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Begging bowl or fiscal discipline

If the government is obliged to get loans, it should prefer the world financial institutions rather than friendly countries which attach unacceptable strings with the assistance

Begging bowl or fiscal discipline

Will the nation ever be able to assert political and financial autonomy at home and adopt independent foreign policies on world issues are the few basic questions that need to be answered. Why this country always passes through difficult times of its history despite being the only nuclear power in the Muslim world and making tremendous progress in various fields of business, trade and investment. Pakistan has been facing economic, political and social crises since its inception due to lack of vision and incapacity of the people at the helm of affairs to make a right choice at the right time.

Unfortunately, almost every leader of this country, with exceptions to president Ayub Khan and prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, bowed before foreign pressures, compromising on national honour. Every nation has the right to live with honour and dignity and should not compromise on the principles of justice and fair play. If there is some self-respect left in the Pakistani leadership, it should learn from Turkey and Iran which survived two wars in their neighbourhoods. Turkey has also made tremendous progress, emerging as the 14th largest economy of the world.

If Pakistan has to accept assistance from friendly countries, it should be accepted with dignity and not as a professional bagger. Pakistan does not need any foreign assistance at the first place as billions of dollars can be generated and saved within the country with some brainstorming and financial management.

If the government is obliged to get loans, it should prefer the world financial institutions rather than friendly countries which attach unacceptable strings with the assistance. Taking loans from the world institutions puts the home economy hostage and assistance from foreign countries puts the whole nation as hostage and the country has to toe the lines of its benefactor at home and international levels.

Prime Minister Imran Khan appeared as the last hope for the nation before elections who wanted to do something for people. However, he is caught unprepared as his team of experts on finance, economy, trade, investment, information and international affairs has limited knowledge of modern economy, financial discipline and diplomatic affairs. The members of his team are tinkering with every vital issue whatsoever coming in their ways and are creating embarrassment for him and the nation.

The people who advised Khan to visit Saudi Arabia are probably “one eye boxers” who see only one aspect of an issue and fail to see the other side. At a time when mega investment and corporate organisations of the United States, Canada, UK, France and Germany are boycotting an investment conference in Saudi Arabia, Khan’s decision to participate in the event does not match his words.

This is the second tour of Khan since he assumed the office around two months ago. In the first visit, tall claims were made that $20 billion Saudi investment will pour into Pakistan, which will give the government a breathing space to avoid loan from the International Monetary Fund. However, the overblown sentiments evaporated soon and Khan and his chief of monetary affairs, Asad Umar, are still undecided about seeking loan from the IMF or friendly countries.

According to independent foreign policy experts, the prime minister should have not visited Saudi Arabia and should have kept an independent posture in the current events on the world scene. The investment conference was solely for investment in Saudi Arabia and it was not beneficial for Pakistan at any level. The country is also not in a position to offer any investment proposition to Saudi Arabia.

The current relations of Saudi Arabia with Islamic and western worlds are at the lowest level with exceptions of Egypt and United Arab Emirates. The country is not in good terms with Turkey and Qatar which are very close friends of Pakistan. Going into blind alley of international relations on the hope of assistance is not a plausible and appreciable decision.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia adopted an aggressive posture and caused humanitarian crisis in Yemen, started an unwanted diplomatic tension with Qatar and could not stop straining of relations with Canada and Turkey. The current masters of the country have smashed every diplomatic effort to stabilise the regional peace. The country is facing international outcry and condemnation on the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The leaders can befool their subjects but not the world and France, UK, Germany and even US President Trump has called for explanation of the circumstances in which Khashoggi was killed.

Unfortunately, in any international crisis, Pakistani leaders have failed to side with truth whether it is Saudi Arabia, China or the United States. Friendship and national interests with these countries do not mean one has to compromise on principles. It is the dilemma of this nation that Pakistan lacks visionary team of international experts to adopt a perfect line of action in crisis-like situations. The matters of international relations are left to the people who lack basic knowledge of diplomacy.

It is necessary for the prime minister to hold an investment conference in the country, relax rules for new startup and foreign investors and try to invite giant organisations to set up units in Pakistan. Pakistan should also better its position on ease of doing business index; rein in tax and customs authorities from pestering the potential investors.

In view of rising cost of production at home, the western entrepreneurs are seeking new investment destination to multiply their profits and Pakistan is the best option. Prime Minister Khan should also visit European Union with attractive investment proposals to turn Pakistan into commercial and industrial hub of the world.

Aftab Afzal Ranjha

aftab zain
The writer is a Lahore-based journalist. He may be reached at [email protected]

3 comments

  • Saudi Arabia had Jamal Khashoggi. Pakistan has Asia Bibi. And it’s going to become the commercial and industrial hub of the world?

  • Very pragmatic and real analysis of the current political, economic situation of Pakistan.

  • Decision as regards Pakistan are made in Rawalpindi, who cares what Islamabad or for that matter rest of the country thinks. Rawalpindi needs puppets and current team is an excellent choice.

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