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The latest news on the trade accounts of the country are frightening. According to the trade data released by the Federal Bureau of Statistics (FBS) on 14th October, 2014, Pakistan's trade deficit in July-September, 2014 has expanded by as much as 45.11 percent to reach dollar 6.504 billion as against dollar 4.482 billion in the same period of last year. This was both due to a sizable fall in exports and substantial increase in imports. While exports fell by 10 percent to dollar 6.105 billion in the first quarter of FY15 from dollar 6.695 billion a year ago, imports rose by 12.01 percent during the quarter to reach dollar 12.519 billion compared to dollar 11.177 billion in the corresponding period last year. An alarming aspect was that country's exports have been declining since April this year despite the grant of preferential GSP + market access by 28-nation European Union and a host of incentives for exports announced in the last budget. On a month-on-month basis, the decline in exports reached almost 17 percent in September, 2014 while imports grew by 20.31 percent in the same month.

A two-hour launch speech delivered by the Chairman Pakistan People's Party, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, miserably failed to connect with the gathering and we, sadly though, have our doubts that it would not help him arrest the party's popularity slide, particularly in Punjab. Bilawal is young and needs to visit every district in the country to connect with the masses in accordance with his late grandfather Z A Bhutto's strategy that he successfully employed to garner support for himself when he fell out with Field Marshal Ayub Khan in the 1960s. The son of Asif Zardari and Benazir Bhutto also must understand that now the contest is between party leaders such as Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif and not just between the potential electables. Second, Pakistan of today has changed from the Pakistan of the 1970s and 40 percent of the voters are under the age of 30. No military general is at the helm anymore, so unlike his mother or her father he cannot target them. People want delivery of services and a better quality of life and will not be satisfied with mere 'clichés' or handouts. PPP has to come up with a plank of teaching "one to fish and not just giving a fish to eat". When Aitzaz Ahsan called for the leadership of the party to be given to people under the age of 50 years, he was underscoring the need for a younger leadership that could connect with the challenges of the present-day Pakistan.
Paradoxically, the city of Islamabad which is so much a day-and-night theatre of struggle for political rights and basic freedoms is least democratic in terms of self-governance. It is run by a couple of chair-bound bureaucrats, who offer the Isloos - that's what the city residents fondly call themselves - take it or leave it choices, least bothered if what they offer is what the people want. Ever since the founding of the city, in early 1960s, its governance has been a one-way traffic, bereft of any inputs its residents would have liked to make. Unlike anywhere in the world the million-strong city of Islamabad never had a local government. The existing fig leaf local government law, the Federal Capital Local Government Ordinance 1979, only extends to the rural areas of Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), a dichotomy which attracted the Supreme Court order of July 17, 2013 that elections be held both in rural and urban areas. No wonder then more than a year on we have this draft bill, the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government Bill 2013, adopted by the National Committee on Interior and Narcotics. According to the draft bill, the local government in the federal capital will consist of Union Councils (UCs) in rural areas and a Metropolitan Corporation for the urban part of the ICT. The so-called city fathers will be elected, who in turn will elect mayor and deputy mayor. Since the draft bill has been adopted unanimously it is expected to be passed by the parliament almost in the form adopted by the committee.
What the Vice Chancellor of Agriculture University, Faisalabad, Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan, had to say to a visiting team from National Management College in Lahore should be of serious concern to the Punjab government, indeed all provincial governments considering that irresponsible dumping of industrial effluents is a bane common to all. He told the visitors researching air and water quality issues that industrial effluents are being used to irrigate crops and vegetables. Eighty percent of the toxic effluents, he said, are going into water bodies and the residual 20 percent hazardous waste is discharged directly into the ground water. It is not difficult to imagine how this leads to toxic substances finding their way into the food chain and drinking water to cause a host of health problems, including life threatening diseases, to unsuspecting consumers.
The signing of the transit agreement for Central Asia South Asia Regional Electricity Market (CASAREM) 1000 project between the government of Pakistan and Afghanistan was hailed by Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar as a major step towards close partnership between the two countries. More tellingly the signing ceremony was attended by World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Dan Feldman - a reflection of the driving force behind the project.
In the most fervently contested and watched NA-149 Multan by-election, Amir Dogar, an independent candidate backed by the PTI has won getting 52,321 votes against 38,393 of his main rival, Javed Hashmi, former PTI president who left the party, purportedly, on a point of principle. Even though, like Dogar, Hashmi too stood as an independent candidate, the PML-N fully supported him. As he himself acknowledged, "PML-N's local leadership worked hard [for my success]." Dr Javed Siddiqui, of the PPP, the second largest party in Parliament, finished a distant third with just 6,326 votes despite hard campaigning by the party's bigwigs in southern Punjab, former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Makhdoom Shahabuddin. A particularly positive aspect of the election is that whilst passions ran high, the polling went on in a peaceful manner. And Hashmi did something unusual in this country's electoral history when he openly accepted defeat in a gracious concession speech, congratulating his rival as well.
National Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has reportedly decided to probe the Independent Power Producers' (IPPs) excessive profitability estimated at up to 40 percent as revealed from their balance sheets and financial results. This profit margin is in excess of the agreed 15 percent internal rate of return, maintain Nepra officials. While acknowledging that Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP), which continues to be led by an acting head, is the corporate watchdog entitled to probe the IPPs affairs, yet Nepra maintains that as the official regulator, it too has the right to investigate the matter. The IPPs remain unconcerned and maintain that 15 years ago the government had ordered a similar probe, which concluded that there was no wrongdoing; and they anticipate a similar outcome this time around.


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Foreign Debt $61.805bn
Per Cap Income $1,386
GDP Growth 4.14%
Average CPI 8.6%
Trade Balance $-2.807 bln
Exports $1.911 bln
Imports $4.718 bln
WeeklyOctober 10, 2014
Reserves $13.401 bln