Friday, May 12, 2023

Pakistan Now: Darkest Before Dawn?

Pakistan is experiencing one of the darkest periods of its history. Political instability is eroding confidence in the nation's future. Declining economic growth and high inflation are hurting the people of all strata of society, particularly the poor whose numbers are rapidly rising. Is there any hope left for the country? Is it a case of the "darkest before dawn"? How do investors see it? 

Ex PM Imran Khan (R) with President Erdogan

Writing in the Time magazine immediately after the recent arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan, American investor, author and commentator Zachary Karabell who has invested in Pakistani startups sees rare hope for Pakistan. He sees Pakistan where Turkey was back in 2001-2003, "when a series of elections brought Recep Erdogan to power even as he was repeatedly disqualified by a military that was determined to retain control". Here's an excerpt of his article titled "The Contrarian Case for Pakistan" published in the current issue of Time Magazine: 

"To some degree, this is an argument of “well, it’s not as bad as they say.” But it’s also a way of highlighting that Pakistan today may be a case of darkest before the dawn. With elections schedule for the fall, and with Imran Khan the most likely victor of said elections unless is his arrest leads to his disqualification as a candidate, Pakistan is in a very similar position to where Turkey was in 2001-2003, when a series of elections brought Recep Erdogan to power even as he was repeatedly disqualified by a military that was determined to retain control. Imran Khan has many of the same strengths and weaknesses of Erdogan, who after championing Turkish democracy and economic reform, then turned into the very type of corrupt autocrat that he had once fought against. But he nonetheless unleashed massive economic potential in Turkey and has left its 80 million people materially better off over the past 20 years, even as hyperinflation and Erdogan’s recent economic ineptitude is now eroding that. Should Imran Khan return to the head the government, he may well usher in a similar period in Pakistan, even as he has his own authoritarian and demagogic tendencies". 

Here are some of the key points Karabell makes in his opinion piece:

1. Pakistan has a real and dynamic private sphere that is not only seeing a start-up and new business ecosystem that has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars a year for the past few years but operates freely in a way that would be inconceivable in many other countries. Compare it to Egypt, for example, which receives far less negative attention and more foreign money yet is almost entirely dominated by a military dictatorship. Or Algeria. And then there are countries which barely function at all, dominating a whole swath of Sub-Saharan Africa but also dot central Asia (Tajikistan anyone?).

2. Pakistan is the fifth most populous country in the world with 230 million souls, a median age of barely 22 and two-thirds of the population under the age of 30. That means unlike most of the world, it has a favorable demographic future.

2. Unlike, say, Nigeria, where the ethnic divisions and decades of corruption mean that it well-nigh impossible to treat the country as one unified market for goods and services, Pakistan is one common market even with its various tribal divisions.

Pakistan Population Youngest Among Major Asian Nations. Source: Nikkei Asia

Karabell concludes with the following: 

Pakistan is on a cusp. We should honor the fact that whichever way the consensus believes it will go, the country is also poised to breakout on the upside. Which path will only be clear in retrospect, but we should pay more attention to the potential of things going right along with the legitimate focus on all that is going wrong.


Vineeth said...

As I see it, the future of Pakistan depends a lot on whether its political system can shake itself free of the military establishment's shenanigans. Pakistan is pretty unique in that respect even by South Asian standards. Barring a period of military dicatorship in Bangladesh, in no other South Asian nation does the military leadership dominate and direct politics. The servitude of Pakistan's political class to the boys in Pindi and the susceptibility to its moods and whims has apparently prevented Pakistan from developing a stable political system - which is prerequisite to economic development.

Obaid said...

Imran Khan is not a capable leader who can steer the economy in good direction. He is more like a con artist. Not only he himself is giving false information to public as a mind control technique, his supporters are acting more like Hindutva trolls.

Since he left office, he and his supporters are presenting twisted facts of Bangladesh liberation war as if all the mistakes were done by west Pakistan and there was no conspiracy on Mujeeb's behalf before 1970 elections. There is plenty more misinformation from IK directly.

Right now elections are not required, technocratic setup is required. Our country need stability for at least 30 years. Army should stay away from political side, but together Army, Judiciary and Bureaucracy should find a solution to setup a technocratic team. The kind of overnight tabdeeli that IK wants is not possible. Furthermore IK has no vision, how he would go about to turn Pakistan's economy into prosperous one. So, far during his 3.5 years in power and almost one year outside on roads there is more talk and hooliganism then achievement. He is definitely spreading propaganda to weaken the state institutes. I despite not liking PDM must say there is a truth to PDM's statement that IK is a Fitna.

He has no idea about conflict resolution either, but he wants to go till end even if country disintegrates. As, of today they (PTI) supporters are cheering for Chief Justice because most of his judgements are in IK's favour, however I am sure if in future CJP gave some judgements that are against PTI/IK trolling will begin against CJP as well.

IK should have been in parliament as opposition leader to protest there, instead of being on the road all the time. His frequent U-turns are another bluff, he makes his supporters spread disinformation then takes a U-turn and supporters start again spreading false propaganda. IK/PTI has deliberately refused their democratic right to sit in parliament as opposition but now they are continuously seeking their democratic right of peaceful protests on the roads. Their excessive use of this democratic right of peaceful protests is a diminishing factor for other individuals to enjoy their fundamental rights. CJP should take notice of that on balance of probabilities if PTI should be restricted to do more sit-ins and gatherings, because they already had enough after rejecting to sit as opposition in parliament.

Anonymous said...

What technocratic setup?

Where are these shy but super capable technocrats who can solve all problems?

This is the updated version of some farishta showing up and solving all problems in record time.

Such farishtas never existed and neither do such technocrats.

Pakistan will get worse before it gets better.Brace yourself!








Anonymous said...

Imran Khan is 70 years old. Erdogan was 49 when he became PM. Will that make a difference?

Riaz Haq said...

When #Manipur was burning #Indian tv focused on turmoil in #Pakistan. It showed those visuals because it could secure them #from #Pakistani media that was actively covering #ImranKhan’s arrest. But Indian media had no cameras on ground In Manipur

By Sanjaya Baru

Arresting advocates of Khalistan and of Jihadism without arresting advocates of a Hindu Rashtra is not in India’s national security interests in the long run.

The national security challenge both within Pakistan and within India is essentially a domestic challenge of rising economic inequality, religious extremism and regional sectarianism. Of course, India has been a victim of cross-border terrorism and Pakistani state agencies are responsible for this. Pakistan too alleges that it is a victim of ‘cross border terrorism’, emanating from both its eastern and western borders. However, the challenge to national security in both countries comes increasingly from domestic sources. It would be no exaggeration to say that internal threats to national security pose a greater challenge in both countries than external threats to security.

A Pakistani columnist, Huma Yusuf, summed up the challenge to her country in words that could easily find an echo this side of the border.

“The number of issues around which Pakistanis should be coalescing is staggering: food security, safety, dignity of work, free speech, minority rights, welfare protections, healthcare provisions, climate resilience. Until we can craft a politics that champions for the people rather than against their overlords, our future will be riot, not reform.”

Why Pakistan became a laggard

Pakistan’s problems are rooted in its domestic political and economic evolution. It is often forgotten that in the period 1960-1980 Pakistan’s economy grew at annual rate of 6.0% while India’s growth rate was 3.5%. In the 1990s, this was reversed with India growing annually at close to 5.5% and Pakistan slowing down to an annual average growth rate of less than 4.0%. Pakistan also performed better on the foreign trade front than India till 1990. In the 2000s, Pakistan has paid a heavy price on the economic and development fronts thanks to the course its domestic politics took.


That was not to be.

The Pakistan middle class began to migrate in large numbers to West Asia and western nations, leaving the country in the hands of traditional feudal elites. It is into this vortex that Imran Khan entered, with the help of the military, seeking to stabilise the country internally. However, as Pakistan scholar Ayesha Siddiqa observed recently, while Imran’s supporters came to “express 70 years of anger” against the traditional elite, “the crowd was also raised by the military to think it has the right to own and drive the State.”

Taking Siddiqa’s analysis forward in a perceptive analysis of the situation in Pakistan, Praveen Swami adds:

“The religious right-wing positioned itself as the pole of political resistance to the elitism of the post-colonial state…The religious Right enjoyed influence far in excess of its demonstrated electoral success because of the reluctance of the secular centrist parties to challenge Islamism head-on. Each wanted to recruit Islamism to its side, not seeing it as a threat to democracy.”

Just as Pakistan has experienced a massive out-migration of its educated middle class, along with elements of the elite and working classes, India too has experienced what I have termed as the ‘secession of the successful’ with both the Indian middle class and urban rich migrating overseas. Adding to the out-migration of working class talent (West Asia), and the educated middle (English-speaking countries) we now have the growing out-migration of business and what are called High Net worth Individuals or HNIs.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Ships Fuel Oil as Economic Crisis Hits Power Usage

Fuel oil-exports from Pakistan swelled to a record last month as the nation that’s typically been an importer of the fuel faces lower domestic demand on cooler weather and a crippling economic crisis.

The South Asian country shipped out 164,000 tons in April, the largest volume since at least 2017, according to Kpler data compiled by Bloomberg. It did not import any fuel oil during March and last month, according to the figures.

The unprecedented flows came against a backdrop of severe economic dislocation, with activity slumping, inflation soaring, and the currency weakening. At present, officials are in talks with the International Monetary Fund to restart a $6.5 billion bailout program key to avoiding a default.

Pakistan’s power usage is far below year-ago levels, Energy Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said in a recent interview. There’s weaker demand for electricity caused by relatively cool weather and higher power prices, he said.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan Ex-PM #imranKhanPTI Says Police Surrounded His House, Arrest Imminent. Khan was arrested last week in a corruption case before a court granted him bail. His arrest had sparked violent protests across the nation, killing at least eight. #PTI

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said police had surrounded has his house and that his arrest was imminent.

Khan was arrested last week by the anti-graft agency in a corruption case before a court granted him bail. His arrest had sparked violent protests across the nation, killing at least eight.

Riaz Haq said...

Zalmay Khalilzad
I was concerned for #Pakistan before, but a recent speech by the Army Chief has led me to believe that things are truly dire. His closed-door angry tirade to senior officers in Sialkot has been reliably shared with me. The entire speech was alarming but two points stand out:(1/6)

Waqar Malik
My Sources confirm what Hafiz said in his speech in Sialkot!

Hafiz shouted for two hours at the top of his lungs He was boiling with anger..he said this is war. Said i will pursue this war relentlessly
He said your mother ie institution been raped 9 May was 9/11 of the Pakistan Army IK wants haqeeqi azadi from the Pakistan Army He wants to undo the idea of Pakistan
He wants to destroy Pakistan's army and hence destroy Pakistan, the same way it happened in Iraq and Libya IK has the same role as Gorbachev who broke USSR
IK has the same role as Gorbachev who broke USSR IK is corrupt. He took billions from Malik Riaz. He took acres of land in Bani Gala and got the Zaman Park complex renovated/reconstructed by Malik Riaz Everyone in PTI is corrupt Aamir Kiyani did corruption worth Billions. I have evidence to IK but he made him sec gen
I will keep Jinnah House in its present form. I will hand pictures of bastards who were involved, who planned, who abetted, who participated. Esp the verterans (Retd). I will hang pics of their wives and their children. I will shame them. I will make children from universities, colleges, and schools visit
Jab PPP ne 80s mein masti ki, hum ne un ko maar maar Kar un Ka bhurkas Nikal diya. Jab PMLN be masti ki, hum ne un Ka bhurkas Nikal diya. Phir MQM Ka bhurkas Nikal diya. Abb PTI ne masti ki haiz in Ka aisa bhurkas nikalain gay key qabar tak yaad rakhain gay The people do Pakistan love us. They are coming out in thousands to support us

They are coming out on roads. Thet are showering love on us Social media is more than 90% all fake. This 6 inch screen is all fake. Ppl love us I have instructed govt that I will not settle for less than 25% increase in pay for army 35% rebate will be given to all.offrs at CSD now PTI has not been punished till now. They will be punished now
If I have to go down I will take these goons with me. It's a War

I will fight this war till the very end He targets Retd ppl a lot..Called them bastards..He said PTI planned these. They were very well planned attacks. We will punish each and every one..Thee goons don't reflect the collective will of the people of Pakistan..He particularly gave details of corruption of Aamir Kiyani (and today ISI made him leave PTI )
He is triggered because of IK naming him in international media He said IK will be okay with it if they postpone elections to next year, all he wants is that his corruption case should not be pursued. He said now they r giving explanations. Yeh kambal mein inhain utarnay Nahin don ga

Riaz Haq said...

It’s Time for the Generals to Let Go in Pakistan
Imran Khan’s arrest is cycling the country through crisis yet again.

At first, Khan, a former star cricketeer who rose to power on a populist platform, was close to the military. When the generals thrust Khan into office, in 2018, he was more pliable than most politicians. The two sides openly shared power, inaugurating what became known as a “hybrid regime.” Decisions were taken at military headquarters and dutifully signed off on in the prime minister’s office. The intelligence agencies acted as enforcers, locking up opponents, muzzling journalists, disappearing critics, leaning on judges, and whipping parliamentary votes. The generals liked the former cricket legend’s charisma, his nationalism, and his self-styled crusade against corruption. It was all going well for the men in uniform—until he overstepped.

Pakistan’s military jealously guards its chain of command, where the top general maintains a firm sense of authority, and when Khan tried to insert his own voice, the top brass turned on him. It pulled its support, leaving Khan vulnerable to a vote of no confidence last April. By any measure, if he had been allowed to complete a full term in office, Khan would have struggled to get reelected. His politics were divisive, his policies ineffective. But now he has become a magnet for sympathy, skillfully casting himself as an embattled hero fighting for his people’s “real independence.”

Khan was ostensibly arrested on corruption charges. In total, he says he is facing 148 cases, including allegations of “terrorism,” “sedition,” and “blasphemy.” But the motivation behind these cases has little to do with notions of transparency or accountability. This is an attempt to eliminate him from contention in this year’s general election. Leaders of Khan’s party have been arrested and, allegedly, in some cases, tortured. More have been arrested at more junior levels, and even peaceful protests led by Khan’s supporters have been crushed by the police. The military is now threatening to prosecute the suspected rioters in its own courts, in brazen violation of international law. Anyone involved in inciting or carrying out violence should be held accountable, but through fair trials in civilian courts.

By pursuing its vendetta against Khan, the military is putting its own standing at risk. His supporters aren’t found in remote rural areas. They are concentrated in Pakistan’s main towns and cities. They include members of the elite and the assertive and social media-savvy middle classes, with vast numbers of people whose relatives are serving in the military or have done before. Rarely has hostility toward the military seeped so deep into its own heartlands. There is even open talk of splits among the Army’s own high command.

The generals may not realize it now, but a permanent withdrawal from politics would be in their best interests. Their hybrid experiment didn’t just fail—it disastrously backfired. The military can only assert its will now through force, shedding support in the process. By stepping aside, much of the hostile attention would fade. They would also have space to heal internal rifts and rebuild their much-damaged public image.

There are only two plausible alternatives to a free and fair election in Pakistan this year: a tainted one, or a military coup. If Khan isn’t allowed to take part, the elections will lack legitimacy in the eyes of many Pakistanis. The results won’t be accepted, and the crisis will endure. Moreover, any government that emerges from such a process will be weak and constantly vulnerable to the manipulations of the military—much like the current coalition government. It could be swept aside at any moment, triggering a fresh crisis.

A military coup is unlikely, but not impossible. But if the generals grab power for themselves, they won’t deliver stability. Instead, they will plunge Pakistan deep into the abyss—it will be isolated globally and ruined economically.

Riaz Haq said...

The end of the affair: How Imran Khan went from the Pakistan Army’s saviour to its nemesis

The army's headquarters, General Headquarters (GHQ), probably the most secure place in Pakistan, was breached and people trampled on the signboards with military logos.

A senior general's house in Lahore was ransacked - Khan's supporters videoed themselves while setting his furniture and cars on fire. One protester walked away wearing the general's uniform, another made away with his pet peacock.
It had all the symbols of a revolution, except that it wasn't. Imran Khan was first loved by the army, then shunned by them, now his supporters were settling their scores. It was less of a revolution and more of a lovers' spat.

It's almost a rite of passage for every prime minister to fall out with the Pakistan army.

The country's first elected Prime Minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, was hanged, his daughter Benazir Bhutto was dismissed twice as a prime minister and her assassination, by a teenage suicide bomber, was never fully investigated. Nawaz Sharif was dismissed, jailed, exiled - now again in exile, he rules by proxy via his younger brother Shehbaz, but still can't return to the country.

After Imran Khan's arrest his supporters did what no mainstream political force has done before. Instead of taking to the streets in protest, they invaded the cantonment areas and showed the citizens how Pakistani generals live: in huge mansions with swimming pools and acres of lawns where peacocks roam.

Just before he was picked up, Khan singled out Pakistan Army's chief of staff General Asim Munir as the man trying to crush his political party.

Before that he had called the former army chief General Bajwa, who was instrumental in bringing and sustaining him in power, a traitor. He also named an ISI general for being responsible for a failed assassination on him. He and his supporters repeatedly called the accused general Dirty Harry in public rallies.

Many Pakistani politicians in the past have named and shamed the army as an institution but Pakistanis are not used to seeing the images of a Corps Commander's house on fire, women protesters rattling the gates of GHQ, and the statues of decorated soldiers being toppled.

This was exactly what the current government, a coalition of almost all the political parties opposed to Khan, needed to hit back.

The government has been trying to get out of an impending national election, which according to many opinion polls Khan is likely to win. Now many government politicians are calling for an outright ban on his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) - its name means Movement for Justice.

In the past, reprisals against politicians who have taken on the army have been swift.

Ali Wazir, an elected assembly member who called out the army's sympathies for the Taliban, was in jail for two years and was not even allowed to attend the National Assembly. Thousands of political workers from Balochistan have been forcibly disappeared and no Pakistani court or mainstream political party is interested in their plight.

So how come Imran Khan, despite facing dozens of charges, is still roaming free?

The perception is that he has polarised the establishment itself. There are officers and their families within the army who are enamoured by him. There is the judiciary which has been extending his bail. After spending one day in a lock-up, Pakistan's highest judge called him to court, said "happy to see you", and put him in a state guest house. The next day another judge released him.

Imran Khan has won over a massive constituency in Pakistan that abhorred politics and politicians before he came along. His message of clean governance and justice has popular appeal - although when Khan was in power corruption actually increased and he put many of his political opponents in jail.

Riaz Haq said...

Secunder Kermani
What's behind the mass exodus of senior figures from Imran Khan's party?

I spoke to a number of politicians who have publicly quit:

Asked one if a carrot or stick was used?

"It was all stick"

They said there were threats to disappear them & references to their family's safety

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s New Middle Class
Neo Pei En, Phedra, Amit Ranjan

15 December 2022

New Middle Class

The new middle class is distinct from the old middle class. Its members work in mid-level positions, often in the private sector or have families making money through semi-skilled jobs in the Middle East or North America.[33] They rose mainly during Musharraf’s rule, whose economic reforms allowed many to join the middle class though his subsequent actions disillusioned them.[34] In 2008, more than 50 per cent of Pakistanis lived in towns of more than 5,000 people or more – this increasing urbanisation indicates most of the middle class could be found in urban areas.[35]


This new middle class is also evolving as it uses social media to interact with the outside world more. It is “a global pioneer in digitally fuelled amplification of protests” and has the power to take down governments.[46] Currently, its identity is diversifying with the additional mix of freelancers and gig workers. The ease of accessing information with the rise of the internet contributed to the middle class’ increased connectivity with the world through digital means. This would, therefore, continue to have an effect on the Pakistani middle class. It may lead to new developments as protests are now initiated online and can reach more people instantaneously, which is a great way to swiftly gather a large following.

As is seen in many countries, including Pakistan, there is a global consensus that the rise of new information and technologies has changed the political arena.[47] With heightened access to the internet and unrestricted information, the middle class, particularly the youths, are likely to receive more information and be mobilised from such online platforms that would influence their political views. This can be seen from the throngs of middle-class youths that support Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who have been mobilised by the PTI through digital media both in the past and in the present.[48] The PTI’s ability to use social media platforms, broadcast videos and initiate blog postings have led them to successfully attract the viewership of the youths and the middle class. The evolution of the new middle class, which has also included increased access to the internet, combined with the political parties’ deft use of digital media, will change how political parties function in Pakistan in the long run.

Further, other factors, such as Imran’s populist politics, may have a part to play in galvanising apolitical youths.[49] With their contempt for politicians of the past and their corrupt ways, the new middle class and youths threw their support behind Imran for his promises to implement large-scale political change and his stand against status quo politics.[50] The effects of this support in pushing Imran back to being the leader of Pakistan remain to be seen. Given their fervent support for Imran and his politics, the middle class is likely to have a role to play if that happens.


Over the course of Pakistan’s history, the middle class has seen itself morphing, transiting from the old to one that now includes the new middle class. The new middle class appears to subscribe to a slightly different set of religious values and leadership compared to the old middle class. The identities and aspirations of the new middle class, along with their engagement in Pakistani civil society, may continue to change as they grow in size and influence. In the contemporary times, many in this new middle class viewed the old leaders as corrupt politicians who have damaged the country. In this regard, Imran’s pledge to fight corruption and his vow to create a Naya Pakistan (new Pakistan) are directly responding to the imperatives of the new middle class. As a result, a sizeable portion of the middle class supports him, which could trigger political changes and restore Imran to power.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s Powerful #Military Faces Defiance From #Judges. Analysts say courts’ recent decisions — which effectively bolstered #ImranKhan’s political prospects — were as much a reflection of #judiciary’s budding political muscle as military’s battered image

For most of Pakistan’s eight-decade history, its courts were largely aligned with the country’s powerful military. They gave three coups a legal stamp of approval, disqualified dozens of politicians who had fallen out of favor with the generals, and turned a blind eye to the disappearances of political dissidents.

But with Pakistan in the grip of a political crisis that has sparked violent protests across the country, the judiciary has openly contradicted the military and emerged as a political force in its own right, analysts say. In recent months, as former Prime Minister Imran Khan has clashed with the military and current civilian government, the courts have issued ruling after ruling that have thwarted what many consider attempts by the military to sideline Mr. Khan from politics.

That defiance was highlighted earlier this month, when shortly after the authorities arrested Mr. Khan in a corruption inquiry, the courts declared his arrest unlawful, ordered his release and granted him bail.

It is a striking shift in Pakistan, where the military has long acted as the country’s ultimate political power broker: Directly ruling for over half of the country’s existence and acting as the veiled power behind civilian governments. And as the courts strike out on their own, they are injecting even more uncertainty into an already volatile political climate.

“So much of politics is about the military,” said Yasser Kureshi, a lecturer in South Asian studies at Oxford University. “Now that the court is a center of power in its own right, the court has worked out its ability to manipulate and mold politics in its interests.”

Analysts say the courts’ recent decisions — which effectively bolstered Mr. Khan’s political prospects — were as much a reflection of the judiciary’s budding political muscle as the military’s battered image.

Since Mr. Khan was ousted in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last year, he has railed vehemently at the generals and accused them of conspiring against him. His supporters have followed suit, disparaging military leaders on social media and recently storming military installations — once unimaginable scenes in a country where few have dared defy the security establishment.

Still, observers have cautioned against hailing the courts’ recent rulings as a shift to more independent or democratic politics in Pakistan. Many critics say that rather than acting as a more independent body looking to curb the military’s meddling, the courts are themselves enmeshed in politics, with some judges harboring deep loyalty to Mr. Khan.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan’s Powerful #Military Faces Defiance From #Judges. Analysts say courts’ recent decisions — which effectively bolstered #ImranKhan’s political prospects — were as much a reflection of #judiciary’s budding political muscle as military’s battered image

“For the judiciary, there is this tinge of independence now that they are able to sustain some pressure from the establishment,” said Ali Qasmi, a lecturer at The Lahore University of Management Sciences. “At the same time there is a clear kind of pro-Imran Khan tendency within the courts as well.”

Senior judges in Pakistan play a substantial role in judicial appointments. The chief justice of the Supreme Court leads a commission that nominates judges for the top and high courts, who are then confirmed by a parliamentary committee. The mandatory retirement age is 65 for Supreme Court judges, and 62 for those in the high courts.

While the judiciary’s power does not come close to rivaling that of the military, in recent weeks military leaders have responded forcefully to tip the scales back in their favor and signal their ultimate dominance.

Last week, military officials announced that protesters who attacked military installations in response to Mr. Khan’s arrest would be tried in military — not civilian — courts. Several prominent leaders from Mr. Khan’s party have also been arrested by the police shortly after being granted bail. The moves, many observers say, were a military effort to intimidate Mr. Khan’s supporters and show that the courts alone cannot protect them.

For much of Pakistan’s turbulent history, the country’s judiciary was seen as a junior partner of the military, a tool used to legitimize its more direct forays into the political sphere. It offered legal justification when military generals seized power from civilian governments in 1958, then in 1977 and again in 1999. They also provided legal cover in the 1990s when the military dismissed two governments, both led by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

In the following decade, when a chief justice of the Supreme Court began to challenge the state’s use of power, the country’s military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, suspended the justice. The move caused uproar across the country and sparked a nationwide movement in support of the justice, who was eventually reinstated.

The interests of the courts and the military then seemed to coincide. Empowered by the notion of defending the public’s interests, the courts set out to root out the entrenched corruption among Pakistan’s political dynasties — just as those very dynasties were falling out with military leaders. In doing so, the courts also helped pave the way for Mr. Khan — the former cricket star who campaigned as an anti-corruption crusader and was embraced by the military — to win the election in 2018.

“Two things were happening in parallel: The first was the court was more empowered” after the nationwide movement to reinstate the ousted chief justice, said Saroop Ijaz, a senior counsel at Human Rights Watch, the international watchdog group. “And the second is the military realized an empowered court was a great partner to influence political outcomes, to send prime ministers home without a direct military intervention.”

Riaz Haq said...

Has #ImranKhan lost his battle with #Pakistan army? His #PTI party colleagues are throwing in the towel one by one, as the #generals go to war with him, the country’s most popular politician. #Military brass is aided by opportunists from #PMLN #PPP #PDM

Not long ago Imran Khan looked like a man who had defied Pakistan’s all-powerful generals and got away with it. After his arrest by paramilitary goons on May 9th, the former prime minister was freed by a Supreme Court order—even though his outraged supporters had had the temerity to smash up military installations around the country. As Pakistan’s most popular politician, with a legion of committed activists and apparently no fear of the army, Mr Khan looked odds-on to win a general election due later this year.

Barely three weeks later, the political walls have caved in on him. The generals have in effect dismantled the party Mr Khan founded in 1996, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (pti). Scores of its senior leaders have defected and thousands of its supporters have been arrested. The government of Shehbaz Sharif is openly mulling banning the party. Mr Khan, who faces dozens of charges including corruption and blasphemy, could be tried by a military court—and perhaps expect a long political exile at best. Pakistan’s beleaguered civilian institutions appear, for now, to be firmly back under the army’s sway.

Whether under orders from the military or out of sheer opportunism, the government of Shehbaz Sharif is backing the pti’s dismantlement. It cites the urgent need to restore economic and political stability. Pakistan’s economy barely grew over the past year. Due to a collapse in the rupee, annual income per person dropped by nearly $200 in dollar terms, to $1,568. Annual inflation is estimated to have hit 37% in May. With foreign exchange reserves barely sufficient to cover a month’s worth of imports, there remains a real risk of sovereign default. The imf this week urged the government to respect constitutional means in resolving the political crisis and reiterated that Pakistan must obtain “sufficient financing from partners’‘ before it releases a long-stalled $1.1bn in bail-out funds. China is expected to roll over $2.3bn in loans in June.

An irony of Mr Khan’s fall, not lost on Pakistanis, is that he was once promoted by the army as a means to suppress other civilian parties, including Mr Sharif’s. After he became prime minister in 2018 some observers described his government as a civil-military “hybrid”. But the generals eventually tired of his grandstanding and narcissism, leading to his ouster last year in a no-confidence vote.

The attacks unleashed on army buildings by his supporters on May 9th, including the ransacking of a house belonging to the commanding general in Lahore, were unprecedented and, it is now clear, intolerable to the generals. An army spokesman promised a crackdown on all “planners, instigators, abettors and perpetrators” of the violence. Penitent pti leaders have since been paraded before journalists, condemning the violence, dissociating themselves from Mr Khan and pledging fealty to the army. Many of them have renounced politics altogether. Rights organisations accuse the government of using the crackdown to detain peaceful opponents alongside alleged rioters.

Riaz Haq said...

Has #ImranKhan lost his battle with #Pakistan army? His #PTI party colleagues are throwing in the towel one by one, as the #generals go to war with him, the country’s most popular politician. #Military brass is aided by opportunists from #PMLN #PPP #PDM

The generals will now be weighing their options. On the basis of their past campaigns against civilian politicians who dared to disappoint them, these will include jailing Mr Khan, nudging him into exile, disqualifying him from politics and, though it seems unlikely, allowing him to contest the election at the head of whatever remains of his party. Or they may decide that the election will not be held—there are rumours that they mean to form a technocratic government instead. Mr Khan, for his part, remains defiant. Challenging the government to “break as many people as you want”, he has called for early elections.

In any event, political and economic stability is likely to remain elusive. Mr Khan’s sidelining will not make him less popular. Mr Sharif and, for that matter, whoever the generals pick to lead the country next will have to contend with vast numbers of disaffected pti supporters. And so will the generals, whose relentless political interference has, thanks to Mr Khan, now made them a principal target for Pakistanis’ justified rage. “The army can’t help itself,” says Zahid Hussain, a political commentator. “Its urge to intervene is irresistible.” And yet it has never seemed more self-defeating.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan sees 12.8% drop in #remittances to $28.48 billion during FY 2022-23. Last year (FY 2021-22), the remittances sent by overseas Pak workers rose 6.1% to a record high of over $31 billion in the fiscal year (FY) of 2021-2022. #ImranKhanPTI

Experts say declining remittances owe to people’s preference of using informal money channels instead of banks
KARACHI: Pakistani financial experts and currency traders said on Wednesday the 12.8 percent decline in the country’s remittance inflows in the outgoing fiscal year was due to the preference of expatriates to utilize informal channels to send money amid a significant exchange rate disparity between the interbank and open markets.

According to official statistics, Pakistan witnessed a decline of 4.4 percent in remittance inflow in the last month, which stood at $2.1 billion. The data shared by Pakistan’s central bank on Tuesday indicated that the reduction in remittances in May amounted to 10.4 percent on an annual basis. This is despite the fact that the country needs improved remittance inflows since it desperately needs dollars amid a decline in its official reserves to a dangerously low level of $3.9 billion.

Pakistan received 12.8 percent less remittances in the outgoing fiscal year beginning in July 2022. The cumulative inflows of $24.8 billion were recorded during the first 11 months of FY23, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). In absolute terms, remittances have declined by $3.68 billion during the fiscal year compared to the previous year’s $28.48 billion inflows.

The major contributors to Pakistan’s remittance are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), although the inflows from the kingdom have also declined by 16.3 percent to $5.9 billion since July 2022, while the inflows from the UAE dropped by over 19 percent to $4.3 billion, according to the official data.

“The decline in inflows can be attributed primarily to Pakistani expatriates opting for informal channels instead of banks when sending money to their families in the country,” said Faizan Munshey, senior consultant at One Investments, Dubai, speaking to Arab News.

“This shift is driven by illegal hawala-hundi operators in the black market offering more favorable exchange rates or rupee-dollar parity, leading a portion of non-resident Pakistanis to choose informal channels for fund transfers.”

Currency dealers said the demand in the unofficial market was higher as some importers rushed to arrange for payment in order to get their containers cleared from the country’s ports.

“Some importers have procured goods from abroad without opening letters of credit, and the government has asked them to arrange for payment on their own,” said Malik Bostan, president of the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP), while speaking to Arab News. “So, they are resorting to the hawala market to fulfill their requirements.”

Bostan said the situation would not improve unless the government resolved the issue of LCs.

Currency dealers also mentioned that the exchange rate was still above Rs300 per US dollar in the unofficial or hawala market, while the gap between the open and interbank market was beginning to narrow down.

On Wednesday, the open market was trading at Rs295 compared to Rs298 on Tuesday, while the currency in the interbank closed at Rs287.97 against the greenback on Tuesday.

Bostan said that the dealers’ request for the release of currency for exchange companies was accepted by the central bank authorities, which resulted in the appreciation of the Pakistani rupee in the open market.

“We had requested the State Bank governor to release the stuck-up amount of exchange companies,” he added. “They released $5 million yesterday, and we are expecting another $5 million today.”

Riaz Haq said...

When Pakistan's politics get tough, Pakistanis respond with memes and humor


Betsy Joles

Despite heavy censorship and periods of military dictatorship, humor in Pakistan has always found a way. Visual humor plays an important role in getting political messages across, says longtime artist and cartoonist Sabir Nazar, who is based in Lahore. "You cannot control the image. It has a kind of subversive quality," he says.

One of Nazar's recent cartoons shows Imran Khan holding onto a scale while a large boot — resembling one from an army uniform — weighs down the other side. Another cartoon shows a structure labeled "state" with broken pillars, engulfed in flames.

Encapsulated in much of the humor is an understanding of issues of justice, human rights and democracy in Pakistan, which has not held elections since Khan was removed from power through a no-confidence vote last year.

"Memes in Pakistan frequently have a lot of biting political currency," says Ahmer Naqvi, a writer in Karachi focusing on pop culture in Pakistan. The meme format is well-suited for Pakistani humor, he says, because it captures the multilayered reality of social and political issues while bypassing censorship. "This form of expression is anonymous. It's very direct. And it allows you to do some social commentary."

An anonymous Instagram account called catboy_jinnah, run by a university student in Karachi who hides his identity to avoid abuse online, likes to poke fun at politics — alongside more innocuous posts that capture the humor and charm of everyday life in Pakistan. However, sometimes the underlying context of the posts is more serious.

One post from May incorporates a photo of men sitting on a sofa holding a portrait of Pakistan's founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, while a fire is seen raging behind them.

Catboy_jinnah mostly keeps his personal opinions about social and political matters veiled. "Irony is more dangerous," he says, referring to the potential for satirical humor to challenge political and social ideas.

Humor allows for social commentary while skirting censorship
Internet content related to Pakistan's current events proliferates despite a restrictive environment. Within hours of Khan's arrest, the Pakistani government shut off the country's mobile broadband, limiting access to social media sites, including Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook. (Content continued to be posted and shared on TikTok). Internet users took to VPNs to share protest memes.

According to U.S. watchdog organization Freedom House, Pakistani internet users face numerous barriers to access, including internet shutdowns and government regulations that dictate what content can be posted online. Pakistan's telecommunications authority can regulate or ban content that it considers anti-Islamic, a threat to public order and security or contrary to decency and morality. Internet regulations extend to media outlets, which were banned by Pakistan's media regulator in March from broadcasting Khan's speeches.

Nazar, the artist, started creating political cartoons as an art student in Lahore more than 40 years ago, during the rule of military dictator Gen. Muhammad Zia ul-Haq, who unleashed extreme levels of censorship after imposing martial law in the 1970s. "There was a kind of vacuum for humor and satire not [just] in journalism, but in the entire society," Nazar says.

During this time, comedy found a way to break through censorship, even via programs on state-run television. Fifty-Fifty, a sketch comedy show inspired by Saturday Night Live, relied on satire, slapstick and irony to highlight political and social issues such as police brutality and government repression.

Riaz Haq said...

Over $7bn lost in exports, remittances

Exports plunged by $3.491bn, or 12 per cent, to $25.380bn during July-May of FY23 compared to $28.871bn in the same period of the last year, official data showed.

Similarly, remittances fell by 12.8pc to $24.831bn during the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, posting a net loss of $3.658bn.


KARACHI: As the PDM government keeps struggling to secure $1.1 billion from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the country lost $7.15bn on account of shrinking exports and remittances during the first 11 months of FY23.

Despite missing out on targets for the outgoing fiscal year, the government has fixed higher exports and remittances projections for FY24.

Exports plunged by $3.491bn, or 12 per cent, to $25.380bn during July-May of FY23 compared to $28.871bn in the same period of the last year, official data showed.

Similarly, remittances fell by 12.8pc to $24.831bn during the first 11 months of the current fiscal year, posting a net loss of $3.658bn.

The combined loss from these two sectors is much higher than the country is willing to receive from the IMF and borrow from commercial banks and other multilateral lending agencies.

“Instead of spending time to boost exports and remittances, the government remained busy with all its efforts to borrow from the IMF and other sources,” said a senior banker.

The government struggled hard to get assurances of $3bn from Saudi Arabia and $2bn from the United Arab Emirates to get IMF’s $1.1bn.

Financial experts believe that the policymakers lack a clear strategy to control the situation, as most of the time was spent on borrowing strategy.

At the same time, the government included certain unrealistic expectations to bolster exports and remittances in the upcoming FY24 budget, without providing the rationale behind them. Analysts and experts said the new fiscal year would start under the stress of a current account deficit that has been projected at $6bn for FY23. The government has also allocated a budget of $6bn CAD, which analysts believe will likely increase due to the continuing decline in remittances.

“The government has also budgeted a $6bn CAD, which analysts believe will increase due to the continuing decline in remittances. But even taking the government figures, they imply a deficit of $300m to $700m every month,” said Faisal Mamsa, CEO of Tresmark, the company that tracks currency trends worldwide.

If the June 30 deadline for the IMF loan agreement (total worth $7bn) expires, the situation will become even more challenging for the new fiscal year.

Under the new FY24 budget, the government has projected a 7.2pc growth in exports. However, this projection is far from reality, as there is no improvement in Pakistan’s exports and the slowdown in world trade is not expected to improve in the next 12 months.

Remittances, which have been declining by an average of $332m per month, have been projected to grow by 8.5pc. However, remittances are declining due to a government policy that permits importers to purchase dollars from the illegal grey market for imports.

The grey market offers a rate of Rs20 to Rs25 per dollar higher than the official banking rate. Remitters are benefitting from these grey market transactions and this situation is expected to persist into the next fiscal year, resulting in a decline in remittances instead of the projected 8.5pc growth.

During the first 10 months of FY23, Pakistan received only $1.1bn as Foreign Direct Investment. However, the government anticipates receiving $2.8bn in FY24 without providing any justification for this projected growth.

Riaz Haq said...

#Pakistan's #ImranKhanPTI expresses support for bailout deal in #IMF meeting at his home in #Lahore.
IMF is seeking to build political support for the deal before coming general elections in the country scheduled for later this year.

KARACHI, Pakistan, July 7 (Reuters) - Pakistan's main opposition leader and former prime minister Imran Khan expressed support for a recently-reached bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after a meeting with officials of the lender on Friday, his party said.

The IMF said it was, in the lead up to national elections in the autumn, seeking the support of Pakistan's political parties, including Khan's, for the new nine-month $3 billion stand-by arrangement and policies associated with the programme.

Hammad Azhar, a former finance minister under Khan, who attended the meeting virtually, said in a post on Twitter that the former premier and his economic team had discussed last week's staff-level deal between the IMF and Pakistan's government.

"In this context we support the overall objectives and key policies," Azhar said, adding the meeting at Khan's residence in the eastern city of Lahore was attended in person by IMF officials while Mission Chief Nathan Porter joined virtually.

Earlier, the IMF's resident representative Esther Perez Ruiz said in a statement that the meetings with political parties were to "seek assurances of their support for the key objectives and policies under a new IMF-supported program ahead of the approaching national elections."

The new deal, which will be vital to help stabilise Pakistan's struggling $350 billion economy, will be taken up for approval by the IMF board on July 12.

The programme looks to replace a four-year Extended Financing Facility programme, originally signed by Khan's government in 2019, and which expired last month.

Khan's government deviated from agreements under an earlier IMF programme days before he was ousted in a parliamentary vote last year, leading to a delay in the implementation of the programme and increased economic uncertainty.

Pakistan's national elections are scheduled to be held by early November amid a charged political atmosphere that has seen Khan, the country's main opposition leader, in a bruising standoff with the government and the powerful military.

The new programme will span three governments - the incumbent set up under Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, whose term ends in August, a caretaker administration that will conduct the polls, and then a new government following the elections.

Azhar said the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party believed political stability was key for the economy and called for "free, fair and timely" elections after which a new government would initiate reforms and engage on a longer-term basis with multilateral institutions.

Despite being the country's most popular leader according to polls, Khan faces the prospect of being disqualified from the elections if found guilty in any of the cases against him since his removal from power.

The meeting is the highest profile engagement for Khan and his the PTI since he was ousted from power less than four years into his five-year term.

He said the cases are a bid to sideline him and dismantle his party before the polls. The government and military deny this, and say the cases are on merit.

The government launched a country-wide crackdown on the party in the aftermath of violent protests that followed Khan's brief arrest in May. The protests saw military installations ransacked. Khan was later released on bail.

Many of Khan's key aides remain under arrest and many others, like Azhar, are in hiding. Azhar said some of PTI's economic team members attended the meeting virtually.

Riaz Haq said...

Remittances sent home by Pakistanis working abroad fell to $27bn for the fiscal year 2023, compared with $31.3bn a year earlier, the country’s central bank said on Monday.

Remittances for June slumped to $2.2bn from $2.8bn a year earlier, central bank data showed. The remittances were mainly sourced from Saudi Arabia ($515.1m), the United Kingdom ($343m), the United Arab Emirates ($324.7m) and the United States ($272.3m).

According to the World Bank last year, Pakistan was the world’s sixth top recipient of remittances in 2022, behind India, Mexico, China, the Philippines and Egypt, although Tonga, Lebanon and Samoa are most dependent on money sent home from abroad as a percentage of GDP.

Pakistan’s economic crisis
The drop signals another blow to Pakistan’s economy which is facing its worst crisis since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.

Years of financial mismanagement, a global energy crisis and severe flooding have battered the economy, resulting in a slew of strict economic measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as Pakistan’s central bank looks to secure a bailout.

The $3bn short-term financial package from the IMF is subject to approval by its board on July 12.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan-GCC partnership has new momentum | Arab News

by Dr. Ali Awadh Asseri, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan from 2001 to 2009

The current civil-military consensus on the GCC’s pivotal economic role has emerged against the backdrop of tangible progress made by the present government on the economic, political, security and foreign policy fronts.
Sharif faced significant challenges upon taking office in April last year, inheriting a country on the verge of financial default. Dealing with the subsequent political turmoil, a renewed wave of terrorism and a serious deterioration in Pakistan’s relations with major powers and trusted allies was also a daunting task. But he has been able to successfully navigate this complex landscape by engaging coalition leaders, the security establishment and key foreign partners.
As a result, Pakistan is now stable enough to transition smoothly toward a caretaker setup, which will hold the next general election. Political turmoil has receded since the appointment of Gen. Asim Munir as the chief of the army staff in November. A new staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund, worth $3 billion for a period of nine months, was concluded in June. Although terrorism has seen a resurgence, enhanced security structures are now in place to combat this threat. And the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor stands revived, while relations with the US are also back on track.


Tangible progress in this investment drive will help Pakistan to increase investment inflows from the GCC, China and other countries. But its aspiration to become a $1 trillion economy by 2035 will depend on it taking solid steps that boost the dismal level of bilateral trade, which is currently worth $3 billion annually with the Gulf states. Islamabad must also increase the number of Pakistani workers and the diversity of the jobs they do in the GCC region. They number about 4 million at present.

Going forward, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with the UAE needs to be emulated in Pakistan’s trade links with Saudi Arabia and the other GCC members. Pakistan’s skilled manpower in the IT and services sectors is a perfect match for the economic transformations taking place in the Gulf, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Let me conclude by saying that (PM Shehbaz) Sharif has done well to raise the prospects of economic recovery in Pakistan. One hopes that its future political leadership will sustain the current momentum in economic policies, especially with respect to the rapidly evolving partnership with the GCC economies.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan says newly formed special investment council to help CPEC attract investment from Gulf nations

Pakistan's planning minister says looks forward to more active engagement with Arab states
Ahsan Iqbal Gwadar Port has handled more than 600,000 metric tons of cargo during last year
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s newly formed Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) would complement the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by attracting investment from the Gulf countries, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said on Tuesday, as the South Asian country looks for foreign direct investment to overcome an economic crisis.

The minister expressed these views during the concluding session of a two days international conference on CPEC and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that was organized by his ministry to celebrate 10 years of the project, which was signed between Pakistan and China in 2013.

It followed the establishment of the SIFC by the Pakistani government in June this year to address the country’s economic woes by drawing international attention to business opportunities in the fields of agriculture, mining, information technology and defence production in Pakistan.

“We have also formed SIFC for GCC countries' investment into Pakistan where SIFC and CPEC are two twins, who will complement each other and bring opportunities to Pakistan from the Gulf countries,” Iqbal said.

CPEC, a major segment of Beijing’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, is a $65 billion network of roads, railways, pipelines and ports in Pakistan that will connect China to the Arabian Sea and help Islamabad expand and modernize its economy, with the Gwadar port city in Balochistan as the epicenter of it.

Saudi Arabia expressed its intention to invest in CPEC projects as early as 2019, when the Middle Eastern country announced plans to set up a $10 billion oil refinery near Pakistan's deep-water port of Gwadar.

Iqbal said CPEC was seen as a project that would help integrate South Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, China and even beyond to Africa.

“So, we are very much looking forward to more active engagement with GCC countries, with whom we have very strong brotherly relations,” the minister said.

Through CPEC and BRI, Pakistan could promote cultural exchanges, educational collaboration and tourism between nations, deepening mutual understanding and appreciation, according to Iqbal.

The South Asian nation attract a lot of investment due to its cheap labour as most of the labor-intensive companies or industries were relocating to other countries from China due to expensive labour.

“Pakistan can benefit from it because it had a corridor, and it had an infrastructure, that is the reason we have fast tracked work on Special Economic Zones,” he explained.

Iqbal said the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led government completed many of the unfinished CPEC projects last year in order to revive the multi-billion-dollar corridor.

“After 2018, first major Chinese investment has come to Pakistan, $3.5 billion investment in Chashma Nuclear Power Plant 5, which will produce 1,200 megawatts of energy for Pakistan,” he said.

Due to the government’s facilitation, Iqbal said, the Gwadar Port had handled more than 600,000 metric tons of cargo in 2022 compared to 100,000 metric tons of cargo in the preceding four years.

Riaz Haq said...

Mohammed Sohail
Pakistan Stock Market is best performing in the world in July with a USD gain of 15% (see Bloomberg picture enclosed)

Benchmark KSE 100 Index at 20 months high to reach 47077

Todays volume of PKR 28b (USD100m) at 19 months high

The main factors of this rally....IMF deal, dollar inflows from friendly countries increasing FX reserves, falling inflation

Moreover, clarity on smooth transfer of power to caretaker government who will organise election in Nov

June quarter results and dividends are also better than expected, especially by UBL

Interesting foreign portfolio investors are back with net buying of close to USD18m in July by foreign corporates

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan sets up center to boost agricultural growth with $500 million Saudi assistance

The center will work in collaboration with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and China on various projects

It aims to enhance modern agro-farming in Pakistan by utilizing over 9 million hectares of uncultivated state land

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has established a Land Information and Management System, Center of Excellence ((LIMS-CoE) to enhance modern agro-farming by utilizing over 9 million hectares of uncultivated state land, a senior official said on Thursday, adding that Saudi Arabia provided an initial $500 million investment to set up the facility.
Pakistan, an agriculture-based economy contributing 23 percent to the GDP and employing 37.4 percent of the labor force, faces recurrent economic hardships. Currently, the productivity remains below par, with a decreasing cultivation area, a population-production gap, and agricultural imports amounting to $10 billion.
According to the World Food Program, around 36.9 percent of Pakistanis are food insecure, with 18.3 percent experiencing severe food crises. The country faces a shortfall of 4 million metric tons in wheat production against a total demand of 30.8 million metric tons, while cotton production has fallen by 40 percent to around 5 million bales in the last decade.
“As far as the high efficiency irrigation system is concerned, Saudi Arabia has already given us [Pakistan] $500 million,” Maj. Gen. Shahid Nazeer, who heads the LIMS-CoE, told reporters at a briefing on Thursday.
“Aimed at enhancing modern agro-farming utilizing over 9 million hectares of uncultivated waste state land, LISM-CoE has been established under the Director General Strategic Projects of Pakistan Army.”
The state-of-the-art system will revolutionize means to steer agricultural development through real-time information about land, crops, weather, water resource and pest-handling under one roof, according to the official.
The center will work in collaboration with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and China on various agri projects to enhance Pakistan’s exports.
“In the next 3-4 days, a very high-powered Saudi delegation is coming to Pakistan to explore this kind of investment in four major sectors including agriculture, mines and minerals, information technology (IT) and defense production,” he said, adding this would be done under the umbrella of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) that was recently established to revive the Pakistani economy.
Nazeer said the LIMS-CoE was aimed at ensuring food security and optimizing agricultural production in Pakistan through innovative technologies and precise, sustainable agricultural practices based on agro-ecological potential of the land, while ensuring the well-being of rural communities and environment preservation.
“The main objectives of the center included consolidation and reclamation of uncultivated waste land, optimal decision; what and where to grow, development of a master plan for modern farming, implementation of state-of-the-art agriculture management practices, practicing agro-intelligence for digital and precision agriculture, better utilization of technology to enhance yield and effective decision support system,” he explained.
The LIMS-CoE recently initiated modern agri-farming projects in Punjab, according to the official. Efforts were being made to use certified hybrid seeds with concurrent development involving joint ventures with multi-national companies, which could pay rich dividends. In agriculture and gardening, a hybrid seed is produced by deliberately cross-pollinating plants that are genetically diverse.
“Hybrid seed gives 30-50 percent more yield, world is using 80 percent hybrid seed, while Pakistan currently uses only 8 percent of hybrid seed,” he added.

Riaz Haq said...

Pak Approves Projects Worth Billions Of Dollars To Gulf Countries For Investment Purpose

In a major development, Pakistan has in principle approved 28 projects worth billions of dollars that would be offered to Gulf countries for investment with the long-term objective to reduce reliance on loans and imports.

The newly established Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) -- a hybrid civil-military forum – is leading the drive to fast-track economic development to address the financial woes of the country.

The list of the approved projects suggests that if all the schemes are picked up by countries, including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, the quantum of investment under the SIFC banner can be greater than the USD 28 billion under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), The Express Tribune reported.

The approved schemes are in the food, agriculture, information technology, mines and minerals, petroleum and power sectors. They include cattle farms; the USD 10 billion Saudi Aramco refinery; explorations of copper and gold in Chagai; and the Thar Coal Rail connectivity scheme.

The initial project also includes the Diamer-Bhasha dam which has also been offered to China for investment under CPEC.

The CPEC is a collection of infrastructure and other projects under construction throughout Pakistan since 2013.

In order to give legal cover to the SIFC working, parliament already approved a host of amendments to the Pakistan Army Act and the Board of Investment (BOI) Ordinance.

Amendments to the Election Act have also been introduced to ensure the continuity of work on these schemes during the tenure of the caretaker government.

These laws will provide fast-track execution of the initially approved 28 multi-billion dollar investment projects, besides ensuring immunity to the decision-makers from any kind of investigation by various anti-graft bodies.

Another law, the Pakistan Sovereign Wealth Fund, is also in the pipeline that will provide equity to the SIFC-approved projects for both joint

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan, China sign six agreements to boost bilateral cooperation

China and Pakistan on Monday signed six agreements for the promotion of bilateral cooperation as Chinese vice premier Mr He Lifeng, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal and other foreign dignitaries looked on.

On the occasion, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said that “Pakistan is absolutely ready to contribute towards Chinese President Xi Jinping’s vision of the shared destiny of progress and prosperity.”

The premier made these remarks during the signing ceremony of six agreements and MoUs for the promotion of bilateral cooperation between China and Pakistan.

PM Shehbaz said that the documents signed by the two countries were aimed at further enhancing economic relations between the two countries.

He added that under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), more than $25 billion worth of investment has taken place in Pakistan’s power and hydel sector, road infrastructure and public transport.

Shehbaz maintained, “We are now entering the second phase of the CPEC which will envisage investments in sectors, such as, agriculture and information technology.”

He added that both ML-1 and Karachi circular railway projects are of immense importance, expressing the confidence that both sides “will successfully achieve these and many other projects”. He was also confident that this will help Pakistan stand on its own feet”.

The premier said both Pakistan and China enjoy a unique relationship, adding “We are all-weather friends, iron brothers and this friendship will continue and will not tolerate any obstacles in its way”.

The two countries have signed six agreements and MoUs for the promotion of bilateral cooperation. The first document was signed on the joint cooperation committee (JCC) of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the second document was related to the establishment of an expert exchange mechanism within the framework of CPEC.

The third document was signed by the Secretary Ministry of National Food Security Zafar Hassan and the Chinese Charge D’affaires Ms Pang Chunxue for the export of dried Chillies from Pakistan to China.

Member Planning of National Highway Authority Asim Amin and Chinese Charge D’affaires Pang Chunxue signed the fourth document on the realignment of the Karakoram Highway Phase II project.

Addressing the occasion, PM Shehbaz said, “I thank the Chinese president for sending his senior official to Pakistan, expressing the solidarity of people-to-people friendship between the two countries. This gesture demonstrates the strength of our friendship.”

“I have no doubt that we are entering into the second phase of CPEC. Today, we have signed some important documents which will enhance our economic cooperation, and we will undertake the second phase under a new mode,” he told the gathering.

The PM highlighted that the agreements would lead to investments in agriculture and IT, enabling Pakistan, with China’s support, to export items according to the requirements and standards of the Chinese government.

He emphasised, “The CPEC was signed by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Chinese President Xi Jinping, and it was implemented promptly.”

“Today, we can claim that under the CPEC, more than $25bn investment took place in power, energy, public transport, and other sectors.”

He also expressed gratitude to the Chinese vice premier for visiting Pakistan as the two countries celebrate ten years of the CPEC. After the ceremony, delegation-level talks were held by PM Shehbaz and He Lifeng which encompassed multiple areas of bilateral cooperation.

Riaz Haq said...

China to work with Pak to build CPEC into ‘exemplary project’: Xi

Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that China will work with Pakistan to aim for high-standard, sustainable and livelihood-enhancing outcomes and further build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) into an exemplary project of high-quality Belt and Road cooperation.

Xi pointed out that CPEC is an important pioneering project of the Belt and Road cooperation. Since its launch in 2013, China and Pakistan have been advancing CPEC under the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, and have achieved a number of early harvests.

This has added new impetus to the economic and social development of Pakistan and laid a good foundation for regional connectivity and integration, he said, adding that it is a vivid testament to the all-weather friendship between China and Pakistan, and provides an important underpinning for building an even closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future in the new era.

Stressing that China and Pakistan will continue to improve overall planning and expand and deepen cooperation, Xi said that no matter how the international landscape may change, China will always stand firmly with Pakistan.

Xi added China and Pakistan will continue to work hand in hand and forge ahead in solidarity to carry forward the ironclad friendship, coordinate development and security, pursue cooperation of higher standards, broader scope and greater depth, and take the China-Pakistan all-weather strategic cooperative partnership to new heights, so as to make even greater contribution to peace and prosperity in the two countries and the broader region.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan lines up Saudi-backed refinery as it eyes more Russian oil

$10bn project in Gwadar draws skepticism but some experts see long game

A $10 billion Saudi-backed oil refinery project planned in Pakistan's port city of Gwadar aims to capitalize on the troubled economy's potential, and, sources say, lay a foundation for taking in more Russian crude.

Four Pakistani state-owned energy companies late last week signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Saudi Aramco, which will inject the initial 30% equity into the project. Once built, the refinery will be able to process 300,000 barrels per day, according to details released by the government.

That alone would surpass the combined total of 215,000 barrels per day of petroleum products refined in Pakistan in 2020-2021, according to a report by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority.

The quartet of enterprises -- Pakistan State Oil (PSO), Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL), Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL), and Government Holdings Private Limited (GHPL) -- also signed a memorandum with China National Offshore Oil Corp. for engineering, procurement and construction of the refinery. Gwadar has long been positioned as the heart of China's Belt and Road projects in the country.

Pakistan is mired in political and economic crises, which forced it to go to the International Monetary Fund for a $3 billion standby bailout arrangement to avoid a default. For this reason, some experts Nikkei Asia interviewed expressed skepticism about the refinery project, questioning the need for the additional capacity in light of the economic woes. Security is also an ever-present concern, highlighted by a deadly suicide bombing in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Sunday.

But some argue that the parties involved are playing a longer game. James Dorsey, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, reasoned that although the economic situation in Pakistan is not ideal, the country, with a population of over 200 million, still has huge economic upside. "This refinery will take a few years to build and by that time economic growth is anticipated in Pakistan," he said.

The refinery could handle Russian crude, which Pakistan has just begun importing. With Ukraine war sanctions limiting Russia's export options and forcing discounts, a cash-strapped Islamabad turned to Moscow to bolster its energy supplies. Pakistan recently imported one shipment of Russian crude and is negotiating a second with a long-term oil transportation deal.

The secretive dealings have raised several questions: over Pakistan's ability to process the Russian oil, as well as shipment costs, and how exactly the government can pay for the fuel in Chinese yuan. Nevertheless, a Pakistani government official privy to the developments told Nikkei on condition of anonymity that importing oil from Russia has been a success.

"Pakistan plans to increase its oil imports from Russia, which would result in a need for additional refinery capacity in Pakistan," the official said. "The proposed refinery in Gwadar will possibly help refine increasing volumes of Russian crude."

The Saudis, meanwhile, have been eyeing this project for some time. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's visit to Pakistan in February 2019 brought the first announcement that a $10 billion oil refinery would be built in Gwadar. After a four-year interval, Dorsey believes Riyadh is likely serious about the project now.

"Initially the Pakistanis tried to integrate the [Gwadar refinery] project in BRI but the Chinese refused it," Dorsey said, saying the project can now move ahead outside the Belt and Road framework.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan court pauses Imran Khan's trial over sale of state gifts

ISLAMABAD, Aug 4 (Reuters) - A Pakistan high court on Friday temporarily halted former Prime Minister Imran Khan's trial on charges he illegally sold state gifts, his lawyer said, in a case that could end the opposition leader's political career if convicted.

A guilty verdict in the case could exclude Khan from national elections that are due to be held by November, legal experts have said.

The halt comes after the high court asked a trial court to look into whether a legal complaint filed by the country's election commission, as part of an inquiry against Khan, constituted a criminal proceeding, his lawyer Naeem Panjhuta and several local TV news outlets said.

Khan's legal team had challenged the commission's complaint, arguing that it was not a criminal case and that the judge conducting the trial was biased against Khan.

The high court, however, turned down Khan's appeal to remove the trial court judge from hearing the case. It is not known when the case will resume, though the halt is expected to be brief.

Khan's spokesman Farrukh Habib hailed the higher court's decision

The trial, which is in its final stage, relates to an inquiry conducted by the election commission which found Khan guilty of unlawfully selling state gifts during his tenure as prime minister from 2018 to 2022.

Khan has denied any wrongdoing.

The 70-year-old cricketer-turned-politician was accused of misusing his premiership to buy and sell gifts in state possession that were received during visits abroad and worth more than 140 million Pakistani rupees ($635,000).

The gifts included watches given by a royal family, according to government officials, who have alleged previously that Khan's aides sold them in Dubai.

His tenure as prime minister was cut short when opponents won a no-confidence vote against him last year, which Khan alleges was passed with the help of the country's powerful military. The military denies any role in the matter.

Khan's targeting of the military has raised political temperatures, and his brief arrest in May on corruption charges sparked violent protests in the country.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad; editing by Jason Neely, Miral Fahmy and Sharon Singleton

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan opens National Aerospace Science and Technology Park to induce technological advancement

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday inaugurated the National Aerospace Science and Technology Park at the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Base Nurkhan in Rawalpindi, his office said, with the premier saying the facility would help induce technological advancement in the South Asian country.

The NASTP would foster research, development and innovation in the fields of aviation, space, cyber and computing to ensure social, economic, technological and scientific dividends for Pakistan and its valuable partners, according to a statement issued by Sharif’s office.

In his address with attendees at the inauguration, the prime minister termed the National Aerospace Science and Technology Park a project of “national and strategic significance” that would reap multi-dimensional benefits for the country.

“[The] NASTP project would induce technological advancement and would make the country more self-reliant by providing a platform for the youth and our future generations,” Sharif said.

“The project is equipped with state-of-the-art design, innovation, research and development centers which would provide ample opportunities for foreign investment in the country.”

He praised the efforts of the Pakistan Air Force and its skilled personnel in achieving of the “milestone” in record time.

“[The] NASTP is a highly promising project that will leverage collective wisdom and would contribute to kick-starting Pakistan’s economy to bring it on a fast track toward progression,” the prime minister added.

The facility, under the patronage and support of Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), will enable the information technology (IT) sector as one of the key domains of the economic revival initiative, according to the statement.

Reeling with an economic crisis, Pakistan set up the SIFC in June to attract foreign investment.

Riaz Haq said...

UAE, Saudi Arabia race for investment in Pakistan

Sabena Siddiqui

Both Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are prepared to develop closer business ties with less red tape, but experts caution that the Gulf nations stand to benefit most.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have accelerated the pace of investments in Pakistan. If Abu Dhabi decides to invest further in Pakistan, it is quite likely that Riyadh will follow suit as part of their unspoken rivalry.

Since 2021, the kingdom has been giving incentives to multinational companies to headquarter at Riyadh. Therefore, even though Dubai is an established regional business hub, Riyadh is becoming its top competitor as a leading logistics center.

If a UAE-Saudi business race starts off in Pakistan, Islamabad will have to balance both of its close allies.

In search of a viable long-term solution to prop up its ailing economy, cash-strapped Islamabad has created a Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), which has offered 28 high-value projects worth billions of dollars to friendly countries. The main focus is on Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar and Bahrain.

First to avail the opportunity, the UAE-based AD Ports group leased four berths at Karachi Port for 50 years and around $220 million in June. Just weeks later, Abu Dhabi inked a second major seaport terminal deal. As a result, around 85% of East Wharf would be controlled by the UAE company.

Zeeshan Shah, a financial analyst at FINRA in Washington, “The increasing rivalry between the Saudis and Emiratis should not be overlooked as both countries will probably try to one-up the other. ... Pakistan will have to be prudent in being even-handed between both countries if they happen to compete for various investment opportunities.”

Not lagging far behind, Saudi Arabia’s Aramco has signed a memorandum of understanding with four Pakistani state-owned oil companies to build a $12 billion greenfield oil refinery at Gwadar in the province of Baluchistan. The local companies would contribute 70% equity while Aramco would initialize the project with 30% equity.

Meanwhile, Pakistan has also offered its major airports for investment, and Saudi companies are interested in airports outsourcing.

Zubair Faisal Abbasi, a development policy and management specialist based in Islamabad, told Al Monitor, “Pakistan requires foreign investment to expand and further diversify its economy. It envisions scaled-up IT sector contribution in the exports-based economy, and also seeks modernizing investments in agriculture sector to increase productivity. In addition, the country has huge potential in the mining sector.”

Ranging from copper and gold mines in Chagai, the Thar Coal Rail Connectivity scheme to the Diamer-Bhasha dam and agricultural farms, the investment from these projects could go even higher than the $28 billion invested under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor up till now, if all the projects get picked up by the Arab states.

In the past, the absence of a swift, one-window operation for foreign investors used to be an impediment. But now, the SIFC mechanism has made things easier, especially as adequate legal cover has been provided.

Abbasi noted, “One of the binding constraints on Pakistan’s economic growth has been bureaucratic inertia and problematic economic governance due to 'sludge' in the economic policy implementation.” The SIFC, he said, can “reduce red tape, bring in efficiency, and create synchronization in decision-making processes. Therefore, the investments may not only change sector growth, but also alter the institutional arrangements of economic governance.”

Riaz Haq said...

UAE, Saudi Arabia race for investment in Pakistan

Sabena Siddiqui

Providing equity for SIFC-approved projects for joint ventures, a Pakistan Sovereign Wealth Fund has also been created. In due course, seven profitable state-owned entities worth up to $8 billion are to be transferred to this fund.

However, Shah cautioned that the Saudis and Emiratis' interest stems from "the removal of red tape, the ability to purchase potentially lucrative assets, and security of their investments, rather than being attracted to invest in Pakistan by structural economic reforms which would strengthen the Pakistani economy in the long term as well as Pakistani bargaining power as well.”

For now, in reaction to the Gulf investments, the Pakistan stock market remains positive, reaching a two-year high.

From the GCC, Qatar is also considering the investment offer, and Doha is having talks with Pakistan to jointly run the terminals of its three main airports, Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad. If this comes through, Doha would invest around $3 billion in cargo handling as well as providing five-star accommodation and modern facilities at the airports.

In order to improve its food security, Doha is also considering a 10,000-acre corporate farming project in the Cholistan desert in Punjab province.

Riaz Haq said...


At a time when Pakistan faces severe economic challenges, the renewal of CPEC's second phase comes as a timely opportunity to address the country's immediate needs while paving the way for long-term development. As BRI's flagship project, CPEC has already demonstrated its transformative impact on Pakistan's infrastructure, energy, and regional connectivity. Now, with the initiation of Phase-II, the partnership between China and Pakistan is set to deepen further, solidifying their strategic relationship.

The expansion of cooperation into rural revitalisation and agricultural development holds immense potential to uplift Pakistan's rural communities and boost the agriculture sector—a crucial backbone of the country's economy. Additionally, the focus on industrialisation and green development aligns with Pakistan's aspirations for sustainable growth and environmental conservation. Through the transfer of technology and expertise, CPEC's second phase promises to enhance Pakistan's capabilities in these critical areas.

Vice Premier He Lifeng's visit to Pakistan and the signing of six MoUs demonstrate China's continued commitment to the success of CPEC. Despite global economic challenges and geopolitical complexities, China's unwavering support signals a firm belief in the project's potential to bring mutual benefits to both nations.

As CPEC enters its second phase, President Xi Jinping's statement takes on heightened significance. By emphasising high standards, sustainability, and livelihood enhancement, Xi underscores the importance of inclusive growth and the well-being of the people at the heart of CPEC's objectives. This reaffirms the project's commitment to fostering shared prosperity and a closer China-Pakistan community with a shared future.

Moreover, President Xi's statement of standing firmly with Pakistan, regardless of changing international landscapes, further solidifies the all-weather friendship between the two nations. In a time of global uncertainties, China's steadfast partnership provides much-needed reassurance for Pakistan's economic revival efforts.

Despite criticism from Western analysts, with accusations of 'debt-trap diplomacy', CPEC has not solely relied on bilateral governmental investments; it has attracted private Chinese investments across various sectors, stimulating employment and economic opportunities in Pakistan. Moreover, China's foreign policy, emphasising non-interference in the internal affairs of other sovereign states, has led to limited meddling in Pakistan's politics or economic policies, unlike some Western multilateral financial institutions.

To fully capitalise on the opportunities presented by CPEC's second phase, Pakistan must prioritise political stability, policy continuity, and broad-based economic reforms. The government's focus on fiscal discipline and economic growth aligns with the goals of CPEC, making it essential to overcome internal challenges and create an enabling environment for investment and development.

As President Xi's upcoming visit to Pakistan approaches, anticipation builds for further high-level discussions and agreements that will reinforce the trajectory of CPEC's success. It is a momentous occasion that will not only deepen China-Pakistan ties but also set the stage for accelerated progress in the second phase of this transformative economic corridor.

Riaz Haq said...

Dependency ratio is the ratio of children (under 15) and retirees (65 and above)) to working age (15-64 years) people in a population. Countries with high dependency ratios tend to perform poorly relative to countries with low dependency ratios in terms of economic growth.

A recent NY Times article by Lauren Leatherby titled "How a Vast Demographic Shift Will Reshape the World" uses charts and graphics to show how the world economic landscape will change during the rest of the century.

It shows that Pakistan will join the top 10 countries with highest share of working age population and lowest dependency ratios.

Pakistan will join top 10 countries in working age population in 2050

Bangladesh is already in the top 10 working age population countries today.

Countries are categorized as having large working-age populations if people between the ages of 15 and 64, an age group commonly used by demographers, make up at least 65 percent of the total population.

Countries where at least a quarter of the population is under age 15 and where less than 65 percent of the population is working age are categorized as having a large young population. Countries are categorized as having a large old population if those age 65 and older make up more than a quarter of the population.

Unless noted otherwise, graphics include all countries with a population of at least 50,000 people.

The world’s demographics have already been transformed. Europe is shrinking. China is shrinking, with India, a much younger country, overtaking it this year as the world’s most populous nation.

But what we’ve seen so far is just the beginning.

The projections are reliable, and stark: By 2050, people age 65 and older will make up nearly 40 percent of the population in some parts of East Asia and Europe. That’s almost twice the share of older adults in Florida, America’s retirement capital. Extraordinary numbers of retirees will be dependent on a shrinking number of working-age people to support them.

In all of recorded history, no country has ever been as old as these nations are expected to get.

As a result, experts predict, things many wealthier countries take for granted — like pensions, retirement ages and strict immigration policies — will need overhauls to be sustainable. And today’s wealthier countries will almost inevitably make up a smaller share of global G.D.P., economists say.

This is a sea change for Europe, the United States, China and other top economies, which have had some of the most working-age people in the world, adjusted for their populations. Their large work forces have helped to drive their economic growth.

Those countries are already aging off the list. Soon, the best-balanced work forces will mostly be in South and Southeast Asia, Africa and the Middle East, according to U.N. projections. The shift could reshape economic growth and geopolitical power balances, experts say.

Riaz Haq said...

Aging populations will shake up the global economy by 2050

Earlier this year, the United Nations put out new data showing that China, which has been the most populous country in the world for at least the last 70 years, has been overtaken by India in population size.

And, based on population projections for the next few decades, that’s far from the only big demographic shift we’ll be seeing in the near future.

Lauren Leatherby is a visual journalist with the New York Times who has been looking into what those demographic shifts will mean for economies around the world. She joined Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal to talk about how the world will shift by 2050. An edited transcript of their conversation is below.

Kai Ryssdal: On paper, or, as it were, on the internet, this is great story because the graphics are kind of amazing. And they really illustrate it. It’s a little trickier to do on the radio, but that’s fine. That’s kind of my job. I do wonder, though, how you got interested in this story.

Lauren Leatherby: The richest most powerful countries today have long had these really large working-age populations. And economists agree that that’s been a huge, huge advantage economically and geopolitically. And meanwhile, a lot of developing nations have had quite high dependency ratios having a high number of children compared to working-age people. And so, I think we know a lot of these storylines one by one, but putting it all together, it’s just like the world is going to shift really dramatically.

Ryssdal: The example that comes up pretty early in this piece is, of course, Japan, which has already started to make that shift from having a good, robust, working-years workforce to a much older population with far fewer workers.

Leatherby: Absolutely. And then I think what we see in Japan today is only the tip of the iceberg. A lot of East Asia, China, Europe, South Korea will be much older than Japan is today, in just you know, 20 or 30 years. Some countries will have upwards of 40% of their population that are 65 or older in just two or three decades. And meanwhile, on the other end, you have a lot of these other countries that have long been, you know, hindered economically by their age structures. And suddenly a lot of them will start to enjoy the exact same age structures that Europe and East Asia, the U.S., that a lot of those countries have historically enjoyed.

Ryssdal: Right. So what happens in a population, what happens in a country, when that shift happens when that prime-age workforce is big enough to support all the retirees? What does it let that country do? What is the opportunity?

Leatherby: The upside can be absolutely enormous. Some of the best research is that a third of the economic growth in East Asia at the end of the last century is because of this concept of a demographic dividend. But what the experts who I spoke to were very cautious to say is that it’s not automatic.

Ryssdal: It’s not automatic, but we’ve been told, and I say this every now and then, that demographics is destiny. And yet, actually, maybe it’s not.

Leatherby: Yeah, because it can go multiple ways. I mean, if you have the policies in place with education, with good jobs, then that can be a tremendous upside. But I think the perilous thing that we worry about is extremism. I mean, what studies have shown is that [for] a lot of people that turn to extremism, it’s not because of religious ideology, it’s because it’s a better job opportunity. It’s economics. And so it’s just going to be really critical that these places that have suddenly a huge number of, like, healthy 21-year-olds, that they have jobs and education for those people.

Riaz Haq said...

#Arab Gulf Nations (#SaudiArabia, #Qatar, #UAE) Poised to Invest Billions in #Pakistan.
#Islamabad’s powerful #military has sought to ease the path for oil-rich monarchies to acquire stakes in #mining (#copper, #gold) & #energy (#refinery) via @WSJ

The Saudis are in talks to buy into a copper mine being developed at a cost of $7 billion by Canada’s Barrick Gold in western Pakistan, according to people familiar with the project. Separately, negotiations are at an advanced stage to set up a Saudi oil refinery in Pakistan, which could cost up to $14 billion, according to Islamabad and Gulf officials.

For the Gulf states, the deals represent a shift from when they provided loans or grants to poorer countries in the region, such as Pakistan or Egypt, to a new focus on acquiring assets for their sovereign-wealth funds.

Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 240 million, has been racked by an economic crisis and political instability. It reached an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in June on another bailout.

Its powerful military, which has clamped down on political freedoms in recent months, is seeking to ease the path for investment by streamlining the deal-making process for Gulf investors, who had complained about red tape and political indecision in the past.

Mining, energy infrastructure, farmland and privatizations of Pakistani government businesses could all be part of the planned selloff to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, which are increasingly competing for assets in struggling political allies.

This summer, Islamabad established the Special Investment Facilitation Council, which includes the army chief, to smooth the bureaucratic path for Gulf investment.

“Pakistan is strategically located, at the junction of the engines of growth in Asia, between south Asia, central Asia, China and the Middle East,” said Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan’s departing planning minister, who also heads the executive committee of the Special Investment Facilitation Council. “There is a very big opportunity for investors to come here, as long as we can give them assurance that there will be continuity of policy for their investment.”

The Saudi deputy mining and foreign ministers visited Islamabad this month for talks about the investment initiative.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said Wednesday that Parliament would dissolve, ahead of elections that are likely to be delayed into next year. The installment of a nonpolitical caretaker government in Islamabad in the next few days, to oversee the period up to the next election, is expected to kick-start the deals. New powers have been given to the caretaker administration, which will likely be under even greater influence of the military, to enable it to make major economic decisions.

The army is Pakistan’s dominant institution, a permanent power in a country where no prime minister has completed a term in office. The Gulf has long dealt directly with Pakistan’s army, the sixth largest in the world, which has provided a contingent of troops to Saudi Arabia for decades. The first overseas trip for Pakistan’s current army chief, Gen. Asim Munir, was to Saudi Arabia, where he met Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in January.

A splurge in Pakistan is expected to come from government-owned entities in the Gulf, which in recent years have invested in Egypt, a country also in the midst of an asset sale, as well as Sudan, Ethiopia and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa.

“For the Gulf, Pakistan and Egypt are a regional security priority,” said Karen E. Young, a researcher at Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy. “They absolutely cannot afford to see a failed state in Egypt or Pakistan.”

Riaz Haq said...

#Arab Gulf Nations (#SaudiArabia, #Qatar, #UAE) Poised to Invest Billions in #Pakistan.
#Islamabad’s powerful #military has sought to ease the path for oil-rich monarchies to acquire stakes in #mining (#copper, #gold) & #energy (#refinery) via @WSJ

Egypt and Pakistan offer big populations, large tracts of arable land and huge armies, all attributes lacking in the Gulf, said Faisal Aftab, founder of Pakistan-based Zayn Venture Capital.

“This is a last chance for Pakistan,” said Aftab. “It needs to leverage in investment.”

Iqbal, the planning minister, said Pakistan was hoping for deals worth around $25 billion, including in solar energy and information technology. Pakistan’s defense industries are also open for investment, and the country is prepared to offer uncultivated government land on long leases for agriculture.

The Gulf nations haven’t put figures in recent weeks on how much they might spend. In January this year, the Saudis said they were willing to invest $10 billion, after Pakistan’s army chief visited.

Economic crises in Egypt and Pakistan, which have been buffeted by higher fuel and food prices from the Russia-Ukraine war and seen their currencies plummet, mean that assets are potentially available on the cheap. But Riyadh has still balked at prices in Egypt, meaning fewer deals than anticipated have materialized so far. Pakistan will also have to manage competition between Gulf nations for assets, already being felt, especially between Saudi Arabia and U.A.E., which have strained relations.

Among the first contracts likely to attract interest, from both U.A.E. and Qatar, is a tender announced this week, by open bidding, to run terminal services at Islamabad airport. The two Gulf countries fiercely competed for the contract to run Kabul airport in Pakistan’s neighbor Afghanistan, a contest won last year by the U.A.E. Islamabad is also looking for investors to take on its national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines.

Musadik Malik, Pakistan’s departing petroleum minister, said that a deal for a Saudi refinery was “very close.” Saudi Aramco, the company named by Pakistani officials as its partner for the project, declined to comment. The refinery would likely be located at Gwadar, the port developed by China on the Arabian Sea, and the centerpiece of Beijing’s investment program in ally Pakistan. Riyadh is moving closer to Beijing, at the expense of its relationship with Washington.

Officials from both sides are aiming for a final deal on the refinery—which would be the country’s biggest—by the end of this year, with construction to begin early in 2024.

Malik said that he anticipated a series of mining deals that would be much bigger in value than the refinery contract.

“We have enormous untapped resources just sitting there,” he said.

The obvious prize is copper, a metal needed in the transition to cleaner energy. One of the world’s biggest new copper mines is expected to begin production in 2028. The Reko Diq mine is a joint venture between Barrick Gold and the government of Pakistan, in a remote part of the country hit by two violent insurgencies.

Talks are under way for the Saudis to buy into the Reko Diq mine. The Saudi sovereign-wealth fund, Public Investment Fund, would team up with Saudi mining company Ma’aden, to acquire part of the 50% stake in the mine owned by Pakistan, according to people involved. In addition, the Saudis could be given exploration rights in other parts of the copper-rich area.

Riaz Haq said...

#Arab Gulf Nations (#SaudiArabia, #Qatar, #UAE) Poised to Invest Billions in #Pakistan.
#Islamabad’s powerful #military has sought to ease the path for oil-rich monarchies to acquire stakes in #mining (#copper, #gold) & #energy (#refinery) via @WSJ

Riyadh has ambitions to turn Ma’aden into a global company, but it is wary of the security risks at the Pakistani mine. In July, Saudi Arabia said it would buy a $2.5 billion stake in Brazilian mining company Vale, also through the same fund and Ma’aden.

For Islamabad, there are strategic advantages to tying Saudi Arabia in, while Barrick has joined with Saudi Arabia elsewhere too. Barrick and Ma’aden didn’t respond to requests for comment. The Public Investment Fund declined to comment.

The Saudis are the most interested in the mining opportunities, say officials and experts, while the U.A.E. is looking most keenly at agriculture, clean energy and logistics.

Just ahead of the launch of the Gulf initiative, the U.A.E. swooped in early, acquiring a 50-year lease in June to operate part of the container terminal at Karachi port. The financial terms weren’t disclosed for the deal, which was awarded without an open bidding process. Many coming transactions are also not expected to involve competitive bidding, Pakistani officials say. That approach could open the divestments up to domestic controversy.

Riaz Haq said...

The Special Investment Facilitation Council’s Role in Pakistan’s Economic Resurgence

The SFIC has to strike a balance between including military decision-makers to raise investor confidence and upholding democratic governance.

By Shabbir Ahmed

The inception of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) represents a pivotal juncture in Pakistan’s economic evolution. Intended to attract foreign investments and invigorate economic growth, this pioneering initiative has captured national attention. Nevertheless, as the SIFC emerges as a distinctive amalgamation of civil and military entities, it ignites discussions surrounding the nuanced equilibrium between safeguarding policy coherence, upholding the principles of democratic governance, and managing the military’s active role in shaping economic decisions.

This convergence of interests and authority prompts an exploration of how this “hybrid” forum can effectively navigate its responsibilities, engender investor confidence, and ensure that the military’s involvement aligns harmoniously with the broader democratic fabric of the nation.

The SIFC’s creation is rooted in a dire need for economic rejuvenation, particularly in the face of bureaucratic hurdles and regulatory complexities that deter foreign direct investment (FDI). By providing a platform to streamline cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations, the SIFC aims to unlock investment opportunities across sectors ranging from agriculture to information technology. Nonetheless, the inclusion of military officials in key roles raises questions about the balance between civilian and military authority, reflecting both opportunities and challenges.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s proclamation of the SIFC as a “unified approach” toward economic challenges underscores the value of collective insight. Undoubtedly, cooperative endeavors that engage both civilian and military leadership hold the promise of establishing policy steadiness and instilling confidence among foreign investors. Yet, the crux of the matter resides in harmonizing the military’s role with, rather than eclipsing, civilian authority. This equilibrium is essential to safeguarding the tenets of democracy, upholding accountability, and preventing the erosion of democratic values. The success of this collaborative venture hinges on the delicate choreography between these two distinct spheres, facilitating an environment wherein policy predictability is fortified without compromising the essence of democratic governance

The decision to entrust the SIFC with a substantial military presence emerges from a broader context of geopolitical considerations and the desire to instill investor confidence. The involvement of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates in pressing for military-backed guarantees highlights a lack of confidence in Pakistan’s political stability and its ability to honor business agreements across government transitions. The army’s engagement in the SIFC could offer a sense of continuity, but it also underscores the need for comprehensive, long-term policy reforms to address underlying structural challenges.

Riaz Haq said...

The Special Investment Facilitation Council’s Role in Pakistan’s Economic Resurgence

The SIFC’s mandate is far-reaching, extending from agriculture and energy to telecommunications and infrastructure. Its “single window” approach to cooperation with GCC countries signals a proactive stance toward attracting FDI. Notably, the SIFC holds the authority to summon regulatory bodies and government representatives when bureaucratic bottlenecks hinder investment operations. Moreover, the council can recommend regulatory relaxations or exemptions, ensuring they align with existing legal provisions. This flexibility could expedite investment procedures, enhancing Pakistan’s appeal to potential investors.

The inclusion of military officers in the SIFC’s apex and implementation committees sparks concerns about potential overreach and diminishing civilian oversight. While an “institutionalized” army role in economic decision-making can offer stability, it also poses challenges to democratic governance. The delicate interplay between civilian and military spheres demands meticulous management to prevent undue military influence over crucial economic policies.

While the military’s involvement in the SIFC might alleviate immediate investor concerns, it is not a panacea for Pakistan’s economic challenges. The council’s focus on Gulf investments and its goal of achieving high FDI targets could offer short-term relief, but sustained economic stability demands comprehensive policy reforms. A closer look at India’s 1990s reforms provides valuable lessons in addressing deep-rooted economic issues and driving long-term growth.

The Special Investment Facilitation Council’s establishment signifies Pakistan’s commitment to economic resurgence and foreign investment attraction. However, as the nation treads this uncharted territory, it must strike a delicate balance between ensuring policy predictability and safeguarding democratic governance. While the military’s involvement can potentially bolster investor confidence, the long-term stability of Pakistan’s economy hinges on holistic policy reforms that address structural challenges. The SIFC can serve as a stepping stone toward economic growth, but the ultimate key lies in Pakistan’s ability to cultivate a business-friendly environment, foster sustainable growth, and uphold democratic principles in its pursuit of prosperity.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s army is back in charge of politics

The jailing of Imran Khan heralds a period of tighter military control

Fifty miles—and five years—separate Imran Khan’s greatest political triumph and the nadir, for now, of his political career. At one end is Parliament House in Islamabad, where the assembly that elected him prime minister of Pakistan in 2018 wrapped up its term on August 9th, with power due to be handed to a caretaker administration. At the other is the district jail in Attock in Punjab province, where Mr Khan began a three-year prison term for “corrupt practices” on August 5th.

Mr Khan denies wrongdoing and has unsuccessfully appealed the conviction. He says the charges are politically motivated, which the government denies. The conviction, which comes with a five-year ban from politics, is the culmination of a campaign by Pakistan’s powerful army to remove Mr Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (pti), from the political fray. It also heralds a period of more active involvement in politics by the generals.

The case has exposed a taste for cash and bling that is at odds with Mr Khan’s idea of himself as a pious anti-corruption crusader. Yet the nature of the conviction, for violating electoral laws that are rarely enforced, hints at the former prime minister’s true crime: challenging Pakistan’s army. Like many Pakistani politicians before him, Mr Khan started out as a general’s favourite. Yet the army eventually tired of his political grandstanding and his mismanagement of Pakistan’s faltering economy. In April 2022 he was removed from office in a vote of no confidence.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Mr Khan refused to go quietly, attacking the generals in a series of rallies across the country and claiming that they tried to assassinate him last November. After he was briefly arrested in early May, his supporters smashed up military installations. The army, unused to and enraged by such displays of defiance, dismantled his party and rounded up his supporters. Eventually, Mr Khan was nabbed for good.

Mr Khan’s forced exit from politics heralds more ambitious plans. Assisted by the outgoing prime minister, Shehbaz Sharif, and a pliant parliament, the army has rearranged Pakistan’s hybrid system decisively in its favour. Among the scores of laws tweaked or introduced before parliament’s lights were switched off, several granted sweeping new powers to the armed forces and intelligence agencies, alarming civil-rights groups. The incoming caretaker government has been given the power to negotiate with the imf and sign foreign investment deals. It may also stick around for longer than the 90 days prescribed by the constitution. The day Mr Khan was arrested the government ratified a new census which could require a fresh demarcation of electoral constituencies. The outgoing law minister says this could delay elections by at least five months. The caretakers will in effect report to the army until then.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan’s army is back in charge of politics

The jailing of Imran Khan heralds a period of tighter military control

Mr Sharif’s indulgence of the army is explained by the state of the economy. He secured a $3bn imf emergency agreement last month to ward off the possibility of default. But the price is steep: higher energy tariffs, high interest rates and a market exchange rate, none of which is popular with voters. The later the election, the more time Mr Sharif and his allies will have to put distance between themselves and unpopular decisions.

Yet Mr Sharif may be tempting fate. Nine months into the job, newly victorious in his battle with Mr Khan and his supporters, General Asim Munir, who heads the armed forces, is growing assertive. He is spearheading a new economic council and is busy touting Pakistan’s investment potential to Gulf states that have grown tired of doling out cash to Pakistan. More than their money, he may be eyeing their political support. “We are probably moving towards a new political order, a controlled democracy where civil liberties are curtailed in the name of economic development,” says Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, president of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency. In perennially chaotic Pakistan, order can seem attractive to an ambitious general.

Riaz Haq said...

SIFC to continue working for fast-track foreign investment: PM

Lauds vision of Saudi leadership, saying KSA can always count on Pakistan as trusted partner
Says looking forward to working with UAE on advancing cooperation in various fields
ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar on Wednesday said that the recently-instituted Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) would continue to work as before to lay the foundations to fast-track foreign investments, particularly from Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister, in a meeting with Saudi Ambassador Nawaf bin Saeed Ahmad Al-Malkiy, who called on him, highlighted energy, infrastructure, agriculture, IT and manpower as potential sectors of cooperation.

The Saudi ambassador congratulated the prime minister on assuming office and conveyed the best wishes and greetings on behalf of the Custodian of Two Holy Mosques, as well as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, and the people of Saudi Arabia.

The prime minister said that Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoyed historic and deep-rooted ties.

He thanked the Saudi government for its consistent support for Pakistan’s economic stability and development.

He particularly mentioned the large number of Pakistanis working in Saudi Arabia and requested the Saudi side to continue to extend all possible facilitation to them.

Prime Minister Kakar lauded the vision of the Saudi leadership and said that Saudi Arabia could always count on Pakistan as its trusted and reliable partner.

Ambassador Nawaf reiterated that Saudi Arabia and Pakistan were bound together in a fraternal relationship, which was characterized by mutual trust and understanding, and close cooperation on all bilateral and regional issues of common interest.

Looking forward to advancing trade, investment ties with UAE

Meanwhile, Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Wednesday said that he looked forward to working with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on advancing bilateral cooperation in various fields, especially trade, investment and energy.

The prime minister, in a meeting with the UAE Ambassador Hamad Obaid Ibrahim Salem Al-Zaabi, who called on him here, expressed gratitude for the UAE’s support for Pakistan’s economic and financial stability.

The ambassador conveyed the greetings of the UAE leadership to the prime minister on his assumption of office.

Prime Minister Kakar thanked the UAE government for the warm congratulatory messages and said that Pakistan and UAE enjoyed historic and deep-rooted fraternal ties.

He also wished the UAE success in hosting the COP28 Summit later this year.

The prime minister also emphasized the important role played by the Pakistani diaspora in the UAE and sought the UAE government’s continued support to them.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's interim PM says Saudi Arabia to invest $25 bln over next five years

By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

ISLAMABAD, Sept 4 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia will invest up to $25 billion in Pakistan over the next two to five years in various sectors, Pakistan's caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said on Monday, adding his government would also revive a stalled privatisation process.

The South Asian nation is embarking on a tricky path to economic recovery under a caretaker government after a $3 billion loan programme, approved by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in July, averted a sovereign debt default.

Kakar, speaking to journalists at his official residence, said Saudi Arabia's investment would come in the mining, agriculture and information technology sectors, and was a part of a push to increase foreign direct investment in Pakistan.

There was no immediate response to a Reuters request to the Saudi Arabian government for comment on Kakar's remarks.

If confirmed, a series of investments worth $25 billion would be the biggest ever by the kingdom in Pakistan.

A longtime ally of Riyadh, Pakistan is dealing with a balance of payments crisis and requires billions of dollars in foreign exchange to finance its trade deficit and repay its international debts in the current financial year.

Kakar did not specify projects Riyadh was looking at for investment, but last month Barrick Gold Corp (ABX.TO) said it was open to bringing in Saudi Arabia's wealth fund as one of its partners in Pakistan's Reko Diq gold and copper mine.

Pakistan's untapped mineral deposits are conservatively valued at about $6 trillion, said Kakar, whose government is meant to be an interim set up to oversee national elections scheduled for November but are expected to be delayed by months.

Barrick considers the Reko Diq mine one of the world's largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas and it owns a 50% stake, with the remaining 50% owned by the governments of Pakistan and the province of Balochistan.

Kakar also said his government would push to complete two privatisation deals, probably for state-run power sector entities, in the next six months, and would also look to privatise another government owned enterprise outside the energy sector.

Pakistan's state owned enterprises have long been an area of concern with bleeding financials adding to financial stress. Recently Pakistan added struggling state-run Pakistan International Airlines to the privatisation list again.

The privatisation process has largely stalled in the country with selling of state assets a politically sensitive issue that many elected governments have shied away from.

Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Additional reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi in Riyadh; Editing by William Maclean

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan Expects $50 Billion Investment from Saudi Arabia, UAE Within 5 Years's%20caretaker%20prime%20minister%20said,strapped%20country%20within%20five%20years.

Pakistan's caretaker prime minister said Monday that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates will invest $25 billion each in his cash-strapped country within five years.

Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar told a group of Islamabad-based foreign journalists late Monday that different sectors, such as mines and minerals, agriculture, defense production and information technology, would receive the investment. He did not elaborate.

Economic revival

The prime minister said that the Saudi and UAE investments are part of a new "strategy for economic revival" to increase foreign direct investment in Pakistan under the supervision of the recently set up Special Investment Facilitation Council, or SIFC.

Established in June, the council comprises Pakistan's civilian and military leadership.

Kakar spoke a day after the Pakistani military chief Asim Munir, while addressing business community leaders in the southern city of Karachi, emphasized the SIFC's potential to attract investments of up to $100 billion from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern countries.

"I can confirm it," he said when asked for his comments on the reported remarks by his military chief that Pakistan could receive an unprecedented $25 billion each from the Saudi Kingdom and the UAE under the SIFC.

Saudi and UAE officials did not immediately comment on Kakar's assertions.

Kakar said that Pakistan's untapped mineral deposits are estimated to be worth around $6 trillion. He noted work on the massive Reko Diq gold and copper mines in southwestern Baluchistan province was expected to start in December.

Last month, a Saudi delegation visited Pakistan to study mining sector investment opportunities and showed its readiness to tap into the Reko Diq deposits.

Pakistan is scrambling to deal with a critical balance of payments crisis. The country of about 241 million people needs billions of dollars in foreign exchange to repay international debts and bridge its trade deficit in the current financial year.

Islamabad is implementing long-delayed economic reforms in line with IMF requirements, leading to a historic increase in energy prices when inflation is already hovering at around 29%. The tough reforms have triggered almost daily nationwide protests, bloated electricity bills and soaring fuel prices.

Riaz Haq said...

SIFC focuses on 5 sectors for investment - Business - DAWN.COM

KARACHI: In continuation of its efforts to improve the country’s business climate, the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) has asked Karachi’s business community to exploit huge investment potential in agriculture, livestock, information technology, mining and energy sectors.


Special Investment Facilitation Council

Interaction with Business Community by Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC)

As part of outreach strategy, SIFC arranged an interaction with Business Community of Karachi on 5 September 2023.
SIFC’s Team led by Dr Jehanzeb Khan made detailed presentations encompassing various aspects of SIFC Initiative. Pakistan's latent potential and investment opportunities in the key sectors of Agri/ Livestock, IT, Mining/ Minerals and Energy were highlighted along with ongoing efforts to improve business climate in the country.
Business Community was taken on board to attract investments in Pakistan and be part of valuable projects. SIFC ensured to extend its facilitative role in realising such endeavours by domestic investors.
At the end, an interactive session provided Business Community with the opportunity to share their investment-related feedback and suggestions. Business Community also displayed keen interest in asking questions related to various investment opportunities and investment environment in general.