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NIAS Pakistan Weekly
Pakistan: Recent spike in Polio cases

  PR Team

Pakistan This Week
Closure of Torkham border crossing; SCBA country wide strike and the Demarche against Afghan diplomat over Chitral attack
Femy Francis

Pakistan This Week - Is a weekly roundup of the major developments in Pakistan. The alert delivers a quick review of prominent issues during the week.

Closure of Torkham border crossing
In this edition of Pakistan Weekly Pakistan’s relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan soured with the closure of Torkham border crossing since 6 September, owing to the exchange of fire between Kabul and Islamabad security forces. Pakistan accused the Taliban government in Afghanistan for building “unlawful structures” on Pakistan soil, violating their territorial sovereignty and indiscriminately firing on Pakistan officers and civilians. Contrarily, Taliban government accuses that the responsibility of escalation lay with the Pakistani security forces who opened fired at Afghan troops who were just repairing an “old security post.” The closure left several stranded with civilians from Nangarhar Afghanistan protesting, stating their grievances that the Torkham border were regularly closed under insubstantial pretexts, where in February the closure left several thousand trucks with perishable goods stranded for days. With the estimated revenue of USD 1 million from bilateral trade between the two countries, the border closing effects major economic opportunities.

The Taliban government criticized the blocking of border crossing stating: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan deems the closure of Torkham gate and opening of fire on Afghan security forces by the Pakistani side contrary to good neighbourliness,” said Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Furthermore, they warned of the effects of the closure in their bilateral relations with the financial losses incurred by the common trader.

The Pakistani Foreign Office urged the Afghan government to respect their territorial integrity and to ensure that their soil is not used to launch “militant attacks,” in Pakistan. The Foreign Officer Spokesperson Mumtaz Baloch called the unprovoked and indiscriminate firing by the Afghan forces as unjust. Baloch stated that they have welcome Afghani citizens with open arms but the persistent unwarranted provocation forces the Pakistan government to use restrain. There has been a significant rise in militant attacks and activities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa since Taliban came to power in Afghanistan. Correlating the two, the Pakistan government holds Afghan Taliban’s subpar efforts to curb the militant activities in their soil, who use the Afghan as their haven and launching pad.

SCBA calls for a country wide strike
Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) announced to observe a nation-wide strike on 9 September calling for institutions of Pakistan to uphold the rule of law. The convention consisting of apex lawyers demanded end of military’s influence in politics, release of the of all political prisoners and to outline the measures addressing the economic meltdown. The resolution stated that all institutions come under the purview of the constitution and that they cannot take any deviation from the mandates of law. Furthermore, the resolution demanded the release of all political prisoners and that the trial of all civilians to be not be held in military court.

On the delay of general elections, the SCBA stressed that no caretaker government can stay in power beyond the period of the mandated 90 days. Therefore, making the governments currently in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab moot. The undertaking also outlined that all individuals should be treated equally before the law and the exorbitant rise in prices of electricity, sugar, oil and gas should be withdrawn.

Chitral attack: Demarche issued against Afghan diplomat
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Chitral district four Pakistan soldiers died in an exchange of fire with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) killing seven terrorists. Inter Services Public Relations of Pakistan reported that the terrorists were heavily armed and they attacked two checkpoints in the Chitral district which was coordinated from Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan. 

In light of the growing militant attacks in the Khyber region the caretaker Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani announced a demarche against Afghan charge d’affaires. Jilani promulgates that the Pakistan government staunchly stand against the incident and that: “It is the responsibility of the Afghan government that if attacks are occurring in Pakistan from their soil, then it should stop them. So our expectation from the Afghan government is that it suppresses all such elements, whether it is the TTP (Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan) or others.” Additionally, the caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti stressed that Afghanistan need to abide by the Doha agreement and ensure that the Afghan soil is not used as haven for terrorist activities.


Pakistan Reader: Elections Updates

On 11 September, caretaker Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar announced that PTI will not be restricted from participating in election owing to the 9 May incident. He stated that the accused will be tried in accordance of law and that their focus is to facilitate a positive relationship amongst political parties.

On 10 September, PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accused that some allies of the Pakistan Democratic Movement coalition are “running away from elections” and that they are scared to participate. The statement said: “Unfortunately, the rest of our political allies have been scared. They are afraid. They run away from by-elections and local government elections, and maybe, they now want to run away from general elections.”

On 11 September, Furthermore, the US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller assured that the US had no plans to influence elections in Pakistan and that they hold not affiliations with political parties or a candidate, while they do support the need to have free and fair elections

 


PR Special Commentary
Pakistan: Recent spike in Polio cases
Shamini Velayutham

Pakistan's inability to eradicate polio puts the world's eradication efforts in jeopardy and is quickly growing into a major source of serious concern. Eradicating Polio, a dreadful disease amongst children is a challenging task for a developing country like Pakist

What is happening?
Recently, a wild poliovirus, which is linked to Afghanistan, has been detected in the sewage system in Lahore which has indeed caused speculations in the region. The Pakistan Polio Laboratory at the National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed it as the third positive sample recorded in the Lahore district. It is to be noted that Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only states in South Asia that still have considerable polio cases. Polio eradication efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan are threatened by a lack of awareness and the unrestricted movement of people across the border. Currently, Polio virus cases have started to increase in both bordered regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

What has been the case so far?
Since polio has been rife in the area for a considerable amount of time, India has successfully eradicated it through its proactive actions. Pakistan and Afghanistan are still being eradicated, although at different rates.  Poliovirus transmission in Pakistan is only present in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province out of the country's 171 districts as of 2020. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Pakistan and Afghanistan had an increase in polio cases from just 12 and 21 cases recorded in 2018 to 147 and 29 cases in 2019. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, respectively, there were fewer occurrences of polio in 2020. The lowest level ever recorded for wild poliovirus-1 (WPV1) cases occurred in 2021, when there were only five cases total (4 in Afghanistan and 1 in Pakistan). The detection of two wild polioviruses in environmental samples taken from the D.I. Khan and Bannu Districts in the fourth quarter of 2021 led to the designation of the southernmost portion of KPK province bordering Afghanistan as an area at high risk. As of now there have been 2 to 3 cases reported in both regions.

What are strategies for polio eradication in the country
UNICEF and partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) are stepping up efforts, working with Pakistan’s government to launch catch-up vaccination campaigns. A lot of the focus is on communities that are close to the border with Afghanistan in western Pakistan, where there’s a larger population of displaced children who are at higher risk of contracting and spreading the disease. The government of Pakistan and Afghanistan along with the international health organizations are actively implementing urgent immunization activities along with active surveillance in high-risk areas. Pakistan has implemented polio vaccination drives and has appointed health care workers to facilitate vaccines in the remote areas of the region.

Latterly, the operational polio leadership of the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) traveled to Pakistan in recognition of the crucial role Pakistan plays in the global polio eradication effort in order to observe firsthand operations, the most recent advancements and innovations, and meet with newly appointed political leadership. When the team met with Dr. Nadeem Jan, the recently appointed interim Federal Health Minister, who made a trip to the polio National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) on his very first day in office in August, they were given the assurance that polio eradication is a top operational priority for Jan's tenure.

Jan stated: “It is important for us that our country and global partners and donors stand together in this final leg of the eradication journey.  I am a polio worker at heart.  I will ensure that not only does polio remain a priority at all tiers of governance, but efforts are more targeted and intensified.” The interim administration assured to take full-fledged initiatives to overcome area-specific challenges by providing ceaseless flow of vaccination to high and low risk regions of the country.

Why polio continues despite the efforts of the government
Pakistan's inability to eradicate polio puts the world's eradication efforts in jeopardy and is quickly growing into a major source of serious concern. Eradicating Polio, a dreadful disease amongst children is a challenging task for a developing country like Pakistan. The government’s ambitious effort to suppress the spread of polio among the children has indeed helped miniscule population. However, the efforts are not operative for the elimination of the disease.

Firstly, the immunization services and health care centers provided by the government are not fruitful enough for the public to access. Although Pakistan’s government provides vaccination drives, nevertheless, the geological structure of certain areas is regarded to be inaccessible. The inaccessibility overlaps with the security concerns as well. The tough geology of Pakistan, which includes the Himalayan Mountain range and glaciers in the north and the rough terrain of Balochistan in the south, adds to the country's difficulties in providing adequate public health care.

Secondly, the regional eradication effort has lagged because of the inadequate management and operational shortcomings. Many areas of the country badly lack a sufficient health infrastructure and service delivery system since less than 2 per cent of the Gross National Product (GNP) is spent on healthcare. Although the Global Polio Eradication Initiative's (GPEI) Pakistan operation is rather well funded, its effectiveness is jeopardized by a lack of governance transparency, a service for delivering public health that is underfunded, and a private health sector that is not adequately controlled.

Thirdly, the poor strategy of the government regardless of the party, for the elimination of polio is at stake. The failure of implementing strong policies due to the disruption and changing regimes has caused the disease to resurface in the region. Although the cases in other districts are imperceptible, the government’s reach in the high-risk area is limited.

Fourthly, security plays a significant role in the vaccination drives. Government’s lack of security has made people stay indoors rather than taking vaccines. Limited health care workers with limited security in the remote regions has significantly resulted in the low vaccination rates.

Fifthly, the low production of vaccines has engendered polio cases amongst children. Despite the international funding, the government expense over the health care sector in the production of polio vaccines are comparatively lower than the expense spent on the military. Due to the low production of vaccines, the children are not able to get their immunization dosage in the stipulated time.

Finally, In Pakistan, vaccine apprehension has been influenced by factors such as illiteracy, socioeconomic status, culture, and religion. Despite the government efforts, the preconceived notion about the vaccine among the people of Pakistan defer themselves from being vaccinated. Pakistan’s Taliban began an anti-polio campaign more than 10 years ago by spreading rumors that the vaccination was linked to fertility problems and calling it anti-Islamic. The Taliban has attacked vaccinators and the security officials protecting them. Illiteracy overlaid with lack of awareness has made people refrain from taking vaccines. 

References
"The resurgence of wild poliovirus in Pakistan and Afghanistan: A new setback for polio eradication," National Library of Medicine, 2 June, 2022
Ikram Junaidi, 
“Poliovirus linked to Afghanistan detected in Lahore sewage,” Dawn, 31 August 2023
‘Afghan polio cases threaten Pakistan’s progress’, Dawn, 26 August 2023
Ayaz Gul 
“WHO: Afghanistan, Pakistan Close to Eradicating Polio,” VOA news, 31 July 2023
 
“Polio leaders in Pakistan on extraordinary operations visit,” Global Polio Eradication Initiative, 4 September 2023


PR Special Commentary
Pakistan, US and the Cipher Controversy: The problem of an inherently asymmetric relationship
Femy Francis

Imran Khan claimed a foreign political conspiracy was being hatched against him, where he claimed to have the minutes of the "Cypher", which consisted of the conversation between state department heads of the US and Pakistan

What happened?
On 9 August, The Intercept news organization reproduced the controversial "Cipher" cable transcript accounting for the minutes of the meeting between the US Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu and the then Pakistan Ambassador to the US Asad Majeed Khan on 7 March 2022. The minutes of the conversation alleges that the US State Department pressurized Pakistan to impeach the then Prime Minister Imran Khan if they wanted warmer and cordial relation between the two countries. The document ascribed that the US was disgruntled with Imran Khan's neutral position on Russia's invasion of Ukraine and expressed their concerns over Imran Khan's visit to Moscow one day before the war. 
|
On 19 August, PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi was taken into custody by the Federal Investigation Agency for claiming the "cipher" controversy is real and that the US did engineer the ousting of Imran Khan.

What is the controversy all about? And what does cipher say?
On 9 April 2022, Imran Khan was deposed by a no-confidence vote in the parliament. For the opposition, the no-confidence motion was because of the government's inability to revive the economy after COVID and Imran's failure to make Pakistan corruption-free. Imran Khan claimed a foreign political conspiracy was being hatched against him, where he claimed to have the minutes of the "Cypher", which consisted of the conversation between state department heads of the US and Pakistan a month prior. Imran Khan repeatedly called his removal a "foreign funded conspiracy" by Washington and the then Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa. 

The Cipher document reflected the US's objection against Imran Khan's neutral stance on the Russia-Ukraine war, with Donald Lu expressing to Asad Majeed Khan: "I think if the no-confidence vote against the Prime Minister succeeds, all will be forgiven in Washington because the Russia visit is being looked at as a decision by the Prime Minister, otherwise I think it will be tough going ahead." Lu also warned Pakistan's Ambassador of "isolation," where not only US but they would be marginalized by their European allies as well. 

Pakistani Ambassador stated that they felt they were being taken for granted, where Washington expects Islamabad's support on all its issues while the same is not reciprocated. Additionally, the Ambassador expressed that different rules were applied for India and Pakistan, where they had a different response to India's abstinence from taking a stance while they expected more from Delhi, but what bothered them more was the neutral stance of Islamabad. The conversation ended with Asad reaching out and hoping that this would not affect their bilateral relationship, while Lu quite explicitly proclaimed that the dent had already been made and asked the Ambassador to wait to see whether there was a change in the political setup. If there is a favourable shift, Lu conveyed that there will not be any disagreement and that the "dent will go away very quickly."

What have been the responses?
The US State Department spokesperson Mathew Miller iterated that the reproduced secret documents allegations that the US had a role in the political power shift in Pakistan: "are false, they have always been false, and they remain false." Miller stood to his earlier stance of disagreeing with US involvement. When asked about the case earlier in July, he responded: "The allegations that the United States has interfered in internal decisions about the leadership of Pakistan are false, as we have stated they were false. They were always false and they remain false."

Shehbaz Sharif said they met with the National Security Committee and that if the "Cipher" document is valid, "then it is a massive crime." Rana Sanaullah, who was in Shehbaz Sharif's cabinet, questioned the cable's authenticity.

What does the controversy reflect?
First, overlapping loyalties of Pakistan. After Imran Khan, Pakistan has moved on from its neutral stance and has been leaning towards supporting the Ukrainian cause. Additionally, Pakistan has been an arms and ammunition supplier to Ukraine while acting as a bridge between the Western alliance and Ukraine, aiding with hardware supply. On the other hand, Pakistan has received a large shipment of discounted Russian crude oil, which was suspend on 13 August 2023, the government blames the quality of Russian crude oil where the refiners have objected to process the oil as more furnace oil was produced rather than petrol. 

Additionally, on 03 August the federal cabinet signed a security agreement with US on the Communication Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CIS-MOA). The pact facilitates bilateral military and defence closeness where Pakistan can get military hardware from the US. Pakistan has its leg on both boats trying to balance its way through the relationship's without compromising or losing the other. The move reflects the changing political dynamics where while US influence and role in Pakistan was minuscular with aggressive Chinese and Russian involvement. For US there is realigned focus towards Pakistan as it cannot escape the influence of big brother the US. 

Second, questioning the US role amidst the controversy. Pakistan is trying to keep all channels of diplomacy open, where it is trying to strategically manoeuvre through and even leveraging bilateral ties for a better deal with regional and international players. The Cypher controversy is another example of the pressure exerted by the big brother US. There are speculations over US's role and even of the authenticity of the document. There is a possibility that Imran Khan's removal was premediated by the opposition and the establishment who allegedly got him to power but grew increasingly disgruntled with him. Since his ousting, Imran Khan and his party PTI has faced severe crackdown by the federal coalition headed by the PML-N. Several of its leaders have been ostracized there has been a wave of defections. This makes Imran Khan the latest addition to a long list of Prime Ministers of Pakistan who were unable to complete their tenure. The question that remains is whether it was a foreign conspiracy or a dissatisfaction by the opposition towards Imran Khan. Nevertheless, what can be concluded with certainty is that nearing the no-confidence motion there were several who stood disappointed with him and several who would be content with his removal.

References
Saleh Mughal, “'Missing cipher' stokes legal troubles for Imran,” The Express Tribune,16 August 2023
Imran Khan Booked Under Official Secrets Act In Cipher Case,” The Friday Times, 18 August 2023
US again rejects Imran’s ‘cypher’ narrative,” The Express Tribune, 28 June 2023
Cipher saga,” Dawn, 12 August 2023
Umer Burney, “
IHC reserves verdict on plea challenging Imran’s Attock jail trial in cipher case,” Dawn, 12 September 2023
“'
Massive crime' if leaked cipher alleged contents true, says PM Shehbaz,” Business Recorder, 10 August 2023


PR Short Note
A nationwide effort to crack down on electricity pilferage
Dhriti Mukherjee

On 6 September, Power Minister Muhammad Ali and Information Minister Murtaza Solangi announced a “crackdown” on electricity pilferage, that has been identified as a major cause for inflated electricity bills. Among the numerous factors contributing to the exacerbated price of electricity, theft stands out prominently, as it is fuelled by corrupt elements within the various agencies responsible for power distribution across the country. According to data from the Power Division, electricity theft has inflicted a staggering loss of PKR 500 billion on the national exchequer. As part of this plan, since 8 September, provinces began undertaking several measures to filter out those who had been using electricity illegally.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's purposive stance
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa launched a robust three-day campaign, amounting to a significant reshuffling of officials within the Peshawar Electric Supply Company (Pesco). During a recent three-day campaign, approximately 500 illegal power connections were dismantled, and cases against 250 individuals were forwarded for the registration of First Information Reports (FIRs). Pesco spokesperson Usmal Saleem, emphasized the importance of this campaign and stated, “The crackdown was launched on Friday last and would continue till uprooting power theft in the province.” The authorities have made commendable strides in curbing this issue, with power thieves beginning to remove illegal connections and settle their dues.

Lahore's efforts to suppress power theft
On 08 September, there was internal reshuffling within the Lahore Electric Supply Company (Lesco) to tackle power theft. A massive reshuffle of officers and heads of field formations up to Grade 19 has been initiated. This reshuffling includes the transfer of officers directly or indirectly involved in facilitating electricity theft. As part of this strategy, 200 connections implicit with power theft were detected by Lesco teams, with individuals involved ranging from former politicians to influential figures. Lesco CEO Shahid Haider emphasized, “We will also take action against all those officers if found involved in facilitating people to steal electricity.” The multipronged approach was stern in order to restore severely dwindling public trust.

Sindh's clampdown against power theft
In alignment with the federal government's plan, Sindh is poised to launch its crackdown on power theft, targeting high-loss commercial, agricultural, industrial, and domestic connections and defaulters. A task force, chaired by the Sindh home secretary, has been formed to devise a strategy for a focused and sustainable campaign against electricity theft. Home Secretary Iqbal Memon highlighted the importance of the proposed initiative while stating that “Indiscriminate action will be taken against electricity thieves and wilful defaulters of electricity bills.” The Sindh government has also put forth the proposition of creating district enforcement committees to address the problem with swift and efficient measures.

The spiralling cost of capacity payment
Apart from the immediate crackdown on power theft, Pakistan's power sector faces another critical challenge - the escalating cost of capacity payment. It is projected to reach a staggering PKR 3.766 trillion per annum by FY 31, constituting 75 per cent of the total electricity bill. The predicted rise in prices that are needed to offset the debt indicates a threat to consumers of various categories being able to afford electricity shortly. To reduce this impact, the Power Division has put forth a comprehensive plan to address the financial gap on “old proposed measures with new words.” While emphasising that failure is not an option for the caretaker government given the commencement of this crackdown, the Power Division laid out a National Electricity Plan. This Plan contains short, medium, and long-term actions to be implemented in different provinces based on the amount and cause of the debt. Some measures mentioned include an anti-theft campaign, a drive for energy conservation, and privatisation of Discos.

 References
Major reshuffle in Pesco as drive against power theft continues,” Dawn, 11 September 2023;
Imran Ayub & Tahir Siddiqui, “
Sindh govt all set for crackdown on power theft,” Dawn, 11 September 2023;
Mushtaq Ghumman, “
Caretakers likely to ease the woes of power sector,” Business Recorder, 11 September 2023


PR Short Note
Pakistan and Afghanistan: The problem in Torkham
Shamini Velayutham

On 6 September, a gunfire broke out between the Pakistan and Afghanistan border security forces, shutting down the prominent commerce route between the two countries at Torkham. Torkham is a key hub for the transportation of people and products between Pakistan and Afghanistan border crossing. The border closure came two days after caretaker Pakistani Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said the US military equipment left behind during the American withdrawal from Afghanistan had fallen into militant hands and made its way to the Pakistani Taliban, who are allied with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Pakistani authorities asserted responsibility for starting a gunfight, which broke out after the Afghan government began constructing a roadblock on their side in a restricted area close to the main border crossing. On 7 September, followed by the previous incident, the border remained closed. The closing of the border has led to disruption in the border with a long-standing queue of heavy vehicles laden with goods in both the borders.

What/Where is Torkham?
Torkham is tucked into the steep Khyber Pass valley, which has been travelled by traders and invaders since Alexander the Great to the British Empire. In the 1980s, the US backed mujahideen utilized Torkham as a passage into Afghanistan. Torkham again acquired strategic significance since 2001; arms and equipment supply route for 75 per cent of the NATO coalition's supplies. These were shipped from Karachi, on the Arabian Sea coast of Pakistan, through Peshawar, then via the pass to Torkham it finally reached Kabul. Because of local extremist activity, traffic across the pass has frequently been impeded.

Why is Torkham in the news?
Following a deterioration in relations between Pakistan and the Taliban government in Afghanistan, the Torkham border crossing was shut down. A closure in February 2023, left thousands of trucks loaded with products stranded on both sides of the border for days this was one of the many times the crossing has been shut down. On 7 September, according to Pakistani authorities, hundreds of trucks carrying perishable goods, such as fruits and vegetables, were waiting on both sides of the border for the reopening of the Torkham crossing, which is an important commercial thoroughfare and Pakistan's trade route to Central Asian nations.

Dawn was apprised by local sources that no one was being permitted to enter the border beyond the Michni checkpoint, which is located close to the Landi Kotal bazaar and has a commanding view of the border crossing. According to Irshad Momand, the assistant commissioner for Landi Kotal, the subject is currently being considered at a higher level between Islamabad and Kabul “due to its global importance.” He also stated that “We normally tackle and resolve local issues during our meetings with the Afghan authorities at a lower level according to our mandate. But the current border suspension is a sensitive matter and is now tackled at a high level.”

What are the issues in Torkham?
On the Afghan-Pakistan border, tensions have been building for a while, culminating in exchange of gun fires. It is completely reasonable for Islamabad to want to protect its borders and control the movement of people and products into and out of Afghanistan. The 1,500-mile border between Pakistan and Afghanistan is unregulated for a large portion of the distance, which is the difficulty Pakistan must address. There are only a few checkpoints between the two nations, the biggest of which are in the south at Torkham and Chaman, but wide swaths of uncontrolled land allow everyone from migrants to militants to enter Pakistan undetected. As a result, while it is admirable to increase security at Torkham, Pakistan's border problems are unlikely to be resolved anytime soon. The Torkham encounter and Pakistan's capacity to exert control over the movement of products into and out of Afghanistan should serve as reminders to Kabul of how crucial it is to break its cycle of dependence on Pakistan and look into alternative trade routes. This advantage has been frequently employed by Pakistan as a negotiating and coercive tactic. In fact, Pakistan has shut down Torkham numerous times in the past whenever problems between Pakistan and Afghanistan have arisen.


PR Short Note
259th Corps Commander Meeting
Femy Francis

 

On 7 September, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir presided the 259th Corps Commander Meeting. The conference consisted of Army top brass reiterating their resolve to protect Pakistan from multitudinous threats of direct or indirect nature. The gathering comes in light with the Army cracking down against the dollar hoarders to stabilize the dwindling exchange rate of Pakistan. The recent actions against foreign currency smuggling have led to a remarkable rise in the rupee value by three per cent against the US dollar. This had a ripple affect against the value of gold reduction by 4.5 per cent. Also, there has been a surge in militant activities at the border crossing from Afghanistan, where the army aims to curb the infiltration of these bellicose groups. They noted that the Afghan governments negates from fulfilling its responsibilities and refutes the allegation of Afghan soil being used to perpetuate acts of violence in Pakistan. The gathering first paid tribute to army officials who lost their lives in protecting the country and expressed that the soldiers and their families will be kept in high regards. The meeting briefed on the geo-strategic environment and the hurdles they face in protecting their National Security. There was a unanimous agreement against the “facilitators and abettors” to face the full might and stringent measures imposed by the army. Additionally, the army elites reaffirmed that “inimical propogandists” efforts to destabilase the country by attempting to create differences between the state and public will be fraught with humiliation, stated Inter Service Public Relations of Pakistan (ISPR).

On the revival of the economy and the need for development, the Army announced its full support for the socio-economic development under the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC). They further affirmed their determination to assist the government in cracking down against any illegal activities that might have a causal effect on destabilizing the economy and hampering investors’ confidence. SIFC was formed under Shehbaz Sharif administration, a civil- military body aiming to invite international investments in the areas of mining, agriculture and minerals. Additionally, Interim Prime Minister Anwaar -ul-Haq Kakar announced that UAE and Saudi Arabia have agreed to invest USD 25 billion each on projects under SIFC. A differential focus was given for the expedite development of Newly Merged Districts (NMDs) and Border Districts of Balochistan in order to facilitate sustainable peace and growth.

References
Army to help govt curb activities against economic stability,” The News International, 8 September 2023
Army not to compromise on security or economy,” Dawn, 8 September 2023
Pakistan army vows to assist government in foreign investments, curbing ‘illegal activities’ harming economy,” Arab News, 7 September 2023
Pak authorities launch crackdown against dollar smuggling,” The Pioneer, 8 September 2023

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