Impact of OBL episode on Pakistan’s economy

This is a Pakpotpourri Exclusive

By: Majyd Aziz  

The Doomsday theorists and the ignorant anti-American elements in Pakistan have become over-active after the showdown in Abbottabad. Suddenly, they are back into action with their I-told-you-so rabble rousing posture and are trying to galvanize the citizens into a universal condemnation of not only Washington but also the civilian leadership and the military hierarchy of the country. President Obama is being considered as a re-incarnate of the younger Bush while all hell is being let loose on the two well-protected high rollers safely ensconced in Islamabad. The brave among this inciting crowd, all the more fortified by the drawing room analysts and pseudo-democrats, are out to get the scalps of the two Generals who had their tenures extended.

The Formation Commanders made the right noises by warning the White House, in fact, warning the world not to attempt such an adventure again inside Pakistan’s territory. There was the usual talk about ending the drone “culture”, reduction in the number of Americans moving all over this nation, and threatening to “review” cooperation between Pentagon and Rawalpindi. Hallelujah. It reminds one of the classic Peter Sellers’ movie The Mouse That Roared. It may play well in maybe Gujranwala.

However, what is missing in all this wailing and blaming is that no one has seriously considered the impact this draconian adventure would have on Pakistan’s tottering economy. Come next fiscal year, there is going to be a fundamental shift in the nation’s budget planning and revenue expectations. The Finance Minister and his jolly band went to IMF with a structured begging bowl but the high priests sitting in the citadel of this institution showed them unusual courtesy by escorting them out the exit door sans any largesse. State Bank of Pakistan big boys have put their hands up in desperation that inflation is still an uncontrolled albatross around the economy. The euphoria in Trade Development Authority of Pakistan and in the minds of less knowledgeable spin-doctors of the ruling party that the export figures would be at all-time high, based on the extraordinary performance of the raw cotton and spinning sector is fizzling out sooner than expected. Half of the spinning mills are switching off their machines because all of a sudden the global demand went poof. 

The Finance Ministry officials transformed the Ministry from a being a facilitator to trade and industry by playing their own version of contract bridge by considering themselves as “us” and the businessmen as “they”. When there was genuine opposition to the introduction of the macabre Reformed General Sales Tax, some hare-brained official came out with the asinine proposal to get the country’s President to issue three Ordinances as part of the Plan ‘B’ conjured up by minions in Federal Board of Revenue. Lo and behold. The trade and industry representatives got these officials on the carpet and within no time, the Ordinances became stale jokes.

The Federal Budget is due on May 28 and the energetic but elusive Finance Minister will again attempt to teach the Parliamentarians a lesson or two in Economics 101. He has already received a bagful of help from the Presidency who outmaneuvered seasoned politicians and got them to do the tango with him. The budget would be approved but at what cost? Is the country ready to bear the ramifications of what the good Senator Doctor Sheikh has in store for the 175 million denizens? Would it be an ingenious financial vision or would it be dictated orders from IMF and other International Finance Institutions? The answer would be certain when the dust clears on the last Saturday of this month.

Should one recount what is happening on the physical infrastructure scene? Very casually and without fanfare, the nation is now short of 7000 mw of power. Very brazenly, the natural gas people unilaterally decree that gas would not be available for industries and CNG Stations. Those who decide at what cost Pakistanis would get petrol ritualistically but forcefully announce that petrol, diesel, and other petroleum products would now cost an arm and a leg. 

The reason why this economic picture is being presented is to bring to the fore the very fact that the OBL episode has come at a very delicate time for Pakistan. The billions spent on the Global War on Terror by this cash-starved nation, the fabulous military victories in eliminating terrorists and extremists from the wild, wild north of the country, and the confidence reposed in the valiant forces by Pakistanis have suddenly burst like a pin pricked balloon. The general feeling was that inspite of the difficulties people faced on the economic front, it was essential and crucial that the Armed Forces were provided with everything to protect and secure the borders and the strategic assets.

This confidence in the Armed Forces must not be allowed to wane. Pakistanis must continue to support and encourage the brave forces. The entire Defense establishment must learn whatever lessons it has to learn and must carry forward. Demagogues and Fifth Columnists must be ignored and should not be given prominence by the electronic and print media.

There should not be despondency and blame-game either within the forces or among the politicians. Dejection at this stage will ruin the country by hampering its economic progress. This is the time for all decision makers to sit with the mainstream businessmen and industrialists to get the country out of this economic quagmire. The Pakistan Business Council attempted to get the politicians to sit with them at the same table and discuss the economic agenda. A noble step, but it did not create any waves because mainstream trade and industry representatives were excluded while third or fourth tier nominees from the political parties came to Serena in Islamabad to make the usual pompous statements. (Incidentally, this writer had proposed such an All-Parties Conference while taking part in a PTV program hosted by Dr Huma Baqai a couple of months back. So, credit to PBC for following it up and spending money to get politicians together).

The impact of the OBL drama would not be as damaging to the country as propagated by many analysts. This is not the time to strain relations with USA and other Western countries. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has offered a comfort zone to Pakistan. Assurances are coming from Foggy Bottom as well as from Capitol Hill that Pakistan would be supported and that Pakistan needs maximum cooperation from Washington. This is the time for the government and even the Armed Forces to ensure that American financial assistance is not squandered away and also that Pakistan should be provided all facilities to procure smart defense technology to continue its frontline role in exterminating terrorists and extremists from this country. Emphasis should be on foreigners who have created havoc by assuming the role of so-called Jihadis. The Saudi Arabian, Sudanese, Egyptian, and the Chechen Jihadi elements must be declared persona non grata and their native countries be forced to take them back. 

The recent positive outcome of the talks between the Interior Secretaries of India and Pakistan in New Delhi and the Commerce Secretaries in Islamabad and Bhurban will open new vistas of economic cooperation not only between the two countries but among all SAARC nations. This is a breath of fresh air and the expectations are positive and beneficial for Pakistan. Furthermore, there is expectation of foreign investment not only from India but also from other countries. This is the time to invite massive investment in minerals exploration, in information technology, and in livestock. These would create jobs and pump up the economy.

Pakistan cannot afford to be strangled by the OBL opera. Once lessons are learnt, once accountability has ended, and once the nation’s skies are really made impregnable, the concentration should be on the economy. The most unpatriotic thing a citizen can do at this juncture is to be persistent in carping about the capability and competency of the Armed Forces while at the same time, all those who are neglecting efforts to rejuvenate the economy are guilty of the same crime too. This is the ideal time to say “YES” to the Founder’s motto: Unity, Faith, and Discipline. By the way, what happened to Pakistan First?

(The writer is Former President Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry)


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Comments

  • Parvez Amin  On May 8, 2011 at 5:15 am

    Good thinking that positions Pakistan for making progress. Much more can be done…

  • Anjum  On May 8, 2011 at 5:25 am

    MAjee thats a Pretty good Job you’ve done Anjum Khush Hoowa

  • MAJYD AZIZ  On May 8, 2011 at 6:09 am

    THANX. RIGHT NOW EVERY POLITICIAN WORTH HIS SALT IS CLAMORING FOR HIGH PROFILE RESIGNATIONS. WILL THIS SOLVE OUR WORRIES? WILL THIS RESTORE OUR “HONOR”? WILL THIS BRING A BETTER CROP TO RULE OVER US AND (OK I AM A CYNIC) BECOME OUR SAVIORS? WHAT IS REQUIRED IS TO COMPREHEND THE DYNAMICS OF THIS EPISODE AND INSTEAD OF GETTING THE COUNTRY OUT OF ITS ECONOMIC MORASS, THOSE WHO “SPEAK FOR THE PEOPLE” MUST NOW CHANNELIZE THEIR ENERGIES, THEIR RESPECT, AND THIER MARKET VALUE TOWARDS BUILDING UP THIS GREAT MOTHERLAND OF OURS. MY FINAL TAG LINE IN THE ARTICLE IS: By the way, what happened to Pakistan First?

  • Syed Ataur Rahman  On May 8, 2011 at 6:58 am

    Mr Aziz writes honestly and has many pertinent points. The government and military have axed their own legs by not having a joint and well thought out response. The military response could have come from JSHQ, who would have spoken for both the Army and Air Force and spoken truthfully. I don’t think these institutions should be in anyway ashamed or even embarrassed for whatever happened. Thankfully the F-16’s could not see the advanced stealth MH-60 Helicopters on the ground or if they had gone for them the F-15’s most probably orbiting on top with a package of 6-7 support aircraft including EC-130E/H, MC-130, AC-130, E-3 AWACS and, KC-130, E-3 etc would have shot them out of the sky with their over 100 nm missiles. Why can’t we educate our population? They would understand. We cannot take on in one tactical combat an armada of weapon systems that the most advanced country in the world has.
    That very …. how should I say the Prime Minister was firing off his own statements, Zardari was doing the same. I am glad Gen Kiyani took his time but the people are not willing to accept any of these versions. There should have been one statement or maximum two, one from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the other from Chairman JSSC speaking for the military. Unfortunately, the people do not believe or have respect for the President and PM and even when they tell the truth; so people will not believe them. The credentials of the Army and Air Force has suffered acutely because they could not wisely come out with the truthful facts. Are they talking about withholding information for the sake of national security? Come on we have educated and highly intelligent people who will only listen to the truth.
    As far as relations with America is concerned they will continue to blackmail us. I disagree with Mr Aziz here. We should gradually start to distance ourselves from the Americans. Like someone said (probably Henry Kissinger), ‘It is bad to be the enemy of America but it is worst to be their friends,’ or words to that effect. Look at India, they just selected the Euro fighter, an aircraft half the capability of the F-18 or even the older F-16’s at a cost of $10 Billion. They understand the Americans well. We don’t after suffering from their actions again and again and yet again. Indians refuse to get into the clutches of USA. They instead take transport aircraft, Radars but much more their High Value items like super computers and advanced technology that benefit them in the long run. Not immediately, but slowly we must create a more independent national policy.
    That leads us to our leadership. That is the most worrying part. We have thieves and corrupt people now and another one is waiting to plunder. So what do we do and where do we go from here? I think we must all gear ourself to elect honest leadership, become politically active, educate the people around us, and select candidates who will work for this country. I am sure we will make a difference, perhaps not this time but in the next election. A lot more can be said but suffice it to say this much for now.

  • Shaheen  On May 8, 2011 at 7:41 am

    IAS…AGREE

  • Majyd Aziz  On May 8, 2011 at 7:43 am

    RIGHT NOW EVERY POLITICIAN WORTH HIS SALT IS CLAMORING FOR HIGH PROFILE RESIGNATIONS. WILL THIS SOLVE OUR WORRIES? WILL THIS RESTORE OUR “HONOR”? WILL THIS BRING A BETTER CROP TO RULE OVER US AND (OK I AM A CYNIC) BECOME OUR SAVIORS? WHAT IS REQUIRED IS TO COMPREHEND THE DYNAMICS OF THIS EPISODE AND INSTEAD OF GETTING THE COUNTRY OUT OF ITS ECONOMIC MORASS, THOSE WHO “SPEAK FOR THE PEOPLE” MUST NOW CHANNELIZE THEIR ENERGIES, THEIR RESPECT, AND THEIR MARKET VALUE TOWARDS BUILDING UP THIS GREAT MOTHERLAND OF OURS. MY FINAL TAG LINE IN THE ARTICLE IS: By the way, what happened to Pakistan First?

  • subhan  On May 8, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Good write up. But i have a different proposal to revive this economy. We wasted 60 years in feeding the Armed forces lions share of he National budge at the cost of education, Health and development. Moreover Army spend 40 years ruling this country ( More than the poor “”bloody Civilian”” politicians).
    Despite this mega investment in the Armed Forces by his poor nation they couldn’t defend Dacca in 1971, Faced a Humiliating defeat in Kargil, did NOTHING to stop the drone attacks and proved heir incompetency again on 2nd May.

    Why not to ask why did we waste so much in raising his army which is unable to stop US drones or Soldiers. Let’s for a change just divert 30% of the defence Budget ( amounting to billions of Rupees) to better uses like education and health. It will benefit millions of Pakistanis, improve the health standards and literacy level in Pakistan.

    Let us be honest this time and stop buying the BS being thrown our way by GHQ and ISPR. Let the Generals stop living as Kings and let this nation get some development fund.

    Emotional blackmailing and calls for blind support of an Army which sa like ducks while Americans conduced Abotabad operation, won’t work now.

    Best Wishes for a Prosperous Pakistan

    Subhan ( Karachi)

  • FEL  On May 8, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    MA, Nice write up ,appreciate it n agree with u

    FEL

  • Dost Gul  On May 8, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Balanced and sensible approach advocated by Majyd Aziz. This isolated nation has to cast aside emotions and come to terms with the reality. Our Armed Forces are as good as it can get in our circumstances. Without condoning their lapses, unimaginative and corrupt practices and giving cognizance to their limitations, we need to move on and put our losses and frustrations behind us. It is indeed a time for Pakistan First, whatever the cost in terms of diluting our sovereignty, looking the other way from PDF’s and ISI’s misdeeds and incompetence and being fully aware we have no options !!Perhaps we should also seriously think of voluntarily handing over our nuclear assets to UN or US command, divide Kashmir between us and India and forge good neighborly relations with the giant, forget our role in Afghanistan , and concentrate on using our expensive armed forces for societal reform ,domestic defenses and economic development. Massive downsizing in Forces and intelligence apparatus is indeed absolute must as we cannot afford the level of international corruption these institutions have been involved in therby taking the whole country to ransom.
    GD

    • Kashif  On May 10, 2011 at 3:02 pm

      Couldn’t agree more with you. why to keep an impotent mammoth in your house and feed him when he is absolutely useless in defending you against enemies.

      Down sizing is essential.Absolutely essential

  • HH  On May 8, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    I liked these comments posted on PP blog :

    “…Balanced and sensible approach advocated by Majyd Aziz. This
    isolated nation has to cast aside emotions and come to terms with the
    reality. Our Armed Forces are as good as it can get in our
    circumstances. Without condoning their lapses, unimaginative and
    corrupt practices and giving cognizance to their limitations, we need
    to move on and put our losses and frustrations behind us. It is indeed
    a time for Pakistan First, whatever the cost in terms of diluting our
    sovereignty, looking the other way from PDF’s and ISI’s misdeeds and
    incompetence and being fully aware we have no options !!Perhaps we
    should also seriously think of voluntarily handing over our nuclear
    assets to UN or US command, divide Kashmir between us and India and
    forge good neighborly relations with the giant, forget our role in
    Afghanistan , and concentrate on using our expensive armed forces for
    societal reform ,domestic defenses and economic development. Massive
    downsizing in Forces and intelligence apparatus is indeed absolute
    must as we cannot afford the level of international corruption these
    institutions have been involved in therby taking the whole country to
    ransom.
    GD”””

  • R Alvi  On May 8, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I appreciate you honest and insightful point of view I wish there were more Pakistanis as balanced as you. Pakistan has so far offered no response to the whole fiasco, the leaders of the country have once again failed their people. People like us, Pakistanis living abroad have been left answering the question of incompetency of that govt. I have read many Pakistani news papers where people of Pakistan feel it’s time to cut off the relations with USA
    For me it’s very simple either forget about US 1.5 billion or if they need it for their survival to feed the giant army then accept the fact that beggars can’t be choosers . PM of Pakistan found the time to write oped in Washington times on Tuesday and but had no believable explanation. The Govt. of Pakistan thought they could play this game with USA and no one will be wiser. I remember few weeks ago ISI on Raymond Davis issue saying we are counter part of CIA, but CIA doesn’t trust us, now we know why.
    The government of Pakistan has once again brought shame to it’s people.
    Please keep writing.

  • MAJYD AZIZ  On May 9, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Pak Intelligence failure?

    USA intelligence failed in Pearl Harbor attack, Vietnam War, USA Embassy in Iran, 9/11, Indian nuclear explosions,WMD in Iraq, and at so many other times yet they accuse Pakistan for intelligence failure.

    35000 precious lives and $68 billion loss since 9/11. American media full of lies and hypocrisy .

    Be a proud and patriotic Pakistani. Lets be a united Pakistan. Pakistan Paindabad. Pakistan Armed Forces Zindabad

    Majyd Aziz

  • ID  On May 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    MA, Good article but the stress is showing! Why the frown? Is the economy that bad? Or Mdm Tasneem se daant parhi thi tasveer khitchwaanay se pehlay?
    id

  • Majyd Aziz  On May 10, 2011 at 1:31 pm

    I know we get figures that forex is all time high, remittances are all time high, exports are all time high, etc. Yes true but do they reflect the real story?

    Forex reserves also consist of IMF loans, Chinese parking, and private sector accounts. Remittances are high because now coming thru official channels. Exports are high because of raw cotton and cotton yarn that are fizzling out.

    Inflation is 18%. Interest rate is 18% plus. Unemployment is 12%. Petrol, electricity, gas rates are actually high.

    And now Finance mandarins want RGST enforced. I bet. If I was Fin Min, I would decree that FBR must have XX number of new tax payers otherwise he will become OSD. Agri tax should be over Rs 200 billion as it is 22% of GDP. But provinces collected only 20 billion.

    Why not have a withholding tax on farmer support price? Why have subsidy on fertilizer? Why not force farmers to run the 3 million tube wells on solar energy? Why not make it compulsory to have solar powered geysers, firstly for all new bungalows of 1000 yards or more and then gradually reduce it to 500 yards? Why not all new high rises be forced to install solar power for their buildings? All these will save millions and billions.

    Why not across the board reduction of 10% in non development expenses as well as in non-defense related expenses of Armed Forces? Why not use daily garbage to make electricity? Why not sell off Pakistan Steel and instead let private sector set up efficient new plants. 1000 staff can produce what 28000 Pakistan Steel employees are producing now.

    Finally, why can’t politicians and businessmen, and of course Armed Forces representatives sit for three days and thrash out an economic vision once and for all?

    Pls someone answer!

    MAJYD AZIZ

  • Akhtar  On May 10, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Sir, reading till last line, draws a bleak picture of coming days.Just heared of a joint CIA-ISI venturein Quetta,which direction we are heading for? is there any hope ? is there any saviour? or God forbid,”another East India ” company is in the offing?
    regards,
    AB

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