The Express Tribune Editorial 18 February 2021

Sharif’s passport


The government says it will not renew former PM Nawaz Sharif’s passport, which expired on Tuesday. Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid followed up by offering to provide Nawaz with an emergency travel document if he requests one to return to Pakistan.
The government says anyone on no-fly list cannot have his passport renewed. Nawaz has been on the list since August 2018. He left the country in November 2019 after getting a medical exemption from the Lahore High Court, but has refused to return.
Nawaz claims he is still under treatment in the UK. In the interim, he has been making fiery speeches against the government. The IHC declared him an absconder last December.
While the government’s move is legal, it will still be viewed with suspicion.
For one, the fact that the government is not approaching Interpol or the British government for Nawaz’s return is a reminder of how problematic the cases against him are. As a general rule, Interpol does not accept cases it determines to be politically-motivated.
The government may well fear that the rejection of an Interpol warrant would serve as vindication for Nawaz, who could use it to continue claiming that his conviction was a miscarriage of justice. Similarly, filing an extradition case would be fairly straightforward, but it would require presenting evidence that would stand up in a British court.
This is because countries usually require proof of a crime under their local or national laws before extraditing anyone. Meanwhile, since Nawaz has no foreign nationality, Pakistan would be violating the UN Charter if it tried to rescind his nationality and make him stateless.
And given that British authorities ruled out deportation after rejecting a request from Pakistan last year, it seems inevitable that they will grant him extended leave to stay — without which he would become eligible for deportation.
That takes us back to square one. Nawaz will keep giving speeches and claiming he is sick while the government avoids embarrassment by ignoring the legal route to bring him home.



Amnesty and climate activist


The BJP-led government in India came to power with the promise of sab ka vikas, sab ka saath (progress for all; all together), but now this same government has turned the country into a hell of despair for the people. Most Indians admit that their country has become a fascist state being run by rogue elements that have utmost contempt for the rule of law.
The government on Tuesday seized the human rights group Amnesty International’s properties worth more than $2 million over money laundering charges.
The rights group stopped working in India in September 2020 after it was allegedly harassed for two years on unproven charges of financial misconduct and its bank accounts were frozen. Amnesty believes that the government’s action is aimed at punishing it for its damning reports on rights abuses in IIOJK and the police’s partiality during last year’s anti-Muslim riots in Delhi.
This repressive action has come hot on the heels of the arrest of a 21-year-old Indian female climate activist, Disha Ravi, on charges of espionage and sedition.
The arrest, a few days ago in Bangalore, has come under severe criticism by a cross-section of the Indian society. Analysts have described these charges as ridiculous and part of the government’s fascistic tactics to suppress the voices of dissent. While describing the regime’s repressive actions, analysts mention the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu’s maxim: “Kill one to instill fear in one thousand.”
What the Modi regime is doing is: “Terrorise one to silence one thousand.” Now the openly authoritarian Modi government seems to be on the retreat as it fears the people’s wrath. Opponents of the regime are growing in number by the day due to its continued disregard for democratic norms. In this nervousness-induced atmosphere of fear, it is taking one self-destructive step after the other that might see an ignominious end of a government which is plummeting more and more to the lower depths.



IMF is back


The IMF loan programme, stalled in February 2019, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, has been revived — at a cost that the people of Pakistan have already started paying in terms of a higher power tariff and costlier petroleum products. There may well be more to come as the IMF conditions — related to rationalising expenditures, increasing electricity prices and slapping additional taxes — are to be complied with by the federal government between February and May this year.
The staff-level agreement on a package of measures to complete second to fifth reviews would pave the way for release of $500 million. Of the $6 billion worth of bailout facility, signed in July 2019, Pakistan has received an upfront payment of $991 million in July 2019 and another one of $452 million in December 2019.
With the fresh tranche, the total IMF disbursements to Pakistan would reach $3.36 billion — including $1.4 billion worth of emergency support related to Covid-19. Before agreeing to revive the loan programme, the IMF also wanted progress on issues including: consolidating SBP’s autonomy; strengthening legal frameworks of regulatory agencies like Nepra and Ogra; and improving management of stateowned enterprises most of which continue to inflict heavy losses on the exchequer.
While an autonomous central bank, independent regulators, and financially viable state-owned enterprises would be good macroeconomic achievements, they may not necessarily mean good news for the common man.
Besides, the government is also reported to be completing the process of pruning tax exemptions so as to bring them into effect in the next federal budget.
It goes without saying that these measures are unlikely not to make life difficult for the common man as well as the business community, at least in the short- and medium-term.
Thus the masses are in for further belt tightening at a time when the prices of the items of daily use have already rocketed into the sky, the power and gas tariffs have become unbearable, and the rates of petroleum products are unprecedentedly high. Let’s only hope that the harsh reform measures would not affect the implementation capacity for the reforms themselves.

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