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Daily Briefs


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26 August 2020, Wednesday I Vol 1, No.116

"General Bajwa stabilized Pak-Saudi ties"



Saudi-Pakistan ties are "primarily handled directly by the Pakistani army and the Saudi King and Crown Prince"

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

 

The News International carried a news report titled "General Bajwa credited with stabilizing relations with Saudi Arabia" ("General Bajwa credited with stabilizing relations with Saudi Arabia," The News International, 26 August 2020) referring to a recent Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) publication "Saudi Arabia and Pakistan: Unease and Reassurance Amid Changing Regional Realities" (25 August) that recognized COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa role in calming the recent Saudi-Pakistan friction. The RUSI publication is a commentary by authored by Kamal Alam. ("Saudi Arabia and Pakistan: Unease and Reassurance Amid Changing Regional Realities," 25 August 2020) The timing of the RUSI publication is interesting, as it comes immediately after Qureshi's claims that Saudi-Pak ties are intact. On 24 August, the FM said "Saudi Arabia has neither asked Islamabad to return its loan nor has it suspended oil supply to Pakistan. The Kingdom has not changed its stance on Kashmir, and we are on the same page as far as recognition of Israel is concerned".

"General Bajwa has steered the institutional relationship away from personalities and one-man shows"
The commentary by Kamal Alam says: "General Bajwa has steered the institutional relationship away from personalities and one-man shows. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has done much the same. This has led to the first-ever private-led investment by a Saudi entity in Pakistan. Seen from this perspective, the $1-billion debt payback demand is a paltry sum, compared to the almost $20-billion private investment into Pakistan." ("Saudi Arabia and Pakistan: Unease and Reassurance Amid Changing Regional Realities," 25 August 2020)

Kamal Alam further states: "Bajwa had earlier also fixed Pakistan's relationship with the UAE which had stalled since Pakistan refused to assist the UAE in military operations in Yemen. Prior to Bajwa's visit to the UAE there had been a freeze in all UAE–Pakistan diplomatic activity. Bajwa visited Riyadh immediately after the media uproar and assured the Saudis that there is no danger of any Pakistani participation in the anti-Saudi alliance. The Saudis, to their credit, have also explained to Pakistan that whilst Riyadh supports Pakistan's Kashmir stance, India is an important economic partner and the Saudis are ready to mediate rather than pressure India," it said. 

The analysis says the COAS's Saudi visit on 16 August, contrary to media reports, aimed at reassuring the bilateral defence cooperation. It says General Bajwa and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) have made the Pak-Saudi relationship more realistic and that the COAS's Saudi visit on 16 August, contrary to media reports, aimed at reassuring the bilateral defence cooperation. RUSI credits General Bajwa's efforts for the development of the close military cooperation into a broader corporate relationship "on a more equitable basis, rather than one of aid and dependence".

Saudi-Pakistan ties are "primarily handled directly by the Pakistani army and the Saudi King and Crown Prince"
The analysis says that Pakistan must understand that Yemen is Riyadh's weak spot, just as Kashmir is theirs; calls for a realistic perspective on security threats and priorities; stresses that Pak-Saudi ties are primarily handled by "the Pakistan Army and the Saudi King and Crown Prince"; and quotes Saudi analyst Dr Mohammad Al Sulami who opines that "Pakistan politicians to hide their own failures over Kashmir were looking for a foreign scapegoat; however Saudi stood behind Pakistan". The commentary rules out any rupture in the Riyadh-Islamabad bilateral ties, but brings out Riyadh's annoyance with Pakistan's civilian PTI government led by Imran Khan. It says "The Saudis do not object to Pakistan's bilateral ties with Turkey or Malaysia, however do not want Pakistan to be part of Erdogan's regional meddling in Arab affairs. Pakistan did not appreciate how acutely sensitive Riyadh may be to fears of Turkish and Qatari animosity towards Riyadh."

The Context
Saudi Arabia was displeased by FM Qureshi's unusually sharp remarks to the Saudi-led Organisation of Islamic Countries. Qureshi warned OIC against procrastinating the Pakistan-requested OIC's Foreign Ministers' meeting (CFM) on Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, Riyadh froze the oil supply and credit facility to Pakistan, demanding a $1billion repayment of the $6.2billion package provided to Pakistan. Islamabad made the repayment by borrowing from China. 

 
(Image Source: The News)

Senate rejects two FATF bills while the PM criticizes the Opposition for sabotaging the effort to get out of the 'Grey List'

FATF Bills: The rejection by the Senate
On 25 August, the Opposition ruled Senate rejected two FATF related bills as the PML-N and PPP declined to extend support. The Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, 2020 and the Islamabad Capital Territory Waqf Properties Bill, 2020 which were passed by the National Assembly were rejected through the voice vote after the Opposition linked its cooperation to leader of the House Dr Shahzad Waseem refusal to tender an apology for remarks made against the opposition leader last week. The bills will now be taken up for voting at a joint session of parliament. (Muhammad Saleh Zaafir, "Rejection of FATF specific bills by Senate: Govt decides to summon joint sitting after Ashura," The News International, 26 August 2020) (Mumtaz Alvi, "Senate rejects two FATF bills," The News International, 26 August 2020)

Quotable
PPP senators Sherry Rehman said, "Whatever cooperation we extended was for the sake of Pakistan but one government member would appreciate us for cooperation and the next would start berating our leadership. This motion will be defeated and now you will see how a bulldozer works." Further, in a series of tweets she stated, "this is neither required by FATF nor is it defensible in any even the most illiberal democracy." "These laws are being pushed as draconian laws," she said. Moreover, she added, FATF was being used "to expand the scope of NAB to witch hunt the opposition".

Senator Mustafa Nawaz stated, "The other day, the leader of the House said the opposition parties leadership faces money laundering charges, while today, advisor on parliamentary affairs said the Opposition should support the bills, as these related to Pakistan national security. Whom should we believe is correct; Dr Shahzad should withdraw his remarks against our political leadership, otherwise, I urge my seniors not to back these bills." (Iftikhar A. Khan, "Opposition-ruled Senate rejects two FATF bills," Dawn, 26 August 2020)

Reaction from the Prime Minister 
The Opposition's attitude drew an immediate, strong reaction from Prime Minister Imran Khan who issued a series of tweets to attack the opposition parties stating, "Today in Senate the Opposition defeated 2 critical FATF-related bills: Anti Money Laundering & ICT Waqf bills. From day one I have maintained that the self-serving interests of the opposition leaders & the country's interests are divergent. As accountability noose has tightened," he said, adding, "the opposition ldrs have become desperate to save their corrupt money by trying to prevent parliament from functioning; by seeking to undermine govt's effective Covid 19 strategy — a recognized global success story — & now by trying to sabotage Pak efforts to exit FATF grey list."

"Opposition tries to hide behind facade of democracy to protect their loot & plunder. To blackmail for NRO by defanging NAB, they would even have Pak put on FATF black list to destroy nation's economy & increase poverty. They keep threatening to bring down govt unless given NRO."

"Let me make clear: No matter what happens, my govt will not allow any NRO as it would be betrayal of nation's trust in holding plunderers of public wealth accountable. Musharraf gave NROs to the 2 pol ldrs which quadrupled our debt & destroyed economy. There will be no more NROs." ("'No more NROs': PM Imran lashes out at Opposition for defeating two FATF-related bills in Senate", Dawn, 26 August 2020)

Recent FATF related bills that have been passed
The Senate has passed five FATF- related bill thus far, The Limited Liability Partnership (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2020 were passed after the government accepted the amendments proposed by the PPP's Farooq Naek and Imamuddin Shouqeen. Both the bills were passed with a majority vote as the members of the JUI-F and the JI opposed them during a voice vote. The Senate has also passed the Islamabad Capital Territory Trust Bill 2020, the Control of Narcotic Substances (Amendment) Bill 2020 and the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill 2020 amid noisy protests from the Senate. (Amir Wasim, "Senate passes two more FATF-related bills", Dawn, 19 August 2020)

 
 (Image Source: The News)

 

Pakistan's working women: Rafia Zakaria underlines four issues

"The question posed by all is: why, given women's improvements in the economic sector, have there not been any complementary attempts to improve the other factors that also shape women's lives?" ("Politics, not economics," Dawn, 26 August 2020)

Rafia Zakaria attempts to answer the question through this commentary. Her main arguments are as follows First, although an overview depicts a progressive image of working women in Pakistan, a closer look falsifies the former. While violence against women is rising, there is a lack or absence of enforcement of related laws and minimum guarantees of safety from the employers. Meanwhile, despite all odds, women are continuing to contribute financially and economically to their families.

Second, education and economic empowerment do not equate to empowerment. Rafia says "the ideal educated and employed Pakistani woman is only a doll. She can say sentences that are expected of her in any given situation." The lack of female political leadership in making laws, governing "social mores and dimensions of cultural acceptability" is a huge issue. The working woman is still expected to fulfil all the domestic chores which she cannot share with anyone. Education is also reduced to a tool to enhance household capabilities as a wife and mother.

Third, working women remain trapped by social and cultural forces. The women are "pushed around, sidelined, harassed and intimidated" by the "patriarchal political system".

Fourth, the lack of a women-friendly approach in workspaces/environment. The functioning and designing of offices and public buildings do not take women's needs into consideration.
 



In Brief
INTERNAL
PML-N, JUI-F vow to make efforts to unite opposition parties on one platform 
On 25 August, President of main opposition leader Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif met the JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman. Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said, all parties conference (APC) would be held after consultations among the opposition parties, both inside and outside the parliament, and would "move forward with solid consultations". ("Shahbaz almost successful in pacifying Fazl", Dawn, 26 August 2020)

On 24 August, he had released a 'white paper on the two-year performance of the government' stating "The PTI government in the last two years has brought the economic growth rate from 5.6pc to zero". 

PML-N delegation met with the parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Maulana Asad Mahmood and also other party leaders. The JUI-F chief said they had to delay the meeting because of the death of the National Party (NP) President Mir Hasil Bizenjo. ("Shahbaz meets with Fazl: APC after consultations inside, outside parliament", The News International, 26 August 2020)

The IPPs: Shift from the "take or pay" policy to "take and pay"
On 25 August, the government had reached an agreement with Independent Power Producers (IPPs) and Wind Power Projects (WPPs), that it would lower electricity cost and also reduce the circular debt with monetary concessions. Chairman Federal Land Commission Babar Yaqoob Fateh Muhammed came with key policy change in the power projects agreement - a shift from the earlier policy of "take or pay" to "take and pay".

The two sides had agreed to a reduction in the rate of return on equity, reduction of interest rate on late payment for two months, conduction of heat test to judge the capacity of projects, and profit in Pakistani rupee instead of US dollars at a rate of 15 per cent. This might lead to saving of Rs675 billion in the next seven to ten years for the government. The MOU will be submitted to the stakeholders for ratification, and it will be followed by legal documentations to amend the tariffs and relevant agreements. It also highlighted the last clause, which states an understanding was valid for six months from the date of issuance and shall stand terminated on the signing of the detailed agreements. ("Understanding reached: Govt to pay for power it takes from IPPs", The News International, 26 August 2020)

More than 32 million children vaccinated says NEOC 
According to the analysis, more than 32 million children under the age of five have been vaccinated against polio during an immunization campaign in 130 districts across the country. Also, children received Vitamin A supplements during the campaign started on 13 August. As per the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) for Polio Eradication, 32,100,802 children were vaccinated against polio across the country. A total of 225,000 trained vaccinators went door-to-door for vaccination. 

Dr Rana Mohammad Safdar coordinator of the NEOC for Polio said, "We have managed to achieve impressive coverage despite the challenging context of Covid-19, hot weather and heavy rainfall. Our valiant trained frontline workers work hard to reach eligible children across the country. Children have also been administered Vitamin A supplements to strengthen their immune system for greater protection against diseases during this campaign. Celebrities, intellectuals, and religious leaders came forward to support the polio eradication efforts". the Pakis­tan Polio Eradication Programme plans to conduct other large-scale national and sub-national campaigns between September and December. 

("Over 32m children vaccinated against polio in 130 districts", Dawn, 26 August 2020)

EXTERNAL
Pakistan Foreign Minister met Taliban Political commission
On 25 August, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and the Taliban Political Commission exchanged views on the current status' of the Afghan peace process. Pakistan's delegation included senior officials and Director General ISI General Faiz Hameed and the Afghan delegation was led by Deputy Amir Mullah Baradar and senior members of the Afghan political wing. This was the second time that the Afghan delegation came to Islamabad to meet Pakistan Foreign Ministry. A delegation led by Mullah Baradar had visited last year in October.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, "Pakistan will continue to play its role in the Afghan peace process and ensure peace in the region". He also highlighted it as a historic opportunity that must be seized by the Afghan stakeholders, to secure an inclusive, broad-based, and comprehensive negotiated political solution. He also stated," "The Taliban look ready and agreeable to moving in the direction of a settlement of the outstanding issues through dialogue". The ministry also warned the Taliban delegation of the potential dangers of sabotage of the Afghan peace process by the "spoilers". ("Pakistan hopeful intra-Afghan talks will begin soon", Dawn, 26 August 2020)

On the other hand, the Taliban political office in Doha announced, the Afghan Taliban had finalized a 20-member negotiating team for the upcoming talks with the Afghan government. ("Peace agreement rare opportunity for Afghan Taliban", The News International, 26 August 2020)

An analysis says Pakistan and KSA are each other's "necessity and support"
According to an analysis, the affiliation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Pakistan dates back to early 1940s, as the two brotherly nations shared mutual support, collaboration, and friendship. Saudi Arabia support during the Indo-Pak war, UN sanctions, humanitarian assistance and the financial aid over the years and Pakistan protection during the siege of Makkah, Gulf war and support to Saudi armed forces had strengthened the bilateral relations. ("Pakistan-KSA: A symbiotic relationship", Daily Times, 26 August 2020)

 

 


"Today in Senate the opposition defeated 2 critical FATF-related bills: Anti Money Laundering & ICT Waqf bills. From day one I have maintained that the self-serving interests of the opposition leaders & the country’s interests are divergent. As accountability noose has tightened...the opposition ldrs have become desperate to save their corrupt money by trying to prevent parliament from functioning; by seeking to undermine govt’s effective Covid 19 strategy — a recognised global success story — & now by trying to sabotage Pak efforts to exit FATF grey list"

-  Imran Khan on the two FATF bills getting defeated in the Senate

 
In Focus and In Brief sections are prepared by Lakshmi V Menon, Abigail Miriam Fernandez, Sukanya Bali & Vibhav Kandlur.
 

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