in the structures of the Pakistani State. Indirect rule by the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus is to be replaced by more direct forms of US interference, including an expanded US military presence inside Pakistan.

This expanded military presence is also dictated by the Middle East-Central Asia geopolitical situation and Washington’s ongoing plans to extend the Middle East war to a much broader area.

The US has several military bases in Pakistan. It controls the country’s air space. According to a recent report: “U.S. Special Forces are expected to vastly expand their presence in Pakistan, as part of an effort to train and support indigenous counter-insurgency forces and clandestine counterterrorism units” (William Arkin, Washington Post, December 2007).

The official justification and pretext for an increased military presence in Pakistan is to extend the “war on terrorism”. Concurrently, to justify its counterrorism program, Washington is also beefing up its covert support to the “terrorists.”

The Balkanization of Pakistan

Already in 2005, a report by the US National Intelligence Council and the CIA forecast a “Yugoslav-like fate” for Pakistan “in a decade with the country riven by civil war, bloodshed and inter-provincial rivalries, as seen recently in Balochistan.” (Energy Compass, 2 March 2005). According to the NIC-CIA, Pakistan is slated to become a “failed state” by 2015, “as it would be affected by civil war, complete Talibanisation and struggle for control of its nuclear weapons”. (Quoted by former Pakistan High Commissioner to UK, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Times of India, 13 February 2005):

“Nascent democratic reforms will produce little change in the face of opposition from an entrenched political elite and radical Islamic parties. In a climate of continuing domestic turmoil, the Central government’s control probably will be reduced to the Punjabi heartland and the economic hub of Karachi,” the former diplomat quoted the NIC-CIA report as saying.

Expressing apprehension, Hasan asked, “are our military rulers working on a similar agenda or something that has been laid out for them in the various assessment reports over the years by the National Intelligence Council in joint collaboration with CIA?” (Ibid)

Continuity, characterized by the dominant role of the Pakistani military and intelligence has been scrapped in favor of political breakup and balkanization.

According to the NIC-CIA scenario, which Washington intends to carry out: “Pakistan will not recover easily from decades of political and economic mismanagement, divisive policies, lawlessness, corruption and ethnic friction,” (Ibid) .

The US course consists in fomenting social, ethnic and factional divisions and political fragmentation, including the territorial breakup of Pakistan. This course of action is also dictated by US war plans in relation to both Afghanistan and Iran.

This US agenda for Pakistan is similar to that applied throughout the broader Middle East Central Asian region. US strategy, supported by covert intelligence operations, consists in triggering ethnic and religious strife, abetting and financing secessionist movements while also weakening the institutions of the central government.

The broader objective is to fracture the Nation State and redraw the borders of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan’s Oil and Gas reserves

Pakistan’s extensive oil and gas reserves, largely located in Balochistan province, as well as its pipeline corridors are considered strategic by the Anglo-American alliance, requiring the concurrent militarization of Pakistani territory.

Balochistan comprises more than 40 percent of Pakistan’s land mass, possesses important reserves of oil and natural gas as well as extensive mineral resources.

The Iran-India pipeline corridor is slated to transit through Balochistan. Balochistan also possesses a deap sea port largely financed by China located at Gwadar, on the Arabian Sea, not far from the Straits of Hormuz where 30 % of the world’s daily oil supply moves by ship or pipeline. (Asia News.it, 29 December 2007)

Pakistan has an estimated 25.1 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of proven gas reserves of which 19 trillion are located in Balochistan. Among foreign oil and gas contractors in Balochistan are BP, Italy’s ENI, Austria’s OMV, and Australia’s BHP. It is worth noting that Pakistan’s State oil and gas companies, including PPL which has the largest stake in the Sui oil fields of Balochistan are up for privatization under IMF-World Bank supervision.

According to the Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ), Pakistan had proven oil reserves of 300 million barrels, most of which are located in Balochistan. Other estimates place Balochistan oil reserves at an estimated six trillion barrels of oil reserves both on-shore and off-shore (Environment News Service, 27 October 2006) .

Covert Support to Balochistan Separatists

Balochistan’s strategic energy reserves have a bearing on the separatist agenda. Following a familiar pattern, there are indications that the Baloch insurgency is being supported and abetted by Britain and the US.

The Baloch national resistance movement dates back to the late 1940s, when Balochistan was invaded by Pakistan. In the current geopolitical context, the separatist movement is in the process of being hijacked by foreign powers.

British intelligence is allegedly providing covert support to Balochistan separatists (which from the outset have been repressed by Pakistan’s military). In June 2006, Pakistan’s Senate Committee on Defence accused British intelligence of “abetting the insurgency in the province bordering Iran” [Balochistan]..(Press Trust of India, 9 August 2006). Ten British MPs were involved in a closed door session of the Senate Committee on Defence regarding the alleged support of Britain’s Secret Service to Baloch separatists (Ibid). Also of relevance are reports of CIA and Mossad support to Baloch rebels in Iran and Southern Afghanistan.

It would appear that Britain and the US are supporting both sides. The US is providing American F-16 jets to the Pakistani military, which are being used to bomb Baloch villages in Balochistan. Meanwhile, British alleged covert support to the separatist movement (according to the Pakistani Senate Committee) contributes to weakening the central government.

The stated purpose of US counter-terrorism is to provide covert support as well as as training to “Liberation Armies” ultimately with a view to destabilizing sovereign governments. In Kosovo, the training of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in the 1990s had been entrusted to a private mercenary company, Military Professional Resources Inc (MPRI), on contract to the Pentagon.

The BLA bears a canny resemblance to Kosovo’s KLA, which was financed by the drug trade and supported by the CIA and Germany’s Bundes Nachrichten Dienst (BND).

The BLA emerged shortly after the 1999 military coup. It has no tangible links to the Baloch resistance movement, which developed since the late 1940s. An aura of mystery surrounds the leadership of the BLA.

Distribution of Balochs is marked in pink.

Baloch population in Pink: In Iran, Pakistan and Southern Afghanistan

Washington favors the creation of a “Greater Balochistan” which would integrate the Baloch areas of Pakistan with those of Iran and possibly the Southern tip of Afghanistan (See Map above), thereby leading to a process of political fracturing in both Iran and Pakistan.

“The US is using Balochi nationalism for staging an insurgency inside Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province. The ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan gives a useful political backdrop for the ascendancy of Balochi militancy” (See Global Research, 6 March 2007).

Military scholar Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters writing in the June 2006 issue of The Armed Forces Journal, suggests, in no uncertain terms that Pakistan should be broken up, leading to the formation of a separate country: “Greater Balochistan” or “Free Balochistan” (see Map below). The latter would incorporate the Pakistani and Iranian Baloch provinces into a single political entity.

In turn, according to Peters, Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province (NWFP) should be incorporated into Afghanistan “because of its linguistic and ethnic affinity”. This proposed fragmentation, which broadly reflects US foreign policy, would reduce Pakistani territory to approximately 50 percent of its present land area. (See map). Pakistan would also loose a large part of its coastline on the Arabian Sea.

Although the map does not officially reflect Pentagon doctrine, it has been used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers. This map, as well as other similar maps, have most probably been used at the National War Academy as well as in military planning circles. (See Mahdi D. Nazemroaya, Global Research, 18 November 2006)

“Lieutenant-Colonel Peters was last posted, before he retired to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, within the U.S. Defence Department, and has been one of the Pentagon’s foremost authors with numerous essays on strategy for military journals and U.S. foreign policy.” (Ibid)


Map: click to enlarge

It is worth noting that secessionist tendencies are not limited to Balochistan. There are separatist groups in Sindh province, which are largely based on opposition to the Punjabi-dominated military regime of General Pervez Musharraf (For Further details see Selig Harrisson, Le Monde diplomatique, October 2006)

“Strong Economic Medicine”: Weakening Pakistan’s Central Government

Pakistan has a federal structure based on federal provincial transfers. Under a federal fiscal structure, the central government transfers financial resources to the provinces, with a view to supporting provincial based programs. When these transfers are frozen as occurred in Yugoslavia in January 1990, on orders of the IMF, the federal fiscal structure collapses:

“State revenues that should have gone as transfer payments to the republics [of the Yugoslav federation] went instead to service Belgrade’s debt … . The republics were largely left to their own devices. … The budget cuts requiring the redirection of federal revenues towards debt servicing, were conducive to the suspension of transfer payments by Belgrade to the governments of the Republics and Autonomous Provinces.

In one fell swoop, the reformers had engineered the final collapse of Yugoslavia’s federal fiscal structure and mortally wounded its federal political institutions. By cutting the financial arteries between Belgrade and the republics, the reforms fueled secessionist tendencies that fed on economic factors as well as ethnic divisions, virtually ensuring the de facto secession of the republics. (Michel Chossudovsky, The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, Second Edition, Global Research, Montreal, 2003, Chapter 17.)

It is by no means accidental that the 2005 National Intelligence Council- CIA report had predicted a “Yugoslav-like fate” for Pakistan pointing to the impacts of “economic mismanagement” as one of the causes of political break-up and balkanization.

“Economic mismanagement” is a term used by the Washington based international financial institutions to describe the chaos which results from not fully abiding by the IMF’s Structural Adjustment Program. In actual fact, the “economic mismanagement” and chaos is the outcome of IMF-World Bank prescriptions, which invariably trigger hyperinflation and precipitate indebted countries into extreme poverty.

Pakistan has been subjected to the same deadly IMF “economic medicine” as Yugoslavia: In 1999, in the immediate wake of the coup d’Etat which brought General Pervez Musharaf to the helm of the military government, an IMF economic package, which included currency devaluation and drastic austerity measures, was imposed on Pakistan. Pakistan’s external debt is of the order of US$40 billion. The IMF’s “debt reduction” under the package was conditional upon the sell-off to foreign capital of the most profitable State owned enterprises (including the oil and gas facilities in Balochistan) at rockbottom prices .

Musharaf’s Finance Minister was chosen by Wall Street, which is not an unusual practice. The military rulers appointed at Wall Street’s behest, a vice-president of Citigroup, Shaukat Aziz, who at the time was head of CitiGroup’s Global Private Banking. (See WSWS.org, 30 October 1999). CitiGroup is among the largest commercial foreign banking institutions in Pakistan.

There are obvious similarities in the nature of US covert intelligence operations applied in country after country in different parts of the so-called “developing World”. These covert operation, including the organisation of military coups, are often synchronized with the imposition of IMF-World Bank macro-economic reforms. In this regard, Yugoslavia’s federal fiscal structure collapsed in 1990 leading to mass poverty and heightened ethnic and social divisions. The US and NATO sponsored “civil war” launched in mid-1991 consisted in coveting Islamic groups as well as channeling covert support to separatist paramilitary armies in Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia.

A similar “civil war” scenario has been envisaged for Pakistan by the National Intelligence Council and the CIA: From the point of view of US intelligence, which has a longstanding experience in abetting separatist “liberation armies”, “Greater Albania” is to Kosovo what “Greater Balochistan” is to Pakistan’s Southeastern Balochistan province. Similarly, the KLA is Washington’s chosen model, to be replicated in Balochistan province.

The Assassination of Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi, no ordinary city. Rawalpindi is a military city host to the headquarters of the Pakistani Armed Forces and Military Intelligence (ISI). Ironically Bhutto was assassinated in an urban area tightly controlled and guarded by the military police and the country’s elite forces. Rawalpindi is swarming with ISI intelligence officials, which invariably infiltrate political rallies. Her assassination was not a haphazard event.

Without evidence, quoting Pakistan government sources, the Western media in chorus has highlighted the role of Al-Qaeda, while also focusing on the the possible involvement of the ISI.

What these interpretations do not mention is that the ISI continues to play a key role in overseeing Al Qaeda on behalf of US intelligence. The press reports fail to mention two important and well documented facts:

1) the ISI maintains close ties to the CIA. The ISI is virtually an appendage of the CIA.

2) Al Qaeda is a creation of the CIA. The ISI provides covert support to Al Qaeda, acting on behalf of US intelligence.

The involvement of either Al Qaeda and/or the ISI would suggest that US intelligence was cognizant and/or implicated in the assassination plot.

[Part Two: Pakistan and the "Global War on Terrorism" at
http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=7746]

Michel Chossudovsky is the author of the international bestseller America’s “War on Terrorism” Global Research, 2005. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Center for Research on Globalization.

Copyright © 2012 Global Research

How the Taliban gripped Karachi

BBC 21 March 2013 Last updated at 00:55 GMT

 

 

March against Taliban in Karachi - 2009

Political groups have warned of Taliban influence in the city

For years there have been fears that the Taliban were gaining ground in Pakistan’s commercial capital, the port city of Karachi. There is now evidence that the militants’ influence in the city has hit alarming new levels, reports the BBC’s Ahmed Wali Mujeeb.

More than 20 people are gathered outside a ramshackle house in a suburb of Karachi – Pakistan’s largest city.

They say a plot of land, which was the property of a local businessman, was forcibly occupied by a local mafia last September, and they are here to complain.

The difference now – and a source of much alarm to those in the know – is that this group of Karachi residents are choosing to bring their complaint to the Taliban.

After a two-hour session, the Taliban judge adjourns the hearing to another date and venue which he says will be disclosed shortly before the hearing.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

I do not know about the Taliban’s presence – however if they come here I will welcome them”

Mohammed Yusuf Mehsud Karachi resident

This mobile Taliban court does not limit its interests to this one shanty town on the outskirts of Karachi. It has been arbitrating disputes across many suburbs in the metropolis.

The Taliban largely emerged in poor areas on the fringes of the city, run-down places with little or no infrastructure for health, education and civic amenities.

Their mobile courts have been hearing complaints for quite some time, but in recent months they have also started administering punishments – a sign of their growing clout.

In January, they publicly administered lashes to an alleged thief after recovering stolen goods from him. The goods were returned to the owner who had reported the theft.

Suburban Taliban

But the picture is complicated.

There is a tussle under way between mafia groups (becoming more prolific and powerful in Karachi) who seek to seize land and militant groups who are also grabbing land. This includes the Taliban, for all their willingness to arbitrate in these disputes.

It is clear that they want to tighten their grip in Pakistan’s biggest city, its commercial centre. And they appear to have great influence in those suburbs dominated by the Pashtun ethnic group.

Protest in Karachi against operations cracking down on the Taliban in the north-west of Pakistan

There are also demonstrations protesting against crackdowns on the Taliban

These include many of the districts on the edge of the highways and roads leading to neighbouring Balochistan province.

They have long had a power base in the north-west of the country but this entry into Karachi is a more recent phenomenon.

Continue reading the main story

Karachi’s East District/West District

Districts East and West in Karachi, with shops and street stalls selling chapli kebabs, fruit, sweets and clothes, have a very traditional Pashtun feel.

Many people earn their money as day labourers with a daily wage. They work in construction and in factories. Their income level varies from 7,000 rupees per month ($71; £48) to 20,000 rupees per month.

Pashtuns have been here since before the creation of Pakistan in 1947, but a major influx began in the 1960s. After the Afghan war of 1979 and military action in recent years in Swat and Waziristan, many more came.

There are many slum homes with poor infrastructure, amenities and low literacy rates.

People here express fears about "bias" on the part of the local administration towards this area and many attribute the area’s poverty to such perceived attitudes.

Indeed while impromptu Taliban courts are increasingly settling small disputes over property, financial theft, robberies and feuds in Karachi, residents say major issues are decided in Pakistan’s northern tribal areas – where Taliban strongholds abound.

And when they think their authority is being encroached on, they act with deadly force: The MQM lawmaker Syed Manzar Imam was killed by Taliban gunmen in January in Orangi town, which borders a Pashtun area.

One former leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) – a party of the ethnic Pashtun nationalists – recently left Karachi and said more than 25 of his party offices had been forced to close because of threats from the Taliban.

A senior police officer who does not wish to be named told me simply: "Taliban are swiftly extending their influence.

"There needs to be a strategy to stem the Taliban’s rise, otherwise the city will lose other important and central parts to them," he says.

Taliban ‘gangs’

Muhammad Usman is a 26-year-old Taliban commander from the Swat valley. He came to Karachi after the Pakistani army started an operation in Swat in 2009.

He says he was first part of a group of Swati Taliban in Karachi and was offered shelter and safety by them.

After some time, he gradually got involved in what he calls "eliminating rivals" in the city.

Woman sits outside her home after violence swept across neighbourhood

Violence and targeted killings across Karachi can bring people’s lives to a standstill

When questioned about extortion and kidnappings done in the name of the Taliban, he said there were several criminal gangs involved and that the Taliban were trying to put them out of business.

Continue reading the main story

“Start Quote

The police are scared of the Taliban and are therefore reluctant to take action against them”

Haji Afridi Trader

But the response of the public is the ultimate test for them. One resident of Kanwari Colony, Muhammad Yousuf Mehsud, says: "I do not know about the Taliban’s presence in the locality, however if they come here I will welcome them."

Another, a 45-year-old resident in Landhi, Haji Afridi, says: "The Taliban have created discontent amongst Pashtuns."

He says that every Pashtun trader is threatened with extortion by the Taliban and whoever refuses to pay is killed. "The police are scared of the Taliban and are therefore reluctant to take action against them," he adds.

A 25-year-old Taliban foot soldier, who identified himself as Hussain, describes his mission in Karachi and his comments highlight the nature of the violence that has riven the city.

"First, my task was to work with groups that sought to eliminate members of the ANP party and people who spied for the police. I am now in a group that is fighting the MQM activists."

Volatile ethnic mix

The MQM, which is the dominant political party in the city, was one of the first groups to voice concern over the growing Taliban presence in Karachi.

But Karachi’s ethnic and political landscape is complex.

The city has long suffered outbreaks of violence, some of which is down to militancy, but the bloodshed is also about turf wars between rival ethnic and indeed political groups.

boats at karachi

Karachi is a port city and Pakistan’s commercial hub

In recent years the Pashtun community in the city has grown, and they are seen as competition for land and jobs with the Urdu-speaking community.

The MQM has long argued that there is a link between the growth of the Pashtun community and the "Talibanisation" of the city.

But there have also been separate battles over turf between the city’s Baloch community – the original inhabitants of the city – and the MQM.

This violence also makes itself felt politically and there is profound antagonism between the local chapters of three political parties: the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), the mostly Pashtun Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM).

So while many point to the increasing presence of the Taliban, the rate of targeted killings and spontaneous confrontations between supporters of these rival ethnic and political groups has not let up either.

Karachi’s network of violence

Intelligence sources say that there is one Taliban chief for the city, and heads of groups operating in different areas answer to him.

"Though the government has expressed its resolve to eradicate militancy, other state institutions are not co-operating," analyst Professor Tauseed Ahmed Khan says.

He argues that the security forces are losing morale when it comes to the battle against the militant groups and adds that this is not improved when rebels find it easy to get released on bail by the courts.

Pakistani Shiite Muslims carry coffins during the funeral procession of bomb blast victims in Karachi on March 4, 2013

Shia Muslims have frequently been targeted by militant groups in Karachi

Prof Khan says that if the government fails to recognise the threat, the city will descend into chaos.

But Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inaam Memon says the government is planning an operation to clamp down on the Taliban. He adds that the government has already arrested a large number of militants.

The figures are sobering: at least 2,350 people were killed in violence in Karachi in 2012. Over the last six years, more than 6,000 people were killed, say police.

The fear for many observers is that the Taliban are drawing their strength from the continuing silence of the government and a lack of focus by the security forces

Kerry, Hagel and the Indians.

(A good analysis, well done Bhadrakumar )
March 5, 2013 

by M K Bhadrakumar
Gnawing doubts arise as to what Kerry and Hagel signify for the spirit of our times and indeed for India’s interests.
Some of the key assumptions on which India’s regional strategies were predicated for the past decade are being called into question. Source: AP
China, Russia, Iran, Israel, Turkey, the Philippines – the list of countries is freely extendable, which are carefully weighing the significance of President Barack Obama’s cabinet appointments of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel as the secretaries of state and defence. These are extraordinary times. The American economy is in distress; world situation is turbulent and dangerous; locus of world power is shifting; and the US’ capacity to “lead” is in difficulty. A long sunset has begun.

From all accounts, the Indian pundits are getting a sinking feeling, too. Some of the key assumptions on which the country’s regional strategies were predicated for the past decade are being called into question. Gnawing doubts arise as to what Kerry and Hagel signify for the spirit of our times and indeed for India’s interests. The heart of the matter is that these powerful statesmen broadly share a worldview that discounts the real worth of military force for the advancement of the US’s global reach and influence.

To be sure, Kerry and Hagel have brought into the discourse a refreshing sense of realism. In a manner of speaking, they are doing a favor to the Indians by making them realize a few home truths themselves. No doubt, India’s internal problems are mounting and there is great urgency to reset the national priorities. The accumulated systemic failures are impeding even the modernization of India’s armed forces.
Most certainly India too needs a re-prioritization of national policies, akin to what Obama has vowed in his own way for the direction of the US’s economic recovery and social regeneration. Besides, more than priorities, this is also a matter of self-awareness of the limitations of power in the contemporary world situation. Some most inspiring views and tenets have been attributed to Hagel and Kerry about the efficacy of solving regional issues through military force, and, more important, on the preference to ‘engage’ adversaries in a calm and rational manner.

Meanwhile, Hagel just walked into a storm in an Indian tea cup – rather, dragged into it – over a previously unreleased 2011 speech that he made at Oklahoma’s Cameron University, which has been brought to light by a US website with pronounced right wing leanings just as his appointment as defence secretary was about to be confirmed by the US Senate. Hagel apparently said, inter alia, in a wide-ranging speech:
“India for some time has always used Afghanistan as a second front, and India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan on that side of the border. And you can carry that into many dimensions, the point being [that] the tense, fragmented relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been there for many, many years.”
The Indian pundits are hopping mad. But then, this is not the first time that such a thing has been openly said. Way back in September 2009, then American (and NATO) commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal made an assessment for the then secretary of defence Robert Gates that “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan or India.”

The general wrote in his report: “Indian political and economic influence is increasing in Afghanistan, including significant development efforts and financial investment. In addition, the current Afghan government is perceived by Islamabad to be pro-Indian.”
Suffice to say, the US policies always factored in that while India’s economic assistance to Afghan reconstruction is welcome, its political or security role needs to be circumscribed so as not to ruffle the sensitivities of Pakistan, which Washington consistently regarded as its key ally in the war.
The American officials are au fait with the decades-old Indian mantra of a ‘second front’ vis-à-vis Pakistan, but in the prevailing circumstances of western military presence in the Hindu Kush credited the Indian policymakers with the discerning capacity not to stray into gray areas. (Would anyone believe that India’s all-out support of Dr. Najibullah was out of enthusiasm for an unvarnished communist in its neighborhood?)
However, there was never any misconception in the American mind that India can ever be a match for Pakistan on the Afghan chessboard – a pawn at best, but not a rook by any reckoning. Again, Washington conceived certain selective use for India in Afghanistan, but there was never any doubt about Pakistan’s centrality.
Equally, the US recognizes that Pakistan has legitimate interests in Afghanistan, which relate to its national sovereignty and territorial integrity and its security and social stability. Even with regard to radical Islam, India and the US have had divergent opinions – and contrarian experiences – and Washington will never allow itself to be swayed by the Indian prejudices regarding the Taliban.

Hagel’s 2011 speech touched a raw nerve when India faces isolation once again in Afghanistan, but there was nothing stunningly new in it. However, the ‘course correction’ of great interest to Indian interests that Kerry and Hagel might have signaled relates to America’s ‘rebalancing’ in Asia. In the course of his Senate hearing, Kerry voiced support for the rebalancing policy, but added a caveat that he isn’t convinced that increasing the US’ military influence is critical yet, and pointing out that the US already has more bases in the region than any other nation. He also took note that Beijing is concerned about the increased number of US marines based in Australia. Kerry said:
“The Chinese ask what the United States is doing. ‘They try to encircle us, what’s going on’ – and so every action has its reaction. We have to think thoughtfully about not creating a threat when there isn’t one and understand where we can find bases for cooperation. I am not talking about retreating, I am simply trying to think about how we do this, not creating the reaction you don’t like to create.”

Why should these thoughtful views bring down the Indian roof?
Quite obviously, one key objective Obama had in mind in zeroing in on Hagel is the critical need to trim the US’s defence spending and the president’s firm conviction that this Vietnam veteran with a Purple Heart is just the brave man to take the bull by the horns at the Pentagon, given the entrenched interest groups in the US military-industrial complex. Put differently, it was never quite realistic for the Indian pundits to imagine that the US is wedded to a cold-war style containment strategy toward China or that India would have a key role to play as the US’s partner in the vast ‘Indo-Pacific’ region stretching from the Strait of Hormuz to Vanuatu, which we have unilaterally decided is our ‘sphere of influence’.
Maybe, Hagel and Kerry disappoint us. But then, the fault doesn’t lie with Hagel or Kerry, but with the lotus-eaters amongst us who chose to be indolently forgetful and were drugged by the fruit of the ‘unipolar predicament’.

How does it all add up? What is there in it for India in the Obama-era US strategies? Actually, there is a lot. Only last week, the government-owned China Daily newspaper wrote that the US policies may create “friction” in Sino-American ties, but Washington “needs” cooperation – “The US needs cooperation with China, and vice versa, as cooperation helps promote the economic interests of both countries… The huge Chinese market potential will undoubtedly serve as an anchor for bilateral trade. If US exports to China grow by 12 percent annually over the next four years, a total of 143,000 jobs could be created in the US.”

India should take note that China is well on the way to figure out its logarithm after tabling the entries of exactly what is on the mind of Kerry and Hagel – and Obama.

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Politically Incorrect

by Amir Mateen

We might blame the politicians for buckling under the might of Malik Riaz but the real power behind the man is the military brass. No question about that.
He learnt the ropes of the contracting trade early on when he worked as a clerk at Maintenance and Engineering Services (MES), a civilian branch of the Army that renovates and repairs houses. That’s where he honed his skills in the art of ‘wheeling-dealing.’ In due time, he made enough money to become a contractor with the same MES, this time ‘greasing’ the palms of the junior officers that he had trained himself in all things shady. They grew in career as he grew in wealth or may be the other way around. His level of the interaction has sky-rocketed since then.

The former MES clerk now has among his employees many retired generals. We are told he enjoys it when some of them carry his bag shamelessly. During the initial days of the infamous Arsalan Iftikhar case, a photograph showed two retired generals escorting Malik Riaz while exiting the Supreme Court. One was the former mighty in-charge of military’s political muscle, Major General (retd) Ehtesham Zameer, who ran the political section of the ISI during the Musharraf government. And with a ruthless abandon I must say. The other was the top man of military’s public relations, Major General (Retd) Shaukat Sultan. Perhaps their job description remains the same but this time for a different boss and a really different salary package. No wonder, Malik brags so often that his files never stop.
That one picture captures the state of affairs in the Army, which continues to lose respect because of its partnership with one man.

The former MES clerk seems an uncrowned Field Marshal in terms of the power that he enjoys in all things related to the Brass.
One two-star general, while he was Director General of Welfare and Rehabilitation (under which comes DHA Islamabad), constructed a palatial house on a hilltop for himself not in the DHA but in Bahria Town next door. The house is so grand that people come to see it as a tourist attraction. This is not to cast any aspersions but it was under his tenure that the DHA and Bahria got into the most controversial joint ventures. No proof but in such positions people are expected to exercise some discretion.

Malik was smart enough to realize in the 1990s, when the khakis engineered the fall of a government every two years, that the real power, among the three most powerful proverbial As in Pakistan, lies with the Army. He knew that having the uniforms on your back is the safest bet in town.
Turns out, that’s exactly what Malik did. He sold the land to the DHA after grabbing it forcefully and illegally from not so powerful and influential individuals or housing society owners. Once under the control of the military, he knew there was no way it could come back to bite him. After all who would take the military to court even if DHA Islamabad, or some parts of it, are built on Qabza land.

The case of 2880 kanals owned by Revenue Employees Cooperative Housing Society (RECHS) should explain. The society land was proposed to be converted to Phase-9 of Bahria Town, and members of the RECHS would have been accommodated accordingly. But once the merger was complete, thanks to Pervaiz Elahi, Malik Riaz sold it to the DHA.
It has taken years of litigation and effort by the victims to pressurize Bahria Town to compensate through the courts. Many remain without compensation even after nine years.
Malik Riaz knew he had to keep generals in his pocket, along with the politicians and other civilians. That’s why most of the generals count on his vast empire for future employment post-retirement.

Interestingly, one of the recently retired general – of the NLC scam fame – was the Garrison Commander in Lahore when Malik built The Mall of Lahore, a high rise, posh luxury apartment building smack in the center of Cantonment and right opposite the otherwise red-zoned Corps Commander’s House. To this day, people are amazed that how this construction was allowed at such a sensitive sight. He developed a friendship with the two-star general way back then and as it turns out (some say may be it was orchestrated) that the same gentleman was promoted and posted as the QMG in Rawalpindi who heads all of the army’s housing and land related projects.
He is definitely an expert in knowing which hands to grease. Stories of many generals literally eating from Malik’s hands abound and they are not confined to Army messes. Also affected are lots mid-ranking officers, retired soldiers and, painful for the rank and file, the families of the martyred.

It’s a Rs 62 billion scam. The story goes that the DHA Valley scheme was announced with lots of fanfare. People bought free forms in black because of the hype. The scheme offered plots measuring 150 and 240 square yards to retired officers, JCOs and the families of martyred soldiers.
But the issue is that ‘the land ain’t there.’ The acquisition of around 80,000 kanal required for DHA Valley is far from completion. Those who got cheated include 110,000 civilians, 41,000 serving and retired military officers, jawans and the families of martyrs. I have seen people crying for the loss of their life-long savings. Enters Malik Riaz, the realtor tycoon was contracted to develop the scheme. You may not believe this but the Don was paid Rs 62 billion in advance. The DHA Valley is yet to acquire land but the money for its development was paid against all legal advice. Isn’t it mind-boggling?
Those who lost the money are found appealing to the Chief of Army Staff through press releases in newspaper offices. The COAS seems as helpless as anybody else before this former MES clerk. You have to give credit to the man.
Part III.Malik Riaz-the real power broker

Politically Incorrect
Amir Mateen

Malik Riaz may just be a new phenomenon in Pakistan. No private individual may ever have exercised as much leverage over the state as he does. Is it because the state institutions have become so weak that they can be manipulated easily or is he a very smart man. Either way, this Realtor-in-Chief has got his tentacles all over.
He has control right from the office of the President down to the SHO at Islamabad’s Kohsar Police Station. He can influence khakis from the level of Generals to an MES clerk, the lucrative post from where he took his start to stardom. The media is under control as Bahria Town is one of the biggest advertisement-throwers. Most owners take favours worth their value, while the journalists, particularly a whole generation of easily purchasable new TV anchors are sometimes available even for crumbs. This makes a perfect setting for the reincarnation of Mario Puzo’s Godfather, Malik Riaz, to take the lead role.
The hapless people who get robbed of their land in hundreds of cases have no place to go. The only forum available to them, the Supreme Court of Pakistan, has now been cowed down, thanks to the shenanigans of Arsalan Chaudhary. One must give credit that Malik had the chutzpah to attack the superior courts and then get away with it. Now, he sees no obstructions in converting huge swathes of cheap land, mostly acquired through dubious means, into golden retreats, safari villas and golf clubs. His posh houses are valued at as high as Rs 220 million. Of course, he spares lots of patches for the lower and middle classes to keep up the ‘Sultana Daku’ image that he loves so much. But this largely benefits a small elite club that will continue to grow richer and richer. On his back are the chosen members of that exclusive Club – the most prominent being the President of the Islamic republic.

It’s common knowledge that Malik Riaz is the most important person at the Presidency. The President used his constitutional power to pardon Malik Riaz’s personal guard. The guard was sentenced to life imprisonment after he confessed about killing a person in a shoot-out in an Islamabad market. Who cares that the Presidential discretion is supposed to be used in very special circumstances. This encourages Malik Riaz to brag that he could walk into the President’s bedroom any time. Such bravado keeps the subordinates in line. In most cases he does not need to bother the President. The ministers or anyone who matters —everybody knows how important he is for the President. President Zardari’s sister, Faryal Talpur or somebody from his family is seen photographed at almost every important function organized by Malik Riaz.

Bureaucrats remain as obliging as Alladin’s Genie, especially if they want to live a ‘respectable’ life in the Capital. But he is more interested in postings and officials that handle things related to real estate —actually land-grabbing. Revenue and Administration officials are crucial but the most important is police. It is widely known in Islamabad that nobody gets posted on crucial positions without Malik’s approval.
Hundreds of people have recorded statements before various courts complaining about the police torturing and harassing them “at the behest of Malik Riaz.” In a prominent case, two citizens, Raja Qayyum and Habibullah, complained before the Supreme Court that they were beaten and tortured by SHO Idrees Rathore and DSP Malik Mumtaz on the orders of Malik Riaz. They were allegedly kept locked-up for three months, forcing them to sell their properties to Bahria Town.

Sihala and Bhara Kahu is a Malik terrain and, says a published report, no police officer could be posted there without the approval of Malik Riaz. The report quotes an incident where a Sihala SHO, Haq Nawaz got changed just because he did not give “due protocol” to a person sent by Malik Riaz.
Islamabad’s top cop is known to be a henchman of Malik Riaz. Rumour has it that he was instrumental in getting Malik’s son escape to Dubai when the courts ordered his arrest on the charges of murder. He risked Cntempt of Court many times by dilly-dallying on Malik’s arrest in land-grabbing cases. He twisted facts to evade the registration of FIR against Malik recently.

Malik controls Islamabad’s Police that recently risked fighting a war with their uniformed colleagues when a Rawalpindi court ordered Malik’s arrest. The property Tsar travelled with fleets of Islamabad’s heavily armed police commandoes with orders to shoot Rawalpindi police if they tried to arrest Malik. The police forces of the twin cities, playing a cat-and-mouse game, came close to mutual bloodshed many times because of him. At one stage, Malik had the muscle to have Rangers posted at his house. So who runs this country, one may ask.

In his business, Malik needs official patronage. He was even more boundless during Musharraf’s time. The Chaudharies in Punjab loved to oblige and top civilian lackey, Tariq Aziz and his khaki counterpart, Lt. General (Retd) Hamid Javed delivered the rest of the country— of course on the basis of mutual reciprocity. The beauty of his model is that he gets all favours without spending much. In most cases he obliges them in kind by giving them plots that, interestingly, he acquires with their help. Smart, isn’t it?
The PML-N was opposed to Malik initially but then Shahbaz Sharif got his help in Ashiana Scheme. The extent of Malik’s affection for Shahbaz Sharif’s son, Salman got disclosed in an off-camera shoot that somehow got leaked. Remember the ‘scrooing’ episode.
Malik Riaz is a fictional character. In real life the closest example one can think of is former Italian President Silvio Berlusconi. He bought media through his business empire and then used it for his political and business ends. Malik commands as much political control without coming into power directly. So far, that is. But we hear that he has invested huge investments on dozens of potential candidates. And this may be the reason for his recent friction with the Sharif Brother, besides the 25 acre villa that he allegedly built for the Man on the Hill. Who knows he might just take over this country at some stage. Who would not want that with half of the Parliament in his pocket? Imagine Malik Riaz as the PM.
Part II – Will the real Malik Riaz please stand up?

Politically Incorrect
Amir Mateen

Malik Riaz of Bahria Town may be the best prism through which one can understand today’s Pakistan. He personifies the potential that this ‘land of opportunities’ offers, provided you know how to go about it. Palm-greasing, he says, is an essential skill here and that he knows how to attach ‘wheels’ to his work files — a metaphor used for bribery. “Believe me, nothing moves in this country without wheels and my files, I tell you, never stop,” he said boldly in a TV interview, an impish smile on his face. That tells something about the man and the country where he, like it or not, happens to be the most powerful person.

His is a rags-to-riches story that should beat the Carnegies and Rockefellers hands down. The ‘robber barons,’ as the American Moguls were labeled a century ago, got their share of flak. But the biggest realtor baron of this country remains unscathed because he has got the media literally in his pocket.
Not much is known about one of the richest man in Pakistan except for the bits that he has told about himself. Even Wikipedia says that the details are sketchy on how a small-time labourer climbed up the ladder to become the 10th richest man of Pakistan with assets worth $800 million. He may actually be worth much more if we take into account his ‘file-wheeling’ skills.

The information about him trickles down through carefully selected journalists who throw out carefully orchestrated images of his personality. A self-made man, he passed his secondary school exam by marginal numbers. Equally marginal were his skills as he could not even drive a car. He started off from petty chores, the first being a house whitewash. We are told that he walked for 10 kilometers just to save Rs 50. He had to sell household items, tears in his eyes, to get his daughter medical treatment.
He is as somebody living next door with whom ordinary people could identify; somebody they could trust with their savings. He almost comes across as Amitabh Bachan, as in Bollywood movie Tirshol, though of course minus the superstar’s beauty, particularly his hair. Suddenly, the hero morphs into a dazzling rich person that the lay people aspire to be. A halo of glitz and glamour circles around his head. Malik Riaz travels in his private jet, lives in seven-star mansions, parks a Bentley in his porch and drives with a fleet of SUVs with a battalion of armed private commandoes that should match the prime minister’s protocol.

Malik Riaz is undoubtedly the most powerful person in Pakistan. He rubs shoulders with the high and mighty that seem to be at his beck and call. He calls former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gillani’s son, MNA Abdul Qadir Gilani, as Bunny, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s son, Salman, who takes care of the family business, as Sill. I suspect, in the same pattern, he calls President Asif Zardari and Benazir Bhutto’s son, Bilawal, as Billu. His favourite pass time, we are told, is to order senior functionaries on transfer and postings using some real rough language. This happens on a speaker phone while the worthy guests get amused and awed by his audacity. The treatment was recently meted out to another Malik with an ‘R’ who, outraged at one stage, suspended the officers who had gone to Riaz for a prized posting. The matter got resolved by the Man on the Hill later.
On a typical day, he starts his day with a working breakfast with rich Arab Sheikhs; lunch at the Presidency — with aalu shora he says; evening tea with the Punjab Chief Minister; dinner with top generals and late coffee with the biggest industrialists of this country. But he does not sleep before giving ‘tweets’ to his favourite journalists on how and what to say in the media. If he does not run Pakistan, who does?

Malik remains the biggest paradox. He has got more faces than that Hindu mythological figure from Lanka. Is he the saviour who gives jobs to 20,000 people who in turn cater to a work force of 17000 ancillary industries? Bahria Town brochure boasts that 100,000 households are dependent on them. He goes on to claim, almost in the same hyperbole that he used in the $ 45 billion fiasco, that Bahria Town workers might stretch from Lahore to Rawalpindi if they are lined up with their arms stretched wide open.
But the questions remain: Is he the great visionary who changed the housing concept in Pakistan, providing the middle and lower classes high quality residential facilities at a much lower cost?

Is he the messiah who is seen feeding hundreds of people, helping the sick, needy and the handicapped? Bahria Town sponsors many schools, hospitals and charity organizations.
Is he the trouble shooter who somehow emerges as a referee in every political wrestling match. He played a role in Musharraf’s deal with Benazir Bhutto. He was again involved in the Bhurban meeting that led to an agreement between Zardari and Nawaz Sharif. He was instrumental in arranging a patch-up between Asif Zardari and the Chaudharies of Gujrat. Only recently, he popped up out of nowhere to play a role in Tahirul Qadri’s long march.
Is he the hero of the poor who, as Amitabh Bachan, made it big in the cruel world of the rich. He likes to compare himself with ‘Sultana Daku,’ a local version of Robinhood who looted the rich to distribute among the poor. There are more shades of his personality in real life than the roles that Amitabh may have played in films.

For many, he is worse than Prem Chopra. All that glitz about good work is just a smoke screen that he maintains to hide a sinister villain that comes across in dozens of cases that he attends in various courts and police stations all over the country. The crimes that he is accused of include murder, kidnapping, forgery, fraud, extortion and many other evil things that all Bollywood villains put-together could not have done. These cases run into hundreds, mostly involving land-grabbing where his goons forcibly took away land from poor people to sell houses, some of which cost as high as Rs 220 million—the Sultana Daku in reverse here. Just to explain the extent of accusations against him, he has still got at least three dozen cases before the Supreme Court, despite the disposal of double the number of cases. In one day last year, the Supreme Court issued 44 orders against Bahria Town in various cases.

So how do we judge him. Will the real Malik Riaz please stand up? It is all the more important to understand him as he enjoys the power in this country as nobody else. Whatever the case, he is surely a movie character who got stuck with ordinary mortals.
Part I – $45bn fiasco exposes Malik Riaz

Politically Incorrect
Amir Mateen

The biggest-ever media con
Is this funny, sad or simply stupid. The clarification by Abu Dhabi Group about their alleged $45 billion investment in Pakistan may have exposed lots of things — and lots of people. One Malik Riaz of Bahria Town for sure.
He virtually conned the Abu Dhabi Group, Pakistani media and the public. We already knew about his hold on the Pakistani media. And it is not just about that one incident where he was caught red-handed with two TV anchors engineering news. The Bahria advertisements worth billions of rupees have simply blinded media owners who ensure that nothing is published against Bahria Town. News against Malik Riaz comes out only when he is summoned in the courts for the cases of murder, fraud, forgery, assassination attempts, blackmailing, to name some of the ‘virtues’ that he is regularly accused of.
But a more classic example of Pakistani media’s incompetence-actually capitulation-could not be given. Here is why.

The announcement of a whopping $45 billion investment in Pakistan was a dream-come-true story. This too at a time when nobody wants to invest a penny in Pakistan, and half of my foreign friends want to send their mothers-in-law for ‘sight-seeing’ in FATA.
It was simply mind-blowing. The UAE sacrificed its pride for having the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. And because Malik charmed them so well, they let Karachi have the honour. Apart from building the world’s tallest building in Karachi, the other attractions included a financial hub, sports city, international city, media city, educational and medical City, miniatures of the world’s seven wonders. It was amply flashed that “these projects would employ more than 2.5 million people and boost more than 55 industries like cement, bricks, iron, steel and glass.”

Malik Riaz came across as the Messiah who had bailed out Pakistan from its financial mess. Abu Dhabi Group Chairman Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak al Nahyan was quoted as describing Malik as a “visionary,” adding that this guaranteed that “we will Inshallah be welcoming first residents in next 3-4 years.” As if he was not a ruler but a real estate agent.
Media outlets competed with each other in flashing the news amidst incessant advertisements from Bahria Town. Newspapers were also found outdoing each other. Most newspapers, English and vernacular, presented what was basically a press statement by Bahria Town as “independent news.” Nobody checked whether the Abu Dhabi Group, the UAE government or even the international wire services issued any news about an investment that was worth, no less, than $ 45 billion. Not a single journalist bothered to even check if there was any news of this sort on any website of the UAE companies or whether Sheikh Nahayan had actually said those words. The half-page advertisement on newspapers’ front pages, showing Malik shaking hands with the Sheikh seem to have blinded everything. Or perhaps they were told not to test their editorial discretion.
The so-called most credible English newspaper went a step ahead by giving a joint dateline of Karachi and Islamabad instead of Dubai. It added colour to the story by quoting a Karachi magnate, of course on the condition of anonymity, that the construction site would be “Kutta Island,” which is 3 to 4-km off the coast of Karachi. It went a step further than what Malik Riaz had claimed, informing readers that “the Abu Dhabi Group-Malik Riaz would, apart from the above mentioned projects, also launch into building of 125,000 houses on the island.” (sic)

The reporters also made sure to confirm it from the source of the press release, Malik’s son Ali Riaz, instead of checking from the Abu Dhabi Group or even their local counterparts here in Warid, Wateen or Bank Alfalah.
Imagine an investment of $ 45 billion takes place in a place as Pakistan and the news is not on CNN, BBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times or even Reuters and AFP. Fellows — where was the common sense.

Last time, the UAE committed half the amount for construction on the same Kutta island (known as such because people dump stray dogs there) but the Monarch, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum himself arrived for such a big announcement. However, not a penny came as the UAE was eyeing for Gwadar Port as compensation.
It is actually funny how the media got duped. And that is exactly how they took it in Dubai. A friend who works for The Gulf News shared that journalists there could not believe it in their morning meeting. Everybody laughed as the entire Pakistani media was conned so easily. The Gulf News did not carry the story as there had been no announcement from anywhere. Internationalist journalists saw this “stupid news” on the web and just ignored it.

My Dubai friend, knowing Bahria’s leverage on Pakistani media, could understand that the news got carried on the first day. “But how about the five days after that,” he asked, confused. “Why nobody followed-up on the story that was supposed to be the biggest investment in the country’s history.”
It turns out that the Abu Dhabi Group and the UAE government was aghast at the development. But since they have lots of investment here they did not want to embarrass Pakistanis. A small news was leaked through Reuters wherein Sheikh Nahayan, while talking to a reporter in a Dubai exhibition, clarified that the investment might materialize in 15 years. He also dispelled the impression about building the tallest building in Karachi, saying that the business plans were “at a very early stage.”

No paper except The Spokesman carried the story. Sheikh Nahayan also explained that the MOU was signed in his capacity as the owner of his private company, Dhabi Contracting and not as the chairman of the conglomerate, Abu Dhabi Group. He could not have been more specific when he said that it would materialize in phases, adding, “every phase will be studied by itself… It depends on the situation when we decide to go ahead with the projects."

This was to clarify the wrong impression given here by Bahria Town that it was Abu Dhabi Group and not Dhabi Contracting that signed an MOU that only showed minor interest in business here. Still, nobody took the hint here as advertisements kept coming. Nobody questioned that how could a private company in Pakistan commit a $45 billion investment without the government being in the loop. Imagine the world’s biggest building and residential quarters for millions being constructed without any representative from the provincial and federal governments. In Sheikh Nahayan’s case, the assumption of the UAE government could be forgiven as he is a minister and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Group.
A whole bandwagon of Urdu columnists and TV anchors was found eulogizing Malik Riaz as the savior of the country. After five days, it just became too much for the UAE rulers and they had to issue the clarification that everybody read in newspapers on Friday.

Obviously, the Dubai rulers knew they were duped into that photo-up and their reputation was being used for petty benefits. It is easy to understand the benefits. This kind of news changed the scenario for Malik Riaz. He was being hounded by the courts in numerous cases, some of them seriously heinous. He was in conflict with LDA over opening new housing schemes in Lahore without permission. He was also in conflict with the army for land dispute with DHA that affects thousands of former army officers and jawans. All of this may have shaken the public confidence in his housing projects. In monetary terms this could mean a loss of billions of rupees for him. Such news about building the tallest building in Karachi is worth a lot though. Even if it had not materialized, the impression of a partnership with the Dubai rulers would have rewarded him billions of rupees in terms of public confidence. Elementary, isn’t it.

But the question remains: Was our media (of which I am a part by the way) stupid, incompetent or simply capitulated before the owners. A little bit of everything I think. I was dared by a colleague on twitter that we shall see some expose` when I get up on Saturday. I hope so but am not sure about it.