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New crisis in the offing.

All Parties Conference (APC) is now on the move for mobilising public opinion against the present government. First phase of mobilisation would begin with a public meeting in Multan on February 6. The second phase would begin in February's last week and would continue till Ramazan. So far the opposition was not able to stir up public enthusiasm against the IJI government. Once again the APC in one of the resolutions said that rigging of the elections has become an official policy and the sanctity of the ballot has been completely destroyed. The resolution emphasised that because of the consistent rigging of election the entire system has become unacceptable. The APC demanded free and fair elections thereby restoring the confidence of the people in the democratic institutions.

The IJI government is plagued with scandles and controversies. The latest controversy is the 340-kilometer Lahore Islamabad Motorway. The feasibility of this project was completed in 1987-88 and its cost was estimated at Rs. 8.2 billion. The contract, however was awarded to a South Korean firm Daewo at a cost of Rs. 24 billion - a 300 per cent increase over the original estimates.

The opposition raised several objections on this project. It was pointed out that there was no justification of spending Rs. 24 billion on a two lane high way between Lahore and Islamabad when the total ADP for the province of Punjab was only Rs. 8.0 billion. Senator Tariq Chaudhry raised a very pertinent question: on what basis had the contract been awarded when the feasibility report and the design of the project had not been finalised. Another point was: how the government would raise the resources for this massive project. It is reported that a Swedish consortium had shown interest in investing 60 per cent of the estimated expenditure of Rs. 11 billion with Pakistan sharing the rest. The Daewo arrangement is just the reverse of the Swedish offer and the cost has been more than doubled.

The government, according to opposition did not even consult the Economic Affair Division through which all foreign investment is channelled. Again against all the rules the National Highway Authority has been placed under the Secretary Communications The World Bank officials have also criticized that this project is being carried out without its consultations. It also criticised Pakistan did not carry out an international bidding of the project.

The Minister of Communications clarified certain points about this project. He did not however, elaborate why the bid was invited from only five selected firms; why it was not kept open to all international firms of repute and what were the reasons that only two firms responded to such big contract in a climate of recession. The Minister was silent on the question whether the successful bid had been appraised by independent engineering experts. Further why a BOT (Build Operate and Transfer) project has been charged to a co-financing one also remains unexplained. He did not touch the question of priority when social sectors and backward regions are starved of funds.

The matter of concern is that how Pakistan would be able to pay its existing debts. After the international finance institutions have reported about the administration in Islamabad just seems to be out on a borrowing spree, without taking into account its credit worthiness and capacity to burden tax-payers both in short and long term.

The official, financial and fiscal experts in Washington working on low-income countries like Pakistan, predicted higher debt ratio, more acute budget deficit and a possible breakdown of the complete social sector edifice built so far in conjunction with World Bank consultative operations.

The World Bank is apprehending a possible sectoral collapse in Pakistan, in the fields of education, health, small agro-based industries, population planning, sanitation, drinking water facilities for the poor and less affluent segments of population, if the practice as seen by the Bank continues.

There are also fears, it could reopen issues for the provincial distribution of revenues when it will come to taking extra revenue measures to meet requirements of the part of domestic financing and borrowing whereas officially the revenue base in Pakistan is very narrow and it could either be invested in priority social projects or could be spent on low priority projects termed as "prestige projects" in the international economic community.

Afghan Policy

Foreign policy in regard to Afghanistan is undergoing a drastic change. Lt. General Hameed Gul's premature retirement and annoyance of J.I. lend credence to such speculations. Gul was considered to be the co-author of Afghan policy during Zia era. President Ghulam Ishaq Khan however, denied such reports by saying that only flaws in the U.N. peace proposal have been removed and complete unanimity existed in government circles on the issue. Observers believed that it was due to the result of COAS recent visit to U.S.A. change in Afghan policy is likely to create cracks among components of IJI. Pakistan is now ready to accept 5-point UN plan for bringing peace to Afghanistan. The plan envisages a conference as early as next month of leading Afghanistan political figures including key members of mujahedin and President Najibullah's Kabul regime to create an interim government with a mandate to hold national election.

The present dawning of good sense in Islamabad has apparently been helped by a number of factors. The advantages of being a conduit for arms had come to an end. Big power support for the Afghan civil war petered out earlier and it was formally ended on January 1, 1992. War weariness has spread to all parts of Afghanistan and the Kabul Government has been able to make arrangements for local ceasefire that have halted the war in many provinces.

A factor that has made Pakistan's desire for peace in Afghanistan more urgent was that a peaceful Afghanistan was essential because Pakistan was seeking to establish a special relationship with the Central Asian Republics, and most of the expected commerce would have to transit overland through Afghanistan. While this is important, the far bigger advantages stressed by all is that the end of the Afghan civil war will also bring peace to Pakistan by allowing it to curb the trade in heroin and Klashnikov culture which has brought Pakistan to the brink of anarchy and social chaos.

The foreign policy in regard to USSR must also change. This has been necessitated due to emergence of Kazakistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbikistan Tadjikistan, Kirghaizistan and Azarbaijan as independent states in Central Asia. Their population is predominantly Muslim but the 70-year Communist Party rule and its stern discipline has turned these states staunchly secular. Kazakistan is one of the four Soviet republics with strategic nuclear weapons, Russia, Byelorussia and Ukrain are the others. Pakistan has enormous opportunities to cultivate these republics on the basis of common culture and historical links. Tadjikistan, because of its close Iranian and Persian links is closer to Pakistan as its great poet Rudaki and Omar Khayyaun have great imprints on our literature while one finds more scholars of Iqbal's Persian poetry in Tadjiskistan than Pakistan.

Tadjikistan borders on China and Afghanistan. Over half the population are Tadjhiks mostly Muslims speaking an Iranian dialect. They have their kinsmen among the population of Afghanistan. In fact there are more Tadjiks in Afghanistan than in Tadjikistan. Azerbaijain, which has the highest per capita income ($ 3750) among the Muslim republics being an oil rich country needs Pakistan's support in many ways.

Because of its oil resources Axerbaigan (seven million population) has attracted considerable investment and modernisation. Before, the discovery of oilfields of Texas its capital Baku was the world's largest oil producer. Its population is 80 per cent Muslim and being predominantly Shia and bounded by Iran in the south it carries a lot of Iranian influence.

Central Asian States are landlocked and largely deprived of modern industrial and management technology. None of them is bankable for open trade with the outside world and all of them equally lag behind in necessary administrative infrastructure to attract foreign investment. The only natural outlet for them is through Pakistan and it is the port of Karachi they look forward to for an opening to the Middle East, South Asia and other world markets.
Central Asian Republics
 Area (1988 est.)
Republic Sq. Min. (in 000)
Russian SFSR 6,592,800 146,000
Ukrainian SSR 233,100 51,377
Uzbek SSR 172,700 19,569
Kazakh SSR 1,049,200 16,470
Byelorussian SSR 80,200 10,141
Azerbaijan SSR 33,400 6,921
Georgian SSR 26,911 5,297
Tadzhik SSR 54,019 4,969
Moldavian SSR 13,012 4,224
Kirghiz SSR 76,642 4,238
Lithuanian SSR 26,173 3,682
Armenian SSR 11,306 3,459
Turkmen SSR 188,417 3,455
Latvian SSR 24,695 2,673
Estonian SSR 17,413 1,571
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Title Annotation:charges of election fraud threaten Pakistani government
Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Jan 1, 1992
Previous Article:Computer education in Pakistan.
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