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It is disquieting that current account (C/A) deficit of the country has almost doubled during the first two months of the current fiscal year. According to the latest data released by the State Bank on 21st September, 2016, C/A deficit of the country has swelled by over 90 percent to dollar 1.316 billion during July-August, 2016 as compared with dollar 686 million in the corresponding period last year. So far as the components of current account balance were concerned, combined deficit of goods, services and income accounts surged to dollar 4.914 billion in the first two months of 2016-17 as compared to dollar 4.261 billion in the same period of last year. With dollar 6.969 billion of imports and dollar 3.221 billion of exports, country's merchandise account deficit stood at dollar 3.748 billion as against dollar 3.3 billion last year. Services' deficit posted an increase of 138 percent with exports of dollar 1.33 billion and imports of dollar 713 million. Similarly, with payments of dollar 611 million and receipts of dollar 64 million, income sector deficit shot up to dollar 547 million. It is obvious that if the present trend continues, C/A deficit of the country could reach dollar 7-8 billion during the current year which would be much higher than dollar 3.13 billion recorded in 2015-16.
The institution of police in Pakistan doesn't enjoy good reputation, and rightly so. What to talk of 'thana culture', which tends to turn the police stations into no-go areas for the ordinary people, there is ample evidence to suggest that it frequently resorts to extrajudicial killings and murderous torture, says Human Rights Watch (HRW) report. According to the report 'This Crooked System: Police Abuse and Reform in Pakistan,' in 2015 alone over 2,000 people were killed in "encounters" with police, mostly in Punjab. Most of these encounters are believed to be fake as these had not taken place in situations in which lives were claimed to be at risk. Should police find that evidence against a culprit is in short supply or the witnesses are too scared to testify the accused is disposed of in a fake encounter. Then there are custodial deaths that take place during interrogation. And barring a very few exceptions the victims are invariably from the marginalized sections of society like refugees, hapless destitute, landless farmers and those from minorities. If quite a few police officials are corrupt and 'buy' police stations of their choice, many others are under political threat of transfer to far-off places or they may be the cat's paw of their political masters. The HRW report doesn't cover Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, but the rest of the provinces which it covered presents a shocking picture in that these custodians of law are in fact the traditional wolf in sheep's clothing. And what an irony the curse of using police for political purposes tends to flourish in democratic ambience. No surprise then military dictator General Musharraf's decision of replacing archaic Police Order 1861 by Police Order 2002 has never been fully implemented. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did set up 'police councils to promote public relationship' and ordered to build up 100 model police stations. But the scheme largely stayed put on the drawing board and didn't dare climbing down from there.
According to a Business Recorder exclusive, National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has challenged the Prime Minister's directive to add one percent to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) power sector projects - including projects under implementation - for the entire lifespan of the project to allow for additional security cost. Nepra's challenge is based on six valid arguments that include: (i) draft summary moved by the Water and Power Ministry does not clearly stipulate which category of projects is to be given the one percent security cost, (ii) to include the additional cost in those projects that have achieved finality will create legal complexities, (iii) tariff determination already has an in-built security cost in the administrative costs, (iv) for sabotage a separate insurance cost is already provided in the tariff, (v) the lifespan of a project of 30 years would be burdensome for the domestic consumers, and (vi) allowing for the additional cost would be discriminatory against existing Independent Power Producers (IPPs). This would be as per an official of the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) prima facie discriminatory to similar projects which are not funded by the CPEC.
Not the Pakistani but the Indian leadership need to explain to its people the whys and the wherefores of the Uri attack. So far there is an element of inconsistency in what they have been saying about the incident ever since its happening. Even before the last shot was heard Home Minister Rajnath Singh was on twitter branding Pakistan a 'terrorist state' and the Indian media had unleashed war hysteria. But then a kind of realisation began to dawn that perhaps more had been bitten than could be chewed. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared on the scene. Addressing his party rally at Kozhikode, Kerala, he threatened to "isolate" Pakistan internationally, but stopped short of issuing threats of war - to the obvious disappointment of jingoistic sections of Indian polity, which included some in uniform who talked of setting in motion their brainchild "Cold Start" doctrine. If that was not enough to what some interpret as a 'climb-down' on the part of Narendra Modi, he then asked his generals, to stop talking of war. 'The Indian forces will not talk, but act', he ordered in his monthly "Mann Ki Baat" radio programme. Given the art of double-speak Narendra Modi is said to have mastered it would be hazardous to be taken in by such duplicitous, if not dubious, remarks. But the ground realities about the Uri episode must have forced the Indian government to think before it speaks - and think it must, asking of itself: Will someone from nine million Kashmiri Muslims not respond in the same coin to the incessant reign of terror unleashed by India's occupational forces for 77 days. From day one the people of Kashmir haven't accepted Indian rule, and it is no surprise that their third generation is up in revolt against it. Unless the Indian establishment decides to withdraw the occupying forces and revokes the set of draconian laws more such Uris cannot be ruled out. Over time, accentuated as it had been by excessive cruelty perpetrated by the occupying forces, the simmering discontent and peaceful protests were bound to culminate in open revolt, and that has happened. More Uris cannot be ruled out.
The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of State Bank of Pakistan has once again decided to keep the policy rate unchanged at 5.75 percent. In its Monetary Policy Statement (MPS) released on 24th September, 2016, it was made clear that such a determination was made on the basis of an uptick in inflationary pressures and the risk of widening current account deficit. CPI inflation rose to 3.6 percent in August, 2016 from 1.8 percent in the same month last year while average inflation during the first two months of the current fiscal year was more than double than July-August, 2015. According to the MPS, "the expected pick up in domestic demand is largely going to determine the inflation path in the remaining months of FY17". Uncertain global prices also continue to remain a major determining risk. Year-on-year increase in broad money was 13.9 percent on 9th September, 2016 as compared to 13.5 percent on 11th September, 2015. Liquidity conditions in the money market were comfortable mainly due to retirement of government borrowings to scheduled banks. Doubts about the behaviour of international oil prices, anticipations about the impact of interest rate hike by the US Fed early in the year, a slowdown in the Chinese economy and the aftermath of Brexit on international financial markets were building up on the prevalent uncertainty.
In its evaluation of various countries' progress on the United Nations' health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a report entitled "Global Burden of Disease Study" ranks Pakistan at a disgraceful 149th place among 188 countries. Unveiled the other day at the UN General Assembly, the study assesses performance on a scale of zero to 100, out of which Pakistan along with Bangladesh and Mauritania scores just 38 points. In practical terms this means that a vast majority of people do not have access to healthcare facilities, while maternal and infant mortality and death of children under the age of five years from preventable diseases is too high. Furthermore, undernourishment, a consequence of pervasive poverty, is causing stunted physical and mental growth among children leading to increased vulnerability to disease and learning difficulties. When they grow up these children will always remain at a disadvantage in the job market, unable to improve their own conditions or to make a meaningful contribution to the country's developmental endeavour.
The names of another 259 Pakistanis have been released with offshore accounts, this time in the Bahamas, leading to their denigration by the media and the general public. This is extremely unfortunate because our laws, legislated by parliament, allow foreign currency accounts by private citizens to be held domestically unlike other countries including the United States and the United Kingdom where residents are not allowed to keep foreign currency accounts. Until December 1999, these foreign currency accounts enjoyed immunity from any questions and tax on transactions in these accounts.