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Litigation on the levy of Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) continues with the Supreme Court recently dismissing the government's review petition against the Peshawar High Court verdict declaring it a fee and therefore its imposition through the Finance Bill illegal as well as making a reference to the pending litigation on the validity of the ordinance in the Lahore and Islamabad High Courts.

The National Assembly's Standing Committee on Information Technology, headed by Captain Safdar (retd) - who has no known expertise in IT affairs - approved the draft of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2015, on Thursday, generating a lot of criticism. According to the Internet Service Providers Association as well as Pakistan Software Houses Association representatives, the bill in its present form betrays lack of comprehension of technicalities, finer points of information technology and relevant international law. The purpose of the draft bill is to counter terrorism and extremism as part of the National Action Plan, but it contains several controversial, even ridiculous, provisions that are aimed at curtailing freedom of expression by handing excessive power to the law enforcement agencies to block websites and make arrests without warrants.
Documents available with Business Recorder reveal that the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) has approved a mechanism of direct payment for LNG imported from Qatar to Pakistan State Oil (PSO) by the Ministry of Finance from the subsidy payable to power sector. Three major conclusions can be drawn from this. First that the letter of credit was opened by the PSO, an entity that comes under the administrative control of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, and not by any private sector entity including the CNG sector and the fertilizer sector. Secondly, PSO and its parent ministry would therefore naturally be engaged in negotiating a price for LNG import with Qatar. And finally, subsequent to the arrival of one LNG shipment to Pakistan to maintain that the price of LNG has not yet been agreed between the governments of Qatar and Pakistan defies belief. Brotherly relations aside, no government is going to send one consignment to another country valued at millions of dollars, without first reaching an agreement on price.
If nearly seventy-year long tyrannical armed occupation of Kashmir has not helped India quench and snuff out the freedom struggle and paint it saffron on coming to power in New Delhi, the BJP government had to do something more. As a first step, it placed its long-nurtured commitment to do away with the state's special status under Article 371 of the Indian constitution, giving fig-leaf excuse to the Mufti Sayeed-led PDP to welcome BJP as coalition partner. Then, it set about changing the ethno-religious demographic complexion of the occupied land which is predominantly Muslim, by opening doors for Hindu migrants to outnumber Muslims. To this the Modi government found in the new chief minister Mufti Sayeed a willing partner. Last week, he came to New Delhi and met Prime Minister Modi's 'benefactor' Home Minister Rajnath Singh and offered some 50 acres of land where the Kashmiri pandits who had left the Valley - not as much scared of rising tempo of freedom struggle as by the glitter of Mumbai and other big cities in mainland India - could come back and resettle. Not only would jobs be offered to the pandits, their safety and security would also be ensured by the Mufti government a la Jewish settlements in Palestine. How weird it is that while about 10,000 Kashmiri pandits feel safe and secure and live in peace in Muslim majority neighbourhoods the Modi-Mufti duo is deeply concerned about not more than 200 pandits who fled the Valley some quarter of a century ago, and are well-settled in other Indian cities and Bollywood Actor Anupam Kher is one among them; they like to call the settlement 'Smart City'.
Visiting newspaper's Islamabad offices on 13th April, 2015, IMF's Resident Representative for Pakistan Tokhir Mirzoev made certain observations which, though couched somewhat in diplomatic language, were not very complimentary for policymakers of the country. After revealing the dates and venue for discussions on seventh review under the dollar 6.64 billion EFF, he stated that Pakistan still remains a security risk for IMF missions and talks under the programme would be held from the first week of May, 2015, in Dubai. The country is facing 4 to 5 structural deficiencies/weaknesses that make the country's economy vulnerable. "Even if something happens outside Pakistan, the country feels it as it lacks sufficient resilience inside," he added. Pakistan had rarely completed Fund programmes, yet Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has said that the programme is going to be completed this time. So far, Pakistan has had 17 to 18 programmes and after every five or six years has again sought a Fund programme as the country experiences a new crisis-like situation. "The country has imbalances in the economy, export competitiveness is not very high and expenditures are high. There are imbalances on energy side, imbalances on business climate side, so there are four to five structural weaknesses." The country has to face the challenge of fixing these factors in the upcoming phase of EFF. In order to probably assuage the severity of his remarks, he added that "we have some assurance now that the tension of immediate crisis is no longer there" and the stabilisation process of macro economy is under way. Foreign exchange reserves are being built up and budget deficit is being reduced. Proposed laws relating to anti-money laundering and independence of SBP are also being laid in the National Assembly for discussion. To infer that these remarks could only be Tokhir Mirzoev's personal views would be wrong as the IMF's World Economic Outlook (WEO) released in Washington on 13th April also contains, more or less, the same prognosis. The WEO has suggested implementation of "further bold reforms", which it says are critical to strengthening the progress made so far and counter adverse effects on economic activity of falling cotton prices and security and political tensions.
A general impression has come to obtain in Karachi that Rangers' targeted operation against criminals is making the difference. And as the operation goes apace without discrimination across the ethno-political divides a large number of suspects have been picked up. From among them quite a few have claimed patronage and protection of political parties, while many others belong to banned terrorist organisations and some are hired assassins for specified missions. So far the Rangers have arrested people from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, People's Amn Committee, MQM, ANP and several underworld's foot-soldiers. Since of late many arrested suspects have claimed affiliation with the MQM and coupled with Altaf Hussain's travails in the UK on a charge of money laundering, it tends to suggest as if the party is on the anvil - partly thanks to the Rangers' raid on Nine-Zero last month which led to arrests of some convicted people and the recovery from there of a large cache of sophisticated weapons. And what added to travails of MQM's higher leadership are the detainees' 'confessions' that they had carried out the orders from above; they even named many important names. One such was Saulat Miraza's video that went viral within minutes of its release almost stamping the perception that MQM has a huge reservoir of hardened criminals. Then there was this most horrific Baldia Town factory inferno which again pointed the accusatory finger in the direction of Nine-Zero. And now, even more telling is the arrest of the Moazzam Ali Khan, the alleged facilitator of MQM stalwart Imran Farooq's killers.
The joint session of parliament had resolved that Pakistan will 'maintain neutrality in the Yemen conflict', but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said 'no', condemning 'actions of the Houthis and other non-state actors to overthrow the legitimate government of Yemen'. Branding his statement on the media as the government's policy, he has disowned, to that extent, the resolution of the parliament. And he could, for the said resolution though unanimously adopted is not binding on the government. But the prime minister doesn't think so, saying he stands by the resolution, and that the negative flak it earned in the Arab world was because it was misinterpreted. Indeed an argument that faces hard sell given the rather unambiguous tone of the resolution. And then he also defined the nature of relationship with Saudi Arabia: "Pakistan doesn't abandon friends and strategic partners, especially at a time when their security is under threat". The policy statement was duly expected at home and abroad, essentially because of the unsavoury reaction dished out from Arab capitals that could be disastrous in the absence of clarification made by the prime minister. Only a day before the United Arab Emirates deputy foreign minister had threatened the 'high price' Pakistan will pay for this 'neutrality', resulting in an equally harsh riposte by interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali. Their confrontational positions may well be their gut reactions but they tended to enlarge the space of perceptional dissension between the two sides - though it is a given in interstate relationships that one hundred percent unanimity is never there - as against consensus warranted by the severity of the challenge. Hence, this statement by the prime minister, made after a consultative meeting attended among others by Army Chief General Raheel Sharif. Still, there was no clue as to whether the Saudi request for troops is to be met. We hope as things play out, the nature of help Pakistan would offer as strategic partner would be made public.


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ICT 2014

Foreign Debt $61.805bn
Per Cap Income $1,386
GDP Growth 4.14%
Average CPI 8.6%
Trade Balance $-999 mln
Exports $2.064 bln
Imports $3.063 bln
WeeklyApril 16, 2015
Reserves $16.818 bln