Whilst the government admirably stood its ground during the ‘Dharna Days’ of the PTI with its inflammatory rhetoric; violence on the streets; the unseemly sight of filth in the middle of Islamabad the Beautiful; assaults on venerated institutions such as parliament and critically strategic ones like Pakistan Television, even the prime minister’s house, the visit of the Chinese president had to be postponed.
Well, it’s happened now: President Xi, accompanied by the graceful First Lady were in Islamabad just three days ago during which visit China and our country signed over 50 MoUs and agreements in the fields of power generation and distribution, and the setting up of a massive infrastructure project called the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which envisions road, rail and pipeline connectivity between the Gwadar port and China.
Typically, politicians — even those who ‘resigned’ from the National Assembly! — are making it a political football with, you guessed it, the PTI through Shah Mehmood Qureshi leading, and belly-aching that all parties were not taken on board etcetera. Er, which exactly was the political party due to whose dharna the Chinese president could not visit in September last year? And due to which we lost six months in bringing the projects to fruition? And Mr Qureshi has the brass to say what he is saying now? The gall exhibited is breathtaking.
Neither does he stop there: in an attempt to put the government down in any way he can, he says this ‘corridor’ idea was being talked about during the time he was buddy-buddy with former president Asif Ali Zardari (when he could find no wrong with the president, please note), and he was foreign minister of this country. He goes further back and says even Musharraf’s government was planning the economic corridor, that no credit goes to Nawaz Sharif’s government.
Really now? Well, why did we not hear of this ‘corridor’ then, indeed why did the project not start up then. The ‘vision’ might have been there but research suggests that the Pak-China Economic Corridor Secretariat was inaugurated in Islamabad on August 27, 2013. Well, so be it, let them be spoilers; at least the project is near its launch. Our first blessing, at long last.
A word about the warnings about Balochistan being unstable, making the venture seem at risk: let the violence end on all sides for such a massive infrastructure project will be to the benefit of all provinces and their people. I am all for fairness and equity among all provinces and will always stand against the killing of coal miners in Balochistan merely because they are Punjabi; indeed, will always stand against the disappearance and killing of Baloch student leaders who might be unenamoured with the State.
Let us civilise ourselves as I have always counselled: there is a government led by a true Baloch in Balochistan today: let the detractors, oh all right, the ‘rebels’, sit down with him and talk things through such as has happened in so many other countries where over the edge rebels have come into the political mainstream. These rebels of ours should look around and see what is happening in the region in these days of strife and terror.
I was over the moon when I learnt that the Chief of General Staff (I suppose their equivalent of our COAS) of the Afghan National Army had reviewed and taken the salute at the passing-out parade of our Pakistan Military Academy at Kakul. I cannot adequately describe my unbounded joy at this development in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations. I mean just look at the cold hostility with which Musharraf and Kayani used to interact with the Afghans, and they with us, particularly the not-too-stable Karzai and his intelligence chief. And now this!
Credit to all concerned: on the Afghan side to President Ashraf Ghani first-off, for his gentlemanly and intelligent ways, and through him to his military commanders. On our side to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif for taking the fight to the terrorists so effectively and for engaging with their Afghan counterparts engendering feelings of commonality of purpose.
We must note that this is absolutely the opposite of how Ashfaq Kayani dealt with the terrorists. I’ll let his ISPR chief Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas speak for himself: “For six years, he (Gen Kayani) kept vacillating over the issue and in six months, this leader decided that this is the crux of the problem. He took a decision. It’s a matter of how decisive you are, how much you have the ability to sift essentials from non-essentials.” So there.
In the words of my friend and one-time colleague Brig. Ashraf Afridi this is “good and well”, for an unstable and at risk Afghanistan has for a very long time made our country a very dangerous place with terrorists of all hues running all over the blessed place killing innocents. Both countries must finish off the cruel and mindless murderers once and for all. They must be given no quarter, no place to hide in either country. Our second blessing, the Almighty be praised.
Lastly, the cessation of the Saudi-led air assault on Yemen more than amplifies the correct decision of our government to refer the matter of joining the fight against Yemen to parliament, and the representatives of the people taking the right road of non-participation of our troops against Yemen which is essentially embroiled in a tribal civil war.
Quite frankly while we owe the Saudis for bailing out the country financially many times over the decades I could not for the life of me see our soldiery fighting a tribal war on foreign soil. Foreign soil that has seen strife for over decades now: intermittently but with regularity since 1962. Yesterday’s New York Times tells us that even the Americans saw the futility of this assault in which innocent civilians rather than ‘fighters’ were being killed and who pressured the Saudis to desist.
Got away by the skin of our teeth, thank God for our third blessing.
And all three in the space of a week or two! May there be many weeks like these. Our long-suffering but good people deserve them.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2015.