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Current Affairs ( 9 Dec 2020, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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US Needs to Reconsider an Army That Drives Its Posh SUVs Oiled By Chinese Money; This Is Bad News - Whether In Mandarin, Punjabi Or English

By Tara Kartha

8 December, 2020

An interesting new legislation has recently been passed in the Pakistan National Assembly. This law proposes to create a China Pakistan Economic Corridor Authority that would essentially take control of the billion dollar CPEC away from the civilian bureaucracy to the Pakistan Army. Most democracies would have a virtual army of bureaucrats and auditors to handle such a project. But not in Pakistan, where the creation of an army-run supranational authority is in line with other actions, which have put the country so close to army rule that it’s becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference.


A file image of Pakistan's military officials | Photo: @OfficialDGISPR | Twitter


Policy makers in India and elsewhere, long used to the Pakistani ‘military establishment’, would normally shrug their shoulders and hope for the best. But there’s a difference this time round. All of this is being powered by Chinese money. Which means that Beijing has just bought itself an army, with a State attached.

Governance and Bureaucracy

At one level, it is true that near continuous military dominance has led to army men, both serving and retired, being co-opted into comfortable posts in Pakistan’s bureaucracy. However, even democratically elected leaders like Zulfikar Ali Bhutto did not scruple to use lateral induction to appoint army men to some 83 posts at various levels. Zia-ul-Haq went a step further, creating a Defence Services Selection Board to bring in pliant service officers into his government. Under General Pervez Musharraf, the ‘National Reconstruction Bureau’ route brought in officers at every level, with the general presumption that the average military officer was better than his civilian counterpart.

But the Imran Khan government has outstripped all others in filling civilian posts with military officers. A recent report highlights the control of the military over the civilian government — the Pakistan International Airlines is headed by an Air Marshal, heads of the Naya Pakistan Housing and Development Authority include a Major General and a Brigadier, five federal ministers are closely linked to the military including Interior Minister Brigadier Ejaz Shah, the chairman of Port Qasim Authority is a retired Rear Admiral, and the Water and Power Development Authority is led by a retired Lt Gen, as was the Sui Southern Gas Company until recently. The armed forces are now everywhere, and they have never had it so good. Particularly since nearly all of these departments are also seeing Chinese investment.

Legislation Takes This Further

Not content with this, legislation has been introduced in Parliament that further erodes political power. This includes the legislation to take the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), which operates directly opposite Indian waters, out of the control of the Prime Minister’s Office, apparently because the government doesn’t want this high office to be involved in ‘trivial’ matters. Then there was the amendment to the Anti-Money Laundering Act, 2010, ostensibly to satisfy the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which provides, among other things, power to arrest without warrant, and vastly increases the powers of the National Accountability Bureau and other investigating agencies.  Clearly, the intention was to pressurise opposition leaders into submission.

Then there are new laws to control social media, which gives the State unfettered power to decide what construes ‘extremism’ or what may be considered ‘objectionable’. To add to this are arrests of major media personalities such as Shakil ur Rehman, and  intimidation of the Dawn group among others, which has ensured that the media has been silenced. Parliament virtually tamed, the usually courageous media gagged, and social media fettered. There is not a lot left.

National Level Project Management

Then there’s the CPEC itself. In 2015, the Pakistan Army tried to grab the project, but was frustrated by then-Nawaz Sharif government. However, PM Imran Khan gave in completely.  The CPEC was brought under the army by a presidential order in 2019. The ‘CPEC Authority’ was headed by Gen. (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa, and was in that capacity, dealing directly with the Chinese government and companies involved.

In August 2020, the scandal broke. Bajwa was found to have assets worth billions in the US and in Pakistan. As a fact finding report noted, his wife Farrukh Zeba “is associated with or is a shareholder in 85 companies including 82 foreign companies (71 in United States, seven in UAE and four in Canada)”, while the whole family has literally risen from rags to riches, all this as her husband rose steadily within the Pakistan Army. Despite the scandal breaking loose, Gen. Bajwa continued to handle all business relating to the CPEC.

With the presidential order lapsing in May, the new legislation will give the proposed Authority even more power than before. It can ask for ‘pertinent information’ and ‘assistance or facilitation’ from any person or office ‘directly or indirectly’ involved with the CPEC, with provinces required to appoint persons for this purpose; and powers to investigate a public office holder who does to cooperate with it. Its officers will also have immunity from the National Accountability Bureau, and other investigating agencies. Clearly, there’s going to be no further probing into the riches accrued by its ‘chairman generals’. The legislation also comes just after Pakistan has approved its most expensive CPEC project, the $6.8 billion railway upgrade largely financed by China, as well as $3.9 billion hydropower projects in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Original Headline: Pakistan’s love for military now has Chinese money and will soon have legislative power

Source: The Print


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