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State Bank of Pakistan was quite upbeat about the trend in government borrowings from the banking system for budgetary support at the time of release of its Third Quarterly Report in July, 2014. Large inflows into Pakistan Development Fund (PDF) received as a capital grant from a friendly country had helped reduce government borrowings from the SBP quite significantly and the authorities were able to contain fiscal borrowings from SBP within the limit agreed with the IMF for end-March, 2014. On a cash basis, the government had borrowed Rs 436.9 billion for a budgetary support from the banking system, which was almost half the amount borrowed in the corresponding period of FY13. A sharp reduction could also be attributed to other government efforts to contain budgetary deficit and the availability of non-bank funding. A reduction in government borrowings motivated the commercial banks to shift their focus towards private sector, with the result that private sector credit expanded as much as 10 percent during period of July-March, 2014, which was more than double the growth realised during the same period last year.

Violating the 2003 cease-fire agreement yet again, Indian Border Security Force opened fire across the Working Boundary in Sialkot on Sunday night. This was at least the 55th violation in less than two months' time. Fortunately, this time no loss of life or property was reported. Earlier incidents this year have claimed lives of several soldiers as well as civilians. The Foreign Office summoned Indian Deputy High Commissioner on August 11 and handed him a demarche over 'unprovoked firing' across the Working Boundary, which left two civilian dead and four others injured. Firing across the Line of Control and the Working Boundary has been going on intermittently for nearly two years now, ratcheting up tensions and belligerent rhetoric between the two countries.
The right to protest injustice, be it in the form of political, economic or social discrimination or deprivation and irrespective of the perpetrator's high position and authority, is one of the treasured values of a civilised society. Rightly then the democratically-run polities see to it that this is given adequate cover by declaring it as the citizens' fundamental right and is protected and secured by the courts of law. The protesters may undertake a long march, sit-in, shutdown strike or in any other non-violent manner meant to create nuisance, hoping its forced removal by the authorities would arouse public sympathy. But the right to protest is exercisable within certain parameters that the constitution clearly lays down. Article 16 of our constitution says every citizen shall have right to assemble 'peacefully and without arms, subject to any reasonable restrictions imposed by law in the interest of public order'. What those restrictions should be and how public order would be preserved; the protestors and the local administration are required to decide among themselves. This was done, both in the cases of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), but things haven't gone the way they were agreed to. And this was in the nature of the things; both the sit-ins were geared to go beyond the scope prescribed by Article 16 as their leaders were out to bring down an elected government and, in the case of PAT, the whole order, by force. Essentially, the fundamental rights are meant to provide shelter against excesses by authorities or to force modifications in the systems that are unjust and discriminatory. But leaders of both PTI and PAT have tried holding the government hostage by threatening action, which is beyond their right to protest. They can ask Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign but they cannot topple him through sheer force. Both the parties were allowed to camp their sit-ins close to highly sensitive areas after their solemn promise, in writing, that they will not try going beyond their allocated sit-in spaces. Of course, PAT has so far observed that condition - though it is a different matter that the business activity at the middle class Aabpara Market has come to a standstill and its traders protested against it before the National Press Club. But the PTI hasn't relented on its threat to invade the Red Zone which includes the diplomatic enclave with Imran Khan never shy of raising this ante. The question whether or not he will storm the Red Zone or it is only a posturing is a difficult question. But this happened in 1980s when an angry mob burst through the security redlines and burnt down the American embassy, but now averted by the timely intervention of a saner section of PTI. For a few moments it was a touch and go situation. How senseless on the part of a leader who wants to be the prime minister of Pakistan but believes that the way to it lies through a ransacked parliament and ruins of diplomatic enclave. Given the unpredictability that abounds his moods and commands we don't know if his call for civil disobedience is only a sop to his mercurial workers as substitute for the promised invasion of Red Zone. But we do believe that such a call if complied with can be as damaging to the national economy as any setback to the democratic process, which invading the Red Zone would cause. In 67 years of our independent national life, only once, a leader gave a call for civil disobedience, and he was Sheikh Mujibur Rehman who announced India-endorsed secession from Pakistan. So much for the political idiom and sense of history and responsibility of a political leader who aspires to be the prime minister of Pakistan. Imran Khan said he will not pay bills and taxes, and asked others to follow him. Doesn't he realise how injurious to the national economy his and Qadri's sit-ins are? In Islamabad life has come to a standstill; schools were to open on Monday but will remain closed for another week, supply of medicines from Rawalpindi has been suspended, public transport has disapp
At a time when the country is experiencing a huge turmoil and an uncertain economic situation, home remittances have continued to grow to provide much-needed support to the external sector of the economy. According to the latest data released by the SBP on 12th August, the first month of the new fiscal year (July, 2014) has witnessed a remarkable increase of 17.45 percent in home remittances to reach dollar 1.649 billion. An encouraging aspect was that remittances from all the countries recorded increases of varying degrees. The inflow from Saudi Arabia, UAE, US, UK, GCC countries (including Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman) and EU countries amounted to dollar 454.5 million, dollar 352.9 million, dollar 257.1 million, dollar 248.0 million, dollar 179.8 million and dollar 44.3 million respectively as compared with the inflow of dollar 410.7 million, dollar 252.4 million, dollar 233.1 million, dollar 221.9 million, dollar 161.4 million and dollar 38.6 million in the corresponding month last year. Remittances received from Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, Japan and other countries were also higher at dollar 112.9 million in July, 2014 as against dollar 86.2 million in the same month last year.
The surprising thing about launching ceremony of the "Vision 2025" on 11th August, 2014 was that nothing much was said about the "Vision" itself and how it was going to be achieved. Instead, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and the Prime Minister used the occasion to criticise their political opponents and extol their government of its present economic strategy. Nawaz Sharif wondered about the perpetual disruption of democratic rule and emphasised that the change must come through the ballot. He had accepted the challenge to bring the country out of difficulties and those who were challenging him must tell him what grave mistake he had committed during the last one year. Urging the nation to take notice of the situation, Prime Minister stated that "I am unable to understand the agenda of revolutionaries and long marchers. We are taking the country towards self-reliance and they are talking about destruction and anarchy." The performance of KP government was not satisfactory and Tehreek-e-Insaf had not been able to deliver to the people. Nawaz also stated that he was ready to meet PTI chief even at a phone call, work was already under way on several power projects including Dasu hydel power project and "we are trying to eliminate terrorism from the country but revolutionaries and long marchers were pulling our legs."
A press report points out that despite a heightened threat of dengue fever outbreak in Karachi and other parts of Sindh, the province's Dengue Prevention and Control Programme remains dysfunctional due to turf battles. MQM's Dr Sagheer Ahmad who took over as Health Minister last May is said to be unhappy about the well-connected secretary health taking several initiatives without his approval. And to avoid taking sides, some of the health department's senior officials have gone on leave. Consequently, everything is in disarray whilst the province faces multiple health challenges, including dengue and the spread of polio and measles viruses. President of the Paediatrics Association warned just the other day that as many as 60 percent of the children countrywide do not receive vaccination against various preventable diseases like polio and measles.
Narendra Modi hasn't taken long to shed thin veneer of bonhomie he wore by according exceptionally warm welcome to his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at his inauguration. Just one event and it looked as if there was a new dawn in Pak-India relationship. The long-stalled dialogue was restored, borders were being relaxed and promises were made for more such sessions. Pakistan had been looking for such a miraculous breakthrough - its best attempts at breaking the ice were being spurned by Modi's predecessor Manmohan Singh eliciting comments that he was too powerless to defy the Establishment. The heavy mandate given to the new Indian leader by the Indian people was thought to have sufficiently thickened the bone-density of his spine. From Pakistani perspective the Narendra Modi's rise to power had the right potential to turn the page on the bitter past. But that was not to be; the harsh realities on the ground and arrogant comments and statements made by the Indian leaders since then indicate that the broad smiles and warm handshakes at the Modi's inauguration were nothing more than a flash in the pan. In just two months the Narendra Modi government has proved that it is not a precious bit different from its predecessors as for as India's relations with Pakistan are concerned. After a brief lull the ceasefire line in Kashmir is hot again - Pakistani authorities say that since July this year Indian troops have committed 54 ceasefire violations. Only a couple of days after Pakistani force on the border accorded a hearty farewell to an Indian who had crossed the border by mistake, the Indian troops responded it by opening unprovoked fire on civilians in the Sialkot sector killing a women and injuring three others.


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