Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

15 July 2020, Wednesday, Vol 1, No.78

On Af-Pak Transit Trade

Militant attack in Balochistan, Khawaja Asif defending his earlier statement on the minorities in Pakistan, and the crisis in the Aviation sector

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus

On Af-Pak Transit Trade
The decision to resume trade via the Wagah border will reinforce Islamabad's political and economic ties with Kabul: Editorial
An editorial in the Dawn titled "Transit Trade" states that the decision to restore the transit trade facility for Afghan exports to India through the Wagah border should go a long way in reinforcing Islamabad's political and economic ties with Kabul. Further, the editorial states that this resumption will also help strife-ridden Afghanistan to immediately boost its exports to India and support its economy. Pakistan had restricted bilateral trade with Afghanistan while completely stopping the transportation of Afghan goods to India through Wagah under the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (2010) in March amid the pandemic, drawing criticism from both the Afghan administration and traders who had to airlift their cargo at a much higher cost or use the longer sea route to ship their goods to India. Further, the editorial comments on the APTTA and India stating that India being the regional economic powerhouse must mend its regional disputes so that the region can reach its true economic potential. ("Transit trade," Dawn, 15 July 2020)

Opposition asks why PTI chose the "Martyrs' Day" to re-start trade with India
On 14 July speaking at the National Assembly, PML-N parliamentary leader Khawaja Muhammad Asif called for the disclosure of terms and conditions of the re-opening of bilateral trade with India through Wagah border. Mr Asif also asked why the federal government chose 13 July, Kashmir's Martyrs' Day, to announce the re-starting of bilateral trade. ("Opposition seeks Wagah border reopening details," The News International, 15 July 2020)

Af-Pak Transit Trade Agreement needs a revamp, says SCCI president
During a meeting on 14 July, Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) president Maqsood Anwar demanded the review of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APT­TA) signed in 2011 and urged the Afghani and Pakistani governments to enable bilateral trade by revising duties, rationalizing tariffs and eliminating complicated policies and regulations. Afghan Consul General in Pe­shawar Najeebullah Ahmadzai was also in attendance. ("Pak, Afghan traders demand to review Transit Trade Agreement," The Nation, 15 July 2020)

In Brief

After the attack in Waziristan, there is another attack, this time in Balochistan. Three soldiers killed in Panjgur
On 14 July, three soldiers were killed, and eight others were left injured in a terrorist attack on security forces in Panjgur district of Balochistan. According to a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the terrorists opened fire on a patrolling party of security personnel.  (Behram Baloch, "Three soldiers martyred in Panjgur attack," Dawn, 15 July 2020). The attack in Balochistan comes two days after an attack in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan tribal district. On 12 July, four soldiers were killed. 

The rot in Pakistan's aviation industry is deep and extends far beyond the national flag carrier: Editorial 
An editorial in Dawn titled "Aviation crisis" is critical of the aviation industry stating that the rot in Pakistan's aviation industry is deep and extends far beyond the national flag carrier. The editorial supports this claim by highlighting the recent development of the FIA which has registered a case at its Corporate Crime Circle, Karachi, against the private airline Shaheen Air International following an inquiry which was initiated by the Civil Aviation Authority alleging that the airline had caused a loss of over Rs1bn to the national exchequer. Further, the issue of 'dubious' licences proves the lack of fiscal and operational discipline within the aviation industry as a whole. Further, the editorial concludes by stating that the investigation will only be successful if those involved in corrupt practices at the CAA must be unearthed, adding that the festering problems in the aviation industry need a root-and-branch overhaul. ("Aviation crisis," Dawn, 15 July 2020)

PML-N leader has to defend his remarks on the minorities
Khawaja Mohammad Asif, Pakistan's former foreign and defence minister, had to defend his statement in the Parliament, as there was widespread opposition to what he has stated earlier on its floor. On 14 July, PML-N's parliamentary leader in the National Assembly defended his previous remarks about minorities' rights. He explained that his comments were "in accordance with the Quaid-i-Azam's vision and the rights granted to minorities by the Constitution". 

Dawn quoted him, stating: "If minorities don't feel safe in Pakistan, then it is a matter of shame for us. It is our responsibility to protect their places of worship...Pakistan was a tolerant society until the 1970s, but "it was after the 1980s that extremism crippled our thinking [...] fault lines have been created which can be damaging for the country." Dawn also said that the Minister for Human Rights has promised to pursue action against those who are behind the social media campaign targetting the non-Muslim communities. ("PML-N leader defends his NA remarks on minorities," Dawn, 15 July 2020.

PTI workers are unhappy with Bahawalpur move
Intra-PTI strife is visible over the formation of South Punjab Secretariat in Bahawalpur. Many office-bearers are displeased with PTI's decision to shift the secretariat to Bahawalpur from Multan. PTI office-bearers have been putting up banners demanding the leadership establish the Secretariat in Multan, in the centre of Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan divisions. Ijaz Janjua, PTI's former founder district president voice out the discontent amongst the party workers. ("Cracks in PTI ranks over setting up South Punjab secretariat in Bahawalpur," The News International, 15 July 2020)

SC allows action against sugar mills 
On 14 July, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed of Pakistan's Supreme Court vacated the 23 June stay order passed by the Sindh High Court which had suspended an Inquiry Commission report's operation to 12 sugar mills. The court said that all works should the investigation and actions must be transparent and said the public's interest cannot be ignored. ("SC vacates SHC stay order, allows action against sugar mills," The News International, 15 July 2020)

Government set to implement WTO provision of single window system for trade
The government is ready to comply with the World Trade Organisation provisions to implement Pakistan Single Window (PSW) to streamline the cross-border movement of goods and regulatory bottlenecks. For the purpose, the government has set the deadline as 2022 by which the whole system will be implemented at the cost of $67 million. This implementation is said to not only improve the ease of doing business but also enhance controls through integrated risk management. Further, the PSW programme includes phased establishment of an ICT-based platform involving simplification, harmonization, and automation of regulatory process related to cross-border trade. It also includes implementation of a port community system to facilitate related logistics. The PSW Bill 2020 has already been introduced in the Parliament. Its operation will commence soon after the approval of the bill. (Mubarak Zeb Khan, "Pakistan set to implement single window system for trade," Dawn, 15 July 2020)

Iran drops India from Chabahar rail project
On 14 July, Iran dropped India from the Chabahar rail project citing concerns over delays and funding. The project entailed the construction of a rail line from Chabahar Port to Zahedan along the Iran-Afghan border. The Iranian Railways stated that construction will now proceed without India's assistance, using approximately $400 million from its own National Development Fund. The development came amid Iran finalized a 25-year strategic partnership deal with China worth $400 billion and with tensions being high between New Delhi and Beijing after the recent border standoff between the two countries. Iran and India had signed the agreement to construct a rail line from Chabahar Port to Zahedan in 2016. Originally, this project was to be undertaken by the Iranian Railways and the Indian Railways Construction Ltd and was to be a key component of the trilateral agreement between Iran, India and Afghanistan. ("India kicked out of Chabahar rail project," The Express Tribune, 15 July 2020)

The decision to turn Hagia Sophia into a mosque reflects the rise of religious nationalism: Two Opinions
An opinion in the Dawn titled "New status of Hagia Sophia" by Zahid Hussain is critical of the decision made by Turkey to turn Hagia Sophia museum into a mosque stating that this is the most telling sign of the rolling back of Turkey's secular character and a reflection of the rise of religious nationalism in the country. Hussain states that the rise of the Islamists led by Erdogan is changing the country's political landscape, further stating that this decision reflects the increasing instrumentalization of religion to solidify a populist support base. Further, Hussain concluded by drawing attention to religious conflicts that are have been weaponized by strong nationalist forces to assert their political brand. This he warns is a dangerous proposition as appeals to religion invariably create an opening for a more strident nationalism. (Zahid Hussain, "New status of Hagia Sophia," Dawn, 15 July 2020)

Another opinion in the Dawn titled "Two steps back" by Mahir Ali also critical of the decision states that Turkey's move to alter the status of Hagia Sophia was unnecessary. Further, Ali draws a parallel between the government of Pakistan's apparent second thoughts about the Krishna Mandir in Islamabad and Sudan, another Islamic country that recently announced the removal of law against apostasy, abolish public flogging, and implement previously announced measures against female genital mutilation, questioning if this is a possibility in Pakistan. The author concludes by stating that unlike Sudan who has is on the path to making change, Turkey and Pakistan seem to remain determined to keep marching in the opposite direction. (Mahir Ali, "Two steps back," Dawn, 15 July 2020)


"If minorities don’t feel safe in Pakistan, then it is a matter of shame for us. It is our responsibility to protect their places of worship"

-  Khawaja Asif in Parliament. His statement was criticized heavily in the social media (Dawn)

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