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The education system of Balochistan is broken and needs immediate intervention


The education system in Balochistan has all the anomalies in the supply and demand of education that one can think of. Lack of schools, poor infrastructure, gender disparity, high dropouts, and lack of teachers characterize the education system of the largest province of Pakistan. Around 70 percent of children in Balochistan in the primary and secondary school age group are out of school. Though the education system in Pakistan has officially been declared under crisis, with 26 million children out of school, the condition of Balchistan far surpasses the general sorry state of the nation.

Education deprivation is also highly gendered, with around 78 percent of girls out of school compared to 63 percent of boys. In rural Balochistan, the condition is much more alarming, given that less than 2 percent of women are known to be literate.

On the supply side, provisions for education and schooling are practically absent. In terms of infrastructure, the majority of the government schools lack basic access to electricity. The schools do not even have boundary walls, subjecting students to incidences of vandalism, theft, and threat to students’ safety. Moreover, the children going to these schools are bereft of basic amenities like functioning toilets and potable water.

The lack of provisions for girls, like separate toilets or, for that matter, even single-functioning toilets, in the already conservative society of Balochistan further jeopardizes the already bleak scope of girl education. This results in dropping out of a large number of girls in primary classes when they start menstruating.

The region also suffers from excessive teacher absenteeism. Given its troubled political past, many teachers have been killed or were forced to flee away for their lives and security. As per the ASER 2019 report, 28 percent of government schools in Balochistan do not have the required number of teachers. This contributes to overcrowding of classrooms and poorer learning outcomes.

The problem is not only of availability, accessibility, and affordability of education; it also expands to include the quality of education. There are three factors that can be majorly identified for the pathetic condition of the education system in Balochistan. First is patronage politics, which broadly results in faulty planning and resource allocation in education. The merit-based recruitment system has proven to be dysfunctional as the system is run by the politics of special interests. Shortage of trained teachers in Balochistan is a very crucial challenge. Teacher recruitment are often delayed leading to schools sans teachers. And when they are hired, teachers are often under-qualified, leading to further deteriorating education outcomes.

Second, the community has no voice. There are intermediaries between citizens and their elected ‘representatives’, namely tribal lords, religious leaders, and crony capitalists. As per a report, poverty, tribalism, armed conflict, and a hybrid democracy have effectively dis-empowered citizen voice in Balochistan”. 

Third, there exists no understanding of ‘quality’ education, as rote learning is considered a hallmark of good education. Due to the broken state-citizen relationship, there is virtually no role of citizens in the state’s decisions related to curriculum, which are often outdated.

The condition of education further deteriorated due to constant natural disasters faced by the region, including floods and earthquakes. As and when the school infrastructure got damaged, no swift rehabilitation action was taken. As per independent reports, after the 2022 floods, over 5,500 schools were destroyed, out of which only 50 have been repaired since then. Consequently, students find themselves studying under tents, in make-shift schools, and in scorching heat without any basic amenities.

The supply-side solutions are simple and straightforward and are no rocket science to be understood or executed by the ruling class. The solution lies in expanding investment in school infrastructure, updating curricula, and ensuring transparent hiring of quality teachers. Most importantly, building toilets and potable water facilities in the schools. Though UNICEF & EU are supporting the Balochistan Basic Education Program to bring girls back to school, it is a long journey that requires gradual organic change, breaking the shackles of years of underdevelopment and a conservative mindset. The government needs to take responsibility for the sorry state of affairs in the province and take swift action to provide basic infrastructure for improving its education outcomes. The current generation of Balochistan, denied of capabilities in the field of education, would further push back the goals of human development and sustainable development goals, along with crucial goals of poverty alleviation.

Pakistan’s Entry into SCO: Disaster Recipe for Counter-Terrorism Efforts


2024 marks the 23rd anniversary of the establishment of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). The SCO is one of Asia’s leading and rapidly growing multilateral forums. It emerged as the successor to the Shanghai Five, a political association driven by China and Russia and accompanied by three former Soviet republics, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. In 2017, India and Pakistan joined as full members, and Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran, and Mongolia were inducted as observer states. With its maiden expansion towards South Asia, the SCO now represents the interests of nearly 45 percent of the world’s population and one-fourth of the global GDP.

After initially being opposed to India’s membership, Beijing later compromised primarily to pave the way for the membership of Pakistan. The change in Beijing’s position was also prompted by the potential for an alliance with India. The ambitious BRI has compelled Beijing to expand its multilateral ties, and the SCO is an important foreign policy tool for this purpose. Pakistan has followed a similar journey to that of India from observer status to full membership of the SCO and for Islamabad this process has been a direct outcome of its durable and strategic partnership with Beijing. Pakistan’s pursuit of SCO membership is both a demonstration of geopolitical and geo-economic concerns and an indication of its foreign policy responses to balance-of-power considerations and growing economic and energy needs.

SCO membership impacts Pakistan’s management of its various alliance partners, in particular its differing relationships with the United States, Russia, and China, and the reconciliation of these nations’ conflicting interests with its own foreign policy goals. The more urgent challenge for Islamabad is the prospect of working with New Delhi under the umbrella of the SCO. India and Pakistan have each made allegations of cross-border terrorism against the other, negatively affecting SCO cooperation on counter-terrorism. Considering this record, the future success of the SCO’s counter-terrorism agenda has become highly questionable.

The inclusion of Pakistan with its “own narrative” about terrorism – has added a further dimension to the SCO’s counter-terrorism agenda. Pakistan has to move forward with its India fixation, especially when addressing important multilateral forums like the SCO. The vast gulf in comprehensive national power between the two nations is clear to all its SCO partners, and their approach would be accordingly framed. Islamabad has no leverage in its SCO membership. It is just being used as a tool by Beijing for its benefit.

China’s continued promotion of BRI (including CPEC) within the framework of SCO would further destabilize the charter of SCO’s stated goals and duties. As a “responsible” SCO member state, Islamabad should come clean in meeting its obligations towards counter-terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism stemming from Pakistani soil.

In a realist interpretation, SCO would be meaningless in fostering cooperation between various states owing to narrowly defined national interests, leading to possible conflicts. Given the continuous exchange of allegations of cross-border terrorism between New Delhi and Islamabad, it may prove difficult for Russia and China to engage both members in meaningful counterterrorism cooperation. Pakistan’s import of its long-standing animosity with India into consensus-driven SCO has significantly diminished the prospects for broader regional cooperation and it has been forcing Beijing and Moscow to choose between them.

Further, the expansion of SCO to embrace Pakistan, has been a source of frustration for Central Asian states. Pak’s entry has diluted the organization’s principal focus on Central Asia proper and introduced new complications and frictions within the grouping, especially between Pakistan and India. Thus, Islamabad’s entry into SCO has made other SCO member states realise finally that its admission has so far proven to a disaster recipe for counter-terrorism efforts in the Eurasian region.

Yet another crisis in Pakistan: This time it is education!


Like the broken tax system, rising inflation, unemployment, frequent episodes of violence, and debilitating health infrastructure, another major sphere of economy and public life where Pakistan’s government has successfully managed to under perform is its education system. The education crisis is such that it is no less than a state of education emergency.

National and international media and experts have been reiterating what has emerged as two stylized facts about Pakistan’s education system. One, 26 million children are out of school (which is a large share of 39 percent of Pakistani children); two, 43 million children in school are not learning as much as they should. Thus, the education system is suffering badly on the fronts of enrollment and learning outcomes due to learning poverty and “decades of deliberate underinvestment and disregard.

One major culprit is the lack of social provisioning of education in Pakistan. First, the education budget has been shrinking. In 2022, the Pak government spent only 1.9 percent of its GDP on education compared to 2.65 percent in 2015, lying behind other South Asian and sub-Saharan countries, despite being well-versed with the fact that its 26.2 million children are out of school. Second, the lack of investment in the public provisioning of education has paved the way for the privatization of education at a massive pace, making education again accessible only to the rich. Moreover, the quality of the private schools that are springing up in every nook-and-corner of Pakistan is sup-optimal due to untrained, overworked, and underpaid teachers. Substandard learning environments and resources would lead to substandard learning outcomes: there is no rocket science here.

Third, and more interestingly, experts opine that it is not the budget that is the problem but how the budget is spent on education. The education system suffers from severe misspending, which can’t be addressed without reforming the education system. Any increase in the education budget is subjected to leakages through crony capitalism and corruption, making it futile. The problem lies with commission-based construction work contracts of schools, which provide fertile ground for corruption. Moreover, teacher absenteeism and teachers-politicians’ linkages, where political parties are involved in the recruitment of teachers, are rampant across Pakistan. There is a clear patronage politics in which teachers act as political workers for the political parties in return for their recruitment.

The regional disparities are well reflected in access to education as well. Balochistan, with all its underdevelopment and instability, has 65 percent of its children out of school. Moreover, a majority of the 26.2 million children are concentrated in rural areas, and 58 percent of them happened to be females.

If about 39 percent of Pakistani children are not able to access education, it implies a generation of people without basic education to get employment, left to be exploited and subjected to poverty. The impact of a dysfunctional education system is large and prolonged, given that education has larger marginal social benefits (and thereby resulting losses if not corrected). Without sufficient education, youth in Pakistan are not fit to be inducted into the labor market, making them susceptible to placements in militant organizations. This is a larger social loss to society, where the uneducated (or, if at all, poorly educated) youth become a part of social disharmony and a threat to society.

Pakistan also needs to tackle its economic crisis to curb its education crisis. Last year, in May, textbook prices had increased by an alarming 95 percent making education not just inaccessible but also un-affordable for many due to crushing inflation. People in the lowest strata of income across provinces are mostly susceptible to be out-of-school, and in case they get enrolled, they face a higher probability of dropping out, with females bearing the major brunt. Access to education is becoming more inequitable, with rising privatization (making quality education accessible only to the rich) and the poor dropping out and succumbing to the worsening economic conditions.

The system requires swift and multi-dimensional reforms across its length and breadth. Increasing the number of schools, reforming the examination system, which heavily depends on rote learning, reforming curriculum, and better enforcement so that the problem of ghost teachers is eliminated. Moreover, clientelism in teacher recruitment and corruption in commissioning constructions and reparations need to be corrected by making it a more accountable, transparent, and robust monitored system.

There is a need to address both the demand and supply side challenges to the education system, including accessibility and affordability of education, education infrastructure, and regional and gender disparities. As per World Bank experts, learning poverty in Pakistan can be eliminated by focusing on policies tailored to the needs of diverse groups of out-of-school children. This implies that teenage children who have never been to school need to be provided with special assistance instead of being sent to regular schools. Besides, there is a dire need to enhance efficiency and target public expenditure where education outcomes are the poorest. Given the condition of education, children not only need to be brought to school, but they also need to be provided with a congenial learning environment to bridge the learning gaps. However, given the sheer lack of commitment to the reforms and lip service in the name of calling out the rhetoric of a “nationwide education emergency,” it is pertinent to see if the ruling elite would take massive actions to ameliorate the ailing education system and the masses.

Rising Chinese Lending to Pakistan Presents an Acute Debt Trap


Pakistan’s federal government will present the budget for the financial year (FY) 2024-25 in the National Assembly on 12 June 2024. The date June 28 has been set for concluding discussion and approval of the Budget-2024-25

Pakistan’s FY 2023–24 growth rate is hardly 3%, the lowest ever in 77 years since independence. The fiscal deficit between income and expenditure in FY 2023–24 is one of the highest fiscal deficits, i.e., 6%–7% of GDP.

Pakistan’s total domestic and external debt stock rose by 8.6 percent during the first 10 months of this fiscal year (FY24).

Cumulatively, the central government’s total domestic and external debt stock reached Rs 66.083 trillion at the end of April 2024 compared to Rs 60.841 trillion in June 2023, depicting an increase of Rs 5.242 trillion.

The Finance Division has set the dollar value at Rs 295 for the upcoming fiscal year budget, indicating Rs 10 per dollar depreciation in the local currency, as a result the business community is likely to experience additional depreciation in the currency. Unless a significant amount is credited before the State Bank of Pakistan or the dollar price is capped, further depreciation is inevitable due to scheduled debt payments.

The cycle of sovereign debt stress Pakistan is experiencing is not new, it has been a recurring feature of its economy for decades. Pakistan has been paying more in debt repayments for the past twenty years than it receives and yet in that the amount owing has grown 200%.

The current economic situation of Pakistan and the future agenda of the Government indicates that Pakistan has fallen into a debt trap. Public revenue is being spent to pay high interest rates on its foreign loans, leaving no money for public investment in infrastructure and services. As the currency continues to depreciate, the real cost of its debt goes up, credit agencies reduce its ratings and interest rates continue to skyrocket.

Pakistan’s total budget for 2022–23 was estimated at PKR 9,579 billion, of which PKR 1,052.2 billion was allocated for development. In 2021–22, Pakistan had a ranking of 161 on the Human Development Index (HDI). The country was categorized as having “low HDI”.

The country’s debt and liabilities have risen steeply to nearly ninety percent of the size of the economy. Yet the Government has indicated interest in taking on more loans, particularly from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and friendly countries. However, an increased level of external debt can pose a great risk to the fiscal framework of an economy when the current account deficit is high, foreign reserves are at low levels, and the exchange rate is under pressure.

Debt servicing has become an acute problem for Pakistan. In the last 20 years, Pakistan has not only paid external creditors more than it has received from them, the shift in the lending programmes of international financial institutions has resulted in Pakistan’s consumption loans increasing from 7.7 percent in 1990 to 70 percent in the 2000s.

China’s lending to Pakistan has increased from 9.3 percent of Pakistan’s external debt in 2013 to US$ 28.4 billion. Last November a study revealed that two decades of Chinese lending to Pakistan totaled about $21 billion more than previously thought. AidData, a research institute at William and Mary University in the U.S., calculated Pakistan’s cumulative public debt exposure to China at $67.2 billion for the period from 2000 to 2021. That surpasses the $46 billion recorded for the same period in the World Bank’s International Debt Statistics, based on voluntary disclosures from Pakistan.

China’s loans to Pakistan often enter the front door as short-term debts with maturities of 12 months or less, but exit the back door as long-term debts. China subjects Pakistan to a 7.1% interest rate, determined by the six-month Secured Overnight Finance Rate (SOFR) plus an additional 1.715%.

The first goal in development strategy as regards to the taxation policy. Performance of the Pakistani tax managers on this account is highly disappointing, with fiscal deficit remaining high during the last many decades and despite revenue targets fixed annually and subjected to downward revision many a times, yet remained un-achieved.

Amidst this bleak economic situation, concluding his five-day official visit to China from June 4-8 Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed confidence in Pakistan and China’s commitment to carrying out the eight major steps for supporting high-quality Belt and Road cooperation, forging an “upgraded version” of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) by jointly building a growth corridor, a livelihood-enhancing corridor, an innovation corridor, a green corridor and an open corridor.

Sharif’s visit to China comes as the latter’s loan (US$ 100 billion) matures this year. The fact remains that CPEC projects have only exacerbated weakness in Pakistan’s governance and contributed to the already unsustainable debt load of the country.

The current IMF bailout has laid down several conditions on the Pakistani Government, including taxes and subsidies, government spending, interest rates, and the foreign exchange rate . The most stringent condition is to account in detail Chinese financial outlay through the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and provide firm assurances that Pakistan will not divert IMF loans to service its China debts.

Last month the IMF Staff Mission held a series of meetings in Pakistan on the next Fund Programme in the form of an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) for the next three years.The IMF is testing if the present political dispensation is willing to implement the tough budgetary reform agenda for 2024-25, before a move is made to finalise the three-year EFF.

Washington has reportedly decided to dispatch a Treasury Department delegation to Pakistan to evaluate Islamabad’s economic situation, prospects of IMF’s new program, and general business and investment climate. The debt taken by Pakistan from the IMF has increased in rupee terms due to currency devaluation. Hence, in the long run, the IMF loan has the potential to harm Pakistan and its economy, so unless Pakistan is able to implement wide-ranging reforms on multiple fronts to establish credibility as a borrower with the ability to repay by achieving a sustainable external balance of payments and budgetary position.

The reform agenda will also include other strong measures like privatization and scaling down of losses of State-Owned Enterprises, transfer by the Federal government of functions and projects to the Provincial governments along with the expenditure liabilities, pension reforms, etc. The year, 2024-25, will truly have to be a year of major reforms.

A significant portion — $28.4 billion — of Pakistan’s loans from China are in the energy sector, and as Islamabad struggles to pay off these loans, the fundamental question to be asked is : Will the underlying issues regarding Pakistan’s macroeconomic and fiscal situation be addressed by the current government, or will Pakistan continue to inch towards a financial default?

#EXCLUSIVE Pakistan eyes creating rifts within the Indian Ocean Region by establishing a parallel forum, with Chinese support


Pakistan is planning to establish the Afro-Asian Ocean Forum on Maritime Cooperation (AAO-FMC) to counter India’s growing maritime and regional influence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). There are reports that the government is considering opening an office for the Forum in a Tier One city like Karachi or Islamabad. However, due to financial constraints, Islamabad is seeking external funding. As an obvious option, Pakistan has approached China to seek a grant for the project. It is noteworthy that China has been aggressively making efforts to expand its maritime influence in the IOR. Pakistan has allowed China to use its territory through China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) to reach the Indian Ocean via Gwadar Port.1 Therefore, it is possible that the new Forum could be another Chinese plan to target India in the IOR through Pakistan. Under immense debt liabilities from China, Pakistan will not have much say but to compromise its sovereignty and foreign policy to cater to Beijing’s interests in the region.

This new attempt to revive the old Pakistani propaganda of using the phrase “Afro-Asian Ocean” as a counter to the Indian Ocean will not find many supporters among the littoral states in the region. Most of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East African littorals, and West Asian countries are comfortable with the term “Indian Ocean” and are members of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).2 Notably, IORA is an intergovernmental organization established in 1997 to promote economic cooperation and regional integration among countries bordering the Indian Ocean. Pakistan is not a member of IORA, and China is only a ‘dialogue’ partner. This further suggests that both countries are skeptical of the terminology and do not wish to acknowledge the centrality of India in the IOR.

Pakistan believes that the name Indian Ocean unfairly associates the ocean with India, thus giving undue prominence to one country in the region.3 In the past, Pakistan has even proposed renaming the ocean as the ‘Indo-Pak Ocean’ or ‘Muslim Ocean’ due to the significant Islamic presence in the region. Ironically, Pakistan has used the term in its first National Security Policy 2022-2026, released in January 2022. Under the sub-heading ‘Maritime Competition’, the policy document states, “the self-professed role of any one country [India] as a so-called net-security provider in the wider Indian Ocean would negatively affect the region’s security and economic interests.”4 This statement clearly shows Pakistan’s insecurities regarding India’s influence in the IOR. Consequently, Pakistan is attempting to promote AAO-FMC as a potential alternative to the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IORA).

Another reason for Pakistan’s initiative is the increasing prominence of the term ‘Indo-Pacific’ over ‘Asia-Pacific’, which has garnered support from Western countries and littoral states in the IOR. China and Pakistan are still uncomfortable with the new terminology. Therefore, this new Forum can be viewed within the broader context of countering both the names – Indian Ocean and Indo-Pacific.5 Pakistan may seek support from Islamic countries, which are littoral states in the Indian Ocean and members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), to promote the new Forum. It is worth noting that in 1963, Indonesia had objected to the term ‘Indian Ocean’ and wanted to rename it as the ‘Indonesian Ocean’.6 However, Indonesia and other ASEAN countries now use the term in their official discourse(s).7 Similarly, East African countries, island states, and West Asian littorals in the Indian Ocean are comfortable with the terminology. Notably, the vision for IORA originated during a visit by the late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa to India in 1995.8

Similarly, the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC) was established as an intergovernmental organization in 1982, linking African Indian Ocean nations: Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion (an overseas region of France), and Seychelles. India holds the ‘observer’ status in the IOC.9 These examples underscore the importance of both African and African littoral states for India. On the other hand, Pakistan is trying to create rifts within the Indian Ocean Region by establishing a parallel multilateral forum, with Chinese support, which will prove to be futile. Pakistan is aware that India enjoys excellent bilateral relations and strategic partnerships with member states in the region. Hence, it is possible that to promote the new Forum, Pakistan may approach only selected countries in the IOR and avoid reaching out to countries like Australia, which is a close partner of India and a member of the four-member Quad grouping.10

Furthermore, given China’s coercive military activities in the South China Sea (SCS) and the broader Indo-Pacific region, which have provoked the ire of many regional countries, Beijing seems to be utilizing Pakistan as a front to advance its agendas in the Indian Ocean.11 Consequently, China may provide funding for this forum and endorse the appointment of a Pakistani military official to head the AAO-FMC. However, Pakistan lacks both the diplomatic expertise and logistical capabilities to lead a sensitive multilateral forum. Additionally, littoral states may be wary and suspicious of the need for an alternative forum in the Indian Ocean when the IORA already exists. Lastly, the new Forum could be another attempt to revive CPEC by drawing attention of Asian and African littoral states on Gwadar port.12 Nevertheless, all these reasons will fail to provide any justification for the establishment of an agenda-driven multilateral forum in Pakistan.

1 https://jamestown.org/program/cpec-at-ten-a-road-to-nowhere/

2 https://www.iora.int/member-states

3 https://www.nation.com.pk/01-May-2017/maritime-security-in-the-afro-asian-ocean

4 https://static.theprint.in/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/NSP.pdf

5 http://seharkamran.com/maritime-security-in-afro-asian-ocean/

6 https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/heres-how-seas-receive-names-and-the-associated-problems-and-resolutions/articleshow/59922770.cms

7 https://asean2023.id/storage/news/ASEAN-India-Joint-Statement-on-Maritime-Cooperation-FIN-1.pdf

8 https://www.iora.int/indian-ocean-rim-association

9 https://www.commissionoceanindien.org/en/strategic-areas/

10 https://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/india/bolstering-our-ties-india

11 https://www.cfr.org/timeline/chinas-maritime-disputes

12 https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/china-s-big-gamble-pakistan-10-year-scorecard-cpec

Lawlessness in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as Pakistani paramilitary Rangers called in to quell protests


Pakistan-occupied Kashmir witnessed violent clashes on Saturday between the police and activists of a rights movement amid a wheel-jam and shutter-down strike across the territory, leaving at least one police official dead and more than 90 others injured, as per Pakistani media report.

Mirpur Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kamran Ali told the media that Sub-inspector Adnan Qureshi succumbed to a gunshot wound in the chest in the town of Islamgarh where he was deployed along with other police personnel to stop a rally for Muzaffarabad via Kotli and Poonch districts under the banner of the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC).

The JAAC, which has traders at the forefront in most parts of the state, has been seeking the provision of electricity as per hydropower generation cost in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, subsidised wheat flour and an end to the privileges of the elite class that has backing from Pakistan.

In response to these protests, the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) government on Sunday deployed Rangers in Muzaffarabad and partially suspended internet to stop protesters from reaching the capital.

The PoK government sought help from Islamabad after yesterday’s violent protest who sent Rangers to control the situation.

On Wednesday-Thursday night, around 70 JAAC activists were arrested by police during raids at their residences and those of their relatives in Muzaffarabad and Mirpur divisions, triggering serious clashes in Dadyal on Thursday.

The committee had subsequently announced a shutter-down and wheel-jam strike on Friday, a day ahead of its planned long march towards Muzaffarabad on Sunday.

Amid a crippling strike on Friday, fierce clashes between police and protesters were witnessed in different areas of Muzaffarabad.

JAAC spokesperson Hafeez Hamdani made it clear while talking to the media that the action committee had nothing to do with violence.

“It seems that such elements have been purposely planted in the ranks of protesters to bring a bad name to a struggle that aims nothing but the legitimate rights of the people,” he said.

Former AJK premier and senior PML-N leader Raja Farooq Haider urged the demonstrators to protest peacefully for resolution of their demands and not take the law into their hands and damage government properties.

He also offered his condolences for the sub-inspector’s death and called for an end to the “lawlessness”.

Former president Arif Alvi said the imagery coming out of AJK was the “real brutal input of those who think, believe and act on their rudimentary idea that: ‘Force is the only solution to all human problems.’”

As per latest reports, markets and business centers are all shut in the city while traffic has thinned out on roads as a complete wheel jam strike is being observed throughout PoK today.

Internet services have been suspended since last night.

Narco-Smuggling into Holy City by Pakistani Drug Traffickers- A Challenge for Saudi Authorities


Last week, two Pakistani individuals were apprehended during a crackdown on drug trafficking in the holy city of Medina, for selling crystal methamphetamine, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. The Pakistani nationals were taken into custody during a raid against drug dealers. The suspects are accused of dealing in methamphetamine, more popularly known by its street name, ice, as well as heroin.

In the hundreds of drug busts made by Saudi authorities in recent months, the majority of drug traffickers were found to be Pakistanis, who were operating trafficking dens mostly in Mecca, Riyadh, and the Eastern regions of the Kingdom.

Just two weeks before this bust on April 15, the Saudi Criminal Investigation and Search Department of the Riyadh Region Police arrested two Pakistani residents found using a residential unit as a base to distribute 13,000 narcotic tablets.

In a separate incident, yet another Pakistani national was apprehended in Hafr Al-Batin city for involvement in methamphetamine distribution. Earlier, the General Directorate of Narcotics Control arrested two drug dealers, a Pakistani and a Filipino, in Jeddah for trying to sell 2.6 kilogrammes of meth. In separate incidents, almost four Pakistani nationals were arrested for trying to smuggle or sell the drugs in the kingdom.

The arrests of several Pakistanis comes at a time when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has launched a nationwide crackdown against drug peddlers and smugglers. Aside from narco-trafficking, Pakistani individuals have also been found associated with other crimes in KSA like prostitution, female and child trafficking, theft, money laundering, aside from the traditional hawala networks.

For instance in January 2022, following a video clip that went viral on the social media, a Pakistani national found running a large prostitution ring exploiting runaway housemaids, was arrested in Riyadh. The clip showed the ring run by the Pakistani was for sexual exploitation of a number of housemaids who had run away from their sponsors’ homes in Riyadh.

Drug consignments from Pakistan have always been the norm for the world, including Africa and the Middle East. There is widespread usage of meth in Pakistan as well. Meth has quickly overtaken heroin and cannabis as the drug of choice in Pakistan. Addiction to crystal meth is soaring in the nation of some 240 million. The spike has been most visible in the restive northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The lax enforcement of its anti-narcotics laws have allowed the drug trade to thrive in Pakistan, also allowing the drug to freely move into other countries in the region. “The investigation procedures are weak and the courts release drug smugglers,” said Azlan Aslam, an officer at the Excise, Taxation, and Narcotics Control Department in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.” Due to judicial leniency, a drug smuggler can easily get bail,” Aslam told Radio Mashaal. “They get released without being properly punished.”

Last August, Saudi authorities General Directorate of Narcotics Control apprehended four Pakistanis who were found in possession of 1.9 kilograms of methamphetamine (ice).

During the Covid-19 pandemic Pakistani Tramadol networks were found to be linked to ISIS and Boko Haram, raising security concerns. Drugs continued to freely flow from Pakistan despite the pandemic. There were several instances of seizures of Tramadol from Pakistan destined for Islamic State territory. And this has continued despite international awareness vis-a-vis Tramadol. As recently as February 2022, anti-narcotics officers seized 649,300 capsules of Tramadol 225mg weighing 460.95kg imported from Pakistan via Addis Ababa through Ethiopian Airlines.

In December 2019, at least 1.4 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine was recovered from a passenger identified as Basheer, aboard a Saudi Arabia-bound flight at Islamabad International Airport (IIAP) in Pakistan’s capital. The suspect was reportedly travelling to Madina. Previously Pakistani drivers were found to be involved in heroin smuggling to Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia hosts 12 million foreigners, over one-third of the country’s total population. About 1.6 million Pakistanis, most of them foreign migrant workers, make up the second-largest migrant community in Saudi Arabia. The country has executed more Pakistanis, than any other foreign nationality, nearly all for heroin and drugs smuggling.

As per independent estimates, nationals from Pakistani background have been involved in smuggling crimes in the Middle East more than immigrants belonging to other countries. Also, Saudi authorities have in several instances nabbed Pakistani men for allegedly laundering illegal money out of the Kingdom. In one such case, the Saudi police arrested a ring of Pakistani expatriates in Medina for collecting and smuggling unspecified amounts outside the Kingdom. In addition, the authorities also confiscated cash from the suspects which, according to the police, was being arranged for being transferred out of the country through hawala (illegal means).

On 6 September 2023, a Saudi court sentenced 11 Pakistani expatriates, convicted of financial fraud, to seven years in prison each. The Financial Fraud wing completed an investigation into the illegal activities of 11 Pakistani nationals and found that the accused persons were engaged in financial fraud by sending text messages to the victims, communicating with them by telephone, urging them to update their bank information, and then obtaining their personal information and using it to access their bank accounts and steal their money.

Last year police in Jeddah city of Saudi Arabia arrested a group of 13 Pakistanis suspected of stealing vehicles. According to the Saudi police, the suspects stole 19 vehicles of several types which were later dismantled and sold in parts.

There are close to 3,400 Pakistani jailed in Saudi Arabia for various criminal activities, making Pakistanis the largest number of expatriates in Saudi prisons. In 2019, an agreement was reached between former Prime Minister Imran Khan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and KSA agreed to release 2,100 Pakistani prisoners. However, despite the agreement 60% of the Pakistani detainees could not be released as they were involved in drug smuggling.

When this information was shared during the Sub-Committee of National Assembly Standing Committee on the Overseas Pakistanis session, chair Mehreen Razzak Bhutto lamented that 29 kg of heroin was loaded on an airplane and sent to the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia. She questioned how the staff at a Pakistani airport could let go of such a huge quantity of drugs.

So widespread is the involvement of Pakistani expatriates in criminal activities, like drug smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, theft and others that a few years back top Emirati security official, Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan, took to Twitter to denounce Pakistanis, accusing them of being a “dangerous threat to Gulf societies,” after a drug racket was busted in Dubai. Khalfan wrote in Arabic: “The Pakistanis pose a serious threat to the Gulf communities for the drugs they bring with them to our countries.” Khalfan resorted to asking his fellow citizens “not to employ Pakistanis”. The security official, who was the head of Dubai Police Force until 2013, termed it a “national duty to stop hiring Pakistanis”.

Pakistan: Attempts to Promote Buddhism Amidst Violent Crimes Against Religious Minorities


In the last few years, Pakistan has accelerated efforts to present itself as an emerging Buddhist destination in the South Asia region. It is targeting countries such as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, and other Southeast Asian states with significant Buddhist populations. Islamabad has made similar attempts in the past to promote tourism for the followers of the Buddhist religion. For example, in April 2016, Pakistan invited 40 Sri Lankan Buddhist monks to showcase its heritage and promote the Gandhara School of Art and Takshila Museum.1

What Pakistan has been attempting to do is to create an image of “a Muslim country” that has preserved the world’s richest Buddhist sites and artifacts. On the contrary, through such ‘soft power’ initiatives, the Pakistani state has been trying to absolve itself of all crimes related to ethnic and religious minorities in the country.

Secondly, Pakistan aims to enhance bilateral relations with South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries by promoting itself as a Buddhist destination. Thirdly, China has been urging Pakistan to revive the ‘Gandhara Trail’ that links Lahore, Taxila, and Peshawar along the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) route. The Trail falls under the Chinese-sponsored ‘Buddhist Network,’ a discreet programme to appropriate Buddha’s legacy in Asia.2 Lastly, a religion-centric tourism activities may bring some foreign currency reserves in Pakistan, which is facing a dire economic situation.

Reports suggest that Pakistan may organize a SAARC event in May at Taxila to promote religious tourism. Interestingly, a few Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) charter flights are scheduled to bring selected tourists from countries like Bhutan, Vietnam, and Myanmar to showcase the main Buddhist sites in the country. Furthermore, the government of Pakistan is planning to engage social media influencers from South Korea, Japan, and Singapore to promote the Buddhist tourism. These desperate attempts to portray Pakistan as a religiously secular country may not be enough to distract the international community from the daily occurrences of violent crimes against religious minorities in the country. According to the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices by the US State Department, violence against religious minorities continued in Pakistan in 2023, including forced conversions, early and forced marriages, and mob attacks targeting minorities.3

According to an Islamabad-based Think Tank, Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a total of 193 incidents of violence against religious minorities took place in Pakistan last year, a number that is believed to be much lower than the actual figures.4 Several local human rights activists have also claimed that there had been no “improvement” in safeguarding basic rights of different religious minorities – Hindu, Christian, Sikhs, Buddhists – in Pakistan.

In response to US criticism regarding its poor track record on stopping violent crimes against religious minorities, Pakistan “categorically” rejected the 2023 Country Report on human rights practices.5 Islamabad argued that the contents of the report were unfair, based on inaccurate information, and completely detached from the ground reality. The Pakistani government is reportedly targeting social media channels and accounts that report true incidents of violations of religious rights, forced conversions, abductions, rapes, and robberies targeting Hindu and Christian minorities in Pakistan.6 7

It is estimated that the state authorities have identified 279 Twitter accounts, and several Facebook and Instagram accounts are also under scrutiny, along with 31 YouTube channels. The government is even planning to conduct a forensic examination on around 200 vlogs. Notably, Twitter has been banned in the country since February this year.8 These actions are perceived as known tactics to silence independent voices highlighting ongoing crimes against humanity in Pakistan and to safeguard the image of the Army establishment.9 10

Facing regular international scrutiny on the deteriorating human rights situation, Pakistan is desperately looking for a face saver and is therefore attempting to revive the so-called ‘Gandhara Corridor’ in some areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab. As a result, on April 4, Member National Assembly (MNA) Dr Ramesh Kumar Vankwani introduced “The Gandhara Corridor Bill, 2024” to establish the Gandhara Corridor to connect Pakistan with the Buddhist world.11 According to the bill, the Corridor shall be headed by the chairperson to be appointed by the Pak Prime Minister with head office at Islamabad.12

Meanwhile, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has expressed strong reservations against the bill, terming it as “federal overreach” in provincial affairs and rejecting it as controversial, unconstitutional, and unethical.13 Former KP Minister of Archaeology, Syed Aqil Shah, also criticized the proposed bill, declaring it a violation of the 18th Amendment to the Pakistan Constitution, which guarantees provincial autonomy.14 Notably, 90 percent of the Gandhara civilization antiquities are based in KP.15 The province is already facing severe difficulties in revenue generation and is demanding a hike in hydropower profits and oil and gas royalties to fund its development expenditure.16 On top of this, the federal government is now trying to snatch away any revenue generated from the proposed Buddhist corridor.

It is expected that the ongoing tussle between the federal government and KP over claims on the corridor will intensify in the coming months. Moreover, local Islamist organizations may object to the Gandhara Corridor Bill and the special attention given to a minority religion in Pakistan.17 This could result in increased targeted violence against religious minorities in KP and Punjab. Despite efforts to revive the Buddhist trail, a report highlights that the ongoing construction of the Diamer Basha dam in Gilgit-Baltistan will drown ancient carvings, some dating back to 8,000 BCE, including “images of Buddha and Buddhist stupas (burial mounds).”18 Therefore, Pakistan’s plans to promote Buddhism are seen as another attempt to distract the international community from ongoing violence against religious minorities.



1 https://www.dawn.com/news/1253899

2 https://morungexpress.com/exporting-chinese-buddhism-as-chinese-goods-unsustainable

3 https://www.state.gov/reports/2023-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/pakistan/

4 https://tribune.com.pk/story/2458695/punjab-records-193-cases-of-violence-against-minorities-in-a-year

5 https://twitter.com/ForeignOfficePk/status/1783497991778714061

6 https://hrcp-web.org/hrcpweb/hrcp-warns-senate-against-imposing-social-media-curbs/

7 https://www.hrw.org/news/2024/03/12/pakistans-blasphemy-law-targets-youth-social-media

8 https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2024/4/17/pakistan-says-it-blocked-social-media-platform-x-over-national-security

9 https://www.dw.com/en/pakistans-new-internet-laws-tighten-control-over-social-media/a-52375508

10 https://www.dawn.com/news/1818574

11 https://www.dawn.com/news/1825549

12 https://thefridaytimes.com/08-Apr-2024/minorities-lawmaker-offers-to-clear-up-kp-s-confusion-on-gandhara-bill

13 https://www.brecorder.com/news/40297111/gandhara-corridor-bill-introduced-in-na#

14 https://www.dailymirror.lk/international/Proposed-Gandhara-Corridor-Bill-causes-rift-between-Islamabad-and-KPK/107-280961

15 https://www.arabnews.com/node/1609141/amp

16 https://www.dawn.com/news/1792620

17 https://international.la-croix.com/news/world/a-hammer-blow-to-pakistans-buddhist-heritage/12780

18 https://dialogue.earth/en/water/pakistans-diamer-basha-dam-will-drown-ancient-carvings/

IMF to rescue Pakistan, again… But how many times?


Pakistan is in discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a potential follow-up program to its nine-month, $3 billion stand-by arrangement (SBA) but it is unlikely that the IMF will let Pakistan acquire the bail-out easily given Islamabad’s failure to fulfill its commitments.

As per media reports, cash-strapped Pakistan officially approached the IMF last week for another bailout package ranging between $6 billion and $8 billion, with the possibility of augmentation through climate financing.

Pakistan’s relationship with the IMF has become a recurring narrative, with this potentially marking its 24th engagement with the global lender. Regrettably, Pakistan stands as the most frequent and fourth-largest recipient of IMF assistance globally, a distinction highlighting deeper systemic issues.

According to Pakistan’s leading newspaper Dawn, the next few years are likely to see Pakistan trapped in low-growth mode. International lenders maintain that economic growth in the country will remain subdued, hovering in the range of 1.8pc-3.5pc in the medium term because of plummeting investment, persisting fiscal and external imbalances, and a large state presence in the economy.

The global lender’s chief Kristalina Georgieva said Pakistan had important issues to solve before the next agreement with the IMF. At an event at the Atlantic Council think tank, Georgieva said Pakistan was successfully completing its existing program, however “there are very important issues to be solved in Pakistan: the tax base, how the richer part of society contributes to the economy, the way public spending is being directed and of course, creating … a more transparent environment,” she added.

Pakistan also has another issue to deal with: money laundering and terror-financing. While Islamabad recently passed new anti money laundering and anti-terror financing laws, there is a serious issue of implementation of these laws. Many religious extremist organizations in Pakistan continue to raise funds that are then directed to terrorism in the region and elsewhere in the world. In recent months, many Pakistani Islamist organizations have been openly seen raising funds for jihad in Palestine, and supporting Hamas, which along with the United States, several countries have listed as a terrorist organization.

Furthermore, Pakistan may also face pressure from the IMF because of its involvement with proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Last Friday, the US state department sanctioned three China-based companies and one Belarussian company for supplying items that are needed for ballistic missiles to Pakistan for its ballistic missile programme, including its long-range missile programme. The sanctions were imposed on the following companies: China’s Xi’an Longde Technology Development, Tianjin Creative Source International Trade and Granpect Co. Ltd and Belarus’ Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant. 

Owing to such issues, no wonder Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb is in Washington to lobby for a larger, three-year Fund programme of $6bn-8bn to support planned economic reforms.

Mr Aurangzeb is discussing a new programme at a time when global creditors like the Asian Development Bank are repeatedly warning that Pakistan will continue to face challenges from substantial new external financing requirements and the rollover of old debt, exacerbated by difficult global financial conditions.Pakistan’s desperation to close a new deal with the IMF is reflective of the perilous state of its economy. In its April 2024 Asian Development Outlook report, the ADB describes Pakistan’s economic prospects as uncertain, with high risks on account of the impact of political uncertainty on the sustainability of stabilization and reform efforts. As per the ADB report: “With Pakistan’s large external financing requirements and weak external buffers, disbursement from multilateral and bilateral partners remains crucial.”

Will Pakistan be successful in negotiating another deal with the IMF? It is what the country needs, but is it willing to commit to positive change? The question remains.

Why is Pakistan’s counter terrorism strategy ineffective?


Pakistan has been jolted by three high-profile terror attacks recently. The Majeed Brigade of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) has taken responsibility for two attacks in Balochistan. The first targeted the Turbat naval air base, which reportedly deploys Chinese drones and two, the Port Authority Complex of the Gwadar port, operated and expanded by the Chinese. The third attack in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) killed five Chinese engineers working at the Dasu Hydropower Project on the Indus River under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). These attacks in close succession, on Chinese personnel and facilities underscore the degree of unhappiness of the common man with the exploitative Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that China has thrust upon the people of Pakistan. More importantly, it signals the complete inability of the Pakistani state to combat terrorism and the knee jerk reaction is to blame such attacks on India and more recently, on Afghanistan.

In the latest series of such attacks, five Chinese workers were killed (26 March) when a vehicle packed with explosives was rammed into the bus in which they were travelling from Islamabad to their camp at the Dasu hydro-electric dam in KPK province.  A day earlier, militants launched an attack (25 March) on the Pakistani naval station PNS Siddique, one of its core functions was to provide support to the CPEC, the flagship BRI project in Pakistan. Chinese drones are reported to be stationed at the naval air base at Turbat, in Balochistan. While the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) was suspected to have carried out the attack on the naval air base, the deadly attack on Chinese workers in KPK is suspected to have been carried out by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The involvement of diverse militant groups in these attacks point to the widespread ire in Pakistan against the BRI being sponsored by China.

Significantly, Chinese personnel and interests have borne the brunt of periodic terror attacks in spite of the constitution of a special force to protect them. The presence of a number of Chinese personnel in Pakistan in connection with the CPEC projects, makes them an easy target and is a serious issue for China. The Chinese are reported to have leaned heavily on the Pakistanis behind the scenes to counter this threat effectively. China’s diplomatic mission in Pakistan has demanded that Islamabad carries out a thorough investigation into the deadly attack at the Dasu hydro-power station. On an earlier occasion, Beijing had demanded that China be allowed to arrange its own security for Chinese personnel working in Pakistan, but this was not agreed to by Islamabad, with the contention that this will amount to sacrificing the sovereignty of Pakistan to China.

The ineffectiveness of the Pakistani state’s response is clearly shown in the multiple attacks on Chinese personnel and facilities over the years. The findings of a recent three-month study by the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), Islamabad, indicates that in the first three months of 2024 at least 432 individuals have been killed due to attacks by militant groups, with more than 92% of the total casualties (and 86% of the total attacks) attributed to KPK and Balochistan and which share a border with Afghanistan. The study has shown that at least 245 terrorist attacks occurred in Pakistan, including limited instances of counter-terrorism operations. The findings indicate that Balochistan witnessed a staggering 96% increase in violence, with the number of victims rising from 91 in the first three months of 2023 to 178.

The latest in the series of attacks occurred on 20 March, on the Gwadar Port in the Balochistan province where China is planning to establish a naval base. Heavily armed BLA militants entered the complex, opened fire, and carried out multiple explosions. The Gwadar Port has been projected by Chinese and Pakistani authorities as the crowning glory of CPEC, though in commercial terms the port is a complete failure. It will, however, provide China with a convenient access to the Indian Ocean region. In yet another similar attack on Chinese personnel at the Dasu hydro power dam by militants of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in July 2021, nine Chinese engineers and four others were killed in a suicide bombing on a bus in which they were travelling. Groups like the BLA and the TTP are opposed to Chinese investments in Balochistan and accuse China of exploiting the resource-rich province of Pakistan.

The BLA has been vocal against the CPEC, warning of more attacks if China does not vacate Balochistan. They have also warned that the BLA has formed a special unit particularly to attack Chinese personnel and installations in Balochistan. Incidentally, the responsibility of the latest attack on Gwadar Port has been claimed by the “Majeed Brigade” of BLA, which is opposed to Chinese investments in the Balochistan province and accuses China and Pakistan of exploiting the resources of the region. The reality is that projects sponsored by China bring little benefit to the common people in Pakistan. At Gwadar, local fishermen complain that they are no longer allowed to carry out fishing in the area where the port has come up. People have been forced to part with agricultural land in places where CPEC projects, like power plants have come up. Charges of terrorism have been slapped on people who have protested such forcible acquisition of land. The highly polluting thermal power plants have also raised health issues as well.

Pakistan has followed exploitative policies in Balochistan and China has become complicit in these policies through its projects that have brought little benefit or employment opportunities to locals. The Saindak Copper-Gold Project run by the Chinese and construction activities in relation to the Gwadar port are some examples. China’s activities in the strategically located Balochistan, particularly the potential projection of its naval power from Gwadar and other Pakistani ports, sitting close to the Strait of Hormuz, have been a matter of concern. Recall that Rehman Malik then Interior Minister of Pakistan had said in 2012 that 14 organisations were operating in Balochistan, and both “friends” and “foes” of Pakistan were equally involved in financing and encouraging them. This is really a result of Pakistan’s own policies regarding the state sponsorship of terror. The more the deep state colludes and nurtures the terror infrastructure, the blowback will be harder. Pakistan needs to face this reality as it faces an angry China whose unsaid message is that Islamabad is incapable of combating terrorism and protecting Chinese interests in Pakistan.