The economics of anger

ACROSS the world, the politics of anger has been playing out over the past year. And it has become shriller with the passage of time. Britain’s vote to exit the European Union and the rise of Donald Trump’s fiery brand of politics have been the most overt and egregious manifestations of a ‘hidden’ groundswell of anger of the electorate in even the most developed countries.

While the roots of this anger are being analysed and debated, the broad contours of its form and existence have taken clear shape: the core of this anger is ethno-nationalistic and xenophobic. It is reacting to a ‘loss of control’ as much, it seems, as to a ‘loss of purity’ of race, culture and a way of life.

Politics aside, what are the economic ramifications of this anger? The broad consensus is that Brexit is expected to significantly hurt the UK economy — the fifth largest in the world — over the medium term (though pro-Brexit advocates believe otherwise). The counter-party in this case is the European Union, which accounts for approximately 24 per cent of the global economy. Its combined economy is not expected to go unscathed after the departure of Britain — assuming for now that there is a ‘hard’ Brexit and not a soft one. Even more damaging for the EU is the possibility of a bigger rupture, with the far right (and far left too in some cases) political parties agitating for an exit of their own. Were such an outcome to occur, it would signal the near-complete demise of the European political as well as economic project.

The combined economies of UK and the EU account for nearly 28 per cent of the world economy. Added to this toxic brew is the Trump phenomenon in the United States, which is dredging hate, anger, frustration, xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, China-bashing and anti-Mexican sentiment all in one go for political mileage and ultimately, votes.

A loss of welfare and prosperity confronts hapless populations around the globe.

With its anti-globalisation, protectionist and anti-immigration platform, the implications and consequences of the xenophobic vitriol passing off as politics, is likely to be hugely welfare-negative for everyone. The prosperity of nations, especially developing countries, has been built on the freer movement of goods, services, capital, ideas, and to a more limited extent, people over the past four decades or so (though it has not been evenly distributed within these countries). A complete dismantling of globalisation, or an attempt to cherry-pick and preserve those elements of this interdependent international order which suit one nation to the detriment of the other, will push the world economy back 70 years into uncharted waters. In a previous episode in history, it was also a precursor to world war.

Take the case of Trump’s vitriol against China’s alleged trade ‘manipulation’. Among the only part of his economic plan that has been spelled out and is not half-baked and sketchy , is his plan to slap punitive tariffs of 45pc on imports from China. According to a recent report by Daiwa Securities, such a move would be “highly contractionary, deflationary and wipe hundreds of billions off the value of the world’s second-biggest economy [China]”. An impact of such magnitude on the Chinese economy would have a huge knock-on effect on the global economy, hurting jobs and incomes virtually everywhere, including in the United States.

Meanwhile, here in South Asia, its hapless population of 1.3 billion is also watching an all-consuming anger of a not-too different sort morphing into obscurantism, religious fundamentalism and now jingoism and war hysteria. The politically ascendant Hindutva fundamentalist ideology in India seeks to marginalise and suppress minorities such as Muslims, Dalits, Sikhs and Christians (much in the same way elements of the far-right in Pakistan wish to treat the country’s minorities). More recently, the BJP government has unleashed a wave of brutal repression against unarmed Kashmiris, resulting in the killing and maiming of hundreds, many, including women and children, blinded by the indiscriminate use of pellet guns.

The attack by militants on Sept 18 on an Indian army brigade headquarters at Uri in India-occupied Kashmir has now turned the vitriol of India’s anger-brigade towards Pakistan. As with its counterparts in other parts of the world, this ideology and its adherents are defined by hatred against the ‘other’. From cow-eating Muslims, to ‘untouchable’ Dalits, to independence-seeking Kashmiris, its focus has now moved to ‘terror-sponsoring’ Pakistan.

For the past two weeks or so, India’s hardliners and its jingoistic media are wagging the country’s security establishment into making war with Pakistan. The use of nuclear weapons is being casually spoken about as an option on both sides of the border. The truth is the ramifications of not just a limited conventional war but even protracted tension — let alone an unthinkable scenario of nuclear Armageddon — is likely to be catastrophic for South Asia as a whole.

With hundreds of millions in Pakistan and India collectively mired in poverty and food insecurity, with millions of school-age children deprived of an education, rampant un- and under-employment, with one hospital bed available for over 100,000 citizens in either country, casual talk of war and ‘total victory’ is obscene. Ironically, this fact has been noted by none other than the Indian prime minister — but only after unleashing the dogs of war ahead of two crucial state elections.

Pakistan and India have a common history — and, as neighbours, a shared destiny. The voices of moderation, reason, peace, and progress need to step forward and reverse the march to war — or even the dismantling of the edifice of economic cooperation. Neither Pakistan nor India can afford otherwise.

The writer is a former economic adviser to government, and currently heads a macroeconomic consultancy based in Islamabad.


Patari to participate in Facebook Music Stories

LAHORE: Patari, a Pakistani music streaming platform, akin to Spotify and Saavn achieved a milestone as it partnered up with Facebook to participate in Facebook’s Music Stories.

A press release by Patari on Thursday announced that Patari will join a small number of streaming sites, such as Spotify, which are testing a new feature on the Facebook app, “Music Stories”. The new post format on the Facebook app allows users to listen to a 30-second preview of a shared song or album.

“This collaboration marks a watershed moment for the local music industry, and especially for Patari. Our participation in this product is proof that it is possible to set up a sustainable platform for Pakistani music, that can have a global reach,” said Patari’s CEO Khalid Bajwa, an Islamabad-based engineer-turned-entrepreneur.

“The collaboration with Facebook is a fantastic way for our users to access our vast database of Pakistani music, and further enrich the social and cultural value of one of Pakistan’s most vibrant art forms,” Ahmer Naqvi, the Director of Content at Patari noted.

According to analysts, due to the high retention rates for media which can be played on Facebook, the new Music Stories feature will lead to higher engagement levels among users.

Patari claims to have become the first Pakistani digital media platform to pay royalties to its artists, with Rs1.25 million paid out last December. The platform available on iOS and Android as an app was launched in September last year and boasts of over a hundred thousand monthly active users.

Pakistani cinemas stop screening of Indian films

The management of Lahore’s Super Cinema has announced in a Facebook post that they will cease the screening of all Indian films in their cinema.

Karachi’s Nueplex Cinemas followed suit; the management conveyed this to its patrons in a post on the social networking site late last night:

“To express solidarity with the Armed Forces of Pakistan, the Management of Nueplex Cinemas has decided to stop the screening of Indian films with immediate effect. We will keep our patrons informed of further developments in this matter.”

The two cinemas are currently running Pakistani films Jaanan, Actor In Law, Maalik and Zindagi Kitni Haseen Hai and Hollywood releases, Sully, Storksand The Magnificent Seven. Super Cinema is also runing Hollywood films,Howl and Deepwater Horizon.

The screening of Bollywood film, the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer Pink, has been stopped.

While Atrium cinemas has yet to make a public announcement, its websitereveals that the cinema’s management has also decided against the screening of Indian films.

This is the latest development on the cultural front of Pak-India tensions, as the two countries exchange fire across the LOC, resulting in the capture of one Indian soldier and the killing of several others. Pakistan also lost two soldiers yesterday to the exchange of fire.

Earlier, the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association (IMPPA) “banned”Pakistani actors, singers and technicians from working in India till “normalcy” returns. This move followed earlier pressure on Pakistani artistes to ‘leave’ India in 48 hours. While no prominent Pakistani artiste was present in India, upcoming concerts of Shafqat Amanat Ali and Atif Aslam have beencancelled.

Smokers’ Corner: Cherry-picking Iqbal, splitting Jinnah: the Pakistani nationalist conundrum

This was one of the most daunting questions facing the founders of Pakistan: how was Muslim nationalism, which had given birth to a separate country, to be transformed into a more focused idea encompassing this country’s identity?

Muslim nationalism in India had become a multi-dimensional entity. The one emerging from the writings of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had explained the Muslims of the region as a separate cultural community which had been shaped by 500-year-old Muslim political supremacy in India. To him this community was to enter the future as an enlightened entity, regenerated through modern education and a rational reinterpretation of its faith.

Khan’s ideas in this context played a leading role in the formation of Muslim modernism in India and which, in turn, inspired the creation of the All India Muslim League (AIML). This modernism was further evolved by the likes of Muhammad Iqbal who tried to fuse it with the currents emerging from the other dimension of Muslim nationalism in the region.

This other dimension was one which understood the Muslims of India as being part of the larger global Muslim community (ummah). According to this version, Muslims (India’s largest minority group) would be able to thrive more as a polity in a united India. That’s why this version opposed the creation of a separate Muslim-majority state. The opponents of such a state warned that such a state would disperse the Muslims of the region.

Iqbal tried to reconcile the modernism of Jinnah’s vision of Muslim nationalism with the pan-Islamism of its more conservative strand. Now Pakistanis have undone his work

The Muslim opponents of this state also had pan-Islamist tendencies. So, rather ironically, the more intransigent and ‘fundamentalist’ components of India’s Muslim nationalism were propagating a united India, whereas this nationalism’s more modernist components were demanding a separate Muslim-majority country.

Iqbal rather creatively attempted to resolve this by trying to reconcile the modernity of one dimension with the radical conservatism of the other.

Iqbal’s merger of the two opposing strands of Muslim nationalism was first worked into a political narrative by the AIML — especially when the party had started to become more populist in tone and action. For example, on the one hand, the party banked heavily on Iqbal’s pleas to ‘modernise faith’, but at the same time drew inspiration from the more traditionalist strands of Iqbal’s reconciliation when it had to attract the votes of the masses in the more rural areas.

During the all-important election of 1946, the AIML in Punjab’s urban areas explained the creation of Pakistan as the formation of a modern Muslim-majority country where the Muslims will be able to rapidly advance culturally, politically and economically and so would the other minorities of India, even those Hindu segments who were being repressed by the dominant castes.

In the rural areas of the same province, however, the League turned towards the pro-League ulema who took the rightward route in Iqbal’s reconciliation and explained Pakistan as an Islamic entity.

The modernist and radical conservative currents in the two versions of Muslim nationalism in India, reconciled by Iqbal to become a merged narrative, had emerged with force during the League’s election campaign in the Punjab. But soon after the creation of Pakistan in 1947, this fusion would not be taken as a whole, but would be split between the modernists and the conservatives with both claiming to be expressing Iqbal’s vision.

In 1946, while talking to British journalist, Doon Campbell, Jinnah stated that Pakistan was not to be a theocracy but a modern, democratic state. At the same time, a slogan, ‘What does Pakistan mean? It means, there is no God but God,’ was ringing in some towns of the Punjab.

According to Tahir Wasti in his 2009 book The Application of Islamic Criminal Law this slogan was coined in 1945 by a minor poet, Malik Ghulam Nabi, in Sialkot. But whereas Jinnah and most of the League’s leadership had admired Iqbal’s attempt to reconcile political and social modernity through reinterpretations of the scriptures, men such as Ghulam Nabi and the pro-League ulema had responded more to that side of Iqbal’s writings that had celebrated Islam as a rallying impulse that needed to be expressed passionately.

Furthermore, even those clerics and ulema who were against the AIML’s idea of creating a separate country but who eventually migrated to this country, began to point at Iqbal when they began to demand the ‘Islamisation’ of Pakistan.

Jinnah was not an ideologue. He was a sharp politician and an articulate lawyer. Though there is now enough evidence to suggest that he was envisioning Pakistan as a modern Muslim-majority country where the culture would be Muslim, but the state was to remain detached from the matters of the faith, he was also conscious of the thin line which separated the idea of a modern Muslim-majority state from that of an emerging theocracy – especially in a region where a Muslim minority had suddenly become a ruling majority.

Writing in the Frontier Post in 1991, author Ahmad Bashir wrote that during a Muslim League convention in Karachi in 1947, a man in the audience suddenly got up and interrupted Jinnah’s address, shouting Ghulam Nabi’s slogan. Jinnah immediately shot back: “Sit down. Neither I, nor my working committee, nor the council of the Muslim League has ever passed such a resolution where I had committed this to the people of Pakistan. You might have done so to catch a few votes.”

Jinnah passed away in 1948, just a year after the birth of Pakistan. He did not leave behind a systematically conceived ideological model of what Pakistan was to be. There were just his speeches and interviews, but which he had delivered and given as a politician and a rather pragmatic one to boot. His political disposition was that of a level-headed and dispassionate parliamentarian and constitutionalist who had begun to appreciate Muslim nationalism as a progressive idea to mobilise and carry the Indian Muslim community into the modern age and towards political sovereignty.

But even though hugely admired by the new country’s citizens and intelligentsia, Jinnah’s speeches did not seem to figure much when the state of Pakistan first began to formulate the whole idea of Pakistani nationalism. Instead, both the modernists as well as the traditionalists cherry-picked their way across Iqbal’s writings. So much so that even when Jinnah did begin to get more space in the whole nationalist debate, he had been turned into an ideologue, split between the modernists and the conservatives. There was no Iqbal any more to reconcile the two.

With a new Chinese loan, CPEC is now worth $51.5bn

ISLAMABAD: Despite Indian conspiracies, the size of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been increased to more than $51.5 billion after China and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) agreed to lend $8bn to upgrade the main railway line from Karachi to Peshawar, according to a federal minister.

Addressing a news briefing upon his return from a week-long visit to China, Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms Ahsan Iqbal said Beijing has agreed to provide Pakistan with a $5.5bn concessional loan to upgrade and modernise the Karachi-Lahore main railway line called ML-1.

In addition, ADB will extend financing of $2.5bn for the Lahore-Peshawar railway track, he said.

Read: Russian researcher says CPEC ‘game-changer for the region’

“Both loans will carry less than 2 per cent interest rate. Both are concessional loans,” he said. However, he declined to discuss specifics of the lending programme, saying the Economic Affairs Division is still busy finalising the terms and conditions.

He said the original $46bn CPEC included about $3.56bn financing for the railway network, which has now increased to $8bn. “This is ad add-on” to the original CPEC, he explained.

He said the Karachi-Peshawar railway line processed 75pc of the passenger and cargo traffic, but its efficiency has dropped to 60-80 kilometres per hour. That is because of a continuous deterioration during the long tenure of former president Pervez Musharraf, he said, adding that the track, signalling system and bridges were in bad shape.

The refurbishment and upgradation of the main line will cost $8bn and take five to six years to complete. This will revive its efficiency to 120-160 kilometres per hour. It will be upgraded in a manner that it will accommodate fast-moving trains, reduce the cost of production and increase the competitiveness of Pakistani products.

The main line will then be expanded in the next phase to link Gwadar with Peshawar and then Havelian, Abbottabad, with Khunjerab.

Mr Iqbal said the CPEC has three phases and four major areas, namely Gwadar Port’s development, energy projects, road networks and industrial cooperation. The short-term, medium-term and long-term projects will complete by 2020, 2025 and 2030, respectively.

At present, work is in progress in the first three areas of infrastructure development, which will enable the two nations to push for industrial cooperation, he said.

Mr Iqbal said both sides agreed to convene the 6th Joint Cooperation Council (JCC) of the two countries in the last week of November. Before the JCC, working groups on transport, Gwadar Port and industrial cooperation will meet next month to firm up the implementation plan.

He said the long-term industrial cooperation has been finalised in Pakistan in consultation with all provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. He said the four chief ministers belonging to different political parties have supported the CPEC that will be funded through the public-sector development programme, Chinese financing and funding by multilateral agencies.

Responding to a question, Mr Iqbal said some people have created misconceptions about the CPEC, adding that the federal government has invited the leadership of the Awami National Party for a briefing next week to address their concerns.

India has launched a massive campaign in the media to mislead people about the CPEC, he said. He noted that CPEC projects of about $18bn are currently in the implementation phase while another $17bn worth of projects are in the active pipeline. This means $35bn worth of projects have already been energised in just two years.