Shaheen Sehbai’s Credibility Problem

May 1st, 2012 | By | Category: Jang, The News

Shaheen SehbaiShaheen Sehbai alerted his Twitter followers to an alarming story yesterday, one that claims the US has carried out a secret program to buy Pakistani journalists and to make them ashamed of being Muslims. The story that Shaheen Sehbai Tweeted was written two years ago as part of a series titled, ‘Final Solution Frenzy’ that tells of a fascinating plot, full of intrigue and betrayal against Pakistan. Actually, fascinating plots, full of intrigue and betrayal appear to be the main product of the website where it was published.

The story Shaheen Sehbai Tweeted is posted on the website ‘News Central Asia’, which is run by former officer Pakistan Navy Tariq Saeedi who emigrated to Turkmenistan.

In 2002, it was not America that Tariq Saeedi was warning about, but a conspiracy by “Mossad, RAW and Israeli-Russian-Ukrainian drug mafia” to take over the entire world. As usual, though, taking over the entire world starts by taking over Pakistan. And these Hindu-Zionists were being aided by a government official who “aimed to undermine the whole foundation of Pakistan”. According to Tariq Saeedi, that official was Benazir Bhutto.

It cannot be said with certainty but there are some reasons to assume that Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, wittingly or unwittingly, played in the hands of RAW-Mossad masterminds. High ups in Pakistan’s military still believe that Benazir Bhutto has connections with RAW-Mossad nexus and General Pervez Musharraf himself declared her as “security risk” during a chat with Pakistan’s leading editors and correspondents just before his referendum campaign.

Benazir’s visit to India last year at a time when Pakistan was going through one of the worst crises in its history, and her statements there which aimed to undermine the whole foundation of Pakistan, generated more than a flicker of doubt in analytic minds. The basic question arises: Who is Benazir Bhutto? Leaving BB to her own fate, let’s return to RAW-Mossad connection.

Saeedi updated his story by 2010, though, leaving behind the slanderous accusations against Benazir Bhutto and transforming America from the simple pawn of Mossad to a global force preparing for a full-scale invasion of Pakistan.

He explained, “The US Navy would be in a position after July 2010 to station some landing ships, probably four, near the territorial waters of Pakistan. They would be able to land and support more than 30000 troops, complete with transport units and fighting gear, anywhere at the Pakistan coastline between Pasni and Gawadar. There would be aircraft carriers with more than enough warplanes to overwhelm the Pakistan Airforce. This is the other jaw of the pincer.”
The picture thus emerging was that after July 2010, the US would have substantial number of troops at the border of Pakistan with Afghanistan. This is the area where the Chagai district of Pakistani Balochistan meets the provinces of Helmand and Kandahar in Afghanistan.

The total number of these troops, Oleg in Moscow estimated, would be more than 35000.

Simultaneously, as Simon told us, there would be some 30000 soldiers and marines waiting to land at the beaches of Balochistan. This makes military sense, especially in the face of the fact that the part of Balochistan that lies between these two pressure points does not have any significant presence or support system of Pakistan army.

As usual, this conspiracy theory too did not turn out as predicted. So why is Shaheen Sehbai projecting the old tales of a discredited conspiracy theorist? The answer may lie in his Tweet.

Shaheen Sehbai and credibility

Shaheen Sehabi recommends Tariq Saeedi’s tale with the caveat, “Don’t know how credible is it, but must see n react”. In other words, Shaheen Sehbai read some sensational tale on the internet and without taking a few minutes to check the credibility of the piece and its author, he recommended it as ‘must see’. This Tweet was not even based on the rumour from a personal source, but some random writing posted on the internet! It took us approximately 5 minutes to determine just how credible the story is.

This raises the obvious question of what other sensational tales Shaheen Sehbai has repeated without doing any background checks or investigations. That Shaheen Sehbai does not know how credible the tales he is repeating are raises troubling questions about Shaheen Sehbai’s own credibility.

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  1. RE: RAW-Mossad nexus and General Pervez Musharraf himself declared her as “security risk” during a chat with Pakistan’s leading editors and correspondents just before his referendum campaign. ”

    Israel ready to provide security to Musharraf? Hamid Mir Friday, August 15, 2008 http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=16615&Cat=13&dt=8/17/2008 ISLAMABAD: Israeli President Shimon Peres is desperately trying to help his friend President Pervez Musharraf and is putting indirect pressure on the coalition government through different diplomatic channels not to impeach him, Foreign Office sources reveal.

    The sources claim that Peres wants a safe exit for Musharraf and he is also ready to provide security to his friend outside Pakistan. These sources also claim that Peres and Musharraf are in regular contact with each other for the last three years. Both met first in Davos in January 2005 and since then they have been writing letters to each other and exchanging pleasantries on telephone regularly.

    According to the sources, Peres wrote his first-ever official letter to Musharraf in October 2007, appreciating his efforts in the fight against terrorism. Musharraf, in his response, thanked the Israeli president for his support and good wishes. These letters were exchanged through diplomatic channels of Turkey.

    Peres called his Pakistani friend again a few days ago. Though the details of their conversation were not available with the Foreign Office yet it is believed that Peres offered his friend some help.

    Informed sources are of the view that Israel has strong friendly relations with Turkey and is in a position to provide security to Musharraf in Turkey. One close friend of Musharraf is also busy in lobbying for him in the Jewish lobby in the US these days. This friend of Musharraf has met many leaders of the World Jewish Congress recently. Musharraf even praised this friend publicly in recognition of his services for facilitating him to address the Jewish lobby in New York. This special friend still enjoys ministerial status in Pakistan without being elected and despite the fact that he is an American citizen. It has been learnt that the same friend is requesting his American Jewish contacts to do something for the safe exit of Musharraf through Israeli President Shimon Peres.

    Peres had openly said in October 2001 that he prayed for the life of Musharraf every morning as he (Musharraf) had signed his death warrant by changing the Afghan policy of Pakistan. After that, Musharraf also came into contact with the late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. He also met Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak in January this year in Paris.

    Diplomatic sources claim that Musharraf is the most popular Pakistani leader in Israel. He was the first Pakistani leader who was invited to address the World Jewish Congress in the US in 2005. After that historic event, the then foreign minister of Pakistan Khurshid Kasuri met his Israeli counterpart Silvon Shalom in Turkey in 2005.

    Musharraf had asked the Foreign Office in early 2007 to prepare a plan for the recognition of Israel but it did not materialise due to the political turmoil started in March 2007. It is also pertinent to mention here that Indian National Security Adviser MK Narayanan was the first foreign leader to come out openly in support of Musharraf on Wednesday, saying his impeachment would only help extremist elements in the country. The same Indian leader had declared on December 19, 2007 that India could trust Musharraf but not Benazir Bhutto.

    Musharraf knows that he is still popular among the Indian and Israeli establishments and has a lot of friends in Western capitals as well. If provided a safe exit, he can find a new role for himself in international diplomacy.

    Highly placed sources in the coalition government claim that Musharraf is now completely isolated and he has informed Asif Ali Zardari, through the governor Punjab, that he would resign if provided special indemnity. However, the coalition government is not ready to provide him indemnity and in that case he would face the first-ever humiliating impeachment process, which would definitely make history in Pakistan.

  2. Shaeen Sehbai VS Pakistani Press & Journalists – Who will Bell the Bad, Fat Cats year by Shaheen Sehbai January 05, 2000 http://www.chowk.com/Views/Who-will-Bell-the-Bad-Fat-Cats

  3. Shaheen Sehbai on Yousuf Raza Gilani part 1:) Where did the minus-1 formula come from? Shaheen Sehbai Thursday, November 05, 2009 http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=206941&Cat=2&dt=11/5/2009

    ISLAMABAD: The much abused and widely discussed minus-1 formula, which in other words means either safe or a violent exit of Asif Ali Zardari from the political scene, started taking shape in the power corridors of Islamabad and Rawalpindi when coupled with political failures, there was a torrent of reports of corruption, mainly by people associated and appointed by the presidency on key government and corporate positions, with a turnover of billions in shady deals.

    What was going on in the presidency was unprecedented. Crooks and cronies of all hues were being offered lucrative positions in state-run corporations and money minting departments. There was no one on top of the hill to take note and the prime minister was too weak to raise any objection.

    Important decision makers quietly admit that Yousuf Raza Gilani was repeatedly told to intervene but he was too meek and had been tasked to keep the politicians, coalition partners and the opposition, engaged and happy with his continued sweet talk, public appeasement and cash incentives for as long as he could. A fly on the wall said a Maulana would appear regularly in the PM House to take what he needed and this was no secret.

    “The energisers and vitamin tablets Gilani was being given by many quarters, in hushed tones, were not working until by the end of last year and early 2009 the PM made some high profile moves to sack some bureaucrats, in close consultation with Zardari, to beef up his image. The PM slowly gained confidence. He surprised the president when he visited Karachi and secluded in the private quarters of the Sindh Governor’s House he finalised the list of his top bureaucratic reshuffle, away from the ears and eyes watching the PM House and his office all the time,” an associate revealed.

    When Zardari protested, he was quietly told that if he had been informed in advance, the shuffle would not have been possible. A Presidency insider narrated the story of how the lifestyles of people around the president had transformed within weeks and months. “One close aide, working without any official position or a salary, had started wearing shoes costing over Rs300,000 a pair and this guy had no shame in showing off his shoes to anyone and everyone, even those who march in big boots.”

    Such stories travelled far and wide and the consensus started developing that if the Presidency was to be used only for making deals by cronies, with the president either shut in his bunker or making trips round the world, this state of affairs could not be sustained. How and when to change it then became the key question.

    When pressure started to become unbearable for the PM, he finally talked quietly to Zardari and told him about who, and where, people were getting so upset. This was taken as a direct interference and there was a lot of talk of teaching some people a lesson. A minus-1 option in Rawalpindi was discussed in private sittings. Secret meetings with uniformed star officers were held in the wee hours of cold nights. But as the presidency in Islamabad is the most watched and wired real estate in the country, this secret was soon out. Political amateurs, who had grabbed the high place coming from tiny bit jobs in hospitals, jails, and stud farms or from apartments in exile, could not keep the secret.

    Then the presidential camp devised a scheme to turn around the Minus-1 formula. Publicly its existence was acknowledged, reactions were generated to create a mock political storm, and the idea was to use it against the original target. Before this could be done, decision makers at all stations started thinking about removing the president as it appeared to be the only viable option if the system had to be saved, cleansed and stabilised.

    But still there was no operative mechanism. The president was bunkered in so physically he was safe but politically he was committing major blunders eating up his political capital, or whatever was left of it. By the middle of March, when the judges were restored, his political influence was almost finished yet his business dealings and property acquisition plans were on full steam. The latest report about the 300 acres of land in Islamabad proves he completed the deal in June 2009, oblivious of the disastrous image that he would get. Tragically, the deal also involved Bilawal, whose political career would now start as a partner in a shady deal with his father.

    One recurring question that came up almost at every session I had with politicians, retired and working civil and military bureaucrats, journalists and businessmen was whether the democratic set-up and the political system was under any kind of threat if the ‘Minus-1’ formula, was implemented. And almost everywhere the consensus was a big ‘No’.

    It was a ‘no, no’ because except democracy Pakistan has no other option, the military option being the most talked about alternative. Mian Nawaz Sharif is the strongest believer that the military may not intervene now, but 3-4 years down the line, he thinks it may come back once the threat of terrorism is under control and some stability is achieved. His fears are genuine but he also believes that politicians have to perform, earn respect and credibility, provide relief to the suppressed masses and continue the process. If they succeed, no one will try and no one will allow a military intervention.

    The military establishment has tried hard under General Kayani and General Pasha to wash the black paint General Musharraf had splashed around the Army uniform. From a position where officers were told not to wear that uniform in public, the image has been restored to an extent that people praise their effort in Malakand and their sacrifices in the war on terror. Only a naive commander would want to fight a war with unconventional and murderous terrorists on the one hand and run the civilian affairs of a totally collapsing society on the other.

    So the only option is continuation of the system and to let the process take its course. When I argued with many in the top houses where decisions are made, as to what was wrong with a change of face in a ministry, or the PM house or even the Presidency, as there was a mechanism to elect or appoint a replacement through the process, the presidential camp always saw it as a conspiracy against the person of Zardari. But others agree that to take the process further and to make the corrective mechanisms strong, political turbulence should not be taken as a threat to the entire system.

    It is generally felt that Zardari has, through his inept handling of major issues and multiple setbacks, almost lost all his chances of stepping down from the Presidency and reach the PM House as leader of the house and PM. Initially, this was one of the acceptable options but now the script does not figure any role for him in the government and he would be left to manage the party, that is if he can do so.

    This leaves the PM almost on his own and his major challenge would be to come out of the shadows of Zardari on the one hand and keep the loyalties of as many PPP MPs as possible so that his government’s majority in parliament is not threatened. The Opposition is helping him out, to a degree.

    Everyone understands the dilemma facing Prime Minister Gilani as everything that he does which has a stamp of President Zardari’s personal approval is considered to be shady and stinks. So when the cabinet takes a sweeping decision to privatise all big corporations like the PIA, PSO and such other giants, immediately the red flags start going up. The fear is that all these assets will be sold to friends and business partners, even if the process is claimed to be transparent.

    The PM should, therefore, stop all such deals and decisions until he becomes a PM in his own right and the decisions are seen as collective decisions to be implemented in a transparent manner and not dictated to suit the deep pockets of presidential friends who have already made billions.

    The PM, when he gets out of the shadows of the Presidency, will have to catch these big fish to establish his credibility. Nothing short of a massive hunt for such wheeler dealers with a criminal mind will bring Gilani some credit. He has lived too long as a sheepish lame duck.

    PS: A fly on the presidential wall told me the first part of this series was faxed by Altaf Hussain from London to President Asif Zardari on Wednesday with the note that you should read it personally as it had come from a journalist who used to meet you in jail. Hussain also ensured that the fax was seen by the president.

    Next: Has a countdown begun in Islamabad?

  4. Shaheen Sehbai on Yousuf Raza Gilani part 2:) Has a countdown begun in Islamabad? Shaheen Sehbai Saturday, November 07, 2009 http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=207257&Cat=2&dt=11/7/2009

    ISLAMABAD: The crumbling presidential edifice in the bunkered palace with two green flags on the Constitution Avenue is giving rise to numerous stories, some fiction, some wishful thinking, and some partly true.

    The man inside the house is reported by some to be collapsing while others say he is in a defiant mood and will fight till the last. One thing is clear though that a psywar is going on and President Asif Ali Zardari has not many friends who have unflinching faith and commitment to defend him.

    The key role is being played by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and it is hard to figure out on whose side he really stands. His own political future is also at stake but his role has assumed the all critical importance because everyone is looking up to him, the civil and military establishment has put its power eggs in his basket as against the president, while his party remains confused and divided. The opposition and most of his coalition partners have abandoned the president but continue to back his handpicked prime minister.

    The few who are still standing with Zardari include the Governor of Punjab Salmaan Taseer, whose latest brag that there would be no ‘minus-1’ but that if anything happened it would be a ‘minus-342’ (reference to total strength of the National Assembly) is considered by many as the final defeatist declaration that Zardari will not go alone but will take the entire house with him. There are not many takers for Taseer’s threats. On the contrary, the party which President Zardari considered to be his most dependable ally, the MQM of Altaf Hussain, has gone many steps forward to seek his removal from the top office. Almost everyone I met and talked to was surprised at the leap Altaf Hussain had taken from just opposing or abstaining from voting on the NRO to demanding the resignation of Zardari. It was like the last straw on the heavily loaded camel’s back and Zardari was stunned, those around him reported.

    His attempt to save the sinking ship by calling Governor of Sindh Ishratul Ebad to Islamabad and then authorising Interior Minister Rehman Malik to fly to Dubai for urgent talks with an MQM delegation from London could be the last desperate effort but as someone who knows the scene reported, “The MQM has closed the doors and has gone to sleep,” meaning that it is no longer interested in seeing Zardari sitting in the Presidency.

    Nice words wrapped in high sounding moral logic are being said by MQM to urge Zardari to make his exit dignified but Altaf Hussain is not backtracking from his demand of a resignation. He probably knows more than many in Islamabad. Even when Governor Ebad was rushing to Dubai on Wednesday night after meeting the president, the MQM made it a point to include the resignation issue in the agenda of the Dubai talks expected to begin on Friday.

    Conspiracy theories have been weaved around the Dubai talks as well. One analyst who knows the extremely cordial and friendly relations between the MQM and Rehman Malik thinks one positive outcome of the Dubai talks could be that Malik could get a chance to take a leave of absence from Pakistan at a time when his presence in the country is needed more. But MQM negotiators are not in a mood to step back from their resignation advice to the president.

    This political pressure is causing one-sided fueling of the countdown theories. The wild ones go far with some, claiming to be well informed, saying it was a matter of days not weeks or months that Zardari will hang his gloves, just like General Musharraf did. Some MQM circles bet on weeks. The divergence of views appears limited only to when, and not if.

    The intense argument in all circles is the mechanics of his exit from the Presidency. The MQM wants him to become a Sonia Gandhi, running the party from behind the frontlines. Others want him to disappear into foreign downtowns and enjoy his billions in the manner Benazir Bhutto had practically forced him to do for years after his release and exit from Pakistan in 2004. Yet others want him to be dragged again in the newly liberated courts and bring back the money he may have stacked outside.

    Senior PPP circles have a confused mind because they do not know how the party would react. But all agree that the PPP, and for that matter Sindh, could react in different ways, depending on the mode and manner of his exit. If there was an impression that he had been forced out at gunpoint, there may be a different reaction. If the exit is through a process and publicly justified and explained, the reaction may be milder. If a judicial and constitutional method was applied and Zardari failed to defend himself properly, no tears may be shed.

    What these circles cannot defend and what makes them hide their frustration with sheepish smiles are the stories of corruption, which are not forcefully and convincingly being denied by the Presidency, the PM House or the jumpy party spokespersons. Many PPP leaders privately describe their pathetic situation as the ‘Silence of the Lambs’.

    In such a crumbling state of affairs, the PPP leadership is missing a dynamic leader who could take charge and take on the opponents with the force of integrity and commitment. The prime minister is yet to declare himself the de facto leader of the party, though he is technically the leader of the House in parliament. There is no Bhutto who could motivate the cadres. The chairman is absent from the scene and understandably so. The co-chairman is in a bunker and fighting the psywars and trying to stay cool. The party has been left to rot in a smoky aura of uncertainty and lack of direction. The opposition has claimed high moral ground, although many in that camp also belong to the same caste and creed which has eaten up the PPP from within.

    Sindh, the bastion of the PPP, is quiet and has been practically taken over by the shrewd politics of MQM.

    For months, the PPP has been trying to replace the Nazims of Karachi and other urban centres under the MQM control pending the local bodies elections but the MQM has successfully thwarted their attempts. Now the MQM has come out openly and has joined the anti-Zardari camp but the PPP government in Sindh is unable to take any decisive action against Altaf Bhai’s cadres.

    One notable achievement of the MQM, which has made it almost impossible for the PPP to touch it, has been the tight security control of the MQM in the city against terrorist attacks. MQM vigilantes monitor and patrol almost all neighbourhoods and keep a watch on all suspicious people, thus denying the suicide bombers the space to hide and strike.

    The Pathans, led by the ANP in Karachi, are also on the same side on this issue and this has made Karachi the safest city in the country in the context of terrorist attacks. While the PPP runs the government, the credit has to go to the MQM and the ANP and this is also an unusual situation. President Zardari, of course, cannot take any of the credit.

    In fact the PPP stronghold in Karachi, Lyari, has been the most troubled area in the city for weeks and months and fingers are again being pointed at gang leaders who have been getting support, or claiming to have the backing, of Bilawal House.

    So while the options for President Zardari are diminishing by the day in terms of his political survival, his party is not in a position to provide him any strength or support to face the fierce onslaught.

    The majority view in Islamabad circles is that Zardari, looking at this gloomy picture, inside his bunkered Presidency, in drawing rooms of his party leaders and outside on the streets, would ultimately be pushed to call it a day himself, saving himself the grief and rigours of a forced exit. Some even fear a desperate panic move like sacking the Army chief while the president is on one of his visits abroad. A reverse replay of October 12, 1999. The logic being that in case his orders are implemented then he returns home a strong and rejuvenated president, and if plans go awry then he is at least at a safe distance from his nemesis. Another suicidal advice indeed.

    A stronger view is that his personality, his so called street wisdom, his political acumen, which so far have miserably failed him, would urge him to keep fighting and go down as a political martyr, if need be, so that his political heirs and the party could claim that the PPP had not abandoned the tradition of making sacrifices. If he could manage it, he can also make his exit a ‘Punjabi conspiracy’ to force out yet another Sindhi leader and play the so-called Sindh Card.

    Yet the perplexing question in all minds is why has he not changed his ways of the past, not stopped the shady deals by his cronies, has made highly questionable appointments, has gone on junkets worldwide for deals which should have been transparent, has bought properties and lands and has eyed businesses belonging to others with greed. All this leaves the sick impression that he is running a corporation and not a country.

    The dichotomy many cannot resolve is that if his target is only to earn more profits, why would he like to become a political martyr and not enjoy the riches that he has collected.

    Strictly in legal or constitutional terms, Zardari has not done anything as yet which may compel the forces that have the power of the gun to force him out. But his overall failures, his deceptive ways to hoodwink power centres, keeping around him friends of the days in exile who have annoyed almost every institution that matters — the judiciary, the media, the Army, the bureaucracy, have created the aura that he is unfit for the job and has not grown in the big shoes that he stepped into last year.

    For these failures, an impeachment in parliament is not possible but his mistakes will haunt him in courts, in parliament, in the media and the civil and military establishment may not forgive him.

    But he can hit back with some radical moves — sack his cronies, repeal the 17th Amendment in a day or two, give an extension to the Army chief, bring back angry PPP stalwarts after due apologies and go before the courts instead of seeking shelter behind the NRO.

    Otherwise, the political countdown, which began some months ago, continues. The establishment joined in a few weeks back. His coalition broke up days ago. Rats are said to be preparing to abandon the sinking ship as these lines are being written. The momentum cannot be stopped.

    Zardari will have to make his decision very quickly on whether he wants to exit with dignity or become a martyr. The days, as they say, are in fact numbered.

    (Concluded)

  5. ShaheenSehabi on Regime Change in Pakistan in 2009 – The contours of a changed, unwritten script Situationer Shaheen Sehbai Wednesday, November 04, 2009 http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=25365&Cat=13&dt=11/4/2009

    ISLAMABAD: In a week of intense behind the scenes political and diplomatic activity in the federal capital, key new lines have been added to the so called ‘script’, the unofficial, unwritten roadmap drawn up and preserved in the minds of the concerned people, to get rid of the despicable grip on the country of a few powerful highly placed individuals and their friends. After my meetings with most of the main stakeholders in the present system during the last few days, including top people sitting in the Presidency, the PM House, Senate, National Assembly, Raiwind, the highly charged drawing rooms of Islamabad and the excited corridors ruled by career bureaucrats, the broad contours of the script have become identifiable.

    This assessment will purely be an analysis and conclusions drawn up by a journalist, but it will have many elements which have either come directly from the people I have met or from circles associated intimately with the real wielders of powers, political and non-political. Even before I started writing these lines, some elements of the new script had started becoming visible publicly. The key indicators now out in the open include the shocking debacle for PPP on the NRO; the somersault of the MQM to oppose the NRO; a direct demand by Mr Altaf Hussain asking President Zardari to resign; the extra confidence in Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani to practically take over matters in his own hands; the emergence of Nawaz Sharif from his friendly opposition bunker; the significant stand taken by Fata MPs; the calm and cool but ever persuasive demeanour of the army chief to discuss “matters of national security” with the prime minister (not the president); the nervousness in some camps over the “messages and ideas” Lady Hillary Clinton has taken back to Washington; and the unusual multi-country tour of our ISI chief, starting with Saudi Arabia, which some government spokespersons hilariously described as a visit in which he had taken a message to the Saudi King from President Zardari. In the previous script the role of the judiciary and the superior courts was well defined but before that stage could arrive the presidential edifice crumbled under the weight of just a couple of smart political moves by pro-establishment forces.

    So a calculated fine-tuning had to be done. What has already happened is known but what is likely to come is more important. All stakeholders agree, and this I can claim after meeting almost all of them in the last few days in Islamabad and Lahore, that President Asif Ali Zardari will have to either step down with dignity, hand over his presidential powers to the PM through a fast-track constitutional amendments process, or become a figure head and stay within his bunker for as long as he does not create any nuisance. Some apologists for the presidency have already publicly indicated that Mr Zardari is seriously thinking about this course because that would keep him in the top most position, immune to the unpleasant hardships of defending himself in civil courts, a process he has endured for years, and wait for his time to strike back as a relevant PPP leader, with the active aid and presence of son Bilawal and daughters Bakhtawar and Assefa.

    This could be the easier way out for him but it involves humiliation and embarrassment on a daily basis as his cronies and confidants, those who do not get away from the country in time, will be dragged in cases and in the media, presenting before the entertained nation a spectacle which Mr Zardari would not like. They will be paying for their sins, of course. So my analysis is that he will fight back. Some who still have access to him claim that he has expressed these defiant views many a time saying he would never resign and if someone wanted to remove him, he should send an ambulance because he would not walk out on his own two feet. But this fighting spirit and belligerent posture, although part of his psyche and state of mind, will not be beneficial politically. It is almost certain, and a senior Sindhi politician who knows the PPP and Sindh like the back of his own right hand, openly admits, that for Zardari there would be no “Sindh Card”, as it was available to Benazir Bhutto. In fact when I asked the Sindhi politician what may happen in Sindh, and the heart of PPP country, if Zardari and his 12 friends were removed from their offices, the answer was: “Only these 13 people will protest, no one else will.” He explained that there are no PPP cadres with fires in their belly left in the interior of Sindh who would rise for Zardari.

    There is a growing sense of hatred because the Zardari clan has taken over all what was loved by the Bhutto jiyalas. “If today Nawaz Sharif stages a public meeting in Larkana, the country will be surprised at the turnout,” the mainstream Sindhi politician belonging to the PPP told me. So chances for Mr Zardari to rekindle his political fortunes, once he gives up his powers or if he resigns, are genuinely limited. The PPP would split into factions with the bulk going to a collective committee of PPP stalwarts, seniors and juniors who have remained, or have been kept, on the sidelines by the Zardari coterie. This will also bring the much-needed democracy and openness in the party, breaking the shackles of feudal hold. This PPP committee, contours of which are already shaping up, have strong arguments to describe the Zardari-led PPP era, which started with the 2008 elections. These arguments start with the failures of Mr Zardari ever since he presented the will of Benazir Bhutto to the PPP CEC. All that the CEC members have done ever since is to take his decisions and policies with a pinch of bitter salt but have gone along because the party had won seats in the name of Benazir Bhutto and they had got a chance to rule after years of wilderness.

    The corrupt among the party made a mad rush to make money because they realized that this set up will not last long, hence the stigma of corruption not only stuck but intensified. The Zardari era, the argument goes, consists of broken promises, colossal mistakes in assessing the mood of the people, taking decisions with arrogance, taking on the establishment and institutions which were needed to survive, taking gigantic U-turns when under pressure and smiling about them, claiming unabashedly as if it was a considered policy (like the restoration of judges, sacking and restoration of the Punjab government of PML-N, surrender on the Kerry Lugar Bill and eventually running away from the NRO).

    Conversely, if it has been any sign for anyone to read, the PM has always been making politically correct statements, never making a commitment which he knew he would not be able to deliver and most importantly, he has received the “asheerbaad” (blessings) of those who matter on all critical junctures. This is no longer true for Mr Zardari. So when the judges were to be restored, the Army Chief called on the PM to deliver the quiet message. When the March 15 decision was taken General Kayani called Aitzaz Ahsan to inform Nawaz Sharif. When the Supreme Court was about to give the initial short order on the PCO judges case, the meeting between General Kayani and Aitzaz Ahsan was considered necessary. When things were getting out of hand on the Kerry Lugar Bill, a similar meeting between Shahbaz Sharif and Chaudhry Nisar was held. The army chief also met the chief ministers of NWFP and Balochistan. When NRO erupted on the face of Mr Zardari, another meeting between the Army Chief and the PM was essential on Monday night so that the right message was conveyed. And it was.

    Then we saw the surrender. These were domestic developments but the most important external factor which has now been added to the miseries of the presidency is the conclusion Hillary Clinton is believed to have drawn after her eye-opening three-day visit to Pakistan. She was actually on a fact-finding mission as the diplomatic channels in Pakistan and Washington had never informed her about the real situation. When the KLB exploded, State Department was taken aback and when Hillary saw with her own eyes and heard the people, her entire perceptions changed. Her almost three-hour meeting with General Kayani may have sealed many fates. A shift in Washington’s policy, statements and emphasis would now be expected. She already took pains to ensure that none of her public and private utterances gave the impression that she was supporting any particular individual or any particular coalition government. She talked about the process of democracy and the people of Pakistan and that means faces can change but the Pak-US ties will stay.

    The scriptwriters interpret this as a signal that Washington is no longer interested in protecting or prolonging Mr Zardari’s rule, if the people of Pakistan do not so wish. An official in the presidency quietly whispered in my ear that Mr Zardari has reached the point in just one year which General Musharraf took eight years to reach, vis-‡-vis the American support. “It is now for him to survive, the Americans have pulled the rug.” On the domestic front again, the focus and all eyes would soon shift to the PM House where an hitherto out-shadowed PM was trying to cope and survive. Now the responsibility of making and owning all decisions would be his. Delivering results people expect from a sovereign parliament and a powerful PM under the amended constitution will be an onerous burden on Mr Yusuf Raza Gilani. My interactions with a broad spectrum of important people reveal that Mr Gilani has not yet prepared himself to shoulder this responsibility. His administrative team is pretty weak and there is a growing sense of disconnect between the people around Mr Gilani and the rest of the top echelons of bureaucracy. A senior bureaucrat told me the recent mass scale reshuffle in the officialdom by PM Gilani has made many officials nervous. They do not have direct and free access to the PM and a coterie of sorts is also beginning to surround the PM, like the one around the president. But this group is of professionals and civil servants who want to keep the PM under their thumb. It would be a big challenge for Mr Gilani to get a competent and effective team if he were to take charge and show the difference to the nation between a powerful PM and a one-man show which went wrong. He would have to sack high profile ministers, change cronies controlling the state organizations like the Pakistan Steel Mills, PSO, PIA, KESC and many others tainted with corruption.

  6. ShaheenSehbai on US fears Zardari’s collapse Shaheen Sehbai
    Tuesday, December 01, 2009 http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=25843&Cat=13&dt=12/1/2009

    WASHINGTON: The Obama administration is seriously worried about the fast weakening grip of President Asif Zardari in Pakistan and on Monday two top US newspapers predicted, in powerful reports by seven leading writers and correspondents, that the Zardari regime seemed to be near collapse.

    The New York Times in a report filed by five correspondents said: “The problems in Afghanistan have only been compounded by the fragility of Mr Obama’s partner in Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari, who is so weak that his government seems near collapse.”

    The Washington Post in a report by two correspondents said: “Zardari’s political weakness is an additional hazard for a new bilateral relationship. The administration expects Zardari’s position to continue to weaken, leaving him as a largely ceremonial president even if he manages to survive in office.”

    Both the newspapers recalled the surrender of the authority over the National Command Council by President Zardari to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani as a major event, which had weakened Zardari and raised serious doubts about his survival as a powerful president.

    The Post said President Obama has offered Pakistan an expanded strategic partnership, including additional military and economic cooperation, while warning with unusual bluntness that its use of insurgent groups to pursue policy goals “cannot continue.”

    The offer, including an effort to help reduce tensions between Pakistan and India, was contained in a two-page letter delivered to President Asif Ali Zardari this month by Obama national security adviser James L Jones. It was accompanied by assurances from Jones that the United States will increase its military and civilian efforts in Afghanistan and that it plans no early withdrawal.

    Obama’s speech Tuesday night at the US Military Academy at West Point, NY, will address primarily the Afghanistan aspects of the strategy. But despite the public and political attention focused on the number of new troops, Pakistan has been the hot core of the months-long strategy review. The long-term consequences of failure there, the review concluded, far outweigh those in Afghanistan.

    “We can’t succeed without Pakistan,” a senior administration official involved in the White House review said. “You have to differentiate between public statements and reality. There is nobody who is under any illusions about this.”

    This official and others, all of whom spoke about the closely held details of the new strategy on the condition of anonymity, emphasized that without “changing the nature of US-Pakistan relations in a new direction, you’re not going to win in Afghanistan,” as one put it. “And if you don’t win in Afghanistan, then Pakistan will automatically be imperiled, and that will make Afghanistan look like child’s play,” the Post added.

    The report in The New York Times was filed by journalists Peter Baker, Eric Schmitt, David E Sanger, Elisabeth Bumiller and Sabrina Tavernise from Islamabad, Washington and New York while in the Washington Post Karen DeYoung from Washington and Pamela Constable from Islamabad contributed to its report. Both newspapers referred to President Zardari’s increasing weakness in the context of the new Afghan policy being prepared by President Obama, which will be announced on Dec 1.

    The Post in its report said: “The Pakistan strategy is complicated by a number of factors, including the fact that any indication of increased US involvement there generates broad mistrust. Zardari’s political weakness is an additional hazard for a new bilateral relationship. He is disliked by the military and is challenged by the political opposition and his own prime minister; he also remains under a cloud of long-standing corruption charges. Less than a third of Pakistan’s population voices approval for him in polls. Obama is even less popular there, with approval ratings in the low double digits.”

    It said: “Many of the broad powers that Zardari assumed from his predecessor, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup and was forced to resign last year, are being whittled away.

    On Friday, Zardari turned over control of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani, who is held in much higher favour by the military. Zardari’s Musharraf-era powers to fire the elected government and appoint top military officials are also under challenge, and a law protecting government officials from corruption prosecution expired Saturday.

    On Sunday, the leading political opposition group called for him to give up the additional powers, and Zardari, who had pledged to do so, said he will act “soon.” The administration expects Zardari’s position to continue to weaken, leaving him as a largely ceremonial president even if he manages to survive in office.”

    The NYT also reported almost in the same vein. Its report said: “The problems in Afghanistan have only been compounded by the fragility of Mr Obama’s partner in Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari, who is so weak that his government seems near collapse. On Friday, Mr Zardari relinquished his position in Pakistan’s nuclear command structure, turning it over to the prime minister, in what appeared to be an effort to avoid impeachment or prosecution, and retain at least a figurehead post.

    “On Sunday, one of the Obama administration’s staunchest allies, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain, joined in the campaign to press Pakistan to step up attacks on al-Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan’s unruly tribal areas and other militant groups there. ‘People are going to ask why, eight years after 2001, Osama bin Laden has never been near to being caught,’ Mr Brown told Sky News, ‘and what can the Pakistan authorities do that is far more effective’.

    “White House officials have said relatively little about the Pakistan side of the administration’s evolving war strategy, in part because they have so few options and so little leverage. They cannot send troops into Pakistan, and they cannot talk publicly about one of their most effective measures, the Central Intelligence Agency’s Predator drone strikes in the country.

    “Everyone understands this is a complex, nuanced, critical relationship,” said a senior American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Mr Obama’s review had not been announced. “Everyone has their eyes open, and there are genuine concerns. But one focus now is on trying to expand cooperation. The Pakistanis are doing some positive things in the tribal areas. That presents opportunities on which to build.

    “Mr Obama’s advisers previously signaled that the president wanted to outline, as he had before, expectations for the Afghan government. This time, they said, the goals would be more explicit and demanding, aimed at improving governance and curbing corruption.

    “But the advisers have been debating whether to put deadlines on those benchmarks, like the pace of training Afghan security forces to defend their country.”

    Gen Stanley A McChrystal, the top Nato and American commander in Afghanistan, is expected to testify about Mr Obama’s new strategy on Dec 8 to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees in Washington, the official said. His appearance is expected to follow Congressional testimony later this week by Defense Secretary Robert M Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Adm Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    The administration has sought to build consensus among crucial allies to reach this point. In the last two weeks, Mr Obama dispatched two top aides to Pakistan to deliver the same message: Keep the pressure on.

    In separate visits to Islamabad, the capital, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E Panetta, and the president’s national security adviser, Gen James L Jones, told Pakistani officials that no matter how many more troops the president sent to Afghanistan, the effort would fail unless Pakistan increased strikes against al-Qaeda’s leadership and Mulla Muhammad Omar and the leadership of the Afghan Taliban in the southern Pakistani city of Quetta, and the Haqqani network, militants operating out of North Waziristan who have attacked Afghan and Nato targets in eastern Afghanistan and Kabul, the Afghan capital.

    “We agree that no matter how many troops you send, if the safe haven in Pakistan isn’t cracked, the whole mission is compromised,” said one official who has participated in the debate over the strategy. “But if you make too many demands on the Pakistanis in public, it can backfire.”

    The NYT added that President Obama plans to lay out a time frame for winding down the American involvement in the war in Afghanistan when he announces his decision this week to send more forces, senior administration officials said Sunday.

    Although the speech was still in draft form, the officials said the president wanted to use the address at the United States Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday night not only to announce the immediate order to deploy roughly 30,000 more troops, but also to convey how he intends to turn the fight over to the Kabul government.

    “It’s accurate to say that he will be more explicit about both goals and time frame than has been the case before and than has been part of the public discussion,” said a senior official, who requested anonymity to discuss the speech before it is delivered. “He wants to give a clear sense of both the time frame for action and how the war will eventually wind down.”

    The officials would not disclose the time frame. But they said it would not be tied to particular conditions on the ground nor would it be as firm as the current schedule for withdrawing troops in Iraq, where Mr Obama has committed to withdrawing most combat units by August and all forces by the end of 2011.

    Our Islamabad correspondent adds: Despite attempts no official spokesman was available late Monday night for comments. However, when contacted an important official told The News, on condition of anonymity, that the change of nuclear command was part of the democratic system and in accordance with the 1973 Constitution. This is also fulfilment of the promise made by President Zardari to empower the prime minister. He said reports about weakening of president’s powers are a mere propaganda. There is no danger to the president’s authority and he is very powerful, he asserted.

  7. Shaheen Sehbai prediction for Asif Ali Zardari The unwritten script after President Zardari Shaheen Sehbai Friday, December 04, 2009 http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=211601&Cat=2&dt=12/4/2009

    WASHINGTON: As the super large bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan begins the fateful hearing of the NRO on December 7, the writing on the wall is getting clear that Pakistan is quickly entering the post-Zardari phase.

    In this scenario either Mr Asif Ali Zardari will ultimately throw in the towel and retire overseas or he will stay bunkered as a lame duck inside the presidency facing public humiliation in the courts, the media and before the people every day.

    In both cases the power will shift to the Prime Minister who will then become the focus of the media, the nation and the world. How he delivers will determine where the democratic system goes.

    That the noose around Mr Zardari’s neck (this expression should not be taken in physical terms as many do in his camp) is tightening is evident from the panic and desperation inside the presidency where the entire focus is on how to escape the many high-speed freight trains, without working brakes, charging in his direction from many directions. These trains are no fiction or a product of any one’s imagination.

    The fact that Mr Zardari got so desperate and cornered that he hit out at some media persons, including me, as a counter attack in his famous address to the uninterested PPP followers at the Mazar of the Quaid-e-Azam, shows that he has no plan and vision to stop these oncoming train wrecks.

    The fact that the 007-Geneva operation ordered by Mr Zardari and conducted by an otherwise respected Wajid Shamsul Hasan has left the country with the thought that the gang sitting in Islamabad is on the run and trying to cover up its tracks, cannot be denied.

    The fact that the boxes of hard evidence of the Swiss money laundering cases collected in Geneva and airlifted to London the same day have disappeared and no one is ready to own them, despite mute claims by NAB, shows how scared the Zardari camp is fearing the fate which is in store. That these cases may be reopened is a high possibility.

    The fact that Zardari’s closest ministers and cronies (Babar Awan for one) are now being publicly named in multi-million rupees scandals, not by the media but by affected parties in the highest courts of the country, shows they will also soon be in the dock inside crowded court rooms, if they do not pay off their way to escape overseas.

    The fact that a front-man of Mr Zardari has come on record to state that he had actually bought the Islamabad land years ago and kept it as an “amanat” (sacred trust) of Mr Zardari has confirmed that the president has been involved in such deals but has been hiding behind his political facade. That his involvement is a direct and blatant case of conflict of interest is obvious.

    The fact that Zardari’s point-man for Pakistan Steel, infamous business manipulator Riaz Laljee, has escaped from the country and is now enjoying life in Dubai, where he was last seen with the step brother of Mr Zardari, Tuppee (his nick name), in a super latest sports Rolls Royce driven by Tuppee and with three sensational beauties, in front of Dubai’s biggest shopping mall, indicates these guys have made enough money to throw it publicly and worry about no one. That Riaz Laljee was not put on the ECL was also noted by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Choudhry in a recent suo moto case on the Pakistan Steel.

    The fact that as the NRO’s fate is decided in coming days and weeks, many more cases challenging the qualification of President Zardari will be filed and heard by the Supreme Court is ominous.

    The fact that all the other cronies of Mr Zardari who are not protected by any immunity will have to face the music once the NRO is struck down as a bad law which violated the constitution, ab initio, is already causing panic in the presidential camp and rats are jumping the sinking ship. Dr Asim Hussain of NRB and Petroleum Ministry is the latest example. Laljee has already escaped.

    The fact that Zardari’s closest partner Zulfikar Mirza has already launched the Sindh card by picking up the ridiculous non-issue of violation of the sanctity of the Sindhi cap in a Geo TV talk show, shows how bankrupt the presidential camp is to defend itself. Will saving the Sindhi cap, which no one ever wants to desecrate or insult, save Mr Zardari and will Sindh pick up arms to separate from Pakistan for the ajrak or cap, is not even a debatable question.

    The fact that the military and civilian establishment has now started dealing full time with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, as the man who is and should run the country, has already put in effect the so-called and dreaded Minus-1 formula in which Mr Zardari stays as a Rafiq Tarar with no direct say in government affairs, or goes away if he is allowed to.

    The fact that during his historic Afghan strategy Obama speech and interviews later by Hillary Clinton nowhere was the government or Zardari offered any support or protection, but always it was the democratic system which was mentioned and was to be protected.

    The fact is that despite all his political gimmickry and manipulation, Zardari had to sign away his powers to keep the nuclear button under his thumb and the NCA was transferred to the PM. This was a clear message to the presidency that powers could be taken away from him, despite his staying in that fortified palace, no matter what his political standing. The same may happen with the 17th Amendment powers and appointment of services chiefs etc. It is now clear that no one wants to trust or deal with Mr Zardari as a responsible leader of the country.

    There may be many more such facts, which have eaten away Mr Zardari’s moral, political and executive authority to call the shots, as he had been doing in the last 18 months. His power tenure is almost over and the country has to move on.

    At such a crucial stage enters Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani with full powers. Here lies the most serious challenge to the country’s developing and nascent democratic set-up. Mr Gilani will have to show that he is up to the job and will have to quickly get out of the shadows of Mr Zardari to remove the impression that he was being remote-controlled from the presidency.

    For this the script writers already have a sketch of how he should move quickly, if he really wants to save the system and take control. This unwritten script for Mr Gilani could be the ultimate yardstick to judge where Pakistan will go.

    Firstly, without losing a day, Mr Gilani will have to get rid of the tainted and corrupt cronies of Mr Zardari from his cabinet. This may be a little unpalatable for the presidency but the PM has to put his foot down.

    Then he has to get the 17th Amendment out of his way as quickly as possible and get the PML-N leadership on board in his cabinet, with important portfolios so that the much desired and much needed credibility and consensus, backed by the force of a moral popular authority, is built.

    The next task of Mr Gilani would be to let the chips fall where they may by allowing the courts to judge the NRO beneficiaries on their merits, acquit or punish them. Similar should be the case for all cases against the president and if he is disqualified, Mr Gilani should be ready to nominate and get a new president elected, as soon as possible, someone with integrity and having a moral face to provide respect to the system.

    The most important task of the PM would be to show good governance and cut corruption. For this he needs the services of the best available, clean and honest, bureaucrats from the civilian and military bureaucracy, whether in active service or retired. He still has a small reservoir of upright and competent civil servants who may be ready to provide stability and vision to his government, despite the pressure of political jugglers sitting as ministers.

    The present set-up of challenged bureaucrats has to go immediately with Mrs Nargis Sethi, (nothing against her personally) posted out to an appropriate position but a seasoned, competent and respected officer brought in her place to handle the bureaucracy.

    If Mr Gilani does not handle this properly his government will soon fall short of space and then the entire democratic and elected set-up will be attacked by all the hawks in the political, civil and military establishment, saying the politicians are simply incapable of running the country.

    Mr Gilani has also to convince Mian Nawaz Sharif to immediately get himself elected to the National Assembly and sit in the Parliament to lend it strength and support. He should be included in top decision-making and a team of experts, technocrats, retired judges, executives and others may be formed on the side as a super think tank to provide the vision and strategic depth to the elected government.

    This is critical as Pakistan has to face the new American strategy in Afghanistan, fight off the terrorists at home, control the desperate helplessness of the people who have lost all hope and are being crushed under the burden of spiralling inflation and unemployment. The money flowing into Pakistan has to be spent for the people, in a transparent and effective manner.

    Mr Zardari has already wasted his chance to become a national visionary leader who could take the country forward. But as I had stated before he ran for the office of the president, he was just not fit for that job, did not have the capacity to handle or grow into it and he would drown in his own corrupt juices, trying to extricate himself. The more he did that, the more the noose tightened around his neck and he is now about to hang himself. That was a political prediction, which is about to come true in a matter of days or weeks.

    But it is now Mr Gilani’s neck on the line and he has to rise and fill the big shoes. He needs the support of all those who want the democratic system to work and the PM has to show vision, tolerance and patience to accommodate all points of view. He has to be upright and transparent in his dealings. Mr Gilani has tons of unwanted debris lying at his doorstep, thanks to Mr Zardari’s tunnel vision, arrogance, corruption and incompetence.

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