Within 24 hours of his return from a successful visit to China where 19 agreements and MOUs envisaging an investment of US$42 billion in the energy sector were signed, the Prime Minister has embarked on a three-day visit to Germany and the UK with the one point agenda of inviting and attracting foreign investment in Pakistan and expanding economic cooperation with the two giants of the European Union. The critics and skeptics might view his sojourns abroad from a different angle tinged with traditional cynicism, but the reality was that these visits represented a necessity-driven quest for foreign investment which were absolutely imperative to tide over the energy crisis and lifting the economic profile of the country.

Pakistan is confronted with the worst ever energy crisis. To overcome this, and to ensure future energy security, it is essential to invest heavily in power producing projects and building necessary infrastructure to kick start the process of sustained economic development in the country. The present crisis is badly affecting industrial growth and other sectors of the economy with all accompanying negative consequences. Unfortunately, Pakistan does not have the resources available to initiate those vital projects and hence has to make strenuous efforts to attract foreign investments in this area. Giving top priority to the energy sector therefore, is a pragmatic and visionary approach to improve the health of the economy.

In his talks with the German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Prime Minister emphasized the need for expanded cooperation between the two countries and German investments in the energy sector. It may be pertinent to mention that Germany along with the UK, has been an ardent advocate of granting Pakistan the GSP Plus status and was also the fourth largest trade partner of Pakistan.

The German Chancellor said that Germany was definitely interested in making increased investments in Pakistan provided the conditions were right. She was obviously referring to the law and order situation in the country in the backdrop of the wave of terrorism in Pakistan. The two countries also resolved to work together to fight the menace of terrorism. Germany has decided to establish an energy forum in Lahore and its KfW State Bank is already involved in hydro power plants in Pakistan. Merkel also congratulated Malala for getting the noble peace prize and remarked that she was the true face of Pakistan.

Ostensibly, the German visit seems to have gone well and the Prime Minster was able to plead his case for investment opportunities in Pakistan in a convincing manner. He presented an exhaustive account of the incentives and the productive opportunities that existed in Pakistan for foreign investors. The PM during his visit to the UK will also address the British Commonwealth Investment Conference besides meeting the British leadership and avail the opportunity to elucidate on the investment opportunities in Pakistan and the incentives that it offered for foreign investments. But the fact remains that Pakistan has to create the right environment to encourage foreign investors. Economic incentives and opportunities that exist are not going to produce the desired impact unless the law and order situation improves, as also pointed out by the German Chancellor. The timely implementation of the China funded project would also depend on the improvement of law and order.

It is satisfying to note that operation Zarb-e-Azab is continuing successfully and actions against those who sneaked into Khyber Agency are also ongoing with unruffled commitment and intensity. Military authorities believe that it will not take them long to subdue the terrorists and soon the IDPs would be repatriated to their homes. That indeed is good news and would send a positive message to the outside world as to the prospects of improving law and order.

The situation in Karachi, the industrial hub of Pakistan, has improved considerably since the launch of the targeted operation in Karachi since last September. That needs to be pursued with unswerving commitment without caring for the political expediencies or reactions of certain political parties. National interests should take precedence over narrow political considerations.

Similarly, the end of the insurgency in Balochistan is of utmost importance in exploiting the economic potential of the province, completing the projects associated with the Pak-China Economic Corridor and development of the Gawadar Port. Several attempts have been made to bring estranged Baloch leaders—-who are leading the insurgency while sitting abroad and maligning Pakistan—- in the political mainstream but none have succeeded. The PPP regime initiated ‘Aghaz-e-Haqooqe Balochistan’ programme which was a package of political and economic measures designed to promote the process of development and reconciliation in the province and also tasked Chief Minister Raeesani to use his tribal links to establish contact with the leaders of the insurgents for finding an amicable solution to the ongoing strife. But unfortunately, no headway could be made. The Balochistan Assembly adopted a unanimous resolution for setting up a tribal jirga on 29th September 2014, for bringing back Baloch leaders in self-exile, especially Khan of Qalat Sulaiman Daud who left the country after the murder of Akbar in August 2006. The Khan of Qalat enjoys great respect amongst all the tribes of Balochistan and he can play a decisive role in the process of reconciliation and the end of the insurgency in the province, provided he agrees to return. The federal government must encourage the formation of the Jirga at the earliest and fully support the initiative so that an amicable and permanent solution to the Baloch conundrum can be found through political channels. The resolution of the foregoing issues would act as a catalyst for realizing the already agreed-upon investments between Pakistan and foreign countries, besides reinforcing the confidence of other potential foreign investors.

    The writer is a freelance columnist.