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It seems that the Financial Restructuring Package or a bailout package of Rs 18.5 billion approved for Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) in April, 2014 has failed to make the promised impact. According to a news item in the Business Recorder on 27th August, 2014, government has released the fourth tranche of the package amounting to Rs 2.125 billion to the PSM for salaries and other financial needs, including procurement of raw materials. Out of this amount, an amount of Rs 1.3 billion was to be spent on the payment of salaries for the later half of June and for the month of July, 2014 while the remaining amount will be utilised for the procurement of raw materials and payment of utility bills including gas, power and water. It may be recalled that PSM chief Major-General Zaheer Ahmed (retd) had sough a bailout package from the government for the country's largest state-owned steel producing plant on the basis of certain commitments. Although, the government is releasing the amount of restructuring package as per the agreed schedule, PSM management has failed to retain the output of the enterprise as per commitment made at the time of the package. For instance, PSM's production was to be raised phase-wise, with its output to increase to 20 percent in July, 2014 and 60 percent in FY15. As against this, production was only 8 percent in July, 2014 and the current year's target was not likely to be achieved as the production was only 15 percent of the installed capacity at present. This was despite the fact that the Ministry of Finance had so far released about Rs 12 billion under the approved restructuring plan.

The political crisis in Afghanistan deepened on Wednesday when Abdullah Abdullah, who won the first round of presidential election but lost the run-off to his rival Ashraf Ghani walked out of the UN-supervised audit as well. Notably, the audit was part of a deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry after Abdullah had refused to accept the result of the June 14 second round, demanding a complete vote recount. The UN tried to save the situation following his boycott by requesting Ghani's team to withdraw its observers explaining that "underlying this request was a realisation that audit must not only have integrity, it must be seen to be evenhanded by all Afghans."
But for the looming threat posed by so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) the most intractable rivals in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran, may have persevered in their positions of antagonistic policies and hostile posturing on myriad regional issues, even a year after President Rouhani's ice-breaking first comment after election to improve ties with the Arab Gulf countries. They oppose in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Bahrain and try sorting out each other through their proxies in a number of other places, never hesitating to exploit the lingering Shia-Sunni sectarian divide. But no more, given the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a geopolitical upheaval critical to the future of the region as was the demise of the Ottoman Empire or the birth of Israel. Within weeks of its emergence the Islamic State has captured large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, at one point well in sight from the Iranian border; and it doesn't seem to be stopping at that. That is in terms of its territorial sweep; in terms of religious affiliation, however, it has declared Shia Muslims heretics and took their lives at show trials in Mosul. It is a no mean threat to moderate Sunnis, be they in Saudi Arabia or anywhere else. No wonder the commonality of threat took no time to ring alarm bells both in Tehran and Riyadh. The leaderships in those capitals rightly realised that Nour al-Maliki was an obstacle towards forging a unified Iraqi stand against Islamic State, and endorsed Haider al-Abadi's candidature for the job in Iraq. On its part, Tehran sent a new ambassador to Saudi Arabia, as foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Qatar met to firm up a joint stand to confront and neutralise the threat of the Islamic State. The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian's meeting with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal this past Tuesday is indeed a measure of the quality and size of the threat the Islamic State poses to regional stability. What Saudi counterpart Abdollahian said was 'positive and constructive' and in that meeting both sides sought to contain the militants and discourage others from joining the ranks of the Islamic State forces.
In modern times no people have paid such a high price to defend their freedom and way of life as have the Gazans; and they have won against one of history's ultra-sadist killing machines, Israel. Finally getting the message that its seven-week-long brutal armed assault had failed to breach the Gazans' resistance Benjamin Netanyahu agreed to hold fire and sit with the Hamas leadership to explore ways and means to co-exist in peace and harmony. The Cairo-brokered ceasefire, announced Tuesday evening, is expected to hold, essentially because the aggressor has been squarely put paid by the Gazans with a matching steadfastness and determination to fight back whatever regardless of the cost in terms of life and limb. Of course, it was an unequal fight; one side being a nuclear power, armed to the teeth and prone to convulsions for aggression patted by the West and the other side a small population, starving to death, rendered defenceless and deserted by its so-called allies. The 50-day-long Israel's land and air assault, punctuated by a couple of short breaks of ceasefire, was more an attempt at breaking down the morale of the Hamas defenders by murdering their children and women and by destroying their homes and businesses than taking them on in a war-like situation. Anybody who looked like a child, was on the street or at home, or had taken shelter in UN-protected compound, he was the prime target. Homes, schools, hospitals and mosques were bombed, piling shame on those who credited Israeli attacks saying what the 'hell of pinpoint' surgical strikes. Of some 2200 lives lost to Israeli aggression more than 70 percent were civilians, including 500 children. The number of Israeli casualties was 69, almost all men in uniform. Simply put, Netanyahu's forces were out to teach a lesson to Hamas by killing their families and destroying their homes, than to directly take on battle-hardened Hamas fighters who ultimately forced Tel Aviv to ceasefire and go for talks.
A half-truth is a deceptive statement that includes some elements of truth. That a half-truth is more dangerous than an outright lie is a fact that has found its best expression in prime minister Nawaz Sharif's 'explanation' that a visibly upset opposition and even the allies of PML-N government had sought from him following a highly significant development in the situation that was described by some impatient analysts as 'soft coup' a few hours after his meeting with army chief General Raheel Sharif. PTI chairman Imran Khan and PAT chief Dr Tahirul Qadri met separately the army chief at the GHQ on late Thursday night under an intense global and national media glare that declared that the army chief had stepped in to help resolve the grave turmoil on the request of no one but an elected prime minister. Unfortunately, however, the government did not deem it necessary to clarify the situation even when Imran Khan was 'informing' his supporters about the key elements of his talk with General Raheel. The government was still nowhere when Dr Qadri was seeking 'permission' from his so-called parliament of people to leave for the GHQ to meet General Raheel who, according to him, had agreed to play the role of a 'guarantor' and 'mediator' on government's request.
Various associations and groups in Pakistan continue to insist on the provision of subsidy by the government to the agricultural sector on one pretext or the other. The latest to join in this effort was Khawaja Usman, President of Multan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI), who premised his plea on the ground of Indian instance to grant subsidies on various agricultural products and favourable attitude of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the continuation of subsidies for the sake of food autarky in a country. As India was demanding subsidy on agricultural products meant for Pakistan under Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), the acceptance of such a demand would imbalance the regional trade because in that case the Indian farmers would be in a position to supply their products at lower rates with the help of government financial support (subsidies). Exports of rice from India, for instance, would be available at lower prices in the international market as compared to Pakistani rice. The position of Pakistani exporters would be further undermined because the WTO and the International Monetary Fund have forbidden the country to provide subsidies to the agricultural sector. Therefore, the government should provide subsidies on those agricultural products, which were covered under the Global Food Security provision. Food processing, dairy products, agricultural equipments and machinery may be included in those products. The supply of energy and other utilities may be subsidised for food processing and agricultural industry. Inland freight subsidy could also be covered under this clause. In a nutshell, president, MCCI underscored the need for providing subsidy on agricultural products and farm machinery on the pattern of India to ensure food security.
Of course, there are people whose loyalty to the two leaders at the sit-ins in Islamabad is absolute, and there are also people who are resolutely determined to protect the Sharifs-in-power whatever it costs. But they are not many in number; they are mere fringes of the huge majority of Pakistanis who stand in between these two extremities, bewildered and disappointed at the role model persona that Imran Khan and Tahirul Qadri have assumed. Thanks to the ubiquitous media presence at the sit-ins - despite a rough treatment it sometimes receives at the hands of the ardent followers of these role models - an unmistakable contradiction has begun to appear between what they say and what they are. An impression has begun to crystallise that both grossly underestimate the intelligence of the vox populi wanting to lead it up the garden path to sign up their agendas of "Naya Pakistan" and "Green Revolution". Qadri argues that; his is a peaceful protest; he commits to respect rule of law and constitutionalism. But he has arrived at the gates of parliament and Supreme Court as the head of a highly-charged crowd; threatens to storm the Parliament building and turn it into a massive graveyard. This saviour of the poor enjoys the comforts of five-star hotel in his custom-made container while his zealous devotees including women and children are exposed to humid days and rain-drenched nights of Islamabad. His fellow-travelling role model, Imran Khan, never tires of sermonising people on merits of constitutionalism and rule of law, but wants to bring down an elected government by mere show of force; seeks forgiveness in the contempt case but doesn't take a minute to repeat the same cardinal sin; and exposes his ignorance of national interest to the limit of ridicule. How come you order civil disobedience against your country's national interest by asking overseas Pakistanis to commit crime of sending home remittances through illegal channel of 'hundi', or 'hawala' encourage people to make a run on banks, bankrupt the national kitty by refusing to pay taxes and utilities' bills. Consider, the respect the Quaid-e-Azam had for law and constitutionalism that he parted company with the Indian Congress in 1920 when Gandhi gave a call for civil disobedience. And Qadri should know what one of the greatest-ever revolutionary, Mao Zedong, said of a revolution; 'A revolution is not a dinner party...A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another', he had said. The women and children, who form the vanguard of Qadri's revolution march, hardly make for the grist the revolution wants. This being the persona of the so-called role models of our national politics, there is no question that these sit-ins and devotional pantomime put on show every evening at the D-Chowk, make for a cruel joke with the silent majority of Pakistanis. The sooner it is over the better for democracy in Pakistan. Yes, it is very much possible that the government had gone wrong at a number of places and in myriad ways. The brutality the Lahore police inflicted on Qadri's workers in Lahore is simply unforgivable. Likewise, the inordinate delay on the part of the government in conducting verification of votes remains unjustified. As to what punishment the government deserves it is for the courts to decide and in no case by the firebrand Imran and a fire-breathing Qadri; the duo must not raise the ante of bloodshed on the streets of Islamabad. They are here occupying vintage places on Constitution Avenue only because their demand to hold sit-ins is their constitutional right. But this does not mean that they should exploit that right by violating the same very constitution - which clearly predicates the exercise of their right to assemble anywhere with the proviso that they should assemble 'peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order'. This is so because, as the saying goes, 'your right ends where my nose begins'. The fact is that for over 10 days or so with s


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Foreign Debt $61.805bn
Per Cap Income $1,386
GDP Growth 4.14%
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WeeklyAugust 28, 2014
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