Yemen Conflict: Potential Economic Catalyst for Pak

The following article has been published in Daily Nation, dated 06th April 2015

(E-Paper (Print Edition)http://nation.com.pk/E-Paper/lahore/2015-04-06/page-9 )

(Onlinehttp://nation.com.pk/business/06-Apr-2015/yemen-conflict-potential-economic-catalyst-for-pak )

Yemen Conflict: Potential Economic Catalyst for Pak

Prof Dp

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

Strategic decisions by modern states are based on either some principles, agreements, vested national interests or a combination of the above mentioned. A confusion and lack of clarity often results in ruining of opportunities which could otherwise turnaround the situation of a nation. By now, you’d have most likely heard about the conflict in Yemen, a regional dominance affair portrayed as a Shia-Sunni sectarian conflict by the script writers of the new world order for their own vested interests. While a lot has been written on the Yemen conflict in the past few days, a focus on economic prospects of the potential decisions has been somewhat lacking. We’ll address it in this write-up.

Pakistan currently has a vital economic dependency on Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) led Gulf coalition. The aid provide during sanctions and the $ 1.5 billion “gift” to Pakistan during current Government just last year maybe one-offs but the continuous provision of oil on “deferred payment” and employment opportunities for millions of Pakistanis in KSA and the Gulf region are of a permanent nature helping sustain Pakistan’s economy. Similarly, Pakistan share important economic ties with United Arab Emirate (UAE) whose companies often invest in Pakistan, albeit of extremely favorable terms in semi-Government or Government owned enterprises. Furthermore Pakistan has recently executed an agreement to import LNG from Qatar to meet its energy needs. The Gulf region is amongst major export destinations of Pakistani products. Annual bilateral trade is in billions of $. In economic terms there is an unfavorable trade imbalance in the trade ties mainly due to the import of oil by Pakistan. Furthermore, there is a convergence on security interests between Pakistan and most of the Gulf countries baring the issues with UAE regarding conflict of interests re Gawadar port as outlined below.

On the other hand, while there are just a few thousands Pakistani employed in Iran (fifteen to twenty thousands), the strategic position of it being a neighbor of Pakistan has serious implications for nation defence and thereby resultant impact on defence spending and national budget. While the past has glorious examples of Pak-Iran collaboration particularly during the 1965 war with India, it is an unfortunate fact that due to the non-convergence of economic and regional security interests, Iran has lately been in partnership with Pakistan’s arch rival India. The process exacerbated due to the divergence of interests in Afghanistan and peaked with the launch of the Gawadar project which directly threatened Iran’s vital “Chahbahar” port just like it threatened the prospects of UAE ports more importantly Dubai. The result has been direct economic costs for Pakistan due to delays in making port operational due to law and order situation supported by foreign interests as well as increased defence spending further straining the national resources.

Keeping in view of the above, perhaps it is high time that the strategic decision makers in Pakistan list the vital national interests that can be secured from both KSA led Gulf region as well as Iran as well as to what extent it can offer its co-operation in return depending on existing agreements. It is vital that we think realistically respecting the support and co-operation we’ve received from our allies over the years but sans undue emotions. USA has done the services expected of Pakistan for years at extremely lucrative terms; it would therefore not be unfair or unethical for Pakistan to pursue the betterment of its inhabitants while supporting its allies.

Below are some proposals in regarding what Pakistan can offer considering its own issues and limitations:

  • Pakistan should focus on its ability play the role of an effective mediator to address the concerns of both Iran and KSA just like it did to bring China and USA closer back in the 1970’s.
  • Deploy air support and commanders to lead Gulf forces within their borders (particularly KSA) to ensure effective defence.
  • Deploying its own forces within KSA to protect its borders from outside attacks.
  • As a last resort conduct targeted air-strikes against local militia on formal request from the Yemen Government and KSA led Gulf coalition on the principle of supporting democratically elected government.

What Pakistan can achieve economically in return may include the following:

  • Assurances from both Iran and UAE to stop stirring up trouble in Balochistan resulting in a quicker start of Gawadar project as well as lower spending on counter-terrorism there.
  • Membership of important bodies including GCC with economic implications.
  • Removal of tariffs on Pakistani imports in their countries, with preferential treatment.
  • Attractive deals to secure reliable LNG, LPG, oil, e.t.c. at cheap rates to ensure Pakistan’s growing energy needs are met effectively. Depending on some key factors Pakistan can secure even free supplies for a long period.
  • Offering special nationality packages to Pakistanis working in the countries involved, which can positively influence the foreign exchange reserves of the country.
  • Writing-off of Pakistan’s debts due towards GCC countries.
  • Paying off Pakistan’s other external debts.

This is yet another historic opportunity for Pakistan and it should not be squandered like many in the past. The demands listed above are all very realistic and possible considering the vital role expected of and the possible costs for Pakistan. They’re also much less then what had been taken by the USA for similar services in the past. So if Pakistan is to play the most important role for one of the richest regions in the world, it may as well get due recognition and rewards. After all the law of the nature is such that even brothers working in brothers’ businesses must get rewarded for their work. And what’s better if the rewards are sufficient for one brother while less then what the other was paying to outsiders.

The author is Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, chartered financial analyst, qualified fellow accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

KBD – as big for Pak’s economy as Atomic weapons for defense

The following article has been published in Daily Nation, dated 16th February 2015

(E-Paper (Print Edition): http://nation.com.pk/E-Paper/lahore/2015-02-16/page-9 )

(Online: http://nation.com.pk/business/16-Feb-2015/kbd-essential-for-economy-as-nukes-for-defence )

KBD essential for economy as nukes for defence

Prof Dp

Pakistan is an agricultural country and needless to say that agriculture is the backbone of its economy. Water management is therefore an integral and extremely important aspect of growing Pakistan’s economy just like for any agricultural economy. However, Pakistan’s water management leaves much to be desired with regular cyclical flooding causing extensive losses to economy along with disrupting millions of lives regularly.

Improper and inadequate water management has not only resulted in shortfall of water in Pakistan but also the tragic wastage of precious water resources which instead wreak havoc in the form of floods every fear years, ending up being wasted without proper water-storage facilities. This is more ironic in the light of the severe energy crisis the country faces and the un-utilized cheap electricity generation option available from most dams.

Think-tanks in developed nations highlight and resolve such issues of national significance. It is therefore extremely important that these issues are deliberated upon, discussed and solutions proposed. Hameed Nizami Press Institute under Mr. Absar Abdul Ali took up the mettle to address this highly neglected issue recently and shared extensive knowledge about the topic as well as proposing valuable corrective measures.

Before sharing some of the key proposals of the experts’ in the conference mentioned above, it is worth mentioning here that just last year alone (in 2014) forty five thousands (45,000) houses and fifteen thousands (15,000) animals were destroyed as well as the losses due to the crops destroyed or damaged in over 300,000 acres of cultivated land, totaling to Rs. 240 billion as per the experts in the said conference. 22 major floods since independence have ravaged Pakistan regularly causing significant economic losses and contributing towards our national dependence on foreign debt and aid. However despite the availability of scientific progressions, practical measures and naturally adequate water-reservoir sites, unfortunately we have been acting as the disobedient son of Prophet Noah (PBUH) and keep on destroying ourselves despite the availability of “ship” which can take us to safety.

The constant floods faced by Pakistan since it gained independence resulted in losses of trillions of rupees due to the destruction of crops, properties, infrastructures, industries, cattle and most importantly human lives. Mr. Fazal Ahmad shared that the former East Pakistan and now Bangladesh used to face worse flooding as compared to the region that is now Pakistan. However their leaders prepared extensive plans to address the situation and implemented it with assistance from international donors. As a result Bangladesh has now materially reduced the problems it faced from flooding, thereby strengthening its economy and improving the quality of lives of its citizens. The question is that if Bangladesh can do it, what is stopping Pakistan from doing the same and reaping the consequential economic benefits?

In this context, former Chairman IRSA Mr. Shafqat Mehmood elaborated that the climate changes are expected to result in erratic behavior of monsoon along-with glacier melting which will cause increase in river flow. To address this potential exacerbation, work is required on both structural and non-structural measures for flood-prevention and protection. Pakistan must increase the storage capacity to mitigate the effect of floods and instead utilize the precious water resources instead of them being wasted. The measures proposed to turnaround the disaster of flooding into a valuable resource includes building dams and water reservoirs, catchment management, high flow diversions, water channel improvements along-with proper regulations, educating the masses, developing reliable flood forecasting and early warning systems, disaster preparedness, flood insurance and post-flood recovery plans.

While smaller dams and reservoirs are being built, there is a general consensus amongst experts that the highly politicized but hugely beneficial “Kalabagh” Dam (KBD) can not only bring significant economic benefits and energy generation capabilities to energy-starved Pakistan but also materially reduce the destruction of floods coming from that path. Former SVP Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Chairman of its Kalabagh Dam committee Mr. Abdul Basit highlighted this issue.

Unfortunately KBD has been largely politicized in Sindh and KPK. While KPK’s objections can be resolved with proper education that Nowsheha will not be flooded but rather saved from flooding due to KBD as many experts including former heads of WAPDS shared along-with offering financial incentives to soften the anti-KBD sentiments. In Sindh the issue is more of a lack of trust as to the fair distribution of water and recently raised issue of damage to the environment. Both can be addressed by measures including giving governing position of the KBD to Sindh with representation of all provinces in a specially formed body to oversee the administration and running of this mega-project which can change the economic and energy fortunes of Pakistan. Some structural changes and mitigation measures can also be agreed to reduce the damage to the environment.

Having said that, the political will be necessary to accomplish the feat is essential. We must recall that never in the known history of nations has there been an absolute consensus on any such project involving human relocation. Even in Pakistan, Mangla and Tarbela Dams were strongly opposed at first but once the Governments decided in their favor, the state implemented its writ. The affected were compensated and today the whole country is reaping the benefits. Imagine if the Governments at that time had given-in to the political pressures instead of making a decision to stand by the national interests where would Pakistan be standing today without both these mega-dams considering the already crippled energy generation systems and meager water storage facilities.

Those who cite political dogma of parties basing their politics on anti-KBD agendas needs to be reminded that despite divided opinion when the decision making circles made a decision, operation against terrorism ensued successfully. Why, then this operation against economic destruction which is equally important for the survival and growth of Pakistan, cannot be undertaken? It can and should be undertaken for the sake of Pakistan. All measures should be used to address the genuine concerns of all stakeholders but any dissent against national interests of Pakistan based on irrationalism and petty self-interests needs to be tackled as such. KBD can be as big for Pakistan’s economy and energy resources as Atomic weapons were to Pakistan’s defense.

The author is Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, chartered financial analyst, qualified fellow accountant and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk

Defence Day, Floods and Kashmir

Defence Day, Floods and Kashmir

Prof Dp

By: Omer Zaheer Meer

An extremely important aspect of modern life, greatly neglected in Muslim societies more so in Pakistan is the independent research and development of practical solutions. Therefore any institution striving for this is a blessing in this age of brain-drain, more so when it not just pay lip-service but also act in line with its motto of “Deliberate, Decipher & Decode”. That’s what attracted me to the idea of founding Millat Thinkers’ Forum (MTF).

Following its tradition of celebrating the national days by focusing attention on issues of national importance unattended by others, MTF focused on the issue of Kashmir on this defence day. It’s a sad tragedy that our younger generation is not educated on vital issues. Even when they’re, mostly the narrative used is the one set by opposing contenders. What can be more tragic for a nation than to be robbed of its history, identity and awareness? Nothing can be.

Noam Chomsky once famously wrote how the masses are deceived without them realizing that they’re misled. This is best suited to people of Pakistan. How many Pakistanis know that the alleged accord Dogra Maharaja Hari Singh signed with India was illegal as he was not a hereditary ruler but a British appointee whose legitimacy was over with the end of the British rule in India? Moreover not many today know that the same Maharaja had already signed a stand-still agreement with Pakistan to hold till will of the Kashmiris can be determined.

Let’s ask that how many times have the Pakistani Foreign Office raised the issue of the hypocrisy that India has shown with regard to Hyderabad and Junagarh both of which were mirror images of Kashmir in that they had a majority of Hindu population but Muslim rulers. Unlike Hari Singh, these were hereditary rulers having their legitimacy intact. Nawab of Hyderabad, one of the biggest and the richest state in India announced its independence while the King of Junagarh signed accession to Pakistan. However the Imperialist India enslaved both with its military might claiming the aspirations of Hindu majority had to be taken into account. But when it comes to Kashmir the same India forgets about the aspirations of the Muslim majority but rather focuses on the so-called accord of a ruler who had no legitimacy.

What more ironic is the fact that India conveniently forgets that it was she who took the issue to the United Nations and pledged a plebiscite under UN’s command to determine the will of the people. Now India doesn’t want to talk about keeping its pledges to the international community as well as the Kashmiris. Such despicable behavior of treachery, broken pledges and hypocrisy would shame even the worst of tyrants.

Fair enough that Pakistan is facing several crises today but they’re all tied up with the Kashmir issue and an amicable and just resolution of the Kashmir quagmire will end most of the problems facing Pakistan today. Let’s be more elaborative about it. Be it the support to the TTP miscreants from Indian consulates in Afghanistan or the supplies and training provided to BLA type terrorists in Balochistan from the same source, the root cause lies in Kashmir issue. Similarly the pattern of water shortage in years of rain shortage due to Indian water reservoirs in Kashmir (many illegally built) closing down the water flow and the devastating floods in years of heavy rainfall due to India opening the floodgates from the same reservoirs are again a direct result of the outstanding Kashmir dispute. The reliance on expensive IPP’s using furnace oil to produce electricity and resulting shortages are also a consequence of Pakistan not getting its due share of water. All these problems particularly the water issues are a death-trap for Pakistan which is essentially an agricultural country.

Having said that, it is also true that successive governments in Pakistan have not only failed Kashmiris but also didn’t take corrective steps within their powers such as building water reservoirs on the available resources to address Pakistan’s ultimate survival issue. Unfortunately the focus seems to be on cosmetic and temporary measures for cheap publicity. Despite losses of billions of rupees in infrastructure destruction, crops devastation and loss of output besides irrecoverable human loss, those in power seems to be failing the nation on the front of water management too.

All this was discussed at the highly successful Defence Day event organized by Millat Thinkers’ Forum at Karachi Shouhada Hall, Lahore High Court on the topic of “Kashmir: The forgotten jugular vein. Past, Present and the way forward” A presentation of real-life atrocities on innocent Kashmiri women, children and elderly by occupying Indian forces sent from Indian Occupied Kashmir by Millat Facebook members was also presented. Amongst the prominent dignitaries at the event was the host, Mr. Zaheer Ahmad Meer Advocate (Patron Millat Thinkers’ Forum, Managing Partner Professionals’ Social Network and President Hum Kashmiri Lawyers) and other eminent guests included:

Justice (R) Allah Nawaz (ex Chief Justice Lahore High Court)

Justice (R) Sharif Hussain Bokhari (ex Judge Lahore High Court)

Admiral (R) Javaid Iqbal,

General (R) Rahat Latif,

Mrs. Ayesha Qazi (President Lahore Tax Bar Association),

Mr. Munim Sultan (G. Sec Lahore Tax Bar Association),

Mr. Absar Abdul Ali (Director, Hameed Nizami Press Institute),

Mian Khalid Habib Elahi (Advocate Supreme Court & ex D. Attorney General Punjab),

Mr. Mansoor Ur Rehman Afridi (Advocate Supreme Court, ex VC Punjab Bar Council & ex President Lahore Bar Association)

and

Mr. Sajjad Mehmood Butt (Advocate Supreme Court & Patron Hum Kashmiri Lawyers)

The closing proposals adopted unanimously as resolutions were that the Government of Pakistan should take concrete steps to build water reservoirs, build an effective narrative on the Kashmir issue and spread it globally, standby Kashmiris and provide them all possible support, internationally highlight the UN resolution and the lack of legitimacy of Hari Singh, a British appointee whose rule ended with the British rule and do not give up on its principled stand. There will come a time when Pakistan and Kashmiris will be able to get their right, just like the China-Taiwan case. Determination, resilience and steadfastness would be required as even a century is not much in the lives of nations. Otherwise the nations who start squandering their rights end up surrendering their independence too.

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The author is Director of the think-tank “Millat Thinkers’ Forum”. He is a leading economist, chartered accountant, qualified financial analyst and anti-money laundering expert with international exposure who can be reached on Twitter and www.myMFB.com @OmerZaheerMeer or omerzaheermeer@hotmail.co.uk