The Editorial 10 February 2021

Test series win

THE Pakistan cricket team’s 2-0 triumph in the Test series against South Africa has hopefully restored much of the confidence that the players had lost after a disastrous tour of New Zealand last December. The hosts were clearly the dominant side in the series which showcased some stellar performances, especially from fast bowler Hasan Ali, debut-making spinner Nauman Ali, batsmen Fawad Alam and Mohammad Rizwan and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf. The South Africans, on the other hand, maintained their poor record on Asian wickets, which has seen them losing nine Test matches on the trot since 2015 in this region. With reluctant skipper Quinton De Cock not leading the team from the front, the visiting side put up a lacklustre show in the series with only opener Aiden Markram, fast bowler Anrich Norte and George Linde turning in some notable performances. Having said that, the home side, though ostensibly in command during the series, can do much more to improve both batting and bowling which have hurt them on tours. The top order was virtually nonexistent and heavily burdened the middle and lower order that were required to put up a decent score on the board for the bowlers to defend.
The opening pair of Abid Ali and newcomer Imran Butt struggled throughout, while seasoned Azhar Ali now seriously must ponder retirement plans. Veteran spinner Yasir Shah, despite having captured seven wickets in the Karachi Test, failed to impress in Rawalpindi and should be asked to rediscover his Midas touch. A fair share of the credit for Pakistan’s victory must also go to newly appointed chief selector Mohammad Wasim who inducted a majority of leading domestic cricket performers into the Pakistan side, both in the Tests and for the upcoming T20 games. Indeed, it is the need of the hour to groom worthy replacements of veterans such as Azhar, Asad Shafiq, Yasir, Mohammad Abbas and others who could bring back the zest and spirit required to beat the best in the world of cricket.



Agreement with IPPs

THE 46-odd IPPs have inched closer to signing new ‘binding’ agreements with the government. This will lessen the burden of capacity payments or fixed costs the government pays to them under their ‘take or pay’ power purchasing agreements after approval from the cabinet of a two-step schedule for settlement of their outstanding bills of Rs403bn. The IPPs will receive their dues in two instalments. Over Rs161bn or 40pc of the total amount will be disbursed to them upfront once the agreements are signed and the remainder will be paid in six months. The concessions that the IPPs set up between 1990 and 2013 have agreed to give the government in their renegotiated PPAs are projected to save the national exchequer Rs800bn in capacity payments over the next 30 years. What sweetens the deal for the government is the mode of payment as only a third of the outstanding bills will be paid in cash. The remaining amount will be paid in 10-year bonds and five-year Sukkuk. Moreover, the termination of the PPA with Hubco’s least efficient base plant will save the government Rs240bn over the next seven years. Hubco will get a compensation of Rs65bn for agreeing to the premature termination of the agreement. The agreements with the seven remaining IPPs and eight wind power projects will be finalised soon.
The revised agreements, we are told, are part of the strategy to first slow down the pace of growth in the circular debt of over Rs2.3tr through a reduction in the huge fixed costs being paid to the IPPs and, ultimately, fully liquidate it. Indeed, the settlement of the dues and reduction in future capacity payments will prepare the ground for a temporary decline in the circular debt. But, as power-sector experts have pointed it out, it is not enough to stop the debt build-up in future let alone clear up the existing stock. For that, the government will need to renegotiate PPA terms with power projects established after 2015 under CPEC to secure similar concessions from them. If it succeeds, the savings will be tremendous. Beyond that, it will also have to implement actions to massively cut the huge distribution losses, check power theft and recover bills from powerful defaulters in full, as well as significantly increase power consumption for maximum utilisation of the idle capacity. Unless it can fix the structural issues plaguing the power sector, it should forget about liquidation of the circular debt stock.



Lawyers run amok

THUGGISH lawyers, acting on their worst impulses, have time and again brought collective shame upon their fraternity in this country. On Monday, they plumbed a new low. Enraged by the demolition of their chambers by the civic authorities in the nation’s capital, a mob of black coats — an expression that should ordinarily be a contradiction in terms — stormed the Islamabad High Court.
Shouting slogans and throwing stones, they broke the building’s windows and then proceeded to lay siege to the courtroom and the chamber of IHC Chief Justice Athar Minallah, rendering him virtually hostage for nearly three hours. Following the incident, the high court ordered suspension of all legal proceedings at the court, while the lawyers’ bodies announced a strike against the tearing down of the chambers.
The temerity of the rampaging black coats is astounding. The chambers in question were constructed illegally on a football ground, which was the justification for their being razed; the hooliganism in response was further violation of the law. And the fact that the lawyers’ associations, instead of condemning the violence by their colleagues and the aggression against the IHC chief justice, are choosing instead to focus on the demolition is evidence of a moral crisis within the members of the bar.
This situation can be seen as an unfortunate fallout of the lawyers’ movement from 2007 till 2009 which led the way in standing up to a military dictator’s illegal suspension of the then chief justice and ultimately succeeded in having him restored. That achievement, ironically a triumph of civil resistance, appears to have given rise to a certain hubris among sections of the fraternity in which there is no space for dissent nor respect for the law.
There have been umpteen incidents since then where members of the bar have demonstrated an utter lack of restraint and decency. Judges have been abused in court, threatened with physical violence and locked inside their chambers by advocates at odds with their rulings. Just a few days ago, a judge in Lahore was set upon by lawyers and appallingly humiliated in his courtroom. In December 2019, hundreds of lawyers attacked the Punjab Institute of Cardiology after videos emerged on social media showing some medics from the hospital mocking the black coats over a dispute between the two sides.
Earlier, in August 2017, several young lawyers barged into the courtroom of no less than the Lahore High Court chief justice where a five-judge bench was hearing a case against a group of advocates for ransacking a judges’ court. The intruders created a commotion and raised slogans against the judges present. It is high time the bar councils discipline their lawbreaking colleagues instead of condoning their actions on one pretext or another. Otherwise they will be equally responsible for the legal fraternity’s drift towards increasingly confrontational behaviour, and the deadly consequences that can ensue.

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