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THE TOUR DE ALMS

PTV’s recent ‘begging’ faux pas may have been halseningly accurate. The incident refers to the type which appeared during a live address by PM Imran Khan at the Central Party School in Beijing with a caption displaying the word ‘BEGGING’ instead of ‘BEIJING’. Coincidently, Mr. Khan was in China to seek billions of dollars in aid to help stave off an impending domestic financial crisis.

To Beg Or Not To Beg!

Imran Khan, with his Naya Pakistan ideals, was propped up by the infamous Pakistani Deep State, in a dubious election where his each and every credible opponent was blacklisted from participating. As per those in the know, Mr. Khan was selected, by those who matter, to defend the terror-friendly image of the cash-strapped Pakistani government and ensure cash flow to the nation’s Military Inc. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is facing grave economic and identity challenges as it struggles to avoid a financial crisis and keep the economy afloat. This was an immediate fall out of US withdrawing billions of dollars in aid and one-sided agreements with China who has already achieved success in other South Asian nations with their debt trap strategy. China has presently invested tens of billions of dollars in Pakistan in recent years as part of its Belt and Road Initiative – which aims to link the economies of Asia, Africa, and Europe via huge infrastructural projects.

True to his orders, Mr. Khan is presently running from country to country in the hope of staving off an imminent collapse and to avoid another IMF bailout. IMF has clearly stated that in case of a bailout package, they will actively scrutinize Pakistan Government’s capital expenditures to ensure that the bailout monies are not utilized to pay back huge external debts to countries like China. The military establishment is very wary of such scrutiny, which they feel can open their cupboard of skeletons and cause irreparable loss of face in the international community.

Mr. Khan is now in a tight corner. The powerful military establishment is calmly moving ahead with expensive arms acquisitions and modernization. They expect Khan to arrange the necessary funds. This is happening in spite of Pakistani economy reeling under a rapidly deteriorating infrastructure including lack of basic human amenities like drinking water and electricity, loss of investor confidence, raging sectarian violence in all its provinces and a rapidly developing Pashtun, Baloch and Sindhi insurgent movements.

Will Imran survive failure?

Interestingly, all previous civilian heads of state in Pakistan since independence in 1947 were similarly propped up to save the face of the military establishment and then blatantly disposed of after their needs were met. The examples include re-known Pakistani political giants like Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, his daughter Benazir Bhutto, previous Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and so on. The military publicly maintains a clean image but is one of the key supporters of global terrorism and their perpetrators.

The Pakistani deep state considers third state actors such as terrorist organizations, Taliban, et al as ‘strategic assets’ to counter a powerful India to the east and to build up a pro-Pakistan narrative in Afghanistan to the north. In fact, readers may remember that Osama Bin Laden was finally killed during a raid by US Special Forces on a Pakistani Army safe house neighbouring Pakistan Military Academy (PMA), Abbottabad in 2011. Pakistan was an important declared ‘ally’ in the War on Terror.

No Commitments but Big Announcements

In October, it was reported by Pakistan’s tame media that Saudi Arabia will provide Pakistan with a $6bn (€5.2bn or £4.6bn) rescue package, but Saudi officials have not confirmed the report or the method of disbursement. Laughably, Khan further announced that China will also give a large aid package and that he cannot (conveniently) reveal the quantum of the aid. This is apparently on the advice of China’s own eccentric Winny the Pooh (Xi). China has also made it amply clear that there will be no free meals for Pakistan.
The begging bowl has now reached UAE for a full day negotiation and aid package, from which Arabs are perceptibly distancing themselves from. Pakistan’s officials have said that it is not enough and that the country will still need to seek a bailout from the IMF, which would be Pakistan’s 13th rescue package from the multilateral lender, since the late 1980s.

Maybe, as Mr. Khan said recently, Pakistan should accept the necessity of IMF involvement to drag itself back on the treads of responsible and dependable global citizens. But Imran Khan may not survive ala Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto.

19 Nov 2018/Monday                                                                 Written by Fahd Khan

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