November 21, 2017

Pakistan refuses to allow free use of yuan for CPEC projects


By PTI | Nov 21, 2017, 07.25 PM IST

Pakistan has refused to allow free use of the Chinese yuan on the lines of the US dollar in the country as officials from the two nations met to decide on a long-term developmental plan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The meeting of senior officials from Pakistan and China yesterday decided to formally move ahead despite hurdles and finance at least three special economic/industrial zones (SEZs) and some important rail, electricity and road projects.

The Dawn reported quoting a senior government official that Pakistan was not ready to allow the Chinese yuan (renminbi) for free use in Gwadar or its treatment on a par with the US dollar in the country and this was disappointing for the visiting Chinese officials.

He said the use of yuan for common use in any part of Pakistan or exchangeable like dollar has to be on a reciprocal basis.

The official also said the issue would be discussed again for some kind of institutional arrangement at the CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting today to be co-chaired by Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who is also minister for planning and development reforms, and Wang Xiaotao, vice chairman of National Development and Reforms Commission (NDRC) of China.

The official said the USD 3.5 billion Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) project was also unlikely to be cleared for inclusion in the CPEC at this stage because of some unsettled issues between the two countries. The project is likely to be dropped for now.

Informed sources said the two sides appeared to have settled issues relating to $8.5 billion Karachi-Lahore- Peshawar Railway Line.

The discussions were positive and the two sides are also expected to sign agreements on actively promoted power projects.

They also agreed to include road projects such as the much-talked-about western route between Gwadar, Nawabshah, Zhob-D I Khan-Hakla under CPEC besides Karakoram Highway (KKH) in Gilgit-Baltistan

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Pakistan Army owns $50 billion stakes in fifty conglomerates: Report

https://profit.pakistantoday.com.pk/2017/11/21/pakistan-army-owns-50-billion-stakes-in-fifty-conglomerates/


Army Welfare Trust (AWT), Fauji Foundation, Shaheen Foundation and Bahria Foundation are the additional four subsidiary entities involved in economic activities whom the top military brass directly controls

By News Desk -

November 21, 2017

    

LAHORE:  The army exercises control over fifty conglomerates said to be worth $50 billion stretching from banks, industrial plants, universities, milk dairies, stud farms, cement plants, bakeries etc.

The powerful military owns stakes in various prized sectors, but it’s shining asset is the eight housing societies it owns in several towns across Pakistan. Army officers are entitled to receiving prime lands in these housing societies at discounted rates, reported Quartz India.

Military awards are also conferred to army personnel linked with grant of farm lands and housing plots. This process of giving lands to army personnel was initiated during General Ayub’s regime in the 1960’s and was consolidated later by General Zia during the mid-1970’s.

General Zia-ul-Haq initiated practice of involving serving armed forces officers by giving military lands and cantonments for commercial venture purposes to regional corps commanders. This resulted in many senior army officers purchasing several plots at ‘throwaway rates’ in various cantonments.

The process of acquiring these prime lands resulted in corruption amongst the civil bureaucracy and the military. The army officers started to assert and increase their influence by setting up various foundations for assisting retired military personnel and infiltrated into the heart of the country’s economy.

It thrust the military into become a mainstream business stakeholder in country’s economy and spread its wings at three levels with Ministry of Defence (MoD) being the foremost of its economic powerhouse.

Department of military land and cantonments (MLC), Fauji Foundation, Rangers are directly controlled by MoD. All these three services also have their own welfare foundations. It also holds stakes in public-sector entities like National Logistics Cell (NLC), Frontier Works Organization (FWO) and Special Communications Organization (SCO).

MOD isn’t directly managing economic activities of these entities under its influence, but is a tool for deploying resources, provide legal status to such several commercial ventures and subsidiaries which are permitted to operate independently.

Army Welfare Trust (AWT), Fauji Foundation, Shaheen Foundation and Bahria Foundation are the additional four subsidiary entities involved in economic activities whom the top military brass directly controls.

All these above-mentioned entities are run by retired army officers and profits amassed from them are shared with shareholders who are also retired military personnel. It ranges from commercial ventures such as cement manufacturing, cereal production, banking entities, education, universities aside airport services, shipping & harbor services etc.

Ministry of Defence has played a critical part in obtaining public sector business contracts, financial and industrial inputs at discounted rates too

November 20, 2017

Balochistan: One Province, Five Actors, Multiple Issues

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The contemporary problem within Balochistan has to be viewed outside tribal insurgency and the Sardars. One could count five actors; some of them are old and others are recent. Some are losing ground, and others are gaining. Some are bulldozed by the State; others, being silently supported.

✔*The first actor – the Sardars*, are the oldest and is fast fading within Balochistan. Known for their leadership during the British period and immediately after the partition, the new generation was certainly looking at the Sardar as a political actor. No more. The middle-class Baloch are expanding; as there are more Baloch ventures outside the province, *one should expect a further decline in Sardar’s hold over the society.*

✔*Second actor – the Baloch militant* – is also facing a tough environment. The Establishment has successfully flattened the militant movement with its heavy use of force, with or no care for human rights. The State is using violence against the Baloch militants as a primary strategy. _Given the domestic and external support, or the lack of it, Baloch militancy has little future._

✔The third actor – is the new one within Balochistan – the sectarian militants, with their base in Punjab*. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and its affiliates have been making inroads within Balochistan that is lesser known for sectarian violence. Now, Quetta has become a sectarian ground, especially for the militants to go after the Hazara community. Since 2012, one could trace an increase in attacks against the Hazaras in Balochistan. And also on the Shia pilgrims on their way to or from Iran. The perpetrators are not locals.

✔*The fourth actor is the Taliban* – both the Afghan and Pakistani. Since the days of Mullah Omar, the Afghan Taliban has shifted it headquarters to Quetta – thereby the name – the Quetta Shura. While the Quetta Shura has been concentrating more on Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban has been expanding its activities into Balochistan as well. Some of the recent attacks on the State include high profile suicide attacks on police officers and the para-militaries.

*✔Finally*, the latest entrant – the ISIS. Though the ISIS is not as powerful as the other actors, it is trying to establish a base.  It has claimed few recent attacks in Balochistan, including the suicide bombing of Sufi shrine in the province

November 19, 2017

Balochistan is a strategic center of gravity in South Asia

Balochistan is a strategic center of gravity in South Asia

by LAWRENCE SELLIN, PHD November 19, 2017

It seems like all the players in the South Asian power game think Balochistan, Pakistan's southwest province on the Arabian Sea, is important - except the United States.

For the sake of argument, imagine that Balochistan reverts to its previous condition as an independent and secular state before it was forcibly incorporated into Pakistan or, more simply, is a blank space on the map.

Here are a few things that would change.

-        The single most important Taliban safe haven, training and support infrastructure would be eliminated, isolating the Taliban's Peshawar Shura and the Haqqani Network to be dismantled piecemeal.

-        Afghanistan would have a reliable route to the sea and no longer be subjected to Pakistan's economic stranglehold.

-        An embryonic transnational terrorist epicenter containing the Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist Wahhabi groups would be prevented.

-        The flow of opium and heroin originating in Afghanistan, which fuels the Taliban, other insurgent elements and the world's illicit drug market, would be disrupted.

-        Chinese regional hegemony as represented by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the related construction of Chinese military bases on the Arabian Sea would be thwarted.

-        Iranian infiltration and military action in Balochistan to counter groups supported by Pakistan and Saudi Arabian would be halted and reduce the likelihood of another Syria-like crisis.

-        An independent and secular Balochistan would drive a stake into the heart of Pakistan's Islamization policy and its reliance on Islamic terrorism as an instrument of its foreign policy.


Two questions arise from those speculations.

Why is the U.S. still fighting a war in Afghanistan under rules of engagement determined by Pakistan?

Why is the U.S. not exploiting opportunities to influence the strategic conditions in South Asia that might favorable affect the outcome in Afghanistan and future American influence in the region?

The ugly truth is that, lacking any new ideas or alternative approaches, the counterinsurgency and nation-building program in Afghanistan remains on automatic pilot, where everyone is being reassured that everything is going according to plan and that "progress is being made."

Within the military bureaucracy, the tendency to give and accept happy talk is pervasive. Negative views can only be expressed as whispers in private conversations. Public criticism is suicide and, contrary to popular belief, changing the system from within is at best serendipity or at worst urban myth. In a system highly resistant to change, innovative thinking can be a risky proposition.

Military careerism fosters the development of political correctness, a finely-tuned sense of risk aversion, and a laissez-faire attitude toward demonstrable progress, where the appearance, rather than the substance of success, is a satisfactory outcome. The longer you are in such an environment, the more the bureaucracy can shape your thinking and behavior. You become a stakeholder in maintaining the status quo.

Current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is not designed to win, but not to lose, until a graceful exit can be achieved.  Even if a long-term presence could be sustained, it is not a viable strategy when Pakistan determines what is sustainable.

The time is long overdue to take a serious, comprehensive look at the manner in which the war in Afghanistan is being conducted, whether the continued and exclusive pursuit of a yet unsuccessful 16-year-old strategy is, in actuality, suppressing our options and setting us up for future failure.

Lawrence Sellin, Ph.D. is a retired colonel with 29 years of service in the US Army Reserve and a veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq. Colonel Sellin is the author of "Restoring the Republic: Arguments for a Second American Revolution ". He receives email at lawrence.sellin@gmail.com.