New PSL champions
THE Karachi Kings have emerged as the new Pakistan Super League heroes in the highly anticipated yet lopsided final at Karachi’s National Stadium on Tuesday. The Lahore Qalandars, though on a roll this fifth PSL season, could not sustain their act and went down by five wickets after posting just 134 on the board. A Karachi-Lahore PSL final was touted as the ‘battle of the Titans’. However, the prolific Babar Azam, currently ranked among the world’s top three batsmen, helped the Kings romp home to victory with a brilliant 63 off just 49 balls. His sublime form in the League matches this year earned him the Player of the Final and Player of the Series awards. PSL V showed a clear change in trend this year as no past title holder including the Quetta Gladiators, Peshawar Zalmi and Islamabad United could make it to the final. The Lahore Qalandars, after their last spot in all previous PSL editions, had become synonymous with defeat. However, they turned things around this season under the lesser-known captain Sohail Akhtar to reach the final.
Earlier this year, PSL matches were suspended. The remaining games began after a gap of almost eight months. However, the excitement of fans remained intact while prominent media coverage ensured a huge viewership across the country. The appearance of 21 foreign players in the four remaining games was the icing on the cake. Thankfully, the PSL has now begun to produce promising batting stars — apart from fast bowlers — which is a boost to the national team. For the past many decades, batting has been the Achilles heel of Pakistan cricket, and experts including former cricketers believe that T20 leagues have only spoiled the techniques of batsmen due to the breakneck pace of scoring required. However, the emergence of fine batsmen like Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah, Zeeshan Ashraf and a few others have strengthened the batting department, besides providing an expanded pool of players to select from for Pakistan’s challenging assignments ahead.
A law unto themselves
THE law of the jungle is alive and well in Pakistan’s lower courts. Additional District and Sessions Judge Dr Sajida Ahmed Chaudhry has penned a no-holds-barred letter to Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed and the Lahore High Court chief justice dilating on the harassment that her fellow judges face at the hands of rowdy and boorish lawyers. “I am very much disappointed and discontented after spending about 21 years of judicial service, the golden period of my youth,” she writes. “Respect, prestige and sacredness of this prestigious and dignified profession [are] of no worth.” In fact, the judge says that had she known she would have to contend with so much abuse and disrespect from lawyers in her courtroom, she would not have entered the profession at all. Dr Chaudhry has put her name to what is a widespread sentiment among her compatriots. In May 2018, some judges from Lahore’s district courts had addressed an anonymous complaint along similar lines to the LHC chief justice, requesting that he visit the civil courts to see for himself the dire conditions in which they had to work.
One would imagine that those whose very profession is based upon the rule of law, who spend hours arguing over its finer points, would have internalised a respect for the law, at least in its fundamental aspects. Dispiritingly, this is far from the truth. There have been umpteenth incidents in the past few years where the black coats have indulged in hooliganism, even roughing up judges whose verdicts they disagree with. Who can forget the shocking scenes last year of lawyers on a rampage in Lahore attacking the Punjab Institute of Cardiology to avenge the ‘humiliating treatment’ meted out to some of their colleagues by certain PIC doctors? Or when dozens of lawyers in December 2017 vandalised the newly constructed judicial complex in Multan to protest against shifting to the building? These are but two instances of a long and inglorious chronology where the black coats have used their fists to ‘settle scores’ or make their displeasure known. Then there are the strikes that prolong the travails of litigants and their families. Justice Mansoor Ali Shah earlier said that 948 strikes in district bars between January and March 2017 prevented 600,000 cases from being taken up.
There is also a gender dimension to the workplace harassment issue. The male-female ratio in the legal profession is heavily skewed in favour of men: if aggression in the courtroom is not firmly dealt with by the bar associations and the senior judiciary, it could further discourage women from entering the profession. Finally, one must ask why so many lawyers have developed a tendency to go off the rails at the drop of a hat. Surely they must cultivate more faith in the basics of a well-ordered society.
IS Pakistan close to salvaging its $6bn deal with the IMF, which remains suspended for the last eight months? The prime minister’s finance adviser, Hafeez Shaikh, thinks it is, as he revealed that an IMF mission will visit Pakistan in a few weeks to “give a formal structure” to the ongoing discussion on how to revive the stalled programme, and repeated that “good news about the country’s economy was pouring in from all four corners”. The discussions between Islamabad and the mission will primarily focus on plans to improve the tax system and collection, as well as the power sector, according to the adviser. If talks are successful, as is being hoped by the government, the programme will be revived, paving the way for the release of the third loan tranche of over $500m. So far the multilateral lender has disbursed $1.5bn under the facility.
While the details of the ongoing discussions between Islamabad and the global lender of last resort haven’t emerged, we know that the programme was stalled after the government wanted the Fund to not pressure it for raising power tariffs till June for full-cost recovery from consumers as agreed to in the deal signed in July last year. In response, the Fund had delayed the approval of the second half-yearly programme review, withholding the third tranche. A month later, the Covid-19 pandemic had fundamentally changed economic realities, both domestically and globally. Since then, Pakistan has digressed from the fiscal, monetary and structural reforms framework agreed upon with the IMF to counter the adverse impact of the global plague on the economy and people. Fiscal and monetary measures implemented by the government and the central bank have since helped mitigate the virus’s economic impact. Generous financial assistance from the IMF as well as other multilateral lenders also complemented efforts to shield the economy from the outbreak’s adverse impact. Indeed, the government is in a difficult situation, despite signs of recovery. The turnaround remains fragile in the absence of deep structural reforms that has been dragging down the economy every few years. Simultaneously, the implementation of reforms and the possible reversal of fiscal, monetary and regulatory incentives for businesses in case of resumption of the IMF programme will ruin the bullish market sentiment and upend the recent gains the economy has made. Thus, Islamabad and the IMF need to find a middle way to advance reforms without hurting the revival of growth prospects.