Economic crisis impairs the basic operations of Pakistan’s missions abroad

Years of economic turmoil in Pakistan have implications for the country in various forms, internally or internationally. While the crisis means a question of survival for the common people, it has turned into a fight for relevance for the institutions governing the country. With public and the government both pushed to the brink, Pakistani missions in various countries are left to bear the brunt overseas. The times seem testing for some old projects fuelled by the ambitious diplomacy of Islamabad through its missions abroad. A crunch of resources and lack of initiative is now making the host countries question the viability such proposals.

The state of one such project which bears the stamp of Pakistan’s economic difficulties is the construction of the building of Pakistan International School (PISC) in Egypt’s Cairo city. The Egyptian authorities had granted approval for the construction in 2012 after allotting a 5.5 acres plot of land for the purpose. However, even after passing of more than a decade, the Pak mission in Cairo has not been able to complete the project. The local authorities have been asking the Pak mission to finish the project for more than seven years now. However, the mission keeps on citing many problems for the long delay.

The dillydallying on the part of Islamabad has made the relevant authorities in Cairo take a stern view on the matter. The Urban Authority of the city has reportedly sent final notice to the Pak mission, asking it to complete the project on urgent basis. Through the notice, the authority has also warned the mission that if it is unable to complete the construction of the building, allotment of the plot for the project will be cancelled. Notably, the authority has also been imposing fines on the mission since 2015 due to inordinate delay. The Mission is also barred from utilizing the partially constructed building under the project. The Pak side however keeps on requesting for waiving off the accumulated fine amount, citing its precarious financial position. Worn out of mission’s attitude on the issue, the Egyptian

authorities have refused to consider the request while insisting on completion of the project.

Keeping in mind the shortage of funds and lack of any support from Pak government for the project, the mission has reportedly approached the Egyptian authorities again. The officials of the Pak mission are now believed to have surrendered to the idea of completing the construction of the school building. They are apparently looking for ways to get the local authorities agree to a revised plan involving reduced structure and scope of the project. Claiming that around 70 per cent of the building has been completed, the mission now wants to make the school functional with the present structure only. It hopes that if accepted by Egypt in the name of severe fund crunch, the idea may lead to waiving off of the fine amount which is running in millions of Egyptian pounds.

Pakistan and Egypt have maintained diplomatic relations since 1951, cooperating in various fields including trade, defense and security. Both countries have also participated in joint military exercises, and Egypt has purchased Pakistani defense equipment in the past. Considering the same, the present issue over completion of a school may not be very significant in overall bilateral ties. Nevertheless, the Egyptian dealing of the issue will determine the level of trust it is likely to place with Pakistan for other spheres of cooperation in the future.

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