The Chinese pressure to squash international competitive bidding assumes that there were potential rivals who could have provided the same services on better terms. Therefore, it is high time to evaluate the Pakistani elites` economic dealings with China.
Dr Manzur Ejaz
It has been reported that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has proposed to Hamid Karzai to substitute China with the US as the nation’s top patron. The Pakistani political elite is consolidating its primitive base while the army is also enhancing its mercenary role in the Arab kingdoms. In such circumstances, the Pakistani elite feels safe aligning with China and the Arab monarchies rather than the West and the US, which demands unnecessary trouble with maintaining a democratic façade. The Chinese have mastered the technique of dealing with the elites of the African countries for extracting their resources without providing any benefit to the people of that country.
Before Gilani and the military leadership visited Kabul, pertinent developments, symbolic or virtual, had taken place. A few days before the Pak-Afghan Kabul meeting, a mighty Chinese corporation was visiting Pakistan and demanded that it be given hydropower projects without any international competitive bidding. Probably Pakistan’s bureaucracy created some fuss, but with intervention from the highest levels of the state, the contracts were awarded to Chinese without much fanfare. No one can ever know who got what in this deal. Observers of China’s dealings with African elites (China is the largest investor in African continent now) are not surprised and claim that this is a typical Chinese mode of operations.
Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif has also signed some hydropower projects with the Chinese in the last few weeks. It is understood that all these contracts were awarded without international competitive bidding. Supporters of such deals can argue that since no one is interested in investing in Pakistan, the country has no choice but to fall back on China. If that is true, then, if international bidding is announced, no one except Chinese will participate and they will win the contracts. However, the Chinese pressure to squash international competitive bidding assumes that there were potential rivals who could have provided the same services on better terms. Therefore, it is high time to evaluate the Pakistani elites’ economic dealings with China.
Critics have been asking the question what Pakistan received from the Chinese project in Saindak. The copper and gold mining project was leased for 10 years to a Chinese company, Metallurgical Construction Corp (MCC), which is due to expire in September 2012. Under the lease agreement, MCC was to run the project on an annual rent of $ 500,000 plus a 50 percent share of copper sales to the Pakistani government. The project was based on estimated ore reserves of 412 million tones containing on average 0.5 gram of gold per ton and 1.5 grams of silver per ton. According to official estimates, the project has the capacity to produce 15,800 tons of blister copper annually, containing 1.5 tons of gold and 2.8 tons of silver.
Someone has to show what Pakistani people are receiving from the Chinese mega projects, which are awarded without competitive bidding. Or is it China’s African style operation where a small section of the elite is involved and benefiting unjustly without any transparency? Since Pakistan’s army was dealing with the Chinese most of the time; it is believed that ex-servicemen are closely linked with secretive deals with China. Not only the retired army men but, in general, Pakistani ruling elite, like the rest of the world, hates transparency and one can see why they would feel more comfortable with China.
The Pakistani ruling elite, including the army, has developed a habit of non-transparent dealings because of its close links with the Arab monarchies. The entire gambit of Arab-Pakistani relationship is designed in a way where the elite are rewarded in different ways while the Pakistan Army and mercenaries recruited from the poorest regions provide security to the monarchies. Since the US is willing to accommodate these monarchies at every cost, the Pakistani elite uses them as a buffer against the West and the US. Since these monarchies have no problem with theocratic overtones of the Pakistani state — rather they prefer it this way — Pakistani elite believes it can get away with anything.
Pakistan’s increasing linkages with China and Arab monarchies do not bode well for the democratic forces of the country. China is not a ‘better’ imperialist force (as if that can even exist) than the West or the US. As a matter of fact, it may prove to be more brutal than the British colonialists or American imperialists because it does not even have a façade of democratic rights at home or abroad. Arab monarchies, other Pakistani partners, have the most primitive political dispositions. It seems democracy and the movement for people’s rights is much more in jeopardy than ever before. In a way, unity of the most primitive forces of Pakistan, the PPP feudals and Pakistan Muslim League-Q Chauhdries, is just a reflection of such an emerging trend.
The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org