Events following September 11 have dealt Pakistan a
sharp economic blow
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Oct 15 - 21, 2001
The award of Nobel Prize for peace sounds amazing
in the face of unprecedented acts of terrorism in the United States,
war destruction in Afghanistan, sleepless nights due to fear of
terrorism in the West and bloodshed in Kashmir and Palestine. It looks
funny to celebrate peace while hundred of thousands of people are
running for their lives in different parts of the world.
The completion of 100 years of inception of the
Nobel Prize was certainly a big occasion but its announcement should
have been delayed for an opportune time.
The fall out of the current situation in the
context of war in Afghanistan has bred various concerns especially for
the people and the government of Pakistan. Besides adverse impact on
its economy, the possible eruption of law and order situation and acts
of sabotage within Pakistan certainly are the genuine concerns for
Pakistan. Though the government in Pakistan taking every care for any
eventuality, the people in general who live on day to day basis are
the worst sufferers of the situation due to a sudden standstill of the
economic activities in the country.
Responding to the need of the hour, the government
has advised all the civil institutions and public sector corporations
in communication, railways, oil and gas, health, food, energy and
security to be on high alert to meet any eventuality arising out of
the US-military attacks on Afghanistan.
The cabinet division has directed heads of
ministries and attached public sector companies to maintain sufficient
stocks of commodities, spares and machinery keeping in view short and
A comprehensive contingency plan, based on a number
of arrangements from various ministries, is expected to be presented
to the federal cabinet and the National Security Council on coming
Wednesday, it is learnt.
All the secretariats have been advised to go
through their respective "war books" and prepare their
demand and supply position to cover areas like sufficient stocks of
essential commodities, machinery, equipment and spares. Pakistan's
past concerns of maintaining stocks and supply channels were based on
attacks from eastern side while the Western and Southern land route
primarily from Iran was completely safe and secure. As the war book
have been opened first time in about three decades, the officials
would have to concentrate mainly on maintaining sufficient stocks
primarily relating to oil supplies, spare parts and equipment for
electricity and gas companies, security of railway tracks and ports.
The fact that Pakistan has no direct threat of attack from any side,
its south-west road and railways infrastructure in view of proximity
with US-Taliban war zone, are being considered comparatively
unreliable to transport oil supplies. Though most of normal
transportation activities take place through air and sea routes,
warlike situation has its own constraints. It is said that the
government had already discussed these issues with friendly Arab
countries like Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to reassure oil supplies in any
difficult situation through already existing long term agreements. The
government had decided last month to increase oil supplies coverage to
45 days equivalent consumption level from current 19 days to meet any
future strategic needs. The Economic Coordination Committee of the
cabinet had directed the petroleum ministry to remain extra vigilant
on demand and supply position of oil in the country.
It is learnt that efforts were being made to
increase fuel storage of all power plants of WAPDA and KESC to the
maximum capacity of about 15 days, which normally stay below the
capacity due to financial constraints. Security of all oil and gas
installations including fields and refineries have already been handed
over to armed forces to avoid any sabotage activity by the enemies
taking advantage of prevailing situation.
On the law and order situation, President Gen.
Pervez Musharraf has ordered the national intelligence agencies to
concentrate more on terrorism and sectarianism-related activities
instead of gathering "political intelligence".
The presidential directives issued following
preparation of a new plan of action for the intelligence agencies,
which was approved at a high level meeting on law and order presided
over by President Gen. Musharraf.
The intelligence agencies have been asked for
reorientation of their focus towards criminal activities, sectarian
violence and terrorism instead of pursuing other activities like
political intelligence gathering. Sectarian violence has been on the
increase at an alarming pace in the country.
Law & Order
The government has directed the law enforcement
agencies to immediately launch a massive crackdown on lawbreakers,
including those Afghan refugees who damaged public and private
The directives were given at an inter-provincial
meeting of the officials presided over by President Musharraf to
review the law and order situation. The law enforcement agencies have
been asked to maintain close coordination to ensure that mosques and
other religious premises were not used for fanning hatred among
various factions of the society. The president has sounded a strong
warning to extremist religious elements and Afghan refugees and asked
them to desist from creating a law and order situation or be ready to
face the serious consequences.
A massive influx of Afghan refugees into Pakistan
is yet another issue essentially causing serious concerns for economic
and social fronts in Pakistan.
Pakistan, already hosting over 2 million Afghan
refugees, is getting prepared to receive at the equal number of
uninvited refugees who are forced by the air resorts to leave their
homeland to the safer zones in Pakistan. UNHCR has estimated that at
least 2000 Afghan refugees are crossing over into Pakistan every day
through the porous border with Afghanistan. The UNHCR officials
without realizing the growing problems on account of population influx
alleged that insistence of Pakistan government that any new camps be
built in tribal areas alongside the Afghan border are compounding the
problems. While recognizing the enormous burden that Pakistan has by
hosting some 2 million Afghans over the years, UNHCR continues to
press for more suitable sites for refugee camps within Pakistan
borders. Initially more than 100 possible reception sites had been
identified by the Pakistan authorities in the border areas which are
about 100 in NWFP and six in Balochistan.
Pakistan has rejected UNHCR's claim of red tapism
in preventing the field teams of the refugee agencies from getting
access to border areas. Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs and
Northern Areas division Abbas Sarfraz has said Pakistan authorities
are not resorting to red tapism but instead have been facilitating the
UNHCR right from the beginning to prevent any obstacles in their
The UN staff itself is feeling threatened of
visiting the border areas for security concerns and a number of their
international staff have left the forward areas, the minister said.
In Pakistan red tape and security concerns prevent
UNHCR field teams from getting access to border areas to monitor
possible population movements or from offering immediate assistance to
any new arrivals. The UNHCR regional public information officer for
central and Southwest Asia Yousaf Hassan repeated the same accusation
in a joint press conference of UN agencies.
The federal minister elaborating the Pakistan
stance on relief operation of UNHCR said that the over riding concerns
of Pakistan is to get the aid delivered "it is immaterial for us
whether the aid is delivered by the international staff of UNHCR or
the local staff."
The minister said Pakistani authorities helped
UNHCR identify more than 100 sites for establishing refugee camps in
the Northern Areas and Balochistan.
Interior Ministry officials said that the
government assured protection to UN staff in the tribal areas and have
even offered to escort them. He said it was the UN Resident
Coordinator who himself directed the UN staff to stay home in view of
the security situation.
In order to avoid controversy, the UN has decided
to resume its activities in the tribal areas under government escort
in clearly marked UN vehicles.
Under a new set of security codes issued recently
way had been paved for preparatory UN humanitarian operations in the
tribal areas of Pakistan.
According to a World Bank statement, events
following September 11 have dealt Pakistan a sharp economic blow,
estimated to cost the country at least one billion dollar this year
alone. The estimate of losses could rise if the situation in
Afghanistan is not resolved in the short term.
Pakistan's Minister for finance has been reassured
US commitment to stay the course with the reform program it has put
into place and to accelerate its implementation.
The assurance was extended at a meeting between
Finance Minister Shaukat Aziz and World Bank President James D.
Wolfensohn in Washington.
The meeting also discussed the ongoing reform
programme and economic outlook for Pakistan.
Over the past two years, Pakistan has been
implementing a national reform programme that has allowed increased
lending from the World Bank in the fiscal year. The two discussed the
continuation of this programme in the context of the current situation
At a gathering of international donors to Pakistan
in March this year, World Bank officials had commended the commitment
of Pakistan to address long-standing problems of poverty, education
and health and in parallel to tackle corruption and other policy and
institutional constraints to business activity and growth.
World Bank's president said "it is a real
opportunity for all Pakistan's people to build a sustainable future
and we must not lose sight of that, even at this most difficult time.
According to a report, Britain says that the war in
which it is helping the United States would stretch well into next
Sir Michael Boyce, Chief of the British defence
staff has said "we must expect at least to go through the winter
to next summer at the very least".
On the other hand indications given by the US
government that they are intended to prolong their stay in Afghanistan
even after dislodging the Taliban government have raised many eyebrows
especially in the Muslim world. Political and business circles feel
that such type of statements may cause a sense of economic uncertainty
and insecurity in the region.
Replying to a question at a Press Conference
Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said that after the Pentagon
memorial service, the US did not target civilians but there was no
question that when "one is engaged militarily, there will be
unintentional loss of life" which was to be regretted. He
admitted that the Taliban's air defence capability, which was earlier
claimed to have been liquidated, still posed a threat to US aircraft.
There was no confirmation from Rumsfeld or other officials of reports
that Pakistan had permitted use of airfields by American forces and
that hundreds of US troops had already moved in. Rumsfeld said it was
for the countries concerned to characterize the support they were
extending to the US and the ways in which they were doing so and
America's only interest was to get the maximum possible help.
Pakistan has promised logistics support to the US
and says airports in the country will be used only for rescue and
relief purposes. It was not clear whether a possible ground offensive
would come from Uzbekistan or Pakistan. Some Special Forces were
already said to have undertaken reconnaissance missions inside
Afghanistan. Daylight raids were carried out on Kabul airport and
around Kandhar, which has been a special target because it is the seat
of Taliban leader Mulla Omar and also a haunt of Al-Qaeda fighters.
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is scheduled
to arrive Pakistan in a day or two will be holding an important
meeting with Pakistan leaders to take stock of the enormous problems
being faced by Pakistan as a result of US-led campaign against Taliban
government in Afghanistan.
In a televised interview, Powell has said that the
important question was not the duration of the current campaign but
its outcome. He also echoed President Bush's earlier remarks that
there was no commitment to Gen. Pervez Musharraf that the campaign
would be a short one. Power said no promises were made to President
Musharraf and added, "I am sure Pervez Musharraf hopes that the
campaign has a limited timeframe, everybody does. But its not how long
it is in time but whether it accomplishes the mission we have for
it" he remarked.
He said that he looked forward to discussing the
issue with Gen. Musharraf who is in a firm political position"
The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) has
opposed the spread of the US-led onslaught on the Taliban in
Afghanistan to any other Muslim country.
The foreign ministers of the 57-member organization
said in a joint statement at the end of an emergency meeting held in
Doha last week. The statement says that ministers have rejected that
any Islamic or Arab country is attacked under the pretext of the fight
The OIC did not condemn the US-led strikes on
Afghanistan, but instead expressed "concern that they could cause
victims among innocent civilians."
It also demanded that the territorial integrity and
Islamic identity of Afghanistan be guaranteed.
Iraqi foreign minister Naji Sabri predicted that
his country could be next to face attack.
"We think that the United States may use the
opportunity to take vengeance against the Iraqi people because Iraq is
not ready to surrender its territory to become a colony for the US,
Britain and Israel".
Qatar's Amir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani
called for a united stance on terrorism.
Speaking on behalf of the ministers present Sheikh
Hamad also stressed the need to provide concrete proof, other blame of
presumed perpetrators of that month's attacks in the United States.
Russian Defence Minister Serget Ivanov echoed the
OIC appeal, telling a special meeting of Russia's upper house of
Parliament in Moscow "the strikes against the territory of
Afghanistan must be surgical. They must target specific individuals
and not the Afghan people."
At an earlier meeting in Doha Arab League foreign
ministers voiced support for the international fight against terrorism
but could not agree on a common position on the US-led military
attacks on Afghanistan. "We are all against international
terrorism and we will not tolerate this phenomenon being linked to
Islam" Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa said.
President George Bush on Thursday last had offered
that US would be prepared to give the Taliban a second chance to hand
over Osama bin Laden. However in the absence of any response of that
offer it looks that Taliban has ignored the offer. Instead the Afghan
ambassador Mulla Abdul Saleem Zaeef has said that real war with the
Americans and their allied forces would be fought on ground as Afghan
fighters were determined not to let a single enemy soldier return
alive. He said that America was deceiving the international community
by claiming that the US-led forces were hitting only fixed targets
while they were actually attacking and killing civilians including
women and children and destroying houses. Zaeef said hundreds of
houses had been destroyed by bombings in Kabul, Kandahar, Jalalabad
and other areas of the country. He said that Afghans had not only
become war hardened in the last 20 years but had also become
accustomed to all sorts of hardships. He also urged the world
community and media to understand the ground realities of Afghanistan.
"The only negotiable route to global peace and
cooperation goes by way of the United Nations". The Norwegian
Nobel committee observed this on the historic occasion of its
Pakistan has always been demanding for
implementation of the UN resolutions to address the global issues
including of Kashmir issue and terrorist attacks on the US. Situation
demands that the rule of law and sense of reasoning be allowed to
prevail to make our world a peaceful place for the generations to