Tuesday October 23, 2018
Home Opinion Reaping a blo...

Reaping a bloody harvest: The cost of terrorism for Pakistan

0
//
136
Republish
Reprint

PAKISTAN-UNREST-BLASTS

By Ishan Kukreti

Violence is a two-edged sword that Pakistan had been carelessly waving for a bit too long. On hindsight, that sword has left the nation with much to mourn about than to cheer.

To go strictly by statistics, 35,000 Pakistanis lost their lives between 2001 to 2011, due to terror-related atrocities. In financial terms, according to the Pakistani government, terrorism has cost the nation roughly 68 billion dollars in the first decade of the 21st century. For more than a decade, hardly a single month has gone by peacefully without registering terror related deaths in the country.

Former Presidents, Asif Ali Zardari and Parvez Musharraf, have confessed Pakistan’s role in promoting terrorism. Groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba to name a few have long been operating out of territories owned or occupied by Pakistan.

Though it has joined US’s war on terrorism, its tendency to differentiate between beneficial (Good Taliban) and not so beneficial terrorism (Bad Taliban) has prevented Pakistan from taking the problem head on. In turn, the measures taken by the nation against the “Bad Taliban” have unleashed reactions that Pakistan finds difficult to bear.

Bracketing Pakistani terrorism

The cat of Taliban’s origin has been long out of the bag. US’s involvement has been as major as Hydrogen’s in Sulfuric acid formation. However, a fact often overlooked in the shining star cast of Taliban’s inception is that the movement was fed manpower and guidance by Pakistan. Mujahedeen from Pakistan were the ones who gave and took lives in the war against Communism in Afghanistan.

Image courtesy Reuters.
Image courtesy Reuters.

Dilshod Achilov, a professor of political science at East Tennessee State University, while in an interview with International Business Times clarified the position of Pakistan.

“We should not forget the historical roots of the present day Taliban/Al-Qaeda dilemma. Let’s recall the historical facts that shed light into the present. We know that both the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI helped to create the Taliban militia forces to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the [latter stages of the] Cold War. When the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan, the army of 100,000-plus well-armed and well trained Taliban mujahedeen still remained.”

Everyone loves an extra hand

The striking coincidence in the ending of Cold War and the beginning of militancy in Kashmir doesn’t require a Machiavelli to understand the relation. In a fight over a disputed piece of land, this well trained and armed army provided a reliable extra hand for Pakistan.

At the same time, this helping hand provided a good influence over Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s relations with Taliban while it ruled Afghanistan are contested. However, Pakistan second fiddling the uncle in this whole process is undoubtedly clear. Afghanistan’s strategic placement in relation to the oil-rich Middle East made it lucrative to the US while Pakistan played a willing side kick to the uncle in his adventures in the region.

(Video courtesy Al Jazeera English)

What goes around…

Taliban’s castle in Afghanistan came down with the World Trade Center in 2001 followed by US’s war on terrorism. Pakistan’s trouble began after the Waziristan War while the formation of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in 2007 turned the tables completely on the nation. Major terrorist attacks in Pakistan increased from 16 in 2006 to 50 in 2007, the year TTP became active. Last year’s attack on an army school, leaving more than 100 kids dead, too was carried out by TTP.

smallestcoffins

Pakistan’s sincerity in fighting terrorism has always been and still is in question. The US State department recently made a statement, “The military operations had a significant impact on TTP safe havens, but some terrorist organizations in the region continued to operate, primarily along the border with Afghanistan.”

On one hand the decrease in the frequency of terror attacks in Kashmir is reason enough to believe that Pakistan has a lot on its plate right now. On the other, the fact that Pakistan has not taken a serious action against terrorists like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed says a lot about the present calm in the situation. It is caused by reasons other than good intentions and is temporary.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (Image courtesy CNN)
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (Image courtesy CNN)

Postscript

No conflict continues due to purely economic or petty reasons, although they are a major factor. Deeper, under the palpable layers of logical connections lies a belief, a faith.

Faith drove the Conquistadors to slaughter an entire race. It was the adherence to an ideology that razed Europe to the ground in the last century. And it is faith that continues the Indo-Pak conflict. A belief that religion decides a person’s nationality and makes murder excusable.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

Next Story

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.

0
Pakistan
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.

Pakistan
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.

Pakistan
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.

Pakistan
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.

Pakistan
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.

Pakistan
. 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.

Pakistan
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)