Quaid, CPEC and provincialism


United we should stand



The following was posted on a WhatsApp group, presumably an extract from an article written on CPEC:

“It doesn’t matter whether there is this corridor or that corridor.

It doesn’t matter whether it is biased in favour of Punjab or not.

It doesn’t matter whether $46 billion is a loan or investment.

It doesn’t matter whether Chinese have ulterior motives or are really sincere in developing Pakistan.

It doesn’t matter whether there is transparency or whether there is a hidden agenda.

It doesn’t matter whether there are any projects for Karachi or not.

What really matters is that Karachi will be paying for all this since Karachi contributes 65% of the nation’s revenue.”

We forgot Quaid-e-Azam’s statement, “We are now all Pakistanis — not Balochis, Pathans, Sindhis, Bengalis, Punjabis and so on — and as Pakistanis we must behave and act, and we should be proud to be known as Pakistanis as nothing else.” Unfortunately, we act as Balochis, Pathans, Sindhis and Punjabis and so on — anything but as Pakistanis.

However, is the above excerpt a true reflection of Karachi’s economy? Tariq J Qureshi, CEO at Menaa Group-Global, notes: “All exports from Pakistan are recorded at exit point Karachi, all imports entering Pakistan are also recorded in Karachi. It’s the same reason why entire Faisalabad textile community set up offices in Karachi. So it is not a true reflection of reality.” Gohar Ijaz, CEO of Ejaz Textile and Lake City Holdings Ltd, opines, “Karachi is the biggest in terms of collection or revenue contribution? There is a huge difference between the two. Karachi is no doubt the biggest collection point of revenue collection, not revenue generation. However, Karachi port collects this revenue on behalf of Pakistan, not Karachi.”

Ejaz’s stance is substantiated by data compiled on ten years of Annual Reports of Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR), Government of Pakistan. These reports contain zone-wise collection of both direct and indirect taxes as well as other relevant data. (Business Recorder, May 13, 2015) “Before presenting and analysing data on taxes we should know two terms, namely impact and incidence. Those persons or institutions that pay a tax but pass on the final burden to others are bearing the impact of a tax, but those who bear the final burden are bearing the “incidence”. Thus if an imported vehicle or a piece of machinery is unloaded at Karachi (and taxes are paid in Karachi) but it is being used in Punjab or KP, the burden of taxes paid on such items is on users in Punjab or KP, as the case may be. Those talking of Karachi contributing 70% of federal tax revenue refer to collection (which actually is about 54%), conveying the impression that collection is identical with incidence. This is the source of misunderstanding.”

But this is not the issue I want to address; the issue is much bigger — a cancer of ethnicity gnawing at our innards. In my article in a leading newspaper I had written, “Let me submit here that nations geographically and demographically bigger than us have had more cultural diversity in terms of ethnicity than we can imagine, yet they have managed to emerge as one nation. One such example is the US. The US Census Bureau map shows the ancestry of its 317 million people, of which Germans are by far the largest with 49,206,934 people. This is followed by the African-Americans. Then there are roughly 4.5 million Irish people settled in the larger cities of the US including New York, Boston and Chicago, to name a few. The English-Americans are also sizeable in number. Those claiming a Mexican ancestry are said to be at 31,789,483 in number. Yet, this does not stop any one of them from thinking and acting only as Americans.

In countries having served time under colonial rule, English has more often than not been given a legislative status. Most African states, for example, had English as their national and official language to curb ethnic disputes, which would otherwise arise from existence of multi-tribes and ethnicities. No country can develop as a nation if it negates its component parts. Translated, it means, a Pakistani Identity cannot establish and entrench itself in the psyche of its people minus the identity of being a composition of all its multi-cultural and multi-religious roots. Acknowledgement and nurturing of sub-cultures making up these layers does. Imposition of any form that is alien will not create an identity; it will only destroy the existing one leaving one groping in the dark in confusion. Subscribing to the thought expounded above, Hywel Coleman, an Honorary Research Fellow of Leeds, did a research paper for the British Council in 2010 addressing the weightage awarded to English language competency in the Civil Service Exams in Pakistan. He suggested that applicants should need to demonstrate not only competency in English language but also the language generally understood by all, Urdu, as well as competency in at least one regional language. In one stroke of brilliance, Hywel told us that though English is necessary in today’s world based on inter-linking of nations, important too is to link Pakistanis across board under the ‘umbrella’ of Urdu understood by all. He has at the same time awarded equality to regional languages as well thereby emphasizing upon the importance of one’s roots.”(March 2015)

Instead of provinces embroiling themselves in a brawl over CPEC, there should be a consolidated effort to join in if something good is coming to the country.

Pakistan has done well in lifting sanctions against Iran recently. With the lifting of restrictions, economic and trade relations between Iran and Pakistan will undoubtedly take a positive turn. The most important need is to contain terrorism en route. The investments envisaged over the next fifteen years are worth $45 billion covering energy and transportation infrastructures, smart cities and industrial projects. It is an ambitious programme. A shrewd calculation reveals that it is in China’s interest to have a route; it is also in China’s interest to have energy en route. However, whether or not smart cities develop, whether or not industries develop along the way can offer no great advantage to China.

Pakistanis as one nation need to ensure development of the CPEC as a whole, not a stunted growth at the expense of the nation. Let us not cut off our nose to spite our face.


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