Building the Zaid Hamid myth

Published: April 24, 2013
The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

Lately, social media is abuzz with chatter about either the former president Pervez Musharraf or Zaid Hamid, both unsavoury characters. However, what is even more depressing is to see some television channels also engage in discussion with or about Zaid Hamid, a person who, at best, can be described as an anarchist. He may not claim links with an organisation like Hizbut Tahrir (HuT) but his ideology seems to be in line with it, since both support some amount of violence and chaos to bring about a change in Pakistan and implement a system of caliphate. Just about a couple of months ago, the Oxford University Pakistani Students Union had organised a conference on Pakistan which reportedly was managed by the HuT, in which the organisation, not yet banned in the UK, had discussed its vision of seeing Pakistan as the next caliphate.

But referring to Zaid Hamid’s publicity, a television programme got highly controversial and then taken off air because it involved the use of abusive language about the sitting army chief by Zaid Hamid’s former assistant Emaad Khalid. He was talking about the way Hamid tries to instigate young officers against the top army leadership even suggesting use of violence to remove those at the top. Given that the HuT had successfully managed to provoke an officer into assassinating Anwar Sadaat, this almost looks like their signature move. The same evening there was yet another programme that interviewed him.

Not that either of the anchors or producers of those programmes were interested in propagating his agenda; they were probably anxious to know more facts about the report circulated by Hamid’s former assistant about him getting money from various quarters, it got him more publicity than what he could have imagined. Watching and hearing about the man, one also wondered about the capacity of both the army and the ISI to make expensive mistakes. As if it was not enough that their own creation, Masood Azhar of Jaishe Muhammad was involved in an assassination attempt on a former army chief Pervez Musharraf in 2002, another character seems to have been built to either scare or attempt the killing of another army chief. The critical question is why are such vulnerabilities created?

Zaid Hamid, the man who now has an amount of traction amongst the youth and more, is a product of the establishment itself. Having done his engineering from NED, Karachi, he was attracted to jihad in Afghanistan where he went during the 1980s. He claims to have fought alongside Ahmed Shah Masood, which he presents as an argument that the jihad is above sectarian considerations. He seems to have dropped off the screen for a few years but then brought into ‘strategic circles’ under Musharraf’s government. Apparently, he was hired by the then Interior Minister General (retd) Moeenuddin Haider as an advisor in his ministry. He claims to have provided the ministry, as well as business groups, with intelligence. When I went to visit him a couple of years ago, his office was located at a stone’s throw from the main gate of Chaklala Cantonment. There were some cupboards in the office full of files that he claimed were security intelligence reports to assist commercial enterprises. It sounded like the US group Stratfor or Eurasia that claims to do the same.

The 1980s and 1990s context is self-explanatory as this was a period when people were recruited to fight the war in Afghanistan. Zaid Hamid’s case was of a young man motivated by religious zeal and anxious to contribute to jihad. But then, what do you do with such characters afterwards? Do you or do you not try to re-integrate them in society? But then, Hamid was one of the many characters who were treated as assets and kept hanging around for another critical job. His resurfacing towards the end of Musharraf’s years in power coincide with the urge of the military leadership to create another political alternative and narrative of an exciting middle class changing the face of the country. Here was a man extremely verbose and eloquent, addressing the youth and inciting them against the political society and political institutions.

The drive to promote Hamid didn’t end with Musharraf but it continued. There were many who would refer foreign visitors to Zaid Hamid as a security expert. This expertise and its propagation were used to detract people about Pakistan. Not that the political system does not require revamping but this was a case of the army staying a few steps ahead of the people and society and trying to bring change artificially. Having tested and tried partnership with traditional power centres, the military now probably wants to create a fresh breed of stakeholders, which it would then like to market as a ‘new Pakistan’. Those buying into this project completely forget that Pakistan has been through four distinct cycles of elite injection. The good or bad leadership that we see today is primarily a product of the 1980s and a lot of these people were middle class then. However, the middle class narrative, which is being used now, was missing during the 1980s.

The problem with this approach is twofold. First, until the structures remain the same or the manipulation of power from behind the scenes continues, the middle class narrative itself may not change Pakistan. There will certainly be new stakeholders or faces but not very different conditions. Second, the method is highly risky as it destabilises the country and its institutions and creates anarchy. Furthermore, it gives the impression that the army is no longer a professional whole but divided from inside. The army chief may be the most powerful man but there are other forces that can endanger his life or seriously challenge him through such non-state actors.

The main issue here is that if the army is so divided and manipulative then this is not a country that nuclear weapons could save.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (41)

  • Nadir
    Apr 25, 2013 - 12:06AM

    Bottom line is…toe the line and make merry ($$$$)


  • EpicFail
    Apr 25, 2013 - 12:10AM

    Whole article is based on a baseless assumption that Army is behind Zaid Hamid. This article reminds me of your equally nonsensical article that you wrote during Tahir ul Qadri long march in which you blamed the Army of propping up Tahir ul Qadri to implement its nefarious designs. Ofcourse Tahir ul Qadri march turned out to be a big flop and it became abundantly clear afterwards that Army had nothing to do with him. Will your obsession with the military ever end?


  • ballu
    Apr 25, 2013 - 12:16AM

    Zaid Hamid Facebook page only has few comments may be 50 max but likes has some 121,000 so looking at the ratio his FB fans only come to have fun and see what he has to say.. Everytime he writes or talks something he contradicts himself what he has already said before as he talks so fast. Zaid Hamid popularity was only when he claimed 26-11 was done by some Heera Lal whereas it was Kasab who actually was disclosed by Geo tv only.


  • Jim
    Apr 25, 2013 - 12:23AM

    There are few courageous people like Ayesha Siddiqa, Irfan Hussain, Pervez Hoodbuoy, Kamran Shafi etc who have the intellectual honesty — and a few forums like ET — to come out and say it. This cancer needs to be cauterized. It cannot be hidden any longer. Denial and obfuscation is not the answerRecommend

  • meekal a ahmed
    Apr 25, 2013 - 12:30AM

    perceptive, Madam.


  • asim
    Apr 25, 2013 - 12:31AM

    Interesting article hmm -Quote “vision of seeing Pakistan as the next caliphate”; the power center in Islam was never asia in the history before; Is this option viable when more and more independent nations are created today?


  • jimmy the jamaica
    Apr 25, 2013 - 12:39AM

    He seems like Fox channel of U.S.A hahahahaha


  • waqar khan
    Apr 25, 2013 - 1:11AM

    No body takes Zaid Hamid that seriously as done by the author. It appears that author and not the establishment is interested in making Zaid Hamid 10 feet tall. Army does not seem to be as divided as projected by the author,so why doubt its ability to handle nucs. Manipulation is a normal modus operandi adopted by intelligence agencies around the world,recent Boston bombing fiasco by FBI is s case in point. May I dare ask the security anslyst to anslyse the role of CIA and FBI in establishing the real marshal law in Continentsl US. I am sure it will make a good reading.


  • American Desi
    Apr 25, 2013 - 1:15AM

    ” if the army is so divided and manipulative then this is not a country that nuclear weapons could save” …..Very well said.


  • Green Tiger
    Apr 25, 2013 - 2:03AM

    Here is the Video that the Author is referring to.

    If theres somebody Patriotic, then its none other Sir Zaid Hamid and Sir IK. They have not only served the country by building hospital and fight wars. Sir Zaid, being a Engineer, could have lived life in comfort, but he went to fight a war. Similarly, Sir IK could have lived a life in comfort, but he built Shaukhat Khanum. On top of it, both are very religious as well. Even If ISI / Army pays them whats wrong in it?

    Every true educated muslim in Pakistan is with Sir Zaid. Yes, Zaid sir has said establishment of Caliphate is essential, and every true muslim across the world will agree.Recommend

  • Green Tiger
    Apr 25, 2013 - 2:05AM

    Am extremely unhappy with ET for promoting unpatriotic articles like these. Recommend

  • Rameez
    Apr 25, 2013 - 2:52AM

    Perhaps he is getting all the attention that you want to have.

    Jealous much …..?


  • Nadir
    Apr 25, 2013 - 4:11AM

    @Green Tiger: Are you saying ZH=IK?


  • TightPatloon
    Apr 25, 2013 - 4:46AM

    Sir Zaid Hamid is a greatly missed by us on daily news channel. Is a great source of entertainment and humour after a long day in office, power cuts etc we need some time to laugh and relax and Sir Zaid Hamid provides just that – clean, good fun for the whole family, which explains why he has been knighted as well.


  • ifti
    Apr 25, 2013 - 5:23AM

    zahid hamid is a true patriot. What he is saying is the only solution for pak’s survival. You don’t know that The American Political System is framed wholly based on Hazrat Umer RA… Which was a Khilaphat…..


  • Ahmed Ali Khan
    Apr 25, 2013 - 7:51AM


    You Indians have problem of understanding Urdu so it is not Zaid Hamid’s problem. You have to be an intellect to understand his views. His followers are very educated people. Non-educated people talk non-sense about him.


  • Diep
    Apr 25, 2013 - 8:01AM

    thank you ayesha, wish there are few more courageous pakistanis.


  • Mirza
    Apr 25, 2013 - 8:04AM

    A very perceptive and thought provoking Op Ed by ET, thanks for that. I agree with the author 100%.


  • Cynic
    Apr 25, 2013 - 9:29AM

    Quislings one and all.


  • Waqas
    Apr 25, 2013 - 9:29AM

    “There were many who would refer foreign visitors to Zaid Hamid as a security expert.”
    There are thousands of such ‘security experts’, the author included, and all of them have some agenda somewhere. So please.


  • Khan
    Apr 25, 2013 - 9:37AM

    Very insightful. The problem with social experiments is that you don’t really know on which side of the fence they will fall. They can become monstrous and rebellious to the architects while still performing as expected. As I see it, it’s a gamble that can pay off well or cost you heavily.


  • Faisal
    Apr 25, 2013 - 10:08AM

    “The main issue here is that if the army is so divided and manipulative then this is not a country that nuclear weapons could save.”

    Why are you liberals so against our nuclear weapons?. I agree with your point of view on Zaid Hamid but what is the need of bringing nuclear weapons into discussion. They are safe for the last 30 years so please don’t talk like a westerner news caster.

    The discussion should be on deweaponization of nuclear arms around the world. They are threat to the whole humanity. Don’t just single out a country on just suppositions.


  • freedom seeker
    Apr 25, 2013 - 10:18AM

    Zaid Hamid visit some alternative media websites and sources. Collect interested articles, translate them into Urdu. Then he appear on TV or you tube and portray them as his own research and philosophy. He is simply a drama baz with knowledge of English translation and delivery.


  • Arifq
    Apr 25, 2013 - 11:52AM

    Pakistan’s most unfortunate experience, Social and Political engineering. 100% agree with Ayesha Siddiqa.


  • Jahaaz
    Apr 25, 2013 - 1:23PM

    @Ahmed Ali Khan:
    Very educated individuals follow Zaid Hamid?? You’re funny :)


  • neel
    Apr 25, 2013 - 5:28PM

    Zaid hamid is. Patriot and truthfull person. And im proud of him that we need such truth full person who. Had knowledge and vision. And speech like a muslim lion. And eagle. He had knowledge and talk clear and truthfull. We trust zaid hamid blindly and those who are patriot zaid hammid is hero for them and its my dua that allah bless him and his work from his pure hearted.Recommend

  • Sandip
    Apr 25, 2013 - 6:41PM

    To be honest, I watch Zaid Hamid’s video when my mind is blank and I do not want to exercise it. I would be very surprised if most of the folks who watch his videos or hear him talk, do so for any reason other than to kill time. If anyone even thought of propping up someone like him or indulge him in a serious conversation, it would raise a serious question mark on that person’s ability.


  • Younas A. Chowdhry
    Apr 25, 2013 - 7:47PM

    yeah…. this all fine but I think you’re liberal use of the term “anarchist” is wrong here. Anarchist is by definition a left-wing individual against all forms and structures of authority. Mr. Hamid, however, is a proponent of the status quo and the hegemony of the military. An apt classification would be proto-fascist, if you will… Just Sayin…. :)


  • 1984
    Apr 25, 2013 - 7:49PM

    I came to know about this Zaid Hamid character when he talked about the 26/11 attacks…It gave me an insight of what the Pakistanis are actually watching and reading..In fact,I started visiting Pakistani newspapers and news channels after that….

    I had a good laugh when I saw the interview where he claims a Pakistani will sit on the moon and his assertions that the flood was caused by India…

    But later,I realised that this guy is a genius..He has the ability to fool a generation of young Pakistanis,give them hope of Ghazwa-e-Hind and delusions of Hindu-Zionist conspiracy and in reality he’s earning money by selling his books and appearing in channels...

    In short,Zaid Hamid is making a bakra of ordinary people…and dear author,dont call Zaid Hamid an anarchist.Its an insult to greats like Karl Marx,Lenin,Che Guevera,Anonymous,Julian Assange...Zaid Hamid is the Kim Kardashian of Pakistan,he will do or say anything to make him popular…


  • mateen saeed
    Apr 25, 2013 - 7:58PM

    @ neel, we are paying heavy price for breeding up lions and eagles like Zaid Hamid. For peace, prosperity and health life we do not need lions and eagles but goats, buffaloes, cows who would feed us instead of making ourselves food of such beasts.


  • Salman
    Apr 25, 2013 - 8:07PM

    It is becz Pakistan’s education system; people like Zahid Hamid are hero. In Pakistan educated are more stupid than uneducated.


  • Udaya Bose
    Apr 25, 2013 - 8:30PM

    Where is the ‘Zaid Hamid’ who regularly entertains us (In these Readers’ Comments) with his sharp and witty comments?


  • Tasa
    Apr 25, 2013 - 9:30PM

    @Younas A. Chowdhry: I totally agree with you. It is ridiculous to call this guy(Zahid Hamid) as ‘anarchist’. Recommend

  • 1984
    Apr 25, 2013 - 10:43PM

    @Green Tiger:
    Every true educated muslim in Pakistan is with Sir Zaid.

    So from when was Zaid Hamid awarded the “Sir” title?? In case,Britain was giving out OBE for standup comedians,then Rowan Atkinson should get it before Zaid Hamid.

    I really pity you..Just because someone shouts “Inshallah”,”Pakistan Zindabad”,”Ghazwa-e-Hind” on Live Tv makes a patriot to you….Maybe the meaning for patriotism is different in Pakistani dictionary…He’s using the words “patriotism” to con you people.

    Even Bal Thackeray gives fiery speeches against the so-called enemies of India,but no Indian would consider him as patriotic..He may have had supporters in his state,but he was major point of ridicule all over India…


  • PakArmySoldier
    Apr 26, 2013 - 12:12AM

    Let me tell you from first-hand experience that most Army officers take Zaid Hamid as a complete joke. With that said, he does have some loyal following within the Army which makes it increasingly dangerous. To me, this person is a merchant of hate and intolerance. His loyalties are not to Pakistan but to greater Middle East.


  • Elmer Fudd
    Apr 26, 2013 - 1:19AM

    I think Ayesha Sadiqa stays up all week dreaming up ways to blame everything on the army. Write about something else for a change, and maybe people will finally start taking you seriously.


  • Ozymandias
    Apr 26, 2013 - 2:39AM

    Note: *distract, not *detract


  • ali
    Apr 26, 2013 - 7:41AM

    awesome comment.. 100% agreed mate!


  • Zaid Hamid
    Apr 26, 2013 - 1:17PM

    Zaid Hamid? Who???


  • kaalchakra
    Apr 27, 2013 - 4:08AM

    Thank you for publishing my post in appreciation of Pakistan’s three finest minds – Sir Zaid Hamid, Sir Ejaz Haider, and Sir Hafeez Sayeed. The contributions of these three intellectual giants have been immense and by the Grace of Allah, are continuing as we speak. No power on earth can hurt Pakistan so long as such minds are protecting Pakistan’s interests. All three deserve our salute.


  • Suhail Karim
    Apr 29, 2013 - 10:36AM

    I like the idea ,young army officers taking charge. I think older ones are too fatigued, too tired and surely too comfortable.

    Change is the magic word. We need to get rid of the present lot of politicians minus IK in any manor, be it IK sweeping over, be it army taking over. Or be it gasing this bunch of hoodlums.


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