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Daily Briefs

13 May 2021, Thursday I Vol 2, No.133

COAS meets with the US Charge d' Affairs

12 May 2021, Wednesday I Vol 2, No.132

Pakistan to receive USD 500 million loan from Saudi Arabia 

11 May 2021, Tuesday I Vol 2, No.131

COAS Gen Bajwa meets with President Ghani


Photo : Dawn

13 May 2021, Thursday I Vol 2, No.133

COAS meets with the US Charge d' Affairs



The COAS meeting with the US Charge d' Affairs, Imran Khan's call with Erdogan, and the Eid celebrations amid the pandemic

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
COAS meets with the US Charge d' Affairs
Says seeks ‘cooperation’ with the US in all domains

On 12 May, COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said that he hopes for “greater cooperation” between Pakistan and the US in all domains, as Islamabad's efforts to reset ties with Washington have so far met with a lukewarm response from the Biden administration. This statement came during a meeting with US Charge d' Affairs. (“COAS seeks ‘cooperation’ with US in all domains,” The Express Tribune, 13 May 2021)

Meets with the US Charge d' Affairs
COAS Gen Bajwa met with Angela Aggeler, US Charge d’ Affairs to Pakistan. During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, overall regional security situation, bilateral cooperation in various fields, fight against Covid-19 and recent developments in the Afghan peace process were discussed. Further, he said that Pakistan had sincerely supported the Afghan negotiations and a prosperous, stable and peaceful Afghanistan was in the best interest of the region. Conversely, the US Charge d’ Affairs acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan's efforts for peace and stability in the region and pledged to enhance bilateral relations between the two countries. (“Bajwa, US diplomat discuss Afghan peace process,” Dawn, 13 May 2021)

 

Pakistan, Turkey vow to stop Israeli atrocities on Palestinians
FM Qureshi urges European Muslims to speak up

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 12 May, PM Imran Khan and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to work together in mobilising the international community to help stop the attacks by Israel on Palestine. The two leaders exchanged views during a telephone call on Israel’s attack on Al-Aqsa Mosque and the worshippers inside as well as on Gaza during Ramazan, violating all norms of humanity and international laws. They also agreed that the foreign ministers of both countries would be working closely together to raise the Palestinian issue at the international level, especially at the United Nations. Further, they discussed the strengthening of bilateral relations and agreed that the momentum of high-level exchanges between Pakistan and Turkey would continue. (“Pakistan, Turkey join hands to stop Israeli atrocities on Palestinians,” The Express Tribune, 13 May 2021)

FM Qureshi urges European Muslims to speak up for the Palestinians 
On 13 May, FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi urged the Muslims residing in Europe to play an active role and raise their voice against the attacks by Israeli forces on the Palestinians. He said that the Muslim Parliamentarians in Europe and Britain are effective voices and they should raise the Palestine issue and play a part in solving the ongoing crisis in Palestine. Further, he said, “Pakistan is making efforts to mobilize the international community to intervene for the safety of Palestinians from the brutalities of Israeli forces.” (“FM Qureshi urges European Muslims to speak against Israeli atrocities in Palestine,” The Express Tribune, 13 May 2021)

 

Pakistan celebrates Eid-ul-Fitr amid strict SOPs
President Alvi, PM Imran urge the nation to follow SOPs

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 13 May, Pakistan celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr while observing precautionary measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. All mosques have been directed to follow strict SOPs to ensure social distancing. Meanwhile, President Dr Arif Alvi and PM Imran Khan have urged all citizens to strictly adhere to protocols while celebrating, stating that the measures were necessary to avoid a massive outbreak. (“Pakistan celebrates yet another Eid overshadowed by pandemic,” Dawn, 13 May 2021) (“Namaz Eid ul Fitr: Namaz Timing in Lahore,” The News International, 13 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
Cabinet subcommittee recommends keeping Shehbaz on ECL
On 12 May, the Interior Minister said the federal cabinet will soon accept the recommendation of a cabinet subcommittee to keep Shehbaz Sharif on the Exit Control List (ECL). He said the decision was taken after the NAB requested a special meeting of the committee. He opined that Shehbaz could not be given “special treatment” when other people were on the ECL. He said that Shehbaz was the guarantor of Nawaz Sharif and added, “He [Shehbaz] chose the time of Sehri to run away knowing that the [Hudaibiya Paper Mills] case was about to be reopened.” (“Cabinet body wants Shehbaz's name on ECL,” The Express Tribune, 12 May 2021)

Senior legal fraternity unhappy with online campaign against judges
On 13 May, Dawn reported that senior lawyers were shocked at a “coordinated” online campaign against certain judges, following the Supreme Court’s verdict on Justice Isa on 26 April. The former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) said a campaign of character asssasination had been launched against several judges, mainly Justice Isa after the verdict. This comes after Justice Isa’s wife had written two open letters on 8 May and 11 May questioning a former Attorney General’s interview on YouTube wherein he did not accept the SC verdict; she alleged that he had been “threatening her with criminal prosecution.” Similarly, Dawn quoted a senior lawyer who opined that individuals have the freedom to criticise any judgement delivered by a judge or a bench of the superior judiciary. However, it “should not be seen as a deliberate attempt to bring the judiciary into disrespect or disrepute or lower the authority of the court or scandalise a judge in relation to his office.” (Nasiq Iqbal, “Onslaught against judiciary shocks senior lawyers,” Dawn, 13 May 2021)


ECONOMY
Exports to EU increase to USD 7.4 billion
On 13 May, Dawn cited data from the Ministry of Commerce, reporting that Pakistan’s exports to the EU had increased by 17 per cent in the first 10 months of the current FY. The exports stand at USD 7.474 billion during July-April in the 10 months compared to the USD 6.367 billion in the corresponding period last year. The highest exports have been made to Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Belgium. Further, the overall increase in the figures has been attributed to the Generalised System of Preferences-Plus (GSP+) scheme. (Mubarak Zeb Khan, “Exports to EU rise by 17pc in 10 months,” Dawn, 13 May 2021)

First shipment of goods under multilateral treaty arrives from Uzbekistan
On 12 May, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce announced that the first shipment of goods under the Convention on International Transport of Goods had arrived from Uzbekistan. The multilateral treaty, ratified by Pakistan in 2016, provides for “no payment of customs duties and taxes.” The Adviser said, “This is the beginning of a new era where trucks from both sides will take trade cargo to and from Karachi and Gwadar ports.” (“First shipment from Uzbekistan under multilateral treaty arrives,” Dawn, 13 May 2021)

EXTERNAL
Qureshi provides highlights of Imran’s visit to Saudi Arabia
On 12 May, Foreign Minister Qureshi said Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia had put on hold a few players’ intentions to damage Islamabad’s relations with Riyadh. He outlined that five agreements signed between the two countries will be operational through an “institutional liaison consisting of three pillars” which include security and politics, economy, and cultural relations. Further he said that under the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 aimed at creating jobs for Pakistanis, job quotas will be framed for Pakistan. (“'PM’s visit has thwarted plans of those wishing ill on Pak-Saudi relations',” The Express Tribune, 13 May 2021)

PAKISTAN’S WORLD VIEW
Editorial calls on international community to condemn Israel’s actions 
An editorial in The News International, referring to the ongoing violence in Gaza, calls on the ICC to form a commission probing and highlighting “the most serious nature of Israeli atrocities.” The editorial opines that the Western actors have largely remained equivocal and have not condemned Israel and has asked both sides to restrain themselves. It says, “the language the international community is using is mild and is tantamount to condoning these war crimes by treating both parties equally.” It cites the evictions of Palestinians and says, “When this happens, the victims have to retaliate in one way or the other and confront the occupation.” (“Gaza bleeds again,” The News International, 13 May 2021)
 
Also read...                                                                                                
An opinion in Dawn says let the pandemic be a lesson on the need for South Asia to invest more in healthcare rather than bombs that cannot help us breathe. It argues, that it is time for SAARC to be revitalised and for its member countries to cooperate with one another, adding, let the people’s online voices of peace materialize. 

An editorial in Dawn critical of the PM’s statement on the foreign services officers says communication on any issue of foreign policy must be unambiguous and consistent, arguing that there is simply no room for such blunders in matters as delicate as foreign policy.
 




"Peace must be people led and inclusive, or it will not sustain. The signs are there but it will require bold decisions by both sides to take the initiative."
-An opinion in Dawn on the recent news of backchannel dialogue between thegovernments of Pakistan and India.



Photo : Dawn

12 May 2021, Wednesday I Vol 2, No.132

Pakistan to receive USD 500 million loan from Saudi Arabia 



A USD 500 million loan from Saudi Arabia, Fafen's suggestions on electoral reforms, and the PM's retraction of his criticism against the Pakistani envoys

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

PR Editorial, 12 May 2021
Imran Khan on the Foreign Office, again
"It is not easy being a Pakistani diplomat, justifying domestic developments within Pakistan in any international forum"

On Tuesday, Imran Khan was quoted to have made another statement on Pakistan’s foreign office, after an outburst last week against the same. This time, it was more of a conciliatory one, telling that the foreign office is doing a great job. 

What made Imran to change his mind about the foreign office, within a week? Perhaps, the harsh response from within Pakistan to his outburst against the foreign office. Perhaps, he realized that his meeting and statements went too far. According to media reports, Inamul Haque, president of the Association of Former Ambassadors, wrote to Imran Khan that his statement “was ill advised and reflected a lack of understanding of the work that our diplomatic missions are performing despite major constraints and impediments.” Anyone following Pakistan’s foreign ministry’s role would agree. Consider, how they had to deal with the responses to terrorist attacks in Mumbai in 2008. How did they put up a brave face to address questions over the killing of Osama bin Laden in the heart of Pakistan in 2011? How did they respond to the trial of Daniel Pearl and the release of his killers? How did they respond to the FATF queries, and the reasons behind them? 

It is not easy being a Pakistani diplomat, justifying domestic developments within Pakistan in any international forum. 

Consider the above, amidst the structural issues – from politicization and intervention from other institutions, especially the Establishment. How much space does Pakistan’s foreign ministry has to pursue a coherent policy externally? And how internal developments impinge on their image elsewhere; consider the following cases: blasphemy, rise of the TLP, repeated release of militant leaders like Hafiz Saeed, AQ Khan, Aasia Bibi, Malala, Mukhtaran Mai etc. It is not easy to defend Pakistan at the international forum during the last two decades. 

But has the foreign ministry not been doing just that?

 

In Focus
Pakistan to receive USD 500 million loan from Saudi Arabia 
PM got nothing except drawing more charity from KSA visit, says Bilawal
Image Source: The News International
 

On 12 May, The Express Tribune reported that Saudi Arabia has committed to providing funds worth USD 500 million to help develop infrastructure, hydropower projects, infrastructure development, and renewable energy initiatives in Pakistan. Further, Saarc Chamber of Commerce and Industry President highlighted that under one of the seven MoUs signed between the two countries, Saudi Arabia would finance energy, infrastructure, water, transportation and communication projects in Pakistan. (“Riyadh commits $500m loan to Pakistan,” The Express Tribune, 12 May 2021)

Meanwhile, FM Qureshi said that the PM’s visit helped defeat the plans by those trying to drive a wedge between Islamabad and Riyadh, adding that under the renewed engagement economic ties would grow and the two countries would have increased bilateral investment and trade. (“New direction set in ties with Saudi Arabia: FM,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)

PM got nothing except drawing more charity from KSA visit, says Bilawal
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari criticized PM Imran Khan saying, “Unfortunately, the incumbent PTI-led federal government does not have the capability or policy for controlling the hoarding and profiteering. The federal government should at least enforce the government rates of commodities in letter and spirit.” He said, “The selected prime minister achieved nothing except 19,000 bags of rice in charity from Saudi Arabia in the form of Fitra and Zakat and the price of rice bags got in charity is comparatively cheaper then the expenses accured on the tour to the kingdom by Prime Minister Imran Khan, along with his friends and ministers.” (“PM got nothing except drawing more charity from KSA visit: Bilawal,” The Express Tribune, 12 May 2021)

Pakistan must continue a balanced policy in the Middle East while according a high priority to Saudi Arabia, says Editorial
An editorial in Dawn commenting on the PM’s visit to Saudi Arabia says that is important that both countries make a concerted effort to improve their relationship, given the changing events in the region. Adding that the visit is timely and it is hoped that the visit can inject fresh vigour into the relationship. Further, it says that Pakistan should take no step, or agree to any demand, that can harm national sovereignty, adding that it must take independent decisions, free from pressures and expectations while keeping its national interest supreme. The editorial concludes by saying given that Pakistan has always followed a balanced policy in the Middle East, it must continue to do so while according a high priority to Saudi Arabia. (“PM’s Saudi visit,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)

 

Fafen proposes referendum on EVMs, proportional representation system
Asks govt not to amend Elections Act in haste 

Image Source: Dawn

On 11 May, the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) released a statement in which it proposed a referendum on the introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) and list proportional representation system. The network also urged the government to avoid making a hasty move to amend the Elections Act saying that the haste with which the government was pushing for electoral reforms, including the introduction of electronic voting and biometric machines, was worrying.

Quotable
“Notwithstanding the importance of technology in inculcating efficiency, transparency, and uniformity of the electoral process, the introduction of EVMs and biometrics is a significant shift. It should not be introduced without a more extended public and political discourse. An ordinance is undoubtedly not the way to take measures meant to strengthen democracy.”

The Referendum processes
According to the statement, the referendum process would allow all political parties to freely take up their positions on the use of technology with Pakistani citizens. It explained that such a step would also give a much-needed sense of political empowerment to Pakistani citizens, adding that each of them would then be part of shaping the framework of future elections in the country.

Calls for public debate, political discourse on electoral reforms
The network said, “Only citizens should have the right to decide on matters that relate to their constitutional right to vote. For such issues of public importance, the framers of the Constitution had included the provision of a referendum.” It called for a broader public debate and political discourse on the much-needed electoral reforms. Further, the network said that unless structural and systemic issues compromising the integrity and credibility of the election processes and its outcomes were not addressed, democracy would continue to gasp for breath. (“Fafen suggests referendum on EVMs, proportional representation system,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)

 

PM Khan retracts criticism of envoys
There is need for a more serious approach on foreign policy matters, says opinion 

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 11 May, PM Imran Khan going back on his criticism of the foreign service officers he said, “The foreign service has done a wonderful job as far as diplomacy is concerned. They advocated Kashmir cause very well.” Previously, PM Khan lashed out at the foreign service officers for not serving the expatriate community well and harbouring a colonial mindset. (“Imran retracts criticism of foreign service officers,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)

Meanwhile, an opinion in Dawn critical of PM Khan’s ability in running foreign affairs says that his virtual address to Pakistani envoys not only exposed a limited understanding of diplomacy but also a disdain for the foreign service. The opinion warns that such unwarranted public remarks from the country’s leadership is highly demoralising for the foreign service. Further, it adds that foreign policy issues must not be used for public grandstanding, adding, there is a need for a more serious approach on foreign policy matters. (Zahid Hussain, “Blaming envoys for the mess,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
PM’s adviser justifies reopening of Hudaibiya case 
On 12 May, Dawn reported that the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Affairs believed that reopening the Hudaibiya Paper Mills case “will not only be valid but also legal and constitutional.” He opined that Shehbaz Sharif can undergo investigations in the case since he was previously not tried in the same. He reasoned that under Article 13, Shehbaz or any Sharif family member was not exempt from being investigated or prosecuted by the NAB in the case. (Nasir Iqbal, “Shehbaz can be tried in Hudaibiya case: PM’s adviser,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)

NAB to challenge bail granted to Shehbaz
On 12 May, Dawn cited a press release by the NAb and reported that the anti-graft body had decided to challenge the bail granted to Shehbaz Sharif by the Lahore High Court. The NAB will move the Supreme Court for the same. Further, the Interior Minister also confirmed that the NAB had asked the interior ministry to keep Shehbaz from going abroad by placing his name in the “no fly list.” (“NAB to challenge LHC bail relief for Shehbaz,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)

IWMB introduces strict rules in Margalla Hills National Park to curb littering
On 12 May, Dawn reported that the capital police will help the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) to implement rules preventing smoking, barbecuing and littering in the Margalla Hills National Park. The latest notification from the IWMB also banned encroachment and felling of trees. The imposition of anti-littering rules came after a video of the British High Commissioner posted a picture of two bags of garbage he had filled by picking up the waste left behind by the people in the national park. (Jamal Shahid, “Environmentally-hazardous practices in Margalla Hills outlawed,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)

ECONOMY
Pakistani exports to US increase by 26 per cent
On 11 May, the Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce tweeted that Pakistan’s exports to the US stood at USD four billion in the first 10 months of the current FY. This marked a 26 per cent increase in exports to the US from USD 3.2 billion in the corresponding period in FY20. The Express Tribune cited data from the State Bank of Pakistan and reported that esports to US, the UK and 27 EU countries had increased in the first quarter whereas exports to China and the UAE remained stagnant. (Usman Hanif, “Exports to US jump 29% to $4b during 10MFY21,” The Express Tribune, 12 May 2021)

PAKISTAN’S WORLD VIEW
Dawn warns of "new intifada"
An editorial in Dawn outlines the triggers behind the recent violence in the Al Aqsa mosque and says the tensions had been brewing for years; the lava just exploded now. The editorial criticises Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and also takes on the “the rush by many of the Palestinians’ Arab ‘brothers’ to establish ties with Israel” despite knowing that the Jewish state will not adhere to a two-state solution. It opines that the Al Aqsa incident proves that Israel had been “itching for a fight” and urges the western countries and the Arab partners to “convince Tel Aviv to halt the slaughter of Palestinians, or deal with the consequences of a new intifada.” (“A new intifada?,” Dawn, 12 May 2021)

Palestinians rely on themselves as global voices support Israel, says editorial
An editorial in The Express Tribune opines that the “Palestinian resistance has questioned the narrative enforced by the media and the role of global leaders” while several global players have expressed their support to Israel. It highlights that Muslim leaders have stood up for Palestinians for the time being but until a solution is found, “Palestinian resistance shall continue on its own, with the rock as the only weapon and symbol of the indigenous population defending its land.” Until then Palestinians have been left alone to defend themselves. (“Left on their own,” The Express Tribune, 12 May 2021)

ON COVID-19
PMA calls for compensation to families of doctors who died in line of duty
On 12 May, the NCOC recorded 2,869 COVID-19 cases, the lowest figure since 16 March when 2,351 cases were detected. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association’s press release revealed that 202 doctors had died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic and called on the government to provide a compensation package. They asked for the disbursement of the Shuhuda package for healthcare workers. (“PMA urges govt to provide Shuhuda package compensation to families of over 200 doctors,” The News International, 12 May 2021) Meanwhile, the NCOC chief announced that registration for vaccination for those aged above 30 years will begin on 16 May since the “vaccine supply continues to improve and vaccination capacity gets enhanced in all federating units.” (“Vaccine drive for citizens aged 30, above to commence from May 16,” The Express Tribune, 12 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                             
 
An editorial in The News International says that Pakistan’s long stay in the FATF’s grey list and the persistent sword of the black list hanging over the country is not a good sign for the economy and is detrimental for its international standing too. It argues that real success can come only when the country is off the grey list and back on the white list.
 



"It is not the scarcity of resources that has caused Balochistan to lag behind sister provinces, but it has been the scarcity of vision that has swallowed it to regression...If Balochistan is lucky, the equation will be reversed or else it is always business as usual!"
-An opinion in The Express Tribune on 'Reversing the equation'



Photo : Dawn

11 May 2021, Tuesday I Vol 2, No.131

COAS Gen Bajwa meets with President Ghani



The meeting between the COAS and the Afghan President, fresh investigation into the Hudaibya Paper Mills, and the implementation of the Single National Curriculum in August.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

PR Editorial, 11 May 2021
Gen Bajwa in Kabul
Was the Taliban announcement of a three-day ceasefire a coincidence or an outcome of Gen Bajwa's Kabul visit?

On Monday, after his return from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan's Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa (along with Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lieutenant General Faiz Hamid) visited Kabul and had meetings with President Ashraf Ghani, and the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah. He was also accompanied by the Chief of the Defence Staff of the United Kingdom, General Sir Nicholas Patrick Carter. So, it was a high profile meeting between the leaders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the UK.

The meeting took place in the immediate aftermath of the surge in violence in Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of the US troops. The Taliban also made a surprise announcement of a three days ceasefire. So, the timing of the meeting was also important.

The statements from the office of the Afghan President and from Pakistan's ISPR were bland. The ISPR statement mentioned discussing "matters of mutual interest, current developments in Afghan Peace Process, enhanced bilateral security & defence cooperation and need for effective border management between the two brotherly countries." The statement also underlined Gen Bajwa talking "that a peaceful Afghanistan means a peaceful region in general and a peaceful Pakistan in particular" and Pakistan will always support "Afghan led-Afghan Owned" Peace Process based on "mutual consensus of all stakeholders". According to the statement issued from the office of the Afghan President, Ghani told the visitors "that there is no military solution for the ongoing war in Afghanistan and that Taliban's insistence to stick to a military solution is unacceptable for the people of Afghanistan who are seeking just and enduring peace through dialogue and negotiations." 

The presence of General Sir Nicholas Patrick Carter, UK's Chief of the Defence Staff, is interesting. However, there has been a pattern; UK seems to be working behind the doors to bring the Pakistani and Afghan leadership together. According to a news report in Dawn, UK "had in March facilitated a meeting of Pakistani and Afghan military and intelligence chiefs in Bahrain." With the US taking a backseat, it is a welcome development.

So what did they discuss? Was the Taliban announcement of a three days ceasefire a coincidence or an outcome of Bajwa's Kabul visit? If it is the latter, then it should underline Pakistan's (especially the Establishment's) outreach into the Taliban's decision making. In that case, the Establishment in Pakistan should pressurize the Taliban to yield to a long term ceasefire.


In Focus
COAS Gen Bajwa meets with President Ghani
Exports to Afghanistan increase by 15 per cent

On 10 May, COAS Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa met with President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul. During the meeting, he assured the Afghan leadership of Pakistan’s support for “inclusive power-sharing arrangement” and “elections as a right of Afghans to self-determination,” reiterating that “a peaceful Afghanistan means a peaceful region in general and a peaceful Pakistan in particular.” Further, he stated that “We will always support 'Afghan led-Afghan owned' Peace Process based on mutual consensus of all stakeholders.”

Additionally, Gen Bajwa met with the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah and discussed matters related to the negotiations.

The COAS was accompanied by the Director-General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and British Chief of Defence Staff Gen Nicholas Patrick Carter. (“COAS backs ‘inclusive Afghan power sharing’,” The Express Tribune, 11 May 2021) (“In Kabul visit, Gen Bajwa reiterates support for Afghan peace process as violence surges,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)

Exports to Afghanistan increase by 15 per cent, says MOC
On 10 May, the Ministry of Commerce Adviser stated that Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan during July-April 2021 have grown by 15 per cent to USD 869 million from USD 754 million a year ago. In a series of tweets, the Adviser said, “MOC [Ministry of Commerce] is glad to share that Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan during Jul-Apr 2021 have grown by 15% to USD 869 million as compared to USD 754 million during Jul-Apr 2020. The exports of Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Dairy products, Chemicals, Electrical equipment, Machinery, Paper & Paperboard have contributed to this increase. We continue to encourage legal, secure, transparent, consistent & reliable trade with Afghanistan. Exporters are urged to aggressively market their exports to Afghanistan. We also commend the efforts of MOC’s Trade & Investment Counsellor & urge him to provide even greater facilitation to our exporters.” (“Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan up by 15pc in 10MFY21: Razak,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)

 

PM Khan orders fresh investigation into the Hudaibya Paper Mills
PML-N says move proves all cases are based on political vengeance

Image Source: Dawn

On 10 May, PM Khan ordered for a fresh probe into the Hudaibya Paper Mills (HPM) case against Nawaz Sharif, Shehbaz Sharif and other members of the family. According to the Information Minister, the government decided to hold fresh investigations into the HPM case, because it was the starting point of the Sharif family’s corruption.

Further, the minister stated that the government has decided to task the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) with the fresh investigation and once the FIA takes up the case, it would have to start the investigation within 14 days-time, adding that the agency “is likely to take up the case within the next couple of days.”

Meanwhile, the government also decided to challenge the recent Lahore High Court (LHC) decision to grant bail Shehbaz Sharif and permission to go abroad for medical treatment.

PML-N strongly opposes the decision 
PML-N strongly opposed the PM’s decision, saying that the statement proved that all cases against the Sharifs were part of political vengeance. Further, they recalled that the Supreme Court had already suppressed an appeal and upheld the LHC’s decision in 2014 that had disposed of the case in favour of the Sharif family.

Further, PML-N Information Secretary said by ordering a fresh investigation into Hudaibya Paper Mills, PM Khan had proved that all the cases against Mr Shehbaz till date were “fictitious, false and political victimization.” (“Imran orders fresh probe into Hudaibya case against Sharifs,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)

Meanwhile…
On 10 May, Shehbaz Sharif is to file a contempt of court petition against the PTI government and the FIA in the LHC on 17 May for stopping him from leaving the country for London despite the court orders. PML-N deputy secretary-general stated, “Shehbaz Sharif after consulting his legal team has decided to file a contempt of court petition in LHC on coming Monday (May 17) against the Imran Khan government and the FIA for stopping him from leaving the country to have his medical treatment in London. There was a clear order from the LHC in this regard and by stopping him at the Lahore airport to catch up his flight on ‘phony reasons’ amounts to contempt of court.” (“Shehbaz to file contempt petition against govt, FIA on 17th,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)

 

Govt optimistic about introducing the single national curriculum
NCC chief says it will be introduced at the primary level this year

Image Source: The News International

On 11 May, Dawn reported that the federal government is optimistic about introducing the Single National Curriculum (SNC)across the country from the upcoming academic session starting in August. While interviewing the head of National Curriculum Council (NCC), Rafique Tahir said, “We have completed our arrangements and now books are being printed. From August this year single national curriculum will be introduced across the country at primary level,” adding, “Earlier, Sindh had some reservation, but now it too has agreed to adopt core subjects but it will do make some addition that is its right and good thing.” (“Govt optimistic about introducing single curriculum from August,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)1)


In Brief
INTERNAL
PBC should take a stand in favour of Islamabad-based lawyers, says source
On 11 May, Dawn referred to an informal source who said that no formal decision was arrived at by the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) on the demolition of lawyers’ chambers and the suspension of licenses. The PBC had met on 7 May to discuss the above. One of those present in the meeting accused the PBC of having abandoned their brethren. He called on the PBC to take a stand in favour of the Islamabad lawyers whose licenses had been suspended following the violence at the Islamabad High Court. He said, “The lawyers from Islamabad are in extreme pain and agony, but we have become silent spectators.” (Nasir Iqbal, “PBC’s silence on chambers demolition hurts lawyers,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)

Editorial urges government to adopt inclusive method on electoral reforms
An editorial in Dawn, citing recent presidential ordinance to the ECP to procure EVMs, says the reform process started on a bad note. The editorial, while acknowledging the need for electoral reforms, criticises the government’s approach. It outlines that all stakeholders need to be on board for introducing electoral reforms, it opines that by choosing the controversial approach, “the government is ensuring that the electoral process becomes even more divisive than it already is.” Therefore, it calls on the government to move away from “adversarial approach” and debate each proposed item in the parliament. Lastly, it calls on the opposition to “let go of its obduracy and sit down with the government to build a consensus on these reforms.” (“Divisive move,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)

ECONOMY 
Cotton import bill increases by 46 per cent
On 11 May, Dawn reported that Pakistan had spent USD 1.838 billion on cotton imports during the first nine months of the current FY. This is a 46 per cent increase from USD 1.258 billion in the corresponding period in FY20. Cotton exports during the nine months stood at USD 10.411 billion indicating an increase of USD 212 million, from USD 10.269 in the corresponding period in FY20. Meanwhile, production of cotton dropped 5.6 bales; the government had set a target of 10.5 bales for the season but “cotton brokers suggest that production would be around 8m bales.” (Shahid Iqbal, “Cotton import bill hits $1.84bn in 9MFY21,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)

EXTERNAL 
Qureshi condemns Israeli attack on worshipers in Al Aqsa mosque
On 11 May, Foreign Minister Qureshi condemned the Israeli forces’ attack on Palestinians at the Al Aqsa mosque in which at least 20, including nine children, died. He opined that the attack on worshipers was against any norm; he reiterated that Pakistan’s position was in line with that of the Palestinians. He said if the international community is concerned about rockets fired by Hamas, “then they would also be worried about the rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas fired upon the worshipers.” (“'Pakistan highly condemns attack on Palestinians by Israeli forces',” The Express Tribune, 11 May 2021)

ON AFGHANISTAN
Internal actors equally responsible for the destruction in Afghanistan, says Dawn
An editorial in Dawn, citing the latest attack on a school in Kabul, says such attacks indicate red flags amid the withdrawal of troops. The editorial wonders whether Afghans will be subject to more such atrocities once foreign troops exit the country. It asks whether Afghanistan will be pushed into complete chaos again, under the Taliban. It opines that though Soviet forces and American troops “bear major responsibility for destabilising Afghanistan,” internal players including warlords, the Kabul elite, Taliban and so on have an equal share in the destruction. Therefore, it says the Afghan elites must take responsibility and “the onus is on the Taliban to fully participate in the peace process and work with the Kabul government to ensure a power-sharing formula.” (“Kabul massacre,” Dawn, 11 May 2021)

ON INDIA
Nothing about Jammu and Kashmir is India’s internal matter: Qureshi
On 10 May, Qureshi retracted his words that Kashmir was India’s internal matter and said “ Jammu & Kashmir is an internationally recognised dispute” and the solution to the same lies in UN resolutions which includes an impartial plebiscite. He is quoted to have said, “Nothing about J&K can be India’s internal matter.” The retraction comes after the opposition parties lashed out at Qureshi’s statement on a TV interview where he reportedly remarked that Article 370 is India’s internal matter and “meant nothing for Pakistan.” (Iftikhar A Khan, “FM retracts his ‘India’s internal matter’ remarks,” Dawn, 11 May 2021) (“Jammu and Kashmir not India’s internal matter: FM,” The News International, 11 May 2021)

ON COVID-19
Government working towards increasing vaccination supply, says NCOC head
On 11 May, the Planning Minister, who is also the head of the National Command and Operation Centre, said efforts were being made to increase vaccine supply and improve the vaccination capacity. He said the government was strategising the vaccination process beginning the process from the elderly because of the “finite availability of vaccines globally.” He reasoned that despite only seven per cent of the population being above 60 years, around 53 per cent deaths were recorded in the age group therefore making it necessary to vaccinate them first. (“'Govt making concerted efforts to increase vaccine supply, expand vaccination capacity',” The Express Tribune, 11 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                                    
An opinion in The Express Tribune on FM’s fillip in the Middle East argues that for the first time in over seven decades of Pakistan’s existence, the country’s foreign policy was wound around the spindle of “responsible neutrality.”

An opinion in Dawn says that the government has set a bad precedent in its handling of TLP, arguing that if a government negotiates with a party immediately after banning them for being terrorists, it is doubtful they can make a greater mockery of governance.
 



"In a democratic setup, the opposition plays a significant role and it should be allowed to do so. What Pakistan needs is a situation where the political parties, which together form the democracy of Pakistan, can at least engage in dialogue and negotiations with each other on crucial matters."
-An editorial in The News International on 'Political moves'



Photo : The News International

10 May 2021, Monday I Vol 2, No.130

Pakistan’s relation with Saudi Arabia has strengthened, says PM Khan



Imran Khan's visit to Saudi Arabia, government's decision to introduce new rules to meet the FATF conditions, and Pakistan's participation in operation Chinook Archer.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

PR Editorial, 10 May 2021

Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan decline
Dawn, in its latest report titled Dwindling Pak-Afghan trade referred to the declining Pakistan’s Afghan exports referring to an earlier report by the State Bank of Pakistan. According to the SBP data accessed by Dawn, “Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan fell 5.5 per cent from $790 million to $746.3m during the first nine months of the current fiscal year.”

Another report, published last month referred to Pakistan’s declining exports not only to Afghanistan, but also to the other regional countries including China, Iran, Maldives and Sri Lanka. There are larger structural issues, that have been discussed by the economists on the bigger problem in which declining export potential is only a part. Pakistan had to start looking at the structural issues, regional ones, and then its export potential to Afghanistan.

However, with Afghanistan, there are certain specific issues, that hinder the potential. Afghanistan, during the recent years, has started looking at Central Asia and Iran as trade diversion. Cement and iron, which used to top Pakistan’s export basket to Afghanistan is now being imported by the latter from its other neighbours. 

Politics and trade barriers are two other issues, that have significantly reduced Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan. Despite the Afghanistan and Pakistan Trade and Transit Agreement, there are systemic issues between the two countries. Along with trade infrastructure, these are long term issues. Pandemic related decline is only a small part of the story in Pakistan’s exports to Afghanistan.

In Focus
Pakistan’s relation with Saudi Arabia has strengthened, says PM Khan
Bilawal asks PM to ‘reveal reasons’ for repaying the loan to Saudi Arabia

On 9 May, PM Khan said that Pakistan’s relations with Saudi Arabia had strengthened further and that Pakistanis have an immense emotional attachment with the kingdom, as they have always stood by them. He said that Pakistan would have defaulted had Saudi Arabia and the UAE not helped shore up its foreign reserves, saying, “If we had defaulted, there would have been severe consequences.” Further, he said that Saudi Arabia not only helped with its foreign reserves but also gave it oil on deferred payments.

PM Khan’s who was on a three-day visit to the Kingdom met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as both affirmed their commitment to fortify the ‘upward trajectory’ in Pakistan - Saudi Arabia bilateral relations. This visit was preceded Gen Bajwa’s who was on a four-day visit to the Kingdom. (“Pak-KSA ties on solid footing, says PM,” The News International, 10 May 2021)

Bilawal criticises PM Khan for ‘travelling all over the world asking for charity’
On 10 May, Bilawal Bhutto asked PM Khan to reveal the reasons behind repaying USD three billion to Saudi Arabia. He said, “Imran Khan has been traveling around the world with a begging bowl. Undoubtedly, you're experienced in asking for charity, but countries are not run on charity.” Further, he said, “Imran Khan borrowed from China to repay a loan of $3 billion to Saudi Arabia. Premier should reveal to the nation why he repaid the money to the kingdom. (“Bilawal asks PM Imran to 'reveal reasons' for repaying $3b to Saudi Arabia,” The Express Tribune, 10 May 2021)

Iran-Saudi rapprochement will simplify the equation for Pakistan, says opinion
An opinion in The Express Tribune highlights two reasons for the reset in Pak-KAS ties. First, the election of Joe Biden as US president, arguing unlike Trump, President Biden has made it clear he would not give blanket support to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, the first cause of a major hiccup in Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia. Second, the Iran-Saudi rapprochement will simplify the equation for Pakistan. Further, the opinion says that one change that Pakistan is seeking is not seeking financial support from Saudi Arabia rather, the focus would be on project financing and investment thus, Pakistan would not be under any obligation to follow certain policies. (“Reset in Pak-Saudi ties,” The Express Tribune, 10 May 2021)

 

 

Govt to introduce new rules to meet FATF conditions 
Specialised agencies to probe money laundering cases

Image Source: Dawn

On 10 May, Dawn reported that the government is set to introduce new rules on forfeiture, management and auction of properties and assets relating to Anti-Money Laundering (AML) cases and transfer of investigations and prosecution of AML cases from police, provincial anti-corruption establishments (ACEs) and other similar agencies to specialised agencies to achieve the remaining conditions of the FATF.

Specialised agencies to probe money laundering cases
The new rules are a part of two sets of rules including the AML (Forfeited Properties Management) Rules 2021 and the AML (Referral) Rules 2021 under the National Policy Statement on Follow the Money. These rules and related notifications for certain changes in the existing schedule of the Anti-Money Laundering Act 2010 (AMLA) would come into force immediately to be followed by the appointment of administrators and special public prosecutors for implementation.

These measures were approved by the federal cabinet. Based on these measures, the FATF would decide if Pakistan has complied with three outstanding requirements, out of 27, that blocked its exit from the so-called grey list in February 2021.

Previously…
The FATF found Pakistan non-compliant on three action points (out of a total of 27) include (i) demonstrating that terrorist financing (TF) investigations and prosecutions target persons and entities acting on behalf or at the directive of the designated persons or entities; (ii) demonstrating that TF prosecutions result in effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions; and (iii) demonstrating effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all designated terrorists, particularly those acting for them or on their behalf. (“New rules in the works to meet FATF conditions,” Dawn, 10 May 2021)

 

Pakistan Navy participates in the focused Operation Chinook Archer
Aim of the exercise was primarily to demonstrate interoperability between navies

Image Source: Dawn

On 9 May, the Pakistan Navy in a press release stated that Pakistan Navy Ship (PNS) Saif participated in the focused operation Chinook Archer along with ships and aircraft of the United States and Canada in the Arabian Sea. PNS Saif participated in the passage exercise with the US naval ship USS Laboon and Canadian ship HMCS Calgary. The exercise aimed to demonstrate interoperability between the participating navies and interdict illegal smuggling and trade emanating along the hash highway. (“Pakistan Navy participates in exercises with US, Canada,” Dawn, 10 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
Sewage water samples show no traces of the polio virus
On 10 May, The Express Tribune reported that detection of the polio virus from sewage water had started reducing after samples from over 60 locations across Pakistan showed negative results. A sewage water sample forms “the basic parameter to determine if polio vaccination drive is being carried out successfully.” The latest samples collected from 8 April to 23 April,  from Karachi, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar, Nowshera, Quetta and so on showed no traces of the virus. (Razya Khan, “Polio starts disappearing from sewage across the country,” The Express Tribune, 10 May 2021)

5000 seminaries register with DGRE 
On 9 May, the head of the Directorate General of Religious Education (DGRE) said 5,000 of the estimated 35,000 seminaries in Pakistan had been registered with the Education Ministry since the DGRE was established in September 2019. He expected that 5,000 more would register by the end of 2021. The development comes after the Ittehad Tanzeemat-i-Madaris representatives held meetings and subsequently gave its green signal to the registration; however, chiefs of several sects and seminaries, including Fazlur Rehman, have not attended meetings on the matter. The DGRE head also said the seminaries will have to adopt the single national curriculum which is scheduled to be introduced in August. (Kashif Abbasi, “5,000 seminaries registered across country,” Dawn, 10 May 2021)

PROVINCES
Three soldiers killed, one injured in attack on Bolan post
On 9 May, officials said unidentified gunmen killed three Frontier Corps personnel and injured one in an attack in Bolan district’s Margat area. The attackers had opened fire at the Khalid check-post. According to sources, the attackers escaped despite the FC personnel immediately returning the fire. (Saleem Shahid, “Three FC soldiers martyred in attack on Bolan post,” Dawn, 10 May 2021)

ECONOMY
Exports to Australia increase by 29 per cent
On 9 May, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production said Pakistan’s exports to Australia had increased by 29 per cent during July 2020-April 2021 of the current fiscal year. His tweet conveyed that the exports stood at USD229 million during the period compared to USD 177 million in the corresponding period last fiscal year. With this, he urged “exporters to aggressively export to this relatively untapped market.” (“Exports to Australia up by 29pc: Razak,” Dawn, 10 May 2021)

PAKISTAN’S GENDER DEBATE
Women’s issues need solutions other than just law-making, says editorial
An editorial in The News International cites various instances of emotional, physical and sexual abuse against women. The editorial says that so many culprits walk free because “the authorities themselves may too be sympathetic to the idea of ‘honour’ killings and punishment of women for behaving outside of the set moral framework.” It opines that though increased reporting may have led to an increase in figures, Pakistan has not turned more civilised, rather has gone worse. It says that realities on ground vary starkly despite legislative efforts; “even getting laws across the table on this issue has been a major hurdle for various provincial governments.” Therefore it calls for a concerted effort to address the issue and not just confine the solutions to lawmaking. (“Vulnerable women,” The News International, 10 May 2021)

EXTERNAL
PM condemns attack on Al Aqsa mosque
On 9 May, Imran Khan condemned the attack on Palestine’s Al Aqsa mosque and called on the OIC and the international community to initiate immediate measures to protect “Palestinians and their legitimate rights.” The statement came during his visit to Saudi Arabia; he also met the OIC Secretary General and urged the organisation to address the situation. (Syed Irfan Raza, “PM slams Israeli attack, urges OIC to combat Islamophobia,” Dawn, 10 May 2021) 

Editorial disapproves of US response to Al Aqsa clashes
An editorial in Dawn says the reason behind the attack is the “Jewish state’s greed for land.” The editorial however notices the differences between the calls for de-escalation from the EU and the US. It cites the EU statement which said that the “potential evictions” were worrisome as they are “illegal under international humanitarian law.” On the other hand, the US asked to avoid “steps that exacerbate tensions…” The editorial opines that “By avoiding a reference to the illegality of the action by Israel, the US was creating a false equivalence between the Palestinians and Israeli police...US policy remains wedded to blind support for the Jewish state.” It says unless some of Trump’s policies are reversed, like shifting the Israeli capital to Jerusalem, tensions are likely to continue. (“Al Aqsa clashes,” Dawn, 10 May 2021)

ON AFGHANISTAN
Editorial warns of Taliban resurgence and repercussions on Pakistan
An editorial in Dawn, referring to a few recent attacks claimed by the TTP and simultaneously linked to the Afghan soil by the army, says resurgence of the Taliban and its like is a grave concern amid the US troop withdrawal. The editorial opines that the TTP is using the “safe havens in Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban'' and terms it the latter’s payback to the former for the “hospitality” during the American invasion of Afghanistan. Therefore, it calls on Pakistan to make it clear to the Afghan Taliban that “allowing the TTP or other anti-Pakistan groups to use space under their control will not be tolerated.” It says, though the onus lies on the Taliban, the Afghan government must also “ensure the security of the country, and eliminate ungoverned spaces which militants can use to spread havoc in the region.” (“Safe havens,” Dawn, 10 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                                           
Maleeha Lodhi in an opinion in Dawn argues public confidence in government institutions has declined. If this is to be reversed governance has to substantially improve and make an appreciable difference in the lives of citizens, arguing, transformational change in the apparatus of governance is an imperative, not a choice.

An opinion in Dawn argues that even if Shehbaz Sharif is allowed to leave he will have a mountain to climb in London to bring Nawaz Sharif over to his side getting the latter to abandon his route of confrontation.
 

"Parliament must make a single-minded effort to ensure that both pieces of legislation are enacted without unnecessary delay. Their passage will send the signal that this country is prepared to address two issues that have long been a blot on its global image and are completely at odds with a democratic system...At the end of the day though, implementation will make the difference between a law merely on the books, and one that actually protects the citizens."
-An editorial in Dawn on the cabinet's approval of the Journalists and Media Protection Bill and the Forced or Involuntary Disappearance (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill



Photo : Dawn

08 May 2021, Saturday I Vol 2, No.128

FIA stops Shehbaz from flying abroad 



FIA blocking Shehbaz Sharif from flying abroad, Imran Khan's meeting with the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, and the decision to let sessions courts hear rape cases

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
FIA stops Shehbaz from flying abroad 
Prevented from leaving despite LHC’s orders to go for medical treatment

On 8 May, PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb stated, “When Shehbaz Sharif came to the airport today, FIA officials stopped him and said he could not travel because there was another list, a 'person-not-in-list'.” She adding that according to the FIA, the system had not been updated yet after the court order. 

Previously, on 7 May, the Lahore High Court (LHC) permitted Shehbaz “one-time" to travel abroad for medical treatment.

PML-N terms the move as a “malafide”
Aurangzeb termed the move as a “malafide” intention, adding that the present government's priorities were focused on “Shehbaz Sharif” and political opponents instead of providing electricity, water, sugar and wheat to citizens. Further, she termed the FIA's notice as “lies” and a violation of the LHC's order, adding, “This is tantamount to contempt of court and we are holding legal discussions on this.”

FIA says Shehbaz name has not been removed from the lost 
According to FIA immigration officials, Shehbaz Sharif's name has not yet been removed from the blacklist by the Interior Ministry. The official stated, “No clearance was issued in the system, he [Shehbaz Sharif] will be allowed to board the plane once the name is cleared.” Meanwhile, Information Minister Chaudhry said that the FIA director general holds the authority to add or remove a person's name from the blacklist, however, “Shehbaz's lawyers have not submitted any request to the DG FIA to remove [Shehbaz's name] from the blacklist as per the court's decision. The record cannot be changed on the basis of verbal talks.” (“FIA stops Shehbaz from flying abroad despite LHC order: PML-N,” Dawn, 8 May 2021) (“Shehbaz Sharif offloaded from plane as he prepared to leave for Doha,” The News International, 8 May 2021) (“Shehbaz Sharif barred from flying to UK by FIA,” The Express Tribune, 8 May 2021)

 

PM Khan meets with Crown Prince Salman 
Both commit to ‘fortify upward trajectory’ in bilateral relations

Image Source: The Daily Times

On 8 May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that PM Imran Khan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman affirmed their commitment to fortify the ‘upward trajectory’ in Pakistan - Saudi Arabia bilateral relations. Further, the ministry said, “The two leaders reaffirmed the strong and historic bonds between the two countries rooted firmly in shared beliefs, common values, mutual trust and longstanding tradition of mutual support.” (“Imran arrives in Jeddah, holds talks with Saudi prince,” Dawn, 8 May 2021)

Agreements signed 
After the PM Khan’s arrival, the two sides decided to form a ‘Supreme Coordination Council’ which is designed to impart strategic direction to the development of Pakistan-Saudi relations. PM Khan expressed the hope that the SPSCC will play a catalytic role in fostering enhanced bilateral cooperation in all fields. Further, the two signed several bilateral agreements/Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs), including Agreement on Cooperation in the Field of Combating Crimes; Agreement on Transfer of Convicted Individuals (Prisoners); MoU on Combating Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs; Psychotropic Substances and Precursor Chemicals; and Framework MoU for the financing of projects (totalling up to USD 500 million) in energy, hydropower generation, infrastructure, transport and communication and water resource development. (“PM Imran, Crown Prince Salman commit to 'fortify upward trajectory' in bilateral relations,” The Express Tribune, 8 May 2021)

Discussions held 
During their meeting, special emphasis was laid on increasing Saudi investments in Pakistan, collaboration in the field of energy, and increased job opportunities for Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia. Acknowledging the role of more than two million Pakistani diasporas in the kingdom, the two discussed ways to maximize mutual benefit from cooperation in the human resource sector. Further, PM Khan appreciated the Crown Prince's recently launched “Green Saudi Arabia and Green Middle East” initiatives. 

FM terms the visit as ‘highly productive’
On 8 May, FM Shah Mahmood Qureshi termed PM Imran Khan's visit to Saudi Arabia as highly productive. He said, “Talks between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were marked by warmth and cordiality.” Further, FM Qureshi along with the Interior Minister and other senior officials held delegation-level meetings. (“PM Imran's visit to KSA highly productive: FM Qureshi,” The Express Tribune, 8 May 2021)

Previously…
PM Khan’s visit is preceded by talks between the Pakistani and Saudi military leadership during which they discussed bilateral cooperation for regional peace and security. Gen Bajwa’s meetings who is on a four-day visit to the Kingdom met with the Saudi Crown Prince and Deputy Defence Minister. 

 

All session courts designated as special courts to handle rape charges
Development to help provide speedy and expeditious justice for victims of rape 

Image Source: Dawn

On 7 May, President Dr Arif Alvi designated all sessions courts in the country as special courts to proceed against those facing rape charges. According to a notification issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice, “in pursuance of the powers conferred by sub-section 3 of section 3 of the Anti-Rape (Investigation & Trial) Ordinance, 2020, the President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, in consultation with the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Pakistan has been pleased to designate all courts of sessions judges throughout Pakistan as Special Courts under the Ordinance.” Further, the statement added that this development is a stepping stone towards the provision of speedy and expeditious justice for victims of rape and sexual offences in a more humane and gender sensitised manner. ("Sessions courts designated to handle rape cases," Dawn, 8 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
CTD Punjab lodges FIR against four TLP leaders

On 8 May, Dawn reported that FIRs had been filed against TLP’s senior leaders by the counter Terrorism Department in Punjab. The FIR has been filed on grounds that four accused - Ghulam Abbas Faizai, Ghulam Ghaus Baghdadi, Khurram Riaz, Dr Shafiq Amini and Pir Zaheerul Islam - fuelled a new agitation against the French ambassador. Accusations include fanning hate and instigating the public against the government. FIR have been registered “under section 11-W under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997.” (Asif Chaudhary, FIRs against TLP for instigating fresh unrest in Lahore,” Dawn, 8 May 2021)

PROVINCES
Mismanagement by federal government led to acute water shortage in Sindh: Bilawal
On 8 May, The News International reported that Bilawal had accused the federal government for the acute water shortage in Sindh. He maintained that the acute water shortage was the result of filling the Mangla Dam beyond the approved limits. This, he claimed, “ created up to 27 per cent water shortage in the Sukkur Barrage and 44 per cent shortage in the Kotri Barrage.”  He alleged that the mismanagement by the federal government had led to this situation; despite receiving abundant rainfall, the mismanagement “had left the water supply from the Guddu Barrage completely depleted.” (“Bilawal blames Centre for Sindh water crisis,” The News International, 8 May 2021)

ECONOMY
LSM records 22.39 per cent growth in March
On 7 May, data from the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics showed that large-scale manufacturing (LSM) had increased by 22.39 per cent in March. The PBS data highlights that 12 of the 15 sub\sectors in LSM recorded a growth in the month. The industries which recorded phenomenal growth include cement, automobile, pharmaceuticals and the like. The LSM sector’s growth in March comes after it had slowed in January. (Mubarak Zeb Khan, “Large-scale manufacturing surges by 22.4pc in March,” Dawn, 8 May 2021)

IMF considers helping Pakistan through COVID-19 crisis
On 8 May Dawn reported on the IMF’s news briefing on 6 May. The Director for Communications said the IMF will consider the COVID-19 crisis in Pakistan and help the country address the problem and also “ensure the objective of debt sustainability with strong and sustainable growth.” The development comes after Shaukat Tarin said it would be difficult to implement the “tough” IMF conditions due to the pandemic and the prevailing economic conditions. (Anwar Iqbal, “IMF ready to help Pakistan navigate a difficult situation,” Dawn, 8 May 2021)

Tarin indicates Rs 900 billion for development projects
On 7 May, Shaukat Tarin outlined that the government will allocate Rs 900 billion for development expenditure in the upcoming fiscal year starting July. Further, he estimated the growth rate at five per cent and projected a 40 per cent increase in large-scale infrastructure projects. He opined this would boost employment. He said, “We need 2 million jobs every year...If we do not go into growth mode, we will have a major crisis on the streets.” (“Rs900 bn to be earmarked for development in 2022: Shaukat Tarin,” The News International, 8 May 2021)

ON INDIA
FO calls for investigation on uranium seizure 
On 8 May, the Foreign Office raised concerns over “uranium seizure from unauthorised persons in India.” The FO spokesperson called for a thorough investigation into this “as to how such sizeable quantity of uranium could become available outside of state control and identify the gaps which made this possible.” He emphasised that all countries should prioritise safeguarding the nuclear arsenal. (“Pakistan expresses concern over uranium seizure in India,” The Express Tribune, 8 May 2021)

ON CPEC
China wary of extending USD six billion loan for ML-I project
On 8 May, The Express Tribune quoted senior Pakistani officials who said that China is reluctant to approve a USD six billion loan for the Mainline-I (ML-I) railway track of the CPEC project. According to the officials, China was apprehensive of Pakistan’s debts and the same were conveyed in a meeting in March. The Express Tribune quoted a correspondence which read, “The Chinese side expressed concerns about Pakistan’s debts, including IMF’s requirements for the Pakistani government to avail loans and about the impact of restrictions under the G-20 Debt Servicing Suspension Initiative (DSSI) on the financing of the ML-I project.” (Shahbaz Rana, “China reluctant to approve $6b ML-I loan,” The Express Tribune, 8 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                 

An editorial in Dawn says debate on electoral reforms is going nowhere. Rather it says both the government and opposition need to take off their boxing gloves and really think of the chaos the country will be plunged into if yet another general election takes place in the midst of serious challenges, adding, a sincere debate on a truly free election is in everyone’s interest.

Pervez Hoodbhoy in an opinion in Dawn argues that for Pakistan to keep its GSP-Plus status it will have to show the EU that it treats its blasphemy accused fairly.

An editorial in Dawn argues that there is no possibility of decreasing the overall budget deficit and controlling growth in public debt without rapidly raising tax collection, it argues for that the PTI government will have to undertake tax reforms, which may hurt powerful lobbies.

 



"This recent episode appears to be a continuation of the tendency in the present government to blame everyone else – for mere optics and headlines. It is about time the government set its own house in order rather than continuing with the blame game it has been playing for years now."
-An editorial in The News International on 'Lecturing envoys'



Photo : Dawn

07 May 2021, Friday I Vol 2, No.127

Speaker sets up committee for poll reforms



The committee on poll reforms, the COAS and Imran Khan's visit to Saudi Arabia, and the USD 355 million contract to China for the Tarbela project.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
Speaker sets up committee for poll reforms 
PPP, PML-N challenge the move, say they no more trust govt 

On 6 May, National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser constituted a five-member “parliamentary committee” comprising members of the federal cabinet to engage the opposition on the issue. This came after several weeks of waiting for the opposition parties to nominate members for a special parliamentary committee on electoral reforms. 

PPP and PML-N raise objection 
After the announcement both PPP and PML-N rejected the speaker’s decision, saying that he had no right and powers to form any committee without the approval of the house and that they did not have trust in the speaker and the PTI government. PML-N senior vice president said, “Perhaps, the speaker does not know the rules. He has no authority to do so. This is the job of parliament. Any committee, other than the standing committees, is constituted with the approval of the house.” Similarly, PPP secretary-general said, “The selected and hybrid regime of Imran Khan itself is a product of political engineering and manipulation and, therefore, is incapable of addressing these issues,” adding, “The offer of talks is only for optics, not substantive. PPP rejects it.” (“Speaker sets up body to engage opposition on poll reforms,” Dawn, 7 May 2021) 

Pakistan badly needs voting reforms, says editorial 
An editorial in The News International says that Pakistan needs a voting system that can ensure transparency for balloting. It adds that there also need to be a change in the perception among voters and political parties that the ballot is manipulated or changed in any fashion.  With the government introducing some confidence-building measures with the opposition which is sceptical of the government’s intentions, the editorial says that the key factor must be unanimity or at least collective work by the parties and satisfaction among voters that their ballots are being fairly and transparently counted without any wrongdoing. (“Voting matters,” The News International, 7 May 2021)

 

COAS Bajwa meets Saudi Crown Prince Salman 
PM Khan leave for a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia 

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 7 May, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz and KSA’s Deputy Defence Minister Prince in Jeddah. During the meeting, he said that Pakistan is committed to safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia and defence of the two holy mosques. The Crown Prince said, “The relations between KSA and Pakistan are based on bonds of brotherhood and mutual trust and both nations will continue to play their part for peace, stability and betterment of Muslim Ummah.” 

Further, they also discussed matters of mutual interest, the regional security situation including developments in the Afghan peace process, bilateral defence, security, collaborating for regional peace and security. (“Army chief Bajwa meets Saudi Crown Prince Salman,” The Express Tribune, 7 May 2021) 

PM leaves for a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia 
On 6 May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that PM Imran Khan would be on a three-day official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 7 May (today). The PM will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including Foreign Minister and other members of the federal cabinet. According to the statement, “During the visit, the prime minister’s consultations with the Saudi leadership will cover all areas of bilateral cooperation including economic, trade, investment, energy, job opportunities for Pakistani workforce, and welfare of Pakistani Diaspora in the Kingdom.” PM Khan is visiting the kingdom on the invitation of the Crown Prince. (“PM Imran to embark on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia today,” The Express Tribune, 7 May 2021) 

 

China gets Tarbela extension project 
Power Construction Corp of China awarded USD 355 million  

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 7 May, The Express Tribune reported that the Water and Power Development Authority (Wapda) has awarded a contract worth USD 354.6 million for civil works on the 1,530-megawatt Tarbela 5th Extension Hydropower Project to Power Construction Corporation of China Limited (PCCCL). The contract was awarded through an international competitive bidding. 

The project is scheduled to start generation by mid-2024 and will set to provide 1.347 billion units to the national grid every year. Further, after completion, the Tarbela dam’s power generation potential would stand fully harnessed its installed capacity of 4,888MW at present to 6,418MW. (“Contract awarded for Tarbela extension project,” The Express Tribune, 7 May 2021) (“Chinese firm awarded $355m Tarbela project,” Dawn, 7 May 2021) 

 

In Brief
INTERNAL
Cabinet approves two bills for journalists, and forced disappearances
On 6 May, the federal cabinet approved two bills aimed at protecting journalists and other people in the media and criminalising forced disappearances. The two bills are Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals Bill and Forced or Involuntary Disappearance (Criminal Law Amendment) Bill. The Minister for Human Rights said the above bills will now be tabled at the National Assembly, and no other details were shared. (“Cabinet okays bills about journalists’ protection, forced disappearances,” Dawn, 7 May 2021)

Vote recount in NA-249 to take at least two more days
On 7 May, The Express Tribune cited sources who said that vote recounting of the Karachi NA-249 by-polls will likely take two more days. They said votes from 60 polling stations were recounted on 6 May despite the boycott by PML-N, MQM, PTI and PSP. They also claimed that the vote tally of the candidates had changed in the process. Further, the returning officer said, “Each and every vote will be re-checked in the presence of all candidates of different political parties and their chief polling agents. We will try to finish the task in a day, but I believe it will take more time.” (“'Recount of votes of all 276 polling stations in NA-249 may take two more days',” The Express Tribune, 7 May 2021)

Traders apprehensive about COVID-19 SOPs during Eid
On 6 May, General Secretary of the All Pakistan Anjuman Tajiran (APAT) expressed concerns over the COVID-19 SOPs for businesses during Eid. He said businesses should be allowed to operate ahead of Eid “so as to avert rush of people and spread of virus.” He said, “At present we are worried about small traders/retail markets, where the Eid shopping is getting momentum, and not the wholesale markets...I personally fear that if the police forcibly get the small markets closed, where the small traders are yet to dispose of their goods to end consumers, clashes may take place. Traders also opine that the weeklong holidays, with the closure of public transport from 8 May, “has not only panicked the business community, especially the traders but also the people who thronged the markets for shopping due to limited working hours.” (“Traders ‘warn of clashes’ with LEAs if business disallowed,” Dawn, 7 May 2021)

Ahsan Iqbal placed on Exit Control List
On 7 May, the Interior Ministry included PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal on the Exit Control List (ECL) following the NAB’s request which is probing him on the Narowal Sports City Complex corruption reference. The NAB allegation includes that “Iqbal illegally directed the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and NESPAK to increase the project's scope, enhancing the cost to Rs97.52 million.” (“PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal now on Exit Control List,” The News International, 7 May 2021) 

Shehbaz Sharif seeks removal from ECL
On 6 May, Shehbaz Sharif moved the Lahore High Court seeking the removal of his own name from the ECL for traveling abroad for medical treatment. He said there was a vile campaign against him by the government. His petition says placing his name of the ECL despite the removal from the same “by this court vide order dated March 26, 2019 is not only illegal, perverse but also contemptuous as the same is a blatant attempt of sitting over the judgment of this court.” (“Shehbaz seeks removal of his name from blacklist,” The Express Tribune, 7 May 2021)

PROVINCES
CTD to launch crackdown on TLP financiers
On 6 May, an official told Dawn that Punjab’s Counter Terrorism Department will crackdown on financiers of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik (TLP), most of which include businessmen, industrialists and traders. He said around 72 financiers were based in south Punjab and in cities like Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala. He said the CTD had traced “328 big businessmen, industrialists and traders with complete particulars including name, kind of business they were running and the mode of transaction of the money.” (Asif Chaudhary, “Punjab CTD set to act against banned TLP’s financiers,” Dawn, 7 May 2021)

ECONOMY
Trade deficit for first three quarters stands at 3.6 per cent of GDP
On 6 May, data from the Finance Ministry showed that the fiscal deficit,  during July 2020-March 2021 of the current FY, had increased to USD 1.652 trillion. This amounts to 3.6 per cent of Pakistani’s GDP, “despite a drastic cut in development, almost static defence expenditure, healthy provincial cash surpluses and record petroleum levy collections.” The revenue collection increased 6.45 per cent in the nine months against an increase in total expenditure to 4.2 per cent. In the first two quarters, total revenue was poor but had higher expenditures when compared to the third quarter. (Khaleeq Kiani, “Nine-month fiscal deficit widens to 3.6pc,” Dawn, 7 May 2021)


PAKISTAN’S GENDER DEBATE
Opposition criticises proposed anti-rape ordinance
On 6 May, opposition MNAs raised concerns over the Anti-Rape (Investigation and Trial) Ordinance which provides for setting up special courts and appointing their judges to hear rape cases. The Standing Committee on Law and Justice of the NA discussed the same; however, a PPP member of the committee opined that instead of the above, existing session courts should be empowered to hear rape cases. On the other hand, a PML-N committee member said some people were not open to the idea of an independent judiciary. While the session was later postponed, the President “approved empowering sessions courts to hear rape cases until special ones were set up for this purpose.” (Saqib Virk, “Anti-rape courts draw ire of opposition MNAs,” The Express Tribune, 7 May 2021)

Opinion calls for increased participation in all fields
An opinion in Dawn cites various reports on gender and human development, political participation, peace and the like to look at Pakistan’s position on them, which she concludes is poor on all the above. The author opines that women are not present on decision-making platforms. She highlights the male-dominated society and next, outlines remarks by the apologists who say women have achieved diplomats’ positions or politicians. However, she terms them exceptions and says, “Women need to make their mark in all fields in sufficient numbers in order for countries to develop peacefully and sustainably.” (Nikhat Sattar, “Missing women,” Dawn, 7 May 2021)

EXTERNAL
US troop withdrawal brings challenges for Afghanistan’s neighbours, says Blinken
On 6 May, the US Secretary of State appeared on BBC wherein he conveyed that the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan outlined challenges for the country’s neighbours. He opined that Afghanistan’s neighbours have benefitted from the US and NATO presence; he said, “They now have to decide, including Pakistan, where their interests lie, and, if they have influence, how to use it.” Further, he added, “I don’t think a single neighbour of Afghanistan’s, starting with Pakistan, has an interest in the country winding up in a civil war, because that would produce a massive refugee flow [to Pakistan].” (Anwar Iqbal, “US pullout from Afghanistan a test for Pakistan, other neighbours,” Dawn, 7 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                                            

An editorial in Dawn says that there are systemic issues that need to be fixed when it comes to consular services, adding, instead of demoralising the entire service, the prime minister should have engaged with honest and respectable officers to identify how solutions can be found.  

Similarly, an editorial in The Express Tribune says that the problem goes back to the widespread belief about foreign service among CSS applicants. “You get paid better” and “you can see the world” are the selling points. “You get to represent Pakistan to the world” never seems to attract applicants. 

 



"The foreign funding case against the PTI has become a never-ending tale...The nation has a right to know the truth of the matter under scrutiny. The PTI also deserves a decision so that the matter is settled once and for all."
-An opinion in Dawn on 'Foreign funding case'



Photo : Dawn

06 May 2021, Thursday I Vol 2, No.126

Pakistan’s third COVID-19 wave



The declining active COVID-19 cases, PML-N's win in PP-84 by-polls, and the widening trade deficit.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
Pakistan’s third COVID-19 wave
Number of active cases falls by seven per cent 

On 5 May, data according to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) showed that the number of active cases has fallen by seven per cent in less than a fortnight. However, Pakistan reported 119 deaths and 4,113 cases in a single day with the positivity ratio at 9.17 per cent.

Pakistan vaccinates over 200,000 people in a day, says Asad
Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said that the number of registrations for the coronavirus vaccine have been increasing significantly as over 200,000 people got vaccinated against the virus on 4 May. Further, he noted that the number of registrants of the coronavirus vaccines in the country has exceeded the five million mark. Additionally, an official from the Ministry of National Health Services said, “The concentrate prepared by CanSino has been imported from China and will be sufficient to produce 125,000 doses of vaccine. As machinery and staff are ready, within a few days we will start manufacturing vaccine.” (“Number of active Covid cases falls by 7pc in less than fortnight,” Dawn, 6 May 2021)

Pakistan may yet again be standing at a crossroads where the pandemic is concerned, says editorial
An editorial in Dawn reflecting at the same time last year says that Pakistan may yet again be standing at a crossroads regarding the pandemic. It warns that the slightest loosening of SOP protocols could send the country in the direction of the situation in India. Further, it says the government’s decision to call on the army’s assistance to enforce SOPs appears to be bearing fruit adding, if this is sustained beyond the Eid holidays, Pakistan could ride out the third wave without the health system buckling. (“Proceed with caution,” Dawn, 6 May 2021)

 

PML-N wins PP-84 Khushab seat as per unofficial results 
PTI comes in second place

Image Source: The News International

On 5 May, PML-N candidate Barrister Moazzam Sher Kallu won the PP-84 Khushab, according to provisional results released by the ECP. He is said to have secured the election by a wide margin after securing 73,081 votes. Further, the unofficial results showed that PTI's Ali Hussain in second place with 62,903 votes. Independent candidate Amjad Raza came in third with 8,340 votes, followed by TTP’s candidate Hafiz Muhammad Asghar Ali, who secured 5,782 votes. The by-polls were held after it fell vacant due to the death of PML-N’s Waris Kallu who had won it four times consecutively. The party gave the ticket to his son, Moazzam. (“PML-N secures victory in PP-84 Khushab by-election,” Dawn, 6 May 2021)

PML-N celebrates the victory
In a tweet, Shehbaz Sharif celebrated the win and said the people had rejected the “flour and sugar thieves,” adding, “This is also an acknowledgement by the people of the service rendered by the PML-N during its tenure. And this vote is the vote for the development of Pakistan under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif!”
Additionally, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said, “The consistent wins by the opposition clearly show how disillusioned the people are with the PTI and its anti-people policies. The people of Pakistan continue to give their verdict against the PTI, but the selected government refuses to listen.” (“PML-N wins Khushab by-polls by almost 10,000 vote margin,” The Express Tribune, 6 May 2021)

 

Trade deficit widens by 21.6 per cent in 10 months
Imports jump 17.67 per cent and exports 13.49 per cent in July-April FY21

Image Source: Dawn

On 5 May, data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) showed that Pakistan’s trade deficit widened by 21.6 per cent to USD 23.83 billion in the 10 months of 2020-21 from USD 19.59 billion over the corresponding period last year. In April 2021, the trade deficit increased by 33.24 per cent to USD 2.99 billion as against USD 2.24 billion over the corresponding month of last year. The trade gap has been widening since December 2020; however, the surges has been mainly led by exponential growth in imports with comparative slow growth in exports proceeds from the country. Additionally, the bureau reported that imports jump 17.67 per cent and exports 13.49 per cent in July-April FY21. (“Trade deficit widens by 21.6pc in 10MFY21,” Dawn, 6 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
Four political parties outline discrepancies in NA-249 recount, announce boycott 
On 6 May, the PTI, PML-N, MQM and the Pak Sarzameen Party boycotted the vote recount of the Karachi NA-249 by-polls. The four parties said the returning officer (RO) had not provided them Form 45 and Form 46 and had also broken the seal of the ballots. The PML-N candidate said when he questioned the missing seal, the RO said the seal would have fallen off. On the other hand, the PPP candidate who had won the election said lies were being spread and also opined, “Defeat has become the destiny of the PML-N.” (Qazi Hussain, “Four political parties boycott NA-249 Karachi by-poll recount,” Dawn, 6 May 2021)

ECP tells NADRA to restore i-voting system: Sources
On 6 May, The Express Tribune reported that the ECP had asked the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to restore the internet voting system within seven days. Also known as the i-voting system, NADRA had reportedly “abolished” without the ECP’s permission in October 2018 after it was launched in September the same year. A committee on electoral reforms has sought a report on the i-voting system by 31 May. (Saqib Virk, “NADRA told to restore i-voting in seven days,” The Express Tribune, 6 May 2021)

Opinion outlines ways to address child sexual abuse 
An opinion in Dawn cites data by a rights organisation which says that eight children were sexually abused in the country in 2020, reflecting an increase four per cent from the previous year. The author outlines that as long as children are “educated and empowered,” laws alone will not be enough to address the situation. She calls for a continued communication between the parents and the children about awareness of sexual abuse and not restrict it to a one-time session. This, she opines, “will encourage children to communicate their concerns to their parents if ever someone tries to cross a line, and to know that their word will be trusted and action taken against the perpetrator.” She refers to expert opinions who say that “the more the more children understand the issue and learn how to say ‘no’, the greater their ability to identify potentially abusive situations.” Until then, child abuse remains a grim reality. (Huma Khawar, “Protecting children,” Dawn, 6 May 202)

Illegal wildlife trade result in 80 per cent loss of pangolins and other species
On 5 May, the World Wildlife Fund Senior Director (Biodiversity) said that Pakistan had lost 80 per cent of its pangolins and around 80 per cent or more of its freshwater turtles due to illegal smuggling. He said though farming has been the main driver of this, a sharp decline in the numbers has been fuelled by illegal trade with China especially, “where demand by the growing middle class for their scales and meat has increased significantly in the last ten years.” He said due to increased cooperation with the customs department, there has been confiscation of pangolin scales in recent years. He said, “It’s a good thing that they are failing smuggling attempts. It’s not a good thing because it is still being smuggled out of Pakistan.” He called on other professionals like journalists, international organisations and the like to help the WWF address the problem. (Jamal Shahid, “80pc of country’s pangolins lost to illegal hunting: WWF,” Dawn, 6 May 2021)

ECONOMY
ECC approves payment of Rs 90 billion to IPPs
On 5 May, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) gave its green signal to pay “Rs90 billion to 35 independent power producers (IPPs).” This would be the first installment of the payment to the IPPs worth Rs 403 billion. The ECC also allotted Rs 27.5 billion to the National Disaster Management Authority under the PM’s Karachi package. Further, the ECC also agreed “to give a last chance to K-Electric (KE) for settling Rs212bn payments and inking an agreement for additional power intake.” (Khaleeq Kiani, “ECC okays Rs90bn payment to IPPs,” Dawn, 6 May 2021)

EXTERNAL 
Saudi Arabia assures support towards regional stability; PM to visit Kingdom on 7 May
On 6 May, the Chief of General Staff (CGS) of the Saudi Armed Forces assured Pakistan’s COAS of the Kingdom’s support towards regional peace and stability. Dawn referred to the ISPR statement and reported that the two discussed the “regional security situation including Afghan peace process, and military-to-military bilateral cooperation.” Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Imran Khan will begin his three-day visit to Saudi Arabia; he will be accompanied by the Foreign Ministers and others from the cabinet. (“Saudi Arabia assures Pakistan of support in peace efforts,” Dawn, 6 May 2021) (“PM Imran to embark on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia tomorrow,” The Express Tribune, 6 May 2021)

ON INDIA
India is deliberately avoiding court proceedings on Jadhav, says Attorney General 
On 5 May, the Islamabad High Court resumed hearing on the Kulbhushan Jadhav case. According to Dawn, the Attorney General argued that the Indian government deliberately avoided the court proceedings, raised objections to a trial in a Pakistani court and did not appoint a counsel on the grounds fearing it “is tantamount to surrendering sovereign rights.” The IHC Chief Justice alleged that the Indian High Commission questioned the legitimacy of the court while it had previously approached the court for “release of five prisoners and had secured decision in their favour.” Dawn quoted the CJ, “We are not against sovereign immunity of the Indian government but they should at least tell us how we would proceed to implement the ICJ’s decision.” Further the Attorney General said, had the matter not been pending before the IHC, “ the Indian authorities would have filed a contempt of court [petition] against Pakistani government with the ICJ for ‘non-compliance’ of latter’s decision.” Next hearing will be held on 15 June. (Malik Asad, “India reminded of Jadhav case ramifications,” Dawn, 6 May 2021)

ON PAKISTAN-OCCUPIED KASHMIR
Pakistan calls for humanitarian medical corridor in Kashmir
On 5 May, the Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir called on the UN, WHO, and the ICRC, “to set up an international humanitarian medical corridor” in “India-held Kashmir.” Citing the gravity of the pandemic in India, Foreign Minister Qureshi said, “Pakistan offered assistance due to the challenging situation. We have not received any response from India yet. Illegally Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) is also suffering and we feel very strongly as we are connected to them historically and religiously.” (“Pakistan suggests medical corridor for people of occupied Kashmir,” Dawn, 6 May 2021) 

 
Also read...                                                                     
An opinion in Dawn argues that government officials continue to call human rights standards alien to Pakistan’s ground realities. It says that it is time that all branches of the state end their doublespeak on human rights and adopt a clear public position recognising their legitimacy and significance, only then that human rights discourse can truly flourish and improve the lives of the people of Pakistan.

Fahd Husain in his column says Pakistan, India backchannel at a delicate point and could go either way depending on the response from New Delhi. However, for now, Islamabad has adopted a policy of wait and see. 
 


"In sharp contrast to Pakistan’s lofty claims before international forums, international human rights largely remain a maligned concept domestically and the government actively resists any scrutiny of Pakistan’s human rights record...It is time that all branches of the state end their doublespeak on human rights and adopt a clear public position recognising their legitimacy and significance — it is only then that human rights discourse can truly flourish and improve the lives of the people of Pakistan."
-An opinion in Dawn on 'Mixed signals on rights'



Photo : Dawn

05 May 2021, Wednesday I Vol 2, No.125

COAS Bajwa arrives in Saudi Arabia



The COAS visit to Saudi Arabia, the ECP's decision to recount the NA-249 votes, and Munir Akram's statement as the ECOSOC Partnership Forum.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
COAS Bajwa arrives in Saudi Arabia 
Visit takes place ahead of PM’s trip to the kingdom 

On 4 May, ISPR said, “COAS has reached KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) on an official visit.” The COAS is scheduled to meet with the civilian and military leadership. Further, he is expected to lay the basis ahead of PM Imran Khan’s trip to the kingdom scheduled for 7 May, which is expected to revive Saudi Arabia’s assistance to Pakistan. 

Gen Bajwa's previous visit
Gen Bajwa visited Saudi Arabia in August 2020 after a strain in bilateral relations, which was caused by FM Qureshi’s statement on the OIC for its failure to convene a special meeting of the foreign ministers of the member countries for a discussion on the Kashmir dispute. Following this, Saudi Arabia recalled most of the assistance it had extended to Pakistan in 2018. 

Role of the military diplomacy 
According to Dawn, diplomatic sources expect that much of that Saudi Arabia’s attitude is going to change as military diplomacy has reportedly played a major role in thawing the relation between the two countries. (“Bajwa in Saudi Arabia on official visit,” Dawn, 5 May 2021) 

 

ECP orders recount of NA-249 votes
Recount to open door for scrutiny of many seats, says Bilawal

Image Source: Dawn

On 4 May, the ECP accepted PML-N candidate Miftah Ismail's plea and ordered recounting in the NA-249 constituency. The ECP has asked lawmakers to reach the office of the returning officer (RO) on 6 May for the recount. The decision was welcomed by Shehbaz Sharif who said, “narrow difference in votes necessitated this in the interest of transparency. Credibility of vote is a sure foundation of democracy.” (“ECP accepts PML-N's plea, orders recounting in NA-249,” The Express Tribune, 5 May 2021)

NA-249 recount to open door for scrutiny of many seats, says Bilawal
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari stated that the ECP’s order to hold recounting in the NA-249 constituency will lead to scrutiny of many seats that had narrow winning margins. In a tweet, he said, “PPP welcomes new precedent set by allowing consistency [constituency] wide recount without specific ps [polling stations] complaints. Many seats from 2018 fall within 5% threshold & candidates have not been given this chance.” (“NA-249 recount to open door for scrutiny of many seats: Bilawal,” The Express Tribune, 5 May 2021)

 

“If ever there was need for partnership, it is now,” says Munir Akram
Says defeating the pandemic should be the top priority for all nations

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 4 May, Pakistan’s UN envoy Munir Akram said, “If ever there was need for partnership, it is now.” While addressing the annual Partnership Forum, organised by the ECOSOC, Akram outlined several areas where partnerships could be used to contain Covid-19 and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Further, he urged all nations to work together to prevent millions from descending into extreme poverty and destitution, saying, “This means helping the poorest people with direct and indirect economic support and social safety nets,” adding, “It means providing the poorest countries with fiscal space through debt relief, emergency grants and concession financing to save lives and livelihoods.” (“Now is time for global partnership, Pakistan tells UN memberst,” Dawn, 5 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
Cabinet approves two electoral reform ordinances 
On 4 May, the cabinet approved two key ordinances on electoral reforms. The first ordinance will enable the ECP to introduce EVMs and the second ordinance allows it “to take steps to give voting right to the overseas Pakistanis.” The federal Information Minister said that the EVMs had been developed in Pakistan “and the government has unveiled its legislation agenda for the purpose, while work is underway on biometric and e-voting mechanism.” On the issue, the Minister for Science and Technology opined the major opposition parties were reluctant to give voting rights to the overseas Pakistanis. (Rizwan Shehzad, “Cabinet approves vote reform ordinances,” The Express Tribune, 5 May 2021)

Yaum-i-Ali processions held despite COVID-19 restrictions
On 4 May, flouting COVDI-19 SOPs, huge Yaum-i-Ali processions were held by Shia devotees in different cities to mark the anniversary of Hazrat Ali’s martyrdom. The gatherings were held despite the government’s ban on religious processions. Further, the police, rangers, law enforcement agencies were arranged for the security of the mourners. (“Yaum-i-Ali processions taken out in major cities despite ban,” Dawn, 5 May 2021) Meanwhile, Dawn reported that the NCOC is deliberating on “closing the Adult Vaccination Centres (AVCs) on the first three Eid holidays.” Eid holidays begin on 10 May and last until 15 May. (“Vaccination centres likely to remain closed on all three Eid days,” Dawn, 5 May 2021)

Dawn says condition of human rights in the country is not so heartening 
An editorial in Dawn, referring to the annual report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan published recently, and recalls various instances of rights violations in the country. This includes enforced disappearances, and the rise in inequalities due to the pandemic over 2020. The editorial outlines the loss of access to education to many children due to the shift to online platforms and says it will have a significant impact on literacy in the long run. Further, it highlights the rise in domestic and sexual violence during the pandemic as people were confined to their homes. With this, it concludes: “The picture is not a heartening one.” (“Human rights 2020,” Dawn, 5 May 2021)

PROVINCES
Gunmen kill three for honour 
On 4 May, gunmen shot dead three people, including a woman of their family in Khyber tribal district for honour. The gunmen shot at a schoolteacher on his motorcycle and the woman was killed in her house on suspicion of having an affair with him; another teacher who was the pillion rider succumbed to his injuries. (“Three shot dead for honour in Khyber,” Dawn, 5 May 2021)

ECONOMY
Cement sales increase by 24.3 per cent
On 4 May, the data from the All Pakistan Cement Manufacturers Association (APCMA) showed that cement sales had increased to 4.066 million tonnes in April 2021 from 3.271 million tonnes in the corresponding period last year, thereby reflecting a 24.3 per cent increase. Further, exports recorded an increase of 25 per cent; domestic sales are also on the rise and the APCMA spokesperson expects that total cement exports will surpass nine million tonnes by June. (Aamir Shafaat Khan, “Construction boom lifts cement sales up 24.3pc,” Dawn, 5 May 2021)

SBP providing Rs 36 billion to renewable energy options, says governor
On 4 May, the State Bank of Pakistangovernor said Rs 36 billion had been provided for 521 projects in the Financing Scheme for Renewable Energy (FSRE). He said this would be included in Pakistan’s steps towards diversifying its energy mix and reducing the impact of climate change. He explained there would be various “financing options ranging from Rs400 million to Rs6 billion” which could be used for captive energy units, commercial projects, as well as “individual consumers who may share excess production with the national grid.” (Shahid Iqbal, “State Bank gives Rs36bn financing for renewable energy adoption,” Dawn, 5 May 2021)

EXTERNAL
Four FC personnel killed after alleged terrorist from Afghanistan open fire
On 5 May, the ISPR said “terrorists from Afghanistan” opened fire on Pakistan’s Frontier Corps personnel who were fencing the border between the two countries. Four FC personnel died and six were injured in the incident which took place in the Manzakai Sector of District Zhob in Balochistan. (“Four FC personnel martyred in cross-border terrorist attack from Afghanistan,” The News International, 5 May 2021)

Will not take dictation from West, says Information Minister
On 4 May, the Information Minister said the government will not dictate their decisions to Pakistan, when asked about the EU Parliament's decision to review the GSP Plus status. He opined that the "the government is firm in its stance that it will not take any dictation on internal issues" which included the action against the TLP. (Syed Irfan Raza, "West can’t dictate decisions, vows minister," Dawn, 5 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                                  
An editorial in Dawn argues that flexibility should not be problematic for the IMF given that the government only wants to pursue a different strategy to put its economic house in order, without leaving the programme or abandoning its targets.

An opinion in Dawn critical of the government’s ability to address religious matter argues the criticism received from the West reflects the country’s failure to counter rising religious intolerance and bigotry, and also exposes a diplomatic debacle

An opinion in The News International says results of the NA-249 by-polls shows that Karachi is distancing itself from the ethno-regional parties that kept voters hostage for the past 30 years.
 



"Unlike a tsunami or an earthquake, the calamity of population acts more imperceptibly. It slowly sinks a country into quicksand that is not easy to recover from...It is time for Pakistan’s people to take charge of their future and demand that the government wakes up to respond to the reality of this existential threat."
-An opinion in The Express Tribune on 'Population quicksand'



Photo : Dawn

04 May 2021, Tuesday I Vol 2, No.124

PM Khan urges OIC to vehemently counter Islamophobia



Imran's meeting with OIC ambassadors, finance minister's remarks on the IMF deal, and the declining COVID-19 positivity rate.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
PM Khan urges OIC to vehemently counter Islamophobia
Says govt will not compromise on blasphemy law

On 3 May, PM Imran Khan urged the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to vehemently counter Islamophobia and falsely equating of Islam with radicalism and terrorism. During a meeting with over 30 OIC ambassadors, he said that Muslim countries have failed to convince the West that the blasphemy of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) hurt the sentiments of over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and was not an issue of freedom of expression. He stated that whenever an incident of terrorism occurred, the West maligned the entire Muslim world which was wrong, arguing, “An act of any individual should not be called an act of the entire Ummah,” adding, the whole Muslim world strongly condemned terrorism perpetrated, “But the whole Muslim Ummah should not be blamed for an act of an individual. Linking Islam with terrorism is absolutely unjustified.”

Islamophobic acts fan inter-religious hatred and disharmony
He stated that Islamophobic acts fan inter-religious hatred and disharmony among civilisations, calling on the need to address the underlying reasons for the rise in such incidents worldwide, he said, “Falsely equating Islam with radicalism and terrorism was leading to marginalisation and stigmatisation of Muslims.”

He also reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to dialogue and cooperation with all members of the international community for promoting universal values of tolerance, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence across the world. (“Imran asks OIC to counter Islamophobia,” Dawn, 4 May 2021)

Meeting to review EU Parliament’s resolution on Pakistan’s blasphemy laws
On 3 May, the federal government decided not to compromise on the country’s blasphemy law in line with the resolution of the European Parliament calling for reviewing Pakistan’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) status amid an “alarming” number of blasphemy cases.

During the meeting, PM Imran Khan stated that there has been an alarming increase in accusations of blasphemy online and offline in Pakistan over the past year, saying, “many of these accusations target human rights defenders, journalists, artists and the most marginalised people in society," said the resolution titled “the Blasphemy laws in Pakistan, in particular the case of Shagufta Kausar and Shafqat Emmanuel.”

However, the government has decided to introduce new legislation for various aspects of human rights in line with its agreements with the European Union. (“Govt not to compromise on blasphemy law,” The Express Tribune, 4 May 2021)

 

IMF asked to relax conditions, says FM
Govt to take alternative measures to reduce circular debt

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 4 May, Dawn reported that Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin stated that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) would be convinced to relax conditions particularly those related to power tariff hike as stabilisation is no more affordable for Pakistan’s economy. He said, the higher power tariff was leading to corruption and affecting economic growth and that the conditions agreed to under the IMF programme were very harsh. Further, he stated that IMF was being convinced to have a sympathetic view towards Pakistan amid the third wave of coronavirus. However, he added that unless the country moved to higher economic growth, nothing would improve, neither revenue collection, nor job opportunities would be available to people or the productive capacity of the economy could improve.

Govt to take alternative measures to reduce circular debt 
Tarin claimed that the government would take alternative measures to reduce circular debt instead of tariff increases. He also said that the tax net would be expanded instead of an increase in taxes to achieve revenue targets. However, stated that state-owned entities that the government was unable to run in the public sector would be privatised. (“IMF being urged to relax harsh terms, says minister,” Dawn, 4 May 2021)

 

Positivity ratio of COVID-19 cases declines
Govt to vaccinate 70 million people by the end of the year

Image Source: Dawn

On 3 May, a Microbiologist while talking to Dawn stated that the country was witnessing a downward trend but warned that things could be worse during the upcoming Eid holidays. This comes after a continuous rise in Covid-19 cases for almost three months. During the third wave of Covid-19 in February, the positivity ratio stood three per cent and then increased to 11 per cent in April. However, the number of daily cases and positivity ratio have been declining since the start of May.

Further, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health said the government has promised to vaccinate 70 million people by the end of the current year. (“Covid-19 cases, positivity ratio start declining,” Dawn, 4 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
Important PTI documents removed from scrutiny table
On 3 May, sources claimed that PTI’s HBL account’s statements for perusal by the scrutiny committee, in the foreign funding case against the party, was removed from the table. Sources said the said document was removed after the PTI raised objections; the committee informed the DG law of the same, who then called for the “the removal of the HBL bank statements from the scrutiny table.” Following this development, the petitioner “blamed the committee for obstructing the perusal process.” (Iftikhar A Khan, “Scrutiny body withdraws PTI’s document in foreign funding case,” Dawn, 4 May 2021)

Peira announces 20 per cent concession to parents paying school fees above Rs 8000
On 3 May, the Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira) announced a 20 per cent concession in school fees to “parents paying more than Rs8,000 per month.” This is in contrast to the 20 per cent concession announced in 2020 for those paying more than Rs 5000. The Peira Deputy Director said most demands for the concession came from parents of children going to “upscale schools”; therefore, the benchmark was revised to Rs 8000. Further, an official at the Education Ministry outlined that “some schools are struggling for survival” for which the “government is exploring options for a bailout package.” (Kashif Abbasi, “20pc concession for parents paying more than Rs8,000 fee,” Dawn, 4 May 2021)

Bilawal pushes for electoral reforms to keep establishment away
On 3 May, Bilawal Bhutto welcomed the idea of electoral reforms but maintained that the main aim of the reforms should be to do away with the alleged interference of the establishment. However, he referred to the PTI government’s suggestion to introduce the reforms and said, “Preventing rigging is a major issue, [but] those who rigged the elections can do nothing to stop it [rigging].” Further, he took on the PML-N and criticised the party for “seeking military’s involvement in the election process” after the NA-249 by-polls. He opined, “As long as the establishment continues to interfere in the elections, transparent elections would not be possible.” (“Electoral reforms must keep establishment out: Bilawal,” The Express Tribune, 4 May 2021)

ECONOMY
Tarin calls for import of four million metric tons of wheat
On 3 May, the government “decided to import four million metric tons of wheat” for the current year for domestic consumption. The National Price Monitoring Committee estimated that it would require USD 1.2 billion for the import. Prior to this, the Committee had decided to import three million metric tons of wheat for 2021-22; newly appointed finance minister Shaukat Tarin revised the same. As of May 2021, Pakistan has imported 3.6 million metric tons of wheat for USD 983.3 million in the current FY. (Shahbaz Rana, “Govt decides to import 4m MT of wheat,” The Express Tribune, 4 May 2021)

PAKISTAN’S GENDER DEBATE
Editorial calls for sensitising ECP, NADRA officials to close gender gap in electoral rolls
An editorial in The Express Tribune cites the latest report on the gender gaps in Pakistan's electoral rolls and largely attributes it to the low female literacy rate. The editorial opines that the role of men is limited if females themselves are unaware of their rights. Referring to the ECP’s directive for close coordination with the NADRA officials, the editorial says “Officials of the two organisations should be sensitised in this respect.” (“Gender gap in electoral rolls,” The Express Tribune, 4 May 2021)

EXTERNAL
Chinese ambassador calls on COAS
On 3 May, the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan met with the COAS. The ISPR said the two discussed “matters of mutual interest, recent developments in Afghan peace process, progress on CPEC, regional security and current situation of Covid-19.” The COAS thanked China for its contribution to Pakistan’s fight against COVID-19; on the other hand, the ambassador appreciated Pakistan for its “sincere efforts for peace and stability in the region, especially the Afghan peace process.” (“Chinese envoy meets Bajwa,” Dawn, 4 May 2021)

ON INDIA
Diplomats discuss reports of backchannel talks with India
On 3 May, former diplomats discussed the “backchannel talks” between India and Pakistan. They opined that “ground realities, context and strategic dilemmas, fuels suspicion about the engagement.” Further, they alleged that “Indian move to engage in backchannel could be a tactical one for trapping Pakistan in talks.” They also referred to the news reports of backchannel talks and said the “optimism in Islamabad” was not reflected in India’s “stoic silence.” Maleeha Lodhi said, “We all seek peace with honour, but not at the expense of compromising our fundamental position on Kashmir because then that kind of normalization will neither be lasting nor would it be politically acceptable to the people of Pakistan.” Other dignitaries also echoed her opinion. (Kamran Yousaf, “Former diplomats, generals caution on backchannel talks with India,” The Express Tribune, 4 May 2021)

Pakistan accuses India of violating DGMOs understanding
On 3 May, Pakistan accused Indian forces of “crossing over Charwa Sector of Sialkot and resorting to unprovoked firing.” Dawn reports that the foreign affairs ministry has written to the Indian High Commission on the same and called the alleged movement the “first serious and grave violation of Directors General Military Operation (DGMOs) understanding in 2021.” It accused Indian BSF of using small arms and mortars against Pakistani posts without provocation. (Malik Asad, “Pakistan protests Working Boundary crossing, firing by Indian troops,” Dawn, 4 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                                           
An editorial in Dawn welcoming the government’s proposal of extensive electoral reforms argues that a rigging-proof system, which cannot be manipulated through technical delays, is possible if stakeholders sit together.

An editorial in The Express Tribune critical of the inflation rate says that it is also worrying that this is being coupled with rising unemployment. It argues, yelling is not going to fix the problem, rather more thinking on the necessary macro-level reforms might.

An opinion in Dawn on TLP and the by-elections argues that Pakistan has always made space for Islamist parties electorally, highlight the factors that have played a role in the emergence of the TLP in elections, rather than just a growing radicalisation of voters.
 



"Overcoming inequality will lead to significant progress in human development...With the will to reduce privileges, prioritise human development and improve working conditions, inequality can be overcome and — with that — the overall development of Pakistan accelerated."
-An opinion in The Express Tribune on the UNDP’s Pakistan National Human Development Report (NHDR) 2020 on Inequality.



Photo : Dawn

03 May 2021, Monday I Vol 2, No.123

Next budget to focus on GDP, inflation and development: PM Khan



Imran's remarks on the upcoming budget, new protocols on borders with Iran and Afghanistan amid the pandemic, and PML-N's application to the CEC to keep NA-249 ballots with the army

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
Next budget to focus on GDP, inflation and development: PM Khan
Instructs economic team to prepare the budget per public requirement

On 2 May, PM Imran Khan while chairing a meeting held to discuss the annual budget said that the next budget would “give special attention to development projects and measures to control the inflation.” He said that besides ensuring the completion of ongoing development projects, new projects should be designed in accordance with the public needs. Further, he stated that the next budget should be development-oriented with full attention towards the improvement of the growth ratio.

Sought proposal from party leadership for the budget
PM Khan also sought proposals from the senior party leadership for the next budget. Further, the country’s economy, a strategy to control inflation, and development projects for the next fiscal year were also discussed at the meeting. They were also told that the next budget should be development-oriented with full attention given to the improvement of the growth ratio by expediting the development work and new projects to enhance economic activities, GDP growth and revenue collection besides generating jobs. Additionally, the PM was also briefed on a comprehensive strategy devised to control inflation and revenue collection amid the COVID-19 situation. (Syed Irfan Raza, “Next budget to focus on GDP, inflation, uplift projects: PM,” Dawn, 3 May 2021) (“With inflation in focus, PM seeks proposals for next budget,” The Express Tribune, 3 May 2021) 

 

 

Govt enhance protocols on borders with Iran and Afghanistan amid COVID-19
Inbound pedestrians to be sealed from 5 May 

Image Source: Dawn

On 2 May, the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) after reviewing the existing land border management policy with Afghanistan and Iran said, “With the emergence of various variants and to restrain import of any new mutation to Pakistan, current policy of land border management with Afghanistan and Iran has been reviewed to ensure regulated inbound pedestrian movement and effective management of COVID protocols at Border Terminals (BTs).” Further, the NCOC said that strict mobility control measures will be enforced in the country from 8-16 May to curb the spread of the disease.

Pakistan’s third COVID-19 wave
As of 2 May, the number of active cases reported was 89,661 while the death toll has reached 18,070. Meanwhile, vaccination of people in the age bracket of 40-49 years is set to begin on 3 May (today). (Ikram Junaidi, “Controls on Afghan, Iran borders being beefed up to fight Covid,” Dawn, 3 May 2021) (“Afghan, Iran borders for inbound pedestrians to be sealed from May 5: NCOC,” The Express Tribune, 3 May 2021)

 

PML-N asks CEC to keep NA-249 ballots in army’s custody
PPP asks PML-N not to accuse their victory with the support of the “establishment”

Image Source: Dawn

On 3 May, the PML-N submitted an application to the chief election commissioner (CEC) asking for the election material, including ballot papers, to be placed under the supervision of the Army or Rangers. The application was submitted by Miftah Ismail, the PML-N candidate in the constituency after the PPP “welcomed” the decision of the ECP to stay announcement of official results for a recount. Further, they also asked the PML-N not to accuse the party of winning the seat with the support of the “establishment.” (Amir Wasim, “PML-N urges CEC to place NA-249 ballots in army’s custody,” Dawn, 3 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
PDM should apologise to PPP, says party Secretary General
On 2 May, the PPP questioned the PDM’s show-cause notice to the party and asked the alliance to withdraw the same. The News International quoted some PPP lawmakers who claimed that “The PPP formed the PDM. Who are these people who want us to approach them to rejoin the PDM?” They also conveyed that the PDM should apologize to the PPP. Further, the party’s Secretary General blamed the PML-N for the rift within the alliance, reiterating that the PPP had no issues with the long march and a no confidence motion against the government. (“PPP asks PDM to withdraw notice, seek apology,” The News International, 3 May 2021)

Editorial outlines need for freedom of press
An editorial in The News International, marking the World Press Freedom Day, says that the risks of practising journalism in Pakistan are increasing by the day. The editorial outlines that though the media’s relationship with the state has always been tense, “the past few years have seen an unprecedented increase in these challenges.” It opines that increased attacks on journalism and journalists, is a reflection of the “collective failure of government and state institutions,” not just in Pakistan but anywhere in the world. Therefore, it urges the government to take up the matter seriously; after all, “A free press is vital to the healthy functioning of any democracy,” It concludes that “a journalist fearful of doing his/her job translates into a society that is silenced.” (“Freedom of the press?,” The News International, 3 May 2021)

Information minister outlines govt’s commitment to independent media
On 3 May, the Information Minister said the present government is committed to ensuring independent and free media. He said, “There is no concept of media censorship in the country...Media in Pakistan enjoys unprecedented freedom. The government neither believes nor practices any press advice. Rather, it encourages self-regulation by the media.” He said the government was deliberating on measures to ensure a conducive environment for journalists and their welfare. (“Information minister reiterates govt's commitment to ensure free, independent media,” The Express Tribune, 3 May 2021)

PML-N reject Imran’s proposal to use EVMs
On 2 May, PML-N's Shehbaz Sharif Imran’s suggestion to use EVMs; he was quoted saying, “such decisions cannot be made by one individual.” Similarly, the party secretary general termed the suggestion "yet another drama to rig the elections.” He said the PTI government is suddenly pushing for electoral reforms because of repeated failures in the by-polls. He said, “If the PTI  government is serious about electoral reforms, then it should send suggestions related to the reforms to the chief election commissioner.” (“Electronic voting 'another drama by PTI to rig elections', says Ahsan Iqbal,” The News International, 3 May 2021) (“Shehbaz rejects voting machine proposal,” The Express Tribune, 3 May 2021)

ECONOMY
Exports surpass USD two billion again
On 2 May, the Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment said that exports had crossed the USD two billion mark for the seventh consecutive month, “for the first time since 2011.” In the July 2020- April 2021, the exports stood at USD 20.879 billion compared to USD 18.408 billion in the corresponding period in the last FY. This therefore marked a 13 per cent increase in the exports. (“Exports cross $2bn mark for seven months, says PM aide,” Dawn, 3 May 2021)

EXTERNAL
PM to chair meeting on EU parliament decision to review GSP Plus status
On 3 May (today), Imran Khan will discuss the EU parliament’s decision to review Pakistan’s GSP Plus status. The News International reported that Imran will meet with the Foreign Minister, commerce advisor, Minister for Religious Affairs, and the Interior Minister along with others. Previously, the EU parliament’s decision was criticised by the Foreign Office; the FO statement opined that the decision “reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan – and the wider Muslim world. The unwarranted commentary about Pakistan’s judicial system and domestic laws are regrettable.” (“PM Imran Khan to discuss European Parliament's resolution on Pakistan’s GSP plus status today,” The News International, 3 May 2021)

ON CPEC
Eastbay Expressway to be completed in October
On 2 May, The CPEC Authority Chairman said the Eastbay Expressway Gwadar project would be completed by October. He said “14.5 km offshore expressway had already been completed while the remaining 4.5 km onshore road was under construction.” The Expressway is expected to “connect the port with the second phase of the Free Trade Zone” aimed at boosting conditions for business activities. It will also “ensure smooth logistic transportation of import, export and transit goods.” (“Eastbay Expressway to be completed in Oct: CPEC chairman,” The News International, 3 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                                  
Maleeha Lodhi in an opinion in Dawn on the opening of a backchannel between Pakistan and India argues that peace with honour should remain the immutable principle of Pakistan’s engagement with India.

An opinion in The Express Tribune critical of the power sector says that the policies followed by governments in the power sector after 1977 have greatly damaged the country’s economy, arguing that with immense hydroelectric potential the country has continued to rely only on thermal sources instead.

An editorial in The Express Tribune critical of the PIA split argues whether PIA is split in two, four, or a hundred, its problems will not go away as long as it stays in government hands.
 



"Leaders are considered as role models and ‘belief managers’, especially by the youth. They strongly shape their followers’ beliefs through their words and their actions. They need to lead by example and embody the very ideals they preach."
-An editorial in The Express Tribune on 'The need to lead by example'



Photo : Dawn

01 May 2021, Saturday I Vol 2, No.121

TLP files appeal against the ban 



TLP's appeal against the ban, EU's decision to review GSP+ status of Pakistan, and Imran's remarks to the Balochistan Governor.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
TLP files appeal against the ban 
Minister says body to decide on request in 30 days

On 30 April, the proscribed TLP filed an appeal with the interior ministry, seeking revocation of the ban imposed on the party. The Interior Minister confirmed the development and said the appeal was received on 29 April and had been taken up for consideration in a meeting on 30 April. The minister stated that the TLP was informed that its appeal had been received and the review process had started. Further, the minister said that a committee, comprising two representatives of the interior ministry and one from the law ministry, will be formed to decide on the appeal within 30 days.

The provision for filing an appeal 
According to Dawn’s sources, a right of review was available under section 11C (1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act which reads: “Where any proscribed organisation is aggrieved by the order of the Federal Government, made under section 11B, it may, within thirty days of such order, file a review application, in writing before the Federal Government stating the grounds on which it is made and the Federal Government shall, after hearing the applicant, decide the matter on reasonable grounds within ninety days.”

The ban on TLP
The decision to formally place the TLP on the list of banned terrorist organisations came after the party had stage three days of violent protests against the arrest of their leader, Saad Hussain Rizvi while demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador among others. The interior minister issued a notification saying, “The federal government has reasonable grounds to believe that Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan was engaged in terrorism, acted in a manner prejudicial to the peace and security of the country, involved in creating anarchy by intimidating the public, caused grievous bodily harm, hurt and death to the personnel of the law enforcement agencies and innocent bystanders, attacked civilians and officials, created wide-scale hurdles, threatened, abused and promoted hatred, vandalised and ransacked public and government properties, including vehicles, and caused arson, blocked essential health supplies to hospitals, and has used, threatened, coerced, intimidated and overawed the government [and] the public and created sense of fear and insecurity in the society and the public at large,” adding, “Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 11B(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, the federal government is pleased to list Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan in the First Schedule to the said Act as a proscribed organisation for the purposes of the said Act.” (“TLP files appeal with interior ministry against ban,” Dawn, 1 May 2021)
 

 

EU parliament to review GSP+ status with Pakistan
Govt expresses disappointment over resolution adopted on Pakistan’s blasphemy law

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 1 April, Dawn reported that the European Parliament has adopted a resolution seeking a review of trade relations with Pakistan and ending its eligibility for the Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) status. The resolution was passed with a majority of 662 to 3, with 26 not voting. Further, the resolution has linked the review to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.

The resolution called for space for religious freedom
The resolution demand Pakistan to allow space for religious freedom and urged the EU authorities to review the country’s GSP+ status amid an “alarming” number of blasphemy cases over the past year. It noted that blasphemy cases incite harassment, violence and murder against those being accused. It said, “Judicial procedures in blasphemy cases in Pakistan are highly flawed,” adding that there are low standards of evidence. Further, it stated, “Pakistan continued to deteriorate in 2020 as the government systematically enforced blasphemy laws and failed to protect religious minorities from abuses.”

It stated, “repeated and deceptive attacks against the French authorities” by radical groups and statements made by the government on the issue have escalated, adding that although a ruling party member tabled a resolution in the National Assembly demanding a debate on the expulsion of the French ambassador and said “violent demonstrations and attacks against France [are] unacceptable,” it said, “[The European Parliament is] deeply concerned by the anti-French sentiment in Pakistan, which has led French nationals and companies to have to leave the country temporarily.”

Govt irked by the resolution 
Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson said, “The discourse in the European Parliament reflects a lack of understanding in the context of blasphemy laws and associated religious sensitivities in Pakistan – and in the wider Muslim world,” adding, “The unwarranted commentary about Pakistan's judicial system and domestic laws are regrettable." The spokesperson added, “We are proud of our minorities, who enjoy equal rights and complete protection of fundamental freedoms as enshrined in the Constitution. Judicial and administrative mechanisms and remedies are in place to guard against any human rights violations.” Similarly, Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari reacted to the development saying, “We have issues to resolve but there has been more movement now on our HR Int Convention commitments than in previous govts. The way forward is dialogue & negotiations, which we have been doing, not extreme public positioning.” (“EU Parliament move to review trade ties with Pakistan,” Dawn, 1 May 2021) (“Blasphemy law: EU Parliament’s decision to review GSP+ status irks Pakistan,” The Express Tribune, 1 May 2021)

 

PM asks Balochistan Governor to resign
Says ‘transformed political challenges Pakistan faces require change’

Image Source: Dawn

On 1 May, Dawn reported that PM Imran Khan in a letter asked Governor Balochistan Justice (retd) Amanullah Yasinzai to resign, saying “this does not in any way reflect on your competence; it is just that the transformed political challenges Pakistan faces at present require change.” He said, “I intend to appoint a new governor in Balochistan and would, therefore, request you to resign.”

Further, the letter said, “It has been a pleasure to have worked with you, striving for creation of a welfare state and especially looking after the problems of people of the province of Balochistan,” adding, “However, given the current political situation, dexterity and deftness is needed at this Juncture for a delicate balancing act to simultaneously ensure political inclusion and fulfilment of our commitment towards the people of Pakistan.” (“PM Imran asks Balochistan Governor Amanullah Yasinzai to resign,” Dawn, 1 May 2021) (“PM Imran asks Balochistan governor to resign,” The Express Tribune, 1 May 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
SAPM accuses Memon of tax evasion
On 30 April, SAPM Shahbaz Gill accused former Federal Investigation Agency head Bashir Memon of tax evasion; he alleged that Memon had established three industries in tax-free tribal areas. He also claimed that Memon politicised his removal from the FIA because he “knew that all his black deeds will be exposed.” However Shahbaz clarified that his remarks were not final judgements and acknowledged the need for an investigation. (Ayed Irfan Raza, “Gill accuses former FIA chief of tax evasion,” Dawn, 1 May 2021)

ECONOMY
PIA records 55 per cent contraction is net loss 
On 30 April, the PIA’s profit and loss statement revealed that its net loss stood at Rs 7.51 billion in the first quarter ended March 31, 2021, in comparison to a net loss of Rs 16.90 billion in the same period last year. This signifies 55 per cent contraction of net loss. The reasons behind the contraction include the “Covid-19 pandemic, low jet fuel prices and a significant gain from rupee depreciation.” (“PIA’s net loss contracts 55%,” The Express Tribune, 1 May 2021)

Revenue collection crosses RS 350 billion target for April
On 30 April, provisional data from the Federal Bureau of Revenue showed that the revenue collection stood at Rs 384 billion in April, thereby surpassing its target of Rs 350 billion. Further the revenue collection also showed an increase by 57 per cent compared to the corresponding period last year when the FBR collected Rs 244 billion. With this, the revenue collection for July 2020-April 2021 stands at Rs 3.78 trillion, which is a 14 per cent increase from Rs 3.320 trillion in the corresponding period last year. (Mubarak Zeb Khan, “FBR surpasses revenue collection target by Rs34bn in April,” Dawn, 1 May 2021)

EXTERNAL
PTA extends technical support in Sri Lanka for mobile number portability
On 1 May, Dawn reported that the Pakis­tan Telecommunication Au­­thority (PTA) had extended its “training and technical support to the Telecom­mu­nica­tions Regulatory Commis­sion of Sri Lanka.” This move aims at “successful implementation of Mobile Number Portability (MNP)” which allows users to change their network without changing the number. (“PTA helps Sri Lanka with mobile number portability,” Dawn, 1 May 2021)

Extended Troika asks Afghan govt and Taliban to ensure security to other countries 
On 1 May, Dawn reported that Pakistan along with the US, Russia, and China, called on the Afghan government “and Taliban to ensure that terrorist groups and individuals do not use Afghan soil to threaten the security of any other country.” The group is referred to as the “Extended Troika on Peaceful Settlement in Afghanistan.” The Troika also urged the Afghan government and the High Council for National Reconciliation to engage with the Taliban; further, the four countries tried to get the Taliban join the Afghan government by calling for a UN review of the group’s designation as a terrorist organisation. (Anwar Iqbal, “Pakistan, US, China and Russia seek end to cross-border attacks from Afghanistan,” Dawn, 1 May 2021)

Hungarian delegation meets Imran and Qureshi
On 30 April, Imran Khan met with Hungary’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade and his delegation. The Foreign Office later said that Hungary had announced a USD 84 million credit line “for Hungarian companies to do business with Pakistan.” The Hungarian Minister met Qureshi wherein they discussed bilateral ties and issues of regional and global importance. They also presided over the signing of trade agreements between Pakistani and Hungarian companies, mainly in dairy, pharmaceuticals and cyber security areas. (Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Imran calls for enhanced ties with Hungary,” Dawn, 1 May 2021)

ON COVID-19
Pakistan faces travel restrictions from multiple countries
On 1 May, The News International referred to a Singapore Health Ministry’s statement which read that the country had imposed a ban on Pakistani travellers entering it because of the rising COVID-19 cases. Similarly, Norway had also imposed a ban on Pakistani travellers fearing a risk of spread of the Indian variant. The Justice and Public Security Minister of Norway said, “. In order to limit the risk of imported cases of new COVID-19 variants, we are now introducing stricter entry restrictions for travellers arriving from India and its neighbouring countries, as well as Iraq.” Iran, too, closed its southeastern borders with Pakistan; the restriction would only allow Iranian and Pakistani nationals to return to their home countries. (“Singapore bars Pakistani travellers from transiting and entering country,” The News International, 1 May 2021)

Pakistan to restrict inbound flights from 5 May
On 1 May, the National Command and Operation Centre announced that the number of inbound flights would be reduced to 20 per cent from 5 May to 20 May, keeping in mind “the prevailing global and regional disease trends.” While complete details on which routes will be suspended are not yet announced, the NCOC said it would conduct a review on 8 May. (“Pakistan to slash international flights by 20pc from May 5 to 20 to curb Covid-19 cases,” Dawn, 1 May 2021)

 
Also read...                                                                                 
Fadh Husain in his opinion in Dawn commenting on similarities between the Daska and Karachi by-polls says that incompetence is accepting incompetence and not questioning incompetence.

An editorial in The Express Tribune critical of the NA-249 by-polls argues that another parliamentary election failed to determine which party people actually voted for. However, it argues that no amount of probe could lift the PTI to the top position to retain this National Assembly seat. Another editorial in The News International argues the low voter turnout shows that there is declining interest of the people in the electoral process, a dangerous trend that never bodes well for democratic rights and traditions.
 




"Only public legitimacy through judicial reform and effective constitutionalism can secure judicial independence."
-An opinion in Dawn on the Justice Isa judgement


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