The Muslim Student Organization hosted a lecture on September 29, by Professor Shahbaz Gill, in the Public Affairs Center Conference Room C and D, to discuss Pakistan’s foreign policy under the Prime Minister, Imran Khan.
Gill is an assistant professor of business administration at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). He holds a doctorate from the University of Malaya and did his post-doctoral work at UIUC. He has also served as an advisor to Prime Minister Khan.
During the presentation, Gill presented an optimistic view for the future of Pakistan, which he referred to as having the fifth largest population in the world. He laid out a future of Pakistani prosperity through economic development and trade, with heavy emphasis on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). CPEC is a series of infrastructure projects financed by China, Pakistan, and the most recent investor, Saudi Arabia, that seeks to connect the city of Gwadar, Pakistan with western China through various means, including highways, oil and gas pipelines, and high-speed trains. Gill also cited the Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline as evidence for his premise of Pakistan strengthening relations with neighboring states.
Aside from this, Gill was somewhat critical of the United States, Saudi Arabia, and India. He argued that the United States and Saudi Arabia had left Pakistan to deal with the aftermath of the Soviet-Afghan War, despite, he argued, Pakistan not having gained anything through the course of that war. He also argued that the United States was pressing Pakistan too hard to crack down on terrorism in the Pashtun areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border, and because of this, Pakistan was developing closer relations to Russia. However, he did insist that Pakistan wanted to maintain good relations with the United States. Gill also argued that India had missed an opportunity and hurt its own long-term interests by refusing to provide assistance to Pakistan during times of difficulty during the 2000s, and because of this missed opportunity to strengthen relations with Pakistan, India would likely face difficulty in future trade due to difficulty in accessing Central Asia.
After the presentation, there was a question and answer session in which Gill covered various topics. These included the power of the Chief Justice of Pakistan, the potential of yet another military coup in Pakistan, whether Pakistan moving forward should be considered a national republic or an Islamic republic, the controversy of certain appointees to Khan’s cabinet, and even Pakistan’s first lady.