Daily Briefs

Photo : The Express Tribune

4 March 2020, Wednesday 

Pakistan wants Afghanistan to show flexibility in dealing with the Taliban

Cabinet rejects Health Ministry’s appeal to declare health emergency on Coronavirus; Islamabad writes to UK for Nawaz Sharif repatriation

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Post deal, Pakistan wants Afghanistan to show flexibility in dealing with the Taliban; Afghanistan wants Taliban to break ties with Pakistan

D. Suba Chandran

What happened?
Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister was quoted to have stated on 3 March 2020: “President Ghani should show magnanimity in the larger national interest and Taliban should also show flexibility.” (The Express Tribune, 4 March 2020) Elsewhere inside Afghanistan, the News quoted Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan saying, “If the Taliban have set release of their prisoners as a condition for intra-Afghan talks, we also have conditions; they should tell me when are they going to leave [break ties with] Pakistan.”

What is the background?
After the signing of a deal between the US and Taliban, both Pakistan and Afghanistan have been making statements and counter statements, that would have an impact not only on the deal, but also on the bilateral relations between the two countries.

Immediately after the deal was signed, Qureshi wanted the US to prevent any spoilers from affecting the deal that the latter had signed with the Taliban in Doha. Qureshi also wanted to name and shame those actors who would act against the deal.

Immediately after the deal was signed, the Taliban announced the resumption of violence. On 2 March 2020, Taliban resumed violence, with a deadly attack in Khost. Its spokesman, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted to have said: “The reduction in violence... has ended now and our operations will continue as normal.” (Dawn, 3 March 2020). His interpretation of the deal is: “As per the (US-Taliban) agreement, our Mujahideen will not attack foreign forces but our operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces.”

Ghani refused to release the Taliban prisoners. Zabihullah Mujahid, linked the release with intra-Afghan dialogue. He said: “We are fully ready for the intra-Afghan talks, but we are waiting for the release of our 5,000 prisoners…If our 5,000 prisoners — 100 or 200 more or less does not matter — do not get released there will be no intra-Afghan talks.” (Dawn, 3 March 2020).

What does this mean?
The deal between US and the Taliban has started breaking. Pakistan wants the deal to hold, and the Afghan government to honor the US commitments towards the Taliban as a part of the deal. Afghanistan would want the Taliban not to engage in any violence. 

In Brief...

Coronavirus: Cabinet rejects Health Ministry’s appeal to declare health emergency
Lakshmi V Menon 

On March 4 2020, The Express Tribune reported that the Cabinet meeting convened on March 3 (chaired by PM Imran Khan), decided to reject the Health Ministry’s appeal to declare a health emergency in light of the novel coronavirus. 
Post the meeting, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting told Tribune that the federal cabinet urged strengthening of inter-provincial coordination to heighten awareness regarding coronavirus. She added that Dr. Zafar Mirza, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Services confirmed a total of five coronavirus cases across Pakistan and listed control measures undertaken such as screening of immigrants and equipment purchases while increasing role of provinces.
Federal Cabinet recommended more efficient screening and documentation of travelers. 
Additionally, PM Imran Khan discussed corporal punishments awarded to children, the economic performance of his team and issued directives for the energy sector.


Islamabad writes to UK for Nawaz Sharif repatriation
Abigail Mirian Fernandez
The government has written a letter to the UK authorities for repatriation of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif who has alleged violated the eight-week bail by staying in London claiming be undergoing medical treatment for the past three-and-a-half months.

At a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan on 3 March 2020, the federal cabinet was informed about the recent developments. According to the Dawn, the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan at a post-cabinet meeting press conference stated that “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has written a letter to UK authorities so that Mr Prisoner [Nawaz Sharif] returns to the country.”(Dawn, 4 February 2020)

Since there exist no agreement between Pakistan and the United Kingdom on repatriation of wanted people, the situation may become longer if the UK authorities initiate a legal action against Sharif and he moves courts there. Further, Dr Awan stated that a medical board formed by the Punjab government on the directives of the Islamabad High Court, has given a green signal to allow Sharif to leave the country for medical treatment.

Withdrawals increase with soaring cash demands 
Lakshmi V Menon 
As per the Express Tribune (March 4 2020), Dr. Reza Baqir, Governor of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said that “People are withdrawing money from banks and they do not want to come in the tax net” at the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting, held on March 3. He chose to maintain the confidentiality of the persons and institutions funneling foreign money into Pakistan.
The Parliament demanded reasons for the escalating interest rates and swelling foreign money from Baqir. He explained that levying tax on bank transactions also led to increase in demand for cash; thus, increasing printing costs. Baqir also spoke of exchange rate policies, inflation and hot foreign money.

According to Central Bank data, in comparison to 2019 there has been a 47 percent increase of cash in circulation in 2020. As of February 21 2020, the value is standing at Rs524 billion (form Rs167 billion in 2019). The total money in circulation in FY2019 was only Rs562 billion. In FY2020, with a mere 2.5 million persons and institutions filing tax returns, income tax base has experienced a 12 percent reduction.


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