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.