Daily Briefs

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18 September 2020, Friday I Vol 1, No.136

Pakistan’s Persisting Polio Problem:

New Polio cases getting reported regularly in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

On 17 September, nine new polio cases were reported, including seven cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type-2 (cVDPV2) from two provinces in Pakistan. The reporting was a huge blow to Pakistan’s polio eradication campaign. (“Nine polio cases found in Punjab, Balochistan,” Dawn, 18 September 2020)

A quick background
Although Pakistan’s polio immunization campaign commenced in 1974, the eradication efforts began much later in 1994. However, Pakistan remained trapped in the infection’s clutches and recorded the world’s highest number of polio cases in 2014. Even as Africa has been declared polio-free, in Pakistan the problem persists. In its recent assessment, the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) had cautioned that the situation in Pakistan could worsen if the country does not adopt transformative measures to eradicate poliovirus in the next six months.

Causes for Pakistan’s failure
Pakistan Reader’s insight note titled “The Polio Crisis in Pakistan” identifies five reasons: First, “social misconceptions and conspiracy theories”. There exists a strong correlation between negative socioeconomic factors and low immunization completion. Second, “alienated mistrustful communities”. Due to neglect, lack of proper sanitary infrastructure, health services and other public services many communities in Pakistan have alienated from their government. Third, “the politicization of polio and governance issues”. Fourth, “conflict, militancy and the attacks on polio workers”. The Taliban-imposed ban (2012) on vaccination proved detrimental to polio eradication efforts in Pakistan, especially in FATA. For over two years, more than 350,000 children remained unvaccinated. Additionally, the Polio vaccination teams regularly suffer several attacks on the Polio workers, volunteers and their guards.

Fifth, the challenge of “Last Mile” vaccination efforts”. The article argues that “while the Polio Endgame Strategy 2019–2023 states a clear requirement for integrated services, there has been no currently no budget allocated to support it, as would be expected in project management terms. This gives the impression of there being no true commitment to integration.”

Media Opines
A Dawn editorial says “A viable strategy is needed to address other health issues too during the present crisis (pandemic) — such as building tighter networks with the help of our doctors practising at the grassroots… We (Pakistan) cannot forever go on blaming our failures and below-par performances on a single emergency.” (“Polio in pandemic,” Dawn, 29 August 2020) Another Dawn editorial says Pakistan must seek Nigeria’s advice to eradicate the polio problem by drawing parallels between the two countries, including the militancy issue. It says “There is no time for dilly-dallying; all caveats and excuses must be set aside to achieve the task ahead.” (“Polio storm,” Dawn, 30 August 2020)

 (Image Source: The Express Tribune)

FDI jumps by 24 per cent, says SBP

On 17 September, the State Bank of Pakistan reported that the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) had jumped 23.5 per cent to $112.3 million in August, up from $90.3m in August 2019. Considering month-on-month, the FDI dipped by $2m or 1.75 per cent from July 2020’s figure of $114.3m. According to Dawn, during the first two months of FY21, FDI increased by 40 per cent to $226.7m, compared to $162m in the congruent period of FY20. But since the pandemic emerged in March 2020, the inflows initially dropped until an increase of (year-on-year) 61 per cent to $114.3m in July. (“Foreign investment jumps 24pc in August,” Dawn, 18 September 2020)

Sectoral fluctuations
Financial business showed that highest inflow of $85.4m during July-August. It attracted $14m in the first two months of the previous fiscal year. Communications received $37m during the review period. Electrical machinery’s FDI more than doubled to $36.5m, from $15m. Oil and gas exploration sector recorded a $34.3m FDI. 

Country-wise Inflows
China stood at $6.6m during July-August, higher than $2.9m recorded in the same period of 2019. Inflows from US and UK did not show any significant improvement. Highest FDI of $45m came from Norway in July-August; significantly higher compared to a negligible $0.1m. Inflows from Netherlands and Malta also showed no significant change. It stood at $39.6m and $37m, respectively during July-August.

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa hosts a farewell dinner for the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing (Image Source: The News)

COAS hosts farewell dinner for outgoing Chinese envoy
Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Bajwa hosted a farewell dinner for Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Yao Jing. The two acknowledged each other’s contribution to building strong diplomatic relations between the two countries. The COAS thanked the Ambassador for his support in handling the COVID-19 pandemic and his stand on Kashmir. (“Outgoing Chinese envoy meets General Qamar Javed Bajwa,”The News International, 18 September 2020)

China expresses confidence over Pakistan’s exclusion from FATF grey list
China had shown confidence over a possible exit of Pakistan from the list of countries under the surveillance of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). This view was expressed by the Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing during a meeting with the Advisor to the Prime Minister on Finance and Revenue Hafeez Shaikh. The FATF placed Pakistan on the grey list in June 2018 and gave 27 conditions out of which 14 points were deemed fulfilled. The deadline has been set in September/October 2020 for Pakistan to address the remaining points in order to exit from the grey list. (“China confident over Pakistan’s exit from FATF grey list,” The News International, 18 September 2020)

In Brief 
Editorial criticizes FATF-related bills passed without any oversight
An editorial in The Nation is critical of the way the Parliament passed eight important bills including three related to the FATF. The editorial, while acknowledging the progress, held that the Parliament passed the bills despite the opposition staging a boycott after the first FATF-related bill was presented by Dr. Babar Awan, an adviser to the PM, who they held did not have the authority. 

It suggests that the government and the opposition find a middle ground to resolve the disagreements on special clauses regarding the bills. It draws from the example of the government agreeing to shift the problematic clause on surveillance techniques to investigate offences of money laundering from the Anti-Money Laundering Bill-2020 to the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). (“Finding Middle Ground,” The Nation, 18 September 2020)

Pakistan’s economy shows signs of recovery
An editorial in the Dawn has highlighted the condition of Pakistan’s economy ever since the pandemic affected the country. It mentions a report by the Asian Development Bank released on 15 September which has projected the economic expansion in Pakistan by two per cent in the current fiscal year. This shows that there has been significant growth from 0.4 per cent last year. The editorial has also cautioned about the authenticity of the report as it has also mentioned that the pandemic would subside by the end of December this year. While indicating that the future is uncertain, the editorial cites the report of Pakistan’s economic expansion to be significantly lower in comparison with its South Asian counterparts as the Maldives and India are staged to make a recovery by 10.5 per cent and eight per cent respectively. (“Economic prospects,” Dawn, 18 September 2020)  

Stay issued in Reko Diq case 
The World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICISD) has granted a stay on the enforcement of penalty awarded against Pakistan in the Reko Diq case. A statement was issued by the Attorney General office, which said: “This is a success for Pakistan and its legal team.” On 17 September. An Australian mining company Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) was denied the mining lease in Balochistan’s Riko Diq area for which an ICISD tribunal issued a fine of $5.97 billion against Pakistan in July 2019. Proceedings over the penalty have taken place where Pakistan was granted a provisional stay in April this year and again on 16 September. The ICISD is still considering Pakistan’s appeal against the penalty and a final hearing will take place in May 2021. (Nasir Iqbal, “World Bank tribunal issues stay in Reko Diq,” Dawn, 18 September 2020)

On women in the informal sector
An article written by Faisal Bari in the Dawn highlights the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Pakistani women in the informal sector of the economy. He mentions that the non-essential work shutdowns forced almost all the women in the informal sector to stay home, and many were not paid in the period. During these months, many households have borrowed heavily although they tried to cut down on the expenditure. The author explains that this led to the disruption of the capital, and eventually, micro-businesses had a negative impact. Mr Bari explains that many women experienced increased responsibilities at home, like taking care of the elderly and children. He highlights the increase in cases of domestic violence against women. The author stated that there had been no support from the government to address the difficulties of women. (Faisal Bari, “Women in the informal sector,” Dawn, 18 September 2020)

Pakistan’s mission in London receives warrants for Nawaz Sharif
The Pakistan High Commission in London received warrants by the government to arrest former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on 17 September. There was no official comment on the development, however, sources added that all legal formalities and procedures would be adhered to. The Foreign Secretary was directed by the Assistant Registrar of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to ensure that Mr Sharif is produced before the court by 11 am on 22 September. The IHC had already issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Mr Sharif earlier this week after dismissing his application seeking exemption from personal appearance in hearing of appeals against his conviction in the Al-Azazia and Avenfield properties case. (Atika Rehman, “Pakistan’s mission in London gets warrants for Nawaz,” Dawn, 18 September 2020)

The onus is on India to address Kashmir issue to normalize ties: Foreign Office
Pakistan and India have put the onus on each other to normalize ties by creating a favourable environment. The former’s Foreign Office said, “The onus is on India to create an enabling environment by rescinding its illegal and unilateral actions, ending its state-terrorism against the Kashmiri people, and agreeing to resolve the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with international legitimacy.” The level of representation from both the countries has been lowered ever since India revoked the special status conferred on the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The statement comes in after India’s Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said that the onus is on Pakistan to create a “conducive atmosphere” in Rajya Sabha on 17 September. (“India must end illegal actions in Kashmir for normalization: FO,” Dawn, 18 September 2020)

On US-India joint statement on counter-terrorism
Another opinion column in The Nation, criticizes the US’ targeting of Pakistan when it comes to terrorism. The author refers to a 10 September statement by the US-India Counter-Terrorism Joint Working Group and Designations Dialogue urging Pakistan to take necessary counter-terrorism measures. 

The author believes that the statement, which was rejected by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is an endorsement of the Indian narrative. He blames the world community, including trio major powers - the US, UK, France - for turning a blind eye to India’s, and particularly the BJP-RSS’ activities towards her minorities, her support to the insurgency in Balochistan. He says the US and its allies look the other way while India carries out “illegal actions in IIO&JK and continues to persecute the people of the state with impunity and without international pressure.” He believes that major powers maintain relations with India to suit their ‘contain China’ policy.

The author acknowledges that though Pakistan cannot afford to rupture its relations with the US, it needs to rethink its relations with the US and seek solutions to her security and strategic issues within its own region. (“The US-India Nexus,”The Nation, 18 September 2020) 

Markets to be established along borders with Iran and Afghanistan
The government has decided to set up 18 markets along Pakistan’s borders with Afghanistan and Iran in order to boost trade with the two countries and curb smuggling activities. The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan which included the plan to establish three markets as a pilot project with two in Balochistan and one in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Prime Minister was also briefed on an ordinance promulgated to prevent smuggling of food items and currency by empowering law-enforcement agencies to check such activities in airports and borders. (“18 markets to be set up along borders with Iran, Afghanistan,” Dawn, 18 September 2020) 

Iran and the Afghan Peace Process
An editorial in The Nation, welcomes Iran’s offer to help with the intra-Afghan talks citing the friendly relations Tehran’s friendly relations with Afghan factions, like the hazaras, and it being a firm believer of an inclusive Afghanistan. 

The editorial further outlines the slim but possible chances of improvement of US-Iran relations through the intra-Afghan talks. The involvement of Tehran in the peace talks paves way for its backchannel diplomacy with Washington since both want Afghanistan to be free from a civil war and the Islamic State. The two also agree that Kabul needs a power-sharing mechanism which does not topple the existing government. 

The editorial says that if the US wants a long-term solution in Afghanistan, they need to include Iran as a stakeholder. (“Iran’s Offer,”The Nation, 18 September 2020)

On Palestine 
An opinion column in The Nation, tries to throw light on the possible outcomes of the US-Israel endeavours in the Greater Middle East Region (GMER). The author highlights that by expanding the Abraham accords, Israel would gain hegemony in the region and the US and Arab countries would have one common enemy, Iran. 

The author tries to see what US President Donald Trump could possibly have on the cards during his possible second term. Trump may focus on a joint US-Israel-Gulf Arab front to achieve “collective interests” like eliminating Iran. The loss here is for the Muslim Ummah or the Muslim world community; the OIC, Arab League have already been ignored worldwide. 

In light of this, the author emphasizes that Pakistan must approach the situation carefully. The author reminds Pakistan that the Arab world’s rationale for ditching Palestine today will be replicated in Kashmir tomorrow. He warns Pakistan of the US’ penchant for establishing democracy across the world and reiterates the US’ failed expeditions during the Arab Spring. (“Ditching Palestine,”The Nation, 18 September 2020) 


"Unfortunately, Islamabad’s attitude towards both the ICJ and HRW is characterised by crass opportunism. When these organisations assail Indian atrocities in held Kashmir it uses their observations as the most authoritative and objective denunciation of New Delhi’s perfidy. They are accepted as totally unbiased defenders of rule of law and unadulterated justice. But if they point to anything wrong in the policies or conduct of Pakistan they are accused of all possible biases. That this attitude needs to be corrected cannot be disputed."

-  IA Rehman on Pakistan's responses to international reports on Enforced disappearances and media freedom inside the country.


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29 May 2020, Friday, Vol 1, No.29

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Locusts threaten Pakistan's food security

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Disregard for SOPs peaks Covid-19 cases

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