By Sultan M. Hali

A group of young parliamentarians from Pakistan, led by the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly is visiting China as part of the celebrations of 60 years of Pak-China friendship. The group comprises young parliamentarians from across the divide, to present a wide cross section from Pakistan. Ms. Anusha Rahman Khan of Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), belonging to Central Punjab, Ms. Saima Akhtar Bharwana, an independent MNA from Jhang, Ms. Sabeen Rizvi also of PML (N), Mr. Sajid Hussain Turi of FATA, Pakistan People's Party's Nadeem Afzal Gondal from Sargodha, Dr. Lal Chand of PPP from Sindh and a representative of the minorities of Pakistan and Asghar Jatt, also of PPP, hailing from Southern Punjab completed the delegation. Abdul Qadoos, the Bureau Chief of APP's Peshawar office and I are also part of the delegation representing the media.

The tour commenced with a visit to Urumqi, the capital of Xingjian province, which comprises 47 different ethnic groups out of which the Muslims are in a majority with the Uyghurs taking over 47% of the total. The Cummunist Party of China (CPC), which is hosting the visit, wanted to showcase both the industrial and the agricultural strength of the province so we were taken to Shihezi City an industrial metropolis, where we toured the Xinjiang Alzzeeh Textile Mill and the Tianye Company which manufactures PVC pipes. The lesson to be learnt was that waste product was being turned into cement and other construction materials while the grounds were being used to harvest tomatoes to produce sauces for local and export markets. On return from Shihezi, we visited a cotton and grapes farm, which is being operated on scientific and cost effective lines. At Urumqi, we stopped over at the Goldwind turbine manufacturing plant, which was established in 1998 but in just over a decade has become one of the world’s leading total wind power solution provider by harnessing one of nature’s gifts to mankind, the wind and is providing cost effective solutions to Australia, USA, Germany and many other nations.

I had first visited Urumqi in 1974 and my last visit before this one was in 1987 thus I had the opportunity to compare the growth and development of this provincial capital. It was a pleasure to see it emerge from the boondogs of the seventies and eighties into a sprawling metropolis with the modern amenities of communication and technology. The roadsigns are in Chinese as well as in the old Turkish/Arabic script while the city has numerous mosques and Islamic centres. The people of Xingjian are very hospitable and the majority being Muslims, the famiiar greeting of "Assalam-o-Alaikum" (May peace be on you) added to the sense of camaraderie. The whole city was bedecked with red banners, a remnant of the 90th birthday of the formation of the CPC and the celebrations accompanying it. We had the opportunity to meet the CPC elders in the province as well as renowned Muslim scholars, besides Pakistani students at the Islamic Medical University and the Agriculture Institute. The students on their part were overjoyed to rub shoulders with the young parliamentarians and some of them expressed their difficulties with the hope that the representatives of the people in the parliament will help resolve matters like the recognition of their degree in Pakistan. The hospitality of the Xingjianis is traditional and warm hearted while their cuisine is close to Pakistan's and their culture too reflects similar spontaneity like our folk dances.

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The next destination was the capital, Beijing; where besides visits to the ancient Forbidden City, The Great Wall of China and paying homage to Chairman Mao in his embalmed state, where Chinese and tourtists throng in mile-long queues daily, there were important meetings with the bureaucrats and CPC elders. His Excellency Mr. Ai Ping, Vice Minister of International Department CPC Central Committee had an hour long meeting with the delegation. The high point of the visit was a courtesy call on His Excellency Wang Lequan, member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, Secretary of the Xingjian Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee of the CPC, and the first Political Commissar of the Xingjiang Production and Construction Corps. he received us at the Great Hall of the People, which is the political hub of Beijing and home of the national People's Congress. Every year, in March, the Great Hall of the People plays host to the liang hui (literally means "two meetings") event, where both the Chinese People's Consultative Conference (SCPCC) and the National People's Congress (NPC) meet in sessions lasting for two to three weeks at the Great Auditorium. The CPC also holds its National Congress every five years in the Great Hall of the People. It is used for legislative and ceremonial activities by the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the CPC. It functions as the PRC's parliament building.

Wang was the Secretary of the CPC Xingjiang Committee from 1994 until 2010. As Secretary, he was responsible for implementing modernization programs in Xinjiang. He encouraged industrialization, development of commerce, and investments in roads and railways. He furthered the development of the oil and gas fields in the region, link-up of pipelines from Kazakhstan to eastern China. Thus he is responsible for most of the development work in the erstwhile neglected province of Xingjiang. With a twinkle in his eye, the senior politburo member spoke of the progress Xingjiang has made in the last decade while a lot remains to be done. He mentioned that it is the endeavour of the CPC to bring all the provinces of PRC at par in the level of development with each other and the more prosperous provinces lend a helping hand to lesser developed ones. He mentioned that a rail link between Pakistan and China running through the Xingjian province was being envisaged while an oil pipe line through Pakistan was also under consideration. He gave great importance to Pakistan-China ties especially to the proximity of Xingjian and Gilgit Baltistan. 

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Faisal Karim Kundi, the leader of the Pakistani delegation reiterated Pak-China ties as well as the stance China's foreign office adopted following the May 2nd US operation to take out Osama bin Laden. He pointed out that China's unequivocal stance asking the world to respect Pakistan's sovereignty and not to isolate Pakistan in its hour of need and acknowledging Pakistan's sacrifices in the war on terror went a long way in raising the morale of the people. Mr. Kundi also informed Mr. Wang that the address by Premier Wen Jiabao to the joint session of Pakistan's parliament in December 2010 was endorsed by the entire parliament and applauded whole heartedly. The deputy Speaker apprised the honorable Chinese leader of the status of the Young Parliamentarians Forum and its role in nation building. Mr. Kundi also made the suggestions for PRC to permit the installation of  Pakistan's consulate in Xingjian and setting up Confucius Centers in various provinces of Pakistan. The honorable Wang Lequan appreciated the role of the youth in Pakistan and welcomed the suggestions by the leader of the Pakistani delegation and said that he would refer the same to International department for consideration.

Mr. Masood Khan, Pakistan's ambassador to Beijing hosted a lunch for the visiting Pakistani delegation and also a dinner in their honour. The Embassy of Pakistan went out of its way to make the visit successful and the delegates comfortable. Mr. Kundi departed for Pakistan from Beijing due to political expediency and Ms. Anusha Rehman Khan, the Secretary General of the YPF assumed leadership for the remaining portion of the visit and conducted the proceedings with poise, dignity and grace. Two seminars were organized by the CPC, one with experts from China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations and Beijing University on the development of sino-Pak Relations and the other with an expert from the Central Party School on the CPC's party building. While the first one pertained to a frank discussion on the extent of relations as well minor irritants, the second one was an eye opener, especially for the YPF on how the CPC recruits, trains and grooms party members, its unique features and it’s functioning. The delegation had numerous questions, some of them difficult ones but the expert handled them deftly and with patience but provided elaborate responses. He also extended an invitation to the young parliamentarians to attend courses on political party building and governance at the CPC's Central Party School

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The last leg of the tour was to the eastern port city of Qingdao.  Lying across the Shandong Peninsula while looking out to the Yellow Sea, Qingdao is a major seaport, naval base, and industrial centre. The world's longest sea bridge, the Qingdao Haiwan Bridge, links the main urban area of Qingdao with Hungdao district, straddling the Jiazhou Bay sea areas. In 2009, Qingdao was named China's most livable city. Visits to the Haier Group, which has set up an industrial zone in Pakistan, besides 22 international trading centers was a very educative experience. Mr. Xu Hang, Deputy Director General of Standing Committee Qingdao People's Congress received the delegation and briefed them on the history and progress of the sprawling metropolis. It became apparent that the CPC had chosen the itinerary of the visit with metculous care and thought. Commencing with the relatively less developed but ethnically diverse yet harmonious Urumqi, followed by the high level meetings and discussions on CPC's raison d'etre and ultimately to one of the modern wonders of the world Qingdao gave food for thought to the young parliamentarians from Pakistan. They will certainly be taking important lessons home to concieve and perhaps adapt some of the innovations of CPC. Despite being from diverse backgrounds and political parties, the young parliamentarians showed unsusual harmony aside from minor jostling, which is a positive sign and promising for the future of democracy in Pakistan. Faisal Karim Kundi was his usual composed and dignified self while Anusha Rehman, especially after she assumed leadership was considerate, controlled and working hard to make the most of the visit. Sabeen Rizvi and Saima Akhtar Bharwana. were enthusiastic and zealous in asking questions. Nadeem Afzal Gondal depicted his experience and grasp of political thought while young Asghar Jatt, though young in experience was keen to ask for support for his own constituency. Sajid Hussain Turi was equally concerned about the development of FATA. The most interesting participant was Dr. Lal Chand, whose humorous quips and subtle comments kept the delegation amused but on on a serious note, he was earnest in inquiring regarding the dealing of CPC with the ethnic minorities and considering the plight of his community in Pakistan and bringing them in the mainstream of national development. All in all it was an invigorating and highly informative trip, which will help bring the people of China and Pakistan even closer and cement the already strong bonds between the two brotherly neighbours.