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Daily Briefs


Photo : Dawn

21 September 2020, Monday I Vol 1, No.138

Nawaz Sharif goes on an offensive and talks about



The much talked All Parties Conference has a rousing start, with 12 parties coming together to form a "Pakistan Democratic Movement".

PR Daily Brief |

"Once perhaps former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gillani said there was a State within the State in the country which could not be tolerated. It is saddening that the situation has escalated to the level where we now have a State above the State. This parallel government illness is the root-cause of our problems." Thus spoke Nawaz Sharif, breaking his long silence, while addressing the All Parties Conference held in Islamabad on 20 September. He was addressing the conference from London.

The conference included the following: Shahbaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz, the President and Vice-President respectively of the PML-N; Bilawal Bhutto, the Chairman of the PPP; and Maulana Fazlur Rahman, leader of his faction of the JUI.

Sharif was also quoted to have stated: "Either we have martial laws in the country or a strong parallel government is created whenever we have a civilian government. Our foremost priority is to get rid of this non-representative, incapable and selected government. And more important for us is to get rid of this system which is targeting the people, the opposition and even the judges of good repute." ("Nawaz takes 'parallel govt' head-on," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

Asif Ali Zardari also addressed the All Parties Conference online. He was quoted to have stated: "The pygmies and selected do not have any regard for the constitution, but this constitution was drafted by very visionary and farsighted people, and the 18th Amendment is a measure to restore the 1973 Constitution." ("Nawaz takes 'parallel govt' head-on," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

According to Dawn, Fazlur Rahman presented a charter, that included the following, in a 26 points declaration: "end of establishment's interference in politics, new free and fair elections after formulation of election reforms with no role of armed forces and intelligence agencies, release of political prisoners, withdrawal of cases against journalists, implementation of the National Action Plan against terrorism, speeding up of the projects under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and across-the-board accountability under a new accountability law." ("Nawaz takes 'parallel govt' head-on," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

Linking the PTI and the Establishment
One of the underlying themes of the All Parties Conference that came out clearly was linking the ruling party with the Establishment. From Sharif to Rahman, everyone stressed the above point, through different statements – some obvious, and the others discreetly. For example, Maulana Fazlur Rahman said: "This meeting has declared that the present selected government has been provided strength by the Establishment which had imposed it on the people through rigging in the elections. The meeting has expressed grave concerns over the increasing role of the Establishment in politics and considered it a threat to the country's national security and institutions." ("Opposition parties form alliance to oust govt," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

Targeting Gen Asim Bajwa
Gen Asim Bajwa's targeting in particular. According to Dawn, "Through the resolution, the opposition parties also demanded sacking of Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information retired Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa and a transparent investigation into the media report about his offshore businesses and properties." ("Opposition parties form alliance to oust govt," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

On the case against Gen Asim Bajwa (relating to the business fortunes of his family members), Sharif was direct: "[Mainstream] media was silent. NAB remained unmoved. No court took [suo motu] notice. No JIT was formed. No monitoring judge was appointed."

The immediate response from the government
"The opposition's all-parties conference was a flimsy attempt to put pressure on the government to back off from accountability," said Senator Shibli Faraz, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting.

On Monday (21 September 2020), the government arranged for a quick press conference, with senior leaders of the PTI, trying to get the Establishment on its side. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, asked the APM not to "drag national institutions into politics".

Are the lines drawn, in the battles ahead?

Appears so. With the PTI trying to drag the Establishment to its side, and the Opposition parties willing to take on. How far, will they take? Will there be a movement? Will there be protests against the government in Islamabad as the PTI staged one against the PML-N when the latter was in power?

The most important question is: What will be the response from the State above the State?

 
Pakistan's persisting polio problem (Image Source: Dawn)

The Polio Vaccination joint-campaign begins
On 20 September, Rashid Razzaq, the coordinator of the Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) Balochistan, announced the commencement of a four-day vaccination campaign against poliovirus in all 33 districts of Balochistan on 21 September. Razzaq said campaign preparations had been complete and that 10,585 teams of vaccinators including 8,988 mobile teams, would participate. According to Dawn, the ceremony held at Prince Fahad Hospital in Dalbandin was inaugurated by District Health Officer Dr Abdul Ghani Balochalong with Chagai Deputy Commissioner Agha Sher Zaman and other officials inaugurated the campaign by administering the polio drops to children. ("Polio vaccination drive in Balochistan begins," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

Over 2.5 million children to be administered polio drops
The campaign is being jointly launched by Baluchistan's government and the EOC. Polio drops would be administered to over 2.5 million children below the age of five years. 941 vaccinator teams would be deployed at city and town camps and 594 teams at the Baluchistan's borders. He added that for the protection of the polio workers adequate security arrangements such as the deployment of personnel of police, Levies force and Frontier Corps (FC) had been made. Religious leaders would also aid in persuading parents to ensure the vaccination of the children, Razzaq added.

More polio cases lead to replacement of DDOH
On 20 September, another poliovirus case was reported from Baluchistan. A National Institute of Health official said the latest victim was a seven-month-old boy from Quetta district. "The child's right lower limb has been paralyzed and socio-economic status of the family has been declared poor," he said. ("Polio case reported from Balochistan," Dawn, 21 September 2020) Meanwhile, Jhang's District Health Authority chief executive officer reported four confirmed polio cases in the district of Jhang and replaced the deputy district officer health (DDOH) Dr Ahsan Saliyana with Dr Munir Shirin. Dr Ahsan Saliyana is not being allowed to work as the Deputy Medical Superintendent (General) of the DHQ Hospital. ("Four polio cases reported in Jhang; deputy DDOH changed," The News International, 21 September 2020)

Why Pakistan's polio problem persists
Chagai is Pakistan's largest district by area and shares the country's borders with both Afghanistan and Iran. Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two endemic countries where polio cases are still being detected. So far, 73 polio cases have been reported in Pakistan. The country had 147 cases in 2019, a steep rise from the 12 cases in 2018. Five causes cause for the proliferating persisting polio problem of Pakistan has been identified by Abigail Mariam in her Pakistan Reader's insight note titled "The Polio Crisis in Pakistan" - "social misconceptions and conspiracy theories", "alienated mistrustful communities", "the politicization of polio and governance issues", "conflict, militancy and the attacks on polio workers" and the "challenge of "Last Mile" vaccination efforts". Abigail 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."

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

Global SDG Index: "Pakistan performs the worst in South Asia"
According to the annual stocktaking exercise that appraises the 17 goals, Sustainable Development Goal Report 2020, Pakistan has been placed at the 134thrank by the Global SDG Index 2020 (down from 130th in 2019). The Dawn article says that although Pakistan's incumbent government has been handling the Covid-19 pandemic related mortality rate and its spread better than others, the government "did not stop the country from slipping four positions to rank 134th on the Global SDG Index this year, from 130th in 2019, out of the 193 countries." The report graded Pakistan as the worst performer in South Asia. The best being Sri Lanka at 94thrank, Nepal at 96th, Bangladesh at 109th and India at 117th. According to the report that analyses the nation's performance on 17 goals, Pakistan has made significant progress in six out of 17 goals in 2020, wherein climate change is the only goal where progress is perfectly on track.

Quotable
Kanwal Shauzab, parliamentary secretary on planning and special initiatives who presented the Voluntary National Report on SDGs in the UN in 2019, said "Under the PTI rule, every dime allocated for the people's welfare has transparently been utilized. We disbursed more in direct cash grants to the needy in two years than any past government did in its full five-year term. Today, I am confident that no one sleeps hungry in this country and if the world still views us as a passive partner on SDGs, then they are misled."

Dr Shabnum Sarfaraz, head of the federal SDG unit, challenged the report's credibility of saying that it "is not a UN report but issued by (the) Sustainable Development Solution Network". She said "… owing to changes in the indicator selection, the 2020 ranking is not comparable to the last year… progress that Pakistan made remains unaccounted."

Project coordinator for the Sindh SDG Unit Rafique Mustafa Shaikh said "We have covered the difficult phase of creating the legal framework to facilitate SDGs. In partnership with the UNDP, we are working with aligned departments and other stakeholders to provide coordination, knowledge and technical support to integrate policies, plans and budget with the 2030 Agenda. To this end, we set 169 targets and agreed on 168 indicators". 

Leaders in Denial
The article says that while the ruling PTI government's efforts for correction are yet to yield results and reflect in social indicators, the leaders of the incumbent government are in "perfect denial" and have blamed the bureaucracy for the poor rating. The article quotes a PTI leader's statement: "Yes, officialdom is responsible for embarrassing Pakistan. They did not update social indicators diligently and landed the country in a sorry place. The old data can't reflect the current reality". The article says that despite the lack of standing for Center's claims in the absence of the annual assessment report on SDGs, PTI leaders did not refrain from casting doubts on the global report. ("Whither sustainable development?," Dawn, 21 September 2020)


In Brief 
INTERNAL

Hindu community demands temple funds
Hindu lawmakers, including MNA Lal Chand Malhi, and civil society have demanded PM Imran Khan to release promised funds for the construction of a temple in Islamabad. They have also announced to meet the Islamic Ideological Council (IIC) Chairman and other political and religious party officials. 

The community members said that the PM should fulfill his promise of granting Rs 100 million for the temple citing that they have no proper site of worship. A Human Rights Commission (HRC) Member, Krishan Sharma, also made it clear that their demand was a mere social requirement since there are around 3000 Hindu families living in Islamabad and its outskirts. The community maintained that a temple in Islamabad would defeat the Hindutva ideology of Indian Premier. ("Hindu community demands temple fund,The Express Tribune, 21 September 2020)

"In less than eight years, Islamabad has been under siege for 170 days": The News 
An article written by Sabir Shah in The News International explains about the history of large rallies by political and religious rallies led by their leaders to Islamabad which is described as the "long march". The author cites the research conducted by the "Jang Group and Geo Television Network" shows that Islamabad was under siege for 170 days during major sit-ins since 13 January 2013. He talks about Dr Tahirul Qadri who featured in two out of four major sit-ins in Islamabad where highly sensitive buildings like the Parliament House, Supreme Court, the President and Prime Minister's residences, the state-run radio and television stations while threatening the government. 

Mr Shah adds that the rallies were not restricted to pressurizing Nawaz Sharif but also targeted Imran Khan's government where Maulana Fazlur Rehman led a long march before blocking the roads. (Sabir Shah, "In less than eight years, Islamabad has been under siege for 170 days," The News International, 21 September 2020)

"The situation is ominous" says a Dawn editorial on sectarian rallies in Karachi
An editorial in the Dawn gives a background on the sectarian violence in Pakistan and the apathy of the federal government. It mentions a caution raised by Sherry Rehman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in the Senate when she spoke about the growing anti-Shia campaign. The editorial talks about the three 'Azmat-i-Sahaba' rallies which were attacked by Deobandi, Barelvi and Ahle Hadith organizations while the latter raised Takfiri slogans. It criticizes the government's inactions in all these events. Although the editorial acknowledges the progress made by the government on dismantling terrorist organizations, the presence of sectarian rallies shows a negative picture of the government's control over the situation. It has stated that the violence manifested around the time if the debate over Punjab's Tahaffuz-i-Bunyad-i-Islam bill as well as charging 40 Shias under the blasphemy law during Muharram. ("Sectarian tensions," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

ECONOMY
$200 million loan for construction of dams in Sindh
The Sindh government will receive a $200 million loan from the World Bank for the construction of small rainwater-fed recharge dams to address problems relating to flash floods and droughts. The dams will be situated in Dadu, Thatta, Karachi, Jamshoro and Tharparkar districts. Shortage of irrigation water along with drought conditions in Sindh has increased the salience of groundwater exploitation. Fresh water is found mostly in a strip parallel to the left bank of the Indus River and some pockets in other areas. Sindh is predicted to be the most vulnerable "hotspot" in Pakistan. (Amin Ahmed, "$200m WB loan likely for construction of small dams in Sindh," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

Pakistan's gross saving rate remains in single-digit
An article written by Nadeem Hussain in the Dawn highlights about Pakistan's gross saving rate. In the beginning, he states that if a country's saving rate is below its investment rate, it would be difficult to achieve stability and sustainable growth. The gross saving rate as of 30 June 2020 was 8.4 per cent. Mr Hussain suggests that circulation of currency into the formal economy there would be benefits. He adds that this could take place if the economy is customer-driven. The author highlights the prevalence of the committee system, an informal mechanism for people to save and suggests digitalization of the process. Lastly, he mentions the importance of platform providers to assist the public. (Nadeem Hussain, "How to make Pakistanis save," Dawn, 21 September 2020)

ON AFGHANISTAN
Inclusive Afghanistan
In an opinion column in The Express Tribune, the author says that while getting the warring parties to talk was difficult and took a long time, writing a new inclusive Constitution is going to be harder. The previous Constitution was written by Americans and agreed to by a segment of Afghans in an international gathering in Germany in 2001. 

He outlines the previous conditions which the Taliban had placed - withdrawal of the US troops and release of prisoners by Kabul - before moving further with peace negotiations. Now the onus lies on the Afghans to write a Constitution that is inclusive of various ethnic groups, religious minorities, and women while Islam remains the main governing element. The conflict between the Shias and Sunnis has made nation-building difficult for Afghanistan. While the Taliban leans towards Saudi Arabia for inspiration and financial assistance, the Shiite Hazaras has the support of Iran. This divide affects Kabul's internal affairs and foreign relations. ("Setting the stage for Afghanistan negotiations," The Express Tribune, 21 September 2020)

ON INDIA
India's Faultlines
An opinion column in The Nationhighlights India's political, religious and socio-economic faultlines. The author refers to India: A Study in Profile by Lt Gen Javed Hassan (Retd) in which he says Dravidians in the south, Mongoloids in the northeast and Aryans in the Center and north is a major contributing factor to these faultlines. 

The author highlights the vigilante killings of Dalits and Muslims under the Modi government. He then lists out insurgencies across India. These include various militant outfits in the seven northeast states demanding liberation from India, the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) planning a referendum for Khalistan in 2022, the Naxal conflict, the Kashmir conflict, and the Tamil struggle against north Indian hegemony. He then links the exclusion of Muslims in Assam's NRC and granting of domicile to Hindus in Kashmir to the RSS-BJP front. 

The author says despite India being a secular democracy, it is a fanatic Hindu state holding on to its Hindutva ideology rooted in the caste system. He does not rule out the possibility of a Muslim uprising against Hindu led atrocities in the near future. If these faultlines are ignored, there could be catastrophic consequences which may even lead to India's disintegration. ("Indian Faultlines," The Nation, 21 September 2020)

 

 


"While three bills related to FATF were finally passed, not all is rosy in the parliament. The opposition challenged the count done by the NA staff on the first bill, held that the bill was void because Dr Babar Awan, an adviser to the prime minister who presented the bill, did not have authority. Upon the Speaker’s refusal to accommodate the objection, the opposition protested noisily, tore copies of the bill and staged a boycott of the proceedings of the joint sitting. Thus, most of the laws related to FATF, like several clauses of the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill and the Anti-Money Laundering (Second Amendment) Bill, were passed with a voice vote without any opposition."

-  Editorial in The Nation on the FATF bills being passed in the Parliament "without any oversight."

 

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Gwadar port ready for the Afghan goods

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The missing girls of Pakistan

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Locusts threaten Pakistan's food security

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Disregard for SOPs peaks Covid-19 cases

14 May 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No 14

Violence in Afghanistan and the Media in Pakistan

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Smart Lockdown, SOPs vs Social Realities

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Record COVID-19 spike in a single day;

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Centre extends lockdown to 14th April

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Multiparty conference blames Imran Khan

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Curfew last option: Imran Khan

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26.5 per cent drop in trade deficit

27 January 2020, Monday 

PTI's Punjab problem

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