Game changer and foreign hands


Forward march only?


Ambassador Wajid added that since major portion of CPEC would run through Pakistan’s most troublesome province in an intermittent state of insurgency — Balochistan — its success would depend on the law and order state of the province


CPEC has been heralded as a game changer for Pakistan. Its launch is a laudable achievement but the fact that it is accompanied by the third terror attack in Balochistan in as many months should be cause for concern.

Statements regarding the involvement of a malevolent foreign hand hell bent on derailing the project have repeatedly been touted by the government. However, these statements lose their effectiveness when repeated as often as they are.

The repeated insistence of all of the province’s problems being the work of a foreign hand cannot deflect the blame regarding inefficient security measures and lack of policy making and implementation.

Talking to DNA on the issue, veteran journalist and former high commissioner to United Kingdom, Ambassador Wajid Shamsul Hasan, said no doubt the CPEC project — one belt one road — has been optimistically called a game changer for Pakistan with seminal consequences for country’s economy and vital strategic interests. For China too it would be opening an altogether new route to Central Asian Republics and help a great deal in developing integrated trade within China’s vast expense of land. Pakistan’s Gwadar Port in Balochistan is the kingpin in China’s larger scheme of things.

Ambassador Wajid added that since major portion of CPEC would run through Pakistan’s most troublesome province in an intermittent state of insurgency — Balochistan — its success would depend on the law and order state of the province and its political stability. Investment of $46 billion in the project would be mainly beneficiary to Pakistan and mostly to China.

However, it will have an overall healthy impact on the socio-economic development of the places it would pass through or touches by. Growth of industrial complexes, large scale mercantile activity, growth of transport would not only be economic fruit bearing, employment generating but would have revolutionary impact socially.

He added that not underestimating its overall socio-economic impact, the road to completion would not be strewn with roses. From the word go to the end it will have to overcome local political conflicts as well as diverse economic interests of the regions that it will run through.

“Although it has been initially operationalised recently, preceding it there have been three terrorist attacks killing hundreds in a period of 100 days. I mention these attacks as they took place on the eve of its operational launch while Balochistan has been in the eye of the terrorist storm since ages mainly the targets have been the Shia minority,” said ambassador Wajid.

In fact, according to Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, a few years ago an al Qaeda publication ‘AlHateen’ published one of its objectives was making ‘Islamic State’ in Balochistan

What makes the its tale more sordid is the fact that it has been managed not only by a politically elected government in the province but it’s over all law and order control is in the hands of the army with a full corpse under a three-star lieutenant general and yet another division of Frontier Constabulary under a major general with overly presence of ISI, MI and IB. Besides this there are levies and Balochistan police. Despite this heavy presence of the law and order machinery, terrorists strike at free will, said Wajid.

Pakistani authorities without blinking an eye for putting their own house in order, rush after each instead to blame India Raw. And why not… Raw is giving them a tit for tat — its response to Pakistan’s involvement in Indian Occupied Kashmir.

He added that Pakistan has attributed another factor to it by alleging that India’s by creating law and order problem as a matter of fact aims at subverting CPEC. It keeps harping that India is hell bent on derailing the CPEC project. You are absolutely right that such statements lose their effectiveness when repeated as often as they are.

“What I apprehend CPEC is threatened by Kalabagh Dam Syndrome. Balohistan is not happy since the fact CPEC is Gwadar oriented, not much economic development has been there that could bring some qualitative change in the life of the Baloch people,” said ambassador Wajid.

Similarly, one hears the KP chief minister threatening the federal government that it would not let the road run through unless KP is given its due share. All the three provinces accuse the federal government of treating them step motherly. And this also brings into question the disputed northern area that will see road run through it with India objecting.

Wajid added that without setting our own internal house in order, not giving due considerations to the grievances of the provinces and putting the blame of all our own faults and failings as the work of foreign hands cannot deflect the blame of our bad security performance on Raw.

No doubt Pakistan’s fortunes would change as CPEC is a gigantic project mainly for the benefit of China. However, the money invested in our power projects would be responsible for sea of economic change. On the other hand, nothing substantive has been done to speed up with the building up of networking roads connecting with the CPEC as well planned establishment of industrial trading areas all along the CPEC route. However, being such a big project, even the fallout in the shape of economic crumbs will mean immense good for Pakistan.

He said last but not least, Gwadar being at the centre of it; one must not ignore the pitfall of competition with Iran backed by India where its port at Charbahar with its own plans to connect with Central Asia through Afghanistan — would be a direct challenge. So is Dubai. Since Gwadar Port is deep water port with longest depth, its advantages for maritime countries is most.

In the end much would depend on Pakistan as to how it deals with Balochistan and the grievances related to CPEC of other provinces. Its Punjab specific attitude would ultimately end up in hitting CPEC with Kalabagh Dam Syndrome, said ambassador Wajid.

While commenting on the issue, senior journalist and political commentator Saqlain Imam told DNA that our basic premise is wrong. The terrorist attacks precede the announcement of CPEC. It’s preposterous to say that terrorism started in Balochistan after the announcement of the multi billion dollars Chinese projects. Terrorism in Balochistan has four roots:

1-insurgency unleashed by the Baloch nationalists which was of low intensity as it never directly threatened the state. However, Pakistani security officials believe that this nationalist movement is the biggest threat to the territorial integrity of Pakistan;

2-insurgency unleashed by Afghan mujahideen which are now known as Afghan Taliban, was never aimed at destroying Pakistani state, its target was Kabul with the overt or covet support of Pakistani state. So they also do not push threat to the state of Pakistan;

3- Insurgency unleashed by Pakistani nationals (which now are known as Punjabi Taliban) who were raised and trained for multi-purpose insurgency, foremost of them were sectarian killings, Kashmir jihad and insurgency in regional countries. At the moment this third kind of insurgency is the largest threat to the state of Pakistan though its perpetrators are mainly Pakistanis;

4- Insurgency engineered and executed by the international or transnational jihadi organisations which recruit disillusioned members from among the Islamic militant organisations from different countries or regions, Pakistan is one of them.

Saqlain added that in addition to these kinds of insurgencies perpetrated by Islamists or terrorist groups, there are foreign governments of the Gulf states (Saudi Arabia and Qatar in particular) which have been either directly funding some of the jihadis while indoctrinating almost all of them, have been using insurgency for their own strategic needs. First they used this jihad in Afghanistan for CIA, then in Iraq, later in Libya and now in Syria.

Now it seems that insurgency of the jihadis apparently is in chaos but if you read the pattern if terrorism it seems to have an objective too: converting Balochistan into an ‘Islamic State’, said Saqlain.

“Pakistani jihadis who had gone to Syria and Iraq are returning home. They need a territory where Pakistani security agencies are reported to be helping them relocate themselves,” he said.

There seems to be a common belief in power corridors of the Pakistani state that jihadis would decimate Baloch nationalists and maintain territorial integrity of Pakistan by keeping Balochistan within Pakistan.

However, the trajectory of events suggests that if and, most likely, when Jihadis of different types become a power in Balochistan they will go for a sovereign ‘Islamic State’, said Saqlain.

In fact, according to Dr Ayesha Siddiqa, a few years ago an al Qaeda publication ‘AlHateen’ published one of its objectives was making ‘Islamic State’ in Balochistan.

“So insurgency in Balochistan is not correlated to CPEC, however, any power which would like to stop this multimillion dollar project could possibly find its hope in jihadis, not in Baloch nationalists,” he added.

However, leading political and defence analyst, General (r) Ghulam Mustafa said there is no doubt that CPEC (read Gwadar Port) is a cause of serious concern for many; particularly those with plans hegemony in Indian Ocean.

There’s also no doubt that this concern gets translated into acts of terrorism directly affecting this project. Offering this as an explanation for the consequent devastation, however, is the poorest of all excuses, said General Mustafa.

He feared that while promising a lot, it will not solve all our problems. We don’t have human or material infrastructure for it. It also has the potential of causing strategic imbalance if we don’t safe guard interests peculiar to Pakistan.

Acclaimed lawyer and political analyst, Ali Ibrahim thinks otherwise. He told DNAthat there is certainly no doubt that the CPEC and the Gawadar Port have unprecedented potential to lift Pakistan from its chronic economic woes.

However, there have been many projects and programmes in the past that were touted as having great potential in uplifting the economy and creating jobs that didn’t materialise as they were supposed to. The reasons for their failures, sadly, remain very much alive, said Ali.

As such, the government cannot hide its failures in ensuring a safe environment that is of paramount importance for the establishment and efficient working of such mega projects despite the best efforts to deflect all justified criticisms onto a “hidden foreign hand”, said Ali.

Ali added that even in terms of rationality, one cannot blame anything on a foreign hand if one himself suggests that the said hand is hidden. If it is not hidden, where is the proof? And greater and graver still is the question that if our government knows about this mysterious foreign hand, doesn’t the fact that it has not been able to do anything on that front point towards it being partly complicit.