Monday, November 14, 2016

Pakistan Army: Chief Backer & Guarantor of CPEC

In July 2016, British newspaper Financial Times report headlined "China urges Pakistan to give army lead role in Silk Road project (CPEC):  Squabbles in Islamabad highlight obstacles to Beijing’s plans for transport and energy corridor" said as follows:

"Frustrated with the slow progress on a sprawling, $46bn infrastructure project stretching from China to south Asia, Beijing is seeking to give Pakistan’s army a lead role.... progress has stalled as the two sides work out how to turn the proposals into concrete projects, said Victor Gao, a former Chinese foreign ministry official, with some blaming Pakistan’s competing ministries"..... “Pakistani politicians have squabbled over the route for the CPEC and this may have made people nervous in Beijing,” said a Pakistan government official. “Pakistan is a noisy place politically while the Chinese are not used to harsh disagreements, especially over such a vital project.”

Chinese Container Ship "Cosco Wellington" at Gwadar Port

Gwadar Port Operational:

In the first week of November 2016, hundreds of containers arrived at Pakistan's Gwadar Port from Western China via CPEC's western land route. These containers were loaded onto "Cosco Wellington", a large Chinese vessel, and the ship departed Gwadar Port on November 13, 2016, for various destinations in Africa, Middle East and Europe.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and General Raheel Sharif at Gwadar Port on Nov 13, 2016


So what is happening behind the scenes? Is the Pakistani military playing a big role in making CPEC a reality? What is the extent of Pakistan Army's participation in executing CPEC-related projects? Let's examine answers to these questions in three parts: Managing squabbling civilians, providing security and projects execution.

Squabbling Civilians:

Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif is playing a very active behind-the-scenes role in managing the infighting among politicians, ministers and the civil servants. It has been reported that Gen Sharif has been talking to all of the stakeholders regularly to ensure progress on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects.

Providing Security:

Various militant groups, including Indian government proxies, are engaged in sabotaging CPEC. While some attacks have been successful, it is believed that the Pakistani military has been able to prevent many more. Thousands of soldiers and hundreds of intelligence officers are believed to be working to manage the security situation all along the western route and in Gwadar.  This is what made the recent pilot run with the trucks convoy reaching Gwadar and operationalizing the port recently.

Projects Execution:

The Pakistan military has thousands of civil, mechanical and electrical engineers with decades of experience in building large infrastructure projects and analysts say the army is well placed to supervise the corridor, according to the Financial Times.

In fact, Pakistan Army's Frontier Works Organization (FWO) is building significant parts of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). A July 2015 announcement is an illustration of what Frontier Works Organization is doing to advance CPEC:

“The Frontier Works Organization (FWO) has built roads with 502 kilometers length on the western alignment of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to link Gwadar with other parts of the country. The FWO took up the challenge to extend the benefits of Gwadar port to rest of the country by building roads in rugged mountainous terrain and highly inaccessible areas. The gigantic task was undertaken on the directives of Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif."

Army's Strong Commitment:

Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has made his institution's commitment loud and clear by frequent statements on the subject. He has said “We will do everything to make it a success". He is also record as warning that “terrorism is a global issue and warrants global response. The funding of all terrorist organizations has to be checked by all. We are against use of proxies and won’t allow it on our soil".

Summary:

Pakistan Army is playing a crucial role in ensuring progress and completion of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) related projects. The army leadership is using all its power and influence with all stakeholders, including politicians and civil servants, as part of this campaign to bring about development of infrastructure and energy to make Pakistan economically successful.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

CPEC to Create Over 2 Million Jobs

Modi's Covert War in Pakistan

ADB Raises Pakistan GDP Growth Forecast

Gwadar as Hong Kong West

China-Pakistan Industrial Corridor

Indian Spy Kulbhushan Yadav's Confession

Ex Indian Spy Documents RAW Successes Against Pakistan

Saleem Safi of GeoTV on Gwadar

Pakistan FDI Soaring with Chinese Money for CPEC

13 comments:

Javed said...

This is the sixth time Gwadar Port has become operational

Riaz Haq said...

Javed: "This is the sixth time Gwadar Port has become operational"

Gwadar was originally built during Musharraf years, inaugurated in 2007 and occasionally used for ships carrying imported fertilizer to Pakistan.

http://www.dawn.com/news/238494

However, this is the first time Gawadar received cargo containers from China via CPEC western route that were loaded on to a Chinese container ship for export.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/164359-Trade-caravan-China-reaches-Gwadar-through-CPEC-route

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan, #China Jointly Open New International Trade Route. #CPEC #Gwadar

http://www.voanews.com/a/pakistan-china-jointly-open-new-international-trade-route/3596644.html


GWADAR, PAKISTAN —
Pakistan and China this week activated a new international trade route through the southwestern Pakistani port of Gwadar to showcase a multi-billion-dollar economic cooperation agreement between the two close allies.

Beijing's $46 billion investment under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will lead to construction of road, rail and communication networks and power projects in Pakistan along the route linking China's western Xinjiang region to Gwadar.

Chinese officials say CPEC is "the major and pilot project of the Belt and Road” initiative proposed by President Xi Jinping.

It will ultimately turn the deep water Gwadar port, developed with Chinese financial and technical assistance, into a gateway for imports and exports from Xinjiang to international markets.

The port sits at the convergence of three of the world’s most commercially important regions, the oil-rich Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. It also lies at the mouth of the Persian Gulf, just outside the Strait of Hormuz.

Pakistani and Chinese officials gathered Sunday at the port to welcome the first convoy of trucks from China. Containers were loaded on two Chinese ships before they sailed to overseas destinations from Gwadar.

The trade convoy passed 3,000 kilometers along the Karakoram Highway through western Pakistan after entering at the Khunjerab Pass, the world's highest paved border crossing.

“It proves the connectivity of the local roads and realization of the concept of one corridor with multiple passages,” noted Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Sun Weeding in Gwadar.

“This trade convoy is the best reflection of the spirits of mutual consultation, joint construction, mutual benefits and win-win cooperation. I believe these spirits will serve as the solid basis for the future construction of CPEC,” said the Chinese diplomat.

Pakistani leaders hope the economic corridor will bring development and prosperity to billions of people in the region.

"Pakistan is located at the intersection of three engines of growth in Asia - South Asia, China and Central Asia. CPEC will help in integrating these regions into an economic zone offering great opportunities for people of the region as well as investors from all over the world,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told Sunday’s ceremony at Gwadar.

For China, the proposed CPEC route will offer the shortest possible access to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Chinese ships currently travel through the Strait of Malacca and it takes about half a month to transport goods to or from China.

The Pakistani government is under fire at home for allegedly maintaining secrecy around CPEC-related projects and diverting much of the Chinese investment to the populous province of Punjab, a traditional stronghold of Sharif’s ruling party.

The prime minister and his spokespeople have repeatedly denied the allegations.

"CPEC is for entire Pakistan and no province and region will be left out of it. The whole nation is united and determined to make CPEC a model of success and a flagship project of Pakistan and China friendship to take our friendship to greater heights," said Sharif, while speaking in Gwadar.

Despite security and political concerns, Chinese and Pakistani officials say that CPEC-related projects have entered into full implementation and are making “remarkable progress.”

They say 16 out of 24 “early harvest projects” are under construction and expected to be completed by 2018, creating tens of thousands of new jobs for local people.

Pakistani critics, however, point to a lack of structural reforms, corruption and mismanagement in government institutions for their skepticism about CPEC.

They insist that existing infrastructure needs a major overhaul to be able to absorb pressure that CPEC-related activities will generate in the coming years.

Riaz Haq said...

#FATA Development Top Priority: #Pakistan COAS Opens #Bannu-#Miranshah-GhulamKhan Rd. #Afghanistan- https://goo.gl/upx4J4 via @PKKHTweet

General Raheel Sharif, Chief of Army Staff on Sunday inaugurated an important section of upcoming Central Trade Corridor (CTC) alongwith the largest bridge on this road in South Waziristan Agency. CTC is a strategic road link to facilitate trade not only between Pakistan and Afghanistan but it will also directly and indirectly help revive local economy of FATA and KP. An international standard, 705 KM long road network through southern KP & FATA, CTC is being built by Army Engineers and funded by friendly countries.

The 76 KM long Shakai – Makeen road funded through USAID is an important lateral along the CTC which connects the two main axes of Trade Corridor i.e., Road Bannu – Miranshah – Ghulam Khan and Road Wana – Aangor Ada. Apart from other economic, security and strategic advantages, the newly constructed roads have reduced travelling times considerably.

The COAS said, development of FATA is a priority task being undertaken by the Army as a well considered strategy. Pakistan Army has undertaken 178 x projects so far in social sector take communication infrastructure and power sector in FATA and Malakand areas. These projects are aimed to improve the quality of life in tribal areas and address the problem of militancy on long term basis.

While addressing the tribal elders, COAS appreciated their support in combating terrorism and acknowledged their sacrifices in war against terrorism. He reiterated Army’s resolve to bring peace and stability to the affected areas.

Referring to operation Zarb-e-azb the Gen. Raheel Sharif said that the operation is progressing successfully as per plan. He said while focusing on early completion, the army will continue with rehabilitation and reconstruction activities. A comprehensive plan in this regard has been chalked out in consultation with the government.

Riaz Haq said...

#India & #Israel deepen intelligence & defense cooperation against "terrorism" #RAW #Mossad http://toi.in/mdJf7Z via @timesofindia

The two countries worked very closely together on defense, counter-terrorism, intelligence and security. But in recent years, Israel has become one of India's closest partners in agriculture, water management and conservation.

India is Israel's largest buyer of military hardware and the latter has been supplying various weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years but the transactions have largely remained behind the curtains.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan targets 6% GDP growth by 2018 https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/165362-Pakistan-eyes-6-percent-growth-by-2018 …

Haroon Akhtar, special assistant to the Prime Minister on revenue said on Wednesday the country, beset by low tax-to-GDP ratio, is expected to achieve growth rate of six percent before the next elections, due to introduction of pro-business policies.

“The business-friendly policies of the government have resulted in rapid economic development and the country will achieve growth rate of six percent by the elections (due 2018),” Akhtar told business leaders at the newly-constructed building of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Islamabad.

“Low tax-to-GDP ratio is hampering development for which we are trying best, while enhanced transparency has been ensured in the FBR (Federal Board of Revenue).”

During the recent years, the country has seen its growth accelerate on support of a three-year bailout program by the International Monetary Fund. Still the government is struggling to increase narrow tax base, shrinking exports and key foreign direct investments.

The FBR collected Rs3,112 billion in taxes for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2016, registering a 20 percent increase over the previous fiscal.

Yet, the country’s tax-to-GDP ratio has stagnated at 10 percent over the last few years. A study said only tax evasion shears five percent from the tax-to-GDP ratio.

The government eyed growth rates at 5.7 percent for the current fiscal year of 2016/17 and seven percent for 2017/18.

Pakistan’s economy achieved growth rate of 4.7 percent in 2015/16, the highest in the past eight years.

The World Bank, however, projected the country’s growth rate at 5.4 percent by 2018. Akhtar said a lot of incidents of tax evasion are being reported, “but, we opt for legal actions in a very few cases.”

“Those who pay tax after detection face no action at all,” he added. “US is a super power because of a good tax system, while Europe is considered developed due to good taxation, therefore Pakistani business community should also discharge obligation so that Pakistan can develop at a fast pace.”

He said a number of sectors, including fertiliser, have been given tax breaks, which has resulted in good growth. “Lenders like Asian Development Bank is ready to provide loan on less than two percent, which indicates its confidence on Pakistan’s policies,” he said.

The PM’s assistant said the government has not transferred burden of improved oil prices to the masses. He said those who say that foreign debt would swell to $110 billion have overlooked certain facts. “GDP, investment and exports will also take a boost,” he added. “Debt-to-GDP ratio in Pakistan is at a comfortable level of 20 percent, while average interest payable on debt is three percent, which is not worrying.”

Riaz Haq said...

#CPEC: Will #India Start War With #Pakistan And #China Over It? http://www.valuewalk.com/2016/11/cpec-india-vs-pakistan-china/ … via @ValueWalk


By Polina Tikhonova

With China and Pakistan actively working on the CPEC, the uptick of irresponsible propaganda pieces coming from politicians and analysts – originating mostly from India – shows no sign of going away.

Such an opinion was expressed by Panos Mourdoukoutas, a contributor for Forbes. Mourdoukoutas argues that China has to either appease India or “forget” about the CPEC project.

A number of Indian government officials have expressed their concerns over the CPEC since the project was announced over three years ago. And while India, as alleged by Pakistan, has made numerous attempts to disrupt the project, the chances that India might actually start a war with China and Pakistan over the project remain equal to zero.

In fact, former Indian Ambassador Melkulangara Bhadrakumar said India would “lose heavily” if it remained opposed and isolated from the CPEC.

However, numerous Indian government officials believe the CPEC is designed to undermine India’s position in the region and see the project as a threat to India’s interests.

While that creates tensions between China and Pakistan on one side, and India on the other, authors of anti-CPEC propaganda pieces seem unable to provide at least one legitimate reason as to why India would go to war with China and Pakistan over the project.

China would protect the CPEC at all costs as the project is worth a whopping $46 billion and is a game-changer for both China and Pakistan. Disrupting the project would mean a direct declaration of war to China and Pakistan. And India knows it.

This past summer, the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations suggested that Beijing will have “to get involved” if New Delhi attempts to disrupt the project.

---------


In his piece arguing that China is lagging behind India in terms of investments, Mourdoukoutas provides data that suggests India’s economic growth is set to outpace China.

Although India currently enjoys the rise of its economy, the country is becoming less attractive for investors in the long run. The reason? India is a “highly crowded trade,” as said by Herald van der Linde, head of Asia Pacific equity strategy at HSBC, in the bank’s Asia Equity Insights Quarterly.


“High fund holdings, premium valuations and slow pace of reforms make us reluctant to enter the market,” van der Linde wrote, adding that India’s earnings growth expectations are also slowing down.

Will India go to war with China and Pakistan over CPEC?

In his article, Mourdoukoutas also suggests that “if pro-Indian forces in Pakistan sabotage China’s CPEC route,” China should expect an open confrontation against India.

Mourdoukoutas also argues that it’s the reason why Beijing “should either appease New Delhi or forget about CPEC altogether.”

An open military confrontation between the world’s two most populous countries is very unlikely, especially considering the fact that India has already made several large-scale attempts to sabotage the CPEC.

Earlier this year, Pakistan alleged it had arrested a spy from India’s RAW, Kulbhushan Yadav. Islamabad believes that Yadav is responsible for hindering implementation of CPEC projects in Pakistan’s Balochistan province.

Riaz Haq said...


#Gwadar port a watershed in #China and #Pakistan ties- #CPEC
http://www.khaleejtimes.com/international/pakistan/gwadar-port-a-watershed-in-china-and-pakistan-ties

China and Pakistan have sailed into the Arabian Sea and are waiting to shake hands with the UAE and the rest of the world across the Straits of Hormuz. Making marine shipping and political history, two ships sailed from the new Pakistani port of Gwadar into the Arabian Sea.

China and Pakistan are tapping the most important energy-rich markets in the world - the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Africa - with two ships - MV Cosco Willington and MV Al Hussein - sailing into the Arabian Sea from the new Pakistani port of Gwadar, destined for the Middle East and African ports. The occasion is a watershed moment.

It also marked the opening of the first segment of the $51 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Gwadar and the CPEC are the lynchpins of making this region a big economic zone. It will cover the whole of China, Central Asian Republics, Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east, UAE and Saudi Arabia in the South, Iran in the west and Turkey-EU in the northwest.

The CPEC reduces the sea route from Shanghai to the UAE to a few kilometers. Eyeing the massive business opportunities, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey have offered to join the CPEC zone. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Islamabad to take the deal forward.

The western Chinese city of Kashgar won the distinction of being the first to use the pilot project in the new land-sea route.

Geo-strategic location
Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the CPEC, of which Gwadar is the southern-most terminal, has become a reality with the start of shipment of trade cargo from this new port.

"The CPEC project enjoys a unique geo-strategic location, standing at the crossroads of three major engines of growth, including South Asia, China and Central Asia. It will change the fate of three billion people in the region. It will also serve as the hub of a major trade zone," he said.

Pakistan has already allocated land for the Gwadar free trade zone, with special tax and tariff concessions. The exclusive industrial park, processing zone and mineral economic zone are being implemented on a fast-track basis.

Sharif described the Gwadar-CPEC project and arrival of the Chinese cargo-container convoy as "break of a new dawn" and "a watershed event."

Sharif said: "I applaud the role of Chinese President Xi's [Jinping] vision of regional prosperity which coincides with Pakistan's vision of Deevelopment-2020. President Xi's vision of shared prosperity through greater connectivity is the need of the hour in a conflict-ridden and polarised world."

President Jinping said: "Our concept of 'one-belt, one-road' aims at integrating trade and commercial activities of regional countries through enhanced connectivity. It will transform Pakistan into a major hub of trade." The message was read out at the inauguration of Gwadar port by Ambassador Sun Weidong.

The ambassador said it is for the first time that a trade cargo has successfully passed through from the north of China to the south of Pakistan and onto the Arabian Sea.


"This is also for the first time that China and Pakistan have co-organised a trade convoy through Pakistan to Gwadar port. The local people will get jobs. It proves that connectivity of local roads will be beneficial to all."

The project officials said that 125 Chinese cargo trucks had entered Pakistan through the border post of Sust. They also said an air link between the Chinese city of Kashgar and Pakistani city of Skardu will be established. Yet another air link will connect the Chinese city of Urumqi with the Pakistani city of Gilgit to facilitate trade of Chinese goods through Gwadar.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan saw 45% fewer #terror attacks & 38% fewer deaths this year, says ‘Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2016’.

http://www.dawn.com/news/1297480/global-index-records-drop-in-terrorist-activities-in-pakistan-during-2015

Pakistan recor-ded a substantial decrease in terrorist activities last year, with 45 per cent fewer attacks and 38pc fewer deaths reported in the year than in the previous year, according to the report of the ‘Global Terrorism Index (GTI) 2016’.

This is the second consecutive year in which Pakistan has seen reduction in terrorist activities. Terrorism in the country is now at its lowest level since 2006, says the report released by the US-based Institute for Economics and Peace, an independent think-tank.

The GTI is based on data from the Global Terrorism Database which is collected and collated by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, a department of the Homeland Security Centre of Excellence led by the University of Maryland.

Pakistan had the third largest decline in deaths. There were 677 fewer deaths in Pakistan. As a result, Pakistan had the lowest number of deaths from terrorism since 2008, said the report released on Thursday.

The reduction in deaths from terrorism is in part explained by Zarb-i-Azb military operation being carried out by Pakistan Army. The operation focused on removing militant safe havens in North Waziristan.

Pakistan continued to see decline in its levels of terrorism due to infighting within the largest active group, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as well as to the operations of the army in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Although the TTP reduced the number of attacks in Pakistan, it was still responsible for the most attacks, according to the report. In 2015 the group was responsible for 36pc of the deaths, totalling 240 people. This was down from 59pc of the deaths, totalling 544, in 2014, representing a sharp year-on-year reduction.

Although the number of attacks declined, terrorist activities was spreading across the country. It moved from the border region with Afghanistan to many other parts of the country, especially the Punjab province in the east which is the most populated area of Pakistan. A total of 429 cities experienced terrorist attacks in 2015, up from 17 in 2000. This may create a much more difficult situation for the Pakistani government in the coming years.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan to establish 29 Special Economic Zones along #CPEC network in all 4 provinces http://bit.ly/2g1VAoT via @techjuicepk

Federal government is planning on establishing about 29 Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in all of the four provinces under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

SEZs will be capable of enhancing country’s economic capacity, expanding the exports and providing much-needed momentum to the country’s economy. They’ll prove to be a turning point in the industrial development and infrastructure also. Pakistan has always been lagging behind the other South Asian countries in utilizing the SEZs benefits.

What are SEZs?

The idea of SEZ first started in New York in 1937. As per SEZ Act of Pakistan,

“Special Economic Zone (SEZ) is a blanket term for various types of specialized zones with specific types of enterprises operating in a well-defined geographic area where certain economic activities are promoted by a set of policy measures that are not generally applicable to the rest of the country. Successful SEZs offer immediate access to high-quality infrastructure, uninterruptible power supply, clearly titled land, public facilities, and support services.

The fiscal benefits under the SEZ law include a one-time exemption from custom duties and taxes for all capital goods imported into Pakistan for the development, operations and maintenance of a SEZ (both for the developer as well as for the zone enterprise) and exemption from all taxes on income for a period of ten years.”

As per 18th Amendment, provinces can now independently formulate their investment and trade policies. SEZs will be a source of their collaboration in designing lucid policies.

The challenge to be faced by SEZs will be in selection of the area. Government should select remote locations so that other locations are not over crowded. They should design a unique incentive structure to attract potential investors. They should also provide residential facilities near economic zones.

Already established industries in Pakistan like textile, cement, household appliances, surgical equipment, mineral resources etc., will be the potential candidates for such SEZs.

This will be a huge step for Pakistan if properly implemented. Considering that China is also in the phase of upgrading its industrial base, CPEC may face some issues in obtaining the necessary material. The adequate coordination between two countries and the provincial and federal governments of Pakistan and designing an appropriate incentive structure are the necessary conditions for the success of SEZs under CPEC.

Riaz Haq said...

NPR's Phillip Reeve, on train ride across Pakistan, finds ordinary Pakistanis strongly support the military:

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/23/503108897/after-27-hours-our-train-ride-through-pakistan-ends-in-karachi

REEVES: Glacier - that's the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battlefield. It's a giant sweep of ice and snow nearly 20,000 feet up in the Himalayan Mountains. A standoff between the Pakistani and Indian armies has been going on there for more than 30 years. There's been intermittent fighting. But the real killers are the weather and the altitude. Life up there is very harsh, says Ali.

ALI: (Through interpreter) There's very little oxygen. Breathing is difficult, and you never feel like eating. There are many hardships.

REEVES: Extreme cold and also avalanches have claimed many hundreds of lives over the years. Ali worries about frostbite.

ALI: (Through interpreter) You can get frostbite on the ear, on the nose, on the fingers. If you get it on any part of the body, then it must be amputated, as there's no cure.

REEVES: Ali's in good spirits today. He's heading home on our train to his wife to begin one month's leave. He set off from the mountains four days ago and still has one more day of travel. Ali's 24 and a sepoy. That's the same as a private. He signed up for the Pakistani military at 17 but didn't want to.

ALI: (Through interpreter) I joined because my father ordered me.

REEVES: Ali says he really wanted to be in the Navy. But now, he's gotten used to the army and the tough conditions.

ALI: (Through interpreter) Despite all that, I now enjoy it.

REEVES: People on our train seem to treat Ali with much respect. Pakistanis we've met on this journey are profoundly disillusioned with their government yet strongly approve of their army. Their nation's spent roughly half of its history and some of its darkest years under military dictatorship, yet some Pakistanis say they'd be happy to get rid of their elected civilian government and be ruled by generals again. Zaman Saeed's an anti-narcotics official and a passenger on this train.

ZAMAN SAEED: (Through interpreter) It would be better. Pakistan would improve.

REEVES: Saeed would like the military to run the country, but just for a few years.

SAEED: (Through interpreter) They should spend three years sorting out all crocodiles who commit corruption and destroy Pakistan. After that, there's no harm restoring democracy.

REEVES: Pakistanis tend to revere their military because they believe it's done a great job reducing violence in recent years by driving the Pakistani Taliban out of the mountains bordering Afghanistan and going after militant outfits in Karachi. The army's harsh tactics cause deep resentment in some areas, though, like Balochistan province, where there's a separatist insurgency.

But we're traveling through Pakistan's heartland - the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. Here, the army has many fans. And a sharp surge in tensions with the old foe, India, seems to be making the military even more popular. Twenty-seven hours after setting out, we're arriving.

The outskirts of Karachi look pretty shabby - lots of slums, narrow alleys, lots of trash on the ground, motorbikes trying to squeeze their way down these tiny lanes, animals, washing hanging out, lots of little kids wandering about.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN BRAKING)

REEVES: Our train draws in. This is the giant metropolis, the port city that makes most of the money that fuels Pakistan's economy.

There we are - Karachi.

The platform's crowded with porters in long, dark-green robes, carrying baggage on their heads. That conversation on the train about an army takeover has left me wanting to learn more. Could Pakistan's military really rule again one day? I get a cab to the Karachi Press Club. The club has a history of challenging dictators. It doesn't allow anyone in military uniform through its doors.

Riaz Haq said...

Via @NPR: Phillip Reeve on train ride thru #Pakistan finds the Army is very popular in the country.

http://www.npr.org/2016/11/23/503108897/after-27-hours-our-train-ride-through-pakistan-ends-in-karachi

REEVES: Glacier - that's the Siachen Glacier, the world's highest battlefield. It's a giant sweep of ice and snow nearly 20,000 feet up in the Himalayan Mountains. A standoff between the Pakistani and Indian armies has been going on there for more than 30 years. There's been intermittent fighting. But the real killers are the weather and the altitude. Life up there is very harsh, says Ali.

ALI: (Through interpreter) There's very little oxygen. Breathing is difficult, and you never feel like eating. There are many hardships.

REEVES: Extreme cold and also avalanches have claimed many hundreds of lives over the years. Ali worries about frostbite.

ALI: (Through interpreter) You can get frostbite on the ear, on the nose, on the fingers. If you get it on any part of the body, then it must be amputated, as there's no cure.

REEVES: Ali's in good spirits today. He's heading home on our train to his wife to begin one month's leave. He set off from the mountains four days ago and still has one more day of travel. Ali's 24 and a sepoy. That's the same as a private. He signed up for the Pakistani military at 17 but didn't want to.

ALI: (Through interpreter) I joined because my father ordered me.

REEVES: Ali says he really wanted to be in the Navy. But now, he's gotten used to the army and the tough conditions.

ALI: (Through interpreter) Despite all that, I now enjoy it.

REEVES: People on our train seem to treat Ali with much respect. Pakistanis we've met on this journey are profoundly disillusioned with their government yet strongly approve of their army. Their nation's spent roughly half of its history and some of its darkest years under military dictatorship, yet some Pakistanis say they'd be happy to get rid of their elected civilian government and be ruled by generals again. Zaman Saeed's an anti-narcotics official and a passenger on this train.

ZAMAN SAEED: (Through interpreter) It would be better. Pakistan would improve.

REEVES: Saeed would like the military to run the country, but just for a few years.

SAEED: (Through interpreter) They should spend three years sorting out all crocodiles who commit corruption and destroy Pakistan. After that, there's no harm restoring democracy.

REEVES: Pakistanis tend to revere their military because they believe it's done a great job reducing violence in recent years by driving the Pakistani Taliban out of the mountains bordering Afghanistan and going after militant outfits in Karachi. The army's harsh tactics cause deep resentment in some areas, though, like Balochistan province, where there's a separatist insurgency.

But we're traveling through Pakistan's heartland - the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. Here, the army has many fans. And a sharp surge in tensions with the old foe, India, seems to be making the military even more popular. Twenty-seven hours after setting out, we're arriving.

The outskirts of Karachi look pretty shabby - lots of slums, narrow alleys, lots of trash on the ground, motorbikes trying to squeeze their way down these tiny lanes, animals, washing hanging out, lots of little kids wandering about.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRAIN BRAKING)

REEVES: Our train draws in. This is the giant metropolis, the port city that makes most of the money that fuels Pakistan's economy.

There we are - Karachi.

The platform's crowded with porters in long, dark-green robes, carrying baggage on their heads. That conversation on the train about an army takeover has left me wanting to learn more. Could Pakistan's military really rule again one day? I get a cab to the Karachi Press Club. The club has a history of challenging dictators. It doesn't allow anyone in military uniform through its doors.


Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's domestic #cement sales show 12% growth in Nov 2016. #CPEC https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/169090-Cement-sales-may-post-9pc-growth-in-Nov …

Cement sales are likely to post nine percent year-on-year (YoY) jump in November due mainly to strong domestic demand, a brokerage reported on Thursday. Analyst Nabeel Khursheed at Topline Securities said cement industry is expected to record sales of 3.7 million tons in November.

Local sales are expected to be at 3.2 million tons in November, up 12 percent YoY and five percent month-on-month (MoM). “We remain upbeat on local sales outlook, owing to large scale infrastructure developments and higher demand from private sector,” Khursheed added. Exports are likely to remain at 0.5 million tons, up six percent YoY, but down four percent MoM. “This is mainly because of a likely 20 percent decline in dispatches to Afghanistan,” the equity analyst added. The neighbouring Afghanistan consumes 35 percent of Pakistan’s cement exports. The brokerage, citing the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, said retail cement prices were in the range of Rs520 to 540/bag in north and Rs567-580/bag in south region in November. An average nationwide price was Rs545/bag.

Cement sales are likely to increase around nine percent to 16 million tons in the first five months of this fiscal year. Local sales would be up 11 percent to 13.6 million tons in the July-November period.