IN THE NEWS: US PILES MORE PRESSURE ON PAKISTAN (JUNE 14, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

US piles more pressure on Pakistan
SOURCE: The News International
Friday, June 14, 2019
By WAJID ALI SYED

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure real structural reforms are included as conditionality before approving a loan package for Pakistan.

“We have not seen the IMF package, yet we understand that there has been an agreement reached between the IMF and the government of Pakistan but certainly we have communicated our strong views, and Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo has done so publicly, on the need for any package to include real structural reforms,” Ambassador Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, told members of Congress on Thursday.

During a special hearing on ‘US Interests in South Asia and the 2020 Budget’ before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ambassador Wells did not directly comment on the question if the IMF loan to Pakistan should be blocked until Dr Shakeel Afridi is released. However, she said that the administration has already withheld 130 million dollars in assistance to Pakistan as a result of Dr Afridi’s incarceration. She maintained that Dr Afridi has been jailed “wrongly and inappropriately”, and the administration continues to raise theissue with Pakistani officials.
In her opening remarks, Ambassador Wells recognised that Pakistan has taken steps to encourage Taliban participation in peace negotiations. “However, there’s much more work to be done to achieve our ultimate goal of a peaceful Afghanistan free of terrorist groups,” she said, adding that Pakistani officials are correct when they say that no other country will benefit more from a peaceful Afghanistan than Pakistan, and “we expect Pakistan to continue to play a constructive role in reconciliation efforts”. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: IS PAKISTAN MULLING MASS EXECUTIONS OF DISSIDENTS? (JUNE 14, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, June 14th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Is Pakistan Mulling Mass Executions Of Dissidents?
SOURCE: Gandhara
Friday, June 14, 2019 (Posted)

*Pakistani political discussions are reverberating with talk of hanging 5,000 people to cleanse the country of opposition

After weeks of rumours of a possible large-scale crackdown against opposition politicians and dissidents being contemplated in the upper echelons of power, a senior government minister has publicly advocated hanging thousands of Pakistanis outside the existing laws and constitution of the country.

“If it was in our hands, hanging 5,000 people today would change the destiny of [Pakistan’s] 220 million people,” Faisal Vawda, Pakistan’s minister of water resources, told Geo TV on June 11. “Our next 20 generations have to wait to do this [purge] in accordance with the law.”

The comments generated debate and sharp reactions in Pakistan.

“The talk of hanging 5,000 people is fascism,” said lawmaker Khurram Dastgir Khan, senior leader of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N).

“The recent statement by a federal minister that ‘hanging 5,000 people’ would ‘solve Pakistan’s problems’ was highly irresponsible,” the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, the country’s leading rights watchdog, said in a message on Twitter. “It makes a mockery of the rule of law — something no democracy can afford to do.” (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN GOVERNMENT UNCONDITIONALLY RELEASES HUNDREDS OF TALIBAN PRISONERS (JUN 13, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, June 13th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan government unconditionally releases hundreds of Taliban prisoners
SOURCE: The Long War Journal
Thursday, June 13, 2019 (Posted)
By BILL ROGGIO

In an effort to convince the Taliban to open negotiations, the Afghan government has freed hundreds of Taliban prisoners without conditions, and will free hundreds more. The Taliban has not responded to the prisoner release, and continues to refuse to negotiate with the Afghan government.

The Afghan government confirmed that 490 Taliban fighters and commanders have been released since the beginning of June, TOLONews reported. A total of 887 prisoners, all members of the Taliban, are slated to be released during the observance of Eid al Fitr, National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib confirmed.

The Taliban prisoners were released unconditionally. They are not required to denounce the Taliban or promise to quit the fight against the Afghan government. Historically, Taliban prisoners who have been freed from Afghan prisons have returned to the battlefield.

President Ashraf Ghani “announced the release of 887 prisoners as part of his efforts to persuade the resurgent group to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue to end the conflict through diplomatic settlement,” TOLONews noted.

The Taliban has not acknowledged the release of its prisoners. It has been unmoved by such gestures in the past, and are likely to ignore the latest. The Taliban has refused to recognize the Afghan government, which it has consistently called the “Kabul administration,” “impotent,” a “stooge” of the US and the West, and other derogatory names, let alone negotiate with it. The Taliban views the Afghan government as un-Islamic and says that only its “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” is the true representative of the Afghan people. It will settle for nothing less than the return of Taliban rule. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: BALANCING THE POLES (JUNE 12, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Balancing the poles
SOURCE: The Indian Express
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
By SHYAM SARAN

*As US-China competion intensifies, India should refrain from taking sides
*The progressive polarisation of US-China relations, interspersed with phases of remission, is likely to persist

What began as a trade dispute between the US and China has now morphed into a full spectrum strategic contest which is unlikely to abate any time soon. The one point the two sides agree upon is precisely that they are locked in a geopolitical contest and that its resolution will have to be the unquestioned dominance of one or the other. Neither accepts that multi-polarity is feasible in the sense that a cluster of major powers could construct a loosely structured but stable international order as a contemporary version of the European order set in place by Congress of Vienna in 1815.

The new hegemon, it is predicted, will be a rejuvenated US, which has seen off the Chinese challenge as it did the Soviet challenge in the Cold War. Or China will overtake the US and emerge as the undisputed hegemon in the current millennium. The resolution of the contest may take time so there will be a bi-polar world in the interim. Chinese analysts envision a process in which China will initially establish predominance in the Western Pacific pushing the US out towards the outer oceanic rim and then proceed to establish global pre-eminence. It is no coincidence that in its first ever Indo-Pacific Strategy Report (ISPR) released by the US on June 1, it is explicitly stated that China is a revisionist power which “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and ultimately global pre-eminence in the long term”. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: INCOMPETENCE IS COSTLY (JUNE 12, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Incompetence is costly
SOURCE: The News International
Wednesday, June 12, 2019
By MIFTAH ISMAIL*

Every year, the government of Pakistan publishes a report called the Economic Survey of Pakistan which details how our economy has performed over the last fiscal year. The survey has reams and reams of data but doesn’t have, thankfully for the PTI government, an overall theme. For if the survey had a theme it would have to be titled ‘Incompetence is costly’. This is both ironic and tragic as Prime Minister Imran Khan has coveted and chased power for 22 years but never learnt how to govern. Once in government, therefore, he knew to take a helicopter ride home but didn’t know what to do about the economy.

If we consider for a moment why Khan has made so many U-turns, we are forced to conclude that his overarching principle in politics has only been his desire for power. For a political party that’s been in politics for over two decades, do we know the PTI’s core beliefs? Is it right of centre? Does it believe in federalism? Does it believe in an independent judiciary?

Does it believe, for instance, in privatisation? Because when the PML-N tried to privatise public-sector enterprises, the PTI blocked that move. When the party came to power, it said it would form a holding company and not privatise. But now it says it will. What does it actually believe in? The PTI used to oppose tax amnesties and Khan last year even threatened people against using an amnesty offered by us, thus trying to make it fail. But today their own government has offered an amnesty.

Yes, the prime minister has changed a lot of ministers so far and blamed them for putting our country in such dire straits. But that doesn’t absolve the top guy from responsibility. People can rightly ask where the prime minister was when medicine prices were raised hundreds percent. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN & SINO-US COLD WAR (JUNE 11, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan & Sino-US cold war
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, June 11, 2019 (Posted)
By MUNIR AKRAM

AFTER the secretive Bilderberg meetings in Switzerland last week, Martin Wolf, the respected Financial Times economic columnist, wrote an op-ed entitled: ‘The 100 year fight facing the US and China’. Wolf’s conclusions are significant:
“…[R]ivalry with China is becoming an organising principle of US economic, foreign and security policies”; “The aim is US domination. This means control over China, or separation from China”. This effort is bound to fail. “This is the most important geopolitical development of our era. …[I]t will increasingly force everybody else to take sides or fight hard for neutrality”; “ Anybody who believes that a rules-based multilateral order, our globalised economy, or even harmonious international relations, are likely to survive this conflict is deluded”.

Pakistan is near if not in the eye of the brewing Sino-US storm.

Neutrality is not an option for Pakistan. The US has already chosen India as its strategic partner to counter China across the ‘Indo-Pacific’ and South Asia. The announced US South Asia policy is based on Indian domination of the subcontinent. Notwithstanding India’s trade squabbles with Donald Trump, the US establishment is committed to building up India militarily to counter China.

On the other hand, strategic partnership with China is the bedrock of Pakistan’s security and foreign policy. The Indo-US alliance will compel further intensification of the Pakistan-China partnership. Pakistan is the biggest impediment to Indian hegemony over South Asia and the success of the Indo-US grand strategy. Ergo, they will try to remove or neutralise this ‘impediment’. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: BETTER PAK-AFGHAN TIES TO BRING PEACE: KHALILZAD (JUNE 11, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Better Pak-Afghan ties to bring peace: Khalilzad
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
By ANWAR IQBAL

WASHINGTON: The United States appears focused on improving relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan for ending the Afghan war, shows a message US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad released on Monday.

Mr Khalilzad, a US diplomat of Afghan origin, said after a meeting with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul on Monday that the talks also focused on the relations between the two neighbouring countries.

“Discussed building further international consensus for peace,” he wrote in a tweet released after the meeting.

“Also regional requirements and implications for peace including recent positive movement in Afghan-Pakistan relations.”

The two leaders also talked about the opportunities that peace in Afghanistan will provide for regional connectivity and development, he added.

President Ghani is expected to visit Islamabad on June 27 for talks on improving Pak-Afghan relations that are often hampered by mistrust and reciprocal accusations.

US diplomat meets Afghan president in Kabul

Mr Ghani said on June 4 that the visit was agreed on at a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan last week on the sidelines of an OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) conference in Saudi Arabia. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PPP DECIDES TO HOLD COUNTRYWIDE PROTESTS FOLLOWING ZARDARI’S ARREST (JUNE 11, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PPP decides to hold countrywide protests following Zardari’s arrest
SOURCE: Daily Times
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

* Bilawal calls for resignation of NA speaker, deputy speaker
* PPP chief accuses PTI of picking up its political rivals on one pretext or the other to hide its own weaknesses
* PPP’s CEC decides to participate in opposition’s APC

The Pakistan People’s Party’s (PPP’s) Central Executive Committee (CEC), during a late-night meeting on Monday, decided to hold countrywide protests following the arrest of PPP Co-chairman and former president Asif Ali Zardari.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari in a press conference following the meeting said he would “make the government an offer”. “Bring a people-friendly budget. I will support it. We have always taken democratic steps for the people,” he said. “But you bring a budget that is an enemy of the people… You are threatening my workers, my family, you arrested my father. If you bring such a budget, I will show you what a protest is,” he said.

Bilawal also promised that his party would bring judicial reform and raise issues of human rights at every forum. “We are ready to take any step,” he said.

The PPP decided to set up a contact committee and run a mass contact campaign, for which a schedule and process would be decided after consensus formation and engagement with leaders, Bilawal told reporters. He advised his party’s provincial chapters’ presidents to form their strategies because he would be paying them visits soon. He reiterated that the PTI wanted selected government, judiciary and media. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: WITHDRAWAL OF ZERO-RATED REGIME: GOVT DECIDES TO IMPOSE 17pc SALES TAX ON EXPORT INDUSTRY (JUNE 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, June 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Withdrawal of zero-rated regime: Govt decides to impose 17pc sales tax on export industry
SOURCE: The News International
Monday, June 10, 2019
By KHALID MUSTAFA

ISLAMABAD: With the announcement of federal budget just one day away, the last-ditch endeavours for result-oriented talks between the export industry from Karachi and Faisalabad and the government economic team held here in a row on Saturday and Sunday (today) on restoration of zero-rating regime went in vain as the government reiterated in plain words that it is under the IMF commitment and is unable to take back its decision to withdraw the zero rating.

The government has also refused to extend the Guaranteed Refund Mechanism to the industry saying the mechanism will be worked out later on after the budget. The economic team of the government has also told the industry that it is going to slap 17 percent sales tax on export industry of textile, leather, carpet, surgical and sports.

Earlier, the government functionaries had agreed in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan in the meeting that the government will impose 7.5 percent sales tax on the said export industry, but in (Sunday) today’s meeting, the economic team has refused to charge 7.5 percent sales tax, rather it vowed to impose 17 percent sales tax on the said export industry.

However, the government has decided to extend the energy package (RLNG at $6.5 per MMBTU and electricity to textile, carpets, surgical, leather and sports sectors) for another 6 months after hectic talks with IMF, but the government says it will review the continuing of energy package after 6 months, official and industry sources told The News. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PTI TO LARGELY ABOLISH PML-N ERA NON-FILER REGIME (JUNE 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, June 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PTI to largely abolish PML-N era non-filer regime
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, June 10, 2019
By SHAHBAZ RANA

ISLAMABAD.: In a major policy initiative, the government is all set to introduce a punitive legal regime to change the PML-N era’s concept of non-filers to active taxpayers in the upcoming budget.

The move is aimed at doubling the existing number of income tax filers to four million besides contributing to an overarching goal of slapping additional Rs688 billion taxes with effect from July 2019.

As against the current practice of only charging higher income tax rates from those who do not file their annual statements of income and assets, the government has proposed to immediately start legal proceedings against people who would do cash or banking transactions but are not on the Active Taxpayer List (ATL).

At present, less than two million people are on the ATL that essentially comprises of people who submit their annual income and wealth statement to the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

The FBR has proposed to insert a 10th Schedule in the Income Tax Ordinance of 2001 that will have two major legal components. The withholding tax related sections that will be in the 10th Schedule will attract 100% higher rates than the one paid by those who are income tax return filers.

For instance, the dividend income’s withholding tax rate is 15% for filers and 20% for non-filers, which will be doubled to 30% for those who will not be on the ATL. (more…)