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On this past Wednesday two interesting, if not intriguing, things happened. Leader of Opposition in National Assembly and a PPP stalwart Syed Khursheed Shah urged the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to not only return to the house and do 'politics at a proper forum' but also take part in the upcoming Senate elections. Not only that, he also empathised with the PTI cause by accusing the government of 'enhanced sluggishness' which he said generated 'inability of the government's functionality', of which people are the net sufferers. But on the same day the Speaker of the Sindh Assembly and a leader of his party, Agha Siraj Durrani, announced that he has accepted resignations of all four members of the PTI. This, he thought was proper and expected of him, not much impressed by the line of action on the PTI members' resignations taken by fellow speakers in the National and two provincial assemblies. And if the PPP leadership was divided - at least on the face of it - on the issue of PTI resignations, no less undecided is the PTI leadership. While the party's senior leader Shah Mehmood Qureshi has accused the PPP of "hypocrisy" saying the PTI is ready to return to the assemblies as soon as judicial commission is set up, the party's spokesperson, Shireen Mazari, has rejected any possibility of going back to the "fake" assemblies. With elections to the Senate in plain sight now the issue of resignations, tendered under the high noon sun on August 19, 2014 as the PTI-PAT protesters were storming the seat of power in Islamabad, had not been accepted. That millions who voted for the PTI candidates and sent them to legislative assemblies were practically disfranchised nobody was bothered.

US President Barack Obama's sixth State of the Union address has been noted for the confidence, even arrogance, with which he addressed a Republican-dominated Congress. What gave him the confidence is a happier domestic economic picture than when he came to power amid a soaring financial crisis. He told his audience, "Tonight, we turn the page. The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong." Having presided over the fastest economic growth in over a decade, he said "the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works, expanding opportunity works." The proof of the pudding as they say, is in the eating. He received a standing ovation from Democrats as he recounted his successes that include job growth, declining deficits, and increase in the number of people benefiting from his signature healthcare plan.
Internationally the most influential monarch and Pakistan's great friend King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia passed away early Friday morning, leaving behind a politically stable kingdom and a people set to break away from their conservative past. A wise and sagacious king he was, who proved to the world that what matters to the people is not the form of government but the quality of governance it produces. During his rule as king since 1 August 2005 and before that as de facto regent for a decade after his brother King Fahd suffered a stroke, he cautiously pushed changes in a radically conservative Islamic country, introduced a series of socio-economic reforms and increased political space for women, side-stepping stiff opposition. About women's rights King Abdullah, who was widely known as cautious reformer, famously said: "I strongly believe in rights of women, my mother is a woman, my sister is a woman, my daughter is a woman and my wife is a woman". In 2012, he extended to women the right to vote and contest municipal elections. His mother being of Bedouin descent, as a child King Abdullah spent long spells of his childhood in the desert.
There have been two extremely disturbing reports relating to the energy crisis. First the incumbent government's decision to extend the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) ordinance by 120 days after it was opposed in the House by the opposition on a resolution moved by the Parliamentary Secretary for Petroleum and Natural Resources. Khursheed Shah, the Leader of the Opposition, had pointed out that the government had recently raised the sales tax on petroleum products by 5 percent - from 17 to 22 percent - and urged the government to take up the matter in the Council of Common Interest (CCI).
The federal government borrowed heavily from the commercial banks, to the tune of 647 billion rupees during the first six months of the current fiscal year, thereby sparing the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). Had the government borrowed from the SBP it would have been unlikely to able to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to conclude the sixth review under the 6.64 billion dollar Extended Fund Facility (EFF) which, in turn, would have led to yet another foreign exchange reserve crisis. As noted in the fourth and fifth IMF review "foreign exchange reserves have risen sharply under the programme" (not attributable to a trade surplus backed by a rise in domestic productivity but to Eurobond and sukuk bond issues at a rate well above the prevailing international market rate); and "the authorities will provide staff a monthly calendar of fiscal financing sources, including T-bills and PIB auctions, consistent with curtailing government borrowing from the SBP". In other words, the government has met this condition through heavier reliance on borrowing from domestic banks, which would crowd out private sector borrowing that the PML-N manifesto maintains would be its preferred engine of growth. Be that as it may, the cost of commercial borrowing by the government to the common man is significant with the annual interest payments on loans taking up a steadily rising pie of our resources thereby shrinking the allocation for development expenditure.
In accord with the prevailing circumstances, after calling off its 126-day long sit-in seeking redress for alleged electoral rigging complaints, the PTI has decided to shift its focus from disruptive protest politics to a constructive endeavour. Addressing his party's "Dharna Convention", Imran Khan announced his decision not to create any difficulties for the government so that it could succeed in the war on terror. Said he, "now all our energies will be focused on improving governance in KPK. We will prove to our detractors that governance in KPK is better than other provinces." The change he had been promising the people is to be seen in the province where his party is in power. The provincial government is to undertake reform of education, healthcare and police systems, while one billion trees will be planted across the province. Equally important, he said, the provincial government is ready to hold local government polls, adding "real change will come through LG system" leading to devolution of power at the village level. Progress in all these areas will not only improve the quality of life for the people in KPK, but would also serve as a challenge for the other provinces to deliver good governance; and, of course, enhance PTI's own chances of success in the next general elections.
The news that the government was considering to include fiscal offences like serious tax crimes/tax evasion into the ambit of money laundering under the proposed Anti-Money Laundering Act (AMLA) would appear to be quite strange for the business community and other taxpayers. This surprising piece of information was disclosed by a senior official of the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU) situated at the State Bank before the Senate Standing Committee on Finance where he said that present taxation offences were not considered as money laundering offences, and an enabling provision was proposed in the AMLA to include serious tax offences into the money laundering regime with a view to facilitate the law enforcement agencies to carry out their functions smoothly. The SBP representative added that the amendments proposed to the Anti Money Laundering Act, 2010 reflect government's firm resolve to take expeditious measures to strengthen anti-money laundering regime and were aimed at streamlining the existing law in line with international standards prescribed by Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Governor, State Bank informed the Committee that SBP had issued guidelines to the banks regarding suspicious transaction reports and Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs) under the existing laws and the inspection teams were capturing banking transactions, which were suspicious but not reported by the banks. Supporting the government move, Finance Secretary asserted that some people were involved in tax evasion and later the same money was laundered and the government was tightening the regime to check money laundering and terror financing.


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ICT 2014

Foreign Debt $61.805bn
Per Cap Income $1,386
GDP Growth 4.14%
Average CPI 8.6%
Trade Balance $-1.664 bln
Exports $1.966 bln
Imports $3.630 bln
WeeklyJanuary 22, 2015
Reserves $10.331 bln