Category Archives: Corruption

Reko Diq: Pakistan versus Gold Diggers

These narratives show how foreign investors are a double-edged sword for Pakistan. TCC was suspected of lending support to Baloch separatists. 

Pakistan has recently been garnering a lot of attention in international tribunals. A recent case is the Reko Diq case, which led to arbitration in the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). In Tethyan Copper Company Pty Limited v. Islamic Republic of Pakistan (ICSID Case No. ARB/12/1), ICSID has ruled that Pakistan has to pay a $5.8 billion penalty to a mining company, the Tethyan Copper Company (TCC). It is an oddity that the Pakistani public has been disabled from knowing the full details of the ICSID arbitration judgment. The condition for the publication of the award is that both parties must consent to its publication and apparently there is no consensus that it should be published, or alternatively there is consensus that it should not be published. Either way that is rather opaque and lacks transparency. Yet we do know the identities of the arbitrators and the costly law firms employed by the parties and all the procedural steps in the arbitration (which is rather pointless indeed without knowing the full and exact details of the final arbitration award). 

It is rather appalling that the award is not in the public domain and the people of Pakistan are being denied access to the full details of the decision. Reko Diq is a region in Balochistan that has large gold and copper reserves. TCC acquired an exploration license in 2006, buying it from the company BHP Minerals. Though this seems a very recent mining project, TCC itself is a joint venture by other foreign companies, and BHP had been granted licenses since 1993 by the Balochistan Development Authority (BDA) under the Chagai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement (Chevja). Now that TCC was exploring Reko Diq’s reserves, it completed its feasibility study in 2010, and applied for a mining lease, but it was denied. Chevja had been challenged by petitioners before. In 2013, the Supreme Court decided that the agreement (Chevja) was void ab initio. In 2009, the provincial government had already terminated Chevja. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Balochistan, Corruption, Courts, Discussion, Economy, Legislation, Mining, Pakistan, World Bank

Sudan Crisis: A Struggle for Democracy

Media coverage as well as the response to the Sudan crisis has been abysmal

Since the talks between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the Alliance for Freedom and Change have broken down, Khartoum has been plagued by violence. When the military capitulated to popular demand and brought an end to the 30-year long oppressive rule of Omar al-Bashir, the people rejoiced. Sudanese spirits were at a high much like the same demonstrators who managed to overthrow despots during the Arab Spring Uprising. Unfortunately, after that uprising it soon became clear that the military is often as authoritarian as its governmental counterpart. It cleverly employs a tactic of appearing to appease the people, allowing the dust settle which is then followed by strict military rule. Fortunately, the Sudanese appeared to have learnt from history as the Alliance for Freedom and Change called for a total civil disobedience campaign after the military’s very brutal crackdown on a protestors’ camp on 3 June when it refused to hand over authority to a civilian administration preferring to concentrate power in its own hands.

There have been serious human rights violations as the Central Committee for Sudanese Doctors (CSSD) has put the death toll at 118 victims while hundreds have been injured. About 40 “bloated” bodies have been recovered from the Nile- an attempt by the military to lower the official death toll. Additionally many women have suffered from rape with numbers likely understated due to the societal stigma attached to such an offense. Much of the atrocities have been committed by the paramilitary force known as the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) headed by General Hamdan. It is this same force that was responsible for the genocide in Darfur for which Mr. Bashir has been indicted by the International Criminal Court and gives rise to the question: why are similar crimes currently committed by the same force not being taken seriously by the international community? Continue reading

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Filed under Africa, Corruption, Discussion, Human Rights, Pakistan Horizon, Politics, Sudan

Is Venezuela No More?

One should not be wonderstruck if many Venezuelans crave to live elsewhere because the economic, political, and overall human rights situation in Venezuela is nothing short of a disaster. What used to be a robust economy not more than a decade ago, has slipped into grave peril inasmuch food has become a source of conflict among the poor families, and women are selling their ‘hairs’ in order to satisfy their families’ appetite. Indeed, the basic provisions, such as toothpaste, milk, or bread, which we all take for granted are what Venezuelans yearn for and beg for. Many people are spending hours just to try to find something to eat from the ‘food waste’. In its heyday, given the colossal oil reserves, Venezuela had reaped a lot of benefits and was able to export 100,000 barrels of oil, per day to Cuba only. Due to relying specifically and excessively on oil, the latter accounted for 95 per cent of the Venezuela’s export.

Hugo Chavez, the former president, with a desire to make the most out of the country’s oil production, sweepingly nationalized the private companies which as an attempt went into a tailspin after the oil prices started to tumble. Hence, the corruption and mismanagement became rampant and the hyperinflation inevitably followed. Worst, all the money was spent, and no money for further production was left. Now the situation at its best is chaotic, and some say, at its worst, worse than the great depression of the United Sates. However, the experience of this economic downfall in practice is more frightening. A cup of tea costs 7000,000 bolivars in Venezuela and people prefer to exchange goods instead of paying or receiving cash. Since this crippling economy and the grave humanitarian crisis are the upshot of political dysfunction and mismanagement of the institutions, many experts believe it is ‘socialism’ at its end in Venezuela. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Corruption, Discussion, Economy, Human Rights, Politics, Refugees, United States, Venezuela

On Brazil’s Choice of Extreme Right

The success of Brazilian populist leader Bolsonaro is termed as a classic case of ‘protest vote’ by the disillusioned middle classes with the leader ‘playing grievance politics’ … 

Brazil’s evangelical Christians have emerged as an increasingly powerful political force, as confirmed in the highly polarised presidential and congressional elections held on 28 October. Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right member of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) and former army captain, is Brazil’s next president, with 55.7 percent of votes. Fernando Haddad, Bolsonaro’s closest opponent and the large leftist Workers’ Party’s (PT) replacement for Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva, failed to secure majority. Although Haddad promised to restore the economy to its former state of health under Lula’s presidency from 2003 to 2010, most of the Brazilians have little faith left in the country’s political class after numerous high-level corruption scandals surfaced since 2014 as part of the Lava Jato, or Car Wash, anti-graft probe and other interlocking investigations, which also involved Lula who is now serving 12 years in jail and was barred from running in this election.

While Bolsonaro’s victory has been referred to as a political earthquake, a disaster for the Amazon and global climate change and a blow to antifascist activists, the Brazilians have clearly made their choice for the extreme right. Significantly, about 147 million Brazilians headed to polls against a backdrop of widespread dissatisfaction prompted by a stuttering economy, worsening violent crime rates and several recent high-profile corruption scandals. While it is South America’s largest economy, a regional powerhouse and is part of the so-called five-member ‘BRICS’ group of major emerging economies alongside Russia, India, China and South Africa, Brazil is nevertheless battling several threatening challenges amidst increased unrest and widening polarisation among the country’s citizens. Beginning in mid-2014, a more than two-year deep recession rocked the country and stagnated growth. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Brazil, Corruption, Discussion, Economy, Human Rights, Immigration, Pakistan Horizon, Police, United States

Converting CPEC into Pakistan-Central Asia Economic Corridor

We have to give up our India-centric policies and our slave mentality.

Pakistan is on a knife-edge with the upcoming general election on 25 July 2018. With Nawaz Sharif firmly behind bars, civil society organisations are predicting rigging in the election by the armed forces and there is a consensus in the country that the army is mass manipulating electoral politics in favour of its cronies. The economic problem arising out of the present political situation is that Pakistan is seriously in the doldrums owing to its debt to its international creditors. The country is facing a sovereign debt crisis and reliance on Chinese money is very high indeed. As reported recently in the Financial Times, Islamabad is headed for a foreign currency crisis but is keen to avoid yet another IMF bailout. So it is appealing to Beijing for more lending. In the year ending June 2018 Pakistan borrowed $4 billion from China and is facing problems with the devaluation of the rupee, the strategy used by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to keep the economy afloat. At the start of June 2018, the SBP only had $10 billion in foreign currency reserves in comparison to $16.1 billion just a year earlier.

The problem does not stop there because $12.7 billion in external payments are due in comparison to £7.7 billion last year. The country will need to raise $28 billion this financial year to repay its debt obligations. Therefore, in such an environment, it is hardly surprising that Kaiser Bengali thinks that “we have to play our cards right in case of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The opening up of China has enhanced travel but not trade.” He recently made these remarks while addressing members of the prestigious Pakistan Institute of International Affairs (PIIA) and the media. Speaking on the subject, ‘Changing geo-politics and challenges for Pakistan’, he said: “My fear is that we will not be playing our cards right because of the slave mentality that our bureaucrats and planners have.” Elucidating further he said: “We are always looking to a bigger power to protect us against military adventurism.” In this context, he recalled that back in the 1950, we joined the US-sponsored defence pacts, the Cento and Seato, as a guarantee to be protected during times of aggression. Continue reading

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Filed under Afghanistan, Balochistan, China, Corruption, CPEC, Discussion, Events, Human Rights, India, Pakistan Horizon, PIIA, Politics, Trade, United States

The Impact of the Singapore Summit on World Politics: A Talk by Javed Jabbar

‘Trump-Kim summit unlikely to have great impact on world’

Donald Trump is a huge showman and his despotic tendencies became all the more apparent when he extended his hand in friendship to Kim Jong-un, the autocratic and reclusive leader of North Korea. Trump had mocked Kim as “little rocket man”. In return, the US president was given the moniker “deranged dotard”. Yet despite such insults from Pyongyang, Trump still went out of his way to please Kim and both the ego-manics got on like a house on fire. The Singapore Summit on 13 June 2018 was little more than an exercise in gimmickry and it has achieved nothing in concrete terms. If anything, it has strengthened Kim’s hand and he is more powerful than ever at home and abroad. China has played a vital role in these developments. Military exercises between the US and South Korea have been suspended to please the petty dictator and of course the summit is already a forgotten affair because of huge immigration problems for Trump at home in America. Now Trump is on an offensive with his own allies and he even resorted to calling Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest”.

He has also imposed tariffs on his country’s European allies who have countered his move in a tit-for-tat offensive. Despite all the brinkmanship, lies and false promises, it is clear that the world is a much more dangerous place that it used to be prior to Trump beginning his presidency. Trump, a racist and sexist American loudmouth, is simply incapable of performing anything positive for world peace and this is especially clear from his retrogressive policies on Palestine and human rights. Pyongyang’s war of words with Washington may have ended but Kim is still purging his opponents with extreme ruthlessness. The caging of children taken away from their parents for illegally crossing the US-Mexican border caused such outrage that even the first lady Melania Trump decided to oppose her own husband. Of course, as a past illegal immigrant herself, Melania probably thought of how horrible it would be if she were separated from her son Barron Trump? Continue reading

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Filed under China, Corruption, Disarmament, Discussion, Europe, Events, Human Rights, Immigration, North Korea, Pakistan, PIIA, Politics, Singapore Summit, Trump

Panama Papers Scandal: Disqualifying Nawaz Sharif for Deception is Fair

Hopefully these proceedings will set a robust process into motion and annihilate Pakistan’s corrupt dynastic politics for good …

Skeletons in the closet have led to the premature demise of Nawaz Sharif’s government yet again and his third premiership has ended in disgrace. But is history repeating itself? The question is especially interesting given that it was “strike three” for Nawaz Sharif. On the third and final occasion, dismissal from the solemn office of prime minister carries the further indignity of disqualification for life. Of course, questions also arise about the exact motivations of the judiciary in disqualifying a democratically elected leader, one who was close to setting a benchmark by becoming the first ever prime minister to complete a full five-year term during Pakistan’s seventy-year history. The ball must get rolling somewhere and the Supreme Court set a powerful precedent for a zero-tolerance approach to the use of deception in politics. However, it remains to be seen whether the high standard adopted by the Supreme Court will be applied across the entire spectrum of Pakistan’s dirty politics which is in dire need of cleansing.

It was an uphill struggle for Nawaz Sharif because he was practising deception in proceedings regulated by the very Supreme Court his PML-N party ransacked in 1997 when photographs of Muhammad Ali Jinnah were desecrated. One problem for the court is that it has many skeletons in its own closet because it has habitually upheld brutal dictatorships applying a perverse “doctrine of necessity”. Rightly or wrongly, the former three-time prime minister has become the second world leader to become the casualty of the Panama Papers, but at least Iceland’s former prime minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson had the dignity to resign promptly. Last year’s disclosures led to the pronouncement of the Panama Papers judgment which established the Joint Investigation Team. Memorably, Khosa J drew unflattering parallels with The Godfather and mocked Nawaz Sharif by recalling the maxim that “behind every great fortune there is a crime”. Continue reading

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Filed under Accountability, Constitution 1973, Corruption, Courts, CPEC, Discussion, Human Rights, Mossack Fonseca, Pakistan Horizon, Panama Papers, PIIA, Politics