Pakistan Independence Day 2020
The year 2020 is one of perseverance and caution, yet, Pakistan as a nation has copious reasons to rejoice and be thankful to the Almighty Allah. Through overwhelming odds, the ship of Pakistan is sailing forward. 14th August 2020 marks a day of celebration like never before. Challenges are surrounding us from all sides but as long as the Will is intact, there is hope. Our challenges have meshed with opportunities of equal magnitude. On this Independence Day, let us recount our successes and congratulate each other for what we have been able to achieve with our eyes set on the horizon.
The Covid-19 began at the outset of January and by the beginning of February, had reached Pakistan. World Health Organization and well-known research institutes made the darkest predictions owing to the poor health infrastructure and thickly populated areas of the country. The pandemic curve began like in many other developing countries. Cases rose from hundreds to thousands in mere weeks. Lack of information, awareness, equipment and personnel made COVID a demanding task. The response from the Government was nothing short of commendable. Recovering from the initial shock, the Governance system was tried and tested in view of the Civil-Military co-ordination. The NCOC, NDMA and Health Department of Provincial Governments performed to their best. No doubt, there were initial setbacks as the learning curve showed a progressive pattern. Many doctors, medical staff and workers got infected and many achieved martyrdom. The Nation salutes all those who were a part of the Covid-19 effort, particularly, the doctors, nurses, police and the army. Inside the hospitals, the staff was putting their lives on the line while the police, army and related departments were saving lives by co-coordinating lockdowns to control the spread of the virus. People were told to stay in their homes while Government officials working in essential departments came out to keep the country running. In all this chaos, the Prime Minister kept firm on his vision not to neglect the poverty-stricken segments of the society during the lockdown. Relief efforts, donations, charity and volunteer work were remarkable. And for this, Imran Khan deserves acknowledgement in a country that has a long history of elitism and aristocracy. In the culmination of events, as of August, there have been around six thousand deaths. This is a number which was predicted to be in hundreds of thousands by multiple research institutes, a miracle by all means. On this Independence Day, all citizens of Pakistan should pay their regards and thanks to Almighty Allah and to all those who have played their part in averting a disaster. Conversely, COVID pandemic in neighbouring India is rampaging with over 40 thousands deaths, numbers climbing daily and no respite. The same story is coming to light in Africa, South America and the United States of America. May God have mercy on all and forgive mankind for its sins.
On the economic side, Pakistan was rescued by the IMF bailout. Low Tax revenues, consumption based economy, high input costs and low exports are persistent. The COVID pandemic hurt the economy even further with low economic activity and International Trade. The economy is set to shrink by over 9 percent in the current fiscal year. Over one million jobs could be lost. IMF granted COVID relief fund to Pakistan which was consumed in total to re-supply medical equipment to hospitals overwhelmed by COVID patients. However, Pakistan is pulling itself out of the negative growth quagmire. The most noticeable achievement is the achievement of the tax revenue target by the Federal Board of Revenue even in the purview of the Covid-19 lockdown. Exports are showing positive trends as world markets are re-opening. The power grid has been improved and there are fewer electricity outages which will boost the industry and the service sector. Recently, construction began on the Diamer-Bhasha Dam which should have begun decades ago. A project of 4500MW which will create over 16 thousand jobs over the next three years is nothing short of exceptional. It will also improve the infrastructure in and around Gilgit Baltistan and improve water reservoir of the country. In collaboration with Chinese firms, many other river spots are being identified to make more Dams. This is the most under-acknowledged event as it will cure the national reserve from importing fossil fuels; a hefty burden on the economy, while at the same time it will offer an environmentally friendly renewable energy source. Building Dams can cure the problem of environment, fossil fuel imports, water reserves, energy costs and unemployment in a single effort. Pakistan is headed in the right direction.
On the regional side, the state of affairs is as dynamic as it is chaotic. Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is enjoying a key position in multiple geopolitical issues. First and foremost, Pakistan and China are expanding their bi-lateral relations to new objectives. To address the reservations of the Chinese ministries regarding the impact of political upheavals in Pakistan on CPEC and Belt and Road Initiative(BRI), the present Government took the bold step of establishing the new CPEC authority headed by Retired Lt General Asim Bajwa. It a move of pure stratagem to ensure the unheeded growth protection and co-ordination of CPEC projects under the civil-military agencies. The negative influence of changing Governments and political party crisis will now have zero impact on CPEC and BRI. Similarly, Pakistan and Chinese Military have also engaged each other in critical programs to safeguard the security of the projects, along with much-needed security. The Pakistan model of Chinese investment is now being extended to Iran as well. It seems China is slowly taking over where the United States is withdrawing. A 400 Billion Dollar investment plan has been unveiled to uplift Iran ignoring the sanctions by the United States and the United Nations. “After Pakistan, the Dragon comes to Iran”, wrote the New York Times. As India has delayed its investment plans in Iran because of pressure from the United States, China has capitalized on the situation by ensuring India’s exit from Iran with a geo-political deal that connects Iran and Pakistan, ushering in a new era of diplomatic, military, technological and developmental ties like never before. The world knows, in the form of Iran, Pakistan and China, a trilateral partnership is born. Gwadar and Chabahar are no longer competitors but twin ports serving a common goal, free from the opposing influence of Delhi. Endorsing this partnership is the situation in Afghanistan, where Pakistan has been a major player since the beginning. Russia and Turkey are also improving their contacts with Iran and Pakistan as they become power centres in collaboration with Beijing. On the other hand, India is on the back-foot in the UN Security Council with the lockdown in Kashmir and the position in Ladakh. The Modi Government is re-considering their strategy as the world opinion on India and Indian Occupied Kashmir is taking a negative turn.
Pakistan is a country of crisis but it is also a nation that is unpredictable talent. It can defy negative predictions and come out of the crisis with remarkable marvels. Let us celebrate this year’s Independence Day recognizing the fact that our confrontations are great but our resolve is greater. Long Live Pakistan. . .
(The writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation)