- A stable economy is needed to practice modern day diplomacy
For over four decades Pakistan was bogged with illogical concept of seeking Strategic Depth beyond its geographical boundaries. We should have focused on securing our borders, boosting our economy, investing in developing human resources and expanding trade and commerce.
Collective wisdom must prevail and professionals with specialization in relevant fields, in consultation with major political parties and state institutions must arrive at a consensus to have long term Economic Policy. This policy must have constitutional protection to ensure that change in government should not necessarily result in major structural changes.
It is time that Pakistanis with no conflicts of interest and no split loyalties be placed at helm. Unless a stable economic policy exists, it will be very difficult to attract foreign investment. Economic stability and ability to sustain systemic shocks alone gives a nation capacity to shape an independent Foreign Policy, whose contours are defined strictly by national economic interests and trade benefits.
Long term economic and trade relations, which benefit nations mutually, are essential to sustain foreign policy, which is beneficial for national and security interests. Relation between nations based on security pacts alone can only be for short term. It is policies of major super wars that define strategic security interests, which can shift with passage of time. Today’s enemies can tomorrow be economic and trade partners with shared common goals. It is the economy that sustains state security and defines foreign policy and not vice versa.
There was no harm in providing trained skilled professional security services for countries in Gulf and Mideast. However those who negotiated terms of agreement should have sought trade benefits and direct foreign investment in Pakistan, instead of mere remuneration for individuals. In hindsight it is clear that Pakistan has not derived any long term benefits from one-sided security alliances with Western powers, nor from offering security services to countries in the region. We should now seek to develop joint strategy and partnership with countries in the region who share common interests such as China, Turkey, Russia etc, while making efforts to have good relation with neighbors in Gulf, Mideast, SE Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia including Iran and other major Western countries.
Bonds of religion, ethnicity etc. determines relations between individuals and people to people contacts, but economic interests are major factor that creates alliances between countries in the real world. Shared security pacts between nations survive only in short term, because today’s foes can be tomorrow’s allies. Efforts must be made to improve relations with India, but that only be achieved if there is quid pro quo and realization by our neighbor that peaceful coexistence will serve both countries.
Enough damage has been done to our economy by likes of Shaukat Aziz, Syed Jamaat, Hussain Haqqani, MM Ahmad, Moeen Qureshi etc, who had no stakes in this country. Once out of power, they abandoned Pakistan, to live in foreign countries where they had parked their wealth (black and white) and bought assets while holding public offices. It should worry people of Pakistan that ruling elite, (elected or paid civil and uniformed) with few exceptions are no longer willing to wed future of their families with this country, thereby displaying lack of faith in destiny of this nation.
For a country like Pakistan with over 90% Muslims, it is imperative to understand relevance of verbal oaths. For any Non-Muslim to convert to Islamic faith, all that is required is to recite Kalima voluntarily and publicly. Similarly when a citizen of Pakistan takes oath of citizenship of another country, he/she breaks bonds of undivided loyalty that existed prior to this new pledge. An individual can have faith only in one religion; similarly loyalty and patriotism can only be to one nation.
Those who held power in early 80s made a cardinal mistake of compromising state sovereignty by giving sanctuary to foreign fighters and engaging in proxy wars. Instead we should have resolved our own problems such as preserving water reserves, Kashmir dispute, launching jihad against poverty, taking concrete steps to eliminate curse of illiteracy. Pakistan should have pursued path of seeking self-reliance in technological growth, by utilizing and exploiting our talent, promoting research and seeking transfer of technology.
India made it a priority to achieve technological self-reliance and restricted imports of luxury items for over 50 years, boosting its own production and today it has foreign exchange reserves of over $429.8 Billion. It was the myopic vision of those at helm, which resulted in massive brain drain by failing to understand that Pakistan was created by Father of the Nation to function as a modern democratic welfare state for its citizens and not a Client State serving interest of others, nor the security state envisioned by Ayub, Zia or Musharraf. The irony is that today we are internally the most insecure country in region (except Afghanistan), with extremism, sectarianism and terrorism of all shades threatening lives of citizens.
No modern state can exist without collecting taxes from all citizens who earn above a certain threshold. There should be no tax holidays for elite, nor any write off of loans without carrying out proper audit and putting in place penalties for declaring bankruptcy.
Tax Evasion is and should be considered a crime against state. How can PM or Federal Cabinet waive off over Rs 208 Billion from super rich who allegedly collected Taxes/Surcharges from citizens but failed to deposit with treasury. This amounts to conspiracy against the state. Earlier Rs 20 Billion was given as bailout package to Stock Exchange Brokers who make billions and pay nominal tax to cover their recent losses.
The Orange Train Project has been built, rightly or wrongly, in Lahore with foreign assistance. State money was invested in this project and delays will only deprive citizens of much needed public transportation, which is essential to protect environment and congestion on roads.
It is the constitutional obligation of state to provide citizens basic necessities and extend subsidies for benefit of common man, instead of giving relief to super rich. The State can and must proceed in accordance with laws in existence for any pilferage and corruption in mega projects like Orange Train, New Islamabad Airport, KPK Mass Transit, IPP projects and insertion of clauses for guaranteed capacity payments irrespective of production. Bureaucrats who negotiated and agreed to incorporate International Arbitration clauses to protect interest of investors (Reko Diq case) without protecting interests of state must be held accountable.