Daily Briefs

Photo : The News

13 May 2020, Wednesday, Vol 1, No 13

Pakistan bans three more, raising the proscribed organizations to 76; but the problem remains

Government assures the Opposition on not scrapping the 18th amendment; Tribal feuds are a major hurdle to develop Balochistan, says the former Prime Minister

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Pakistan bans three more, raising the proscribed organizations to 76; but the problem remains
On 12 May, newspapers in Pakistan reported that three organizations from Sindh - Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz-Aresar Group (JSQM-A), Sindhu Desh Revolution Army (SRA) and Sindhu Desh Liberation Army (SLA) were newly included into the list of proscribed organizations by the government of Pakistan.

Since 2001, Pakistan has been holding a list, in which it kept adding names that were considered as engaged in unlawful activities. Last year, in May 2019, eleven groups were added to the list; seven of them had links with the JuD, and the rest with FIF and JeM. ("11 groups banned for having links with JuD, others, Dawn, 12 May 2019, https://www.dawn.com/news/1481728). Earlier in 2019, the Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) were banned.

The sectarian organizations such as the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Sipah-i-Mohammad Pakistan tops this list, followed by militant ones from Balochistan. Some of the leading organizations fighting in J&K such as the LeT and JeM are also in the list. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was added in 2008.

However, the problem is the practice. Though these organizations are banned legally, most of them remain active and operate in the public. In 2015, the then interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was reported to have announced that in Punjab alone, there were 95 organizations that were active. ("95 banned groups active in Punjab," Dawn, 15 January 2015, https://www.dawn.com/news/1157108). The reason was simple. Some parties find them useful and politically expedient. Dawn quoted a source: "all these militant outfits have been present in Punjab for quite some time, but instead of acting against them, the PML-N preferred to cohabitate with them."

So does the Deep State, for external reasons in Afghanistan and India.

Many of these groups are active online. In 2017, an investigation carried out by Dawn, details the list of groups that are active in the social media. According to the report, "while some of the Facebook pages and groups claim to be 'official' representatives of the outfits, others appear to be managed by members and supporters in ideological agreement." ("Banned outfits in Pakistan operate openly on Facebook," Dawn, 14 September 2017, https://www.dawn.com/news/1335561)

The bigger problem is the investigation and judicial trial. The recent  (April 2020) change in sentencing Omar Saeed Sheikh and the release of others in the case of killing of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal in 2002 would highlight the problem in Pakistan. ("Pakistani Court Overturns Murder Conviction in Killing of Wall Street Journal Reporter Daniel Pearl," The Wall Street Journal, 2 April 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pakistani-court-overturns-murder-conviction-in-killing-ofwall-street-journal-reporter-11585805394?cx_testId=3&cx_testVariant=cx_2&cx_artPos=3#cxrecs_s). The Pearls parents are continuing their fight demanding justice.

Another problem is the transparency. Last month, the Wall Street Journal also reported on Pakistan removing around 1800 names from the list of 7600, who were a part of the proscribed persons list maintained by Pakistan's National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA). On what basis did the government decide to cut the names drastically has been questioned by many. ("Pakistan Removes Thousands of Names From Terrorist Watch List," The Wall Street Journal, 20 April 2020, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pakistan-removes-thousands-of-names-from-terrorist-watch-list-11587393001)

Equally important issue is related to criminal justice system. A few days earlier, the Islamabad High Court made a scathing attack on the subject; the Chief Justice Athar Minallah was quoted to have stated it as "a reflection of the apathy, neglect and mis-governance of the past seven decades and no organ of the state can absolve itself from being responsible." (Unequal Justice, Dawn, 7 May 2020, https://www.dawn.com/news/1555181/unequal-justice). In another instance, the same Court also questioned on investigation training and the code of criminal procedure. ("IHC seeks explanation over delay in enforcing 2002 police reforms in capital," Dawn, 9 May 2020, https://www.dawn.com/news/1555709)

Finally, the real problem is the cosmetic nature of the government's attempts. In 2001, when the government started the proscribed list, there was so much pressure from the US, after the 9/11. During the recent years, the FATF discussions and the threat of Grey List weighs heavily within Pakistan to be seen as taking actions against the groups.

Why is the State reluctant to take actions against all the militant groups that it has proscribed? It is another discussion.

In Focus 
By Lakshmi V Menon & Abigail Miriam Fernandez

Government assures the Opposition on not scrapping the 18th amendment
On 12 May, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi assured the Senate and the Opposition that the federal government will not scrap the 18th Constitutional amendment and pointed out that PTI did not enjoy two-thirds majority to do so unilaterally. He said the amendment's 'positive' features were acceptable to the Centre but the 'weak' parts required revisiting. 

Earlier, the Information Minister Mr. Faraz spoke of the need for "unanimity and implementation" between provinces (Sindh) and Centre to tackle the pandemic and said the 18th amendment obstructed the formation of such a uniform policy and limited the Centre's role to issuing policy guidelines. Pakistan had been mired in debates regarding the scrapping of the 18th amendment ever since. 

The Opposition fears that any alteration to the amendment would lead to the dwindling of provincial autonomy on various facets the NFC allows. The current debate is a result of the discrepancies between provinces and the Centre regarding the Covid-19 lockdown; in particular with Sindh. It is a PTI-PPP strife. The Opposition believes that the Centre would tamper with the amendment to purposely reduce provincial autonomy that has won PPP political mileage.

The 18th amendment, passed by the National Assembly in 2010, converted Pakistan from a semi-presidential state to a parliamentary republic. It enhanced provincial autonomy and dissolved the President's power to unilaterally declare emergency in any province. (Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556720/no-plan-to-scrap-18th-amendment-fm-qureshi-assures-senate)

An editorial criticizes the National Assembly session as a waste of time, money and an opportunity
An editorial in the Express Tribune is critical of the National Assembly that went into a three-day session on 11 May to hold a debate on how the government should respond to the coronavirus pandemic and deliberate on a plan of action to combat the issue. However, nothing fruitful came out of the three-hour discussion of the government's coronavirus policy.

The house witnessed nothing but political attacks and counter-attacks as usual, with speeches full of allegations and counter-allegations, each blaming the other.
Further, the meeting also entailed debates between senior members and newbies. The Opposition targeted the federal government's incompetence of handling a serious crisis and further highlighted the discord between the Centre and provinces.

The editorial points out that as the assembly session continues, the members should make the most of this opportunity and become fully involved in a serious debate to address the issue at stake. (The Express Tribune, https://tribune.com.pk/story/2220059/6-na-session/)

In Brief 
By A Padmashree & P Harini Sha

379 overseas Pakistanis test positive for Coronavirus
Around 300 plus repatriated Pakistani nationals from various countries were tested positive of Coronavirus. Around 4,300 overseas Pakistanis returned home through the special flights between 29 April and 8 May were tested and quarantined. Majority of them returned from Dubai are carrying Coronavirus. 760 test results of Pakistanis arrived from Dubai on 10 May are still awaited. (Dawn https://www.dawn.com/news/1556718/379-repatriated-pakistanis-test-positive-for-virus )

Relaxing the restrictions is a "dangerous gamble": Analysis  
Zahid Hussain, a senior journalist argues in his column in Dawn that the sight of multitudes rushing in market places and roads frightens while the curve of Coronavirus continues to rise rapidly. It highlights that the federal leadership has relaxed restriction without a proper lockdown at least for two months and denied the seriousness of this crisis. Moreover, he expresses it worrisome over the tensions between Sindh and center as well as the blame game in the National Assembly as political anarchy and policy disarray threatening the country. (Dawn https://www.dawn.com/news/1556767/a-dangerous-gamble )

Tribal feuds are a major hurdle to develop Balochistan, says the former Prime Minister
The Prime Minister in a tribal jirga stated that the tribal groups were creating a burden on the economic development of Balochistan. He stated that "All Baloch tribes should shun their differences and unite for strengthening brotherhood and harmony, instead of indulging in tribal disputes". (Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556724/ex-pm-jamali-calls-for-end-to-tribal-feuds) 

Bilawal Bhutto wants an apology from Qureshi on latter's remarks on PPP and Sindh
The Foreign Minister was quoted to have said that Sindh belonged to both the parties and his government will progress in Sindh. He also stated that "This is not the PPP of the past, which was a symbol of the federation. Today, I sense the roots of provincialism in the party". In response, the chairman condemned saying that he was blamed when his party tried to make a move towards Sindh. An upset Bilawal responded and asked for Qureshi's resignation: "I want the [foreign] minister to take back his words. If he can’t take it back, then resign. Such statements are damaging the federation" (Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556727/bilawal-blasts-qureshi-over-anti-ppp-remarks)

Car sales drop to zero in April 2020
Last month turned out to be the worst for the auto sector as car production and sales were at zero. Although there were few register sales of some heavy vehicles and two/three-wheeler vehicles, production of the same remained nil due to the suspension of production and trading activities by the government because of the Coronavirus. (Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556738/zero-car-sales-in-april)

Sharp fall of industrial output in March 
The large-scale manufacturing (LSM) output during March reduced drastically by 22.95 per cent due to industries shutting down amid the lockdown. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics released data to show the impact of the global economic slowdown on the local manufacturers in March. With the lockdown being partially lifted these industries could resume their operations to fulfill international orders. (Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556736/industry-output-falls-sharply-in-march)

30 per cent decline in debt servicing
Data released by the State Bank of Pakistan showed that external debt servicing in the third quarter of the current fiscal year dropped by 30 per cent. Pakistan has paid 2.728 billion dollars in external debt servicing during this quarter. This debt servicing costs will continue to further stress the country's foreign exchange reserves despite a sharp decline in the current account deficit. (Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556735/debt-servicing-declines-to-272bn)

Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan calls on Army Chief
The Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan called the Chief of Army Staff to discuss mutual interest in regional security and issues of COVID 19 in the region. According to the ISPR release, "During the meeting matters of mutual interest including regional security issues and COVID-19 were discussed. COAS expressed gratitude for China's support related to immediate medical supplies and all other assistance including visit of Chinese medical experts to help Pakistan fight the pandemic. Visiting dignitary also re-assured China's continued support for Pakistan at all forums." (ISPR https://www.ispr.gov.pk/press-release-detail.php?id=5718 )  

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