Daily Times Editorial 6 November 2019

Relief in Karkey case


Pakistan has been saved from paying $1.2billion to a Turkish company, Karkey Karadeniz Elekrik Uretin, a penalty imposed by the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). Prime Minister Imran Khan must be credited with winning the concession with the help of great Turkish friend of Pakistan, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Though short on detail, the news was shared by PM Khan in a tweet: “PTI Govt, with the help of President Erdogan, has amicably resolved the Karkey dispute and saved Pak USD 1.2 billion penalty imposed by ICSID. I want to congratulate the government’s negotiating team for doing an excellent job in achieving this.”
Karkey, an electric power supply vessel, was awarded a power supply contract by the government in 2008-09 to overcome the energy crisis. Soon, a media campaign hounded the company, attracting the attention of the National Accountability Bureau and suo motu-infested Supreme Court. Initially, the company was ready for an out-of-court settlement but the court’s interference forced it to invoke the ICSID’s jurisdiction in 2013, and the rest is history. The hard-won deal is a matter of respite for the government, as well as a point to ponder. A lot of diplomacy was involved in the Turkish company case, but what will the government do in the cases of Reko Diq and a cartel of private power suppliers where hostile decisions have imposed heavy penalties on the government. Minister for Power Omer Ayub said the government will challenge the decisions of the ICSID in Reko Diq case against Pakistan when in July, Pakistan was told to pay a whopping award of $5.976 billion to petitioner Tethyan Copper Company (TCC) for breaching an accord. The present government should not be blamed for spoiling the accord with the TCC. These cases landed in international courts years ago, thanks to our court’s interference and government’s inability to honour the terms.
Harsh penalties from international forums hurt the respondent country’s repute among investors. Recent developments underscore the need for evolving a mechanism to standardise contracts with international and local firms, and win the best deals. Once a contract is signed, there should be minimum or no interference of local courts. Despite the best pre-contract arrangements, some dispute may need third-party interference or even land in international courts. The best course to tackle such issues is to prepare local experts to fight such cases.
Well, now when the Karkey case is closed, we expect the government to clinch such deals from TTC and private power suppliers too.



When journalists become bad news


No journalist wants to become a part of the news. Still, shockingly, 33 journalists have become sorry news items in Pakistan in the last six years while doing their jobs, according to a report by the Freedom Network, released on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on November 2. The number is a grim reminder that the security and safety of journalists is a critical issue, and the high number of causalities suggests that crimes against them often go unpunished. According to the Pakistan Press Foundation, since 2002, 48 journalists have been killed in targetted attacks and 24 for their work till 2019. Another 171 suffered serious assaults and 77 minor attacks. Also, 18 got arrested, 26 detained and 36 booked in different cases. Their cases linger on and only five have been concluded so far, including the case of American journalist Daniel Pearl who was kidnapped and killed in Pakistan. Poor prosecution gives a lot of room to killers. Most cases remain buried in files and even the mainstream media does not raise alarms unless a celebrity journalist is the fatality. In 2017, a reporter with a local English daily, often known for making headlines with investigative stories, was attacked by some armed motorcyclists in Islamabad. He survived the attack but the incident exposed the brazenness of the attackers and ineffectiveness of the multi billion Safe City Project.
Every single attack on journalists shrinks space for press freedom. The media is often hit with stories of involuntary disappearances of journalists and social media activists. Little headway has been made to address such issues. What has happened to the case of female journalist Zeenat Shahzadi, who disappeared for two years, and was rescued from the militants in the porous Pak-Afghan border area? She was later murdered.
Journalists in parts of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa often face restrictions from law-enforcement agencies. It is a matter of great concern that Pakistan stood 142 out of 180 countries in the World Press Index of 2019, released by the Reporters Without Borders. Whenever a journalist is attacked, opinions and rumors fly high about the culprits. Often fingers are pointed at militant outfits, criminal gangs, political groups as well as government agencies. A free press is essential for a healthy, vibrant society and strong democracy. A press working under threats would never come up with the true picture of society.
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