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Pakistan: Possible Challenges to Newly Elected Government and Way Forward

Fateh Najeeb Bhatti

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“The best example of democracy I can recall is five wolves sitting down to dinner with one sheep”

Charles De Montesquieu once whispered this about the concept of good governance within the democratic governments which sets the first-rate rule for any government in any part of the world even in modern days. After going through the process of elections, majority of Pakistanis have given their consensus in the favor of PTI led by Imran Khan to make efforts for the future of Pakistan. Although, there have been allegations of pre-poll and post- poll rigging but despite these factors PTI has emerged as a powerful political party with its schema of corruption free and  educated Pakistan. Since many years, PTI was struggling hard to enter into power corridors with majority of youth, overseas Diaspora and people backing it fed up with old-style political forces of country such as PML (N), PPP, ANP and few religious parties, though some might disagree. This time PTI was able to attain the mandatory number of seats to form a government at federal level. PTI entered into electoral process with the manifesto of fetching change in almost every sphere of Pakistani society and government functioning. Along with fortifying mandate it has inherited certain challenges at domestic and international front. People are expectant of drastic changes and hopes are very high from newly elected government. But, the real mettle of PTI will be determined through how and whether it will be able to combat all these challenges.

First and top most contest is dealing with the issue of accusations of rigging. A transparent body without the involvement of ECP and other alleged institutions should be setup to remove the grievances and resentment of disparate parties. Once the misgivings are cleared out, it will boost the morale of PTI rule in general public as well as opposition parties which lost in voting. PTI Chairperson Imran khan while delivering his speech after election victory has shown commitment to resolve all issues inside country and foreign relations with comprehensive approach which ostensibly is a very good beginning. PM elect Imran Khan has clearly identified areas which require leadership’s special consideration as they have been lingering on since years with no concrete improvement in the due course of history.

On the domestic front, the government has to tackle the issue of failing economy. National exchequer is out of balance currently. Rupee is suffering from degradation in comparison to the US dollar. Foreign reserves are extremely less and national debts are increasing at a rapid pace. Imbalance of exports and imports is further deteriorating the state of affairs. GDP proportion is also not very decent which is highlighting low productivity. Different sectors like agriculture, services and industrial segments are showing alarming situation. Pakistan frequently relies on foreign aid and contributions even in making its annual budget to run state affairs. Karachi being the commercial hub of Pakistan’s economy needs special concentration because the situation there affects the entire country. This practice has to be stopped else national prestige will be lost with no control over autonomously policy making.

Good governance is among other issues to be dealt with by the expert, knowledgeable and honest crew. Former government faced heavy criticism of corruption, malpractices, nepotism and lack of transparency in ingesting and provision of development funds. Domestic law and order situation is not very good. Crimes, terrorist attacks and functioning of police and other law enforcement agencies has been dubious. Human rights desecrations are being unheeded e.g., child abuse, abduction, rape and restraining freedom of expression have become routine perils of the society with no feeling of shame. Constitutional loopholes and patronage of miscreants by powerful elites add fuel to fire in such cases. Moral standards of society need to be up stretched to curtail such malevolent activities. Rulers themselves set the examples for the masses to follow. These can only be rooted out via terminating discernment and safeguarding supremacy of law.

The pursuit of national cohesion can only be attained by giving due consideration to the real problems including mainstreaming of neglected areas and attending to dispiriting ethnic conflicts. The terrains falling into the government jurisdiction must have national deliberation so that nobody should feel isolated and neglected in national growth. FATA and Baluchistan need special attention in contemporary scenario as they have been habitually ignored by the preceding governments. Until the root causes of their glitches are not understood, no effort would succeed. Conditions in interior Sindh and Baluch belt of Baluchistan and South Punjab are not pleasing.

Sectarian violence is another major issue which needs to be synchronized on priority basis. Dissimilar religious sects get involved in hate speeches thus invoking illiterate masses to use violent means to pursue their objectives. A board comprising of Ullamas of all sects can define an acceptable strategy to curb this hazard. Likewise rights of minorities especially Christians, Hindus and Ahmadis should not be allowed to be violated. They are all Pakistanis and they should be given full right to practice their religion according to the constitution. Instability and ferocity only occurs when the rights of certain communities or individuals are not rewarded accordingly. Political stability is the dire need of Pakistan along with eliminating institutional tug of war to undermine each other. This government has to knob this sensitive issue carefully to dislodge the institutional distrust and to be able to move on to the road of progress and prosperity with collective national wisdom.

In terms of external relations Pakistan should not compromise at any price on its national stature and sovereignty. Kashmir and Afghanistan issues have occupied majority of our policies emphasis .The solution of these issues is very important for Pakistan’s own stability and solidarity. In this context, ties with neighboring countries like India and Afghanistan should be swatted. In this nuclear age no country can afford war. This is an age of peaceful co-existence. Though international communal has not done needful to resolve these matters, South Asian nations themselves have to reconcile to accommodate each other. As a whole, this region is suffering from poverty, illiteracy and low standard of life. Reducing arms expenditure can benefit the poor majority of both India and Pakistan. Key powers like the US, China and Russia cannot ignore this part of the world because of its geostrategic significance. Pakistan has to gain maximum results for its own national interest while engaging with these powerful nations. Pakistan’s friendly states like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China are vital countries in Pakistani perspective. Especially the relationship with China should not be bargained for at any cost as only the efficacious completion of CPEC project will upsurge our national income. Foreign investment prone milieu is only possible if long glooms of terrorism are rooted out. International image should be improved to shelter diplomatic accomplishments.  Role of the US is crucial in this region and Pakistan has to deal with the US in its shifting regional alignments especially with regards to its growing intimacy with India.

In a nutshell, it can be avowed that the new-fangled government has to come up with high standards of concert at domestic and international obverse because people are expecting much more than they were from the earlier governments. Economy, Law and order situation, education, health, individual rights and foreign policy are the core areas under spectrum. No development in regional perspective should be permitted to undermine Pakistan’s stature of equality with India at least to secure its endurance. Hopes are high and if unmet will disappoint the public despondently. However, let’s stay optimistic and give this government a chance to demonstrate its value. The stalwarts of PTI must be mindful of it and expectedly work for certifying true essence of democracy.

Research Associate At Strategic Vision Institute (SVI) Islamabad M.Phil IR From SPIR Quaid e Azam Universiy Islamabad

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South Asia

The “Neo-Cold War” in the Indian Ocean Region

Kagusthan Ariaratnam

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Addressing an event last week at London’s Oxford University, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said some people are seeing “imaginary Chinese Naval bases in Sri Lanka. Whereas the Hambantota Port (in southern Sri Lanka) is a commercial joint venture between our Ports Authority and China Merchants – a company listed in the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe has denied US’ claims that China might build a “forward military base” at Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port which has been leased out to Beijing by Colombo. Sri Lanka failed to pay a Chinese loan of $1.4 billion and had to lease the China-developed port to Beijing for 99 years. Both New Delhi and Washington had in the past expressed concerns that Beijing could use the harbor for military purposes.

Image courtesy of Google

The USA, China, and India are the major powers playing their key role in the “Neo-Cold War” in Central Asian landmass and the strategic sea lanes of the world in the Indian Ocean where 90% of the world trade is being transported everyday including oil. It is this extension of the shadowy Cold War race that can be viewed as the reason for the recent comment made by the US Vice President Mike Pence that China is using “debt diplomacy” to expand its global footprint and Hambantota “may soon become a forward military base for China’s expanding navy”.

According to some analysts, the deep-water port, which is near a main shipping route between Asia and Europe, is likely to play a major role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

In his book “Monsoon” Robert D. Kaplan (2010), a senior fellow at the Centre for a New American Security notes the following:

[…] the Indian Ocean will turn into the heart of a new geopolitical map, shifting from a unilateral world power to multilateral power cooperation. This transition is caused by the changing economic and military conditions of the USA, China and India. The Indian Ocean will play a big role in the 21st century’s confrontation for geopolitical power. The greater Indian Ocean region covers an arc of Islam, from the Sahara Desert to the Indonesian archipelago. Its western reaches include Somalia, Yemen, Iran, and Pakistan — constituting a network of dynamic trade as well as a network of global terrorism, piracy, and drug trafficking […]

Two third of the global maritime trade passes through a handful of relatively narrow shipping lanes, among which five geographic “chokepoints” or narrow channels that are gateway to and from Indian ocean: (1) Strait of Hormuz (2) Bab el-Mandab Passage (3) Palk Strait (4) Malacca and Singapore Straits and (5) Sunda Strait.

While Lutz Kleveman (2003), argues that the Central Asia is increasingly becoming the most important geostrategic region for the future commodities, Michael Richardson (2004) on the other hand explains that the global economy depends on the free flow of shipping through the strategic international straits, waterways, and canals in the Indian Ocean.

According to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA)  report published in 2017, “world chokepoints for maritime transit of oil are a critical part of global energy security. About 63% of the world’s oil production moves on maritime routes. The Strait of Hormuz and the Strait of Malacca are the world’s most important strategic chokepoints by volume of oil transit” (p.1). These channels are critically important to the world trade because so much of it passes through them. For instance, half of the world’s oil production is moved by tankers through these maritime routes. The blockage of a chokepoint, even for a day, can lead to substantial increases in total energy costs and thus these chokepoints are critical part of global energy security.  Hence, whoever control these chockpoints, waterways, and sea routes in the Indian Ocean maritime domain will reshape the region as an emerging global power.

In a recent analysis of globalization and its impact on Central Asia and Indian Ocean region, researcher Daniel Alphonsus (2015), notes that the twists and turns of political, economic and military turbulence were significant to all great players’ grand strategies:

(1) the One Belt, One Road (OBOR), China’s anticipated strategy to increase connectivity and trade between Eurasian nations, a part of which is the future Maritime Silk Road (MSR), aimed at furthering collaboration between south east Asia, Oceania and East Africa; (2) Project Mausam, India’s struggle to reconnect with its ancient trading partners along the Indian Ocean, broadly viewed as its answer to the MSR; and (3) the Indo-Pacific Economic Corridor, the USA’s effort to better connect south and south east Asian nations. (p.3)

India the superpower of the subcontinent, has long feared China’s role in building outposts around its periphery. In a recent essay, an Indian commentator Brahma Chellaney wrote that the fusion of China’s economic and military interests “risk turning Sri Lanka into India’s Cuba” – a reference to how the Soviet Union courted Fidel Castro’s Cuba right on the United States’ doorstep. Located at the Indian Ocean’s crossroads gives Sri Lanka the strategic and economic weight in both MSR and Project Mausam plans. MSR highlights Sri Lanka’s position on the east-west sea route, while Project Mausam’s aim to create an “Indian Ocean World” places Sri Lanka at the center of the twenty-first century’s defining economic, strategic and institutional frameworks. Furthermore, alongside the MSR, China is building an energy pipeline through Pakistan to secure Arabian petroleum, which is a measure intended to bypass the Indian Ocean and the Strait of Malacca altogether.

A recent study done by a panel of experts and reported by the New York Times reveal that how the power has increasingly shifted towards China from the traditional US led world order in the past five years among small nation states in the region. The critical role played by the strategic sea ports China has been building in the rims of Indian Ocean including Port of Gwadar in Pakistan, Port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Port of Kyaukpyu in Myanmar and Port of Chittagong in Bangladesh clearly validates the argument that how these small states are being used as proxies in this power projection.

This ongoing political, economic and military rivalry between these global powers who are seeking sphere of influence in one of the world’s most important geostrategic regions is the beginning of a “Neo-Cold War” that Joseph Troupe refers as the post-Soviet era geopolitical conflict resulting from the multipolar New world order.

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South Asia

IMF bail-out Package and Pakistan

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Pakistan may approach IMF to bail-out the current economic crisis. It is not the first time that Pakistan will knock the doors of IMF. Since 1965, Pakistan has been to IMF 17 times. Almost all of the governments has availed IMF packages. Usually, IMF is a temporary relief and provide oxygen for short time so that the patient may recover and try to be self-sustained. The major role of IMF is to improve the governance or reforms, how the ill-economy of a country may recover quickly and become self-sustained. After having oxygen cylinder for 17 times within 5 decades, Pakistan’s economy could not recover to a stage, where we can be self-sustained and no more looking for IMF again and again. This is a question asked by the common man in Pakistan to their leadership.  People are worried that for how long do we have to run after IMF package? The nation has enjoyed 70 decades of independence and expects to be mature enough to survive under all circumstances without depending on a ventilator.

The immediate impact of decision to approach IMF, is the devaluation of Pakistani Rupees. By depreciating only one rupee to US dollar, our foreign debt increases 95 billion rupees.  Today we witness a depreciation of rupee by 15 approximately (fluctuating), means the increase in foreign debt by 1425 billion rupees. Yet, we have not negotiated with IMF regarding depreciation of Rupees. Usually IMF demand major depreciation but all government understands the implications of sharp devaluation, always try to bargain with IMF to the best of their capacity. I am sure, Government of Pakistan will also negotiate and get the best bargain.

IMF always imposes conditions to generate more revenue and the easiest way to create more income is imposing tax on major commodities including Gas, Electricity and Fuel. Pakistan has already increased the prices of Gas, Electricity and Fuel. It has had direct impact on basic necessities and commodities of life. We can witness a price hike of basic food, consumer items and so on. Except salaries, everything has gone up. While negotiating with IMF formally, we do not know how much tax will be increased and how much burden will be put on the common man.

We believe, our rulers know our capacity and will keep in mind the life of a common man and may not exceed the limit of burden to common man beyond its capacity. We are optimistic that all decisions will be taken in the best interest of the nation.

It is true, that Pakistan has been to IMF so many times, so this might be a justification for the PTI Government to avail IMF package. But, there are people with different approach. They have voted for change and for “Naya” (new) Pakistan. They do not expect from PTI to behave like previous several governments. If PTI uses the logic of previous governments, may not satisfy many people in Pakistan.

Especially, when Pakistan was in a position to take-off economically, we surrendered half way, may not be accepted by many people in Pakistan.

The government has explained that other options like economic assistance from friendly countries was also very expensive, so that they have preferred IMF as more competitive package. I wish, Government may educate public on the comparison of available options, their terms and conditions, their interest rate, their political conditions, etc. There might be something confidential, Government may avoid or hide, one may not mind and understand the sensitivity of some of the issues. But all permissible information on the terms and conditions of all options in comparison, may be placed on Ministry of Finance’s website or any other mode of dissemination of knowledge to its public.

Against the tradition, people of Pakistan have voted Imran Khan, who so ever was given ticket of PTI, public has voted him or her blindly in trust to Imran Khan. A few of his candidates might not be having very high capabilities or very good reputation, but, public has trusted Imran Khan blindly. Imran Khan is the third most popular leader in Pakistan, after Jinnah the father of nation, and Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Former Prime Minister of Pakistan in 1970s.

People of Pakistan have blindly trusted in Imran Khan and possess very high expectations from him. I know, Imran Khan understands it very well. He is honest, brave and visionary leader and I believe he will not disappoint his voters.

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South Asia

Now India denies a friendly hand: Imran Khan debuts against arrogant neighbors

Sisir Devkota

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Imran Khan is facing the brunt for overly appeasing its arch rival-India. On September 22, Khan tweeted that he was disappointed over India’s arrogant reply to resume bilateral talks in the UNGA and that he had encountered many “small men” in big offices unable to perceive the larger picture.I am observing a south Asian order changing with Khan’s rise in Pakistani politics. We in Nepal need to grasp the possible reality before circumstances shall engulf our interests.

Observation 1

Narendra Modi was undoubtedly “The Prince”of South Asia from Niccolo Machiavelli’s 16th century classic political narrative. I sense the old prince acting in distress over the rise of a new one. Imran Khan’s invitation for a ministerial level meeting in New York; amidst the eyes of foreign diplomats could not have been a better approach by Pakistan in a long time. Instead, Indian foreign minister, Sushma Swaraj dismissed the offer, blaming Pakistan’s double standard in killing Indian forces and releasing Burhan Wani’s (India’s terrorist and Pakistan’s martyr) postal stamps. Khan did not sanction the postal release, but as the Prime Minister of Pakistan, he must be held accountable for failing to stop the killings,just when talks were supposed to happen. He should have addressed the highly sensitive Indian government. But, I do empathize with Khan’s statement, “small men in big offices”; as he clearly outlined the exact problem. He directly called upon the Indian government to think bigger and escape circumstances to solve historical problems. Narendra Modi has developed a new rhetoric these days; that India is not going to keep quiet over Pakistan’s actions. It fits the nature of Machiavelli’s Prince as an authority which can maintain national virtue. Unfortunately, I do not buy Modi’s rhetoric. The Prince has come a bit late in his tenure to act for Indian virtues. I am sure many at the UNGA would have noticed India’s apprehension in the same manner. I suspect that the ex-prince is facing insecurities over the fear of losing his charisma. Nepal, in particular was charmed by his personality when he first visited our capital, with promises that flooded our heart. And then, we faced his double standard; right after the massive earthquake in 2015. Nobody in Nepal will sympathize with Swaraj’s justification of cancelling the meeting.

Observation 2

Let me explain the source of insecurity. Modi has thrived by endorsing his personality. A tea man who worked for the railways under great financial hardships, became the poster man of India. He generated hope and trust that his counterparts had lost over the years. His eloquent stage performance can fool the harshest of critics into sympathizing his cause. People have only realized later; many macro economists in India now argue that demonetization was, perhaps, one of the worst decisions for India’s sake. Narendra Modi is India sounds truer than Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister of India.

Imran Khan, a former cricketer does not spring the same impression as Modi. Khan, a world champion in 1992, is known for his vision and leadership in Cricket. Comparatively, Khan does not need to sell his poster in South Asia. He does not cry over his speeches to garner mass euphoria. Ask anybody who’s into the sport and they will explain you the legend behind his name. I suspect that Modi has realized that he is going to lose the stardom in the face of Pakistan’s newly elected democratic leader. After all, the Indian PM cannot match Imran’s many achievements in both politics and cricket. I suspect that Modi has realized the fundamental difference in how his subjects inside India and beyond are going to perceive Imran’s personality. I expect more artificial discourses from India to tarnish Imran’s capabilities.

Nepal & Pakistan

You will not find Pakistan associated with Nepal so often than with India. Frankly, Nepal has never sympathized with Indian cause against Pakistan. We have developed a healthy and constructive foreign relations with the Islamic republic. However, there has always been a problem of one neighbor keeping eyes on our dealings with another. Indian interests have hindered proximity with past governments. Now, Imran Khan has facilitated the platform for deeper relations. He does not carry the baggage of his predecessors. He is a global icon, a cricket legend and a studious politician. He is not the result of mass hysteria. Imran Khan has pledged to improve Pakistan’s economy, reinstate foreign ties and boost regional trade. For me, he is South Asia’s new Machiavellian prince; one that can be at least trusted when he speaks.

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