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The presence of foreign hand, rather hands, in Balochistan to keep it on boil is no more a news - the then prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had face-to-face apprised his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh of his intelligence agency RAW's involvement in fomenting trouble in that province. The news, however is that Army Chief General Raheel Sharif has now sternly warned the "foreign governments and their intelligence agencies" against their involvement, and in no uncertain terms did he express determination to defeat them 'comprehensively'. After the massacre of 20 labourers at a dam site near Turbat, not very far from Gwadar, the Balochistan home minister, Mir Sarfraz Bugti, said that RAW was 'funding anti-state elements in the province'. The army chief said, "We will unearth terrorists, abettors, sympathizers, financiers. None will find place in country to hide. We will go to any length for the writ of state" in Quetta where he had arrived to express his grief on the brutal killings of poor and hapless labourers. Later, he had a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and it was decided that the government would raise the issue of external involvement in Balochistan turmoil at the United Nations as well as with the neighbouring countries from where insurgents derive material sustenance and ideological inspiration.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (WWF-Pakistan) has released a report on "Climate Change Adaptation in the Indus Eco-region: A Micro Econometric Study of the Determinants, Impact, and Cost Effectiveness of Adaptation Strategies." Prepared in collaboration with the London School of Economics and the Lahore University of Management Sciences, the report highlights the impact of climate change on this country's agriculture and food security. It reckons by 2040, assuming a 0.5 degree Celsius increase in average nationwide temperature, 8-10 percent loss is expected across all crops, corresponding to Rs 30,000 per acre, which is worrisome but unsurprising. As a matter of fact, Pakistan is known to be one of the top ten countries most vulnerable to effects of global warming. Environmental scientists have been warning of melting of the Himalayan glaciers, leading to alternating periods of floods and droughts, and ultimately a long-term water scarcity, which would have a devastating impact on this country's agrarian economy.
Litigation on the levy of Gas Infrastructure Development Cess (GIDC) continues with the Supreme Court recently dismissing the government's review petition against the Peshawar High Court verdict declaring it a fee and therefore its imposition through the Finance Bill illegal as well as making a reference to the pending litigation on the validity of the ordinance in the Lahore and Islamabad High Courts.
The National Assembly's Standing Committee on Information Technology, headed by Captain Safdar (retd) - who has no known expertise in IT affairs - approved the draft of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill, 2015, on Thursday, generating a lot of criticism. According to the Internet Service Providers Association as well as Pakistan Software Houses Association representatives, the bill in its present form betrays lack of comprehension of technicalities, finer points of information technology and relevant international law. The purpose of the draft bill is to counter terrorism and extremism as part of the National Action Plan, but it contains several controversial, even ridiculous, provisions that are aimed at curtailing freedom of expression by handing excessive power to the law enforcement agencies to block websites and make arrests without warrants.
Documents available with Business Recorder reveal that the Cabinet Committee on Energy (CCoE) has approved a mechanism of direct payment for LNG imported from Qatar to Pakistan State Oil (PSO) by the Ministry of Finance from the subsidy payable to power sector. Three major conclusions can be drawn from this. First that the letter of credit was opened by the PSO, an entity that comes under the administrative control of the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, and not by any private sector entity including the CNG sector and the fertilizer sector. Secondly, PSO and its parent ministry would therefore naturally be engaged in negotiating a price for LNG import with Qatar. And finally, subsequent to the arrival of one LNG shipment to Pakistan to maintain that the price of LNG has not yet been agreed between the governments of Qatar and Pakistan defies belief. Brotherly relations aside, no government is going to send one consignment to another country valued at millions of dollars, without first reaching an agreement on price.
If nearly seventy-year long tyrannical armed occupation of Kashmir has not helped India quench and snuff out the freedom struggle and paint it saffron on coming to power in New Delhi, the BJP government had to do something more. As a first step, it placed its long-nurtured commitment to do away with the state's special status under Article 371 of the Indian constitution, giving fig-leaf excuse to the Mufti Sayeed-led PDP to welcome BJP as coalition partner. Then, it set about changing the ethno-religious demographic complexion of the occupied land which is predominantly Muslim, by opening doors for Hindu migrants to outnumber Muslims. To this the Modi government found in the new chief minister Mufti Sayeed a willing partner. Last week, he came to New Delhi and met Prime Minister Modi's 'benefactor' Home Minister Rajnath Singh and offered some 50 acres of land where the Kashmiri pandits who had left the Valley - not as much scared of rising tempo of freedom struggle as by the glitter of Mumbai and other big cities in mainland India - could come back and resettle. Not only would jobs be offered to the pandits, their safety and security would also be ensured by the Mufti government a la Jewish settlements in Palestine. How weird it is that while about 10,000 Kashmiri pandits feel safe and secure and live in peace in Muslim majority neighbourhoods the Modi-Mufti duo is deeply concerned about not more than 200 pandits who fled the Valley some quarter of a century ago, and are well-settled in other Indian cities and Bollywood Actor Anupam Kher is one among them; they like to call the settlement 'Smart City'.
Visiting newspaper's Islamabad offices on 13th April, 2015, IMF's Resident Representative for Pakistan Tokhir Mirzoev made certain observations which, though couched somewhat in diplomatic language, were not very complimentary for policymakers of the country. After revealing the dates and venue for discussions on seventh review under the dollar 6.64 billion EFF, he stated that Pakistan still remains a security risk for IMF missions and talks under the programme would be held from the first week of May, 2015, in Dubai. The country is facing 4 to 5 structural deficiencies/weaknesses that make the country's economy vulnerable. "Even if something happens outside Pakistan, the country feels it as it lacks sufficient resilience inside," he added. Pakistan had rarely completed Fund programmes, yet Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has said that the programme is going to be completed this time. So far, Pakistan has had 17 to 18 programmes and after every five or six years has again sought a Fund programme as the country experiences a new crisis-like situation. "The country has imbalances in the economy, export competitiveness is not very high and expenditures are high. There are imbalances on energy side, imbalances on business climate side, so there are four to five structural weaknesses." The country has to face the challenge of fixing these factors in the upcoming phase of EFF. In order to probably assuage the severity of his remarks, he added that "we have some assurance now that the tension of immediate crisis is no longer there" and the stabilisation process of macro economy is under way. Foreign exchange reserves are being built up and budget deficit is being reduced. Proposed laws relating to anti-money laundering and independence of SBP are also being laid in the National Assembly for discussion. To infer that these remarks could only be Tokhir Mirzoev's personal views would be wrong as the IMF's World Economic Outlook (WEO) released in Washington on 13th April also contains, more or less, the same prognosis. The WEO has suggested implementation of "further bold reforms", which it says are critical to strengthening the progress made so far and counter adverse effects on economic activity of falling cotton prices and security and political tensions.


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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 $-999 mln
Exports $2.064 bln
Imports $3.063 bln
WeeklyApril 16, 2015
Reserves $16.818 bln