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Raiwand suicide attack

The terrorist groups most often succeed whenever they want to hit the targets of their choice, tall claims of the federal government about smashing the terror outfits notwithstanding. As compared with the worst affected provinces of Baluchistan, Sindh and Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, Punjab remains relatively at peace but it is not completely safe from the terrorist attacks. At least ten people, including five police personnel were martyred and over a dozen injured in suicide blast on the outskirts of Lahore on Wednesday night. The explosion occurred near a police camp set up for the security of the annual congregation of Tableeghi Jamat in Raiwand and the police appear to be target.

This is the first incident of such nature in Lahore this year; however, almost 60 people lost their lives in terrorist attacks in 2017. At least 45 people were injured in an explosion in fruit market at a truck standing in the parking lot in August. In July, 26 people including nine policemen were martyred and 58 others injured in suicide hit on Ferozpur Road. In April, six people, including army personnel were killed in a suicide attack on Census team on Bedian Road. On February 13, over two dozen people including two senior police officers were killed in a suicide blast on Mall Road.

The government has deliberately kept itself oblivious of dangerous changes occurring in this region, particularly the alarming increase in suicide attacks in Afghanistan. The rise in violence and US drone attacks inside Afghanistan or close to the Pak-Afghan border have a backlash in Pakistan. The government seems to be least bothered about improving the internal security situation and always take shelter behind conspiracies theories, which is nothing but burying head in a heap of sand like Ostrich in front of imminent danger.  Almost the entire leadership of PML-N, baring a few exceptions, is treading a path of confrontation with state institutions at the behest of former disqualified Prime Minister.  The critique of the Apex verdict of 28th July by Captain (R) Safdar and ensuing verbal brawl between him and PTI MNA Dr. Arif Alvi is a sad reflection of our political culture.

The essential matter of streamlining the inland security laws is out of their priorities. No fool proof security mechanism is in place for providing security to VVIPs. How come that two religious extremist managed to reach near the stage in Jamia Naeemia and threw shows on the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Ironically, the response of PML-N leaders to this incident was a display of mundane political behavior rather than rational one. The next general elections are a few month away and political leaders will address public meetings and hold rallies for which a secure and peaceful environment has to be created.

The ruling leadership has abandoned the implementation of National Action Plan (NAP) solely for political reasons and lack of moral courage. The most important points of this plan have been shelved. It includes strict action against militant groups having sleeper cells in the Southern Punjab and Interior Sindh; strengthening National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA); chocking finances for terrorist organizations by improving the counterterrorism financing regime; Seminaries reforms; and revamping and reforming the criminal justice system. A comprehensive plan for antimony laundering and choking of finances to terror groups has to be put in place without any further delay. The national narrative ‘Paigham-e-Pakistan’ turned out to be a onetime public relation exercise as even a single inch progress has not been made on its implementation. It is time to stop the diatribe against the state institutions; mantra of ‘why I was shown the door,’ and so called campaign of restoration of the sanctity of vote. National Security should be held supreme and not hue and cry for personal interest.

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Myth and reality of CPEC

Eminent economists and technocrats has emphasized that government should fully define the Nitti Gritty of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by removing the mystery shrouding it. They suggested the government should consider establishing a CPEC unit within the framework of Council of Common Interest (CCI) to manage the project with transparency and efficiency. The findings of the top policy making brains vindicate what has been featured in these columns about this project in recent months.

The Institute of Public Policy launched its 10th Annual Report Titled, “The State of Economy: CPEC Review and Analysis on Monday.” It reveals that the Chinese funded project has not been fully defined and developed. Renowned economist, Shahid Javed Burki stressed that to realize tits full potential CPEC program must have the support of all citizens. This seems to be a subtle reference of the changed priorities of PML-N government for the implementation of this project. He exploded the  myth created by incumbent federal government about CPEC and highlighted its true picture. Shahid Javed Burki said the project was touted as game changer but it would possibly add 2 percent to growth rate of GDP. This is in sharp contrast to the claims of what the Federal Minister for Interior, Planning and Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal is making the people believe. However, he agreed to the notion that the project will bring greater integration of Pakistan’s backward areas into that of more developed ones.

Former governor State Bank of Pakistan, Dr. Ishrat Hussain said that we should not accept false hopes through CPEC project, as the case of establishing industrial zones is in infancy, so we are just analyzing about industrial zones. The former central bank governor was of the view that the great hope through CPEC should be advancement in technology and human development. He said for future competition among nations it will be human resource and technology as resources like oil and other things will become secondary. Dr. Ishrat Hussain has struck the right not because the economic progress and prosperity of Japan, and South Korea rests on their advancement in technology and enormous pool of highly skilled human resource. But the governments in Pakistan deliberately neglect human resource development to perpetuate the hold of feudal and mercantile classes over the corridors of powers and national resources.

Further deflating the game changer balloon of CPEC, former Foreign Secretary Shmshad Ahmad Khan dispelled the impression that the project will benefit Pakistan alone. He said it will connect Asia with Europe. He made a very pertinent point that it should be completed as nation’s economic core program and our politicians should remain out of this project otherwise CPEC will become another Kalabagh dam for Pakistan.

The report of Institute of Public Policy provides valuable and workable guideline to the government to make CPEC really beneficial for the people in general and not for a handful of elites. The government has not clarified the media reports that certain road projects on the western route have hit snags, modernization and refurbishment work of Peshawar-Karachi railway track has not been delayed indefinitely and Diya Mir Bash Dam has been withdrawn from CPEC framework because China’s conditions for its financing ran contrary to national interest.  The government is not disclosing the details of contracts about the thermal power plants projects to know as to whether these contracts also include the clauses of capacity charges like the contracts of local IPPs which is a major cause of massive circular debt accumulation. There is nothing in black and white as to which environmental laws will be applicable to health hazardous Chinese Coal based thermal power plants as these plants do not have built-in Carbon Scrubbles to reduce the carbon content emission like the German thermal power plants which are relatively environment friendly, having the built-in provision for Carbon Scrubbles.

The reason for the creation of revolving fund in commercial banks for advance payment to Chinese thermal power generation companies is not disclosed in the parliament. The essential ingredient of transparency in the award CPEC contracts is totally missing as only Chinese companies are allowed to submit their tenders and take part in bidding process. The Ambassador of the United States David Hale, in his visit of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry on December 24, complained in lighter vein about ignoring American highly reputed companied in CPEC contracts. The government has not shown seriousness for human resource development and creation of a sound base for the indigenization of 5th generation technology that would with the Chinese special economic zones. The proposal of the Institute of Public policy to establish a CPEC unit in the Council of Common Interest is worth consideration.

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Improving Pak-US relations

It appears that the dust of President Trump harsh tweet accusing Pakistan of telling ‘lies’ and committing ‘deceit in return for receiving billions of dollars has gradually settled down, and  bitter tone public posturing of Pakistan ,s civilian leadership for public consumption has gone to the back ground. Away from public notice, Pakistan and the United States are working their way out of current impasse gradually through ‘Quite diplomacy’ carried out by the career diplomats of foreign office. Although relations between the two ostensible allies hit a new low after President Trump scathing New Year tweet, the two countries remained in touch to find some common ground on critical issues-including the Afghan endgame.

As a part of quiet diplomacy, there have been flurry of exchanges between the two countries over the past two weeks. Trumps senior aid, Lisa Curtis, was in Islamabad long ago and held low level meeting both with foreign office and military officials. Foreign Secretary, Tehmina Janjua travelled to Washington then to meet senior US administration officials. The discrete efforts have started paying dividends then, as there is softening of the US public posturing. The two sides have covered considerable ground in ongoing talks on a number of issues-including how to put an end to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s strategic grievances.

It is note worthy that CENTCOM Chief General Joseph Votel and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asia, Alice Well have spoken positively of Islamabad’s role in the resolution of Afghan conflict. The top US Commander, in a statement before a panel of Congress admitted that Pakistan has indeed taken some significant steps recently over the last of couple of months. Likewise Alice Wells, during a session on Afghanistan and Kabul peace process at the US Institute of Peace in Washington said on Friday that US believes that Pakistan can play a much more important role in shaping in shaping in Afghan Taliban behavior. She stressed on Pakistan’s critical role to provide incentives to Afghan Taliban for understanding the value of negotiations with Ashraf Ghani Government. “Pakistan has also interest that it wants to ensure are met during the course of stabilization of Afghanistan which we take seriously, “She told the audience. So the dialogue that we have with Pakistan whether it is through military or civilian channels seeks to address these concerns.

Efforts towards the restoration of peace in Afghanistan are moving in the right direction. US Defense Secretary, James Mattis in his unannounced visit of Kabul on Tuesday and after meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani revealed that some elements of the Taliban are open to talks with the Afghan government. As a confidence building measures, the US has made successful drone attacks against the TTP and Daesh in Afghanistan and announced head money of $ 5 million on TTP Ckief Maulana Fazalullah , $ 3 million each for another prominent figure Wali Muhammad alias Khalid Umer Khrasani and Lashkar-e- Islam Chief Mangal Bagh. These are significant developments in the contest of Afghanistan peace process. But the incumbent PML-N government has shown a non-serious attitude towards the improvement of Pak-US relations for which a discrete attitude has to be demonstrated instead of public outburst by the federal Ministers against the United States and either  ill conceived or deliberate decision of appointing a businessman Jahangir Ali instead of a veteran career diplomat at Washington at a time when the signs of a negotiated settlement of Afghan issue have emerged  which has made this region a powder keg for the last 38 years. It is time that the civilian leadership to take seriously the valuable input from the foreign office on the Afghan imbroglio and earnestly pursues the national interest in the Afghan endgame. The crisis in domestic politics should not be given preference over the emerging opportunity of restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan.

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Rising trend of intolerance

In a couple of days three unpleasant incidents took place which show that the trend of intolerance in the society is on the rise and the ruling elite seems helpless to this nip this evil in the budwhich may grow into a strong tree if political expediency prevailed as usual. Consecutive incidents of spraying ink on the Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif, in a public meeting in Sailkot, hurling shoes on former Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif at a function in Jamea-e- Naeemia and botched attempt of shoe hurling on Pakistan Therik-i- Insaf Chairman Faisalabad are of great concern. It needs serious consideration and corrective measures to instill the values of moderation and tolerance among the people.

Some ministers from the ruling PML-N is looking at these highly condemnable events through political prism which is not a realistic approach. The root cause of the intolerant legacy must be searched out and moral courage be demonstrated by shunning political expediency to eradicate it. Before the decade of 70s religious polemics and scholastic differences were confined to informed and intellectual debates. But political changes in the region in late 70s sowed a seed of intolerance and monster of extremism raised its head which was unfortunately willingly or unwillingly patronized by the ruling elite. The country became an open field for foreign proxies and fellow Muslims started killing each others in sectarian strife. If the slogans that were raised in the Jamea-e- Naeemia after the hurling of shoe on the former Prime Minster is any guide then digging out a settled issue and wrapping it the Election Bill 2017 was not a right decision, the repercussion of which is haunting the PML-N leadership. Mere condemnation of the trend of intolerance by the leaderships of political parties is not enough. They should put their heads together and reach a consensus how to get rid of it. President Mammon Hussain has correctly analyzed the devastating consequences of the emerging trend of intolerance. He has cautioned if this menace was not curbed then no one will be safe from its harmful effects. It will cause a collective damage and Pakistan’s sacrifices against war on terror will go in vain and its achievements will change into failures.

The civilian leadership has almost locked the National Action Plan in the cupboard solely for political reasons and the announcement of National Narrative, ‘Paigham-e- Pakistan ‘is non-starter and turned out to be mere public relations exercises. The attitude of complacency and political expediency is pushing the country to international isolation. The Paris debacle at the recent FATF meeting, where our staunch allies, Saudi Arabia and China had to abandon us at the last minute, should be an eye-opener for the ruling elite. It is time to come out from the cocoon of expediency, confront the bitter realities headlong and focus on ways and means for their short term and long term solutions.

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Optimal power generation policy

The abnormally high power tariff and recurring problem of load-shedding and circular debt necessitates the formulation of an optimal energy policy, ensuring 70 inexpensive electricity generations from hydro, wind and solar sources. It was believed that the PML-N government will fulfill its promise of ending the chronic issue of power outages and include a long term power generation policy in the 11th five year plan based on the optimal mix of hydro, wind, solar and thermal power. But the much needed long power generation policy was not formulated and adhoc strategy was pursued with a large component of health hazardous and costly imported coal based thermal power generation by converting the connectivity mega project into mainly an expensive thermal energy project.

Only one mega project of hydropower generation of 1421 megawatt, Tarbela extension will be completed before the closing of current fiscal year. The first power generation unit of 470 megawatt was formally inaugurated by the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday. Other two units of the same power generation capacity shall be completed within the next few months. A small hydropower project of 108 megawatt has also been made operational in Chittral but the completion of 960 megawatt Neelum Jehlum project has been abnormally delayed although its construction work started in 2006. The implementation of 3600 mega watt Diya Mir hydropower project has been withdrawn from CPEC framework and is almost shelved. The future of another power generation project Dasu of 3000 plus megawatt is hanging in the balance and the government is paying demurrage charges to the Chinese construction companies that moved machinery to the site of the dam. Likewise, 730 megawatt Monda hydropower project is on the waiting list of financing and its construction cost has now jumped from Rs. 60 billion to Rs. 120 billion. The project was going to be launched in 2003. The approval of small hydropower stations with a total generation capacity of 2000 megawatt in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is yet to be accorded by the federal government although these projects were submitted in 2012. The leaderships of political parties move hand in hand for the protection of their personal and political interest but deliberately stand divided on national interest. Lack of consensus for the construction of Kalabagh dam is a reflection of myopic vision of ethnicity and provincialism.

Because of the cobweb agreements loaded in favor of private thermal power producers there is a perpetual problem of massive circular debt accumulation. These agreements were made in the second tenure of PPP government as a measure of democracy is the best revenge to be slapped on the poor people Pakistan in the form of very expensive electricity tariff. It was because of the ant-national interest clauses in these agreements that Pakistan lost two cases to the private power producers in the international arbitration courts. The first case was lost to Turkish firm Karkey Kardeniz in Rental Power in the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and a compensation of $ 800 million had to be paid. In another arbitration setback, the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA) in its final award asked Pakistan to pay more than Rs. 14 billion ($ 140 million) to 10 Pakistani Independent Power Producers. Payment of about $ 900 million as compensation is a big jolt for a cash strapped and debt riddled country.

Economic Coordination Committee has approved circular debt settlement plan to clear the dues of Rs. 525 billion. It was decided to immediately pay Rs. 80 billion to private power producers and fuel suppliers aimed at easing their financial constraint. Ironically, the circular debt total liability as of December 2017 include Rs. 312 billion in energy cost and the remaining Rs. 214 billion is on account of capacity charges , liquidity damages and loans mark up. The capacity clause imply that the people have to pay for the electricity which is not produced and not sold to the government and which is not consumed by the consumers. Is not democracy the best revenge in the PPP political jargon? If the entire circular debt liability is not settled then there would be no escape from the load shedding in the upcoming summer season. A two hours electricity load shedding has already been started in cities and the duration of power supply in rural areas is hardly three hours. Hopefully a comprehensive power generation policy will be included in 12th five year plan.

 

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FATF syndrome

The federal government is still in a defiant and denial mode to address the issues that led to the diplomatic isolation and Financial Action task Force (FATF) decision to put Pakistan back on a watch-list by June this year if it fails to improve its antimony laundering and counter terrorism financing regime. Federal Minister for Interior Minister and planning, Ahsan Iqbal has alleged that the decision of FATF to put Pakistan back on its grey list was taken at the behest of the United States to serve political motives.

The Interior Minister said that grey list sword is now hanging over Pakistan because the country has recently graduated from black to grey and then to white list in few years. He said the European Union has extended Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) plus after admitting that Islamabad took steps to eliminate terror financing through National Action Plan (NAP).

Pakistan was put on FATF watch list in 2012 and removed from it in 2015 after the launching and successful progress of military operation Zarb-e-Azab against the militants’ sanctuaries in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2014. The civilian leadership was reluctant till the last minute of the launching of cleanup operation and was holding talks from the position of weakness with the second tier leadership of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). As a backlash to this operation, the tragedy of Army Public School Peshawar occurred in December 2014 and the political parties had to agree to the formulation of NAP, reservations of religious political parties, MQM and Chairman Senate Raza Rabani not-withstanding. NAP has not been implemented in totality and its important points numbering 3,4,5,7,9,10, 12, 15, 19 and 20 have been shelved by the government for ever because of political expediency. It includes strict action against militant groups; strengthening National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA); choking finances for terrorist organization; curbing reemergence of proscribed organization; seminaries reforms; and revamping and reforming the criminal justice system.

The logic of poetical motives of the United States behind the decision of putting Pakistan back on watch-list does not stand the litmus test as its staunch allies Saudi Arabia China also voted in support of this decision. It was in the recent meeting of FATF that China was made the Vice President of this intergovernmental world body. The foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua has held useful discussions with the White House and State Department officials to rescue the fragile alliance between the United States and Pakistan and to move forward towards restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. In this backdrop, the frontal attack on the country’s ally is not a sagacious move. Such like unwise and deliberate angling may widen the present cleavage in bilateral relations of Pakistan and the United States. The grey areas in the antimony laundering and counter terrorism financing regime need to be cleared to restore the trust of international community.

This time avoiding stinging repudiation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) warning of correcting macroeconomic imbalances, the Interior Minister claimed the government consciously adopted the aggressive path of growth and investment while aware of negative effects, including rising external financing requirements for a few years. He said slow growth can not be allowed because of two million new job entrants. In fact the current economic growth rate below five 5 percent is expenditure led growth and not the income led one. The closure of 120 textile units have made thousand of workers jobless what to speak of generating employment opportunities for the millions of new entrants in the job market. The internal assessment report of Planning Commission reveals that PML-N government has failed to achieve macroeconomic and social targets set in the 11th Five Year Plan. The rising external financing problem is caused by reckless borrowing and widening current account deficit and not by productive investment activities. CPEC is proving a bane not a boom for the local industries. The representatives of the Chambers of Golden Industrial Triangle, comprising Gugrat, Gugranwala and Sialkot had expressed grave concern about the Chinese controlled Special Economic Zones in the country, fearing closure of local industries resulting in massive unemployment and steep fall in productive capacity of the manufacturing sector.  These reservations of the trade bodies were vindicated by Syed Mohyuddin, Chairman State Engineering Corporation (SEC) in his visit to Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday. He urged the entrepreneurs to abandon the second generation technology and adopt the 5th generation technology if they want to succeed in establishing effective joint ventures and partnership in CPEC with their Chinese counterparts.  Pakistan’s economy is in a dire need of another IMF bail-out package, bigger than that of 2013, and Ahsan Iqbal should avoid uncalled for critique of the United States as it controls 70 percent voting rights in the international lending agencies.

 

 

 

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Journey of progress

While addressing the inauguration ceremony of liquefied gas plant at Kark, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi claimed that the PML-N government has put the country on the path of development according to the vision of Nawaz Sharif and added that it is up to the masses that they would give vote to those who are abusing or to those who believe in decent politics. He said that the people would decide in July in general elections and expressed the optimism that the electorate would decide in favor of PML-N.
Economic progress and prosperity mantra has all along been the favorite public relations theme of this mainstream political party but its leadership fails to ameliorate the condition of the masses. In the second tenure of PML-N government the campaign of “Qarz Utaro Mulk Sanwaro”did not result in reducing the debt burden. On the contrary, the country reached to the verge of default with dropping of the foreign exchange reserves to the dangerous level of $ 600 million. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) imposed a fine of $ 100 million on Pakistan on account of fudging the figures and economic indicators of the economy. The fine was then paid by the Government of President Musharraf and in the first three year of his government the country got freedom from loans liability of IMF.
In the current tenure the present government acquired $ 45 billion loans including the $ 6.6 billion Extended Fund Facility loan of the IMF. The total foreign debt now stands at $ 90 billion. In August, last year World Bank in its report “South Asia Focus Fall, 2017″highlighted macro economic imbalances of Pakistan’s economy including the alarming current account deficit because of falling exports and surging imports, fast rising debt burden and budget deficit. The IMF in its recent report has painted very gloomy picture of the economy and issued an ominous warning that risks pertaining to Pakistan’s economic and financial outlook have increased and its debt repayment capacity in the mid term and long term has weakened. International Credit Rating Agencies Fitch and Moody have changed the financial outlook of Pakistan from stable to negative. The country has slipped down to 147th position on the World Bank Index of ‘Ease of Doing Business’ because of the extremely unfavorable economic environment which is evident from the stagnation in the textile sector. Pakistan is confronted with diplomatic isolation, even China and Saudi Arabia abandoned it in the FATF meeting and consequently the country has to be put back on the ‘grey list’ if it fails to improve its antimony laundering and counter terrorism regime.
The socio economic indicators do not support the claims of the government. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report reveals that human development index (HDI) is 0.5 percent which is abysmally low. In the current tenure of present government the number of people living below the poverty line has increased and now 60 percent of country’s population lives below the poverty line. In the previous PPP government 40 percent of the total population was living below the poverty line. There is colossal unemployment. The people are not getting clean drinking water, sanitation system is in dilapidated condition and health facilities are unsatisfactory. The dynamics of election depends on the clout of the candidates and support of government machinery in Punjab, Interior Sindh and Baluchistan and not on the economic performance of the political party that has remained in power before general elections.

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IMF warning

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its report has issued an ominous warning that risks pertaining to Pakistan’s economic and financial outlook have increased and its mid term and long term debt repayment capacity has weakened urging Islamabad to take immediate corrective measures. IMF released this gloomy report just after the conclusion of its Board of Directors meeting that held the ‘first program monitoring discussion’ with Pakistan held in Islamabad. The report noted with concern the alarming current account deficit which is 4.8 percent of the GDP worth $ 16.6 billion and budget deficit which has reached to 70 percent of the GDP.

The IMF projections over the current account deficit and budget deficit are very gloomy. The international lending agency has also added to the warning of FATF corroborating the stance of this intergovernmental world body and has urged the government in Islamabad to improve its money laundering and counter terrorism financing regime. It has also asked the countries economic managers to devalue the currency although the recent depreciation of Rupee by 4.5 percent against the US dollar and loss of value in exchange with other major currencies has not reflected in enhancing exports and easing pressure on  foreign exchange reserves.  The foreign currency reserves have dropped to $ 12.1 billion despite the acquisition of $ 500 million Chinese loan and further quest for $ 1 billion. The imports are still surging and the pressure on the foreign currency reserves will intensify. The budget deficit has reached to 70 percent of the GDP but there are no signs that the government will abide by the Fiscal Responsibility and Debt Limitation Act, 2005. The World Bank pegged a loan of $ 400 million with the condition of enacting more comprehensive legislation, ensuring prudent fiscal and debt management. But the required legislation was not made by the present government which is fond of reckless borrowing irrespective of its consequences for the fragile economy.

The IMF has also emphasized prudent debt management and cautioned against phasing in new external liabilities. Seeking more Chinese loans indicate that government will tread the opposite path by ignoring the IMF sane advice. The multilateral donor agency has urged the government to tackle the rising fiscal risks stemming from the continuous losses in public sector enterprises. The cumulative losses of PIA are Rs. 320 billion and that of Pakistan Steel Mill have reached to Rs. 161 billion. These huge losses incurring government entities need privatization but the government has not succeeded to offload this heavy finical burden on the national exchequer. Another major contributor to the massive fiscal deficit is the piling up of circular debt which recurs because of the financial trap of Independent Power Plants laid against economy of a poor nation in the second tenure of Benazir Bhutto government. An amount of Rs. 480 billion was paid to the Independent Power Producers in 2013 and the circular debt liability has again reached Rs. 922 billion. However the government admits a liability of Rs. 525 billion and the Economic Coordination Committee has approved the payment of Rs. 80 billion.

The government will reject the recent IMF report like the findings of World Bank Report “South Asia Focus Fall 2017″released in August last year.The federal Minister for Interior, Planning and Economic Reforms, Ahsan Iqbal,State Minister for Finance Rana Muhammad Afzal and De facto Finance Minister Miftah Ismael will swing into action, repudiating the IMF report and making once again tall claims of economic gains and imminent prosperity. The incumbent government will leave the heavy baggage of economic and financial mess to the caretaker government. It will never accept the suggestions of international financial organizations to address the current fiscal imbalances.

 

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Rescuing the alliance

Despite the periodical stresses and strains in bilateral relations, Pakistan and the United states can not be mutually exclusive in world and regional affairs. The fragile alliance between the two countries survived in the backdrop of President Trump undiplomatic tweet accusing Pakistan of ‘lies’ and ‘deceit’, suspension$ 2 billion security assistance and successful US move of putting it back on FATF grey list.

Foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua, in her weeklong stay in Washington, will hold talks with senior White House and State department officials to rescue the uncertain alliance between the United States and Pakistan in war on terror. The discussion will focus on the current conundrum in bilateral ties and how the two sides could come to a decisive ground on Afghanistan. Foreign secretary visits Washington just days after Lisa Curtis, a senior aide of President Trump, journey to Islamabad in search of common ground in the fight against terrorism and particularly bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan.

After the tough posturing of Pakistani leadership in response to the US pressure tactics, Washington swiftly moved towards damage control measures. A senor aid of the US president visited Islamabad in a  bid to bring down the rising temperature between the two allies. The conciliatory tone and tenor of US administration continues. The Central Command Chief, General Joseph Votel dispelled the impression that US and Pakistan are on a collision course, saying that they valued military-to-military relations with Pakistan. He told a Congressional Panel that the US has preserved military-to- military relationship with Pakistan and attempted to increase transparency and communication with military leaders. He said that achieving long term stability in Afghanistan and defeating insurgency will be difficult without Pakistan’s support. The US commander pointed out that the military had recently seen some positive indications from Pakistan which led to believe that Islamabad is becoming more responsive to US concerns about alleged militants safe heavens.

US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has released a report which states that Pakistan has made some success in counterinsurgency operation. However the report says that Islamabad is likely to proceed with its counterinsurgency and border management efforts along its western border while sustaining counterterrorism and paramilitary operation throughout the country. In an interview with Voice of America in Kabul, US Acting Secretary of State for South Asia and Central Asia, Alis Wells said that US was not thinking of cutting ties with Pakistan. She also assured Islamabad that US considered Pakistan essential to resolving the Afghan imbroglio.

The statements of the top Commander Joseph Votel and State department officials indicate that US wants the alliance with Pakistan intact. However, the phraseology of preserving military-to military relationship and sustaining counterterrorism and paramilitary operation throughout the country are noteworthy. The civilian leadership has not shown strong determination to carry out an effective clean up operation against the sleeper cells of militants’ outfits in the Southern Punjab and interior Sindh to which an oblique reference is made in DIA report. Ironically, for the leadership of both the main stream political parties the fluid situation of the region is not important. They give more preference to unnecessary confrontation with state institutions which reflect a myopic vision and self serving attitude.

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Urging attitudinal change

It is worth appreciation that educationists and religious scholars speak about bringing positive change in attitudes with modern education.  Speaking at seminar under the auspices English Department of Karak University, Chairman Islamic Ideology Council Professor Dr. Qibla Ayaz said if education did not bring positive change in attitudes then it is merely literacy. He said although Globalization has negatively affected our cultural values but it has some good elements too in the form of knowledge explosion.  “We have to pick up the beneficial aspects of Globalization and give importance to valuable heritage of our history, “Professor Qibla Ayaz emphasized. He struck the right note by saying that economically dependent nations can not formulate and run a foreign policy compatible with their national interests.

There is no denying the fact that administration and faculty of a University can perform a credible role in resolving the problems confronting the students and persuade them not to indulge in unhealthy activities but the fact remains that it is the political interference that vitiates the educative environment of the institutions of higher education. The students’ unions affiliated with different political parties promote violence on the campuses. The pitched battles fought twice in one year between the zealots of Islami Jamiate-u- Talba and Pukhtun Students Federation in Punjab University reminds how political interference has polluted the environment in Varsities. The politically connected drugs’ peddlers lure students towards the use of different brands of narcotics. This serious issue addicting students to a drug ‘Crystal Meth’ in schools and Universities echoed on the floor of Khyber Pukjhtunkhwa Assembly.

The mind set built up over the past four decades can not be changed over night. However, meaningful reforms in curricula can be instrumental t bring the desired changes in attitudes if there is a political will and moral spine. But who will introduce and implement these reforms is a million dollar question? Both the elected and non elected governments have failed in the implementation of the needed curricula reforms. The present PTI government has included Arabic as optional subject in schools which is a good beginning. However, learning of foreign languages like French, Deutch, Chinese Russian and Spanish will provide more opportunities of international grooming to students when they pursue Doctoral Programs of study abroad. The real challenge is the implementation of reforms.

The successive governments ruling the country since 1972 ran a foreign policy subservient to the United States which landed the country in the present quagmire. The devastating economic measures of Z.A Bhutto government, particularly, his policy of nationalization of private industrial enterprises and financial institutions increased Pakistan’s dependence on international lending agencies controlled by the United States. The economic policies pursued in the three terms of PPP and PML-N governments have made the country hostage to this sole superpower although a multi polarity has emerged in the realm of international relations. A cash strapped country like Pakistan can not venture to run an independent foreign policy. The visionary academicians and scholars like Professor Dr. Qibla Ayaz are the ray of hope to retrieve the nation particularly the youth from moral and intellectual degeneration.