[SATIRE] Nawab Khan receives a visit from Chinese Viceroy

Imran Khan spanked by Chinese ViceroyNawab Imran Khan’s declared plan to shut down the capital unless his demands are met has been responded with severe displeasure by the Board of the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Company (CPEC). On Tuesday, that displeasure was demonstrated in a rare visit from Chinese Viceroy Sun Weidong at Khan’s Bani Gala palace.

The Chinese Viceroy left no room for misinterpretation as he explained that the Board of CPEC would not allow their investment of tens of billions to be threatened by the antics of a minor provincial chief. With a deeply bowed head, Nawab Khan apologised for the misunderstanding and assured the Chinese official that it was all just a bit of fun and “its planned siege of the city was not meant to derail the present government, the system or create chaos in the country.” While some peasants may be thrashed as part of the drama, the Nawab promised the Viceroy “there would absolutely be no threat to the diplomatic corps.”

Having given his assurance that next month’s protest was never intended to be more than a cheap stage drama, Nawab Kahn stood outside his palace and watched the Viceroy’s caravan drive away. “Sir,” his Secretary Shah Mehmood Qureshi began to say. “Shut up!” responded the Nawab. “Get out! All of you get out!”

“Yes, my Lord,” they whispered and left Khan standing alone on the front steps as a light rain began to fall. As they sat drinking tea in silence, they could hear the Nawab unleash a tirade of obscenities in the distance. Qureshi looked up at his colleague Shireen Mazari who met his eye with a mischievous grin.

Pakistan’s $51 Billion Nuclear Gamble

cut off own headFor some people, the current period of tension with India is a gift. Social media activists, media walas, hyper-nationalists, trolls, comedians, and satirists have been handed the premiere topic for getting the prized clicks and re-posts that build careers, and the feeding frenzy has created an instant feedback loop that is quickly spinning out of control. Did India cross the LoC? Did Pakistan capture enemy soldiers? At the most extreme, Defence Minister has openly threatened to unleash a nuclear war.

While the nationalistic chest thumping has the benefit of feeding the patriotic sentiments, there are costs as well. Obviously there are the possible costs of millions of dead in the case of an actual nuclear war, but this remains unlikely. There are other costs, though, which are paid in national reputation and can be measured in purely financial costs.

Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal recently said Pakistan is borrowing an additional $5.5 Billion from China to upgrade and modernise the Karachi-Lahore railway, raising total CPEC financing to over $51 Billion. At the same time, China has publicly called on Pakistan to resolve differences and improve bilateral relations with India through dialogue.

So far, officials in Rawalpindi and Islamabad have ignored China’s call for peaceful resolution through diplomacy, instead choosing to escalate tensions to the point of threatening nuclear war. In effect, officials are making a $51 Billion gamble that China will continue to invest in a country that says it is on the brink of nuclear war.

Good news from CPEC…but is it enough?

CPEC jobSome good news from CPEC which has finally started to pay dividends in the form of economic benefits. At a recent economic summit in Hong Kong, Shaukat Aziz announced that the project has added 6,000 new jobs for Pakistani workers. This is good news, and noting that that statistics are incomplete means that the number could even be higher. However, even though this is good news that should be appreciated, one has to ask whether it is enough.

Institute for Policy Reforms (IPR) released a fact sheet earlier this year that pegged the number of unemployed in the country at approximately 5.3 million. Official government statistics put the number at 3.6 million, but as IPR explains those are probably under-reported. Even if the official numbers are correct, though, it means that so far CPEC has had virtually no immediate impact on employment in Pakistan.

 

Building Pakistan’s Future

Mumtaz Qadri MosqueFew things tell as much about a society than the physical space itself. America’s Statue of Liberty, London’s grand palaces, the pyramids of Egypt, the canals of Amsterdam – each of these gives a glimpse into the heart and soul of the society. In Pakistan, too, our architecture tells our story. You cannot know Pakistan without knowing Lahore Fort, Shalimar Bagh, Islamia College, and Mazar-e-Quaid. Architectural landscapes change along with societies, though, and what we are building today is a glimpse into where we are headed tomorrow.

In Pakistan, the future we are building is usually discussed in terms of transportation infrastructure. Whether the controversial Orange Line Train in Lahore, or game changer CPEC, we are told stories about development that will usher in a bright future for the country. However, these are not the only projects taking place, and they may not even be the most important ones.

Jamia Hafsa, the infamous Lal Masjid madrasseh whose students swore allegiance to Daesh, has been granted 20 kanals plot in Sector H 11-4 Islamabad for construction of new facilities.

Across the capital, Faisal Mosque is getting competition from a newer construction – the mosque built to honour the convicted murderer Mumtaz Qadri. This mosque has proven so popular that it has raised funds to double its size.

Religious extremists are not the only ones expanding their space in the country. There has also been an rapid growth of building by DHA, one of the Army’s construction companies. DHA has even spread outside of its usual areas, announcing new developments in Balochistan also.

While religious extremists and the military expand their presence across the architectural landscape of the nation, secular political offices are being bulldozed. This is not a defence of Altaf Hussain, but nobody suggested bulldozing PMA Kakul when a COAS was charged with treason.

Projects like Orange Line Train and CPEC will make it easier to travel and transport both in major urban areas and across the nation. But it is what is being built for people to travel to that that will define our future.

Decline in FDI a reflection of world’s faith in Army?

Corps CommandersForeign Direct Investment (FDI) appears to be in free fall, down over 14 pc. Even inflows from China, supposedly our great hope, are dragging.This is serious economic crisis as the FDI has been falling for years. During the previous cycle, FDI declined by 58 pc. That this negative trend is continuing even after the $46 billion CPEC agreement was signed is extremely worrying, especially since Chinese investments are also declining. All signs point to global investors seeing Pakistan as a risk not worth taking. The question we must be asking is why?

Sticking to his script, Imran Khan has blamed corruption, particularly referring to the Sharifs involvement in the Panama Papers scandal. However, the PTI chief may be half-right. Fears of corruption may be a factor, but it is not likely to be because of the Sharifs simply because they have faced corruption charges since long before coming to power in 2013. Any investors would have been able to factor the costs of doing business with the Sharifs. What is it then? It could be the Army.

Earlier this year, Gen Raheel removed six Army officers including 2 generals for corruption. This was actually not a surprise. Recently, Auditor General of Pakistan discovered billions being lost to corruption in the defence sector. Last year, 81 officers were found guilty of stealing billions more. Former COAS Gen Musharraf is well known to have billions in unaccounted for funds, and now his replacement former COAS Gen Kayani is finding his family embroiled in another corruption scandal along with other former senior military officers.

A corruption investigation has looked into senior retired officers, including relatives of the army’s former chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who for many years was the most powerful figure in the country.

Also under examination are three former managers of the Defence Housing Authority (DHA), a wing of the army that builds developments to house senior retired officers and also makes enormous profits selling homes to civilians.

Army has usurped more and more power in the country. While carefully avoiding a coup, the military has been placing its own men in civilian positions, and working to seize control of CPEC, the most important economic project the country has even seen. Admitting this, how can we ignore the frightening possibility that growing unwillingness of global investors to do business in Pakistan is a direct reflection of their lack of faith in a state that is being controlled behind the scenes by the military establishment?

Army has expanded its reach into every corner of the state, and is now the single most powerful institution not only in national security but the economy also. As the saying goes, “with great power comes great responsibility”. If the Army wants the power to dictate the country’s terms, it has to take responsibility for the country’s failures.