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Dr Hafiz Pasha, former Finance Minister during Nawaz Sharif's government, gave a damning indictment on the state of the economy during a conference organised by the Institute for Policy Reforms that he helped establish. None of the macroeconomic targets was met during the first quarter of the current fiscal year (July to September) with the exception of fiscal deficit and that was attained because releases under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) were only 8 percent against the benchmark of 20 percent of the total budgeted in the first quarter, Pasha argued. But by the end of the fiscal year the deficit would be higher by 1.1 percentage points than what was budgeted, he averred, or around 6 percent as opposed to the budgeted 4.9 percent. Growth target of 5.1 percent would also not be met and Pasha estimated actual growth at around 3.5 to a maximum of 4 percent.

The high treason trial of former military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf took a dramatic turn on Friday when the special court hearing the case accepted, albeit partially, the defence counsel's plea to include in the case those who advised him to impose the November 3, 2007 emergency. Directing the federal government to submit statements of formal charges against the then prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, the then Law Minister Zahid Hamid, and the then Chief Justice, Abdul Hameed Dogar, as the co-accused within a fortnight, the court aptly observed that "it would be against the public interest if a selective investigation is allowed to be made the basis of a criminal case." Although the defence's strategy right from the start of the trial was to widen the list of abettors to include the then Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani and some others, the order rightly focused on the persons who had constitutional obligations vis-a-vis events of November 3, 2007.
Business Recorder has long been advocating the development of a consensus of all stakeholders including all political parties, the business community as well as trade unions on a common economic agenda. The objective is to provide safeguards to existing as well as potential investors - local and foreign - that would ensure there would be no attempt to overturn decisions taken by a previous government.
An anti-terrorism court in Lahore handed death penalty on Wednesday to four men for killing a young woman in the name of family honour because she had contracted a marriage of her choice. These men - the victim's father, brother, a cousin and former husband - bludgeoned her to death last May outside the Lahore High Court where she had gone to record her statement in favour of her husband who had been accused of abducting her. In his verdict, the ATC judge observed that the gruesome murder, reminiscent of dark ages, having taken place near the High Court created fear and outrage among people who come to courts to seek protection against oppression. It is worthwhile to note that the male relatives of the women acted the way they did because of loopholes in the law that makes so-called honour killing a compoundable offence. It has become an accepted practice for male relatives, like in the present case, to murder a woman for deciding on her own to marry somebody, even on suspicion of having a liaison. The 'honour' pretext in some instance has also been used to get rid of women - even men - to grab the victims' property. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, about 900 women fell victim to honour-related crimes during 2013 alone.
General Sergei Shoygu, the first Russian defence minister to visit Pakistan since 1969 (the then Soviet Union) was in Islamabad this week to personally convey his government's decision to sell Pakistan 20 Mi-35 helicopters. For its relatively cheap operational cost and enhanced orientation for mountain warfare Pakistan wanted Mi-35 for deployment in military operations against terrorists in tribal areas. But Moscow was hesitant to go for the deal given the long-frozen Pak-Russia bilateral relationship and New Delhi's stiff resistance. Now that the world has moved beyond the Cold War era; the United States is about to pull out of Afghanistan and New Delhi is cozying up to Washington the Russian leadership too is thinking its geopolitics, possibly giving preference to geo-economics over geo-strategic interests. Perhaps, the EU's pressure over the Ukraine crisis and threats of food sanctions contributed to Moscow's new strategy to look south and east; and reach Pakistan where its footprints in the shape of Pakistan Steel Mills and Oil and Gas Development Corporation remain indelible. No wonder then the defence co-operation agreement General Shoygu signed with his counterpart Khwaja Asif has been termed a "milestone" in a statement by Pakistan government, with a huge potential to translate this relationship into "tangible terms" to strengthen military-to-military relationship. "Apart from promoting bilateral defence relations the [minister's] visit will enable both countries to join hands in bringing peace and stability to the region," the statement added. Not only has Moscow lifted arms embargo, by sending a 41-member high-powered delegation headed by its defence minister, the Putin government has also shown willingness to overlook the bitter past and prepare for a mutually beneficial multidimensional bilateralism. The Russian move, in the words of The Moscow Times, amounts to "ending years of division over Islamabad's close ties with US and Moscow's with India". The question whether or not the Mi-35 helicopters will obviate the desideratum to put up with CIA's drones has no plausible answer. But the message Moscow gives does invite a pertinent question: How good is a strategic partnership bereft of transactional content?
For the last few years, financial institutions have been very comfortable in lending to the public sector through rapid increase in the holdings of government securities; and they shy away from extending credit to the private sector. However, the growth in private sector credit has been particularly muted this year. Obviously, if private sector in Pakistan remains dormant, for whatever reasons, foreign investors would also avoid the country. Although foreign investment was reported to be higher by 47 percent during the first four months of the current fiscal, it was limited to only dollar 423 million, reflecting a disappointing attitude of the foreign investors. Such a low level of investment was of course much less than the absorptive capacity of the country and compared very unfavourably with most of the other countries in the region.
While addressing an international conference on "innovations in digital finance for financial inclusion" organised by the State Bank of Pakistan, Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar stated that a draft bill on cyber crimes and terrorism funding is in its final stage and would be presented before parliament within a couple of months - a prerequisite for donor assistance as well as a requirement under the GSP plus status granted by the European Union. The bill, Dar elaborated, would boost security measures for mobile and internet banking and would support transitioning from traditional to digital banking and added that "I look forward to the day when people will be paying for their parking tickets and toll taxes on the spot through mobile wallets."


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Banking Review 2013

Foreign Debt $61.805bn
Per Cap Income $1,386
GDP Growth 4.14%
Average CPI 8.6%
Trade Balance $-2.380 bln
Exports $2.181 bln
Imports $4.561 bln
WeeklyNovember 13, 2014
Reserves $13.268 bln