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Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, a senior Pakistan Muslim League (Q) leader, severely criticised the Sharif administration for creating erroneous hype about the gold/iron ore/and copper reserves in Chiniot and Rajoa and claiming that the reserves have the capacity to change the economic fortunes of the people of the country. The former Chief Minister Punjab and a vocal critic of the Sharif brothers has never missed an opportunity to harangue Shahbaz Sharif's policies; however, his criticism in this particular case seems to be credible as the discovery of large deposits of iron ore in Chiniot was made around 10 years ago by the Punjab Mineral Development Corporation - a time period when Pervez Elahi was the Chief Minister. He revealed that at the time he was informed that the iron ore was not of a quality that could be used by Pakistan Steel, which in any case up for privatisation, and gold and copper deposits have not yet been confirmed.

Pakistan is awash with black money now, as always, and quite a big chunk of it goes into buying political influence. And nothing fills this bill better than to be a member of the Senate of Pakistan, a position which on mere touch opens doors to the country's highest offices. Unlike election to the assemblies, both National and provincial, for this, one doesn't have to go from door to door and spend nights on election trail. The briefcase does all the talking, and result comes from the secret ballot. This then is a high-stakes ballgame, played every third year when half of the members vacate the mahogany-panelled chamber making way for the newcomers. How many of the newcomers win their way to the Senate courtesy the briefcases no one bothers to know, and the newly-composed upper house gets going. But this was not going to be anymore. Somehow, two of the principal political leaderships thrown up by the 2013 general elections, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, tend to portray themselves as the magnets which brought victories to their parties. They want to decide who should be elected as Senator, as against constitutional position that it is the concerned provincial assembly members' exclusive prerogative. This is their common fear, and hence their unanimous call to amend the constitution so that there is open voting in the provincial assemblies for the election of Senators. They say such a move would stop horse-trading and add to the much-desired electoral transparency, exposing their distorted interpretation of both 'transparency' and 'horse-trading'. In electoral context, transparency doesn't mean you should know who voted for whom but just the opposite of it, and it is simply unacceptable to dub a voter's freedom to follow his judgement and conscience on a certain issue as horse-trading. We believe it bodes well for the cause of provincial autonomy that other main political parties have denied support to the proposed 22nd constitutional amendment and thus saved federalism from obsessive control of autocratic political mindset.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, while addressing the launch of the Expo Pakistan in Karachi, stated that his government is committed to making Pakistan a favoured destination for business. He maintained that due to his administration's efforts, the total turnover of exports of over 25 billion dollars was achieved in 2013-14 and added that "the captains of our industry have carved out their niche in the world market due to their production efficiencies and business ethics...I am sure our entrepreneurs will maintain and further accelerate the growth momentum to achieve export level of 50 billion dollars within three years." In this context, it is relevant to note that total cumulative exports for 2012-13 when the PPP-led coalition government as well as the caretakers were in power total exports were 24.8 billion dollars hence the Sharif government achieved only 200 million dollar increase in exports during its first year in power and this is after the grant of GSP Plus status to Pakistan by the European Union in January 2014.
The manner in which two highly dangerous terror suspects (whose third companion was shot dead by the prison guards) escaped from the district jail in Gilgit's Chilas district raises serious questions about prison security. These men are accused of killing ten foreign mountaineers and their guide near the Nanga Parbat base camp in June 2013, and gunning down 19 Shia bus passengers in Chilas. They are also suspected of murdering a senior superintendent of police and two army officers investigating those cases. Unfortunately, however, the concerned authorities have not learnt any lessons from the April 2012 breach of Bannu jail, where Taliban militants arrived, with help of prison staff, to take away 384 prisoners - 20 of them on the death row - including Adnan Rashid, mastermind of an attack on former president General Pervez Musharraf.
The revelation by the State Bank of Pakistan that the amount of Non-Performing Loans (NPLs) had declined, albeit marginally, during 2014 should be a source of some comfort to the monetary authority of the country as well as the banking community. According to the latest data made available, the NPLs of the entire banking industry (including all banks and DFIs) posted a decline of Rs 3.03 billion in the last calendar year, falling from Rs 622.861 billion as on 31st December, 2013 to Rs 619.831 billion at the close of 2014. The detailed analysis indicated that while NPLs of all banks came down by Rs 1.1 billion to Rs 604.698 billion, those of DFIs showed a higher decline of Rs 1.922 billion to Rs 15.133 billion by end-December, 2014. However, while NPLs of local private banks (LPBs) and foreign banks decreased by Rs 2.154 billion and Rs 1.48 billion respectively, NPLs of public sector banks (PSBs) and specialised banks went up by Rs 2.067 billion and Rs 0.459 billion respectively. Also, encouraging was the fact that the ratio of net NPLs to net loans dropped by about 1 percent to 2.8 percent during CY14.
Forced by the apex court to come clean on the issue and give a clear timeframe for local government (LG) elections the Election Commission of Pakistan has announced election dates. The local government elections will be held early next year. Balochistan has already held the local governments polls and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will hold them in May or June this year. Article 140A of the Constitution, as amended by the 18th Amendment, mandates that elections to the local governments shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan. And that these are going to be on a party basis - yet another reason that may have obliged the governments of the two bigger provinces not to take the risk of putting on line its electoral popularity a year and a half down the road. The court was concerned that the constitutional imperatives of holding local government polls were not being fulfilled for no valid reasons. If Balochistan government with all its forbidding constraints of terrain and precarious security situation could hold LG polls why not the other provinces. The apex court expects the bigwigs of the governments not to run afoul of their constitutional oath to "preserve, protect and defend" the constitution; Article 140A is as much its part as Article 6.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal former president General Pervez Musharraf made several candid observations about India's role in Afghanistan. He said Kabul must block the Indian influence if it wishes to see peace. The remarks appear to be directed at the US, which until recently had advocated a greater role for India, rather than the Kabul government. In fact, Musharraf acknowledged that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's coming to power last September presents a new opportunity for Afghan reconciliation, and described President Ghani as a "balanced man ... a great hope."


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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 $-1.703 bln
Exports $2.156 bln
Imports $3.859 bln
WeeklyFebruary 26, 2015
Reserves $15.944 bln