Sunday, 28 February 2016

US declines Aafia Siddiqui’s repatriation

Says political climate not favouring repatriation even if Pakistan joins Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad
ISLAMABAD - The United States has said it would not repatriate Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan even if Islamabad joins the Inter-American Convention on Serving of Criminal Sentences Abroad 1993, it has been learnt reliably.
According to the documents exclusively available with The Nation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had approached the US government for confirmation if they would agree to its proposal for transfer of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to serve her remaining period of jail in Pakistan, in case Pakistan secures membership of the said convention. The US side has now formally conveyed, “the present political climate in the USA would preclude the chances of any meaningful response regarding Pakistan’s request for repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui even if Pakistan were to join the Inter-American Convention on Serving of Criminal Sentences Abroad,” the documents revealed. 
A source in the Foreign Office here said that the US decision has thrown the political government in Pakistan into utter disappointment which, he said, wanted to take a political mileage of the repatriation of Siddiqui. “The government sincerely did its efforts to achieve the objectives but the same did not yield positive results,” he added. 
The source told this correspondent that the Pakistani authorities believe that the US side intends to pursue the matter as a political one rather than a legal or humanitarian subject. “Keeping in view the US approach, the Pakistani authorities are now weighing other options to lure the US authorities for repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The possible subjects for discussion with the US authorities in the coming days can be revocation of death sentence, amendment in blasphemy laws, better security for minorities and more rights for Pakistani women,” he added.
The documents further show that a number of legal options were under consideration of the Pakistani authorities to handle Aafia’s case. One of them was Transfer of Prisoners for completion of sentences. Under the US law, a person sentenced under federal law to a term of years may be repatriated or transferred to their country of national origin only if the country in question is signatory to a prisoner transfer treaty to which the US is also a signatory. The US is a signatory to two multilateral prisoner transfer treaties, namely the Council of Europe (COE) Convention; and the Inter-American Convention on Serving Criminal Sentences Abroad (OAS Convention). Pakistan, however, is not a signatory to either convention nor is there a bilateral treaty in place between Pakistan and the US for prisoners transfer. Therefore, in the absence of Pakistan’s accession to one of the multilateral prisoner transfer treaties or negotiations of a bilateral treaty between the US and Pakistan, it would be unlawful for the US government to return Dr Siddiqui to Pakistan while her sentence is still in force.
The documents further revealed that the ministry of foreign affairs in its communications dated 26, 27 July, 2010, took up the matter with the Interior Ministry and Law and Justice Division. Both the ministries were requested to initiate steps for acceding to international Conventions on Transfer of Prisoners with EU and OAS but the US side has now declined the repatriation even if Pakistan were to join the convention.
The documents said, the other available option for Aafia’s repatriation was the ‘Presidential Pardon’ or commutation. The US constitution gives the US President absolute discretion in awarding a pardon or commuting a sentence. However, they are usually not awarded in cases where the defendant has not admitted responsibility nor shown any remorse. Dr. Siddiqui had limited chances of the use of this option since she did not accept any responsibility for her alleged crimes.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui had reportedly gone missing along with her three children in 2003. After British journalist Yvonne Redley had stated at a press conference in July 2008 in Islamabad that a woman prisoner No 650 (grey lady) was detained at the US Base in Bagram, human rights organizations and media claimed that the grey lady was the missing Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. The US embassy in Islamabad on August 4, 2008 conveyed the Pakistani authorities that Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was taken in the US custody from Afghan authorities on July 17, 2008 in Ghazni and had been transferred to the US on August 3, 2008.
As the Pakistani embassy in Washington approached the US authorities to hand over the custody of her children to Pakistan in case they were in the US custody, the US responded that it had no information about her two missing children. The US, however, facilitated repatriation of her eldest son Ahmed to Pakistan through Afghan authorities. Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was indicted by the US government in a US court of law on September 2, 2008 on charges of seven counts of attempted murder and assault on the US soldiers during a confrontation in Afghanistan in July 2008. Pakistani embassy in Washington was engaged with senior US officials for finding a way out for repatriation of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui to Pakistan. 
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in parallel, was also pursuing the matter with the visiting US dignitaries and embassy officials for her repatriation to Pakistan.
When contacted, US embassy in Islamabad’s spokesman said that the US can only evaluate a request for a prisoner transfer once the country is a signatory to the convention.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 26-Feb-2016

Friday, 19 February 2016

NAB To Decide Cases Against PM, Punjab CM By March 31

February 17, 2016

ByAnsar Abbasi 
ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has now set a March 31, 2016 deadline to decide the fate of corruption investigations against Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
By this deadline, NAB will either decide to mature these cases for prosecution or give a clean chit to the Sharifs in these inquiries, which were initiated almost 15 years ago during the Musharraf era but remained inconclusive.
The NAB had set a deadline of Dec 31, 2015 in the middle of last year for deciding the fate of these cases but the previous deadlines was not met and the director general concerned sought more time i.e. till March 31, 2016.
Like many others, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is said to be upset for the reason that these cases are pending with NAB for over a decade now but neither has been cleared nor a formal reference has been made against him.
The PML-N's general view is that these cases were made against the Sharifs by Musharraf to politically victimise them. It is argued by the N-Leaguers that these cases have no basis but have been used to vilify the PML-N's top leadership. 
However, to the credit of Chairman NAB Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, he has devised a strategy to decide the fate of all those cases which are pending since long so that no one is blackmailed or unnecessarily vilified.The present NAB strategy is to either convert the pending investigations into formal references on the basis of solid evidence or drop the inquiries because of inadequate evidence available to prosecute the person alleged for corruption or misuse of authority. Under the same strategy, a large number of inquiries/investigations have either been dropped or turned into references.
As part of the same strategy, the inquiries against Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are now set to be decided by March 31, 2016. These deadlines are set in all cases of “mega corruption” against politicians, bureaucrats, private individuals, etc.
Two separate investigations are presently under progress against the prime minister. In one of the cases, Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif and others are alleged of misusing the authority in the construction of a road from Raiwind to Jati Umra, the residence of the Sharifs. The case is pending with the NAB since 2000, and involves the alleged misappropriation of Rs125 million.
In other cases, the prime minister is accused of making illegal appointments in the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). This inquiry is pending against him since 1999. The NAB has set the deadline of March 31, 2016 to conclude the inquiry. It will either be disposed of or matured for prosecution.
These cases against the Sharifs were included by the NAB among cases of “mega corruption”, the list of which was presented by the Bureau before the Supreme Court of Pakistan last year.
Among the rulers, besides the Sharifs a case against Finance Minister Ishaq Dar was also shown in the list of mega corruption cases.
Dar’s case was to be concluded by Dec 15, 2015 but the NAB further extended the deadline to Feb 29, 2016. Investigation against Dar was pending with the NAB since 2000. Dar was accused of misusing authority and having assets beyond known means.Following the reflection of these names in the list produced before the apex court by the NAB, the PML-N government strongly reacted and criticised the Bureau.—Originally published in The News

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Pak-China Strategic and Economic Cooperation: Challenges & Opportunities for the Region

April 30, 2015 8:36 pm

Pakistan China RelationsThe phenomenon of continuous swing in the global political dynamics besides a shift in power among the major players of the world, the face of interstate relations keeps changing respectively. Given the fact, it is important that our understanding of the world should also evolve accordingly, and we are not stuck with a worldview that has no relevance to the evolving realities of a world in transition.
Global politics is always characterized with three tendencies; namely, cooperation, competition, and conflict. It is a continuous process where the state to state interactions through economic cooperation, regional conflict, intrastate wars, power struggle between two belligerents, alliance formation for countering common causes of security, pursuance of economic interests through bilateral, regional and multilateral relations are on the move and further complicated by the globalization of the world where every state at its best seeks the chances of maximizing its national interests through various available means.
In the globalized world the rapidly emerging economy of China, which has put the position of many states on a stake in a world where the competitive economies do not always guarantee benefits, but also bring up many challenges and conflicts between the developed and developing and between the rich and poor.
The recent visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Pakistan with a cooperation deal worth US$46 billion, focusing on a broad spectrum of cooperation addressing the core issues like energy, transport and infrastructural developments has a greater degree of impact on the lives of people on both sides.
The relationship of the two countries is not limited to the economic cooperation, but a time-tested relationship based on mutual trust, respect, regional cooperation, and assistance. Both leaders rightly proclaimed the Pak-China relations as a deep-rooted tree.
The relations of both countries have evolved from being strong strategic cooperation towards strategic partnership and bilateral commitment of cooperation in the fields of civil nuclear energy under IAEA safeguards by Pakistan’s engagement with the Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) and its firm commitments and efforts for en route into the global non-proliferation regime.
Pakistan is highly committed to the disarmament and non-proliferation efforts of the international community under the IAEA, which is expressed by its firmly unilateral cessation of nuclear testing and with highly sophisticated security mechanism for ensuring security and the safety of the country’s strategic assets.
The Pakistan-China security interests are also professed to be firmly unified and the strategic partnership between two countries has a mutual time-tested trust having a deep support of political, institutional and popular sustain within the masses of both sides. Despite the unfriendly relations of both countries with India, China encourages and appreciates Pakistan’s eagerness for peaceful resolution of all of the outstanding issues with the neighboring countries just for the sake of a peaceful, stable, cooperative and prosperous region.
Apart from the bilateral cooperation, both countries have greater role in the peace-building and rehabilitation process of Afghanistan having realized the fact that peace and development in the region are mostly connected with the stability and peace in Afghanistan. The new Afghan regime under President Ghani is also desirous to use China’s increased role in bringing the Taliban to a negotiation tables for a peaceful political solution that could bring an end to the country’s long fought war against the Taliban.
Having said all this, China’s investment plans in Pakistan are envisioned by keeping in mind the overall regional infrastructural developments. Therefore, through the initiative of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which include building a new road network along with a railway line, an airport, dry ports, neighbouring countries like Afghanistan and India could also benefit from this corridor by linking their countries with this network. Moreover, these plans also include New Silk Road linking the region with Europe through Central Asia which will not only benefit Pakistan and China but intends broader goals of regional peace, progress and prosperity to the whole region.

Pakistan in the Asian Pacific Politics

May 18, 2015 9:06 pm

The growing influence of Asia Pacific in the making of new world system is an open truth by now. The region has been the centre of academic debates because of Sino-US eyeball-to-eyeball economic and covert military competition. More specifically, according to the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS), Asian countries have now begun to spend more on defense than European ones. According to SIPRI, China’s defense spending increased by 750%, from  $18 billion to $188 billion dollars, from 1989 to 2013.
At the same time, Japan’s increasing assertion on its military profile, the shift of global politics towards Asia owing to the rise of China and India as second and third largest economies, India’s qualitative and quantitative development of its defense forces under the guise of Indo-US strategic partnership especially nuclear deal and “Pivot to Asia” policy of President Obama’s administration designed to ensure the preservation of America’s dominant position in Asia have enabled the region to serve as a strategic juncture in International geopolitical and geo-economical arena.
Interestingly, Pakistan, being an important neutral player in quadrilateral initiative of democratic countries (Australia, India, Japan and the US) against China (Non-democratic) as well as due to its strategic geopolitical significance, possesses the rank of a pivot in Asian Pacific juncture of international politics.
Pakistan, however, faces a number of challenges to be able to cash this opportunity in this context. Socio-economic problems in Pakistan have not only given rise to non-traditional as well as traditional security threats to its national security but also decreased its capacity to deal with these issues in the recent past. Indeed, since its inception, there has been leadership crises in Pakistan coupled with fragile civil-military relations and fractured intra-party democratic values, which have been the front of all other issues that eventually lead to the weak foreign policy decisions.
On the opposite, fortunately, the upcoming picture is not very glimpse. As, first of all, the leadership change in China, India, Afghanistan and Pakistan changes the foreign policy directions of each state with the change of decision-making echelons. This changed behavior led to the initiation of cooperative bilateral relationships among South Asian countries and beyond the region as well. Sino-Pak relations are continually expanding in the positive direction.
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Pakistan enabled the two countries to reaffirm the importance that they attached to their strategic relationship and declare their intention to strengthen it further. They also signed a number of agreements and MOU’s aimed at implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and several other projects in energy, communication, and infrastructure sectors in Pakistan involving in all Chinese investment and financial support amounting to $46 billion. For Pakistan, it would be the forerunner of economic growth by bringing in the Chinese investment in infrastructure, communication, and energy sectors in Pakistan.
There has also been an improvement in Pakistan-Russian relations that have not been very good in the past. Similarly, elections in Afghanistan have positive implications on South and Central Asia, as nonviolent Afghanistan would augment the likelihood of development on Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India (TAPI) and Central Asia-South Asia (CASA) projects. In addition, on the diplomatic front, the decision of Pakistan’s political and military establishment to tackle Yemen conflict diplomatically is a welcome decision.
Also, the qualitative development of armaments by Pakistan in the shape of surface-to-air missile FM-90 that has the capacity to engage aerial targets, together with cruise missiles, drones and air-to-surface guided missiles and is able to operate efficiently even under adverse electronic counter measures (ECM) environments is a rational response to India’s qualitative and quantitative improvement of military might that would, in one way or another, help in maintaining strategic equilibrium in the region. Last but not the least, the importance of Pakistan in successful operationalization of China’s new Maritime Silk Road strategy as well as on-going developmental work on Gwadar port has surely increased Pakistan credentials in the region.
Evidently, Pakistan’s leverage in global and regional politics is increasing day-by-day. Hence, it is equally important for United States to consider Pakistan’s apprehensions in regards to its nuclear deal with India. At the same time, Sino-Pak strategic relationship should not by secretive anymore. On the Pakistani part, it is also need of the hour for its decision-making elites to make foreign policy objective more explicit because failure in this would throw Pakistan in limbo if region undergoes even a minor conflict between existing and emerging major powers in future.

Murdering Pakistan with Debt Trap

October 30, 2015 1:32 pm

Pakistan Debt
Pakistan issued $500 million worth of bonds with a maturity of 10-years at 8.25% in Eurobond market on 24th September 2015. This debt instrument has experienced extraordinary growth and is now floating in secondary market around 106.597 cents. Its value has increased by 7% after almost 35 days of its issuance which is considered to be surprising growth relative to other debt instruments in the secondary market. These $500 million Eurobonds have earned $33 million over face value in 30 days. Surprised?
Eurobonds issued by government of Pakistan have made someone rich overnight and seems like investors are standing in a queue to buy Pakistani bonds to get rich. Treasury bonds of other countries under 10-years maturity are floating in secondary market not more than 2%-3% interest rate. Although the interest rate of bonds have fallen down from 8.25% to 7.25% but it is still too high for an indebted country like Pakistan to pay for. The appreciation in the price of Eurobonds is because of 1% decrease in the annual yield rate resulting in $33 million profit to investors.
Previously, Government of Pakistan sold $2 billion worth of Eurobonds with $1 billion for 10 years maturity at 8.25% (which is 556 BPS above benchmark rate of 10-years US Treasury bonds) and rest of $1 billion for 5 years maturity at fixed 7.25% (which is 558 BPS above benchmark 5-years US Treasury rate) in international debt market back in April 2014. The government actually targeted $500 million worth of Eurobonds but got bids worth $6 billion and restricted to raising $2 billion; which according to government have shown interest of foreign investors in economy of Pakistan. These bonds are recently floating around 104.883 cents which is still higher than that of its issued price but lower than its last year’s record high of 110 cents.
Pakistan government has done three big international borrowing transactions in almost a year; two of them are discussed above and the third one is $1 billion worth of Sukuk bonds with 5-years maturity and borrowed at interest rate of 6.75%. Sukuk bonds are Islamic bonds backed by collateral and Government of Pakistan has pledged Islamabad-Lahore motorway for 5-years and that’s why interest rate is lower than that of Eurobonds transaction of $2 billion. Sukuk bonds were issued to restore lost trust of international investors after OGDCL transaction failed. Government is also planning to sell its shares in HBL, UBL, PIA, and PPL. Government of Pakistan has reported $20 billion in foreign reserves then why it is jumping into selling spree of national assets?
On 23 December, 2012 International Monetary Fund decided 0% interest on the loans of poor countries. Pakistan is repeatedly borrowing from national and international lenders to keep its economy going and has more than $67 billion of external debt to pay to different lenders and yet too excited to show the world that it is richer than the rich countries in the world. In comparison, Nigeria has issued bonds in secondary market at 7%, Egypt has issued its debt instruments at 6%, and interest rate of Middle East and other African countries is around 2.8%. Whereas, interest rate on 10-years US Treasury security is 2.05% as per 27th October 2015.  Now imagine the difference between the annual yield rates of debt securities of US (trillion dollar economy) and Pakistan (billion dollar economy) 2.05% and 8.25% respectively and think about the health of both economies. We can totally mark the difference between trader’s government and democratic government. No doubt behaviors say it all.
Pakistan promised IMF to make reforms in energy sector to be able to borrow at 2-3% interest rate but failed to make any progress and that’s why Pakistan made a smashing entry to international debt market at interest rate as high as 8.25%.
Government officials say they have to repay maturing (2016) bond of same value issued in 2006 by then government. Question is why Pakistan isn’t generating revenue as a state? Why Pakistan has to borrow more to repay the maturing debt? Above all, the amounts of debt we are obtaining from different sources should be spent on jobs, education, cheap production of electricity, elimination of corruption, expansion of irrigation system, building of big dams, and state owned factories. Only this way Pakistan as a state can generate revenues and will be able to pay off its debts on its own. Borrowing more to pay the maturing debts will lead to debt trap that Greece is facing. Alarmingly, 47% of what Pakistan will generate as revenue will be used in debt payment.
We should be worried about Pakistan going into debt trap just like Greece. Greece has to borrow to pay for its previous loans and it is repeating this strategy for years. Pakistan is still better off paying its debts in time but this strategy would not work for long. We really need to mobilize our national assets to start generating profits so that we can be in a better position to pay off our debts from revenues rather than to borrow more to pay off previous debts. Pakistan is a money starved country but continuous borrowing isn’t the solution. Solution is progressive economic reforms, exploration of natural resources, and elimination of energy crises which is murdering our industries and hindering development.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

2016 Spring Meetings Civil Society Policy Forum - Call for Session Proposals Launched


The Civil Society Policy Forum (CSPF) for the International Monetary Fund /World Bank 2016 Spring Meetings wil convene in Washington DC from Monday, April 11 to Friday, April 15, 2016. This is an important opportunity for Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to engage with World Bank and IMF staff, their peers, and government delegations on a wide range of topics.

CSO representatives are invited to submit proposals for policy sessions on social and economic development topics. More information and guidelines, including a link to the session proposal form can be found here Deadline for submissions will be February 26, 2016.

** Please note that the Civil Society team is in the process of building a new Civil Society Engagement website which should be fully functional in early March 2016. This may impact information currently available on our site.  We apologize for any incovenience. If you have any questions please e-mail us at civilsociety@worldbank.org**

Pakistan Can Grow With Reforms, Says World Bank President

February 10, 2016

KARACHI, February 10, 2016—World Bank Group (WBG) President Jim Yong Kim concluded a two-day visit to Pakistan by urging the country to raise the ambition of its economic reforms while also encouraging the private sector to take a bigger role in creating jobs, especially for youth and women.
On the second day of his visit to Pakistan, Kim met with students, women entrepreneurs and other representatives of the private sector in Karachi and said they could all play a role in strengthening the country’s economy and helping the government to improve the investment climate.
“I have been impressed over the last two days with the achievements of the people of Pakistan and would encourage the country to be more ambitious with reforming its economy so that more people are lifted out of poverty more quickly and prosperity is more widely shared,” Kim said. “I had excellent talks with the country’s leaders and people on strengthening the role of the private sector for job creation, accelerating energy reforms, making improvements at the community level for health and education, and ensuring that anti-poverty measures are effective at reaching poor people.”
At a discussion organized at the Institute of Business Administration on “Social Innovation and Inclusion”, Kim praised the role of emerging female entrepreneurs and said youth is a great asset for Pakistan’s development. He assured the audience of students, faculty members, media and female entrepreneurs that the WBG would continue to support skills development and creation of quality jobs for youth and women.
“Evidence shows that when women have greater control over household funds, or agricultural resources, it can have significant payoffs. At a time when the world is looking for additional drivers of growth, there’s an untapped market out there that everyone should invest in more: women.” said Kim. “The number of young people in Pakistan is growing rapidly and so job creation is a priority and this is where the private sector can play a huge role.”
While in Karachi, Kim called on the Sindh leadership, and heard about the reform agenda and the development priorities of the province. They exchanged ideas on how the World Bank can help the province in effective implementation of its projects.
On his first day in Pakistan, Kim met in Islamabad with the prime minister and his economic team and secretaries from provincial and federal governments. He also participated in a launch event for WBG support to Pakistan’s financial inclusion reform agenda, “Pakistan’s Path towards Universal Financial Access”, with Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. Kim also participated in a panel discussion on “Managing Displaced Populations”. He also met with provincial leadership of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Balochistan.
The World Bank Group in Pakistan:
The World Bank’s program in Pakistan is governed by its Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) agreed with the government. The World Bank Pakistan portfolio has 26 investment lending projects under implementation with a total net commitment of $4.99 billion. To date, we have committed over $5.6 billion in Pakistan, including $1.2 billion during the 2015 fiscal year. IFC’s advisory services program in Pakistan is one of its largest in the region, with 13 active projects and a funding commitment of over $20 million.