Articles Regarding Pakistan

CPEC – What next?: 16 January, 2019 "The Nation"

Is CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) controversial? Well, while the endeavour is crucial to Pakistan’s economic future, there is no denying the fact that there are a lot of concerns on certain aspects of CPEC, especially in context of its potential to erode Pakistan’s home industry. As the time to develop or fill-up the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) nears, Pakistani businesses are becoming increasingly nervous about the type of Chinese investment/industry that will actually be located in these zones. Their fear is that unless the in-coming Chinese manufacturers are somehow restricted to only export their produce (from these SEZs) to China or the global markets, the goods will invariably find their way in our domestic market, thereby further aiding the process of de-industrialisation currently at play in Pakistan! And this notwithstanding the fact that there already exists a danger of leakages (to the Pakistani markets) from a large quantum (as much as $400 billion ultimately) of Chinese goods that will in future be regularly transported through this corridor to the Gwadar port – similar devastating effects from the Afghan Transit Trade (ATT), still reverberate through the minds of the local manufacturers!

Since CPEC perhaps holds a far greater (political & security) significance for Pakistan than mere corporate numbers, it will be difficult for us to out rightly dictate our economic terms or preferences to the Chinese. So the question then arises that where lies the solution and how do we ensure that CPEC projects do not hurt Pakistan’s external account in the long run? The good news is that the new facts emerging from Asia, Africa and Europe tend to somewhat to demystify the OBOR (One Belt One Road) Initiative. As countries and corporates become smarter in engaging cum partnering Chinese initiatives, the resultant benefits also become broader and not merely restricted to China. Also, as new more informed working relationships emerge, more and more countries that partner China in the OBOR initiative become increasingly assertive in finding a mutual win-win formula in the downstream OBOR (which includes CPEC) projects’ outlays. Though currently the major partnerships that the Chinese companies have entered into are mostly with the leading global multinationals (MNCs), it is the respective governments of those MNCs that have in-turn gone on to ensure that their MNCs in-turn engage their home’s small and medium sized enterprises by making them a significant part of their supply chain network. For instance, Munich-based engineering and electronic giant, Siemens AG, is one such example where it has more than 32,000 employees working in numerous joint ventures with the Chinese. The German government in-turn has structured incentives and tax breaks for companies like Siemens in a way that not only promotes employment generation for Germans, but also connects the German SME sector (Mittelstadt) right into the supply-chain of implementing the mega projects that Siemens is doing with the Chinese.

According to the OBOR sources, EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) contracts bagged by Chinese companies in partnership with foreign companies (not necessarily MNCs) have already exceeded $125 billion. Ironically, in Pakistan, the entire EPC chain of all new wind power projects in Pakistan have gone the American way with GE (General Electric) teaming up with Power Construction Corporation of China (PCCC) – We foot the bill through obtaining a loan from China, but the business in return goes to non-Pakistani companies! GE is working on 10 such projects in Pakistan with PCCC. Honeywell International is yet another example of a large American manufacturing and technology conglomerate that regularly partners Chinese corporations in OBOR projects to supply automation products for infrastructure and energy sector, all made in the USA and creating American jobs & exports.

The thing is that no country can today really afford to be outside the OBOR loop. According to the studies conducted by the Mercator Institute of China, OBOR countries and regions account for about 30 percent of the global economy. As per the figures released by the China Development Bank, projects worth $900 billion are today either under way or in the pipeline under the OBOR. The numbers go on, as the China’s law ministry reveals that Chinese companies together with their foreign partners have pledged to pour another $350 billion into the OBOR projects by 2023. So clearly the non-Chinese companies are not only partnering the Chinese in the OBOR initiative, but also significantly gaining from it by teaming up with the Chinese companies. Likewise, if Pakistan also wants to be a part of the global corporate world, then either restricting or not going forward with the CPEC (or OBOR) is not really an option.

The challenge, however, lies in building this connectivity of the Pakistani companies with their Chinese counterparts in the upcoming projects in the SEZs, and it is here that the role of the Pakistani Government will be crucial over the next 5 years. It needs to ensure that by policy formulation, both on outright protection at places and through incentives at others, the new industry that emerges in the SEZs under the CPEC umbrella not only creates jobs for Pakistanis and supplements Pakistani exports, but also that the development tangibly connects Pakistani companies with their Chinese counterparts in way that transitions them into global players. And it is in this very context that one was so happy to see a national icon, Descon, win the contract for building the Mohmand Dam in partnership with a Chinese Corporation, CGGC (China Gezhouba Group Corporation), only if the conflict-of-interest concern could have been addressed properly!

Bangladesh: Hasina becomes a dictator: 16 January, 2019 "The Nation"

The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed has won landslide victory in the recently-held parliamentary elections in Bangladesh. This Awami League-led Grand Alliance bagged 288 out of the 298 parliamentary seats up for grabs. Surprisingly, Jatiya Oikya Front, the main opposition alliance led by the Bangladesh Nationalist Pakistan (BNP) could win only 7 seats. So, the opposition alliance has rejected the election results accusing the government of orchestrating vote rigging and ballot stuffing. The opposition parties have also complained that they have been denied a level playing field during the campaigning, with mass arrests of their workers and attacks on their candidates by the ruling party workers. Deadly clashes also marred these elections as at least 17 people were killed in election-related violence on polling day. Pointing out a number of electoral irregularities, the media and international observers have expressed some concerns over the credibility and transparency of these elections. There have also been reports about unnecessary delays in issuing visas to international monitors and press freedom groups by the Bangladesh authorities, hampering efforts to independently monitor these polls.

The United Nations and the European Union have called for an independent and impartial investigation into the accusations of violence and voting irregularities. In fact, the 2014 parliamentary elections in Bangladesh were also controversial. They were largely shunned by international observers for being “unfair” and an “electoral farce”. The 18-party opposition alliance led by BNP formally boycotted these elections. Thus, more than half the seats had remained uncontested. The opposition parties had called for the government to resign so that a non-partisan interim administration could hold free and fair elections. It was rather a reasonable demand in view of the prevailing political culture in the country. Following these elections, the government launched a massive crackdown on the opposition. BNP leader Khaleda Zia was also put under house arrest.

The latest election victory marks Sheikh Hasina’s third consecutive and overall fourth term as Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Now she has become the longest-serving leader of the country. She is also the undisputed leader of Awami league (AL), the country’s largest political party. She has constantly been consolidating her political position since being elected as the premier of Bangladesh in 2009. During this period, she has tended to wield absolute powers after establishing an autocratic and authoritarian government. That’s why her critics usually call her an “elected dictator”. They accuse her of transforming Bangladesh into a “single-party state” through political repression and persecution. Over a period of time, she has succeeded in eliminating her political opponents and dissidents. There have been a large number of enforced disappearances and political assassinations in Bangladesh during this period. Some politicians were also jailed or hanged. Besides this, a number of media laws, generally dubbed as “black laws”, were enacted and enforced to suppress political dissidence and free speech in the country. She also scrapped a constitutional amendment in 2011 putting an end to the practice of forming an interim/caretaker administration to ensure fair and transparent elections in the country.

The bitter political rivalry between Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina and BNP leader Khaleda Zia has poisoned Bangladeshi politics for nearly three decades. These “Battling Begums of Bangladesh” just gave rise to a sort of zero-sum political culture in the country. However, Sheikh Hasina somehow succeeded in making her arch-rival politically ineffective and irrelevant after coming into power in 2009. She resorted to typical tools of power politics to suppress her political opponents. Consequently, BNP and its allies could secure only seven seats in the recently-held elections. Khalida Zia was sentenced to 7 years in prison after being convicted twice last year on what BNP describe as trumped-up corruption charges. Similarly, her exiled son and political heir apparent, Tarique Rehman, was also awarded life imprisonment by a Bangladesh court over a 2004 attack on Sheikh Hasina’s rally in Dhaka.

Sheikh Hasina’s government has also introduced some draconian media laws, known as “black laws”, to curb free speech and rein in press freedom in the country during the last few years. It toughened the controversial Information and Communication Technology Act (ICT), increasing the maximum jail term from 10 years to 14 years, and eliminating need for arrest warrants. A Human Rights Watch report reveals that scores of people have been arrested in Bangladesh over the past five years under the ICT for criticizing the government and political leaders on Social Media. In the name of combating cybercrimes and preserving the country’s ideology and national unity, the government also enacted the Digital Security Act (DSA) last year. The DSA contains provisions to give heavy jail sentences for secretly recording government officials and spreading “negative propaganda” about the country’s “liberation war” or about the “father of the nation” Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. This law unnecessarily restricts the freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Moreover, this law is also in conflict with the principles of the right to information, which ensure accountability of state institutions, public officials, and elected representatives. International rights bodies, journalists and opposition leaders in Bangladesh have been critical of these draconian laws.

Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Bangladesh has been another political rival of Awami League. This Islamist political party strongly opposed the break-up of Pakistan to create Bangladesh in 1971. Therefore, after the ‘independence’ of Bangladesh, Awami League government banned Jamaat-e-Islami from political participation and its leaders went into exile in Pakistan. Considering it a potential hurdle in way of her self-styled modernisation and pro-Indian policies, Hasina-led Awami League government has also perused a witch-hunt against Jamaat-e-Islami to eliminate it from Bangladesh. This government formed an “International Crimes Tribunal (ICT)” in 2009 to prosecute and punish individuals involved in “war crimes” during the “1971 Bangladesh Liberation War”. This tribunal has awarded death sentences to 9 JI leaders and 2 BNP leaders. So, prominent JI Bangladesh leaders like Abdul Kalam Azad, Abdul Kader Mullah, Motiur Rahman Nizami, Mir Qausem Ali have been hanged in Bangladesh since late 2013. In 1974, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh signed a tripartite agreement to normalize their relations through reconciliation by ending their post-war mutual confrontation. Under this agreement, pledging to ‘forgive and forget the past mistakes’, Bangladesh government undertook not to try the prisoners of war as an act of clemency. Therefore, it is a blatant violation of this tripartite agreement as Hasina’s government has just chosen to establish an ICT for war crime trials after more than 40 years.

Bangladesh, during Hasina’s premiership, developed close diplomatic, economic, military and strategic relations with India. Both countries also peacefully resolved their longstanding boundary disputes. In fact, some geographic and strategic factors compel ‘India-locked’ Bangladesh to make peace with its South Asian neighbour. Historically, Awami League has been having good ties with India. It is also a historical fact that India played an instrumental role in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 by supporting various separatist elements in the erstwhile East Pakistan. Inspired and influenced by India, the founding father of Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rehman also tried to make Bangladesh a secular state. Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina is currently enjoying full Indian confidence and support. She certainly has used this foreign leverage to consolidate her political position domestically. Bangladesh’s military is also considered a major player in the country’s politics. However, it has been staying on the sidelines since its latest ‘political experiment’ in the form of provisional government eventually failed in 2008. This caretaker government could not achieve its primary objective of ridding Bangladesh of ‘corrupt politicians’. So, the civil-military balance has tilted in favour of Sheikh Hasina making her the formidable leader of the country.

The supporters of Hasina attribute her political success largely to her vibrant economic policies whereby Bangladesh’s economy has steadily been growing by more than 6% annually since 2009. Her opponents, however, see some fascist tactics behind her rise to power. Notwithstanding these contradictory claims, we have observed Bangladesh being transformed into a totalitarian state under Hasina’s authoritarian rule where there is hardly anything like the opposition. And where there are curbs on the free speech. The opposition and a free press are indispensable for a democracy to function effectively and smoothly. Similarly, two or more vibrant political parties are always needed to successfully run a country with a parliamentary system of government like Bangladesh. I am afraid Sheikh Hasina’s autocratic and dictatorial tendencies would eventually lead Bangladesh to a political cul-de-sac.

Turkey after 2023: What should be Pakistan’s Foreign Policy: 16 January, 2019 "Daily Times"

John Keynes, 1919 in his book “Economic Consequences of Peace” argued that “Treaty of Versilia” was designed to ruin Germany. Keynes, proved right, as Germany after some time hit back and World War-II was started.

Turkey was another victim of World War-I and was compelled to accept “Treaty of Lausanne”. Turkey had to withdraw from many territories, especially energy areas. The country also had to accept many obligations which were against its economic interests and proved to be hurdles in development. Turkey was not allowed to go for its’ energy resources and even could not charge any fee for Bosphorus Strait traffic. This impacted Turkey heavily and Turkey had to rely on imported energy, which increased its import bill. Turkey was also deprived of the good revenue from Bosphorus strait.

However, Turkey kept its cool and waited for 2023, for the end of the treaty. Turkey is now gearing towards the old dream and its realization to capitalize on it after the 2023 era. President Erdogan has signaled to reshape the region and to looks to regain the lost glory. He is trying to create a phenomenon which can be culminated into success for achieving lost glory. Furthermore, Turkey also has developed two other visions after 2023, the vision of 2053 and 2071. These two have been selected by keeping in mind the two major breakthroughs of the past, 2053 celebrates the victory of Istanbul and 2071 is to celebrate 1000 years of the decisive victory of Seljuk Turks.

Turkey’s ambition will give impetus to a new wave of realignments in the Middle East, North Africa and other regions. Middle East at the moment has two major rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both countries also enjoy substantial influence across the world within Muslim countries. Turkey will emerge as a new one but with different characteristics. Turkey is a relatively advanced country with a diverse economy compared to Saudi Arabia and Iran. It is the exporter of many products including electronics, defence equipment etc. It is also one of the major hubs of connectivity for passengers and energy transportation. More importantly its economy is not reliant on only energy resources.

Turkey’s ambition will give impetus to a new wave of realignments in the Middle East, North Africa and other regions. Middle East at the moment has two major rivals, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Both countries also enjoy substantial influence across the world within Muslim countries. Turkey will emerge as a new one but with different characteristics

However, the end of Lausanne treaty will introduce energy sector in its’ economy. It is expected that Turkey will actively strike to explore its energy resources and may will become a player in the market. Turkey is already eyeing natural gas resources in the eastern Mediterranean, which are believed to about 3 trillion dollar’s worth. Although there is a conflict regarding claims which has been made from other countries.

These are all factors which will lead to redefining the engagement of Turkey with other countries and other countries with Turkey. Pakistan will not be an exception. Pakistan will be in a very complicated situation. On one side, Pakistan has a very close relationship with Saudi Arabia and Turkey, who have hit a bit of a rough patch after the killing of Jamal. President Erdogan openly criticized Prince Salman. Although Pakistan avoided the situation this time but next time, there maybe may be a different and difficult situation. Pakistan also enjoys a good relationship with European countries and the United Kingdom but recently Turkey has developed differences with them as well. There is a possibility that after the end of 2023, there will be a Bosphorus issue. It will also be a very tricky situation and Pakistan will take a position.

Thus, Pakistan should look into its engagement policies in the context of Turkey and its friends across the world. Although Pakistan and Turkey enjoy very close and brotherly relations but the changing dynamics will introduce new areas to be addressed by both countries.

Pakistan can start by devising a new framework for international engagement in the area of security, economic, defence and peace. Quaid’s words and idea can be the starting point, when he said, we want good friendly and peaceful relations with other countries. Rather than taking sides, Pakistan should develop a list of principles for supporting any initiatives or actions of the countries. These principles must be based on the moral and ethical values not self-liking or disliking. Pakistan already observed this policy in the case of Yemen and Syria, as Pakistan remained out of the conflict and did not take sides. It will help Pakistan to avoid any pressure from its allies and friends.

Also, we need to devise our economic policy and engagements in such a way that they are immune to conflict in coming days. Example can be taken from the Saudi and Canadian engagement in the energy sector. After the recent spat between the two countries energy sector engagements remain intact. We should tell our friends and brothers that economic engagements should be built without any reference to other areas.

To engage with Turkey in bilateral relations, Pakistan will have to come up with new ideas and skills. During the Prime Minister’s visit it was highlighted that both countries have a trade potential of 5 billion US dollars but right now the volume of trade is only 500 million US dollars. However, analysis shows that Pakistan never seriously worked to enhance its trade and products. Pakistan is offering products which do not have a market in Turkey. There is a need to study the Turkish market and then devise a policy.

Prime Minister Imran Khan and President Erdogan also agreed to develop a strategic framework for enhancing trade and investment. Pakistan must grab this opportunity by dividing its plan in two phases, pre-2023 era and post 2023 era. Moreover, Pakistan should try to understand the market of Turkey and look for commodities which can be exported.

Finally, Pakistan should invest in developing long term policies and a scenario for the future. New instruments of diplomacy must also be applied like digital space etc. In the absence of these timely measures Pakistan will not be able to tackle dynamics of foreign and economic policies, after 10 or 20 years. It is a good sign that the Foreign Office of Pakistan has formulated a group for the formulation of foreign policy and economic engagements for Pakistan, but we will have to wait to see how this group delivers or the government lets them deliver.

Future Water Wars: 16 January, 2019 "Daily Times"

Once Benjamin Franklin said,”You will learn the worth of water when the well dries.”A new paper paints a disturbing picture of a nearby future where people are fighting over access to water. These post-apocalyptic-sounding “water wars” could rise as a result of climate change and population growth and could become real soon enough if we don’t take steps to prevent them.

The study, which comes from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC), says that the effects of climate change will be combined with an ever-increasing number of people to trigger intense competition for increasingly scarce resources. This can lead to regional instability and social unrest.

Future water wars cannot be neglected. Approximately, eight hundred million people are lacking clean drinking water around the globe.

As droughts and crises multiply, academics have begun grappling with the darker question of whether such shortages will push citizens – and even countries – into hostile factions of water-rich and water-poor. By mid-century, some of the world’s most populous, troubled regions are predicted to be dangerously water-scarce, including southern and central Asia, the Middle East and northeast Africa.

Tensions are rising as shortages intensify, says Zeitoun, noting simmering water conflicts along the Tigris and Brahmaputra, and intra-state conflicts in China’s Yellow Basin and the Basra region of Iraq. Two Pakistani provinces, Punjab and Sindh – the last in the line for the Indus water before it reaches the sea – are routinely at odds over water. In Sindh, many fishers and farmers reliant on the rapidly declining delta ecosystem have simply given up and fled to cities – water refugees. In Darfur, where rainfall is down 30 per cent over 40 years, evaporating water holes and disappearing pasture helped push farmers and herders into civil war.

The Indus River is the primary source of freshwater for most of Pakistan. Pakistan is one of the fastest-growing nations in the world. It had a population of 210million now. The country is grappling with the same sorts of growing pains that its neighbour, India, is experiencing. The year 2025 has been marked as the year when Pakistan – if it doesn’t mend its ways soon – will turn from a “water-stressed” country to a “water-scarce” country

But Pakistan has an extraordinary problem looming on the horizon: water scarcity, which has devastated other countries in the sub-tropics in the past decade, is now quite real. And a solution to the crisis is not entirely within the country’s control.

The year 2025 has been marked as the year when Pakistan – if it doesn’t mend its ways soon – will turn from a “water-stressed” country to a “water-scarce” country

An IPCC special report on climate change adaptation says that at least a billion people in sub-tropical regions of the world like Pakistan, India, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Somalia will face increasing water scarcity.

Glacier melting is responsible for roughly half of the water flowing in the Indus, making the situation worse.

“Given the rapid melting of the Himalayan glaciers that feed the Indus River… and growing tensions with upriver archenemy India about use of the river’s tributaries, it’s unlikely that Pakistani food production will long keep pace with the growing population,” says Steven Solomon, writer Of Water The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilisation. He also tells that the Middle East would be the first region to confront the issue and which actually apparent as of now Yemen, wrote in The New York Times.

Just as we’ve seen in Yemen-where water riots ripped the country apart and led to a civil war that has destabilized the country in the midst of political chaos-wealthy, politically connected landowners in Pakistan have also been accused of siphoning off far more than their fair share of freshwater in upriver Punjab. There have been water riots over lack of water and electricity in Karachi.

“The future looks grim,” Solomon concludes. “Eventually, flows of the Indus are expected to decrease as global warming causes the Himalayan glaciers to retreat, while monsoons will get more intense. Terrifyingly, Pakistan only has the capacity to hold 30-day reserve storage of water as a buffer against drought.”

But experts believe that India’s efforts to dam up the Indus could ultimately destroy Pakistan’s ability to feed its population.

If both countries collaborated on a series of giant, large-scale dams that were built to rotate water use to different regions, tensions could be reduced. More than 700 billion gallons of water are pulled from the Indus River every year to grow this cotton.

“Pakistan’s entire economy is driven by the textile industry,” says Michael Kugelman, a South Asia expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “The problem with Pakistan’s economy is that most of the major industries use a ton of water-textiles, sugar, wheat-and there’s a tremendous amount of water that’s not only used, but wasted.”

Water crisis in Pakistan and overall the world has become adverse than never before. All this should serve as a clarion call to our leaders who are busy in power politics and political squabbling. If the incumbent leadership does not build an adequate number of small and large dams, the country will face recurrent drought and threatening floods in the future. Be it climate-change, limited storage capacity, trans-boundary dispute or mismanagement of water; government entities ostensibly lack co-ordination to tackle issue of water wars.

At the end, construction of reservoirs,using advanced telemetry, raising height of existing dams to increase capacity, using advanced technologies e.g. drip farming for water conservation, strengthening the role of UN with constitutional and international law amendments, national policy reviews are a few ways to counter this emergency with practical futuristic approach.

Catalyst for growth: 16 January, 2019 "The News"

While the world is embracing the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), Pakistan is gearing up for the industrial development entailed in the upcoming phase of CPEC. The envisaged development of new industries through joint ventures and the relocation of industries from abroad promises enormous opportunities to our youth, bringing home exciting possibilities in the maritime, agriculture, services and manufacturing sectors.

However, the importance of building industry-academia linkages and promoting research and development activities for economic uplift cannot be overemphasised. Intensive interactions between companies and academic institutions, including universities and research institutes, bring together different expertise from different innovators that are often considered to be advantageous for innovation performance and sustaining economic growth.

It is, therefore, imperative that our vocational training centres and academic institutions are able to provide efficient and skilled manpower required to shoulder the task of transforming Pakistan into the future industrial and trans-shipment hub of the region. Similarly, it is vital at this important juncture that the youth understand and take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to them.

In a recent study commissioned by the Centre of Excellence on CPEC on the employment trends (Employment Outlook of CPEC, 2018), it stated that CPEC has added over 75,000 jobs to the economy since the beginning of 2013. By the end of 2018, 67 percent of the workforce in energy projects were Pakistanis and while 75 percent of workers in infrastructure projects were from Pakistan.

In the near term, the hiring outlook is expected to remain upwards, predicting that most employment will be in the manufacturing, energy, finance, trade, maritime (including fishery industry), oil and gas sectors, increasing to another 1.2 million jobs by 2030. In this regard, the early establishment of CPEC special economic zones (SEZs) is key for employment-generation.

In the industrial cooperation phase and with the start of the ML-1 project, it is believed that the requirement of a skilled workforce – like accountants, surveyors, project managers, business developers, engineers, heavy machinery operators, pilots/tug operators, port operators, railway engineers, business process managers, construction managers, automotive engineers, quality and safety specialists, tourism operators and foreman/supervisors – will increase manifold.

Industrial development is likely to take place in two stages. In the initial stage, it is expected that the SEZs will be occupied by labour-intensive industries where human resources with limited skills will be employed. This will then be replaced with modern high-tech industries that will require workers to possess a combination of high-tech skills, stamina, multi-language proficiency, and a degree/ diploma.

While there may be a shortage of skilled labour for the expected industrial relocation in the SEZs, it is also an opportunity that individuals seeking employment should exploit the opportunity and brace themselves accordingly with required expertise and skills. In the not-so-distant future, new technologies will transform the business landscape and job market. The younger generation, therefore, needs to focus on understanding technology, culture and skills to undertake the task.

In a discussion on future employment trends during last year’s Boao Forum for Asia, which I happened to attend, panellists predicted that a large number of jobs in manufacturing and finance are likely to be squeezed through with 4IR. Therefore, as we prepare for the industrial development in the short term, it is equally important that we mould our education system in the long term to equip our human resources with the knowledge and skills needed to thrive in a fast-transforming international job market.

In the next 10 years, Pakistan has the potential to be a land of opportunities – as China was in the early 1980s – with new enterprises and business leaders taking over the helm of a modern, confident and strong Pakistan. All we have to do is harness the potential of our youth and promote skills development, which is vital at this stage to achieve high-productivity growth.

For this to happen, Pakistan can emulate Chinese development programmers focused on industrial technology research and adopt a major focus on developing modern vocational education and training (VET). Over the past four decades, China has developed the largest VET system in the world that focuses on promoting research and development (R&D) and provides students with a broad-based education designed to prepare them with additional skills to face latest technological challenges.

Students and academia need to remain abreast with latest trends and learn to use artificial intelligence to make decisions. Jack Ma, the founder of Ali Baba, believes that in the future there will be competition over creativity rather than knowledge. We need to have an education system that pays attention to quality; promotes creativity; and develops abilities, such as quick problem-solving, teamwork and critical-thinking.

The success of CPEC and the industrial development that it includes depends on the productivity of our workforce. This depends on a dramatic improvement in our education system. The complete dividends of CPEC can be yielded best when we are able to develop strong academia-industry linkages, promote R&D, and give way to creativity and innovation.

Planning for the ‘real’ Pakistan: 16 January, 2019 "Business Recorder"

Did we ever try to find out the reasons why the very first five-year plan authored by Pakistan succeeded in South Korea but failed miserably in Pakistan? There is, of course, no authentic work identifying the reasons that actually contributed to the plan’s failure in one country and its success in the other. 

Not only that. Since the mid-1980s successive governments in Pakistan have been promising to emulate the Asian Tigers but could never accomplish the miracle. The most favourite of our ruling elite among the pack of Asian Tigers have been South Korea and Malaysia. Mahathir’s Malaysia has once again become one of the countries that we would like to emulate besides Hong Kong and Singapore. But China takes the cake. Since about the late 1990s when Deng Xiaoping’s reforms started bearing fruit in mainland China, successive governments in Islamabad have been talking about turning Pakistan into a virtual China. 

Remodeling Pakistan on the lines of any of the economically highly successful countries of the day has always been our ruling elite‘s favourite mantra. Even most of us in the media as well would occasionally write articles wondering why Pakistan cannot be a Malaysia, a Hong Kong, a South Korea, a China, a Turkey or any of the other such successful economies. 

What we always ignore while talking about emulating an economically successful country of the day is the political, social, cultural and economic peculiarities of Pakistan which set it apart in a lot of meaningful ways from countries that we look upon to copy. 

This is not to say that Pakistan is condemned to permanent backwardness because of these peculiarities. What is being attempted here is to show that with these peculiarities it cannot become any of the countries we wish to emulate but can still strike out its own peculiar path to progress and prosperity. 

But then to achieve the desired success on this front not only do we need to recognize these peculiarities but we need also to accept them as such and own them without any reservations. This is the only way we can achieve unity out of these peculiar diversities in the federation. 

Pakistan is a federation composed of four distinct units plus two additional ones, which are still out of the purview of our constitution. Each of these units has its own distinct features. Each is ethnically different from the rest and each has its own distinct mother tongue. Our national language, Urdu, is not the mother tongue of our nation. The language of our rulers is English (official language) while it is not the lingua franca of the ruled. Culturally too, these units differ from each other in many ways. 

One of the federating units is larger population-wise than the rest of the three units put together. Economically this unit is relatively richer and more advanced than the other three units. Another unit size-wise is larger than all the other units put together but it is poorest of the four and relatively less advanced. 

Of course, majority of the population inhabiting these units is made up of followers of Islam. But then in this context as well Pakistan is five countries in one. Part of it is Saudi Arabia, part Iran, part Turkey, part Afghanistan and part India. Adding to the peculiarities is the ongoing tug of war among various schools of Islamic thought. 

The majority of Pakistanis belongs to the Sunni school of thought. Those who subscribe to the Shia school of thought are also in good numbers. It is because of these diversities in our society that our successive governments have failed to redesign Pakistan’s economy on the lines that had led to the success of all those countries we had wanted to emulate. 

And it is because of the failure of our ruling elite to recognize these diversities and accept them as such that those who have been ruling this country since independence have continued to keep looking at Pakistan as a unitary state made up of one unified Muslim nation. That is why all our socio-economic plans, short-or medium-term, were designed for such a country all through the last 71 years and not for one with all its inherent peculiarities and diversities. 

Obviously, we cannot turn the clock back to correct our mistake, if it was really a mistake to view Pakistan as a unitary state or perhaps a federation of a nation having a single culture, single language and single ethnicity. Instead it is to the future that we should be looking at now; asking ourselves some searching questions about the kind of state Pakistan is in reality. Answers to these questions would perhaps allow us to come out of our denial mode, if it was really a denial mode that we were in all these 71 years and start looking at Pakistan for what it really is. 

Of course, there are a number of countries in the world that possess more challenging diversities than does Pakistan. In Asia, we have India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China in the same class. India is perhaps one country with the most diversities and peculiarities. It is more complex than the other three. China being a one-Party socialist country it has managed to dissolve its diversities into a crucible, to a large extent. India, on the other hand has managed these diversities and peculiarities by recognizing and accepting them as such very early in the day; and then it has used liberal democracy to allow all its states to develop on their own, each using its comparative socio-economic and cultural advantages. 

Pakistan too can overcome its diversity challenges and strike out a path to a unified progress by first incorporating in its letter and spirit the 18th Constitutional amendment. 

However, some influential elements in the country which seem to be still suffering from the colonial mindset believe that giving political and financial autonomy to provinces which they believe are not yet capable of shouldering increased responsibilities would lead to financial chaos, economic instability and wastage of limited resources. Some of these elements seem to even believe that ‘granting’ full autonomy to the provinces would eventually lead to disintegration of the country. 

These elements perhaps fear that the smaller provinces would use the 18th Amendment to drift away from the federation, not realizing that it was because they were being ruled all these years as colonies from Islamabad, negating the spirit of federalism that the three smaller provinces today seem to be suffering from a massive dose of disillusionment with the federation itself. And that is also why East Pakistan is Bangladesh today. 

The reluctance of these elements and the apprehensions of influential political elements have made it almost impossible to draft and pass in time, relevant subordinate legislations both in parliament and the respective provincial assemblies which is making it almost impossible to move ahead on the game-changing constitutional reform. 

The 18th Amendment renders redundant a number of federal ministries while increasing the administrative responsibilities of the provinces in equal measure. But the federal government is yet to abolish the redundant ministries and the provinces are yet to receive the powers that the amendment has mandated. 

It is only when we liberate the provinces from the colonial clutches of the Centre and the local governments from the control of the provincial head-quarters that would we be able to unleash the creative forces in each of the six federating units which in turn would surely lead Pakistan on to the path of socio-economic progress and prosperity.