Sunday, September 30, 2018

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Reviewing Gramscian Thought On Socialism – Analysis

After the fall of Soviet Union in 1989, the renewal form of Socialism known as Democratic neo-Socialism emerged at the global scale and the writings of Antinio Gramsci helped to develop this New socialism at much broader scale. Basically, Classical Marxism is associated with the “Communist Manifesto” written by both Karl Marx and Engels.

In the Communist Manifesto, the state is purely described as an instrument of class domination as nothing but a committee for managing common affairs of Bourgeoisie. But, in the latter writings Marx and Engels recognized that the state could acquire the degree of independence from the economically dominant class and a complex relation could be developed between classes, political parties and the state. Both Engels and Marx failed to reconcile both theories into a Coherent theory.
The first approach is known as Economism—This was the major defects in Classical Marxism. Because it has prevented an adequate understanding of the nature of the Capitalist domination and the strategy required to end the domination and advance to socialism. Economism was subjected to stricture by Vladimir Lenin and it was Antinio Gramsci, who showed by his work in developing his concept of “Hegemony” in order to realize the Potentiality of Lenin’s Critique of Economism.

What is Economism?

Economism can be defined as the interpretation of Marxism, which holds that the Political developments are the expression of Economic development: “The Line of causation proceeds from economy to Politics”. One form of the view of economism is the view that “history possess a necessary Movement, Independent of human will, derived from the continual growth of the productive forces”. Capitalism is seen as developing inexorably towards economic crisis, and collapse as the contradiction between the forces and the relation of production of production become greater. The whole economistic approach is reflected in the widespread use of the Metaphors “Base and Superstructure”, which derived from the Marx Famous preface “The Critique of the Political economy (1859).
On the other hand, there is a Mechanical determinism as Gramsci called it. In Gramsci’s view; Mechanical determinism tended to prevent a passive attitude for the inevitable collapse and this discouraged the exercise of the Political initiative by the labor movement- And, this mechanical determinism was one of the causes of the collapse of the parties of the second International in 1914. For instance, the Italian socialist party failed to rise up against ruling Fascism because of their Economistic outlook of Marxism. Because, they did not consider that revolution would arise from a shift in the balance of class forces brought up by the series of Political initiatives.
Moreover, the Italian socialist leaders made a serious attempt to build up a broad alliance around Working class comprised up of new Social Forces arising among the peasants and the Urban Petti Bourgeoisie. Lenin in his famous article What is to be done? (1902) argued that Trade Unions struggle could only develop trade Union consciousness, and that in order to develop political consciousness the workers had to take up the struggle against the oppression of Tsarist regime as it affected all other social Classes, strata, groups and the Population.

Lenin on social democracy

In “The tactics of Social democracy” (1905), Lenin opposed the Mensheviks for accepting the Political leadership of the Russian Capitalists in the struggle against Tsarism. And Mensheviks strategy would leave the Russian Labor Movement in what we called “Guild” or Corporatist Phase, limited to the Trade union struggle in the defense of the sectional interest.
By contrast, Lenin argued that, the working class should move beyond the Corporatist phase and should be in alliance with the peasantry, act as the leading hegemonic force in the democratic struggle against Tsarism. In 1917, the working class emerged as the national leader of the democratic struggle. Lenin in both theory and practice called the working class as the base of leadership in a broad alliance of the social Force.
Antinio Gramsci regards him as the founder of the concept hegemony because Lenin always stood for the primacy of the Politics. In his famous book “State and Revolution” (1917), Lenin discusses about the Marxist Conception of the State and defines State as “An instrument of the ruling class and as “a machine for the repression of one class by another.” In the same book Lenin describes the Parliamentary democracy under the Capitalist society is a democracy for the Ruling class, it is dictating over the working class. In a Socialist revolution, it is necessary for the proletariat to destroy the Parliamentary democratic state and replace it by a fundamental type of State, Soviet democracy which will be the dictatorship of the Proletariat over the Capitalist.
According to Lenin, there is a Mechanical relation between economics and Politics—between the changes in the economic structure and changes in the form of the state. The Bolsheviks after the Russian revolution did the same; they dissolved the Constituent assembly in 1918. His thoughts on state and revolution were adopted as theoretical principles by the communist parties of the “Third International” after his death and which became known as Marxism-Leninism.
Indeed, it was a slight diversion from the Marxist classical thought especially regarding the nature of State and Government. Moreover, according to Gramsci Concept of the Hegemony, it showed the way forward, based on the recognition that popular democratic movement and parliamentary institutions, which the western European Social Democrats had shaped, do not have a necessary class character rather they are hindrance for Political struggle between two major classes. Therefore, in order to advance to socialism, the labor Movement has to find the way to link this popular democratic struggle with its socialist objectives, building an alliance which will enable it to achieve a position of National leadership (hegemony).
On the contrary, according to Marx, Socialism as “an association of self-governing producers” with the State completely subordinate to the society. But, under Stalin the socialist system in the Soviet Union became highly centralized, bureaucratic, and repressive that prevented the growth of Marxist ideas in Western Europe. Though, there has been a great example came out of the Eastern Europe that socialism cannot be imposed from above through the agency of the state. Thus, Socialism can only be constructed from below.
Basically, Gramsci gives the concept of civil society. He distinguished between the Public institution of the state on the one hand, and civil state on the other—All the private voluntary organizations such as trade unions, political parties, churches, community and charitable organizations. He argued that hegemony of the Dominant class is exercised in civil society by pervading the subordinate classes to accept the values and ideas, which the dominant class has adopted itself and by building a network of alliances based on the values.
The advance to socialism consists in the building by the labor Movement of Counter. Hegemony requires a prolonged process of Moral and ideological reform. What Gramsci called this strategy a “War of Position”, distinct from the “war of Movement—which occurred in wake of Russian revolution?
In a nutshell, Gramsci suggested that socialism consisted in the continual extension of Civil society with its relation of autonomy together with the gradual decline of the coercive, hierarchical bureaucratic elements of the state. Moreover, in the Soviet Union the elements of Civil Society that existed in Lenin’s time were brutally crushed by the Stalinist Regime. That is what was mentioned by Exiled Bolshevik Revolutionary Leader Leon Trotsky in his famous book “Revolution Betrayed” published in 1937, that “if these purges continued, soon the Soviet Union will meet its death end.”

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#Balochistan: #Pakistani forces abducted 4 Baloch youth from Zehri

Pakistan FC (Frontier Corps) have arrested and taken to the undisclosed location four Baloch youth from Zehri town of district Khuzdar Balochistan .
According to details, the Pakistan FC have intercepted and arrested four Baloch near the main market of Noor Gala in Zehri area of Khuzdar.
Two of the abducted men have been named as Riaz Kehni resident of Kehn Zehri and Zahoor Ahmad son of Abdul Salaam Lotani resident of Kehn Zehri. The identity of the other two men could not be ascertained at the time of filing …

#Pakistan - School going Abbas walks a distance of 1 km everyday for water

Quetta: 11 year old Abbas Ali covers a distance of 1 km on foot everyday to collect water for his family after coming back from school.
While speaking to ARY News, Abbas said, “I do at least 11-12 rounds everyday to get sufficient water from my family. My hands and legs hurt, I sleep at night then the next morning I have to do the same thing again.”
Belonging to a small household, Abbas’s family cannot even afford a tanker as the tanker prices have surged more than a 100 percent following the water shortage adding on to the locals’ misery.
Sadly, this story is not only of Abbas. The water woes of the three million population of Quetta are worsening with each passing day as the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) has failed in finding a practical solution and the underground water level has further deepened to over 300 meters.
The province of Quetta requires some 200 million gallons of water while Wasa can only manage to provide 100 million gallons.
The new government has imposed a water emergency in the province.

#Pakistan - Journalists perceived as anti-state are being demonised - Of traitors and patriots

Umber Khairi

Dear all,
It has not completed its 100 days in office yet, but the PTI government has made it quite clear what it thinks of journalists who dare to appear critical of the party or its leader.
This had been made clear in various unsubtle and frightening ways, first by words of contempt and disdain, then by threatening certain media groups with denial of access to official functions and personalities, uninviting their reporters and editors from meetings with the PM, and then, finally, by their reaction (or lack of) to the court decision of issuing non-bailable arrest warrants for a Dawn journalist.
The Lahore High Court decision was in response to a petition filed against former PML-N prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi by ‘a civil society member’ named Amna Malik (civil though perhaps less civilian!). The petition alleged that the two had ‘defamed state institutions’ by what they said in the Dawn interview about the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The court has ordered both Nawaz Sharif and the interviewer in question, Cyril Almeida, to appear before the court on October 8. Almeida’s name was also placed on the Exit Control List (ECL).
The court’s stance was that it was issuing this order because Almeida had ‘failed to appear before the court’ despite issuance of various notices (which Dawn says were never actually received). But really, what had this journalist done except to interview a man who had thrice been prime minister of Pakistan and who merely stated that the Mumbai attackers were from Pakistan? This is the same as residents of Faridkot, the village of Ajmal Kasab, the one attacker who survived, had said to journalists initially — until, that is, certain officials descended on the village and told them to shut up.
Almeida is the columnist whose story, published almost two years ago created the furore known (rather bizarrely) as ‘DawnLeaks’ where the military establishment was incensed by the Dawn story which highlighted reported differences between the Sharif government and the military over the fight against terrorists. Ever since that story both Dawn and Almeida have been labelled as ‘anti-state’, ‘dishonest’and partisan. He has also been portrayed by various right wing ‘patriotic’ platforms as a ‘stooge’ of Maryam Nawaz whose social media presence and media team were apparently a huge threat to national security. (One of the bloggers abducted early last year says that during interrogation he was asked repeatedly if he was working for Maryam Nawaz and whether she was actually instructing him what to write).
Observers will say: but surely we cannot blame the PTI government for something ordered by the Lahore High Court, or even overseen by some other institution or establishment. The response to that is: the government’s behaviour makes it appear acquiescent and looks like it’s merely fronting a show that is not, at all, about civilian supremacy.
The court order follows a series of extremely disturbing developments aimed at silencing critics of the military. These have included the abduction of the bloggers, the detention of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) activist Hayat Pareghal, the ‘advice’ doled out to tv channels in the run-up to the recent election, and the orchestrated social media outrage against ‘traitors’ and politicians. Dissent it seems is now a crime, critical journalism is now a crime unless of course you ‘criticise’ those the establishment views as enemies.
It is frightfully ironic that an elected prime minister now has to defend himself from accusations of treason, mostly because he has offended the establishment, whereas those intelligence operatives who three decades ago actually tried to destabilise an elected government, and used millions of rupees of public money to bribe legislators, were never found guilty of this treacherous behaviour. The men at the forefront of that effort (the ISI’s Brigadier Imtiaz Billa and Major Amir) have since then portrayed their actions as heroic and patriotic. This twisting of the national narrative continues to this day.
October is actually a good month for us to mull over this narrative, the month when 19 years ago, an elected PM was overthrown by an army chief who didn’t want to lose his job, and who later told us he had merely acted to ‘save Pakistan’. Needless to say, it was the civilian politician who was in the dock, mainly it seems for ‘unpatriotic’ behaviour.
Food for thought…

Best wishes

#Pakistani Christian ''Asia Bibi' - Bewildering silence of Canadian politicians on plight of Christian mother on death row

By Christie Blatchford

She was arrested in June 2009 after a Muslim colleague complained that she made derogatory remarks about Islam’s prophet during when Bibi wanted to drink from the same water bowl as her Muslim co-workers

Pakistani court has sentenced to death a Christian mother of five for blasphemy, the first such conviction of a woman and sparking protests from rights groups Thursday. Asia Bibi, 45, was sentenced Monday by a local court in Nankana district in Pakistan's central province Punjab, about 75 kilometres (47 miles) west of the country's cultural capital of Lahore.

It was a reader who prompted me to learn (and now write) about Asia Bibi.
“Did you hear about the Palestinian Muslim woman who has been sentenced to death by Israel for saying, ‘Muhammad is the final and best prophet of God’?” Stephen Harris asked.
“Of course not, because it didn’t happen.
“If it did, the world would be upside down by now. Massive protests would be staged in the West, while the Muslim world would riot en masse.
“What has happened is that Pakistan has condemned a Christian woman to death for saying, ‘My Jesus died for me. What did your Muhammad ever do for you?’
“Asia Bibi has been on death row for eight years, yet most of the world has never even heard of her, and virtually nobody of note has said a word in protest.”
Every word he said is true, though actually Bibi has been in prison for more than nine years now. She was arrested in June of 2009 after a Muslim colleague complained that she had made derogatory remarks about Islam’s prophet during an argument sparked when Bibi wanted to drink from the same water bowl as her Muslim co-workers.
The complaint was backed by a local imam and in November 2010, Bibi was convicted and sentenced to death for blasphemy.
Four years later, the Lahore High Court upheld her death sentence, though the execution was stayed until July of 2015, when the Pakistani Supreme Court agreed to hear her appeal. That was originally slated for the fall of 2016, but when one of the three judges had to recuse himself, it was delayed again.
The hearing was supposed to be rescheduled “soon,” but in a recent interview with DW, or Deutsche Welle, Germany’s public international broadcaster, Bibi’s lawyer, Saif-ul-Malook, appeared to hold out little hope for a quick appeal.
“I think it is not a very high priority case for the court,” he said. “The last time I met the Supreme Court registrar, he told me that over 2,000 appeals against death sentences were pending before the court.”
The lawyer is a brave fellow.
At least two other prominent Pakistanis have been killed for speaking out in Bibi’s support — the former governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, and former minister for minorities Shabbaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s only Christian government minister.
(About 97 per cent of Pakistan’s people are Muslims, though according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, because of how the blasphemy laws are used — often to settle personal disputes that have little to do with religion — Muslims make up the majority of those arrested under the laws. Ahmadis (officially declared non-Muslim in 1973), Christians and Hindus are also persecuted. The laws date back to India’s British rulers and were inherited by Pakistan after the partition of India. The laws were expanded in the 1980s, with the recommended penalty “death or imprisonment for life.”)
Bhatti was gunned down little more than two months later, outside his Islamabad home.
They had separately and together championed Bibi’s cause and spoken out against the laws, probably the last prominent Pakistanis to do so.
There is little hope for different from Pakistan’s new prime minister, the former prominent cricket star Imran Khan.
In the run-up to the recent general election, he staunchly defended the blasphemy laws — specifically the clause in the constitution that mandates death for any “imputation, insinuation or innuendo” against the prophet.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week called Khan to offer congratulations on his win and tweeted a photo of himself talking on the call.
And that, for my reader Harris and now for me, is the salt in the Aasia Bibi wound — that this government, which so smarmily wraps itself in its anti-racism/pro-diversity creed, has had virtually nothing to say about the plight of the 53-year-old mother of five.
There are two prominent Pakistani-Canadians in federal politics.
One is Salma Ataullahjan, Canada’s first senator of Pakistani and Pashtun descent (she was born in Marden, near the Afghan border). She came to Canada in 1980 as a young bride and was described, by former prime minister Stephen Harper who appointed her to the Senate, as “bringing a Muslim voice into Canadian political life.”
Ataullahjan has spoken out about Bibi, and indeed, shortly after her 2010 conviction, visited the country to see flood-ravaged areas and actually raised Bibi’s case, and the blasphemy laws, with senior Pakistani ministers.
And, when Shahbaz Bhatti was murdered the following year, she and then Multicultural Minister Jason Kenney, as well as other Canadian embassy staff, attended his funeral. She spoke poignantly in the Senate about sitting “by my friend’s coffin.”
The other is Iqra Khalid, Liberal MP for Mississauga-Erin Mills in Ontario.
Harris says he tried to interest her in the issue — she is after all a young Pakistani-Canadian too, born in Pakistan — but “she wouldn’t even acknowledge my existence, let alone grace me with a response.”
And besides, Khalid has made her name as the woman who tabled the M-103 anti-Islamophobia motion that passed in the House last spring. Her entire cred, from the moment she first ran for office, rests on her first-generation-immigrant bona fides.
I couldn’t find a word she has ever said in defence of Bibi, or against the blasphemy laws. I thought I must have missed it in my search, so I wrote her and her media assistant, Anas Marwah, early Wednesday, saying just that (“Perhaps I missed a speech?” I wrote) and asking if I could have her comment. I re-sent the message four or five times, left messages for both Khalid and Marwah, called both Ottawa office and constituency offices, and finally got Marwah briefly on the phone. He promised to get back to me and never did.
DAWN, Pakistan’s oldest and leading English-language newspaper, ran a beautiful piece when Salman Taseer was killed. Days before he was murdered, he tweeted about his battle to defend Bibi.
“I was under huge pressure sure 2 cow down b4 rightest pressure on blasphemy. Refused. Even if I’m the last man standing.”

Pakistan allows export of 150 falcons to UAE

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has unrestricted the export of falcons from Pakistan to the UAE on Sunday.

In a notification issued by the ministry on September 27, an export of 150 falcons was permitted from Karachi Airport for the personal use of Dubai’s ruler Mohammad bin Rashid al-Maktoum as a cordial gesture for the Embassy of UAE in Islamabad.

“The esteemed Embassy may export one hundred and fifty (150) falcons from Pakistan to UAE, for personal use of His Highness Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.”

Presently the country is holding a ban on the blood sport of uncommon and migratory birds including in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where hunting of Shaheens was banned by now Prime Minister Imran Khan.

#Pakistan - School blown up in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa districts IED attacks

A series of improvised explosive device (IED) attacks hit Chitral and upper districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) early Sunday morning, resulting in the martyrdom of at least one security personnel.
The first incident came at 4:45am when a primary school for boys was razed to the ground in Arandu Gol area of Chitral. The school is located within a kilometre of the Pak-Afghan border.
The militants planted two IEDs – one in the three-room school’s compound and another on the road leading to the school, a senior official told The media. “We received reports of a bomb going off. ”
He added that communication was limited due to the area’s remote location. A security official said no casualties had been reported so far in the school incident. This is the first time militants have targeted a school in Chitral.
In the second incident, a security personnel was martyred and another injured when an IED went off in Upper Dir’s Jungle Khel area at 8:30am. The area has been cordoned off by the security forces.
Meanwhile, security forces averted an attack in North Waziristan’s Datta Khel area after spotting and disarming a roadside IED planted by militants.
It is pertinent to note that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) recently claimed activity in the region.

#Pakistan's Punjabi Minister's secret meeting with the Terrorists - Kot Lakhpat Mystery

While the Punjab government has gotten off to a rocky start – with several ministers taking turns being embroiled in controversies – the latest case is perhaps the most mystifying of all.
Punjab Minister for Prisons Zawar Hussain visited the Kot Lakhpat Jail on Thursday in the early morning, and while there he allegedly unlocked high security barracks in a gross breach of the law; met secretly with under-trial militants of banned terrorist outfits involved in suicide attacks in Lahore, forbidding the jail superintendents from accompanying him; locked the said officials in a cell when they resisted his actions; and took a posse of six unidentified men with him wherever he went. This spree of shocking behavior broke a whole host of laws related to prison protocol and criminal law, while actively committing a few crimes of his own – such as the ‘false imprisonment’ of jail officials in a cell.
The whole episode screams impropriety and undue influence wielded by politicians over government officials. This is not the first time the Punjab cabinet has been guilty of this in its short time in charge and its inability to stop is worrying.
Impropriety however, is the least of the government’s problems here – it must explain Zawar Hissain’s actions. He spent six hours meeting with dangerous under trial militants and barred jail officials from accompanying him – the security implications of this alone merit some serious questioning.
What is more, the explanation offered by the spokesperson of the minister - that he was undertaking a “surprise inspection” - does not add up. If what he says is true, why were jail officials not allowed to accompany him, which is standard protocol? Why the civilians who came with the minister took into custody the official walkie-talkie sets from all the deputed jail employees? If this was an inspection why did he spend six hours with under-trial militants and went nowhere else? And incidentally who were the men who accompanied him?
Even if we forget all instances of undue influence, broken laws and protocols and grave security questions – which we shouldn’t at any cost – there sheer incompetence of the man should be enough to call his credentials into question – the Minister of Prisons unlocked a high security barracks, creating a serious risk for escape.
This incident needs to be explained. Thankfully the full report of the prison superintendent and the availability of CCTV footage should allow us to get to the bottom of this. If he is found to have broken the law he must be held accountable - the PTI has promised no one is above the law.

Fearing debt trap, Pakistan rethinks Chinese 'Silk Road' projects

Drazen Jorgic
After lengthy delays, an $8.2 billion revamp of a colonial-era rail line snaking from the Arabian Sea to the foothills of the Hindu Kush has become a test of Pakistan’s ability to rethink signature Chinese “Silk Road” projects due to debt concerns.
The rail megaproject linking the coastal metropolis of Karachi to the northwestern city of Peshawar is China’s biggest Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project in Pakistan, but Islamabad has balked at the cost and financing terms.
Resistance has stiffened under the new government of populist Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has voiced alarm about rising debt levels and says the country must wean itself off foreign loans.
“We are seeing how to develop a model so the government of Pakistan wouldn’t have all the risk,” Khusro Bakhtyar, minister in Pakistan’s planning ministry, told reporters recently. The cooling of enthusiasm for China’s investments mirrors the unease of incoming governments in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Maldives, where new administrations have come to power wary of Chinese deals struck by their predecessors.
Pakistan’s new government had wanted to review all BRI contracts. Officials say there are concerns the deals were badly negotiated, too expensive or overly favored China. But to Islamabad’s frustration, Beijing is only willing to review projects that have not yet begun, three senior government officials have told Reuters. China’s Foreign Ministry said, in a statement in response to questions faxed by Reuters, that both sides were committed to pressing forward with BRI projects, “to ensure those projects that are already built operate as normal, and those which are being built proceed smoothly”.
Pakistani officials say they remain committed to Chinese investment but want to push harder on price and affordability, while re-orientating the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) - for which Beijing has pledged about $60 billion in infrastructure funds - to focus on projects that deliver social development in line with Khan’s election platform.
China’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, told Reuters that Beijing was open to changes proposed by the new government and “we will definitely follow their agenda” to work out a roadmap for BRI projects based on “mutual consultation”.
“It constitutes a process of discussion with each other about this kind of model, about this kind of roadmap for the future,” Yao said. Beijing would only proceed with projects that Pakistan wanted, he added. “This is Pakistan’s economy, this is their society,” Yao said. Islamabad’s efforts to recalibrate CPEC are made trickier by its dependence on Chinese loans to prop up its vulnerable economy. Growing fissures in relations with Pakistan’s historic ally the United States have also weakened the country’s negotiating hand, as has a current account crisis likely to lead to a bailout by the International Monetary Fund, which may demand spending cuts. “We have reservations, but no other country is investing in Pakistan. What can we do?” one Pakistani minister told Reuters.
The ML-1 rail line is the spine of country’s dilapidated rail network, which has in recent years been edging towards collapse as passenger numbers plunge, train lines close and the vital freight business nosedives. Khan’s government has vowed to make the 1,872 km (1,163 mile) line a priority CPEC project, saying it will help the poor travel across the vast South Asian nation. But Islamabad is exploring funding options for CPEC projects that depart from the traditional BRI lending model - whereby host nations take on Chinese debt to finance construction of infrastructure - and has invited Saudi Arabia and other countries to invest. One option for ML-1, according to Pakistani officials, is the build-operate-transfer (BOT) model, which would see investors or companies finance and build the project and recoup their investment from cashflows generated mainly by the rail freight business, before returning it to Pakistan in a few decades time.
Yao, the Chinese envoy, said Beijing was open to BOT and would “encourage” its companies to invest.
Rail mega-projects under China’s BRI umbrella have run into problems elsewhere in Asia. A line linking Thailand and Laos has been beset by delays over financing, while Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad outright canceled the Chinese-funded $20 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).
Beijing is happy to offer loans, but reticent to invest in the Pakistan venture as such projects are seldom profitable, according to Andrew Small, author of a book on China-Pakistan relations. “The problem is that the Chinese don’t think they can make money on this project and are not keen on BOT,” said Small. OFF-BOOKS DEBT During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in 2015, the ML-1 line was placed among a list of “early harvest” CPEC projects that would be prioritized, along with power plants urgently needed to end crippling electricity shortages. But while many other projects from that list have now been completed the rail scheme has been stuck.

 Pakistani officials say they became wary of how early BRI contracts were awarded to Chinese firms, and are pushing for a public tender for ML-1. Partly to help with price discovery, Pakistan asked the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance a chunk of the rail project through tendering. The ADB began discussions on a $1.5-2 billion loan, but China insisted the project was “too strategic”, and Islamabad kicked out the ADB under pressure from Beijing in early 2017, according to Pakistani and ADB officials. “If it’s such a strategic project then it should be a viable project for them to finance on very concessional terms or invest in?” said one senior Pakistani official familiar with the project, referring to the BOT model. China’s foreign ministry said Beijing was engaged in “friendly consultations” with Pakistan on the rail project. Chinese companies participated in BRI projects in an open and transparent way, “pooling benefits and sharing risks”, it said. Analysts say Pakistan will struggle to attract non-Chinese investors into the project, which may force it to choose between piling on Chinese debt or walking away from the project. In 2017, Pakistan turned down Chinese funding for a $14 billion mega-dam project in the Himalayas due to cost concerns and worries Beijing could end up owning a vital national asset if Pakistan could not repay loans, as occurred with a Sri Lankan port.
Khan’s government chafes at several Chinese intercity mass transport projects in Punjab, the voter heartland of the previous government, which now need hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies every year. They also fume about the risk of accumulating off-books sovereign debt through power contracts, where annual profits of above 20 percent, in dollar terms, were guaranteed by the previous administration.

With the ML-1 line, there are also those who harbor doubts closer to home, including the previous government’s finance minister, Miftah Ismail, who said his ministry had always had concerns about its viability.
“When people say it’s a project of national importance, that usually means it makes no sense financially,” he said.