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CPEC: JIGSAW takes shapes in Balochistan

Balochistan would remain the soft belly of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for a decade or two.  And in this context, the current security sate in Balochistan is likely to stay by and large the same. Internal disturbance and foreign interference are likely to continue. Direct and indirect foreign interference is likely to remain a potent facto. Therefore, security of the infrastructure has to be planned and executed in a comprehensive way, not only in terms of gun and bullet but also in terms of community participation. Security of personnel working on the CPEC related projects could only be achieved by making the local population stakeholders in these projects through Corporate Social Responsibility offset projects.

Process of contacts began by Dr Malik needs to be expedited and the exiled Baloch leadership should be convinced to return and paly their role in the development of Balochistan by mobilizing the opportunities unleashed by CPEC. While there in enough of attraction for the international players for the, the uphill task has been to save it from the internal and external spoilers. Credit goes to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, so far he has been able to do this job well. Most of the uproar on the issue has been on faulty assumptions and non-availability of complete information about the upcoming projects that would keep unfolding as the overall CPEC programme keeps materialising.

From political perspective, the things are moving in the right direction. Mid-term political transition has been smooth and without any blame game. Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Khan Zehri has once again extended an invitation to self-exiled Baloch leaders to the negotiating table for resolving political issues and building on the reconciliatory approach of the government. This process needs to be accelerated to build on past breakthroughs. Narratives that engage the stakeholders rather than isolate them are key to stability. Politics of violence have hurt Balochistan, and the use of force brings nothing but destruction. Time is ripe for a new beginning, while at the same time window of opportunity may not be unlimited.

Pakistan and China had signed an agreement on April 20, 2015 to commence work on CPEC development projects worth over $46 billion, which comes to roughly 20 per cent of Pakistan’s annual GDP. The corridor aims to connect Gwadar port in Balochistan to China’s Xinjiang region via a network of highways, railways and pipelines spread over 3,000km.

As per its track record, India has raised objections to the project and has set aside US$ 300 million to cause disruptive activities both physical and political. India has lodged permanent representatives of most of self-exiled separatist Baloch leaders and provides them forum for venting anti-Pakistan sentiment within India and other countries. Gravity of the matter can be gauged from the fact that during the construction of M-8, there were 207 attacks on the FWO workers by miscreants that caused 26 deaths of its staff, while 18 helping staff also lost their lives.

On February 03, Prime Minister inaugurated Rs13 billion Gwadar-Turbat-Hoshab Road (M-8), a part of CPEC. Army chief General Raheel Sharif drove the prime minister on the newly-constructed 193-km long highway, which will connect the western, central and eastern routes of CPEC with the Gwadar Port. The premier on the occasion said his government accorded top priority to development in Balochistan, and regarded the road construction as a dream come true. He termed Pakistan’s prosperity as the prosperity of Balochistan and 2016 as take-off year for CPEC; Army Chief has already declared 2016 as timeframe for eradicating terrorism from the country. Both these are laudable visions but would require gigantic effort to accomplish.

Nawaz Sharif said that Central Asian Republics were keen to use the elaborate network of roads in Pakistan to reach to the open seas, adding that the road linkage would benefit as many as three billion people of the entire region. He lauded the FWO team for completing the road despite numerous challenges, and appreciated the army chief for his interest in the project, as well as overall peace in Balochistan.

The Prime Minister announced three new road projects: Quetta-Khuzdar Highway would be dualised. Work on Baseema-Khuzdar, Shahdadkot and Bela-Awaran highways will start soon. The completion of these roads would link Quetta to Gwadar and to Afghanistan through Chaman. He said the Pakistan Army and FWO are proud of their work on the M-8 project which was initiated under the directives given by the Chief of Army Staff on February 6, 2014. Completion of the project within such a short time under adverse security situation is indeed a commendable job.

The seminar on “Peace and Prosperity in Balochistan”, held in Quetta on February 02, was highly educative in the sense that it served as a platform to discuss all aspects of the Balochistan issue and how to address them. The highlight of the seminar was address of General Raheel Sharif who minced no words in identifying the causes of the trouble in the province with foremost being the proxy war being fought by different regional and distant powers for their own ends. He also explained the strategy being pursued by the Army to help restore normalcy in the volatile province. Since the Army Chief is in the know of things, everyone should take his words seriously and listen to his appeal for joining hands to counter conspiracies of the enemy. His revelations crystallize two things – there is gross foreign interference with some foreign powers training, arming and funding anti-state elements and hence the need for a combination of measures to address the challenge effectively.

As for exploiting of the situation by foreign agencies is concerned, our agencies are countering their activities but there is dire need that the political leadership should highlight the issue during engagement with world leaders. Similarly, our diplomats should sensitize public opinion especially governments and media in host countries about designs of these powers. Similarly, as COAS has pointed out the problem in Balochistan is compounded by factors like poverty, unemployment and lack of educational and other facilities, a comprehensive approach is required to ensure all round development of the Province. It is good that the Army is playing a leading role in this regard as thousands of youth from Balochistan have been enrolled in cadet colleges besides provision of education and health facilities to thousands of other through military-run institutions. A salient revolution has been taking place in Balochistan under the stewardship of Pakistan army for over a decade or so whereby a large segment of youth has been put on right track through skill enhancement programmes and vocational training.

Implementation of CPEC can also help overcome a number of problems of Balochistan and therefore, it is incumbent upon the political parties not to create hurdles in the way of execution of various projects under its umbrella. If socio-economic environment of the province is changed, then there would also be no no-go area there and this would, in return, help promote national unity and harmony. Balochistan, despite being the largest, remains the least developed, least secure of Pakistan’s provinces; with poorest Human Resource Development Indicators in the world. CPEC has the potential of reversing all these miseries.

In the broader context, it is a century long project that would eventually inter-connect Asia-Europe-Africa under the broader umbrella of One Belt One Road (OBOR). Finances are readily available through Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank that has a projected equity of US$ 200; other major financial institutions have also shown interest in investing in CPEC projects.

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Dynamics of FATF listing

Pakistan Focus Analysis. Indo-US anti-Pakistan nexus is so very obvious, both have in-chorus expressed their joy on Pakistan’s placement on grey list. Indian Express has reported that “India, US are one in saying Pakistan deserved to be demoted to anti-terror funding group's 'grey list’”. "India welcomes the decision of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) to place Pakistan in its Compliance Document (grey list) for ICRG [International Cooperation review Group] monitoring," said India's ministry of external affairs. And; "outstanding counterterrorism deficiencies consistently raised by the Financial Action Task Force and [Pakistan] needs to take actions, including on the raising and moving of funds of UN-designated terrorist groups, a top US official said to news agency PTI”. Decision is politically motivated and is part of American strategy to pressurise Pakistan to settle some other scores. Pakistan has been placed among the jurisdictions (states) with strategic deficiencies: Ethiopia, Serbia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia and Yemen. FATF has called upon these states to complete implementation of the action plans expeditiously and within the proposed timeframes, vowing to closely monitor the implementation. It was also agreed in February Plenary that an Action Plan would be negotiated between Pakistan and FATF members by June. This has been done. The FATF has formally placed Pakistan on the grey list due to ‘strategic deficiencies’ in its anti-money laundering and terrorism financing regime. The decision came despite Pakistan had demonstrated reasonable progress in three out of four major areas of FATF concerns. Pakistan’s team led by Finance Minister apprised the plenary about measures that Pakistan had taken to stop money laundering and strangling the terror financing. In prevailing World Order, nothing works better than American pressures. During February plenary, the US and the UK went out of their way to by-pass the standard FATF procedures and jointly arm twist the FATF for nominating Pakistan for the grey list in June, regardless of its February-June period effort and progress; they were also joined by France and Germany. Pakistan has undertaken to work towards effective implementation of the Action Plan, while staying in the grey list. A similar situation took place in 2011 when Pakistan was included in the grey list and was taken out in 2015 after it successfully implemented the Action Plan. There were tall claims that Pakistan was unlikely to be placed on the grey list of the global financial watchdog as the country had made enough progress to meet international anti-money laundering and terror financing standards, such euphoric environment had been created before and during the previous FATF plenary meeting as well. There is a need to float realistic expectations before such international events. FATF identifies jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT deficiencies in its two public documents: FATF Public Statement (call for action)– commonly known as black list—and Improving Global AML/CFT Compliance— nick named as grey list. It is an on-going process; these lists are updated three times a year. Interestingly, FATF does not use grey list/blacklist terminologies. The ICRG of the APG had identified four key areas of concerns: deficiencies in the supervision of Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and Counter Terrorism Financing regimes; cross-border illicit movement of currency by terrorist groups; progress on terrorism financing investigation and prosecution; and implementation of the United Nations Security Council resolutions 1267 and 1373, for curbing terror financing. ICRG report has shown that Pakistan did show progress on three out of four major areas of concerns. Cross-border smuggling of cash was the only major area where Pakistan admitted deficiencies. Maximum number of conditions – nine to be precise – take into account the concerns of the UNSC resolutions, followed by eight commitments to address concerns regarding terrorism financing prosecution, four are about curbing currency movement across the border and five recommendations relate to improvement in the supervision mechanisms of banks and companies. Pakistan has undertaken to demonstrate that authorities are identifying cash couriers and enforcing controls on illicit movement of currency and understanding the risk of cash couriers being used for terrorism financing. Remember Ayan Ali case? And who protected her? Carrier is enjoying quality life abroad. Pakistan has made a “high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and APG to strengthen its Anti-money Laundering (AML)/Countering Financing of Terrorism (CFT) regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorist financing-related deficiencies,” according to FATF announcement. The FATF said Pakistan will also be demonstrating that remedial actions and sanctions are applied in cases of AML/CFT violations, and that these actions have an effect on AML/CFT compliance by financial institutions. “It will be demonstrating that competent authorities are cooperating and taking action to identify and take enforcement action against illegal money or value transfer services.” During the intervening period Pakistan government did strenuous hard work to plug the gaps. Ambitious laws were enacted. Finance ministry improved institutional mechanisms for handling anti-money laundering and countering financing terrorism issues. Coordination between the State Bank, Banking institutions and law enforcement agencies had also been strengthened to curb money laundering and terror financing. Pakistan has recently addressed issues raised by the FATF through a tax amnesty scheme, while Securities and Exchange Commission has issued Anti-Money Laundering and Countering Financing of Terrorism Regulations (2018). National Security Committee has also reaffirmed its commitment to cooperate with the FATF. Through its Action Plan, Pakistan has demonstrated to the world that it was ready to go an extra mile to curb money laundering. Pakistan will have to deliver on the first goal by January next year and complete all the 26 actions by September 2019,” it is indeed a tight schedule. One wonders whether Pakistan has requisite mechanisms in place to implement and steer such an ambitious plan. An expert assessment has it that though Pakistan’s inclusion in the grey list may hurt its image in the international landscape, its economic impact will not be as severe as being portrayed. This is because when Pakistan was part of the grey list/blacklist (2008-2015), it successfully approached multilateral bodies, floated international bonds and had international trades. Hopefully Pakistan will be able to come out or grey list in September 2019, however it must follow consistent economic policies to remain out of such trouble spots. Caretaker government would do a great service by forming a national commission to identify and punish all those responsible for letting the things reverse back after Pakistan’s previous journey to blacklist was over.

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