It appears from news reports that a Bilateral Investment Treaty with the United States, which Pervaiz Musharraf’s government rejected, because it contained terms extremely unfavourble to Pakistan, is now in the process of being signed by the present government, which seems to be all set to yield on these points, matching its performance on the issue of GLOCs where it signed the MoU surrendering utterly on all points. According to press reports, the visiting US team has extended its stay in Pakistan in order to finalise the treaty.

One particularly worrying clause in the proposed treaty is the one that would allow the investing companies to bring in top management officials of any nationality, and without security clearance from our intelligence agencies. Of course we won’t be too comfortable with Israeli or even dubious Indian nationals barging into the country, because of the dirty role agents of the two countries have been playing in Balochistan and elsewhere in Pakistan. In case of Israel, we do not even have diplomatic relations with the country. However, it is not so much a question of which passport the people would be holding because dual-national Israelis and Indians could be carrying American or even European passports. Moreover, it is quite well-known that even purely Israeli Mossad agents often operate, carrying European passports: a case in point is the killing in Dubai of Hamas senior official Mahmoud al-Mabhouh by Mossad agents. If allowed to arrive in Pakistan without security clearance, a large number of secret agents and saboteurs could land - in the guise of senior management officials of investing companies - in Balochistan province and other sensitive areas of Pakistan, and using the additional techniques learned and perfected in Iraq, Libya and Syria, could destabilise the country, with the ultimate aim of dismembering it and neutralising its nuclear assets. As it is, the government seems helpless in curbing daily killings in Pakistan. Do we have to magnify our problems thousand-fold and help the enemies of Pakistan in implementing their nefarious agenda?

Another sticky point is a clause in the proposed BIT, which will require Pakistan to extend both tariff and non-tariff concessions to US sponsored NGOs in Pakistan. Worse still, the US is reported to have inserted a clause in the BIT which would force Pakistan to seek prior US approval before finalising any export, import or taxation-related policies. This would amount to surrendering whatever little sovereignty we have left.

A justification for the unfavourable terms is claimed by highlighting their reciprocity, which would offer to Pakistani investors in the US the same degree of protection that is being sought for the US investors in Pakistan. However, it is extremely unlikely that Pakistanis would invest in the US in any big way so while the concessions may theoretically appear to be reciprocal, they would practically be one-sided, and to our detriment.

Discussions with the US on BIT have been going on for years now and I am sure they can wait for another few months. So there is absolutely no need to finalise the treaty in a great hurry, and in a sort of hush-hush manner. I think one way to allay public fears would be to publish the draft treaty in leading newspapers, giving adequate time to knowledgeable interested parties to make comments and objections, and to take the final decision in the light of these. Alternatively, Supreme Court could take suo motu notice of this important issue which, if mishandled, could endanger the very existence of Pakistan, which is already facing multiple problems on various fronts.

S.R.H. HASHMI,

Karachi, August 31.