Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

11 June 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No.42

On Centre-State differences and the future of federalism and democracy

IA Rehman on the centre-state difference within Pakistan; media responses to Gen Bajwa's Kabul visit; nature of economy at the end of 2020; loans from ADB and Paris Club, and COVID related developments.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
Pakistan’s future lies in having more of democracy and more of federalism

An analysis in the Dawn titled “Provinces vs centre” by I.A. Rehman highlights the importance of federalism and democracy over a centralised structure. (I.A. Rehman, “Provinces vs centre,” Dawn, 11 June 2020) Bringing out the discord that exists between the centre and the provinces and the ongoing debate on whether the provinces are subordinate to the federation has been a matter of concern for the future of the federation and also the integrity of the state. In particular to the COVID-19 situation, Rehman recalls the decision of the Supreme Court reiterating that provinces are to follow the federation directions, a colonial legacy of centralised rule. More recently, the discord between the centre and province has been evident in the measure adopted to address the COVID-19 situation, the centre and province seem to competing with each other rather than cooperating, the partisan approach taken up has only diluted the seriousness of the matter at stake. Further, meddling of the centre through federally controlled company and institutions has caused a further wedge in the functioning of the federal structure.

Critical of the high demand for a centralised state structure through Pakistan’s history, Rehman states that this has been the greatest tragedy for Pakistan as it has hindered the country from becoming a proper federation. The main problem has been the centre’s treatment of the provinces as its subordinate entities, ruled by centrally appointed officials, the concept of the federation was negated. It was only with the 18th substantial step was taken to give the provinces their due power. However, the process of empowering the federating units has a long way to go.

Underlining the importance decentralisation and transfer of power from the centre to the provinces for Pakistan, he stated that the provincial assemblies created Pakistan and are not the creatures of the federation. Thus, by giving the provinces their dues the federation would become a smart polity, its non-productive expenditure will come down, the feeling of alienation among communities and nationalities constituting the provinces would die out and Pakistan could become stronger and be at more at peace. He concluded with a word of caution stating that any attempt to return to an over-centralised state structure will be the shortest route to suicide, Pakistan’s future lies in having more of democracy and more of federalism.

Also read:
Hassan Hakeem, “Hybrid federalism,” The News International, 11 June 2020
I.A. Rehman, “Playing with fire,” Dawn, 7 May 2020

Pakistan's economy will end the same in 2020 as it began
Khurram Husain’s analysis predicts that Pakistan’s FY2020 would end the way it began with an ongoing IMF dialogue and a massive fiscal deficit. PTI’s wins on the fiscal side, such as the shrinking fiscal deficit and rising foreign exchange reserves, were erased rapidly by the pandemic. PM Imran Khan talked of reviving the growth rate in November 2019, despite the transitions required to align with the IMF. However, while FY2019’s projected growth rate of 3.29 per cent dwindled to 1.9 per cent (as per National Accounts Committee), FY2020 is currently recording a negative 0.38 per cent owing to the lockdowns in March and April. Growth, as Husain puts it, is “a distant dream”.

Husain says only another year of intense financial adjustments such as hamstrung expenditures and high taxes will restore Pakistan’s fiscal balance. This could however take longer as the highly proliferous pandemic persists. Husain argues that businesses and industries were already weary with adjustments for the IMF. The highly anticipated meeting of key businessmen with the Army Chief not materializing and the continuation of the arrangements detrimentally affected the purses and morale of the businessmen. Although provisions or special packages were decided as a relief, in the current scenario, they may have to endure an additional year of intense adjustments.

Khurram concludes saying the federal government would have to practice a “delicate balancing act” amid the mounting uncertainties and shrinking economy, as FY2021 commences.

The Center’s finance advisor will be presenting the Economic survey for the outgoing FY2019. (“Analysis: FY2020: from adjustment to lockdown,” Dawn, 11 June 2020)


Image Source: Dawn

In Brief

Pakistan wants to look beyond the health lens of WHO
The WHO has asked for countries with a rapid rise in COVID-19 patients to go for a two-week lockdown to flatten the curve. So far, there have been 6,343 cases and 101 deaths in the last 24 hours in Pakistan. The ministry officials have stated that the country being the sixth largest country with a population falling under low-income category mostly, but they have taken necessary SOP measures to control the virus and also to think about the state of the people in poverty. It has denied the imposing of the lockdown again as per WHO's will result in more chaos to Pakistan’s poor sector. (Ikram Junaidi, "PM’s aide downplaysdire WHO warning," Dawn,11 June 2020)

Response to the WHO’s advice seems doubtful: Editorials
An Editorial in the Dawn titled “WHO advice” is critical of the government response to the recent WHO recommendation for Pakistan. With the government still sending out mixed messages, and a high rate of SOP violations as the COVID-19 situation in the country becomes worse, it is doubtful that the government will take the WHO’s advice seriously. Another editorial in the News International titled “WHO warning” states that only time will tell if the government takes this advice into account. Further, adding that rather than protecting the people the government has taken measures that have put people at risk. (“WHO advice,” Dawn, 11 June 2020) (“WHO warning,” The News International, 11 June 2020)

Four deaths reported every hour
Four deaths have been reported every hour along with the per million fatality rates being fairly high. The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) stated that 23799 COVID-19 tests have been conducted in the last 24 hours. This situation is becoming worse in the country with the nationwide coronavirus cases jumping to over 117200 while death toll touches to over 2300 with 101 new deaths and 6365 new cases being reported in a day across the country. (“Corona killing four an hour in Pakistan,” The News International, 11 June 2020)

Most of FATF conditions have been met
On 10 July, the Minister for Interior stated that Pakistan has met most of the conditions if the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). At a meeting with PM Imran Khan, the minister presented a report on the performance of his ministry and its various departments in the last 20 months, listing the ministry’s achievements, including implementing the majority of the FATF requirements. Although there were challenges the ministry was able to deliver the majority of the requirements of the FATF and taking some kinetic and non-kinetic measures including legislative amendments. Pakistan was placed in the FATF grey list in 2018 on the ground that the country failed to take measures against terror financing. A 15-month time frame was given to implement its 27-point action plan. (Rizwan Shehzad, “Pakistan meets major FATF conditions: Shah,” The Express Tribune, 11 June 2020)

IHC Chief Justice will take up the petition of the Sugar Inquiry Commission report
The commission’s report has accused the family of PTI leader for misuse of public money and mass stocking leading to an increase in the price of the commodity. The petition states that “misconception as regards the law, accounting norms, and facts as well as the basic principle of demand and supply that determine the price.” To counter, the petitioners have asked to not consider this report and requested directions from the court to detain the individuals from filing further cases. (Malik Asad, “Sugar barons challenge inquiry commission report,” Dawn, 11 June 2020)

A blast in Miramshah kills two soldiers
The Officials have reported that in the area of Tapai, where the army’s bomb disposal squad were on watch. A remote-controlled device had caused an explosion killing two army personnel and four others were said to be injured. Currently, security forces are inspecting the case. (“Two security men martyred in blast near Miramshah,” Dawn, 11 June 2020)

COAS visit to Kabul
An editorial in the Dawn looks into the recent visit of General Bajwa to Kabul, where he met with both President Ashraf Ghani as well as Abdullah Abdullah. Given that the ongoing peace process is in Afghanistan with both regional and global efforts, the editorial claims that recent visit is to view from this perspective. The editorial also looks into the military-led initiative and its role in the matter. The editorial concludes by stating that the government as well as the Taliban must take the lead in brokering a lasting peace, and regional states, including Pakistan, must facilitate the process. (“COAS Kabul visit,” Dawn, 11 June 2020)

Sindh not Islamabad’s colony: Murad Ali Shah
While addressing a press conference the Chief Minister of Sindh stated that the federal government’s decision to carry out its development work through the Sindh Infrastructure Development Company Limited (SIDCL) is unacceptable. Further, stating that Sindh is not Islamabad’s colony. Shah said that Sindh has not been given any new scheme in the next Public Sector Development Programme 2020-21 except two energy schemes. Further, he expressed his objection to the SIDCL and why such companies have not been formed in other provinces where the federal government was investing massively, reiterated that Sindh was not a colony of Islamabad where development was being done through a federally controlled company. (“Sindh is not Islamabad’s colony: Murad Ali Shah,” The News International, 11 June 2020)

Sindh Government issues warning to suspend public transport
Amid the repeated violations of the standard operating procedures (SOPs), the Sindh Transport and Mass Transit Department has warned the suspension of intra-city public transport in the province days after restrictions were lifted. Sindh Transport and Mass Transit Minister has stated that the department had received hundreds of complaints about violations of the SOPs for public transport, further adding that these violations could pose a great risk in the spread of the virus. Further, the minister stated that violates are not fazed by the penalties and that there was no cooperation from the traffic police as well. (“Sindh govt warns to suspend public transport amid SOPs violations,” The Express Tribune, 11 June 2020)

ADB approves 500-million-dollar loan to Pakistan
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a 500-million-dollar loan to Pakistan for social protection, health, and fiscal stimulus for growth and job creation. The loan would assist social protection programmes to the poor and vulnerable, expand health sector capabilities, and deliver a pro-poor fiscal stimulus to boost growth and create jobs amid the pandemic. The loan will be funded through the Covid-19 pandemic response option (CPRO) under ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility. (“ADB okays $500m loan to Pakistan,” Dawn, 11 June 2020)

Pakistan auto industry faces slump
The auto industry in Pakistan has started back its operations. Although the output is unlike April, the sales are in a slump for May. As per the Automotive Manufacturers Association data, the production of heavy vehicles has not started yet but in regards to the four-wheeler and two-wheeler vehicles, the sales have declined drastically. (Aamir Shafaat Khan, “May auto data paints bleak picture,” Dawn, 11 June 2020)

The Paris club grants debt relief to Pakistan
In the G20 countries, Pakistan has been one of the poorest countries to receive debt relief as part of a measure to deal with the pandemic. It has been given by the Paris club which is a set of creditors coordinated by the finance ministry of France. The total debt relief of 1.1 billion euros has been waived off for 12 countries which includes Pakistan. (“Pakistan secures debt relief from Paris Club,” Dawn, 11 June 2020)


"From a local standpoint, it seems odd that the Kabul sojourn was a military-led initiative, with the ISI chief accompanying the army chief, and the newly appointed special envoy for Afghanistan serving as a token civilian representative. Legitimate questions arise about whether the elected government is disinterested in the Afghanistan file, or if it is being told to stay away"

- Dawn editorial on Gen Bajwa's meeting with the Afghan President in Kabul


In Focus and In Brief sections are prepared by Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, A Padmashree and P Harini Sha.


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