Present times– relevant thoughts

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  • Let Imran Khan be himself

Despite many temptations to do so, I exercise extreme restraint to not comment politically or even semi-politically. But here I succumb, largely as a concerned Pakistani.

Our Prime Minister not only made a moving and impressive speech at the UN General Assembly, but also with conviction and success he interacted articulately with the politicians, together with the financial and business community, of the USA. The whole nation was made proud. His confidence and truthfulness made a dwarf of the Indian propaganda machine.

In extolling the speech, most of our media went on over-drive, almost celebrating as if Kashmir, with that one speech, had been liberated. To undo great leaders, the media heaps tons of appreciation, which in one or the other manner distracts the leadership from other pressing issues. It is expected that Imran Khan will be cognisant of the sycophants. Indisputably his performance at the UN was remarkable; he came out as a voice of the underdeveloped world and as the representative of the Ummah.

Will the nation please let the Prime Minister work and not derail or distract him? He may very well be the last of the upright and honest breed of politicians, in this land of pure

History teaches us that any politician from the less-developed world, or even anyone laying claim to the leadership of the Muslim world, is not tolerated. This nation lost one of its brilliant sons, when he attempted to seek leadership of the Third World and the Muslim Ummah. One prays that Imran would not pursue this utopian position. He has tasks at home. Let’s put the speech on the backburner, but not the cause.

Some sections of the usually unfriendly media have been highlighting the economic morass the country seems to be in. While some of the criticism is justified, there has to be simultaneous realization that economic turnarounds do not happen overnight. This is more true, when you inherit an exchequer with empty coffers; coupled with a disoriented bureaucracy. In economics, all concepts and even tested theories, begin with the prefix, “…… all things remaining the same” and all propounders(economists) know so well, that nothing ‘remains the same’ . All factors are in a continuous state of dynamic change. In the life of a nation, its economics is always about the long term and not the short; for long term gains, great nations have paid the price of sacrifice in the short term. Imran Khan must directly educate the masses; he will be surprised that majority are ready to face pain, for the future.

The recent economic gains of reduction in current account deficit, the slight increase in exports, the decline in imports and the encouraging rise in Foreign Direct Investment, are positive news. These outcomes are not necessarily entirely due to domestic economic policy, and have been helped by changing factors of the global economy. The improvements shouldn’t be merely a matter of statistics, but of sustaining the positive trends. A slight change in oil prices can throw everything back into a spin. We cannot ignore impact of international economics.

Perception makes greater inroads into the minds of both local and foreign investors. We can tell the world that the economy is responding to policy initiatives. This is only self-serving; economic gains have to be accompanied by positive perception. Are we as a nation doing that? Is the media creating a positive perception?

Staying on the FATF grey list will continue to haunt us till February. The group is acting more like a superpower, asking us at every single meeting, despite the great strides made to combat terror financing, “to do more”. This is a matter of perception. We enjoy the benefit of better local regulations than most immediate neighbours, yet there is suspicion. The presence of a hostile country in the group demands our Foreign Office use diplomatic channels more effectively, with focus on managing the perception.

The CPEC has been portrayed as a game changer for Pakistan’s economy– what are we doing about it? Is the pace of development satisfactory? If we do not have enough exportable surplus of goods to go on the CPEC, what exactly will CPEC be for us? A mere road connecting China to the Gulf and Africa!

By not adequately recognizing this need for industrialization on it, are we putting it in jeopardy? For years, nay decades, we have talked of industrial parks and special economic zones, of the type China has successfully developed. But alas! Very little substantive has been achieved. In 1978, when China embarked upon opening its economy, it developed the concept of Special Economic Zones, like South Korea, with completely distinct and separate policies, for their operations; and in case of China to the contrast of the centrally planned economy of the country. The Chinese economic managers very intelligently selected 13 coastal cities, for the creation of the SEZs, as the test-tube laboratories of capitalism. They did not out of any political expediency choose Urumqi or the Hinterland States. They wanted to fully exploit the maritime route for promotion of their exports. In the last 30 years we have seen the emergence of Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Shantou and a list of the successful economic zones. Today if you remove the thin barbed wire between Shenzhen and Honkong; you cannot know which city you are in.

Against this approach, just review what locations we have chosen for creating special economic zones. Karachi and Gawadar should be natural choices. Our SEZ policy must tie up with the CPEC route.

Many of our leaders say, we want to learn from China! So why don’t we? Why do we have to re-invent the wheel? Borrow Shenzhen’s blueprint, tweak partially to suit local conditions, and implement.

From atop the container, Imran made numerous promises, with practically impossible time-lines. Admittedly, today he must be in full realization, that what may have appeared doable from the other side of the table, is actually difficult. That’s not an issue. An upright man learns more quickly on the job– he pursues his objectives with obstinacy. The nation hasn’t lost hope. Imran must not allow himself to be caged by the sycophants that naturally surround his office. The distraction put in his path, can be set aside, if only he learns to distinguish between important and urgent and important but not urgent. That can happen only, if we let him be.

The long march! Why? Who is this new Mao-se-tung? Certainly nowhere near his stature. Why do our politicians have to put to shame and abuse the long march concept of Mau and Chou? Political pygmies look very funny when they adorn unsuccessfully the giant’s clothing, and then act as clowns.

Under what de jure or even de facto authority can any individual ask a popularly elected Prime Minister to resign? Obviously such demands are outside the ambit of democracy, even its aberrant versions. In a democratic setup, losers in an election must wait for next elections; while waiting they must serve the constituencies they lost from; otherwise the results of next elections can’t be different.

Will the nation please let the Prime Minister work and not derail or distract him? He may very well be the last of the upright and honest breed of politicians, in this land of pure.