February 2020




The Newspaper’s Correspondent Updated February 24, 2020

MINGORA: Jamaat-i-Islami chief Senator Sirajul Haq said on Sunday that the youths in the country were being forced to take their lives because of unemployment under the tenure of current Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government.

He was addressing a large gathering of his party workers at the Nishat Chowk after launching a countrywide campaign against price hike and unemployment titled “Awami March” which began from Green Chowk in Mingora on Sunday.

He said the PTI government had failed and was the worst in Pakistan’s 72-year history as the rulers had looted 200 million Pakistanis instead of addressing their issues.

“Today, the unending number of people on the roads against the government policies attest that they are not satisfied with the 18-month performance of the ‘fake’ government,” he said.

He censured Prime Minister Imran Khan saying the upholders of the slogan of Riyasat-i-Madina ironically increased the interest rate in the country. “The PTI made the country a slave by imposing the IMF [International Monetary Fund] on the country,” he said, alleging that the “invisible” IMF was ruling the country.

Condemning the government’s policy on Kashmir, he claimed that in 1971 Lt Gen Abdullah Khan Niazi handed the army to India and today his successor Imran Khan had revoked the special status of India-held Kashmir.

Addressing the nationwide issue of food inflation, he said, “the rulers increased prices of wheat flour and sugar to benefit their few near and dear ones while the poor masses were crushed, farmers were sidelined and pushed to the wall.”

He said that the two-member family of the prime minister could not make both ends meet on Rs200,000 monthly salary, then, “how can a family survive on Rs15,000 a month and afford to pay Rs8,000 electricity bill and Rs4,000 for gas bill within this salary,” he added, referencing the prime minister’s comments to the business community telling them that he was unable to cover his household expenses from his salary. “The PTI government has not created any social welfare programme for the poor public,” he further said.

He also demanded the government exempt Malakand division from all kinds of taxes till the next 20 years.

Earlier, JI Swat district chief Mohammad Ameen addressed the gathering.

Published in Dawn, February 24th, 2020



MOHAMMAD ZAFAR February 28, 2020

QUETTA. The opposition parties of Balochistan on Thursday announced staging a sit-in outside the Chief Minister House today (Friday) against corruption and law and order situation in the province.

Addressing a news conference here in Quetta, Opposition Leader Malik Sikandar Advocate, Malik Naseer Shahwani and Sanaullah Baloch slammed the provincial government and its policies.

They said the opposition leaders have been raising public issues on multiple forums but the government is not paying attention to them nor did it address them on the assembly floor, adding that they are protesting to “wake the government up from its slumber.”

“The treasury members called the assembly proceedings but didn’t even bother to fill house’s quorum which also lifted the lid from government’s claim of ‘sincerity’ towards public issues,” said Malik Sikandar.

“We have decided to stage a sit-in outside the Balochistan Chief Minister House from 11am to 1pm against the government’s negligence and corruption,” he added.

Talking about the deadly coronavirus and its potential spread in the country, Sikandar alleged that counterfeit medicines worth Rs227 million were being sold to the masses, putting their lives at risk.

“The world is attempting to curb the virus and the World Health Organization has declared emergency in the wake of the situation, in Balochistan, however, the people are being provided counterfeit medicines,” he maintained, vowing to not sit silent against irregularities in the province.

Meanwhile, parliamentary leader of Balochistan National Party-Mengal Malik Nasir Shahwani said, inflation, unemployment and law and order were deteriorating but the provincial government was not willing to answer public questions.

“The ministers, who were avoiding answering opposition’s concerns, did not even attend the assembly proceedings,” Shahwani said.

Talking about the plight of Pakistani citizens stranded at Pak-Iran border, Balochistan National Party leader Sanaullah Baloch said people were compelled to live in appalling conditions due to the outbreak of coronavirus in Iran as provincial government had failed to provide them with any assistance in this time of deffeculty.

He said the government could not provide food and other facilities to people stuck in Taftan.”The government should answer as to what measures are being taken to control the virus. Treasury members should unveil details if they have established any laboratory to test suspected coronavirus cases,” Baloch said.

He also claimed that the government had spent more than Rs300 million on chief minister’s private jet.



The Newspaper’s Correspondent March 01, 2020

DERA MURAD JAMALI: Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Qasim Khan Suri has said that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) will fulfil its promise about elimination of poverty and injustice from the country and the party’s government has launched the Ehsaas Kafalat programme for this purpose.

Talking to reporters in Usta Muhammad during his visit to Jaffarabad district on Saturday, he said: “Unfortunately the PTI came to power when the national economy was sinking and the country was facing the worst economic crisis and moving towards bankruptcy.”

However, he said, today things were being normalised and Pakistan was gradually moving towards development and sustainability by taking difficult decisions.

“Pakistan is emerging as a powerful country at international level as we are being praised for paving way for US-Afghan peace deal,” Mr Suri said.

Talking about inflation, he said that harsh days were over now because the country was heading toward economic stability while the Ehsaas Kafalat Programme would provide relief to the masses. “The PTI government has launched Kamiyab Jawan Programme worth Rs100 billion to provide business opportunities to the country’s youth.”

Talking about novel coronavirus outbreak in China, the deputy speaker said that the Pakistani nation stood with the Chinese people during the epidemic that had gripped the neighbouring country.

Replying to a question about agricultural development in Balochistan, Mr Suri said that the federal government had prepared a new policy to address the problem of water shortage in the green belt of the province.

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2020




There is no move in the offing to either rename or abolish Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), which would continue to function under the ambit of Ehsaas Kifalat Programme as part of the federal government’s Ehsaas Programme, it has been learnt.

In April last year, the federal cabinet with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair had approved the formation of Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division directly headed by Dr Sania Nishtar, the Special Assistant to PM on Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety. The Division supervises and coordinates the functioning of different organisations under Ehsaas Programme. These organisations include BISP, Pakistan Baitul Mal, Zakat, Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund and Trust for Voluntary Organisations under Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division.

However, this policy led to confusion regarding the fate of organisations like BISP amidst reports that the government is set to abolish BISP with its absorption in Ehsaas Programme.

But the official sources deny these reports saying BISP would continue to be part of Ehsaas Kifalat Programme under the broader ambit of Ehsaas Programme run by the Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Division while there is no plan on the cards to disband BISP or change its identity.

This is not the first time reports questioning BISP’s future have surfaced.

In March last year, the reports had done rounds that the federal government was planning to rename BISP.

Chairman Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had termed the reported move a “conspiracy to end crucial support to poor segments of the society.”

A statement issued by BISP then denied any such possibility. “No amendment has been placed before the parliament to change its (BISP’s) name and there has been no formal discussion on the subject,” the statement said.

In December 2019, the federal government announced to increase the quarterly grant from Rs 5,000 to Rs 5,500 for 4.3 million BISP beneficiaries. Some 820,165 ‘underserving’ beneficiaries were removed from the BISP’s list which included 2,543 offices from grade 17 to grade 21 and the government announced that steps were being taken to initiate action against them and recover the amount they had received as unconditional cash grant.

In January this year, BISP dismissed four of its gazetted officers working in grade 17 for allegedly enrolling their spouses as BISP beneficiaries to unlawfully receive financial assistance that is offered to deserving families.

The government has tasked its 34 agencies and all federating units to implement Ehsaas Programme that aims to bring 10 million poor families in social safety net, in what the government claims is the largest social welfare initiative ever in the history of Pakistan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020




By ​ Our Correspondent Published: February 18, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Under its poverty alleviation programme, ‘Ehsaas’, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government will provide with free cattle, rickshaws and push carts to those living below the poverty line.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will also launch the Ehsaas ‘Assets Transfer Scheme’ on February 21, in Punjab.

The government has made the decision to provide the poor with cattle, rickshaws and push carts worth up to Rs60,000, and provide the recipients with the necessary training to turn the assets into a source of income.

In the initial stage of the programme, Rs15 billion will be distributed to 375 union councils in 23 districts of the country. The amount is expected to benefit 176,000 families.

Ehsaas Programme Chairperson Sania Nishtar said the initiative will be a respectable source of income for the people and thousands will be provided with economic opportunities.

Families from 10 districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), three in Punjab, seven in Sindh and three in Balochistan will be included in the initial phase.

PTI government came into power with the slogan of transforming Pakistan into a welfare state similar in 2018.

“So this (Ehsaas Programme and microfinance) is the first step towards transforming Pakistan into the state of Medina,” Governor Sindh Imran Ismail said.

“Prime Minister Imran Khan is focused on the nation. He has great concerns for the people. He has initiated the single largest poverty alleviation programme, Ehsaas (compassion), in history,” he said.

Interest-free loans are helping the poor segment of society earn bread and butter and also enabling it to provide jobs to other people.



By ZAHEER ABBASI on February 21, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan will launch Rs 15 billion Ehsaas Amdan Programme on Friday (today) designed to provide financial support to the most vulnerable women as well as youth, to earn sustainable livelihood.

The programme would be launched in south Punjab (Layyah) Friday afternoon, and as many as 200,000 families would benefit from it in 375 rural councils of the 23 districts across the country, according to Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Sania Nishtar.

60 percent female, 30 percent youth and 10 percent male would benefit from the programme, she said.

Ehsaas Amdan Programme is one of the programmes being launched under the Ehsaas initiative, with the objective to earning opportunities for the poorest in the underdeveloped areas.

The programme involves giving away small “assets” to those who live below the poverty line, so that they can earn a living and can break free from the shackles of poverty.

Assets include livestock (goats, cows, buffaloes and poultry), agricultural inputs, body of Chingchi rickshaws, and inputs for small retail outlets and small enterprises, Dr Sania added.

Those beneficiaries that require vocational training would be supported to attend courses offered by certified technical training institutes, trainings on asset utilisation and business planning were also provided to eligible household members to help them turn the asset into an economically productive enterprise, Dr Nishtar added.

Districts in Punjab where this programme is commencing include Dera Ghazi Khan, Jhang, and Layyah.

In the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 10 districts will be covered, Upper Kohistan, Lower Kohistan, Palas Kolai, Torghar, Batagram, Shangla, North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Dera Ismail Khan, and Tank.

In Balochistan, there are three districts: Jhal Magsi, Zhob, and Sherani.

In Sindh, the districts targeted include, Badin, Thatta, Sujawal, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Tharparkar, and Umerkot.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020



February 22, 2020

LAYYAH: Taking his government’s anti-poverty initiative of Ehsaas a step forward, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday launched the Ehsaas Amdan Program, aimed at creating opportunities for respectable livelihood for the most disadvantaged people through the transfer of assets.

Addressing the launching ceremony here, the prime minister said the government was striving to develop Pakistan as a welfare state as had been envisioned under its ideology. So far, the country had witnessed pro-rich development that instead of benefiting the poor had widened the gap in the society, he added.

Chairperson of Ehsaas Progam Dr Sania Nishtar, Chief Minister of Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar, the provincial cabinet members and a large number of the residents of the southern Punjab city attended the event.

Two beneficiaries of the Amdan program, Kulsoom Bibi and Nokar Hussain, who were also on the stage, spoke highly of the prime minister’s anti-poverty initiatives to make them live an independent and respectable life.

Under the Rs15 billion program, the government would give small assets to the people living below the poverty line to make them earn a living and come out of the shackles of poverty.

The assets include livestock (goats, cows, buffaloes and poultry), agricultural inputs, body of auto-rickshaws, and inputs for small retail outlets and small enterprises.

Launched in 375 rural union councils of 23 districts of Pakistan, the program would feature transferring of around 200,000 assets to the deserving households with 60 percent women and 30 percent youth beneficiaries.

He told the gathering that the State of Madinah had taken the responsibility of its poor people. China, too, had become a great nation by steering its 700 million people out of poverty, he said. “This is our dream about Pakistan too,” the prime minister said who also distributed assets including agriculture tools, a cotton ginning machine, cattle and rickshaws among the poor people.

He said the Ehsaas Program was an effort to uplift the people as it consisted of Kafalat Card for the weakest segment, Amdan Program to increase income, health insurance cover for six million families, loan scheme for small business and 50,000 scholarships for the youth. He said the government would provide interest-free loans to around 80,000 people every month.

Moreover, he said the government had already set up 180 shelter homes and would widen the project countrywide to ensure that not a single poor person spent the night in the open and without food.

Besides, the government was promulgating a law for provision of legal services to the people who could not afford a lawyer to contest the case in the court, he added.

The prime minister said the government was in the process of introducing a uniform education curriculum with no discrimination among rich and poor or seminaries and government and private schools.

“This is more difficult. This is not easy. During the last 70 years, we have destroyed our education system, and it will take time to rectify it,” he remarked.

Moreover, a carrot-and-stick policy would also be introduced for the teachers and the habitually absent teachers would be replaced with the efficient and punctual ones.

He appreciated the new Inspector-General of Police, Punjab, Shoaib Dastgir, who had started police reform and was apprehending notorious criminals who earlier used to enjoy protection.

The prime minister told the gathering that Pakistan had come out of the difficult times with 75 percent reduction in the current account deficit, an appreciating rupee, improving of the stock market and increasing of foreign direct investment. In the coming days, the people would get more good news, he added.

Chief Minister of Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar and Dr Sania Nishtar also addressed the gathering.—APP



By RECORDER REPORT on February 22, 2020

Terming the ‘Ehsaas Programme’ as a valuable vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar on Friday said this Programme is a giant leap towards poverty alleviation and the establishment of a welfare state.

While addressing the inaugural ceremony of distribution of assets in deserving persons under ‘Mera Karobar Meri Amdni’ of Ehsaas Programme in Layyah, the chief minister announced to grant the status of tehsil to Chowk Sarwar Shaheed area of Muzaffargarh. He also announced to launch the Ehsaas Programme in Punjab with an amount of Rs 12 billion which will directly benefit 1.8 million needy people and 6.4 million people will be indirectly benefitted.

Giving assets to 260 needy persons has been started in 22 rural union councils of Layyah and the deserving persons will also be given retail shops’ material, rickshaws and pushcarts for earning their livelihood, he added. Similarly, the deserving rural population will be given cows and goats and needy females of rural areas have also been included in this beneficial programme.

Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar chaired an important meeting at Circuit House Layyah, to review law and order situation as well as progress made on development schemes.

Addressing the meeting, the chief minister informed that Rs 18.77 billion were being spent on 2,284 public welfare scheme in the district and vowed to include Layyah district in the overall development process. No compromise will be made on the quality of development projects as I am visiting different areas to personally monitor the progress being on the development projects, he added.

The CM announced to establish industrial estate in Chaubara and directed to take prompt steps in this regard. The development work will be done in consultation with the assembly members and Layyah and Taunsa will be connected with the motorway. The construction work of forensic lab in DG Khan will be completed soon, while the DPS School will be established in Layyah, he added.

The chief minister announced to upgrade the sub-campus of Bahauddin Zakariya University in Layyah and informed the participants that work is in progress to establish a university in every district.

The CM Usman Buzdar also paid a surprise visit to tribal areas of Mubarki and Mat Chandia in Koh-e-Sulayman DG Khan. The chief minister said that a tourist-resort is being developed in Mubarki while Koh-eSulayman will be developed as a tourist spot.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020




Syed Irfan Raza February 11, 2020

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to provide some relief to the common man amid an unusual price hike in the country, the government has decided to give “targeted” subsidy to the low income group.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday held a meeting with his economic team and high-ups of social safety nets. The meeting discussed several plans to give relief to the poor through the targeted subsidy.

The economic team and relevant officers kept finalising the “relief plan” till late in the night. The plan will be unveiled by the prime minister on Tuesday in the cabinet meeting.

A source privy to the meeting told Dawn that under the plan an additional subsidy of Rs10 billion would be given to the Utility Stores Corporation (USC) for its over 5,000 outlets for giving relief to people whose monthly income ranged between Rs25,000 and Rs30,000. The source said the Rs10bn subsidy would be in addition to the already provided Rs7bn subsidy to the USC.

Issuance of ration cards to the low income group was one of the options discussed at the meeting. The cards will enable the holders to purchase basic consumer items like wheat flour, pulses, rice, sugar, ghee/edible oil on subsidised rates.

PM says Hafeez, Reza to stay as finance adviser, SBP governor

Asked how the government will identify genuine and deserving people for the subsidy, the source said the data of the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra), Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) and grade1-6 government employees would be obtained and a list of deserving people would be prepared. He said the computerised data of deserving people would be available at all utility stores across the country and whenever a genuine person would go for shopping at these outlets, his thumb impression would be taken and his name would automatically be displayed on the cash counter as a deserving buyer.

The source said that according to one of the options, funds already given to the government flagship programme called Ehsaas could be used to provide subsidy to the USC. Soft loans could also be given to the youth to establish their small grocery shops at the union council level where they would be supplied essential food items directly through mills or USC so that they could match the rates of essential commodities being sold at utility stores.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister’s Adviser on Finance Dr Hafeez Shaikh was not present at the meeting, which was attended by Special Assistant to the PM on Social Welfare Sania Nishtar, USC chairman Zulfikar Ali Khan and federal secretaries of different ministries. However, Dr Hafeez was seen at another meeting chaired by the prime minister on arrangements for the visit of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan who is due in the country on Feb 14 to address a joint sitting of the parliament.

Earlier, a press release issued by the Prime Minister Office said the announcement regarding PM Khan’s decision to provide relief to the common man would made in a meeting of the federal cabinet.

It said the prime minister was of the view in the Monday’s meeting that the government would provide relief to the low income group at every cost. He was quoted as saying: “The government cannot act like a silent spectator on the pain and sufferings of the people.”

Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) parliamentarians on Monday said that the government would take special steps to curtail prices of essential commodities to provide relief to the people.

Talking to reports outside the Parliament House, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Capital Development Authority (CDA) Affairs Ali Nawaz Awan said inflation was a great challenge for the present government which inherited because of previous governments’ wrong policies and corruption.

“The present government is making efforts to provide maximum relief to the common man,” he added.

Senator Seemi Ezdi said poor people were very close to the heart of PM Khan, adding that prices of essential commodities would come down soon.

MNA Sadaqat Ali Abbasi said the government was taking steps to overcome the inflation and providing special relief to the poor people. He said the government would also expose the mafia behind the wheat and sugar crises in the country. “All this inflation is due to wrong policies of previous governments,” he added.

MNA Sheikh Rashid Shafique said the government would announce special relief package in the cabinet meeting soon. He said the present government was committed to overcome inflation in the country. “Relief stores would be established at each union council,” he revealed.

In a separate meeting with the government’s spokespersons, the prime minister revealed that a number of new USC outlets would be established in the country under the public-private-partnership to overcome the persisting food inflation in the country.

A participant of the meeting, who did not want to be named in the story, told Dawn that the prime minister revealed that people would be given incentives for establishing more utility stores where essential food items will be available at lower rates.

The prime minister, he said, was unhappy with the government’s economic team and stressed the need for its more interaction with the media so that the government fiscal policies could be highlighted more and more in the media.

The prime minister revealed that Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Chairman Shabbar Zaidi could not continue his job due to illness and he would not return. Mr Zaidi is presently on leave on medical grounds.

However, the prime minister removed uncertainty regarding some more changes in the government’s economic team and said Dr Hafeez Shaikh and State Bank Governor Dr Reza Baqir will continue to serve on the their present positions.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2020



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated February 13, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that despite the difficult situation the government was trying its best to provide relief to people.

Talking to ticket holders of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf from Gujranwala, who called on him at the PM Office, he said the people, fed up with corruption and mafia, now considered the PTI as their savior, said a press release issued by the PM Office.

“Inshallah, the people will get sufficient relief owing to government’s efforts and various steps taken in this regard,” Mr Khan added.

He said: “PTI came to power in a difficult situation and it is presently confronted with mafias and inflation.”

The prime minister discussed with the PTI leaders the overall situation in the country and people’s problems and their development requirements.

The delegation informed the prime minister about the problems faced by the people and development expenditures of their constituencies.

They expressed full confidence in the steps being taken by the government against price-hike.

The prime minister assured them that suggestions about development requirements of their constituencies would be considered.

The PTI leaders from Gujranwala who called on the prime minister included Mohammad Ahmed Chatta from NA 79, Mian Tariq from NA-80, Chaudhry Siddique Mahar from NA-81, Ali Ashraf Mughal from NA-82, Rana Nazir from NA- 83 and Rana Bilal Ijaz from NA-84.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2020



Ali Tauqeer Sheikh February 15, 2020

CLIMATE change is a threat multiplier for large-scale malnutrition and stunting in Pakistan. It is only now that the linkages between climate change and malnutrition have begun to become clearer, even if the experts have long highlighted the climate threats to agriculture and food security. Scaling Up Nutrition, a global multi-donor initiative that has supported more than 30 countries develop their national nutrition strategies, for example, has seldom referred to climate-triggered disasters such as droughts, floods, or heatwaves that result in crop failures and food insecurity.

However, some of the more recent initiatives have mentioned climate change, temperature increase and the growing seasonal variability of precipitation. The experts have just begun to weave these linkages into policy initiatives. It is an opportune time for Pakistan’s envisioned nutrition strategy to adopt deeper, structural and well-integrated approaches.

As the global temperatures continue to increase, food insecurity has become a serious challenge for Pakistan. Several crops have already fallen victim to the changing monsoon and recorded reduced yields. The changes in rainfall patterns, increased frequency of droughts, heatwaves, and untimely rains have recently damaged standing wheat, cotton and several vegetable crops. These triggers increase food prices and serve as barriers to food availability, access, and affordability. Almost half of the country’s population is now spending about 60 per cent of its income on food items, but their nutritional intake is constantly threatened. Growing food insecurity coupled with poor governance has become politically volatile at the one degree Celsius change that has occurred in the last 50 years or so. Imagine if the Paris Agreement fails and the temperatures continue to increase to 2°C or more during the coming years.

The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that increased carbon dioxide levels lower the nutrition value of crops such as wheat and rice, disturbing in particular the concentration levels of protein, zinc and iron. High levels of CO2 disrupt plants’ internal chemistry, altering the quantity of protein and other vitamins they can produce internally. Currently, 76 per cent of the world’s population derives most of its daily protein from plants. Climate change will catalyse a global food crisis with millions of people unable to get the necessary nutrients from the food they rely on. This will affect everyone particularly 354m children mostly in South Asia, including Pakistan.

As food prices climb, poor consumers spend less on nutrition and the number of underweight children rises.

According to the IPCC, wheat as well as grains and legumes grown at atmospheric carbon dioxide levels between 546 and 586 PPMs (this is roughly equivalent to 2°C temperature increase) has 6pc to 13pc less protein, 4pc to 7pc less zinc and 5pc to 8pc less iron. The increased carbon emissions are likely to cause 200m people to be zinc deficit by 2050. According to National Nutrition Survey 2018, or NNS, Pakistani children are already protein, zinc and iron deficient. The challenge is severe and growing: 18 countries including Pakistan could lose over 5pc of their dietary protein by 2050 from wheat and rice alone.

The NNS has shown that the country is facing a triple burden of malnutrition — undernutrition, over-nutrition and mal-nutrient deficiencies, all particularly affecting women and children. About 53pc of under-five children are anaemic while the prevalence of vitamin A and D deficiencies is 52pc and 63pc respectively. The deficiencies in women of reproductive age include vitamins D, A, calcium and zinc. The nutrition survey has estimated that about 79m people are food insecure and with business as usual, this number will increase to 114m (which will be more than the total present population of Punjab) by 2047 when Pakistan will have 350m people and be celebrating its centenary.

As food prices climb, poor consumers spend less on nutrition and the number of underweight children rises, pushing more and more of them into the deep ditch of malnutrition and stunting. Malnutrition affects half the children and mothers in Pakistan, resulting in low productivity and low national development. It is a triple jeopardy for people as they are a) overly vulnerable to climate-induced stresses and disasters, b) increasingly becoming hostage to price shocks with eroded purchasing power for nutritious foods, and c) unable to be fully productive and engaged in national development in a rapidly contracting economy that has one of the lowest growth rates in the region. According to the 2015 Global Nutrition Report, healthcare expenditures caused by poor nutrition are 16 times higher than the cost of preventing malnutrition. Yet, the government lags behind in adopting holistic multisectoral approaches, strengthening climate and nutrition smart agriculture, and increasing resilience to climate change.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s maiden speech raised a great deal of optimism but the prevailing ecosystem of inaction has created an illusion of interventions that need his personal attention, supported by five strong legislative measures, proposed below:

First, nothing is more effective than breastfeeding for addressing malnutrition. Withdraw and strongly regulate the concessions granted to private firms that promote baby milk formulas.

Second, stop export of perishable fruit, vegetables, cereal and meat, even if there are strong foreign exchange and balance-of-trade pressures in CPEC and with other trading partners. These are critical sources of nutrition for the impoverished population.

Third, promote non-timber forest products and services within your 10 billion-tree mission. They are a major source of micronutrients and nutrition particularly for the rural poor. Trees alone are not enough.

Fourth, enable premier research institutions to develop drought-, flood-, and heatwave-resilient varieties through regional and international collaboration to develop strands that are higher in essential micronutrients and can tolerate temperature increases.

And lastly, raise Rs 500bn for the next five years for addressing malnutrition. You are a successful fundraiser. Go back to your maiden speech and pick up the threads from there. Nothing could be more pro-poor than a national climate and nutrition agenda.

The writer is an Islamabad-based expert on climate change and development.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2020



A Correspondent February 15, 2020

MITHI: Speakers at a workshop held here on Friday attributed unabated trend of suicide in Tharis mainly to hunger, abject poverty and domestic violence.

The speakers — forming a group of teachers and students of Sindh University’s faculty of criminology — were sharing their findings after undertaking a two-day study tour of Tharparkar during which they interviewed a number of families whose near and dear ones committed suicide. They also interacted with activists of various non-governmental organisations working in social welfare sector.

Faculty director Nabi Bux Dharejo, Prof Abdul Waheed Ansari, Abdul Hameed, Wali Mohammad Mangrio, Partab Shivani and others told the workshop participants and local reporters present there that socio-economic issues appeared to be causing frustration, differences among family members, hunger, poverty, domestic violence, unhealthy practices, health issues and many other problems forcing many affected people to take the extreme action. The suicide trend also gets impetus from unhealthy content available and easily accessible on the Internet, according to them.

The speakers called for collective efforts by the departments concerned, civil society organisations and elders of society to curb the trend.

They recommended practical steps like making prompt approach to persons in distress, providing consultancy to dissuade them from harming or ending their life and continuous awareness campaigns in order to console such people and bring them out of the trauma they might have been facing. Family members of those who had already committed suicide and those going through traumatic conditions must be approached promptly and engaged in an interaction with a view to console them, they said.

Officials of the police and other departments concerned should extend their full cooperation to the people in distress as well as the activists who would bring such cases into their knowledge.

In this regard, they said, community elders and local police officials should play a vital and active role in coordination with civil society activists.

One of the speakers stressed the need for investigating each and every suicide or attempted suicide case in order to closely monitor and effectively curb the trend.

He noted that a big majority of persons who committed suicide in recent months appeared to be illiterate men and women.

Krishan Sharma, Ghulam Nabi Sahir, Imtiaz Kumbhar and several other activists also spoke at the workshop which was organised by the Young Social Reforms, Pakistan, in collaboration with the Govt Elementary College, Mithi, and the monitoring and evaluation department of Thar.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2020




By RECORDER REPORT on February 5, 2020

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday said his vision for Pakistan was to bring people out of poverty and fight the mafia, involved in corruption.

Speaking at International Affairs Forum on ‘Vision for Regional Peace and Security’ at Malaysia’s Institute of Advanced Islamic Studies, the Prime Minister said his government was making every effort to transform the country into a welfare state, based on principles of compassion and rule of law.

Imran Khan, who visited Malaysia on the invitation of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammed, said numerous mafias in Pakistan, may it be political or those involved in price hike, did not want the country to make progress by exerting their undue use of power.

He said the reason why Pakistan could not achieve progress, despite its great God-given potential, was its journey without a proper vision. The nations without a vision, die as it is the key to keep them flourish and develop, he added.

Imran Khan emphasized that he wanted to emulate the ideologies of Pakistan’s founding and ideological fathers including Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal who dreamt of a tolerant, just and welfare State of Medina that embedded all modern principles of justice and compassion.

He said his government launched several welfare projects for the uplift of poor people including establishment of shelter homes.

Imran Khan mentioned terrorism and religion had no linkage and pointed out that Muslims faced discriminatory treatment on basis on this misconception.

Copyright Associated Press of Pakistan, 2020



By our correspondent February 6, 2020

UMERKOT: An unemployed youth attempted to commit suicide by setting himself on fire in Farash Mori near Dhoronaro town on Wednesday.

Raza Mohammad Mallah was the only bread earner of a five-member family who had been starving for three days but he could not find work nor get any loan to feed them, according to relatives.

Disappointed, he doused petrol on his body and torched himself. Neighbours took him to Umerkot Civil Hospital from where he was referred to Hyderabad.

A duty doctor at the hospital said that Mallah’s body received 40 per cent burns.



February 08, 2020

WASHINGTON: US job growth accelerated in January, with unseasonably mild temperatures boosting hiring in weather-sensitive sectors, indicating the economy will probably continue to grow moderately despite a deepening slump in business investment.

The Labour Department’s closely watched monthly employment report on Friday, however, showed the economy created 514,000 fewer jobs between April 2018 and March 2019 than originally estimated. The biggest downgrade to payrolls over a 12-month period since 2009 took some of the shine from the employment report, which also showed a pickup in wage gains.

“Strong job creation and firming wage growth in January provided reassurance that the record-long economic expansion still has room to run,” said Lydia Boussour, a senior US economist at Oxford Economics in New York. “But this latest health report also points to a maturing labour market. Benchmark revisions indicate this labour market isn’t as youthful as it has pretended to be over the last two years.”

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 225,000 jobs last month, with employment at construction sites increasing by the most in a year amid milder-than-normal temperatures, the government’s survey of establishments showed. There were also strong gains in hiring in the transportation and warehousing industry.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls would rise by 160,000 jobs in January. Data for November and December was revised to show 7,000 more jobs created than previously reported. Job growth in January exceeded the monthly average of 175,000 in 2019. Employment gains averaged 193,000 in 2018.

Payrolls growth is expected to slow in February as the coronavirus, which has killed hundreds in China and infected thousands globally, disrupts supply chains, especially for technology companies such as Apple.

The annual benchmark revisions to payrolls could attract attention amid concerns the Labour Department’s Bureau of Labour Statistics, which compiles the employment data, may not be fully capturing the impact on payrolls of President Donald Trump’s 19-month trade war with China, which has contributed to the longest downturn in business investment since 2009.

The downward revision in the level of employment suggests the government’s birth-death model, which it uses to calculate the net number of jobs from new business and closings, is faulty. Economists say payrolls have tended to be overstated when the trend in growth is weakening.

They say the downward revisions could impact financial markets’ assessments of the labour market.

Job gains in February 2019 were slashed down to 1,000 from the originally estimated 56,000.

The slowdown in job growth is blamed on worker shortages and ebbing demand for labour. Even though employment growth has slowed, the pace remains well above the 100,000 jobs per month needed to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

The government also introduced updated population estimates to its smaller household survey data, including employment and labour force participation. The unemployment rate is calculated from the household survey.

The jobless rate rose one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.6% in January. A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment, increased to 6.9% from 6.7% in December, which was the lowest since the series started in 1994.

The labour force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 63.4% last month, the highest since June 2013.

The tightening labour market is steadily driving up wages. Average hourly earnings increased seven cents, or 0.2%, last month after gaining 0.1% in December.

That lifted the annual increase in wages to 3.1% in January from 3.0% in December.

The average workweek was 34.3 hours for a third straight month in January. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said last month the United States’ low labour force participation, relative to those of other advanced economies, “represents more labour supply, and it may be holding down wages.”

Still, wage growth is probably enough to support a decent pace of consumer spending and keep the economy chugging along. The economy grew 2.3% in 2019, the slowest performance in three years, after logging 2.9% growth in 2018. Growth this year is seen around 2%, just above the 1.8% that economists say is the speed at which the economy can grow over a long period without igniting inflation.

The construction industry added 44,000 jobs in January, the largest since January 2019, after payrolls increased by 11,000 in December. Employment in the transportation and warehousing industry accelerated by 28,000, driven by gains in the hiring of couriers and messengers.

Payrolls in the leisure and hospitality sector increased by 36,000 jobs. Healthcare and social assistance employment rose by 47,200 jobs. There were also increases in hiring in the professional and business services, and wholesale trade industries.

But manufacturing employment declined by 12,000 jobs after falling by 5,000 in December. The industry has been the hardest hit by the US-China trade war. Though Washington and Beijing signed a Phase 1 trade deal last month, US tariffs on $360 billion of Chinese imports, about two-thirds of the total, remained in place.

Manufacturing is also being squeezed by Boeing’s suspension last month of production of its troubled 737 MAX jetliner.

Boeing’s biggest supplier, Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc, said last month it planned to lay off more than 20% of the workforce at its facility in Wichita, Kansas because of the 737 MAX production suspension.

The mining and logging industry added no jobs last month, while retail payrolls dropped 8,300. Further job losses are likely as Macy’s announced layoffs and closures this week.

Government payrolls rose by 19,000 jobs in January, with some hiring for the 2020 Decennial census.-Reuters



The Newspaper’s Staff Reporter Updated February 09, 2020

LAHORE: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has launched a probe against government officers allegedly involved in misappropriation of Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP) funds and summoned 16 suspected officers to record their statements in this regard.

A special team of FIA under Punjab zone-I Director Muhammad Rizwan has been tasked to investigate the role of the government officials in “embezzling” the BISP funds during 2010-18.

An official told Dawn that the agency had initially summoned some 16 officers in BS-17 to BS-20 accused of misappropriating the BISP funds. “Accounts and assets, including foreign assets, of spouses of these officers will also be investigated,” he said, adding these officers had been called next week to record their statements.

The FIA would initiate criminal proceedings against BS-17 and above officers in the light of its probe which was likely to be completed in a couple of months.

Earlier, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government had referred cases against more than 2,000 government employees who fraudulently benefited from the BISP to the FIA.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Accountability Shahzad Akbar said the government had also written to all chief secretaries and the Establishment Division for taking departmental action against, and recovering funds from, the government officers who benefited from BISP. This programme is aimed at providing financial support to the poor and destitute.

The FIA will register criminal cases against the government officers and the people who assisted them in withdrawing BISP funds.

The government analysis had revealed that as many as 140,000 employees or their spouses benefited from BISP funds meant for the poor. A major chunk of the 140,000 illegal beneficiaries were government employees from grade 1 to 16, while the rest (2,037) were officers from grade 17 to 22.

“This is a lack of transparency in the system and its regulations that this [fraud] went on for years and the officers continued to withdraw money,” Mr Akbar said.

According to Mr Akbar, the number of government employees in grade 17 and above whose spouses fraudulently benefited from BISP was nine in Azad Kashmir and 40 in Gilgit-Baltistan. As many as 554 officers or their spouses benefited from the programme in Balochistan, 342 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 101 in Punjab and 938 in Sindh.

A total of 39 employees in grade 1 to 16 and four officers in grade 17 and above who worked for BISP itself and benefited from the programme, have been fired. Similarly, 48 employees of the federal government were also sacked.

Launched in July 2008, the federally-funded BISP is Pakistan’s largest social safety net, catering to women and benefiting around 5.4 million people, according to data released in 2016.

Published in Dawn, February 9th, 2020



Jan Khaskheli February 9, 2020

HYDERABAD: The two-day Sindh Livestock Expo 2020 began on Saturday, where speakers urged to invest in livestock and fisheries sector to meet the demands of food and end poverty in rural areas.

Punjab Livestock Minister Sardar Hasnain Bahadur Dareeshak, addressing the inauguration ceremony, said, “We, like all third world countries do not have accurate data of natural resources, mainly breeds, productivity and their contribution in export.”

Despite claiming that the country was the fourth biggest milk producer, malnutrition was increasing among children. “We should think together to promote this neglected economic sector,” he added.

He appreciated Sindh Livestock and Fisheries Department for organising the expo, which has attracted most popular breeds from all over the country. He talked about the famous Sindhi horse breed, which has potential to compete in races, beauty and health.

He emphasised on coordination within breeders, herders, exporters, investor, and the government departments, which would benefit rural herders.

Sindh Livestock and Fisheries Minister Abdul Bari Pitafi said, “We have always focused on industrial sector for economy and have never given preference to agriculture and livestock, the most productive sectors, which not only provide sources of livelihood to the rural population, but also contribute nutritious food to the nation in form of milk, yogurt, butter and meat.”

He said livestock contributes more to GDP, but in return herders do not receive enough benefits. He said Sindh government would design effective policies to promote agriculture and livestock sectors, and mobilise breeders with incentives.

Pitafi invited investors to invest in the livestock sector, which would benefit the people, who have been associated with livestock, fisheries and agriculture through generations. “We have popular milk breeds, which need value-addition and adaptation to market oriented mechanisms for earning higher profits,” he said, adding that breeders needed to be mobilised to look into the existing market mechanisms to increase production.

The minister said Tharparkar District had a livestock population of seven million, which had potential to address malnourishment and hunger in the region. “It is a tragedy that rural people are migrating to urban areas in search of livelihood. We believe that these people should have sources of livelihood in agriculture and livestock in their areas,” he added.

“The government is planning to motivate these people to engage in agriculture and livestock as sources of living in the rural areas, instead of migrating to urban settlements.”

The expo attracted a large number of animals, almost all popular breeds of buffalo, cows, goats, sheep, horses, camels and birds were part of the exhibition. Financial institutions, companies and manufacturing industries, associated with livestock, fisheries and agriculture have set up stalls and have put up their products on display to attract the people visiting the expo.The expo is a joint initiative of four provincial ministries, including ministries of livestock and fisheries, agriculture, culture and tourism, and sports.