Balochistan shows the way in Davos

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This year’s meeting in Davos has been overshadowed by a not-so-bright situation worldwide. The IMF’s growth forecast has just been diminished and chancellor Angela Merkel has just warned that the global financial system is damaged significantly. Climate change and trade wars are other dangerous developments that threaten our global economy. Other than this larger picture, Pakistan’s annual presentation in Davos this year has opened a new vista. In previous years, either the Pakistani president or the prime minister would apprise the assembled Davos elite on what was going on in our country. Sponsored and organised by Pathfinder Group, the ‘Pakistan Breakfast’ and other events like the Pakistan Dinnersand Lunches and the Pakistan Pavilionhave been joined for the last four years by the Martin Dow Group because of the vision of their late founding Chairman M Jawed Akhai. During the Davos week, Tuesday’s Pakistan Dinnertook place in the famous Restaurant Schatzalp that is located high above the city near the former ‘Magic Mountain’. The guest of honour this year was Balochistan Chief Minister (CM) Jam Kamal Khan. Even a short time ago, it would have been unimaginable that the Balochistan CM would represent Pakistan in an international forum. In introducing Pakistan’s largest province in terms of area, the CM first explained the many opportunities that the abundance of the province’s natural resources offered. He explained what CPEC and other government projects could offer to potential investors. That he was eloquent and credible was a real surprise for the assembled audience who generally tend to treat Balochistan as a backward province teeming with militant leaders who are not so literate and/or capable. In fact, most of the Baloch sardars leading the almost defunct secessionist movement moment live in potential luxury abroad and duly financed by India’s RAW. Lt Gen Asim Bajwa, the General Commanding Southern Command of the Pakistan army, who was also present at the dinner, supported the CM’s remarks. He gave the guests a short but effective briefing about the improved security situation in the province, including the progress that the fencing of the Afghan border is making and the projects that the army is supporting, particularly in education and roads. Senator Anwaar ul Haq Kakar, accompanying Jam Kamal Khan, gave a brilliant exposition about the current situation and future programmes, while supporting the CM’s views and adding his own about the optimistic future of Pakistan’s largest but least developed province. During the lively Q & A session that followed, a lot of negative perceptions about Balochistan were dispelled.

On Wednesday, in another highpoint for the country, the Pakistan Pavilion at Hotel Panorama was inaugurated by Khan. An idea of Pathfinder and Martin Dow Groups, the Pakistan Pavilion (now in its second year) aims to reach out to potential investors in Davos attending the WEF annual summit. Located on the ground floor of Hotel Panorama, it is easily reachable from Davos’ main street. This Pakistan-specific programme is available to visitors who might like to drop by informally. Jam Kamal Khan, Lt Gen Asim Bajwa and Senator Kakar very successfully answered questions that followed. The fact that the Balochistan CM, represented Pakistan and that too in a very eloquent and knowledgeable way, has gone a long way to change perceptions about the province not being really part of the national mainstream. The media in Davos are a very hard-boiled lot that does not give any quarter to anyone. At least two well-known media personalities gave very favourable immediate comments. This was a defining moment for Pakistan at the world’s most famous annual meeting of the rich and powerful from both the public and private sectors of the world. The Pakistan ambassador to Switzerland in Berne did attend, but not to extend protocol. He did so out of personal conviction. Thankfully, the Pakistan ambassador at Geneva assigned to the UN, WEF, etc did not attend. The less said the better about this lasting disgrace to the Pakistani diplomatic corps. What mattered above all was the simplicity of the Balochistan entourage. It comprised the CM, his spouse and Kakar. There were no aides, no security and above all no protocol. This was both practical and effective, following the Davos pattern where accompanying aides are minimised. To put it bluntly, the nihari made by specially flown-in cooks was not consumed at public expense and the Pakistan embassy was non-existent, except briefly at the Zurich airport on arrival. Balochistan, you have set a tremendous example for Pakistan. In future, Pakistani leaders who visit Davos will not “waste public money” a la Imran Khan in pursuing their primary task: the good of Pakistan.

(The writer is a defence and security analyst)

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