Veteran politician Javed Hashmi, PML-N to ‘fight together for democracy’

As rumours swirl about veteran politician Javed Hashmi rejoining the PML-N, Railways Minister Saad Rafique on Monday said the party and the political stalwart have agreed to “fight together for democracy”.

Rafique made the announcement at a press conference in Islamabad after a meeting between former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Hashmi, in which other senior PML-N officials also participated.

A source with knowledge of the meeting claimed that Hashmi had, during the meeting, agreed to rejoin the PML-N.

Rafique, however, when asked to confirm the development after the meeting, said: “In the next phase of discussions, this will also be announced.”

A PML-N leader in Multan told MEDIA that Rafique was on the forefront in convincing the leadership to bring the old guard back into the party fold.

“Rafique was the one who was very close to Hashmi when the latter chose to part ways with the Sharifs for not acknowledging his political struggle during the Musharraf era. Rafique also stayed in contact with Hashmi even during his two-and-a-half-year stay in the PTI,” he said, adding that Rafique told the leadership about the importance of Hashmi in the current political scenario as the PML-N was in dire need of true democrats like him.

A member of Rafique’s personal staff told MEDIA that the minister would return this correspondent’s queries on the matter but he did not.

Hashmi’s run with the PML-N

Hashmi, a former PML-N leader left the PML-N for Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in 2011, citing ideological similarities with the party. He stayed in the PTI for about two-and-a-half years.

Some PML-N leaders from Multan, including the city mayor, are against Hashmi’s comeback because it might affect their political clout in the area.

The politician from south Punjab gained a reputation of a brave politician because of his steadfast opposition to military rule.

Hashmi had grievances with the PML-N which contributed to his decision to leave the PML-N.

Sources had, at the time, said that the friction between Hashmi and the Sharifs began when the former ignored Nawaz Sharif’s advice to retain his National Assembly seat from Rawalpindi after the Feb 2008 elections, and instead decided to retain the seat he had won in his native Multan.

Ironically, Hashmi’s reputation as a bold man acted against him as the PML-N leadership baulked at his nomination for Leader of Opposition in National Assembly, fearing that it might not be helpful in rebuilding its relations with the military establishment. He was even described as a “compulsive agitator” by a PML-N office bearer.

The political stalwart has, even in recent times, stuck to his guns, calling for greater accountability for the army and judiciary.

Profile: Javed Hashmi, the perennial rebel

In early 1972, a group of youngsters barged into Governor House in Lahore.

They were agitated because two girls had been kidnapped in the city’s Samanabad neighbourhood, allegedly by a senior government functionary.

The crowd came face to face with Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, at the time the president of the republic, accompanied by a visiting British minister.

The leader of the protesters was one Javed Hashmi who had just won a hard-fought student union election at Punjab University with support from the Islami Jamiat Talaba.

Two years later, Hashmi made a similarly daring move while leading a protest against recognising Bangladesh as a separate state.

Lahore was then hosting a historic summit of the heads of state and government of Islamic countries.

He led a group of youngsters raising anti-government slogans and breached all security arrangements, to appear right in front of the motorcade of the then Saudi King Shah Faisal.

Given these two incidents, both narrated by Hashmi in his autobiography Haan Mein Baghi Hoon (‘Yes, I’m a rebel’), it is ironic that he disagreed with his own party’s chief.

How is Parliament House different from Governor House in Lahore as a symbol of the state, and how is the security cordon for a foreign dignitary less important than the one around Prime Minister House?

Hashmi could not care less about such distinctions or lack thereof as far as he believes in the cause.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and several other senior members of the ruling PML-N can testify as to how Hashmi would say whatever he wanted in party meetings without bothering about how it would affect his relationship with the party leadership.

He believed that he needed to challenge the high-handedness of the Bhutto regime through whatever means he could employ; he believed that Pakistan should not recognise Bangladesh, come what may.

He also narrates in his book how, a few months before the Islamic summit, he and his political associates successfully sabotaged Bhutto’s rally in Rawalpindi for the same reason.

So, clearly, he ceased to believe in what Imran Khan claimed to be trying to achieve. And this is in accordance with the ideology that Hashmi has come to espouse over the past four decades of being in politics.

That ideology is based on three foundations: the supremacy of electoral democracy over a military dictatorship, dissent, and utter disregard for the consequences of his political actions.

There are, however, some exceptions to these political rules that Hashmi has devised for himself.

The most obvious example of his courageous defence of civilian supremacy over military power is his arrest in 2003 on the accusation of trying to create divisions within the army.

For the next three and a half years, he remained behind bars, his trial taking place inside jail.

The Musharraf government put him on trial because of a letter that Hashmi had made public, reportedly written by some junior officials to highlight alleged corruption on the part of some senior members of the then military regime.

He never retracted from his stance, nor did he regret his decision to make the letter public.

Similarly, his readiness to work as the president of the PML-N after the Sharifs went into exile and many of their prominent lieutenants joined the Musharraf camp in the 2000s also proved his mettle for working for democracy at the most difficult of times.

Hashmi has built a strong reputation as the perennial rebel. He will speak his mind no matter what the circumstances or consequences.

He’s taken a confrontational stance whenever he has thought that those in authority aren’t doing the right thing, notwithstanding whether the people in authority were his own political bosses.

This is not to say that Hashmi has never made mistakes.

In 1978, at the age of 29, he became the youngest minister in General Ziaul Haq’s military cabinet.

He later regretted the decision; much space is taken up in his book describing how he was never comfortable in the ministry and how he wanted to resign as early as he could.

In 1993, his insistence on running in elections from his home constituency in Multan, while he was being offered safe seats from Lahore, resulted in Shah Mehmood Qureshi leaving Nawaz Sharif to join the PPP.

His biggest mistake, perhaps, is to have accepted money from an advocate named Yousuf.

The source of the money, Yousuf later claimed, was Younus Habib who, as the head of Mehran Bank, was tasked by intelligence operatives to finance the election campaign of certain anti-PPP politicians in 1990.

Hashmi made a serious effort in his autobiography to reiterate that he has never made any financial gain from his politics; he has, on television talk shows, claimed that he had received the money as a loan to set up business, and that he had returned it.

The allegations, however, refused to go away.

When he left the PML-N in Dec 2011, and joined the PTI, some of his old political colleagues alleged that he was disgruntled because the PML-N had refused to nominate one of his close relatives as an election candidate.

Some say he was unhappy because he wanted to become the leader of the opposition after the 2008 election but that post went to former interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

His supporters say he deserved the slot because of his services to the party during the Musharraf regime, when very few politicians were willing to represent the PML-N at any political level.

Hashmi seems to have lost none of his political uprightness and the ability to call a spade, a spade.

He retains his ability to say what he believes in (as Imran Khan has found) and he continues to cherish democracy and the institutions it represents.

He also remains oblivious of the political consequences of his actions — nobody knows what his political future will be after his expulsion from the PTI.

It is difficult to imagine that he will rejoin the PML-N, of which he remains extremely critical.

The option of joining the PPP remains even more remote as he has opposed that party throughout his career.

On the first page of his book, Hashmi recalls a quote from Caliph Hazrat Umar: “When did you start enslaving people when their mothers delivered them as free [people]?” He remains as free as he ever was.

No political imperative can keep him captive to a party or an ideology that he cannot believe in. Khan should have known that before accepting Hashmi into his party.

US Defence Secretary Mattis arrives in Islamabad

US Defence Secretary James Mattis arrived in Islamabad on Monday for his first visit to the country since taking over the charge of the Pentagon.

Secretary Mattis was received by officials from the Defence Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the US Embassy upon his arrival.

During his visit, Mattis is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Chief of Army Staff Qamar Jawed Bajwa.

A day earlier, Secretary Mattis had told reporters that during his time in Islamabad he would look for “common grounds” between the America and Washington.

Is Lebanese eatery Café Beirut worth a shot? We find out

One of probably a couple of restaurants in town claiming to serve authentic Lebanese cuisine is Café Beirut.

Initially opening up on MM Alam Road two years ago, this subsidiary of L’auberge at Faletti’s Hotel finally decided to come out of hiding. From the basement of a shopping plaza they just recently moved to a new location in a congested service road on Gulberg’s Main Boulevard adding to the cluster of quite a few swanky eateries and cafés in the vicinity.

On most days, the hassle to find a parking spot in that tiny space with a couple of other restaurants right next door could be a major put-off, so one should be prepared. The two-storey restaurant follows a black and white theme on the spacious ground floor with Arabic lamps hanging from the ceiling adding some pop of colour, and a rooftop to relish this fantastic weather. Arabic instrumental music plays in the background creating an authentic ambience.

The menu is purely Lebanese instead of a hotchpotch with a smattering of Middle Eastern food. I was told that except for the meat that is procured locally, all major ingredients are imported from Lebanon and the UAE.

For starters, I ordered hummus with meat, a bowl of Fatoush salad and Cheese Fatayers. Though not a huge fan of hummus, this one was smooth and delicious, topped with little juicy chunks of lamb meat and pine nuts, garnished generously with parsley and accompanied with freshly prepared pitta bread. The plate was soon wiped clean.

The Fatoush was equally scrumptious with fresh veggie mixed with around eight kinds of Lebanese herbs and sumac powder for some tartness. This didn’t last too long either. The fatayers are a Middle Eastern savoury stuffed pastry. They were soft, boat-shaped flat bread pastries stuffed with three kinds of cheeses and topped with black cumin seeds, baked in a Lebanese oven especially brought in for the purpose. A satisfying start to a meal.

On to the main course, there was a mixed BBQ platter, lamb rice and grilled fish. The Beirut Mix Grill platter consisted of melt-in-the-mouth lamb skewers, mouth-watering lamb kabab, tender chicken Shish Taouk and chicken kabab served with three sauces and two pitta breads smeared with Lebanese chilli base. Priced around Rs1,500, it’s good enough for two diners, but nothing out of the ordinary.

The brown Lamb Ouzi Rice served with chunks of baked lamb meat and topped with pine nuts and peanuts is supposed to be served with a special ouzi sauce prepared in-house, but I didn’t get one for some reason, while the manager completely denied not serving it on being asked. The rice had a very homely feel to them, but a bit bland for my liking.

I did like the Grilled Hammour though. This was two pieces of grilled hammour fish topped with a beautiful, sour butter cream and served with sautéed vegetables with a generous portion of saffron rice on the side.

For dessert, I had the traditional kunafa. A thick base of slightly sweetened akkawi cheese topped with a wafer-thin layer of fried semolina and pistachio sprinkled over it. The best part about it was that it was light and not overtly sweet as most desserts tend to be. I wish I had appetite left for the baklava and date cake.

One must try the traditional, refreshing rose water drink, and top off the meal with a special tea made with Lebanese tea leaves, honey, cardamom, saffron and rose water. Might sound rich but is a beautiful culmination of a healthy, clean, mostly non-spicy meal.

While the appetisers were promising, the main course was generally above average – good food, but nothing exceptional with little or no attention paid to presentation, which is fair, I guess.

But even if the food is outstanding, unsatisfactory service spoils the whole experience. At most times one could sense a lack of management with orders getting delayed or some customers receiving incorrect orders or some of the dishes not even being available, and one would have to call out the waiters and remind them multiple times of what you’d asked for. If parking isn’t a serious issue, slow service with uninterested servers definitely is.

Predicting the future

PAKISTAN’S future holds promise despite all what people experience, read and hear in a country that seems to fray at the edges. It would sure be a bumpy ride ahead, but there is slim chance of a derailment, a study says.

The picture ‘Pakistan State of Future Index’ paints is not a grim one, and, with right adjustments, the chances are real that the country could become a fairly stable, growing state.

The burden of the future outcomes, however, has been placed on activism of the citizenry, particularly the tech-savvy expanding middle class that aspires for a better life.

A study analyses social, technological, economic, environmental and political trends and tries to tell what lies ahead for Pakistan

“While many Pakistanis wish to emulate the lifestyle of the industrialised world, they do not seek to internalise the rationalism, humanism and positivism which form the core of the scientific revolution that made modern civilisation possible,” Dr Ilhan Niaz, who teaches history at the Quaid-i-Azam University, notes in the opening chapter of the report.

“The general apathy towards learning and knowledge is reflected in part in Pakistan’s poor overall performance in education, women’s empowerment, and investment in scientific innovation,” he says.

The study cautions against the expectation of ruling elite’s voluntary transformation and the threat of violent right-wing populist upheaval, as power yielders accommodate extremist elements to secure and perpetuate their position.

The study was launched by Foresight Lab in collaboration with multiple think tanks. The technical assistance was provided by the Millennium Project, a global think tank that developed the concept of futures index and aims to distil its research in annual reports globally and nationally where possible.

Using official data for the past 20 years, the study gauges the trend of 30 select variables divided into five broad categories: social, technological, economic, environmental and political — or STEEP.

Most variables fall in the categories of economic and politics (11 each), followed by four in social, three in environment and one in the category of technology.

The selection was made using Real-time Delphi, a modern method of collecting and synthesising experts’ opinion. It was applied to identify key drivers and their weight in the equation for the future. The drivers were not permanent and they might change with greater insight of the reality in the next round of the study, authors say.

The study claims to be part of an effort to shift the collective attention of the society to the future by initiating more informed debate on policy choices to capitalise on opportunities and better deal with challenges.

The report suggests that “while Pakistan maintains a growth by the index standard, the rate is lower. In past it faced a dip in overall value of index due to unforeseen events like terrorism and natural disasters. A prospective mindset is necessary to minimise the damage of such events”.

The twin objectives projected include engagement with experts in an exercise to produce a methodical assessment and offer policymakers insight based on expert-based perceptions equipped with an outline of practical steps.

Earlier efforts by successive governments, the private sector and civil society to present a blueprint of the future by identifying problems and possible solutions were based on perception. They presented future targets and, in case of five-year plans, annual benchmarks, but they were devoid of systematic inclusive approach.

In 2014, the PML-N launched Vision 2025 with much fanfare. It claimed the document was developed in consultation with stakeholders. The highlight of the vision was to almost triple per-capita income to $4,200 by the termination year, bring down poverty to 20 per cent and increase exports up to $150 billion.

It intends to close the power supply-demand gap by 2018, and cater to growing future demand by adding 25,000 megawatts into the system by 2025. It also aims to increase the water storage capacity to 90 days, improve efficiency of usage in agriculture by 20pc, and ensure access to clean drinking water for all Pakistanis and reduce food insecure population from 60pc to 30pc.

The document was loaded with lofty promises for social, physical, governance and everything under the sun. “Pakistan will become one of the 25 largest economies in the world…Based upon seven pillars, the government will focus on key areas including developing social and human capital, achieving sustained, indigenous and inclusive growth, governance, institutional reforms and modernisation of public sector, energy, water and food security, private sector-led growth, developing a competitive knowledge economy and modernising transportation infrastructure and greater regional connectivity,” it says.

Three years later, there is improvement in some segments such as power supply, but the progress in several areas has been off the mark. The case in point could be exports, which have instead dropped by about one-sixth since 2013.

“As opposed to absolutist subjective predictions presented from varied quarters, the Pakistan State of the Future Index projects a 10-year trend under the best and worst conditions based on 20-year historical trend in key triggers identified by experts. To me, the study is valuable and deserves attention of all segments interested in the country and its future,” commented an expert.

Unfortunately, most analysts approached had either not seen the report or did not pay enough attention to offer a quotable comment.

Puruesh Chaudhary, the young founder of Foresight Lab, was all excited. Discussing the report, she told the writer, “People active in the evolving field of futures study were pleasantly shocked at the quality of our report. The fact is that we lead in region in futures research.”

United stun Arsenal to keep heat on City

LONDON: Manchester United held on with 10 men after Paul Pogba’s late dismissal to beat Arsenal 3-1 in a breathless encounter at the Emirates Stadium on a day when Liverpool and Chelsea also kept up the heat on Premier League leaders Manchester City but Tottenham Hotspur slipped further off the pace with a costly draw at Watford.

With Pep Guardiola’s pacesetters not in action until Sunday, second-placed United closed the gap at the top to five points with a thrilling display that belied manager Jose Mourinho’s reputation as overly defensive away from home.

While goals from Antonio Valencia and Jesse Lingard inside 11 minutes, and a further second-half strike from Lingard, showed United at their best, Pogba’s crude ‘studs-up’ lunge at Hector Bellerin revealed another side in the 75th minute.

The Frenchman deservedly received a straight red card and will miss three games, including next week’s derby against City.

Until Pogba’s dismissal, everything had looked perfect for United, for whom David De Gea was outstanding and was beaten only by Alexandre Lacazette just after the interval.

“What I saw today was the best goalkeeper in the world,” said Mourinho, who said he “did not know” what to make of Pogba’s dismissal and would leave it to the television pundits to decide.

Liverpool took advantage of Arsenal’s first home Premier League defeat in 13 games to move fourth after thumping Brighton & Hove Albion 5-1. Juergen Klopp’s side have now scored 15 goals in four away games in all competitions.

The German made even more changes than his team scored goals, leaving out six of the side who beat Stoke City 3-0 in midweek.

Liverpool were not weakened and after stand-in centre half Emre Can put them ahead with a bullet header, Roberto Firmino hit a double, Phil­ippe Coutinho scored from a free kick and Brighton’s Lewis Dunk headed into his own net. With the visitors three up, Glenn Murray’s 51st-minute penalty was not enough to spark Liverpool’s usual defensive jitters.

Earlier, Chelsea came from behind to sweep past Newcastle United 3-1 at Stamford Bridge for a sixth win in their last seven league games and closed the gap on City to eight points.

It is four matches without a win for Tottenham, who are also facing defensive problems after Davinson Sanchez’s straight red card in the 1-1 draw at Watford.

The Colombia defender was sent off in the 52nd minute for clattering Watford forward Richarlison with a forearm to the face. Sanchez faces a three-match ban and Spurs are already without fellow center back Toby Alderweireld for the next month.

Christian Kabasele headed Watford into the lead in the 13th minute, and Son Heung-min equalised for Tottenham in the 25th. Sixth-placed Spurs are now four points behind Liverpool and 15 adrift of leaders City.

Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew both looked to deliver the new manager bounce in their first match in charge for their clubs but only Everton collected three points in a routine 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town.

Gylfi Sigurdsson and Dominic Calvert-Lewin scored second-half goals to give Allardyce a winning start two days after he signed an 18-month contract at Everton. But the performance was short on quality and the 63-year-old will have work to do before next Sunday’s derby visit to free-scoring Liverpool.

Pardew’s first match in charge of West Bromwich Albion ended in a 0-0 home draw with Crystal Palace, who were replaced at the foot of the Premier League by Swansea City, 2-1 losers at Stoke City.

The visitors went ahead through Wilfried Bony’s first goal for them in nearly two years before Xherdan Shaqiri and Mame Biram Diouf turned the game to increase the pressure on Swansea manager Paul Clement after his side’s 10th league defeat of the season.

Demarai Gray got on the end of Riyad Mahrez’s cross to give Leicester City a 1-0 win over Burnley that continued the Foxes’ bright start under Claude Puel. Burnley’s bad day was made worse by an injury to Robbie Brady, who was taken off on a stretcher before the break.