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It has almost become a fashion to highlight the importance of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the economy of Pakistan and suggest ways to accelerate their development. In a seminar organized by Shamrock Conferences in Karachi on 19th August, speakers at the "Eighth Annual Pakistan SMEs Forum 2014" called again for taking high-impact measures and extending financial support to ensure the growth of this sector in the country. According to the Executive Director of SMEs, SBP, his institution had been closely monitoring the bankwise performance and the data showed significant improvement in the financial performance of the SMEs while utilising the bank loans. He urged the financial institutions to extend generous financial support to this key sector, which demanded some extra measures but promised very healthy and safe returns. Speaking at the inaugural session, Director, SMEDA, Zulfiqar Thaver said that three high-impact measures were needed to ensure the growth of SME sector, which included credit guarantee, export house for SME marketing support and other incentives like tax relief and technological support. There should also be a separate Export Promotion Bureau, Engineering Development Board and an Ombudsman dedicated to the SMEs. Chief Executive Officer of SMEDA, Muhammad Alamgir dilated upon the state of the SME sector, stating that SMEDA had launched facilitation programmes to foster investment, productivity and competitiveness among the SMEs and it was committed to provide a conducive regulatory and technological environment for the SMEs. Government had realised that 90 percent of the workforce in Pakistan was employed by SME sector. Anjum Nisar, Director of EPZ said that energy crisis and poor law and order situation in the country were major impediments in the growth of SMEs and the country needed to urgently build large dams to overcome the electricity shortage. Former President, KCCI proposed that the banks needed to alter their policies regarding provision of loans to credible and productive SMEs, who were not able to offer any collateral. Besides, banks must consider giving out loans against moveable assets.

The stunning rapidity with which the three-tier defence of the Red Zone crumbled in the face of a ragtag marching mob only hours after the interior minister had warned the law-breakers of unforgiving punishment throws up a question: 'what happened?' Only history would answer this question, though the hurried pace of developments on the ground culminating in marchers occupation of the D-Chowk in front of the parliament building does suggest that a script was being staged. At the eleventh hour the huge police-cum-Rangers-cum-Army force was ordered to give way to the marchers because resistance would cause killing of women and children, the standard shield being used both by the proponents of 'Naya Pakistan' and 'Green Revolution'. Then there was this inter-mixing of the two marches who had so far been maintaining separate identities and independent of each other's motive behind their sit-ins as they moved towards the Red Zone hand-in-hand. That instead of entering the Red Zone from its vintage point on Kashmir Highway opposite the Serena Hotel where the PTI had camped it decided to join the PAT marchers and together they entered the Red Zone from the Nadra Chowk - as if both of them were under 'advice' to keep away from the Diplomatic Enclave. So as the day dawned, tens of thousands of marchers were sitting-in on the D-Chowk only a seven-foot high fence keeping them away from the Parliament. That has virtually thrown the government out of gear, threatened working of the parliament, dysfunctional, denied access to the Supreme Court complex and, consigned foreign missions to a kind of quarantine. If anybody wants to know what Imran Khan's call for civil disobedience means, that is the answer. Given the credence that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali enjoys, we believe his statement that the 'army has no hand in this turmoil'; rightly therefore we don't see the ongoing crisis precipitating a 1977-like scenario. But what merits due attention is the advice rendered by the army high command. The statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Directorate expects 'patience, wisdom and sagacity from all stakeholders' and 'meaningful dialogue in the larger national interest'. And that the soldiers are there on the ground to protect "buildings in the Red Zone (which are symbols of state," meaning thereby that the problem between the government and the sit-inners is essentially of political nature and it is for them to resolve it.
Foreign investment seems to be the first visible casualty of the rising political tensions in the country. According to the latest data released by the State Bank on 18th August, 2014, foreign direct investment (FDI) plummeted to just dollar 24 million in the first month of the current fiscal (July, 2014) from dollar 119 million in the corresponding period last year, posting a huge decline of dollar 95 million or 79.9 percent. The country received foreign inflows amounting to dollar 148 million while outflows stood at dollar 124 million during the month. Compared to the corresponding months of the pervious year (July, 2013), inflows were some 50 percent lower and outflows 45 percent higher during July, 2014. The second component of foreign investment, ie, portfolio investment, nonetheless, surged to dollar 69.5 million as compared to dollar 15.4 million in the same month last year, indicating a sharp increase of 351 percent. Overall net inflows of foreign investment, comprising both FDI and portfolio investment, fell by about 47 percent during the month.
Citing Pakistan's New Delhi-based high commissioner's meeting with a Hurriyat leader as provocation India has called off foreign secretary-level bilateral talks due in Islamabad on August 25. According to media reports, 'within minutes' of Syed Shabbir Shah's departure from the high commission, High Commissioner Abdul Basit received a call from the host country's foreign secretary conveying India's displeasure in 'clear and unambiguous terms'. The high commissioner was told that Indian foreign secretary wouldn't take part in discussions set for the next week after he met with Hurriyat leaders. Islamabad was shocked with the Foreign Office saying the development was 'a setback to the efforts' to the spirit of rapprochement that had come to obtain following a historic Sharif-Modi meeting on May 27 when the two had decided to 'explore how to move forward'. The meeting High Commissioner Basit had with a Hurriyat leader was neither the first-ever, nor was it a hush-hush affair. Such meetings had taken place in the past, always with an idea to get updated on the eve of such Pak-India meetings about the Kashmiri freedom fighters' thinking. So now when the foreign secretary-level talks were about to take place the meeting was not so much out of place. Such an updating was all the more important because, according to political analyst and former ambassador Dr Maleeha Lodhi, "the prevalent thinking in Islamabad is that expectations need to be realistic ... in other words, wishes should not determine Pakistan's approach, but a hard-headed assessment of what is possible and mutually acceptable to move the normalisation process forward". Without factoring in the Kashmiri leadership's position, which is central to any move for normalization, there can be no Pak-India meaningful talks.
ImageState Bank of Pakistan was quite upbeat about the trend in government borrowings from the banking system for budgetary support at the time of release of its Third Quarterly Report in July, 2014. Large inflows into Pakistan Development Fund (PDF) received as a capital grant from a friendly country had helped reduce government borrowings from the SBP quite significantly and the authorities were able to contain fiscal borrowings from SBP within the limit agreed with the IMF for end-March, 2014. On a cash basis, the government had borrowed Rs 436.9 billion for a budgetary support from the banking system, which was almost half the amount borrowed in the corresponding period of FY13. A sharp reduction could also be attributed to other government efforts to contain budgetary deficit and the availability of non-bank funding. A reduction in government borrowings motivated the commercial banks to shift their focus towards private sector, with the result that private sector credit expanded as much as 10 percent during period of July-March, 2014, which was more than double the growth realised during the same period last year.
Violating the 2003 cease-fire agreement yet again, Indian Border Security Force opened fire across the Working Boundary in Sialkot on Sunday night. This was at least the 55th violation in less than two months' time. Fortunately, this time no loss of life or property was reported. Earlier incidents this year have claimed lives of several soldiers as well as civilians. The Foreign Office summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner on August 11 and handed him a demarche over 'unprovoked firing' across the Working Boundary, which left two civilian dead and four others injured. Firing across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary has been going on intermittently for nearly two years now, ratcheting up tensions and belligerent rhetoric between the two countries.
The right to protest injustice, be it in the form of political, economic or social discrimination or deprivation and irrespective of the perpetrator's high position and authority, is one of the treasured values of a civilised society. Rightly then the democratically-run polities see to it that this is given adequate cover by declaring it as the citizens' fundamental right and is protected and secured by the courts of law. The protesters may undertake a long march, sit-in, shutdown strike or in any other non-violent manner meant to create nuisance, hoping its forced removal by the authorities would arouse public sympathy. But the right to protest is exercisable within certain parameters that the constitution clearly lays down. Article 16 of our constitution says every citizen shall have right to assemble 'peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order'. What those restrictions should be and how public order would be preserved; the protestors and the local administration are required to decide among themselves. This was done, both in the cases of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), but things haven't gone the way they were agreed to. And this was in the nature of the things; both the sit-ins were geared to go beyond the scope prescribed by Article 16 as their leaders were out to bring down an elected government and, in the case of PAT, the whole order, by force. Essentially, the fundamental rights are meant to provide shelter against excesses by authorities or to force modifications in the systems that are unjust and discriminatory. But leaders of both PTI and PAT have tried holding the government hostage by threatening action, which is beyond their right to protest. They can ask Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign but they cannot topple him through sheer force. Both the parties were allowed to camp their sit-ins close to highly sensitive areas after their solemn promise, in writing, that they will not try going beyond their allocated sit-in spaces. Of course, PAT has so far observed that condition - though it is a different matter that the business activity at the middle class Aabpara Market has come to a standstill and its traders protested against it before the National Press Club. But the PTI hasn't relented on its threat to invade the Red Zone which includes the diplomatic enclave with Imran Khan never shy of raising this ante. The question whether or not he will storm the Red Zone or it is only a posturing is a difficult question. But this happened in 1980s when an angry mob burst through the security redlines and burnt down the American embassy, but now averted by the timely intervention of a saner section of PTI. For a few moments it was a touch and go situation. How senseless on the part of a leader who wants to be the prime minister of Pakistan but believes that the way to it lies through a ransacked parliament and ruins of diplomatic enclave. Given the unpredictability that abounds his moods and commands we don't know if his call for civil disobedience is only a sop to his mercurial workers as substitute for the promised invasion of Red Zone. But we do believe that such a call if complied with can be as damaging to the national economy as any setback to the democratic process, which invading the Red Zone would cause. In 67 years of our independent national life, only once, a leader gave a call for civil disobedience, and he was Sheikh Mujibur Rehman who announced India-endorsed secession from Pakistan. So much for the political idiom and sense of history and responsibility of a political leader who aspires to be the prime minister of Pakistan. Imran Khan said he will not pay bills and taxes, and asked others to follow him. Doesn't he realise how injurious to the national economy his and Qadri's sit-ins are? In Islamabad life has come to a standstill; schools were to open on Monday but will remain closed for another week, supply of medicines from Rawalpindi has been suspended, public transport has disapp


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