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Takeaways from the 7th JCC Meeting on CPEC

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China and Pakistan have been working to promote the construction of the CPEC project through sustenance of Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC). According to the available in formation on the official websites of the CPEC, there are five working groups which include long-term planning, energy, transportation infrastructure, industrial cooperation and Gwadar Port.JCC deals with the overall planning and coordination while the above mentioned working groups are responsible for the detailed planning and implementation of the projects under CPEC.

Since Aug 2013,seven JCC meetings have been held to review the progress on CPEC. The first ever meeting of JCC on CPEC was held in Islamabad on Aug 28, 2013 which symbolized the joint efforts of both countries to promote the implementation of the relevant work on the key areas of infrastructure, energy and investment. The summary for the long term planning of CPEC project was prepared on the basis of mutual understandings of both countries. Second JCC meeting was held in Feb, 2014 in which feasibility studies on 16 energy projects were approved.  Third JCC meeting was held onAug 27, 2014 in which the prioritized or early harvest projects under CPEC were finalized. Fourth JCC meeting was held in Beijing on 25 March, 2015 where many selected energy projects including coal based, hydel, solar and wind energy projects were reviewed. This meeting also reviewed the reports presented by the joint working groups on five key areas. Fifth meeting was held in Pakistan on 10-12 Nov, 2015. In this meeting it was concluded that the construction of Diamer-Bhasha Dam should be included along with the accorded approval of the coal-based power plants to be built at the Thar Desert in Sindh province to enhance the capacity from 660-2600 MW.The 6thJCCmeeting was held in Beijing on December 29, 2016 in which several new projects were signed. Each province was set to get an industrial zone.It was concluded on a pleasing note to speed up the development of the existing projects. Important decisions taken during this meeting include that a 1320 MW power plant will be completed in Sahiwalin 2017.

The most recent 7th JCC meeting on CPEC was held on Nov 20, 2017 in Islamabad. The key points of this meeting included the signing of much debated CPEC Long Term Plan (LTP)2014-2030 which includes collaboration in areas of industrial cooperation, agriculture, tourism and financial cooperation. It has attempted to formalize the future roadmap for industrial and economic collaboration involving special economic zones along the CPEC stretch in Pakistan and adopt a Long Term Plan (LTP) 2030.It has been inferred that the main focus of the seventh JCC meeting remained on the  special economic/industrial zones  while the five joint working groups (JWGs) met earlier on the Nov 20, 2017 to remove any irritant and suggested the five ways on the projects pertaining to — Gwadar, energy, transport infrastructure, special economic zones. Pakistan’s primary objective is to enhance its industrial capacity from assembling imported parts to local production of goods and encouraging China’s enterprises to invest in Pakistani market to improve the energy efficient appliance industry.

Moreover, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwain this meeting raised its preference for Rashakai industrial estate over Hattar in unequivocal terms and the China has agreed to the provincial right of site selection for industrial estates. Furthermore, since China’ s proposed financial structure regarding Diamer-Bhasha Dam was not approved by Pakistan yet, still it provides the two sides with an opportunity to generate a debate for the future development of this project. . There was also an ample discussion on the railway projects, Gwadar International Airport, energy projects and industrial estates, already included in the CPEC with the focus on the implementation of the existing projects and the finalization of the feasibility reports of these projects. Under the road map, the Chinese side would start investing in the nine Special Economic Zones directly after JCC’s clearance to avail benefits of tax exemption.

The cabinet committee on the CPEC presided over by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has already cleared the proposals for the fresh projects and nine SEZs.This will offer 15- to 20-year tax exemption to China in case investment is made before 2020.

In a nutshell, the chronological order of the seven JCC meetings shows that there are following the projects which Pakistan has been pursuing in the last seven meetings of JCC which include Diamer-Bhasha dam, the Main Line 1 (ML1is considered as the logistic backbone of this corridor) up gradation of the Peshawar to Karachi railway line, the Karachi Circular Railway, and three road projects (which include KKH (remaining portion), D.I.Khan to Zhob and Khuzdar to Basima, Completing feasibility and other formalities of Gilgit—Shandur—Chitral—Chakdara and Naukundi—Mashkhel—Panjgaur roads coincided with 7th JCC). The approval of the project ML1 is awaiting the cost estimates which would be generated within the coming three months.

Federal Minister Ahsan Iqbal said that the Long Term Plan would be public on 18th of December, 2017 which would further add the prospects for more inclusive research of this mega project.  Simultaneously there are bright prospects to jack up the developments in various sectors which include agriculture, information technology.  This demonstrates the success of this meeting and the willingness of China to diversify its cooperation under the CPEC project. In this backdrop, the harmony between the provincial and federal governments is required and they should work enthusiastically for the inclusion of more projects under CPEC and to complete the ongoing projects.

It can be hoped that the end result would be productive and the project will be able to proceed. The continuity of the meetings of Joint Cooperation Committee since 2013 to Nov 2017 shows the evaluation and the progress of work on the ongoing projects under CPEC. 7th JCC has further deepened mutual cooperation between the two countries under the framework of CPEC and would pave a clear way for Pakistan to enter the phase of Industrial Cooperation.

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Of Article 35-A and looming crisis in Kashmir

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India is the confluence of 29 states and 7 Union territories, with a distinct demography, language, culture, lifestyle, etc. Jammu and Kashmir forms the part of the northern portion of the country with the privilege of the special status state among the whole gamut of states. Constitution as the basic guide of principles gives rights to all the people of the country, common and special.

Indian constitution is the sum total of articles, schedules, rights, duties, etc. Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is an article and provision that empowers the legislature of J&K state to define permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir state and provides special rights and privileges to them in public sector jobs, property acquisition in the State and other aid and welfare.

Article 35-A was added to the Constitution via a Presidential Order, i.e., The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954, issued by the President of India on 14 May 1954 with the concurrence of the Jammu and Kashmir government. The Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order, 1954 was issued by President Rajendra Prasad under Article 370, with the advice of the central Government. Article 35 A protects the demographic status of the Jammu and Kashmir. Article 35(A) of the Constitution of India, which was applied to the State of Jammu and Kashmir, not only recognizes but explains the constitutional and legal position of the state and does not provide something novice to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

In 2014, an NGO, We the Citizens, challenged the validity of the article 35A in Supreme Court of India. This year again the provisions of Article 35-A were challenged in the same manner, which invited ire of all the mainstream and separatist leaders of the valley.

Even an MLA of BJP at the state level came in support of the article 35-A.Subsequently,on the day of hearing, the valley came to a standstill amid hartals and bandhs called by the Joint Resistance Leadership in valley(JRL). Down the passing phases of time in Kashmir, all the mainstream political parties of the state except BJP have always defended the Article 370 and Article 35A. The former Chief Minister of the state, Mehbooba Mufti once reiterated that fiddling with Article 370 & Article 35 A will hurt the soul of Kashmir.

According to renowned columnist A G Noorani, all the arguments against the Article 35-A are groundless, and are raised with “communal-minded majoritarian” intentions. The scrapping of Article 35A will manifest into the erosion of the states autonomy.

If Article 35A is scrapped, the extension of the Fundamental Rights and every other provision to J&K through Presidential Orders will stop to apply. This will manifest into the only application of Article 1 and Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Article 35A is not only a constitutional or legal issue, but it is a socioeconomic and political issue. The major task for the ruling dispensation at the centre is to protect the special rights of the masses of the state. Being an issue of enormous sensitivity, the Supreme court of the country should dismiss the petition seeking to scrapping the Article 35-A.

Today, when J&K is passing through the phases of political uncertainty post-coalition demise and caught in the whirlpool of political waywardness, the major task for the government of India is to build a consensus to protect the scrapping of Article 35-A and restore the faith of the people in the good governance systems.

The land of the state is getting fragmented as the population of the state is increasing and cultivable lands are turned into residential plots. Settling outsiders in the state will not be a good and mature idea.

The valley is already heading for two day shutdown on 26th and 27th of this month as the next hearing of Article 35-A in the Supreme Court takes place. The political party National Conference has already deputed its members to New Delhi to defend the Article 35-A,but the major task for the political parties of the state in the current times is to work in unison for defending the special status and privilege of the state.

Has Government of India not learnt any lesson from the 2008 Amarnath land transfer agreement which kept valley on boil for various months and consumed the precious lives of the citizens. Fiddling with Article 35-A is tantamount to playing with fire which for God sake and engulf the whole peace and stability of the politically fragile state as the last nail in the coffin is assimilated. God save Jammu and Kashmir.

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Pakistan at a crossroads as Imran Khan is sworn in

Dr. James M. Dorsey

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Criticism of Pakistan’s anti-money laundering and terrorism finance regime by the Asia Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) is likely to complicate incoming Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan’s efforts to tackle his country’s financial crisis.

Addressing the criticism of the 41-nation APG, which reports to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an international anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism watchdog that earlier this year put Pakistan on a grey list with the prospect of blacklisting it is key to a possible Pakistani request for a US$ 12 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout.

A US demand that any IMF package exclude funding for paying off Chinese loans coupled with the APG/FATF criticism, against a backdrop of the Pakistani military’s efforts to nudge militants into the mainstream of Pakistani politics and the incoming prime minister’s mixed statements on extremism, could push Mr. Khan to turn to China and Saudi Arabia for rescue, a move that would likely not put Pakistan in the kind of straightjacket it needs to reform and restructure its troubled economy.

The APG criticism followed Pakistani efforts to demonstrate its sincerity by passing in February the Anti-Terrorism Ordinance of 2018, which gave groups and individuals designated by the UN as international terrorists the same status in Pakistan for the first time.

Pakistan, however, has yet to implement the ordinance by for example acting against Hafez Saeed, a leader of the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba and the alleged mastermind of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, who despite having been designated a global terrorist by the United Nations Security Council and having a US$ 10 million US Treasury bounty on his head, fielded candidates in last month’s election.

The APG, which just ended talks with Pakistani officials, has scheduled follow-up visits to Pakistan in September and October to monitor Pakistani progress in addressing its concerns, which focus on legal provisions governing non-profit and charitable organisations, transparency in the country’s beneficial ownership regime and the handling of reports on suspicious financial transactions.

Those concerns go to the heart of the effort by the Pakistani military and intelligence to mainstream militants who garnered just under ten percent of the vote in last month’s election but have a far greater impact on Pakistani politics. The military and intelligence have in the past encouraged militants to form political organizations with which mainstream political parties have been willing to cooperate and establish charity operations that have had a substantial social impact.

Similarly, Mr. Khan, who earned the nickname Taliban Khan, is likely to have to counter his past record of allowing government funds to go to militant madrassas, his advocacy for the opening in Pakistan of an official Taliban Pakistan office, and his support of the Afghan Taliban. His Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-headed government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, gave in February US$2.5 million to Darul Aloom Haqqania, a militant religious seminary.

Dubbed a “jihad university,” Darul Aloom Haqqania, headed by Sami ul-Haq, a hard-line Islamist politician known as the father of the Taliban, counts among its alumni, Mullah Omar, the deceased leader of the Taliban, Jalaluddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network. Asim Umar, leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, and Mullah Akhtar Mansoor, Mullah Omar’s successor who was killed in a 2016 US drone strike.

Those may be policies that, at least initially, may be less of an obstacle in assistance on offer from China and Saudi Arabia to replenish Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves that have plummeted over the past year to US$ 10.4 billion, enough to cover two months of imports at best. Pakistan’s currency, the rupee, has been devalued four times since December and lost almost a quarter of its value.

Chinese loans have so far kept Pakistan afloat with state-owned banks extending more than US$5 billion in loans in the past year. PTI officials said this week that China has promised the incoming government further loans to keep Pakistan afloat and enable it to avoid reverting to the IMF, which would demand transparency in the funding of projects related to China’s US$50 billion plus investment in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crown jewel of its Belt and Road initiative.

And that is where the rub is. Despite Chinese officials reportedly urging Pakistan to reduce its deficit, neither China nor Saudi Arabia, which has offered to lend Pakistan US$4 billion are likely to impose the kind of regime that would put the country, which has turned to the IMF 12 times already for help, on a sustainable financial path.

Relying on China and Saudi Arabia would likely buy Pakistan time but ultimately not enable it to avoid the consequences of blacklisting by FATF, which would severely limit its access to financial markets, if it fails to put in place and implement a credible anti-money laundering and terrorism finance regime

Moreover, relying on China and Saudi Arabia, two of Pakistan’s closest allies could prove risky. Neither country shielded Pakistan from FATF grey listing in February. A Chinese official said at the time that China had not stood up for Pakistan because it did not want to “lose face by supporting a move that’s doomed to fail.”

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The problem of pellet guns in Kashmir

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Jammu and Kashmir is the only northern state of the Indian union dogged with an overridden unhealthy political atmosphere. The valley of Kashmir is beset with a major governance deficit which has given renewed impetus to the dissenting voices of the masses day in and day out. Dissent is the hallmark of a democracy which acts as a medium for the expression of the masses against the system. There are certain rights and duties guaranteed by the Indian constitution for the citizens, including the right to freedom of expression and right to life. Caught in the quagmire of a political crisis that has deeply permeated the society, the people in Kashmir from time to time vent up their dissent. Hartals are the tools for the masses through which they ventilate their pent up emotions. Kashmir is not a different case. It is also amuck with crisis and caught in a looming distress day in and day out. Kashmir is the most sensitive zone of the whole Asian sub-continent, where situations turn awry with the passage of time, like the seasons of the year and is the only state of the Indian Union where there has been a reckless use of the pellet guns without any regard for the precious life of the common man. This is a sort of dichotomy.

The use of pellet guns is a major problem which has not only maimed, blinded and killed the masses, but also shaken the collective conscience of the people, who have fallen prey to a different approach of dichotomy of the government. The killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in 2016 brought about a volcanic eruption in valley which not only deteriorated the situation in Kashmir, but also increased the massive alienation of the masses. The waves of grief and anger against the day-to-day killings and maims that the people felt increased with each passing day. In order to control the crisis, the security agencies used the deadly pellets which caused heavy damage to the sufferers. More than 1200 people lost their vision in 2016. According to a report of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), more than 75% people suffered injuries due to pellet guns, ranging from minor to major in 2016.There was a heavy loss of life.

Although small in size, these black metallic balls have deteriorated our young generation. The use of pellet guns has wreaked crisis in Kashmir. For the security agencies, it is meant to disperse the crowds, but, for the common masses, it is a problematic affair. Pellet guns are pump-action shotguns which fire a cluster of small, round, metal pellets with high velocity over a broad range.

Recently, after the killing of a militant from Pahalgam area during the anti-establishment protests, a number of people were injured due to pellet A nurse working in the same area personally told me that we healed at least 100 plus pellet injured victims. The bloody Sunday of this year’s April and the subsequent clashes of the protestors with the security agencies left many injured, with multiple cases of pellet injuries to the eyes of the protestors.

Naseer Ahmad Bhat of Seer Hamdan, Anantnag was killed by the security forces during the post-Burhan phase of 2016 protests in Kashmir. He was an able worker and a good cricketer who fell silent to the pellets. Not only the collective conscience of the people was shaken, but also a state of disparity ensued. These deadly pellets have not even spared the school going children and snatched the power of seeing of the victims. Insha, a pellet victim who passed her matriculation examination last year despite odds is an inspiring hope for the likewise victims.

Pellets cause a number of biological ramifications in the victim, like the loss of vision, the state of paralysis, in case, the damage is caused to the spinal cord, defacements, and death in case of damage to the vital organs of the body, like, heart, kidneys, lungs, brain, etc. Moreover, the pangs of guilt that a victim suffers in silence dishearten one and all. The use of pellet guns as a crowd-control method during protests, whether in case of cordon and search operations (CASO) or common protests has added a volley of questions to the psyche of the common man? Being a part of the Indian union, that two acing the crown, Kashmir has been treated otherwise all through the passing times. People have got million queries, but, there are no solid answers to their problems and subsequent tactful solutions.

The substitution of pellet guns with PAVA shells can in no way control the crisis. The way people of other parts of the country are treated should form a close semblance in case of protests in Kashmir. Why the security forces are using pellets and bullets against the people whom the system claims with a sense of belonging. There can be other alternatives, like the use of water cannons without any damage and subsequent ensuing crisis that engulfs the society and creeps the psyche of the common men. If this is the notion of the system to punish dissent, then dissent itself takes a u-turn of additions and alterations with the passage of time. The bleeding valley is giving a close call for one and all to unite and ensue a state of peace and order. There is an urgent requirement of the administrative and political will to stop the use of pellet guns in Kashmir.

Whatever is happening to the people of Kashmir has not been experienced by the other people of the country. After all, it is a question of humanity. People suffer out of the ways as circumstances decide or may be destined otherwise. But to expect a peaceful valley without the intervention of a political will would be an underestimation of statements. There is a dual intolerance in Kashmir, one from the people and next from the system. The systematic targeting of the protestors from a point blank range irrespective of regard for the human life has shattered several families in Kashmir

Kashmir is passing through the phases of testing times with each passing day. The ugly turn of the situations and recurring events and the amateur dealing of the same has created an unhealthy atmosphere everywhere, where people have lost faith in the governance systems. The safety and security of every Tom, Dick and Harry is the looming question of the hour. Exits from dwellings and adieus from home don’t guarantee the safe return of the leavers. The interlocutor of the centre in vale, Mr. Dineshwar Sharma once reiterated that, ‘the priority is to prevent Kashmir turning into Syria’. The imbroglio has crippled the educational scenario, down slowed the economy, increased the unemployment, but, above all, the ultimate question is the redressal of the problem at stake, which for God sake can erupt into a lava-laden volcano one day and engulf the whole peace, stability and order of the South Asia, if not tactfully handled in the current times by the government.

The victory of BJP at the centre with the thumping majority after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections with the slogan of ‘minimum government, maximum governance’ falls short of words and has partially failed in the state of J&K.The killings of the common masses are in no way remedies to the political ailments. There should be the ultimate regard for the human lives. Why has the blood of the people become so cheap .When will peace return to the valley of Kashmir? The government of India had constituted an expert committee in July 2016 to explore other possible alternatives to pellet guns as non-lethal weapons. Although, the committee submitted its report and the recommendations were taken into account by the government for implementation. But, what happened afterwards lies in the public domain for discussion. The use of pellet guns is tantamount to the violation of rights of the people.

In order to direct the valley towards the state of peace and development, the role of multiple players of India, Pakistan and Valley is necessary. This way the government can make a significant contribution in the restoration of normalcy. The need of the hour is the unity of all the stakeholders of the society, like government, non-governmental parties, NGO’s, etc. to help these pellet victims via financial or other means.

Although, there has been a strong criticism of the use of pellet guns not only at the local level ,but also at the international level, but the main part of the problem resolution lies with the government of India and the state. Although, much has been said and written about the people of Kashmir with the flow of waters of the river Jhelum, but the stability of the region is a farfetched dream. Here, comes the role of the government into play. The use of pellet guns against the dissenting masses has wreaked havoc and wounded the collective psyche of the people, particularly those who have lost their near and dear ones due to the deadly metallic balls. Those who have fully or partially lost the vision and are living in dark suffer in silence. The government should review the situation and put a full stop for the future use of pellet guns. Those who have lost their dear ones should be financially compensated or by provision of bread and butter. However, the clarion call of the people is the complete ban and stoppage of these pellet guns in order to prevent the further damage and restore the faith of the people in the system. The government of India should pass a resolution to put a terminal pause to the use of pellet guns in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The vital task for the current times is to build a consensus for the total pellet ban. The use of non-lethal methods by the security agencies like water cannons could be the best alternatives. This will not only restore the faith of the people in governance, but also generate a feeling of belongingness among the masses. The bruised scars of the pellets have defaulted the trust of the people in the political system. Although, the situation is worrisome for one and all, but, in which direction the boat sails lies with the future course of action. After all action speaks louder than the words.

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