Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

17 August 2020, Monday, Vol 1, No.108

The Federation and Sindh come together on Karachi, thanks to the Establishment

Recent developments relating to Karachi, where the stakeholders have come together cutting across party lines; and the number of ordinances that the PTI government passed, instead of legislations.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
The Federation and Sindh come together on Karachi, thanks to the Establishment

Center and Sindh join forces to Save Karachi
On 16 August, the federal government and Sindh’s provincial government formed a committee comprising members of the PTI, PPP and MQM to address Sindh’s capital Karachi’s civic issues. The committee convened a meeting in Islamabad on Sunday, to discuss Karachi’s challenges and problems in light of the recent rains and pledged to work together for their resolution. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Information Minister Nasir Hussain Shah, Education Minister Saeed Ghani, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, Federal Minister Asad Umar and NDMA Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal were in attendance. (“Saving Karachi: Centre, Sindh agree to join hands,” The News International, 17 August 2020.

According to Dawn, "Intervention from the highest level of the establishment over the issue of Karachi has yielded positive results as the city’s three stakeholders — Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — have agreed to take joint measures for the betterment of the country’s commercial capital." ("PPP, MQM, PTI to work for Karachi uplift after prodding," Dawn, 17 August 2020)

Reactions in Favour
Sindh’s spokesperson, Murtaza Wahab, said “the committee will see that development work is carried out smoothly in the city and remove obstacles in this regard." Sindh’s CM claimed that PPP's Sindh government was always ready to work together with others for the betterment of the province. Nasir Hussain welcomed the three-party approach, boasted that Sindh had made record progress under PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s leadership claiming that Bhutto had started development projects worth "billions of rupees”, unseen in any other province. "The alliance of the three parties will not please the enemies of Karachi,” he added. Federal Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Aminul Haque sounded positive that pending issues such as road infrastructure, the K-IV water project, cleanliness of drains, lifting of daily garbage and local governments would be resolved. PTI Karachi President and MPA Khurram Sherzaman called it another opportunity provided by the federal government to the PPP’s provincial government to resolve Karachi’s issues.

GDA spokesperson Sardar Abdul Rahim called it an attempt by the Centre and Province to open a united front against the Supreme Court that had scolded both parties. Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam Sindh’s Secretary-General Maulana Khalid Mehmood Soomro alleged the handing over of Karachi to the Federation under the mask of Sindhi Ajrak, and called it a conspiracy that would compromise Sindh’s autonomy and integrity. Shahab Usto in his article “Karachi sans master plan” criticises Karachi’s lack of a master plan for development, absence of a comprehensive and united regulatory system, insufficient and underdeveloped infrastructure and gerrymandering of Karachi’s boundaries by large corporate and institutional builders. He blames elitist land policy for making Karachi “an odious object of a rapacious scramble by corrupt politicians, corporate interests, powerful institutions, compromised administrators, collusive regulators and politico-ethnic mafias.”

Karachi’s political affiliation
In 2018’s general elections, major shifts were observed after decades of usual ‘traditional’ results. From Karachi, PTI emerged as the leading party, PPP tasted defeat in Lyari, its stronghold, MQM suffered its worst-ever defeat and Pak Sarzameen Party’s electoral launch became a disaster. The elections also paved way for new enterants such as Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan which scored two provincial assembly seats.With the pandemic situation and Sindh CM Murad Shah’s emergence as the torchbearer for Pakistan’s battle against Covid-19, PPP was gaining political mileage across the country. The SC verdict was a dent to their new-found support. The new committee can be appraised in both ways – as another opportunity to resolve the province’s issues or as a blow to their increasing popularity. (“Election results bring surprises for all contesting parties,” Dawn, 27 July 2018)

Recently, reports that the Center was considering several legal and constitutional options for Karachi due to Sindh’s failure have been doing the rounds. These were said to be opposed by Sindh’s PPP government. Previously, on 12 August, the Supreme Court had handed over the cleaning of Karachi’s storm water drains to NDMA, citing Sindh government’s incapability to execute the same. The three-judge bench led by CJP Gulzar Ahmed also directed Sindh’s PPP government to extend complete support to NDMA and ensure resettlement of affected people. The SC called it the provincial government’s “failure” and further ordered the Centre to resolve the city’s power problems. (“Irked by Sindh govt’s performance, SC hands over cleaning of all Karachi drains to NDMA,” Dawn, 13 August 2020) (“NDMA, not Sindh govt, to clean Karachi drains: Supreme Court,” The Express Tribune, 13 August 2020)


The Opposition protesting against the government, for bulldozing 11 bills in 30 minutes. (Image Source: Dawn)

In August 2018, the PTI government completes two years. Last year, it has governed more through ordinances, than legislations. Why?
During the second year of its governance, the PTI during the last one year (Aug 2019-Aug 2020), had more Ordinances, than formal legislation discussed through the Parliament.
Rule by Ordinances than Parliamentary Legislations
According to a news report in Dawn: “The official data shows that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led coalition government mostly depended on promulgation of ordinances for doing legislation and issued a total of 31 ordinances as compared to seven during the last parliamentary year, despite severe criticism by opposition parties.” (“Ordinances outnumber laws passed by National Assembly,” Dawn, 17 August 2020)
Dawn also mentions in the above report, that out of the ordinances issued during the last one year, there were two important ones. The first one, seeking an amendment to the National Accountability Ordinance 1999, and the second one on ICJ (Review and Reconsideration) Ordinance 2020 relating to Kulbhushan Jadhav.
During the recent period, the NAB Ordinance has become a controversial one. Not only the main Opposition parties – the PML-N and the PPP are against the partisan manner in which the NAB is functioning, but even the judiciary. The Supreme Court made a few scathing remarks about the functioning of the NAB. (“Supreme Court bench slams NAB for its 'double standards',” Dawn, 23 October 2018). More recently, the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court had accused the NAB of attempting to blackmail the judges. (“IHC CJ accuses NAB of blackmailing judges,” Dawn, 18 March 2020)
The second one, on Kulbhushan Jadhav, the Opposition has been blaming the government for yielding to the Indian pressure. The government, on the other hand, has been convincing that the same was necessary to adhere to the ICJ requirements.
The Big Picture: Undermining the Parliament and the Discussions in the National Assembly
Why is the government taking the Ordinance route, and not the discussions in the National Assembly leading to proper legislations with the sanction of the Parliament? Even when it introduced in the Parliament, it gave no time or space for any discussion.
For example, last week, on 13 August, the government passed 11 Presidential Ordinances in 30 minutes in the Parliament! (“PTI bulldozes 11 ordinances through NA,” Dawn, 14 August 2020)
Perhaps the lack of majority in the Senate is an issue for the PTI government. However, the PTI did succeed in getting the FATF bills passed in the Senate, with the Opposition parties supporting the government.
So, why would the PTI government not want to engage the Parliament?

 (Image Source: Dawn)

In Brief
Minister Fawad Chaudhry says, there is infighting within the PML-N over leadership
Fawad Chaudhry, Minister of federal Science and Technology said, there is an internal fight is going between the PML-N Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz for the party leadership. He also said, “Maryam will be able to do active politics only if Shahbaz Sharif is removed as president”. When asked about the role of PML-Q, he highlighted that the leadership of PML-Q leader Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was in alliance with the PTI only because the Q-League saw “some benefit for itself”. (“Fawad sees infighting in PML-N over leadership”, Dawn, 17 August 2020)

"Making Digital Pakistan work: An opinion suggests five points"
According to the analysis, the digital economy of any country is based on five pillars: connectivity, digital identity, digital lifestyle, digital commerce, and digital policies and Pakistan should adopt the mantra ‘broadband-for-all’.

First, Connectivity, which encompasses the pricing of handset and data usage, speed and coverage. The content generation for the people should be more in the local language, gender-focused, and should also encourage usage in the country. As per the Network Readiness Index, Pakistan ranks 98th out of 121 countries. Second, the Digital identity, as per the analysis, ‘regional countries have surpassed Pakistan in this front’. The nation needs to develop ‘Pakistan Stacks’ which will allow each citizen to have their own electronic locker, with the CNIC number, their birth certificate, educational degrees, and subsequent medical records available electronically.

Third, the digital lifestyle, with the advent of Covid-19, affected both the conventional and the digital economy. For the first time, Pakistan has tabulated the number of hospital beds. Fourth, the Digital commerce is generated through a tax on SIM card, a tax on its activation, value-added tax on additional services, a handset tax, usage tax and customs duties on the import of handphones. The analysis highlights, ‘Pakistan fail the UN affordability measure of the total cost of mobile ownership (one GB of data costing less than 2pc of monthly income for the low-income community)’. And suggests an alternate, stating “the phones should be manufactured in Pakistan with which the data package by telecommunication companies should locks in the customer for 12 months and provides the phone for free. This will entail in the immediate penetration of smartphones at the bottom of the pyramid”.

Fifth, digital policies, as per the Ministry of Information and Technology and Digital Pakistan initiative reveals, well-articulated ambitions and policies but differs from any progress made until now in the country. (“How to make Digital Pakistan work”, Dawn, 17 August 2020)
Improve the fiscal-monetary coordination to kickstart the economy
An analysis made by Mohidduin Aazim says that controlling inflation is difficult. It talks about how the prices for food items like wheat flour, sugar, vegetable ghee, eggs and fresh loose milk have shot up over the years. It is not restricted to food prices alone. Non-food items like fuel has also shown a rising trend. One of the reasons stated by the author for this problem is the unusual expansion of currency in circulation (CiC). Another reason is that the federal government’s 2018-19 net borrowing of Rs 3.16 trillion from the State Bank of Pakistan had a lagged impact on CiC in the following year. In 2019-20, the rupee witnessed 5 per cent depreciation after Pakistan borrowed foreign funds from friendly states, local and foreign commercial banks as well as entered the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme. However, if the stability of the exchange rate is shaken currently amidst growing concerns about Pakistan’s ability to sustain its gains in external account fundamentals, then it too shall keep the inflation high.

Mr Aazim suggests the PTI government to improve the fiscal-monetary coordination to boost the economy. He agrees that the fuel price hikes help in tax revenue generation but has a negative impact on businesses where there is a need for industries to produce more at a reduced cost to lift demand and boost economic growth. (Mohiuddin Aazim, “Taming inflation is difficult,” Dawn, 17 August 2020)  

Mixed sentiments over uptrend in exports
An analysis made by Afshan Subohi talks about the federal government’s release of export growth showing an uptrend. In July, Pakistan managed to post 5.8 per cent growth in exports after recording an annual drop of 54 per cent in April due to the coronavirus pandemic. In a rare display of admiration, the exporters’ community thanked the government for its relentless support. The government too pitched in to praise the contributions of entrepreneurs, techies, fruit and vegetable traders who competed despite the pandemic. Abdul Razak Dawood, the advisor to the Prime Minister on commerce was optimistic about these trends and even stated that the government would lift the ban on export of PPEs. He had acknowledged that the lingering price hike in essential food items and power supply disruptions are two of the most important issues that need government intervention.

Mr Dawood had also stated that the dumping of sub-quality products had hurt the local industry. However, the business world issued a warning. They believe that the frequent power cuts in a major city like Karachi in addition to the tight bureaucratic control makes it difficult for businesses to sustain and in turn impact negatively on the exports. Due to the lack of compliance to the international standards and a credible certification infrastructure, the threat of contaminated containers exported to other countries looms large and can compromise the scope of all exports. (Afshan Subohi, “Have exports turned the corner for real?,” Dawn, 17 August 2020)
Trade resumes between Iran and Pakistan
On 16 August, the informal border trade between Iran and Pakistan was resumed. The Zero Point gate at Taftan was reopened by the Iranian authorities for bilateral trade. The border which is now reopened will allow tax-free import and export of edible commodities between the two countries after more than two weeks. The gate was closed on 30 July in connection with Eidul Azha holidays. Iran exported 2.26 million tons of commodities worth $867 million to Pakistan during the nine months to 21 December 2019 to register a 20 per cent rise in tonnage and a 3 per cent decline in value compared with last year’s corresponding period.

Pakistan exported 293,000 tons of goods worth $331 million to Iran during the same period to register 48 per cent and 58 per cent growth in tonnage and value respectively year-on-year. Iran exported bitumen, hydrocarbon gas, low-density oils, liquefied propane and fruit juice to Pakistan while Iran mainly imported semi- and wholly-milled rice, cow, sesame seeds, beef and cans from Pakistan. (“Border trade with Iran resumes,” Dawn, 17 August 2020)

Chaman border crossing opens allowing thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis cross over
On 16 August, Pakistan and Afghanistan opened their border near Chaman allowing thousands of their nationals, who were stranded on both sides of the border to go back to their home countries. According to the border authorities, Afghan and Pakistan nationals crossed into their countries from two points at the Chaman border. As many as 3,145 Afghan nationals, including women and children, entered through the Friendship Gate and 3,000 others through Mazai corridor, another crossing point between the two countries. This decision comes after the crossing was closed in late July following a clash that erupted over border closure earlier. (“Thousands of Afghans and Pakistanis cross Chaman border,” Dawn, 17 August 2020)

Foreign Minister requests parties to remove hurdles to intra-Afghan talks
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had asked all the parties on 16 August to ensure resolution of the residual issues in order to commence the intra-Afghan negotiations without delay. This comes in just ahead of the long-awaited intra-Afghan talks that are expected to begin in Doha, Qatar. Mr Qureshi said that the collective efforts had succeeded in ensuring an advancement in the peace process. Under the Doha agreement between the Afghan Taliban and the US, the Afghan government was to release 5,000 prisoners in exchange for 1,000 security personnel held hostage. In subsequent batches, around 4,600 were released but Ashraf Ghani’s government was reluctant to release the remaining 400 dubbed as “dangerous”. The Loya Jirga endorsed their release and Ghani had to pass a presidential decree to set them free. So far, 80 have been released which has been perceived as a way forward in the peace process. A diplomat privy to the developments had confirmed that a lot of groundwork had been done in this regard. However, the issue of ceasefire remains a challenge. Taliban’s political spokesperson Suhail Shaheen stated that the ceasefire issue would be discussed as per the intra-Afghan negotiations. (Ikram Junaidi, “FM urges parties to remove hitches to intra-Afghan talks,” Dawn, 17 August 2020)  


"Twenty tons of it gets created every day in a city that now counts over 20 million. Already at sea-level even gravity cannot help except pile and overflow. All systems are broke. No one collects the waste and none disposes it. There is just no municipal system in place despite all the structures and their trappings. When it rains it inundates all and scatters the filth from its heaps to all corners of the city. Potable water or electricity are now the laments from the past. The city has a bigger challenge: drowning in its own filth. The city has no owners"

-  AVM (retd) Shahzad Chaudhry, on Karachi, in his recent analysis in the Express Tribune.

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