Round Table Conference on China—The Peacemaker—held on September 27, under the aegis of renowned think tank 101 Friends of China, was a roaring success, beyond the comprehension or expectation of even those conceiving or organizing it. Enormous amount of man-hours, spread over several days, and weeks perhaps, had gone into its materialization. The end product was naturally heartening, and, tremendously productive.
These are not just shallow words, those attending the two-hour session, acknowledged in their messages and telephone calls later of its efficacy, for practically each one of them, had same conclusions. The moot was informative, educative, and enlightening in character. The trio of Faisal Zahid Malik, and his two younger brothers, Gauhar Zahid Malik and Umar Zahid Malik, were richly rewarded for their efforts, initiated and launched by their father, late Mr Zahid Malik, a great personality, knowledgeable and occupying elevated stature, and yet humble in mannerism, and in conducting his routine affairs or dealing with people, high or low throughout his life time. The grandeur of the Round Table Conference, deservedly titled as mentioned above, gladdened their hearts, for which they should bow before their Creator, in humility, for it was not only acknowledgement of the concept of their illustrious father, but a handsome tribute to the departed soul.
Apart from refreshing our own memories, a glimpse is necessary for those who could not make it and complained later for not being able to benefit personally of the tone and tenor of speeches, contents and arguments from speakers. Hence this attempt at re-enactment of the proceedings, lasting from 1100 am to 100 pm. Since I too was involved with it in small way, I thought it fit to place on record as to why and how this could be called such a huge success. From the participants viewpoint, it could be said without fear of contradiction that some 100 eminent people from a cross section of the society were invited, but the turn out far exceeded which was evident from the jam-packed Khorsheed Memorial Hall of the Avari Hotel, named after the illustrious mother of Byram Avari, owner of the Avaris chain of hotels in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Dubai and Canada, with more projects in offing in other Pakistani cities.
Speakers were carefully picked, about a dozen or a little over that. Governor, Sindh Muhammad Zubair had been kind to spare his precious time out of a hectic schedule, he is used to, and delivered a comprehensive speech in the end to remind the audience that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as it has come to be regarded now, was not just a dream, but a fast-track reality, benefits of which is bound to change the economy of the region, and even those in distant areas.
Endowed with qualities like acumen, and knowledge, and capable of convincing his listeners of the positive aspects of developments within the country, or relating to his high office, his responsibilities to care for the welfare of the people, Governor Zubair, reminded critics that his words could well be dismissed lightly as politically motivated, but pieces in internationally reputed newspapers, journals and magazines like the hugely respected English weekly the Economist, and several other eminent newspapers from England and America, were witness to positivity of the economic indicators which Pakistan had been able to achieve in the last 3 to 4 years. Contesting their viewpoints, in black and white, circulated and read world over can only be called uncharitable and denying the credit where it is due.
In a backdrop of world acknowledgement that Pakistan, had not only been able to recover from the morass it had been plunged into because of our own carelessness, but was well on the road to progress, the Governor’s assertions depicted dynamism. Peace has returned to Karachi and areas, frightening because of terrorism, and treated as threats to life and security of people and property, had been vastly controlled. A testimony of this was available from the fresh enquiries pouring almost daily from major international investors, companies, and countries of the world about Karachi and Pakistan being an attractive investment destination.
The tone for the discussion was set by welcome speech from Faisal Zahid Malik, Editor-in-Chief of Pakistan Observer, and Vice Chairman of 101 Friends of China think tank. His speech was enriched with words of wisdom, for he proved himself worthy son of a worth father, furthering the cause of his late Mr Zahid Malik, and further enhancing his own respect and prestige in the eyes of the audience.
Eminent bankers like Arif Habib, an esteemed businessman, commanding respect for being courteous and pleasant in dealings with people. He is chief of the Habib group of companies, the country’s largest business conglomerate, a philanthropist, Sirajuddin Aziz, Chief Executive Officer of the Habib Metropolitan Bank. He is professionally renowned, and experienced banker having worked for different organisations in Pakistan, China, Hong Kong, UK, Nigeria and UAE. He is also a regular speaker at prestigious educational institutions, universities, and professional fora. He is a regular contributor to national and international dailies, including Pakistan Observer, apart from being author of several publications like The Quest of Mirage, Sarab Ki Talash, and The Essence of Islam. Other illuminating discourses came from Mr Tahir Rizvi, Country manager of One-Apple, which has interests in China also. Then there was the intellect of respected Mirza Shah Nawaz Agha, CEO, Live Rostrum. He is senior member of 101 Friends of China and was part of the delegation of 101 Friends of China to visit China in November 2015.
The popular figure of eminent and richly respected business personality, Mr S M Muneer, who held positions in the government earlier, apart from being the chairman of Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP), the successor to erstwhile Export Promotion Bureau. His own business house is known as Din Group of Companies, but he is loved by almost everyone and has earned a loving title of ‘BhaiJan’ for his being highly social and caring and affectionate to whosoever comes across him. Mr Muneer delivered a laudable lecture punctuated with facts and figures to highlight the tremendous benefits likely to flow from the CPEC. He also dwelt on positive economic indicators, made possible because of the hard work of the present government. Mr Muneer twice won top 25 Companies Award of Karachi Stock Exchange, which is now part of Pakistan Stock Exchange because of the structural reforms brought about by the government. He was also winner of the Best Businessman of Year Award by FPCCI, known as ‘Sitara-i-Isaar’ in 2007 by the President of Pakistan, also won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 by former president Asif Ali Zardari.
Well known intellectual, Dr Huma Baqai, Associate Professor, Director of Public Affairs and Communication and former chairperson, Department of Social Sciences, Institute of Business Administration, a prestigious institution was another eloquent speaker. She was impressive in review of world changes citing examples of China, Japan, India, and Afghanistan to highlight the importance of thoughtful review of country’s foreign policy. She is also well known TV anchor and analyst, writes on international relations. Former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, France, and erstwhile Soviet Union, Nigeria,and Libya, Shahid Amin, who had also served in New Delhi, Kabul, Teheran, Brussels, London and New York, retiring from a distinguished career in 1997 was yet another enlightened speaker. He is a regular contributor of analysis on international relations, including for Pakistan Observer.
From the political side MQM Pakistan leader and eminent parliamentarian, who had remained federal and provincial minister, and opposition leader at national and provincial legislatures, and also held the position of chairman, foreign affairs committee of the National Assembly during one of his several tenures of his parliamentary career. He felt happy at CPEC including Karachi Circular Railways, and felt strongly that more and more projects of Karachi and Sindh should be part of CPEC, for Karachi and Sindh provides huge funds to federal exchequer, and is still to be recognized for its services to the nation.
The Chinese consul general Wang Yu, made an impressive speech, re-assuring Pakistan of his country’s un-stinted support to Pakistan, its solidarity, and integrity. He was eloquent and candid in his speech, which was full of authoritative and balanced argument. The audience repeatedly lauded his speech and assurances for Pakistan. The consul general proved that China is not only a great country, but a great friend of Pakistan, a tremendously responsible neighbour, Pakistan is proud of. The vote of thanks came from General Ehsanul Haq, Chairman of 101 Friends of China who revealed to audience as to why late Mr Zahid Malik had named it as 101 Friends of China. Later Mr Faisal Zahid Malik, as host presented shields to Governor, the Consul General of China and to General ® Ehsan-ul-Haq. It was truly an impressive gathering, viewed from any angle.