Thursday, June 5, 2014
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Thursday China will not hesitate to respond to provocations infringing China's sovereignty or that undermining maritime peace and stability. Spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks at a regular press briefing when he was asked to comment on the G7 summit's latest communique expressing concern over the East and South China Sea. Hong said China has always been a steadfast force in maintaining peace and stability in the East and South China Sea as well as in safeguarding the United Nations charter, basic codes of international relations and fundamental principles of international law, noting that China hopes there is no instability in surrounding areas, including the East and South China Sea. China has firmly safeguards its territorial sovereignty, maritime rights and national security, maintains order and navigation freedom in its water area and airspace, according to relevant international law and conventions, Hong said. China has committed to resolving disputes regarding the East and South China Sea through bilateral negotiation and discussions with directly concerned parties, which is also important consensus reached between China and relevant countries and conforms to the peoples' interests in the majority countries in the region, he added. Practices have proven negotiation and discussions among directly concerned parties are the most effective way for resolving disputes, and it will deteriorate the disputes and increase the instability of the region if more parties are involved, Hong said. China hopes countries outside the region to resolve disputes with respect of objective facts and a fair position, instead of intensifying the tension, building antagonism and complicating the regional situation, said the spokesman.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group is looking to set up terrorist training camps in eastern Nuristan province of Afghanistan. According to local government officials, over 100 Lashkar-e-Taiba militants have been deployed in Nuristan province who are trying to set up training camps in Kamdish district. Provincial governor, Hafiz Abdul Qayum confirmed the presence of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in Nuristan province and said the group has also executed eleven Afghan Taliban militants for failing to disrupt the elections. Qayum called on Afghan government to take immediate actions to prevent the activities of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in this province. In the meantime, the security officials have said that a vast military operation will be launched in Nuristan province to clear militants activities in this province. Nuristan is among the volatile provinces in eastern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating in its various districts. Lashkar-e-Taiba also known as Army of the Righteous, is one of the largest and most proficient of the Kashmir-focused militant groups. The group was also accused of coordinating and carrying out attack on Indian consulate in western Herat province of Afghanistan last month.
Iranian aviation authorities refused to release Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's aircraft during his visit to Tehran last month, in order to force Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to clear an outstanding payment, media reported Wednesday. Dawn newspaper, citing correspondence between PIA officials, reported that the incident took place on May 12, during Sharif's official visit to Iran. Iran Air officials responsible for handling his flight were annoyed at PIA's failure to clear a payment of 5,646 dollars, which was four-months overdue, the report said. The officials reportedly warned that they would not release Sharif's aircraft until the amount was paid. To avoid embarrassment, PIA cleared the dues on May 12 itself. Dawn reported that the prime minister was not informed about the incident. The outstanding payment related to an emergency landing on January 18. A PIA flight from London to Karachi had to land at Tehran airport because a passenger fell seriously ill. The payment of more than 5,000 dollars was for landing, parking and fueling the aircraft. Iran Air also took care of arrangements such as an ambulance to take the passenger to hospital. PIA spokesman Mashhood Tajwar said we wasn't aware of the incident.
The Express Tribune News
US officials had considered carrying out an operation inside Pakistan to rescue US soldier Bowe Bergdahl, Washington Post (WP) reported on Wednesday. Bergdahl was released on May 31 after five years in Taliban captivity as a result of a prisoner swap agreement. He disappeared in June 2009 from a base in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province, with the Taliban later saying they had captured him. His captivity saw him transferred between various militant factions along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The WP report quoted a former senior administration official who participated in discussions related to the soldier’s release as saying: “US officials began to contemplate an operation to rescue Bergdahl.” “But their concern was angering Pakistan’s government and Inter-Services Intelligence,” the official added, pointing at the May 2011 raid in Abottabad to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and subsequent strain in relations between the two countries. The report stated that those who supported a rescue operation included Admiral Mike Mullen, then chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then-CIA Director Leon Panetta.
Pakistan People’s Party’s Sindh chapter’s General Secretary, Senator Taj Haider, said here on Tuesday that the Economic Survey presented the federal finance minister has clearly indicated that the economic policies of the present government were entirely for the benefit of the elite. Moreover, the economic polities were aimed at exploiting poor working classes, he opined while commenting on the federal budget announced by the Federal Finance Minister Ishaq Dar. “Trickle down economic policy being pursued by this government has miserably failed even in developed countries,” the PPP leader said, adding that 70 per cent of our population lived in villages and most of them lived below the poverty line. Elaborating, he said that the reversal in the growth rate of agriculture sector was most alarming. He claimed that the PPP governments through their pro-poor policies had turned Pakistan from a food importing country to a major food exporting country, besides living standards in rural Pakistan had seen a marked improvement. He deplored that the growth rate of agriculture declined this although weather conditions was excellent and there was ample supply of irrigation water. “Are we once again turning Pakistan into a food importing country and pushing more farmers below the poverty line,” he queried. He said that although there is an exceptional growth in the construction sector, it was known who owned the skyscrapers, the shopping plazas, luxury houses and flats. “The stark truth behind the exceptional growth in the construction sector is that the wealth accumulated in the hands of elite and being spent on non-productive luxury pursuits,” he remarked. He said that most alarming feature of the pro-elite economic policy was the Rs 452 billion tax relief provided to the rich
Arther Nayyar, popularly known as A Nayyar, is a legend. With pride, love and talent. Nayyar was gifted who captivated the hearts of his fans as one of the leading playback singers of past. He served the country with all sincerity and devotion and received seven Nigar, eight Graduate, four Bolan, a National and Presidential awards. - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/a-nayyar-a-pakistani-christian-filmgazal-singer/#sthash.TYz5aJaN.dpuf
Nayyar used to live in Arifwala where his father was a government employee. He did not have access to radio, TV and even a Gramophone. All he had a Cinema close to his home from where he used to listen to songs and developed a keen interest in singing. He first sang National Anthem in Bazm-e-Adab in school performance and was highly appreciated by teachers. Later, his family settled in Lahore where he joined St, Francis High School from where he completed his matriculation. Afterwards, he joined Fc College where he practiced singing and sang all types of song. Nayyar did not received a proper music training but got a fine knowledge about classical singing from Samuel Mumtaz, who was a pastor with a proper know-how of classical singing. He polished his talent by listening to music maestros like Salamat Ali Khan, Amanat Ali Khan, Kishore Kumar, Mohammad Rafi, Mehdi Hassan, Noor Jahan, and Lata Mangeshkar. After a lot of struggle to acquire an opportunity for singing in film industry, he finally got his first break in PTV through a programme Naey Fankaar produced by Rafique Warraich. The programme was meant to introduce new talent. Then he sang two songs for the movie Eik Gunah Aur Sahi with Nisar Bazmi’s compositions. Afterwards he sang a song which M Ashraf composed for him ‘Pyar tu eik din hona tha hona tha ho gya.’ It was a duet with Naheed Akhtar which became a popular street song. People started calling him the Pakistani Kishore Kumar as he used to do some yodeling in his songs. After a downfall of film industry, and death of Waheed Murad’s death and Nadeem’s departure from Lahore for Karachi, the urdu film quality demised. He afterwards sang many duet Punjabi songs with Noor Johan but never compromised on the lyrics of songs. He refused the offers to sing songs copying Indian tunes. His continuous refusal to sing such songs offended film makers and hence he ultimately stopped getting anymore offers. He strongly believed that lyrics should not fall beyond the line of decency. Speaking to Dawn News Nayyar said, “I never felt the desire to sing for Indian films. India is so rich in talent that they do not need artistes from any part of the world. Plus I found Indians biased. I am a Pakistani to the core of my heart. I can’t and will not tolerate discriminatory attitude towards a Pakistani. I served the country with all sincerity and devotion; so far I have received seven Nigar, eight Graduate, four Bolan, a National and Presidential awards. There are few other awards too. Perhaps someday I will get the Pride of Performance Award as that is the only thing missing.” - See more at: http://www.christiansinpakistan.com/a-nayyar-a-pakistani-christian-filmgazal-singer/#sthash.TYz5aJaN.dpuf
ALMOST exactly a year from now and a day before next year’s federal budget speech, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar will present the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2014-15. The survey will be a report card of sorts on the promises Mr Dar made on Tuesday in his budget speech in the National Assembly. Already, it is relatively easy to guess what the report card in the form of the economic survey will look like a year from now. In all likelihood, it will be a replica of this year’s Economic Survey: virtually all targets will be missed, though headline growth and deficit figures will be creeping in the right directions. For what Mr Dar revealed in his speech was a run-of-the-mill, business-as-usual, few-new-ideas budget that will stabilise the Pakistani economy in the short run, but that may also set up the same semi-boom, semi-bust cycle the country has suffered over the decades.
Assessing the quality of a budget is necessarily linked to how effectively it addresses the particular challenges the economy is facing in any given period, but there are at least three basic elements that need to be looked at always: the revenue and expenditure sides; a growth strategy; and a vision for equitable growth that touches all sections of society. On all three counts, the government has offered little of substance. To begin with, a deficit of Rs1.4tr has been targeted by the government — a large sum in absolute and even real terms, but still an improvement in percentage terms on previous years. But it is plain to anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about how the state functions and is structured that neither the expenditure nor the revenue projections will hold up. Tax revenue projections almost as a rule never materialise and the slippages will begin almost immediately — particularly since Mr Dar seems uninterested in pursuing reforms of the tax-collection machinery. And that is before the reversals on tax measures that routinely happen under heavy pressure from special interests — as happened with SROs last year. Meanwhile, on the expenditure side, with no real attempt to restructure how and where the federal government spends the money at its disposal, the inevitable will happen to keep the budget deficit in check: development outlays will be held up. It is an age-old formula. Yet, if little can be expected on the ways in which the government struggles to balance its books, what about economic growth, the cornerstone of the PML-N’s electoral appeal? The answer to that had already come in last week’s National Economic Council meeting where a Rs1.3tr development and infrastructure budget was unveiled. But can growth really be delivered through big infrastructure projects and large-scale public spending? Where are the policies and stimulus for the real engines of employment and growth? The agricultural sector employs nearly half of the labour force while small and medium enterprises can be a real engine of growth for employment. Where were the policies designed specifically to help those particular sectors? Tax breaks on tractors and reviving tried and failed tax incentives hardly amount to coherent policy for the agricultural sector. As for SMEs, the usual smattering of tax breaks mean little. It is difficult to find much of a strategy for meaningful, sustainable and wide-based growth in the budget. Finally, what about equity? True to form, the PML-N has offered a number of big breaks to big business and hand-outs to the less well-off. When stacked up against each other however, the differences are towering. Continue down this path for the next year and inequality will rise. A government of billionaires may like the sound of several more billionaires in Pakistan, but in a country of some 200 million with employment, income, health and education woes, will more super-rich really be good news for everyone else?
Although the government has been claiming that it has given importance to education sector and that the education budget has been increased, it is just a game of figures. In real terms, the federal education budget, announced on June 3 has been decreased by over Rs1 billion. And if inflation is accounted for, it is surprising to note that the education budget has been decreased by 11 per cent. Due to this, it seems that the allocation of four per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for education will remain a distant dream, Dawn has learnt. It is pertinent to mention that an estimate of Rs80 billion was announced for education in the fiscal budget of 2013-14. And during a revised estimate, a budget of Rs87.8 billion was allocated.
Commenting on the Federal budget, PPP’s central Punjab President, Mian Manzoor Ahmad Wattoo termed it jugglery of words and statistics devoid of any good news for the poor. On 10 per cent raise in salaries of government employees, the PPP described it as peanuts, adding, that unprecedented food inflation had squeezed the income of the middle class and the poor sections of the society. In a Press statement, Wattoo said that Finance Minister in his budget speech made mention of the development projects initiated by the PPP government. He further stated that agriculture sector had been totally ignored in the new budget, as the government did not come up with any incentive for the farmers. Wattoo said that the farmers of Pakistan had been facing the major brunt of the inflation as the inputs prices had gone up considerably and the trend had been hurting the community the hardest way in the absence of the support from the government. It had rather withdrawn the subsidies which were available to them during the PPP government, he said. He said that the prices of inputs were the highest in Pakistan as compared to the other countries of the region and, therefore, the net result was the lower productivity in the agriculture sector. According to him, the projection of the lower growth rate in the agriculture sector during the current financial year was the proof of the anti- farmers policy of the present government. Wattoo said that the agriculture sector had registered downward trends according to the official documents which was a bad news for rural economy where large chunk of county’s population lived. It happened due to the visible ill-will of the government towards farmers, he observed. He said that the growth rate in agriculture sector during 2013-2014 was 2.12 as against the target of 3.8 per cent for the current financial year. It was lower than the growth rate achieved in the sector during the PPP government’s financial year of 2012-2013, he added. Manzoor pointed out that the figures clearly indicated the apathy of the government towards the agriculture sector and flawed development strategy of the government and consequently the determination of wrong priorities. He reminded of the government that about two thirds population of the country was dependent directly or indirectly on this sector as a source of employment and ,therefore, the step motherly treatment was not justified even on social and economic grounds. He further said that the agriculture sector was far less capital intensive as compared to the other sectors and yet the immediate benefits in terms of employment and boost to the agro-based industries would be phenomenal. He warned the government not to test the patience of the farmers and avoid putting them in a tight corner, adding, that the PPP was committed to the cause of farmers and would not rest till their legitimate demands were met by the govt.
India is closely tracking Russia's move to directly supply Mi-35 attack helicopters to Pakistan by lifting an informal arms embargo. But officials here also say that Russian arms have in any case been surreptitiously finding their way to Pakistan through China for years now. "Yes, there is some concern here. But then, other countries like the US and France also sell their weaponry to both sides of the line of control. If the French sell Agosta-90B submarines to Pakistan, they sell the Scorpene submarines to us," said a senior defence official. This comes in the backdrop of Russian Rostec corporation chief Sergei Chemezov declaring in Moscow on Monday that his country had lifted the arms embargo on Pakistan. "We are negotiating the sales of Mi-35 helicopters to the country (Pakistan)," he said. Russian ambassador to India, Alexander M Kadakin, on Wednesday however stressed his country would never do anything that would prove "detrimental" to the "deep and strategic" partnership with India. While holding that there was never any formal arms embargo on Pakistan, he said talks on the supply of the Mi-35s were only at an "initial" stage at present. Whatever be the case, say Indian officials, Pakistan has been getting Russian equipment ranging from aero-engines for its JF-17 fighters being produced with China to thinly-disguised Chinese variants of Russian radars, guns and the like. Russia, of course, is piqued by India's conscious effort to increasingly turn to other countries like US, Israel and France for its military requirements since the 1999 Kargil conflict. Russia has been India's largest defence supplier, with military sales worth over $40 billion since the first MiG-21s in 1963 to the present-day Sukhoi-30MKI fighters. But the US alone has bagged Indian defence deals close to $10 billion over the last decade. India, in fact, has also selected American AH-64D Apache attack helicopters and Chinook heavy-lift choppers over their Russian rivals, Mi-28 Havocs and Mi-26s, in recent times. The two contracts for 22 Apache and 15 Chinooks, together worth over $2.4 billion, are however yet to be inked. India has been upset with Russia's propensity to not stick to delivery schedules, jack up costs mid-way through execution of contracts, create hurdles in transfer of technology and be unreliable about spares. The long-delayed delivery of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya (Admiral Gorshkov) as well as the huge jump in its refit cost to $2.33 billion is just one of the examples. But Russia will remain India's major military supplier for the foreseeable future. Even as IAF progressively inducts the 272 Sukhoi-30MKI fighters ordered for over $12 billion, for instance, India and Russia are also negotiating the final R&D contract to jointly develop the fifth-generation fighter aircraft. If India indeed moves to induct over 200 such "swing-role'' stealth fighters, it will spend close to $35 billion over the next two decades on them.
A North American cardiologist shot dead in Pakistan in front of his wife and two-year-old son was remembered Wednesday as a selfless humanitarian who was murdered because of his faith. A burial ceremony for Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar saw impassioned calls for Canada to pressure Pakistan to better protect religious minorities against extremism. Qamar, 51, was originally from Pakistan and belonged to the minority Ahmadiyya Muslim sect, also known as Ahmadis. He was a dual American and Canadian citizen who had lived in Ohio for the last decade. Qamar, who had returned to Pakistan to volunteer at a hospital, was gunned down May 26 in the central town of Chanab Nagar as he and his family left a cemetery after visiting relatives' graves. Qamar's open casket was draped in both Canadian and American flags as a ring of mourners wearing traditional black-and-white scarves stood silently around it. His nephew, Nasir Chaudhary, read a family statement calling Qamar a "real servant of humanity who never discriminated against his patients. " "He possessed a strong sense of service to humanity. His compassion knew no bounds," Chaudhary said. "The only comfort we find in his passing is that he gave his life doing something he loved: helping others." While in Pakistan Qamar had planned to treat patients at the Tahir Heart Institute. Speakers mourned Qamar not only for the loss of his life, but as what they see as another sectarian killing of members of their religious group. Ahmadis have long been the target of Islamic extremists in Pakistan. Ahmadis follow the self-proclaimed prophet Ghulam Ahmad, born in 1835 in Punjab, India, and consider themselves Muslims, but are forbidden from presenting themselves as such by Pakistan's blasphemy law. Ahmadis are banned from "posing as Muslims," declaring their faith publicly, calling their places of worship mosques or performing the Muslim call to prayer. "Dr. Mehdi Ali Qamar was murdered because of his faith," said Lal Khan Malik, president Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at Canada, a group representing Ahmadis. He said Qamar's death was the "direct result of the state-sponsored extremism that is practiced in Pakistan," and called on the Canadian government to pressure the South Asian country to end what he called the persecution of Ahmadis. Federal, provincial and local politicians were in attendance, as were officials from the U.S. consulate in Toronto along with friends and family stateside. Qamar's wife and son were not harmed in the shooting. He is survived by two other sons. Last month a member of the Ahmadi sect accused of blasphemy was shot dead by a gunman who walked into a police station where he was being held.
By Shabbir H. Kazmi Some of the quarters are adamant in proving that there are low prospects for finding oil and gas in Pakistan, which is nothing but a gross distortion of the fact. The country has huge reserves, but either the companies have not been allowed to undertake exploration in the ‘right’ areas or a liquidity crunch is the prime reason for drilling fewer wells. It may not be wrong to say that since independence ‘Oil and Gas Exploration Policy’ of the (GoP) has remained subservient to super powers. Even after more than six and half decades subdued drilling activities are mainly due to inadequate allocation of funds and ‘political’ unrest in major oil producing areas, Baluchistan and Khyber-Pakthunkhwa provinces. A peep into the history shows that the first major success was achieved soon after independence. Pakistan’s first oil field was discovered in late 1952 in Baluchistan and second oil field at Toot in Punjab was discovered in the early 1960s. It is on record that two of the state owned exploration and production (E&P) companies; Pakistan Petroleum and Pakistan Oilfields explored these areas and began drilling with the assistance of USSR in the early sixties and activity began at Toot during the sixties. In 1964 the first well was drilled and commercial production started in 1967. Oil production remained confined to the Potwar Plateau till 1981, when Union Texas Pakistan discovered its first oil-field in lower Sindh. However, by 1998-99 the lower Sindh fields were producing more oil than the Potwar Plateau. In the mid-sixties a gas field was discovered at Mari in SIndh, which is now the biggest source of gas supply for Pakistan’s fertilizer industry. At one stage crude oil production in Pakistan plunged to nearly 50,000 barrels per day (bpd). However, the latest reports suggest that the production in the country will increase to 130,000 bpd over the next couple of years. Daily production already exceeds all-time high of 91,000 barrels. Average oil production was at 81,000 bpd in 2013, up 13% a year ago with most of the additional output coming from the wells located in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa, especially the Tal Block. The Sui gas field is the biggest natural gas field in Pakistan. It is located in Baluchistan. It was discovered in the late 1952 and the commercial exploitation of the field began in 1955. Till recently Sui gas field accounted for more than one-third of Pakistan’s total gas production. Excessive gas extraction has depleted the reserves and the remaining reserves are estimated to be about 800 billion cubic meters, expected to last for about another 20 years at the most due to the heavy dependence on gas. Lately, gas production dropped to around 4,000mmcfd mainly due to a major decline from two major fields located at Sui and Qadirpur, while Mari’s production led the volumetric increase. Analysts expect gas production to average 4,500mmcfd in FY14 for which key development projects are undertaken, evident from drilling of 76 wells. Additional 500mmcfd will collectively come from Uch, Tal Bloc and KPD-TAY/Sinjhoro. At current levels, there seems no respite in gas shortfall as the estimated demand continues to hover around 6,000mmcfd. While there remains uncertainty over the exact size of oil reserves in the absence of geological survey undertaken on scientific grounds, Pakistan’s estimated recoverable reserves are estimated above 27 million barrels. E & P companies generally believe that Pakistan’s geological construction suggests a higher probability of finding gas than oil. The fact that companies prefer to drill deep wells to find hydrocarbon reserves adds credence to this argument. The wells at Makori field have a depth of around 12,000 feet. However, the companies discovering gas are less happy, mainly because of the bulk purchase rate, oil prices mostly driven by international prices. Historically, the GoP has kept the gas purchase price from old fields low. Some experts even go to the extent of saying that lack of expertise is another reason behind drilling at inappropriate places. Ironically, geologists mostly trained in Pakistan have been studying gas structures since discovery of Sui field more than half a century ago, but the perception is changing now. Ten years back, experts would have laughed if they would have been asked to undertake oil exploration in Khyber-Pakthunkhwa, which now contributes the highest share in crude oil production. Higher oil production has also added to the profitability of petroleum upstream companies because the realized price of oil is six times higher as compared to what these companies get for gas. The average price of gas in Pakistan is US$12.5 per barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) against oil’s US$85 per BOE. Major oil and gas exploration and production companies operating in Pakistan are Oil & Gas Development Company (OGDC), Pakistan Petroleum (PPL), Pakistan Oilfield (POL), Mari Petroleum and OMV Pakistan. All these companies have an enviable success record as these have hit oil or gas from every exploratory well drilled, the quantities may not be very high. Pakistan is natural trade and energy corridor and it will have to increase refining capacities to meet the domestic requirement as well as that of the neighboring countries. Pakistan must attract investors from the Arabian Peninsula, highest oil producing region, but having very limited refining capacities. Pakistan also needs to establish naphtha cracker, as the entire quantity produced is exported. Last but not the least, power plants based on Thar coal must be completed on top priority. This on one hand will increase electricity generation in the country and on the hand help the country in saving billions of dollars currently being spent on the import of fossil oil. In fact, Pakistan has to bring a complete change in its energy mix by increasing hydel and nuclear power generation, cutting down reliance on natural gas and establishing a few mega size crude oil refineries to reap benefit of its strategic location.