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US drone attack

At least five people were killed in a drone attack which took place in Kurram Agency, yesterday evening. The strike targeted a house in remote Ghuz Ghari village close to Pak Afghan border. Five bodies were recovered from the rubble which included a militant commander Abu Bakar Umar. The political administration has confirmed that the attack took place in Pakistan’s territory six kilometers from the Afghan border.

US drone attacks have been a critical issue because of their collateral damage in terms of innocent civilians and their properties. The previous two governments of Musharraf and PPP were under severe critique by the PML (N) and the religious parties. These governments were blamed for their tacit understanding with the US for drone attacks in FATA. PTI chairman Imran Khan held a peace march to Waziristan on 6th October, 2012 to highlight the fallouts of drone attacks on Pakistan. He also addressed a mammoth public meeting in Tank located along the border of South Waziristan. Later, in an interview with a CNN anchor, Becky Anderson, Khan told that these attacks were counterproductive and emphasized for a comprehensive dialogue to restore peace in Afghanistan.

The recent drone attack came in the wake of safe rescue operation by Pak Forces of Canadian couple and their children from the mobile party of terrorists. It was also followed by IED attack on Pak troops in Kurran Agency on Sunday where a Captain and three Jawaans embraced martyrdom. According to ISPR spokesman, these soldiers were a part of search operation for the handlers of rescued foreigners.

The PML (N) leadership in contrast of their earlier loud and vocal stance against the drone attacks have now greatly diluted for being in power. Ironically the interior minister Ahsan Iqbal made a controversial statement of joint operation in FATA during his recent visit to US, whereas the no hideouts of the militants exist there. In fact the fighters of militant groups in Afghanistan sneak over the border, taking advantage of porous nature of it. Prior to this controversy, the foreign minister Khwaja Asif opined about putting our own house in order which amounted to deliberately inviting a trouble on our doorsteps.

Pak-Afghan border will remain vulnerable till such time its thorough fencing is completed, on which work is on. On the other hand, the US forces and Afghan National Army are intentional not patrolling the border on Afghanistan side to check the presence and movement of militants and to restrict sneaking of terrorist in Pakistan’s territory. Moreover, the US is also not willing to back and facilitate the regional initiative for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. The military option has not been fruitful in the past 16 years. Former Afghan President Hamid Karazai allegation, that the US troops are supporting Daesh with logistics, finances and military hardware. This allegation are not farfetched because the record has shown that USA wants to sustain this war for many more years to come in order to keep this region destabilize for its strategic objectives. Pakistan, China and Russia have joined hands to contribute a political settlement of this never ending Afghan war, bringing all stake holders to the negotiation table. Hopefully, the US may realize that it cannot win this war by using the mighty military technologies and should draw a lesson from a humiliating defeat in Vietnam War. The sooner it decides to play a positive role, the better it would be for the whole world and particularly for this region.

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Conflicting numbers

There is glaring disagreement between the ministry of finance and World Bank (WB) over the debt repayment obligation for the financial year 2017-18. In a recent report the WP has estimated Pakistan’s external repayment obligation at $ 31 billion which raised the public concern that the country may have not enough resources to meet these targets because of the nosedive of the economy. The finance ministry, however, claimed the WB erroneously included the portfolio investment of $ 13.8 billion for its estimates that are not a part of repayment obligation. The finance ministry insists that WB report is based on “misinterpretation” of standard definition on gross financing needs of the country. In a bid to suppress the ongoing controversy about the health of the economy the finance minister Ishaq Dar has directed the finance division to proactively work with the WB to ensure correct reporting of economic data.

The pulse rate of the economy is better understood by the business community and their numbers about the performance of various sectors of the national economy including foreign trade which reflect a grim scenario. They have spoken their mind in a recent seminar under the auspices of Pakistan Federation of Commerce and Industry at Karachi. COAS addressed this seminar and expressed his views about the correlation between security and economy. The businessmen of industrial hub of Karachi also met the PM Shahid Khaqan Abbasi register their concerns about the acute depression of the economy and likely IMF bailout package that other day. PM told them that Pakistan will not opt for any IMF package. WB and IMF prior to their recent meeting painted a very bleak picture of Pakistan’s economy in a comprehensive report on the South Asian Economies. The report has vividly projected the macro-economic risks confronting our economy and particularly annotated the vulnerability of external balance. It also revealed that persistent current account deficits which are on the rise will badly affect the Forex (Foreign Exchange Reserves).

The economy is on the ventilator of international donors since the end of Musharraf era. Two IMF loan packages with strict conditionality have already been availed. But the IMF shock therapy has not worked and the downturn of economy continues till date. Another IMF loan program has become inevitable for the budgetary support in the coming financial year and correcting the balance of payment in the international trade. Hence, the numbers released by the WB is unquestionably authentic whereas, the data worked out by the ‘Baboos’ of finance ministry under the directives of Ishaq Dar is incorrect without a doubt. It is now a matter of record that the finance minister during the second tenure of PML (N) provided fudged figure to IMF and other multilateral donors. Consequently, the advisor on finance Dr. Salman Shah informed general Musharrraf about the grave repercussions of this forgery. President Musharraf told him that we must accept the misdeeds of PML (N) government and inform the IMF about the objectivity of the economic statistics in future. The advisor convinced that IMF and other donor of transparency of reporting of economic data. The IMF then imposed a penalty of 100 million dollars for fudging of figures, which was then reduced to mere 10 million dollars on the persistent persuasion of Dr. Salman Shah. It seems that Ishaq Dar has yet again reverted to his old practice of manipulation of economic data. But this time around the technocrats of WB, IMF and other international donor will not entertain his version of the Pakistan’s economy. It is no longer a secret that the WB and IMF officials declined to receive the finance minister at their recent meeting and the government has to send Interior Minister Ashan Iqbal to attend this meeting. The government must accept the ground realities and take the people into confidence about the precarious economic conditions ultimately preparing them for the hard days to come.

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Fundamentals of democracy

Addressing the inauguration ceremony of Pakistan first coal, clinker terminal at Port Qasim, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said democracy is sine qua non for the progress and prosperity of the country and its people. He credited the people for their decision in favor of democratic system and noted that continuity of the system would also provide panacea to certain issues. He said the people will decide the future of the government.

There are no two opinions about the virtues of democracy particularly its linkage with progress and prosperity of the people. But for stable and delivering democracy abidance of the basic fundamentals of transparency and rule of law are inevitable. However, the ruling elite’s attitude towards these core ingredients has always been of disdain and deliberate neglect. Hence, repeated interludes between elected governments and one man rule.

The elected governments did not focused their attention on basic problems confronting the people and out of frustration they had no choice but to welcome the dictatorial regimes. The hallmark of President’s Ayub Khan Era was the golden age of economic development and prosperity. It was characterized by a spectacular economic growth rate of 8 percent per annum, low inflation rate, high level of employment and low prices of consumers goods of daily use. The elected government of Z.A Bhutto ruined the economy by massive nationalization of private industrial enterprises and banks. These so called structural reforms torpedoed the flourishing economy and the economic growth rate dropped to 2 percent because of lock outs in the industrial and agriculture sectors. The incentive that boosted exports were withdrawn and currency was devalued by more than 60 percent without any rationale which increased the burden of foreign debt. The succeeding despotic regime turned the economy round. It spent more and more on social sector development whereas the succeeding elected governments of PPP and PML (N) destroyed the economy by financial mismanagement and rampant corruption. Again the military led government of General Musharraf revived the economy by successful waiver of a reasonable amount of foreign debt, debt swap, debt rescheduling with freezing interest rate and early debt retirement.

The fundamental of transparency, which is essential for the honest and judicious utilization of national resources, is not being observed. In agreements with Independent Power Producers, Rental Power Companies and LNG purchase from Qatr the rules of transparency have been violated. These agreements are heavily loaded against the interest of the country and its people.

The attitude of political elite has been recalcitrant to rule of law. The vilification campaign against the judiciary by the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, sitting federal ministers and PML (N) leaders is a vivid example defiance to the rule law. The power show by PML (N) associated lawyers and workers in the Accountability Court the other day amply explain the disrespect of ruling party for the judiciary and justice system.

A cursory look at western democracies show that people’s welfare is the salient feature of the governance and democratic system there. In these countries parliaments pass laws for the wellbeing of the people. On the contrary in Pakistan person specific and elites legislations get the priority. Election Law 2017 is the recent example. A functional democracy can be established if transparency is observed and rule of law is respected.

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Cliché of democracy!

PML (N) leadership often make tall claims of democracy and strengthening the democratic institutions but in practice their attitude is all along against the democratic norms and rule of law. It is the submission to the rule of law that provides conducive environment for the stability of the democracy in a country. Accepting the verdicts of judiciary reflects the true spirit of democracy but the disqualified PM Nawaz Sharif is instigating his party workers to undermine the democracy. He has launched a virulent tirade against the justice system of Pakistan. The PML (N) affiliated lawyers uproar at the accountability court compelled the Judge Muhammad Bashir to adjourn the hearing of corruption references against Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son in law captain (R) Safdar till 19th October. It reveals disrespect for the Judiciary. This unpleasant situation was created deliberately to delay the indictment of the Sharif family.

Just as the Accountability Court Judge entered the courtroom a number of lawyers associated with the PML (N) forced their way into the court and surrounded the Judge’s bench. They claimed that they were manhandled by security forces outside the Court. The footages shown on private TV channels and photos published in print media tell quite the opposite story. One lawyer is trying to slap a policeman. People expect from lawyers to excel in the Nitti Gritty of law and not showing their expertise in slapping and fist fighting. The Accountability Court Judge asked them to give their complaint in writing but they did not listen to it. The lawyers also interrupted the NAB Prosecution team and were forced to leave the dais. The whole drama was staged because when PML (N) supporters and lawyers knew that the hearing had been adjourned, the crowd disappeared.

Democracy derives its strength from the abidance of the law. In the neighboring country India, democracy flourished because their political leaders showed respect and subjugation to the law. Once, in the political history of India PM Indra Ghandi did not accept her disqualification by Allabad high court in an election case. She imposed emergency but paid a very high price in the general elections for her not accepting the court’s verdict. She met a devastating defeat because her predecessor PM’s burnt midnight oil in their tenure to establish the true democracy, strengthen the institutions including election commission. She herself admitted that congress debacle in the election was the direct result of her decision to impose emergency and not submission to the law. The Indian leadership never ever repeated the same mistake.

When Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif signed the charter of democracy, the people rightly expected that now the latter would have learnt a lesson from his exile and while in power he will act like a true democrat by respecting venerated institution, the judiciary to which the nation lookup for administering justice. These expectations where shattered when Nawaz Sharif after his rightly disqualification in Panama Papers case launched diatribe and smear campaign against the judiciary which amounts to disservice to the democracy. One may draw a possible conclusion from his demeanor and vendetta against the state institutions that he wants chaos and disorder in the country from which the enemies of Pakistan alone can benefit. He should step into the footprints of leaders who have always given preference to national interest over personal gains. Delaying the indictment of Sharif family by bullying and vandalism will prove to be counterproductive.

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Do more mantra

Pakistan’s forces conducted a successful operation in the Kurram Agency of the tribal belt and secured a safe release of five western hostages who were brought by the terrorists across the border from Afghanistan. They were captured from Afghanistan in 2012 and remained in the captivity for more than 5 years during which they were moved around inside Afghanistan. The US and NATO forces monitored there movements with a latest electronic gadgets and human intelligence but could not dare to launch a successful rescue operation. However, the US intelligence after tracking their crossing over to Kurram Agency, Pak army was informed. Pakistan forces based on actionable intelligence from the US authorities carried out a successful operation and managed the safe and sound release of the hostages. They are being repatriated to their mother country.

President Donald Trump appreciated the efforts made for the safe release of the hostages, he said Pakistan government cooperation is a sign that is honoring America’s wishes for do more to provide security to the region. The release of the hostages was coincided with the arrival of the US delegation led by Lisa Cutis, Deputy Assistant to the President who held talks with foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua. She said the US has a long track record of cooperation with Pakistan. Ms. Lisa Curtis emphasized the important of reinvigorating the bilateral relationship in order to achieve the common objective of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the whole region. The two sides agreed to continue mutual engagements at all levels and reviewed at length the various aspects of President Trump’s new policy on Afghanistan.

Pakistan has all along honored and valued its friendship with the US but it was the latter who frequently let the former down on the critical moments of the history and disappointed Pakistan. The embargo on the supply of arms and its spare parts before the Pak-India 1965 war confirm the fact the US is not a friend in need. Again the US maintained its double standard viz. a viz. Pakistan nuclear program. It kept silent when India made nuclear blasts in May, 1974 and a series of blasts in May, 1998. Economic sanctions were not imposed on India for going nuclear and not signing the NPT and CTBT. On the contrary, Pakistan was penalized for out of compulsion counter nuclear blasts on 28th May, 1998. Economic sanctions were imposed to strangulate our economy.

Pakistan and the US became allies in the war on terror in the wake of 911. But, our arms were always twisted on the pretext of do more. The end of do more, feat is still not in sight. Donald Trump while appreciating Pakistan endeavor for the rescue and release of hostages inserted a ‘rider’ of do more. Recently the US defense secretary James Mattis expressed the likelihood of downgrading Pakistan status to non NATO ally. Pakistan’s steadfast commitment to counterterrorism and restoring peace in Afghanistan is beyond any doubt and it is now for the US and its western allies to ‘do more’.

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Economy security correlation

Highlighting the strong linkage between economy and security, the COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa said China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the future of Pakistan and there shall be no compromise over it. He stated, “This is the future of our people, a vital national interest which will be never compromised regardless of the loud opposing voices”. He was addressing a seminar titled “Interplay of Economy and Security” organized by the Inter-Services Public Relations in collaboration with Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI). The army chief said that the CPEC is not just a collection of road infrastructure and power projects but in fact a complete development platform that has the potential to act as a powerful spring board for shared development in the Central Asia and South Asia (CASA). It is also an example of regional cooperation and break from a politics of confrontation. He opined that the completion of this project will optimize the socio-economic dividend for our country. The COAS emphasized that peace and security is the linchpin for the prosperity of this region.

Lime lighting the unshaken bridge between the economy and security, the COAS has given a robust response to the powers, who are out to undermine the CPEC project. India has shown its hostility to this project right from the outset. However, the US has recently expressed its opposition to CPEC. The defense secretary James Mattis articulated his country stance before the senate’s arm services committee. He argued that it will put China in a dictating position to the world. This sort of argumentation confirms the insights of the Pakistanis into the US pro India policy.

The apprehension of the US that China has ulterior motives and hegemonic design in South Asia are baseless. When the US-China relation touched the lowest ebb during Bush Jr. administration, the former US secretary of state Dr. Henry kissinger advised for restrained and good relations between these two countries. He wrote in an article that China will refrain from military adventurism and pursue the foreign policy of its first PM Zhou EnLai. He eulogized him as the master diplomate and predicted that China will outdo the US in foreign trade. The prediction of this maestro of international relation came true as the US and EU markets are flooded with Chinese goods. COAS has rightly stressed upon the regional integration of economies and breaking away from political confrontation. The integrations in the forms of European Union (EU), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) are the classic examples of regional cooperation. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) solely failed because of the obduracy of India and its allies. The quantum of trade among SAARC member countries could not grow because India imposes irrational tariffs and non-tariff duties.

This is undeniable fact that strong economy serves as a primary driver for national security. It was the inherent weakness of the USSR which resulted in its disintegration in 1991. Over the past 9 years, economy has been mismanaged which has led to crisis in Agriculture and Manufacturing sectors. The exports have dropped by 5 billion dollars and the imports have substantially risen. The economy is on the verge of debt-trap with 90 billion dollars foreign debt alone. The foreign direct investment is on the decline and the local entrepreneurs are shy of investment despite of very low markup rate because the high power and gas tariffs along with the regressive taxation system and rampant corruption by the political elite and top bureaucracy. These factors create extremely negative environment for growth and development of the economy.

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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.