Will Pakistan cash out its global goodwill?


Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi

The Republic Day military parade in Islamabad last week was unique, with seven countries participating in the event: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Brunei, China, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Turkey. If we include the guest of honor, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohammad, eight distinct countries were represented at a national event. 
The participation of these countries reflects a measure of the ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s, success at drawing international attention to its slogan of a “New Pakistan.” Apart from Saudi Arabia, Chine and the UAE extending financial support to enable Pakistan to cope with loan repayment pressures, Pakistan has engaged actively with other states, especially Russia, Turkey and Malaysia. It was these countries that helped defuse tensions between India and Pakistan last month, when both countries seemed on the brink of an all-out war. Similarly, Pakistan’s role in facilitating the US-Taliban dialogue has defused the American tirade against Pakistan.
The critical question now is, can Prime Minister Imran Khan turn all this favorable international attention into concrete benefits for the country?
In today’s international system, the capacity of any country to pursue its national interests globally, depends first and foremost on its domestic stability, security and an efficient and corruption-free administration. Therefore, the answer depends on how the government will handle itself domestically from here on.

Many international groups are interested in investment and trade with Pakistan because of the mere size of the market and its youth population. Furthermore, if the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor road and rail network is established and linked with Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Middle East, Pakistan could well become an industrial hub for transporting goods and services in the region.
This requires the government to become economically ambitious and to assign such opportunities the highest priority. Revamp bureaucratic procedures to facilitate domestic and foreign investment. Review excise and taxation procedures, and remove lengthy bureaucratic processes which encourage bribery and corruption. 
Concrete measures must be taken to improve logistical, political and other infrastructures for foreign and domestic investment, to facilitate trade and business, and to make certain that the tax authorities are not reverting to harassment of the business community.
If Pakistan is to encash on the significant goodwill it currently enjoys in the world, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister must ensure that promises made to Pakistani businesses and industries are implemented by the bureaucratic apparatus. If the government cannot satisfy local investors and its commercial elite, then it will always fall short of the prerequisites for foreign investment.
For the better part of the year, the biggest handicap for government functioning has been its bitter relations with opposition parties. Both sides routinely trade charges and counter-charges and invariably use offensive and discourteous idioms in their statements inside and outside parliament. Senior opposition leaders have tried paralyzing the government through an unfavorable discourse and disrupting National Assembly proceedings.
(Dr. Hasan Askari Rizvi is a Pakistan-based political analyst. Twitter: @har132har)