Friday, August 10, 2018

China should ignore the noise, step up investment in Pakistan

By Wang Cong

In a recent article in the Washington Post, which peddled a series of unsubstantiated accusations and innuendo against China regarding Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, the writer asserted that "the Chinese government's obsession with its international reputation is its main vulnerability," which can be used to pressure China.
Such a notion might not be too far-fetched given China's long tradition of maintaining good ties with everyone, including rival competitors, as it rapidly ascends on the global stage. Chinese officials have long stated that constructive criticism is always welcome, but there has got to be a bottom line: China should not let the noise get in the way of doing the right thing for itself and other countries. 

One such thing is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or known in Pakistan as the CPEC. Despite tangible benefits CPEC projects have brought to Pakistan, there has been no shortage of noise about the $60-billion program between China and Pakistan. 

As infrastructure and energy projects under CPEC reach their milestone, some foreign officials, experts and journalists have constantly linked Pakistan's domestic economic woes, such as a foreign exchange reserve crunch, to the projects; some even went too far suggesting that China, through the billions of investments in Pakistan, have controlled the country. 

No one with full knowledge of the project and its financial structure believe that.  But the truth, according to some officials, top experts and business leaders in Pakistan, is that this noise does have an implication if let unchallenged. Coupled with other false information regarding Pakistan's security situation and tense domestic political competition, they say this noise could discourage more Chinese companies and organizations from further engaging in Pakistan and slow the progress of the CPEC. 

During a recent trip to Islamabad and Karachi, top officials, experts, business leaders and ordinary Pakistanis frequently point out that despite tangible benefits from  CPEC and the broader China-Pakistan cooperation, China has rarely taken the initiative to speak out about these results and counter the negative global narrative, and more Chinese businesses are reluctant to come to Pakistan. "Maybe they are shy?" one business leader in Karachi asked.

They also pointed out a key theme with regard to CPEC and the broader China-Pakistan ties, which is that China's investment in infrastructure and energy projects is not enough and that China should get more deeply involved in all aspects of Pakistan—from industrial to social development. 

In Islamabad, officials say they want to learn more from China's experience in economic development and need China's help in shoring up Pakistan's industrial sector; in Karachi, academics say they want to cooperate with Chinese universities in both science and technology research; businessmen say they want to work with private Chinese companies.

To put it simply: as others who have nothing to do with China-Pakistani relations paint a picture of China exerting influence in Pakistan and other countries through economic activities, Pakistan wants more reassurance that its economy is not on the verge of going bankrupt as portrayed by some, and will be able to meet its financial obligations once economic activities pick up with the implementation of CPEC.

Pakistan does need China's help, as it faces a slew of economic challenges, including a backward industrial supply chain, weak foreign trade and a huge portion of its population still living in poverty and without proper education. 

A friend in need is a friend indeed. China should ignore the noise and step up its investment in Pakistan.

Pakistan may be the next victim of China’s new ‘imperialism’

Ishaan Tharoor

It’s been barely more than two weeks since Imran Khan’s electoral victory in Pakistan, but the country’s next prime minister is already facing a geopolitical crisis. Pakistan’s account deficit is perilously high, its foreign-currency reserves perilously low. Its external debt has ballooned after accepting some $62 billion in Chinese financing, part of an ambitious regional infrastructure project that has yet to boost Pakistan’s economy. Khan’s first major act as prime minister may be asking the International Monetary Fund for a new bailout. But that’s where the trouble begins. Critics at home lament Pakistan’s addiction to the fund — it has spent 22 of the past 30 years laboring under the terms of more than a dozen successive IMF bailouts. 

The austerity measures the IMF demands, they argue, have shackled growth and prevented Pakistan from making substantive reforms. Pakistan could instead turn to China for fresh loans, but that could make Islamabad even more beholden to Beijing than it already is. In that regard, Pakistan is becoming the latest testing ground of a key plank in China’s global strategy. Its sweeping Belt and Road Initiative — a vast $1 trillion infrastructure and development plan that has led to Chinese companies investing in bridges, airports, dams, railroads and other ventures in dozens of countries — is Beijing’s signature global project. But it has prompted accusations that it fuels corruption and autocratic behavior in vulnerable countries.

From Malaysia to Colombia, the opacity surrounding Chinese-backed endeavors has led to allegations of graft, mismanagement and, in the case of at least one mega-dam project, possibly triggered a devastating landslide. Moreover, the initiative has pushed some countries into a morass of debt. The starkest example so far has been Sri Lanka, whose government was unable to repay $6 billion in loans used to build an expensive Chinese-led port and airport project in Hambantota, a once-sleepy but strategically located backwater. As a result, Sri Lankan authorities ceded control of the port and some 15,000 acres of land around it to Beijing on a 99-year lease. The move led to accusations that China is engaging in a 21st-century style of “creditor imperialism.” “States caught in debt bondage to China risk losing both their most valuable natural assets and their very sovereignty,” warned Indian commentator Brahma Chellaney, an outspoken critic of Beijing. “The new imperial giant’s velvet glove cloaks an iron fist — one with the strength to squeeze the vitality out of smaller countries.”
At a Tuesday panel in Washington, Christine Fair, a South Asia expert at Georgetown University, quipped that the Chinese-Pakistan Economic Corridor — the formal name for a complex $62 billion infrastructure-development plan — actually should be called “Colonizing Pakistan to Enrich China.”
Both Chinese and Pakistani officials argue that charges of “colonialism” are overblown. The two countries share a historic friendship, largely framed by their mutual antipathy toward India. In recent years, China has stepped up its involvement in various sectors of the Pakistani economy, from its nuclear-energy industry to the establishment of a host of special economic zones to a costly port project in the city of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea.
“Pakistan does need China’s help, as it faces a slew of economic challenges, including a backward industrial supply chain, weak foreign trade and a huge portion of its population still living in poverty and without proper education,” noted an editorial in China’s state-run Global Times, urging Beijing officials to “ignore the noise and step up its investment in Pakistan.”
Khan, meanwhile, is a fiery nationalist and economic populist. He has repeatedly gestured to the “China model” as something Pakistan should emulate. But it’s not yet clear what any of that means in practice, and the enthusiasm for his rhetoric may simply reflect widespread frustration with Pakistan’s systemic corruption and long-standing habit of turning to the IMF and accepting its diktats.
“The pattern is always the same,” wrote Nadeem Ul Haque, a former IMF official and former deputy chairman of the Pakistani government’s Planning Commission. “With the Fund’s blessing, the government goes on a shopping spree, taking out costly loans for expensive projects, thus building up even more debt and adding new inefficiencies. After a few years, another crisis ensues, and it is met by another IMF program.”
Khan doesn’t look set to break that tradition. But the Trump administration may force him to. “Make no mistake. We will be watching what the IMF does,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the end of last month, arguing that he didn’t want the U.S. to indirectly refinance Pakistani loans to China. “There’s no rationale for IMF tax dollars — and, associated with that, American dollars that are part of the IMF funding — for those to go to bail out Chinese bondholders or China itself.”
As tensions flare between China and the United States over trade, that hawkish outlook is only gaining support. In Washington, lawmakers are increasingly wary about China’s opportunistic maneuvering across Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“The goal for the [Belt and Road Initiative] is the creation of an economic world order ultimately dominated by China,” read a recent letter from a bipartisan group of senators to Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “It is imperative that the United States counters China’s attempts to hold other countries financially hostage and force ransoms that further its geostrategic goals.” For Pakistan, caught between China’s ambition and Washington’s concern, there are few good choices.
“These are our two masters,” Turab Hussain, an economics professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences, told the New York Times. “How do you serve both?”

Fears over tick-borne fever as #Pakistan prepares sacrificial livestock for Eid

Ben Farmer
Health officials in Pakistan have urged people to beware of livestock bearing ticks that spread a deadly fever, ahead of the Muslim festival of sacrifice next week.
The government has issued annual safety guidelines as hundreds of thousands of goats, cows and sheep are being transported and readied for slaughter during the Eid ul-Adha festival.
The increase in handling of animals and fresh meat during the festival raises the risk of humans catching the tick-borne viral disease called Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF).
The CCHF viral disease causes no symptoms in livestock, but spreads to people from ticks or through contact with infected animal blood or tissues during and immediately after slaughter.
According to the World Health Organisation, it is endemic in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East and Asian countries where the ticks are found. The disease is fatal in up to 40 per cent of cases.
The disease can also spread between humans from close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids.
Guidelines issued by the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council say livestock farmers, abattoir workers, butchers, veterinary and para-veterinary staff are at particularly high risk of acquiring the disease.
Suggested precautions include keeping away from animals with ticks, disposing of offal properly and ensuring limbs are fully covered when going to markets. Wearing brightly coloured clothes can also mean ticks are easily spotted. Tick repellent should also be used, and slaughter areas thoroughly disinfected.
The guidelines also say meat should not be handled with bare hands, children should be kept away from animals and only professional butchers should be used for slaughter.
Across the border in Afghanistan, health officials have say they have seen a rise in CCHF cases recently as drought has forced farmers to move livestock from rural parts of the north and west to other parts of the country.
The first six months of this year, saw 125 cases and 18 deaths in Afghanistan.
CCHF was first described in Crimea among soldiers and agricultural workers in 1944, and in 1969 it was recognised that the virus causing the disease was identical to a virus isolated from a child in the Congo in 1956.

Exclusive: As Trump cracks down on Pakistan, U.S. cuts military training programs

Idrees Ali, Phil Stewart
President Donald Trump’s administration has quietly started cutting scores of Pakistani officers from coveted training and educational programs that have been a hallmark of bilateral military relations for more than a decade, U.S. officials say.
The move, which has not been previously reported, is one of the first known impacts from Trump’s decision this year to suspend U.S. security assistance to Pakistan to compel it to crack down on Islamic militants. The Pentagon and the Pakistani military did not comment directly on the decision or the internal deliberations, but officials from both countries privately criticized the move. U.S. officials, speaking to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, said they were worried the decision could undermine a key trust-building measure. Pakistani officials warned it could push their military to further look to China or Russia for leadership training.
The effective suspension of Pakistan from the U.S. government’s International Military Education and Training program (IMET) will close off places that had been set aside for 66 Pakistani officers this year, a State Department spokesperson told Reuters.
The places will either be unfilled or given to officers from other countries.
Dan Feldman, a former U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, called the move “very short-sighted and myopic”.
“This will have lasting negative impacts limiting the bilateral relationship well into the future,” Feldman told Reuters.
The State Department spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the IMET cancellations were valued at $2.41 million so far. At least two other programs have also been affected, the spokesperson said.
It is unclear precisely what level of military cooperation still continues outside the IMET program, beyond the top level contacts between U.S. and Pakistani military leaders. The U.S. military has traditionally sought to shield such educational programs from political tensions, arguing that the ties built by bringing foreign military officers to the United States pay long-term dividends. For example, the U.S. Army’s War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, which would normally have two Pakistani military officers per year, boasts graduates including Lieutenant General Naveed Mukhtar, the current director-general of Pakistan’s powerful spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
The War College, the U.S. Army’s premier school for foreign officers, says it has hosted 37 participants from Pakistan over the past several decades. It will have no Pakistani students in the upcoming academic year, a spokeswoman said.
Pakistan has also been removed from programs at the U.S. Naval War College, Naval Staff College and courses including cyber security studies.
In his first tweet of 2018, Trump slammed Pakistan, saying the country has rewarded past U.S. aid with “nothing but lies & deceit.” Washington announced plans in January to suspend up to roughly $2 billion in U.S. security assistance to Pakistan. But weeks later, Pakistan’s foreign secretary was quoted by local media saying that Islamabad had been told the United States would continue funding IMET programs. Officially allies in fighting terrorism, Pakistan and the United States have a complicated relationship, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops in Afghanistan but plagued by accusations Islamabad is playing a double game. Tensions have grown over U.S. complaints that the Afghan Taliban militants and the Haqqani network that target American troops in Afghanistan are allowed to shelter on Pakistani soil.
Current and former U.S. officials said Defense Secretary Jim Mattis argued against excluding Pakistani officers from IMET courses.
“I am shocked... We worked so hard for this to be the one thing that got saved,” said a former U.S. defense official, who was involved in the conversations.
The Pentagon declined to comment on internal government discussions, but Dana White, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said Mattis long believed in the value of the IMET program as a way to build relations between foreign militaries.
Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, told Reuters that a U.S. decision to cut off such exchanges would be counter-productive and push Pakistan’s military towards other countries. “It is one of those silly, punitive measures that they have deployed,” said Hussain, who sat next to a Chinese and Pakistani flag in his office. Russia and Pakistan signed an agreement earlier this week that would allow for Pakistani military officers to train at Russian institutes. Pakistan's military has ruled the country for about half of its history and traditionally seen the country’s foreign policy in its domain. IMET courses have been able to withstand poor relations between the two countries in the past, even after al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid in the Pakistani town of Abbotabad in 2011.
A NATO helicopter raid killed 28 Pakistani troops later that year in a friendly fire incident on the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Feldman said that after the raid, when relations were at a low point, the United States limited large security assistance items, but made active efforts to continue the IMET program.
In the 1990’s former U.S. President George H.W. Bush refused to certify that Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons, triggering the so-called “Pressler Amendment” that required cutting off all military assistance. That included IMET courses. “The unintended consequence was we didn’t know a decade of the Pakistani military leadership as well, and therefore couldn’t engage as effectively with them when we needed to,” Feldman said.
Mattis, in private discussions within the government, had warned that excluding Pakistani officers from IMET courses could contribute to a similar situation in years to come, the former U.S. defense official said.
Pakistan had been the largest recipient of IMET between 2003 and 2017, according to the Security Assistance Monitor which tracks U.S. assistance.
“You can advocate for cutting off everything else and this was the one thing we were not supposed to touch,” the former official said.

Bilawal Bhutto message on the 10th “National Minority Day” PPP and Constitution stand as guarantors for equal rights to Non- Muslims of Pakistan

Chairman Pakistan Peoples Party Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that non-Muslims are equal citizens of Pakistan adding that being the true inheritor of the ideology of the country PPP, together with the unanimous Constitution of Pakistan stands as a guarantor of their equal rights.In his message on the 10th “National Minority Day” being observed tomorrow (August 11), the PPP Chairman pointed out that for the first time PPP awarded three tickets for general seats to non-Muslim candidates in 2018 elections. Of them, Dr Mahesh Malani is the first-ever candidate for National Assembly who won on a general seat in Pakistan’s post-1971 history. Hariram Kishorilal and Gianchand Essrani were elected as MPAs, that too on general seats, which is again unprecedented.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari further said that it was PPP which legislated to reserve four seats for non-Muslims in the Senate of Pakistan and itself elected three non-Muslim as Senators, two of them on general seats including Senator Gianchand and Kirshna Kolhi both belonging to marginalized communities. A Christian PPP worker Anwar Laldean was elected Senator on reserved for minority from Sindh. The incoming Sindh Assembly will have only one Christian MPA Anthony Naveed, who belongs to PPP. We are also proud that Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto established a full-fledged Minority Affairs Department in Sindh in 1994, no other province couldn’t do in last 24 years.

Recently notified Sindh Hindu Marriage Bill was also passed by last PPP government unanimously, he added.

In 2009, President Asif Ali Zardari had declared August 11 as National Minority Day, the day in 1947 when Founder of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah made famous speech emphasizing equal rights for non-Muslim citizens in the new state of Pakistan.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that PPP would continue to follow the vision of the founding fathers of the nation for equality with no discrimination of caste, creed, religion or ethnicity among the citizens. “PPP is the true torchbearer of the ideology of Quaid-e-Azam and will continue its struggle for an egalitarian, peaceful, prosperous and progressive Pakistan,” he added.