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Streamlining tax collection

To overcome the revenue shortfall, which has almost reached to well over Rs. 190 billion in the last seven months, the Prime Minister has urged for the adoption of modern methods of tax collection. He rightly directed the bureaucracy of Inland Revenue Service department of the Federal Bureau of Revenue (FBR) to refrain from harassing those taxpayers who are already in the tax net, intensify their efforts to bring the tax dodgers into the tax net, unmask the tax evaders before the people and take action against the facilitators of tax evasion.

In Pakistan tax-to-GDP ratio is dismally low at 12 percent according to the governments’ version. But the independent economists have estimated it 8 percent of the GDP which is close to reality. The main thrust of economic managers has been on either put more burden on existing tax payer or raise the rates of regressive indirect taxes like sale tax, excise duty, custom duty, regulatory duty, turnover tax and tariff hikes of utilities. Agriculture income is still exempted from direct tax which provides conduit to big landlords for tax evasion on their income from industries and commercial enterprises. It was the office of Tax Ombudsman which exposed the collusion of tax officials with landlords by putting the income from livestock and poultry farming under the category of agriculture income to evade billions of rupees in taxes. One wonders why the present is hesitant to make the Benami Act 2017 practically enforced to authorize the FBR to confiscate the Benami properties so that the real owner should come out for paying taxes. The FBR has unearthed about 380 top tax evaders in its latest drive who have bought valuable properties in someone else’s names.

The finance Minister Asad Umer had suggested a solution for netting the tax evaders and non-filers and that is to use family tree data maintained by National Data Base Registration Authority (NADRA). There was a perception right or wrong that NADRA was reluctant to share this data with FBR. It is pertinent to mention that without using such data, the number of active tax payers was 2.4 million in President Musharraf era which Dr Salman Shah attributed to the success of self assessment scheme for evaluating tax liability of potential tax payers. The scheme was introduced because the coercive tactics of tax collectors culminated in failure of the door-to-door hectic drive for the documentation of the economy.

The tax collectors of Inland Revenue service department are still not serious about the authentic tax profiling of tax dodgers. A few months ago notices were sent to non-filers either at incomplete or invalid address which returned undelivered. Instead of correcting and authenticating the mailing address, second time notices were sent at the earlier wrong addresses which were brought back by the couriers services undelivered. Once again this futile exercise was made by sending notices along with account of payable tax. Directorate General of broadening tax base had sent 373 tax notices, out of which 145 returned undelivered. Unless and until the tax collectors and field officers who are hand in glove with tax evaders are fixed, tax -to-GDP ratio will remain stagnant. There are also complaints of lack of coordination between the different wings of the FBR, particularly the Information Technology wing with the tax collection wing. These serious issues need to be addressed on urgent basis as four months of the current fiscal year are left for achieving the revenue targets.

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Tribal districts development plan

To give impetus to the socio-economic uplift of hitherto neglected areas of former federally administered tribal areas, a 10 years comprehensive and ambitious development plan is in place now. It will be implemented with an outlay of Rs 1228 billion to ensure speedy and balanced growth of all important sectors. A lion share of Rs.434 billion on the rehabilitation work and infrastructure development. However, human resource development will also get top most priority with the allocation of Rs. 409 billion which will be a record development expenditure on a single sector.

An amount of Rs. 251 billion will be allocated for maximum benefits accruing projects in agriculture, livestock, industry and mining. It would have been better if the construction of micro and small hydel power stations have also been included in the plan to overcome the chronic problem of power outages in the tribal districts. The process of industrial and agriculture development will be a non-starter if the availability of inexpensive electricity for almost 20 hours is not ensured.

Federal government and governments of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and Punjab have agreed to allocate 3 percent financial resources from federal divisible pool of revenue for the uplift of tribal district In the under deliberation NFC award. The availability of development funds has never been a serious issue of the tribal areas of former FATA. It was the lopsided approach in development strategies, skewed priorities, one man say is the order of day rule, and lack of transparency in development expenditure that kept the now merged district backward.

Even after the ongoing process of complete merger the forces of statisque are bent upon to continue the non-transparent and skewed strategies of economic development by slamming the doors on community participation. The formation of parliamentary committee comprising headed by the Chief Ministers and including Senators and members National Assembly of tribal areas is a smart move in this regard.

The committee will become functional when the process of merger of tribal districts will be completed. It has been mandated with tasks of redressing the complaints of the tribesmen; overseeing the utilisation of development funds, and implementation of uplift schemes on time. It was decided by the decision makers that local bodies’ polls will be held in the tribal districts early this year before the elections to 15 Provincial Assembly seats that will be created in the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Assembly. Does, the formation of parliamentary advisory committee with one of its mandated functions of overseeing the developmental activities imply a likely delay in holding of Local Bodies’ polls? These are the institutions that can ensure the implementation of strategies of balanced socio-economic uplift of tribal districts. The Senators and members National Assembly elected from the former FATA have remained involved in the implementation of development schemes for decades which produced the culture of lopsided development by excluding community participation. There is no need to continue the dismally failed strategy for implementing the projects of peoples’ welfare.

The capacity of line departments for the optimum utilisation of released development funds has never been satisfactory and every year 70 percent funds get lapsed. Capacity building and expansion of nation building departments on urgent basis is inevitable.

The merged districts are endowed with a number of precious minerals. A mineral development policy had been announced in 2016 which is yet to take off. In the past colossal waste of minerals have been witnessed due usage of obsolete mining technology. There are a number of potential sites for the construction of small dams to conserve water resources for irrigation and drinking purposes. The plan of setting up industrial zones, the reconstruction opportunity zones, needs to be revived. The primary healthcare system is non-existent and the secondary healthcare in the shape of sub divisional and former Agency Headquarter and now tribal District Headquarters hospitals is in shamble. The current dismal socio-economic scenario requires speedy implementation of uplift projects with judicious and transparent mechanisms for spending of the available financial resources.

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New era of Pak-Saudi relations

The visit of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman has heralded a new era of closer cooperation in the economic and strategic fields besides robust support on the international forums. It was the cool relations between the two countries during the previous government that Saudi Arabia abstained from  the voting of Financial Action Task Force held in Paris in April last year which first led to the grant of three months short leash and then greylisting of Pakistan in June.

During the current visit of the Crowned Prince Memoranda of Understanding worth $ 20 billion dollars have been signed which according to Royal guest it is the initial dose and more investment will follow. The financing will cover the projects in industry, energy, agriculture and mining sectors. There is no denying the bitter truth that both agriculture and manufacturing sectors are in a state of deep crisis due lack of induction of latest technology and agriculture sector is also facing acute shortage of water because of not investing in water conservation with construction big and small dams.

In the energy sector shady deals were made with private local and foreign companies jacking up the tariffs of energy inputs to the sky. Likewise, the induction of state-of-the-art technology was neither encouraged nor made mandatory for the lease holders of mines, resulting in colossal waste of precious mineral resources. Oil and Gas development Corporation Limited have identified 41 blocks for the exportation and Saudi investment will boost the local production of oil and gas. The share of petroleum products in total imports $ 46 billion is 27 percent and the fluctuation in the global market necessitates substantial increase in production of crude oil from the proven domestic reserves and enhancement of refining capacity.

Foreign direct investment has been on the decline over the past 10 years. In the first five months of the current fiscal year foreign direct investment (FDI) from all foreign sources dropped by 35 percent to $ 880 million as compared with $ 1359 million in the same period last year, showing a significant drop of $478 million. China was the main the main source of FDI whose investment went to CPEC related projects of high tariff thermal power stations and non-productive projects like Lahore Orange Train and Multan Metro scheme. Total Chinese investment during the last fiscal year stood at $ 2.85 billion. In October last year foreign investment went down to $161 million whereas it was $354 million in the same month in 2017. Global investors have remained shy of long term investment since 2008. The major factors that hindered long-term direct foreign investment were rampant corrupt practices of the leadership of ruling political parties, their preference to remain in the constant state of denial towards the extremely bad security environment and delaying tactics applied on foreign investors. It was the delaying tactics to get kickbacks for operationalising a Malaysian thermal power plant that the firm abandoned the project in the previous government. This time maximum transparency shall be maintained if the MOUs are to be moved forward to the stages of letter of intent and financial close.

Saudi Arabia can extend its support to Pakistan on the peaceful resolution Kashmir dispute and buttress its role in to reach a political settlement in Afghanistan. Hopefully, the present sincere and clean political leadership has the capability and determination to take the mutually beneficial relations to all time high level.

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Befitting response

In the wake of Indian blame game after the Pulwama car bomb attack, which killed 44 security forces, Pakistan gave a robust diplomatic response. This sort of prompt and sagacious diplomacy had never been demonstrated by the ruling leadership of Pakistan when the 26/11 Mumbai incident occurred and when Patankot Airbase was stormed by a group of militants. India has once again tried to link Islamabad with the militancy which actually exists on its own soil and is gaining momentum because of the brutalities and human rights violations that are going on unabated in the Indian held Kashmir and marginalization policy of Hindu Chauvinistic government of Narendra Modi across India.

The quick move of the foreign office to appraise the Islamabad based ambassadors of five permanent members of the United Nations is an appropriate response. Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua met the ambassadors of the United States, Russia, China, Briton and France to enlighten about the real situation. However, it seems that the United States may be willing to buy the India’s narrative because of strategic partnership in the region between the two countries. India’s external affairs ministry has claimed in a statement that the US National security Advisor John Bolton has talked to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval and assured his country’s support for bringing the culprits behind this attack to justice. The Indian side also claimed that both national security advisors agreed that the US and India will put up joint efforts against all regional and global threats of terror and compel Pakistan to fulfill its obligations under UN resolutions. Proactive and sustained diplomacy must be initiated in Washington and New York at the UN level. Moreover, our diplomats posted in Berlin in Germany and capitals of other European Union countries should be tasked to counter the Indian propaganda that Pakistan is harbouring cross border terrorism.

India has always chosen the timing of its own choice for carrying out false flag operation to malign Pakistan and convince the international community on its narrative against it. When Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was in New Delhi for composite dialogue round in November 2008, Mumbai attacks occurred. Without having proper consultations and brainstorming session with the foreign office senior officials, the then President Asif Zardari jumped to conclusion and blamed non-state actors for these attacks. It amounted to giving credence to the Indian allegations of cross-border terrorism. When a group of militants came in the official jeep of SP Gurdaspur district of Indian Punjab and attacked the Pattan Kot Air force base in 2017, Nawaz Sharif government lodged an FIR in a Police Station in Gujranwala against the unknown militants. Again it was the endorsement of Indian narrative against the interest of state. An investigation team was also sent to assist the relevant Indian agencies in the investigation of the incident but since it was a false-flag operation India did not allowed access to Pakistani team to examine the spot of the occurrence.

This time too the timing of the Pulwama attack happened few days before the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman to Islamabad and starting of hearing of high profile RAW agent Kalboshan Jadhev at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Mr. Jadhev has confessed of masterminding terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Foreign Minister Shah Nehmood Qureshi has offered India Pakistan’s cooperation in the investigation of Pulwama attack and it remains to be seen how India responds to it.

Ironically, Iran has also accused Pakistan of supporting the militant outfit that killed 20 plus Revolutionary Guards in the South Eastern province of Seestan. The Revolutionary Guards Commander Major General Muhammad Ali Jaffery has threatened in an interview with official Iranian News Agency if Pakistan does not fulfill its territorial responsibility then Iran reserve the right of counter action. The reservation of this neighbouring Islamic country needs to be immediately addressed through diplomatic channels.

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IMF versus utilities

Speaking at the inaugural function of Insaf Health Card for the people of tribal district, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the country has come out from the debt trap to certain extent. However, the federal government has sought high interest bearing short term foreign currency loans from friendly countries including China, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates which raise the foreign debt liability over $100 billion This what the independent economists had already projected early last year for the FY 19. In addition to the foreign loans, domestic borrowing of Rs. Rs. 2.6 trillion has been made by way of printing currency note which is the more irrational method of deficit for financing to meet the rising current expenditure. Acquisition of IMF loan package is also on cards.

Building a premise on the bilateral foreign economic assistance, Finance Minister Asad Umer gave the impression that now International Monetary Fund (IMF) will not impose tough conditions with its loan package to be agreed for Pakistan and this will be the last bail out package which be availed from this international donor. This was a sweeping statement ignoring the ground realities with regard the carry over huge foreign debt liabilities and persistent current account deficit during the next few years. A renowned economist and member of Prime Minister’s Economic advisory Council, Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad Khan disagreed to this sort of wishful thinking and said that IMF conditions had never been soft whether the loan package was small or big. He elaborated that during his service in the ministry of finances he was dealing with IMF loans for 16 years during which the conditions we never soft. He is very right because beggars are no choosers. As a drastic departure from the established practice of the past, this time the Prime Minister himself met with the IMF Managing Director Christina Laggard on the sideline of world economic summit held in Dubai. Previously finance minister and high official of the finance ministry used to hold the talks with the global lender. The opposition leaders have criticised the meeting of the Prime Minister with the IMF MD as against the dignity and prestige of a sovereign country. However, every Pakistani knows that the financial mismanagement and corrupt practices of the previous two governments of PPP and PML-N pushed the country to the ventilator of IMF.

Confirming the contention of Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad Khan about tough condition of Washington based international lending agency, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar, while talking to media minced no words and categorically said that IMF is exerting pressure for further increase in gas tariff. If the government has decided to swallow the bitter pill of tough conditions attached with the IMF loan package which is essential instrument for seeking the much needed project loans from the World Bank and the Asian development Bank then the government would have no other choice but to increase the gas and power tariff. Central Purchasing Agency has moved a proposal Rs.1.93 per unit hike in electricity tariff to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA). Last month, NEPRA has notified Rs 0.57 per unit increase in the power tariff.

Domestic gas is relatively cheaper input for electricity generation as compared with luxury of generating electricity from the expensive Diesel and Furnace Oil based thermal power generation. The per unit production cost of electricity from domestic gas is Rs. 5 as compared with the production cost of Rs. 20 for diesel and Rs. 14 for the Furnace. The unaffordable luxury of thermal power generation from diesel and furnace oil along with 40 percent idle capacity charges was slapped on the poor people of the country by second Benazir Bhutto Government. Acceptance of IMF condition of hiking the gas tariff will have a multiplier effect on the cost of production in the manufacturing and energy sectors, further depressing the growth of the economy by jacking up inflation on the one hand and intensifying the recession cycle. As the next IMF programme is frontloaded and government has to fulfill the agreed condition before loans are released then the conditions pertaining to increase revenue generation for direct taxes should be implemented first.

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‘Kalabagh dam’, scapegoat for political mileage

The opponents of Kalabagh dam have never corroborated their anti-dam contention with empirical and authentic technical data. Hostility towards the construction of this dam has been used by the leaderships of Awami National Party (ANP) and Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) as a ploy of deriving political mileage. After the completion of Tarbella dam in 1975, construction of another big dam downstream the River Indus has not the top most priority of civilian governments.

The government of President Ziaul Haq decided to address the issues of water conservation and inexpensive electricity generation by prioritizing the construction of Kalabagh dam in the decade of 1980s. The ANP leadership went into action to use it for accumulating political capital. Addressing a function Asfandiyar Wali said on Thursday that Bacha Khan had buried Kalbagh dam for ever but certain political personalities is using it for point scoring. To put the record straight, this multidimensional project had been conceived in 1960 but not a single word against it had been said by the leadership of the then National Awami Party (NAP), the predecessor of ANP. It is pertinent to mention that a former Chief Minister of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Mehtab Ahmad Khan Abbassi, while coalition partner with ANP, said at public meeting at Charsadda in May 1998 that there is no danger of drowning of certain districts from Kalabagh dam rather it is the politics of ANP which will certainly drown if the dam is built. After the completion of Mohamand dam project on the river Swat, the downstream water flow from it into the River Kabul will be substantially reduced. The political parties with their majority vote bank in the province of Sindh had not openly opposed its construction when a Sindhi Prime Minister Mohammad Khan Junejo had been building consensus in 1985. It was Benizir Bhutto who ignited anti-Kalabagh dam feelings in Sindh, made it a major political slogan in her first election campaign in 1988 and hence PPP leadership jumped on the ant-Kalabagh dam bandwagon to the detriment of national interest.

The myth of anti-Kalabagh dam stance had been shattered by the former Caretaker Federal Minister for Water and Power, Barrister Ali Zafar in a press conference in August last year. He hinted at foreign involvement in the opposition to the construction of this dam and had asked the incoming ruling leadership to vigorously work on building consensus for its early construction. He very aptly pointed that India has been watching Pakistan’s inaction over the construction of this dam and is violating our rights on the three westerly rivers. The then caretaker minister disclosed that anti-Kalabagh dam conferences held abroad were better orgainised and better funded.

Because of the deliberate neglect of building big storage dams over the past five decades, Pakistan has become a water stressed country, having a water storage capacity hardly sufficient for 36 days. Other countries of the world have 130 days storage capacity. Silting has reduced the storage capacity of Tarbella dam reservoir from 13.681 to 9.360 Million Acre Feet (MAF). The water storage capacity of Mangla dam reservoir has also declined. The combined storage capacity of both reservoirs is less than 15 MAF.

Former Chairman WAPDA engineer Shamsul Mulk who had remained Director Kalbagh Dam project cautioned that Khyber Pukhtunkhwa will not get its due share of water from the river Indus if the construction of this dam is abandoned. Dr. Salman Shah, the then economic advisor of President Musharraf had said in private TV current affairs programme that construction of Kalabagh dam will ensure provision of sufficient irrigation water for 1000000 acre agriculture land in Sothern districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, making the province self sufficient in the production of cereal crops, sugarcane, vegetable and fruits. Pakistan has been declared as water scarce country because its per capita water availability has dropped to 1000 cubic meters. It is time that PTI government should launch a well coordinated mass awareness campaign about the looming threat of water scarcity and build consensus for the construction of Kalabagh dam to deprive the self-serving ant-dam political leaders from the easily available tool of deriving political mileage.

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Supporting fake degree holders

Over the past two decades the political elite has very systematically and deliberately brought a misnomer for the education system of the country which was already on slippery path of degeneration since the decade of 1970. To restore the lost credibility of degrees of Pakistan’s educational institutions Higher Education Commission (HEC) was created by the government of President Musharraf in 20o02. But the powers and mandate of this useful quality education promoting body have been diluted in the previous PPP government.

The two mainstream political parties PPP, PML-N and their allies even tried to completely disband it in the garb of 18th Amendment, while devolving higher education to the provinces. However, HEC was saved by state institutions from political vandalism and it is performing the role of authenticating the degrees of student who want to pursue higher studies abroad and maintains a symbolic oversight over the academic activities of public sector and private sector universities. The Political elite despised the HEC because it stood against the political pressure to give clean chit to the members of parliament who submitted fake degrees to education commission.

The same attitude of animosity towards the value of true education and genuine degrees was displayed by a PML-N Senator Mushidullah Khan, Chairman Standing Committee on Civil Aviation when he strongly criticised the management of Pakistan International Airline (PIA) for sacking seven pilots and 73 cabin crew on account of their record of fake degrees and other relevant educational documents. The disciplinary action against the concerned PIA officials was taken in the light of Supreme Court verdict, which Mr. Khan innocently interpreted as not envisaging the dismals from service on fake academic record.

The fake degree holders may have been appointed on political considerations which has been an established norm in the governments of PPP and PML-N. That is why Senator Mushahidullah Khan has expressed his anger against the management of National Career. PIA used to be one of credible and prestigious airline in the world. It was the appointments of fake degree holders, inefficient and corrupt top officials that the airline decayed and its flights were banned on the international routes. The debt liability of the Airline has reached Rs. 450 billion. Frequent doses of bailouts did not improve its financial health. The previous government wanted to sell it at a throwaway price. The assets and liabilities of PIA were divided into core and non-core functions to pave the way for the privitisation of air traffic business and airplanes which are in good condition. However, the present government withdrew it from the privitisation list of Privitisation Commission; wants to revive it; make its service delivery; and once again turn it into a profitable organisation which it was in the decade of 1960s.

Economic Coordination Committee has approved a fresh bailout out package of Rs. 5.6 billion for the PIA and a second tranche of Rs. 8.4 billion shall be decided in the cabinet meeting. Purging the National Career from fake degree holders is a worth appreciation action and it should continue. But the matter of overstaffing of the organisation with political affiliations also needs urgent consideration.

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Regressive gas tariff

Speaking at the inauguration function of Pakistan Railway Live Tracking System, the Prime Minster Imran Khan has defended the rational behind the recent highly inflated gas bills. He said that the decision of 140 plus increase in gas price was inevitable to save the gas companies form going insolvent because of huge outstanding debt. He also referred to the gas pilferage of Rs. 50 billion annually.

The Prime Minister may have justified this counterproductive fiscal measure on the basis of briefing that has been given to him by high ups of gas companies. There are a number of reasons for financial crisis of these companies. Gas companies used to be profitable state enterprises. But now these state entities are confronting the issue of massive default of monthly bills by commercial and industrial consumers. The scrutiny of nomination papers of candidates before 2018 general elections brought to limelight the non-payment of bill of CNG filling stations by a number candidates contest ting election for the  National and Provincial Assembly seats. Against one candidate who was contesting election against the former PTI Chief Minster an amount of Rs.15 million was outstanding. There is a colossal theft of gas in the industrial sector but the crackdown continues against the domestic consumers. Moreover, in the gas producing district of Karak alone the pilferages of gas by the domestic and commercial consumers annually stands at Rs. 10 billion besides the losses accrued from leakages of rubber pipes used for illegal connections.

The induction of re-gasified liquefied natural gas (LNG) imported at sky-high price from Qatar and commitment charges paid on the unutilized capacity of its terminals is also a contributory factor of gas sector crisis. As per the so far kept secret provisions of LNG deal of PML-N government Pakistan is paying $ 11per MMBTU to Qatar as compared with the price of $ 7 paid by India, China and Australia. The agreement was signed for a period of 15 years and its terms can be re-negotiated after 10 years. That is why Petroleum minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan has to admit that the LNG agreement with Qatar cannot be revised.

In addition to abnormally high price of imported LNG under a shady deal, the unutilized capacity of its terminals is adding to the gas cost. The consumers are paying the idle capacity charges of Port Qasim LNG terminal like the one they are paying for IPPs which is a major cause of power sector recurring circular debt.  The extra cost of LNG that will be borne by the consumers in the current fiscal year is estimated to be $40 million. The delay in shipment and bureaucratic procedures are responsible for the extra cost. As per the clauses of the agreement the re-gasification cost has been fixed for the full capacity of LNG terminals whereas 40 to 47 percent of the installed capacity is being utilised. Hence idle capacity leads to higher re-gasification tariff. Ironically, the gas sector bureaucracy has not even revealed the half truth about the causes that converted the gas companies from profit making enterprises into huge losses incurring state entities.

The recipe of raising the tariff of electricity has neither solved the problem pertaining to clearing the commercial loans acquired by WAPDA nor the piling of unsustainable circular debt. It will not bring the desired result either in addressing the financial woes of gas companies. The solution lies in the recovery of the defaulted gas bills from influential industrial and commercial consumers and curbing the menace of large scale pilferages. Regressive gas tariff does not provide the long term solution rather it will encourage the consumption of gas by the domestic and commercial consumers through illegal connections with the connivance of companies’ field officials. This illicit activity is already on in case of CNG filling stations and industrial units.

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Terrorists attack at D.I. Khan

A police mobile was ambushed by unidentified gunmen in Mahrash area of Dera Ismael Khan killing four policemen and wounding the Station House officer. A passerby was also wounded in the attack. The attackers fled from the crime scene and local police launched a search operation for the arrest of suspects. Like Baluchistan Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is a front line province in which police officials and personnel of security agencies are often targeted by the terrorists. But the federal government has not seriously considered working out a comprehensive national security policy in consultation with provincial governments.

After the Army Public School attack in December, 2014 a National Action Plan was prepared and approved but the previous PML-N government put it on the back burner. The present government has also not made its implementation in letter and spirit a priority. Curriculum reforms, seminaries reforms and reforming the criminal justice system have been abandoned. Sleeper cells of terrorist outfits have not completely been cleared in cities and the outskirts. There is a visible policy of masterly inactivity in this regard. The issue of choking the sources of funding to these outfits needs to be seriously addressed.

Counterterrorism watchdog, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) is yet to be made fully functional. The budget allocated for this most important organization for the current fiscal year is a peanut amount of Rs. 170 million while it had demanded an allocation of Rs. 1.046 billion. The employees related expenses in the current year schedule of expenditure stand at Rs.109 million. How it can effectively perform its mandated job with the balance amount of Rs.61 million. It appears that the proposal about the formation of Joint Intelligence Directorate under the umbrella of NACTA has been dropped.

The terrorist attacks are usually planned on the Afghan soil and the terrorists who sneaked into Pakistan easily get morphed with Afghan Refugees. A larger number of Afghan nationals are still imams in the local mosques. The terrorists find local handlers and facilitators to strike their chosen targets. In principle a tentative plan of the repatriation of the registered and unregistered Afghan nationals should have been in place. Last year, voluntary repatriation of Afghan Refugees took place at a snail pace with hardly five to six families returned to Afghanistan from Khyber Pukhtunkhwa per day. From Baluchistan two-to-three families took the return journey. A national security plan needs to be drafted and approved from the parliament and implemented on priority basis.

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Rising political temperature

Amid the pressure tactics of coalition partners of the ruling PTI, opposition parties seems to have lost their patience and are desperate to make the government unable to complete it mandated term of five years. PML-Q has asked for a share more than its size in the central and Punjab governments. MQM Rabita Committee has directed the party law makers not to attend the meeting of standing committees without its approval.

Addressing a commemorative function at Peshawar, JUI (F) Maulana Fazalu Rehman alleged that the government is implementing the anti-Islam agenda of the Western countries and threatened million marches in KPK, Baluchistan and in the federal capital Islamabad. In a calculated move to divert the people attention from his mega money laundering scam through fake bank accounts, PPP co-chairperson and former President Asif Zardari has raised the bogies of government’s intention of scrapping the 18th amendment and depriving the province of Sindh from its share of financial resources from the federal divisible pool. He has sent his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari for lobbying in Washington against the sitting government of Pakistan which has just completed first six months of its tenure. In a media talk, the PPP Chairman claimed that he will not discuss domestic political issues in his current visit of the US. Awami National Party Central President Asfandiyar Wali is also in the United States. He is believed to have visited Washington DC and New York several times while keeping his engagement secret from the public and media glare.

Are the young PPP chairman and the ANP President are on a mission to seek the support of “Uncle Sam” for NRO? Prior to his visit of the United States, Asfandiyar Wali has visited Saudi Arabia. In the past Musharraf-Nawaz Sharif NRO was brokered by Saudi Arabia and Benazir-Musharraf NRO was mediated by both the US and UK. But the chances of another such arrangement sees to be slim. It is easy for a super power to twist the arms of a non-elected ruler because of his legitimacy syndrome but it is pretty difficult to pressurize a genuinely elected leadership to provide a safe passage to the politicians with baggage of corruption charges.

Out of desperation, a senior PML-N leader Khwaja Asif told reporters at his residence that political situation will get worse if Shabaz Sharif is removed from the office of Public Accounts Committee Chairman. Media reports reveal that the government has made its mind to remove the Chairman Public Accounts Committee and weighing parliamentary option for which the support of BNM (Mengal) is being sought for. The ongoing confrontation between the government and opposition does not augur well for strengthening democracy. The era of installing civilian leadership with the blessing of foreign powers has come to an end and the political leadership should focus more on the real issues confronting the country and its people.