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Daily Briefs


Photo : Dawn

08 October 2020, Thursday I Vol 1, No.153

Pakistan to experience muted economic recovery



World Bank says Pakistan's economy severely affected by fiscal policy tightening and pandemic measures

PR Daily Brief |

According to Dawn, the World Bank in its latest South Asia Economic Focus report forecasts the worst ever recession in South Asia. For Pakistan, it projects an increase in poverty and uncertain economic recovery owing to Covid-19's adverse impacts over the upcoming two years. Pakistan's national economy has been severely skewed by the federal government's monetary and fiscal policy tightening followed by the pandemic-related SOPs and lockdowns. The report added that the highly uncertain projection depended upon the absence of significant infection peaks or subsequent pandemic waves that would consequently result in further lockdowns. ("WB sees poverty rise, muted recovery in Pakistan over two years," Dawn, 8 October 2020)

First real GDP growth contraction in decades
Dawn quotes the WB report "In Pakistan, economic growth is projected to remain below potential, at 0.5 per cent for FY21 compared to over 4pc annual average in the three years to FY2019". It further estimates the real GDP growth to have contracted for the first times in decades – a decline from 1.9 per cent in FY19 to -1.5 per cent in FY20. Pakistan's economic growth is expected to remain well below potential, averaging at 1.3 per cent for next two financial years.

Uncertain Projections
The report anticipated worsening of the economic crisis in the case of a resurgence of the pandemic, another locust attack or heavy monsoons. Although the economic activities are expected to resume in accordance with the lifting of the pandemic-related restrictions, "Pakistan's near-term economic prospects are subdued". It opines that uncertainty over the availability of a vaccine, call for measures to curb imbalances and unfavorable external conditions will affect Pakistan. It also considered external financing risks such as difficulties in bilateral debt from non-traditional donors and unfavorable international financing conditions. The report projects that the current account deficit will widen to an average of 1.5 per cent of GDP over FY21 and FY22; the fiscal deficit will narrow to 7.4 per cent in FY22; and that the consumer price inflation has risen from an average of 6.8 per cent in FY19 to an average of 10.7 per cent in FY20.

On South Asia
As per the report, South Asia will experience a sharper than expected economic slump. Regional growth may contract by 7.7 per cent in 2020. The region will plunge into its worst recession due to the lingering economic and other effects of the pandemic. This will push millions into extreme poverty by taking a disparate toll on informal workers. 

Quotable
Ahead of the report's launch, World Bank's vice president for the South Asia region Hartwig Schafer said "The collapse of South Asian economies during Covid-19 has been more brutal than anticipated, worst of all for small businesses and informal workers who suffer sudden job losses and vanishing wages." He explained that although WB did not publish Pakistan's poverty numbers for technical reasons, the poverty rate had peaked like other states in the region. The WB report said "Given anaemic growth projections in the near term, poverty is expected to worsen. Vulnerable households rely heavily on jobs in the services sector, and the projected weak services growth is likely to be insufficient to reverse the higher poverty rates precipitated by the pandemic".

 
No issues with the army says Maulana Rahman
Meets with Maryam Nawaz to discussed the PDM arrangements for the rally on 16 October
Image Source: Dawn

 

On 7 October, Maulana Fazlur Rehman called on Maryam Nawaz to discussed the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) plan of protest rallies to send the "selected" government home. Post the meeting he stated, "We have no clash with the Army or its leadership. If there is a problem, it is not from our side," adding, "A historic movement will kick off on Oct 16 in Gujranwala that will lay the foundation of sending home the most incompetent government in the country's history. A legitimate constitutional government will be formed in the wake of the opposition's movement. People are looking up to us and the PDM will succeed in this struggle." Further, he stated that he was optimistic about the success of the opposition's protest while claiming that Prime Minister Imran Khan was already upset even though the movement had yet to be formally launched. (Zulqernain Tahir, "Fazl upbeat about Oct 16 PDM rally after talks with Maryam," Dawn, 8 October 2020)

Maryam says this is a decisive moment for Pakistan
Along the same lines, Maryam stated, "This is a decisive moment for Pakistan. Nobody can snatch the right from people to elect their prime minister. It's going to be settled once and for all that it's the people who have the power to decide the fate of the country," adding, "This government is standing on crutches. The PDM is not a small movement. It will secure the right to the ballot and protect the constitution." Further, she stated that the people were looking up to the PDM to rid them of this "anti-people and selected" government adding, "Getting rid of this government will be a great relief for the people of Pakistan." Further, she also expressed hope that under Rehman's leadership, the PDM would achieve its target. ("Opposition including PML-N has no issues with the army: Maulana Fazl," The Express Tribune, 7 October 2020)

An opinion says that the newly emerged troika hold all the cards but this could also backfire
An opinion in the Dawn while describing the coming together of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz Sharif and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, forming the other troika states that although these three command the PDM's narrative, operations of the party that commands the narrative, and the people who will operationalise the narrative respectively, there is a challenge which is how to keep the alliance not just intact but cohesive and effective if the PPP is driving neither the narrative nor the operationalisation of the narrative where it really matters? 

Further, the opinion talks about the long march which is on the PDM's agenda, stating that although many opposition leaders hope that matters will not reach that stage if the next eight weeks do now give them their results, the long march is the only option left. The opinion states that strategists in government know it's not the intent of the opponent that matters at this stage, but its capability, with Rehman and his capability to bring people in large numbers to the capital it would be difficult to counter them. Also, if negotiations are to happen when the marchers are camped at the capital, the government will have a distinct disadvantage. Which is why some within the government is arguing that it is better to weaken the troika before the campaign gathers momentum. (Fahd Husain, "RED ZONE FILES: The other troika," Dawn, 8 October 2020)

 
Sharif's Court troubles continue
Appear in 30 days or be an absconder: IHC to Nawaz
Image Source: Dawn

 

On 7 October, the IHC ordered that Nawaz Sharif should be summoned through advertisements and also directed the government to submit receipt of the advertisement within two days. The court said that after the publication of advertisements, Nawaz would have 30 days to appear before the court regarding the Al-Azizia and Avenfield cases. If he fails to do so, he would be declared an absconder. ("IHC tells Nawaz Sharif: Appear in 30 days or be an absconder," The News International, 8 October 2020)
 


In-Brief 
Dawn editorial urges State to confront GB democratically
An editorial in Dawn, referring to protests in Hunza demanding release of Baba Jan and 13 others, says clamping down on people demanding their rights and terming them 'anti-state' will not integrate GB into Pakistan's mainstream. It says that this would be an apt time for decision-makers to study the GB's political situation as elections in the region are due next month.

The editorial says the State must address their genuine concerns with empathy and give them ownership of the political process. It highlights that the centre must contemplate on giving the region provisional provincial status while keeping in mind the drawbacks. It says endless waiting for a resolution on the Kashmir dispute — to which GB is historically linked — is unfair in the eyes of GB residents. ("GB politics," Dawn, 8 October 2020)

Enforced Disappearances
An opinion article in Dawn says that while the IHC, SC, and other committees look into cases of enforced disappearance, the reality is that the government's Commission of Inquiry into Enforced Disappearances (COIED) is a good-for-nothing organisation. The author says the COIED's statistics, especially on Balochistan, are unsatisfactory. He attributes one of the reasons for the failure of the COIED to the government's inability to find a regular head for it. It is currently headed by the NAB Chief. The author suggests: enforced disappearances must be made a crime under the Penal Code, Pakistan must ratify the relevant UN convention and extend cooperation to the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, and the government must recognise the agony of the victims' families. ("Raw deal for missing persons," Dawn, 8 October 2020)

External
Pakistan-EU Political Dialogue
On 6 October, Pakistan and the European Union held its 6th round of Pakistan-European Union Political Dialogue virtually, a first since the signing of the Pakistan-EU Strategic Engagement Plan (SEP) in June 2019. While both sides acknowledge the importance of the mutually-beneficial GSP Plus status granted by the European Union to Pakistan, they acknowledged detrimental effects COVID-19 had on trade. The Dialogue covered broad areas of trade, investment, education etc. The Foreign Secretary highlighted Pakistan's contributions to counter-terrorism and its role in US-Afghan peace deal, addressing illegal migration, and called for opening new channels of legal migration. ("Pakistan, EU agree to strengthen engagement at multiple levels," The News International, 8 October 2020)

Afghanistan's poppy cultivation threat to Pakistan
On 7 October, the Federal Minister for Narcotics Control said that the massive poppy cultivation in Afghanistan is a big threat to Pakistan. He said, Afghanistan accounts for over 80 per cent of the world's total poppy output and the commodity is smuggled to the Middle East and other regions through Balochistan. On 8 October (today) a large quantity of drugs seized by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) would be burnt in Quetta. ("Afghanistan's poppy crop poses threat to Pakistan, says Swati," Dawn, 8 October 2020)

Pakistan's World View
Nagorno-Karabakh: History and way forward with OSCE
An opinion column in The Express Tribune traces the history of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and looks at possible reasons that may have led to the current conflict. The author lists out the following: the global community's efforts, especially from the key regional players, to resolve the issue have always remained lacklustre, visible trust deficit in Armenia and Azerbaijan vis-à-vis other states and multilateral organisations and a 'pathological animosity towards each other,' since the 1990s. The author says the OSCE may be the best to: end the ongoing military hostilities, jumpstart negotiations between the two neighbours, engage regional powers in conflict resolution, and encourage Armenia and Azerbaijan to follow confidence-building measures. ("The Nagorno-Karabakh dispute," The Express Tribune, 7 October 2020)

Pakistan and the world's Great Powers' politics
In an opinion column in The Nation, the author outlines the shift in world politics from the Cold War to the present day economic tilt towards China and the security issues in the Indo-Pacific region. The author says, the US declaring India as its greatest strategic partner in the Indo-Pacific to contest and contain China and subjecting Pakistan to political, diplomatic, economic and military pressure has pushed Pakistan into Chinese sphere of influence. He says Pakistan policy and decision makers should shed away wishful thinking and comprehend the evolving global dynamics and design national policies according to the global scenario and not fall for meaningless lip service by POTUS Trump especially with regards to the offer to mediate between Pakistan and India. He urges Pakistan to work with new strategic partners like China and other member countries of BRI with focus on involving all South Asian and Central Asian countries in the CPEC/BRI. ("Contemporary geopolitical contest," The Nation, 8 October 2020)

 


"We need to stop treating anyone who seeks their rights or speaks their minds as enemies. As political leaders have pointed out in the past, the constitution gives every person the right to association and to speech and expression. In the very recent past too, we have seen sedition and treason charges being brought against the youth who were protesting in Islamabad. All this reflects a fickle and frivolous attitude of the government towards the constitution. This trivialization of constitutional matters must stop.”

-  Editorial, The News

 

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