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Daily Briefs


Photo : Dawn

18 February 2021, Thursday I Vol 2, No.49

SC pushes for proportional representation in Senate



The Supreme Court hearing on open ballots for the Senate elections, the latest IMF review, and the cancellation of Imran Khan's parliament speech in Sri Lanka

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

PR Editorial, 18 February 2021
The success of Pakistan’s Roshan Digital Account initiative
Today, in a meeting held in Islamabad, Imran Khan was quoted to have stated the following on the potential of overseas Pakistani in terms of contributing to Pakistan’s economy. According to the Express Tribune, Imran claimed: “Overseas Pakistanis are the biggest asset and there is an enormous potential to tap in this regard…I had been saying for the past 20 years to tap this enormous potential…and there is still a lot of room for encouraging those abroad to avail the service.” Earlier this week, he also tweeted: “I want to thank our Overseas Pakistanis for responding so strongly to SBP’s #RoshanDigitalAccounts. 87,833 accounts opened from 97 countries around the world. $500 million sent to Pakistan in just 5 months. Momentum continues to rise with $243 million coming in last 6 weeks alone.”
 
Clearly, there is a link between the overseas Pakistanis, Roshan Digital Accounts and the success in increased remittances to Pakistan during the last six months. The State Bank of Pakistan, early this week released a data on the remittances from overseas workers. According to the data, for the last eight consecutive months, remittances to Pakistan have been over two billion US dollars. When compared to the previous year data for the same period, there is a 24 percent increase.
 
But the bigger link to the above three is the government’s initiative and the resolve. It followed up with the banks, with State Bank of Pakistan being the primary engine; other leading local banks within Pakistan and international banks based in the country were roped in. Pakistan’s embassies around the world spread the information encouraging the overseas Pakistanis to make use of this. One could see the result in six months; USD 500 million sent to Pakistan in six months.

 

In Focus
SC pushes for proportional representation in Senate
Editorial outlines complications and fallouts in upcoming elections

On 17 February, a five-member Supreme Court bench heard the presidential reference on the secret ballot for Senate elections and called proportional representation in the Senate.

The Chief Election Commissioner submitted a set of steps to prevent corrupt practices during the Senate elections. The Election Commission of Pakistan cited the Elections Act 2017 wherein the Act provides for holding elections by secret ballot and also highlighted Section 185 of the Act which includes punishment for breach of secrecy. 

The counsel for the ECP said ”secrecy in the elections meant complete secrecy, perpetual and not to be shared.”

SC calls for proportional representation
One of the judges, Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan, held that secrecy during the polls was not absolute and each political party’s seats in the Senate should be proportionate to their strength in the assemblies. Otherwise, the entire system could collapse.

He said, any party and its strength in the provincial assembly should be reflected in the Senate elections; “if the said reflection of proportional representation does not mirror in the Senate, the Election Commission would be responsible for that breach of strength.” 

Similarly Justice Gulzar Ahmed asked how the ECP plans to handle the situation if “any party emerges successful in Senate elections by securing more votes than its real strength of proportional representation in the provincial assembly.” (Sohail Khan, “Senate elections: SC deliberates proportional representation,” The News International, 18 February 2021) (Nasir Iqbal, “Party position in Senate should reflect strength in assemblies: SC,” Dawn, 18 February 2021)

Meanwhile…
An editorial in The News International outlines various complications in the upcoming Senate elections. First, the editorial highlights that the proportional representation that the PTI favours will restrict the vote to a particular list before polling. Next, the PTI seems to be worried about the nomination of Yousuf Gilani. Further, within the PTI, there is displeasure among the party members, especially in Sindh. Therefore, the editorial says the open ballot debate seems to have adopted a tangent of its own. It predicts that a lot might happen in the very near future. (“Senate and secrecy,” The News International, 18 February 2021)

 

Government agrees to withdraw corporate income tax exemptions
Masses in for belt tightening amid rising prices, says editorial

Image Source: The Nation

On 17 February, sources in The News International said the government is exploring options to get the approval for abolishing Corporate Income Tax exemption up to Rs 150 billion to Rs 200 billion. The options include a Presidential ordinance or presenting a bill in the Parliament before the 2021-22 budget session. According to the FBR, the easiest way is to withdraw the exemptions through a Finance Bill on the eve of the budget session. 

However, this step will make it harder for the IMF to convince the executive board on the revival of the Extended Fund Facility. (Mehtab Haider, “To address IMF concerns: Govt agrees to abolish Rs150 bn corporate income tax exemptions,” The News International, 18 February 2021)

Editorial foresees difficult times ahead for common man
An editorial in The Express Tribune says while the updates from the IMF are positive for the macroeconomic indicators, they do not help the common man. The editorial highlights the agreement to withdraw the tax exemptions for corporate entities will make life harder for the business community, at least in the short and medium terms. It therefore concludes that “The masses are in for further belt tightening at a time when the prices of the items of daily use have already rocketed into the sky,” and fuel and power tariffs have also increased. ("IMF is back," The Express Tribune, 18 February 2021)

 

 Sri Lanka cancels PM Khan’s planned parliament speech 
PM is scheduled to visit Colombo on a two-day trip next week

Image Source: Dawn

On 18 February, Dawn reported that PM Imran Khan’s planned address to the Sri Lankan parliament, during his upcoming visit has been cancelled. This comes after Foreign Secretary of Sri Lanka Jayanath Colombage stated that Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena had requested for cancellation on the pretext of Covid-19. PM Khan is scheduled to travel to Colombo on a two-day visit from 22 February.

Speculations over the cancellation
There have been broadly two speculations doing the rounds since the cancellation. First, the India factor. Some have speculated that there are elements within the Sri Lankan government, who did not want the speech to take place as they feared that doing so could further harm the already strained relations with India. Second, the concern over PM Khan speaking about the rights of Muslims in Sri Lanka, rising anti-Muslim sentiments, and biased government actions. (Baqir Sajjad Syed, “Imran’s planned speech in Lankan parliament cancelled,” Dawn, 18 February 2021)


In Brief
INTERNAL
Cabinet approves 25 per cent rise for federal employees
On 17 February, the cabinet approved a 25 per cent increase in the federal secretariat employees’ salaries by giving a relief of Rs21 billion. Further, they urged the provinces to end wage disparity between their civil servants and those of the Centre. Further, the cabinet discussed the issue of missing persons and directed the authorities concerned to make legislation to resolve the matter. The cabinet also ordered the enforcement of laws to check sexual violence. (Syed Irfan Raza, “Cabinet okays 25pc raise for federal employees,” Dawn, 18 February 2021)

Zalikhel and Dotani tribes continue to trade fire in South Waziristan
On 17 February, Zalikhel and Dotani, two rival tribes continued to trade heavy fire over a land dispute as the Wana Bazaar of South Waziristan remained under curfew. Local administrations have constituted a jirga to initiate a ceasefire, however, the jirga members have stated that they were facing a daunting task trying to end the dispute. (“Rival tribes continue to trade fire in South Waziristan,” The News International, 18 February 2021)

ECONOMY
External debt servicing reaches $7.06 billion in six months
On 17 February, the State Bank of Pakistan reported that the country paid USD 3.55 billion in external debt servicing for the second quarter of the current fiscal (2QFY21) and USD 3.51 billion in the first quarter (1QFY21). Thus, the cumulative payment as debt servicing reached USD 7.06 billion, indicating that the total debt servicing could cross the $14bn figure at the end of FY21. (Shahid Iqbal, “External debt servicing costs $7bn in six months of fiscal year,” Dawn, 18 February 2021)

PAKISTAN’S WORLD VIEW
A new frontier for discrimination against Muslims has emerged, says opinion
An opinion in Dawn critical of the rise of Islamophobia in South Asia especially Sri Lanka says that a new frontier for discrimination against Muslims has emerged. Further, the opinion says that when PM Khan visits Sri Lanka, he must consider his responsibility as a Muslim leader and realize that by not raising issues with his counterpart, he would be seen as complicit in the indifference that often lets realpolitik trump standing up for what’s right. (Rimmel Mohydin, “Forced cremations,” Dawn, 18 February 2021)

Children of Yemen bear no responsibility for the anguish that has overtaken the country, says editorial
An editorial in The News International critical of the plight of children in war-torn Yemen says that it is imperative that the world act to ensure that children are not made to suffer the repercussion of adults and leader choose war. The editorial says that Saudi Arabia and Iran should take the lead in putting a stop to the war, adding that the best way to influence people within the country is by offering them support rather than by killing them. Further, it says that Pakistan too must persuade other countries to do the same to ensure that better sense prevails and countries will not allow the kind of agony seen in Yemen to continue any longer. (“Children of Yemen,” The News International, 18 February 2021)

 
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Khurram Husain, writes on Pakistan - IMF dialogue party is about to end, as the “goodies tray is set to be removed, and the resultant changes could well create debt service difficulties.” The Express Tribune, in its editorial comments on the same issue and argues that “the masses are in for further belt tightening” as a fallout of IMF-Pakistan understanding

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BLA claims the attack on Stock Exchange in Karachi

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Imran Khan says he was against the idea of lockdown

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Highest COVID Spike

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Imran receives a briefing at the ISI HQ

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Covid cases spike and Lahore becomes the epicentre

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Drivers of Karachi Violence

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Gwadar port ready for the Afghan goods

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

Pakistan remembers 28 May Nuclear Tests

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The missing girls of Pakistan

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Locusts threaten Pakistan's food security

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Disregard for SOPs peaks Covid-19 cases

14 May 2020, Thursday, Vol 1, No 14

Violence in Afghanistan and the Media in Pakistan

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Smart Lockdown, SOPs vs Social Realities

9 May 2020, Saturday, Vol 1, No 9

Record COVID-19 spike in a single day;