IKRAMMULLAH There is no difference of opinion about Pakistans failing economy. Indeed, it is the mother of all crises facing the country, including inflation, energy and gas loadshedding, lawlessness, etc. We are neck-deep in debt and losses. Perhaps, the government is even depending on foreign aid to pay the salaries of government officials next month, let alone development and growth in any sector. Unfortunately, it seems as if the political leadership has compromised on the nations sovereignty. But in this most difficult time, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabaos visit to Islamabad truly falls in line with the old adage, a friend in need, is a friend indeed. Pakistan and China, reportedly, have signed 35 agreements and memorandums of understanding (MoUs), worth $35 billion, on cooperation in economy, energy, banking, security and technology. More than that the Chinese Premier has assured that Beijing would never give up on Pakistan. Certainly, this is a cool breeze for the people of Pakistan just when they were gasping for fresh air. But it is not enough to cure the myriad ills facing the Islamic state. Pakistan has to stand up on its own feet to attain a place of honour in the comity of nations. There will be no need for our leaders to carry a begging bowl, if we, as a nation, resolve to keep digging straight down until we discover the still virgin and unexplored resources, and eventually emerge as one of the richest nations on earth. Against this backdrop, Pakistan has the distinction of possessing worlds largest copper and gold reserves, which are hidden in Balochistan and Waziristan; South Africa and Australia being the other two countries with the former having 400 tonnes and the latter 260 tonnes per year yield of gold. As against this current international gold deposit situation, Pakistan has an estimated capacity of producing 450 tonnes per year for the next 25 to 30 years, only if the projects are undertaken seriously through indigenous control. The gold-copper deposit in Reko Diq is four times larger than its neighbouring Saindak deposit in Balochistan. Reportedly, according to Dr Samar Mubarakmand, a renowned nuclear scientist and member of the Planning Commission of Pakistan, only a part of it is worth $270 billion. While talking to the media, he said: You can keep mining gold and it will never end, resulting in a complete turn over of Pakistans economy... For the record, the first contract for mining gold, copper and other minerals in Balochistan was given by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to an Australian firm BHP Billiton at a meagre price of $3.3 billion with 75 percent shares to the mining company, while Pakistan only had the remaining 25 percent. Subsequently, both parties sold their shares after due profits. Billiton sold its shares, in 2006, to two different firms - Antofagasta (Chilean) and Barrick Gold (Canadian) with 3.5 percent share each, while Balochistans shares were sold for $200 million, however, there are many facts that remain unknown. Moreover, Pakistans first major project in the mining sector was initiated by a Chinese firm at Saindak. For the execution of this project, a new department named Resources Development Corporation was established in Pakistan, in 1974, with the technical and financial assistance of the Metallurgical Construction Corporation (MCC) of China. But it is unfortunate that even after extensive planning, the project ended without much success solely due to the incompetence, mismanagement and corruption of government functionaries. Now a new opportunity has emerged with Dr Mubarakmands appointment as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Reko Diq project. But he has not yet taken over because of Balochistan governments delay in issuing the notification. However, he said that if he is asked to undertake the project, he would accept the challenge without any hesitation, since he already had a team of trained manpower with complete expertise in extracting and refining all types of minerals, including copper, gold and other minerals in the mining sector. So, if the PPP-led government is sincere in throwing away the begging bowl and to boost the nations economy, it is the necessary that decisions about exploring our mineral wealth be accorded top priority in the best interests of Pakistan. That would also help resolve the current crisis in Balochistan. At the same time, it is hoped that the Supreme Court would look into the matter of issuing licences to foreign companies and decide in the interest of Pakistan. The writer is the president of the Pakistan National Forum.