Sadiq & Ameen vs Security and Economy

panama papersLet us save the theatrics for the script writers for a moment and admit what appear to be some basic truths. Nawaz Sharif’s family lives a lifestyle that exceeds their reported income. Okay, this is increasingly obvious, but is it really so unexplained? Let’s consider a few other facts:

  1. There are more people on planes at any given moment than people paying their due taxes.
  2. The ‘informal’ economy in Pakistan is nearly as large as the formal economy – around $160 Billion.

Yes, but it’s not our fault, you say. We expect more from our leaders, you say. And we would pay our taxes if we knew our leaders were not pocketing our money, you say.

Really? Okay. Then let’s talk about our leaders. Nawaz goes, who is the sadiq & ameen who will replace him? Asif Zardari? Imran Khan? Don’t make me laugh.

This is why we need Army to take over and clean house, you say. But how clean is Army’s house? Will we see another ‘Panama Papers’ type leak about Gen Musharraf’s unexplained wealth? The worst kept secret in the country is the rampant corruption and looting by Army officers.

Okay, then, so what does this mean? There is no hope? No. I don’t think we have to be so fatalistic. However, I do think that we need to decide what is important. Is it most important to see our political rivals humiliated? This seems to be how we are deciding things now, and what has it earned us? We are a nation that is divided, insecure within our own borders, overwhelmed by religious extremism, all while in a state of economic stagnation. Instead of taking our problems seriously, we have tried to outsource them – first to America, now to China. You take care of our security and economy, we say, while we entertain ourselves with petty political dramas.

This may well be the end for Nawaz Sharif. If he goes, he goes. But what comes next? The same will be repeated with the next, and the next, and the next. We have no intention of changing. And why should we? Are you not amused? After all, surely the Chinese will take care of us….

Where is the national duty to provide security for Pakistani citizens?

Ahsan Iqbal

“Security of Chinese workers is considered as national duty by Pakistani Nation”. This was the statement of Minister for Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal Ahsan Iqbal on Monday. His comment was made after officials confirmed that two Chinese nationals were kidnapped and killed by ISIS in Pakistan.

The statement is not a surprise because there is over $50 billion at stake. It would even be reasonable to say that the economic future of Pakistan is at stake since we have been told that CPEC is the ‘game changer’ necessary to bring our nation out of economic disaster.

However the question must be asked where is the national duty for security of Pakistani citizens? Does it sound like an unfair question? Then why after hundreds of students were killed, instead of securing schools, we gave guns to teachers and told them to ‘you have guns. You fight it out‘?

Pakistani teachers told to defend themselves from militantsWhose nation is this anyway?

 

One month since Sehwan blast and already we have lost plot

Hundreds of innocents killed in a new wave of terrorist attacks, a new military operation announced, and within weeks we have already lost the plot. In just the past few days we have seen Islamabad High Court and Interior Ministry announce possible new social media ban to crack down on alleged problem of ‘blasphemous content’. This was followed by a petition against Zara Hut Kay for daring to question the IHC Judge.

Soon after, some of our so-called ‘journalists’ selectively read an article by former Ambassador Hussain Haqqani about American politicians meeting Russian diplomats and somehow managed to turn it into an admission that he helped capture Osama bin Laden. Only in Pakistan is helping capture the world’s most wanted terrorist considered treason, but this is our reality. However this interpretation doesn’t even match what is in the supposed confession. Haqqani says that he brought a request to Islamabad (which was his job) and that American intelligence agents were operating in Pakistan (this is no revelation or have we forgotten that ISI was working with CIA in Pakistan at the time?). The important line that nobody seems to have read is when Haqqani notes that “the United States kept us officially out of the loop about the operation”. Never mind the facts, though, as PPP grasped at the opportunity to disown their former Ambassador, something they do once a year as part of their desperate attempts to slow their slide into political irrelevance.

Meanwhile, COAS Bajwa has met with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Army has announced new operations will defend Saudi Arabia from cross border attacks. This news has broken only two days after Chinese media reported that Pakistan Army Chief has also promised to protect Chinese workers and investments in Pakistan. It has not been clarified where Pakistani citizens come in the priority, but some are speculating that the current list is:

  1. Chinese investments
  2. Saudi Princes
  3. Kashmir-based ‘freedom fighters’
  4. Cricket tournaments
  5. VVIPs

Operation Raddul Fasaad was launched on 22 February. Less than four weeks later, we find our selves in essentially the same chaotic mess that we have remained leading many to ask if Raddul Fasaad and the national ‘unity’ is anything else but a facade.

Should we care if China uses CPEC to increase trade with India?

When I was growing up there was a boy who lived near us who one day received a very special gift. It was a toy that all of us had wanted, but no one had. It was very expensive and no one’s family had the extra money to buy such a luxury. He was given the gift by an uncle who was visiting from overseas, and it made him the star of the whole neighborhood. Only one condition was given that he had to share the toy with his sister. When the uncle first mentioned this the boy nodded but wasn’t really listening. He was completely entranced by the toy and wasn’t really paying attention. But soon, his father reminded him: Beta, that toy is not just for you. You must let your sister enjoy it, too. The boy’s eyes darkened. No, he thought, this is MINE. After another week had passed, his father told the boy to go and fetch the toy and bring it for his sister to play with. The boy stood still, pretending as if he hadn’t heard. His father repeated and this time the tone was clear: If you do not get the toy now, I will get it myself and give it to her. The boy looked down and turned to go get the toy while his sister stood grinning with pleasure. Soon, he returned. A dark look on his face, and his hands behind his back. His father smiled, ‘Good boy. Now let her play with it some.’ His sister reached out and the boy brought his hands from behind his back. In his palms were the smashed pieces of the toy. He poured them on the ground and turned his back.

I was reminded of this tale when I read today that Senators have been discussing their fears that China may use CPEC to enhance trade with India also! Since day one, CPEC has been predicted to be an economic game changer for Pakistan. It has already provided a much needed boost to investor confidences as well as calming some fears of important international organizations like IMF. Not only this, but it has renewed a sense of hope for the future that was missing since long. CPEC is not an economic miracle, and there are still details to be worked out and concerns to be addressed. But one of those concerns should not be whether or not India gets some benefits from it too! We must stop looking at issues from a ‘zero sum’ strategy where anything good for India is bad for Pakistan. If CPEC is good for Pakistan, that should be our only concern. If someone else benefits too, it does not harm us.