KARACHI: I have reservations that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) might not be a game changer but a game over for Pakistan, said economist Dr Qaiser Bengali. He added that if Dr Feroz Ahmed had been alive, he would have done an accurate analysis of CPEC and let the common man know about its future implications.
Dr Bengali was speaking at an event to mark the 20th death anniversary of scholar Dr Ahmed and the launch of his book Samraj aur Pakistan [Imperialism and Pakistan] at the Arts Council of Pakistan, Karachi, on Friday evening. The result of CPEC would be Pakistan turning into a country like Greece and taking unprecedented loans in the name of CPEC. Our voice will not be heard until and unless we rebel, said Dr Bengali.
"[Dr Ahmed] was a scholar who could see things in a different way rather than perceiving it as the common people did. We need the same courage to confront the state's narrative and he was someone who did it in a very intellectual way."
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According to Dr Bengali, all the statistics given by the government are presented in a way that people believe the economy is going in the right direction. He suggested that the younger generation should start learning to be angry as that is the first step towards change.
Imperialists are neither the USA nor China - it is us who are responsible for this situation, cautioned Dr Bengali. "There are two Pakistans. One is for the elites and another for the common people. The elites have their own vested interests and cannot safeguard national interest," he lamented.
Sharing his views about Dr Feroz, Senator Dr Karim Khawaja remarked that he was an icon of progressive and egalitarian thinking and represented a school of thought that upheld reasoning and questioning.
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"We are a suppressed society that has reached a dark age in which we don't discuss intellectual reasoning, art, science or aesthetics," maintained Senator Khawaja, adding that we have been changed into a fundamentalist society that is engulfed by extremism.
"In Pakistan there are business interests and empires of 20 million people but the rest of the population has been neglected," he said.
Senator Khawaja said that feudalism will be affected by CPEC and a new working force would emerge in Pakistan, adding that indigenous political movements would emerge in 2023 if threats of martial law are side-lined.
"We are still in the grip of imperialists," claimed Dr Mubarak Ali, while sharing his thoughts via audio link from Lahore. "Those who have been ruling Pakistan have damaged society more than those before Partition." The elites in Pakistan, who, according to Dr Ali, are imperialists, make money and take that money to foreign countries as was done by imperialists before the creation of Pakistan.
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Sharing his ideas about the book, economist Dr Akbar Zaidi said the book has historical importance as it was written in 1976. "The world has been enveloped by capitalism," he said. "Russia and China have also become imperialist countries although they were seen as alternative systems." According to him, there is no country in the world where one can find socialism. Imperialists and neo-colonists have won and this is now termed as globalisation, he said. However, Dr Zaidi said that debates on the current system should not end.
"Our society is anti-intellectual society, for which we need to revive student unions or else the intellectual input won't come in progressive movements," said Karamat Ali, the executive director of Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research.
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He said that all the labour, peasant and student movements need to unite for the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggle, adding that a new process would start and the capitalist and imperialist forces would recede one day.
According to Dr Feroz's wife, Nadira Feroz, he was a man of different qualities and always took time to read, discuss and write down his ideas. He was a sociologist and economist as well as statistician.