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Bye-election to the elected houses in Pakistan hardly make to the front pages, but not this one to NA-246 in Karachi. It is the Muttahida Qaumi Movement's ideological anchorage as it houses the party's headquarters, and outcome of the bye-poll was being touted, rightly, consequential to the very survival of the party as a contender to its oft-quoted claim 'Karachi is mine'. Somehow it fell to the lot of Tehreek-e-Insaf to challenge this claim, and the bye-election on NA-246 was taken up as a mission by the Kaptan's squad. Given the fact that voter turnout in the said constituency was never equal to the national average, the PTI pledged to expel the registered voters' perceived fear that keeps them away from the polling booths. This will not happen again, party chief Imran Khan pledged, and entered the electoral arena to usher in this 'tubdeli' (change). But as the luck would have it, or was it the voters' decision, the 'tubdeli' returned from the gates of Karachi. The PTI candidate, Imran Ismail, could get even one-fourth of the votes polled for MQM's Kanwar Naveed Jamil that was too distant a goal for it even if the PTI had forced withdrawal of its otherwise coalition partner, Jamaat-e-Islami. But that said it must be stated that with the kind of security made certain on the day of election to NA-246 the voter turnout should have been higher than what it was in 2013 general elections, even when conceded that bye-polls rarely acquire criticality of a game-changer - though this at NA-246 was. In the wake of emerging challenges to the very existence of the Muttahida as a viable political option in the national context, the bye-election to this constituency had acquired a make-or-break importance. No doubt then this electoral victory tends to raise the morale of the MQM rank and file, and its role as a stakeholder in Pakistan's democratic future remains unchallenged.

Participating in a recent UN Security Council debate on the Middle East situation Pakistan's Permanent Representative to the world body, Ambassador Maliha Lodhi, urged the UNSC to adopt a resolution establishing the parameters of Palestinian state, set timeline for ending Israeli occupation and launch a new peace process to take negotiations forward. In the past, the UNSC passed numerous pro-Palestinian resolutions, but without effect. The late Yasser Arafat never tired of reminding the international community of UNSC Resolution-242 of 1967 - passed unanimously in the aftermath of the six-day war - that called for "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict." Nearly 48 years on, Palestinians continue to endure modern history's longest occupation. But it cannot last forever.
Federal Minister for Commerce Khurram Dastgir reached Iran on a mission to reportedly arrest the decline in bilateral trade and convince Iran to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) which, as per reports, Iran has formally declined to sign. The last FTA was signed between the two countries during the tenure of the Musharraf government in March 2004, implemented two years later in 2006, and which is effective in letter to this day. However, the agreement envisaging the grant of tariff concessions to Iran on 338 tariff lines and the grant of concessions by Iran on 309 tariff lines is not being implemented in spirit.
The suspicion over change in the original route of the Pak-China Economic Corridor (PCEC) was there for quite some time, but the way it tends to burst only a day after its signing is something that was never expected. It speaks as much about the unfamiliarity of the critics with foreign investment as about the crude manner the ruling party conducted the whole affair. With the Sharif family stage-managing President Xi Jinping's entire state visit the State of Pakistan came across hemmed within the provincial boundary of Punjab. In his address to the joint session of parliament and in other interlocutions President Xi talked of Pakistan and its people, and if he mentioned any segment of our national landscape it was the underdeveloped regions of the country he said the people of China would like to see developed and flourishing. How unfortunate it is that only Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif was given the honour to receive him at the Nur Khan airbase while the Chief Ministers of KPK, Sindh and Balochistan were contemptuously ignored as none of the three was invited to the airport. No doubt, this was a slap in the face of a democratic polity that we claim to be. 'Only the Sharifs and their cronies in the driving seat' is not a smart idea, and even diplomatically a costly proposition, aptly reflected as it is from the confusion over Pakistan's stand on the Yemen imbroglio.
Wars bring victories and defeats to the generals and their governments, but to the average man they bring only death and destruction. The war in Yemen seems to have reached its close, but it hasn't thrown up a clear victor. The Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition has suspended its bombing campaign, saying it has achieved its objectives. Others insist the excessive collateral damage caused by 2000-plus airstrikes resulting in 944 deaths and four times that number wounded has forced suspension of the month-long air campaign. And the prime target of the coalition bombing, Houthi rebels backed by the force led by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, has yet to give its reaction. Given Yemen's fractious power equation even when this was the Arab coalition's most concerted move to overcome the lingering turmoil, it was never expected to result in a victory and restore the Hadi government in its original makeup. It is not the way conflicts get resolved in Yemen. Invariably, at the end of the day an inclusive government comes into form and rules the country for some time and then another round for chaos and anarchy. Something like that is once again in the progress.
Maryam Nawaz, the Minister of State for Education and Training and former Chairperson of Prime Minister's Youth Development Programme, while presenting certificates to top position holders of skilled youth programme stated that the one-year training programme for educated youth would soon be launched. She added that internees of the programme would be from public and private institutions as well as students from religious seminaries who meet the Higher Education Commission's criteria. Maryam Nawaz spoke succinctly and well and pointed out that she had ensured that the programme would not be dedicated to PML-N supporters only and emphasised that it was a programme meant for all Pakistanis.
Consumers, especially in rich countries, have become very choosy. They do not only demand products which are hygienic, well presented and of high quality but are also absolutely free from contamination and meet other international standards. Keeping in view the lack of progress on this aspect of our exports, the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) was finally forced to ban the use of wood packaging including crates, boxes and cases, for storing fruits and vegetables intended for exports with effect from May 20, 2015. As the reports indicate, DPP had received serious warnings from the European Union and other countries about increasing interceptions of consignments infested with pests and deterioration in quality due to use of wooden packaging and the decision was taken considering phytosanitary measures since wood is believed to be the pathway to the introduction of pests. According to the circular, no official phytosanitary certificate will be issued to any perishables (fruits and vegetables) intended for export in wood packing material under the guidelines of ISPM-15 to which Pakistan is a signatory in compliance to the procedures of the International Plant Protection Convention 1951. In a letter to the MNFSR, Co-Chairman, All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Waheed Ahmed, had also said that the Association was against the use of wood packaging currently in use which is made of untreated wood and poor in presentation. Some countries still use wood for packaging but that wood is properly treated, evenly coloured and sustainably sourced. However, if exporters in Pakistan use this standard of wooden packaging, its costs could far outweigh the cost of corrugated packaging.


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Banking Review 2014

Foreign Debt $61.805bn
Per Cap Income $1,386
GDP Growth 4.14%
Average CPI 8.6%
Trade Balance $-1.586 bln
Exports $1.932 bln
Imports $3.518 bln
WeeklyApril 16, 2015
Reserves $16.818 bln