Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Business Recorder editorial Oct 19, 2016

IK and CPEC Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has taken pains to assure the Chinese Ambassador Sun Weidong in a meeting at his Bani Gala residence that the party’s ongoing accountability movement against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is not meant to sabotage the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Nor is the movement intended to derail the present government and the system or create chaos in the country. Imran Khan emphasised that there was no threat to the diplomatic community from the shutdown the PTI intended to impose on Islamabad on November 2. The only purpose of the movement, he underlined, was to force the government into accepting a result-oriented investigation into Panamagate. On the very day the Chinese Ambassador was meeting Imran Khan, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif thundered once again that Imran was hindering the government’s development plans. The prime minister and various ministers have been accusing Imran Khan for some time of impeding CPEC projects and of forcing the cancellation of the CPEC-related Chinese President’s visit in September 2014 at the time of the PTI dharna (sit-in). PTI’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak in the meantime continues to rattle on about the Centre and Punjab depriving the other provinces of their just share of CPEC investment and projects, including the western route issue. Their political rivals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Awami National Party, also have been chiming in on the necessity of giving priority to the western route, which is naturally of crucial interest to their province. All this to and fro between the ruling PML-N and the PTI and other opposition parties has so muddied the waters that the Chinese are now concerned. Earlier this year, the Chinese embassy, in an unprecedented step, called on the political forces in Pakistan to resolve their issues regarding the CPEC. Naturally a climate of uncertainty such as that attending the PTI-PML-N fracas and controversies swirling around the CPEC have the Chinese worried whether the $ 46 billion they have committed to the CPEC will be implemented smoothly and with the minimum of fuss. And then there is the question of attracting industrial and commercial investment to populate the CPEC routes with islands of development and prosperity. No investor would like to enter a market riven by political controversies and conflict. This is where the gap between the potential benefits of the CPEC and the roadblocks on the ground appear glaringly obvious. The uncertainty is compounded by developments related to Panamagate. The Supreme Court of Pakistan is poised to hear petitions on the matter. The bill to settle the Terms of Reference for the commission of inquiry into Panamagate still gathers dust in parliament. The November 2 lockdown of Islamabad looms. Taken as a whole, the assurances of Imran Khan notwithstanding, the scenario points inexorably in the direction of destabilisation, possible violence and bloodshed, and the very outcome Imran Khan says he wants to avoid: the wrecking not only of the government but of the entire democratic edifice. Its discontents notwithstanding, Pakistan in particular, given its history of praetorian interventions, needs the democratic system to continue and consolidate itself. That is a historic responsibility that rests not only on the shoulders of the opposition to conduct itself responsibly, but also on the those of the incumbents by addressing our discontents and proving in practice that democracy is the least worst of all the theoretical options on the table.

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