Daily Briefs

Photo : The New York Times

14 May 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No 14

Violence in Afghanistan and the Media in Pakistan

Pakistan decides to build the Diamer-Bhasha dam with a Chinese firm

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Violence in Afghanistan and the Media in Pakistan
On Tuesday (12 May), a group of militants stormed a maternity clinic in Kabul run by the Doctors without Borders; an indiscriminate firing continued, leading to the killing of mothers who have just given birth, just born babies and pregnant mothers, besides the health workers. The immediate count was 16 plus; it should have increased subsequently. More than 18 babies will now grow without their mothers and would have never seen their mothers face.

The same day, in Nangarhar, a funeral was targeted by a suicide bomb, that killed more than 20. How did the print media in Pakistan respond to these attacks in Afghanistan?

The News, in its editorial, (Carnage in Afghanistan, The News, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/658273-carnage-in-afghanistan) was hoping that the US was looking at the visuals, in which mothers were seen hugging to protect their babies, even they have to sacrifice their lives. It said: "two previous attacks in Kabul, one only a few hours before the hospital siege and another series of coordinated bomb blasts in Kabul on Monday have been claimed by the IS. Allegations surfacing on social media suggest these were facilitated by the Taliban." The editorial hinted that those behind the deal with the Taliban should take up the responsibility and step up. It said, "Some kind of action is needed. Some kind of responsibility has to be attached."

The Nation, in its editorial, focussed on the lack of any significant improvement in Kabul vis-à-vis the law and order situation. It commented: "What's obvious is that the Taliban do not respect the present government. Nor has the US succeeded so far in convincing the Taliban to accept the current government as a legitimate stakeholder in the future political setup." (Acts of Cowardice, https://nation.com.pk/E-Paper/islamabad/2020-05-14/page-6/detail-2)

Dawn, commenting on "strong clues" linking the Islamic State for the Kabul attack, appeared to blame the environment. It concluded: "as the government and the Taliban square off, IS and others of their ilk will take advantage of the chaos and continue to perpetuate their business of death and destruction." (Shocking Target, Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556974/shocking-target)

An analysis in the Express Tribune attempted to fix the blame on the IS and trying to delink the Taliban. The reasoning is "Kabul is not a Taliban stronghold. The area where the hospital was attacked is a predominantly Shia community." ( Stakeholders of violence in Afghanistan, The Express Tribune, https://tribune.com.pk/story/2220712/6-stakeholders-violence-afghanistan/). Hence, the Taliban could not have carried out these attacks.

Perhaps, the Taliban did not; but the above logic is flawed. Is Kabul not a Taliban stronghold? And have the Taliban not attacked the Shias earlier? When did this history in Afghanistan begin?

Why is a section within Pakistan wants to absolve the Taliban? The above analysis provides an answer. "ISIS is vital to furthering Indian agenda in Afghanistan…even if the US withdrawal becomes unavoidable because ISIS would be important shock troops for India after Ghani becomes history. And this week's attacks are a strong testament to their value as shock troops."

Absolving the Taliban from violence in Afghanistan, and linking it with India has become new storytelling in Pakistan. First, this section creates such stories for the others; and then, it starts believing in it.

What happened in Kabul was horrific. Going after the babies is going after the future of a nation. Let us condemn it unanimously, irrevocably and without any reservations.

In Focus 
Lakshmi V Menon

Pakistan decides to build the Diamer-Bhasha dam with a Chinese firm
On 13 May, Pakistan's government signed a joint-venture contract for the Diamer-Bhasha dam's construction with the Chinese state-run China Power and Frontier Works Organization (a commercial arm of Pakistan's Armed Forces) worth Rs442 billion; wherein the latter owns 30 per cent of the consortium's shares and China Power owns 70 per cent. It includes the construction of the main dam, an access bridge, diversion system, and the 21MW Tangir hydropower project. Meanwhile, PM Imran Khan was informed that the project was ready for construction and retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa, SAPM on Information and Broadcasting, called it "historic news".

The Diamer-Bhasha dam will be the tallest roller compact concrete (RCC) dam world over with the eight million-acre feet (MAF) reservoir with 272-meter height. The dam, with a usable water storage capacity of 6.4 MAF, will serve as the primary storage dam of Pakistan, besides Tarbela and Mangla dams, and will help alleviate flood losses, acute irrigation shortage in Indus basin irrigation system, will improve the availability of clean energy and water, and have trickle-down economic effects such as job creation and development.

The Wapda chairman said the project that has a total financial outlay of Rs1406.5 billion would be completed in 2028. The outlay covers confidence-building measures amongst locals, land acquisition and resettlement, construction of powerhouses and dams. Construction will commence shortly. 

During the ceremony, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing, Water Resources Minister Faisal Vawda, Pakistan Army engineer-in-chief Lt Gen Moazzam Ejaz and Water Resources Secretary Mohammad Ashraf were in attendance.


In Brief
By Abigail Miriam Fernandez

Sindh reports 2,255 cases in 24 hours, seals malls and markets
On 13 May, the police sealed all major markets, retail stores, and malls in Sindh as shopkeepers and civilians failed to follow the SOPs put in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus. 2,255 cases were reported in 24 hours, of which 92 per cent were local transmissions and 8 per cent imported cases. This rise in numbers has caused the authorities to take necessary action despite the easing the lockdown. (The News International, https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/658534-2-255-cases-reported-in-24-hours-sindh-seals-malls-markets)

Pakistan and Iran resume trade
Trade activities have resumed between Pakistan and Iran after two more trade crossings were reopened in Taftan. About 17 trawlers containing food and LPG tankers from Iran arrived in Pakistan through the transit. All import of edible commodities began after the reopening of Zero Point Gate in Taftan. These trade entries were initially closed due to the coronavirus outbreak in Iran but later were extended as the pandemic spread to Pakistan as well. (Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556969/trade-resumes-with-iran-after-zero-point-opens-in-taftan)

Textile exports drop to an all-time low
The textile and clothing exports dropped by 64.5 per cent in April the lowest level in almost 17 years. Data released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics shows that this decline has been caused due to cancellations and shipment delays as a result of the coronavirus. Exports decline substantially in March due to the pandemic, especially to Europe and North America, further, due to border restrictions export to Iran and Afghanistan were also impossible. (Dawn, https://www.dawn.com/news/1556944/textile-exports-plunge-to-17-year-low)

Power sector faces massive revenue hit
The power sector has gone to face a revenue hit of over 300 billion rupees due to circular debt amid the pandemic. The revenue hit has been caused due to the drop in electricity sale during the lockdown, freezing of power tariffs, and delay in payments of bills. Further, the hit came with the government having deferring of electricity prices until June 2020 due to fuel price and quarterly adjustments to provide relief to the consumers. Following the hit to revenue, the government is trying to arrange commercial financing from banks. (The Express Tribune, https://tribune.com.pk/story/2220947/2-power-sector-takes-rs300b-revenue-hit/)

Mall Owners appeal to the government
An appeal was made in the Dawn Newspaper by mall owners stating that the collapse of the mall and retail industry requires immediate attention from the government. The appeal entailed the importance of this industry to the economy of Pakistan as well as the impact of the lockdown and SOPs on malls especially. Further, the appealing that malls be given an equal opportunity open up for business. (Dawn, https://epaper.dawn.com/Advt.php?StoryImage=14_05_2020_001_007)

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