Last update: Thu, 05 May 2016 12am



According to a Business Recorder exclusive, the federal government is likely to promulgate an ordinance extending the 7th National Finance Commission (NFC) award agreed in 2009 and approved by parliament in April 2010 for yet another year. The reason cited by relevant officials is the serious concern of the federal government that negotiations on the 8th award would inevitably focus on provinces' demand to raise their take of resources under the divisible pool. The federal government is opposed to any such demand on grounds that its existing 42.5 percent share has already rendered it incapable of meeting its own expenditures, particularly those relating to counter-terrorism. At the same time, the provinces have shown little inclination to enhance their allocations for all the devolved subjects under the 18th Constitutional Amendment, particularly those relating to social sector development, including education and health.
Political discourse surrounding the Panama leaks scandal has turned into a no-holds barred war of words. The PTI leading the opposition's charge against the Prime Minister for his family's alleged involvement in the corruption scandal is well within its rights to stage public rallies and pressurise the government into accepting an impartial inquiry, but the conversation must remain within the bounds of decency. It did not help his cause, for instance, at the launch of a healthcare programme in Quetta on Monday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was all praise for Balochistan Chief Minister Nawab Sanaullah Zehri. Extending a helping hand to a beleaguered prime minister to fight off the challenge of Panama leaks, the Baloch nawab used highly strong language against PM's opponents. Terming them "dogs", he averred, "the dogs bark but the caravan moves on". On Sunday, PTI Chairman Imran Khan in his party's rally at Lahore used harsh language against the PM and likened a federal minister to a rodent. For his part, following the practice in functioning democracies, the PM should have gone to Parliament to give satisfactory answers to the opposition's legitimate questions about his family's assets abroad. Instead acting like an opposition leader, he has taken the fight into the public arena, embarking on a public contact campaign to announce various development projects while his cabinet colleagues have been launching personal attacks on the PTI chief.
Commercial banks desirous of opening branches outside the country of their origin have to meet certain additional requirements. Not only are they required to abide by the restrictions prescribed by their home country, they will also be required to fulfil the regulatory requirements of the host country. According to a report in this newspaper on 29th April, 2016, State Bank of Pakistan is contemplating introducing some revisions in the policy for the establishment of subsidiaries/opening of branches/representative offices by Pakistani banks abroad and remittance on account of Minimum Capital Requirement (MCR) to establish their subsidiaries and branches abroad. Pakistani incorporated banks will have to be sound; and they will be required to differentiate between the establishment expenses and MCR/CAR of the overseas central banks. Overseas subsidiaries and branches will have to bear their expenses from the revenues generated abroad and funds remitted initially with SBP's permission as establishment expenses and for meeting the MCR. However, banks could remit up to a maximum of US dollar 50,000 per financial year under annual recurring expenses of representative/marketing/liaison offices. In case of business expansion in the form of acquisition in the country of investment or from the country of investment to any other country, banks would have to seek permission of the SBP. The potential investor will also be required to submit an undertaking to deploy Pakistani staff in the branch or subsidiary if there is no limitation of overseas central bank. In case of any limitation, maximum number of Pakistanis will be accommodated in overseas banking operations.
Films are discussed for their artistic merit or entertainment value, but a new Pakistani movie, Maalik, said to be wanting in both departments, has attracted public attention for the wrong reason: ban by the federal government. Notably, Maalik was duly passed by the Central Board of Film Censors, and had been running for three weeks when someone in the Sindh government found it objectionable and ordered a ban (the province established its own censor authority following the 18th Amendment) terming it 'biased' for portraying a fictional chief minister and his party in a negative light. Good sense, however, soon prevailed and within hours the real chief minister of Sindh intervened telling his culture ministry to revert the action, pointing out that it is against the freedom of expression. Then the federal information ministry stepped in to issue a notification decertifying the film.
The federal cabinet under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved the budget strategy paper presented by the Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. The press release issued subsequent to the meeting is silent on details of this critical approval strengthening the general perception that it was granted without any debate. It appears that the approval of this important document was merely on the sidelines of the overarching objective of the cabinet meeting that was called after seven months: to give a resounding vote of confidence in the leadership of the Prime Minister. This is baffling as that could have been taken as a given, as each cabinet member owes his/her seat in the cabinet and some would argue even in parliament to the Prime Minister and serves at his pleasure.
Talking to journalists at the conclusion of a recent seminar in Islamabad, Chairman of the Council of Islamic Ideology, Maulana Mohammad Khan Sherani, urged the State Bank of Pakistan to devise a mechanism for Islamization of the economy suggesting, among other measures, replacement of paper currency with silver and gold coins. The maulana, of course, is no expert on financial matters and hence unaware of the complexities involved. More importantly, the conference stressed the need to implement an interest-free Islamic system which in fact is already operational, but in parallel with conventional banking. There is no question about its worth considering that Islamic finance is a fast growing industry in several countries. According to World Islamic Banking Competitiveness report 2014-15, the industry having gone mainstream participation banking's average growth in core markets over 2009-13 was 1.9 times higher than that for conventional. And assets of Islamic banks showed 18 percent increase per year during 2009-13.
The laddu, a ball-shaped sweetmeat, is a popular item for celebratory occasions. That it would kill a score and may take more lives was beyond anyone's wildest imagination in Chak 105ML, Layyah. The head of the farming family had ordered five kilos of laddu for a nearby town for distribution to celebrate the birth of his grandson. Within minutes of eating that sweetmeat men and women started falling. Among the fatalities is the newborn's father, his six uncles and many others from the family and the neighbourhood. The sweetmeat was mixed with pesticide as it was also shifted to the sweetmeat shop as the herbicide store was being renovated. The shopkeeper's attendant is said to have acknowledged that he accidentally mixed the pesticide into the sweetmeat. Indeed, fate is a hunter and death creeps through tightly shut doors. But is it something, anything, which could have averted this incidence of mass-poisoning? Yes, the herbicide should not have been shifted to the sweetmeat shop. The attendant should have taken due care while making the laddu. The health officials are reported to have observed that a 'poisonous substance namely selfonyle was found in the sweetmeat which was lethal'. In the aftermath of the grim tragedy, the sick have been shifted to hospitals and are being looked after, and the Punjab Food Minister Bilal Yaseen has given a cheque of Rs 500,000 to each victim's family. And as expected, the opposition has demanded a judicial commission to investigate the incident, otherwise it would stage a sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly building.