Daily Briefs

Photo : ISPR

17 June 2020, Wednesday, Vol 1, No.50

Three Military Chiefs meet the ISI Chief for a regional briefing:

Three Military Chiefs meet the ISI Chief for a regional briefing;responses to the Punjab budget; COVID developments; the case of two Indian High Commission staffers with a local accident

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

Three Military Chiefs meet the ISI Chief for a regional briefing:
What did they discuss?

On Tuesday (16 June 2020), in a rare development, the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) General Nadeem Raza, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Admiral Zafar Mehmood Abbasi and Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan visited the ISI headquarters.

According to an ISPR brief, a "comprehensive briefing was given to military leadership on the regional security issues." The special focus, according to the release, was the situation in LoC and J&K.

Why would the three Chiefs along with the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC) meet now? What "regional security issue" they would have discussed? Since there is no available information in the public domain, one could only make a reasonable guess.

The meeting comes in the background of the American efforts to bring the Afghan leadership and the Taliban to the negotiation table in Doha. US Special Envoy Khalilzad visited Islamabad to have a one-to-one meeting with Gen Bajwa early this month. Following the meeting, Gen Bajwa, along with Lieutenant General Faiz Hamid, the Director-General of the ISI visited Kabul to meet with Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. For Pakistan, both are important regional security developments – the intra-Afghan dialogue, and Af-Pak dialogue.

The meeting also comes in the background of increased anxiety within Pakistan about India's actions within J&K. Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi (Pakistan's foreign minister) have repeatedly been talking about Modi's refusal to talk to Pakistan, oppressive measures in J&K, and a false flag operation by India to divert the global opinion on J&K.

The meeting also comes in the background of India becoming the UNSC non-permanent member. Though Qureshi made statements that the heavens would not fall if India becomes so, there has been a palpitation within Pakistan.

But, the most important discussion yesterday should have been what is happening along the India-China and India-Nepal borders, especially the former. One could get a sense from the editorials and statements in Pakistan media during the recent weeks about India-China border confrontation. It was seen as an unwanted provocation, bullying and playing into the US hands. A section within Pakistan would even want the two sides to clash, and may even see it as an opening. On the India-Nepal border differences, the projection was of India as a regional villain, having problems with all its neighbours.

The most important question that New Delhi has to ask is how Pakistan would respond, if the border clashes with China become more intense? If the LAC becomes unstable for India, how would Pakistan want the LoC to be?

Perhaps India should do a quick gaming exercise on the above question.


Image Source: Dawn


In Focus

Punjab's economy will depend on the federal government success in achieving its tax target: Editorial
An editorial in the Dawn title "Punjab Budget," comments on the significant proposals in Punjab's budget for the fiscal year 2020-21. The budget proposes to do a much better job in dealing with the pandemic, the economy, and business. Further, the budget is looking at offering substantial incentives for the construction industry, tax exemptions to private investors interested, and community development work for generating employment. The purpose of these measures is to amplify the provincial economy and create more employment. However, much will depend on the federal government reaching its tax target and thereafter transfer to the provinces their divisible tax pool which is indicated in the federal budget. ("Punjab budget," Dawn, 17 June 2020)

Punjab's budget a mixed bag of bad and good: Editorial
An editorial in the News International stated that Punjab's budget for 2020-21 is a mixed bag of bad and good news. Although highlighting the significant proposals made by the provincial government, the editorial said that the disappointing news is the production sector in Punjab, which is the backbone of the province has been allocated only 17 billion rupees, further, another cause of concern is the allocation of only 9 billion rupees for the forest department and 13 billion rupees to the livestock sector, again two very important sectors of Punjab economy. The editorial concludes by stating that one only hopes that the Punjab government will manage its economy and finances better than the federal government. ("Punjab budget," The News International, 17 June 2020)

Punjab budget is only for Lodhran, DG Khan and Mianwali: PLM-N
While addressing a joint press conference, the General Secretary PML-N Punjab and spokesperson stated that the Punjab budget is only for Lodhran, DG Khan and Mianwali. They added that the 'Imrania empire' and 'Buzdari government' have ignored Lahorites, further stating that the PTI government could not continue the ongoing development projects. Criticising the PTI government, the PLM-N leaders claimed that the former has not allocated and done enough when it comes to the development projects, destroyed the biggest project of forests in South Punjab, failed to provide cotton seeds to farmers drive and has now reduced education budget among others. ("Budget is only for Lodhran, DG Khan, Mianwali: PML-N," The News International, 17 June 2020)

In Brief

111 COVID-19 deaths in 24 hours
On 16 June, the country resisted 111 deaths in a single day with confirmed cases rising to 4445. Several areas in major cities across the country, including Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, underwent a complete lockdown after this news was reported. With the staggering rise in the spread of the virus, the local administration has asked the residents to save essential commodities for daily use during the next 48 hours due to the complete lockdown being imposed. Meanwhile, in line with the NCOC directions, the federal government has decided to impose lockdown in 20 cities across the country. ("Corona kills 111 more in one day," The News International, 17 June 2020)

A 15-day extension of lockdown in Balochistan
On 16 June, the Department on Home and Tribal Affairs issued a notice stating that the smart lockdown will be extended in the province for another 15 days. The Smart Lockdown is to continue till 30 June in Quetta and other parts of the province. Further, the notice stated that all Standard operating procedures (SOPs) and resections that were announced earlier for allowing business activities and resuming all kinds of transport would, however, remain in force. This notice comes after the National Coordination and Operation Centre had included Quetta in the list of 20 cities identified as potential Covid-19 hotspots. (Saleem Shahid "Lockdown extended for 15 days in Balochistan," Dawn, 17 June 2020)

Justice Isa case: SC's proposal
On 16 June, the Supreme Court proposed the consideration of exhausting tax remedies for the non-declaration of three offshore properties by Judge Isa's wife as a way out to the federal government; sending a clear message regarding the collapse of the presidential reference on the grounds of legal defects. SC said if the wife provided satisfactory answers to FBR's questions, the reference could be concluded. The federal government's representative, Minister-turned-lawyer Dr Farogh Nasim sought a day's time to respond to the proposal. ("SC suggests way out to govt in Justice Isa case", Dawn, 17 June 2020)

PM's visits Sindh after three months
On 16 June, Prime Minister Imran Khan visited Sindh after over three months. As per the PM's Office, the visit will encompass meetings with allies, leaders of PTI and leading businessmen and a stopover at Larkana's Ehsaas Centre. The PM also held a meeting with Sindh Assembly's Opposition Leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi, Aftab Siddiqi, Haleem Adil Sheikh and Karachi's other PTI leaders. Minister for Privatisation Muhammadmian Soomro, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi, SAPM on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety Sania Nishtar and SAPM on Information and Broadcasting retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa has accompanied the PM. ("PM's first visit to Karachi in three months," Dawn, 17 June 2020)

200 military court convictions set aside by Peshawar High Court 
PHC set aside 200 convictions of suspected militants or terrorists by military courts, ordering relevant authorities to free them if not needed in other cases. PHC issued a short order for suspects' release. They were mostly sentenced to death or given various prison terms, including life sentence. However, the bench suspended the hearing of over 100 petitions as the Ministry of Defence had not produced relevant records. ("PHC sets aside 200 convictions by military courts," Dawn, 17 June 2020)

Unemployment will reach 6.65m in 2020-21
As per the federal government's annual plan 2020-21, Pakistan has the world's ninth-largest labour force, but unemployment would surge to 6.65 million in FY 2020-21, compared to the previous fiscal year's 5.8 million. Jobless graduates are increasing due to the mismatch between imparted education and societal/economic needs. The plan sees a generation of productive, decent, remunerative employment as a necessity. Skill development for opening new and wider avenues for youth employment is also on the agenda. ("Number of jobless people to reach 6.65m in 2020-21," Dawn, 17 June 2020)

The task of preparing Pakistan's federal budget is quite a complicated one: Opinion
An opinion in the News International titled "Reading the budget," by Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri stated that the task of preparing Pakistan's federal budget is quite a complicated one, especially in Pakistan since the needs always outrun resources. He analysis the needs side with four Ds: debt servicing, defence, day to day administration and development, and the resources side having federal revenues and borrowing. Further, he states that the budget this year has an additional factor, COVID-19. The impact of the pandemic has left the policymakers terming the 2020-21 budget as one concerned more with "survival". He believes that in the next 12 months, Pakistan will have to deal with four Ls along with the four Ds. These are lives, livelihoods, lockdown, and locusts.

Further, he comments on the external part of the resource side becomes important, highlights the role of the IMF. However, the government is unlikely to reach the demands of the IMF; thus they may have to rely on more borrowing from both domestic and external sources. He states that even though the situation may seem grim, it is extremely important that the government expands, rather than contracts. The author concluded stating that this however does not require a massive policy shift as the country has been financing the four Ds through borrowing for decades, what is required now is only some more borrowing to finance the four Ls. (Dr. Abid Qaiyum Suleri, "Reading the budget," The News International, 17 June 2020)

On Pakistan Budget 2020, also read...
Budget without a plan,” Dawn, 14 June 2020
Budget 2020-21,” The News International, 13 June 2020
Mubarak Zeb Khan, “Budget 2020-21: Finance bill shows all relief, no clear revenue plan,” Dawn, 13 June 2020
Farhan Bokhari, “Future without vision?,” The  News International, 17 June 2020
Senator A Rehman Malik, “Covid-19 friendly, public unfriendly budget 20-21,” The  News International, 17 June 2020
A rolling budget?,” The Express Tribune, 13 June 2020
Hasaan Khawar, “Homeopathic budget,” The Express Tribune, 16 June 2020

The accident in Islamabad should be handled with care: Editorial
An editorial in the Dawn titled "Islamabad accident," expresses concern over the recent episode of the accident in Islamabad where two Indian High Commission staffers, stating that the matter should be handled maturely and calmly. The editorial states that given the frosty tensions between the two countries, this matter must be properly investigated and should not be blown up out of proportion and that the Indian media should refrain from throwing accusations that can further cause tensions to rise. Further, the editorial says that despite a massive gap in the trust deficit between both capitals, well-established diplomats from both sides should handle the situation through official channels instead of engaging in media trials, to defuse the matter calmly. ("Islamabad accident," Dawn, 17 June 2020)

Pakistan FO accuses two Indian HC officials of committing "serious offences"
The Foreign Office released a statement accusing two Indian High Commission employees (Dwimu Brahma and Selvadas Paul) of involvement in a hit-and-run accident and possessing fake currency worth Rs10,000. The FO, calling them "serious offences", said the Indian High Commission was reminded that "illegal actions and reckless conduct" by the two employees was "against the law and established diplomatic norms". India's MEA labelled the measures undertaken by police after the incident as "forcible abduction" and accused Pakistan of detaining them "in illegal custody for more than 10 hours". ("Two Indian HC employees committed serious offences: FO," Dawn, 17 June 2020)

FM Mahmood Qureishi must clarify UNSC remarks: "AJK" PM
"AJK" Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider said Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's statement that "heavens will not fall if India becomes Security Council member is highly incautious." Previously, the FM said it was a concern for Kashmiris as India has rejected various UN resolutions on Kashmir, but not for Pakistan as the nation had also served the position several times in the past. ("AJK PM asks Qureshi to clarify his UNSC remarks," Dawn, 17 June 2020)

A Joint political committee formed to deal with the Kashmir dispute
The Foreign Minister has announced a plan to form a political committee as a joint initiative to put forward the issues that hinder national interests, particularly for the Kashmir dispute. The government has opened doors for other parties in Pakistan including PML-N, PPP, JUI (F), and Awami National Party to join the committee. So far Pakistan completely disagrees with India's position in Kashmir and the minister also said that at the international level, the discussion of Kashmir issue happens only two times in a year even after pressure from its leader. This committee is seen as a way to project their unified movement for Kashmir. (Javaid-ur-Rahman, "Political body being formed for Kashmir dispute: FM," The Nation, 17 June 2020)

The editorial in Express Tribune brings out the challenges of India in the border dispute
Foreign Minister Qureshi recently tweeted that India was less focused on the border dispute while taking care of the poor. The editorial has said that Prime Minister Modi's government is starting to lose in the border issues, especially with China. This states that this way of ceding the land might not be good for the country and Pakistan's growing ties with China must also be noted by India as any fight with Pakistan will also bring confrontations. The article ends by saying that India is in a difficult position as it cannot fight with two countries simultaneously. ("Modi's war hysteria," The Express Tribune, 17 June 2020)


"The statement attributed to Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that heavens will not fall if India becomes Security Council member is highly incautious...Kashmiris do not want to see India even as a non-permanent member of a world body resolutions of which it has blatantly violated and disregarded over the past seven decades, let alone as permanent member [of the UNSC].”"

- Raja Farooq Haider, Prime Minister of "AJK" (Dawn)


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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