IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN SAYS TRUMP ASKS KHAN TO HELP BRING TALIBAN TO PEACE (DECEMBER 3, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Pakistan Says Trump Asks Khan To Help Bring Taliban To Peace Talks
SOURCE: Gandhara
Monday, December 3, 2018

Pakistan says U.S. President Donald Trump has written a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to ask for help with Afghan peace talks.

Pakistani Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said on December 3 that President Trump has “asked for Pakistan’s cooperation to bring the Taliban into talks.”

Chaudhry said Trump’s letter asked Pakistan to play a role in peace talks seeking to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

There was no immediate confirmation from the White House about Trump writing such a letter, which would be the first direct communication between the two leaders since Imran Khan came into power in August.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad also would not comment on Chaudhry’s announcement.

Trump has consistently criticized Pakistan since he launched his South Asia and Afghanistan strategy, despite attempts by the two governments to fix problems that have damaged their relations.

In November, Trump said in an interview that Pakistan doesn’t “do a damn thing” for the United States, despite billions of dollars in U.S. aid.

He also charged that Pakistani officials knew of former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s location in Abbottabad, Pakistan, before he was killed there in 2011 during a raid by U.S. special forces.

The Taliban has refused to deal directly with Afghanistan’s government, saying they would negotiate only with the United States.

The militants have also said NATO forces must withdraw from Afghanistan before negotiations can begin. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: PAKISTAN ECONOMY IMF BAILOUT (DECEMBER 3, 2018)

Written by admin on Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

PAKISTAN ECONOMY IMF BAILOUT
SOURCE: Asia Times
Monday, December 3, 2018
By KUNWAR KHULDUNE SHAHID

*Pakistan rupee plunges after govt cuts support amid bailout talk

The Pakistani rupee has retraced an all-time low against the US dollar as the American currency soared to 144 rupees, before eventually closing around 139 rupees in the interbank market.

The latest plunge in the value of the rupee comes as Islamabad negotiates a potential International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout to address its balance of payments crisis.

Finance Ministry officials have said that letting the Pakistani currency sink to its market value is one of the pre-conditions that the IMF team set during bailout talks last month.

Friday’s fall against the US dollar was the second biggest in six weeks and is a warning signal for the cash-starved economy as it cautiously approaches the international lender for a bailout.

The dollar’s value went up by 9.26 rupees in October, and it gained another 9.5 rupees in Friday’s interbank session.

This is the sixth time in less than a year that the rupee’s value has fallen to an all-time low against the dollar.

The freefall began last December when then Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, who had spearheaded the policy to keep the rupee’s value artificially around 100 against the US dollar, was hit by news about corruption cases, which helped reduce the Pakistani currency to around 110 to the dollar.

The second drop came in March this year, when the central bank cut its support, taking the rupee to 115 against the dollar, which was the final decrease in the currency’s value under the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

The caretaker government oversaw further devaluation of the currency in June and July, in a bid to address its balance of payment crisis. And the rupee has seen two big falls in October and November, as Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government looks to address the country’s plunging foreign-exchange reserves. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: HOW TO REVERSE DECLINE IN EXPORTS (DECEMBER 2, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

How to reverse decline in exports
SOURCE: The News on Sunday
Sunday, December 2, 2018
By FOQIA SADIQ

*A robust industrial policy with exports promotion is the key to cope with Pakistan’s economic crisis

Pakistan is in the midst of an undeclared economic crisis. The foreign exchange reserves are being boosted to avert an immediate crisis. Amongst other factors, a negative trade balance is also an important factor. In simple words, it means Pakistan is importing more from the outside world than it is exporting. It has been so for a long time. However, now it is at the level that it is contributing to economic sustainability crisis.

A cursory look at the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2017-18 informs us that the services sector is the largest contributor to the GDP (60.23 per cent), with industry (20.91 per cent) and agriculture (18.86 per cent) ranking way below it. If you further breakdown the contribution of industry, manufacturing only consists of 13.56 per cent out of the overall industrial output of 20.91 per cent. These figures illustrate the dismal manufacturing productivity in the country.

Declining exports reflect worsening of the current account balance. As per the Economic Survey, Pakistan’s exports were USD 25,078 million in 2013-14. They decreased to USD 14,234 million for 2016-17 July-February period and then slightly increased to USD 15, 970 million, according to the provisional figures for the corresponding 2017-18 July-February months.

There is a need to assess the reasons behind the perpetual decline in Pakistan’s exports. According to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Annual Report 2014-15, growth in Pakistan’s exports has been “patchy” and “volatile” since the 1970s largely due to inconsistent trade policies. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: HOW THE MOBILE PHONE IS TRANSFORMING PAKISTAN (DECEMBER 2, 2018)

Written by admin on Sunday, December 2nd, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

HOW THE MOBILE PHONE IS TRANSFORMING PAKISTAN
SOURCE: Dawn
Sunday, December 2, 201
By FAIZA SHAH

The generation of Pakistanis that grew up just as the information technology revolution reached Pakistan in the early 1990s is now moving and shaking the country. But while the early 1990s were about the transition from Commodore 64 to Nintendo and Sega consoles, a new Pakistan is being built by 200 million people in Pakistan through the power of their mobile phones. Step aside, mongers of change. Change is already here.

According to the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA), whereas mobile connections are significantly higher in urban centers, semi-urban areas such as Bahawalpur, Sadiqabad, Hyderabad, Abbottabad and Mardan lead the growth in mobile phone penetration in terms of percentage. And increased connectivity via cell phones enables to bring communities together.

In Thar, for example, camel owners used to put a bell around their animals’ necks so that in case it was lost, the owners could hear where the camel is in the desert quiet of Thar. Nowadays, the bells have disappeared. Instead, the owner’s mobile phone number is either hung around each camel’s neck or the number is carved onto the camel’s hide.

If a camel has wandered too far from its owner, whoever spots the camel can call their owner on their mobile number and tell him the location of the animal.

Pakistani society is changing but some of the most significant impacts on it — in terms of access to information, facilitation of businesses and how we interact with each other — are taking place imperceptibly because of ubiquitous cellular technology.

The phone memory very much reflects our own memory. We use it to record moments, make reminders or set alarms, access information from the internet and basically store all kinds of personal details, leaving a digital footprint automatically. How are we navigating our daily lives, connecting with our surroundings, as consumers and citizens equipped with the mobile phone? (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHAN EXPORTS THROUGH AIR CORRIDORS TOT TOTAL $100M (DECEMBER 1, 2018)

Written by admin on Saturday, December 1st, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghan Exports Through Air Corridors To Total $100M
SOURCE: TOLO News
Saturday, December 1, 2018
By ZABIHULLAH JAHANMAL

*Officials said government continues its efforts to inaugurate more air corridors in order to increase the country’s exports

The Public Relations Office of the Senior Advisor to President Ashraf Ghani in Banking and Finance said that so far Afghanistan has exported over 4,400 tons of local products to world markets through air corridors which is valued at least $80 million.

Sameer Rasa, Head of Public Relations Office of Senior Advisor to the President in Banking and Finance, said the total exports to other countries through air corridors will increase to 5,000 tons of goods by the end of this fiscal year – December 21 – which will value up to $100 million.

“We continue our efforts to increase the number of flights. We want to come to an agreement with other airlines as well to increase the flights. And also we are working on enhancing goods packaging,” said Rasa.

Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) meanwhile said the air corridors are playing a vital role in increasing the export of agricultural and other domestic products of Afghanistan.

The ACCI deputy head Khan Jan Alokozay said the value of the local products will increase to 50 percent if they are exported through air corridors to world markets.

“The air corridors have benefited farmers as well, because investors have sold the Afghan products with higher prices in world markets and the prices have increase here,” Alokozay said. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: SENIOR U.S. DIPLOMAT CALLS ON AFGHAN TALIBAN TO SEIZE ‘MOMENT OF OPPORTUNITY’ FOR PEACE TALKS (NOVEMBER 30, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, November 30th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Senior U.S. Diplomat Calls On Afghan Taliban To Seize ‘Moment Of Opportunity’ For Peace Talks
SOURCE: Gandhara
Friday, November 30, 2018

BRUSSELS — A senior U.S. diplomat has called on the Taliban to seize a “moment of opportunity” to open formal peace talks with the Western-backed Afghan government and negotiate an end to the 17-year conflict.

Alice Wells, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of South and Central Asian affairs, told RFE/RL that the “door had opened” for a possible peace settlement with the Taliban following President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of unconditional talks in February and an unprecedented cease-fire in June.

“The Afghan government is ready,” Wells told RFE/RL on November 29 in Brussels, a day after she attended a UN-sponsored two-day conference on Afghanistan in Geneva. “The Afghan people, and by that I mean the Taliban also, are ready. It’s a question of whether the Taliban leadership is prepared to take up this offer.”

Zalmay Khalilzad, an Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to Kabul and Iraq, was appointed in September to the U.S. State Department team that is leading the reconciliation effort and peace talks with the Taliban.

Khalilzad, who has held several rounds of preliminary talks with Taliban officials in Qatar, told reporters in Kabul this month that he was optimistic a peace deal with the militants could be reached before the presidential election in Afghanistan in April 2019. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: SANITATION AND POVERTY IN PAKISTAN (NOVEMBER 30, 2018)

Written by admin on Friday, November 30th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Sanitation and poverty in Pakistan
SOURCE: The Express Tribune
Friday, November 30, 2018
By HARI R LOHANO

Pakistan has one of the highest percentages of stunted children in South Asia. Nearly half of the country’s children are at a risk of dying before their fifth birthday! If they are lucky enough to survive, they are unable to live a healthy and active life. Alas, after 70 years of independence, a vast majority of Pakistan’s rural population still lacks access to basic human, social and economic services!

The World Bank’s report ‘When Water Becomes a Hazard: A Diagnostic Report on the Status of Water Supply, Sanitation and Poverty in Pakistan and its Impact on Child Stunting’ was released in the first week of November and is a timely contribution to the situation. The report provides a picture of the elite nature of social and economic services in the economy and its impact on the poor of the country.

One main focus of the report is on the widening rural-urban divide — in terms of the allocation of public resources and the provision of basic health and sanitation services. This leads to different levels of poverty persistence, poverty reduction and malnutrition in rural and urban areas of the country. The report analyses how the poor quality of water, toilets, sanitation and inadequate hygiene conditions causes child stunting and poverty, especially in rural areas.

The report, surprisingly, finds that head-count poverty has declined in the country by 35 percentage points between 2001/02 and 2013/14, from 64.3% to 29.6%. This decline in poverty is in line with the estimates presented in the Economic Survey of Pakistan (2015/16). However, it is less consistent with other studies on poverty and the economic performance of the country for the referred period. Haroon Jamal (2017) estimated that the incidence of poverty was 33% in 2001/02 and increased to 38% of the population in 2015/16. The macroeconomic performance of the economy, the real growth in GDP and the key economic indicators of the agriculture, manufacturing and service sectors did not perform well enough to provide a plausible explanation for any huge decline in poverty. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: INDIA’S INTRANSIGENT APPROACH (NOVEMBER 29, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

India’s intransigent approach
SOURCE: Dawn
Thursday, November 29, 2018
Editorial

THE inauguration of the Kartarpur corridor had many of the ingredients for what a normalised relationship between Pakistan and India could look like: the governments of Pakistan and India working together to facilitate people-to-people contact and religious tourism; Indian officials visiting Pakistan in a relaxed, even joyful manner; and a speech by Prime Minister Imran Khan that hit all the right notes of amity and regional peace and prosperity.

Mr Khan made no mention of the unfortunate diplomatic flap in September, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi rejected in extraordinarily harsh language Mr Khan’s offer to restart bilateral dialogue, and chose, instead, to focus on the theme of common responsibility.

“There have been mistakes on both sides … We should not live in the past. It should be used to learn lessons,” Mr Khan said yesterday.

Unhappily, the Indian government rushed to smother the goodwill generated by the inauguration of the corridor, and once again doused hopes that bilateral dialogue may be restarted soon.

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s extraordinary commentsyesterday leave no doubt that the hawks in the Indian ruling party and establishment continue to control Indian policy towards Pakistan.

What is less clear is what Ms Swaraj is hoping to achieve with her fierce rhetoric against Pakistan.

Perhaps the Indian foreign minister wanted to counter the joyous scenes from Narowal district yesterday that would otherwise have dominated the news cycle in both countries.

It was surely a muddled approach to achieving a small, though highly symbolic, breakthrough.

Ms Swaraj has stated that there will be no bilateral dialogue while there are “terrorist activities” inside India, allegedly sponsored or organised by Pakistan, but that is a roundabout way of saying there will be no dialogue at all in any circumstances. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: FOR CHINA, ISLAM IS A ‘MENTAL ILNESS’ THAT NEEDS TO BE ‘CURED’ (NOVEMBER 29, 2018)

Written by admin on Thursday, November 29th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

For China, Islam is a ‘mental illness’ that needs to be ‘cured’
SOURCE: Al Jazeera
Thursday, November 28, 2018
By KHALED A BEYDOUN

*China’s relentless campaign to erase the identity of the Uighurs continues, as the world remains silent
* China vows retaliation if US imposes sanctions over Xinjiang
* Academics condemn China over Xinjiang camps, urge sanctions
* Chinese city urges those ‘poisoned by extremism’ to surrender

Abdulla* goes to bed every night dreading that knock on the door, a knock he has heard in recurrent nightmares and in stories from neighbours. He expects it can come at any moment.

He is an ethnic Uighur and has always called Xinjiang his home. His forefathers lived and toiled atop this land for centuries, which the nascent communist Chinese government annexed in 1949. He is a father of two, a son and a daughter, and a devout Muslim – cautiously performing his five prayers every day behind the veil of secrecy his home temporarily offers him.

In the past months, several of his friends and colleagues have heard that dreaded knock on their doors and in the quiet of the night, disappeared with no trace or warning. Everybody, including Abdulla, knows where they have been taken and kept. But nobody knows for how long they will be held, nor do they know if they’ll ever come back home. Most are yet to return, and those who have returned are shells of their former selves, neighbourhood ghosts, warning others of what looms around the corner for Uighurs refusing to disavow Islam.

In August, a United Nations human rights panel reported that nearly 1.1 million Uighur Muslims were being held in concentration camps in Xinjiang – the autonomous region in western China, home to approximately 11 million Uighurs. Gay McDougall, who sits on the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, claimed that the imprisoned population could be as high as 2 million. Notwithstanding the estimates, the number of Uighur Muslims being arrested, uprooted from their families and lives, and imprisoned in concentration camps – for no other reason than being Uighur and Muslim – is rising with each passing day. (more…)

IN THE NEWS: AFGHANISTAN’S GHANI PRESENTS ‘ROADMAP’ FOR PEACE TALKS AT UN CONFERENCE (NOVEMBER 28, 2018)

Written by admin on Wednesday, November 28th, 2018

Selected by Olivier Immig & Jan van Heugten

Afghanistan’s Ghani Presents ‘Roadmap’ For Peace Talks At UN Conference
SOURCE: Gandhara
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said his government has formed a 12-strong negotiating team to seek a peace agreement with the Taliban, as he laid out what he called a “roadmap” for the talks.

“We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society,” Ghani told an international conference on Afghanistan in Geneva on November 28.

Earlier this month, U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad held talks with the Taliban in Qatar as the administration of President Donald Trump stepped up efforts to settle the Afghan conflict after more than 17 years of war.

The Taliban have long refused U.S. demands to directly negotiate with the Western-backed government in Kabul, which has struggled to counter attacks from the militant group since the withdrawal of most NATO combat troops in 2014.

The government has formed “the required bodies and mechanisms to pursue a peace agreement, Ghani said, adding,” We are now moving ahead into the next chapter of the peace process.”

Ghani said the 12-person negotiating team, comprised of both women and men, will be led by his chief of staff, Abdul Salam Rahimi.

The president also listed several principles that he said must form the backbone of any peace settlement.

These include respecting Afghanistan’s constitution and its provisions on women, as well as the rejection of interference in Afghanistan’s domestic affairs by foreign “terrorist” and criminal groups. (more…)