Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Why apprehensions about CPEC? Dr Shabir Choudhry

Why apprehensions about CPEC?
Dr Shabir Choudhry     26 April 2017

Chinese presence in Pakistan and in parts of disputed Jammu and Kashmir under the control of Pakistan is a great cause of concern not only to the local people but also to those who are concerned about peace and stability of the region and future ambitions of China in this region.

Mr. Alberto Cirio Member of the European Parliament said that:
China has increased their military presence in Pakistan Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan under the pretext of ensuring safety to their workers’. He also expressed his serious concerns about China creating divisions ‘among the Shia and Sunnis in the region, which is causing a direct threat to the region and not only the locals’, because in his view, ‘the presence of the Chinese army in the region is a threat to the stability of the region. He questioned why ‘Pakistan allowed Chinese army when it always opposed the presence of the Western Allied Forced in the region. He also mentioned that there should be a mechanism setup to investigate the adverse effects of the presence of the Chinese army in the Pakistan Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan’. 1

Mr. Ryszard Czarnecki, Vice President European Parliament, in a Conference hosted in the European Parliament with the title of CHINA IN PAKISTAN: GROWING HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS said:

‘China is engaged in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan in construction ranging from dams, highways and ports. He spoke that it has come to notice that there is a lot of resentment among locals in the region of Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir over the negative environmental impact and the utter disregard for environmental safety norms by the Chinese infrastructure developers. Chinese construction projects literally trash the environment’. 2

Pakistani officials and media systematically churn out this message that India, America and some other countries are determined to derail the CPEC which is a ‘game changer for Pakistan.’ To these people, Pakistan’s future, security and prosperity is strongly linked with the CPEC. If the CPEC is completed, then Pakistan is saved; and God forbid if the CPEC fails to materialise then future of Pakistan is in serious danger.

This thinking and approach is dangerous for future of Pakistan. A country’s future which has nearly 200 million people, with nuclear weapons and the 6th largest army is not, and must not be hemmed with one project, no matter how important that is.

This strategy is not new. In the past Pakistani governments, in order to obtain political mileage, or to acquiesce people to their line of thinking have made the issues as a matter of life and death for Pakistan. Muslim League N is facing many problems and challenges, and among them is the forth coming general election due to be held in 2018.

They want to win it at any cost. Whether the CPEC is as fruitful to Pakistan as the government want people to believe or not, they will make it appear that the future and security of Pakistan hinges on the success of the CPEC. I believe if Nawaz Sharif survives the Panama gate then he will surely win the next elections. However, what I have read and researched on the topic, I believe that the CPEC will prove to be a white elephant for Pakistan.

Pakistanis are only looking at real or imagined dangers outside the borders of Pakistan, even though the former Army Chiefs have asserted that Pakistan does not face any outside threat. The threats to Pakistan’s integrity and future are from inside; and that these internal threats must be combatted and defeated.

I wonder why the army and the government are largely ignoring the multi dimension problems they know the CPEC projects are facing inside Pakistan. The present Pakistan consists of four provinces and FATA. They also forcibly occupy areas of Gilgit Baltistan and so called Azad Kashmir. Apart from Punjab, all other areas have strong objections to various aspects of the CPEC. Even within Punjab, certain sectors of the economy have strong objections to the success of the CPEC and they have spoken out about their apprehensions. Despite all this the army leadership and the government are determined to push the agenda of the CPEC.

A Pakistani politician Sardar Akhtar Mengal, who is Chief of Balochistan National Party said in Quetta, ‘CPEC is not for Balochistan’s development’. While speaking to his party members after oath taking ceremony the Baloch leader said, the ‘Multibillion CPEC project is not meant for the progress of Balochistan; instead, it will transform the Baloch nation into a minority on their own soil’. He strongly criticised the CPEC and called it a conspiracy against the Baloch nation. We are not seeing any development. Even our people do not have access to hospitals for treatment, not to speak of development.” 3

Sardar Akhtar Mengal is not an ordinary Pakistani politician. He has deep roots in this volatile province which must have peace and stability for the success of the CPEC. He is Balochistan’s former Chief Minister and is not oblivious to the statecraft. He ‘smelt plots against the Baloch people in Balochistan to expel them from their native soil…conspiracies were being hatched in the province since the inception of Pakistan in 1947’. 4
Sardar Akhtar Mengal further said: ‘Nothing else was being done on the pretext of development for the people of the province. Only new employment opportunities were being created for the Punjab by building railway lines, infrastructure and power projects to offer new vistas of job opportunities for the people of the biggest province…The Punjab is looting resources of the small provinces for its own interest. We do not ask anything from the Punjab, but want ownership of all the resources of Balochistan…The people of Balochistan, and not Sardars and Nawabs, deserved and owned these resources’. 5
The BNP Chief urged the people of Balochistan to forge unity in their ranks and make all-out efforts to end injustice to the province. BNP District President Nazir Baloch, Mir Sanaullah Jamaldini and others also addressed the ceremony.

Sardar Akhtar Mengal is not an Indian or an American Politician. He is a Pakistani politician and has held the very important post of the Chief Minister of Balochistan. This statement was also published in a Pakistani newspaper called ‘Nation’. He has made very strong criticism against the CPEC and exploitation of Punjab, by which I think he means the Punjabi elite.

There are other groups who have serious apprehensions about the CPEC. These people are stakeholders and love in Balochistan, in Sindh, in Khyber Pakhtoon Khwa, in FATA, in the Pakistani occupied Gilgit Baltistan and in Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of listening to complaints of these groups and try to rectify the problems Pakistani establishment have only one tonic to solve all the problems:
accuse them of being agents of India and traitors, anti-Pakistan and anti-Islam.

After defaming them, arrest them, torture them, intimidate and defame their families, and where necessary, eliminate them in fake encounters. This tonic they have used successfully since 1947 against people of Jammu and Kashmir, people of Balochistan, East Pakistan, Sindh and KPK. Although effectiveness of this weapon has reduced significantly, but it is still effective when it comes to India, America and Israel. They have a large army of social media touts, and foot lickers, who would hunt and intimidate all those who dare to question wisdom of the establishment.

Critics of the CPEC question, why is it that the government is not providing details of the entire project; and why there is so much mystery surrounding the CPEC. Even the Provincial governments of Pakistan, apart from Punjab where the Prime Minister’s brother rules, complain that too many projects have been diverted to Punjab, and that they don’t have sufficient knowledge about the CPEC.

The Chief Minister of Khyber Pakthun Khawa, Pervez Khattak has been very critical of the CPRC, and on lack of transparency. He even threatened to go to court over this matter as it was his responsibility to ensure that his province gets the due share of the benefits. He says even though the Prime Minister has inaugurated the western route, but it greatly differs from what was agreed in the All Parties Conference in May 2015. The political parties of KPK feel that:

‘The CPEC plans for the western route, as they currently stand, make it seem like a glorified highway as opposed to part of an economic corridor, which comes with special industrial zones and other economy boosting projects like railways, electricity, fibre optic cable and natural gas pipelines.’ 6

In a KPK provincial All Parties Conference it was recognised that CPEC was important project, but they declared to boycott it if the federal government did not revert to the original plans which were agreed by all stakeholders.

The Pakistani rulers and, especially the establishment needs to understand that they cannot resolve all problems of Pakistan by use of force, and by making allegations of being unpatriotic. Has hanging people, military courts, aerial bombardment, arrests, torture, intimidation, defaming, oppression helped them to control the crime rate and resolve the problems Pakistan face?

Is it not time to say goodbye to the old imperialist policy of intimidation and force; and try to understand why these people complain. Is it not in national interest of Pakistan to promote unity and strengthen friendly ties among the Provinces, and alleviate mistrust and tension? Before it is too late, the fears expressed by the politicians of KPK, Balochistan, FATA, Sindh and Gilgit Baltistan need to be carefully examined, and appropriate steps must be taken to satisfy their demands.

The Pakistani establishment and their proxies erroneously think that anyone who ask question or forward an alternative view point is anti-Pakistan, and an enemy. For example, they have been leaving this impression that the CPEC is ‘game changer’ and that all problems of Pakistan will be resolved once this project is functional. People, believing this think soon canals of milk and honey will start flowing in Pakistan. How it will happen no one explains. Anyone, who provides an alternative narrative, is automatically assumed as an enemy because it thrashes their hopes and imagined prosperity.

The Chinese good and trucks are exempted from taxes, then question arises where the canals of honey and milk will come from, especially in view of the heavy interest on loans? The Federal Board of Revenue claims that they will be:
‘raising not a single penny from the projects related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as they are exempt from taxes, a senior official said on Saturday. “Neither there is an expectation of revenue generation from CPEC projects due to tax holiday,” said Rehmatullah Khan Wazir, member Inland Revenue (Operations) of FBR, “but, it (CPEC) will have far reaching economic benefits for the country.” 7
The Pakistan economic managers and the government officials can fool people by playing with figure, but they cannot change the reality. In 2010, export of Bangladesh was 25 billion dollars. The Pakistani export was also 25 billion dollars. In 2016, the Bangladeshi export has reached 35 billion dollars; and Pakistani export has come down to 20 billion dollars. If you complain or criticise, then you are anti Pakistan and a traitor.

Does telling people of these bitter facts constitutes treachery? Is the person researching and unearthing these facts an anti-Pakistan, or well-wisher of Pakistan, as he wants people to know what their rulers are doing and what they are hiding?

Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Chairman South Asia Watch and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

1.    International Human Rights Defenders and Members of the European Parliament jointly hosted a conference on CHINA IN PAKISTAN: GROWING HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS in the European Parliament in Strasbourg 25th Nov 2015.
2.    Ibid
3.    The CPEC not for Balochistan, The Nation, 26 February 2017.
4.    Ibid
5.    Ibid

Monday, 24 April 2017

Another victory for Pakistan army, Dr Shabir Choudhry

Another victory for Pakistan army, Dr Shabir Choudhry     
London    24 April 2017
Brave army of Pakistan has registered another great victory against ‘bloody civilians’. This time their task was to capture a playground, where the local people also hold Eid and funeral prayers. The target area was a ground near Poonch River in a village called Chhani, near Kotli town in the Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir. This remarkable victory is much better than that of Red Mosque, because there were no causalities in the battle of Chhani playground.

The brave army men took control of the playground and the surrounding area, and have established their check post to ensure that no ‘bloody civilian’ can enter the ground. The local community leaders who arranged demonstrations against the Pakistan army action, and demanded army to leave the area and hand back the conquered ground to the local people were also taken care off. All five of them are behind the bars and are facing sedition charges.

Operation of arresting these people was also carried out in a commando style. At night time men in uniform jumped over the walls of these people and broke in to the houses. There was no issue of sanctity or integrity of homes, women and households. They were rounded up, and anyone who challenged them were harassed, abused, pushed and dragged.

To demand the Pakistan army not to take over a land which does not belong to them, is sedition in areas of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan; and anyone who dares to disagree with this logic, can also face charges of helping and supporting the ‘traitors’ and ‘trouble makers’.

As usual, the foot soldiers of Pakistan and Kashmiri mental slaves of Pakistan have decided to remain quiet. They are mentally programmed only to speak against India; and the human rights in Indian occupied Kashmir. Perhaps, they are waiting for something to happen in the Kashmir Valley that they can divert attention from the Kotli incident and justify to their masters that they are still loyal to them.

One can disagree with many things the people of the Valley of Kashmir are doing; however, I give this credit to them that they have not accepted the Indian rule; and despite human rights abuses, tear gas shellings, beatings, killings, torture etc they have not given in. Others have a right to disagree, but they openly defy the Indian rule and do what they think is right.

People of Azad Kashmir, no matter what claims of bravery and integrity they make, by and large, are mental slaves of Pakistan. One can even call them cowherds and collaborators, as they won’t speak against their oppressors and occupiers. Perhaps, they think dead bodies and blood of people of the Kashmir Valley will also help them to get liberation. If they think that, then they are damn fools. If you want to go to Heaven, for that you have to die first. You cannot enter Heaven when you are alive. Similarly, you cannot and should not get independence on the back of blood of other people in another region which is also occupied.

One may disagree with many things with what Sajid Kashmiri does. However, he has very bravely challenged the Pakistan army and their occupation of the Chhani playground. He has bravely challenged the oppression of the Pakistan army; and have enumerated the past deeds of the Pakistan army and what they did to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, East Pakistan, Afghanistan, Balochistan and Palestine. On social media, he wrote:

‘You have lost all your wars against India, and are afraid of the Indian army. They should be ashamed of this. For people of Azad Kashmir, the Pakistani army is an army of occupation. It is not our army. This army is only brave when it is dealing with the unarmed civilians. It is at its best when killing innocent people in Kashmir and inside Pakistan’. 1

He further said: ‘Because of the new army check post to enforce its occupation, the local people feel intimidated; and especially women and young girls are afraid to go out to collect water or go to wash their clothes on the river bank because the men in uniform stare at them and their eyes are full of lust and filth’. 2

Sajid Kashmiri hails from the village where the Pakistan army has registered this victory and captured the playground. He is bitter and angry. He says, he spent his childhood playing in this playground. He has some happy memories related to this ground and the surrounding areas, which is now occupied by the Pakistan army.

Because of his anger and bitterness, he has said things which I don’t feel appropriate to write or even translate, because mental slaves, the Pakistani army and people of Pakistan will get angry. However, without being rude or arrogant, one needs to protest against what is Pakistan army doing in various places of Azad Kashmir and in Gilgit Baltistan.

There are other places which are taken over by the Pakistan army, and no one dares to challenge them. There was a communal playground in Kotli town centre, which was there since the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir’s time. I know many people, including Abbas Butt who played in that playground during their childhood. Now that playground, in middle of the town is also under occupation of the Pakistan army; and civilians are not even allowed to walk through for a short cut. If anyone speaks against this, he is accused of being ‘anti Pakistan’ and an ‘agent of India’.

This weapon, Pakistan has successfully used against people since 1947; and because of the stigma attached with these allegations people refrain to challenge what Pakistan army and their stooges do in Azad Kashmir. Despite this, Mr Haq Nawaz, who is a leader of JKLF, says:
‘The entire area is under the control of Pakistan since 1948. However, it is sad that the army now has started taking over fertile and valuable lands and grounds which belongs to citizens of Azad Kashmir. This play ground which is also used for Eid and funeral prayers has been used by the local people for the past 70 years; and their forefathers used it before them. Now the army by intimidating the local people has taken this over. Protest of the local people was put down by the help of local puppet administration. The Pakistan army is bringing itself to level of the Indian army. This unfair drama cannot continue. The wrong dowers will have to make themselves accountable to the people’. 3

That reminds me that there is a history of Pakistan army taking over various pieces of land to build housing societies and sell them at extremely high price. That is why some critics call it army of housing societies.

In 1991, I bought two residential plots in Phase 2 of Janjua Town, Adiala Road in Rawalpindi. For each plot, I paid 250,000 Rupees. Also, I bought one residential plot and one commercial plot in Janjua Town 2, which was also on the Adiala Road.

In 1999, when General Musharaf toppled the elected government of Pakistan, this area, phase 2, was taken over by the army, they did not touch the Phase 1, because it was already built and most of the occupants were army officers. When in the year 2000, I went to see my plots in phase 2, within a few minutes two army men emerged and ordered me to leave immediately. Even though their guns were pointing at me, I asked why should I leave. I paid five hundred thousand Rupees for two plots; and I have every right to examine them.

He bluntly said, ‘I don’t care how much you have paid. I am telling you to leave, and I giving you 2 minutes to leave the site. We have orders to shoot who disobey our orders to leave’.

I refused to leave and started arguing with them. Hearing loud noises, a gentleman in civilian clothes emerged, and said to me, there is no point to argue with them. They have orders to follow. Your best bet is to see your advocate or a local Patwari - the man who keeps records of land.

I went to see the Patwari, he said you will be wasting your time and money if you take legal action against the army occupation. Army claims that, according to the law of 1904, this area belongs to the army. I said, in 1904, there was no Pakistan and no Pakistani army. He laughed and said, ‘I know that, but you have to believe them. They have taken over the entire Pakistan with gun. If you don’t agree you will face more trouble. There are hundreds of other people in the same boat; and no one will get anything’.

To date, I have not got a single penny for those plots. The entire area is in safe hands of the army. The Janjua Town 2 was also taken over by another man, with contacts with the establishment, and I lost those plots too, price of these plots in todays is money and property value is in Crors. Don’t you think, Pakistan army deserves a praise – let us all say Pakistan zindabad that they can take over more land and keep on teaching lessons to the ‘bloody civilians’.
Writer is a political analyst, TV anchor and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Chairman South Asia Watch and Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.

2/ Ibid