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Lavish deficit financing

Another disastrous aspect of “Darnomics” has come to light which will certainly rock the swirling boat of the economy. The Finance Minister Ishaq Dar has started lavish deficit financing to further deteriorate bad health of the economy. The PML-N government has done deficit financing on a massive scale that has reflected in heightening inflation causing new hardships to the miserable people who are already overburdened by numerous indirect taxes of very high rates.

The infamous deficit financing is commonly known as printing of currency notes without equivalent amount of gold reserves. The State Bank of Pakistan printed new currency notes worth Rs. 900 billion last year. The current financial year is said to be witnessing deficit financing close to Rs. 1500 billion. The government has also made reckless borrowing from the State Bank and Commercial Banks. The Finance Ministry has got the approval of the cabinet for floating Euro Sukuk bonds. It is another mode of this harmful monetary recipe. Ever since the completion of three years $ 6.67 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF) Program in October 2016, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials have stopped taking notice of massive deficit financing, which was earlier done quite marginally.

As a result of this evil instrument of monetary policy the inflation rate will go up to 11 percent by June 30 next year. If the government did not stop deficit financing the rate of inflation could go up to 20 percent. This is a double edged sword that will bring more financial difficulties for the hapless and helpless people of Pakistan. New currency note are being printed because of economic compulsion but for doling out Rs. 250 billion to PML-N members of National and Provincial Assemblies under the so-called umbrella of developmental funds. A very meager part of these funds is spent on development projects and reaming balance is misappropriated. The fudged and fabricated figures are then used for computing the GDP growth rate on public expenditure method, which is not the sole barometer of rise or decline of the economy.

Irrational power and gas tariffs have badly affected the productive capacity of the economy because of enormous increase in the cost of production of agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Deficit financing will exacerbate the prevailing stagflation, further depressing the production activities in the economy. The fast decline in exports and tremendous surge in imports of consumer goods have widened the trade gap by alarming proportion. World Bank in its recent Report “South Asia Economic Focus” warned that Pakistan’s external balance situation could become unsustainable due to lack of prudent policy actions. The country would need $ 31 billion this year to meet foreign financial obligations.

The negative impact of imprudent mode of deficit financing and irrational increase in POL prices is taking its toll on common man. The prices of all vegetables have sky rocketed and that of pulses and beans are on the rise. The price of fresh and dry skimmed milk has gone up. Life saving medicines has become very expensive. Utility bills have gone beyond the paying capacity of consumers. Purchasing power of ordinary citizen has reached the lowest level. Time is running out but all these pseudo think thank recruited by the federal government deliberately ignore these facts while painting a rosy and prosperous picture for common man of Pakistan.  Let us seek forgiveness and blessing of Almighty Allah to take pity and rid us from the abysmal depth of miseries into which the oligarchic ruling elite has pushed us.

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Will Saudi’s gamble in Lebanon with Hariri lead to war between Israel and Hezbollah?

Martin Jay

The Hariri ‘kidnapping’ by Riyadh is generating more fake news and is only succeeding in boosting his popularity in Lebanon. But did a Saudi prince and Trump’s son intend on making him a bedroom poster icon in their quest to vex Hezbollah?

The recent news that Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state has urged Lebanon’s prime minister to return to Lebanon is baffling, in a story which is surely heading toward Hollywood scriptwriters any day now. On the same day as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (‘MbS’) began his purge of just about anyone who could question his leadership – or bankroll a campaign to topple him once he takes the throne – Saad Hariri’s jet touched down in Riyadh, and he was swiftly surrounded by Saudi police who took all the phones off him and his entourage. In the following days, no one knows his true fate after he read a script announcing his immediate resignation as Lebanon’s prime minister, citing implausible reasons such as attempts to assassinate him.

In one week, regional journalists, mainly aligned to Saudi Arabian interests, have had a field day speculating on what is going on. No one really knows, not even European heads of state or least of all Rex Tillerson, who is under the allusion that Hariri is in control of his own fate. Analysts are divided into two camps over what the forced resignation is really about, which followed a knee-jerk reaction from those in Lebanon who believed it was all a theatrical ploy to get Hezbollah to agree to Hariri’s proposed cabinet of ministers.

As time passed, the two camps’ theories evolved into the move being orchestrated by MbS to show Iran that it is still powerful, using the Hariri resignation as a tool to re-balance the Saudi-Iran pendulum of geopolitical spoils. The second theory is more about Saudi Arabia itself and what the new crown prince is doing there. Many believe the Hariri resignation – which came on the same day as the round up of 11 princes, four ministers, and billionaire Nasser bin Aqeel al-Tayyar, is part of the crackdown, as Hariri himself is suspected of links to many of the businessmen targeted. Some speculate the crown prince is investigating him and is considering charging him – and therefore needs him to lose his immunity from prosecution, which he held as Lebanon’s PM. The theory, analysts tell me, is that Hariri needs to be kept on a short leash until he can be entirely cleared and also needs to prove his undying loyalty to MbS and his father.

Yet if the plan by MbS is to use Hariri to extract some token payment from Iran, the plan is already back-firing on a grand scale and like many of Riyadh’s schemes – Syria, Yemen, and Qatar – is comically ill-fated. In one week of Hariri being in Saudi Arabia, the Lebanese PM has achieved more in unifying the Lebanese than he could ever have hoped for in a lifetime of politics. Surely the Saudi’s ruse did not intend for Hariri to gain cross-party popularity in a country so sternly and insidiously divided by confessional lines?

In just a week, Lebanon’s leading figures have quickly reached a consensus that they need Hariri back, a point echoed by Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who is looking increasingly statesmanlike as the days pass and whose calm, measured speeches are now being watched by the entire country – thanks to Riyadh’s cunning plan.

Could it really have been the Saudi Crown prince’s plan to boost Hariri’s popularity and make the Hezbollah chief’s speeches unmissable?

Kushner, a Saudi prince and low hanging fruit

One has to wonder who or what is really behind this plan. Many pundits are troubled by how aloof Tillerson is to the reality of what’s happening. It’s as though the US really isn’t on the same page. And there’s a reason for this. It’s my belief that Trump has almost entirely outsourced the Middle East to his son-in-law who is behind this latest gambit in Lebanon. Just a few weeks before Jared Kushner was in Riyadh to spend time with MbS.  The Hariri plot is part of a whole new relationship between Saudi Arabia and Israel, who are both working hand-in-hand on a new strategy to destabilize Iran. Lebanon is a cheap shot for that. Low hanging fruit. After failing in both Syria and Yemen, where else could an easy spoil be gleaned, by taking a swipe at Iran’s feared proxy Hezbollah? But the stunt comes with a very high price to pay when – not if – it fails. If the Lebanon shenanigan goes awry and it makes Hezbollah even more popular there, does that dampen the ambitions of MbS and Kushner to hit the Shiite group or merely guide them like moths veering closer to the alluring flame?

Perhaps the answer can be found with Trump. For us to understand truly what is going in the head of the Saudi prince, we should wrestle with two points.

First, his rapid rise to the seat of the crown prince is entirely due to him presenting himself to both the Israelis and the Americans as a new type of Saudi leader who could recognize the state of Israel if he was made king, which explains this new partnership unraveling so quickly. Secondly, one of the reasons why Trump likes MbS much is that the Saudi prince can be so easily understood by Trump. MbS is the Trump of Saudi Arabia.

Like the US president, the crown prince is insecure, obsessed with control and seems determined to be on the front pages of newspapers – regardless of the consequences. Like Trump, he also has no regard for the media and is deluded about himself and his own abilities, particularly beyond the borders of his own country. In a country known for being an irony-free zone, it’s also interesting to observe how the obsession with hitting Iran is a vicious circle or a sword which the Saudis have slowly lowered themselves onto; Saudi Arabia’s meddling in the region has only made Iran and Hezbollah stronger in the last five years.

Understandably, Riyadh now looks to Israel as a partner in settling old scores, but it all adds up to sour grapes and now apparently both Saudi Arabia and Israel have one chief and self-defining objective: to claw back self-respect and reinstall the pride lost, through defeats with Iran and its proxies. They both now look at Hezbollah in Lebanon and see a war which could hurt the Shiite group could be a major victory to re-write the history books.

Another irony about the Hariri story is that it is due to the collapse of the Saudi economy, which hurled Hariri back into politics in Lebanon after the Saudis couldn’t pay Hariri’s construction company the $9 billion it was owed.  And MbS is credited as being the “architect to Saudi Arabia’s oil policy” which reveled in the over-production of oil, leading to rock bottom prices today as it was his idea to counter US fracking companies. Another bullet. Another foot. Another spasm of delusion and denial.

Of course, it’s not only Saudi aligned journalists who are sexing the whole Lebanon story up beyond its true significance. US mainstream media, like the New York Times, just can’t help itself on indulging in using the word “war” in many of its misleading headlines, raising an obvious question: is there now a new dynamic which could speed up the inevitable war between Israel and Hezbollah?

The answer is probably not in the short term. While Lebanese academics like Dr Jamal Wakim stake their reputations on saying that Israel will invade Lebanon in the next 12 months, the Saudis believe an economic blockade of Lebanon would have much more effective results on destabilizing the country and causing chaos which could then weaken Hezbollah internally, thus providing the perfect moment for Israel to strike, if Hezbollah is forced to take control of Lebanon. It’s a hell of a gamble though.

And already looking like it can’t work as, historically, the Lebanese have always supported Hezbollah when the country is threatened. They are not stupid and can already see that imposing a financial crisis – by trying to starve the economy of trade and remittances from outside – is an act of war in itself. But the Middle East is a region consumed by fake news and checkbook journalists and those in the West who only give the crisis a cursory look might be fooled in believing the planted narrative that “Hezbollah has declared war on Saudi Arabia,” which many newspapers dutifully and shamefully published. Hezbollah’s mere presence, let alone military strength is enough to spook the Saudis.

This is clear. The smartest thing MbS and Kushner could do now is to deflate the balloon on Hariri becoming an iconic bedroom poster like Che Guevara before it’s too late and send him back to Lebanon to negotiate a deal, as surely he will achieve much more in Beirut than he can ever in Riyadh.

But Tillerson also needs to intervene, rather than merely warn against the Saudis creating a proxy war in Lebanon before it’s too late, and the Saudis pull the entire region into a new war which can never be won, and Saudi Arabia and its new ally certainly can’t afford to lose. Who knows? One day we may start even believing the click bait masterpieces of the New York Times. But don’t hold your breath.

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Italy to miss the FIFA World Cup for first time in 60 years

Monitoring Desk

ROME: For the first time in the last 60 years Italy was failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup after it draw the match at home against Sweden, who cemented a place at next year’s tournament.

Italy, the four times champions who had not missed the World Cup since 1958, the Italian players attacked the visitors and enjoyed 75% possession of the ball but unfortunately could not find a chance to score a goal and play in the FIFA World Cup

The hosts, who enjoyed 75 percent of possession, had shots cleared off the line, others stopped by Olsen and penalty appeals turned down as they pressed desperately for a goal.

 

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Accountability court issues non-bailable warrants against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The accountability court issued a non-bailable arrest warrants for finance minister Ishaq Dar after he was failed to appear in the court on Tuesday, hearing corruption reference against him.

The court also issued a notice to Dar’s guarantor for failing to ensure the presence of the minister in today’s hearing and in the beginning of the hearing the judge inquired from the guarantor Ahmad Ali Qudosi that when will be Ishaq Dar appear in the court and he reply Qudosi said that Dar is in London for treatment and in his recovery will take six weeks.

Ishaq Dar, who failed to appear in the last three hearing of court to face the corruption cases filed against him by National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for possessing assets beyond the declared income.

The court then adjourned proceedings as the NAB investigation officer had not appeared in court.

The court issued non-bailable warrants for Dar’s arrest as the hearing resumed.

The hearing was then adjourned until November 21.

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Imran Khan gets bail in four cases as he appears before ATC

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan on Tuesday appeared before an Anti-Terrorism court (ATC) in four cases and gets bail in all of the cases against him.

As per details, ATC which had issued a non-bailable warrants against him and declared him a proclaimed offender as he was failed to appear before the court hearing four against him, PTI chief surrendered himself before the court through his counsel.

The ATC approved Imran Khan’s bail for Rs200,000 in each case. The hearing was then adjourned until November 24.

Imran and PAT chief Tahirul Qadri, face charges of destroying property in the Red Zone, attacking the state TV channel’s building and injuring SSP Junejo.

 

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Sacrifices of security forces will bring positive results: PM Abbasi

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that security forces rendered matchless sacrifices and it will bring fruitful results for the betterment of the country.

This he said while reaching Quetta for one day visit on Tuesday. PM Abbasi met the Governor Muhammad Achakzai and Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri as well as lawmakers from the province.

The provincial government will give briefing on ongoing development projects and security situation in the province.

Due to visit of PM Abbasi to Quetta, schools on Zarghoon Road have been closed because of security reasons.

PM Abbasi also chaired a meeting on the province’s security situation. Abbasi said the sacrifices of the security forces in the war on terror will not go in vain. Senior civil and military officials including Southern Command Commander Lt Gen Asim Saleem Bajwa were present in the meeting

The premier further said that the centre is ready to assist the province in any way it requires in the fight against terrorism.

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SC reserves verdict in Imran, Tareen disqualification case

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court reserved the verdict against Chairman Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Imran Khan and Secretary General Jahangir Tareen in the disqualification case on Tuesday.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Saqib Nisar, remarked that the bench is looking for the truth and will have to see if the respondent was dishonest in his dealings and adding that it should not be expected that the court will give its verdict in the case tomorrow.

Hanif Abbasi, leader of PML-N filed a case against Imran and Tareen and demanded their disqualification from Parliament for their alleged non-declaration of assets and ownership of offshore companies.

Hanif Abbasi’s counsel Akram Sheikh said during the proceedings that Imran changed his stance during the course of hearing 18 times and it is sure that he will get disqualification from the Supreme Court.

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India wants to sabotage CPEC: Gen Zubair

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: Chairman, Joint Chief of Staff Committee (JCSC), General Zubair Mehmood Hayat has said that India is trying to destabilize the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and adding that Indian intelligence agency RAW, allocated US$ 500 million with the aim to sabotage the Pakistan development project.

This he said on Tuesday while addressing to a two-day international conference on regional dynamics and strategic concerns in South Asia. General Zubair said that relations can only be improved by solving the Kashmir issue.

He claimed that India is promoting terrorism in Pakistan through Taliban, RAW and Baloch separatists and adding that India was playing with fire and the peace of South Asia.

He added that India is foresting conflicts in South Asia by raising political and strategic difference in the region and adding that India has become an extremist country from being a secular one and the recent atrocities in Indian held Kashmir proves that it is an example of Indian behavior and approached towards innocent people.

He claimed that more than 94,000 Kashmiris have been killed and 7,700 have lost their eyesight.

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Hariri must return to Lebanon: EU

Monitoring Desk

BRUSSELS: The European Union recommended Saad Al-Hariri to return to his country Lebanon and asked the political forces inside the country to focus on the domestic agenda and development of the country.

Saad Al-Hariri announced his resignation from Riyadh and in a result it further complicated the differences between the Iran and Saudi Arabia and put Lebanon at the forefront of regional rivalry.

The EU diplomat, Federica Mogherini, told journalists that EU appeal to all political forces of Lebanon to focus the country’s development and asked the prime minister Hariri to return to his country and adding that we will not accept any external interference in this national agenda as it is important to keep away Lebanon from regional conflicts.

Federica Mogherini said this on Monday after hosting a meeting of all 28 EU foreign ministers in Brussels. She appreciated the achievements of Lebanon government under Hariri leadership who resigned from the premiership and claiming that he feared assassination.

France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, speaking on the sidelines of the ministerial gathering in Brussels, also called on other countries not to interfere in Lebanon.

 

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IHC provisionally suspends Election Bill 2017

F.P. Report

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Tuesday suspended the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 after accepting a petition filed against it.

Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of IHC issued notices to the respondents and postponed the implementation of the act. The petition filed against the Electoral Reforms Bill 2017 by Maulana Allah Wasaya and IHC judge summoned report from the investigative committee headed by leader of the house in Senate Raja Zafar-ul-Haq.

The Electoral Reforms Bill2017 was recently passed from the assembly and it was ratified by President Mamnoon Hussain which paved way for the ousted prime minister to lead the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).

Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Awami Muslim League (AML) also filed petitions against it in the Supreme Court. Another petition filed by PPP is still pending in the apex court.