We live in a connected world, a world that stands duly integrated. The air we breathe, the policies we make, the wars we unleash and the peace we pursue, everything is intertwined in an inextricable manner. This is a reality that we all face from climate change issues to under-nourished children, everything and anything under the sun is now a common cause. Gone are the days when what happened in Lahore did not matter in London. Now Lahore is London and London is Lahore.
Our triumphs are your victories just as your ordeals are our serious concerns. From 9/11 tragedy to the horrific London bombings; from Peshawar massacre to the carnage in Paris, all are our shared tragedies, all must be condemned unequivocally and all must come to an end. This dark night must meet the light of dawn soon. This horror must give way to hope. This pain must subside, duly replaced with the pleasure of perpetual peace. This is what we all want, this is what we all pray for and this is what I dream of and strive for, each living day of my life.
Punjab by its size of population is a perhaps the 12th largest jurisdiction in the world. Post the 18th Amendment passed by our Parliament in 2010, the provinces have gained considerable freedom on a number of new files.
As many of you here can appreciate, governments in most parts of the world are gigantic organisms, slow and somewhat lethargic. I knew from day one that the turn around had to happen if we were to survive as a polity. However this would be a long radius turn – just like a huge super tanker – slow, easy and time consuming.
In May of 2013, I was given a historic third term with a thumping mandate – a truly humbling experience that came with greater expectations and unfathomable challenges. Talking of my present mandate, at the provincial level, my government is working on resolving energy crisis, restoring law and order and reviving economy.
In the modern world, energy drives economy and strong economies make strong countries. It would not be wrong to say that energy security means economic security, which in turn translates into national security. They are all different faces of the same coin.
The recently concluded China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) has been hailed as possibly history’s single largest economic investment package by one country into another, an outcome of PM Nawaz Sharif’s relentless efforts and a manifestation of the depth of the Pakistan-China ties. Just to give you an idea, it’s a 46 billion dollar investment in the first phase, which we call the ‘early harvest projects’ – 36 billion of which are directly going into energy projects that range from renewables such as wind and solar to hydel and coal. These projects are spread across the breadth of Pakistan and many are likely to come on stream before the end of our present political mandate.
I wonder if many here know that Punjab by virtue of its geography and its geology is presently the most energy deficient province in Pakistan. Our industrial and agricultural centers stand choked for want of energy and our economy stands stifled. We have the potential to do economically much more than we presently can, as our hands stand tied due to decades of criminal negligence on energy sector.
This is to change soon. In addition to CPEC projects, my government has just finished, I dare say in record time, the world largest pilot project for solar energy. This 100MW plant is now fully operational in the desert of Cholistan where as we speak, we are adding an additional 900MW of solar under CPEC. In addition to this, we have just broken ground on three gas-fired plants of 3600-MW capacity in Punjab that are outside of the CPEC package.
While energy took up a lot of our time, we tried not to do this work at the cost of other urgent files. Transport is a lever of economy. Punjab now has two state of the art metro bus systems with the third soon to be brought online in the historic city of Multan. Additionally a cutting edge Metro Train project is under construction in our capital city of Lahore.
With the noble help of our great friend, the United Kingdom, we have made considerable progress in our schooling system and now the same cooperation is flowing into mother and child healthcare, population planning and vocational training of our youth.
We have just finished electronic land record management across the province and are now deploying IT systems to overhaul and monitor our policing system. We have built a state of the art forensic lab and are setting up an international class knowledge park with many more to follow.
The youth bulge is our great challenge but it is also our great opportunity. We need to educate them, train them and deploy them in gainful employment. My government has to train millions of young men and women. We need to drive our youth to hope and progress and by the same token drive them away from abject poverty and despair.
The list of what we have done is long. The list of what’s in the pipeline is longer but the list of tasks that we still need to do is the longest.
The second biggest problem the democratic government has faced is that of deteriorating law and order, mainly due to terrorism – an unintended consequence of the Afghan Jihad. Through this long war, Pakistan suffered immeasurably. When the war ended in mid-90s, the West left overnight, leaving Pakistan to mop up the post-Jihad mess.
Just image the size of the tragedy and scope of its horror but then do take a moment to appreciate the resilience of my people. The ever present hope and the desire to rebuild – that is the Pakistan I represent, a place full of hope, energy and joy, a land where terror has not been successful to browbeat its soul.
In December 2014, terrorists with their backs to the wall, decided to kill over 150 innocent students and teachers in Peshawar. I call Peshawar massacre a turning point in our recent history – a moment when Pakistan from across all divides came together – its institutions and its politicians – its media and its civil society – we are all on one page against all forms and manifestations of terrorism.
Post- Peshawar tragedy, under a cohesive, well-orchestrated National Action Plan, we have broken the back of terror. Unfortunately it took a while coming, but it is there and the results are also there to witness. Traders of terror are on the run. Their finances stand choked and their sanctuaries stand destroyed for good. Terror incidences are on a rapid decline.
Under the National Action Plan, my government in Punjab alongside all other governments in Pakistan is busy doing exactly this. We are bringing back Jinnah’s Pakistan to the fore. We have banned all outfits that fan hatred. Weapons cannot be displayed in Punjab. Hate speeches, hate literature and hate material are serious offences. We are busy amending school curricula and launching cultural products that promote harmony and peace. These are long, difficult journeys but journeys that must be undertaken at whatever the price be.
Lastly allow me to talk a bit about Pakistan within the context of the region. We are land linked with China and India – two rising, globally significant, economic realities. While we have legendary ties with China, the track record of Pakistan-India relations leaves much to be desired. With over a 1.2 billion people, South Asia deserves better. Both India and Pakistan deserve better. We have fought wars that have brought more miseries to our people and solved nothing. It is now time to seriously pursue peace.
Pakistan and India will have to resolve their disputes at the table, all disputes without any ‘ifs and buts’.
I will end my remarks on one of my favorite quotes by the illustrious Winston Churchill:
‘Success is not final, failure is not fatal – it’s the courage to continue that counts’
This is an abridged version of the keynote address
Chief Minister Punjab Shahbaz Sharif delivered at Chatham House, the UK’s premier think-tank during
his recent official visit.