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Photo Source: The Express Tribune


Pakistan This Week



Azadi March, Ease of Doing Business in Pakistan, LoC clashes and the Agreement on Kartarpur

D. Suba Chandran
Professor
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore

DOMESTIC POLITICS

Azadi march remains the focus of the week

The meeting between JUI-F and Government Committees:

During the end of the week, there was a meeting between two committees on Azadi march proposed by Fazlur Rahman. The two committees were led by the government and JUI-F. However, the meeting could not reach a consensus.

Fazlur Rahman commented: “… come what may, the march will take place. No matter if highways remain closed for one month, we will move to Islamabad.”

The government committee was led by Pervez Khattak, the Defence Minister. Khattak is in charge of a seven members committee to engage with Fazlur Rahman. Fazlur Rahman’s side was represented by the Rehbar committee and led by Akram Khan Durrani.

 

Fazlur Rahman succeeds in bringing the opposition together against the government

Fazlur Rahman has succeeded in roping the main opposition parties to support his Azadi march against the government. The PML-N, which appeared like a divided house with an alleged difference between the Sharif brothers over the issue, seems to have made up its mind. There was a widespread belief that Shabaz Sharif was not in favour of supporting Fazlur Rahman’s Azadi march and differed with his brother Nawaz. However, Shabaz came in open and has supported Fazlur’s case.

In June 2019, Fazlur Rahman announced his decision to launch the Azadi march against the government. The date is set for 31 October. The opposition parties, including the PML-N have agreed to support Fazlur Rahman.

 

The government wants to ban JUI-F’s Ansarul Islam

The Ansarul Islam comprises of volunteers from the JUI-F seminaries. The volunteers wearing a uniform and presenting a guard of honour to Fazlur Rahman has made the government worry about law and order issues if the former decides to use force in organizing the Azadi march.

The government seems to be preparing to take action against the supporters of the JUI-F. Separately, the government is also planning to ban Ansarul Islam, one of the JUI-F organizations. The Information Minister of the KP has announced that “the government will take action against activists of the JUI-F wearing uniforms similar to law enforcement forces and carrying sticks which is a violation of the Article 152 and National Action Plan (NAP).”

 

JUI issues guidelines for Azadi March

The Fazlur Rahman faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) has issued detailed guidelines of dos and donts for the Azadi march scheduled next week.

The participants have been asked to come with an adequate ration that would support them for a minimum of four days.  And in Islamabad, they could stay for a minimum of seven days and could be extended further. The workers, supporters and students of the JUI-F have also been asked to bring their academic books and the Holy Quran.

The provincial amirs of JUI-F have issued these guidelines to the party members.

The guidelines also ask the participants to bring clothing, bed sheets, blankets, dried fruit, umbrellas, mobile phone chargers, water bottles, etc. They have also been asked not to carry licensed or illegal weapons, knives, batons, stick rods, etc. (Dawn, 23 October 2019)

At the district level, each of them has also been asked to bring a crane to remove obstacles on roads and also ensure that they bring an ambulance for any emergency. According to a Dawn report, the “ambulances must have ample quantity of salt and water for a situation in which police use tear gas to disperse protesters. The ambulance would move under the guide of district-level emirs of the party.” (Dawn, 23 October 2019)

 

Imran Khan agrees to allow the Azadi march but refuses to resign

According to an official note from the Prime Minister’s Office: “It has been decided that the government with its firm belief in upholding democratic ideals will allow the proposed Azadi March if it takes place within the ambit of law and the Constitution as interpreted in the decisions of the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Islamabad High Court.”

However, Imran Khan has refused to accept the primary demand of the Azadi march: his resignation. He was quoted to have said: “I am a constitutionally elected prime minister and I will not resign…I am unable to comprehend their (opposition’s) insistence on minus-Imran [formula].” (Dawn, 24 October 2019)

 

Fazlur Rahman meets the Chief of Army Staff; Imran Khan says the army is behind him

According to a report in The News, Fazlur Rahman met with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa and discussed the Azadi March. According to the report, the COAS informed about the regional security situation along the border on both sides of Pakistan. Apparently, the Army Chief also informed about the economic situation of the country, and also ruled out the idea of “minus-Imran” formula. (The News, 24 October 2019)

Separately, Imran Khan announced that the army is behind him and he is not willing to accept the demand of Fazlur Rahman.

 

ECONOMY: GOOD, BAD & UGLY

Pakistan moves up in the World Bank ease of Doing Business Index

In the latest World Bank report on the subject, released on 24 October, Pakistan has moved up significantly, by 28 places, in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index.

Imran Khan tweeted immediately, taking credit for the upward movement: “Over last decade Pakistan’s ranking had slipped more than 50 places. Now we have improved 28 places from 136 to 108.” Imran Khan also considers this as fulfilling one of the PTI manifesto. He also expects that “before the end of 2020 Pakistan will become one of the top places for investment.”

The general expectation within Pakistan is – this climbing up would attract external investment.

While Afghanistan (173), Bangladesh (168), Iran, Maldives (147) and Iran (127) are ranked below Pakistan in the region, Sri Lanka (99), Nepal (94), Bhutan (89) and India (63) are ahead in the 2020 report.

 

In 2019, more Pakistanis go abroad for employment, than in 2018

According to a report, during the first nine months in 2019, more Pakistans have gone abroad in search of employment that the entire 2018. During the first nine months in 2019, 430,529 workers have abroad so far, when compared to 382,439 in the entire 2018.

Pakistan’s workforces abroad are more than 10 million, with over 40 per cent being non-skilled. The professionals amongst the Pakistanis working abroad is around six per cent. The rest are semi-skilled. Of this workforce abroad, more than 80 per cent are in the Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

According to State Bank of Pakistan, of the USD 1745 million received in September 2019 as workers remittances, a whopping USD 885 million is from Saudi Arabia and UAE along. Other GCC countries (Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman) add over USD 162 million in September 2019.

Other countries from where Pakistan received substantial remittances in September 2019 would include the US (281 million), UK (264 million) and Malaysia (121 million). EU countries put together contributed USD 53 million during the same period, with Germany (10 million), Italy (11 million) and Spain (13 million). Figures in USD.

 

Pakistan’s automobile industry in trouble

According to a Dawn report, around 40,000 people have been laid off by 400 plus auto parts makers across Pakistan.

During the Apr-June 2019, there has been a 40 per cent drop in auto sales, leading to a mini-crisis in the auto industry. This, in turn, had hit the auto part makers, who form the supply chains to the auto industry. Unless the auto sale picks up, the industry is likely to reel under pressure, making auto-parts industry as collateral.

There has also been a decline in imports in the auto sector amounting to USD 261 million in the first quarter of this financial year.

The primary reason for the above decline is due to the fall in the auto sale within Pakistan. According to Dawn, the auto sales fell by 39 per cent to 31,017 units in the first quarter of the 2020 financial year. The truck and bus sales, during the first quarter, dropped to 874 and 196 units from 2,049 and 267 units respectively. Honda and Suzuki bike sales during the same period declined by 12 and 11 per cent respectively.

 

INDIA AND PAKISTAN

LoC becomes hot, again

Pakistan claims to have destroyed two Indian bunkers, killing nine Indian soldiers

During the week, Pakistan complained of Indian troops engaged in an unprovoked, indiscriminate and ruthless shelling across the Line of Control, killing a Pakistani soldier and injuring nine civilians on Sunday (20 October 2019)

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, Director General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), was quoted to have stated destroying two bunkers on the Indian side, besides, killing nine Indian soldiers. According to his tweet, “Indian COAS’ statement claiming destruction of 3 alleged camps in AJK is disappointing as he holds a very responsible appointment. There are no camps let alone targeting those. Indian Embassy in Pakistan is welcome to take any foreign diplomat/media to ‘prove’ it on ground. The propensity of false claims by senior Indian military leadership, especially since Pulwama incident, is detrimental to peace in the region. Such false claims by Indian Army are being made to suit vested domestic interests. This is against professional military ethos.” (Dawn, 21 October 2019)

On the Indian side, Gen Bipan Rawat, the Chief of Army Staff was quoted to have stated that the Indian troops hit three terrorist launch pads along the Line of Control (LoC) in Tangdhar and Keran sectors. According to Gen Rawat, this attack was in response to prevent any further infiltration from the Gurez, Tangdhar, Uri and Macchil sectors. He was quoted: “… before they attempt infiltration, it was decided that we target the terrorist camps across. We had definitive information. We had the coordinates of where these camps have emerged.”

 

The military arranges for a visit of 23 diplomats to the LoC to showcase Indian shelling

A delegation of 23 diplomats, according to media reports in Pakistan, was taken to the Line of Control on the Pakistani occupied Kashmir side to show the “targets and the damage caused by Indian shelling.” The visit also included representatives from local and foreign media representatives, was aimed at exposing the “fallacy of Indian claims”.

The media reports do not specify the missions from where the delegates joined. However, it underlines about the invitation to the Indian High Commission. Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor was quoted to have complained against the Indian High Commission for staying away from the trip. “What good Indian High Commission is which can’t stand with its Army Chief? Indian High Commission staff didn’t have the moral courage to accompany fellow diplomats in Pakistan to LoC.”

The Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing was quoted to have said: “Daily life has been disturbed. I did not see any terror camp.” (Dawn, 23 October 2019)

 

ISPR press release on an offensive against the Indian Army Chief; says he has turned the “Indian Army into a rogue force”

A recent press release (dated 25 October, No PR-187/2019-ISPR) goes on an offensive against the Indian Army Chief.

According to the release: “Indian COAS repeatedly provoking war through irresponsible statements endangering regional peace for electioneering of political masters. From fake surgical strike to date his only success has been to turn Indian Army into a rogue force and getting them killed. Indian Army Chief’s statements coupled with blood of innocents on hand, losses to Indian forces at the hands of Pakistan Armed Forces, heli crashes due to so called tech fault cum fratricide just to become Indian CDS is actually at the cost of professional military ethos.”

 

Pakistan signs the Kartarpur Corridor agreement with India

On the positive side, India and Pakistan reached an agreement on Sikh pilgrimage to Pakistan.

Pakistan signed the Kartarpur Corridor agreement with India linking two shrines in India (Dera Baba Nanak) and Pakistan (Darbar Sahib) across the international border between the two countries. Darbar Sahib is situated four km away from the international border inside Pakistan.

According to a Pakistani foreign office note, “under the agreement, India will provide a list of pilgrims 10 days before their visits so that they could be properly received.”

The Sikh pilgrims are expected to carry their passports and would be charged USD 20. However, the pilgrims would not need a visa to visit the Darbar Sahib.

 

OTHER NEWS

Imran Khan inaugurates a CPEC powerplant in Balochistan

On Monday (22 October 2019), Imran Khan inaugurated a new powerplant – China Hub in Balochistan. The power plant will be fired with coal from the Thar and is expected to produce 1320 MW of electricity. Imran Khan also mentioned that since the power plant will use coal, the electricity produced by the plant will be cheaper. Also, according to the Prime Minister, 7000 Pakistanis are engaged with the powerplant.

With a cost of USD 1912 million, the project is led by the China Power Hub Generation Company (Private) Limited. The groundbreaking ceremony for the project was held on March 2017 and became commercial in August 2019.

According to available reports, the CPHGC is a joint venture between Pakistan based Hub Power Company (74 per cent) and China Power International Holding (26 per cent). The coal to be used in the power plant is expected to be imported either from South Africa or Indonesia to a tune of 4.1 MT every year.

 

More than 700 terror finance cases are nearing conviction, says the government

The pressure from the FATF seems to be working.

Hammad Azhar, the Minis¬ter for Economic Affairs, on Wednesday announced that more than 700 terror financing cases that were initiated six months earlier are nearing conviction. He also stated that the cases are now with an independent judiciary, hinting that it is now with the latter.

There was a predominant expectation early this month, that Pakistan would be removed from the grey list by the FATF. While the FATF did not move Pakistan into blacklist, the former also did not remove the latter from the list altogether. Instead, the FATF has given some more time for Pakistan to take decisive action.

Insufficient action against terror financing has been one of the main problem areas for the FATF to consider Pakistan’s case. Though the minister alluded to prosecution and conviction as the domain of the courts, there is a serious issue with the prosecution and also the capacity of the investigating agencies. Foolproof legal provisions to prosecute have been another issue. Without adequate legal mechanisms, the investigating agencies would find it difficult to build a case; and without a proper investigation, the courts will find it difficult to convict.

Pakistan will have to take adequate measures not only legally but also build capacity amongst the investigation agencies to build a case. The minister was also quoted stating on another important issue: “We are working on improving further inter-agency coordination to improve compliance.”

 

Pakistan This Week is a compilation of the PR Daily Briefs published by the author

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