If China is seeking to build soft power around the world, maybe they first need to teach their diplomats to stop acting like viceroys.
On Saturday October 13, the Chinese Deputy Chief of Mission, Lijian Zhao, launched a personal attack on former Ambassador of Pakistan to the United States, Husain Haqqani. Mr Haqqani had tweeted a story from The Times UK that referred to the Chinese repression against Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang and was titled “China demands that Uyghur Muslims eat pork.”
The Chinese Deputy Chief of Mission took affront at the tweet and sent out two personal attacks against the well-known author and former ambassador.
It is interesting that instead of denying the story Mr Zhao preferred to attack the messenger. What is well known is that Mr Zhao previously called himself Muhammad Lijian Zhao dropped ‘Muhammad’ after China banned Muslims names.
While the usual PTI trolls hurled abuse on Mr Haqqani and praised Mr Zhao’s tweets, many Pakistanis objected to a Chinese diplomat attacking a Pakistani citizen over sharing a news story.
Many leading Pakistanis on twitter and others around the world rose up in defense of Amb Haqqani.
Marvi Sirmed, a columnist for Daily Times and human rights activist said,
Leading investigative journalists, Umar Cheema and Ahmad Noorani, who have often disagreed with Mr Haqqani, too rose up to defend him.
Alfons Lopez Tena, a Spanish jurist, had this to say
Just last week we had written about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s trip to Saudi Arabia and whether Pakistan would send troops to Yemen in order to obtain economic assistance ‘Will Imran Send Troops to Yemen to Get $$$ from Saudi.’
This decision was an attempt by Pakistan to diversify the number of countries that are aiding Pakistan and also seek to reduce the huge loans that will incur as part of CPEC. However, Beijing was not consulted before Islamabad made the announcement and China was not pleased, so Pakistan had to reverse this decision.
According to a recent piece in SCMP, Imran Khan’s government is using “CPEC as a bargaining chip in Pakistan’s complicated, ill-managed relationships with other key partners.”
First, Pakistan “reduced the potential value of the CPEC program to US$50 billion by 2030, down from US$62 billion. In one fell swoop, it decided to starve the western overland route from Xinjiang to the Chinese-operated Arabian Sea port of Gwadar of funding.”
Second, Pakistan invited Saudi Arabia to join CPEC and “develop a massive refinery complex at Gwadar.” Beijing “had no idea the Khan administration was seeking to leverage Gwadar to persuade the Saudis to provide Pakistan with oil on a deferred-payment basis, so as to ease the pressure on its forex reserves and reduce the amount it would need to borrow from the IMF.”
According to Tom Hussain, the reason for this policy is “duplicity” Pakistan “is uncomfortable with the prospect of becoming the focal point of an economic confrontation between the US and China that threatens to escalate into a 21st-century cold war. It has also noted that talks are under way to bring India into the fold of the counter-belt-and-road fund recently launched by the US and Japan, and that the European Union has unveiled similar plans to resist China’s economic expansionism. Pakistan’s economic and strategic circumstances simply do not accord it the luxury of taking sides in a stand-off between behemoths, all of which it is beholden to.”
Ironically, Pakistan also faces charges of duplicity from Saudi Arabia for failing to support the Kingdom in its confrontation with Iran.
Naya Pakistan will remain Purana Pakistan unless and until the fundamentals are changed and key among them are the economic fundamentals of our country. According to the latest figures issued by the Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund, Pakistan’s economy is forecast to grow at only 4.8%, whereas the target was 6.2%.
This “sharp deceleration” comes along with a rise in core inflation and current account deficit. According to an Editorial in Dawn “this is the second downward revision of the State Bank’s forecast for economic growth, and the second rise in the forecast for core inflation. Not only that, the current account deficit continued to rise in the first two months of the fiscal year, despite the strong growth in workers’ remittances and exports. In large measure, the difficulties on the external account front are the product of rising oil prices, but equally significantly, they are the result of pressing ahead with a type of growth that the economy was unable to afford. The net result is a decline in foreign reserves by $800m compared to the first two months of the last fiscal year.”
Further, “agriculture sector is now expected to grow at around 3 per cent rate – as against the original target of 3.8 per cent. The industrial output has been projected close to 5.8 per cent against 7.6 per cent original target. The services sector – that contributes nearly 60 per cent in the total national output – may also slowdown to nearly 5.7 per cent.”
If the Finance Minister wants to make a difference, he will need to “not only chart a difficult course into the future,” but persuade “those around him, including his colleagues and stakeholders in the economy, that the bitter pill is the only one on the menu.”
Pakistan ranks low on most indices of press freedom and freedom of expression. As if to reinforce this view of arbitrary injustice, on Monday September 24, the Lahore High Court issued an arrest warrant against well-known journalist and editor of Dawn, Cyril Almeida.
Almeida was accused of treason for a story that he had filed in May of this year in which former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had been quoted speaking out against his country’s handling of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. The court also placed Almeida’s name on the Exit Control List (ECL), preventing him from leaving the country.
In the same judgement the court also summoned both Sharif and his successor as prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, for charges of treason relating to the same article.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan released a statement that it was “greatly perturbed to learn that the Lahore High Court has issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for journalist Cyril Almeida, requiring him to appear at the next hearing of a case seeking action against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on charges of treason.”
Further, the HRCP “termed the court’s decision ‘regrettable’, adding that ‘Mr Almeida, a widely read and highly respected journalist, is being hounded for nothing more than doing his job – speaking on the record to a political figure and reporting the facts. As a law-abiding citizen, Mr Almeida has no reason not to appear before the court as directed. Placing him on the Exit Control List (ECL) and issuing a non-bailable warrant is an excessive measure. ‘The ease with which Mr Almeida’s interview with the former Prime Minister was perceived as an attempt to allegedly defame state institutions, and the pace at which this has spiraled into charges of treason, only serve to further choke press freedom in Pakistan. Journalism – sensible, rational, independent journalism – is not a crime. It most certainly is not treason. HRCP strongly urges the honorable court to give Mr Almeida the opportunity to appear at the scheduled hearing of his own volition and to have his name removed from the ECL immediately.”’