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132 million in 1998, Pakistan’s population now reaches 207.7 million: census report

The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has presented a provisional census report showing the country’s current population at 207.7 million against 132 million that was estimated in the last census in 1998.
The census report was presented during the Council of Common Interest meeting today.
The statistics show that the population of the country is at 2.7% annual growth rate over a period of 1998-2017.
Province wise breakdown shows that Punjab leads in terms of populace with 110 million, Sindh 47.8 million, Khyber Pakhtonkhwa 30.5 million, Balochistan 12.3 million, Fata 2.4 million and Islamabad Capital Territory 2 million.
Below is the further breakdown in terms of gender, sex ration and increase in average annual growth from 1998 to 2017. 
The first census in the country was conducted in 1951, followed by second in 1961, third in 1972, instead of 1971 due to political turmoil, and the fourth in 1981.
The fifth census, which was due in 1991, was held in March 1998. The army assisted the authorities in conducting the last census 19 years ago.
Fast-growing Pakistan is the sixth most populous country in the world, had not held a census since 1998 due to years of bickering between politicians.
The count could redraw the political map as the country gears up for a national election next year — a prospect that has raised fears over power bases and federal funding.
At the time census was launched, it was stated that the people who will provide wrong information to the enumerators will face six-month jail term and Rs. 50,000 fine over the breach of the census rules.
Each enumerator was given the map of his or her area for the census. The houses having more than one family were counted on the basis of separate kitchens.

Pakistan - Nawaz wishes to form 'greater Punjab

Pakistan People's Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari Friday alleged that former PM Nawaz Sharif wishes to form "greater Punjab", which he explained as merger with Indian part of the region and do business with them.
In his interview to a private TV channel, the former president claimed that Nawaz-league never had the public mandate; they were always brought into power. "Same was the case in 2013," he added.
He said the former premier has over Rs10 billion worth business portfolio in Pakistan. When inquired, the PP co-chairman said it was the Federal Investigation Agency's duty to trace out Sharif's assets, not his.
Acknowledging Sharif as his political rival, Zardari denied he had a soft corner for him. "The companies Sharif is speaking of are public limited companies and their directors are some other people."
Criticising the disqualified prime minister, he said there is difference in running the country and business.
Hitting out at Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the PPP co-chairman said that PTI's politics is limited to central Punjab and it does not have any existence in Sindh or Balochistan.
"PTI will lose its turf in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," he said referring to the next elections, however, added that in central Punjab all the three parties will have a tough contest.
Zardari went on to say that Bilawal and Aseefa are the future of People's Party, not him.

Pakistan - Bilawal Bhutto forms PPP’s body for foreign relations

Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has formed a 10-member Foreign Relations Committee with former federal minister Senator Sherry Rehman as its convener.
Senator Farhatullah Babar, Hina Rabbani Khar, Saleem Mandviwala, Faisal Karim Kundi, Fauzia Habib, Matloob Inquilabi, Palwasha Khan, Imran Nadeem, Senator Fateh Muhammed Hasni will be the members of the committee.
Notification in this regard was issued from the Chairman Secretariat by his Political Secretary Jameel Ahmed Soomro. Senator Sherry Rehman said that the PPP has always had the most robust and clear foreign policy for Pakistan.
From Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari’s government to today, to Chairman Bilawal, the PPP has clear views on policy, he said. “We have articulated the best interests of Pakistan, both at home and abroad,” she said.
From the nuclear deterrent to missile capability, and making the China opportunity real via giving Gwadar port handling to the People’s Republic by (then) president Zardari, the party has taken seminal initiatives for safeguarding the borders, integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan, she said.
“We are the only party that envisions peace for Pakistan both at home and abroad in real and meaningful terms. The committee is an important body of the party and I look forward to working with the leadership and my colleagues on framing national responses to present and upcoming challenges,” Sherry said.

Afghanistan - Big Questions About South Asia

By Gautam Adhikari 

President Donald Trump delivered an intriguing address to the nation on Monday. It was intriguing not only because of the paucity of detail on what exactly his new policy on Afghanistan and South Asia would entail, but because of its apparent reliance on a sequenced military response with little light cast on diplomatic repercussions.
From the speech, it is hard to detect a clear aim. What exactly is the U.S. goal in Afghanistan? There have been two purported goals thus far: One is defeating the Taliban and stabilizing the country from Kabul; the other is to choke any future possibility of Afghanistan being a base for the export of terror as happened on 9/11. Neither is achievable any longer, if it ever was, by a primarily military onslaught. A few thousand additional troops cannot do the job, even if they are not bound by a time constraint as Trump suggested.
All efforts over 17 years to achieve the first goal have not succeeded. The Taliban today controls roughly 40 percent of the country; the government in Kabul less than a quarter directly, while retaining some influence in the remaining parts, according to published reports. A massive American and allied presence, lasting several years, of over 100,000 did drive the Taliban away temporarily, but they're back and gaining ground.
The second goal of stemming the export of terror was probably the initial aim of the George W Bush administration and it seemed to succeed for a while. But today, the Islamic State group operates there and al-Qaida remains on the loose. This is to say nothing of groups like the Haqqani network and other terror networks that operate with apparent impunity across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to inflict casualties on U.S.-NATO troops as well as Afghan forces.
Trump appeared to come down hard, rightly, on Pakistan, without whose support and encouragement neither the Taliban nor the terrorists would find it easy to operate. But U.S. policymakers have known this for a while. It has nevertheless remained a crucial roadblock in efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.
So Trump added a new element to the mix: India would offer the US more support in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, Trump hinted, had better watch out. Well, that too has its problems.
The president's suggested shift in strategic alignments did not indicate the scope of the role India would play, more than its ongoing assistance in development and reconstruction. Was he expecting India to involve itself militarily more directly than it might be ready to? Has a plan been worked out with New Delhi or is it just dire words?
Aside from alarming Islamabad to drive it closer into the arms of China – its "all-weather friend" – such a move would complicate the balance of power in nuclear-armed South Asia. Currently, India is in a mutually belligerent face-off with China on its border in the trifecta of Bhutan, China and India, to say nothing of its perennial tension with Pakistan on its western border. And China, as it has quickly indicated, would move even closer to Pakistan if it begins to lose U.S. military and economic backing.
With a military victory over the Taliban out of the question, absent a highly unlikely years-long presence of hundreds of thousands of U.S.-NATO forces once again, a holding operation with a few thousand U.S. forces until "conditions" improve would take a major diplomatic initiative in the region.
It would have to involve not just Pakistan and India but also two other rising players in Afghanistan – Iran and Russia – while ensuring that China agrees that reining in Pakistan would be in its global strategic interest. Beijing, however, sees matters differently. Meanwhile, clandestine financing of the Taliban and terrorists by some Gulf states, particularly hard-to-confront Saudi Arabia, must be stopped.
Such an intricate diplomatic minuet is necessary but may be beyond the present capacity of the Trump administration. Apart from severely weakening the State Department, the administration has not even appointed an ambassador to New Delhi following the departure of Richard Verma at the end of Obama's term. Further, diplomacy with China and Russia has become more complicated than it already was with the imposition of sanctions announced on Tuesday. And, with Iran, the possibility of getting its cooperation for Afghan peace is remote as things stand.
Trump's speech, therefore, raises many more questions than it cared to answer.

Pakistan Can No Longer Fool America, And That's Good News For India

Panos Mourdoukoutas 
For almost two decades, Pakistan has led America to believe that it is an indispensable ally in fighting Taliban in Afghanistan. That’s why Washington threw a great deal of money to Islamabad. Like a $12 billion IMF brokered debt relief package in December 2001, which sparked Pakistan's fifteen-year bull market.
But all that money seems to have been wasted, according to Middle East security expert C. Christine Fair. Pakistan has been assisting the enemy. “By 2005, the Afghan Taliban, with strong support from Pakistan as well as from the Waziristan-based Haqqani Network, had launched an insurgent campaign against U.S. and ISAF missions even while Pakistan was being remunerated handsomely for its role as purported “coalition partner,” says Fair in “Pakistan’s Deadly Grip on Afghanistan," published in the April 17 issue of Current History.
Nonetheless, America continued to “scale up” its support for Pakistan for many more years. “More than fifteen years have passed since the United States launched operations in Afghanistan, ostensibly with the support of Pakistan,” notes Fair. “During this period, the Americans scaled up and then scaled down troop deployments and investments in Afghanistan’s economy, infrastructure, civil society, and armed forces, but never managed to deal with the simple fact that, throughout this war, they have depended on one country that was steadfastly opposed to US and NATO objectives: Pakistan.”

Until this week, that is, when the Washington made it clear that will no longer tolerate Pakistan’s games, imposing sanctions on government officials and cutting back aid. Washington is further looking into Pakistan’s primary adversary, India, to advance its policy agenda in Afghanistan and elsewhere in Asia. Like the South China Sea, and the Indian Ocean, where America has been trying to tame China’s ambitions to write its own navigation rules.
That’s good news for India that now has America on its side in its efforts to maintain influence in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and to contain China in its northern border.
Meanwhile, America’s major policy shift in the region couldn’t come at a worse time for Pakistan’s equity markets, which have already been suffering hefty losses from corruption scandals that brought down the Sharif government.
Pakistan’s stock market has been on a tear in recent years. The country’s main KSE index has gained close to 400% since 2009, and 40% in 2016 alone. But it has lost close to 20% in the last three months alone.
Meanwhile, India’s market has gained close to 6%.
Apparently, geopolitics are catching up with emerging market investors.
Index/Fund3-month Performance2-year Performance
Global X MSCI Pakistan (PAK)-20.93%3.95
iShares S&P India 50 (INDY)5.7931.96%

‘The Cancer Is In Pakistan’

Malik Siraj Akbar

President Obama, according to Bob Woodward’s book “Obama’s Wars,” had said in a 2009 Oval Office meeting, that the cancer [of terrorism] was in Pakistan, and the United States needed to make sure that the “cancer doesn’t spread.” The Obama Administration, reports the New America Foundation, conducted 353 drones strikes in Pakistan that killed between 1,659 to 2,683 suspected militants. America under Obama could not succeed in obliterating Islamic terrorist groups in the Af-Pak region or punishing Pakistan for providing sanctuary to terrorists, including Osama bin Laden. “Newsweek“ reported that the United States had provided Pakistan approximately 20 billion dollars since 2001. But Obama was not tough enough to call out Pakistan in public for its double standards in the war against terrorism.
President Trump, while unveiling his new Afghanistan policy on Monday, finally said, “we can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe-havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.” Trump is not known for keeping his words or being consistent in his position on any issue. Therefore, we are not sure how seriously his Monday’s speech should be taken both in America and Pakistan.
The United States insists that Pakistan must change its approach or face substantial cut in U.S. assistance. Washington has taken a harsh stand against Pakistan after having to squander much time in naively hoping that Islamabad would change its behavior and voluntarily end ties with violent organizations.
In The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, the New York Timesreporter Carlotta Gall argued that for the United States, Pakistan, not Afghanistan, had been the true enemy.
“Pakistan, supposedly an ally, has proved to be perfidious, driving the violence in Afghanistan for its own cynical, hegemonic reasons.”
Trump’s new Afghanistan policy was being eagerly awaited mainly for what it had to say about Pakistan’s role in the troubled region. His remarks on Pakistan are likely to be welcomed in at least three places.
First, Afghanistan has complained for years that Pakistan-based terrorist groups keep masterminding deadly attacks inside their country to destabilize Afghanistan. From President Hamid Karzai to Ashraf Ghani, all Afghan leaders have expressed frustration with Pakistan’s bullying attitude, support for the Jihadist networks and the presence of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura in Pakistan. The key Taliban leadership operating from Pakistan, and routinely plots horrific attacks inside Afghanistan.
Second, praised by Trump for its “important contributions to stability in Afghanistan,” India has also demanded action from Pakistan against the terrorist organization the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which was responsible for the Mumbai attacks of 2008.
To curb the Indian influence in Afghanistan, Pakistan has deployed the LeT and its affiliated charity organizations in Balochistan, the country’s largest province bordering Iran and Afghanistan. The LeT’s presence in Balochistan does not bode well for India, Afghanistan and the American troops in Afghanistan as it is going to provide a fertile ground for a new alliance for all kinds of violent Islamic groups. Even if Pakistan succeeds in containing India’s presence in Afghanistan, it won’t be able to stop growing cooperation between India and its other western neighbor i.e. Iran.
Additionally, the Islamic State (IS) has persistently asserted its might in the already volatile region through several suicide bombings that have targeted police officers, innocent civilians, lawyers, and soldiers. Instead of going after the Islamic State, Pakistan continues to deny its existence within its boundaries although the organization has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks it has conducted in Pakistan since last year.
Third, educated and progressive Pakistanis, who have been upset with their government’s support for radical groups, and continued financial assistance from the United States, seem delighted over this “paradigm shift in U.S. South Asia policy.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is correct in stating that Pakistan has suffered greatly from terrorism, a statement his Pakistani counterparts frequently make although with a twist. Pakistan selectively talks about the innocent citizens it has lost in the hands of the Taliban but refrains from telling the remaining part of the story as to why so many other such terrorist outfits still exist and operate without the slightest fear of government’s action.
However, the officially stated fact that 35, 000 Pakistani citizens have been killed by Pakistan-based groups does not cancel out the other disturbing reality that Pakistan tolerates the “good Taliban.” The people of Pakistan have suffered enormously because of their government’s longstanding ties with and tolerance for Jihadist outfits. The people of Pakistan are forced to pay a heavy price for their government’s insane ambition to control and influence Afghanistan, and also contain India’s influence inside its western neighbor.
Pakistan, backed by China, has unsurprisingly pushed back on Trump’s speech by employing its victim and national honor cards and describing the United States as the usual “untrustworthy” and “selfish” ally that keeps ditching it each time after achieving its own regional goals. Yet, an end to Pakistan’s support for Jihadist groups is necessary for regional peace and stability. This can happen either through a progressive political movement within the country, which does not seem likely, or intense international pressure. As long as Pakistan’s foreign policy is defined by apologists who justify support for the Taliban and other Jihadist groups under different pretexts, the average Pakistani citizen will live under the fear of more terrorist attacks at public places.
Unfortunately, political parties in Pakistan live under tremendous fear of the powerful army. Even the liberal Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has gone an extra mile to please the military through supporting undemocratic military courts and issuing anti-American statements. The PPP, which should have guided Pakistan toward a progressive and secular path, is fighting for its own survival with the rise of another anti-U.S. leader, Imran Khan, of the Pakistan Justice Movement, who is often nicknamed as “Taliban Khan” for his apologetic pro-Taliban stance. The ouster of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month has further instilled the fear of the military among Pakistan’s political parties. It is this reason that Pakistanis have suddenly developed consensus on a foreign policy that refuses to acknowledge that supporting extremist groups was a dire mistake, and it has weakened the Pakistani state. Otherwise, on a usual day, it would be difficult to see the left-wing PPP and the right-wing PTI of Imran Khan on the same page.
The problem with Trump’s new strategy is the lack of a clear timeline. Today, the Af-Pak region is even more dangerous than it was before September 11, 2001. The Taliban and the Islamic State are increasing their presence in the area. They might temporarily seem competing against each other, but they will ultimately come together on a mutual agenda that aims to harm the United States.
Washington will not win the war by bombing Afghanistan as long as Pakistan continues to provide safe havens to America’s enemies. China, on its part, must also realize that it will be seriously risking its investment inside Pakistan by not persuading the latter to end ties with extremist groups. The Taliban have, more than once, kidnapped Chinese citizens in Pakistan, and such incidents are expected to increase as China expands its presence there. Thus, China’s interests rest in a peaceful and stable Pakistan that shows zero tolerance for terrorist groups. (For China, this should also include terrorist groups that aspire to attack India.)
Back in Washington, President Trump should not only warn Pakistan but must ask for a roadmap to clean its soil from Jihadist organizations that threaten the safety and security of the United States, Pakistan’s neighbors and, above all, the people of Pakistan. The Pakistanis pretend that the United States no longer has leverage over their country. That is not entirely accurate. Even the powerful military dictator General Musharraf, once threatened by the United States after 9/11, was compelled to appear on the national television and renounce Pakistan’s support for all kinds of extremist groups in 2001. Unfortunately, after some time, Musharraf too turned out to be a crook, and a secret admirer of the same terrorist outfits he had once promised to eliminate.
For Trump’s Afghanistan policy to succeed, it is critical to revisit and cure Pakistan’s forgotten cancer.

Pakistan - #PPP’s opportunity

Pakistan People’s Party’s co-Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has been holding successful rallies. He has also been critical of the ruling party especially the ousted PM Nawaz Sharif. The good news is that the PPP is not giving up; and as a national party is making attempts to revive its country-wide base. In the given scenario when the future of PMLN is unclear and the PTI is yet to strengthen it’s party structures, PPP certainly has an opportunity to make a comeback in the 2018 elections. It can improve its position and present a credible alternative to the two centre-right parties.
However, PPP’s stance of opposing Nawaz at all costs comes a little late in the day. During its term in office (2008-2013), it adopted a policy of reconciliation that was exploited by Imran Khan and his varied allies in influential urban professional classes as mukmuka or a grand deal to cover each other’s alleged corruption. This perception dented PPP’s position especially in the Punjab and the results of 2013, among other things, were influenced by this perception. The young, dynamic Bilawal Bhutto has pursued a different line especially in the recent years. But the party’s positions have wavered thereby enabling Imran Khan to emerge as the key opposition voice.
Considering that the judiciary ousted Nawaz Sharif last month is a controversial decision, a party with a history of experiencing grave injustices must not throw its weight behind the arbitrary decisions of the unelected institutions. More so, when its leadership, especially the former President Asif Ali Zardari, has been a target of similar campaigns and runs the risk of being disqualified under infamous Articles 62 and 63. During the negotiations around eighteenth amendment, Sharif opposed changes to Articles 62 and 63 — a legacy of General Zia’s dictatorship. Nawaz erred and has paid a price for his myopia. The PPP must not do the same. The eighteenth amendment was a great start but our constitution needs to be fully purged of authoritarianism and religio-fascist overtones. The PPP in accordance with its long cherished principles should enable this process even if it may be needed by its political foe, i.e., the PML-N.
In this context, PPP’s wise leader and Chairman Senate has echoed some of the issues raised by deposed PM Nawaz Sharif. The need for a grand dialogue between institutions sounds utopian given the power imbalance between the institutions of the state but it is a goal that must be pursued to strengthen democratic governance and reduce periodic bouts of political instability., The PPP as the second largest party in the Parliament has a historic role to play. It must not sacrifice its long-held principles for short-term gains. If anything, our recent history shows that cosying up with the establishment was counterproductive. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was fired from office despite her best efforts to build a bridge. The Zardari government tried its best but was always kept unstable. These are clear lessons that the party needs to ponder. The country at this juncture needs civilian forces to unite, strengthen constitutionalism and undo the viciousness of the past.

Bhutto’s party back in electoral politics with 3 Ps

Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) now headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is back in the electoral politics after 20 years as the Election Commission of Pakistan has allowed the PPP and the PPP-P to contest the coming by-election in Lahore from a single platform.
Basically having the ticket of PPP, Faisal Mir will be contesting the by-election from NA-120 (Lahore) as the joint candidate of PPP (3 Ps) and PPP-P (4 Ps) with the election symbol – Arrow.
Currently, all parliamentarians of the Bhutto’s party in the National Assembly, provincial assemblies and Senate belong to the Pakistan Peoples’ Party- Parliamentarians (PPP-P ) headed by Asif Ali Zardari.
On the other hand, the PPP, headed by Bilawal Bhutto is not having a single parliamentarian in any legislature but is registered in the Election Commission as a separate political party with the election symbol of cross-swords. The PPP-P is having the election symbol of Arrow.
Two weeks back, both the parties (the PPP and the PPP-P) filed an application in the Election Commission of Pakistan stating that they were contesting election in NA-120 in an alliance and wanted to contest on a common election symbol of Arrow. Election Commission of Pakistan has now permitted Faisal Mir to contest election with election symbol of Arrow.
The new development means that the two parties can contest the coming elections on a common election symbol (Arrow). After the 2018 elections, it will be legally possible for the party to contest any future elections from the platform of PPP instead of the PPP-P.
It merits mention here that formation of PPP-P was necessitated in 2002 when General Musharraf made changes in the election rules to keep Benazir Bhutto out of the election race.
At present, the two parties have different officebearers as both are registered in the Election Commission of Pakistan as separate political entities.
It is also important to note here that the matter of ownership of the PPP is sub-judice as a petition filed by Naheed Khan, former political secretary to Benazir Bhutto, claiming to be the rightful heir to this title is still pending in the court for decision. And since the PPP-P has its representation in the Parliament as well as in the provincial assemblies, disbanding this party at this stage may have its legal implications.
Staff Reporter from Islamabad adds: Pakistan People’s Party yesterday decided that it will not drag the PML-N government out of the crisis.
A party meeting held here, however, concluded that repealing of the articles 62 and 63 of the constitution could be discussed in the parliament, sources said.
The meeting was jointly chaired by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari.
Aitzaz Ahsan, Sherry Rehman, Raja Pervez Ashraf, Khurshid Shah, Nayyar Bokhari, Farhatullah Babar, Naveed Qamar, Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar, Dr Asim Hussain and others attended the meeting.
On the occasion, Bilawal and Zardari consulted the PPP members on the political situation and the government's plan to make constitutional amendments.
The PPP leadership saw the developments as government's trick to bring back Nawaz Sharif who was ousted as the prime minister last month.
The PPP meeting also discussed US President Donald Trump's hostile statement against Pakistan.
The PPP meeting reiterated its decision of ‘no negotiations’ with government A PPP statement later said the meeting asked the provincial chapters of the party to step up mass-contact campaign.
The meeting also reposed full confidence in the leadership of Asif Ali Zardari and Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.