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23RD March 1940 – Let us make promise for greater interest of Pakistan

March 23rd 1940 marks the day of adoption of Pakistan Resolution by the Muslim League calling for a relentless struggle for creation of a separate homeland for Muslims of the subcontinent comprising provinces of Muslim majority in the North Western and North Eastern parts of British India. The three days session of the League laid the foundation of the first Islamic Republic of the World. Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah who had been a staunch supporter of Hindu Muslim Unity for 30 years finally transformed his views and irrevocably became the leader of struggle for Pakistan. The founding fathers of Pakistan signed the Lahore Declaration which read as follows:

“No constitutional plan would be workable or acceptable to the Muslims unless geographical contiguous units are demarcated into regions, which should be so constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary. That the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in majority as in the North-Western and Eastern zones of India should be grouped to constitute independent states in which the constituent units shall be autonomous and sovereign.”

Although the name “Pakistan” was first used by Chaudhry Rehmat Ali in the Pakistan Declaration in the pamphlet titled “Now or never; are we to live or perish forever” in 1933, however, the name “Pakistan” gained popularity after the Lahore Resolution and started being used extensively and became the driving force of the movement. The exquisite text of the Resolution was drafted by Sir Zafar Ullah Khan alongwith others and was presented by A. K. Fazl ul Haq and was wholeheartedly accepted in the All India Muslim League General Assembly. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan from Punjab, Abdul Ghafoor Hazarvi from NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Qazi Esa from Balochistan and Sir Abdullah Haroon from Sindh assured their full support. The Resolution and the dream of a separate homeland jolted the Muslims and gained astounding popularity.

The Lahore declaration became the most important document in the history of Pakistan. Next morning the Newspapers read “Triumph for Jinnah’s Leadership”; Muslims demand the division of India into Sovereign states. Today more than seventy years of the existence of our beautiful homeland; we celebrate the day of Lahore Resolution with unequivocal passion as we should and reinforce our resolve to protect our territorial integrity, our political independence and national unity. The dream that brought us together that day is the necessity that binds us today.

These are troubling times, however, as the elections are round the corner and the ouster of the prime minister Nawaz Sharif has sparked political uncertainty that in turns leads to economic instability. This can be noticed by the increasing imports, falling revenues & forex reserves, widening deficit and rising dollar rates that indicate a struggling economy. The businessmen and corporations hope and wish as do we that this is just a bad phase before the elections as political arm wrestling and struggle for pre poll advantage will pass. But in case the economy is really failing, the next government will be in a fix and will have to face a severe balance of payment disaster and might need the help of IMF or World Bank to bail them out falling deeper in the debt trap.

Pakistan over the years has struggled to rid itself of the tribal, feudal and sectarian strife. Political instability has added to our problems with state institutions cutting across each other’s turf and thirst for superiority and power has put national interest aside. The public at large is unaware as to how they should hold their representatives accountable through the political process thereby forcing the judiciary to launch a vicious drive to curb corruption and corrupt practices. Once again the political scenario is at the cross roads with changing leadership in two major political parties and struggle to gain public support by young leadership in this era of media and awareness will be a challenge. Public sentiments are more volatile and polarized as ever as incidents of ink throwing and shoe tossing indicate frustration and dissatisfaction.

 

The silver lining is for Pakistan amidst the economic threats and political turmoil is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which under the One Belt One Road (OBOR) is taking tremendous strides forward. It is one of the largest infrastructure and investment mega-projects in the history, covering more than 68 countries, equivalent to 65% of the world’s population and 40% of the global GDP as of 2017.

CPEC comes as a great blessing from the heavens for Pakistan. Originally estimated investment of 46 billion dollars now stands at 62 billion dollars and is looking to create an estimated 2.3 million jobs from 2015 to 2030 and add upto 2.5 percentage points to the country’s annual growth. Every sector of the Pakistan’s economy and every driving engine of growth and development is looking at an upgrade under CPEC for e.g. energy crisis was the root cause stalling our growth, which is being addressed in the form of numerous projects either already completed or nearing completion ranging from wind and solar projects to coal power plants. (Courtney Fingar in her article in The Financial Times on 11th March, 2016 noted that Pakistan’s electricity shortages are a major hindrance to foreign investment, and that Chinese investment in Pakistani infrastructure and power projects will lead to a “virtuous cycle” that will make the country more attractive for foreign investment in a variety of sectors).

The highways and roads are a major focus as the phase I of Karakoram Highway nears completion in May 2018. The most awaited Orange Line becomes operational this month. Digital Multimedia Broadcast project will digitalize television and fiber optic project aims to bring 3G/4G to Gilgit-Baltistan. Similarly both governments plan to share resources, information and technology in the field of education, medicine and engineering.

Gwadar lies at the heart of the whole framework of regional connectivity as it is the pilot project in developing safe, secure and efficient transportation system connecting sea ports along the belt and road. Prime objective is promoting peace, prosperity and wellbeing of the people of Gwadar. Besides the swift development of sea port, the construction of an international airport at Gwadar will be starting soon which is likely to be completed in the next two years which is going to enhance business and well as tourism. Moreover, Gwadar is going to benefit from the fresh water treatment facility of 5 million gallons per day by the end of the year, which will be a priceless resource for the people.

It is but fair to say that great opportunities are knocking at our doors. Opportunities open doors but one must enter by himself and success comes where preparation meets opportunity. Let us make a promise on this historic day of 23rd March that we will leave our petty differences and join hands in the greater interest of Pakistan and play our part in backing up CPEC in our individual as well as collective capacity to maximize its benefits for the people of Pakistan.

(The writer is Chairman of Jinnah Rafi Foundation)

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