By News Desk Published: May 26, 2017
Indian External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj, has thanked Pakistani diplomats and judiciary for the safe return of Indian national, Uzma, who had alleged she was duped into marrying a Pakistani man, according to The Hindu.
“Today, I would like to express our appreciation of Pakistan irrespective of the current state of bilateral ties. If Uzma is here today, that is because the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan has helped us a lot. Pakistan’s Home Ministry has also helped us a lot,” said Swaraj.
The Indian minister insisted that the Indian High Commission received humanitarian support from Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Also lauding Pakistan’s judicial support, Swaraj said, “Political relations are another thing but Justice [Mohsin Akhtar] Kayani gave the verdict on humanitarian grounds. Her husband argued that the case was about the prestige of Pakistan but (Justice Kayani) said, how is this case related to the prestige of India or Pakistan? Barrister Shah Nawaz Noon argued the case almost like a father.”
Swaraj welcomed Uzma as she returned to India via the Wagah border. “Uzma – Welcome home India’s daughter. I am sorry for all that you have gone through,” she tweeted.
During a press conference in India after her return, as India’s NDTV reported, Uzma said, “Pakistan is a death trap. Why women, not even men are safe there.”
The Indian national had alleged that her husband Tahir Ali – a resident of Buner region in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa K-P) – had assaulted her.
Uzma had claimed, “My Pakistani husband forced me to marry him on gunpoint and even harassed me.” She approached the IHC on May 12 to arrange her journey back to Delhi amid security and to issue duplicate travel documents which were allegedly stolen by Tahir.
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > By Salman Siddiqui Published: April 12, 2017
China has approved additional financing for infrastructure projects in Pakistan under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), taking the investment volume to $62 billion from $55 billion, announced Sindh Governor Mohammad Zubair on Wednesday.
“New investment has been approved for projects in various sectors including [establishment of] industrial zones,” said Zubair while speaking at a conference on “Infrastructure demand and financing” organised by credit rating agencies Pacra (Pakistan) and Dagong (China).
China has been increasing investment in Pakistan’s infrastructure and power projects since it unveiled CPEC programme worth $46 billion in 2015.
The volume of investment was pushed to $55 billion when Federal Minister of Planning, Development and Reform Ahsan Iqbal, Federal Minister of Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique and chief ministers of provinces visited China about three months ago.
“This [$62 billion investment] is good news. People will reap dividends of the investment,” remarked Zubair, who is an active member of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s core economic team.
A major chunk of the multibillion-dollar investment, $34 billion, is going into electricity production and distribution.
According to Zubair, other countries are keen to become part of CPEC projects. They may become part of the project by investing in industrial zones, he said.
Additionally, CPEC projects also have huge indirect benefits as well. “Information technology firms from across the globe have arrived in Pakistan as each and every project under China’s investment would require IT assistance.”
Zubair added China had become one of the world’s economic superpowers by investing in huge infrastructure projects like highways, railways, power production and gas pipelines at home.
“We are doing exactly the same thing. CPEC will create massive economic momentum in Pakistan,” he said.
The governor pointed out that Pakistan was not the only country whose exports had gone down in recent years as China and India had also registered a significant decline in their exports.
“The uptrend in international fuel oil prices may widen Pakistan’s current account deficit,” he said.
Zubair announced that the federal government would soon unveil a financing plan for new projects across Sindh including Karachi, adding the Green Line public transport project would be completed by the end of the year.
Speaking on the occasion, Ministry of Finance’s former secretary Dr Waqar Masood pointed out that besides Chinese government’s investment in CPEC projects, the private sector of China was funding different schemes in Pakistan, which did not fall within the purview of CPEC.
The volume of China’s investment in Pakistan would be significantly higher than $62 billion if its private sector investment was also counted, he said.
Pakistan Credit Rating Agency (Pacra) Managing Director Adnan Afaq emphasised that the establishment of power projects would help overcome shortage and play a positive role in achieving the required economic growth of 7% in the next two to three years.
He was of the view that managing such a huge investment of $62 billion or higher under CPEC would remain a big challenge for Pakistan as it had never done that before. “We need to make sure the process [of utilising the finances] remains transparent,” he said.
Dagong Chairman Guan Jianzhong stressed that infrastructure development would support economic growth in Pakistan over the long run, adding it would open Islamabad to the world and bring investment.
Other speakers urged the authorities concerned to float infrastructure bonds in order to attract public investment. The government should play its role of providing incentives for the proposed bonds to stimulate investment from new avenues.
On Wednesday Val Kilmer, the star of Top Gun, Willow, Heat, Batman Forever, Tombstone and a host of other cult movies did a Reddit AMA and it didn’t disappoint.
Val, 57, answered a string of questions about some of his biggest roles including as Doc Holliday in 1993’s Tombstone, but it was his comments about Tom Cruise his Top Gun co-star that was most interesting.
Kilmer played Iceman, the main rival to Cruise’s character Maverick in the iconic 1986 movie and there have long been rumors their mutual dislike continued off-screen.
Not according to Val who had this to say about the Hollywood star: “No. He was a sweetheart. We were all quite rowdy me and all the real flyboys and the actors, so I actually felt a little sorry for him cause we all had time to play and date the cute extras and zoom around San Diego in muscle cars, but Tom was always in some scene and never go to play with us…” (sic)
While he’s a fan of Cruise, he’s not so into the Kenny Loggins hit Danger Zone, which featured throughout the film.
When asked this by a user called ‘Chayis’: “Do you turn ‘Danger Zone’ up or down when it comes on the radio?”
He responded: “I hate you right now for making me hear it. Chayis, I will get you back. Just start humming EYE OF THE TIGER and that’s my revenge..” (sic)
So not a fan?
Kilmer has already confirmed he would appear in any sequel to the first film.
Last year he revealed on Facebook he had spoken to producer Jerry Bruckheimer about the possibility, writing: “I just got offered Top Gun 2. Not often you get to say ‘yes’ without reading the script.
“Jerry Bruckheimer and Tom Cruise, Yes… Let’s fire up some fighter jets again.”
Aside from Tom Gear, Val admitted he wouldn’t turn down another offer to play Batman, after appearing as the capade crusader in 1995’s Batman Forever.
He also addressed the cancer rumors that have plagued him in recent years.
Last year Kilmer was forced to deny he had terminal cancer after Michael Douglas appeared to claim he was suffering from throat cancer in an interview.
Insisting he didn’t hold Douglas, who had the disease himself, responsible for the rumours he said: “He [Douglas] was probably trying to help me cause press probably asked where I was these days, and I did have a healing of cancer, but my tongue is still swollen altho healing all the time. Because I don’t sound my normal self yet people think I may still be under the weather.”
He also revealed his thoughts on Pizza: “Pizza is one of the greatest creations on earth. I have tried almost every kind in the world. There is no bad pizza. Or toppings. Heaven is filled with melted cheese…”
And revealed a dream future with Kevin Spacey: “I have known Kevin since sunday school in the San Fernando valley in 1975 I think. He and I have reconnected and I’m sure one day we will rip up Broadway and fulfill a childhood dream.” (sic)
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > By Amin Jan Naim Published: May 26, 2017
How do we as people in Pakistan get out of the morass of superstition, and bigotry that bedevils us? This question is important in the effort to build a salutary narrative for combating the fanaticism and extremism that is becoming so prevalent in our country.
Plato was described by Hegel as being the teacher of mankind. Many misconceptions and distortions of Plato’s views have prevailed in the past and continue to do so. What we must search for is the essence of his thinking. He posed certain basic questions and examined them in a highly rigorous manner. This rigor was clothed in an engaging, charming and simple series of dialogues. Very often, however, the dialogues were inconclusive and the answers sought were elusive. Yet, the process of his reasoning has been unsurpassed till date.
We need not take Plato’s construct of an ideal state in the dialogue in The Republic as an actual possibility. What we need to consider is his reasoning. The same holds good for other dialogues such as Phaedo, Timaeus, Protagoras, Meno and The Symposium. They need to be studied and pondered over in original, not just in the commentary. This has to be an elitist endeavor but it is no less important for that reason.
When I was the ambassador in Athens (1991-96), I and my wife both took a course of study of the Greek language. My aim was to understand the structure of this profound and remarkable language in which complex and difficult thoughts had been expressed. The same profundity holds good for the German language, which I studied in the Heidelberg University in 1959. Then, in order to understand the Chinese way of thinking, I studied elementary spoken Chinese during my posting in China (1976-79). New languages open new vistas.
Today, English has become a universal language. We need to override the complex some of us have in being opposed to having English as the main working language in Pakistan. Proficiency in English has now become a necessity. It enables access to science, technology, international commerce and worldwide communication. It also enables the development of a better mental pattern in our populace. Contrary to widespread belief, the desire for learning English is not confined to our elite alone. Go to many rural areas of Pakistan and you will find people there keen to make their children learn English. In order for us to compete in the contemporary world, acquiring proficiency in English has now become essential.
Since I am considering here the development of a mental pattern, I may mention that in China, Japan, and Korea, and in the Western world at large, considerable attention is being paid nowadays to the study of Western classical music in early childhood. The music conservatories in the three countries are churning out every year thousands of talented youngsters proficient in this genre of music. They do not have inhibitions that this music is Western and so must be shunned.
Although there might not be a direct link, there is perhaps an indirect link in the development of the mental pattern of a society and the study of Western classical music. This is evident in the economic progress the above-mentioned countries have made due to their world outlook, which reflects a kind of rationality and aesthetic structure.
I have here alluded to the utmost achievement of humanity in the dialogues of Plato. So it would not be out of place to also allude to the other pinnacle of humanity, namely the music of Beethoven. Beethoven’s musical repertory ranges vastly from epic struggles as in the Eroica Symphony to sublime peace as in the Adagio of the Fruehlings sonata. Such struggle is what we have been undergoing since our inception as a nation. And an internal peace is what we badly need. As a society, perfection is what we should aim at. And perfection has not been equaled, except in Beethoven’s music.
The various factors affecting a society are interlinked with one another. Truth, beauty, and goodness are the hallmarks of the legacy of Plato and Beethoven. I leave it to you to decide how far we must imbibe their achievements and include them in our educational institutions.
As a society in rapid transition, we in Pakistan are presently a confused and disoriented lot. It is, therefore, necessary to make our world of ideas accord with universal thought, harmony, and values.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2017.
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > By Syed Mohammad Ali Published: May 26, 2017
The recent announcement of China’s willingness to pour in another $50 billion into the Pakistani economy to boost hydro-energy production, in addition to its CPEC commitments, could not have come in at a better time for our ruling party. With elections around the corner, every piece of good economic news helps boost the chances of the incumbents to win another term, despite the varied controversies which plague its present tenure.
In the case of Pakistan as well, the task of current political leaders to portray Pakistan as an emerging economic power receives a boost every time there is mention of its bourgeoning middle class, or a reassessment of its overall economic performance. Yet, the fact of the matter remains that despite these glittering assessments, Pakistan is yet a long way away from charting a sustainable path to economic and social development.
While our leadership may have set its sights on making Pakistan a vital link in the ‘new Silk Road’, the fact of the matter remains that our basic social indicators like infant mortality and primary and secondary enrollment are among the worst in the world. The number of out-of-school children in Pakistan is dismal, as is the quality of education being imparted to those who are attending school. Relative to countries of similar or lower its income level, Pakistan has systematically underperformed on most human development indicators.
Besides lacklustre health and education accomplishments, we, as a country, are also structurally biased against half the national population, which is female. Our female HDI value stands at 0.452 while the male HDI value stands at 0.610. An even larger gap is seen in the labour force participation rate where on average less than 25 per cent women are employed in contrast to an average of over 82 per cent of men. A mere 3 per cent of our legislators, senior officials and managers are women, and women hold only 20 per cent seats in parliament. This situation also does not bode well for making Pakistan a more progressive and prosperous country.
Our current HDI ranking still places Pakistan in the ‘medium human development’ bracket, which also includes India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Kenya, Myanmar and Nepal. Yet, we are the last country to fall in this ‘medium human development’ group.
The current HDI ranking does not provide detailed information on regional disparities within the country, but there are other indicators which reveal that our national growth is also very lopsided and inter-regional, as well as intra-regional, disparities remain a serious problem. Yet, the gap between the haves and have-nots continue to grow due to structural biases which continue to marginalise and exploit already vulnerable communities and groups of people.
Our leaders must pay more attention to the plight of the common man and woman, and pay more attention to fulfilling their needs, instead of focusing on glittering projects such as metro rails or motorways. Otherwise, we will simply not have the required human capital which is needed to sustain economic growth in the long run, no matter how many infrastructure or energy projects are ushered into the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 26th, 2017.
THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE > By Ahsan Iqbal Published: May 25, 2017
Recently, quite a few stories have appeared on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in both local and international publications. A lot of traction was gained by the cynics of CPEC by reporting factually incorrect information. Consequently, myth spurring on CPEC is on the rise. I am going to take this opportunity to debunk these myths by stating the facts.
The Chinese side has given its approval in principle, however, its formal approval is expected by the end of this month, as our Chinese counterparts were occupied by the Belt Road Forum. As soon as we get the official approval from the Chinese side, we will put the LTP on the CPEC website.
At present, only a few thousand Chinese nationals are living in Pakistan and making a positive contribution towards our economy, the majority of them fall into the category of temporary labor migrants who will return back upon completion of the projects. In contrast, around 8 million Chinese are living in Malaysia, 400,000 in France; 600,000 in Japan; 900,000 in Canada and over 2.5 million are living in the US. Therefore, to say that Chinese are overtaking Pakistani society is nothing but a farce. Chinese nationals working in Pakistan are our national guests as they are helping us to build a developed Pakistan.
Another myth spread on CPEC is that China is dictating terms to Pakistan and the federal government is not consulting the provinces. The reality is quite the opposite. China and Pakistan work jointly in making an overall planning for a unified development of CPEC projects. In this regard, the Long Term Plan, Transport Monographic Study and respective MoUs guide the policy for CPEC.
All provinces have been consulted and invited to all meetings within Pakistan and abroad for their recommendations and review of CPEC projects. Earlier this month, the chief ministers of all four provinces under the leadership of PM Sharif attended OBOR Summit in China. On 29th December 2016, all CMs participated in the 6th JCC meeting which was held in Beijing. For institutional arrangement and development of CPEC, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) of China along with the Planning, Development & Reform Ministry of Pakistan have constituted subsidiary working groups of the Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) on planning, transport infrastructure, energy, Gwadar, and industry cooperation.
Since the signing of the MoU in July 2013, six meetings of the JCC have been held. The highest officials of every provincial government are represented in JCC meetings. It is impossible to hide or misrepresent any information on CPEC from provinces. Information on ongoing and agreed CPEC projects is available on the official website of CPEC. Moreover, the planning ministry is always available to address any queries regarding CPEC. All the Chinese companies involved in CPEC projects are nominated by their government. Therefore, there is no question of favoritism on the part of the government of Pakistan.
Another myth propagated around is that Pakistan is not going to gain any economic benefits from CPEC and it is tantamount to the 2006 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China. First of all, let me explain that an FTA works out on the basis of demand and supply of market forces. China enjoys a competitive edge in exports vis-à-vis all other economies of the world, including Pakistan, whereas CPEC is qualitatively different from an FTA. It provides the necessary stimulus to kickstart the processes of industrialization in Pakistan. Without sufficient electricity and adequate infrastructure, it is not possible to carry out industrialization.
CPEC brings $35 billion investments in energy projects. Alongside coal, clean and renewable energy projects are part of the CPEC energy portfolio. The existing energy policy was made before the CPEC MoU was signed between China and Pakistan. Prior to CPEC, nobody was interested in making investments in our energy sector. At that crucial time, China took a lead and demonstrated to the world that Pakistan is a reliable and secure destination for foreign investments. Energy investments under CPEC will remove a major bottleneck that is in the way of realizing high economic growth. It will reinforce the main grid structure, power transmission, distribution network, and improve power supply. Currently, 14 energy projects are in the implementation stage. Through CPEC projects, 10,000MW of electricity will be added to the national grid. Only 16,000MW was added to the national grid from 1947 to 2013. Moreover, energy projects under CPEC are not funded by Chinese loans instead they are undertaken in the IPP mode regulated as per NEPRA tariffs. The average cost of these projects is lower than the current cost of production of energy.
Under CPEC, new road and rail networks are to be built in all four provinces to enhance and improve connectivity within Pakistan. In addition to economic benefits of connectivity, social and regional cohesion will increase within Pakistan and in the region. Once energy and infrastructure bottlenecks are addressed, it is estimated that GDP will at least increase by more than 2 percent from its current trend.
Similarly, one of the important components of the CPEC framework is industrial cooperation. Nine industrial zones were included in it with equal representation of all provinces. The cost of production is steadily increasing for many industries in China due to increase in wages. It is estimated that 85 million jobs will be relocated and countries in the Far East, Asia and Africa are competing for these jobs. Pakistan wants to secure a big share of the relocation of these industries and jobs. Once relocated, this will create a huge demand for labor in Pakistan and enormous employment opportunities will be available for Pakistanis.
In the current projects of CPEC, two-thirds of the workforce is Pakistani and only a critical mass of labor force comes from China. This is a great opportunity for the Pakistani workforce to learn and update their skills from their Chinese counterparts. Already a boom in steel, cement and construction industries has created multiplier effects in the overall economy.
Economic benefits of CPEC are net positive for Pakistan. CPEC is a golden opportunity for Pakistan to undo the mistakes of the past and we, as a nation, cannot afford to be complacent about it.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 25th, 2017.