What Ali Mardan Rahoojo suggests Sindh Education Minister Sardar Shah

Based in Islamabad, Ali Mardan Rahoojo is a former ambassador and traveled extensively in rural Sindh during the July 25 elections

Who will the PEC election and why?

By Manzoor Shaikh Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) Chairman Javed Salim Qureshi has come up with an idea that he would launch a ‘Technology and Construction Bank’ with Rs.100 billion for encouraging entrepreneurship in fresh engineers. Javed Salim was in Karachi on July 18 in connection with his campaign for the next tenure as chairman PEC as the council’s elections are due on August 12. He was welcomed by a sizeable number of engineers in the port city, some estimate the attendance was more than two thousand. Vice Chancellor of NED University and Nazir Hussein University were among those present in the moot to give support to Salim and his panel. A part of Karachi’s political following could be witnessed for his panel. PEC Chairman divulged how he would manage such a hefty amount of Rs.100 billion for his envisaged bank. “We have around 260,000 engineers registered with the PEC and of them a rough figure of 60,000 are unemployed. If each employed engineer from 200,000 engineers fund Rs.500,000 for the bank, we can generate seed money of Rs.100 billion for the purpose,” he said. Javed Salim’s novel idea is seen by many engineers in Karachi like the Chief Justice of Pakistan making highly expensive Bhasha-Diamer Dam with local donations. A senior engineer who wished not to be named said it is a just melodramatic tactic to attract votes for the election. He asked why engineers should pay for the venture which indeed should be carried by the governments. PEC is not an NGO, he remarked. Javed Salim wanted engineers to vote for his full panel as the broken mandate would not help them realize their plans which also include the induction of engineers in policy-making bodies of Pakistan. PEC chairman who is trying to win one more term has plans to open engineers clubs in Karachi and Jamshoro, for which the council has secured acres of land which his opponents in Sindh claim were obtained by them; not by Javed Salim. “PEC chairman never helped us (Sindh) to realize plans for the betterment of engineers in the province, Engr. Mukhtiar Shaikh said. We did each and everything on our own and materialized our plans in the province. Javed Salim’s plans apart, two weeks earlier his arch-rival Qadir Shah who also has served PEC as the chairman was addressing an impressive gathering of engineers, a little bigger show than of Salim’s in Karachi. “Javed Salim is responsible for the economic slaughter of engineers in Pakistan as he exempted Chinese companies from making joint ventures under China Pakistan Economic Corridor,” he alleged. His compatriots were free to text Whatsapp messages of the companies which were exempted from forming JVs and allowed to take projects without sharing proceeds with Pakistani counterparts. Qadir Shah claims he has much better plans for the betterment of Pakistani engineers. We have planned to transform construction activity in the country into the construction industry so that we make it mandatory for the contractors and companies to hire engineers on a permanent basis rather than buying engineers certificates. This plan would consume the majority of unemployed engineers in Pakistan, he says. Also, we shall demand 50 percent jobs for Pakistani engineers under CPEC and would bound Chinese companies to follow the rules and regulations of PEC, he says. “For that, we have to amend the rules and regulations of the PEC.” Aliong with Qadir Shah and Javed Salim striving to attract engineers whose number has now exceeded 260,000, yet another contender Waseem Nazir is vying for the post of the chairman. A reputable engineer of international stature and running MM Pakistan, Waseem Nazir is very much in the field and has visited a number of destinations to assess the situation before finalizing his panel. Nazir believes we need modern dimensions, not politics for improving the conditions of engineers in Pakistan. He is very much in the field and is being heard attentively as to how the situation will be changed in Pakistan. In his first tour, he has visited Peshawar, Mianwali, Islamabad, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Ghotki, and Larkana and is getting to know what issues the engineers are facing there. He claims to have founded the third platform for engineers and is committed to restoring honor and dignity of engineers through transforming PEC into a genuine regulating body. He is an ardent supporter of PEC run by practicing engineers. However, the situation is otherwise on the ground. Although all three major contestants have their plans and visions for the future, political affiliations play a major part in these elections too. Qadir Shah and his associates lost last PEC elections except in Sindh and KP because of the PML – N clout of Javed Salim. Qadir Shah won 2010 elections because of affiliation with the then ruling PPP. Many engineers in Qadir Shah group claim they lost against Javed Salim in 2013 because the JI-backed Pakistan Engineers Forum (PEF) did not support Shah and stood divided between Javed Salim and Shah. This time around the PEF is behind Qadir Shah in full, an informed engineer claims. However, Engr. Imtiaz Shah, now contesting for Senior Vice Chairman in Qadir Shah’s panel says it was not PEF’s lack of unity but the PML – N got support for Javed Salim by hook and crook. Ahsan Iqbal and other engineer politicians including Shahid Khaqan Abbasi played a major role in the PEC elections. Whatever was the situation during last elections, many players who stood with Javed Salim in 2013 are seen aligned with Qadir Shah this time. Still, what has yet to be seen is how uncertainty on the political arena and popular perceptions about future affect the PEC elections which surely are significant in the wake of the unfavourable situation for the engineering community in Pakistan. – Printed in Engineering Review, July 15-31, 2018

Trump’s new foreign policy and challenges for Pakistan

By Marvi Sirmed US President Donald Trump announced his administration’s new grand strategy for foreign policy on Monday while speaking at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC. Among the audience were his cabinet secretaries, government workers and uniformed members of the military. The document that he called ‘America First National Security Strategy’ outlines the major national security concerns of the United States and how his administration planed to deal with those. The strategy is focused on four pillars in a 68-pages document: protect American homeland and way of life; promote American prosperity; preserve peace through strength; and advance American influence in the world. Looking at the strategy document, Trump seems to be anxious about the increasing influence of China and Russia in South Asian region. Both of these countries have been termed ‘revisionist powers’ and ‘competitors’ of the US who, according to the document, intend to challenge US power and erode its security and prosperity. Calling it an ‘ethical realism’, Trump appears to be rethinking current US relationship with China and Russia based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and including them in international institutions ‘would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners’. In a separate chapter on the regional context of the strategy, the document looks at South and Central Asia as a region that presents some of the ‘most complicated national security challenges and opportunities’ for the US. Pakistan and Afghanistan are featured prominently in this section. With the patronizing tone adopted for Afghanistan while aiming for its stabilization and self-reliance, an accusatory tenor cannot be missed that the strategy adopts for Pakistan. Time and again in the document, the US commitment towards Pakistan is described in terms of seeking it to be a country ‘that is not engaged in destabilizing behaviour’. In line with the policy for South Asia that Trump announced in August, the new strategy puts peace in Afghanistan as the central focus. While reiterating the importance of India’s role for economic assistance in the region, the report identifies it as a priority issue for the US to deepen strategic partnership with India and support its leadership role for security in Indian Ocean and throughout the broader region. This is way beyond just seeking India’s contribution in the development of Afghanistan, as was envisaged in the earlier South Asia Policy. Labeling China as a rival in the region alongside Russia, the new strategy intends to ‘help South Asian nations maintain their sovereignty as China increases its influence in the region’. Read with the priority area mentioned above, it is safe to assume that the strategy would seek to field India as the counterbalance to increasing Chinese influence especially viz a viz its Belt and Road Initiative (formerly called One Belt One Road). The CPEC project under this initiative seems to be intimidating the US as a key challenger to its interests in the region. For Pakistan, the strategy echoes the broader frustration that the Trump administration officials including secretary of the state and the defence secretary have been expressing for months now. It asks Pakistan to ‘intensify its counterterrorism efforts, since no partnership can survive a country’s support for militants and terrorists who target a partner’s own service members and officials’. It further goes on to say that the US will also ‘encourage Pakistan to continue demonstrating that it is a responsible steward of its nuclear assets’. Meaning thereby, the pressure on Pakistan to deliver Taliban on the negotiating table alongside decisive action against the Haqqani Network would continue. Blunt it might seem, but it still uses soft verbs while defining the course of action towards Pakistan: the US will ‘insist’, ‘encourage’, and ‘press’ Pakistan to act on counter-terrorism. While pursuing its carrot and the stick approach, the strategy keeps conspicuous ambiguity on the possible ‘stick’ it might use. The ‘carrot’, nonetheless, is mentioned in terms of building ‘trade and investment ties as security improves and as Pakistan demonstrates that it will assist the United States in its counterterrorism goals’. More worrying than Trump’s veiled warning of increasing India’s role in Afghanistan and helping it become counterweight to China and Russia in the region is his reference to Pakistan’s nuclear assets. He has suggested through this ‘ethically realist’ policy that Pakistan will have to demonstrate that it is a country responsible enough to be in possession of these tactical weapons. Complacence Pakistan may decide to continue viz a viz ignoring the tone adopted in this policy by once again labeling it as ’empty threats’ by the US. Dilly-dallying in taking decisive action against our former allies – Taliban and Haqqani Network – we might adopt as our continued policy. But it remains Pakistan’s most serious challenge in dealing with Trump’s America to weigh its options with pragmatism by reviewing and revising these ages- old policies. It is important to look at the emerging realities of the South Asian region with a potential new bloc in the making. Pakistan being at the confluence of competing powers like China and Russia in a neighborhood where it struggles to maintain tactical parity with a much bigger rival, cannot afford to turn into a junior player in an important geo-strategic chessboard just because of the false notion of keeping unchallenged influence in Afghanistan through spent and exhausted weapons like Haqqanis. -- Courtesy DT

What to look forward to in COP23

Saleemul Huq I have just arrived in Bonn, Germany to attend the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) being held here for the next two weeks. The annual COP takes place in November or December each year and is hosted by a country in a different continent each time. This year it is the turn of Asia Pacific and the official host is Fiji. However, since Fiji could not accommodate around 20,000 participants from all over the world, the Government of Germany has kindly offered to physically host the meeting in Bonn while Fiji is the official host. The prime minister of Fiji is the COP president. Not every COP is equally important in terms of decision-making and COP23 is a relatively low-key COP where the focus will be on developing the details of implementation of the Paris Agreement (PA) which was achieved at COP21 in Paris, France in December 2015 at a very high-level COP with over a hundred heads of state in attendance. The PA has set the long-term global temperature goal of staying well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to limit temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible, as well as agreeing to develop a global goal on adaptation and to treat 'loss and damage' as a separate issue from 'adaptation'. COP23 will discuss how to implement the agreement by developing the PA rule book, and arranging a facilitated dialogue in 2018 and a global stock-taking in 2023. Here are some of the issues to look out for at COP23. The question on everyone's mind is, what will the US do? While the US government has formally given notice of its intention to withdraw from the PA they are still in the UNFCCC and their withdrawal from the PA will take two years to come into force. Hence the US will indeed be sending a delegation which will be able to participate fully, although it remains to be seen how they behave in the negotiations. The second major issue that has already been highlighted by the prime minister of Fiji is the issue of 'loss and damage' from climatic events around the world which can be attributed to human-induced climate change. The series of devastating natural disasters in 2017, including the severe floods in Bangladesh and South Asia, represents a tipping point in terms of the impact of human-induced climate change. This is perhaps best illustrated by the Category 4 and Category 5 hurricanes that hit Texas (Hurricane Harvey), Florida (Hurricane Irma) and Puerto Rico (Hurricane Maria) this year. The fact that there were hurricanes was quite normal but what was abnormal was the elevated sea surface temperature in the Atlantic and Caribbean which caused each hurricane to be much more intense and devastating than it otherwise would have been. The total loss and damage in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico is estimated to be over USD 300 billion which the US Congress will now have to consider for their reconstruction. The US, like many other countries, has a system of compensating states for loss and damage but there is no such agreement at the global level. In COP19 held in Poland in 2013, we did agree to set up the Warsaw International Mechanism (WIM) for Loss and Damage and under it an executive committee was formed which developed a five-year work plan that will be discussed in Bonn. However, the work plan does not address the issue of raising funds for compensation for loss and damage. So, in Bonn, under the leadership of Fiji and the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and support from the least developed countries (LDCs) group and the Africa group, the issue of innovative financing for compensation for loss and damage will be a contentious issue (as it is likely to be opposed by the developed countries). Finally, it is important to realise that even though the main task of the COP is for government delegations to negotiate and make important decisions, there are various non-governmental observers from civil society and business community, including the youth, indigenous people, etc., who hold hundreds of side events all over the city. And often these events are far more interesting than the boring “official” negotiations! Over the next two weeks, I hope to issue commentaries on the COP23 negotiations, as well as on the side events in Bonn. (Saleemul Huq is Director, International Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Independent University, Bangladesh)