IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN-IMF BAILOUT (JUNE 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, June 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PAKISTAN-IMF BAILOUT
SOURCE: Asia Times
Monday, June 10, 2019
By KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID

Pakistan will have to implement a slew of economic reforms as part of the International Monetary Fund’s conditions for a US$ 6 billion bailout.

These conditions are likely to be part of the fiscal budget that will be announced on Tuesday by Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the prime minister’s economic advisor .

This means that the budget needs to reflect measures to stabilize the economy, reduce non-development expenses and bolster exports. This will also be bad news for the Pakistani rupee, which has been in a free fall for over six months. According to top government sources, the IMF wants the value of the Rupee to be “market-determined.”

Shaikh will present the 6.8 trillion rupee [$46.5 billion] budget for the current fiscal year in the National Assembly on Tuesday. The incumbent Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) government led by Imran Khan maintains that the budget would focus on revenue generation and growth, while at the same time being “people friendly.”

Economic Reforms

The announcement came less than a month after Pakistan agreed on terms with the IMF for a bailout package. The three-year bailout deal worth $6 billion requires an “ambitious reforms agenda” to address Pakistan’s financial woes. Islamabad’s staff-level agreement with the IMF is conditional to the Fund’s proposed reforms being incorporated in the upcoming budget. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ISIL EXPANDS ITS REACH IN AFGHANISTAN, THREATENING THE WEST (JUNE 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, June 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

ISIL expands its reach in Afghanistan, threatening the West
SOURCE: Al Jazeera
Monday, June 10, 2019

* Taliban detain Afghan peace marchers during 100km journey

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) group is expanding its footprint in Afghanistan “with thousands and thousands” of fighters after losing its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq.

The armed group is recruiting new soldiers and plotting attacks on the United States and other Western countries, US and Afghan security officials say.

ISIL is seen as an even greater threat than the Taliban because of its increasingly sophisticated military capabilities and its strategy of targeting civilians, both in Afghanistan and abroad. Concerns run so deep that some officials have come to see the Taliban, which has also clashed with ISIL, as a potential partner in containing it.

A US intelligence official based in Afghanistan told The Associated Press that a recent wave of attacks in the capital, Kabul, were “practice runs” for even bigger assaults in Europe and the US.

“This group is the most near-term threat to our homelands from Afghanistan,” the official said on condition of anonymity, adding that ISIL’s “core mandate” was to conduct “external attacks”. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ‘US-FUNDED AFGHAN COLLEGE UNDER SCRUTINY FOR MISSING MILLIONS’ (JUNE 9, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, June 9th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

‘US-Funded Afghan College Under Scrutiny for Missing Millions’
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Sunday, June 9, 2019

KABUL – United States government investigators say they cannot account for $63 million in funding for the American university in Kabul, a The New York Times report says.

The Times quoted one of the investigators of the American University in Afghanistan as summing things up this way: “If the United States government had paid to send every Afghan graduate to college in the United States, it would have spent less money than it did on financing a troubled, English-language university for them in the Afghan capital.

The university graduated 1,281 Afghan degree students over the past decade, at a cost of $126,000 each to American taxpayers, or a total of $162 million.

Now the continued existence of the university is potentially at risk after investigators said they were unable to determine what happened to $63 million of that money, according to officials of the United States Agency for International Development and the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

The result was an official effort last year by investigators at both agencies to have the university disqualified from receiving any further government funding, a process known as suspension.

An agreement was reached that prevented that step. But the university, generally known as A.U.A.F., remains the subject of a criminal investigation as well as a forensic audit to find out what happened to all that money.

The university is one of the most high-profile development projects that the American government has undertaken in Afghanistan. Reached for comment, officials at USAID praised its academic achievements. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN NOT GENUINE NEGOTIATORS (JUNE 8, 2019)

Written by admin on Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban not Genuine Negotiators
SOURCE: Daily Outlook Afghanistan
Saturday, June 8, 2019
Editorial

Despite the issue of talks, as the Taliban and the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad are preparing for the seventh round, the Taliban insurgents have intensified their attacks and suicide bombings turning down to declare truce.

In the second round of talks, held between the Taliban and Afghan political figures in Moscow, the Taliban negotiators insisted on the full withdrawal of US troops. However, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford said in his recent statement that Washington’s campaign against terror groups in Afghanistan would continue unabated notwithstanding the Taliban’s persistence for a complete troop pullout from the country. “No one has suggested the US is going to leave Afghanistan until our counterterrorism interests are addressed. … That is non-negotiable,” he is cited as saying.

The Taliban and US negotiators have reportedly agreed to a draft timeline for two issues: the full withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan and dismissal of the Taliban’s tie with terrorist groups, including the ISIS and al-Qaeda. Nonetheless, Khalilzad made it clear that nothing was agreed unless all issues were agreed.

Ushering in his trip to meet regional officials in Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Germany, Belgium, and the United Arab Emirates, to step up peace talks, Khalilzad tweeted that peace process was making strides. “We’ve made substantial progress over the last month. On this trip, I want to take that momentum and accelerate the #AfghanPeaceProcess,” he wrote. Being optimistic, he called for parties to show “flexibility”. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S PASHTUN CRACKDOWN ECHOES BANGLADESH WAR (JUNE 7, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, June 7th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s Pashtun Crackdown Echoes Bangladesh War
SOURCE: Gandhara
Friday, June 7, 2019
By ABUBAKAR SIDDIQUE

Pakistan is increasing its crackdown on a civil rights movement demanding security rights and accountability for alleged grave abuses against the country’s ethnic Pashtun minority.

But as more leaders and activists of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement, better known by its initials, PTM, are killed, injured, beaten, arrested or forced into hiding, Pakistan’s political discourse is showing echoes of the creation of Bangladesh.

Nearly half a century ago, Bengali grievances in the former East Pakistan Province resulted in the dismemberment of Pakistan and the independence of Bangladesh in 1971. Since then politicians, activists, and scholars evoke the tragedy to remind the country’s powerful military not to go too far in suppressing dissent from minority ethnic groups.

“Grievances of [the Pashtuns] should be solved politically, not with force,” Khwaja Asif, a Punjabi politician and senior leader of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, told the parliament after PTM activists were killed by military fire in late May.

He urged Islamabad to cautiously handle ethnic “fault lines” because the country has paid a high price for failing to answer to diverse ethnic groups.

“Our history of the past 72 years is tragic. We have made mistakes. The mistakes in East Pakistan caused the separation of Bengal,” he told lawmakers.

“Unrest in Balochistan has continued on and off for many years,” he continued, alluding to the simmering separatist insurgency in the impoverished but resource-rich large southwestern province. During the past two decades, thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced by militant attacks and military sweeps. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: URBANISATION IN PAKISTAN (JUNE 6, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Urbanisation in Pakistan
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Thursday, June 6, 2019 (Posted)
By IGNACIO ARTAZA

Pakistan has the highest rate of urbanisation in South Asia. According to the 2017 Population Census, 36.4% of the population lives in urban areas.

The UN Population Division estimates that, by 2025, nearly half the country’s population will be living in cities. Urbanisation is generally considered to be closely related to economic growth, particularly in developed countries where they have often occurred in tandem. Globally, it is estimated that cities generate more than 80% of the global GDP. The more urbanised areas indicate higher per capita income and more employment opportunities. Urbanisation has positive impacts on technological innovation and economic progress.

Cumulatively, cities in Pakistan generate 55% of the GDP. Moreover, Pakistan generates 95% of its federal tax revenue from 10 major cities. Karachi alone generates 12-15% of Pakistan’s GDP and contributes 55% of the federal tax revenue of the country. Seven out of 10 major cities in Pakistan have larger per capita incomes than the average. Poverty in cities is generally lower (i.e. urban multi-dimensional poverty is one-sixth of that of rural areas).

However, recent research suggests that the relationship between urbanisation and growth is not automatic. Urbanisation in many developing countries has occurred without growth, jobs and productivity. Unplanned and unmanaged urbanisation has rather resulted into urban slums, environmental degradation, poverty and inequality. Pakistan too, is confronted with a host of urban challenges. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN MILITARY AGREES TO BUDGET CUT AMID ECONOMIC WOES (JUNE 6, 2019)

Written by admin on Thursday, June 6th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan Military Agrees To Budget Cut Amid Economic Woes
SOURCE: TOLO News
Thursday, June 6, 2019

* President Ghani To Visit Pakistan At The End Of June
* Khalilzad Welcomes Afghan, Pakistani Leaders’ Meeting

Pakistan’s military has agreed in a rare move to cut its hefty budget for a year to help ease the South Asian country’s “critical financial situation”, Prime Minister Imran Khan said.

Pakistan has struck an agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan but Islamabad is expected to put in place measures to rein in a ballooning fiscal and current account deficits to get access to the funds.

The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defense spending for fear of stoking tension with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan’s fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the generals who have ruled the nuclear-armed nation for nearly half its history since independence in 1947.

Pakistan’s de facto finance chief, Hafeez Shaikh, on June 11 is due to announce spending plans for the financial year beginning in July.

Under Pakistan’s devolved system, the federal government must hand over more than half its budget to the provinces, and the remainder is mostly eaten up by debt servicing and the military’s vast budget. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: NATO REAFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO SUPPORT AFGHAN FORCES (JUNE 5, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

NATO Reaffirms Committment To Support Afghan Forces
SOURCE: TOLO News
Wednesday, June 5, 2019

* NATO Allies and partners reaffirm their commitment to the financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces
* Mogherini, Ghani Discuss Prospects For Peace In Afghanistan
* NATO Envoy Sees Good Opportunity For Peace In Afghanistan

At the plenary meeting of the Afghan National Army Trust Fund Board on Tuesday, June 4, at NATO Headquarters – NATO Allies and partners confirmed their steadfast support to the financial sustainment of the Afghan security forces.

Together with representatives of the donors’ community, they reviewed the Trust Fund management, implementation and performance; and they outlined future requirements.

Participants included the Canadian Ambassador in Kabul, Dave J. Metcalfe (donor nation co-chair of the Trust Fund), Colin F. Jackson, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia (representing the Trust Fund manager), Lieutenant General Jim Rainey, Commander Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan, Mr. Mohammad Humayoun Qayoumi, Acting Afghan Minister of Finance, Mr. Abdul Hai Rauf, the Afghan Deputy Defence Minister; and Ms. Pesce-Monteiro, Director of the United Nations Development Programme Representation Office in Brussels. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ICE ON FIRE (JUNE 5, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, June 5th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Ice on fire
SOURCE: Dawn
Wednesday, June 5, 2019
By ERIC SHAHZAR

PAKISTAN faces massive turbulence every time a natural disaster takes place, with many blaming our ineffectual disaster management. One cannot erase the horrific memories of the 2010 floods in which millions were displaced and the economy took a $10 billion loss. While we have faced several disastrous floods throughout our history, with climate change accelerating, scientists predict that the country will soon be hit by ‘super floods’, causing unprecedented damage. Our glaciers are vanishing; we must take action before it is too late. Pakistan’s ice is on fire.

The destruction caused by climate change is being observed in all remote and cosmopolitan parts of Pakistan. Most of the damage is irrevocable, but minimising the effects of climate change must now be our top priority. Even with collective international effort to keep global warming within 1.5 degrees Celsius, Pakistan’s glaciers will still shrink by 36 per cent by the end of this century. The Hindu Kush and Himalayan Assessment report warns that ice loss at this scale will have grave consequences for billions living across South Asia — rising food insecurity, irreparable losses to the economy and intensified natural disasters.

Current climate-induced troubles are a sign of worse to come.

From our fragile economy to the climate, the PTI government has to contend with major challenges. Even after initiating the ‘billion-tree tsunami’, Pakistan still has one of the fastest deforestation rates in the region — our forest cover has shrunk to an abysmal 1.9pc. As per the UN’s standards, countries must have a forest cover of at least 25pc of total land, while urban areas must have a forest cover of more than 10pc. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: NEW US STRATEGY EXCLUDES PAKISTAN (JUNE 4, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

New US strategy excludes Pakistan
SOURCE: The News International
Tuesday, June 4, 2019

WASHINGTON: In its effort to counter China and Russia’s prospective influence in South Asia, the United States has introduced a new strategy that aims to strengthen economic and military ties with different countries in the region but excludes Pakistan altogether.

The strategy announced in a lengthy report identifies five South Asian countries as new allies and partners to achieve strategic objectives and for a more dynamic and distributed presence and access locations across the region. It says that the United States seeks to evolve its posture and balance key capabilities across South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Oceania.

“Within South Asia, we are working to operationalise our Major Defense Partnership with India, while pursuing emerging partnerships with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Nepal,” the report released by the Department of Defense says.

Calling Indo-Pacific as the Department of Defense’s priority theatre, the report titled ‘Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships, and Promoting a Networked Region’ details that the US will also continue to strengthen security relationships with partners in Southeast Asia with countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia, and sustaining engagement with Brunei, Laos, and Cambodia.

The Indo-Pacific contributes two-thirds of global growth in gross domestic product (GDP) and accounts for 60 percent of global GDP. This region includes the world’s largest economies – the United States, China, and Japan – and six of the world’s fastest growing economies – India, Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Nepal, and the Philippines. A quarter of US exports go to the Indo-Pacific, and exports to China and India have more than doubled over the past decade. This is made possible by free and open trade routes through the air, sea, land, space, and cyber commons that form the current global system, according to the report. (more…)