MAP: AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN

Written by admin on Saturday, December 15th, 2018

we are out of office during the weekend

On our return on Monday we will publish our selection of articles.

Afghanistan and Pakistan

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IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN – TEXTILE READY TO TAKE OFF (DECEMBER 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, December 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Textile ready to take off
SOURCE: Business Recorder
Friday, December 14, 2018

The currency has depreciated over 30 percent in last 12 months but textile exports grew by a mere 6 percent during Nov17-Oct18 over the same period last year. This implies that currency adjustment alone is not sufficient to boost exports.

Pakistan textile exports grew by 85 percent from $5.8 billion to $10.8 billion during FY02-07 at a time when currency and cotton prices were sticky. Since then, there has been no significant growth in textile exports during the last decade, despite the fact that the value of dollar has more than doubled against the rupee during the same period. FY11 was the only exception when textile exports jumped by 34 percent due to over 100 percent increase in cotton prices during that year.

Turning around stunted growth in textile exports requires more than just currency depreciation Yes, there are advantages of recent currency adjustments; but given the capacity constraints of value added sectors, growth may remain restricted to 5-10 percent this year.

In order to go beyond, textile industry needs to significantly increase its capacity as it happened during 2002-06. No significant sector wide expansion has been recorded in the industry during the last decade which could have led to a exportable surplus. It appears that stars have aligned for significant expansion in textile over coming periods: government has set the price for gas at 6.5 cents per unit and electricity at 7.5 cents per unit, is providing long term financing at attractive rates, and is seemingly committed to flexible exchange rate. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHANISTAN OPENS NEW TRADE ROUTE WITH AIM OF BUILDING LINK TO EUROPE (DECEMBER 14, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, December 14th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghanistan opens new trade route with aim of building link to Europe
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Friday, December 14, 2018

HERAT, AFGHANISTAN: Afghanistan on Thursday opened a new international trade route aimed at establishing direct access to Central Asia and Europe as it seeks to build up an economy wrecked by decades of war and reduce reliance on Pakistan.

President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the route, known as the Lapis Lazuli corridor, at a ceremony in the western province of Herat.

“For over 17 years Afghanistan was in isolation, today Afghanistan is connected with its neighbours and beyond,” Ghani said at the ceremony, which saw the first trucks set off with dried fruit, herbs and textiles bound for Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey.

The corridor is the latest in a series of energy and transport projects aimed at opening Afghanistan up as a hub at the heart of Central Asia.

Ghani, a former World Bank official, has pushed such projects, including the $10 billion TAPI – Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India – natural gas network launched this year, as essential to building a functioning Afghan economy.

The new corridor – which includes stretches or road, rail and maritime routes – runs from Afghanistan to Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia before crossing the Black Sea to Turkey and eventually Europe.

Ghani is trying to reduce land-locked Afghanistan’s dependence on its eastern neighbour, Pakistan, with which it has long had complicated relations.

Major crossings on their border are regularly closed for political and security reasons. “Afghanistan has to reduce its dependency on Pakistan for international trade, the country has to establish new trade routes to improve the domestic economy,” said Abdul Nasheed, a senior member of the independent Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce.

Pak-Afghan trade halves ‘due to transit trade glitches’

Last month, Afghanistan inaugurated an air cargo service to China by sending 20 tons of pine nuts. It has a similar cargo link with India.

IN THE NEWS: LACK OF RESOURCES HITS PAKISTAN’S FIGHT AGAINST CLIMATE CHANGE (DECEMBER 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Lack of resources hits Pakistan’s fight against climate change
SOURCE: Asia Times
Thursday, December 13, 2018
By KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID

*Pakistan is the world’s seventh most vulnerable state to climate change, but poor governance and strapped finances means it lacks the capacity to combat the mounting problem

Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) government came to power with a manifesto that urged action on climate change. It underlined the Billion Tree Tsunami project initiative, which the PTI government completed while ruling Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province from 2013 to 2018, and claimed that similar projects would be initiated across the country once it came to power.

However, after almost four months in power, the government has little to show on the climate change front. And the gravity of the matter was underlined by Pakistan’s delegation at COP24, the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Katowice, Poland. There the advisor to the prime minister on Climate Change, Malik Amin Aslam reiterated that the country was “running out of time.”

A major problem for Islamabad is the lack of a governance model in place to tackle climate change challenges. This is what prompted the World Bank to cancel a US$250-million loan after it couldn’t agree on a macroeconomic framework earlier this week.

German watch’s ‘Global Climate Risk Index 2018’ puts Pakistan as the seventh most vulnerable state in regard to climate change. Effects of climate change cost Pakistan $384 million last year even as the country struggled with its national debt.

These costs stem from droughts and floods which damage agriculture and water supplies, along with prodigious temperature variations which take a toll on the masses. This year’s heatwave was another ominous reminder of the impact of climate change in the country, with the Pakistan Meteorological Department issuing temperature warnings in Karachi in May and June. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S ECONOMY: RISING THROUGH THE STORMS (DECEMBER 13, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s economy: Rising through the storms
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Thursday, December 13, 2018
By ALI RAZA GILANI

In Pakistan, the financial year ends on June 30th. However, since the conventional year is about to end, we look back at how the new government fared at handling the economy and also make some policy prescriptions along the way.

The incumbent government is being judged rather harshly on its performance in the first few months. Let’s just make this clear: there is no silver bullet that could end Pakistan’s economic woes within 100 days. Given that the government has inherited a ‘broken’ economy, I’d say that they have performed quite well.

A common way to find out how well a country has performed is to look at its growth rate. The last fiscal year’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate was 5.8%, the highest in the last 13 years. That was fairly good.

Or so it seemed.

How was the economy broken?

The forecast for the next year seems to point out a plunge in our economy’s growth rate to 4.8%. And that is being blamed as the new government’s fault.

However, GDP growth rate could have been misleading in the first place. With our currency appreciated, our growth was driven by consumption. Households were overindulgent in their consumption of goods and services which consequently raised the GDP growth rate to 5.4%. But that also resulted in our import bill climbing to $55.8 billion. Our exports stayed at $24.8 billion and hard working Pakistanis working abroad sent their loved ones back home $19.6 billion in remittances. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PEACE PROCESS WILL NOT DELAY PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: CEO (DECEMBER 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Peace Process will Not Delay Presidential Elections: CEO
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

KABUL – Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Unity Government Abdullah Abdullah addressing a gathering at Sapedar Palace in Kabul said the 2019 presidential elections would not be postponed because of the peace process.

Talking at the wrap-up ceremony of the 16-days campaign to eliminate violence against women, Abdullah said the presidential elections would be held at its determined time and the peace efforts would not delay elections.

According to Abdullah, there is no outline on the table for postponing the elections because of the peace process.

“The peace process should go ahead for ending the war. But delaying the presidential elections for this process has not been on the table. The leadership of the National Unity Government’s stance in this regard is clear,” said Abdullah.

In the meantime, Abdullah said the achievements that have been made in the past years, will be persevered in the peace talks.

He warned that if the achievements are ignored during the peace talks, it will cause sustainable instability in the country.

“Preserving the achievements of the Afghan people means strengthening peace and stability. And ignoring the Afghan people achievements means continued instability,” Abdullah added.

Faiz Mohammad Osmani, Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs, talking at the same event said the ministry has assessed the causes of violence against women and so far, has identified over 12 factors that subject women and girls to violence.

“Deprivation from heritage is one type of violence, deprivation from proper alimony is another type of violence and forced marriage is another,” said Osmani.

“Both women and men should behave well,” CEO second deputy head Mohammad Mohaqiq said.

The CEO said some progress has been made in fighting violence against women, however, emphasized that more effort is needed.

The 16-days campaign for saying no to violence against women is held annually in many countries to lower the volume of violence against women.

IN THE NEWS: U.S. ADDS PAKISTAN TO BLACKLIST FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM VIOLATIONS (DECEMBER 12, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

U.S. Adds Pakistan to Blacklist for Religious Freedom Violations
SOURCE: Newsweek Pakistan
Wednesday, December 12, 2018

*ISLAMABAD SLAMS DESIGNATION AS ‘UNILATERAL AND POLITICALLY MOTIVATED’ IN REJOINDER ISSUED BY FOREIGN OFFICE

The United States on Tuesday added Pakistan to its blacklist of countries that violate religious freedom, ramping up pressure over Islamabad’s treatment of minorities.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he had designated Pakistan among “countries of particular concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report, meaning the U.S. government is obliged to exert pressure, including imposing sanctions if necessary, to end freedom violations.

The State Department had earlier held off on condemning Pakistan, a vital gateway for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But it last year placed Pakistan on a special watch list—a step short of the designation—and Washington has separately curbed military assistance.

Human rights advocates have long voiced alarm about the treatment of religious minorities in Pakistan, including Shia Muslims, Christians and Ahmadis, who are declared non-Muslim by Pakistani law. But the timing of the full designation comes after Pakistan moved to resolve its highest-profile case, with the Supreme Court in October ordering the release of Aasia Bibi—a Christian woman on death row for eight years for blasphemy.

Pakistan recently charged a hardline cleric, Khadim Hussain Rizvi, with terrorism and sedition after he led violent protests against Bibi’s acquittal. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: THE AFGHAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD NOT BE SIDELINED IN PEACE TALKS (DECEMBER 11, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The Afghan government should not be sidelined in peace talks
SOURCE: Al Jazeera
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
By SAFIULLAH TAYE

*The US and Russia have bypassed the Afghan government and engaged the Taliban directly. This could be disastrous

At last month’s Geneva Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan, it was clear that the presidential elections were less than five months away. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani put a lot of effort into making sure he appeared to be the right man for his job.

He took the opportunity to read out a list of achievements in the areas of security, women’s rights, justice and the anti-corruption effort. As usual, international donors applauded the achievements, re-affirmed their support for the Afghan government, and pledged more military and humanitarian aid.

But President Ghani did not stop there. He also announced a “roadmap to peace” his administration had prepared in order to launch peace talks with the Taliban. As part of that plan, he announced the formation of a 12-members team, headed by presidential chief of staff Salam Rahimi, to engage in direct negotiations with the Taliban. Ghani made it clear that the peace process has to be “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led”, implying his administration cannot be excluded from the process.

The Afghan president has been facing major challenges at home, suffering a number of major failures on the political and security fronts. Against the backdrop of a deteriorating situation at home, launching and owning a peace process seems to be the only achievement that can ensure his political survival and potential re-election next year. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: OFFICIALS WARN OVER TALIBAN’S ACCESS TO MODERN WEAPONS (DECEMBER 11, 2018)

Written by admin on Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Officials Warn Over Taliban’s Access To Modern Weapons
SOURCE: TOLO News
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
By TAMIMI HAMID

*Local officials say certain circles outside Afghanistan borders are providing more modern arms to the Taliban

Some local officials from a few provinces in the south of Afghanistan have warned that Taliban has gained access to more modern arms, which is a challenge for Afghan security and defense forces in fighting the group.

Helmand governor Mohammad Yasin Khan said modern weapons, from Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, are being provided to the Taliban via intelligence networks, adding that Afghan security forces have on occasion seized such arms.

“From our two neighbouring countries, weapons and arms are being distributed to them (Taliban) via intelligence networks. These arms have been seized and not only been shown in Afghanistan, but also to the world,” Yasin Khan said.

The Taliban’s recent attacks on security forces’ outposts in different parts of the country, especially in Farah province, have raised serious security concerns for the local officials of the provinces.

Farah local officials said in the last few days, they have witnessed fighting in parts of some districts of Farah and on the outskirts of Farah city – the provincial capital. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: BALOCHISTAN CABINET SHOCKED BY CPEC PRESENTATION (DECEMBER 10, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, December 10th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Balochistan cabinet shocked by CPEC presentation
SOURCE: dawn
Monday, December 10, 2018
By KHURRAM HUSAIN

KARACHI: The Balochistan cabinet was left shell-shocked at the end of a briefing on the progress of CPEC projects in the province when it was revealed that no progress has been made in any projects outside Gwadar and the meagre share of the province in the overall portfolio of CPEC projects.

The briefing was provided by the CPEC Cell that the Balochistan government has recently established with help from the World Bank.

According to a source who was present during the meeting on Monday, which lasted all day, almost four hours were spent on the briefing from the cell.

The major finding of the cell was that all projects connected with the western route have seen no progress whatsoever, and the overall size of the portfolio of CPEC projects in Balochistan is miniscule where less than 9 per cent of the total committed, around $5.5 billion, is for the province and less than $1bn has been spent in four years. Of this $1bn, around $200m is accounted for by the Hub power plant.

The cabinet members described the CPEC spending thus far as “a joke” and they blasted the previous government for its inaction.

In the energy sector, the cabinet was informed that the current shortfall of 700MW in the province means that all the new power injected into the grid as a result of CPEC power projects has not found its way to Balochistan and that Makran Division has still not been connected to the national grid.

Two projects negotiated by the previous government — Quetta Mass Transit and PAT feeder to Quetta water project — will both be revisited by the new government.

“The debt and liabilities of both projects will be borne by the Government of Balochistan and the costs revealed in the feasibility are very high,” according to the source. (more…)