IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN’S BIG BREAKTHROUGH WITH THE IMF (FEBRUARY 13, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan’s big breakthrough with the IMF
SOURCE: Asia Times
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
By SABENA SIDDIQUI

In an unexpected turnaround, successful negotiations recently took place between Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief Christine Lagarde. They met on the sidelines of the seventh World Government Summit in Dubai (February 10-12), which was attended by heads of state, ministers and business leaders. Sharing his vision for the future of Pakistan in his keynote speech at the summit, Khan highlighted the pivotal importance of his country’s socioeconomic development.

Urging investors to take the plunge in new sectors of Pakistan’s economy, Khan highlighted fields such as artificial intelligence and green development. Referring to reforms aimed at improving the country’s financial outlook, Khan disclosed his plans to accelerate human development by spending more on health and education. Significantly, the prime minister observed, “The most important thing is that we must in Pakistan start a reform program. Reforms are painful but it is essential.”

As Lagarde was in the audience, this might have been the statement that set the tone for the pivotal talks between the IMF and Pakistan. Recounting the details, Khan said his government had undertaken to correct the country’s economic policies but it was not possible to address the ongoing crisis without taking lasting measures. Basically, increasing imports are Pakistan’s main problem and steps are being taken to reduce spending and narrow the fiscal gap. Changes in the tax laws have been implemented to facilitate business. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PM KHAN VERSUS GEN ZIAUL HAQ (FEBRUARY 13, 2019)

Written by admin on Wednesday, February 13th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PM Khan vs Gen Ziaul Haq
SOURCE: The News International
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
By MOSHARRAF ZAIDI

The big fear in the first half of 2018 was that there would be no election. Somehow, someone, somewhere would find an excuse to delay the election. The conduct of the election, even with the manipulation and engineering that many claim to have been victim of, is a big achievement for the country.

The results of the election were not unexpected. If the Sharifs and the Zardaris could no longer be tolerated by the powerful, a fresh new face with strong support across the country represented an ideal option. The theory was that a strongman in Pakistan with a huge urban base would be able to do a well enough job to steer the country out of the several crises that it faces.

Plenty of the criticism of Prime Minister Imran Khan is fair. But there is a lot of gamesmanship too. The PTI has become a major and, some may argue, dominant political force in the country because Pakistanis have sought change. The driving motivation for the average PTI supporter is reform. Though the exact census data for 2017 has yet to be released, estimates suggest that at least 70 percent of all Pakistanis alive today were born after 1971. This means that very few among voting adults in Pakistan can actually remember what the 1960s were like.

In short, the romance of a well-governed Pakistan is mostly fictional (based on elite recollections, marinated in whiskey and privilege, of how wonderful Ayub Khan’s dictatorship was). The problem this raises is quite complex. But the short version of it is that the whiny depictions of the Ayub era and the freedoms enjoyed by babus and begums at gymkhanas across the country back then is a fraud. For the vast majority of Pakistanis capable of voting and making decisions, the good old days are not the 1960s. The good old days are the 1980s. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: FORMER [AFGHAN] INTERIM PRESIDENT SIBGATULLAH MUJADEDDI PASSES AWAY (FEBRUARY 12, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Former Interim President Sibghatullah Mujaddedi Passes Away
SOURCE: TOLO News
Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was born on 21 April 1925. He served as president after the fall of Mohammad Najibullah’s government in April 1992.

He was the founder of the Afghan National Liberation Front and served as the chairman of the 2003 Loya Jirga, the Grand Assembly, that approved Afghanistan’s new Constitution after the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001.

In 2005, he was appointed chairman of the Meshrano Jirga, the Upper House of Parliament, and was reappointed as a member in 2011.

He also served on the Afghan High Peace Council. Mojaddedi was considered a moderate Muslim leader.

He was born on 21 April 1925 in Kabul.

Mojaddedi studied Islamic Law and Jurisprudence at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

In 1952 he returned to Afghanistan to teach in schools and at Kabul University, where he became known as an advocate of Afghan independence.

In 1959 he was accused of conspiring against then Soviet Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev and was imprisoned until 1964.

In 1973, he was forced into exile for his outspoken comments regarding Soviet influence in Afghanistan.

Following the Saur Revolution in 1978, Mojaddedi’s brother was killed during new communist government.

His period in exile was spent in several countries such as Denmark and Pakistan before his entry into Afghan politics. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN – THE IMF AGAIN (FEBRUARY 12, 2019)

Written by admin on Tuesday, February 12th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

The IMF again
SOURCE: Dawn
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Editorial

AFTER the meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde, the country has moved a step closer to entering its 13th Fund programme since the 1980s, when the era of structural adjustment began.

Details are scant but the language used by the Fund and the government in their respective official statements following the meeting suggests that Pakistan will have to agree to some tough conditions in return for a bailout and the Fund’s stamp of approval on the government’s economic policies. The IMF’s nod is essential to reopening access to international capital markets, among other things.

Mr Khan made the right decision to add his voice to the ongoing talks with the IMF.

Contact at the highest levels can impart valuable momentum to the talks that appeared to be dragging. Whatever vacillation and difference of opinion there may have been within the cabinet and among the advisers over the merits of approaching the IMF, these should now be put aside. Ms Lagarde’s statement called for “decisive policies and a strong package of economic reforms” — something the larger policy community within the country has been calling for all along as well. Now that the call has been taken up at the level of the prime minister, there is an expectation of a clear and credible forward movement along this track. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: ABDULLAH SAYS TALIBAN’S EFFORTS ARE FOR ‘CONCESSION’ (FEBRUARY 11, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, February 11th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Abdullah Says Taliban’s Efforts Are For ‘Concession
SOURCE: TOLO News
Monday, February 11, 2019
By SAYED SHARIF AMIRI

*Abdullah says the “obstinacy” of the Taliban is the main reason behind the war
* Ghani Suggests ‘Grand Consultative Jirga’ For Peace
* Doha Talks Inch Towards Troop Withdrawal ‘Agreement’

Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who is part of the national unity government established after 2014 controversial elections, once again lambasted Taliban for their refusal to talk with the Afghan government, saying that the efforts of the Taliban have been for “concession” not for having “real talks”.

“The main and the only reason behind the war is obstinacy of the Taliban who are not ready for real talks. The steps that they (Taliban) have taken have been for propaganda and concession, not for goodwill or for real and serious negotiations,” Abdullah said as he addressed the Council of Ministers’ meeting on Monday.

He said the involved parties in the Afghan peace process should show some sort of “flexibility” in order to continue the process. He added that the past years’ achievements should not be sacrificed in the process.

“Peace wants sacrifice but dreams of the people should not be sacrificed.
It means that this land belongs to all Afghans and all have the right to live in a feeling of peace with dignity,” he said.

Abdullah’s remarks are expressed amid the start of US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad’s another multi-nation trip for Afghan peace. This time, the US envoy will lead an interagency delegation to Belgium, Germany, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from February 10 – 28, according to the US Department of State. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: GAS AND GONE (FEBRUARY 11, 2019)

Written by admin on Monday, February 11th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Gas and gone
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Monday, February 11, 2019
By KAMAL SIDDIQI

These days, natural gas has been playing hide-and-seek with people all over Pakistan. In some places, like Karachi, gas simply disappears for hours on end. I have waited patiently for the gas to appear so that one can get a decent dinner. On many days, there has only been disappointment in store.

As we know, traditionally, gas supply comes under pressure in the winter months in the same way as electricity is in short supply in the summer months. But things have gotten progressively worse. How long can we ignore the fact that the situation isn’t getting any better?

The present gas supply situation was predicted at least two decades back and it is the lack of planning on part of successive governments which has brought us to this situation. We could have invested in other areas to ease the burden on this precious natural resource, but this did not happen.

We are now looking at import of gas to fulfill growing local demand which continues to rise with each passing year. This would add to our import bill.

There are now predictions that demand will ease off once the plethora of power plants go online and with Thar coal coming into the equation. While this is encouraging, the bigger question remains as to what we are doing on two fronts – gas conservation as well as alternative energies. We are a resource rich country but are not willing to turn this into a surplus of energy sources. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN URGED TO FREE TV REPORTER ARRESTED FOR ‘OBNOXIOUS’ TWEETS CRITICAL OF GOVERNMENT (FEBRUARY 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan Urged To Free TV Reporter Arrested For ‘Obnoxious’ Tweets Critical Of Government
SOURCE: Gandhara
Sunday, February 10, 2019

*Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that Razi had been arrested for social-media postings that allegedly violated Pakistan’s Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Pakistani authorities to release and drop all legal proceedings against television reporter Rizwan Razi, who is accused of making “defamatory” comments against the country’s authorities.

“Expressing opinions, even critical opinions, should not be a crime, in Pakistan or anywhere,” the New York-based media watchdog’s Asia Program Coordinator Steven Butler said in a statementon February 9.

“Justice — and Pakistan’s constitutional guarantee of freedom of the press — can only be served by Rizwan Razi’s immediate release,” Butler added.

Razi’s arrest comes as media workers and activists face unprecedented pressure from Pakistani authorities. Dozens of rights activists and journalists critical of authorities have been detained, arrested, or fled the country out of fear for their safety in recent years.

Razi — a TV host for Din News, a privately owned Urdu-language news station — was taken from his home and placed in custody in the eastern city of Lahore on the morning of February 9.

His son, Osama Razi, said that unknown men attacked his father and then dragged him into a car. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: WITH KABUL RIVER FLOWS CONTROVERSY (FEBRUARY 10, 2019)

Written by admin on Sunday, February 10th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

With Kabul River flows controversy
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, February 10, 2019
By ZOFEEN T. EBRAHIM

*Is joint management of Kabul River by Pakistan and Afghanistan possible as the orphan river finds few takers?

With flotsam, tonnes of plastic in the form of bags, bobbing forks, knives, even spoons, bowls and plates, the once happy Kabul River (KR), meandering across the city, is nothing more than a sewer. Where it meets the Indus at Attock, it is a ravaged and emotionless grey.

“The difference is all too stark,” says Azeem Shah, regional researcher at International Water Management Institute (IWMI). He may have stood at the very same spot on the Attock bridge over a dozen times; yet the sight of the two rivers flowing side by side never fails to fascinate him. “KR is greyish, while the Indus is a beautiful shade of blue,” he said.

Unclean and impure, the KR water serves over seven million people on both sides of the Durand Line, with the demand for it only expected to soar in the years to come.

With rising populations, ambitious development initiatives, increased energy needs, but more importantly, to avert water conflicts, experts on both sides of the border are calling for legally binding transboundary basin management plan. “A kind of a pact or way forward, not to divide the resource, but developed jointly to reap the benefits of the river basin,” explained Shah, who has been researching the river and the basin now for almost three years.

With tremendous hydropower potential in the upper reaches of KRB and agricultural potential further down, Asadullah Meelad, a lawyer at Afghanistan’s ministry of public works, agreed that options for “joint management of the water resources” can well be explored. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: TALIBAN CONTINUES TO HOST FOREIGN TERRORIST GROUPS, DESPITE ASSURANCES TO THE CONTRARY (FEBRUARY 9, 2019)

Written by admin on Saturday, February 9th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Taliban continues to host foreign terrorist groups, despite assurances to the contrary
SOURCE: The Long War Journal
Saturday, February 9, 2019 (Posted)
By THOMAS JOSCELYN and BILL ROGGIO

In its latest statement on the summit in Moscow, the Taliban stated “we do not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against other countries including neighbouring countries.” Although the Taliban has employed similar language for years, it is a demonstrably false claim.

The Taliban has continuously worked alongside jihadist organizations with regional and global aspirations, including al Qaeda.

Regardless, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, seems eager to accept the Taliban’s assurances. After a round of talks in Doha in late January, Khalilzad claimed that “significant progress” had been made “on two vital issues: counter terrorism and troop withdrawal.”

Khalilzad clarified what he meant by “counter terrorism” during an interview with The New York Times. “The Taliban have committed, to our satisfaction, to do what is necessary that would prevent Afghanistan from ever becoming a platform for international terrorist groups or individuals,” Khalilzad said.

This is remarkably credulous. As Khalilzad himself said, no agreement is yet in place. Nor has the Taliban offered any renunciation of al Qaeda in public. Therefore, he must be accepting what he was told in Doha.

Moreover, the Taliban has lied about its role in sheltering al Qaeda and affiliated groups since well before the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings. As the 9/11 Commission found, the Taliban told an American diplomat in Apr. 1998 that it didn’t know where Osama bin Laden was and, in any event, he wasn’t a threat to the United States. Four months later, on Aug. 7, 1998, al Qaeda operatives drove two truck bombs into the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHANISTAN PEACE TALKS | ANALYSIS (FEBRUARY 8, 2019)

Written by admin on Friday, February 8th, 2019

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

AFGHANISTAN PEACE TALKS|ANALYSIS
SOURCE: Asia Times
Friday, February 8, 2019
By M.K. BHADRAKUMAR

*The US must tap into intra-Afghan dialogue
*The Russians have shown that by being an honest broker, progress can be made

The two-day conference of mainstream Afghan politicians and Taliban representatives in Moscow on February 5-6 has become a landmark event in the peace process. Principally, it signifies the commencement of the ‘intra-Afghan dialogue,’ a process that was struggling to be born.

This process can be expected to galvanize the Afghan peace talks.

Some of the most senior and influential Afghan leaders actively participated in the Moscow conference, including former President Hamid Karzai, prominent figures in the Northern Alliance Atta Muhammad Nur, Yunus Qanooni and Muhammad Mohaqiq, Ahmad Wali Massoud and former National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar.

The embittered Afghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani has been reduced to a rump. It has censured the event in Moscow, but its own growing isolation is self-evident. Ghani is now openly critical of the dynamics of the US-Taliban talks, won’t associate with any ‘intra-Afghan dialogue’ and threatens to reject any peace formula that is reached without him.

Ghani’s mindset is – ‘After me the Deluge.’ His preoccupation is about his own political future. Simply put, panic – that he is at the end of the road – is mixing with bewilderment – that he is in reality so easily expendable – and anger – that the US is inexorably disengaging from him.

In fact, President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday completely omitted any reference to the Kabul set-up, let alone Ghani himself. (more…)