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Pakistan is Shocked by PM Narendra Modi’s new Baloch Policy, says Pakistan-born Author Tarek Fatah

“If we give them and let them handle the mantle of religion that they seek to exploit for their own geo-political issues all over the globe, then we are really going to lose this war.” said Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Wisconsin-born Muslim

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Tarek Fatah. Source: tarekfatah.com
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New Delhi, Nov 23, 2016: Pakistan-born Canadian journalist and author Tarek Fatah, whose sardonic dismissal of the radical Islam has won him fans in India, says that he is an Indian at heart.

Fatah says that he sees no progress for provinces of Pakistan like Balochistan and Sindh which are struggling to break free from the clutches of state-sponsored terrorism. The founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress praises the shift of India in its Balochistan policy saying that it has turned heads towards the issue which was never brought under the spotlight, mentioned HT report.

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When questioned by HT, about the endgame of the Balochistan Struggle- he said that a few years back, it could have been solved in a way where it could have been a part of the federation based on the presentation of some of the nationalist politicians, a six-point plan similar to what Sheikh Mujib Ur Rehman did to win the election in the year 1970.

The Pakistan government rejected it completely which sent out the message that the only path Islamabad suggested was the subjugation and elimination of the Balochi language.

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He said that a government in exile is necessary and after India’s intervention there is hope that the Baloch leadership might get together into a confederacy. Fatah thinks that Pakistan was taken aback. He said that they never thought that the Indians would know about Balochistan.

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He tells HT, since most NGOs and journalists serve public relations companies and rely on press releases and lobbyists, the Baloch have no understanding of the working of international media and hence, their voice is never aired.

Rashad Suleymanov, the vice president of the European Parliament explicitly mentioned in Geneva that the European parliament will impose sanctions on Pakistan if the human rights infringements do not stop in occupied Balochistan.

While explaining the situation in Sindh, he said that Sindh has been diluted by the Urdu-speaking immigrants who migrated came in from India. At first, Jinnah took away their major city Karachi and converted it into an Urdu speaking city where no other language was permitted. This deprived around 90% of the population who spoke Gujarati, Sindhi, and Balochi.

None of the Gujarati speaking people were employed as the requirement was the ability to converse in Urdu and the Sindhi were pushed away from the urban cities.

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On being asked why is he so critical of Pakistan he said that the colonial power has blood on its hands. It bullied itself into shame when Pakistan was formed. Around 60 percent Pakistan converse in Bengali, but the Punjabis forced Urdu upon the Bengalis. The bitterness is invoked by their attempt to appear as descendants of Babur and Taimur which will launch the retake of Delhi as the Mughal Empire. It is an insult to intelligence and the Punjabi ancestry.

“I visited Pakistan last in 2006. My brother had to change his last name. I do have extended family and unfortunately, sometimes they face questions. They have to disown me. That is what restricts most sincere people to speak out because the Punjabi Pakistani state has a very feudal, medieval way of torturing relatives or running away with daughters.” He told the Hindustan Times when asked about his family in Pakistan.

He said that it is not a natural alliance but that is how parliamentary politics works when asked about the BJP-PDP alliance.

Talking about the turmoil in Kashmir he said that the Arabisation of the people is taking place and it can be felt in Burhan Wani’s message. He said that it was not Sheikh Abdullah’s language, it was coming from ISIS (Islamic State).

He said that this was not about territorial occupation or freedom, it was about the dominion of this world by a “fanatic Islamic-Fascist order”.

“There is no national interest. They (Kashmiris), a segment of Indian Muslims, and the Indian left want some exotic fantasy of Pakistan to remain there. So they can live the drama of peace, progress, why can’t we live together. It is a complete fraud.” Says Fatah.

He explains that at one end we have the completely fascist order based on deception and the other end has Hindu guilt-ridden liberals that say they have a plan to practice brotherhood nut it is the Hindu right-wing hindering that.

“The real ultra-right is the Muslim liberal class, it is not the other way round.”

When said that he was very critical to the left he said “I think the CPM is the ultra-right wing party in India.” How can the Left, the Marxists, protect the rights of the fascists, Jamat-e-Islami, or the Muslim Brotherhood.

The most horrific face of Islam is represented by ISIS and they are the ones controlling the Kashmir agenda.

When asked if he would want to become an Indian citizen, he said, “I would love to but there is not a system in India wherein I could apply for it. Imagine, Portugal’s prime minister is the first European head ever to be of Indian origin, he would I’m sure love to visit Goa. I don’t blame anyone, but it is just how things are.

I have asked but there is no application for citizenship. Our entire family is Mumbai Punjabis, but we can’t be Indians. I am as Indian as anybody else.”

He says that the status of young girls is changing in India. There is something very different between the girls on either sides of the border. There are young girls clad in skirts and ties, sitting on bikes confidently, which is not at all visible in Pakistan. You could see this in the 1950s Lahore as most women went to work on a bicycle.

There is no unified Pakistan: the Sindhis and the Balochis want freedom, the Karachi mayor is imprisoned and they are in a delusional state. The Afghan wars have Arabised the Pashtuns and the Punjabis want to speak Urdu. There is an ongoing identity crisis but the majority of the ruling class are fundamentally aggressive and think it is their right to erase anything un-Islamic.

They have been taught that the Hindus are fragile and weak and it is their job to civilise them. A group of brainwashed people cannot be reasoned with rationally.

“We are dealing with a considerably more rational reasonable people (in India) because of women’s empowerment in India,” adds Fateh.

-prepared by Shivam Thaker with inputs from HT. Twitter: @Shivam_Thaker

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Pakistan Fears Economic Turmoil, Re-thinks ‘Silk Road’ Project With China

In 2017, Pakistan turned down Chinese funding for a $14 billion mega-dam project in the Himalayas because of cost concerns.

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A man passes through a railing while others board a train as they make their way home at the Cantonment railway station in Karachi, Pakistan. VOA

After lengthy delays, an $8.2 billion revamp of a colonial-era rail line snaking from the Arabian Sea to the foothills of the Hindu Kush has become a test of Pakistan ’s ability to rethink signature Chinese “Silk Road” projects because of debt concerns.

The rail megaproject linking the coastal metropolis of Karachi to the northwestern city of Peshawar is China’s biggest Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project in Pakistan, but Islamabad has balked at the cost and financing terms.

Resistance has stiffened under the new government of populist Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has voiced alarm about rising debt levels and says the country must wean itself off foreign loans.

“We are seeing how to develop a model so the government of Pakistan wouldn’t have all the risk,” Khusro Bakhtyar, minister in Pakistan’s planning ministry, told reporters recently.

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Visitors read instruction material about land that was reclaimed from the Indian Ocean for the Colombo Port City project, on the Galle Face sea promenade in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Jan. 2, 2018. The Port City project was initiated as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. VOA

Unease elsewhere

The cooling of enthusiasm for China’s investments mirrors the unease of incoming governments in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Maldives, where new administrations have come to power wary of Chinese deals struck by their predecessors.

Pakistan’s new government had wanted to review all BRI contracts. Officials say there are concerns the deals were badly negotiated, too expensive or overly favored China.

But to Islamabad’s frustration, Beijing is only willing to review projects that have not yet begun, three senior government officials have told Reuters.

China’s Foreign Ministry said, in a statement in response to questions faxed by Reuters, that both sides were committed to pressing forward with BRI projects, “to ensure those projects that are already built operate as normal, and those which are being built proceed smoothly.”

Pakistani officials say they remain committed to Chinese investment but want to push harder on price and affordability, while re-orientating the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), for which Beijing has pledged about $60 billion in infrastructure funds, to focus on projects that deliver social development in line with Khan’s election platform.

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China’s ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, Islamabad. VOA

‘Mutual consultation’

China’s Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, told Reuters that Beijing was open to changes proposed by the new government and “we will definitely follow their agenda” to work out a roadmap for BRI projects based on “mutual consultation.”

“It constitutes a process of discussion with each other about this kind of model, about this kind of roadmap for the future,” Yao said.

Beijing would only proceed with projects that Pakistan wanted, he added.

“This is Pakistan’s economy, this is their society,” Yao said.

IMF bailout likely

Islamabad’s efforts to recalibrate CPEC are made trickier by its dependence on Chinese loans to prop up its vulnerable economy.

Growing fissures in relations with the United States, Pakistan’s historic ally, have also weakened the country’s negotiating hand, as has a current account crisis likely to lead to a bailout by the International Monetary Fund, which may demand spending cuts.

“We have reservations, but no other country is investing in Pakistan. What can we do?” one Pakistani minister told Reuters.

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Laborers dig the ground before replacing concrete sleepers along railway tracks in Karachi, Pakistan. VOA

Crumbling railways

The ML-1 rail line is the spine of country’s dilapidated rail network, which has in recent years been edging toward collapse as passenger numbers plunge, train lines close and the vital freight business nosedives.

Khan’s government has vowed to make the 1,872 km (1,163 mile) line a priority CPEC project, saying it will help the poor travel across the vast South Asian nation.

But Islamabad is exploring funding options for CPEC projects that depart from the traditional BRI lending model, whereby host nations take on Chinese debt to finance construction of infrastructure, and has invited Saudi Arabia and other countries to invest.

One option for ML-1, according to Pakistani officials, is the build-operate-transfer (BOT) model, which would see investors or companies finance and build the project and recoup their investment from cash flows generated mainly by the rail freight business, before returning it to Pakistan in a few decades time.

Yao, the Chinese envoy, said Beijing was open to BOT and would “encourage” its companies to invest.

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A man waits to cross a portion of track once shared with the Karachi Circular Railway line in Karachi, Pakistan. VOA

Large rail projects, problems

Rail mega-projects under China’s BRI umbrella have run into problems elsewhere in Asia. A line linking Thailand and Laos has been beset by delays over financing, while Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad outright canceled the Chinese-funded $20 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL).

Beijing is happy to offer loans, but reticent to invest in the Pakistan venture as such projects are seldom profitable, according to Andrew Small, author of a book on China-Pakistan relations.

“The problem is that the Chinese don’t think they can make money on this project and are not keen on BOT,” Small said.

Off-books debt

During President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan in 2015, the ML-1 line was placed among a list of “early harvest” CPEC projects that would be prioritized, along with power plants urgently needed to end crippling electricity shortages.

But while many other projects from that list have now been completed, the rail scheme has been stuck.

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. The difference between the two validate the investments made on the road, and give a hopeful image for the future.

Pakistani officials say they became wary of how early BRI contracts were awarded to Chinese firms, and are pushing for a public tender for ML-1.

Partly to help with price discovery, Pakistan asked the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance a chunk of the rail project through tendering. The ADB began discussions on a $1.5-$2 billion loan, but China insisted the project was “too strategic,” and Islamabad kicked out the ADB under pressure from Beijing in early 2017, according to Pakistani and ADB officials.

“If it’s such a strategic project then it should be a viable project for them to finance on very concessional terms or invest in?” said one senior Pakistani official familiar with the project, referring to the BOT model.

China’s foreign ministry said Beijing was engaged in “friendly consultations” with Pakistan on the rail project.

Chinese companies participated in BRI projects in an open and transparent way, “pooling benefits and sharing risks,” it said.

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In this file photo taken Oct. 10, 2015, a bus moves past by solar power and wind power farms in northwestern China’s Ningxia Hui region.

Chinese debt or no project

Analysts say Pakistan will struggle to attract non-Chinese investors into the project, which may force it to choose between piling on Chinese debt or walking away from the project.

In 2017, Pakistan turned down Chinese funding for a $14 billion mega-dam project in the Himalayas because of cost concerns and worries Beijing could end up owning a vital national asset if Pakistan could not repay loans, as occurred with a Sri Lankan port.

Khan’s government chafes at several Chinese intercity mass transport projects in Punjab, the voter heartland of the previous government, which now need hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies every year.

Also Read: Creating a New Silk Road: China’s Billion Dollar Investments to Expand Its Transportation Network

They also fume about the risk of accumulating off-books sovereign debt through power contracts, where annual profits of above 20 percent, in dollar terms, were guaranteed by the previous administration.

With the ML-1 line, there are also those who harbor doubts closer to home, including the previous government’s finance minister, Miftah Ismail, who said his ministry had always had concerns about its viability.

“When people say it’s a project of national importance, that usually means it makes no sense financially,” he said. (VOA)