Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

23 September 2020, Wednesday I Vol 1, No.140

For the US, the priority in Pakistan is to advance human rights :

Says the US Ambassador designate at a Senate meeting

PR Daily Brief |

The daily's top story by Wajid Ali Syed is on the recent statement by the US' nominated Ambassador to Islamabad William Todd, wherein he opines that the US relations with India should not be built at the expense of Pakistan. He also offered to facilitate an India-Pak dialogue to bring down regional tensions and urged Washington to have a strong relationship with both India and Pakistan. 

On 22 September, while addressing the Senate confirmation, Todd said "Our hope is that both countries will take the necessary steps to reduce tensions, and as President Trump has offered, we are prepared to facilitate dialogue if both sides request it". He also called for irreversible and sustained action from Pakistan against terrorism to reduce regional tensions and rebuild strong ties with the US. However, he acknowledged Pakistan's losses at the hands of terrorists and the country's counter-terrorism commitment. "Pakistan has taken important steps toward fulfilling that commitment but needs to continue that work," he added. Todd vowed to engage Pakistan on issues such as those of "strategic stability and non-proliferation, carrying a clear message on the threat that nuclear weapons pose to the United States, the region, and our allies and partners. Pakistan needs to demonstrate it is prepared to live up to international commitments on weapons of mass destruction." 

Speaking of the Afghan peace process, he said "Pakistan is an essential regional partner, and this is an opportune moment in our (US-Pak) relationship to work together on shared goals. Peace in Afghanistan is in both our countries' best interests, and effective US-Pakistani cooperation is essential to achieve that objective."

The Ambassador's goals for Pakistan
Ambassador Todd informed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding his priorities, including that of ensuring Islamabad puts pressure on militant groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba and ensuring the US Pakistan health partnership functions effectively. 

Ambassador William Todd said "My first goal will be advancing human rights, particularly freedom of religion and expression. I am also concerned about increasing restrictions on civil society, including the growing harassment and disappearances of journalists without accountability, which undermines the exercise of the right of peaceful assembly and freedoms of expression and association," he said. He further said that the US needs increased bilateral trade and investment with Pakistan. "Making progress on youth engagement, trade and investment, and human rights will be challenging, but necessary for a better future for Pakistan, and a stronger US-Pakistan relationship".

("US envoy lists priorities for Pakistan: First goal to advance civil rights, freedoms," The News International, 23 September 2020)

There have been multiple criticisms on the proposed single national curriculum by the PTI government (Image Source: Dawn)


Single National Curriculum will only promote "majoritarian religious nationalism" as has been stated by others," says an Opinion
Foqia Sadiq Khan's opinion in The News International requests the education minister to "stop the SNC (Single National Curriculum) in its tracks, cut the losses, and focus on other aspects of the educational agenda of the PTI that will lead to better results". The four priority areas identified by the PTI government in its education framework are: the need to improve quality; decrease Out of School Children (OOSC); enhance skills training, and bring about uniformity in education. She was responding to the minister's 8 September statement wherein he says "we will continue to request for more comments and suggestions since that would help us refine our attempt at a single national curriculum."

Foqia lists certain issues with the SNC: first, SNC would not lead to uniform education across Pakistan; second, SNC will promote "majoritarian religious nationalism"; and third, it does not consider ground realities of Pakistan's education system and sector. Moreover, prominent educationists of Pakistan such as Dr Tariq Rehman, Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr A H Nayyar, Dr Faisal Bari, Dr Rubina Saigol, Dr Ayesha Razzaque, Dr Baela Jamil, Neelum Hussain, Dr Anjum Altaf and others seem to disapprove of the SNC. Hence, Foqia argues that the SNC may have been approved by education managers and not education experts. 

Foqia says the SNC "will only achieve the religious indoctrination of future generations without meaningfully contributing to establishing a uniform system of education." A grave danger to the future of Pakistan. ("SNC: broaden the horizon," The News International, 23 September 2020)

Gwadar. (Image Source: Dawn)

All praise for the Joint Consultation Mechanism JCM and China
An opinion column in The Nation praises the CPEC Political Parties Joint Consultation Mechanism (JCM). The author says that the JCM brought together nine Pakistani political parties and has conveyed to the world that the faith of provincial political forces and mainstream political parties on CPEC is unfluctuating. He praises the International Department of the Communist Party of China (IDCPC) and the Pakistan-China Institute (PCI) which materialised the JCM.

The author focuses on the JCM conference held on 20 August 2020 on the theme "Working Together to Promote Economic Development and Improve People's Lives Through High-Quality CPEC Cooperation." It was co-chaired by Chairman Senate Sadiq Sanjrani from the Pakistani side and Minister of the International Department of CPC Song Tao from the Chinese side. China congratulated the successful organisation of the second JCM and announced the donation of 500,000 masked and 2000 PPE kits to Pakistani political parties. 

On the other hand, Pakistani leaders showered praises on China for successfully combating the Covid-19 pandemic, thanked China's support to Pakistan in handling the pandemic, and highlighted the importance of the CPEC in changing the destiny of the region and promoting regional connectivity. ("JCM: Political Consensus on CPEC,The Nation, 23 September 2020) 

Soldier killed in an attack by terrorists in Bajaur
A soldier was killed when terrorists attacked a security post located in Bajaur on 21 September. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Sepoy Sabir Shah, 24, was killed in the attack and his mortal remains were sent to his native area in Kohat district. Pakistan claims that it has consistently raised the issue of border management with Afghanistan to avoid the use of the latter's territory against its forces. Bajaur has witnessed numerous attacks including the one that took place on 29 July, which led to the death of a soldier. (Anwarullah Khan, "Soldier martyred in attack from Afghanistan side," Dawn, 23 September 2020)

Nawaz Sharif's lawyer quits after IHC rejects plea
The lead counsel for Nawaz Sharif has given up representing his client after the Islamabad High Court rejected his application for deferring the issuance of the former Prime Minister's proclamation, the court was informed on 22 September. Khwaja Haris Ahmed, the defence counsel, disassociated himself from the case with an assumption that he had lost the right of audience. The IHC had dismissed Nawaz Sharif's application on 15 September but observed that the matter related to the former Prime Minister's audience would be examined at the right stage. (Malik Asad, "Nawaz's lawyer quits after plea rejection by IHC," Dawn, 23 September 2020)

On pitfalls after the Multiparty Conference
An article written by Zahid Hussain presents a critical picture of the Multiparty Conference (MPC) and the importance of Nawaz Sharif as a part of it. Mr Hussain states that former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has retained his anti-establishment stance after his 'no-holds-barred' address from London to the MPC on 20 September. The author mentions that there were several MPCs held in a span of two years, but the latest sitting was more structured under the banner of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). However, he doubts the ability of the PDM to mobilise the masses despite the fact that the Imran Khan-led PTI government is politically weak due to its failure on every front. Mr Hussain points out that governments have resigned due to street agitations, but the ones backed by the security establishment were tougher. He states that there is a need for civilian supremacy and questions how it will be achieved. (Zahid Hussain, "Pitfalls after the MPC," Dawn, 23 September 2020)

FATF-specific bill shelved earlier, passed in a different form
The Parliament passed an anti-terror financing bill, that was shelved during the government-opposition negotiations in August, in a different form but without changing its text. The earlier bill, sponsored by the Government, sought an amendment in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC). The new bill is sponsored by Faheem Khan, a private member belonging to the PTI. Another difference is the same text was incorporated in the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 1997, instead of the CrPC. PML-N leader Mohsin Shahnawaz Ranjha said the bill had exactly the same content and wording previously included in the amendment to the CrPC. He said that the Opposition representatives' main objection to the CrPC bill was that keeping an accused in custody for 120 days was extremely harsh and the power could be misused. ("FATF-specific bill shelved earlier, passed in different form,The News International, 23 September 2020)

"I can quit Government but won't give NRO": Prime Minister Imran Khan
Prime Minister Imran Khan made it clear on 22 September that he would step down from the Government but not give away NRO to corrupt politicians. He made the statement while chairing a federal meeting which reviewed key national issues and decisions on matters including discussion and presentation on the Anti-Rape Investigation and Prosecution Bill. Advisors Babar Awan and Shahzad Akbar briefed the cabinet on how to control the problem of rape and ensure of protection of women and children. The Prime Minister directed the bill to be brought before the Cabinet Committee on Legislation. ("I can quit govt but won't give NRO: PM Imran Khan," The News International, 23 September 2020)

"Is Pakistan's military spending just right?" asks an Op-ed
An op-ed written by Nasir Khan puts forth the question whether the Pakistan military is spending right. He first highlights the security challenges both internally and externally which also includes rescue and relief operations during floods and earthquakes. The author talks about the influence and skills of the Pakistan Army in foreign and domestic policies. Mr Khan cites statistics that Pakistan's defence budget is 3% of its total GDP and states that it is expensive to maintain the military as war can be pricier than maintaining the defence of the state. He goes onto bring in the conservative narrative that sustaining an appropriately sized, well trained and equipped force is capable of deterring and dissuading threats. In conclusion, the author states that the Pakistan military has a relatively lower spending compared to other states in South Asia. (Nasir Khan, "Is Pakistan's military spending just right?," Daily Times, 23 September 2020)

Rehbar Committee meets today on the All Parties Conference
The Opposition's Rehbar Committee will meet today to reach a consensus on the All Parties Conference (APC) agenda. Sources within the Committee told The Nation that the three major opposition parties, the PPP, PML-N, and JUI-F had reservations over each other's agendas proposed in the recent APC. The JUI-F was very aggressive in its stance and wanted to get rid of the PTI-led Government without further delay. However, the PPP and PML-N wanted to give a tough time to the Government within the parliament house. 

The JUI-F along with other small opposition parties had already shown doubts over the attitude of the PPP and PML-N and threatened to break the joint alliance if both the parties failed to follow the Rehbar Committee's decision. The PPP maintains that they will not be part of any undemocratic move and will try to maintain an environment of trust and confidence among the Opposition. ("Rehbar Committee meets today to reach consensus on APC agenda," The Nation, 23 September 2020)

No payments till payments of dues: IPPs 
Independent Power Producers (IPPs) have refused to sign final agreements unless and until the Government clears their dues which amount to Rs 300-400 billion. IPPs had previously signed MoUs with the Government to mutually alter the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).

According to a senior official, dues of powerhouses, including state-owned and private plants, have swelled by over Rs 650 billion out of which IPPs need to be paid up to Rs 400 billion. Though they prefer the dues be cleared in one go, IPPs may agree on payment of 90 per cent of their total dues. 

The official also mentioned that there are some thermal power plants, including private hydropower projects (HPPs), which have not yet signed MoUs. There are three operational HPPs with the capacity of generating 350MW. ("No MoUs till payment of dues, IPPs tell govt,The News International, 23 September 2020)

Phase 3 trial for Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccine begins
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) announced the launch of Phase 3 clinical trials for the Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccine in Pakistan on Tuesday. The vaccine has been developed by China's CanSino Biologics. Of the 40,000 people participating in the trial from seven countries, 8,000-10,000 will be from Pakistan. 

The vaccine would be available in the market in five to six months once its results are approved, National Institute of Health (NIH) Executive Director Maj Gen Aamer Ikram said in a press conference the same day. Meanwhile, the Government's database on coronavirus shows that another 290 people have recovered in Pakistan, taking the country's total recoveries to 293,159 and 570 patients are in critical condition at the moment. ("Phase-3 clinical trial for Chinese-developed Covid-19 vaccine begins in Pakistan,The Nation, 23 September 2020)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg's demise and the way forward
An opinion in the Dawn focuses on US politics and the Supreme Court in the light of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's demise. The author highlights the hypocrisy of Senators who are now keen to replace Ginsburg when the election is less than six weeks away. They had previously thwarted Barack Obama's constitutional right to fill a supreme court vacancy nine months out from a presidential election. 

The implication of having a conservative judge would turn the hitherto 5-4 conservative advantage into a 6-3 supremacy paving the way for a right-wing majority in the American judiciary for years to come. This is critical because, in the US, the Supreme Court's standing in the political hierarchy makes it an ultimate arbiter of right and wrong. The author justifies this by predicting a likelihood of the 1973 Roe vs Wade judgement, which gave American women the right to choose whether to have an abortion, being overturned.

The author then talks about some of Ginsburg's most crucial cases related to gender discrimination and further goes on to trace some of the crucial moments of the Supreme Court dating back to the Lincoln administration. ("Supremely Ruth-less,Dawn, 23 September 2020)

Kashmir and Palestine disputes are UN's most glaring and long-standing failures, says Pakistan's Foreign Minister
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the 75th United Nations General Assembly on 21 September that the world considers the UN as a talk shop which cannot implement resolutions. He said, "The Jammu and Kashmir and Palestine disputes are the Organisation's most glaring and long-standing failures." He added that "the UN was hope born of the ashes of unmitigated suffering of war and misplaced notions of the superiority of some over the others." Islamabad argues that the revocation of special status from Jammu and Kashmir by India violates the United Nations Security Council resolutions that grant the right of self-determination to the people of Kashmir. (Anwar Iqbal, "Qureshi says world sees UN as a 'talk shop'," Dawn, 23 September 2020)


"Pakistan has taken important steps toward fulfilling that commitment but needs to continue that work...Pakistan needs to demonstrate it is prepared to live up to international commitments on weapons of mass destruction"

-  US Ambassador designate for Pakistan


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