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Daily Briefs


Photo : Dawn

02 December 2020, Wednesday I Vol 1, No.196

Chinese Defence Minister in Pakistan. Signs MoU, receives Nishan-e-Imtiaz



China and Pakistan agree to the enhancement of defence cooperation, an opinion on the ongoing political confrontation in Pakistan, and a survey revealing the public opinion on the government's and PDM's narratives

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

PR Editorial, 02 December 2020
Chinese Defence Minister in Pakistan. Signs MoU, receives Nishan-e-Imtiaz
Gen Wei Fenghe, the Defence Minister of China, is on an official tour in Pakistan. He met with the Prime Minister, President and the Chief of Army Staff during the last two days. On Monday, the Chinese Defence Minister signed an MoU with Pakistan on defence issues. Though the details are yet to be made public, according to an ISPR release, during the meeting, “matters of mutual interest, regional security and enhanced bilateral defence collaboration were discussed.” The statement also read: “Visiting dignitary acknowledged and appreciated Pakistan Army’s sincere efforts for regional peace and provision of a secure environment for CPEC projects. COAS thanked the dignitary for China’s unwavering support to Pakistan on all key issues at regional and international forums. COAS said that Pakistan Army greatly values our time-tested and brotherly relations with China.” In his meeting with Imran Khan, according to the news reports, both “discussed bilateral relations and matters pertaining to Kashmir dispute, Covid-19 pandemic, CPEC and others.” According to a report by the Express Tribune, “The prime minister deeply appreciated China’s principled support on the Kashmir issue in the wake of India’s unilateral and illegal actions of August 5, 2019. He underlined the serious threat posed by the RSS-BJP dispensation through belligerent actions, discriminatory measures against Indian minorities, and harshest steps to curb all the freedoms of innocent Kashmiris in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).”

It appears, there are two components to the Chinese defence minister’s visit to Pakistan. The first one – defence; during recent years, there have been increased efforts to bring the two countries together on defence cooperation. The President of Pakistan conferred Nishan-e-Imtiaz (military) on the Chinese Defence Minister, highlighting the importance that Pakistan accord to China. According to the citation, quoted by the news report, “General Wei Fenghe is a sincere and close friend of Pakistan. He has played a prominent role in promoting and further strengthening defence relations between the Armed Forces of Pakistan and China.” The second component is political. Pakistan needs China’s support against India at the regional and international levels. With the China-India relationship facing tensions, Islamabad sees an opportunity to get closer to Beijing.

With siding with China, will Pakistan be able to balance its relationship with the US? How far will China go? Both questions need to be explored.
 
In Focus
China and Pakistan agree to the enhancement of defence cooperation
Chinese Defence Minister meets with civilian and military leadership
 

On 1 December, Pakistan and China promised to deepen their cooperation for combating threats to regional peace and stability. This comes as the Chinese Defence Minister Gen Wei Fenghe is on a three-day visit to Pakistan. Further, the minister met with Pakistan’s civilian as well as military leadership during which both sides pointed to the growing threats to regional security. Earlier, on 30 November, military leaders of Pakistan and China had signed a memorandum of understanding for enhancement of defence cooperation.

Meets with PM and President
During his visit with Gen Wei, PM Imran Khan reiterated India’s “unilateral and illegal actions of August 5, 2019” and emphasise how the “ruling BJP’s belligerent actions, discriminatory measures against Indian minorities, and freedom curbs were threatening regional peace.” He called for deepening bilateral “strategic communication and coordination” to deal with the emerging challenges and threats. Further, President Alvi recalled that ties with Beijing were the “cornerstone” of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

Gen Wei highlight the progress made between the “all-weather friends”
Gen Wei, during his visit, highlighted the progress made in defence ties between the two “all-weather friends” and expressed optimism that his visit would further strengthen that cooperation. Further, he underlined the South Asia and the Arabian Sea Region needed peace, stability and economic development and called for Pak-China collective efforts to protect and promote common interests. (“Islamabad, Beijing vow to boost defence cooperation,” Dawn, 2 November 2020)

 

 

Ongoing political confrontation taking Pakistan to a dead-end: Opinion 
A dialogue between political forces is the only way out of this political stand-off 

Image Source: Dawn

An opinion in Dawn critical of the recent development that unfolded pre and posts the PDM’s Multan rally says that the stand-off has taken a more dangerous turn. The anxious repose by the PTI government only shows the growing chaos within the administration. Further, the increasingly aggressive opposition alliance on a collision course with the government, the latter’s options are becoming narrower, with the COVID-19 not seem to have any effect on this vicious power game.

More trouble for the govt
PM Khan inability to deal with the serious challenges faced by the country has eroded his government’s credibility. Although support from the security establishment could help prop up the government it would be of no use to him in countering the opposition’s onslaught. Further, it is not just the current political crisis that he needs to deal with, it also involves removing the distortion in the power structure that has been the main cause of perpetual political instability in the country. The opinion says that Pakistan needs some fundamental reforms in its political system for a sustainable democratic process.

The opposition needs to look beyond power games
The opinion states that the removal of the government through undemocratic means is only going to provide space to non-democratic forces. Although the main responsibility lies with the government, the opposition needs to look at things beyond power games. Thus, the most important aspect in any dialogue between political forces should be to reform the electoral process to make it more credible. The opinion concluded by stated that no democracy can function in such circumstances. A dialogue between political forces is the only way out of the present political stand-off. (Zahid Hussain, “Dangerous stand-off,” Dawn, 2 November 2020)

 

Public opinion equally split on PDM and govt narrative says a survey 
Only 45 per cent believe that the government stands firm

Image Source: Dawn

A survey conducted by Pulse Consultant showed that the general public opinion is equally split on opposition alliance objectives and the government’s narrative. According to The News International, the survey revealed that almost 39 per cent of the respondents agreed with the government narrative that “opposition alliance was formed to hide/secure their corruption”, whereas almost 40 per cent believe that the PDM was formed to remove the current government. Further, 45 per cent believe that the government stands firm, whereas 35 per cent feel that the government’s nerves are shaking due to the opposition’s movement. Further, the survey’s findings also show that the highest number of respondents in the last two years is ‘indifferent’ about PM Imran Khan’s overall performance. (“Public opinion equally split on govt, opposition narratives: survey,” Dawn, 2 December 2020)


In Brief
INTERNAL
Justice Isa’s wife files complaint against Imran Khan in SC 
On 1 December, Justice Isa’s wife, Sarina Isa submitted a list of allegations in the Supreme Court against Imran Khan and said he must be removed from the prime ministerial position. She alleges that he is a tax cheat and that he did not disclose the assets of his three children (when they were minors). Further, she also said Imran illegally accessed the Isa family’s records maintained by agencies like the FBR, FIA etc. She alleged that the SC treated Imran with a different yardstick, referring to the land he purchased at Bani Gala and other properties in Islamabad. She claimed there was an element of gender discrimination in the way the SC handled the case against her. (Hasnaat Malik, “Justice Isa’s wife seeks PM Imran’s removal,” The Express Tribune, 1 December 2020)

Ahead of PDM rally, Imran Khan calls for stern action against violations of COVID-19 SOPs
On 1 December, Imran Khan ordered authorities “to take stern action” against the Opposition leaders if the PDM conducts its rally in violation of the COVID-19 guidelines in Lahore on 13 December. The stern actions include lodging FIRs against the organisers and leaders. Imran said he was unhappy with the way the Punjab government handled the Multan rally on 30 November. According to Dawn’s source, Imran said that the Punjab government's half-heartedness and mishandling of the issue resulted in opposition’s protest lasting for three to four days instead of a one-day jalsa. (“PM wants action against opposition leaders over rallies,” Dawn, 2 December 2020)

ECONOMY
Latest tax collection figures worrisome highlights editorial 
An editorial in Dawn, citing the tax collection figures for the first five months of the current FY, highlights that Pakistan has only marginally crossed its target. The editorial says that if the government imposes another lockdown, the tax collection at the end of the year would be worse. Further, it says the low number of tax filers highlights that successive governments have failed “to broaden the extremely narrow tax base and jack up the share of direct (income) tax in overall tax revenues.” The editorial urges policymakers to take note of the falling number of income taxpayers because the government’s reliance on indirect taxes means there is rising poverty. Further, it says that the dependence on “indirect taxes and presumptive levies in tax revenues” indicates that “the burden of the wealthy is being shifted onto the low-middle-income people.” Therefore, the editorial pushes for a reformative tax regime to do away with presumptive and withholding taxes. (“Tax challenge,” Dawn, 2 December 2020)

EXTERNAL
Indian Deputy High Commissioner welcome to appear before the Court, says IHC
On 1 December, the counsel for the Indian High Commission told the Islamabad High Court that the Deputy High Commissioner is willing to “explain India’s stance over the appointment of counsel for [Kulbhushan] Jadhav.” The Attorney General said India did not respond to Pakistan’s offer for third consular access to Jadhav. Observing that there has to be a fair trial to implement the ICJ judgement, one of the Justices on the bench said the diplomat was welcome to appear before the Court. Further, the counsel said India was also concerned about the detention of  “another spy, Ismail, after completion of his sentence.” In response, the Attorney General said that since the case was linked to the breach of the Official Secrets Act, it has been presented before the Interior Ministry. The IHC bench asked the Attorney General to produce a report by 14 January. (Malik Asad, “India raises issue of another spy’s detention,” Dawn, 2 December 2020)

PAKISTAN’S WORLD VIEW
Opinion urges Pakistan to have deeper engagements through RCEP 
An opinion in Dawn, in the backdrop of the RCEP, says there might be a significant loss for Pakistan with regard to a greater competitiveness in the international market, particularly, China, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries. The author says since RCEP makes FDIs smoother, Pakistan may appear “less attractive vis-à-vis RCEP.”  He, however, highlights that the saving grace for Pakistan is that it was never a large trading partner nor did it receive huge FDI. Further, the author highlights that most of the FDIs were not from private firms and that  “State-led investments are unlikely to be impacted by RCEP.” He says that since the region is progressing towards a better trade relations, Pakistan should “engage more deeply with regional initiatives” and it should work towards and building “the capacity to negotiate bilateral and multilateral agreements more strategically,” (Nazish Afraz, “Red Queen race,” Dawn, 2 December 2020)

China’s engagement in Africa part of a grand strategy, says opinion
An opinion in The Express Tribune highlights that China has become Africa’s largest trading partner as the China-Africa trade has crossed USD 200 billion and over 10,000 Chinese firms are operating in Africa. The author says that apart from China’s various investment packages, the country also focuses on the development and humanitarian assistance. He says the investments by China are part of a grand strategy - to attain international political leverages. He highlights that while Africa is an opportunity for China to expand its global influence, it also has the potential for “economic turnover for both China and Africa.” (Talat Sabir, “China’s African engagement?” The Express Tribune, 2 December 2020)

International community must ensure indistinguishable treatment with Pakistan in nuclear trade: Opinion
An opinion in the Nation while addressing into vulnerabilities of nuclear technology highlights the numerous initiatives taken by Pakistan to ensure nuclear security and safety. Through this, the opinion states that Pakistan is following two types of significant advances. First, internally, the country has been building its ability at both the authoritative and specialized levels and furnishing it with appropriate legitimate game plans. On the other hand, internationally, Pakistan has successfully reinforced its game plans to establish a safe and secure nuclear environment at the international level. However, regardless of these initiatives, Pakistan is confronted with false propaganda about the wellbeing and security of its atomic reactors. This the opinion says is purposeful publicity produced by entertainers who need to accomplish their inclinations by defaming Pakistan. The opinion concluded by stating that the international community should pave the way for indistinguishable treatment with Pakistan in nuclear trade. (Muhammad Rizwan, “Nuclear safety and security in Pakistan: An analysis,” The Nation, 2 December 2020)


"Will a judge’s family let him abide by the oath of his office to uphold the Constitution and law? Will a judge’s family beg not to upset those in the government? Will a judge and his family ever feel secure?”
-Sarina Isa (Justice Isa's wife) on Imran Khan

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