Daily Briefs

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16 May 2020, Saturday, Vol 1, No.16

Imran says Pakistan will have to learn to live with the virus

The National Accountability Bureau gets ready with new cases against the Sharifs; Pervez Hoodbhoy on Science, Religion and COVID-19 in Pakistan

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
By Lakshmi V Menon & Abigail Miriam Fernandez

Nation will have to learn to live with the virus: PM Imran Khan 
At a press briefing on 15 May, Imran Khan stated that the country could not afford an indefinite lockdown and the nation would have to learn to live with the pandemic. He also added that it was necessary to lift the lockdown in order to employ the 25 million people who had lost jobs due to lockdown. He also stated that the government would start another cash distribution program, an eight billion dollars stimulus package from 18 May for those daily wage earners who had lost their jobs because of the lockdown.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health stated that Pakistan would soon start the production of antiviral Remdesivir which has shown promising results in treating Covid-19 and made it mandatory for people to wear masks in public places. However, the recent statements and initiatives by the PM seem shortsighted as the decisions made seem hasty and a clear message on the threat of the virus is still missing. ("PM urges nation to learn to live with pandemic," Dawn, 16 May 29020) 

The threat of the coronavirus does not seem to faze the public, many resumed to commercial activities as usual with the lockdown being lifted. SOPs put in place were violated as people crammed the streets taking little or no precautionary measures at all. As a result, provincial governments were forced to take action by shutting down shopping centers despite repeated warnings by the authorities.  ("Violating SOPs," Dawn, 16 May 2020)

The National Accountability Bureau gets ready with new cases against the Sharifs
NAB Lahore has prepared a fresh corruption reference involving 7 billion rupees against Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz regarding assets beyond means, expansion of their Jati Umra residence by "illegally acquiring" hectares of land in Raiwind, money laundering and the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. The reference sent to NAB chairman for approval, identifies Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz as prime suspects and 16 other Sharif family members, including Sharif brothers' mother Shamim Begum, as suspects and has "100 prosecution witnesses and four approvers" (against the Sharif family). 

Also, the NAB Lahore has prepared a reference against Jang Group Editor-in-Chief Mir Shakilur Rehman, Nawaz Sharif and two others in the 54-kanal land case, that were sent to the chairman are likely to be approved next week.

In November 2019, Nawaz Sharif had secured bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills and Al-Azizia Mills corruption case, for which he was serving a seven-year sentence; and Maryam Nawaz secured bail in the Chaudhry Sugar Mills case. Ever since, Nawaz has been in London for medical treatment. Shahbaz Sharif has also received a summons from NAB. ("NAB prepares another case against Sharifs, Maryam", Dawn, 16 May 2020)

Pervez Hoodbhoy on Science, Religion and COVID-19 in Pakistan
The science-religion-coronavirus nexus will prove costly for Pakistan's Covid-19 battle. Hoodbhoy presents four major arguments in his analysis in Dawn. ("Some take science seriously", Dawn, 16 May 2020)

First, he says while China has "flattened the curve" and is repositioning itself as a global leader battling the pandemic, Donald Trump's US and Imran Khan's Pakistan are scorning science, rebuking epidemiologists and surrendering to religious forces; thus, jeopardizing the lives of millions of Americans and Pakistanis. Trump and Imran raise significant questions regarding the priorities and approach of the leadership and the people in tackling the pandemic.

Second, Hoodbhoy blames Pakistan's Faith-Unity-Discipline national slogan. Imran reverentially listening to Maulana Tariq Jamil seeking forgiveness for scantily clad women who brought down the 'divine punishment' of the virus and the Sunni and Shia ulema warning about the shutting of shrines and mosques followed by President Arif Alvi's namesake '20 conditions' paint bleak images. 

Third, he criticizes the PTI government for not-prioritizing education, calls for a revamp of the education system to promote enlightenment, induce rational outlook and make Pakistan more governance. Last, he criticizes the lack of scientific thinking and disregard to social distancing, epidemiology and virology for the surge in infection and deaths. He points out that even as coronavirus deaths are spiraling, unmasked and ungloved people are crowding the markets. 

In Brief
By A Padmashree & P Harini Sha

An analysis explains Pakistan's COVID-19 strategy in six points
An analysis in Dawn by Fahd Hussain, looks at Pakistan's strategies towards fighting the COVID. It explains the same in six points: "January – May 2020 story tells us the following about Pakistan: one, we dithered. Two, we took corona lightly. Three, we wasted at least February and two weeks of March. Four, the federal government provided weak leadership. Five, we could not do the lockdown that was needed at the time it was needed. Six, we politicized a public health issue. The opinion article on Dawn assesses the steps taken by the federal government since January 2020 in fighting against COVID-19 and positions Pakistan in between the success and failure countries. He emphasizes the need for the leadership to learn from the countries who won the first round and not to compare the losses with failed leaders in containing the virus. ("Vaccine for success," Dawn, 16 May 2020)

SBP announces the policy rate cut to 8 per cent again in two months
The State Bank of Pakistan announced that it is reducing the policy rate by 100 basis points to 8 per cent which is the fourth cut by the bank within two months. This decision reflects the Monetary Policy Committee's view on inflation which will fall closer to the lower end due to a recent cut in domestic fuel prices. SBP also added that inflation could fall further than expected if economic activity fails to pick up as expected in the next fiscal year. ("Economic slowdown due to lockdown can't be prevented: State Bank," The News International, 16 May 2020) 

Najam Sethi says public sentiment has turned against Imran Khan
Najam Sethi, one of the most influential analysts in Pakistan argues that when there is a need for the leader at state circumstances, the PM has been inept, thereby irking public reactions against him. 

According to Sethi, "public sentiment has turned against Imran Khan who has been shown up as an incompetent, blundering partner, exactly when state circumstances require a political leader of substance. The Miltablishment is being blamed for this mess. Ominously, Imran, too, is inclined to spread his wings from time to time. The problem is that it is in the nature of the office of a popularly elected or popularly selected prime minister to demand a degree of autonomy from the powerful Miltablishment which is loath to surrender it."

He concludes his analysis titled "Nature of the Problem" that "we may expect the Miltablishment to watch and wait until such issues have been resolved. Or until a popular storm is kicked up exogenously on any big issue and a scapegoat is required in the national interest".("Nature of Problem," The Friday Times, 15 May 2020)

Punjab to reopen transport and shopping malls from next week.
The Punjab government further relaxes the lockdown from 18 May and permitted to reopen public transports, shopping malls, and automobile production units while reporting 11 deaths and 353 new Coronavirus cases in 24 hours. The production units will function seven days a week and the showrooms will be allowed for four days a week under SOPs, said the Punjab Industries and Trade Minister. ("Punjab permits opening of malls, public transport from May 18," The Express Tribune, 16 May 2020")

"Punjab and KP agrees to open the public transport, while Sindh refuses to do so"
Governments of Punjab and KP have decided to allow the functioning of public transport to benefit the common and laborers after the request from the Prime Minister. But the Sindh Transport minister has said that due to fear of virus spread in the province and announced that it will not relax the ban. ("Punjab, KP decide to conditionally lift the ban on public transport", Dawn, 16 May 2020)

China on the Diamer-Bhasha Dam
At a press conference on 15 May, Foreign Ministry spokesperson from China responded to questions from CCTV, Xinhua and other media housed on various global developments. The spokesperson also commented to APP question on Pakistan's move on commending China's decisive and timely measures to combat the novel coronavirus under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and appreciating its valuable especially during the pandemic. 

Further, question raised by PTI on the Diamer-Bhasha dam project and the recent comment by India's Minister of External Affairs to which the spokesperson said "China's position on the Kashmir issue is consistent. The economic cooperation between China and Pakistan aims to boost local economic growth and improve people's livelihoods for the benefit of all." ("Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian's Regular Press Conference on May 15, 2020," Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People's Republic of China, 15 May 2020)

India is the revisionist power in Kashmir, argues an analysis in The Friday Times
An analysis in the Friday Times by Ejaz Haider claims India to be a revisionist power in Kashmir, while Pakistan is a status quo power.

According to Haider, "Pakistan has no designs on India. But Kashmir is not a part of India. It is an internationally-recognised dispute, a fact India denies blatantly in contradiction to  UN Security Council resolutions as well as bilateral arrangements. Additionally, and separate from the disputes, Pakistan is a status quo power because it checks India’s desire to project power in South, West, and Southern Asia."

Second, "while India is a revisionist power in its desire to project power, it is an irredentist power in relation to the Kashmir dispute that relates, centrally, to ascertaining Kashmiris’ right to self-determination."

Finally, he concludes, "India is not only a revisionist state, to the extent of Kashmir, as it existed on the eve of August 14, 1947, it is also an irredentist state." ("India's irredentism on Kashmir", The Friday Times,15 May 2020)

Also read on India and J&K
Editorial, "Let Kashmir breathe," Dawn, 16 May 2020

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