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Saudi Arabia, has long held sway in Pakistan's internal affairs but Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised a "New Pakistan". Will this apply to its relationship with Saudi Arabia?  

The term Allah, Army and America refers to the three main pillars of Pakistan’s state of affairs since its independence in 1947. Leading academics and experts on Pakistan have referred to these three A’s as being crucial to understanding how Pakistan functions. The key glue that holds the three A’s has always been the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. 

Saudi Arabia has enjoyed an unparalleled and unique relationship with Pakistan—and in the words of the former head of Saudi Intelligence, Prince Turki bin Faisal—the two countries enjoy "probably one of the closest relationships in the world between any two countries without any official treaty". 

This relationship, however, has not always been a balanced one, it could be argued that the Saudis have more influence in Pakistan, than even many local politicians. The current Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel el Jubeir, is on record as saying whilst serving as Ambassador to the US, that Saudi Arabia is not just an observer but an actual participant in Pakistani affairs. 

Pakistan’s newly elected Prime Minister Imran Khan has just completed his first overseas trip, and it was to the Kingdom. There is anticipation that Imran Khan who is devoid of foreign patronage, unlike his predecessors, could forge a meaningful relationship with the Saudis, but how realistic is this given the army’s own commitments to the Saudis?

Saudi First? 

It is a well established fact the degree of authority and leeway Saudis enjoy in Pakistan – whether it be illegal hunting of rare birds, decades long funding of extremist madrassas and indeed the critical issue of an alleged Pakistani nuclear umbrella for Saudi Arabia.  There is no direct evidence to suggest that Pakistan would ever transfer their nuclear assets to Saudi Arabia for any sort of use. However this has not stopped international speculation that Saudi Arabia for all practical purposes has the Pakistani bomb as an insurance against a potentially nuclear Iran. 

Former Saudi Defence Minister, Prince Sultan bin Abdelaziz is the only foreignerever to visit a Pakistani nuclear site in 1999, a privilege not even accorded to a civilian prime minister of Pakistan. However Pakistani military and civilianofficials regularly cite Saudi security as paramount and equal to the defence of Pakistan itself.

The appointment of former Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif as the head of the Saudi funded Islamic military alliance has also raised many eyebrows and legal questions within Pakistan for the last two years. 

Former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif’s personal relationship with the Saudis has also been questioned, and his release yesterday from prison led to rumours of a deal given the coincidental timing of Imran Khan’s visit to Riyadh. The Imran Khan government had to issue a denial delinking the Saudi visit and Nawaz Sharif's release. 

Whatever the truth as to the nature of Saudi Arabia’s political involvement in Pakistan and their personal relationships, it makes the government in Islamabad nervous. Whether it is Nawaz Sharif or Imran Khan – they all have to make clarifications one way or the other either to defend Saudi Arabia or to distance themselves from what are perceived as back-room dealings that puts Saudi interests before Pakistan. 

Despite all the hype of a ‘Pakistan First’ foreign policy, and an initial public statement that Imran Khan would not go on overseas tour during his first three months in office – the new Information Minister, Fawad Chaudry, fresh after the Saudi trip was back to the usual line of his predecessors in saying, that "Pakistan would continue to provide security to their (Saudi) country".

It seems the two year outreach by the Pakistan Army to Iran could fall apart given Saudi insistence on exclusivity. The Saudi press, led by the most senior editors has been very clear that Imran Khan and Pakistan must choose betweenIran and Saudi Arabia. This follows constant pressure denouncing Pakistan for not helping Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and also questioning the strategic partnership between the two countries. This was confirmed by Imran Khan's government, in the same press conference when Fawad Chuadry admitted that relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia had not been stable for a few years and that Khan had put them right on this trip. 

This begs the question, can Imran Khan do anything differently from his predecessors?

Anything new for Khan to do?

Imran Khan's early weeks in power were spent giving grand statements on how Pakistan would be the mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran. He accepted President Rouhani’s invitation to travel to Tehran, and made high profile meetings with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Javed Zarif and the Iranian Ambassador. One thing does separate Khan from his predecessors; he is making public and bold statements in favour of Iran. Even though he has not been able to do away with the Saudi first approach, he could be in a good position to convince the Saudis that it is not a zero-sum game. 

Given Saudi-Iranian tensions and an outright battle to control the Middle East, there is very little Imran Khan can do to solve this. Previously, the Saudi Foreign Minister had out right dismissed the need for Pakistan to mediate with Iran. At the same time rather than fix the Iran-Saudi mess, Khan's main concern should be to alleviate the suffering of Pakistani workers in Saudi Arabia. Khan made no mention of this during his trip. It is for this reason Saudi Arabia has always treated Pakistani politicians with contempt – WikiLeaks proved that the Saudi leadership preferred military rule in Pakistan as a better option to corrupt and weak politicians. 

Away from the covert cable leaks, senior Saudi princes such as Prince Turki bin Faisal have been clear in mocking Pakistani politicians, and suggesting that if they did their jobs properly the Army would not intervene in the first place. On his first trip to Saudi Arabia, Imran Khan has definitely made an impact and invited them to join Pakistan’s flagship economic project, the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The Saudi press were full of praise for Khan and his reenergising of the strategic relationship. 

It is far too early to make a judgement on how Khan shall deal with Saudi Arabia, but one thing is for sure, Saudi Arabia will remain a major force in every aspect of Pakistani affairs.This was best summed up by Imran Khan himself on his first official visit, "anyone who comes to power in Pakistan will visit Saudi Arabia first". It seems from Khan's first overseas trip, at least for now – Pakistan will continue its ‘Saudi First’ policy.
Hassan Aslam Shad September 29, 2018

‘ANTI-CORRUPTION drive’ has been the primary slogan of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s movement for naya Pakistan with the promise of across-the-board accountability to cleanse the system of the proverbial cancer of corruption.

On Sept 17, 2018, a significant step was taken in this direction when Pakistan, led by its law minister, Dr Farogh Naseem, and British Home Secretary Sajid Javid, made a joint justice and accountability declaration. Early details indicate that the joint declaration is aimed at tackling corruption, money laundering, asset recovery and repatriating the looted wealth of Pakistan.  It is hoped that in due course, this declaration will sow the seeds of a detailed bilateral treaty framework of cooperation between the two countries. This joint declaration must be viewed in the context of some important legal developments in the UK which are akin to the latter country having waged its warfare against corruption through legal means.

Pakistan should gain a full understanding of how anti-corruption legislation has evolved in the UK.

Pakistan’s law ministry officials, it is hoped, are taking stock of these unprecedented recent legal developments in the UK. In the context of a broader framework of cooperation against corruption between the two countries, having a better understanding of these legal developments will enable Pakistan to negotiate from a position of strength, and put up a convincing case for the inclusion in the treaty framework of provisions favourable to Pakistan and to be otherwise seen to be playing by the ‘rules of the game’.

These legal developments in the UK must be seen in the context of the strategic weaponising of the law — a recurring theme at both international and state levels. Lawfare — a portmanteau of the words ‘law’ and ‘warfare’ — is the term commonly used to explain this weaponising of the law. The concept is taught at several top-tier US law schools such as Harvard Law School.

The resonance of lawfare as the preferred weapon of choice can be seen in international contexts where adversaries (countries) increasingly resort to the use of legal arguments at international fora to highlight transgressions of international law by the other party. A form of lawfare common in international relations is the passing of Security Council resolutions to penalise states that violate international law obligations.

Similar uses of lawfare can be seen in the domestic context. Governments, civil society and academia in countries are engaged in a constant internal lawfare with one another both as independent actors and as proxies of interest groups. This horizontal (intra-state) lawfare can be seen in many forms and manifests itself across a broad spectrum: legislation tabled with specific policy objectives, lobbying by civil society to pass specific legislation, and courtroom battles on legal issues.

In the context of the UK’s lawfare against corruption, the first step seems to have been taken in 2017. In that year, amendments were introduced to the UK’s Proceeds of Crime Act, 2002. POCA, as originally passed, was a landmark legislation that allowed authorities to act against property where they could prove that it was obtained through unlawful conduct. However, the UK’s enforcement authorities still faced practical difficulties in successfully litigating cases due to lack of cooperation by the state authorities of the accused’s country of origin.

To avoid these difficulties, the 2017 amendments to POCA introduced the concept of unexplained wealth order, or UWO, which is an investigation order issued by the high court upon satisfaction of certain tests. Once granted, the UWO requires an individual to set out the nature and extent of their interest in the property in question and to explain how they obtained that property in cases where that person’s known income did not explain ownership of that property.

Once the UWO has been granted by the UK high court, the individual must respond within a certain time period, and if a reasonable explanation for the wealth is not given, the property is presumed to be recoverable.  Some leading legal jurists have argued that the true impact of UWOs will be seen in the years to come when the courts, faced with applications, decide on the grounds for the issuance of UWOs. As the UK is home to hundreds of NGOs and interest groups, it is inevitable that new legal battlegrounds will emerge in courtrooms as the interest groups vie for issuance of UWOs against individuals accused of hoarding dirty money in the UK. To what extent UWOs prove to be a potent arsenal in the UK’s lawfare against corruption will become clearer in the years ahead.

However, there are lessons to be learnt here for Pakistan whose own lawfare against corruption cannot succeed unless developments in the UK’s lawfare sphere — and those taking place in other countries of interest to Pakistan — are closely followed by the law ministry’s policymakers. Pakistan should gain a full understanding of how anti-corruption legislation has evolved in the UK. What is not permitted or allowed under UK law cannot be agreed to by it in a bilateral treaty framework with Pakistan. Doing the homework now will allow Pakistan to gain maximum leverage during the drafting phase and thus come prepared to the negotiating table.

Besides full awareness of the dynamics of the UK’s lawfare against corruption, Pakistan’s own efforts in this direction cannot succeed unless a robust and all-inclusive mechanism to mirror the bilateral anti-corruption treaty framework is devised. At present, Pakistan does not have an extradition treaty with the UK. If it has indeed agreed to extradite convicted individuals, ad hoc extradition arrangements would need to be replaced by a bilateral extradition treaty. Pakistan’s existing anti-corruption laws may also require amendments to bring them in line with the new bilateral framework. 

For the anti-corruption drive under the ‘naya Pakistan’ envisaged by Prime Minister Khan to succeed, it is time that Pakistan’s policymakers take stock of the different forms of lawfare being waged around the globe and weaponise laws effectively to ensure a comprehensive lawfare against corruption.

With the military, the judiciary and the executive of the country appearing to be on the same page on key national issues, Imran Khan seems comfortably ensconced in office. This should give the prime minister considerable elbow room to pursue his manifesto promises and implement his agenda. At the same time, he and his close aides including ministers must also safeguard against becoming so smug that their conduct is seen as rash.

Last Thursday’s exchanges in the National Assembly between opposition members and the information minister which led to the former’s walkout were indicative of how supremely self-confident the government is.  Due process cannot be sacrificed at the altar of political rivalries or vendettas. It is every Pakistani’s right, and society must ensure that it prevails.  Perhaps, the government can get away with using the sort of language the minister spoke while the going is good. But in the long run, it leads to so much animosity that if, ever, the ride for the government gets a bit bumpy, such an attitude may cost it dearly.

Also, the PTI is a party in power and should now learn to wear that fact too. The kind of oratory and language which some of its leaders might have used during those long years in the political wilderness needs to be parked somewhere.  For then, the party was trying to garner support to challenge one government of the day or the other and needed firebrand, even if a bit rude, speakers. Now it has to govern and legislate. Some laws can be passed by it in the National Assembly, given its simple majority.  Its majority in the lower house is just that. Simple. And in the upper house it does not have even that. For any major legislation such as a constitutional amendment it will require the support of one or more opposition parties.

The prime minister has not left any doubt about his commitment to battling corruption. He also has a low opinion of anyone he considers corrupt but members of parliament no matter which party they belong to represent their constituents. If there is no legal impediment to opposition members being present in the National Assembly and/ or Senate, then whatever the PTI leader/ ministers/ members may think of them does not take away their entitlement to the same privileges as those sitting on the treasury benches.  The information minister who, I am sure, has his boss’s full backing in being aggressive and tough with those across the aisles, must also temper his oratory with a politer choice of words as against what he actually chose.

This does not, for a moment, mean that the Imran Khan-led government need give up on any of its promises. It can continue to do what its voters and backers expect it to do. At the same time, it is important that it does not insult/ injure opponents when no such thing is warranted.

A news report suggests that the Intelligence Bureau, which was developing reputedly into a fine counterterrorism civilian agency, has now been asked to shift its focus to mainly pursuing corruption cases. Recently, there have been several transfers and postings at a fairly high level in the agency. Possibly, the prime minister was told that many of IB’s key officials, all career police/ IB officers, were suspected of being loyal to the former PML-N government.

Whatever the reason, the prime minister would be well advised to understand the importance of a civilian agency’s mandate to fight terrorism and gather intelligence so the services’ security forces can focus on their own priorities for countering external threats to national defence. In equal measure, it is important that any anti-corruption campaign the prime minister orders is transparent and above board. Any such badly needed drive will need to establish at the very beginning that it is not part of a political witch-hunt.

This is being said keeping in mind that there have been figures bandied about in the media and WhatsApp groups trying to show that a couple of hundred billion dollars of our wealth is stashed abroad or that the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his family have some 300 billion (ill-gotten) rupees hidden somewhere.  If even a fraction of the sums being mentioned has indeed been looted and stashed abroad, no sane person would have a problem with such funds being returned to its rightful owners, the people of Pakistan. However, if after due diligence the authorities reach the conclusion that was just WhatsApp banter and there was no truth in it, then that should also be openly acknowledged, and officially sponsored media trials must end.

There are partisan people who will only see things from their own perspective. But there are many nonpartisan, impartial observers too who have no agenda except to see the rule of law and Constitution being established in the country.  Due process cannot be sacrificed at the altar of political rivalries or vendettas. It is every Pakistani’s right, and, collectively, society must ensure that it prevails. Side by side with upholding due process, if the PTI feels the criminal justice system has loopholes that allow the corrupt to get away scot-free then it should legislate to plug them so the net can be tightened. For such a worthwhile goal as fighting corruption, and in having targets such as building five million homes for the homeless and creating 10m jobs, one has no hesitation in supporting the government unconditionally.

It is incumbent on the government, too, to act as one which respects the rights of all and has compassion at its core. The prime minister and his cabinet need to also spell out their commitment to democratic values and freedom of speech and association. Neither the PTI nor the prime minister can live in the past. Their focus should firmly be on the future.

Sheikh Imran N Hosein 2018


ISLAMABAD: An International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package remains the only viable option for Pakistan to arrest deterioration in macroeconomic situation and restore shattering confidence of markets, Pakistan’s negotiating team informed Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday.  Khan was chairing a meeting on the IMF programme, which was attended by Finance Minister Asad Umar, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) Governor Tariq Bajwa and Adviser to PM Dr Ishrat Husain. The briefing took place on the day when the SBP announced that official foreign currency reserves have dropped to nearly four years low of just $8.4 billion. Last time, on November 21, 2014, the country’s reserves had slid to $8.5 billion.

Pakistan needs to raise $20b to avoid payment crisis

A Pakistani team that held negotiations with the IMF from September 27 to October 4, briefed the PM about the outcomes of the talks, said sources in the Finance Ministry. The PM was said to be told that in order to restore confidence of the market the IMF was the only option.  The premier was also told that no major and continued financial relief was in sight from the friendly countries. On its part, the IMF has also reached to a conclusion that fund was the last viable option for Pakistan, as the Pakistani authorities could not share a concrete plan that could ensure smooth flow of dollars to meet international debt obligations, said sources in an international financial institution.

Pakistan is in search of at least additional $11 billion in next nine months to repay its old debts and finance the imports. The IMF team was led by its Washington-based mission chief Harald Finger. The Pakistani side was represented by officials from the SBP and the Ministry of Finance.  The PM did not immediately take a decision on putting a formal bailout request to the IMF. Sources said the PM is still hopeful that Saudi Arabia and China will temporary bailout Pakistan but claimed that recent developments in connection with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have made both Beijing and Riyadh uncomfortable.  Imran Khan will share his mind on the IMF package in the next few days, a senior government functionary told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity.

IMF conditions

One of the reasons for pending a decision is the IMF’s harsh condition that Pakistan should adopt a free float exchange rate regime rather than the existing managed exchange rate. Under the managed exchange rate regime, the SBP is still pumping its already sacred foreign exchange reserves in market.  The sources said this is also one of the reasons behind $627million reduction in the reserves in just one week that ended on Sep 28, reducing the gross official reserves to just $8.4 billion. They said the IMF projected a fair value of rupee above Rs145 to a dollar as against the current rate of Rs125 to a dollar.

The sources said the second tough condition of the IMF is to increase the interest rates at least minimum 2.5% to 4%. At present, the key interest rate is 8.5%, which the IMF wants to see in the range of 11% to 12.5% to contain inflation and narrow down current account deficit.  During the concluding session, Asad Umar told the IMF that Pakistan will have to see whether the government can raise 4% interest rates. The minister also said the government would also have to review whether it can implement a free float exchange rate regime. Neither the finance minister nor the spokesman of the Ministry of Finance responded to the requests for comments.

IMF request for CPEC contract details declined

The sources said Asad Umar told the IMF team that Pakistan wanted to follow a structural reforms programme that could ensure sustained economic growth.  The IMF’s other conditions are enactment of the Public Finance Management law and a clear roadmap for implementation of Financial Acton Task Force (FATF) plan. The IMF also wants that Pakistan should lower the flow of the circular debt from over Rs625 billion to around Rs350 billion.  The IMF’s assessment is that if Pakistan did not immediately pick its option to handle the crisis, the balance of payments position would further worsen. The sources said in case Pakistan did not opt for an IMF package, some of the projected loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank would not materialize. This would expand the financing gap beyond $12 billion.  
The IMF has termed recent fiscal and monetary adjustments by Pakistan inadequate. The IMF assessed that the budget deficit may widen to over 5.5% of the gross domestic product (GDP) or Rs2.1 trillion, even after the additional revenue measures introduced through a mini-budget.


Finance Minister Asad Umar. PHOTO: PTI

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday announced that it was ready to take ‘decisive corrective measures’ to put the national economy back on track, raising the prospects for early finalisation of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout package, carrying huge political and economic costs. The Ministry of Finance issued an official handout that had striking similarity with IMF’s views. It indicated that the government had finally made up its mind to go to the IMF.  The handout was issued a day after the economic managers informed the Prime Minister that the IMF was the only viable option to steer the country out of its current economic crisis.

“Going forward, the government is committed to taking decisive corrective adjustments to restore the economy on a path of stability and growth,” stated the finance ministry.

IMF suggests higher interest rate, rupee depreciation

It said that the government believed that fiscal and price adjustments alone “are not sufficient”, and unless the much-delayed deep structural and institutional reforms were implemented “with (an) unflinching resolve, the entrenched imbalances plaguing the economy will keep resurfacing”.

“Additional decisive policy action, anchored in a comprehensive strategy, and significant external financing will be needed in the near term,” the IMF had stated after concluding its staff-level visit to Islamabad.  The Fund insisted that “policies should include more exchange rate flexibility and monetary policy tightening, further fiscal adjustment … strengthening the performance of key public enterprises together with further increases in gas and power tariffs”. The government has already increased gas prices by 143% and is set to increase power tariffs by at least 61%.

The IMF said that these steps would help reduce current account pressures and improve debt sustainability.  The IMF, it is learnt, urged Pakistan to follow a free-float exchange rate regime, besides increasing its interest rate to a minimum of between 11 and 12.5%. But these measures could undermine the PTI government’s plan to create 10 million jobs in the private sector and building five million housing units.

The IMF 
said that Pakistan was facing significant economic challenges, with a declining economic growth, high fiscal and current account deficits, and low levels of foreign exchange reserves.  Official forex reserves plunged to $8.4 billion by September 28 this year, hitting the lowest level in nearly four years. The finance ministry said that the IMF mission had highlighted imminent challenges facing Pakistan’s economy, including accumulation of losses in public-sector enterprises, non-execution of structural reforms, weakening of institutions and lack of domestic resource mobilisation, among others.

The finance ministry said that corrective measures recently taken by the government in the mission’s view were steps in the right direction. But it added that the visiting team was of the view that further actions were required for correcting major economic imbalances.

According to the finance ministry, the PTI government had inherited a fragile economy since critical economic decisions were delayed by the previous government in an election year. Prompt decisions on monetary, exchange rate and fiscal policies could have averted the economic downturn that Pakistan was now facing, it added.

The ministry underlined Pakistan’s commitment to protecting the poor and vulnerable segments of society, promising to invest more in social protection, human development and job creation to ensure that the burden of adjustment was not unjustly imposed on the weaker segments of society.

Pakistan needs to raise $20b to avoid payment crisis

This statement suggested that the finance ministry was ready to increase interest rates, devalue rupee and levy more taxes to qualify for the IMF programme.  The IMF also stressed that once stabilisation started to take hold, the focus should increasingly shift to reforms to foster sustained and inclusive growth, strengthening key institutions.

Priority areas, it said, included modernising the tax system and public financial management, strengthening fiscal federalism arrangements, improving governance and eliminating losses of public enterprises, enhancing the SBP’s autonomy, intensifying AML/CFT efforts, improving the business climate and anti-corruption efforts, and fostering the economic inclusion of the poor, youth, and women.

The IMF said that the PTI government’s recent policy measures were steps in the right direction, but insufficient. “Decisive policy action and significant external financing will be needed to stabilise the economy,” it said.  The IMF said that Pakistan’s current economic situation reflected the legacy of an overvalued exchange rate, loose fiscal policy and accommodative monetary policy adopted in the past.




Ali Salman

LAHORE: Prime Minis­ter Imran Khan has hinted at launching the first-of-its-kind mega poverty alleviation venture within seven to 10 days to bring people out of abject poverty in the country.
“The poverty alleviation package will be the most important component in the PTI government’s 100-day performance to be unveiled before the people of Pakistan within the next few days,” Mr Khan said.

He said it would be a coordinated effort of all the state organs already working on the project. “All the relevant state organs will work under one umbrella,” he said.
Acknowledging the advice and guidance of China, the prime minister said, “We have learnt from our China visit how they did the historic job of bringing 700 million people out of poverty in just three decades.”

PM opens construction of first shelter home in Lahore, says Pakistan has come out of financial crisis

Laying the foundation stone for the first shelter home Panah Gah near the railway station, the prime minister said it would be the first step towards transforming Pakistan into a welfare state. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” he quoted a Chinese proverb.

Later, the prime minister tweeted: “Today, I laid foundation for first of five shelters for the homeless in Lahore and one in Rawalpindi to be followed by shelters in other cities. We are committed to building a social net for our poor citizens so everyone has a shelter over his/her head and access to health and education.”

Mr Khan said the Panah Gah project would benefit the homeless and needy. The visitors would be offered quality food to be provided by philanthropists. “Such people were never taken care of in previous governments,” he lamented. He said the other shelters would be established at Icchra, Chauburji, Data Darbar and Shahdara.

He said the financial crisis that was looming large in the country did not allow the government to focus on projects like shelter homes in its first two-and-a-half months. “Now, the country is out of the financial crisis as it is in a position to pay off the loan and interest instalments,” he asserted.

Emphasising that the Panah Gah projects will be made centres of excellence, the prime minister said that a board of governors (BoG) would oversee the maintenance and functioning of these centres. “The BoG will finalise the policy for the shelter homes,” he added.  

The prime minister said that he would recommend names for the board of governors. He said he had met several such philanthropists and people of high calibre during his two-decade experience of running the Shaukat Khanum cancer hospital.

Acknowledging that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is a humble person who is well aware of the miseries of the poor, the prime minister said Mr Buzdar picked his point well on establishing the shelters and immediately located five sites in Lahore and started work on the project within no time. He also acknowledged the diligence and passion of LDA Director General Amina Imran Khan in executing the welfare project. Mr Khan said the chief minister’s selection had invited fiery comments and reservations from within the party. He asserted that Mr Buzdar would come out as a star performer like his selected boys in cricket — Wasim Akram and Inzamamul Haq. Looking towards Buzdar sitting on the stage, Mr Khan said, “Another Wasim Akram will emerge from Punjab’.

The prime minister said he had also asked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief minister to find locations to establish shelter homes in Peshawar. Similarly, he said, the Sindh governor had also been instructed and the chief minister would be asked to work on establishing shelter homes in Karachi and other big cities in the province.

Answering a question about the government stance on the release of Aasia Bibi, the prime minister said, “A government always stands with Supreme Court decisions to help the country to move forward”. The rule of law depends upon accepting the decisions of the Supreme Court, he added.

PM’s Punjab Initiatives

The prime minister later chaired a meeting to review the `Prime Minister’s Punjab Initiatives’ at the Chief Minister Secretariat. Mr Khan stressed that the Punjab government should find out some innovative ways of governance.

The meeting discussed proposals to transform the governance system to bring about visible change in people’s lives. The Punjab cabinet informed the prime minister about different priorities and targets and their implementation. It also informed the premier about Punjab’s 100-day plan and its implementation. The 100 days are completing on Nov 29.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, on a two-day official visit to Malaysia, said Pakistan intended to learn from Malaysia’s economic development and progress through the years. The premier also invited Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohammad to attend Pakistan Day celebration in 2019. The two countries agreed to enhance bilateral cooperation in trade, privatisation, foreign direct investment, food and tourism.

“We look up to him [Mahatir] – a leader who transformed his country. We have followed Malaysia’s progress and my party [Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf] wants to learn from your leadership. How Malaysia transformed its economy, developed and raised per capita and gross domestic product.”

The cricketer-turned-politician said Pakistan was particularly interested in how Malaysia developed its tourism. “We have untapped tourism potential in Pakistan. We have tourism spots but no resorts.”

Noting that the two leaders had acquired mandate campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, PM Imran said both the governments were faced with a similar situation: the crisis of unprecedented debt. He added that the discussion revolved around dealing with and coming out of the present crisis

PM Imran arrives in Malaysia on two-day official visit

During the meeting, the Malaysian side remembered Justice Abdul Hameed, who was also a member of the Reid Commission, and his contribution in drafting the Malaysian constitution. Malaysian investors expressed interest to invest in various sectors in Pakistan, especially in the areas of education, technology, telecommunication, e-governance, e-commerce and tourism.

Expressing confidence in the country’s market potential, they noted that the investment policy is one of the most liberal in the region. PM Imran assured the investors of full support, saying the chairman of Board of Investment (BoI) would ensure smooth and expeditious initiation of projects. The two leaders welcomed the establishment of bilateral consultation between senior officials of foreign ministries and the convening of first consultation in Islamabad next year.

The joint statement issued by the two governments 

Reflecting on longstanding and substantial economic, commercial, and investment ties, both leaders welcomed continued efforts to intensify cooperation between Malaysia and Pakistan. They underpinned their shared desire to strengthen bilateral economic ties, expand trade and investment, create favourable conditions for commerce and business in both countries, particularly in palm oil, agri products, food retail, halal products, automotive parts, energy, science and technology, and telecommunication. The sole electric provider company in Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional Berhad is open to business opportunities with Pakistan including in renewable energy.
Reaffirming the Malaysia-Pakistan Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (MPCEPA) signed on 8 November 2007 in Kuala Lumpur which entered into force on 1 January 2008, Malaysia and Pakistan recognised the importance of regular discussions to strengthen the trade relationship in key sectors and addressing bilateral trade imbalance.

Both leaders also welcomed continuing efforts to further enhance bilateral economic relations and underscored the importance of these efforts in advancing cooperation between Malaysia and Pakistan. In this regard, both sides look forward to a possible MPCEPA Joint Committee Meeting in the near future with the intention to enhance further economic partnership.

On the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) between Malaysia and Pakistan signed in November 2017, Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad reiterated Malaysia’s commitment to assist Pakistan in addressing its energy shortfall. In this regard, Prime Minister Imran Khan welcomed Malaysia’s cooperation in LNG and other energy sectors including hydroelectric and renewable resources.

Recognising Malaysia’s success in the high-tech industry hub in the northern state of Penang, Pakistan highlighted their intention to explore greater collaboration between high-tech industries in Malaysia and Pakistan. Malaysia invited Pakistani companies to invest in Malaysia in both manufacturing and services sectors where the companies are able to leverage Malaysia’s strategic location in expanding their investments into ASEAN and the Asia Pacific regions. Pakistan invited potential Malaysian companies to explore the possibility of investing in Special Economic Zones to take advantage of Pakistan’s strategic location at the crossroads of Central, South and West Asia.

Both leaders reaffirmed the importance of the Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation and looked forward to the 13th Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation (JCDC) which will be convened in 2019 in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia invited Pakistan to participate in the upcoming Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) in 2019. Pakistan also welcomed Malaysia’s participation in the upcoming Defence Expo IDEAS- 2018.

As two peace-loving Islamic nations, the two leaders agreed to increase their collaborative efforts to uphold the true values of Islam in international fora while strengthening the solidarity of the Muslim Ummah. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to collaborate more closely on issues affecting the Muslim world including taking joint efforts in underscoring Muslim sensitivities in attacking Muslim holy personalities and religious belief. Both stressed that terrorism cannot be associated with any religion or belief. Views were Malaysian side took note of the massive counter-terrorism efforts that Pakistan has successfully undertaken in an effort to eliminate terrorism.

Both leaders witnessed the signing of the Partial Visa Abolishment Agreement (PVAA) which will reinforce the positive momentum in the bilateral relationship by broadening contact at the officials’ level between the two countries.

PM Imran in Malaysia
PM Imran had arrived in Kuala Lumpur late Tuesday with his entourage of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Minister for Finance Asad Umar, Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, and Advisor on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood.

He was welcomed by Deputy Foreign Minister Marzuki bin Yahya and senior minister Dr Muhammad bin Rafique at the Kuala Lumpur airport.
On Wednesday, the premier was received by his Malaysian counterpart for an official welcome ceremony at Dataran Perdana in Putrajaya.
PM Imran was presented Guard of Honour at an official welcoming ceremony at Perdana Putra, Putrajaya.


Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday unveiled his government's four-pronged strategy to pull Pakistan out of its "quagmire of loans". The prime minister, while addressing the Pakistani community in Malaysia where he is currently on a two-day official visit, said that the government was committed to uplift the living standard of poor and downtrodden segments of society by improving governance and ending 
corruption.  The premier said that the PTI-government was working on four areas on priority basis.

Increasing exports
The first step towards ridding the country of its chronic loan cycle is to increase exports, said Khan.   "If Malaysia, with a population of 30 million people, has exports worth $220 billion, and we, with a population of 201 million people have exports worth $24bn, then clearly we are doing something wrong," Prime Minister Khan said, adding that his team was working on a "programme to increase exports".

Sending remittances through legal channels
The second step, the premier said, was to create legal channels for overseas Pakistanis to send their remittances through. He said that the finance minister was working on an incentive programme to make routing of remittances easier.

"Currently, we receive $20bn in remittances," the premier said. "We (the government) think that if all the money sent in remittances [is sent via legal channels], then we will receive at least $10-12bn in addition.  Right now, we are facing a shortfall of $12bn. If we start receiving all our remittances [through legal channels] then this problem will be solved."

Attracting investments

The prime minister also emphasised the importance of attracting investments, particularly from foreign businesses. "We will continue to face a shortfall of dollars if we do not attract foreign investments," he warned.  He, however, lauded "the overseas Pakistanis' craze" to invest in the country and vowed to facilitate them by fixing the governance system in Pakistan. He also promised to create an "ease of doing business" for investors — both foreign and domestic.  
"There will be a designated office within the PM Office and its sole purpose will be to solve any problems being faced by investors," he said.

He claimed that past authorities had impeded investors by stopping them from earning profits. "Why would anyone invest in [the country] if they don't earn profit?" he asked.

"We should help them (investors) to make money," the premier said, reminding that wealth creation helps a country grow. "Mahathir Mohammad (Malaysian prime minister) told me this 20 years ago, when I met him soon after entering politics."

Putting an end to money laundering

The last of his quartet of measures to drag the country out of the economic mess was ending the practice of money laundering. He said that Rs10bn was sent abroad through money laundering every year but assured that every agency in Pakistan is now working diligently to make it hard for people to move funds abroad illegally.

"We have signed MoUs (Memorandums of Understanding) with different countries," he said. "And gradually, we are also getting details of the money that has been sent abroad illegally."    Imran Khan said that the recent aid packages acquired by his administration through "friendly countries" was just a temporary solution to Pakistan's economic woes.   "We have acquired loans from friendly countries in order to repay instalments of loans that were borrowed earlier," he said. "Even now we are trying that we have to borrow the least amount of money possible from the IMF (International Monetary Fund), with whom we are in negotiations right now. But this is temporary. This is like treating cancer with Disprin."

The prime minister also took a jibe at opposition parties, claiming that they were waiting to see the new government fail from the first day.   "That is what they are hoping for," he said. "They are scared because they know that as long as I am in power, they will be in danger. They know that they will have to go to jail in a few days.

"This is why everyone is coming together to save democracy. It is not democracy that they are trying to save. They are uniting to save their thievery.  "But you will see, for the first time [in Pakistan history], the government will not give anyone an NRO or make a deal in the name of Charter of Democracy. We will throw each one of them in jail."

The prime minister reiterated his aim to follow the model of the state of Madina in order to fix Pakistan's problems, announcing that his government will announce a poverty alleviation programme by the end of the week.


The wide side discusses Pakistan's relations with China, China Pakistan Economic Corridor CPEC, relations with United States of America, Pakistan's IMF needs which Asad Umar highlighted and trade with neighboring countries! We also discussed the new bus service between China and Pakistan that will help connect businessmen from both sides.

AMONG all the themes that Prime Minister Imran Khan touched on during his visit to Malaysia, one deserves careful attention. Aside from his usual list of topics, from aggressively pursuing corruption cases to curbing money laundering, there was a new emphasis on facilitating investment in the country as a way to promote growth. The new emphasis on investment ought to be welcome in an economy that counts consumption as its main engine, and Pakistan’s investment rate has bottomed out in the past decade. Until this is changed, no amount of economic growth will help to lift the country out of its cycle of balance-of-payments crisis.

The only question that is left to answer now is how the new government intends to go about this mammoth task. Even though he spoke in Malaysia, Mr Khan did not focus solely on foreign investors. He pointed towards his new chief at the Board of Investment as somebody whom he is counting on to create an environment that is conducive for business for both local and foreign investors. That same chief, who is a former World Bank staffer, has constituted a committee to generate proposals on how to improve Pakistan’s standing in the Ease of Doing Business indicators, and is seeking input from private-sector parties across the board. This is a good place to start, but as time goes on, far more is going to be required. For investment to take off, the savings rate needs to be raised, documentation of the economy needs to be advanced, banks need to be encouraged to venture into areas like agriculture and small- and medium-enterprise lending, and proper coordination developed with provincial governments on matters ranging from tax reform to land acquisition. On top of this, a strategic overhaul of tax policy is needed, as is the introduction of a trade and industrial policy.

This is just a small part of the spectrum of priorities that need to be addressed in pursuit of this goal. Otherwise, the government can focus its energies on generating interest in a few big-ticket investment deals through structuring incentives in a way that attracts international investors. Something along these lines was tried during the prime minister’s visit to the so-called investment conference in Saudi Arabia last month. If Mr Khan’s stated intention in Malaysia is to be taken at face value, then he has identified for his government a sprawling and ever-growing mission. The target is the correct one, but there should be no illusions about how much momentum will be needed for the effort to be credible and sustainable. If this is truly going to be the last IMF programme that Pakistan signs onto, as the prime minister claims, then working on this broad agenda will be crucial.


NOW that the financial emergency is over (with Saudi and Chinese financial support), and hopefully an IMF programme will be in place soon, the government must turn to adopting the trade, industry and investment policies required to accelerate growth, generate jobs, restrain imports and expand exports on a sustained basis.

As an initial step, the sectors and products which have the greatest potential for export growth should be identified and promoted. Textiles is Pakistan’s prime export sector. It has been stagnant for several years due to low investment in modern machinery, energy shortages, an artificially strong rupee and inadequate efforts to integrate into global supply and retail networks. Both the government and industry appear ready to redress these deficits.

Sectors and products with the greatest potential for export growth should be identified and promoted.

Agriculture also has bright prospects. Pakistan is food self-sufficient. Yet, its agricultural yields are comparatively low. A considerable agricultural surplus can be generated through the application of new technologies and techniques; improved seeds, planting and harvesting methods; efficient irrigation and fertiliser use; better storage facilities, access to markets, packaging and branding.

Pakistan’s manufacturing sector is minuscule — one fourth the size of the services sector. But, with its high propensity for consumption, Pakistan imports all kinds of manufactured goods. Low industrialisation is a consequence of the folly of past unthinking trade liberalisation. No one will manufacture an item in Pakistan if it can be more cheaply imported into the country. Pakistan can industrialise only if the government acts decisively to protect and promote its infant industries until they are in a position to compete with regional and global producers.

Since a number of Chinese manufacturing industries are becoming less competitive and/ or facing high US and European tariffs, there is a significant opportunity to work with Chinese partners to transfer such industries to Pakistan, and use it as an export platform. Such targeted transfers should be a special focus of CPEC’s Special Economic Zones.

Affordable and indigenous energy will be key to sustained growth. Renewable energy must be the clear preference. Despite high capital outlays, hydropower costs three cents per kilowatt hour. And solar power at four to five cents and wind at seven to eight cents are cheaper than imported fossil fuels and can serve off-grid areas. Approvals for the pending 2,500 MW solar and wind projects mentioned by the Sindh energy minister should be speedily issued. The installation of one or more solar panel production plants in Pakistan would be a profitable venture.

Pakistan may have delayed exploiting Thar coal far too long. Reportedly, electricity from the Thar coal power plants will cost eight cents per kilowatt hour. The environmental impact of coal power plants will be enormous. Future financing for coal-fired plants may not be available, unless new technologies can offer solutions. The Sindh government, for example, has been introduced to a technology which claims to capture waste coal flue gases and transform them into profitable products — ammonia, water or methanol — thus resolving both the environmental and economic problems encountered by coal.

Natural gas will need to be part of Pakistan’s energy mix, given its extensive gas distribution system and the dependence of households and industry on natural gas. Pipeline gas would be cheaper than LNG imports; but the Turkmenistan pipeline must await peace in Afghanistan, and the Iran pipeline will evoke US ‘secondary’ sanctions. Consequently, in the short term, there is no alternative to additional LNG terminals/ imports.

Gwadar’s full potential should be tapped. It was conceived not only as a transshipment port but also as a petrochemical centre. The planned Saudi refinery is a first step towards that vision. Crude and white oil pipelines from Gwadar upcountry and to China should be the next objectives.

An upgrade of Pakistan’s rail system is overdue. China is providing the heavy financing required. It may be wiser to ‘leapfrog’ to instal the most modern Chinese high-speed rail system rather than one which is already behind the times.

A considerable part of government revenues and most foreign ‘assistance’ will have to be deployed to realise the PTI’s social objectives:

— Education, where Pakistan must play ‘catch up’ through massive literacy and vocational training programmes.

— Healthcare, where the government’s idea of providing a health card is a good concept; but faces the problem of the virtual absence of the required health services. Health facilities need to be built up, including through public-private partnerships.

— Social infrastructure, ie clean drinking water, waste management, urban and rural transport and affordable housing, is essential to improve people’s quality of life and can be built also through public-private ventures.

— Policy support, where i1nstitutions like Pakistan Industrial Development Corporation and Pakistan Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation, need to be revived and professionally staffed to guide efficient implementation of various development programmes.

The finance minister’s concept of a sovereign wealth fund has not been fully elaborated. Adequate financing and expertise will have to be mobilised, domestically and internationally, to restructure and revive the myriad public corporations.  Pakistan’s private capital will be fully deployed if assured of policy clarity and consistency, official integrity, fair dispute resolution and reasonable returns. Close interaction between the government, the Pakistan Business Council and the various chambers is essential.

Pakistan’s capital market can be a growing source of investment finance through enhanced project financing, public listings and corporate bond issues.

Externally, China can be expected to maintain and enlarge its commitments under CPEC, especially if projects are efficiently executed. Chinese companies could be encouraged to take larger equity stakes in commercial projects.  Given the positive Saudi and UAE positions, considerable investment can be mobilised from the numerous sovereign wealth funds, pension funds, private equity funds, banks and family offices in the GCC. The government should encourage the creation of Pakistan-focused private equity funds to enlarge its financing sources and options.

Western companies may remain reluctant to enlarge their participation in the Pakistani economy unless the US reverses its negative posture and includes Pakistan in the Asian economic initiative it is launching to compete against China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Although Pakistan offers attractive investment opportunities, financing these will require a well-considered and executed plan including a marketing campaign to ‘sell’ these opportunities sector by sector and project by project. The government must gird up for this vital task.


Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar on Saturday revealed that the next campaign the Supreme Court would support would be centred around population control. Speaking to Geo News following a fundraising event in Birmingham for the construction of dams here, Justice Nisar said that he is planning to spearhead a drive spreading awareness about population control.
"A task force for family planning under Health Secretary Captain (retd) Zahid Saeed was already created and has come up with a report on the matter," he said.  "There will be a conference regarding this in the Supreme Court... on December 12 or 13, and the prime minister and I will also be part of the conference."
"Your [country's] resources are shrinking and that will continue to eventually create disparity and saturation [of resources]," the CJP said. "This is one of the most fundamental issues of the country and it needs to be combated."  According to the 2017 census, which was held after a gap of 19 years, the country’s population has been counted at 207,774,520 living in 32,205,111 households. Top government officials have decided to reduce the population growth rate of 2.4 per cent per annum to 1.5pc.

The Centre and the provinces last Monday decided to form task forces  within their
jurisdictions to control rapid population growth.  The task forces will consider recommendations made by a task force constituted earlier on SC orders, and will submit a comprehensive action plan to the Council of Common Interests, taking into account the future implementation strategy of the action plan, the financial aspects and other issues relating to garnering support of all segments of society for the success of a comprehensive population control programme.

Justice Nisar, while speaking about the fundraiser, said that the response for his call to funds had been overwhelming.

"When an eight-year-old child and and 84-year-old woman both have contributed [to the fund] then who else is left? The whole country has come together to make this fundraising a successful movement."


WHEN was the last time you heard someone or the other saying that education is our only hope. In the last twenty four hours would be a safe bet, if not sooner. If we really believe that education is so central for Pakistan to raise its game then by definition we also believe that we have at the very least a handful of teachers who can help us wrestle the demons of the past and tackle what challenges lie in wait.

A prize for anyone who can name an academic who fits the bill of ‘public intellectual’ other than Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy, Dr Faisal Bari, and that bright spark almost out of public sight now, Dr Mohammad Waseem. Just where in the name of goodness is academia? All over the world it is academics who lead the discourse on every subject of import. They set up and lead think tanks. It is university professors who advise governments and help formulate policies. TV talk show hosts and news anchors invite academics as experts and analysts.

This abdication by the epistemic community has given rise to the most unfortunate situation where TV anchors have assumed the mantle of the public intellectual, and to add insult to injury, they invite fellow anchors as commentators and experts who trot out a moral equivalence for every outrage, see a conspiracy behind every development, and do not miss any opportunity to claim ‘I told you so’ in column this and that or on channel such and such.

TV anchors have assumed the mantle of public intellectuals.

It has been more than a decade and a half since the Higher Education Commission launched its faculty development initiatives including scholarships for PhD programmes in the leading universities of the world. Such efforts by the HEC for quality enhancement of centres of higher learning in the country can only be commended. However, by now we should have had at least a couple of cohorts of these PhDs making waves not just in the country but internationally as well.

Are we to understand that despite the mushrooming of public, semi-public and private universities in the country, we do not have, let’s say, 20 academics who can better inform the public discourse on tolerance, plurality of ideologies and beliefs, political economy, public office and conflict of interest, science, technological development, literature and art? Is it too much to ask of a 200 million-plus resource pool? It comes to one for every 10m Pakistanis.

So which Pakistani academic journals rank among the region’s best? Who has of late made waves in research publications internationally? Alright, we will make the rules of the game less stringent. These academics, researchers, scientists, public intellectuals need not be living in Pakistan. So how many times have you seen Dr Nergis Mavalvala, a Pakistani-American astrophysicist known for her role in the observation of gravitational waves, being invited to weigh in on any matter, scientific or otherwise? She is the Curtis and Kathleen Marble Professor of astrophysics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where she is also the associate head of the Department of Physics. Or is it that unless it is nuclear physics and something to do with the ‘bomb’ we are not interested? Or better still, astrologists who predict by-election results on TV channels and which month will be bhari (inauspicious) for politicians?

How often is Professor Ayesha Jalal invited to public forums in Pakistan? She is a Pakistani-American historian who serves as the Mary Richardson Professor of History at Tufts University. She has taught at Harvard and is the author of books like The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League, and the Demand for Pakistan; and The Struggle for Pakistan: A Muslim Homeland and Global Politics, just to name the first and the latest. Maybe the ratings and popularity constraints demand the staged shouting matches that are held between sarkari intellectuals who are frequently seen heaping invective on each other both on and off air.

The HEC is right in insisting on research and a publication-oriented path to excellence for faculty, but those provided scholarships abroad either do not complete their PhDs or do not return to teaching jobs in Pakistan. Those who conduct their research programmes in Pakistan are hard-pressed to find qualified peer reviewers and supervisors with the right mix of discipline and mentorship.

Plagiarism cases keep appearing with disturbing frequency. The HEC itself is not immune to such scandals. Still there must be academics out there who can hold their own at least against the current lot of self-styled public intellectuals we are made to suffer day in and day out. We need an entire crop of accomplished academics whose understanding and knowledge of their subjects of specialisation is acknowledged and validated by their peers at home and abroad. Sold-out speaking circuit venues will be a sure sign of a healthy and informed discourse going on.

Could the opening of the Kartarpur Crossing, to facilitate the Sikh community on both sides of the Pakistan-India border, be a step towards talks or initiating a peace process? The Indian media and the Indian government are not interested.

A monumental moment took place between two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours yesterday. Pakistan and India opened up the historic Kartarpur Crossing, a boon for the Sikh community all over the world. Providing visa-free access to what is known as the ‘Mecca of Sikhs’, the crossing had been in discussion for decades, but due to a perceived and real security threat, as well as strategic concerns for both countries, safe and easy passage to the gurdwara of Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, remained a dream.
The dream, however, came to life again at the inauguration ceremony of Prime Minister Imran Khan in August 2018 when Navjot Sidhu, a former cricket pal of the incoming PM and former Congress minister, was the only individual who was accepted and got clearance from the Indian government to attend in a personal capacity. 

A picture of Sidhu hugging the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan (COAS) General Bajwa and an interview in which he said the COAS had told him that Pakistan would allow the Kartarpur Crossing to open on the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev made rounds on both Pakistani and Indian media. However, while the Pakistani media was mostly jubilant on the warm interactions between Navjot Sidhu and the COAS, sections of the Indian press considered it akin to treason and lashed out at Navjot Sidhu.

Nevertheless, at the initiation of Navjot Sidhu, India also came on board to open up Kartarpur. 
It is important to note three factors that may have influenced Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) decision to comply with Pakistan’s request: firstly, BJP, India’s ruling party is unpopular in Punjab, a predominantly Sikh state in India.  Second, the BJP, a party that has been very image conscious and heavily invested in PR, already has a weak image internationally when it comes to minority rights.  Lastly, 2019 is an election year for India - they need all the minority and moderate votes they can get, both in Punjab and in other parts of India.
Well, the day finally came. 

On November 28th 2018, the Kartarpur Crossing finally became a reality. Videos of elderly Sikh pilgrims making the journey and meeting relatives that they had not seen since the 1947 Partition made some very emotional news on Pakistani television channels.  Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan personally inaugurated the opening ceremony. Broadcast live, PM Khan referred to the event as a significant achievement in the journey of peace with India.  Most primetime news shows in Pakistan hailed it as an initiative for peace. Discussion ranged from whether this would act as a trust-building measure leading up to a bilateral dialogue on Kashmir to how, for once, the Pakistani military and government were on the same page, and a solution for Kashmir might be on the horizon, with cooperation from India. 

International media considered it a positive step forward.

However, on the other side of the border, while PM Khan was making speeches advocating peace through talks, the Indian Minister for External Relations Sushma Swaraj categorically said that opening the Kartarpur Crossing does not mean the start of a dialogueConsequently, much of the Indian media also hailed the ‘tough stance’ taken by the Indian government. 
Bizarrely, headlines such as ‘Imran wants change in Indian leadership’ and ‘Imran did not condemn terrorism’ flashed across television screens. Pictures of a man with apparent links to the Khalistan Movement, Gopal Singh Chawla, meeting with the Pakistani COAS were shown. 
Again, honesty and sincerity of intention, on the part of both Pakistan and even Indian Sikh citizens were doubted against a background of perceived controversy. In sharp contrast with the Pakistani government and media, there was a little celebration or hopeful declarations for peace on behalf of either the Indian government or the Indian media.

Research studies have pointed at the potential for peace journalism, or journalism that highlights solutions uses less antagonistic words and provides a fair and balanced view, to end or lessen conflict. Conversely, war journalism, that highlights problems, uses antagonistic words and does not provide a fair and balanced view, has the potential to start or worsen conflict.  Pakistani and Indian media, at least in this context, were epitomes for the former and latter respectively.  Powerful media messages have the power to influence the attitudes and behaviours of people. 

Evidently, the BJP, with its sharp focus on media campaigns and public diplomacy, knows the impact of such negative coverage on peace processes. That is if they even want one. Considering another fairly recent snub of the Pakistani government by the Modi administration, and now this, it appears that the Indian government is hoping that the incorrigibly optimistic new Pakistani PM will stop hounding them for peace processes and let them get on with preparing speeches full of anti-Pakistan and Hindu nationalist rhetoric for the 2019 general elections. 

It is telling that the Pakistani PM and the Pakistan COAS both attended the inauguration ceremony themselves when even the Indian External Relations Minister declined to participate, and claimed that the Indian ministers who were present had done so in their own personal, and not official, capacity. 

This was also considered an opportune time for the Indian administration to announce that India will not be a part of the next SAARC summit if it is held in PakistanIt’s convincing evidence that at this time, Pakistan - the government, opposition, armed forces, and public - is prioritising peace with India. Whether India is prioritising peace with Pakistan remains to be seen.

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