Random thoughts and China

Bridges, not walls

Watching a local channel- I watched in disbelief containers blockading many parts of Lahore last week. A march by Tehreek Labbaik Ya Rasool Allah someone said. What? It was Salman Taseer’s death anniversary. What message are we sending to the world? It’s not just about Zarb-e-Azam but also against curbing it at social, cultural and religious levels?

Political leadership degeneration. Quality no more. Where are we going? Spending taxpayers money where? Names of many famous scams start dancing before the eyes. X, Y, Z and count backward till A. The commissions made, results awaited. And awaited.

Dr Thomas Sowell a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, in a blog writes, “Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”

A mail by a friend on 1st January 2017 says, “The first day of year starts with first wastage of public money. A big ad, half page, by the government of Pakistan in a leading newspaper (name omitted), with huge pic of PM along with list of ‘achievements’ in 2016.” It goes on to detail alleged misdeeds by the government- not being restated here for being boringly repetitive.

“Choose a leader who will invest in building bridges, not walls. Books, not weapons. Morality, not corruption. Intellectualism and wisdom, not ignorance. Stability, not fear and terror. Peace, not chaos. Love, not hate. Convergence, not segregation. Tolerance, not discrimination. Fairness, not hypocrisy. Substance, not superficiality. Character, not immaturity. Transparency, not secrecy. Justice, not lawlessness. Environmental improvement and preservation, not destruction. Truth, not lies.” (Suzy KassemRise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem)

Corruption in systematic manner may be seen as being institutionalized with informal manner of working superseding the formal rules, which are relegated to being a piece of paper only. It becomes extremely vital for a strong legal system to be in place aimed to check any corruption taking place. Governance must be strong to stymie corrupt practices, disallow informal rules from taking over and promote accountability.

More and more, children hailing from affluent families going to boutique schools mainly in posh residential areas are falling victim to drug use. It starts usually with a few kids with too much money to spend given to them, a car, and parents who simply do not know where and with whom their children are spending their time with. From a small clique the intake of drugs spreads to their friends in school. It starts as adventurism, soon becomes an addiction, usual drug among young users being hash since it’s cheaper. Sales of drugs in Lahore especially hash of poor quality is skyrocketing- creating psychotic disorders in users- but all is well. It is not happening officially. Everything is super cool and super good.

CPEC is coming up. China is stepping in as a major investor. Excellent move. Geographically regionally for Pakistan. We need it. But wait where is the well ironed out diplomatic policy by the Foreign Minister aka’ Mr Prime Minister? We have burnt our fingers by putting all our eggs in the American basket and now we want to put the eggs in the Chinese basket. Extending beyond CPEC, a Chinese consortium picks up 40% of the Karachi-based Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) strategic shares. But this was not enough. A Chinese company and the Sindh government have entered into an agreement to lift the garbage from the streets of Karachi. The contract currently is for South and East districts the Karachi but may extend to other areas. China is indeed our friend with our friendship being sweeter than honey and taller than the Himalayas- but do we have to fill up the Chinese basket? Natasha Jehangir Khan, a lawyer working as a consultant working for the government on regulatory and power sector reforms says, “The question “Why China?” is cropping up more and more frequently since CPEC and non-CPEC Chinese investments have increased in Pakistan. It is not however something we should be overly concerned with since that was the whole plan to begin with – substantial Chinese equity injected into our economy.

It is the outcomes and objectives of this investment which are more important, and which the policy makers should be concerned with. Our focus ought to be on how we can maximise this investment to achieve the twofold objective of growth internally as well as becoming a major investment destination for other regional and global players.

For starters, any proposed investment ought to ensure local participation – a project must ensure employment of locals as well as trigger ancillary business set ups such as hotels, restaurants, transport etc. Local participation will not only create ownership, it will also create economic incentivisation which is bound to lead to better security, especially in volatile areas.

The success of investments from China is also important for the perception of Pakistan as a safe or at least profitable investment destination. From there flows the second objective – turning Pakistan into a strategically placed trade route for major regional as well as global players. If mapped properly, and planned strategically, the Chinese influx can be a game changer for the status of Pakistan on the global map.

I don’t therefore think we need to worry much about ‘too much to China’, since that was always the short to medium term goal. How we maximise the benefits from the enhanced financial activity on our soil is what really matters in the long run. If we can cash in on these opportunities optimally, Chinese investment will be the best thing to have happened to this country.

Passing on a DHA road in Lahore, saw a car plate sans number but claiming to be owned by an MNA. Haw! How random!

Yasmeen Aftab Ali

The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book titled ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media & Media Laws in Pakistan.’ She can be contacted at: [email protected] and tweets at @yasmeen_9.



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