"When high-profile celebrities-turned-politicians become used to being worshipped by their followers, they also become sore losers"


Wanted: A messiah


Through most of its history, Pakistan has been governed by military dictators or rulers hailing from the bureaucracy or feudal oligarchies. Consequently, people are still inclined to search for messiahs who they believe will lead them in the right direction and solve all their problems in one fell swoop. The public is apt to idolize politicians who boast about making huge changes and telling people what they want to hear. This has been apparent over the last decade during which younger people, in particular, have treated the electoral process as a war between the forces of malevolence and benevolence.

Most political elites in Pakistan are, one way or another, the protégés of military dictators. Whenever an army general has come to power, he has invariably rounded up the civilian leadership in order to legitimize his takeover. In this context, the criteria for selection have never been honesty and decency. Those favoured as much as politicians who can be bought easily and who will remain loyal, willing to accept orders and to cheer on their masters. They might be corrupt and unscrupulous, but as long as they serve the general’s object, they will remain in the game.

This requires using a carrot-and-stick policy, putting aside the “carrots” for a rainy day. Should any civilian leaders decide otherwise and begin to assert their independence, they will be hanged or banished or simply pressured into submission through street agitation and other “tools”. Thus, whenever a political government comes to power, the mishandling and plunder begins because there are no guarantees that the military will not topple the system – why not then “save” something for the trough period?

Dharna politics did not begin in Pakistan when the PTI gave its call – the mechanism existed long before. But the PTI was able to pull off one of the most effective sit-ins in the history of Pakistan. After becoming Prime Minister a third time, Nawaz Sharif demonstrated a seeming lack of interest in government. He hardly went to Parliament and made long overseas trips instead. Even just before the PTI/PAT sit-in in 2014, he jetted off to Saudi Arabia for almost 10 days. Many people who were worried about the deteriorating situation began to believe that Sharif was simply bored with the job he had wanted. Moreover, the mainstream electronic and print media had long preached that the PTI was the only viable force: a catalyst for change and full of new ideas and vigour to fix the country’s politics and culture.

Then in came the establishment (for, as the Mick Jagger song goes, “Old Habits Die Hard”). Some players in the security establishment found a window of opportunity to try once again what they had always wanted to do: topple the Sharifs. Blinded by personal grudges against the Sharif family, they ignored the fact that their chances of obtaining any support from the West to this end were slim to none (given that the US was now less interested in Afghanistan and busy mending its relations with Iran to fight against ISIS). They conspired with hopefuls like Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri to topple the government by force, promising these two visibly ambitious men the future premiership – although it is very unlikely that, had they been successful, Khan and Qadri would have found themselves anywhere near the helm of affairs.

Khan and Qadri proceeded to insult the country’s institutions, threaten the police, have their people released from custody by force, attack the state-owned television station, destroy the Parliament building’s fences with cranes, convert its front lawn into a khema basti (tent city), transform the adjacent green belt into the world’s biggest lavatory, and allow vigilantes from their respective parties to take law and order into their own hands (forcing parliamentarians, judges, bureaucrats and police officials to undergo body searches by their hooligans before being allowed to pass through). Fortunately, this spectacle failed miserably because sanity prevailed – the military, other political parties and civil society decided not to support such lunacy. Their success would have derailed democracy for a long time and introduced the unhealthy tradition of attacking the capital city with large crowds in attempts to topple the government.

Predominantly, Qadri’s supporters are people from the lower-middle class who consider him a spiritual leader. However, the PTI’s supporters form three distinct categories. A large part consists of those who are simply tired of the incompetency of the PPP and PML-N, and also of military dictators. They want someone honest and sincere to lead. They may not necessarily believe in Imran Khan and the PTI leadership, but they are willing to give the third party a chance in the hope it might do better.

The second (large) section of PTI supporters includes upper-middle class people, most of whom have spent their lives worshiping celebrities. They see Imran Khan as a “Captain America” – someone incapable of mistakes or misconduct, someone able to bring about “change” by exploiting his supernatural powers and lady-killer looks. They think that Imran Khan may well be the first leader in Pakistan after the Quaid-e-Azam and assume that politics in Pakistan only began after the advent of 24/7 TV channels and social media. Were some other celebrity, “Boom Boom” Afridi, for example, to launch a political party, a large number of Khan’s supporters in this category might simply change allegiance for the same reasons they chose to support the PTI in the first place.

The third (rather small) category of PTI supporters comprises those who support Imran Khan because they dislike the Sharifs and Zardari very much and want them out of politics. They are also ambitious: they want to play a role in running the government and have always benefitted under military dictator regimes. They see Imran Khan as a gullible, ambitious person who enjoys street power, but can be convinced to create enough trouble on the streets to pave the way for martial law – thereby allowing this category of people to assume some measure of power on the tailcoats of the next dictator.

It has become a cliché now to say that Imran Khan is “clean” and that all other politicians are plunderers and swindlers (although there are allegations that Khan pays very little in taxes while living in a palatial house). He may be Mr Clean only because he has not taken power as yet and never been in a situation where he has had to stand up to the powerful security establishment.

But financial honesty alone is not a sufficient criterion for running a country well. After all, the Jamat-e-Islami might have a financially honest leadership, but no one wants to hand them the reins of government. Even the Taliban might be “honest” in a financial sense, but would anyone in Pakistan ever agree to put them at the helm of affairs? If a leader is honest, but lacks qualities such as wisdom, foresight and political acumen, this does not guarantee success in office.

The problem is that high-profile celebrities become used to being worshipped by the people around them – and they become sore losers. Khan is proving himself to be one such character. After the Judicial Commission report, he should have come out and clearly told his people to move on instead of attacking the judiciary. Will anyone be surprised if, in the near future, Khan is seduced by another “umpire” and holds another series of press conferences to tell the media he has found another conspiracy against his “mandate”? We all know that “old habits die hard”.

Misbah Azam,


CDA injustice


This is an appeal to the federal Minister of the Interior, the chairman CDA, members of the National Assembly and Senate, the Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Islamabad High Court to intervene on behalf of allottees of the CDA balloting held in 1989.

The CDA was established on 14 June 1960 as the statutory body for planning and development in Islamabad. It was supposed to carry out the functions of a municipal committee and advance the public interest, while dealing with all citizens fairly, honestly and transparently. In 1989, the CDA offered plots to the public through balloting in Sector E-12; successful applicants were issued allotment letters. Even after 26 years, these applicants (who have paid all the installments demanded by the CDA) are still waiting for possession.

This injustice violates their constitutional rights and is an act unbecoming of a statutory body. Unfortunately, the CDA has become hostage to the greed of its employees, the paid civil and uniformed bureaucracy, pressure groups and land mafia. Will somebody please intervene?

Ali Tariq,


PTI allegations and JC report


One is reminded of the popular adage “ to make a mountain out of a molehill” when one looks at the recently launched report of the Judicial Commission (JC), which was constituted to investigate the outrageous allegations of massive rigging in the 2013 general elections – charges levelled by PTI chief Imran Khan against the PML-N chief Mian Nawaz Sharif. Imran Khan disregarded all norms of graciousness in lambasting Nawaz Sharif (then the incumbent Prime Minister), alleging that the latter’s party had rigged the election. During the dharna staged by his party in conjunction with the Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) in Islamabad, from 14 August to 17 December 2014, Imran Khan in particular kept up his incessant claims of rigging.

His tall claims may have succeeded in mustering the support of his ardent followers, but what Khan has failed miserably to appreciate is that, in the absence of tangible evidence, all his claims were nothing but mere rhetoric. Yet another important factor he has failed to realize is that the verdict of the JC vindicates Mian Nawaz Sharif, who has subsequently emerged as the stronger leader. Khan, on the contrary, cuts a sorry figure in front of the entire nation, to say nothing of his party followers.

The report of the JC into the allegations of rigging was made public on 23 July 2015. The 237-page report lucidly states: “The Commission has found no evidence that there was a systemic fraud [sic]” across the nation on Election Day. Such fraud and irregularity as there was, adds the report, does not constitute sufficient grounds for alleging that it influenced the outcome of the election – which the JC found to be a reasonably fair representation of the will of the electorate.

Considering the political rumpus that gave rise to the establishment of the JC in the first place, the response has been astonishingly modest on all sides. Khan, who probably more than any other individual, was responsible for pressuring the government into the formation of the JC, seems reluctant to accept the findings of the report outright. What the JC report clearly documents above all else is that, while the electoral system is imperfect, it is not fatally flawed and is still capable of delivering a result that fairly represents the will of the people, despite attempts to corrupt the process.

PM Nawaz Sharif addressed the nation on the report’s findings that same evening. Now what? The time has come for PTI chairman Imran Khan in particular and the other parties in general (those who had vociferously raised their voices against the alleged rigging of the elections) to accept the verdict of the JC and tender an unconditional apology to the nation vis-à-vis the rigging issue.

A measure of magnanimity on the part of the PML-N chief and Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz Sharif, is also in order. In burying the past, he should invite Imran Khan and all the other political parties to join hands with him in steering Pakistan out of its current predicaments, in putting it back on the path to progress and prosperity, and working in unison to ensure the country stands out in the comity of world nations.

M. Fazal Elahi,


Professional tax administration


Members of the civil service groups for internal and external taxes, who are recruited through the competitive examination for the Central Superior Services (CSS), are not given due importance. This is evident from the fact that they are frequently denied the right to head the federal Department of Revenue (wrongly designated the Federal Board of Revenue). Many other officers and persons from the private sector have held the post of chairperson as well as other posts in the departmental headquarters. It is like a boarding house for outsiders and, generally, their performance indicates that “Jis ka kaam, usi ko sajay aur karay to dhenga bajay.”

Professional command of the federal tax department is in the national interest. Such administrators, with their insight as insiders into the personnel and structure of the tax organization, are better able to implement tax policy. They are also harder taskmasters for field officers and have greater prospects for implementing coercive measures to handle tax evaders. Adequate tax revenues are a crucial factor in securing the independence of Pakistan by ending its dependence on external debt.

Taraq Jazy,


Verbal hysteria



Altaf Hussain’s recent outburst can, at best, be defined as verbal hysteria, for he has crossed all limits in attacking the state’s sovereignty by seeking foreign intervention. As long as previous civil and military regimes (including the Musharraf junta) were willing to compromise public and national security by allowing organized militant gangs to engage in street crime, target killings, kidnapping for ransom, land grabbing, institutionalized corruption and other heinous crimes, Altaf Hussain was very supportive of the establishment and always willing to join every government as a coalition partner.

It is only when the political government and military establishment have embarked jointly on the National Action Plan to rid this country (including its financial capital, Karachi) of terrorism and to eliminate any funding generated by criminal activities – and when the UK government, whose passport he holds, has started investigating his alleged involvement in money laundering and the murder of Imran Farooq – that the MQM party chief has become even more irate than usual.

Pakistan is a sovereign independent state, whose institutions – the executive, judiciary and legislative bodies – exercise specific powers strictly in accordance with the Constitution. Years of poor governance and institutionalized corruption have inculcated a culture wherein the electoral mandate has become synonymous with abuse of power and the perception that it gives parties in office the right to subvert the Constitution, compromise national security, make appointments that are not merit-based, and establish unconstitutional acts such as the controversial NRO (which effectively condones financial corruption and grave irregularities among those who have abused their public offices).

It is surprising that such political party heads are willing to respect the laws and constitution of countries whose nationality they have acquired – because such nations have zero tolerance for criminal acts – but have no hesitation in crossing all ethical and moral lines in their dealings with Pakistan.

A. Malik Tariq,


Floodplain management


WWF-Pakistan has raised serious concerns over the increased frequency of massive floods and urged the government to reduce the impacts of environmental hazards through better management of critical watersheds and floodplains. Speaking on the issue, Hammad Naqi Khan, Director General WWF-Pakistan, mentioned deforestation in watersheds and encroachments on floodplains for agriculture, human settlements and other purposes as the main reasons for the increasing devastation caused by heavy rains and floods. He reemphasized the urgent need to implement an integrated Indus River Basin Management programme as recommended in various policy documents.

According to the latest Monsoon Daily Situation Report issued on 4 August by the National Disaster Management Authority, 818,044 people have been affected and 151 have died as a result of floods prevalent across the country. Moreover, the Pakistan Meteorological Department has issued glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) warnings for Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Chitral, which is witnessing the harsh impact of extreme weather events associated with climate change. The threat of GLOFs, cloud burst and flash floods has increased considerably due to higher temperatures and heavy rainfall in GB and the Malakand Division. The Met Office has also predicted that low pressure over North Rajasthan (India) will result in greater rainfall in southern Punjab, and warned that the monsoon will remain active during August, resulting in mild and heavy rainfall in many parts of the country.

In order to mitigate the impact of flooding, WWF-Pakistan has shared its recommendations with the government, urging it to strengthen its disaster risk reduction strategy. However, due to lack of awareness about the causes of heavy rain and flooding, agricultural land and property is damaged, leading to huge losses for the national economy.

Managing Pakistan’s rivers to minimize the impact of annual floods is essential to ensure the long-term survival of communities living near rivers and major streams. Following the floods of 2010, an expert team under a Ramsar Advisory Mission visited the country’s wetlands and identified priority wetlands and Ramsar sites for restoration to absorb floodwater.

A Judicial Flood Inquiry Tribunal headed by Justice Mansoor Ali Shah (whose report was published in 2010, following the floods that year) has highlighted the need to set up and implement a floodplain management plan as a tool for flood management, the removal of encroachments and the creation of wildlife sanctuaries to regulate and protect the environment of riverine areas.

Syed Muhammad Abubakar,

WWF, Lahore.