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06 October 2020, Tuesday I Vol 1, No.151

A five-year development programme for the Gilgit- Baltistan



A new development package for Gilgit Baltistan focussing on five sectors; killing of another Ahmadi in Peshawar; and the FIR against Nawaz Sharif on sedition.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In Focus
A five-year development programme for the Gilgit- Baltistan:
Investments in Infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, health and education sectors

On 5 October, the Planning Commission said: "for the first time, deliberated upon the five-year plan/programme developed for various sectors by the Planning Commission in collaboration with the government of GB". The major sectors in the programme are said to include infrastructure, agriculture, tourism, health, education, higher education, energy and gems and precious stones. At an event, "Socio-Economic Development of Gilgit-Baltistan", organised by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives and the Planning Development Department of Gilgit-Baltistan, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission (DCPC) said, "We believe that a stable and prosperous GB can play an important role in the country's economy."

Five focus sectors 

On the agriculture sector, the agro-based industry and food processing industry would be established to increase productivity in agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors. On the energy issues, the DCPC stated that certain important interventions namely the establishment of a regional grid to reduce losses, evacuate surplus power to other load centres thereby providing a foundation for interconnecting GB with the national grid will be taken up.

On the mineral sector, development through strong research and other activities, regulatory framework, resources mapping and deployment of modern technologies will be the focus. On the tourism sector, several interventions have been undertaken to ensure infrastructure development, legal and regulatory framework, private sector facilitation, the comfort of tourists and needs of the local community, marketing strategy and skilled development.

Further, focus on community-based sustainable interventions, improvement in human development indicators, including health, education, water and sanitation and immunisation are other areas that are to be looked into.

Collaboration with local and international development partners

With the government already taken steps to facilitate public-private partnership in certain mega projects under the Public Sector Development Programme plus (PSDP+), the same tool is to be used in GB's social sector for mainstreaming of vulnerable and socially excluded population. Also, collaborations with local and international development partners to get financial and technical assistance in different sectors will be initiated. Further, public-private partnership is to be established in the GB Planning and Development Department.

The function also stressed on the need for an implementation strategy to understand the proposed plans and programmes realistically. Further, the participants emphasised on the importance of defining the roles of the federal and GB governments before the implementation of the five-year plan. (Khaleeq Kiani, "Centre launching five-year uplift plan for Gilgit-Baltistan," Dawn, 6 October 2020)

The larger context 

This development comes amid the ongoing discussion on granting "provisional provincial status" to GB. (Amir Wasim, "Consensus on GB's provisional status as province," Dawn, 22 September 2020) Earlier in September, the government and the opposition almost reached a consensus on granting this status while agreeing to hold consultations on the issue after the elections of its legislative assembly which is to be held on 15 November. ("Elections in GB slated for Nov 15," Dawn, 24 September 2020)

 
From the Archives (Image Source: Dawn)

 

Another Ahmadi killed; this time, a Professor in Peshawar. Third killing since July
On 5 October, World Teachers Day, unidentified gunmen shot dead a professor Dr Naeemuddin Khattak in the Wazir Bagh area of Peshawar. The slain, belonging to the Ahmadi community, was a zoology professor at Superior Science College. ("Ahmadi professor shot dead on World Teachers Day," Dawn, 6 October 2020) According to Dawn, a police official confirmed that the professor was killed following an argument over religion on the previous day. ("Professor belonging to Ahmadi community shot dead in Peshawar allegedly after religious argument," Dawn, 6 October 2020) The police have registered cases against a relative Mubasir and Saad Farooq, a fellow professor. Both said to have argued with the slain professor and named by the deceased's family in the FIR.

Peshawar has witnessed an uptick in violence against Ahmadis recently. This is the third attack on an Ahmadi in the city since July 2020. The first incident occurred on 29 July, when a teenager shot dead an American national Tahir Naseem in a court. Later, on 12 August, an Ahmadi trader Meraj Ahmed was gunned down by attackers in Gulbahar. Separately, on 11 September an Ahmadi's residence in Phandu was besieged by a mob. Although the police rescued the family, a family member was detained and charged with blasphemy.

Easy targets of religious and political insecurity

Pakistan is home to the world's largest Ahmadi population. Ahmadis constitute between 0.22% and 2.2% of Pakistan's population. Pakistan's Ahmadi population has often been persecuted and discriminated by the Sunni majority. However, as per a research report, only 7% of Pakistanis considered Ahmadis as Muslims. ("Pakistan: Situation of members of the Lahori Ahmadiyya Movement in Pakistan" RefWorld, UNHCR, 1 March 2006) 

In 2009, the US Department of State annual report on human rights stated that Ahmadis in Pakistan were being killed for their faith. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has repeatedly called on Pakistan's government for immediate introduction of parliamentary legislations to repeal discriminatory laws against religious minorities such as the penal statute that mandates capital punishment for "blasphemy" - the section 295-C of Pakistan's Penal Code commonly called the "Blasphemy Law". This law identifies the Ahmadi belief in the prophethood of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad as blasphemous. Under section 295-C of PPC, over 50 Ahmadis were arrested under various provisions of the blasphemy law across Pakistan. ("Pakistan: Massacre of Minority Ahmadis," Human Rights Watch, 1 June 2010)

 
A new FIR against Nawaz Sharif on sedition (Image Source: Dawn)

 

FIR against Nawaz Sharif; Imran Khan says he is unaware
On 5 October, the Federal Minister for Science and Technology tweeted that the PM was unaware of the FIR filed against Nawaz Sharif and expressed extreme displeasure over the developments. Earlier in the day, a sedition case was filed against Nawaz, Farooq Haider and other PML-N leaders.

The complainant alleged that Nawaz supported the policies of India and wanted to give the impression that Pakistan will be listed in the FATF grey list. ("PM Imran Khan expresses displeasure over FIR against Nawaz Sharif: Fawad Chaudhry," The News International, 6 October 2020 and "Govt keeps itself away as Nawaz booked for sedition," Dawn, 6 October 2020)
 


In-Brief
INTERNAL
PDM announces a public meetings schedule 
On 5 October, the PDM rescheduled its maiden rally to 16 October in Gujranwala. According to Dawn, the decision came after some parties showed resentment over the JUI-F's unilateral decision to change the date of the Quetta rally. The PDM's public meetings will be held on: 18 October in Karachi, 25 October in Quetta, 22 November in Peshawar, 30 November in Multan and the last one on 13 December in Lahore. The 18 October rally in Karachi, scheduled on special request of the PPP, will mark the anniversary of Karsaz suicide attack on Benazir Bhutto's motorcade which killed at least 100 PPP activists and injured others. ("PDM shifts venue, date for its first anti-govt show," Dawn, 6 October 2020 and "PDM announces final schedule of public meetings," The News International, 6 October 2020)

Dawn editorial on shrinking space for civil and democratic debates in Pakistan
An editorial in Dawn criticises the current shrinking space for civil and democratic debates in Pakistan. It says the constant hounding, name-calling and labelling of opponents as traitors takes the space away from issue-based debates which are essential to a parliamentary system. It says political parties must reflect on how they can engage constructively. The editorial urges the ruling party to take the lead in bringing constructive change and asks the opposition to tone down its rhetoric so a halfway meeting point can mark a new beginning. ("Pointlessly stridentDawn, 6 October 2020)

Can the opposition succeed in toppling the regime, asks an opinion
An opinion column in Dawn says that the current system has put Pakistan behind economically, politically and security-wise. The author says civilian regimes like the PTI fall easily when troubles brew between them and their patrons because the opposition projects itself as a better option. He says factors which helped topple previous regimes - huge violence, worsening economic situation and staying in power for too long and loss of support from major powers - may help the PML-N today to topple the PTI. But since the above factors are not as weak as past overt establishment regimes, the opposition will have to put up a stronger resistance. The author says, the upcoming protests may lead to free polls and more civilian sway than the current situation. ("Looming showdown," Dawn,6 October 2020)

New cases of poliovirus recorded in Punjab
On 5 October, two more cases of wild poliovirus were confirmed in South Punjab and cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 (cVDPV2) have hit the children in the districts in the Faisalabad Division. This year, out of a total 77 confirmed wild poliovirus cases in Pakistan as many as 22 cases have been reported each in Sindh and KP each, 21 in Balochistan and 12 in Punjab. As many as 64 cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type-2 (cVDPV2) were confirmed across Pakistan including 42 cases in KP, 11 in Punjab, 10 in Sindh and one in Balochistan. This year, more than 30 million children, including nearly 18 million in Punjab alone, were deprived of polio vaccines across Pakistan due to the interruption of anti-polio activities in March because of the pandemic. ("Two more polio cases confirmed in Punjab," The News International, 6 October 2020)

ECONOMY
PBS data shows widening trade deficit in September
On 5 October, Pakistan's trade deficit widened by 19.49 per cent to $2.391 billion in September, compared to $2.001 billion during September last year. The decrease in imports during FY20 and in the first two months of FY21 helped the government manage external accounts despite reduced exports. The PBS data showed that imports during September witnessed an increase, widening the trade deficit between July-September to $5.804 billion, up from $5.689 billion. ("Trade deficit surges 19.5pc in September," Dawn, 6 October 2020)

What is in store for CPEC SEZs?
An opinion column in The Express Tribune says that the real promise of this flagship BRI corridor is industrial cooperation and SEZs. The author says since there are no special incentives for CPEC SEZs and no exclusivity rights for Chinese investors, it provides a level playing field to Pakistani and international investors. He says merely having SEZs will not change Pakistan's usual FDI which is around $1-2 billion. For this, the author says the government should complete the SEZs soon and design an investor-friendly business environment, attract high value investments, technology transfer and broaden Pakistan's industrial base. ("CPEC SEZs: gearing up," The Express Tribune, 5 October 2020)

 


"Pakistan's political discourse is suffering from a crisis of civility — one which does little to bring relief to citizens who face numerous challenges. Day after day, politicians and leaders use language for each other that is excessively strident and overly personal. While politics and politicking are intrinsic to a democracy, the present trend of hounding, name-calling and labelling of opponents as traitors are a far cry from the issue-based debates which are essential to a parliamentary system.”

-  Editorial, Dawn, 6 October 2020

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