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PIA a sinking Titanic?

Advisor to the PM on aviation said that PIA is anchoring huge losses by each passing day and the management appears to have no clue how to save the sinking titanic. He also said that the country flagship losses have surged to dollars four billions because neither the government nor the airlines management are ready to own it. PIA used to be the pride of the nation during the 1959 to 1970. It was a highly profitable entity under the charismatic, sagacious and honest leadership of Air Marshall Nur Khan. The airline operated successfully on both domestic and international routes. It competed with British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa and KLM on different routes abroad. The efficient management of PIA also lent a helping hand to Qatar and UAE in the establishment of world class airline service.

The decline of PIA started in the decade of 1970s because of nepotism and political appointments. The same trend was followed by the elected governments in late 1980s to date. The present government appointed Mr. Bernd Hildenbrand as a CEO of PIA who sucked out whatever blood was left in the national airline like a big leech. Now the government admits that his appointment was a mistake. During the second tenure of the PML (N) government corrective measures were not taken to clear the mess created by the preceding government of PPP. Licenses were awarded for the establishment of private airlines like Airblue, Shaheen and Bhoja Airline. Hence, the competition on domestic and international routes with these airlines further deteriorated the condition of PIA, which now the advisor to the PM call a sinking titanic. For which the present and previous governments are equal accountable.

PIA needed the induction of new aircrafts and restructuring of the management and staff, which was not set in motion. The constant neglect of these administrative and technical reforms compounded the losses of PIA and now the airline is reeling under the heavy burden of 150 billion bank loans for which NBP has given a sovereign guarantee. If the country’s flagship is privatized, it will render thousands of employees jobless and deprive its retirees from monthly pensions. Like the circular debt of power sectors, the burden of PIA loans will also be shifted to the people who have been reduced to their bones due to heavy indirect regressive taxes. This burden will prove to be a last straw on camel’s back.

 

Covert privatization of higher education

After the devolution of higher education to provinces, it has become unaffordable for the youth belonging to modest and poor financial backgrounds. Despite the transfer of more financial resources to KP government under 7th NFC award the provincial government is eager to implement its privatization plan for higher education. The universities are now charging a very high tuition fee from the students because the provincial government does not provide them education grants.

The ill conceived plan is being extended to the post graduate and degree colleges, which has vitiated the atmosphere of the government colleges. The teachers have gone on strike against the so called financial autonomy and constitution of board of governors, the management of which will be run by the political workers giving no say to the college principals. The students have protested against the teachers regarding this matter because they have acknowledged that these teacher strikes are wasting student’s precious time and money.

Human resource development is the key to progress and prosperity of a nation. In Pakistan allocation of resource for education sector is dismal as 2.9 percent of GDP is spent on education. Our country for allocation of fund to education sector is far behind in comparison to India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Even a war ravaged country like Afghanistan spends 3.5 percent of its GDP on education. The worst deal given to education resulted in our failure to achieve the targets of Millennium Development Goals (MDG) set by the UN. As the contributions of our past and current political leaderships to MDG seems to be none. Therefore, the former PM Nawaz Sharif skipped the meeting of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) despite his presence in New York for UN general assembly session last year. One crucial question everyone should ask the government that how the material resource deficient countries of South Asia achieved a spectacular economic growth and prosperity by diverting more and more funds to education. In the jargon, the mercantile class led by Nawaz Sharif used to blame the feudal class for the neglect of education sector, but this mercantile class gave a death blow to education and human resource development. Hence, a brain-drain continues at the expanse of the country and its people.

Keeping in view the importance of Human Resource Development, clumsy experimentations in the education sector should not be exercised by the federal and provincial governments. More resources should be provided to the universities and government colleges with a proper check on its utilization to substantially bring down the tuition fee and ensure the welfare of the students. Now the lecturers and the assistant professors in public sector universities are hired on paltry amount of salary of 35000 and 50000, respectively. This ungrateful attitude towards the pool of talent accentuates the flight of academicians to the developed countries where, there services are appreciated. On the other hand they do not get the reward of their services and they are given meager pay for longer working hours and unsatisfactory working environment.

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Hoax memo

Addressing the parliament, PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi clarified the intelligence bureau (IB) memo about the link between parliamentarians and proscribed organizations being fake. He said that investigations have been initiated in this matter. The memo shown on the private television channel stated that the ex PM Nawaz Sharif had directed the IB to monitor the activities of 37 legislatures due to their alleged links with terrorists and sectarian outfits. After the circulation of this memo the IB released the statement the very next day which described the document as being forged one.  But even then its repercussion was echoed in the parliament and the federal minster for inter-provincial coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada had to walk out from the National Assembly (NA) along with other MP’s of the ruling PML (N) party.

The minister for inter-provincial coordination does not seem to be satisfied with the probe orders in this matter. While talking to private TV channel he admitted that the letter of IB was not counterfeit and the PML (N) would not bring motion in the NA against any media house, he emphasized that media has every right to criticize a politician and that does not bother me. But the letter was written by the government institute and it needs proper elucidation.

The IB attempted a timely damage control after the circulation of the so called hoax letter but a heated exchange of words between a government official and a renowned anchor of news TV channel in the premises of PEMRA made this exercise counterproductive. The PM has also revealed that PEMRA and IB are jointly investigating the matter and the members who are on the listed have also been asked to file a complaint with PEMRA regarding this incident. He said the people deserve to know the truth.

A thorough probe of the matter is inevitable because the memo has not only damaged the reputation of important federal ministers and honorable member of the ruling party but it has also tarnished the soft image of the country. Hopefully, the truth will come out. However, the government should not take a punitive action against the news channel which aired a current affairs program on this memo.

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Macroeconomic risks

Ahead of the World Bank and IMF meetings this week, the Bank has released its report titled ‘The South Asia Economic Focus Fall 2017’, which paints a very gloomy picture of Pakistan’s economy and belies the present government’s tall claims of fiscal stability and economic growth. The report says that macroeconomic risks have increased in Pakistan during the current financial year. The external balance is particularly vulnerable given the persistent current account deficits that badly affect the foreign exchange reserves.

Pakistan weaker macroeconomic discipline had led to the vulnerabilities in the balance of payment after the expiry of IMF loan program. The indicators of the economy have greatly deteriorated due to the outflow of foreign exchange from the country. One year ago Pakistan was apparently in comfortable position. The Forex were large enough to cover the current account deficit. These reserves were largely devoured by the servicing of the external debt and total volume of portfolio investment. The report urges to address the increased vulnerability on priority. The artificial macroeconomic stability during the first three years of the present government was mainly due to the capital inflows of the IMF loan program, rising home remittances, 1.5 billion dollars from Saudi Arabia and oil price crash in the international market. The improvement in the external balance hinges upon a revival in exports, discouraging the imports of luxury goods and stable remittance position. The meaningful initiatives have not been taken for the revival of exports and substantial decrease in the import of unnecessary goods. In the absence of these factors the persistent current account deficits will put further pressure on the already dwindling reserves.

The fiscal position is bound to deteriorate during the election cycle which would affect debt trend and maintain it at the current high level. The hostile posturing of the government ministers and leaders of the PML (N) against the state institutions will also take a heavy toll on the economy. Renowned economists like Shahid Hassan Sidiqi, Ashfaq Ahmad Khan, Hafeez Pasha, Akmal Hussain and World Bank technocrat Michael Aziz were critical of the mismanagement of the economy by the finance minister Ishaq Dar and his team of economic managers. But the finance minister always boasted that the economy is heading towards the 18th position in the global economy and dubbed his critics pseudo-intellectuals. The point of view of these critics was that the ill conceived and implemented fiscal policy of the present finance minster will land the country into a dead trap. The external debts have now risen to 90 billion dollars and will touch the highest mark of 100 billion dollars before the closing of current fiscal year. The debt servicing problem will further aggravate when the loans acquired from AXM Bank of China at a very high interest rate of 8% will be returned from 2018 and onwards. Pakistan has to pay 3.5 billion dollars on account of debts servicing to Chinese banks for CPEC related projects starting from the next year. The amount of debt servicing will jump to 5 billion dollars from 2020 and onwards.

The exports have declined by 5 billion dollars and it will follow the same trend in case 40 billion dollars IMF package is sought for as a budgetary support for the next year federal budget. The IMF conditionality for so called power sector reforms will dissolve in 10 years whatever, minimal comparative advantage the country has in the export of textile, cement, cotton and other agriculture products. The contours of economic zones along the CPEC road have not been made clear. Hence, the apprehension of the entrepreneurs of golden industrial triangle comprising the industries of Gujrat, Gujrawala and Sialkot seems to be valid. The chambers of commerce and industries of these cities are frequently demanding from the federal government to provide protection to the export of electrical, surgical and sport goods against the unbridled inflow of cheaper Chinese goods. Hopefully, the government will rise from the deliberate slumber and focus its attention on corrective fiscal measures.

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FATA merger

Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) Chairman, Imran Khan has under scored the early merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with KPK province. Addressing a press conference at the Chief Minister House Peshawar, he said the province was geographically in position to welcome the merger of the tribal belt with it. He said FATA should have its representation in the KP assembly. Delaying the merger till 2023 would be a waste of time as it would badly affect the wellbeing of tribesmen and benefit those corrupt elements who are looting the resources of tribal areas. The PTI Chairman termed the FATA Secretariat a den of corruption and said smugglers and corrupt bureaucrats were among its beneficiaries at the expense of tribal people. That is why the corrupt elements are supporting the existing system which is conflict with the aspiration of people in FATA.

The process of mainstreaming of FATA by its merger with KP was initiated by the previous PPP government. The task of FATA Reforms was expedited by the present government. The parliamentary committee on FATA Reforms submitted its recommendations which included its merger with KP and extension High Court and Supreme Court of Pakistan jurisdiction to FATA. The federal approved the FATA Reforms Report, but it was not presented to the parliament for necessary legislation because two allied political parties of PML (N), JUI (F) and PMAP opposed its merger with KP. The central Amir of JUI (F) launched a campaign against it. He addressed a number of public meetings and showed strong resentment against it. JUI (F) has a reasonable vote bank in the tribal areas but on what grounds Mahmood Khan Achakzai of PMAP is averse to the implementation of FATA Reforms. The party has no vote bank in the tribal areas.

PTI Chairman charge sheet against the bureaucracy of FATA is based on cogent reasons because it failed to bring a visible change in the lives of tribesmen over the past 14 years despite showing the spending of billions. The potential of FATA in minerals, Agriculture, forestry and small and large scale manufacturing has not been exploited for the benefit of common man. The health and education infrastructure is in dilapidated condition. The war on terror ravaged FATA reconstruction is no longer the priority of the federal government. Its merger with KP before the next general elections will lit a ray hope in the hearts of tribal people that they will have the right and opportunities available to the citizens of settled districts of the country.

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US stance on CPEC

The United States has now openly supported the Indian position on China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Trump administration has informed that it too believe the CPEC passes through a disputed territory. The $56 billion mega project passes through northern areas, which India claims a part of the disputed Jammu and Kashmir. The US Defense secretary James Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee, ” The One Belt One Road (OBOR) also goes through a disputed territory and I think that it in itself show the vulnerability of trying to establish a sort of dictate”. He said US is opposed to OBOR policy in principle because in globalized world there were many built and roads and no one nation put itself in a dictating position. Hence, we oppose the one going through Pakistan.

The new US position on CPEC will further strain the already tense relations between the US and Pakistan. The latter is also opposed to the greater role that Washington has assigned to India in Afghanistan which is envisaged in a strategy that President Trump announced on August 21. It reflects the reversal of his earlier inward looking approach and depicts the China Containment policy initiated by its predecessors. The US now understands OBOR as being a vehicle by which Beijing can catalyze an irreversible change in the strategic balance of power of new trade routes and markets. The CPEC is a flagship of this initiative because it provides China with reliable non-Malacca access to the Indian Ocean. Russia has also backed this initiative.

The US has not opposed the joint Indo-Japanese infrastructure projects, the Asia Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC), which is viewed the Indo-Japanese response to CPEC. It is also called the “freedom corridor” which will be built across the Indo-Pacific Rim land. China hosted 29 heads of states and governments at the Built and Road Forum in May which reinforces its claim to leadership of an emerging global and economic world order. India boycotted this summit. The summit conference was also attended by the representatives of more than 40 other countries and multi financial agencies. It was the clear expression that China is breaking out of its old foreign policy mould that had restrained it from attempting a global role. China is now propelling itself to the center stage of global power game. CPEC is a new geo-economic reality of representing an emerging world order. The US led new world order built on the devastation of Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria is dying out. The recent historic visit of King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Moscow and Turkey’s towards Russia clearly manifest this scenario. The strong anti-globalization wave in the Western World that is showing a growing tendency to more protectionism also indicates the advent of China’s new world order.

 

 

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Jhal Magsi carnage

Twenty people were killed and 22 injured in a suicide blast at Dargah Fatehpur near Gandawa area of Jhal Magsi district. A suicide bomber blew himself up when a police personnel stopped him at the entrance of Dargah. Deputy Commissioner Assadullah Kakar confirmed the death toll and said, “A suicide bomber blew himself up when he was intercepted by the police guard on duty outside the shrine”.

The province of Baluchistan has been worst hit by the terrorist attacks over the past two years. During the current year 82 people have perished and 132 injured in suicide bombing and firing. In 2016, 224 people lost their lives and were 434 injured in the acts of terror. One Judge Judicial Commission was formed to investigate the August 8, 2016 attack on Civil Hospital Quetta in which 60 people mostly lawyers were killed. Justice Qazi Faez Isa compiled the report which pointed out monumental failure of the Ministry of Interior to combat terrorism. But the federal as well as the provincial governments turned a blind eye to the findings of this report.

After a deadly terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar a National Action Plan (NAP) of 20 points was approved for implementation in letter and spirit. But only three points were implemented and action on the remaining 17 points is yet to be taken. After the Panama Papers revelations NAP is virtually on the backburner whereas the sharp sword of terrorism is hanging on our heads. National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is virtually dysfunctional. It is facing dearth of officers and financial resources. Rs. 1.4 billion has been released to NACTA so far. The total outlay of NAP was 40 billion for which the federal government had to contribute 8 billon and remaining 32 billion had to be provided by the provincial governments.

NAP has never been serious subject for the government otherwise top priority would have been given to its implementation in totality. The May 28 attack on the motorcade Deputy Chairman Senate, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haidary should have jolted the conscience of political leadership. JUI (F), JI and MQM were not happy about the formation of military courts. No attention has been given to strengthen the law courts for the trial of terrorists. Hence, two years extension had to be given in the tenure of Military Courts. A counter narrative to sensitize public opinion against the terrorism and extremism is inevitable but initiatives has not been taken because of political expediency. Shabaz Sharif government is averse to a thorough cleanup operation against the sleeper’s cells in South Punjab for fear of losing the vote bank in the next general election. The inland security laws were not reformed. Terrorism is a threat to the national security from within like termites and should be fought with courage and strong determination for which NAP provides a viable platform if the political leadership show some spine for its implementation.

 

Education reforms?

Speaking at the teachers awards distribution ceremony the Chief Minister Pervez Khattak  said political interference has ruined the government educational institutions, The politicians has always used the teachers for their political objectives which resulted in big decline in the standard of education.

The Chief Minister has given an objective assessment about the degeneration of government educational institutions. The principle of reward and punishment has brought significant improvement in the elementary and secondary education. The representatives of Monitoring and Inspection Unit has performed a commendable job to ensure punctuality of teachers in schools. The curriculum reforms have brought a thorough transformation in the subject matter of text books. The contents of text books will certainly promote the conceptual acumen of the students. However, deficiency in the training programs is yet to be removed. The teachers of government schools need training and capacity building courses compatible with drastic changes in curricula.

The English text books from class-1-10 are being compiled the teachers specializing in linguistics, who have intermingled the topics related to traditional grammar and the difficult terminologies of linguistics. In the text book ‘Reader Two’ linguistic terms like Rebus and Diagraph are perplexing for the teachers of primary level. Likewise, the terms like cataphoric and anaphoric references included in the textbook of class 10 are beyond the comprehension of teachers. The teachers leave out explaining these type of terms as well as activity sections related to these topics intentionally without admitting the failure of their understanding.

There has not been reforms in the higher education per se. Unlike, the appointment of teachers on merit in school, the appointment in post graduate colleges and public sector universities are entirely made by politician and academicians according to their sweet will. The criteria and other steps for qualifying the post announced is purely a charade for public eyes. That is why, talented students are discouraged and frustrated to seek jobs in government colleges and public sector universities. The ultimately results of this injustice leads to one’s setting fire to one’s degree and transcripts. Specifically, talking in this matter one renowned example is of a student who had M.Phil. Qualification in Physics burnt his degree because of continuous mental depression caused by the injustice of the system. If this kind of misdeeds and mishandling is not rooted out in time, it will accelerate the sense of deprivation in the present and future youth.

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Tillerson’s positive remarks

US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson after a meeting with Foreign Minister Khwaja Asif said that he believed the United States has a reliable partner in Pakistan. He said its role is critical for the long term stability of South Asia. In his brief remarks to the media, Secretary Tillerson expressed concern about the future of Pakistan’s government, stressing that Washington wanted a stable government in Islamabad. He stated “Pakistan’s relation with the US is extraordinarily important”.

The US Secretary of State remarks about the future relations between the two countries is a pleasant surprise. It encourages optimism for cordial mutualism between these two long standing allies in war on terror in this region. There has been frequent interactions between the political and military leaderships of Pakistan and the US over the past 16 years notwithstanding the occasional ups and downs in mutual relationship. However, his apprehension about the stability of government in Islamabad is based on mere conjectures and surmises. After the disqualification of former PM Nawaz Sharif, new PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi was elected by National Assembly. The federal cabinet meets regularly, whereas the former Prime Minister did not give much importance to his cabinet and the parliament when he was on the saddle of power. A few months of five years term of the present government are left and next general elections are due in the first half of 2018, after which new democratically elected government will be in place. There is no imminent threat to democracy and it will move on.

It is not only the leadership in Pakistan which express reservations about President Trump’s South Asia policy. Afghan leaders are also apprehensive of it. The former Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also visualized fault lines in the US new Afghan policy. He said Trump’s administration policy on Afghan is not a message of peace and hope for this region as it lacks the component of negotiation and peace. Hamid Karzai expressed the desire that both Afghanistan and Pakistan should sit together like brothers, sort out their differences and make persistent efforts for peace and stability in Afghanistan. The Chief of Army Staff in his recent visit to Kabul met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in which it was agreed that high level contacts will continue.

Secretary Tillerson is a voice of moderation and restraint in Trump,s administration but the popular viewpoint about this administration is that the hawks like James Mattis and MC Master call the shots in the domain of foreign policy. There is a dire need for clear initiatives to reduce the trust deficit between the United States and its friend in need, Pakistan.

 

CM KP outburst

Talking to a delegation of elders from upper Dir, the Chief Minister Pervez Khattak disclosed that the federal government has suddenly stopped the release of funds to Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa which has halted the work on the ongoing development projects. He said that developmental projects of people’s socio-economic uplift will remain incomplete if the timely release of funds is not in effect. He said the province is confronted with the problems of terrorism and poverty. The federal government should be generous in providing us the much needed financial resource for its speedy development. The Chief Minster gave a stern warning to the federal government to release KP share of financial resources within two weeks or face a sit in (Dharma) in Islamabad.

KP is a resource deficient province because it hardly generates a revenue of 73 billion from its own sources, whereas the total budgetary outlay for the current financial year is 487 billion. The resource gap is met through the transfer of funds by the federal government from the divisible pool of federal taxes revenue and loans acquired by the federation. Hence, the demand for the immediate release of developmental funds is justified. Hopefully, this issue will be resolved amicably between the center and province.

The line departments responsible for the execution of projects of people’s welfare fail to utilize the available funds and every year 30 percent of development funds could be spent on the ongoing schemes and the allocated funds are lapsed at the closing of financial year. The provincial government did not give proper attention to the capacity building of these departments. The glaring example about the lack of capacity for the utilization of developmental funds is that the local governments could spend 27% of the available financial resources during the fiscal years of 2015-16 and 2016-17. The provincial government released 42 billion out of which 12.5 billion could be used during the past two financial years. As the funds released to the local government institutions are non-lapsable therefore, the provincial government did allocate development funds of 28 billion for local governments in the current financial year budget but did not release a single penny to them even though its first quarter has passed. The inefficient line departments bring misnomer to the local governments. The provincial government should focus on the capacity building and enhancing the efficiency of these departments to ensure 100% utilization of funds judiciously on time.

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Arm twisting

US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said that Washington would try one more time work with Islamabad on Afghanistan Front before President Trump turns to option to address the latter’s alleged support for militant groups. According to sources in Washington the likely Trump administration response being discussed include expanding US drone strikes and perhaps eventually downgrading Pakistan major non-ally status. In a separate Senate hearing a top US military officer levelled baseless accusation against a Pakistani sensitive agency of having ties with militant groups. While making a statement before Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staffs told that a Pakistani Agency have ties with militant groups.

The allegation of top military officer is the repetition of President Trump charge sheet against Pakistan. Announcing his new strategy for South Asia he blamed Pakistan for sheltering terrorists in safe heavens. He threatened to stop economic and military assistance to Pakistan and offered India great role in Afghanistan, ignoring our concerns. The Foreign Minister Khwaja Muhammad Asif in his visit to Washington will meet the Secretary of State Rix Tillorson and National security Advisor General HR MC Master. Hopefully, he will strongly articulate Pakistan’s policy about war on terror by elucidating the sacrifices that Pak army rendered during the operations of Zarb Azab and Radul Fasad. He will also highlight the gains in these operations and will emphasize the point that it is the soil of Afghanistan where the sanctuaries of terrorists exist. In the recent incidents of firing of militants across the border Lieutenant Arsalan and Naib Subedar Azhar Ali lost their lives.

In the past the United States used to apply stick and carrot policy against Pakistan. But this time around President will resort to our arm twisting. We are no longer dependent on the United States for military assistance. However, the financial mismanagement, fiscal indiscipline, widespread corruption and money laundering has put the economy on the ventilator of loan shark, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The renowned economists have predicted the $ 40 billion budgetary support from international donors for the next year budget. The government will approach the IMF for the much needed bailout package. Here the US will apply its leverage of our arm twisting through IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

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Rising political pemperature

The Election Bill 2017 has been rejected by the opposition. It was bulldozed through National Assembly despite protest from opposition lawmakers. Among the bill clauses is a controversial amendment that will allow politicians disqualified from holding public office to head a political party. The bill was passed amidst a ruckus as opposition lawmakers protested what they saw a law designed to accommodate a single individual, the ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The enraged opposition tore the copies of the bill and threw them to the Speaker’s dais as he announced its passage.

The leadership of Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) and Sheikh Rashid Ahmad of Awami Muslim League have decided to challenge Election Bill 2017 in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Speaking to media hours before the passage of this bill PTI chairman Imran Khan made his intention clear for approaching the Apex Court in this regard. The PTI chief also said that he has already planned protest rallies against this legislation. Criticizing the ruling PML (N) on several fronts, he reiterated his call for fresh election. The former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif did not whole heartedly accept the Supreme Court verdict disqualifying him from holding public office. He has made his ouster from power under the Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution a matter of self-esteem and misplaced vanity. He spearheaded a tirade and vilification campaign against the judiciary which is highly deplorable. His speeches in the GT road rally from Islamabad to Lahore revealed the disrespect for an important State Institution. The show of power by the federal ministers by bringing party workers and PML (N) supporters to the premises of National Accountability Court of Islamabad on the eve disqualified former Prime Minister hearing does not augur well for the democracy and rule of law in the country.

The politics of blatant defiance against the state institutions, disregard for rule of law and protest rallies will push up the political temperature beyond control. If past experience is any guide, the PML (N) government in the Centre and Punjab will resort to massive use of force against PTI rallies. The tremendous use of force in the form of teargasing and firing on protest rally led by KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak on Motor Way M-1 last year amply demonstrate the ruthless mood of PML (N) leadership. This tremendous use of force on the rally of KP CM was monitored personally by the then Punjab IGP and now federal tax ombudsman Mushtaq Sukhera. Deploring this  incident, senior PPP leader Senator Itezaz Ahsan described the use of force against the sitting Chief Minister of a small province a deep cut on the roots of federation.

The headlong collision against the state’s institutions by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is still under trial in graft cases, with the active support of Federal and Punjab governments will create disorder and chaos in the country and harm the moving forward democratic system. The PML (N) leadership must observe the established norms of democracy and emulate the examples of political leaderships of the countries where real democracy is functioning. One man say is the order of day attitude well not bode well for the future of democracy in Pakistan.

 

Threat of

diphtheria in Fata

KP Health Department has cautioned the Director Health services FATA against the emerging threat of the fatal disease of Diphtheria and suggested him preventive measure well in advance. The Director Health Services FATA has been informed that Provincial Health Department does not have sufficient stock of Diphtheria antitoxin vaccine and if proper preventive measure were not taken then control of this disease will be extremely difficult. According to KP Extended Program on Immunization (EPI), Diphtheria took an endemic form in children of the North and South Waziristan Agencies of FATA last year. Later the disease spread to the adjoining settled district of Bannu. The North and South Waziristan Agencies were largely affected by this disease. The report indicates fresh cases of Diphtheria in these areas and urges Director Health Service FATA to make proper arrangements for its control so that the disease may not once again take the unmanageable form and cast a spillover effect on the people of settled districts adjacent to FATA agencies.

Diphtheria is communicative fatal disease of children and the isolation of patients is mandatory, but the isolation wards in the Agency Headquarter Hospital do not exist. Same is the case with the hospitals in the settled areas. Diphtheria antitoxin vaccine can be purchased from National Health Laboratories in Islamabad, but transportation and preservation of available stock need special arrangements to maintain the efficacy of the vaccine. The Diphtheria antitoxin vaccine has to be put in optimal temperature for which specially designed refrigerators are required. It may be recalled that some 50 years back World Health Organization (WHO) provided these specially designed refrigerators for FATA hospitals. To overcome the problem of non-availability of electric power the WHO refrigerators were operated by Kerosene Oil combustion. Now electricity run refrigerators to ensure the optimum set of conditions can be purchased for keeping the vaccine. KP Governor Iqbal Zafar Jaghra should take notice of Diphtheria cases reported from the FATA by print media and issue strong directives to ACS of his secretariat to immediately release sufficient funds to the Director Health Services for the purchase and safe supply of this vaccine to Agency Headquarter Hospitals.

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COAS visit to Kabul

The chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajva visited Kabul on the invitation of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. This was his first visit in which he was accompanied by a delegation comprising DG ISI, DG MI, DG ISPR, Foreign Secretary and Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan. He met the Afghan President and both sides discussed important issues including regional security, bilateral relationship and stability and terror efforts. Business and transit relationship also came under discussion.  They agreed to continue high level contacts and carry out coordinated actions against terror.

The Communique issued after the talks between the Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and President Ashraf Ghani envisages positive signals from Kabul. Reciprocating Pakistan desire and efforts for the peace and stability in Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani emphasized the need for task team and monitoring mechanism to create a cooperative framework to ensure implementation of promises and meet the deadlines. He said peace and stability will benefit both the countries in terms of poverty alleviation. Pakistan agreed with Ashraf Ghani suggestions and assured that its task team will draft a plan.

The Army Chief visit to Kabul is of greater importance in the wake US Defense Secretary James Mattis recent parleys with Afghan leadership. The well entrenched pro India lobby in Kabul creates mistrust about Pakistan. The talks between General Bajwa and Ashraf Ghani will help reduce the trust deficit and pave the way for exploring ways and means to strengthen border security for countering terrorism.

The need of the hour is that our relationship with Afghanistan should be determined by economic interests rather than politics. By investing $ 2 billion in Afghanistan, India has earned the gratitude of its people and successive Afghan governments. President Trump has used India’s economic muscle as an ingredient in his recently announced policy on Afghanistan. Pakistan can create a goodwill amongst the Afghan people and their government by facilitating measures for Afghan transit trade, granting scholarships to students in the Pakistani Universities and arrangements for faculty exchange. Friendly relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan will enable the Central Asian states to establish close economic cooperation with Pakistan given the complementarity between their economies and ours. As both sides have agreed to continue high level contacts, it is now for the political leadership to visualize the dynamics of this region and initiate follow-up steps for closer relationship with Afghanistan by formulating and putting into practice a pragmatic Afghan Policy.