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Daily Briefs


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16 February 2021, Tuesday I Vol 2, No.47

Remittances cross USD two billion for seventh consecutive month



The steady growth of remittances, the developments in the upcoming Senate elections, and a Dawn explainer on the limbo-like situation of the railways.

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

PR Editorial, 16 February 2021
The non-stop rise in remittances
Yesterday (Monday) the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), release a new data on remittances. For eight months in a row, the remittances to Pakistan have been constantly over two billion US dollars. According to the latest statement, the remittances during the last six months of 2020 was around USD 16.5 billion. This was 24 percent increase when compared to the same period in 2019. Most of it has from the Gulf, with Saudi Arabia ($4.5 billion) and the United Arab Emirates ($3.4 billion), accounting to the largest. When compared to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, remittances from the UK ($2.2 billion) and the US ($1.4 billion) were only half of the former.

Now, what accounts for the above rise? According to the SBP report, the rise in remittances can be attributed to the “continuous efforts by Government and SBP to attract inflows
through official channel, limited cross border travel amid second wave of COVID-19 and
flexible exchange rate regime.” There have been a few initiatives, for example the Roshan Digital Accounts, an SBP initiative along with commercial banks with innovative banking solutions for non-resident Pakistanis to make payments and invest in Pakistan. It could also be due to Pakistanis who were either returning to the country or lost the job because of the COVID situation are transferring the savings from the Gulf to Pakistan. 

Will the rise in remittances continue? So far it has sustained. Its continuance would depend on how attractive Pakistan makes it to its work force, and how engaged the work force is, especially in the Gulf.

 

In Focus
Remittances cross USD two billion for seventh consecutive month
SBP attributes steady growth to increased use of official transactions

On 15 February, the State Bank of Pakistan’s latest data revealed that remittances from July-January during the current financial year, FY21, amounted to  USD 16.476 billion compared to USD 13.279 billion in the previous year; the figures reflect a 24 per cent increase in remittances. 

Further, remittances crossed the USD 2 billion mark in January as remittances stood at USD 2.3 billion, a slight dip from USD 2.4 billion in December. However, compared to January of FY20, there was a 19 per cent increase. 

Reasons behind increase in remittances
The SBP says the consistent increase in remittances could be a result of the gradual switch to official banking channels - which the government and central bank have been pushing for -  limited traveling across borders due to the pandemic and flexible exchange rate regime. Dawn quotes market experts who believe the growth in remittances could also result from the “open policy of the government for free movement of dollars, as inflow and outflow have no restrictions.” 

Fear of Pakistanis losing jobs in Gulf countries proved wrong
Saudi Arabia was the highest contributor to the remittances at USD 4.508 billion, followed by the UAE at USD 3.448 billion. According to Dawn, “The fear that Pakistanis would lose jobs in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries depending largely on oil income has so far proved wrong.” (Shahid Iqbal, “Over $2bn remittances for straight seventh month,” Dawn, 16 February 2021)

 

On Senate elections: 170 candidates file papers for 48 seats
Imran pacifies party members amid controversy

Image Source: The Express Tribune

On 16 February, The News International reported that 170 candidates had filed their papers for 48 Senate seats. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded the maximum number of nominations filed with 51 nominations, followed by Balochistan (41), Sindh (39), and Punjab (29), and Islamabad had 10 nominations. (“170 aspirants vie for 48 Senate seats,” The News International, 16 February 2021)

Will ensure no ‘parachuter’ is elected, says Imran
On the same day, Imran Khan chaired an emergency meeting of the PTI parliamentary board. Since PTI members expressed displeasure at the issuance of party tickets to select people in KP and Sindh, Imran said that he would ensure no ‘parachuter’ gets elected as senator. Previously, PTI had to withdraw its nomination of a business tycoon in Balochistan following similar backlash.  Therefore, the final decision regarding the nominations will be out by today. (“Senate election: 'No parachuter to make it to Senate',” The News International, 16 February 2021)

SC reiterates on conducting Senate elections in a lawful manner, summons CEC
On the same day, the SC was hearing the Presidential reference on the Senate elections. The Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to probe into the recent video wherein PTI members were recorded allegedly receiving bribes prior to the Senate elections in 2018. Observing that the ECP has not enacted rules to prevent corrupt practices in the Senate elections, the SC has summoned the Chief Election Commissioner today. The Court reiterated that it is the mandate of the ECP to ensure elections are conducted lawfully. (Sohail Khan, “Senate elections: SC seeks polling scheme,” The News International, 16 February 2021) (Nasir Iqbal, "SC summons CEC on open ballot today," Dawn, 16 February 2021)

PDM does not give ticket to Jamaat-i-Islami, will negotiate soon
On the same day, the PDM decided to leave out Jamaat-i-Islami from Senate election nominations in KP. Instead, the PPP, PML-N, JUI-F and ANP, would get one ticket each in the KP Assembly, said the JUI-F provincial chief. Meanwhile, the Jamaat-i-Islami is yet to decide whether it would ally with the PTI or join the opposition. According to sources in Dawn, the PDM will constitute a committee to negotiate with the party. (“PDM parties reach agreement on Senate polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” Dawn, 16 February 2021)

Meanwhile…
An editorial in The News International highlights that the PTI appears to be in “dire need of getting some of its heavyweights in the Senate.” The editorial says the PM seems to be favouring technocrats; on the other hand, nominations of the PPP and PML-N reflect a more political approach. It highlights that the Senate needs “candidates who are not only articulate but also able to command the respect of the house and the public alike.” Therefore, it calls on political parties to avoid nominating controversial candidates. (“Senate nominees,” The News International, 16 February 2021)

 

Dawn explains deterioration of Pakistan Railways 
CEO attributes losses to underinvestment, corruption, bureaucracy

Image Source: Dawn

An article in Dawn cites the Railway Minister’s recent revelation that the railway sector incurred  losses worth Rs1.2 trillion in the last 50 years of which 90 per cent occurred in the last two decades. One reason behind this loss is the PTI administration’s decision to “put all its eggs in the Chinese basket,” with a hope that a USD 6.8 billion worth upgrade of the Main Line-1 (ML-1) connecting Peshawar with Karachi would facilitate revival. 

Dawn quotes Nisar Memon, the Railways CEO, who said “decades of underinvestment in infrastructure, corruption, mismanagement, political interference, over-employment and loss of freight business”  contribute to the losses in the sector. Apart from the government's lack of initiative towards the railways, the bureaucracy is a hurdle in the sector. (Nasir Jamal, "SITUATIONER: Delay in Chinese financing leaves Railways in limbo," Dawn, 16 February 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
Govt opens vaccine registration for people over 65 years 
On 15 February, the government opened registration for people aged 65 years, beginning the second phase of the country’s vaccination drive. Previously, on 2 February, PM Imran Khan inaugurated the vaccination campaign for healthcare workers after receiving 500,000 doses of Sinopharm’s vaccine for China. So far, 37,289 healthcare workers have been inoculated against Covid-19. (Ikram Junaidi, “Vaccine registration for people over 65 years opens,” Dawn, 16 February 2021) 

MoHR issues annual performance report
On 15 February, the Ministry of Human Rights launched its annual performance report for 2020. During the launch, MoHR Minister Shireen Mazari highlighted the achievements of the ministry including Zainab Alert Bill and also underlined initiatives in terms of overcoming gaps in legislation to ensure that the rights of citizens, particularly the vulnerable, are protected. Further, the report highlighted significant initiatives taken to protect and promote the rights of women, children, people with disabilities, transgender women, and other vulnerable population groups. (“Human rights ministry issues annual report,” The Express Tribune, 16 February 2021)

IHC Chief Justice calls for ‘exemplary punishment’ for lawyers involved in the protests
On 15 February, the IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah stated that those lawyers involved in the attack to be given ‘exemplary punishment.’ He said, “The bar should identify those who were involved in the attack so that no one else is harassed,” adding, “It is a serious incident and those involved should be punished.” Further, while responding to IHC bar association’s demand to form a commission, Justice Minallah stated, “you all know well who did all this; the case doesn't need a commission.” (Saqib Bashir, “Justice Minallah seeks 'exemplary punishment' for lawyers involved in IHC rampage,” The Express Tribune, 16 February 2021)

PBC asks SC to rethink order on Justice Isa
On 15 February, vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) urged the Supreme Court to review an order barring Justice Qazi Faez Isa from hearing cases concerning PM Imran Khan. In a statement, the vice-chairman argued that it in the larger interest of the smooth functioning of the SC and for safeguarding the independence of its judges for discharging their constitutional duties to dispense justice that the order should be reviewed. Previously, on 11 February, the SC issued an order requiring Justice Isa not to hear matters involving PM Khan. (Nasir Iqbal, “PBC vice chairman asks SC to rethink order on Justice Isa,” Dawn, 16 February 2021) 
 
PAKISTAN’S WORLD VIEW
America's strategic interests in Afghanistan provides Pakistan an opportunity to be a constructive partner to the US, says opinion
An opinion in The News International critical of the way previous administration looked at Pakistan vis-à-vis Afghanistan says that unless the US government understands Pakistan's legitimate concerns, it will be difficult to have Pakistan play a constructive role in the resolution of the Afghan crisis. Conversely, the opinion says that Pakistan’s leadership needs to understand the legitimate concerns of the US. The opinion concludes by stating that America's strategic interests in Afghanistan, Iran and China provide Pakistan with a unique opportunity to be a constructive partner to the US, and in the process achieve its security and foreign policy goals. (S Qaisar Shareef, “US in Afghanistan,” The Express Tribune, 16 February 2021)

ON INDIA
Diplomat’s tour part of India’s “efforts to mislead the world community” on Kashmir says FO
On 15 February, the Foreign Office Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri stated that India is trying to present a false and misleading narrative on the situation in Kashmir by taking foreign diplomats on a tour of the Valley. He stated that such arrangements were part of India’s “efforts to mislead the world community.” Further, he stated, “Such guided tours are a smokescreen aimed at diverting international attention from India’s egregious human rights violations in IIOJK (Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir), and creating a false impression of normalcy,” adding, “The visit would mean nothing if there is no access to all the areas and possibility to freely interact with Kashmiri people and the civil society in an atmosphere free of intimidation.” (“India trying to mislead world on occupied Kashmir situation: FO,” Dawn, 16 February 2021) 

 
Also read...                                                                                 

Arifa Noor writes on the politics, money power and controversies over the Senate nominations in Pakistan. An editorial in the News also reflects on the same issue.
 
Ghulam Nabi Fai underlines the role of Kashmiri diaspora, and writes “there is nothing to be gained by isolating groups with varying opinions.” Ahsan Jehangir defines the nature of State in Pakistan as kakistocracy, run by a government of the least competent and or amoral citizens of the state.

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03 June 2020, Wednesday, Vol 1, No.34

Covid cases spike and Lahore becomes the epicentre

01 June 2020, Monday, Vol 1, No.32

Drivers of Karachi Violence

30 May 2020, Saturday, No 1, No.30

Gwadar port ready for the Afghan goods

29 May 2020, Friday, Vol 1, No.29

Pakistan remembers 28 May Nuclear Tests

24 May 2020, Sunday, Vol 1, No.24

Pakistan This Week

22 May 2020, Friday, Vol 1, No.22

The missing girls of Pakistan

21 May 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No.21

Locusts threaten Pakistan's food security

17 May 2020, Sunday, Vol 1, No 17

Pakistan This Week

15 May 2020, Friday, Vol 1, No.15

Disregard for SOPs peaks Covid-19 cases

14 May 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No 14

Violence in Afghanistan and the Media in Pakistan

12 May 2020, Tuesday, Vol 1, No 12

Smart Lockdown, SOPs vs Social Realities

9 May 2020, Saturday, Vol 1, No 9

Record COVID-19 spike in a single day;