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South Asia

CPEC: Trick or Treat?

Syed Nasir Hassan

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Earlier to modern world the nations which upheld the power to subjugate others used to take nudge into considerably week nations in order to conquer them. The entire colonization of the world depicted a fine example of this art. Economies of the state were spiraled in a distinct order that it was elusive for the victim to untether from the colonial power. The modern nations in sub-continent encountered the same curse as both Pakistan and India were once colonies of British Empire. The British Raj in Indian Sub-Continent chose the same hegemonic design to vanquish by paralyzing the local economy and ultimately the whole continent was bestowed to them.

The contemporary age defies every notion which seizes someone’s sovereignty through any means though there might be exceptions. Hegemonic belief system has prevailed as there are still states which are keen to take the command. The new hegemonic designs no longer include the direct confrontation through any means.

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor or CPEC is an offshoot of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The people on both sides of the border have anticipated that there will be prosperity once it reaches its final stages. The speculations against this chivalrous project are there too. Project is also often related to the previous colonial hegemonic designs and is called as a threat to Pakistani identity. But the main concern is, are such initiatives by China or particularly CPEC is same old hegemonic design which were used by colonial powers to rule?

Conceived in 2013 and became viable in 2015, the project has brought enormous sums of investment. Not just this, the project also promoted the investing climate in Pakistan, at a time when the state of Pakistan was isolated from the international happenings. It was China and its vision of interconnectivity put Pakistan into light. Originally valued at USD 46 billion to new unofficial figure of USD 62 billion, there is something beneficial in it which has made CPEC persistent.

CPEC delivered the socio-economic opportunities in the suburb and urban areas. The Global Times reported that CEPC is aiming to provide 2,320,000 jobs till 2018. Various estimates projected that the project aims to create around 400,000-700,000 jobs during the period of 2015-2030. The project itself is self-sufficient to elevate the standards of living of the working and under-privilege segment of the society. While in colonial times there were only developments for the better and efficient transportation of the goods for the trade which were directly benefitting the colonial empire rather than the social fabric. The local labor was only used for exploitation during colonial times whereas CPEC include vast profile of jobs for locals including professional, technical, administrative and skilled based jobs. Another fact which negates the idea that CPEC is a colonial instrument is that the debt which is due on the Pakistani government is only USD 6 billion including interest in soft loans and the rest is foreign direct investment and grants.

Route of CPEC is more likely to be a path to prosperity. The economic ties of Pakistan with China will not only help Pakistan’s economy but also Pakistan’s stature in the international community. It is not to be misunderstood that development at the time of colonial powers was only for the elites rather than the local community while in contrast to CPEC, it is giving ease to the very lower division of the society.

There has been speculations and claims that CPEC will be another East India Company and it will shatter Pakistani identity and also will cause harm to the socio economic fabric of the country. Moreover it was also established by the antagonistic forces that China will one day take control of the Pakistani territory. In June 2018, Economic Times, an Indian tabloid, reported that a Netherland based Think tank has heavily criticized that CPEC is an unfair deal for Islamabad and eventually China will make Pakistan its colony. It is not to be forgotten that both the countries in this project are independent and sovereign. There is no need to scrutinize the whole project and calling it a big mistake there might be contradictions with some of the chapters of the project but as a whole the project holds great deal for Pakistan and China as well. It is up to the higher authorities to extract the maximum out of the project and prove it to be beneficial for the country and a “Game changer” for the world’s political dynamics.

Syed Nasir Hassan is working as a Research Associate at Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR). He is a student of Conflict & Peace Studies.

South Asia

Lebanon and Sri Lanka: An Extraordinary Relationship and a Bright Future

Mohamad Zreik

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Since the Silk Road, Arabs turned to Asian countries, and this was the reason for the spread of Arab civilization in many Asian countries. The Arab merchants headed towards Sri Lanka because of its geographical position. This island was a point of rest and cultural interaction between Sri Lankans and Arabs, and this is an important reason for the presence of Muslims in Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan-Lebanese relationship is long established. In the common history of these two countries, there are many good events. It is important to note that Sri Lanka is a peaceful country that has always been friendly to Lebanon at all times. In 1990, the relations between Lebanon and Sri Lanka became official after the establishment of diplomatic exchange. Sri Lanka’s first ambassador to Lebanon was appointed in 1997 and the diplomatic mission began in 1998. Prior to that, the Sri Lankan ambassador was appointed to Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon.

Sri Lanka’s foreign policy is based on the principle of friendship with all and hostility to no one, which has made this country a special place for Lebanese diplomacy. Sri Lanka traditionally follows a non-aligned foreign policy and does not take sides with major powers. Sri Lanka also has good relations with ASEAN countries, South Asian countries and major powers such as China, the United States and Russia, which has strengthened its internal peace.

Political and economic interest requires any country with ties to Sri Lanka to engage peacefully and diplomatically, because power and superiority with this island will have a negative effect. Sri Lanka is an active member of the United Nations and founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), member of the Commonwealth of Nations, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Colombo Plan.

The estimated number of Sri Lankan citizens in Lebanon is between 80,000 and 90,000, most of them workers. There is also a Sri Lankan battalion active in the peacekeeping force in Lebanon. The main task of the Sri Lankan battalion is to ensure security of Force Headquarters compound where all command elements, branches and all key personnel including the Force Commander / Head of the Mission are accompanied. These tasks also include; applying all FB measures in accordance with the alert status established by UNIFIL Force Commander, providing updated information and assesses the FP situation in their respective areas as requested by the Force Protection Working Group.

During the visit of Minister of Foreign Affairs Vasantha Senanayake to Lebanon, he expressed his country’s desire to develop bilateral relations with Lebanon and joint support in international forums. During that visit, the state minister considered that the Sri Lankan state is interested in direct flights between the two countries in order to encourage tourism and communication, and called on the Lebanese state to open an embassy in Colombo. He said that Sri Lanka’s participation in UNIFIL reflects the goodwill of the Sri Lankan state towards Lebanon for the security and safety of the people.

Trade relations between Lebanon and Sri Lanka are thriving and are developing considerably year after year. Lebanon can import a lot of goods from Sri Lanka especially since this country is rich in natural resources such as rubber products, garments, gem, jewelry, spices, fisheries products, fruits, pharmaceuticals, coconut charcoal, pearls and precious stones. Many Lebanese products can be exported to Sri Lanka such as Dairy products, marble tiles, cosmetics, construction machineries, agricultural and hospital equipment.

The bilateral relationship between Lebanon and Sri Lanka is a good example of active and peaceful diplomacy. The actual history of that relationship dates back to time and in 1990 it was formalized through diplomatic representation. Many generations of Sri Lankans have come to know a lot about Lebanese culture because they were brought up in Lebanon; those can be considered honorary citizens.

You will hear from every Lebanese who visited Sri Lanka amazing words about the beauty of this island and the goodness of its people. The Lebanese should welcome every Sri Lankan in Lebanon and treat them in a respectful and humane manner, whatever their job or social position.

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South Asia

Who wields “authority” in Pakistan? Need for maintaining separation of powers

Amjed Jaaved

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The provincial government has decided to go to Supreme Court against Peshawar High Court’s judgment on the BRT. The court has directed the Federal Investigation Agency to probe the project. The bench, headed by Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth was irked by a number of bloomers: (a) “Visionless” concentration of Asian Development Bank (ADB) loans in just one project without an in-depth feasibility study. (b) Cost increase from Rs49.453 billion in 2017 to Rs66.437 billion in 2018, of which Rs53.320 was take in the form of a loan from the ADB. (c) The “per kilometer cost of the BRT being exorbitantly high Rs2.427 billion. (d) Over-paid non-managerial staff. (e) Provision of expensive vehicles  to secretary transport, director general of the Peshawar  Development Authority (PDA) and commissioner Peshawar by consulting firm, Calsons and Maqbool, backlisted  by the Punjab government, yet taken on board for the  BRT in Peshawar. (e) Nexus between Pervez Khattak, the incumbent defense minister, the Director General, PDA, Azam Khan, principal secretary to the prime minister.

Our courts are submerged in plethora of cases with a political tinge. This trend is fatal for democracy. Let us not forget what Justice Muneer said shortly before pronouncing his verdict on Dosso case:  ‘when politics enters the portals of Justice, democracy, its cherished inmate, walks out by the backdoor’. It was a court that fixed price of sugar, bottled water and even mobile-phone service. They decided privatization issue and mining rights. Unable to oust prime minister through no-confidence, politicos got the job done by courts. 

It is time we refresh French jurist Jean Bodin’s dictum,  majesta est summa in civas ac subditoes legibusque salute potestas, that is ‘highest power over citizens and subjects unrestrained by law’(Jo.Bodini Andegavensis, De Republica Libri Sex.BkI, ch.I, p.78 (Lyon and Paris, 1686).. Bodin explained power resides with whosoever has ‘power to coerce’ (praetorians included). It does not reside with electorate, parliament, judiciary or even constitution.

Bodin did not believe in separation of powers. Yet, our Constitution is based on separation of powers. Do we want to follow Bodin and repose all powers in a single authority, maybe judiciary?

Potestas, power in Bodin’s definition  signifies auctoritas, authority, a power based upon positive law, de jure not merely de facto as potestas is used itn the Roman Lex de Imperio, or in the famous phrase of the Justinian’s Institutesin reference to it, omne suum, i.e., populi imperium et potestas’. An alternative meaning is  auctoritas,authority,  potential,  a power  de facto instead of de jure, actual might rather than lawful authority. The highest  de factor power  may be different from the one whose claims are the highest  de jure [dummy prime ministers and presidents in some countries]. In Bodin’s view there can be but one sovereign, supreme, single and undivided;. If so, the potestas is the highest in actual might­_ potentissima; with the highest authority. The sovereign is the person who is obeyed. `But we may obey one armed with the pistol as  well as one armed with a warrant” (C. H. McIlwain, Economica,No. 18 (Nov., 1926), pp. 253). What matter is authority not wisdom!

In golden word of our Constitution, `sovereignty’ belongs to Allah, Almighty’ but `authority’, subject to divine supervision is to be exercised by elected representative.

Fortunately, our judiciary is reluctant to become sovereign authority. That’s why it referred army chief’s extension case to legislature. Let us recall observations of Pakistan’s Chief Justice during the course of his opening address for the judicial year 2019-2020.

He `warned of the dangers of an accountability process which seemed to place political expediency above the dictates of law. He felt that unless this trend was checked the process of accountability would lose all credibility’. Then, `he talked about the marginalisation of political parties and the dangers this may entail for a country based on constitutional democracy’. He abhorred `growing censorship of the media and how such practices could become a threat to democracy’. He pointed out that `constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens must never be sacrificed at the altar of short-term gains’. To move forward, the CJP suggested that `all stakeholders, politicos, judiciary, military, media, civil society, sit together and resolve the problems which, if left unattended, could lead to disaster’.

Unfortunately, the common man is listless to the tug of war between various stakeholders. Aristotle thinks a citizen indifferent to state affairs is like an animal. It is alarming. French thinker, Montesquieu, likewise said in the 18th century `the tyranny of a Prince in an oligarchy is not as dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.’ A corrupt government is a gift of an indifferent electorate. Unless citizens slumber, no-one can dare make underhand money in any project.

In the Azam Swati case, our chief justice succinctly remarked that governments come and go but the state and the people remain. Irked by the chief justice’s suo moto notice, the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf government’s information minister said what use was a government that could not suspend an IGP (later retracted or modified).

There is a Latin quip quis custodiet ipsos custodies?, who  will guard the guardians? The phrase epitomises Socrates’ search for guardians who can hold power to account. Power  corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. On-elected institutions include judiciary, civil service, police, banking institutions, and public sector undertakings. 

The malaise of governmental power manifests itself in fake accounts, billions in benami (nameless) or unclaimed accounts, loans without collateral (bad debts), and politically-influenced appointments.

Theoretically, the people hold ‘power’ to account. But the ‘people’ are an amorphous lot without a legal identity like an institution, except as ‘voter’ during elections.

Could a CJP open a tuition centre during evening  hours to teach what ‘power’, ‘government’, ‘state’ or  ‘people’ are?

Accountability of elites and mafias: William A. Welsh says, `The rise of democracy has signaled the decline of elites’ Leaders and Elites, p.1)   But, a bitter lesson of history is that demokratia (power of the people) had always been an ideal. History reminds no system, not even ochlocracy (mobocracy) could ever bulldoze governing elites. Delhi Sultanate, the Moghul, and the Englishman ruled through hand-picked elites.  The `equal citizen’ as enshrined in golden words of our constitution remained a myth.  Even American democracy is run by a handful of specialised people.  The majority of the population is a silent spectator, a `bewildered herd’ (Chomsky).

Because of their influence, many political philosophers, including Plato, Aristotle and Tacitus studied nature of societies and the elites that they popped up.  Many modern thinkers like Moska, Michel, Marx, Pareto and C Wright Mill, also tried to make head or tail of the elites. 

Demokratia (power of the people) could never equalise citizens.  However, all democracies envisioned `opportunities for political participation to larger proportions of the population’, and across-the-board accountability.  Democracy is a progressive effort to equalise citizens before law, rather than legalising elites and mafias. The dilly-dallying in passing an across-the-board accountability law is not understood. The law should provide for accountability (under Law of Tort) for negligence or neglect by professionals (judges, lawyers, teachers, media persons, and their ilk).

Granting exemptions to certain elites  amounts to converting them into sacrosanct mafias. Let there be a single omnipotent body to try all individuals and elites alike.

A peep through hlidskjalf (telescope): If god Odin peeps through his hlidskjalf to have a panoramic glance at Pakistan’s society (its ordinary and influential people and lackadaisical institutions, at dagger’s drawn), what would he notice? Inertia, incompetence, and siege mentality, all around! What solution for this psychopathology? Change of attitudes and a cooperative relationship between individuals and organisations.  Not viewing civilians as bloody ones and Khakis as dunces. But how to revamp attitudes? Draw psychological profiles of individuals and organisations. Are they `normal’? ‘Rueful child visible to naked eyes in `Pakistan founding party wala’ and `Naya Pakistan wala` chiefs.

At least the selection and training institutions should review efficacy of their Thematic Apperception Tests. This test claims to decipher underlying motives, concerns, and their inner window on social world. Why scoundrels at large like `sab she pehley Pakistan’ wala remained undetected. He hid in washroom to avoid (d)ragging (read Musharraf’s auto-biography).  Try to detect flaws in attitudes like `halo effect’, `projection’, `blame shifting’, `victim blaming’, `bullying’ and` transference’. May apply even Rorschach Ink Blot Test, Children’s Apperception Test and other tests in store.

Unless siege mentality is cured we would continue to witness `defence mechanism’ attitudes (fearful court judgments, discriminatory education and healthcare, and stratified shelter and housing). In short, fossilization of mafias (scuttling participatory democracy) in all realms of life.

Conclusion: Elected representatives (power) are under the delusion that they are superior to all unelected institutions. But the representatives should exercise their authority under Allah’s 

Authority within bounds of our constitution.

The courts are guards over brute power and authority of the guardians (government). In so doing the courts are ‘quite untouchable by the legislature or the executive in the performance of its duty’ (Harilal Kania, India’s first chief justice).The chief justice of Pakistan alone cannot be the guardsman of the constitution. Unlike Western judges, he does not have lifelong tenure. The bureaucracy, banks and accountability institutions should also preserve their autonomy tooth and nail.

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South Asia

Pakistan and the Game of Throne

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General elections of 2018 were one of the historical elections Pakistan had ever witnessed mainly because for the first time ever a third political party ousted the two party’s system out of the power corridor. PML N and PPP were replaced by the PTI and it emerged as the largest seat grabber in the polls. It was quite astonishing, for his critics, in many ways that Imran Khan after his struggle of 22 years was now going to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan.

From the day of this Government’s advent it was quite evident that the crown of Prime minister ship is going to be very exigent and taxing for Imran Khan. And it was quite vivid in the initial few months of the Government that it is going to be very difficult for them to fulfill the sky-high expectations that were pined upon them since the day of this Governments inception. The two humungous challenges that this incumbent Government of Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf (PTI) had to face were; economy and bad governance. They were welcomed with the crumbling economy that was at the verge of default with foreign reserves of two weeks in national exchequer and the extensive trail of bad governance.

PTI very persistently used the election rhetoric of not going to IMF but owing to the hanging sword of national default it was forced to do so and hence the first U-turn of the Government emerged on the national spectrum. This Government had to take this economy’s bull by horns and in order to do that certain decision had to be taken that became the cause of intense inflation in the country. It can be said that the Government peddled its reforms agenda in FBR, state bank and economic divisions and after that it had to face the resistance from the trader’s community. The results of these reforms are becoming fruitful for Government in the last few weeks of 2019 as World Bank appreciated our ease of doing business and furthermore the rating agency Moody increased Pakistan’s rating from negative to Stable. This is an achievement for the economic team, but real success would be to transform this stabilization into trickle down affect that would reach the common masses because they are yet to cherish the economic stability in their lives.

Apart from the economy another concern for the Imran Khan’s Government was good governance and this topic entails every department within in the jurisdiction of the executive and provinces. In these past 14 months, most of the criticism on the Government came due to lack of the governance model which Imran Khan promised before elections. The selection of Punjab’s Chief Minister was hugely contested within the party and mainstream media that how on Earth Imran Khan could hand over such an important province to the man who joined PTI two months before elections and clearly lacks the administrative capabilities that are required to run the biggest province of the country. Unfortunately, in the first year of its 5-year tenure, the performance of PTI in Punjab is below average. The agenda of Police reforms has been pushed under the carpet. There has been constant reshuffling in the bureaucracy of the Punjab but according o the critics there is the need of only one reshuffle on the post of CM but despite of all this Imran Khan is  still standing firm behind Usman Buzdar and I think is the only one who still thinks that he is going to become Wasim Akram Plus.

PTI’s stance on the accountability was the driving force of its political struggle over 22 years and now when Imran Khan is in the Government people want to see that looted money back that have been allegedly money laundered outside ofPakistan. Government has established an asset recovery unit and on 3rd December 2019, its first victory was witnessed when with the co operation of UK’s National Crime Agency Pakistan was able to get the 190 million pounds worth of the property in the Hyde Park. But opposition parties are continuously raising their reservations against National Accountability Beaurea and they say that Government is using state institutions against its opposition parties as according to them, Imran Khan holds political vendetta against them. Last month when Nawaz Sharifflew abroad on health grounds, many heads were rolled that Government is doing reconciliatory deal with the opposition by giving safe exit to NawazSharif. But Imran Khan has unequivocally stated that he would not enter in any kind of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) with any opposition party as according to him if he does so he would become the biggest traitorof his nation. On the contrary the slogan of accountability is the only binding force for the PTI voters who have been standing by the Government despite the governance issues and economic recession. The compromise on accountability would change the political fate of this government and till now we can say that the rigid stance of Imran Khan on across the board accountability is evident of this fact that Prime Minister has fair realization of this scenario.

Another big challenge this government had to face was Azadi March of Maulana Fazal ur Rehman that created quite a stir in the Capital for over  a week when thousands of madrassah kids under the leadership of Maulana and other opposition parties demanded the resignation of Prime Minister on the grounds of rigged election but ironically for over a year these parties have been unable to produce one proof in election commission to substantiate their claims. The sit in was called off after few days but it gave rise to many conspiracy theories regarding “Maulana Araha Hai “and“Maulana Jaa Raha Hai”. This expeditionfurther aggravated the gap between Prime minister and the opposition that would eventually affect the legislative process in Parliament where bothare supposed to form laws and regulations.

On one front, Imran Khan emerged as the brightest and strongest and that was the foreign policy front of the Government. In the last 14 months Pakistan has emerged as one of the significant international players. In this period Pakistan has hosted high level foreign dignitaries and head of state. One day Imran khan is driving Muhammad Bin Salman from Noor Khan Airbase to PM house, receiving Malaysian, Emirati and Qatari head of state and on another day, he is hosting Duke and Duchess of Cambridge then flying to Iran to mediate between them and KSA. The international stature of the Prime minister pushed Pakistan into limelight. The role of Pakistan in Afghan peace process has increased its importance for United States of America as it was quite evident when Imran Khan visited USA earlier his year. After the revocation of Article 370, Pakistan has been very vocal about the Indian atrocious in Kashmir and Prime minister’s speech in UN General Assembly was a big hit where he single handedly exposed the RSS-Nazi nexus and forced the world to not forget Kashmir due to the unfortunate economic compulsions of the international politics. Overall Pakistan is also ahead in the domain of the Public diplomacy in the region after the opening of the Kartarpur corridor to the Sikhs pilgrims.

But despite of these achievements in foreign policy, the real challenges lieat home where there is the dire need to put our house in order first. There are still very big question marks over the competence of the cabinet ministers and lethargy of the beauracracy. At the end of the day it isthe general public that needs to be satisfied and till now PTI is still struggling with that. It can be said that it would be unfair to compare the performance of the three-timeruling parties with that of the Government that is one year old. The pragmatism would require to give this government time as still for many the current prime minister is the only  hope for the nation but on the other hand he also needs to realize that running a country is different from running a cricket team as there is the need of more patience in former. Imran khan still had to cross a long road ahead for which he needs to pull up his sleeves and buckle his shoes up to give the people of Pakistan what they deserve the most; A strong, prosperous and welfare state.

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