Sunday, April 26, 2015

Pakistan Needs a Full Time Foreign Minister

April 26, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has two advisers to deal with the foreign affairs but not a full time foreign minister. The portfolio of this prestigious and delicate office is kept by the prime minister himself. And patently he is not deft in such a sensitive domain as dealing with Pakistan’s external affairs. For that, one has to be knowledgeable and eloquent. Although he is an excellent businessman but truthfully he lacks both these traits.

There are two glaring flaws in the demeanor of honorable Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that make him inept for such a gubernatorial undertaking. What we have perceived from his postures and meetings is that he seldom speaks but listens most of the time.
First, genetically, he is not fluent or communicative particularly in English language that is the linga-Franca and is indispensable in international arenas. We have seen Mian Sahib sitting like a lame duck in his meeting with American president Barrack Obama. He had a sheet of paper in his hand caught from one corner and simply listening to a highly articulate president Obama.
If someone lacks the ability to effectively and forcefully communicate one’s mind and point of view then how other countries would be convinced of the veracity or import of our perceptions, policies, needs and goals. Ironically on top of this, he had appointed spent-up dummies as his assistants and advisers to spearhead the bulwark of the foreign office.
I have no personal rapport nor any grudge with these two guys but let me express myself candidly that they are good for nothing as they are simply mouthpieces of the prime minister and convey what he has in his mind. Or else the prime minister spews out what they brief him then it makes the whole exercise of running foreign office as frivolously ludicrous.
Pakistan does not need the retired government servants to run the foreign office nor should this delicate office be dealt with by the prime minister himself. It is a full time job that needs acumen, intelligence, a vast knowledge and highly persuasive and eloquent tongue to put one views across with emphasis.
These gentlemen looking like proxies for a genuine foreign minister may not be befitting match and counterparts to the international diplomats and seasoned politicians. The basic and potent question that intrigues the mind is why the prime minister is not having a full time, competent, energetic and an elected member of assembly or Senate as the foreign minister.
My hunch is that he fears a kind of opposition or contradiction from a politically elected person as was the case between Asif Zardari as the president and Shah Mahmood Qureshi as the foreign minister.
The bane of contention was Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis on January 27, 2011 in broad day light. Shah Sahib turned down the request of Zardari Sahib to accord diplomatic indemnity to the heinous culprit.
Unlike the dummy or caretaker advisers, Pakistan must have a full-time foreign minister who ought to be shrewd, persuasive and an expert in foreign affairs. Between these two guys there could be a personality clash on policy matters and also on what to convey to the prime minister and who should convey.
If at all there should be an adviser (Sartaj Aziz) or special assistant (Tariq Fatemi), there should be only one and not two with divergent backgrounds. If there is a conflict of opinion between these highly senior people then it can negatively impinge upon Pakistan’s relations with both friendly and not unfriendly countries.
The foreign office  must have also been flabbergasted and rather averse to having two gentlemen hovering on their heads who may not be having an insight into the intricacies of bilateral relations between Pakistan and the rest of the world. It is not known who goes through of files sent from the foreign office to the prime minister secretariat.
Understandably  the prime minster has neither time nor stamina and even inclination to read all those files and issue orders as Zulfikar Ali Bhutto used to do( while working myself in the foreign office I have seen the comments of prime ZAB almost on each file).
But ZAB was a wizard as far as the foreign affairs were concerned. No one can beat him in that domain. But presently at least Pakistan can have a full time person with a title of foreign minister who is aware of the art of diplomacy and the vision to run the External Affairs with confidence, authority and foresight.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Giant Leap for Pak-China Friendship

April 23, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

The People’s Republic of China and Pakistan’s long lasting friendship is unique and a laudable model between a small and a giant neighbor. Yet it is premised on mutual respect and equality. That inimitable friendship has always stood the test of time. 

It has taken a giant leap with the two days historic visit (April 20-21) of the Chinese president Xi Jinping to Pakistan. This monumental visit that was postponed earlier has culminated into a phenomenal and far-reaching outcome for the two traditional friends as well as neighbors.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) would further cement and strengthen the existing bonds of unalloyed cooperation and mutuality of interests between the two neighbors. It would unfold an era of unprecedented prosperity and economic boom in Pakistan otherwise a poor country with obsolete and inadequate infrastructure.

The basic understanding on these projects was reached during the visit of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to China in July 2013 when eight watershed agreements were inked between the two countries. The CPEC was central to those agreements. The Prime Minister then said that “his vision was to extend motorways and communication links not only to Kabul but also to Central Asia and South Asian region”.

The sworn opponents and defiant detractors of Mian Nawaz Sharif and his government should have the magnanimity to felicitate him for the dazzling achievements accruing from Chinese Prime minister Xi Jinping’s visit. It is indeed one of those spectacular visits between the two states that we must relish and be proud of and which has laid down the robust foundations of renewed friendship and economic collaboration.

Lt us not obviate the stark fact that China is an emerging super power and not in distant future is going to be a counterpart of the United States thus far a sole super power.  This future spectacle is betokened from Chinese galloping economic miracle and by the glaring fact that it is a lender to the United States that has been dominating the international arena economically and militarily since World War II.

 During the Chinese Prime minister’s visit, both the countries signed 51 agreements that cover all facets of speedy development in Pakistan. China has pledged $ 46 billion to modernize the primitive and ramshackle infrastructure of Pakistan. The Corridor package envisages $34 billion investment in energy sector and around $11 billion in infrastructure sector and communication.

On both sides of this Corridor, the industrial and economic zones would be created that in return would create countless jobs in Pakistan besides facilitating its entry into the fold of advanced industrialized nations with modern infrastructure of Roads and highways. Now these projects would be primarily built by Chinese engineers and Pakistani counterparts would be assisting in that huge venture. The Karakorum Highway connecting Pakistan and China would be further widened while the rail network between Karachi and Peshawar will be upgraded.

All the projects are scheduled to be completed by 2017 which is barely two years far away. The Chinese engineers and technicians have the reputation of completing the projects well within the prescribed time frame. With the projects to be completed by workforce of both China and Pakistan, the quality of work, accountability and meeting of the deadlines would be ensured.

Emphasizing the significance of the Gawadar project, the Minister of Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said in a press briefing that “The Gawadar Port Project is the center-piece of Pak-China strategic partnership with its strategic location and potential for becoming the future economic and energy hub”.

The Gawadar Port (presently being operated by China) like other projects would be completed and modernized by 2017 at a cost of 622 million dollars. The coal, wind, solar and hydro energy projects would be launched at a cost $15.5 billion and thus 10,400 megawatts of electricity would be added to the national grid of Pakistan.

The CPEC would create some 3000 kilometer long stretch of roads, railway and pipelines and would connect Chinese Sinkiang province with Gawadar Port. A fiber optic cable would be laid between Sinkiang province and Pakistan’s cities of Rawalpindi/ Islamabad. By 2017 a six lane motorway between Karachi and Lahore would be completed by the Chinese companies. Besides, public transportation would be upgraded in six major cities of Pakistan.

Thus far, this is the largest investment ever made by Peoples Republic of China in a foreign country. The overriding motivation for such an unprecedented financial commitment is driven by the Geo-strategic location of Pakistan and also by the fact that modernizing of Pakistan’s infrastructure would be hugely beneficial also for China and would bring windfall economic benefits to her.

At present 60 percent petroleum for China is exported from the Persian Gulf to the Chinese port of Shanghai traversing a sea voyage of some 16000 Kilometers and the time period of several months. The ships carrying oil are always exposed to the vulnerability of attacks from pirates, inclement weather and similar unforeseen hurdles.

With the creation of the economic Corridor not only that the transportation of oil and other merchandise for China from Gawadar port would be entirely safe but would reach destinations within days with unstinted supply round the year. 

With The gigantic network of infrastructure particularly the development of Gawadar and Highways, Pakistan’s security and territorial integrity would be guaranteed. In case of an external aggression against Pakistan, China would protect the built up assets and the network to ensure the uninterrupted supply linkage between Gawadar and China.  

Moreover the network would be extremely useful for both Pakistan and China to reach the Central Asian markets. Also in return the Central Asian countries and caucuses could use those facilities to reach the Indian Ocean and beyond.

Finally let me compare the CPEC with the Marshall Plan through which the United States gave $13 billion (approximately $120 billion in current dollar value) in economic support to help rebuild European economies after the termination of the World War II. 

That timely and mammoth aid helped the devastated European states particularly Germany to rebuild their destroyed cities, Industries and road network. Look at the astounding progress and prosperity and socio- political stability ever since in Europe. Hopefully the fruition of CPEC would enable Pakistan to follow in the footsteps of Europe. Pakistan will be richer and stronger.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Muhajirs, the MQM and NA-246

April 18, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

For how long the immigrants from India,who opted to live in the newly Muslim state of Pakistan in August 1947, keep branding themselves as the refugees or Muhajirs. Now they are citizens of Pakistan and treat themselves as such.  As a matter of fact no one compelled them in 1947 to immigrate to Pakistan. They could live in India like other 200 million Muslims are living.
It was their voluntary decision to move to Pakistan.

If they feel that they have been maltreated since 1947 then this argument is spurious as besides them a huge chunk of Pakistanis  are living in more miserable conditions than the Muhajir community settled mostly in Karachi; the largest metropolis of Pakistan.

While MQM is a highly organized entity with enormous political clout and matchless cohesion, the downtrodden population in Pakistan neither has resources nor any party or platform to voice their grievances and abysmal conditions under which they lead their lives. 

The grinding poverty, the degrading living environment, the yoke of serfdom for millions of farm labor families tied around their necks from generation to generation in a feudalistic society is abhorrent.  It is a sordid testimony to the misery of a vast section of society living on the soil of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

The majority of the people in villages and in eye sore city slums look like pigeons and parrots stuffed in cages. Most of the Pakistanis toil throughout their lives to survive and sustain on barest minimum foodstuff. The divide between rich and poor is as wide as the Pacific Ocean and no conscious policies have been mounted by any government since 1947 to narrow this gap. 

The feudal, the plutocrats, the wealthy the bureaucrats, the top notches in business and manufacturing, the army big wigs both in service and retired lead such a glamorous life that eclipses the living of their counterparts even in posh and affluent societies.

If MQM has to wage a struggle and launch a mission for the poor and deprived classes of Pakistan then they will have to come out of the shell of MQM that in fact highlights their aloofness from the miseries of the rest of the scum of the earth. If they have to raise their voice for equal rights of all the people then no line should be drawn between the Muhajirs and non-Muhajirs, the immigrants and non-immigrants.

The MQM   has remained confined to Karachi since its formation. The common impression about its functioning is that it is operating in Karachi more by coercion and fear and by playing the ethnic card focused on Muhajirs. It has been blamed, more often than not, for indulging in extortion, arm twisting, violence, grabbing of lands both of the state and the people.

Its image, unfortunately is, that for its political and economic survival and to keep Karachi under its tutelage, it has let loose a reign of perpetual terror and harassment not only against its own flock but the entire population of Karachi. It has been viewed as a mafia that survives on strong-arm tactics carried out through its militant and spying wings closely watching who was doing what. 

Many assassinations both of high profile and of commoners are suspected to be the work of MQM's death squads for quelling the resistance and to silence opposition within the fold of MQM and out of it.

We have been hearing that the MQM adherents and the Muhajir families have stern and tacit instructions to attend the rallies of Altaf Hussain addressed from the safe confines of London. Those who may not come to such unusually huge gatherings for pressing reasons are harassed, probed and punished in various manners. 

The semblance of cohesion and compulsion of attendance is so indispensable for the MQM community that they can sacrifice their personal pressing priorities and sit on the bare grounds for hours listening to Altaf Hussain’s lengthy and occasionally funny and boring discourses.

The MQM entity is in dire need of being liberated and released from the coercion and strict regimentation that they have been subjected to for decades now. To thrust upon them to demonstrate ethnicity-based  phony and forced solidarity is like a balloon which might burst at a certain point of time and result into a disastrous infighting with MQM echelons.

This murky and brutal image of MQM and its oppressive ascendancy and obsessive sway on the inhabitants of Karachi looks like assassins of yester years when they held the succeeding Muslim dynasties hostage to their dictates for several centuries to be ultimately decimated by Mongols under the command Hilaku Khan. In the case of MQM there are no invaders coming from distant shores but a tussle could erupt within the party ranks destroying its monolithic structure.

The rangers are doing a commendable job by releasing Karachi from the unremitting spell of lawlessness, target killings, kidnappings and mayhem of multifarious bounty hunters for money and for personal, clannish and political and other ferocious vendettas.

If MQM is not involved in all those nefarious activities then it ought to welcome the ongoing para military campaign to cleanse Karachi of thugs and bandits in order to bring peace to that city bedeviled for so long with incessant lawlessness.

The election contest in NA constituency 246 should not be treated as the exclusive preserve of MQM.  The other contestants should not be resisted and barred from setting foot here. It should not be projected as no- go- area. The early furor and outrage demonstrated by MQM rank and file was certainly unwarranted and was aimed at facilitating a walk over by MQM. But in that case the victory of MQM would have always remained questionable.

The MQM, by all indications, would win this seat. But now when it has allowed PTI and JI to hold public meetings and rallies, its victory would look credible and well-earned. The conciliatory statements of Altaf Hussain welcoming the rival parties are well in time and demonstration of a positive outlook that if continued would foster political and social goodwill among the divergent political forces benefiting the MQM.  This trend would help washing off its image of being a party stifling political dissent through show of force.

Altaf Hussain himself is locked in the eye of storm due to high profile criminal cases pending against him in the British courts. Back home in Pakistan there is also a plethora of similar cases registered against him. If he decides to return to Pakistan, he may remain ill at ease. His health is deteriorating too. His vigor and physical fitness seems to be dissipating.

It is time that once he tenders his resignation it should be the final call and he should not take it back. This exercise has been repeated many times and appears to be mere facade. He should prevail upon his followers and party workers to emphasize that it was high time for the change of the praetorian. He can still be a patron chief in an advisory position but should say goodbye to active politics.


Thursday, April 2, 2015

This is How Urdu Ghar is Promoting Urdu Language!

April 1, 2015
By Saeed Qureshi

An Urdu Mushaira was recently held under the auspices of the “Urdu Ghar” being run and founded for many years by Dr. Amer Suleman. The Mushaira (poetic symposium) was in honor of a famous poetess from California Rehana Qamar intimately known to such poetic stalwarts as Nadir Durrani, Qazi Masood and other senior poets from the DFW.

A strange and rather inexplicable condition was imposed on the participating local poets through a pre-scrutiny process. Out of a whole lot of local poets only five were selected for the unique honor of presenting their poetic genius on the evening of March 27.

This pre-screening or scrutiny of the poets had been unheard of for several decades I have been teaching literature and poetry and presenting my humble verses and ghazals (odes) in countless Mushairas in Pakistan. It is done in selection jobs and assignments but not in declamation of poetry verses or declamation contests.

What was the iron-clad criterion before those individuals who chose some poets and dropped the others? What personal credentials they had to judge if a poet is good or not good or whether he or she has a criminal record or is the enemy of Urdu and lover of Punjabi or Hindi? Or else the selectors were nincompoops and biased.

The pre-screening of poets itself reflects a despicable mindset and cuts across the very perception, doctrine and mission of the Urdu Ghar. If you start discriminating between the poets for any reason and on any grounds, it smacks of personal likes and dislikes and settling scores against the rivals. Or else these authorities or individuals resorting to a tradition of vetting are doing disservice to the very cause of Urdu Ghar (House of Urdu language) it was founded for.

Should we believe that those poets barred from presenting their reflections were buffoons or fools or crazy or enemies of public peace not to be allowed to enter the arena where this “rare and unique Mushaira” was being convened?

Dr. Amer Suleman sent me a message of invitation from for participation in the Mushaira. In response I asked if I was going to read my poetry and he confirmed by writing back the word “YES”. But another message from him landed later in my cell phone directed me to get in touch with Mr. Rashid Dara who was once a president of the PSNT. Rashid Dara told me point blank that I was going to be in the Mushaira as an audience but was not allowed to read. 

When requested to explain further he said that my name was not there in the list he received from the Urdu Ghar. Now I am confused that how come  Rashid Dara being a technical and computer wizard was assigned the unpleasant task of telling the poets whether they were going to be called to the podium or not.

I have a straight and simple question from the founder of Urdu Ghar, “Why have you initiated this sordid tradition of pick and choose policy from among the poets to recite or not their compositions”? And what your honored guest might have thought that we are living behind the red curtain of the communism and there was a ban on our freedom of expression and that there was a disgusting rule being applied to send out a message that Urdu Ghar is not for everyone no matter how talented and gifted poet one was.

What message you have conveyed to your illustrious and famed guest poetess that here we are living in a closed society and only those can be on the stage whom we want to be. Isn't the negation of the mission you stand for and isn't it stinking?

And after hurting me with the diabolic disgrace you have the audacity of inviting me to the lunch at your residence. How could I face your distinguished guest who would think here is a man who was debarred from coming to the stage and despite that disgrace here he is for filling his stomach with the food of a person who cares shit for his poetic reputation and glowing literary background? It was like rubbing salt on the wounds.

 So now I believe and it is my considered opinion that your, Urdu Ghar” is a hoax and a fake institution that though my be promoting Urdu but was influenced by petty considerations like race and personal preferences of some of your members of the executive body. I also guess that the old actors are back and thus this is the first demonstration of their conspiratorial mentality they have once again displayed.

You personally are a very decent and laudable person. May God save you from the sleazy characters around you who would get this prestigious house closed by their dirty designs. No doubt Urdu Ghar has been serving the noble cause of promotion of our national language? May God have mercy on you Dr. Suleman as because of your sincerity, simplicity and even innocence you are carried away by the dictations of others and do not have a faith in your personal opinion in making decisions. Amen!