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WHAT was the drone doing inside Pakistani airspace? The confirmation by the Foreign Office on Wednesday that the Pakistan Air Force had shot down an Iranian drone over Panjgur, Balochistan and the silence thus far by Iranian officials suggest that the drone did not accidentally slip into Pakistani airspace. The location also hints at increased Iranian surveillance of a region in which CPEC projects are in full swing. The latest incident along an already tense Pak-Iran border ought to serve as a warning to both states: address through dialogue the apprehensions of the other or risk an unnecessary and undesirable escalation in tensions that neither country can afford at this juncture.

In order to have sustainable economic growth and adequate foreign exchange, Pakistan needs to eradicate the trade deficit and ensure that the balance of trade becomes favourable for Pakistan. This requires a series of initiatives to be taken. First, the alignment of the production structure will need to be prioritised. Currently, Pakistan primarily exports in the areas of cotton and cotton products. Although there has been a change in trend and more manufactured goods are being exported as compared to raw materials, Pakistan needs to diversify its export base which requires diversification of production structure. The industrial policy should encourage the establishment of heavy, basic and engineering industries

On June 12During a recent visit to Afghanistan and subsequent interactions with senior government leaders including Dr Abdullah, former president Hamid Karzai and other security officials, I came to the conclusion that the Afghan leadership – across the board – is fully convinced that the Taliban and the Haqqanis are operating from Pakistani soil. This means that the Afghan leadership has effectively persuaded the new US administration that any political or negotiated settlement of the Afghan conflict is not a viable option and that their enemies be chased beyond the Durand Line as well.

People are not clear whether the case will be finally decided before the next election. Para 91 of the judgment says that the special bench on receiving the report from the JIT could refer it to the accountability court which sounds logical. That may be the right route of any corruption case. The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal hence the Sharifs should not be denied their right to exhaust the trial at the lower court. But there is confusion that in a Para 5 final judgment it has been said that on receiving the JIT report the case could be referred to the chief justice of Pakistan for trial by the special bench of Supreme Court. My lawyer friends believed it would be the special bench of the Supreme Court and not the accountability court which would decide the fate of the prime minister’s family

Moreover, social media is inundated with the evidence of how fund raising campaign is in full swing in FATA, Chaman and other areas of KP and Balochistan for ‘Jihad in Afghanistan’. Not too long ago, Pakistan’s key politicians including Imran Khan and PML-N’s sitting federal minister Gen (Retd.) Abdul Qayyum were saying that the violence in Afghanistan is not terrorism, but Afghan struggle against ‘foreign occupation’, thus legitimising the gory events that the state of Pakistan condemns in the statements issued after almost every major terrorist attack in Afghanistan. The sincerity of all these statements becomes suspicious when siting as well as former officials keep parroting these mixed statements, which not only damage Pakistan’s goodwill among the Afghan people and leadership, but also confuse our own masses

"...India continues to be unrepentant about its role in Afghanistan. On the surface, this is understandable: Big Momma India helping out orphaned Afghanistan. In reality, India’s interest in Afghanistan is principally strategic and malign. Pakistanis are most likely correct to be paranoid about India in Afghanistan. But Pakistan’s responses to this threat have been self-effacing, at best: alienating Afghan refugees, and Afghan public opinion, demonising all Afghans as supportive of the TTP and allowing deliberate provocations by the Ghani-Modi combine to successfully trigger over the top reactions. In this scenario, where so much of the core strategic problems are the same today as they were in 2009, no matter what decision James Mattis and the Pentagon make, or advise President Trump to take, they will find themselves in the same overarching sleeper hold that Obama, McChrystal, and later Petraeus dove into at West Point."

No matter how well we try and twist the narrative, one cannot help but suspect that some unwanted people may indeed be hosted on our land by the authorities. We may in fact be able to find a lot of evidence about this scattered across the country. Those possibly hosted in ‘sensitive’ areas might be cringing everytime a statement comes from Foreign Office or Ministry of Defence to the effect that across the board action is being taken against all militants. The question remains: why the hesitation in naming Taliban and Haqqani network? Our generosity towards‘some leaders’ might have strategic causes. That is, we need them as our insurance policy in a rapidly changing scenario along the western border. Who knows when the post-drawdown US forces are further scaled down yet another Taliban insurgency gets to power — a la 1996!

It would not be surprising, therefore, for India and the US to use all the resources at their disposal to launch a concerted propaganda campaign to discredit CPEC in the eyes of the people of Pakistan and among its influential circles. This is precisely what is happening right now. Rumour mills are working overtime through media and otherwise to create all sorts of doubts among the Pakistani people about the real intentions of China and effects of CPEC on Pakistan. A ridiculous rumour that is being bandied about is that through CPEC China would acquire a controlling influence in Pakistan turning it into a Chinese colony. There couldn’t be anything more preposterous than this charge which has no basis in reality. CPEC has been voluntarily agreed between two sovereign nations and is designed to serve their best strategic and economic interests. Its projects would bring badly needed investment in Pakistan in such sectors as energy, which has been facing a huge power shortfall, transport, communications, agriculture and industry. Many of those making the above mentioned outlandish accusation because of their well-known Western leanings would have been quite happy to support the plan if it were US or some other Western country offering to invest on such a vast scale in Pakistan

The Astana Summit is historic for Pakistan and will have long term repercussions in the region. Prime Minister has rightly mentioned in his speech that “the SCO had been transformed into true transcontinental organisation. The SCO played the role of sheet anchor for regional progress and prosperity in view of the global changes.” As a torchbearer of peace in the region, Mr. Sharif congratulated first India for becoming full members of SCO but the hawkish remarks of Mr. Modi in his speech showed that the policy makers in India are not in a mood to normalise relations with Pakistan. Pakistan is pursuing its policy of peaceful coexistence and non interference. Sooner or later, Indian leaders would also realise that the panacea for all ills is in dialogue and having good neighborly relations in the region

Whatever way one looks at it, the electoral deck as it currently stands is still stacked in favour of the ruling party. They have comfortable margins in most seats, and will likely use this year`s provincial annual development plan to shore up support in places like Lahore and Rawalpindi divisions, which are expected to be more competitive. In an earlier piece, I mentioned that the prime minister`s disqualification and a hasty leadership transition in PML-N remains the surest way of triggering defections of strong, electable candidates, and producing the kind of swing the PTI needs. This is also the benchmark that PTI has set in its public statements, and as the numbers given earlier highlight, seems to be the only thing they can pin their hopes on for 2018

In light of what we don’t know, and the little that we sometimes do, to have any clear opinion about whether CPEC is a ‘fate changer’, either for the Chinese, or more probably potentially for Pakistan, is not possible. Yet, with what has already been achieved and accomplished and with some trends evident, one can draw some possible scenarios for what may lie ahead. However, any such suggestions could also belong to the realm of either wishful thinking or even wild fantasy, but allow for some reflection. It is clear that as a result of CPEC, some sort of transformation of Pakistan, is underway. It also seems more than certain that this is a Chinese project, rather than a Pakistani one, and the benefits will be far in the favour of Chinese investments than Pakistani ones, and Pakistanis will be merely externalities to the large project and its investments. Clearly, Pakistan will also benefit, especially once the power production and infrastructure come on line, but most of the benefits are heavily loaded in favour of the Chinese

Because of four main reasons Pakistan is facing a catch 22 situation as far as dealing with Qatar crisis is concerned. First, since Pakistan has cordial relations with both Qatar and Saudi Arabia and is also dependent on both the Gulf countries for economic reasons, it cannot afford to be partisan and take sides in the prevailing conflict. If Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain exert pressure over Pakistan to cut off diplomatic relations with Qatar and ban Qatar Airways operating its flights from that country, Pakistan must refuse such coercion because acquiescing to Riyadh led alliance against Qatar would compromise its national interest and sovereignty

Riyadh’s plan seems to be to besiege Doha diplomatically, especially in the Islamic world. However, the conflict could escalate into a military engagement depending on signals from Trump, who has a deep dislike for Muslims and is certainly the inspiration behind the ongoing tension which has started to look like kabuki, a form of Japanese dance. A war would cripple the Islamic world as Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies would fight with the help of Egypt and Pakistan against a Qatari-Turkish military contingent. Turkey is displeased with the UAE for its alleged financing of the failed military rebellion in 2016. It has already dispatched 3000 troops for Qatar’s defense

Let’s not even imagine things. Let’s recall a high court ordering Musharraf’s arrest and the general being whisked away with no one daring to carry out the order; his palatial farmhouse being declared a sub jail; his motorcade being diverted to a military hospital so he didn’t have to appear before a court. Let’s recall the gripe of our guardians at the time: that a general is being humiliated by being dragged before the courts for subversion of the constitution and that such accountability is unacceptable, being inimical for the morale of the troops. Why is critique or accountability of a general a national security concern, but the accountability of a civilian prime minister the triumph of rule of law?

The eight-member group which now includes Pakistan and India as members and Iran and Afghanistan as observers makes SCO an organization with a significant segment of proven oil and gas reserves and also hosts four of the world's nuclear powers under one roof. Energy starved Pakistan will have greater access to access to Kazakhstan's oil, Uzbekistan's uranium and Turkmenistan's natural gas and will also have the opportunity to see the fruition of its projects like TAPI and CASA 1000. The group will afford Pakistan greater opportunities for trade and commerce links with the SCO. The landlocked members of the organization can benefit from the port facilities of Pakistan.

More worrisome than India’s thorny relations with fellow members Pakistan and China is the trajectory of the Modi government that is taking the ‘world’s largest democracy’ straight to the lap of Uncle Sam. What about the US-India nexus in Afghanistan and their joint hybrid war against CPEC? What about LEMOA and other foundational agreements with the US that undermine the very purpose of SCO? Besides, can Eurasian connectivity be built upon the dead bodies of innocent men, women and children of Kashmir?

As Pakistan’s highest powered delegation returned from a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia questions still abound, including the most basic ones – what was the purpose of the trip and what was achieved, if anything was achieved at all? These questions are all the more important given the context; in the middle of full blown diplomatic crisis in the Gulf where the vast majority of public opinion is urging neutrality and conciliation. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Chief of Army Staff, and Finance Minister visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for reasons unknown...While the executive usually handles diplomatic outreach on its own, it is justified for the National Assembly to demand oversight in this case. Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia has always involved an element of military cooperation, and Pakistan has been forced to unwillingly adopt the kingdom’s stance in the Middle East on many occasions. 

Indeed, it will not be easy for the third Sharif government to repeat the 1997 episode, but the intimidation campaign launched by members of the ruling party can be compared to the 1997 storming of the court. The objective is the same: to stop the court from proceeding against the country`s most powerful ruling family. The likening of the Sharif government to a `Sicilian Mafia` might appear overly critical but the riotous ways of the government are disgraceful.Undoubtedly, some objection on the composition of the JIT, particularly the inclusion of the military intelligence agencies, may be valid, but it must not be used as an excuse to obstruct the investigation.

It is evident that Qatar is being punished for choosing to have an independent foreign policy, which is quite necessary given their geographical positioning. Qatar over the last 20 years has managed to maintain ties with Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the United States of America (USA). It offers a free media and an open political environment. At the same time, it is politically intelligent to have become a land that accommodates all; it helps mediate between sides and resolve some of the most crucial issues. Developing that in the Middle East is a huge advantage, especially if some actors genuinely want to do away with sectarianism

The importance Pakistan attaches to resolving the latest turmoil in the Middle East can be gauged by the fact that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s entourage for his one-day visit to Jeddah included his closest advisers and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa. During his trip, Nawaz met with King Salman bin Abdul Aziz and was received by Makkah Governor Prince Faysal bin Abdul Aziz. As yet, it is unclear if the mission was successful in convincing the Saudis that the blockade of Qatar is counter-productive but it was important for Pakistan to state its position. As an ally of both Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the rift places Pakistan in a difficult position. Nawaz has had good relations with the royal families of both countries which puts him in a good position to act as a mediator. Saudi Arabia and Qatar might expect us to be on their respective sides but the National Assembly has made clear that Pakistan will not be supporting any one country over the other. 

The Chinese investment in the energy sector will bring electricity, employment opportunities for locals and taxes for local and federal governments. These projects are going to be operated by investors for up to 20 years. Wang Binghua, Chairman of the Board of China Power International Development Limited – which is building the Hub Power Plant in Balochistan – said, “We come to Pakistan not for profits only. We attach more importance to development of local industries, helping them to become more sustainable”. All energy projects under CPEC are FDI projects in line with international practice..

We are at it again – the only difference being the relative modesty that we have exhibited in making these claims public. However, by signing on the Riyadh declaration, we have actually committed ourselves to the same kind of strategic haze that accompanied each multilateral alliance whose stated aim was totally different from its actual goals: the cold war was about fighting the Russians; the jihad in Afghanistan was about defeating the Russians; the war against terror turned out to be Washington’s way of turning the world upside down and changing global maps

In the last couple of years, one sector of Pakistan that has gravely suffered is education. Successive governments have failed to prioritise the need to educate the citizens, and allot a significant amount of the federal budget towards its improvement. The education budget for the year 2013-14 was a little over 2 percent, 537.6 billion to be precise. According to Pakistan Social and Living Standards Measurement Survey (PSLM), the literacy rate which was previously 60 percent has gone down to 58 percent.We are already lagging way behind on our Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of reaching 88 percent in 2015. Intake in primary schools has decreased. Four out of every child is not going to school in the country.

Since the early days, Pakistan has taken the consistent position that it will not take sides or participate in conflicts between Muslim states. Thus, it adopted a neutral stance during the Iran-Iraq war and participated in a six-nation Islamic heads of state committee to end the war. Such neutrality did not detract from Pakistan’s traditional commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia and the holy places. This practised paradigm provides a sound guide for Pakistan’s policy in the current context. Of course, Pakistan’s neutrality should be reciprocated by Iran in the context of Pakistan’s challenges with Afghanistan and India

It is now clear that contrary to what the government of Pakistan and ISPR were trying to make Pakistanis believe, the military alliance is an anti-Iran initiative. Trump blamed Iran, the only enemy, for exporting terrorism to the Middle East. By distorting history and recorded facts, he played on the vulnerabilities of the Arab Kingdoms to secure an arm sales that would eventually run beyond 450 billion US dollars. This military imperialism is amusing...Pakistan’s eagerness to join this alliance was due to ignorance and a lack of insight about Arab politics. It is based on a long prevailing mindset of deriving advantages out of alliances and invoking religious sentiments. The new Arab politics is the least about religion; it is about survival and power. It is time Pakistan washes its hands off this alliance and General Raheel Sharif packs his bags and returns home

Maybe it is good that we are no more the center of this terrible universe. Years after years Pakistan has been the forefront to this war on terror. It has both been the breeding ground for the activities and indeed been the most impacted one along with its neighbor Afghanistan. Syria and its civil war has taken the attention away from Pakistan; attention of the world and the terrorist groups. ISIS has made Al-Qaeda busy and we are left with only a fractured Taliban to worry about. This gives the country its share of well-deserved breather. Maybe Pakistan should take that with open arms. But, no.

Now that the Prime Minister’s visit to Saudi Arabia at the US-Arab-Islamic Summit has ended, the government is attempting some damage control. A foreign visit that involved two of our closest allies (at least in the past) should have at least featured our leader of government in a more prominent position. However, this summit saw Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif sidelined, Pakistan ignored, with no opportunity to address those gathered, and not even a mention of the sacrifices made by the country in fighting terrorism in President Trump’s speech. After this snub, rather than use the situation to demand from our allies that we be acknowledged, the Foreign Office has chosen to defend President Trump..

The first economic survey post-IMF bailout package paints a mixed picture. Not much has changed in terms of economic targets, as most of them have been missed.  The good news is that the economy has a growth rate of 5.28 percent — its highest in almost a decade — as compared to the expected 5.7 percent. Yet other economic indicators portray a dismal outlook. Inflation is up; forex reserves — although relatively stable — have declined to $21 billion, while remittances and foreign direct investment (FDI) stand at $15.6 billion and $1.17 billion, respectively

There were not many surprises as Finance Minister Ishaq Dar unveiled the PML-N government’s final budget before next year’s general elections. Dar painted a picture of a country that was on the verge of default in May 2013 and is today on the ‘cusp of a high economic growth trajectory.’ The budget shows a 5.3 percent growth in GDP, the first time in over a decade that a figure just past the five percent mark has been reached. However, for understandable reasons, what Dar did not highlight is the fact that there is also a current account deficit of $8.5 billion by the end of the year – something that essentially exposes deep-lying economic flaws. The government’s explanation that ‘machinery imports’ account for this could be true but also underscores the fact that Pakistan requires large imports while its exports continue to decline steadily. The GDP growth has also been inflated by agricultural production returning to normal after an exceptionally poor 2015-16. To the government’s credit, tax revenues have increased by 81 percent          in four years, which is a big plus – as is the reduction of the budget deficit to 4.2 percent of GDP

It was a hard decision to make for Mr Sharif. The Saudis have been his personal saviours and hosts in difficult times. They have also been Pakistan’s historical “friend”. Over a couple of million Pakistani workers remit billions of dollars annually to shore up the country’s forex reserves and stabilize its currency, apart from the Saudis providing oil on favourable terms. From time to time they also pitch in with balance of payments support. The US, too, has been a benefactor for decades, supplying Pakistan with top-notch military hardware and tens of billions of dollars in economic and military aid. Not to scratch their backs now after they have been scratching Pakistan’s for decades couldn’t have endeared us to them in their moment of need. So if they weren’t exactly gushing over Mr Sharif, why hold him culpable?

The issue with strategic relationships is often that they impose limitations on action or an alteration of course. The fact that Nawaz Sharif had to sit through the meeting explains the burden of a strategic relationship that is rarely admitted in Pakistan’s foreign policy narrative. It is not just a matter of the prime minister’s possible business interests but the fact that we reportedly have 7,000 military personnel currently serving in Saudi Arabia and have had a sizeable contingent serving there since the 1980s explains one crucial aspect of our dependency. The formation of a Muslim NATO and the appointment of a four-star general is another avenue that may expand. While Saudi Arabia will remain dependent on American arms supplies, it would require Pakistani generals, ground forces, and naval and air technicians to run the military machine.

Pakistan cannot afford to corner Iran by damaging its bilateral terms. The geopolitical situation in the region are also creating difficulties for Pakistan as three of its four neighbours – India, Iran and Afghanistan – are accusing Pakistan of letting terrorists use its soils for harbouring attacks in the neighbouring countries. The situation can deteriorate in the near future if they join their hands against Islamabad. Pakistan has always contested US pressure that it was not taking ‘adequate action’ against terrorist groups.

There is a general aversion among the tribespeople to a merger with KP. Many of them believe that Fata’s integration with KP will relegate their political influence. They are also aware that the province primarily accords priority in all fields to Peshawar and neglects other areas. The experience of integrating Pata and the consequent upheavals that occurred and the demand for a separate Hazara province is not lost on them. Since they are in the minority, the tribespeople will remain captive to any legislation that will be enacted even if it is against their interests

If opportunities for investment and high wage employment are provided to the middle classes and the poor rather than just the elite, then a broader base would be created for investment, productivity increase and innovation. Thus a higher and sustained growth can be achieved through equity. Such inclusive growth requires not only budgetary provisions for providing high quality education and skill-training for people but also access over productive resources, credit and equitable access over markets. Pakistan will have to move out of being what I have called ‘economic apartheid’ to being an economic democracy.

It is doubly ironic that opposition figures were the ones to bemoan the perceived slight to Pakistan in Riyadh when they had enthusiastically participated in the parliamentary vote that had rejected sending Pakistani troops to fight the US-Saudi war in Yemen. If the opposition’s advice on speaking up during the summit were to be taken, PM Nawaz Sharif would have ended up damaging Pakistan’s relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia – and would have received flak at home as well. It is time for political expediency to be sacrificed for genuine national interest. As far as the exchange between Trump and Nawaz is concerned, token acceptance of Pakistan’s sacrifices from an erratic US president would barely do anything to improve the security situation at home – which is Pakistan’s to fight

Iran and Pakistan can easily manage their bilateral differences, particularly those concerning cross Pak-Iran border terrorist (Jundullah, Jaesh ul Adl) and other illegal activities. It is the regional scenario that needs skillful handling. The interplay of hostile intelligence agencies such as CIA, Mossad and RAW in these areas is a matter of mutual concern. The bottom line however is Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia and Iran’s with India and the negativity generated by these two relationships on their bilateral ties and presumed national interests. The Iranians are particularly peeved at Pakistan joining the Islamic Military Alliance against Terrorism (IMAT) - a US backed and Saudi Arabia sponsored initiative.

In navigating the Saudi–Iran divide, Pakistan has tried to get the best of both worlds – as it should – however, in reality it is not getting much of either. Admittedly, there is an inherent difficulty in maintaining balance across such a stark and antagonistic divide, there can be no excuses for a diplomatic policy that sees Pakistan struggling to get in the good books of both nations. The perceived snub at the “Anti-Terrorism Summit” held in Riyadh emphasises that point. Not only was the Prime Minister not given any time to address the assembled leaders from the Muslim world, the speeches made by President Donald Trump and the Saudi King Salman both pointedly ignored mentioning the efforts of Pakistan in being a victim of terrorism and recognising its role in effectively combating the threat. India – which enjoys close ties with the US president – got a mention however, undercutting Pakistan’s narrative on Kashmir and beyond. Both King Salman and President Trump seemed more interested in denouncing Iran than talking about anti-terrorism, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had to sit there tacitly agreeing to all that was being said

The LTP reported by DAWN has been developed by the China Development Bank and the National Development Reform Commission of China. It shows China’s intentions and vision about CPEC. The draft shows that the centre of gravity for CPEC is the agriculture sector. Thousands of acres of agricultural land will be leased to Chinese contractors for carrying out demonstration projects. Taking into consideration the rapidly growing agrarian needs of China, the country is spending  a huge amount on these items. Its spending on agrarian products approximately equals the total size of Pakistani exports as of 2016. Since agricultural products are a priority for China, CPEC’s focus on the agriculture sector makes sense from Chinese perspective. Investments in Pakistani agriculture sector will increase the size of our gross domestic product (GDP) but who gets to benefit the most from these investments will be more important than the mere increase in the size of the GDP. Meanwhile, if agriculture sector is the main priority then the CPEC’s image as a massive industrial and transport undertaking — involving power plants and highways — may need clarification from Pakistani side.

According to Pakistan bureau of statistics report, women comprise around 48 percent of FATA’s population, but they have had no opportunity to include their charter of demands in proposed reforms. No woman has yet been elected to the National Assembly as a representative of FATA, and, before Badam Zari, no woman had ever contested elections on a general seat from this tribal region.

There are five key dimensions to the Fata conversation that should inform the future outcomes for that region. The first is the broad expanse of rights, dignity and wellbeing of the people of these tribal areas. Women, children, young people and all others from Fata deserve the same opportunity to dream and pursue dreams as people anywhere else. Reform should empower and enable the people of Fata to dream in 4K and to pursue those dreams in any and all parts of Pakistan, if not the world.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia, Trump and the Saudi monarch announced $400 billion in deals, including a massive $110 billion agreement for the Saudis to purchase military equipment from the US defence industry. In his rambling speech, Trump made sure to point out that he would get the Saudis the best deal possible from American weapons manufacturers. This is at the heart of the US decision to plant itself firmly on the Saudi side. It is not principled opposition to Iran but an interest in keeping its defence industry rolling in cash. That the US would act out of greed is hardly something new. And that it hardly ever considers its own actions when placing the blame for terrorism is unsurprising as well. The US has never contended with how its decades of support for repressive regimes around the world, its support for Israel and the many wars in places like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have been instrumental in the rise of terrorism as a result of the breakdown of societies and states. Trump’s visit shows that the US has not learned from its mistakes and is doubling down on the same destructive strategy to maintain its power in the Middle East

First, Pakistan needs to move away from its denial of the Afghan Taliban and Haqqani network still, allegedly, operating from its soil. US intelligence sources say they are convinced, not only of the presence of these outfits in Pakistan but of material support to them by the establishment...There is also the concern that military action against them on Pakistani soil will drive them closer to Pakistani militants and destabilise Pakistan further. This isn’t a difficult one to explain to the US but it should be done judiciously rather than presenting an apo­­calyptic scenario — especially now that the state has a better handle on internal thre­ats from the Pakistani Taliban and their affiliates.Third, Pakistan should stop saying that it has lost leverage over the Afghan Taliban.

Recently, against the backdrop of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and under intense pressure from civil society and locals, a committee was formed under the adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to examine the constitutional status of this region. Two years of procrastination and inaction on the part of the committee came to an end when the hand of the federal government was forced by the Indian leadership’s relentlessly belligerent campaign against the passage of CPEC through this area. The government of Pakistan was roused enough to make some half-hearted statements about addressing the issue of granting constitutional rights to the people of GB — without the intention of disturbing or altering its stance on the Kashmir issue

While the arms deal underlines the military ambitions of Saudi Arabia and gives the coalition it leads a little more credibility, the more immediate effect of the move is on Yemen. Countries around the world are debating withdrawing military contracts with the Saudis because of the indiscriminate way with which the country has bombed Yemen – leading to a protracted food shortage crisis and calls by human rights watchdogs to investigate war crimes. This massive arms deal with the US in the middle of all this not only strengthens the ability of the Saudi military to continue its war, but also acts as a clear approval of the campaign on the global stage. The concerns of human rights violations are whitewashed – as they always seem to be when a US ally is the one committing 

Now let us take a closer look at our comparative advantages: 1) We are an agricultural country; 2) We are a market of about 200 million people; 3) Pakistan is located at the crossings of trade routes from Casablanca in Africa to Kashgar in west China’s Xinjiang Uighur autonomous region and from Thailand in Southeast Asia to Turkey beyond the Middle East. These advantages can be exploited to the maximum if we really turn our attention to agriculture and develop its down and upstream production chain not only for local consumption but also for export to four corners of the world and the region from the Hub

So the World Bank's update is full of glowing remarks for Pakistan? Not exactly. The report issues numerous warnings that not all is well. Revenue growth is slowing, with the fiscal deficit growing for the first time in three years. Exports continue to fall as imports grow, substantially increasing the current account deficit. Investments rates - already low - fell further in FY16. The energy sector circular debt has resurfaced. There is a possibility that Pakistan may lose its impressive gains achieved over the past four years

Both the relative secrecy and the almost sacred status of CPEC in Pakistan’s policy space are supported by all decision-makers. While there were quibbles around regional inequalities in an initial phase, those conversations have largely been silenced through a combination of partial disclosure and constant back-channel talks, including by Chinese authorities. To use a tiresome cliché, the Pakistani political and military elite appear on the same page when it comes to the corridor and the conversation around it.

Look at the two IMF statements once again. So little has changed in almost 10 years and the IMF is warning against issues similar to the ones Pakistan faced in 2007. The latest set of data is enough to make one recall the height of the Musharraf-era boom and feel nauseous at the thought of what could come next. Pakistan’s trade deficit has increased by 40pc in the first 10 months of this fiscal year to $26.55bn. This is already almost $5bn over the target the finance ministry had set for 2017. The current account deficit has widened by over 200pc in the first 10 months of this year to $7.25bn.

In the aftermath of the ICJ”s verdict, the Pakistani legal team has received quite some flak at home, for being grossly under prepared and rushed. Some experts say that because they believed the ICJ does not have jurisdiction, they should not have attended the hearing. Others suggest that Pakistan was ill-prepared and thus unable to utilize the 90 minutes it had to make its case.

The fate of the proposed reforms in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) seems to be in the doldrums again as the prime minister has reportedly ordered the Riwaj Act to be held back till further orders. According to media reports, the prime minister was forced to halt the reform process after JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman showed strong opposition outweighing the demands of other tribal lawmakers who want the merger process to be expedited.