Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What Pakistan's Decision to Pull Out of a Mega Dam Project Tells Us About the Future of CPEC

About a month ago, Pakistan withdrew its request to include the $14-billion Diamer-Bhasha Dam in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project citing strict monetary conditions on Beijing’s part as being against the country’s national interests. The fact that an energy-starved country like Pakistan has pulled out of a dam project that it has not been able to complete on its own for years is significant.
While the exclusion of a single major project doesn’t mean that the whole infrastructure scheme between the two countries is in danger, observers warn that Beijing’s strict monetary conditions have landed the future of Pakistan’s whole economy in a tight spot.  The whole process of Chinese-funded projects has not been transparent. There are alarming reports about the levels of debt these secret dealings will impose on Pakistan.
Michael Kugelman, the deputy director of the South Asia program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, believes that there is a growing realization among the policymakers in Islamabad that the long-term financial implications of a number of deals made under the CPEC are troubling for the country. “The debt repayment terms are not transparent and are difficult for outside analysts to access, but what seems clear is that Pakistan has put itself in a position where it will need to put very large amounts of money into debt servicing in the coming years. For an economy as fragile as Pakistan’s, that’s an undesirable and perhaps evens an untenable proposition,” says Kugelman.
Apparently, the government in Pakistan is not interested in making the details of such dealings public, for it might generate serious controversy about how agreed upom financial terms are likely to pose a threat to Pakistan’s sovereignty in the long run. Practically, Islamabad’s emerging economic model is becoming dependent on China. However, at the same time, the country doesn’t have any other viable economic plans to revive its choked economy and domestic financial base. Over the last few years, Pakistan approached economic collapse on several occasions with China offering life-saving support to the country’s economy.
If Beijing continues to push with its aggressive monetary conditions, it’s likely that in the coming years, Islamabad may cancel more projects which do not bode well for the overall commercial viability of the project. “A one-off incident of Pakistan backing away is not so serious, but if we start to see multiple cases of Pakistan walking away, then the very viability of CPEC could come into question. Given the astronomical level of importance that Pakistan and China have placed in CPEC, any suggestion that the project may not see itself through is cause for alarm,” suggests Kugelman.
It’s unlikely that China will make any trade or monetary concessions to Pakistan that involve Beijing losing financial benefits with such mega infrastructure deals. China has aggressively pushed Pakistan toward accepting conditions that offer the former more leverage than the latter. The evidence in this regard is overwhelming: Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping, Mir Hasil Bizenjo, recently advised the Senate that 91 percent of revenues generated by Gwadar port as part of CPEC will flow out to China, with Beijing virtually controlling all projects. Moreover, there are indications that the project is not likely to produce as many jobs for local Pakistanis as previously anticipated.
Clearly, there are signs that both countries have developed differences over the issue of who stands to benefit strategically from the project in the long run. Seth Oldmixon, a public affairs consultant and the founder of Liberty South Asia, contends that concerns in Islamabad’s ruling circles in this respect are acutely serious: “There appears to be a realization among Pakistani decision makers that many of the deals are lopsided to the point of being exploitative.” Kugelman agrees: “The fact that Pakistan has backed away from several projects — coupled with the fact that China has itself backed away from a few projects — is significant in that it highlights that for all the heady talk and soaring rhetoric about CPEC and its successes, there are some significant constraints that need to be worked out.”
There have also been other difficulties. The Chinese are worried about the presence of a number of jihadist groups in Pakistan. Secretly, China has been pushing Pakistan to take action against Islamist groups rising influence in the country which can directly pose a threat to Beijing’s regional economic plans and financial investments in Pakistan. While Beijing has long aided Islamabad’s position at the United Nations (UN) by blocking moves against a number of anti-India militant leaders, now that China is a direct stakeholder in Pakistan’s security, it’s reviewing its vocal support.
During the recent BRICS summit, China, in an unprecedented shift from its previous policy of taking up strategic dialogues with Pakistan behind closed doors, agreed with the rest of the member states in issuing a joint statement, stating that a number of militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan remain a “regional security concern.” The groups comprised the ones that target India’s interests in the region. If Pakistan’s newly adopted policy of Jihadist mainstreaming goes parallel with a continued reduction in terror attacks in Pakistan – especially on CPEC route – the Chinese projects and these radical Islamist groups might coexist. However, if there is any surge in violence, Beijing will use its financial clout to arm-twist the Pakistani establishment.
As Raza Rumi, a Pakistani writer, journalist and a public policy specialist argues:
The issue of territorial disputes in Pakistan is another reason that China remains reluctant from making weighty financial commitments to some of the major projects. The fact that the Daimer-Bhasha dam is being constructed in a region that is a disputed territory between India and Pakistan is a factor that cannot be denied.
He further adds that “China is cautious because it doesn’t want to annoy India with whom it has billions of dollars worth contracts.”
However, so far, both states have avoided public confrontation over the surging problems under CPEC which, with all its due constraints, has strategic significance for both countries. “While CPEC and the relationship with China are considered too sensitive to be broadly criticized like the Pak-U.S. relationship, there are increasing signs of frustration among Pakistani officials,” says Oldmixon. “I imagine that China and Pakistan will work out arrangements that ensure a critical mass of projects to be carried out in their entirety. There’s too much at stake for both countries for it to be any other way,” adds Kugelman.
All of this points toward the conclusion that beyond bilateral rhetorical flourishes, there remain some critical monetary, security, and capacity issues that can hamper the future of the CPEC. Certainly, growing frustrations on Pakistani side raise doubts as to whether the project will ever be concluded without leaving the country in profound debt. It remains to be seen how far can China go with its tough conditions, for there is a deepening urgency in Islamabad about saying “No” to Beijing’s habit of finding its wont with all deals that certainly undermine Pakistan’s interests.

#Pakistan - #JusticeForZainab - #Kasur: Unanswered questions

Kasur might not be the only hotspot. There could be others. But probably we are waiting for more tragedies before we start looking
The way the Kasur tragedy has been turned into a political brawl is appalling. Those who want to settle political scores are only pushing for symbolic solutions, which in no way will make millions of other children safe. Such gimmicks in fact will only divert attention from real issues.
The story of Zainab’s rape and ruthless murder is not about Punjab but about Pakistan. This is not about negligence on the part of a police officer or a political party but the failure of state machinery. The incident is one of many, unveiling the vulnerability of our law and order system and state capability. Are we even fit to keep our children safe? Looking closely at the media reports, any concerned citizen would have many unanswered questions. These questions pertain to the context of the crime, specifics of this particular case and about the horrifying statistics and government response so far.
Seemingly, Zainab’s murder was not an isolated incident and was the 12th such case of child sexual abuse reported within a 2-kilometre radius in the past 12 months. Besides geographical proximity, other similarities in these cases include use of under-construction houses, crimes occurring between 4pm and 9pm, and rape or sodomy of children before killing them. The forensic reports confirm the same DNA in at least six of the cases and the police are trying to match the DNA profile with those of scores of arrested suspects.
One thing is clear that the area was definitely a hotspot for such crimes with the possibility of a serial criminal in play. However, all these horrifying details are brought to public notice, only after Zainab’s murder. Why had a high-profile investigation not been launched earlier? Why was this massive DNA matching exercise not initiated before? Is it only because this case became a social media sensation or because the police mishandled the protesters, killing two of them?
The infamous child pornography scandal exposed in 2015 also provided a valid context for why this string of crimes should have rung a bell in the quarters concerned much earlier. At least there could have been better coverage of CCTV cameras or an attempt to identify key suspects over the last one year. But there was no such response.
Data collected by Sahil — an independent NGO — shows 129 cases of child assault in Kasur reported in 2017, including 34 abductions, 23 rapes, 19 sodomy cases, 17 attempted rapes and 10 abductions with rapes or gang-rapes. During the last three years, on average there have been two reported cases of child sexual abuse every three days in Kasur.
Interestingly, the website of the District Police Officer Kasur highlights crimes like vehicle theft, narcotics and cattle rustling but remains conspicuously silent about child sexual abuse. Even the safety tips given on the website say nothing on the subject.
Another issue relates to specifics of this particular incident. Zainab was kidnapped on Thursday, January 4th. The FIR was registered on January 5th, while the poor child’s body was found on January 9th. An eight-year-old girl missing, even if not abducted, would be extremely vulnerable. Initial few hours of action after a child goes missing are of critical importance. How did the investigation proceed during the five days between the abduction and discovery of body is yet to be disclosed. Why was there a delay of one day before the FIR was registered?
Furthermore, the CCTV footage clearly shows the poor girl willingly walking with the culprit. This is not unusual as 70% or more of child abuse crimes are done either by acquaintances or strangers-turned-acquaintances. This should have narrowed down the periphery of investigation.
Even more shockingly, while the footage showed the man with a beard, the sketch issued was without one. Although the accused could have gotten rid of the beard, the police should have issued both sketches. Media reports also highlighted inaccuracies in the sketch. Sahil’s aggregate data shows that about 11 children were sexually abused everyday in the country in 2016, while a child was murdered after sexual abuse every 3-4 days. Only 78% of these cases were registered with the police and there were 142 such cases where the police refused to register an FIR. The data relies on media reports and NGOs’ own work for such statistics. Imagine the scale and number of incidents not reported in the media and possible underreporting. Unfortunately, there is no counter-estimate or reported data by the government.
The numbers are horrendous and the scale and seriousness of this issue has been severely understated. Many countries have national registry of child offenders that are made public so that parents keep their children safe. But in Pakistan, the state has not been able to accurately report on the issue, let alone provide a response. Even in a few reported cases where perpetrators are found, convictions are rare.
Nevertheless, the state needs to answer why Zainab had to be brutally murdered to elicit a serious response. Kasur might not be the only hotspot. There could be others. But probably we are waiting for more tragedies before we start looking.

#Pakistan - #Mardan - Bilawal condemns brutal murders of minor girls

Chairman, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Wednesday condemned the rape and murder of a four-year-old girl in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Mardan district.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, he said that the rape and murder of the little girl was a heinous crime and stressed that culprits should be brought to justice.
Bilawal said that innocent girls in Kasur and Mardan were being subjected to inhuman and worst atrocities.
He demanded immediate arrest of the culprits involved in those incidents.

#Pakistan's Rapists - Asma, four, 'raped, strangled to death' in #Mardan

A four-year-old girl was raped before being strangled to death in northwest Pakistan, a district mayor and doctors have said.
The body of the victim, who is being named as Asma, was found in a sugarcane field on Sunday in the Jandarpar Gujjar Garhi district of Mardan city, a day after she went missing.
"I have seen the autopsy report of Asma and it clearly says that she was raped before being strangled to death," district mayor Himayatullah Mayar told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
"She comes from a very poor family, her father is a labour worker in Saudi Arabia. Asma was just playing outside of her house when she was kidnapped."
Doctors also told local media that the child had been raped.
Police confirmed that the child died of asphyxiation and were investigating the claim of rape.
"According to the forensic report, the girl was subjected to violence," district police officer Mian Saeed told local media. "However, we cannot confirm if she was raped or not until we get the complete report."
The incident comes as the country reels from the recent rape and murder of seven-year-old Zainab Ansari, a case which ignited widespread protests and stirred uneasy conversations about the sexual abuse of children in a country where the issue is taboo.
Zainab's body was discovered in a heap of rubbish last week in the northeastern city of Kasur. She had disappeared on January 4 after leaving her house to go to a tuition centre.
Protests calling for justice in various parts of Kasur turned violent, resulting in at least two deaths and several injuries.
Local TV footage showed police officers shooting at protesters to disperse crowds. In 2017, at least 12 similar incidents were reported in the Kasur district alone, local media reported.
In the first half of 2017, more than 1,750 cases of child abuse were reported across Pakistan, according to Sahil, a non-governmental organisation that works on the issue of child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Of the cases in the first six months of last year, 65 percent took place in Pakistan's Punjab province.

#Pakistan - Minor girl’s rape and murder in #Mardan: rulers’ criminal silence is not forgivable: Bilawal

Lashing out at the PML-N and PTI, Chairman Pakistan People Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari condemned the murder of a minor girl in Mardan and remarked that silence of both provincial governments over recent incidents of rape and murder is unforgivable.
Bilawal Bhutto in his condemnation message regarding rape and murder of the three minor girls in Mardan demanded speed arrest of the culprits.
He said that PPP will not remain mum over these incidents at any cost and will go to the last extent for justice. He said that both provincial governments will have to take stern steps to avoid these kinds of incidents.
It is pertinent to mention here that a three-year-old girl, found dead in Mardan 's Gujar Garhi area Monday morning, was murdered after being raped, according to Mardan District Nazim Himayatullah Mayar.
The district Nazim said that he has seen the postmortem report and it clearly states that the minor was raped.
However, DPO Mardan Mian Saeed negated the claims and said that the girl was strangled to death. He pointed out that the post-mortem report does not point towards rape .
Before this, two innocent girls were killed after rape in the area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak's constituency.

Video - Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari addressing workers at Rahuki Badin

اس ملک کو جاتی امرا سے خطرہ ہے،آصف زرداری

سابق صدر اور پاکستان پیپلز پارٹی کے شریک چیئرمین آصف علی زرداری کہتے ہیں کہ اس ملک کو خطرہ اور کسی سے نہیں صرف جاتی امرا ہے۔
لاہور میں پاکستان عوامی تحریک کے تحت ہونے والے متحدہ اپوزیشن کے احتجاجی جلسے سے خطاب کرتے ہوئے انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ ملک کو خطرہ کسی اور سے نہیں جاتی امرا کے شیخ مجیب الرحمان سے ہے، یہ مودی کا یار سمجھتا ہے جو ملک کے ساتھ کرنا چاہے کرے ہم ہرگز ایسا نہیں ہونے دیں گے، اس کی سوچ گریٹر پنجاب بنانے کی ہے اور اس نے کہ دیا کہ مجھے شیخ مجیب الرحمان بنایا جا رہا ہے۔
آصف زرداری کا کہنا ہے کہ ہم نے ہمیشہ پاکستان کی بات کی ،ہمیشہ پاکستان کھپے کہا ہے،ہوا تو پیپلزپارٹی کے ساتھ ہے، ہوا تو قادری صاحب کے ساتھ ہے، میاں صاحب آپ کے ساتھ ابھی ہوا کیا ہے؟
 انہوں نے کہا کہ ملک پر اتنا وزن ڈال دیا گیا ہے، یہ چاہتے ہیں کہ ملک کمزور ہوجائے، بلوچستان کو میں نے دعا ضرور دی تھی، دعا اور دوا دینا ہم سیاسی لوگوں کا کام ہے۔
سابق صدر نے مزید کہا کہ سیاست کریں گے لیکن ملک کے خلاف سیاست نہیں ہوتی،میں جب چاہوں ان کو نکال سکتا ہوں مجھے انہیں نکالنے میں کوئی دیر نہیں لگے گی۔
انہوں نے مزید کہا کہ میں پاکستان کے مستقبل کا سوچتا ہوں،ہماری آنے والی نسلوں نے اس ملک میں رہنا ہے،یہ جہاں جائیں گے وہاں جاتی امرا بنالیں گے۔
آصف زرداری کا یہ بھی کہنا ہے کہ انہیں کسی کی پروا ہ نہیں انہیں صرف جاتی امرا کی پرواہ ہے، ہم انصاف لے کر رہیں گے۔

Video Report - Aitzaz Ahsan speech in Mall road protest Lahore

Video Report - PPPP President Asif Ali Zardari addressing All Parties protest in Lahore

Video Report - Qamar Zaman Kaira Speech At PAT Protest Lahore 17 January 2018 @MediaCellPPP