Talking to a delegation of Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), President Mamnoon Husain claimed that Pakistan’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown significantly during the last few years which have strengthened the national economy. He said there was a need to further enhance national income and development through continuation of the existing policies and urged business community to play a pivotal role in putting the economy on a road to speedy progress.
The claim of substantial economic growth is debatable as non-productive expenditure led growth does not increase national income in real in real terms. It is then an illusion of words and fictitious numbers. That is why the lopsided policies of the present government has worsened the condition of common man because the economic growth portrayed had no trickle down effect on the poor people and the response option for ameliorating their condition is not forthcoming. Because of the current policies 40 percent population is living below the poverty line and 50 percent is faced with the chronic problem of food insecurity. People drink contaminated water, health facilities in government hospitals are insufficient and prices of life saving medicines have gone up by 100 percent. The number of children out of schools is 80 million. In human resource development index Pakistan is much behind India, Bangladesh and Srilanka. The target of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) has not been achieved. It was because of this deliberate failure of the government that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif skipped the UN meeting on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) in 2016.
Macroeconomic indicators have deteriorated abnormally. Exports have declined by $ 5 billion and imports of more than 300 hundred essential goods are constantly rising despite highly punitive regulatory duty because imports substitution industry could not flourish due to unfavorable economic environment. There is no energy policy for cheap and environment friendly power generation from hydro, wind and solar sources and main focus is on expensive thermal power generation from fossil fuel which will also be a major cause of spreading fatal diseases like Asthma and Cancer. The deal for the import of LNG from Qatar is still shrouded in mystery because of its shady nature. The price of the same LNG in India is $ 7 per mbtu whereas its price in Pakistan is $ 11 per mbtu. The sky high tariff of energy inputs and a barrage of regressive indirect taxes have increased the cost of doing business and have made exportable goods less competitive. Textile sector is plagued by shut downs and the entrepreneurs are shifting their units to Bangladesh, where the price of electricity is five times lower than Pakistan. Not a single cotton plant is grown in Bangladesh but it exports cotton cloth, yarn and ready made garments worth $ 27 billion whereas the total exports of Pakistan are stagnant at $23 billion. The business community can play its role in economic development only when the economic environment is conducive in terms of inexpensive energy prices, progressive tax structure and liberal monetary and fiscal incentives for exports. The present government is not facilitating the exporters to explore new markets and diversify the composition of exports. Despite the negative economic environment, a number of primary commodities and finshed goods have certain degree of comparative advantage for export but the trade policy is not helpful to boost their exports.
The contention that electricity production has been increased with reduced tariff is not correct as per unit price of both domestic and commercial consumption has not been reduced at all. The relief, occasionally given to consumers through fuel price adjustment, is not a reduction in tariff. If the price of furnace oil and diesel goes up this relief will not be given to the domestic and commercial consumers. Reality is that the economy is in shambles and no corrective measures have been taken to address the macro economic imbalances of falling imports, curtailing wasteful expenditures, checking the rampant corruption and abandoning reckless borrowing to avert the likely threat of debt trap and insolvency.
Despite the secretary commerce claim about the steady surge in exports, Pakistani currency is losing value against US dollar and other hard currencies due to constantly widening current account deficit. The credit ranking agency Moody has cautioned that further depreciation of Pakistani rupee (PKR) will decrease Pakistan’s credit affordability. The central bank will then face the difficult challenge of anchoring inflation at moderate level. The government’s debt affordability would also likely weaken further as the Pakistan’s one third debt is denominated in foreign currency, said Moody.
Public debt has increased enormously over the last 10 years whereas the size of GDP has shrunk in real terms. In 2007 debt to GDP ratio was less than 50 percent; it went up to 64 percent from 2008 -2013, and further gone up to 68 percent in 2017, bordering on the redline. The rising trend may continue if corrective measures are not taken. The existing ratio is higher than the t median estimate for B- rated sovereignty of 55 percent to GDP for 2017. In the fiscal year 2016-17 majority of debt indicators deteriorated because the government has constantly violated the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Management Act 2005. Pakistan urgently needs foreign loans for balance of payment support and debt servicing. The external sector has not performed well over the past three years. In the three years trade policy 2016-18 annual export target was set $ 35 billion but it could not be achieved and the exports remained stagnant at $ 23 billion. After failing to meet the goal in three years trade policy, the government will try to achieve the target in the new trade policy with a time frame of five years 2019-23.
A number of factors are at work that inhibits the growth in exports. Pakistan’s primary commodities and finished goods have lost the competitive edge because of their high price and low quality. The production cost is abnormally high due to sky high tariffs of electricity and gas. The government gives export subsidy on sugar and wheat but is not willing to extend the same facility to the exporters of rice, sports goods, surgical goods, light engineering products and ready made garments. Secretary Commerce Division Younas Dagha is holding consultative sessions on the next trade policy with the business community. However, the input from the chambers of commerce and industry of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan is yet to be included in the strategic trade policy 2019-23. These provinces have a great potential of exports of a number of items which include fresh and dry fruits, gem stones and marble products. Pakistan has great potential to improve its marble industry by introducing modern technology in mining and cutting of marble. The global market of marble and granite is $ 62 billion but our share in the world market is less than one percent. Pakistan’s share of marble products can be substantially increased by quality improvement and value addition for which proper incentive from the federal government are urgently needed. Marble mining licenses should be given subject to the condition of using state-of-art technology by the mining contractors. The ambitious target of $ 36 billion can be achieved only when number of exportable items is increased and new markets are explored. Besides this production cost is lowered by bringing down the electricity and gas tariffs. Quality of exportable goods also needs significant improvement.
In the unfortunate city of Quetta, at least seven persons were martyred and 16 injured in a suicide bomb attack on a bus carrying the personals Balochistan Constabulary who were returning from a security duty of Balochistan Assembly wherein a no confidence motion was to be tabled which was withdrawn after the Chief Minister Nawab Sana Ullah Zehri tendered his resignation. The vehicle was struck by a suicide bomber riding on motorcycle on Zarghon Road at general Post Office Chowk. The dead include five personals of Balochistan Constabulary and two civilian. Extraordinary securityarrangements were in place because of Provincial Assembly session but even then the suicide bomber managed to sneak into that area which is a big question to be pondered over.
Balochistan is the worst hit province by terrorist attacks and sectarian strife. Hazara Shia community has been most often targeted by the terrorists of Lashkar-e-Janghvi and other banned outfits that mostly infiltrate into the province from Southern Punjab and Interior Sindh and neighboring country Afghanistan. Security personals from police, Balochistan Constabulary and Frontier Crops are particularly vulnerable to such attacks. A group of terrorists stormed the police training institute, Quetta, killed 61 policemen and wounded 117 on 16th November, 2016. Deputy Inspector General of Police Hamid Shakeel was killed by a roadside bomb in Quetta on November 8, 2017 and on November 16 SP Muhammad Ilyas and his three family members lost their lives when their vehicle was ambushed by terrorists. In all 42 police personals including seven high ranking officials were killed in 2017. In addition to this, a number of personal of other security forces also fell prey to the terrorist attacks and lost and embrace martyrdom in the line of duty.
Gallant personal of security organizations and civilians are being killed in terrorist attacks but the ruling elite is least bothered about improving the inland security to provide protection to the people and even they have forgotten the sacrifice of the 150 young and small students who were martyred in terrorist attack on Army Public School Peshawar in December 2014. The federal and provincial governments did not implement the most the important points of the National Action Plan (NAP).The required amount of funds were not allocated to strengthen National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA) and other security agencies. In a myopic vision and ridiculing mode, the former disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif blams the surge of terrorism on the Supreme Court verdict of 28th July, 2017. But on the contrary Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal used to claim that the back of terrorist has been broken and law and order has been restored in the country, blurring the fact that PML-N government was not in favor of launching “Operation Zarb-i- Azb” in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas adjoining the province of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh are averse to effective clean up operation against the sleeper cells of banned outfits in Southern Punjab and Interior Sindh for fear of losing vote bank in the next general elections. Politics is given preference over humanity. Peoples’ security should be considered a prime responsibility. It is time that government should wake up from the deep slumber and focus attention on the issues of inland security for which NAP provides a viable framework. Mere condemnations of terror attacks and hollow statements of bringing terrorists to justice will not change the grim situation on ground.
Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) Chief Dr. Tahirul Qadri has announced to launch a countrywide movement for resignations of Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif and Law Minister Rana Sanaullah from January 17.The decision was taken in the meeting of Steering Committee of All Parties Conference (APC), held on December 30, 2017. It came a day after PAT led APC deadline set for the resignations of Punjab Chief Minister and Law Minister, who are accused of Model Town Tragedy.
The Model Town carnage orchestrated by the Punjab government was a cruel show of intoxicated power and absolute vendetta of the ruling Sharif Family in which even two pregnant women were not spared. They were killed by Punjab police by firing bullets putting barrels of automatic rifles in their mouths. 14 people were killed and about 100 wounded. This was nothing but vandalism despite the ruling party tall claims of upholding the established norms of democracy. Ironically, Punjab Chief Minister Shabaz Sharif watched this colossal heinous crime against humanity for hours on TV Screen but, very pathetically, he did not order the police to disengage from PAT worker at the Minhajul Quran Secretariat and stop straight firing. When PAT Chief Dr. Tahirul Qadri indicated his homecoming from Canada in June, 2014, Raiway Minister Khwaja Saad Rafique said in function, “Let this Maulana come, we will give him such a reception that he won’t forget.”
Political differences are solved through mutual conciliatory efforts and not by using the force of state machinery. In the previous PPP government, PAT, s Islamabad sit-in was amicably dispersed sagaciously by its leadership with meaningful dialogue. This was a reflection of upholding democratic norms. If the PML-N leadership had conceded PAT,s demand of resignation of Punjab Minister Rana Sanaullah or held an olive branch by engaging Dr Qadri in sincere dialogue the matter would have been resolved and the demand for the resignation of both Chief Minister and Law Minister would have not come. But the deadline of PAT led AP C was not taken seriously, hence opposition parties call for countrywide protest. Even now the leadership of ruling party does not realize its mistake. Addressing party workers in Chakwal, the disqualified former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif attributed the oppositions’ protest call to his ouster as result of Supreme Court verdict in Panama Papers case disqualifying him for life.
Pakistan Tehril-i-Insaf, PPP, PML-Q and Awami Muslim League have apparently supported PAT,s countrywide protest but it remains to be seen how long these parties give their total support to it. In view of the unstable situation of this region and likelihood of terror attacks Pakistan can not afford political turmoil. It is time that the ruling PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif gives chance to reasons and abandon his obduracy to resolve the problems confronting the government politically by demonstrating a spirit of true democrat. He should also stop arms twisting of federal government and Punjab government.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of international terminal at Sialkot Airport, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbsasi described the opposition parties as unruly elements who spread Chaos in the country over the last four years to stop the development agenda of PML-Government. He said the government has completed all the projects that it started after coming into power. He claimed that energy projects of 10000 megawatts will substantially bring down the price of electricity.
In democratic system of governments, protest rallies and sit-ins are part and parcel of the democracy and these do not bring Chaos if the sitting government behaves democratically and address the genuine demands of the people agitated by the opposition political parties. Had the PM -N leadership shown political sagacity and accepted PTI,s demand of opening of four National Assembly constituencies, a sit-in of 126 days in D-Square of Islamabad in 2014 could have been avoided. Had the Terms of Reference been framed on consensus between the government an opposition for setting up a Judicial Commission to probe the Panama Papers allegations of money laundering and corrupt practices against the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his family members, PTI would have not resorted to lockdown of Islamabad. The massive use of force against the rally of KP Chief Minister at Sawabi and Haroonabad on Motorway M-1 was not only a dictatorial decision but it was also, what Senator Aitezaz Ahsan called, a sever blow to federation. The Faizabad sit-in by TLYRA was an engineered show of the former disqualified Prime Minister and its un-interrupted journey from Lahore to the gateway of Islamabad was facilitated by Shabaz Sharif, Chief Minister of Punjab. Hence throwing its debris on the opposition is not justified.
There is no denying the fact that the present government has completed a number of motorways and metro bus projects at very high construction cost if compared with similar projects in China, India and Turkey, but at the same time ignored the highly productive projects of Kalbagh, Diya Mir Basha, Dasu, Monda and Kurram Tangi Dams. These projects are inevitable for steering the economy out from the current state of chronic stagnation and putting it back on the road to take off stage of economic growth, eventually inducting it into sustained stage of economic growth. The multidimensional hydropower mega projects are environment friendly and generating inexpensive power to give a big boost to the productivity of agriculture and manufacturing sectors, ensuring competitive edge agriculture commodities and industrial goods for increasing exports. Because of the ill conceived fiscal policy of the present government our exports have lost comparative advantage. Motorways have not helped in improving the economic environment for local and foreign investment for which the availability of low price energy inputs and skilled manpower are the basic requirements. The tariff of LNG is $ 11 per mbtu because of shady deal with Qatar and the commercial price of electric y is Rs. 25 plus whereas in India the LNG imported from Qatar is sold at $ 7 per mbtu and the price of electricity is Rs. 5 per unit.
The claim that new thermal power plants will bring down electricity tariff is debatable. Most of the new thermal power plants will be run with coal imported from China. The price of electricity generated by the China private sector companies will be fixed and revised arbitrarily by the managements of these companies and the government of Pakistan will have no say in tariff determination. That is why the government has accepted Chinese demand of creating a revolving fund in commercial banks to make sure timely payment to power companies. This unjust demand was accepted in Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting on 21st November 2017 to firm up CPEC long term plan. Moreover, the Chinese thermal power technology does not have a built-in provision of Carbon Scrubbles like the German one to reduce the emission of Carbon Mono Oxide and other poisonous gases in the air. The Chinese thermal power plants will be then the major cause of spreading diseases of Asthma and Cancer in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. Key to rapid economic development lies in massive investment in education and health but the PML-N government has diverted billions of rupees of funds allocated for education and health to the projects like Lahore Orange Train and Motorways. This is a lopsided development policy, adding to miseries of common man. The ruling party leadership should better set people friendly development priorities instead of focusing on opposition bashing.
After hostile posturing from both sides positive signals are emanating from Washington and Islamabad to address the issue of trust deficit. Defense Secretary of the United States James Mattis, while speaking to press members at the Pentagon said that Washington will restore security aid to Pakistan if it sees “decisive” action against terror groups including Haqqani network. He said,” we are still working with Pakistan, and we would restore the aid if we see decisive movement against the terrorists, who are as much of a threat against Pakistan as they are against us.”
Similarly, U.S National Security advisor H.R MacMaster, in an interview with Voice of America, said that Pakistan is a country with tremendous human resource and economic potential and we does not wish to see it turn into Pariah State like North Korea that uses its nuclear weapons as leverage. He, however, alleged that the US President Trump is frustrated with Pakistan’s double standards while targeting terrorists. MacMaster said that Trump has great sympathy towards Pakistani people because they suffered the most in the fight against terror. He recalled the horrendous attack on Army Public School two years ago.
Pakistan has also showed willingness to mend cleavage in bilateral relations. Speaking at foreign policy issues at the Institute of Business Administration in Karachi on Saturday, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said that Pakistan believed in engagement with the United States despite the recent hostile statements from Washington. She clarified that Haqqani network is not working inside Pakistan. However, on the contrary enemies of Pakistan are gaining foothold in Afghanistan. Foreign Secretary said Pakistan was ensuring an honorable return of Afghan Refugees to their homeland and is working on their rehabilitation.
Ms Janjua has candidly articulated Islamabad position of zero tolerance against using its soil by banned outfits for carrying out terrorist activities in Afghanistan. Military clean up operation “Zarb-i-Azb”in Tribal areas and Operation “Radul Fasad”in settled areas of the country demonstrate its resolve to wipe out the scourge of terrorism for ever. Fencing the border with Afghanistan is a note wordy step to check the cross border movement of militants. However, the political leadership has not succeeded to convince the United States and other countries about Pakistan efforts to eradicate the menace of terrorism. No clear foreign policy guidelines have been given to the diplomats posted in foreign countries and the United Nations to highlight Pakistan’s narrative abroad. On the contrary, Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif never miss an opportunity to charge sheet his own country in foreign countries by using his cliché phraseology, “we should put our own house in order.”This is not the narrative of Pakistan at all.
Foreign Secretary has rightly emphasized the return of Afghan Refugees to their homeland. But their return to Afghanistan and rehabilitation there is a gigantic task for which the support UNHCR and International Community is must. The pace of repatriation of Afghan Refugees is going on a snail pace and in winter this process has to be suspended. Dearth of funds for refugees’ repatriation is also a major factor inhibiting the return of Afghan Refugees to their country. It remains to be seen how skillfully the present government proceeds to iron out difference in bilateral relations with the United States by showing leadership qualities and spirit of Pakistan first.
After the United States President Donald Trump’undeveplomatic tweet and subsequent punitive action in the form of suspension of security assistance, Pakistan’s political leadership is still in the state of hibernation. The Prime Minister is amazingly looking up to his disqualified leader Nawaz Sharif to allow him, articulating an appropriate response. Never in the history of the country have the people seen such a docile leadership particularly on the foreign policy front. Ironically, Pakistan’s leadership failed to give a brief initial response to President Trump tweet in a subtle diplomatic jargon with in few hours of this tweet. It was not the job of Chinese foreign Ministry to give a quick response to the United States on behalf of Pakistan, nor was it the prime responsibility of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to give response expressing solidarity with Pakistan.
In an interview with British newspaper the Guardian, Prime Minister Shahid Kaqan Abbasi has viewed the relations between Pakistan and the United states through a prism of bilateral economic and military cooperation ignoring America’s domineering role in world affairs at the platform of United Nations and its leverage over West European powers. He said that the US financial assistance was insignificant. Elucidating his point of view, he said that annual disbursement of aid in the last five years has been less than the $10 million a year. So when I read in newspapers that at the level of $250 or 500 or 900 has been cut we are not at least aware of that, he added. The figures of actual disbursement of direct assistance released by the US Agency of International Development US AID) tells totally a different story. According to US AID, in 2016 alone the US gave $778 million to Pakistan of which 35 percent was military and the rest was economic. Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif stepped into the shoes of President Trump and said that US is acting as friend towards Pakistan who always betrays. This is not the language which a foreign minister should speak. He should have not followed the foot prints of the US President. Ones violation of diplomatic norms should not offer justification to the other to do the same, particularly when the United States and Pakistan need each other in combating terrorism.
If for argument sake it is assumed that the US direct financial assistance is insignificant one must not ignore its influence over the economic aid released by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. The United State is a major donor of the first two lending agencies and enjoys 70 percent voting rights for sanctioning economic assistance to loans seeking countries. IMF approved a financial bail out package of $ 6.6 billion for Pakistan in July 2013, the first month of PML-N government. The financial corruption, mismanagement and extravagance of the present government has necessitated a much bigger IMF bail out package during within the next few months at which State Minister for Finance has hinted between the lines. World Bank has provided $ 5.4 billion for 29 investment projects up to April 2017. In 2016 loans disbursement was $ 2.3 billion whereas $ 800 million were released in 2017. Likewise, the Asian Development Bank has signed two agreements with the government of Pakistan on 17th December, 2017 for economic assistance of $ 380 million. Pakistan leadership should not forget the diplomatic fiasco resulted from the blocking and reopening of NATO supply to Afghanistan after the Salala Check Post incident in the previous PPP government. It was the economic factors that compelled the government to reopen NATO supply for Afghanistan after six months. The current economic situation is the worst as compared with that of 2011. The present government is neither doing the balancing in the domain of foreign policy by garnering the support of China and Russia in the face of mounting pressure of the US on Pakistan, nor is it showing realism and pragmatism to diplomatically engage the United States to mend the ruptures in the bilateral relation. The country is deliberately being pushed towards international isolation and economic disaster. It must be realized that beggars are no choosers.
Hiding the bitter facts about the health of the economy, the government has once again resorted to numbers game. Addressing a press conference in Karachi on Thursday, State Minister for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal claimed that the country currently holds foreign exchange reserves of 19.7 billion US dollars and is also able to control its trade deficit. But on 30th December 2017, while talking to reporters, he admitted that Pakistan has to pay $ 6 billion foreign loans in the next six months and the current account deficit is $ 12 billion. The minister gave a vague picture of the economy. He said, “Since stability is rampant there is no need of concern.”He categorically said that the financial managers of the country are not contemplating to contact the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the near future but in the same breath added, “We, however, always keep our door open to all possible options.”It reflects a simultaneous thesis and antithesis of the economic situation to conceal the facts.
Gross foreign exchange reserves, held by the State Bank and Commercial Banks, stood at $ 14.133 billion on December 22. The State Minister for Finance should have told that how a rise of $ 5 billion was achieved just in 12 days when the exports are falling and imports are fast rising. The recent increase in the prices of petroleum products will further vitiate the already bad economic environment, negatively impacting the exports. The opinion of the chambers of commerce and industry about the economy provide a valid assessment as to whether economy is rising or falling. The Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in their meeting of 20th December repudiated the all is well claim of the government, painted a very grim picture of the economy and warned the government that economy is slowly heading towards the point of no return. They urged the decision makers to revisit the economic policies. LCCI President Malik Tahir Javed decried in a statement that industry is the main victim of deepening economic crisis, whereas rupee depreciation is adding to the economic miseries of the country. He said that sky high tariffs of energy inputs have created stagnation in the manufacturing sector and export products are losing their competitive edge in foreign markets. In this dismal economic scenario how a spectacular growth in foreign exchange reserves was achieved. There is no indication that government has acquired more commercial loans to raise these reserves. The IMF loan program had ended in 2016, and then what is the source of capital inflow for piling up foreign exchange reserves? Because of the ruptures in PAK-US relation the United States has stopped the delivery of $256 million economic aid.
If the State Minister for Finance claim of $ 19.7 reserves is correct even then the health of the economy is not satisfactory. The combined external loans and foreign trade payment liabilities are $ 18 billion plus. After the payment of these liabilities, the foreign exchange reserves will fall to a dangerous level and situation will be more or less identical to that of October 1999 when the country was virtually on the brink of default. The government should hold meaningful consultations with the business community as to how best exports can be boosted during the next few months. The government is also reluctant to give political support to FBR for expanding the tax base by bringing wealthy people and unregistered companies under the tax net. The number of tax filers is 1.14 million and 42 percent of registered companies and unregistered partnership firms have not filed their tax returns. The FBR do have the data of millions of tax evaders and the commercial banks are willing to provide more data of wealthy individuals and firms that are out of the tax net. The political expediency should not be a delaying factor in the implementation of much needed tax reforms. It is time that government demonstrates realism and initiate measures for the turnaround of the economy.
In functional democracies and civilized democratic societies, public office holders resign from active politics and do not make hostage the government to his personal interest. The political history of Briton and Germany is replete with precedents how gracefully the Prime Ministers and Chancellors retire from active politics and win a respectable place in history. But in Pakistan this not the case as the former disqualified Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not willing to go out of the corridors of power and in this exercise he has continued his campaign of baseless allegations against the state institutions.
In his press conference in Punjab House on Wednesday, the former Prime Minister alleged that by virtue of illegal verdict of his disqualification, secret contacts and telephone calls the way to power of a political party is being blocked with the intentions to catapult a blue-eyed-boy to the saddle of power. He threatened to spell the beans if activities behind the curtain were not stopped against him. He also complained that accusing fingers on his patriotism are pointed with certain interpretations of “Dawn Leaks” episode and some other events. He also referred in an unhappy mood to Sou motto taken by the Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan Justice Mian Saqib Nisar for ensuring basic rights of the common man enshrined in the Constitution. Nawaz Sharif urged the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to ignore the threats and taunts of the US President Donald Trump and work out economic policies for achieving self reliance.
It is a matter of record that in Panama Papers Case, Honorable Judges of the larger bench of the Apex Court provided numerous opportunities to the legal team of former Prime Minister and his family members to submit a single peace of evidence in support of his offshore assets and the money trail for transfer of billion of rupees abroad through legal channels. But they could not submit any documentary evidence in the defense of their clients. Hence the Rule of Law took its course against the former Prime Minister and his family members. They should now legally, and not politically, contest the cases of corruptions charges in the National Accountability Court and refrain from maligning the Judiciary. Under the Article 184/3 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the Supreme Court has the original Jurisdiction to take Sou motto notice for ensuring basic rights to the people. Cognizance of the matters pertaining to provision of clean drinking water, insufficient health facilities in government hospitals and highly inflated tuition fee charged by private medical colleges come under the original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The hue and cry in this regard is unjustified.
The contents of the discussions in official meetings irrespective of their level are,usually,classified in nature and their contents are released to print and electronic media after careful vetting and approval of competent authority. How come that, a cooked news story in the form of charge sheet against an important state institution, about a meeting chaired by the Chief Executive of the country was leaked to a leading English Newspaper. It was immediately lifted by Indian media houses. That is why former Interior Minister and senior leader of ruling PML-N Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had to say that “Dawn Leaks “reflected the narrative of India against Pakistan. This issue, remaining tight lipped by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against Indian high profile Indian terrorist spy, Kubusan Jhadev and existence of a particular organist ion of political nature in the Indian Punjab will certainly fuel speculations, conjectures and surmise against him. Human beings are mortal and no body is indispensible. One should not malign state institution merely for the protection of his vested interest, particularly when the United States has put Pakistan on notice and situation on our eastern and western borders is tensed.
If past experience is any guide, the economic policies of PML-N government projected by the Ahsan Iqbal in different capacities were long on rhetoric and very short in substance. His brain-child Prime Minister’s Program 2010, announced in 1997 could not take off till 12 October 1999 when Nawaz Sharif government ended. Likewise, in 2013 as Planning Minister he produced a document of economic development of hardly five pages titled “Vision 2025. It is an inferior quality short research paper which does not stand the rigor of statistical analysis. The priorities of economic growth envisaged in this document are yet to see the light of the day on ground although the term of the present government will end in the next few months.
The third baby of the Federal Minster for planning and economic Reforms,”CPEC Centre of Excellence “has failed to perform its assigned task. Tis policy think-tank was established two years ago at a cost of Rs. 1.2 billion. But it failed to provide policy guidelines for this project of 62 billion dollars. Due to the absence of home-grown policy and misplaced priorities of the government, the implementation multi billion dollars CPEC is guided by a voluminous study carried out by China Development Bank., which became the basis ofits long term plan. It was the same Planning Commission which produced comprehensive documents of first and second five year plans in the decade of 1960s. These plans brought wonders in the government of President Ayub Khan, catapulting the growth of manufacturing sector to 8.6 percent and that of agriculture to 7.5 percent per year.. These documents were then borrowed by South Korea to start the process of its economic development from scratches. Now South Korea is an economic giant of South Asia.
At the time of approving the CPEC Centre of Excellence, there was a hope that country will soon have research based studies in important areas of this mother of development projects.. The objective behind this center was to produce policy-based research guidelines for the federal and provincial governments and implementers of CPEC related projects for their efficient and coordinated implementation with a view to ensure maximum benefits to both economies and society at large. The department was also supposed to offer masters in Chinese economy and Cultural Studies. Two years down the line, the Centre’s work is limited to only holding Round -Table Conferences and commissioning publicity articles in print media to counter propaganda against CPEC. It has also moved away from five thematic research areas which have been showed by the internal papers of this Center of Excellence. Since its inception, the center has not generated a single research paper in thematic areas of job growth, human resource development, financing and financial centers integration, regional connectivity, trade and industry linkages and socio-economic impact of CPEC on different regions of Pakistan.
The present government was anxious right from the day one that it will keep CPEC shrouded in mystery and will only use it as propaganda tool for political gains of the ruling PML-N. This mystery factor created doubts in the minds of political leaderships from small provinces that the province of Punjab will be the major beneficiary of the projects executed under the umbrella of CPEC. All parties’ conferences were held to allay the reservation of small provinces particularly Khyber Pukhtunkhwa but the document of CPEC was not presented in the parliament. No body knows how the $ 100 plus debt servicing will impact Pakistan’s economy from 2018 and onwards,particularly the poor people because as ofnow every Pakistani is under the debt burden of Rs.180000. The planning minister off and on boasts that large number of Chinese industries will be relocated in nine special economic zones of CPEC but he does not tell how many Pakistanis will get jobs in these industries. Do the federal and provincial governments have any short term strategies and long terms plan for human resource development enabling the local youth to take up technical and managerial responsibilities in the high-tech Chinese industries? There is no credible information about the participation of Pakistani entrepreneurs’ participation in the investment opportunities in the Special Economic Zones being set up along CPEC. Chambers of golem industrial triangle, comprising the Federations of Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Gugrat, Gugranwala and Sialkot have expressed grave concerns abot these zones fearing the closure of local industries.
The socio-economic milieu of Pakistan is entirely different from that of China. How the large number of Chinese tourist facilities and resident Chinese will impact Pakistani culture? The federal government has agreed to give Chinese Currency Yuan (Renminbi) the status of legal tender for bilateral trade between the two countries and global trade in Gawadar. It is not yet clear as to whether the currencies ofboth the countries will be freely convertible. The questions agitating the minds of businessmen and people about CPEC long term plan must be answered in empress language and not in the confused verbosity of the planning minister.