Another trouble in Karachi, as the government creates a new district, Opposition condemns it as a political and racial move
Sindh cabinet establishes new district in Karachi; Opposition disapproves
On 20 August, the Sindh cabinet, chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, approved the establishment of the seventh district in Karachi through the bifurcation of the existing district West. The decision caused strong political reactions and could influence the upcoming local government elections. The cabinet also authorized the local government minister to appoint interim administrators for local councils as the term of local bodies in Sindh would end on 29 August 2020. All provincial advisers, ministers, and Sindh chief secretary were in attendance. The Cabinet also looked into the matters of issue of domiciles and Permanent Resident Certificate (PRCs), approved the amendments related to the FATF-legislations, addressed the issues of wheat import and approved a Rs1.272 billion grant for the District Headquarter Hospital, Badin. (“Sindh cabinet stirs yet another controversy: 7th district Keamari established in Karachi,” The News International, 21 August 2020)
The new Keamari district
The vast expanse of the district West that has the highest population of 3,914,757 and comprises of seven sub-divisions (Baldia, Orangi, Manghopir, SITE, Harbour, Mominabad and Maripur), 23 Dehs and nine Tapas. According to The News International, the cabinet was also told the need for better administration of the district West for the greater convenience of the public. The provincial cabinet approved the creation of the district of Keamari with a population of 1,833,864 and four sub-divisions (SITE, Harbour, Baldia and Maripur) three circles, 11 dehs and five Tapas. The new district has “visible pockets of PPP strongholds”.CM Shah pointing out the peculiarity of the names of districts of Karachi such as South, East, West, Central and so on, called for the rechristening of these districts. He suggested Nazimabad in place of Central and Karachi in place of South. The CM directed the preparation of a comprehensive proposal to create more districts in Sindh to the Board of Revenue. The principle being the bifurcation of expansive districts in two for greater ease and convenience of the people. He pointed out that Khairpur was one such district.
Opposition to the new district
Meanwhile, criticisms are rife. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, and Pak Sarzameen Party have been vociferous in criticizing PPP’s decision to bifurcate the city on ethnic lines and said it would undermine the much-necessary development. MQM “strongly condemned” the creation of Keamari district on political and racial grounds and said it reflected PPP’s racist mindset. Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar criticized the decision terming it suffering from confusion. He said “The seventh district would bring destruction to the city. If the new district can be formed in Karachi, a new province can also be made in Sindh which is duly constitutional.” He added that they would move the court to stop PPP’s decision. PTI warned that it would cause street protests. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Karachi became the major stakeholder in the 2018 elections with 14 National and provincial assembly seats from Karachi. PTI President and Member Sindh Assembly Khurram Sher Zaman asked: “When the PPP could not perform in these two districts, what would they achieve with this new district change?” (“Political parties reject new district on ethnic lines,” The News International, 21 August 2020)
Pak Sarzameen Party’s Mustafa Kamal said the party would hold a protest against the bifurcation outside Karachi Press Club. He accused the PPP of tearing Karachi into pieces instead of winning hearts through service. He said "The ethnic division of Karachi is a serious concern for Pakistan's national security and we have already suffered most at the hands of such forces in the recent past with aggravated losses. Karachi is a metropolitan city inhabited by millions from every ethnic group which cannot be divided on linguistic grounds." Ameer Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi Hafiz Naim Ur Rehman said the addition of the 7th district in Karachi will not solve Karachi’s problems.
|After two years of the PTI government, the President says all institutions are on the same page.
(Image Source: Dawn)
President Alvi lauds PTI govt’s performance in all the sectors; but the opposition does not agree
On 20 August, President Dr Arif Alvi while addressing a joint sitting of parliament gave full credit to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-led coalition government in all sectors, including economy, health, education and foreign policy, and especially praised PM Imran Khan for his approach in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.
All praises for the PTI administration
On COVID-19: While talking about the pandemic, President Alvi said, “I commend the prime minister and the government for standing by their COVID-19 response despite criticism.” Adding that the world was recognising the government’s response to the pandemic. Further, praising the government who “with a vision to save the poor from dying”, adopted the policy of smart lockdown and worked opposite to what the other countries had done.
On the Economy: while commenting in the economy, President Alvi stated, “Our ratings by Moody’s and Fitch have improved, showing us that they think the country’s situation looks good,” adding, “This shows that the government’s policies are working, and had the coronavirus not emerged, it would have managed to take it to new heights.” Further, he pointed out that the country had also improved its ranking by 28 places in ‘Ease of Doing Business’.
On Foreign Policy: while observing the country’s foreign policy agenda, President Alvi stated that the government put the country’s policy in the right direction considering the challenging international and regional scenario. Further, he commended PM Imran Khan on his several statements on Palestine, Kashmir and its role in the Afghan Talks. Further, he praised parliament for helping the government pass the FATF related bills, saying “this is what a parliament is supposed to do.” (Amir Wasim, “Alvi gives full marks to govt in all sectors,” Dawn, 21 August 2020)
More optimism from the President
President Alvi stated, “All institutions of Pakistan including Pakistan Army, government, media and judiciary are on the same page,” adding “Our state institutions are in unison and pursuing the same vision of overcoming challenges confronting the country.” He also stated that said that the country is at a tipping point, stating, “From here we can achieve great heights which have not been seen by this country in its history.”
Further, while thanking Turkey, Iran, Malaysia, China and Azerbaijan for their continuous support for Kashmir cause, he said that the bonding between these countries and Pakistan is getting stronger. He also mentioned strengthening ties with Saudi Arabia stating, “we are very grateful to our brotherly Islamic country for this.” (Asim Yasin, Muhammad Anis, ‘Nation and institutions one against corruption’, The News International, 21 August 2020)
“Pack of lies”: Opposition stages a walkout amid noisy protests
A walkout was staged by members of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) soon after Speaker Asad Qaiser formally invited the president to the dais for the speech while members from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) had only stayed in the house for a few minutes. After which they hurled anti-government slogans, before going out to address a news conference outside the Parliament House criticising the government for convening the joint session on less than 24-hour notice.
While addressing the press conference, PPP leader Raja Pervez Ashraf said that the people of Pakistan were being “duped” adding, “Everything being said was based on lies, Pakistan is facing difficulties and the people are helpless.”
Further, the PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and former president Asif Ali Zardari also skipped the joint sitting along with Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa who usually watches the proceeding from the official gallery was also absent. (“President Alvi recounts PTI's accomplishments in address to parliament, opposition walks out,” Dawn, 21 August 2020)
Immunization campaign resumed after six months of lockdown
According to the analysis, after the six months, the immunization campaign has resumed once again with reports on the manhandling of polio workers in Bhawalnagar and Faisalabad resurfacing. In three separate areas in Bhawalnagar, families refuse to get their children vaccinated, threaten vaccinator, and also harassed female health workers. Similarly, in Faisalabad it was reported, a couple thrashed female polio workers. Since 2019, Polio eradication efforts have witnessed a setback in Pakistan. During the lockdown (January and July), it is noted that around 40 million children in the country missed vaccinations while around 60 were diagnosed with the wild poliovirus. (“The polio battle”, Dawn, 21 August 2020)
Feminism in Pakistan
An opinion on feminism in Pakistan was written by Zafar Aziz Chaudhry, a former member of the Provincial Civil Service in The Daily Times. It talks about the prevalence of feminist movements in the country and their successes amid challenges from ultra-conservative elements. Mr Chaudhry argues that Islam had made both genders spiritually equal, although both had their respective roles to perform to raise their families. He talks about how women like Begum Ra’na Liaqat Ali Khan and Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah played a major role to uplift the poor and destitute women in Pakistan after independence. However, over the decades, Pakistan is now ranked third-worst country on the Gender Parity Index of the World Economic Forum (WEF). The literacy of women is so low that more than five million primary school girls do not go to school. The IMF has stated that bridging the gender gap could boost Pakistan’s GDP by 30 per cent. The author mentions the ‘The Aurat March’, a movement that started a practical programme of conducting rallies in all major cities on International Women’s Day. They were subjected to attacks by right-wing groups and clerics from Lal Masjid. Mr Chaudhry mentions about the two phases of empowering women in Pakistan in the form of 1961 Muslim Family Laws and later the Hadood Ordnance introduced by General Zia ul Haq. However, the strict interpretations were criticized by feminist groups who sought for a liberal modernist version. The author has praised Benazir Bhutto for attempting to bring some reforms like the founding of all-women police stations and appointment of female judges but many of them were not realised. He explains about the differences in feminist groups in Pakistan where one section seeks the recognition of LGBTQ rights while the other section believes that feminism should be based on rights sanctioned by Sura Nisa of the Holy Quran. (Zafar Aziz Chaudhry, “Feminism in Pakistan,” Daily Times, 21 August 2020)
Pakistan seeks assistance from World Bank on pension reforms
Pakistan had requested the World Bank’s assistance in reforming the country’s pension system on 19 August. A statement was issued for the same after Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, advisor to the Prime Minister on finance and revenue met Najy Benhassine, the Country Director of the World Bank in Pakistan. The pension obligations for the public sector are around one trillion rupees for the current financial year. Mr Shaikh had emphasized on the reforms undertaken by the government to tackle the balance of payment crisis in the financial year 2018/2019 and bring stability in the economy. He spoke about the impact of Covid-19 pandemic that has slowed down the progress. Mr Benhassine welcomed the government’s strong response during the pandemic and stated the World Bank’s support to the emergency response with projects around half a billion dollars to strengthen the public health preparedness. (“Pakistan seeks World Bank technical help on pension reforms,” The News International, 21 August 2020)
Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Chaudhri says committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia
On 20 August, Zahid Chaudhri Foreign Office Spokesman said, “Pakistan remains committed to the unity of Muslim Ummah and has always worked towards that end and will continue its efforts to keep the Muslim Ummah united”. It further reaffirmed Pakistan commitment toward the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and recalled Pakistan's contribution to Kashmir's cause. He also highlighted, on Palestine “there was “no change in Pakistan’s principled position” and repeated Pakistan’s longstanding position on the dispute to dispel the impression created by an earlier vaguely worded statement on the UAE-US-Israel agreement on normalization of ties”.
Aisha Farooqui, the outgoing FO spokespersons defended Qureshi’s earlier statement on OIC, saying “it was a reflection of people’s aspirations and expectations from the OIC to raise the Kashmir issue internationally”. (“FO hails OIC contribution to Kashmir cause”, Dawn, 21 August 2020)
FM Qureshi in China to attend the second meeting on China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue
On 20 August, FM Shah Mehmood Qureshi arrived in Hainan province, China to attend the second meeting of the China-Pakistan Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue. The meeting will focus on cooperation on COVID-19, bilateral relations, and regional and international issues. The first dialogue between Pakistan and China was held last year in March. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson said these dialogues would help the two to enhance their strategic mutual trust and coordinate international and regional affairs. He also mentioned this dialogue mechanism is a platform for the two to cooperate in various fields. (“Qureshi arrives in China to attend strategic dialogue”, The News International, 21 August 2020)
In a virtual conference, JCM pledged to work and safeguard the political environment for CPEC development
On 20 August, the International Department of Communist Party of China (CPC) in collaboration with the Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) organised Joint Consultation Mechanism (JCM) on the theme of ‘Working Together to Promote Economic Development and Improve People’s Lives Through High-Quality CPEC Cooperation’. The online session was attended by Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani and Chinese Minister of the International Department of CPC Song Tao.
The JCM passed a joint statement, saying “slander on and disturbance in CPEC development by external forces” and pledged to “shape and safeguard the enabling political environment and favourable public opinion for CPEC development”. Nine other Pakistani Political parties participated in the virtual consultation. Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing said, “the resilient nature of Pakistan-China friendship and CPEC could be gauged from the fact that it survived even the Covid-19 pandemic and became stronger”. (“Parties vows to ensure CPEC progress, guard it against threats”, Dawn, 21 August 2020)
PAKISTAN’S GLOBAL VIEW
The “Abraham accord”
The opinion written by Ikram Sehgal on the Abraham Accord for Daily Times gives a comprehensive picture of the deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and highlights the issues regarding it. Mr Sehgal brings forth the contents of the agreement which focuses on establishing normal relations between Israel and UAE in areas like business relations, tourism, direct flights, scientific cooperation and full diplomatic ties at the ambassadorial level. However, officials from the UAE have mentioned that the talks will start in the ensuing weeks to implement this. One of the important highlights of this accord is the enhanced security cooperation against regional threats from Iran and its proxies. The author talks about the criticisms coming from countries like Turkey which puts out an ambiguous picture as Turkey is the only non-Arab Muslim nation with full diplomatic relations with Israel. He highlights the problems arising from nationalism in Israel which took inspiration from history where the idea of a Jewish state was put forth by Theodore Herzl and the influence of British decades later to allow the settlement of Jews. However, the author believes that the accord should worry Pakistan as the security component of the agreement is strongly ‘anti-Iran’ even if the country is not mentioned. With speculations arising from a possible thaw between Israel and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan with a sizable Shia population would have to be cautious while balancing between Iran and Saudi Arabia. (Ikram Sehgal, “The “Abraham accord”,” Daily Times, 21 August 2020)
On the true friendly relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia
An editorial in the Daily Times brings out the importance of the relationship between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The author has stated that Saudi Arabia has not made any adverse remarks about Pakistan in the media and mentioned that the Islamic Ummah can ill afford friction between the two countries. He mentions the two determinants that predicate Pakistan’s ties with Saudi Arabia – defence collaboration and the reverence to the holy land. The latter is a strong factor which the author believes reflects the popular aspiration of the Pakistani people. He believes that the bilateral relationship could have realised its full potential if Pakistan had diligently followed up the $40 billion investments from Saudi Arabia after the visit of the Crown Prince if it were not for the global pandemic. The author perceives that Saudi Arabia wants a strong, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan by offering complete support in all forms. Likewise, he lauds the presence of millions of Pakistani expatriates who work in Saudi Arabia and criticizes a section of the media for being ill-informed about the importance of Saudi Arabia to Pakistan and vice-versa. (“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia – True friends,” Daily Times, 21 August 2020)
Discord in the Middle East and impact on Pakistan
A commentary written in the Daily Times by Nawazish Ali explains about the dissension in the Middle East and the difficulties that Pakistan have to endure while balancing between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Although the discord is reflected in the sectarian divide in the Islamic world, the dispute between Saudi Arabia and Iran became intense following the Islamic Revolution that brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979. The author highlights the strong understanding between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia since historical times and brings out the importance of the kingdom in the former’s economy. However, with the presence of a large Shia population in Pakistan, the country has avoided confrontations while offering to mediate between its Iranian and Saudi counterparts. The author acknowledges the role of Iran in backing proxies against Pakistan. He writes that the disorientation regarding few aspects like Kashmir has led to displeasure within Pakistan as Saudi Arabia has not openly supported it in recent times. Other factors are Pakistan’s relations with countries which Saudi Arabia shares a rivalry with. The author also brings out the focus on Israel and how it is important to the US and other major powers like India, China, Japan and so on. With growing hostility over Iran, several countries are on the verge of establishing formal diplomatic relations with Israel. He adds that it is not the right time for Pakistan to re-evaluate the diplomatic position with Israel as well as explore other options to escape from the discord. (Nawazish Ali, “Middle East Dissension and Pakistan,” Daily Times, 21 August 2020)
New game in Middle East geopolitics
An editorial written by Qamar Afzal Rizvi in Daily Times has highlighted the background of the relation between UAE and Israel as the two countries have established a formal diplomatic relationship. The deal dubbed as “Abraham agreement” seems symbolic as the real importance of peace will be an economic opportunity. Historically, both the countries had several divergences including the refusal to recognise Israel since 1971. But with Israel’s move to forge closer links with GCC states and the convergence over concern about Iran’s nuclear programme brought the two together. The author talks about the emerging new bipolar order in the Middle East where Turkey-Iran-Russia-China forms an alliance against the US-backed block. This has implications across Asia, Africa and Europe due to the significance of this region. Mr Rizvi has stated that Mohammed Bin Zayed seems to have distanced himself from a political conflict over Palestinian statehood. He adds that normalising ties with Israel before the settlement of the Palestinian issue is considered as a bad omen in the Muslim unity and thus opines that the Arab League and OIC must condemn this deal. (Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi, “A new game starts on the Mideast geopolitical chessboard,” Daily Times, 20 August 2020)
India called for having an Indian lawyer to represent Kulbhushan Jadhav case in a Pakistani court
On 20 August, Anurag Srivastava, spokesperson of External Affairs Ministry said, “For a free and fair trial in keeping with the letter and spirit of ICJ (International Court of Justice) judgment”. He called for an Indian lawyer to represent Kulbhushan Jadhav's case in Pakistan court. He also said, “Pakistan has to first address the core issues by giving copies of relevant documents of the case and to provide unimpeded consular access to Jadhav.” Recently, Islamabad High Court named three senior lawyers for the case and ordered the Pakistan government to give “another chance” to India to appoint counsel. (“Delhi wats Indian lawyers to represent Jadhav in review plea”, Dawn, 21 August 2020)
"Our state institutions are in unison and pursuing the same vision of overcoming challenges confronting the country"
- President Alvi, on two years of the PTI government