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Pakistan is believed to have abundant resources of shale gas. Briefing the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) at the Parliament House recently, the Director General, Petroleum Concessions of the Ministry of Petroleum, disclosed that Pakistan had shale gas/oil reservoirs estimated at 586 Trillion Cubic Feet (TCF), out of which 105 TCF gas and over 9 billion barrels of oil were recoverable. A study conducted by the US Energy Information Administration had shown that 95 TCF recoverable reservoirs were available in Sindh and southern Punjab. It was also revealed that exploration of shale gas/oil was not only technology-intensive but financially two times expensive and time-consuming compared to other conventional natural resources. Further, it took 40 years for the US to develop shale gas where this resource was found on the surface while it is lying in depth of 2,000 to 4,000 metres in Pakistan. Once shale gas/oil policy was formulated in the country, exploration and production (E&P) companies will get around dollar 12 per MMBTU as wellhead gas price, which was almost double from the price E&P companies get from the conventional gas. However, the Ministry of Petroleum was planning to start a pilot project to know the exact cost of shale gas.

The Paris attacks have given new excuses to Europe's and US' Islamaphobes to try and stop allowing in Syrian refugees even though those involved in the atrocity happened to be home-grown terrorists from France and Belgium. Shrill voices of rejection are being raised by President Barack Obama's Republican opponents for saying he is prepared to take 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year, which in fact is too tiny a number given the scale of the crisis. As the civil war - actually a proxy war among regional as well as big international players - rages on into fifth year, over 220,000 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced to take refuge in neighbouring countries. According to Amnesty International, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt among them host 97 percent of the Syrian refugees. The region's richer countries backing various rebel groups have neither offered to accept the war affectees nor provided the UNHCR with adequate resources to afford shelter and food assistance for them. According to Amnesty International, 80 percent of the refugees in Jordan live below the poverty line while the UN's appeals for funds have gone largely unanswered. The refugee agency has received just 40 percent of the required funds. Those risking lives for asylum in Europe are mostly well-educated professionals who are only looking to work and live in peace and dignity.
Aaliji is gone, but only physically. His songs will keep him alive in the hearts of Pakistanis. He was a columnist, critic, playwright, and a poet. But neither of the right nor of the left - he was the poet of Pakistan. What immortalises him are the songs he wrote to lift the national spirit and raise morale of the people. In 1965, when a war was imposed on Pakistan, he wrote "Aye watan ke sajeelay jawano", rendered by Noor Jehan and "Jeevay jeevay Pakistan" sung by Shahnaz Begum. The latter became almost another national anthem of Pakistan. For the POWs of the 1971 war, he composed "Aye des ki hawaain, sarhed kay paar jao". Jamiluddin Aali wrote his famous song "Jo nam wohi pehchan, Pakistan" at the request of Ghulam Ishaq Khan. Aaliji was too big a man to be beholden to anyone's sponsorship. It was the political parties who joined and not he. If he lost election to a National Assembly seat in Karachi on a PPP ticket against Pakistan National Alliance's (PNA) Syed Munawwar Hasan who later became Jamaat-e-Islami emir, he was elected as Senator with the support of MQM. What always mattered to him was the national interest. His song "Hum maaen, Hum behnain, hum baiteyan", written to commemorate the Women's Day in 1976, was banned by General Ziaul Haq, only to be released by Benazir Bhutto later. The scion of a nawabzada family with known literary credentials - his grandfather was a friend and student of Mirza Ghalib - Nawabzada Mirza Jamiludin Aali was a humble man. Not only was Aalji Pakistan's patriotic moniker, he was also its builder - in ways that has a few parallels. Given the fact that the bureaucratic structure the new-born state of Pakistan inherited following the Partition of subcontinent, the government offices in the then national capital Karachi, were equipped with only bare office furniture and scarce stationery. Every Sunday morning, a young Jamiluddin Aali and his friends would go out in nearby jungle and, cut and collect acacia thorns that were used as paper pins in offices. For his services to the cause of Pakistan, he was awarded 'Hilal-e-Imtiaz', Pride of Performance and many other awards. That national icon left us this past Tuesday, at the ripe age of almost 90, as the nation hums his lingering message: "Mera paigham, Pakistan".
A member of the Overseas Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) justifiably angered by the delay in refunds totalling 45 billion rupees as of August 2015 (with some pending for a decade) stated that Pakistan's low ranking - 171 out of 189 countries in ease of doing business report compiled by the World Bank - was to be expected. A Chief Financial Officer (CFO), of a multinational company added his voice to this lament. According to him, the "tax receivable figure has now become a sizeable chunk of many balance sheets," that has compelled many a multinational company to borrow to meet the deficit which was raising the financial costs of doing business in Pakistan thereby badly impacting on the profitability of the corporates.
The country's high officialdom is indeed firmly entrenched in luxurious offices and resides in gated-colonies with their manicured lawns, but not an inch beyond that on the terra firma called Pakistan where cities, big and small, have become heaps of uncollected garbage that is invariably left to putrefy. Ever-burning trash in streets, rising piles of trash and sewerage lines admixing with drinking water supplies - that is now a day-to-day reality in all cities thanks to the municipal governments' lingering neglect of their responsibility. And, this has gone on for years, even after the Supreme Court's suo motu notice in 2003 and its order to the concerned departments to take remedial measures and report back. Thirteen years on, the provinces turned up at the apex court this past Wednesday and presented reports of their performance so hollow and perfunctory only to earn the court's stinging observation to effect 'as if you are nose-less creatures that you can't smell the stench so thickly permeating our environments'. The judges' graphic observations how neat and unpolluted were our cities that over the time have become nothing but simmering dumps of toxic gases, do evoke considerable interest of the old-timers, harking them back to what Karachi once-upon-a-time was; how refreshing was the garden city of Peshawar and where are those mountain streams of Islamabad? Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali was impressed by the 'bulky file' of the Chief Secretary Sindh carried, but to him it signified nothing because the environmental pollution in the megacity of Karachi has 'reached the pinnacle'. The Chief Secretary Punjab too had nothing worthwhile to show as his anti-pollution performance. Of some 35 magistrates appointed to punish the polluters only one has reported on duty - how more telling betrayal of the cause of clean, unpolluted cities can be!
Former Senior Member, Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), Shahid Hussain Asad, stated in an interview with Aaj News that there is a 40 billion rupee shortfall in the first quarter of the current year. This shortfall, he said, would be met through increasing taxes on luxury goods, and claimed that it would not be a mini-budget as a presidential ordinance would not be required. In this context, it is relevant to note that all those taxes that can be imposed through issuance of a statutory regulatory order notably regulatory duty do not require the promulgation of an ordinance. All other taxes, including withholding taxes, enhancement or widening of sales tax, excise and customs duty would require an amendment in the law requiring the promulgation of a presidential ordinance.
Within the Syrian civil war there are many mini-wars, some being fought by contending national stakeholders and others between regional and global powers through their proxies. And as it continues, the contestants keep revising their agendas. In its first phase, it centered on removing President Bashar al-Assad and thus rid the country of a tyrant. And as the anti-Assad movement caught regional attention, the regional powers joined the fray, and the movement splintered off in many factions, each killing and dying for the conflicting interests of their own and of their patrons and promoters. The lingering factional infighting did uproot and displace hundreds of thousands of ordinary Syrians and forced them to flee their homes and seek refuge abroad, but Bashar al-Assad, though a bit shaken, hung on to power in Damascus. Then walked in so-called Islamic State (IS) militants, flaunting their insatiable appetite for human blood, and stole the Syrian show from the anti-Assad forces. The war in Syria now acquired an unmistakable global dimension and near international unanimity that IS should be fought and defeated. With IS now occupying centre stage the removal of President Assad was no more the top priority, at least of Russia and Iran. Not that the regional powers acquiesced to his remaining in power; some of them have their strong reservations over his staying in power and haven't given up their factional preferences. But they seemed to have decided to wait the outcome of anti-IS military operations led by major international powers. Others too are in the war against IS, but want Assad to stay in power, allegedly fighting the anti-Assad forces camouflaged as anti-IS operations. But then comes with a deafening thud a spanner in the works - a Russian warplane has been shot down by the Turkish jets, lending one more twist to the conflict in Syria and a huge unknown as to how it will impact the pace and direction of the war in that unfortunate country.


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Foreign Debt $62.649bn
Per Cap Income $1,512
GDP Growth 4.24%
Average CPI 8.6%
Trade Balance $-2.197 bln
Exports $1.729 bln
Imports $3.926 bln
WeeklyNovember 23, 2015
Reserves $19.713 bln