Pakistan is currently teetering on the brink of economic collapse. The recent floods have only added to this dire situation, and the loss to our economy has been unprecedented.
We can avoid this harsh truth as much as we want, but the fact cannot be denied that without strong, drastic measures Pakistan will have no choice but to default.
It is imperative that the government impose an economic emergency. This should be done with the consensus of all stakeholders. It is also extremely important to design and implement economic policies that range from short, mid to long term. The goal should be to implement policies that can carry the country forward. These policies need to be stand-alone, not affiliated with any political party, and should be applicable to all governments, regardless of affiliations. If need be, Pakistan should pass a constitutional amendment which enables it to enforce this policy without political advantage seeking.
The PDM government effectively discouraged luxury imports in order to enhance exports; however, this policy seems to be tapering off gradually. Export promotion needs to be the foundation of our economic policy and promoting industry and factories should be emphasized. Without industrial production, the economy cannot thrive.
It is also imperative to highlight human security. Pakistan cannot thrive if our focus does not shift to effectively prioritizing human security. This will involve synchronization between our economic, trade, foreign, food, security, export, import, industrial and climate change policies. After the National Security Policy Document of 2021, we saw a shift towards human security. And it is crucial this remains the cornerstone of any security policies going forward. Without human security, the social fabric will crumble, and with it, any chances of a stable economy crumble too.
The country needs a proper system for monitoring and evaluation. This system needs to oversee the working and harmonization of these policies and also amend and implement adjustments and changes whenever necessary.
Another area where there seems to be no harmony is in our commercial diplomacy. It is necessary that Pakistan should have a well-researched and well-thought-out commercial diplomacy policy. This policy needs to be bolstered by related institutions and qualified and trained people. Although it is a utopian idea, the well-being of the country needs to come above petty alliances and nepotism. People selected for these posts must be trained and capable. Their primary goal should be to enhance bilateral trade and exports, bringing in foreign direct investment and creating and strengthening ties with neighbouring as well as other relevant countries around the world.
Keeping women out of the economy has a massively damaging impact as they comprise more than half of the population. For economic growth, it is imperative that all citizens, including urban and rural women, have access to opportunities for entrepreneurship, business ownership, and capital. Keeping such a large chunk of the population out of the economy has a debilitating impact on the GDP of any country.
The government should devise strategies to prevent savings from only being invested in the real estate market and to move them towards economic areas that may be more productive or to long-term investment funds. In order to do this, it will be an uphill task to build people’s trust in the economy. The Extended Fund Facility (EFF) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) cannot be the only fallback to our economy. Productive and prosperous economic growth will not be seen if we stay ensnared in the IMF system.
Pakistan needs to move towards the economic security goals of human resource development, poverty alleviation, and most importantly, political stability. The past year, specifically, has demonstrated how political instability and bad economic policies can bring a country to the doorstep of default.
Investing in Pakistan can be an arduous and complicated process for most foreign investors. The risks of an unstable economy also deter them from bringing their capital into the country. It is, therefore, imperative to have an investor-friendly system in order to encourage FDI.
The Board of Investment (BoI) needs to work on promoting investment by simplifying the steps and do its utmost to move upward on the ease of doing business index. For this, the BoI will have to be restructured with a skilled management that can help Pakistan move forward.
US Fulbright scholarship prgramme opens for Pakistani students
ISLAMABAD: The United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan (USEFP) has invited students to apply for the prestigious Fulbright Student Programme 2024.
The Fulbright Program in Pakistan is funded by the United States Government and is the world’s largest in terms of financial contribution, said a press release on Thursday.
Applications are welcome from all disciplines, including energy, water, agriculture, health, education, environmental science, and climate change. While clinical medicine is not included in the Fulbright Program, non-clinical public health applications are encouraged.
Interested applicants can apply at www.usefp.org before the deadline on February 28, 2024. The premier academic exchange program covers graduate studies, tuition, maintenance, insurance, and air travel.
All applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and must have a minimum score of 145 in both the verbal and quantitative sections of the exam. Shortlisted candidates will be required to take the Duolingo English Test.
On the impact of the Fulbright Program in Pakistan, US Ambassador Donald Blome said: “Pakistani Fulbrighters have solved social problems, written new laws, advanced policies to ensure equal access and voices to all, and so much more. They do this all for one purpose: to create a better, safer, and more prosperous Pakistan. In this goal, the United States and Pakistan are united.”
Under the Fulbright Programme, nearly 3,000 Pakistani students have received fully funded scholarships to study for graduate study since 2005. These awardees have completed their studies and research and are now making significant contributions to the public and private sectors with their knowledge and expertise.
In a message to potential applicants, USEFP Executive Director Rita Akhtar encourages talented students and working professionals to consider applying.
“We especially want to encourage applicants from public universities and under-served areas. Fulbright is a merit-based program, but in defining merit, the program considers the obstacles and challenges applicants have faced as well as their achievements.
“One of the goals of the program is to build human capacity in Pakistan, so successful applicants will plan to return to Pakistan on completion of their degrees and use their new skills and knowledge for the benefit of the country.”
FDE announces winter vacations for schools
ISLAMABAD: The government has announced the winter vacations for educational institutes functioning under the federal administration.
The winter break in the federal educational institutes will officially start from December 25 to December 29, a notification issued by the Federal Directorate of Education read.
However, Federal Directorate of Education officials said that the institutes will close on December 22, which falls on Friday, and reopen on January 1, 2024, (Monday).
Earlier in the month, Punjab and Sindh governments also announced the winter vacation schedule for the year.
In Punjab, the winter break for school children will commence from December 18, 2023, and continue till January 1, 2024.
“Winter vacations for children will commence from Dec 18 , 2023 to Jan 1, 2024,” Punjab caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi had announced.
Meanwhile, the Sindh schools will have the vacations from December 22 to 31.
After the winter break, the educational institutions will reopen on Monday (January 1, 2024).
“In pursuance of decisions taken in the steering committee meeting, all public and private educational institutions under the administrative control of School Education and Literacy Department Government of Sindh shall remain closed w.e.f 22-12,023 to 31-12,023 for Winter Vacation,” a statement by the provincial government read.
Meanwhile, the new academic year in the public and private schools across Sindh will commence on April 15, 2024, and August 1, 2024, in the colleges.
The matriculation and intermediate exams will be started in the last week of May 2024, while the results will be announced on July 31 and the second week of August, respectively.
Pakistan to ‘ascertain facts’ on Afghan minister using its passport
- Haqqani possessed a Pakistani passport until recently: report.
- FO says the answer will come only after facts are ascertained.
- US officials are set to visit Pakistan to discuss several matters.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said Thursday it will first ascertain facts before issuing a comment on a report that claims that Afghanistan’s acting Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani possessed a Pakistani passport until recently.
In her weekly press briefing, Foreign Office (FO) spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said: “I have seen the report on the use of a Pakistani passport by the Afghan minister. The matter will be answered after [ascertaining] the facts.”
A report published in The News today revealed that Haqqani was issued a Pakistani passport for five years which he used to travel abroad, particularly to Qatar for negotiations with the United States for the signing of the Doha Agreement that resulted in the latter’s exit from Afghanistan.
The publication, via the interior ministry officials, learnt that these passports were issued from different cities of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Sindh.
Meanwhile, two passport officials involved in issuing Haqqani’s passport have been arrested, one of whom had retired from service by the time the action was initiated against him.
The issue around the minister using the Pakistani passport comes at a time when Pakistan continues to repatriate illegal foreigners, most of whom are undocumented Afghan migrants.
Baloch also briefed the presser about top officials from the United States visiting Pakistan this week.
“The focus of these visits is not only Afghanistan. These visits are related to the multifaceted aspects of Pakistan-US relations,” she said, adding that Pakistan has decided to talk to America.
Pakistan and the US will conduct consultations over several issues including the situation in Afghanistan, the FO said last week.
In the meetings between Pakistan and US officials, reservations of both sides will be discussed. “We will also discuss the issues on which we have objections.”
Updated list of Afghans from US
The spokesperson further shared that Pakistan has received an updated list from the American authorities regarding the transfer of Afghan nationals to the US.
Last month, a coalition comprising former high-ranking United States (US) officials and resettlement organisations issued an urgent appeal to Pakistan, urging it to not deport Afghan individuals applying to seek refuge in and visas for the US.
The appeal came weeks after Pakistan announced November 1 as the deadline for all undocumented migrants — a substantial number of whom are Afghans — residing in the country to either leave on their own or face expulsion once the ultimatum ends.
The population of the aforementioned migrants includes roughly 20,000 or potentially more Afghans, who escaped their homeland following the Taliban’s return to power in 2021. Many of these migrants in Pakistan are awaiting their applications for the US Special Immigration Visas (SIVs) or refugee resettlement in the United States to be processed.
Commenting on regular skirmishes at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the spokesperson said: “There are often misunderstandings between the border authorities. These misunderstandings are cleared through communication channels.”
She added that the Torkham border was opened for all kinds of traffic yesterday.
Israels’ ‘barbaric attacks’
The FO yet again condemned the continuous Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip, stating that the situation in the Strip is rapidly deteriorating.
“No place in Gaza is safe for the public,” Baloch said.
The UN Security Council must perform its primary responsibility under the Charter, impose an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and protect the people of Gaza from an impending genocide, the FO spokesperson said.
“We call on Israel’s backers to urge Israel to end its barbaric attacks and inhumane siege against Gaza,” she added.
The spokesperson further stated that Pakistan calls for an international conference for long-term peace on the Palestinian question.
“Durable peace in the region will emerge from the internationally agreed two-state solution and from the creation of a secure, viable, contiguous, and sovereign state of Palestine on the basis of the pre-June 1967 borders, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital,” she said.
Baloch also spoke about the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’s efforts for Palestinians.
The head of the UN warned that he expects “public order to completely break down soon due to the desperate conditions” in Gaza, currently under relentless Israeli bombardment and invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter for the first time in his tenure owing to the gravity of the humanitarian crisis in the Strip.
‘Pakistani citizens welfare top priority’
During the presser, Baloch commented on the recent revelations regarding Dr Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist jailed in the United States for over a decade.
According to her lawyer, the Pakistani doctor has been sexually assaulted at least two times during her incarceration.
“The statements related to Aafia Siddiqui are serious,” the spokesperson said.
She further added that Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has instructed that the matter should be taken up with the US Department of State and investigations should be conducted.
“The welfare of Pakistani citizens is among our priorities,” Baloch reiterated.
She also spoke about the acid attack on former special assistant to the prime minister Shahzad Akbar last week.
“Shahzad Akbar did not seek help from the Pakistani High Commission in this regard,” she said.
The FO strongly rejected the allegations of involvement of Pakistani agencies in the incident. “Pakistan has faith in the British authorities’ investigation.”
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