Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Najam Sethi on Desperation in PDM: Says It is "Now or Never" For PMLN

Prominent Pakistani journalist and political analyst Najam Sethi, a strong critic of Prime Minister Imran Khan, sees desperation among the Pakistani Democratic Movement (PDM) leaders. In a recent interview with well-known journalists Raza Rumi and Murtaza Solangi on Naya Daur social media channel, Sethi said the Pakistani opposition, particularly PMLN, believe it is "now or never" for them.  

PDM Leadership L to R: Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maryam Nawaz

Najam Sethi added that if the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government led by Prime Minister Khan survives the current 5 year term and succeeds in stabilizing the nation's economy,  the ruling party will be re-elected for another 5 year term in 2023 with the support of what Sethi calls "Miltablishment" (a euphemism for Pakistani military). This, Sethi said, would mean that the PMLN would break up and lose its relevance. Sethi acknowledges there is genuine support for PTI in spite of Imran Khan government's failures in the first two years. This support is particularly strong among the youthful voters who are willing to forgive PTI's poor handling of the economy. 

Dr. Rasul Bakhsh Rais, Professor of political science at Lahore University of Management Science (LUMS), has offered similar analysis in an op ed published in Arab News. He asks: "Why can’t opposition parties wait for the next elections, is the six-million-dollar question". Here's an excerpt from Rais's op ed that captures its essence: 

"The two major dynastic parties— the Pakistan Muslim League (N) and the Pakistan People’s Party are concerned that if Khan continues to stabilize and devise strategies for reforms, which he is set to roll out in the coming months, he may win the next election. If that happens, it will end dynastic elite politics, as staying in the political wilderness could cause splits, defections and fragmentation". 

The PDM strategy of forcing mid-term elections by resigning from assemblies may not work because the interests of PPP and PMLN, the two biggest components of PDM, do not converge.  While it is true that PMLN has little to lose by resigning their seats, the PPP has a lot to lose because it is already the ruling party in Sindh with its patronage power intact. And the PPP has no hope of winning national elections to form federal government. If the PDM protests are sustained, however, it won't be smooth sailing for PTI either. Dr. Rais sums up the situation very well as follows:

"Resigning from the assemblies is an option, but why would the PPP do so, losing its government in Sindh. Things may not be easy for the government of Khan either, as instability and confrontation may continue to divert his attention away from reforms and rebuilding a ‘new’ Pakistan. Failure then would work well into the strategy of the opposition for the next elections". 


Mayraj F. said...

Gee even Najam Sethi sees the light.

Zia said...

Khan should focus on reforms and not on opposition, they dont matter, the reforms matter

he needs to address
1. universal education
2. universal health
3. energy crisis
4. law and order
5. judiciary reforms
6. financial stability
7. growth/jobs through manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture

this isnt easy but it isnt impossible

Riaz Haq said...

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 238-239). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

"Perhaps, as some of those closest to her have suggested, Benazir transferred some of her strong feelings for her father onto her husband: Asif Zardari did, after all, take on some of her father’s roles, such looking after the family finances. For Benazir, having large amounts of cash to hand was both a natural state of affairs and a political necessity. If she could not buy the loyalty of her parliamentary supporters, then her opponents would. As another of her political advisers later recalled, ‘Asif’s role became more prominent when she beat back the motion of no confidence. There was some wheeler dealing in that. Some buying of votes. The moment money transactions came into play, Asif was in his element.’7 Asif Zardari has consistently denied any financial malpractice. During her second government, Benazir told an aide that you needed to have $200–300 million to go into an election so that you could fund your candidates and secure their loyalty.8 While many of her advisers gave her plenty of interesting suggestions about what to do, Zardari actually did things, proving himself to be a man she could rely on. His ability to understand what she needed and to do it without fuss or even discussion was the foundation of their relationship"

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (p. 239). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Riaz Haq said...

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 222-223). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Their suspicions that Benazir was too close to the US were bolstered when she failed to stop US officials holding direct meetings with mujahideen leaders. Despite strong US objections, Zia had always managed to prevent this, insisting that if Pakistan were to be used as a channel for US military supplies it would have complete control of communications with Islamist commanders. Under Benazir, that degree of control had been lost. The differences between the government and the military spilled over into the National Assembly, where the opposition planned a no-confidence vote for October 1989. The military’s first step was to persuade the MQM to switch sides, which it did just a few weeks before the vote. The PML leader Chaudri Nisar was reported as saying that it was army chief Aslam Beg who delivered these MQM votes to Nawaz Sharif.43 But the MQM leader Altaf Hussain was no longer as important as he used to be. Since the PPP had used its powers of patronage to win over more independent National Assembly members, even with the MQM, the IJI still needed some PPP defectors. In October the Intelligence Bureau, which owed its loyalty to the government, not the military, became aware that senior serving military officers were meeting with the IJI leadership. In a sting that became known as Operation MIDNIGHT JACKAL, it revealed a conspiracy in which one serving and one retired ISI officer attempted to bribe some PPP National Assembly members to switch sides. The Intelligence Bureau managed to record audio and video footage of the secret meetings. According to Benazir, the ISI officer was taped saying ‘The army does not want her, the President does not want her and the Americans don’t want her.’

Riaz Haq said...

The country’s big industries grew at a pace of 5.5% in the first four months of current fiscal year, which is in line with government’s expectations of economic recovery but the index still stands below pre-coronavirus outbreak levels.


The Large-Scale Manufacturing (LSM) sector registered a cumulative growth of 5.5% in July-October of current fiscal year, reported the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) on Tuesday.

October was the second successive month when the index grew over the previous month, raising hopes that the momentum could continue in the midst of the second wave of Covid-19 in Pakistan.

Out of 15 major industries, nine sectors again recorded a surge in production while output of six industries contracted in the first four months of current fiscal year compared to the same period of previous year, according to the PBS.

The government expects 2.5% contraction in the LSM sector in the current fiscal year, according to the Annual Plan 2020-21 released by the Ministry of Planning and Development on the eve of federal budget. But the Ministry of Finance’s estimates suggest that instead of contraction, the LSM sector may grow 1.4% in the fiscal year.

Because of better-than-expected output in the industrial and agriculture sectors, the Ministry of Finance now expects economic growth to remain in the range of 2.6% to 2.8% in the current fiscal year - better than the official target of 2.1%. The industrial sector, which was earlier projected to grow only 0.1% by the government, may now grow at a rate of 2.1%.

LSM recorded 6.7% year-on-year growth in October but the index was still below pre-coronavirus level of 160.2 points recorded in March this year.

On a yearly basis, the petroleum sector contracted 0.1% in October over the same month of previous year. Provincial bureaus also reported a nominal growth of less than 1% in 11 industries. On a month-on-month basis, the LSM sector showed 3.4% growth in October over September.

Prime Minister Imran Khan won the July 2018 elections on the promise of creating 10 million jobs and constructing five million homes at affordable prices but the promises have remain unfulfilled so far. With the current sluggish economic growth, there will be increase in poverty and unemployment in the remaining tenure of the government.

Pakistan needs 6-7% annual economic growth to reduce poverty and unemployment, according to independent economic experts.

Data collected by the Oil Companies Advisory Committee (OCAC) showed that 11 types of industries registered an average growth of just 0.1% in the first four months of current fiscal year.

The Ministry of Industries, which monitors 15 industries, reported 3.7% growth in the LSM output. Provincial bureaus reported a growth of 1.6% in 11 industries in four months, according to the PBS.

Sectors that posted growth during the July-October period included textile that grew 2.2% and non-metallic mineral products that soared 22.9%.

However, the output of power looms slumped 41.7% in four months, contrary to the media hype generated about utilisation of power looms at full capacity.

The fertiliser sector grew 6% whereas the food, beverages and tobacco group expanded 12.2% in the four-month period under review.

The manufacturing of chemical products increased 9.2%, paper and board 10.4% and rubber products 3.3%. The pharmaceutical sector registered a growth of 13.5% in the July-October period. Output of the coke and petroleum sector increased 1.6%.

Industries that registered a dip in manufacturing included the automobile sector, which saw a contraction of 1.6% but the pace of negative growth slowed down.

Iron and steel production fell 5.4%, electronics 23%, leather products 43%, engineering products 34% and wood products 64% during the July-October period.

Riaz Haq said...

"Despite these issues, many consider the 1973 constitution to have been Zulfikar’s greatest achievement and credit it with holding West Pakistan together as a single country. It was, by any standards, extraordinary that Zulfikar managed to push it through with no one in the National Assembly voting against it. Mubashir Hassan described how the final hold-out – a cleric – was persuaded to vote in favour with a payoff: ‘The amount was settled and Bhutto described the scene to me how when the fellow came to President’s House to collect the money, Bhutto threw a packet of notes on the floor and ordered him to pick it up. There the man was, moving over the carpet on all fours, picking a bundle from here and a bundle from there. Bhutto was mightily amused.’83 By using all his political skills – bribery included – Zulfikar had made a significant contribution to Pakistan’s national story. ‘The country owes him everything,’ said Hafeez Pirzada, the man who worked on the constitution for Zulfikar, ‘even its continuance as a sovereign country. He was not the founder, but the saviour of the country.’84 It’s a fair point – 1971 was as big a disaster as could be imagined, and Zulfikar dealt with it in a way that it is hard to imagine any other civilian or military leader in the country’s history having been able to do"

Bennett-Jones, Owen. The Bhutto Dynasty (pp. 107-108). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

Riaz Haq said...

A new book offers riveting and memorable reporting, though it falls back on outdated narratives of a country that has moved on.


Part of the problem is how far removed much of the book is from the current moment. The “unplanned revolution,” in the words of eminent researcher Arif Hasan, at the intersection of demographic change, urbanization and its attendant economic shifts, and the erosion of traditional structures in Pakistani society were well underway during Walsh’s time in Pakistan. But the political expression of many of these changes, the emergence of the middle class and a post-ethnic politics that would carry Imran Khan to the prime minister’s office in 2018, in particular, was brought into focus in the 2013 election. So it is a shame that Walsh was expelled at that moment, just ahead of a dramatic reduction in violence nationwide that may have allowed for a focus on the understudied structural changes in Pakistan that aren’t easily explained by the well-worn narratives.


A decade before the arrival of New York Times correspondent Declan Walsh’s The Nine Lives of Pakistan: Dispatches from a Precarious State—which was released in the United States on Nov. 23—another major book of long-form reportage about the country’s chaotic post-9/11 years was published: Nicholas Schmidle’s To Live or to Perish Forever. The two books open with anecdotes of the authors being suddenly ordered to pack their bags and expelled from the country after reporting stories that crossed a red line for Pakistan’s security services—Schmidle for reporting on the Pakistani mutation of the Taliban and Walsh for his coverage of the insurgency in the vast, rural Balochistan province. Walsh’s book comes more than seven years after he was kicked out of Pakistan in May 2013.

In news reporting, most of the work must frustratingly remain in a journalist’s notebook. Walsh draws on these notebooks to write his book, finally able to give previous reporting trips the full literary treatment that they deserve. But it raises the question of whether reporting from Pakistan, some of it nearly 20 years old, gives readers new insights into a uniquely complex society. Walsh himself claims he will take the reader with him, retracing his steps, on a journey “deep into the psyche of the country.”

Walsh’s book is better than Schmidle’s, but the nearly identical opening scenes are a metaphor for a larger problem with writing about Pakistan, an ethnically diverse nation of more than 200 million people that is in constant flux. In the decade between the publication of these two major books of reportage that purport to explain Pakistan, the country itself has grown and evolved rapidly. The Pakistan discourse has still not caught up.

It would be unfair to dismiss Walsh’s efforts. He spent nine years reporting from Pakistan, at least twice as long as a normal foreign correspondent’s tenure. He covers Islamist militancy, radicalization, terrorism; liberal reformers and elite subjects; the military’s reach into domestic politics and foreign policy; and, uniquely for Walsh, the hidden unrest in Balochistan. His lively portraits of a range of Pakistani political figures (almost all of whom are now dead, either through violence or natural causes) are imbued with qualities that only time and experience in a society can produce.

The best chapters are those whose subjects and stories, while famous, are less well known outside of Pakistan, drawn out with new details and anecdotes. Walsh profiles the retired Inter-Services Intelligence officer Sultan Amir Tarar, known as Col. Imam, who was a key field liaison with the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s and then the Afghan Taliban movement in the 1990s. Walsh’s many sessions with the Muslim cold warrior as a source over the years allow him to go behind the screen of the man’s true belief—eventually, inevitably, his demise—and witness moments of disenchantment and doubt.

Riaz Haq said...

Windfall for "NGOs" in #Pakistan: Latest #US #COVIDReliefPackage includes $15 million for "democracy programs" and $10 million for "gender programs" in Pakistan! Is this a shot in the arm for #PDM & other groups destabilizing Pakistan? #NGO https://www.foxbusiness.com/politics/covid-19-relief-legislation-pakistan

The lengthy coronavirus relief bill lawmakers agreed upon over the weekend – and are hoping to approve this week – includes a number of lesser-known provisions that have raised some eyebrows.

Among them are a pair of assistance programs in Pakistan, whereby $15 million will be put toward “democracy programs” and $10 million will be distributed to “gender programs.”

Some Twitter users were frustrated about the intent to distribute funds for such purposes in the midst of a pandemic where many American households are struggling to make ends meet.

While it is not made explicitly clear what is meant by “gender programs” in the legislation, gender equality is a central component to development in the country, according to the United Nations Population Fund.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) website also states that it works with Pakistan to improve women’s access to economic opportunities, increase girls’ access to education, improve maternal and child health, combat gender-based violence, and increase women’s political and civic participation in Pakistan.

Pakistan ranks the second lowest country in the world for gender equality.

The relief legislation was attached to a broader omnibus spending bill lawmakers were looking to approve to avert a government shutdown.

Riaz Haq said...

NY Times Columnist Charles Blow to #Democrats: "Republicans don’t want you to win. It’s that simple. They want no successes on your watch, and they certainly don’t want to participate in said victories". I guess the same advice applies to #PTI in #Pakistan https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/20/opinion/republicans-democrats-manchin-filibuster.html

I am truly baffled as to why Democrats continue to search for bipartisan support that has not only been illusory, but nonexistent — with the exception of a predictable few and only on a few issues with them.

Democrats: Republicans don’t want you to win. It’s that simple. They want no successes on your watch, and they certainly don’t want to participate in said victories.

And yet the reports keep pouring in of Democrats bending over backward and gutting their bills in a desperate effort to win Republican support.

It seems to me that this has all been a performance, a going through the motions, a checking of the boxes, so that Democrats could say that they tried, that they extended a hand but were rebuffed. Democrats always seem to want to win the moral advantage, to say that they played the game with honor.

But that is meaningless when Republicans no longer care about that form of morality, when they no longer want to play the game by the established rules at all. Democrats are playing an honor game; Republicans are playing an endgame.

Republicans are in win-at-all-costs mode. They don’t really care how they sound today or will be judged by history. The only thing that matters is winning and retaining power, defending the narrative of America that white people created and protecting the power and wealth they accrued because of it.

As The Washington Post reported Sunday, “the Equality Act, which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alongside race, color, religion and national origin,” has stalled because of “sharpening Republican rhetoric, one key Democrat’s insistence on bipartisanship, and the Senate’s 60-vote supermajority rule.”

Last week, Senator Joe Manchin offered some changes and reductions to the voter rights bill called the For the People Act, changes that he could support and that he hoped would win some Republican support. His compromised stance was quickly rebuffed by Republicans. Manchin had also offered alterations to the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which seeks to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act.

But, as Talking Points Memo wrote, Manchin’s changes would basically gut the bill. As T.P.M. put it, “One of those proposed changes would decrease the attorney general’s ability to deem a voting practice discriminatory without a judicial finding.”

Politico reported on Friday that the White House will lean more on the bully pulpit as its voting rights bills grind to a halt. This includes engaging the public more, partnering with corporations and leaning on the Justice Department to challenge some state laws.

Politico is also reporting that Democrats are preemptively scaling back gun control legislation — pre-emptively taking the compromise position — to avoid a Republican roadblock that will most likely still remain. According to Politico:

“Democrats are preparing to vote on a scaled-down guns bill — most likely a curtailed plan to boost background checks for firearm buyers. The goal is to unite the party and pick up a limited number of Republican votes, even as their effort appears headed towards the same doomed fate as previous proposals to curb gun violence.”

Rather than continuing to peddle a false optimism that bipartisanship on most major legislation is truly possible with this Republican Party, Democrats need to tell their voters some uncomfortable truths.

Riaz Haq said...

Maryam Nawaz Sharif's leaked audios of conversation with her uncle PM Shahbaz Sharif:


The first clip purportedly features a conversation between PML-N Vice President Maryam and the premier about Miftah, who has reportedly faced criticism from within the party for taking tough economic measures.

The PML-N vice president has publicly stated that she does not agree with the decision to hike petrol and electricity prices, saying she did not own such decisions, whether her party was in government or not.

"He doesn't take responsibility [...] says strange things on TV which people make fun of him for [...] he doesn't know what he is doing," the voice said to be Maryam's says in the alleged clip.

"He clearly cut corners," the voice said to be PM Shehbaz's is heard as saying.

"Uncle, he doesn't know what he is doing," Maryam purportedly says, as she wishes for the return of PML-N stalwart Ishaq Dar.

Former finance minister Dar is set to return to the country next week to facilitate PM Shehbaz on the economic front.

The second clip allegedly concerns a conversation between the premier, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Law Minister Azam Tarar, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah and former NA speaker Ayaz Sadiq about the resignations of PTI lawmakers from the lower house of parliament.

A third clip purportedly features a conversation between Maryam and PM Shehbaz regarding the return of former army chief retired Gen Pervez Mushar­raf.

The former military ruler’s family publicly confirmed in June that he was “going through a difficult stage" where recovery was not possible while Inter-Services Pub­lic Relations (ISPR) Director Gen­eral Maj Gen Babar Iftik­har said Mushar­raf's family was in contact with the military regarding his planned return.

Discussing this in the alleged clip, the voice alleged to be Maryam's can be heard saying that she "sees this coming", adding that she said the same to Nawaz in a phone call.

"I told him to tweet this. He listened to me immediately," the PML-N vice president allegedly says, adding that the move was "opposed" by several people. She allegedly reasons that showing "magnanimity" in this situation would help the government save face.

She said that there was nothing in the leaks that was similar to the "anti-Pakistan conspiracy of Shaukat Tarin", referring to the audio clips attributed to Tarin regarding the International Monetary Fund programme.

Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah appeared to play down the matter while speaking on Geo News show "Naya Pakistan", saying that nothing definitive could be said about the prime minister house’s security being breached until the leaks were investigated.

"I don't think we should take them so seriously since this is so common," he added.

“If the probe proves that it’s not safe to talk in the prime minister house and somebody has done this [spying] arrangement, then it’s really serious but it is inappropriate to say this without proof.”

Sanaullah did not reject the content of the audios, instead, saying that the current setup's "good governance" was reflected through them.

He also said that the prime minister had taken notice of the leaks and would consult his cabinet on the issue tomorrow, adding that the matter would be sorted out in the next few days.

On the leak where Maryam could allegedly be heard criticising the finance minister, the interior minister said expression of opinion was allowed in democratic and political systems, adding that Ismail was criticised by outsiders so it made no difference if Maryam or some others in the PML-N did so as well.

"What was wrong if Maryam said some of his decisions cost us politically."

Sanaullah also seemingly blamed the finance minister for the recent high fuel adjustment charges, asking why they couldn't have been spread over a period of months.