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WRITING ON THE WALL

Even a cursory analysis of the three Nawaz Sharif sackings as PM reveals one constant sordid fact, his incurring penchant to listen to a bunch of “unelectable advisors” who constantly feed his already inflated ego about his supposed omni-potency. The 1993 sacking did him wonders, turning an Establishment “puppet on the throne” into a politician of some standing in his own right.    In the second sacking in 1999 the Army swiftly countered Nawaz’s civilian coup, the Punjab CM brother Shahbaz Sharif was put into handcuffs lost out for no fault of his own. Shahbaz survived the last sacking in 2017 a year ago, giving the workaholic a unique opportunity to show off his development projects, mostly in Lahore, and shrug of Nawaz’s charismatic giant shadow to lead a political life of his own. Maryam had nothing to do with Nawaz’s second sacking, everything to do with his third.

Suffering for years because of his elder brother’s impetuosity, Shahbaz’s future must now contend with Maryam’s ambitions. Couple this with the obstinacy Maryam inherited from her father and it makes for a devastating landmine bang in the middle of Shahbaz’s once sure path to the PM’s office. The irony is that Nawaz Sharif’s popularity among the masses propelling Shahbaz to a prime political standing notwithstanding, his brother’s stupidity will probably keep Shahbaz from the PM’s office.  Despite his son and political heir Hamza being as corrupt as they come, Lahore has certainly far more to show in socio-economic infra-structure improvements than any other city.

Sharif turning all his guns on the Army that initially sponsored his political career and ensured his upward rise is quite understandable.  Serving to camouflage an inherent inferiority complex our culture promotes biting the hand of our benefactors. Is Maryam’s hatred for the uniform out of deep-rooted psychological resentment against her ex-soldier husband, how many times do we see husband and wife together? By extensive use of the social media, Maryam relentlessly attacks those she perceives as opponents to her inheriting her father’s political crown abdicated by her two apolitical brothers. Nearly coming to grief over the “DawnLeaks” should have taught her some lessons. Being good looking and courage is a potent political combination for female politicians in any country, one still cannot even remotely compare her with Ms Benazir. The former PM had not only had the brains to match her political acumen but could reach out with respect to both friend and foe alike.  Maryam’s arrogance has not only damaged her family and friends but has put into shambles the political potential of what still is the largest political party in Pakistan, at least till July 25.

Despite the virulent attacks by Nawaz Sharif, Maryam and a few unelectable Advisors, the Army has kept its cool, and should keep doing so. What the Nawaz Sharif gang wants desperately is the Army to intervene, despite grave provocation the Army has not obliged them.  The PML (N) then turned its guns on the superior judiciary, refusing to be cowed down by their outright threats and intimidation, finally did what the people of Pakistan have been hoping and praying for 70 years they would, apply the rule of law equally on the rich and powerful as they have done over the years on the poor and under-privileged.

Nawaz Sharif’s extensive involvement in money-laundering and conviction thereof is an open and shut case barring a few technical contradictions.  If the rule of law is to prevail, justice cannot be served by applying the wording of the law (and its various interpretations) but by upholding the spirit of the law once one is satisfied that the individual is guilty and hiding behind legal technicalities served by clever, unscrupulous lawyers.  Those who root for Nawaz Sharif will also continue to do so, despite his conviction those against him will remain against him.    The drawing rooms are of the opinion that Kulsoom Sharif on the ventilator generates sympathy that can sway the individual voter.  On the other hand the vast majority of those presently “undecided” tend not to vote for a criminal.

Incidentally the problems for Mian Nawaz Sharif will grow exponentially. Consider the UK Chapter of Transparency International (TI) asking the British government to investigate Nawaz Sharif’s known London assets. Reacting to corruption charges related to four London properties. Head of Advocacy at TI UK, Rachel Davies Teka said: “We are calling on the UK authorities to investigate the London-based assets identified in this conviction and ensure that Mr Sharif and his family are no longer able to enjoy any luxury homes that are found to have been bought with the proceeds of corruption. Furthermore, we believe the UK must look into any other potentially criminal UK-based assets owned by the Sharif family.” The recent passing of legislation requires British Overseas Territories to publicly reveal the true owners of companies is a key step towards preventing the purchase of UK property with suspicious wealth. The UK must now ensure it follows through on this legislation, so that we no longer need to rely on leaks like the Panama Papers to reveal cases such as this one” and no longer provide a safe haven to Nawaz Sharif and his family.

What Rachel Davies is suggesting is just tip of the iceberg.  Zardari is the central figure in a huge money-laundering case, consider the assets Asif Zardari (friends and family) have acquired abroad through illegally acquired income transferred abroad. While one feels very sorry for my good friend Husain Lawai, his unfortunate misfortune is to have become the banker of a vile creature like Zardari because of the new laws, Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari etc cannot camouflage their assets behind offshore companies anymore.   The declaration of assets by Zardari represents Hans Andersen’s fairy tales. UAE National Mr Nasser Lootah is a very nice man who has graciously hosted Pakistan politicians and bureaucrats out of power for decades in Dubai.  Where money-laundering is concerned, this honourable person will not lie, the SC should ask Nasser Lootah how much is his investment in Summit Bank and how much is Zardari’s?

Given the amount of evidence piling up, and most of it has to do with blatant criminal and why, Zardari will be convicted because of money-laundering and all his assets abroad will be subject to confiscation and the proceeds returning to Pakistan.  The writing is on the wall for those who blatantly looted the country’s wealth, will the Supreme Court and NAB continue to persevere with their duty by this nation?

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BEGGARING PAKISTAN THROUGH “DEMOCRACY”

When criminals or the corrupt disguise the original ownership and control of the proceeds of criminal conduct by making them appear to have derived from a legitimate source, this is known as money-laundering. Billions of dollars of criminally derived money is laundered through financial institutions every year globally, however criminal money can be laundered without assistance of the financial sector. The nature of the services and products offered by the financial services industry (namely managing, controlling and possessing money and property belonging to others) means that it is vulnerable to abuse by money-launderers.

Financial crimes related to narcotics trafficking, terrorism, smuggling, tax evasion, and corruption remain a significant problem. This is compounded by respectable bankers becoming part of the process, either through greed or in many cases threats and intimidation.  Working around the world with partners in the public and private sector to counter corruption and other financial crimes, and to improve the quality of governance, the Basel Institute on Governance, an independent not-for-profit competence centre in an August 2017 report placed Pakistan on the 46th spot on a list of 146 countries that face significant money laundering/terrorism financing risks. The US State Department’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report in early 2017 estimated that around 10 billion dollar per annum is money laundered by Pakistanis. Billions are shipped off every year in by criminals and corrupt individuals in an effort to escape paying taxes and avoid govt scrutiny.

Anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) in line with Pakistan’s action plan agreed with Financial Action Task Force (FATF), continues to be a serious problem. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) “Partnering Against Corruption Initiative” (PACI) Fall Meeting held in Oct last year in Geneva agreed that without conforming to international standards there can be no effective implementation of laws. Without adequate proof of assets and money trail it is almost impossible to prove a crime in court when our methods and tools of investigation in the emerging countries remain outdated. Developed countries, where most of the ill-gotten money/assets reside, pontificate endlessly about adhering to the “rule of law”, where is the morality of not practicing what they preach by not cooperating in implementing the laws on their own statute books? Notwithstanding that effective anti-money laundering law might be in place, corrupt politicians and others, criminals included, will find loopholes in the banking legal system around the world and banks willing to handle their ill-gotten money and bribery payments in safe havens. They then set-up anonymous off-shore companies and trusts that allow them to hide their identity.  This is done without technically breaking any rules to access the global financial system with almost impunity. Failing in their due diligence they are complicit in corrupt practices in the transfer and deposit of stolen funds.  Millions have been stashed abroad with no questions, whether tax was paid at its source in Pakistan. Many expensive apartments in London are owned by known white-collar criminals comprising former dictators, bank defaulters, tax evaders, money-launderers, politicians, etc.

On July 6 disqualified Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif was sentenced to 10 years rigorous imprisonment in jail in the Avenfield Apartments corruption reference by a National Accountability Bureau (NAB) accountability court, Maryam was awarded 8-year imprisonment while Maryam husband, Capt (Retd) Muhammad Safdar was handed 8-year imprisonment. The court also disqualified all three from holding any public office for 10 years or availing themselves of bank loans for the same period under Section 15 of the NAO. Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz are presently in London and are scheduled to return to Lahore on Friday, July 13. Sure Lahore is considered to be the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s stronghold and preparations are being made by the party leadership to give a “historic welcome” to Nawaz Sharif and Maryam. It is more than obvious that this is going to be more a show of political power than anything else. The PML-N wants nothing but a confrontation with law enforcement agencies and then plays an innocent victim by claiming denial of Nawaz Sharif right to speak to his followers. The PML-N is playing a very dangerous game, the govt must not fall into the trap. With the situation likely to get out of hand, the alternative could be to divert the flight from Islamabad to any other city than Lahore, arrest the duo and whisk them away to Islamabad, all this without making it public.

PML-N leadership claims the ousted PM is extremely popular in Pakistan, brazen facedly declaring that Nawaz Sharif has the mandate of 200 million Pakistanis, an outright lie in the 2013 elections PML (N) obtained 14.9 million or 32% of 46 million out of 86 million who voted as opposed to PTI’s 7.7 (17%) and PPP’s 6.8 million (15%).  PML (N) should have got 84, PTI 42 and PPP 37 seats respectively but PML (N) disproportionally got 53 seats more and PTI and PPP 13 and 6 less.  Having a million votes more PTI got four seats less than PPP. The “first past the post system” does not ascertain the real majority, the “run-off” measure does.  Negating “proportional representation” bedevils good governance as has now been proven with Nawaz Sharif being sentenced to serve time for his shenanigans, including money laundering.

If popularity is to be taken as the yardstick to measure the strength of democracy, some of the world’s most notorious criminals and drug lords were extremely popular with their countrymen. Building roads, motorways, etc is all very well, that is what you were voted in for but this does not give anyone the licence to loot the nation and indulge in corrupt practices. Is this the kind of democracy that we yearn for where there is no rule of law and no accountability?  Accountability sits at the heart of the democratic process, if accountability is lost once the winners step into the governance mode, we will have a democracy in name only, a farce.

Branded Public Enemy No. 1 by the Chicago Crime Commission Al Capone got 11 years for tax dodging, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman who faces trial in the US is accused of running a global cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine smuggling operation as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel El Chapo played a central role in a decade-long Mexican drug war in which more than 100,000 people have died. Guzman raked in $14 billion, his network spanning four continents. Wanted by the govts of USA, Mexico and Interpol, he was extradited by the Mexican govt to the US to face criminal charges there related to his leadership of the Sinaloa cartel. One of the most wanted criminals on the planets, Guzman Guzmán took pains to burnish his image in Mexico, residents tell stories of his sudden appearances suddenly at village fiestas, doling out rolls of cash to adoring crowds. Most viewed him as a leader and a hero because “he started from below, very poor, a peasant, and he helped people”. He built concrete roads and would pay hospital bills for treatment of the sick. In contrast, the govt often failed to provide even basic infrastructure for those in poor, remote villages. Another darling of the people was Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar whose  ambition and ruthlessness made him one of the wealthiest, most powerful and most violent criminals of all time. Entering the cocaine trade in the early 1970s Escobar formed the Medellin Cartel. His popularity was due to sponsoring charity projects and soccer clubs, he built houses and cared for the poor. Seen by many as a Robin Hood figure, he was killed by Colombian police in 1993.

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur have been banned from travelling abroad by the Supreme Court (SC) in the wake of recent revelations in a fake bank accounts case. That they are accused of using 29 such accounts for suspicious transactions and money laundering amounting to Rs 35 billion, this is only tip of Zardari’s illegal iceberg. The vast assets Asif Zardari (friends and family) have acquired through illegally acquired income transferred abroad are well known but in different companies and names. Then consider the assets Asif Zardari had declared, this comes out of Haris Anderson’s fairy tales. One feels very sorry for my good friend Hussain Lawai, it is his misfortune to have become the banker of a vile creature like Zardari. Unlike drug lords Chapo and Escobar Zardari has done nothing for the people of Sindh, he has only enriched himself.  Because of new international laws Nawaz Sharif, Asif Zardari etc cannot camouflage their assets behind offshore companies anymore. UAE National Mr Nasser Lootah is a very nice man who has been a gracious host to Pakistan politicians and bureaucrats out of power for decades in Dubai.  While he is just a frontman for Zardari in Summit Bank I am sure he would not like to run afoul of UAE laws and money-laundering. An honourable person who is very rich in his own right, Nasser Lootah is not likely to lie about Zardari’s money-laundering. Why not the SC ask him how much is his investment in Summit Bank and how much is Zardari’s?

Zardari and Faryal Talpur have been summoned by the FIA on July 11 and by the SC on July 12.  If the subsequent investigation proceeds in the manner of the Panama JIT, Zardari friends and family will face a far worse fate than Nawaz Sharif and family.  A change is definitely happening in Pakistan where the mighty and powerful are being charged for their crimes, unheard of not too long ago. Having beggared Pakistan through their version of democracy, they will be punished for their despicable crimes against the people of Pakistan.

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NAB BECOMING EFFECTIVE AGAIN

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) came into existence on 16 Nov 1999. Simultaneously Special Investigation Wings (SIWs) were raised from the ISI to assist National Accountability Ordinance (NAB) in collecting relevant information about the accused persons. FIA and ACEs directors of all four provinces with NAO provisions of ‘power to seek assistance were placed under direct command with investigation officers and allied staff for conduct of probes, inquiries/investigation and filing of references by NAB. Corps NAB Cells were transformed into RAB (Regional Accountability Bureaus),eventually becoming Regional NABs under directions of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan.

Command of these Regional NABs were  given to selected career officers of the three Services, Peshawar to Airforce, Rawalpindi to Navy and remaining three, Karachi, Lahore and Quetta to Army. While middle and lower tiers of command from grade 17 to 20 were a mix of career profiles. In 2004 NAB created its own hard core permanent cadre by transferring their services under its TCS provisions. The Armed Forces got their all uniformed officers and men repatriated in 2008 and NAB continued with deputationists from public sector and officers and ranks that it recruited under TCS as a permanent cadre.

Politicians across the board were involved in bank wilful default cases through imprudent practices of bankers with political patronage. Cooperative scams mushroomed in the country defrauding the public at large. With NAB’s first Chairman Lt Gen Amjad a person of great integrity and honesty, NAB became a huge deterrence to corruption during its initial days when the anti-graft law allowed unlimited detention period with no allowance of judicial interjection. Unfortunately some of those Amjad selected as his top aides were his drinking buddies (mostly from his old alma mater), they soon discovered their penchant to line their own pockets. Because their lifestyles was in sync with Musharraf’s, these dubious characters managed to get some very honest and dedicated senior officers, DDG NAB e.g. Maj Gen Inayetullah Khan Niazi (and No 2 to Amjad), posted out of NAB and out of their way.

While pursuing Musharraf’s personal agenda for ensuring longevity for his rule, they had virtual impunity and even afterwards were never held accountable. Cooperative Housing Scams, bank default and mega corruption cases were utilized as pressure instruments for bargaining to turn sides. Since the SIW was overall responsible to prepare cases and also keep over watch on all NAB activities, parallel upward movement of cases to SIW Headquarters independently enabled Musharraf to politicise the Bureau for political benefits. Most of the accused were blackmailed into forming the Q-League Government. Eventually Amjad did find that those he had trusted were using NAB for Musharraf’s political purposes, an honourable person he immediately resigned and left.

It is a tragedy that many investigated by SIW for corruption are today in senior decision-making positions.  The FIA’s rich experience with seasoned and professional investigators in white collar crime cases became handy to NAB for its assets recovery and bank default cases and related activities. FIA also assisted NAB in reaching out to absconders and fugitives. Musharraf first “democratic” Cabinet had at least 20 members on ECL because of NAB cases.  This extended Musharraf’s stay till the promulgation of NRO.NAB’s inquiries conducted from 1999 to 2004 by SIW were discontinued in 2004 after Musharraf resorted to government through pressuring of selected PML (Q) members.

Proving himself more loyal then the king, Lt Gen Amjad’s successor Lt Gen Khalid Maqbool was rewarded with the Governorship of Punjab where he managed the “electables” for Q-League in support of Musharraf during elections. The Musharraf regime blatantly now started dictating to NAB what path of accountability was to be followed. NAB’s effectiveness was further waylaid when Finance Minister (and later PM) of Pakistan Shoukat Aziz took stock exchanges and other financial institutions virtually out of the ambit of NAB with the rationale that accountability hurts financial institutions and therefore the economy. Is this so in the US and elsewhere where major stockbrokers like Michael Milken were jailed? Incidentally the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan seems to have taken into account all the charitable work done by Malik Riaz.

Interestingly Michael Milken one of the top US stockbroker have very heavily to charity through a number of philanthropic organisations, “Fortune Magazine” carried him on its cover in 2004 for charitable work.  He still went to jail.  Will the criminals among our stock brokers go to jail or end up in the PM’s House? Issuance of various SBP and FBR circulars, the infamous SBP Circular 29, where banks loans could be waived further allowed the state kitty to be suffer huge losses. Gen Musharraf agreeing to this outrageous contention allowed widespread stock manipulation and fraud. Today’s stock market “fat cats” all contribute billions to charity, they made their ill-gotten wealth off the money of millions of middle class people who lost their entire savings on criminal stock exchange manipulation.

One of cases investigated by SIW was that of Usman Farooqi the then Chairman NAB appointed by PPP inflicted huge losses to Pakistan Steels in collusion with suppliers and contractors. This plunged Pakistan Steel into collapse. It is said that Usman Farooqui’s mentor Asif Zardari pocketed the lion’s share of the money extracted up by Farooqi. Farooqi owes prime responsibility in turning Pakistan Steel into a black hole for Pakistan’s economy. Approximately twenty one inquiries conducted by NAB Sindh pertaining to Steel Mills, more than dozen investigations and references entered into prosecution and trial stages. Farooqi was arrested in one of the references and was sent to jail. Granted bail by the High Court he went underground and reportedly got refuge in the house of a serving Brigadier who was the Chief Executive of a major utility in Karachi. This man abetted and facilitated Mr Farooqi in absconding. At the very least in this particular case has very strong backers, powerful politicians and bureaucrats, otherwise how could the facilitator of Mr. Farooqi’s (and his) SIW’s record with the intelligence agencies be erased (or lost) from the files, and he continues to occupy a very important position today?

Lt Gen Munir Hafeez had the longest tenure as a NAB Chairman, first in uniform and then under provision of law as a retired BPS – 22 officer. For the first time in its history the NAB Chairman got into conflict of interest by using his office in getting various quotas and businesses for himself and only allowing the manipulation of NAB cases by government (and his own cronies eg PIA) as regards to opening, closing or keeping cases dormant. This not only destroyed NAB’s image amongst the public but created resentment in the rank and file of NAB. His successor Lt Gen Aziz showed extreme resentment and annoyance about the politicization of NAB, after a period of about one year he went on long leave and did not return. Musharraf later created history by legalising Corruption by the NRO, NAB’s accountability became a laughing stock.

During the time Zardari was President, NAB understandably was made ineffective, many cases against him were brought to court and then dismissed “for lack of evidence”.   Has the SC ever asked Pakistan’s former High Commissioner in the UK Wajid Shamsul Hasan on whose authority took and for what “national security” reasons he took into his custody the dozens of boxes of evidence from a court in Switzerland from our Embassy pertaining to the Rockwood Estate case. Can this man explain how did some of the boxes of evidence conveniently disappear? What is the punishment for tampering with evidence?   Is justice so blind? Under one Chairman NAB cases against Malik Riaz were dropped overnight, NAB’s senior personnel who objected were dismissed or sidelined.  There is a prima facie case here but does anyone pay heed?  Former Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry declared the black the NRO law and illegal, then filibustered the court cases for years to keep Zardari, the primary beneficiary of NRO, in power. Is that why President Zardari quashed the criminal indictment of Malik Riaz and former CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry’s son, Arsalan, by the Federal Tax Ombudsman (FTO) Shoaib Suddle who was asked to investigate the case? And what stops from NAB taking up this case?

To some extent Qamarzaman Chaudhry restored NAB’s image but even he faltered when it came to the Sharifs, primarily out of personal loyalty but also because of lack of support from the than SC.  Has anyone even questioned how a former CJ SC is rumoured to have more than 2 dozen plots in DHA Karachi? With the present SC virtually on a “Jihad” against corruption, NAB’s Chairman Justice Javed Iqbal has with confidence brought a renewed energy into NAB to make it as effective as it was during its first few years.

Given that the dedicated investigators and employees of NAB will now have the  space to carry out effective accountability, why not make a symbolic example of those corrupt NAB personnel, whoever it was and whatever his appointment, Chairmen included, who gave NAB a bad name and compromised its effectiveness? By carrying out self-accountability NAB will become symbolically far more credible, by doing so it will become effective against corruption as it was meant to be

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NATIONAL WATER POLICY

The Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) delivered a grim warning that “water” availability in the country had touched the “water stress line” in 1990 before crossing the “water scarcity line” in 2005, without positive action the country would run out of water by 2025. “Despite having the world’s largest glaciers, Pakistan is among the world’s 36 most water-stressed countries. As the population rapidly increases, water demand is projected to far outstrip supply. Immediate coordinated planning and implementation is required to avert disaster”. Without measures to save rapidly depleting water resources, climate change coupled with rapid urbanisation and population growth will further impact the availability of water.  With a drought-like situation likely in the near future, the gravity of the situation can be graphically illustrated from the per capita availability of water in 1947 being over 5,000 cubic metres,  has shrunk to just 1,000 cubic metres today.

Whether it be establishing new dams, providing pure drinking water, or increasing storage capacity by building reservoirs, no govt or has bothered about planning for the future.Trust issues between provinces stymied all attempts at resource sharing and introducing the National Water Policy (NWP), all provincial govts and the federal govt are equally responsible for finding ourselves seven years away from possible Doomsday.

Thanks to the dedication and commitment of Mr Sartaj Aziz, formerly Foreign Minister and Federal Minister of Finance lately Deputy Chairman Planning Commission till his recent resignation, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) on April 24, 2018 unanimously approved the country’s first-ever National Water Policy (NWP) signed by former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and the four Chief Ministers. Which includes emphasis on water conservation, water storage, water apportionment and under-soil water quality. Due importance has been given to the building of new dams for water storage and equitable water distribution among the provinces. The NWP empowers Provinces to develop their own master plans for sustainable development and management of water resources.

The Policy addresses the many issues relating to water resources management, the most important instrument being the mitigation against the impact of climate change on water resources is storage. If the pattern of rainfall becomes erratic with more than average rain in one year and a drastic reduction in the next years’ rainfall, the only way to conserve the surplus rainwater in wet years is to store it and release it in dry years, when required. A national master plan must cater for storage, floods, arid areas, irrigation, urban water and tariff rationalization, small and medium size dams for enhancing the life of existing storages and remodeling and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure in the country. Capacity building of all water related Public Sector Organizations would be given high priority to improve their performance to generate capacity to meet future challenges of increased demand and finite water resources. Formation of regulatory bodies for ground water, with strict yet expeditious regulation mechanism and regimes will ensure sustainability, transparency, efficiency, safety and affordability. A “Ground Water Authority” established in each province will Issue, establish and enforce standards for the development and utilization of ground water.

The Supreme Court (SC) is agitated with the fact that Pakistan has not constructed any major water reservoirs since Tarbela Dam and Mangla Dam were built in the 1960s. In late March this year the Central Development Working Party (CDWP) approved the construction of the Diamer-Basha Dam only as a water reservoir for now at an initial estimated cost of Rs 625 billion to be funded through local sources, this is being built. Given Sartaj Aziz’s persistence the CDWP also cleared the Rs 303 billion Mohmand Dam Hydropower Project for final approval of the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC). Pakistan throws 21 million acre feet (MAF) of water into the sea every year which can fill three reservoirs of the size of Mangla Dam. Having the potential to cater to Pakistan’s needs, the Kalabagh Dam has been politicized to the extent of it becoming controversial, building it now would be almost impossible politically.

Dr Ismail Kumbhar from Sindh Agriculture University of Tandojam voiced concerns, about the new Water Policy saying that since the policy’s fundamental focus is food security and sustainable agriculture, both the basic commitments of SDGs are not properly addressed in the document. Several water data gaps in the policy should have been incorporated, he said, adding that rural water requirements are missing. On the other hand Sindh Abadgar Board Representative Syed Nadeem says that “the document misses substantiated data on water flows, ground water extraction and water consumption of municipal, agriculture and industrial usage, but overall government has done a tremendous job”.

In the NWP stakeholders and experts and have stressed strongly the need to urgently addresses the current and future threats to its food, energy and water security.  Significant water-related issues raised judicious use of  water and its allocation in line with economic priorities; the environmental integrity of water basins; agriculture; climate change and its impact; drinking water and sanitation; hydropower; groundwater; water rights and obligations; etc, etc.

About trans-boundary sharing of water, while Section 9 of the NWP focuses on four points mostly concentrating on unilateral action, progress cannot be possible unless the Pakistani and Indian govts start a dialogue to promote basin-wide cooperation concerning the Indus Basin within and beyond the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty. Gauri Nooklar-Oak, a trans-boundary Water Conflicts Researcher and a Policy Research Analyst Says: “The NWP addresses many vexing issues in Pakistan’s water sector but has not given due priority to prioritizing meaningful trans-boundary water cooperation. 78% of Pakistan  dependency on freshwater comes from outside its territory i.e. around 244 billion cubic metres or 90 percent of it comes from hostile neighbour to the east, India. With Pakistan’s almost total dependency on one neighbour, the NWP should have given more importance and flux on trans-boundary water cooperation, with India”, unquote. Pakistan’s worries relating to excessive releases of water or stoppages of flows by India needed to be probed and substantiated.

Many political parties have for decades ignored the grave situation for their own political and provincial benefits whereas India went ahead and made dams in Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) that restrict Pakistan’s share of water, yet we continue to ignore the stark reality that we now have only seven years till Doomsday when we will run dry. Having crafted the NWP, it is now upto the govt to ensure that the terms are followed faithfully otherwise it will just be a symbol of collaboration minus meaningful outcome.

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THE CPEC STORY

With the Pacific Ocean dominated by the US and Japan while the Indian Ocean by the US (conceivably along with its new ally India), China has to turn to its centuries old land routes.  As far back as the 11th century, Genghis Khan was exhorting his generals not to depend upon the seas but upon merchants and land routes for trade. In 1941 Japan went to war being denied sea access to sources of raw material in South and Southwest Asia.  An efficient network of land, sea and air passages in Asia, Europe and Africa, that would not be prone to intervention by hostile powers during times of crisis, the “One Belt one Road” (OBOR) strategic initiative was thus launched by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.

The OBOR initiative is geographically structured along six corridors viz (1) western China to western Russia (2) northern China to eastern Russia via Mongolia (3) western China to Turkey via central and west Asia. The sea passages are (4) from southern China to Singapore via Indochina (5) India via Bangladesh and Myanmar. Important for us is the land passage over the Karakorams from (6) south-western China to and through Pakistan, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Envisaging geo-economic and geo-political initiative, CPEC drastically increases the geo-strategic importance of Pakistan, bringing it into a central nodal position between Asia, South Asia and Central Asia. Connecting about 64 countries in three continents. Recreating the legendary Silk Road, OBOR’s purpose is (1) Policy coordination promoting inter-governmental cooperation and assisting policy exchange and communication; (2) Facilities connectivity to carry out infrastructure projects, e.g. relating to transportation and energy; (3) Unimpeded trade encouraging cross-border investments and reducing trade barriers; (4) Financial integration developing the currency and bond markets in Asia; and (5) People-to-people bonds facilitating cultural exchange through cooperation in academia, tourism, medicine, science and technology.

CPEC’s 3218 km long Corridor from China’s Xinjiang Province passing through Gilgit Baltistan to Pakistan’s Gwadar port will provide the shortest and most cost effective route for landlocked Afghanistan (and Central Asia) to China, India and Indian Ocean. Consisting of highways, railways and pipelines its estimated cost is US$75 billion. Other OBOR projects around the world do not offer the same advantages to China. Distance would be approx 600 kilometres less as compared to the other nearest port of Chabahar. Transportation time would be reduced by 50 % from 50 days to 25 days. Gwadar port can also be used as a hub port for the Gulf States.

Building Pakistan’s transportation and power sectors with its resultant economic fallout, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will have a force-multiplier effect on employment development of many poverty-stricken areas. In his recent talk at a CPEC Seminar Dr Ishrat Husain former Governor State Bank of Pakistan elaborated how because of lack of electricity, manufacturing had gone down, exports of US$ 25 billion in 2012-13 coming down to only US$ 20 billion in 2017-2018, naturally putting commensurate pressure on the Pakistani Rupee.  If electricity had kept pace with manufacturing, or exports should have been US$ 35 billion in 2017-2018.  By better transportation and more energy CPEC will provide 60,000 jobs to Pakistanis since 2015, by 2030 creating over 800,000 new jobs in the planned. 21 energy projects will double Pakistan’s current capacity of electricity production by producing 16,400-megawatt electricity after their completion. Changing Pakistan’s business and economic landscape through infrastructure and transportation development, establishing special economic zones, promoting tourism. There will be major increases in revenues will be earned by transiting goods of other countries.  In a strategic context, CPEC conforms to Pakistan’s security paradigm and “Look East” policy further serving our strategic partnership with China.

An anti-CPEC campaign unleashed by hostile elements, particularly India, aims to scuttle the project and deprive Pakistan of its benefits by creating controversies and mistrust, particularly among the locals. Some misconceptions and misleading or deceptive statements: (1) Myth: Chinese military bases are planned in the coastal belt and Gwadar Port, aimed at occupying native resources. Fact: China has never invaded any country nor harboured any imperial designs. (2) Myth: Pakistan will become a Chinese colony Fact: History tells us that colonialism and imperialism are legacies of countries of the global north. (3) Myth: Exploitation of resources with projects being undertaken against the will of locals will execute demographic changes. Fact: the growth of Balochistan is more than guaranteed with CPEC investment giving more jobs opportunities changing the lives of locals for the better changing the lives for the better. (4) Myth: Pakistan cannot to provide security to Chinese, especially in Balochistan, due to the prevalent law and order situation. Fact: 15,000 personnel in two Special Security Division (SSD) has been set up to provide security on CPEC projects. (5) Myth: Pakistan’s rising trade deficit China is of concern.

Fact: China’s competitiveness in exports is not just confined to Pakistan. One current trade deficit with China is $6.2 billion whereas India’s trade deficit is $47 billion while US trade deficit stands at a whopping $347 billion. (6) Myth: Chinese labor and workers (mainly Chinese prisoners) will replace Pakistani workers and render them jobless.  Fact: With plenty of work in their own country, for security reasons the ten thousand Chinese nationals living in several camps will go back when projects are completed. (7) Myth: CPEC has a high degree of possibility of becoming a thriving ground for trans-national terrorism.

Fact: CPEC bringing prosperity will reduce space for terrorists to operate by engaging youth in jobs and reduce their vulnerability and exposure to extremist teaching and elements. (8) Myth: CPEC will harm local businesses Fact: CPEC increase competitiveness of good in local markets providing incentive for producing quality what products (9) Myth: Imagine my surprise when a Senior Professor visiting told the students during an IBA Seminar in 2017 that CPEC is a figment of imagination. Fact:  this certified (and politically motivated) idiot (supported in his claim by a renowned economic analyst) needs to physically see for himself what’s happening is Gwadar (10) Myth: high insurance, high loan interest and high ROE. Fact: most loans being of low interest, in projects investment is guaranteed with 17% return per annum on equity.

All agencies of Pakistan must work jointly to cope with the menace of India’s hybrid war against us. A win-win synergy for both the nations and the region, CPEC is a rare opportunity for Pakistan to realize its true strategic and economic potential (extracts from the talk given by the writer, a defence and security analyst, at a recent CPNE Seminar on CPEC in Islamabad).

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ABRAAJ FIGHTS BACK

The allegations of mishandling investors’ funds against Abraaj, a firm that has grown to become one of the most trusted private equity names and one of the developing world’s most influential investors, shocked investors and financial institutions triggering distress signals. Hue and cry raised complaints by some investors having ulterior motivation that the Dubai-based Abraaj Group had mishandled their money. The forced firm to file for provisional liquidation in the Cayman Islands. Such a court-supervised provisional liquidation would allow Abraaj to restructure debt, negotiate with creditors and sell assets if needed. It would also allow a moratorium on the holding company’s unsecured claims. The filing would also enable Abraaj to continue talks with possible equity partners for a deal to acquire its fund management operations ie excluding the $1 billion healthcare fund which was the subject of allegations.  This application had the full support of the Company’s secured creditors who reiterated their desire for provisional liquidators to be appointed to formulate and implement a restructuring of the Company’s liabilities which would be in the best interests of all concerned.

It will be pertinent to note that after the allegations were made public Abraaj promptly hired the internationally renowned auditors KPMG to verify all receipts and payments in the healthcare fund. Abraaj has said that KPMG found no misuse of money and insists that all capital drawn from the fund was for “approved investments” and that unused capital from its health fund was returned to investors.

When the application for provisional liquidation was filed by Abraaj,  Sean M. Cleary, Chairman of the Board of Abraaj Holdings said, “This is a defining moment for everyone associated with Abraaj. I want to thank all those who have contributed to building this remarkable firm, and especially the teams that have worked extraordinary hours in dealing with painful challenges over the past five months. Under the auspices of the Court, the situation has now been stabilized, and we can move forward to meet the firm’s commitments and restore confidence in the platform.”

On June 18, 2018 the Cayman Court issued an Order appointing Simon Conway of PwC Corporate Finance and Recovery (Cayman) Limited and Michael Jervis and Mohammed Farzadi of PricewaterhouseCoopers as joint provisional liquidators (JPLs) of Abraaj Holdings. Subject to the final sealed order of the Cayman Court, this will ensure that the rights of all stakeholders can be protected while the Company and the JPLs promote a consensual restructuring of the Company’s obligations. This is quite a success for the Abraaj Group as filling of the voluntary application for provisional liquidation in the Grand Court of Cayman Islands protects stakeholders creditor action against defaults.

An application by Abraaj Investment Management Limited to appoint David Soden and Stuart Sybersma of Deloitte as Joint Provincial liquidators (JPLs) of the fund management business was also duly approved by the Court. These will now enable Abraaj Holdings Limited and Abraaj Investment Management Limited to independently pursue court-supervised restructuring plans in an methodical and orderly manner and for the benefit of their respective creditors. Importantly, the court-supervised restructuring of Abraaj Holdings will have very little impact on the day-to-day operations of the management of the Funds and their portfolio companies.

Expressed satisfaction Arun Reddy, Managing Director of Houlihan Lokey, financial and restructuring advisors to Abraaj Holdings, said “We are pleased to have arrived at this outcome thanks to the strong collaboration and support of key stakeholders. A court-supervised restructuring process will enable the Company to meet its obligations in an orderly fashion and facilitate an efficient and satisfactory sale process of its investments, including Abraaj Investment Management Limited. The Company’s priority has always been, and remains, to ensure the stability of its teams and portfolio, with the intent to maximize value for all parties.”

The JPLs have also been authorised by the Court to take all necessary steps to develop and propose, in consultation with Abraaj Holdings Limited and its advisors, a restructuring of the Company’s obligations. The Court Order granted extensive powers to the JPLs for the protection and management of all assets of Abraaj Holdings. The JPLs also been empowered by the Order to maintain oversight of board and management activities to ensure that the returns to the stakeholders of the Company are maximised. Abraaj Holdings Limited’s secured creditors have assured providing their full support for the joint provisional liquidators to work alongside the Company to formulate and implement a restructuring of the Company’s liabilities as this is in the best interest of all the creditors.

Michael Jervis, Partner Restructuring and Insolvency at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) who is one of the Joint Provisional liquidators appointed in the case of Abraaj Holdings had this to say about his appointment, “Our role as Joint Provisional Liquidators is to manage the restructuring of Abraaj Holdings in an orderly fashion, safeguard the assets of the Company, and ensure that the interests of creditors, employees and broader stakeholders are fully served. The Order by the Court enables the Company to swiftly move into a stable phase of operations whereby restructuring plans and asset disposals can be executed upon in a protected and controlled environment. Given our longstanding experience in global restructuring for financial and corporate institutions, PwC is extremely well placed to deliver a satisfactory outcome for the Company’s constituents and is commencing on this process with immediate effect”.

Arif Naqvi was satisfied that his voluntary application was accepted by the Court, saying, “We are pleased with this outcome and grateful to the Court for its careful consideration of the issues and positive judgment. This Order validates the position consistently maintained by Abraaj that an orderly restructuring, under the guidance of a highly experienced team of Joint Provisional Liquidators, can ensure the outcomes we seek for the Company and its creditors. We are wholly committed to supporting the JPLs through this process and ensuring stability and value maximization for all parties”.

The process of court supervised restructuring is likely to take a few months. Arif Naqvi has pledged to continue supporting this orderly process to ensure that the best possible outcome is possible for all stakeholders. Reflecting on the 16 years since Abraaj Group became reality, one is extremely proud of the positive impact Abraaj has made on the markets and the communities it serves.  It is a matter of the greatest satisfaction that instead of going down like BCCI did, Abraaj is fighting back.  Perhaps if Agha Hasan Abedi was much younger like Arif Naqvi, BCCI would be the par excellence bank it once was.

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JUSTICE DELAYED, JUSTICE DENIED

When former PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi announced July 25 as the Election Day 2018, the mystery was why (1) he gave only 60 days instead of the 90 days that he could and (2) why he did not pay heed to the extremely hot weather of June and July which would not only make campaigning almost impossible but deter voters from coming out to vote?  The third part of the puzzle fell into place when Khawaja Haris, legal counsel of Mian Nawaz Sharif, withdrew from representing his client in the corruption references filed by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB). That effectively threw a legal spanner in continuing the trial process of conviction of the Sharif family in three corruption references in the accountability court, accused of money laundering, tax evasion and hiding offshore assets. Add to that perjury, forgery, falsifying information, intimidating judges and investigating staff, etc.

Al Capone laughed his way out of dozens of his murder trials with witnesses not ready to testify against him.  Ultimately when they got him on tax evasion, given the evidence his legal counsel tried delaying tactics warding off the inevitable. Being an hounourable man therefore Khawaja Haris’ pretexts for quitting being (1) Supreme Court’s (SC) rejection of his plea for an indefinite extension and (2) their directive to hold court proceedings on Saturdays and Sundays, is quite untenable at this late stage when he has only to make the closing arguments.  In any case the SC left holding hearings on Saturdays to the accountability court’s discretion.  The real reason is that the defence wants to avoid the SC court deadline of July 10 being too close to the Elections 2018 scheduled for July 25.

Meanwhile, Nawaz Sharif has kept on doing what he has been doing best since his disqualification from holding public office, criticize, rebuke and castigate the SC. Accusing the Chief Justice of rushing through the hearings in the three corruption cases filed against him, he termed it an “extremely unfortunate” example of “oppression and injustice”.  Even calling it “election rigging” he claimed in a press conference on July 10 that his fundamental rights were being violated “as no lawyer will take up a case where he is not even allowed time to prepare and is asked to appear even on the weekends.” Sharif opined it would not be easy to engage another lawyer at this stage, his contention that “such an environment is being created that I am deprived of a legal counsel as well” is quite ludicrous because it was his legal counsel who quit suddenly, the courts had nothing to do with this.

Politics in Pakistan is a family business with the top leadership usually hereditary and with questionable means to gain power by any and every means possible, this dirty game jeopardizes democracy. Anything goes is the name of the game, the Constitution is violated at the whims of individuals, the rule of law is trampled without batting an eyelid, institutions are ridiculed and not given their due respect, etc, etc. The sacrifices to be made or compromises thereof do not matter, in the end the road taken must either lead to absolute power or be instrumental in getting close to those wielding such power. On Pakistan’s independence we had leaders of the stature of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Liaquat Ali Khan and many others at the helm with exceptional qualities like honesty, integrity, sincerity and truthfulness. Barring honourable exceptions, today’s politicians care two hoots about the nation or national interests, their primary objective being to loot the nation and fill their own coffers. Hundreds of NAB cases of corruption, embezzlement, tax evasion, etc worth billions being looted involving politicians, govt servants and businessmen, etc prove this point.

Working as Sharif’s lawyer in all three cases filed against him and his family on September 8 following the former PM’s disqualification as the PM on July 28. Khawaja Haris is an experienced and competent advocate having a good reputation, dumping his client is rather unprofessional, not expected from a person of his stature. This of course unless it is callously deliberate, the calculated move being orchestrated out of ulterior motive, how can any advocate leave his client high and dry at this stage? All witnesses have recorded their statements and only the closing arguments are left. Other than the duty to his client, as an advocate Khawaja Haris is considered to be an officer of justice, an integral part of the court machinery for the administration of justice.  If in case any advocate resorts to unfair or unreasonable means in a deliberate ploy to delay the process of justice, than he is not fulfilling his moral duty and obligations to his country. The legal code forbids any advocate from representing any client who might insist on using unfair or improper means, this could also include having to lie under oath, a punishable crime in most countries. He must also not deceive or knowingly or recklessly mislead the court.

The inevitable is being deliberately delayed so that the adverse verdict expected by the Sharifs in the face of tier guilt comes after Election Day.  Nawaz Sharif maligns judges of the superior judiciary as being “hand in glove with dictators over the last 70 years”, but does not once answer to the corruption charges against him despite his repeated tall claims on many forums, including the floor of the National Assembly, about possessing documentary evidence proving his innocence.  His family members and party leaders have been publicly characterising the SC as being unfair, partisan, vindictive and revengeful. Not once during these public tirades mentioning the many counts of corruption against Nawaz, do they have any credible satisfactory explanation why the SC would be revengeful towards the Sharifs? The Khawaja Haris’ withdrawal ploy is simply an attempt as a means of last resort.

While Nawaz Sharif’s camp is insisting that “justice rushed is justice denied”, attributed to both Gladstone and William Penn the real maxim is that “justice delayed is justice denied”.  When legal remedy is not available in timely fashion, it is effectively denied.  With more delaying tactics likely, will Pakistan again be denied justice against such outright crooks?  One can hardly equate the Honourable Khawaja Haris with Al Capone’s legal counsel Edward O’Hare (Easy Eddie) who gave up when he realized he could not save his criminal client from being put behind bars.  For the record ten days before Al Capone, ill in prison, was released, “Easy Eddie” was shot to death in Chicago.

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UNDOING A GANGSTER HEAVEN

Consensus on matters ensuring security and welfare of the common man is rarely achieved by our Parliament. Such unanimity is only displayed when their own self-interest is at stake, like approving increments in their salary, added perks and privileges, etc. In October last year all the parliamentary parties banded together to delete as many as 19 declarations from the nomination papers to be submitted by candidates for the upcoming general elections, effectively eliminating key information about their education, close relatives, occupation, finances, net assets and liabilities, loan default, taxation returns and evasion thereof, criminal proceedings and business interests, etc.  Unless they have something to hide what earthly reason can anyone have for not declaring truthful details about himself and his family?

In November last year journalist Habib Akram challenged these amendments before the Lahore High Court (LHC). On June 1, 2018, Justice Ayesha Malik ruled that since the nomination forms did not include mandatory information and declarations required from lawmakers as per the Constitution and law, the ECP was ordered to ensure this information is included in the revised Form A ─ for election to the NA or Senate ─ and Form B ─ a statement of assets and liabilities.  To her undying credit Justice Ayesha Malik wrote that the lack of disclosure and information through declarations made would essentially mean that a voter will not have the required information on the basis of which an informed decision can be made.

Motivated and vested interest saw appeals being immediately filed against the LHC verdict in the Supreme Court (SC) by the ECP and former National Assembly (NA) speaker Ayaz Sadiq on grounds that this would delay the elections. Reiterating that  the elections would be held in time on July 25th, on June 3 a two-judge Supreme Court (SC) bench headed by Chief Justice (CJ), Mian Saqib Nisar, suspended LHC’s verdict, pending hearing by a larger SC Bench The ECP then ‘partially modified’ its earlier notification regarding the election schedule. Very surprisingly Caretaker Prime Minister (PM) Justice (Retd) Nasirul Mulk also jumped in on the side of the politicians, directing the Attorney General’s Office to file an appeal against the LHC decision. Why was our Caretaker PM enthusiastic about showing accountability the door and facilitating the return of criminals and the corrupt to the corridors of power?

Pending of the LHC judgment caused widespread unrest within civil society because it effectively allowed criminals to take part using money and strongarm tactics to buy votes. To quote a self-explanatory message immediately circulated on social media, “We concerned and affected citizens and voters would like to file a constitutional petition before the Supreme Court to protect our fundamental rights to a free and fair election by requiring all candidates to file full information and disclosure as required in the 2013 elections rules and enumerated in the LHC judgement of Justice Ayesha Malik in the nomination forms of candidates. Her ruling reflects our concerns because in a self-serving legislation, parliament had recently mutilated the information and declaratory requirements of aspiring candidates to protect and promote their self-serving interests, thereby denying us basic information about their incomes and assets and those of their immediate family members. We regard the transparent availability of this information our fundamental right to enable us to make an informed assessment of the credibility and integrity of those soliciting our vote, to help achieve the overarching objective of a free and fair election. The LHC ruling that gave us back this right should not be overturned.  We believe that the LHC ruling should be upheld. This correction should not become a pretext for delaying the polls. The forms need immediate rectification, an action that should not in any way encumber the timely accomplishment of the election process. The revised forms can be uploaded on the ECP website in no time and candidates can download them, which should not lead to any delay in the timetable. The frenzy being created by some political parties about a possible delay is a bogus smokescreen to protect some of their candidates with potentially dubious credentials,” unquote.

Earning the gratitude of the masses by being most active in attempting to solve some of Pakistan’s adverse and damaging issues and holding powerful politicians accountable, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar has upheld the judicial system’s integrity in more ways than one.  In our 70 year judicial history he is singlehandedly responsible for ushering in a unique era of justice, fairness and equality, in effect he has given Chairman NAB Justice (Retd) Javed Iqbal ample space to go after wrongdoers.   A constitutional Pakistan was not required, what happened next was worse for our aspiring candidates, a nightmare. Within 5 days the SC effectively closed the legal loophole which would have helped tax evaders, criminals, loan defaulters, those with dual nationality, etc be he or she a murderer, an extortionist, smuggler or even a rapist, etc to enter Parliament.

The rather Solomonic judgement by the SC ruled that the new forms mandated by Parliament would still be used but all the omitted details would be included in an “Affidavit” on stamped paper to be submitted by every candidate.  Non-submission would mean automatic rejection of the nomination papers, any incorrect information submitted or information not included would be treated as perjury.  The “Declaration” has become far more potent than in its original form. Will Asif Ali Zardari (and friends and associates across the political divide) still submit his nomination forms for elections?   Would he have the courage to risk open disclosure of his vast illegally acquired wealth? Because of time constraints please do consider my “60 plus 90 formula” where after elections in 60 days a 90 day period after the elections must complete accountability of all elected candidates.

Our Parliamentarians without due diligence want to contest the elections without fear of exposure like has happened to Nawaz Sharif. We are indeed blessed that our Chief Justice alongwith his fellow justices believes in not only the rule of law but the spirit driving the logic behind the law. PanamaGate exposed financial corrupt practices of our politicians, we are looking forward to the day Zardari is fingered by Uzair Baloch, Rao Anwar, etc to expose the murderous potential of our feudals who not only operate outside the law but have the money to be so.  Without due diligence criminals were given free rein without scrutiny to legally enter Parliament in what had become somewhat of a “Gangster Haven”, the SC stopped us from becoming a “Gangster Heaven”.

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PAKISTAN’S PLACE IN A GLOBALIZED WORLD

In an increasingly globalised world, we are geographically very beneficially at the crossroads separating South Asia with Central Asia and the Middle East, this must be converted to our geo-political advantage.   The new nation state of Pakistan felt quite vulnerable because of Indian hostility on its eastern borders and by Afghanistan’s obstinate refusal on the western borders to recognize the newly formed state. The early compulsions formulating Pakistan’s foreign policy was that we had no choice but to find strong support in the world to help guard its very existence.  There is no certainty as to what would have happened if Pakistan had opted for Soviet Union’s support instead of choosing US as an ally. Given the social and mental setting of our early leaders, the evolving global cold war scenario found Pakistan aligned with the US as a natural choice, the Pakistan Army relying fully on American weaponry and equipment for its defensive needs. Our membership in SEATO and CENTO severely limited our foreign policy options.

US-Pakistan relations have been a roller-coaster ride from the outset. Not many remember American Gary Powers piloting US spy plane U-2 from Badaber air base near Peshawar before being shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960. Our precarious situation was highlighted by Khrushchev publicly putting us in the Soviet nuclear crosshairs. Though for decades Pakistan continued solidly siding and furthering US national security interests in the region and the world, the 1963 border agreement with China went against the grain. Similarly our interests were always not identical as the 80s Afghan War of the eighties and the one since 2001 has shown. Issues Pakistan considered dear to our national interest like the Kashmir and the crisis in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) never got more than verbal support. The Nixon-Kissinger “tilt” towards Pakistan involved only a symbolic show of force in the Indian Ocean by the US Sixth Fleet.  The US has always come to our rescue with massive aid during national disasters like floods, cyclones, earthquakes etc, otherwise millions of lives would have been lost.  For this we must remain ever grateful.

With the break-up of the Soviet Union, the bipolar world which came into existence after World War 2 came to an end. The so-called ‘non-aligned’ bloc of which India was a driving force lost its importance even before the demise of the Soviet Union. This was capitalism’s final victory over all alternative ways of life and development, the US war machine seen as vitally contributing to this victory. For a couple of decades, the world became unipolar, the US being the only superpower standing after almost five decades’ of competition for global supremacy.  Samuel Huntington’s ‘Clash of Civilizations’ perceived Islam and the Muslim world that owned a large part of the oil and gas reserves of the planet as their new enemy.  For a couple of years Russia, the defeated giant, was graciously given the role of a junior partner in the global game.

The happenings of 9/11 triggered a new wave of global polarization and warfare kept the world occupied while quite unnoticed the collapse of the Soviet Union saw a China-Russia rapprochement begin to take place. Declaring in 1992 that they were pursuing a “constructive partnership”; in 1996, they progressed toward a “strategic partnership”; and in 2001 signed a treaty of “friendship and cooperation” that led to the foundation of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO). Eurasian in its design this new organisation reminds one of the European Union (EU) in its principles of association. Drawing new members it has developed into a new political, economic and security-related focal point that has quietly changed the relations in Asia.  India and Pakistan together have becoming new members since 2017 but that has not automatically solved our problems.  As the sudden thaw in cross-border firing across the LOC has shown, could this be changing?  This new SCO platform promises stability and options for negotiated resolution of crises. While the Arab Middle East is up in flames and destabilized for the time, the Asian mainland has generally avoided such turmoil. Without much fanfare the economic counterpart of Baghdad Pact and the CENTO, the Regional Cooperation for Development (RCD), has been replaced by the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO). Compared to three countries forming the RCD, ECO has more than a dozen countries of the region as members. Could this be the harbinger of a Baghdad Pact “in reverse”, with Russia and China the new sponsors for Iran, Turkey and Pakistan instead of the US and UK?

Despite coming in for constant criticism, Pakistan’s foreign policy has nicely availed of the new opportunities. Diversifying our security-related cooperation towards China and Russia, we have taken a hands-on attitude in promoting the peace process in Afghanistan.  The Army has succeeded in stabilizing the tribal areas by clearing the Haqqanis and other militant bases in Swat and FATA as well as fencing the vulnerable border to avoid illegal border crossing of militants. The legal foundation for a full-fledged integration of the tribal areas into Pakistan to bring them at par with the rest of the country has been laid. Despite the anti-Pakistani attitude and consequent rhetoric among certain circles of the Afghan civil and military, the US must take cognisance of our vital role in any initiative to achieve their goals in Afghanistan.

We are the crossroads bridge between the different regions of South Asia, Central Asia and Pakistan the Middle East. Our foreign policy commitments have to mirror our special responsibility to keep the region stable. Pakistan needs to work hard to improve relations with our immediate neighbours, this forbids our joining any bloc or having relationships with one country to the exclusion of others.  The decision not to join the war in Yemen but to join the Saudi-initiated military alliance against counter-terrorism is an example of how to keep a balance between our next-door neighbour Iran and an old friend Saudi Arabia. Similarly we must maintain the balance between an old ally US, our deep friendship with China and the newly developing relations with Russia. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a great economic force-multiplier for us, it is fortunately for us a Chinese economic strategic compulsion. We need to work hard to revive our relationship with the US to an even keel. Pakistan’s national interest lies in being a member of no bloc but to be friends with all the blocs.

(Sixth and Final Part of a series of articles about the deteriorating Pakistan-US relationship by Ikram Sehgal, a defence and security analyst).

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THE CARETAKER REGIME

Headed by former Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk, the Caretaker Regime taking office today includes in its mission statement (1) running the affairs of the govt according to the Constitution and (2) administrative and operational back-up to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for conducting of free and fair Parliamentary elections on July 25, 2018, or whenever they are held.  One is hoping that the Caretaker Regime must not only be neutral and impartial manner but be seen to be so.

Those violating the Constitution, being blatantly corrupt and indulging in perjury and forgeries, etc must be held accountable. At the very least they (and their close aide collaborators) must not be allowed to take part in the coming elections. Given the example of Ishaq Dar, declared elected as “Senator” even while absconding in London, this cannot be left to the ECP only. Supported by the Caretaker Regime, NAB must play its part.  Democracy in Pakistan cannot afford the selective interpretation of the rule of law while ignoring the spirit of the law by its political leaders, aided and abetted by unscrupulous pubic officials.  The first order of business is to remove forthwith those politicized bureaucrats actively contributing to the rapacious conduct of their political masters and instigating them to erode the norms of national security.  Quoting my article of May 5, 1995 titled, “Direct Vote and Democracy”, “other than bad advice our political leadership depends upon ‘special interest groups’ (and individuals) for survival once they are in office rather than on the electorate that voted them into office.”

The second order of business is to reverse some of the last minute extraordinary decisions made by the outgoing govt, e.g. 3 months salary bonus to Federal employees. If that is not outright bribery meant to influence elections, what is? As much as I personally like Ali Jahangir Siddiqui, sending him out to be our Ambassador to the US, given his legal circumstances and the likely short duration of his tenure, is way out of line.  Consider the recent attempted strike by DMG officers in the Punjab protesting the arrest by NAB of their efficient but highly corrupt colleague Shahbaz Sharif’s blue eyed bureaucrat, Ahad Cheema. His Prado was found parked in a vehicle showroom with Rs 14.5 million hidden in cash. What has been done to the principal actors behind the “pen down” strike threatening the entire governance mode in Punjab? The administrative breakdown could have led to anarchy and degenerate into an internecine civil war, a la Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, etc. Should these bureaucrats be left in place to manipulate the elections so that the “business” of the next “elected” govt can go on as usual? Accountability being the touchstone of democracy, too much is at stake to quibble about purely legal ramifications. Even with prima facie evidence the person/s must be suspended till cleared of wrongdoing.

Joining our elected representatives an increasingly corrupted media takes vicarious pleasure in subjecting the superior judiciary and the armed forces to muckraking. The moral authority of the government having been virtually destroyed, the credibility of democracy is in tatters.  National security does not comprise guarding our territorial boundaries against external aggression and/or fighting internal strife only, what about the massive erosion of societal security? An obnoxious and shameful harangue has poured contempt on the rule of law and targetted the respected superior judiciary who have to interpret it.  Such gross disrespect by Mian Nawaz Sharif and his aides seeks to convert the rule of law into the law of the jungle. In baiting the Armed Forces why are they adopting a deliberate policy of confrontation?  While Maryam Nawaz Goebbels-like keeps on repeating her lies about the forgery exposed by the “Calibri Font”, she perhaps has now begin to believe it.  The confrontational stance that she and her father have adopted publicly is alarming, “those whom the gods want to destroy, they first make them mad”.

The Caretaker Regime needs to support NAB, too much is at stake for the poor people of this country for them to act legally squeamish in trying to recover ill-gotten wealth, besides everything money-laundering goes into the financing of murder and terror through organized crime. Having suffered in some great measure over the past two decades nearly, there is mass anxiety and apprehension that unless the fabulous wealth acquired by these criminals is traced out and recovered, it will facilitate their return to the corridors of power is a certainty. However in attempting to bring to justice those who have violated the due process of law at will, should we also ourselves short-circuit the due process of law? Going the wrong route, and that also when in haste to correct a wrong, will only compound the situation.

With the elections to be held 60 days hence on July 25, 2018, consider the suggestion made nearly a quarter century ago in my article, “The 90 Plus 90 Formula” of Dec 5, 1996. “This would really mean that the Assemblies not being called into session for another 90 days in order that the accountability process for at least a majority of the elected representatives is complete. Either the President can make a Reference to the Supreme Court for adjudicating a time frame of 90 days post-election or the Caretaker Government can approach the Court for the relief, with the proviso that ordinances enacted by the President during this period will not lapse till 30 days after the Assemblies come into session. There is a temptation to give more than 90 days for accountability, it must be for a very limited period so that the Caretakers do not get used to it and try and make it more permanent due to “the doctrine of necessity “as per” the will of the people” a la late Gen Zia. The headiness of being in power has its own dynamics evoking latent ambition. Luckily for us, the broad mass of the people want elections and accountability, both within a limited time frame,” unquote.

The accountability process being necessarily a long drawn out affair, and with the treasury looted and the country beggared, the intelligentsia is riven with debate as to whether elections or accountability should come first. However there is nothing more important for this country than to revive the democratic process as given in the Constitution. While the time and space can be adjusted because of the extraordinary circumstances, the electoral process has to take precedence in order to ensure the credibility of constitutional authority and continuity thereof.

(The writer is a defence and security analyst).

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