The fact that Saudi Arabia will not be a part of the basic framework of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor is not a U-turn by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government. The announcement yesterday by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, that investments with Saudi Arabia would not be made part of CPEC and would fall under a separate bilateral arrangement, cannot be accused of being another retraction of PTI’s promises- since the government never made any promises of KSA joining CPEC at all. What had transpired instead were just whispers and rumours of a potential KSA-Pakistan-CPEC collaboration- which hold little finality in the unpredictable realm of foreign policy.

Rather the fact that KSA is investing outside the realm of CPEC, instead of being problematic, is what was reasonably expected when the intention of the Saudi’s to conduct business with us in the matter was hinted It might even be the better outcome, considering the complications in our foreign policy we would have to consider if KSA became a part of CPEC.

The bigger problem in this whole episode has been the lack of clarity and confused and contradictory messages coming from the government, which has made this clarification sound like another U-turn. There needs to be better and more deliberate communication from the government. By keeping details of meetings between KSA and Pakistani officials mysterious, and even alienating the parliament from the possible cooperation plans between the two countries, the government has no one to blame but itself for the spring of speculations and expectations. Where there’s smoke, there will be fire.

The lesson about transparency and information does not seem to have seeped through. Even now, no one, not even the planning minister, knows how Sheikh Rashid claims to have reduced the cost of the ML1 train line by $2 Billion. The government needs to start keeping the people informed with its decisions.