Economic & Political Weekly 20th January 2019



·         Mexican fuel pipeline explosion leaves at least 66 dead.

At least 66 people were killed after a pipeline ruptured by suspected fuel thieves exploded in Mexico, authorities said on 19th January. The latest death toll comes as Mexican president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador defended the army despite its failure to clear the site before the blast. Dozens of burned bodies lay in the charred field where the blast occurred on 18th January evening by the town of Tlahuelilpan in the central state of Hidalgo in what was one of the worst incidents to hit Mexico’s troubled oil infrastructure in years.

·         Second summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un set for February.

A second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will take place near the end of February, the White House has announced. Confirmation of the summit emerged after a 90-minute meeting between the US president and senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol in the Oval Office on 18th January. A location will be announced at a later date, the Trump administration said, amid reports that the second meeting between the two leaders may take place in Vietnam.

·     Kenya hotel siege ends with all militants ‘eliminated’ – president.

Kenyan president, Uhuru Kenyatta, said on 16th January a deadly attack by suspected al-Shabaab militants on a hotel complex in Nairobi was over and that all the perpetrators had been “eliminated”. His statement came after earlier false reports from officials that the siege, in which at least 14 people died, was over.

·         El Chapo’ paid ex-Mexican president $100m bribe, trial hears.

.Accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman once paid a $100 million bribe to then Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto, an ex-Guzman associate has claimed. Alex Cifuentes, who has described himself as Guzman’s onetime right-hand man, discussed the alleged bribe under cross-examination by Jeffrey Lichtman, one of Guzman’s lawyers, in Brooklyn federal court.

·         Time for May to abandon ‘Frankenstein’ Brexit deal, Corbyn says.

UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn has urged Theresa May’s “zombie government” to make way and declared her “Frankenstein” Brexit deal officially dead as MPs debated a no confidence motion. Mr Corbyn attacked Mrs May for presiding over “the largest defeat in the history of our democracy” on her Brexit deal, a margin of 230 votes, before saying there has been no offer of all-party talks from the prime minister to break the impasse. However Theresa May succeeded marginally to get vote of confidence and refuses to rule out no-deal Brexit as she survives confidence vote.

·        Hundreds detained in Zimbabwe protests as UN denounces crackdown.

Hundreds of Zimbabweans arrested during anti-government protests were detained on 18th January on public order charges, as the United Nations urged an end to a brutal security crackdown and an internet blackout. The government has said three people died during the unrest that broke out on 12th January after President Emmerson Mnangagwa raised fuel prices by 150 per cent. Lawyers and activists say the toll was much higher and that security forces used violence and carried out mass arrests to quell the unrest.

·         Canadian sentenced to death in China for drugs to appeal

A Canadian man sentenced to death in China for drug smuggling will appeal the verdict; his lawyer said on 15th January, arguing that the court should not have increased his sentence given no new evidence had been introduced during his retrial. The sentence handed down to Robert Schellenberg on 14th January is another strain on relations between China and Canada, which have been at odds since early December when Canadian police arrested Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, on a US extradition warrant.

·         Rahaf al-Qunun: ‘I hope my story encourages other women.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the Saudi woman who captured the world’s attention by barricading herself in a Thai hotel room after fleeing abuse in her own country, has said she hopes to inspire other Saudi women to be “brave and free”. Speaking in her first interview after being given asylum in Canada, and landing in Toronto on 12th January, Ms Qunun, told the ABC Australia her case might be the “agent for change” in Saudi Arabia, a country where women are denied basic freedoms and are not allowed to work, marry and travel without the permission of a male guardian.

·         Fifteen killed as plane crashes into residential housing in Iran.

A decades-old Iranian Boeing 707 military cargo plane has crashed while trying to land west of Iran’s capital, killing 15 people on board and leaving a sole survivor, authorities said. The crash of the jetliner marks the latest aviation disaster for Iran, which hoped to replace its ageing fleet under the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

  • The small town of Sambuca on the Italian island of Sicily is selling off homes for €1 in the hope of revitalizing its community.

As of right now, you can buy a house on southern Italy’s beautiful island of Sicily for less than the cost of an espresso. Sambuca, a hilltop town with views over the Mediterranean island and nearby beaches, has placed dozens of dwellings on the market for €1, or just over a dollar. It’s not the first Italian town to lure in outsiders with tempting offers but, say local officials; Sambuca is scrapping red tape to make sure anyone interested can more or less make their purchase right away. “As opposed to other towns that have merely done this for propaganda, this city hall owns all €1 houses on sale,” says Giuseppe Cacioppo, Sambuca’s deputy mayor and tourist councilor. “We’re not intermediaries who liaise between old and new owners. You want that house; you’ll get it no time.” But there’s a catch. The new owners must commit to refurbish their choice of the crumbling 40- to 150-square meter dwellings within three years, at a cost starting from €15,000 (about $17,200). They’ll also need to cough up a €5,000 security deposit that will be returned once the restyle is complete.

·         Colombia blames ELN rebels for police academy bombing.

Colombia’s ELN rebel group was responsible for the car bomb attack against a police academy that killed at least 21 and injured dozens, the government said on 18th January, making it unlikely peace talks with the insurgent group can soon restart. In 17th January attack, a car driven by ELN explosives expert Jose Aldemar Rojas broke through checkpoints on to the grounds of the General Santander School before it detonated, shattering windows of apartments nearby, said minister for defense Guillermo Botero.

·         DRC rejects African Union demand to delay final election result.

The Democratic Republic of Congo on 18th January rejected Union demand to delay announcing final results from its presidential election, compounding the turmoil surrounding a chaotic vote that many fear could fan widespread unrest. In a surprise announcement on 17th January, the AU called for the results to be postponed because of “serious doubts” over the conduct of the election, which was supposed to mark DRC’s first democratic handover of power in 59 years of independence but which the runner-up candidate says was rigged. The final tally will be released once the constitutional court has ruled on challenges to the provisional results. It is expected to decide on appeals, including that of opposition leader and second-placed Martin Fayulu, on 18th or 19th January.

·         Prince Philip ‘shocked and shaken’ but unhurt after car crash.

The Duke of Edinburgh was left “very shocked” and shaken following a car crash, but walked away unhurt after his vehicle reportedly overturned. Philip, 97, was driving a Land Rover when the accident involving a Kiahappened near the queen’s Sandringham Estate. According to witnesses, who contacted the BBC? Philip’s Land Rover rolled over during the collision on 17th January afternoon. The witnesses helped the duke from his vehicle, the BBC reported, and its website quoted them as saying the queen’s consort was conscious but “very, very shocked” and shaken.

  • Justin Trudeau doppelganger spotted in Afghan talent show.

A contestant in an Afghan talent show has shot to fame thanks to his resemblance to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and even admitted his wife and family members see the likeness. “I was shocked when I learned I resembled Trudeau, especially when all my friends called and told me that I look like him,” Abdul Salam Maftoon, from the northeastern province of Badakhshan, told. The 28-year-old wedding singer is currently competing in the television music competition “Afghan Star.”

·         Australia suffers through searing temperatures as heat wave reaches its peak.

An extreme heat wave already breaking records across Australia is expected to peak in many parts of the country on 18th January, with temperatures forecast to stay above 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) for the sixth day in a row. The six days from January 12 to 17 are all within Australia’s ten hottest days on record, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology said. Marble Bar in northwestern Australia hit the highest temperature during the heat wave at a sweltering 49.1 C (120 F) on 20th January– a January record for the area. The town had seen more than 20 consecutive days of temperatures above 40 C (104 F). On 16th January, New South Wales broke 14 heat records and eight January records. Conditions are so hot in the state that asphalt roads are starting to melt.

·         Sudanese police clash with mourners as unrest continues.

Sudanese police clashed with mourners on 18th January during the funeral of a protester who died from a gunshot wound sustained during a fifth week of anti-government demonstrations. They fired live ammunition after some mourner’s hurled rocks and chanted slogans demanding an end to the 30-year rule of President Omar al-Bashir, a witness said.

·        Whistleblower claims ANC got vast bribes in South Africa inquiry.

A former executive of a multibillion-rand facilities company giving evidence at an inquiry into public sector corruption in South Africa has implicated the ruling party in fraud that benefited its election campaigning. Angelo Agrizzi, a former chief operating officer at a corporate group called Bosasa, which has recently been renamed African Global Operations, on Friday alleged the firm laundered money for the African National Congress (ANC) to use for electioneering in the North West Province.

·         Trump-Pelosi relations hit new low as shutdown nears second month

As the US government shutdown approaches its second month, the impasse in Washington shows no sign of ending. This week the saga took a fresh twist as relations between Donald Trump and House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi hit a new low. 


·         Climate change tops list of worries at World Economic Forum.

This year’s ‘worry’ list, for example, is dominated by climate change concerns. What are the biggest risks stalking the world today? A cynic might gripe that the list is so depressingly long that it is pointless even to try to choose: populism, cyber attacks, trade wars, weather shocks and global debt are all on the rise. However, during the past decade the World Economic Forum has asked its members to rank their worries in terms of likelihood and impact, ahead of its annual meeting in Davos. And while this poll is limited in scope – WEF members are drawn, of course, from the global elite of corporate executives, government officials, NGO activists and the media – the results are nevertheless thought-provoking. This year’s “worry” list, for example, is dominated by climate change concerns: Davosians apparently fear that extreme weather events are becoming more common, and that the world has no effective mechanism to respond.

·         Home sales in US slump in December.

Home sales in the US slumped in December, while prices inched up slightly; marking the smallest annual increase since the end of the last housing crash in 2012, according to data from brokerage Red fin. The median home price rose to $289,800 (€253.000) in December, a gain of 1.2 per cent, the slowest monthly pace since March, 2012. Sales dropped by almost 11 percent, the biggest decline for any month since 2016, Red fin said. Previously hot metropolitan areas are cooling fast. Prices dropped 7.3 percent in San Jose, California.

  • Global indices as of 18th January 2019 as compared to January 11, 2019.
Global indices as on 18th January 2019
Change Name Current Value Prev.Close
72.77  NASDAQ (Jan 18) 7,157.23 7084.46     
133.41  FTSE (Jan 18) 6,968.33 6834.92     
81.56  CAC (Jan 18) 4,875.93 4794.37     
286.92  DAX (Jan 18) 11,205.54 10918.62     
263.80  NIKKEI 225 (Jan 18) 20,666.07 20402.27     
9.90  STRAITS TIMES (Jan 18) 3,224.34 3214.44     
335.18  HANG SENG (Jan 18) 27,090.81 26755.63     
46.91  TAIWAN WEIGHTED (Jan 18) 9,836.06 9789.15     
17.22  KOSPI (Jan 18) 2,124.28 2107.06     
3.47  SET COMPOSITE (Jan 18) 1,583.77 1580.30     
24.38  JAKARTA COMPOSITE (Jan 18) 6,448.16 6423.78     
36.37  SHANGHAI COMPOSITE (Jan 18) 2,596.01 2559.64     
48.00  SGX NIFTY (Jan 19) 10,983.00 10935.00     


Global indices as on 11th January 2019
Name Current Value Change Prev.Close
 NASDAQ (Jan 11) 6,971.48 -14.59 6986.07
 FTSE (Jan 11) 6,918.18 -24.69 6942.87
 CAC (Jan 11) 4,781.34 -24.32 4805.66
 DAX (Jan 11) 10,887.46 -34.13 10921.59
 NIKKEI 225 (Jan 11) 20,359.70 195.90 20163.80
 STRAITS TIMES (Jan 11) 3,198.65 15.14 3183.51
 HANG SENG (Jan 11) 26,667.27 145.84 26521.43
 TAIWAN WEIGHTED (Jan 11) 9,759.40 38.71 9720.69
 KOSPI (Jan 11) 2,075.57 12.29 2063.28
 SET COMPOSITE (Jan 11) 1,597.04 9.41 1587.63
 JAKARTA COMPOSITE (Jan 11) 6,361.46 32.75 6328.71
 SHANGHAI COMPOSITE (Jan 11) 2,553.83 18.73 2535.10
 SGX NIFTY (Jan 12) 10,855.00 38.00 10817.00






  • Three family members — husband, wife and their teenage daughter — and their friend were killed in what the Punjab police officials called a shootout with “terrorists” near Sahiwal.

The couple’s minor son sustained a bullet injury while two other daughters remained safe. The family was travelling in a car when the alleged encounter — which the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) officials later termed an ‘intelligence-based operation’ — took place on GT Road in Qadirabad area near Sahiwal. According to CTD, the operation was conducted on information about the presence of suspected terrorists, provided by the department and an intelligence agency — the name of which was not specified. Eyewitnesses, however, strongly refuted the CTD’s version, that the three family members and their driver were shot dead in “cold blood by the police”. They categorically stated that no weapon was recovered from the vehicle after the alleged shootout. Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar has now ordered the arrest of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) personnel involved in the alleged shootout in Sahiwal

  • Prime Minister Imran Khan on 18th January prioritized four key areas under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for the next couple of years and ordered the groundbreaking of at least three special economic zones (SEZs) before end-June this year.

The prime minister gave targets for short- to mid-term phases, focusing on cooperation in industrial, socio-economic, agriculture and Gwadar. “It was decided to make the period as a phase of industrial cooperation, socioeconomic and agriculture sector development. Timelines for the development of prioritized SEZs were finalized to ensure groundbreaking in first half of 2019,” an official statement said.

  • The PPP on 18th January said it was firmly sticking to its stance of opposing a second extension in the tenure of military courts, which were set up in 2015 to try civilians on charges of terrorism.

“NO to the military courts,” declared senior PPP leader Farhatullah Babar at a press conference in Karachi. He along with other party leaders was briefing the media after a meeting of PPP’s central office-bearers and senior leaders held at the Bilawal House. In December, PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari had unequivocally said that his party would not support another extension to the military courts, whose current two-year term is set to expire in March. However, the president of the PML-N, the other main opposition party, has spoken in military courts’ favor and hinted that his party could consider supporting an extension, if approached by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government.

  • The board of directors of K-Electric (KE) on18th January elected Ikram Sehgal as their new chairman with immediate effect, read a statement issued by the power company.

Ikram Sehgal succeeds Tayyab Tareen who resigned from his post earlier in the day. The KE board “expressed its fullest appreciation to Tareen for his constructive leadership and contribution to the company’s successful turnaround”. With more than 40 years of business experience, Ikram Sehgal is the chairman of Pathfinder Group Pakistan which employs several thousand people in 50 towns and cities across Pakistan, read the statement.

  • Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan Convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui on 18th January remarked that a constitutional amendment was needed for forming “an empowered local government system in line with Article 140-A” of the Constitution

The MQM-P leader alleged that PPP had deceived the people in the name of 18th Amendment because the said amendment only led to the accumulation of power and not the transfer of authority from provinces to local governments. Siddiqui was addressing a public gathering at Liaquat Colony ground in Hyderabad.The Article 140-A reads: “Each Province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.”

  • President Dr Arif Alvi on 18th January suggested that the media industry should create its own revenue streams instead of depending on the advertisements given by the government. 

The president was addressing the Pakistan Media Convention organized by the Council of Pakistan Newspaper Editors (CPNE) in Islamabad. Dr Alvi highlighted the need for developing self-reliant business modelsfor the media houses. He said freedom of the press was a fundamental right but it should be exercised with responsibility and self-regulation.

  • SURPRISE has been expressed in the media over the rather sudden sighting of Nadeem Afzal Chann as the official spokesman of Prime Minster Imran Khan. This reaction is understandable so far as there was already a whole battery of reps available to the prime minister through whom he could communicate with the people. Otherwise, given the rumors about just how big an admirer Mr Khan is of Mr Chann’s political acumen, the two were long destined to be in each other’s company and act as each other’s voice.

Nadeem Afzal Chann was one of the few practicing politicians of whom Mr. Imran Khan approved as he went about clearing all inhibitions and hurdles on his way to becoming prime minister. One thing that stood out was Mr. Khan Likings for good people in other parties over and above his fondness for the activists in the fold of his own Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

  • They Once Danced for Royalty is now over. Says one from red light area of Lahore. 

Kiran remembers the days when she shimmied confidently across rooms adorned with plush velvet pillows and fine carpets, working alongside a troupe of trained musicians and commanding the attention of Pakistan’s wealthiest men. Kiran is part of the dying tradition of the dancing girls of Lahore, a once famed and respected profession, with dancers employed for hundreds of years by the courts of the maharajahs to perform for royal.

  • The first women’s bicycle rally scheduled to take place in Peshawar on January 19 was cancelled after religious parties on 18th January threatened to protest against the event, officials say.

Zama Jawandoon, an organization working for women’s rights, had organized the ‘peace rally’ that was scheduled to begin from Peshawar’s Hayatabad neighborhood on 19th January. According to the event’s organizer, Wafa Wazir, at least 35 women were due to participate in the rally and they had also invited people from the transgender community. But all the religious parties on 18th January announced they would stage a protest against the rally at the Bagh-e-Naran in Hayatabad.

·         Suo moto powers would be exercised rarely, says Chief Justice Khosa.

While speaking to full court reference in honor of retiring Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar on 17th January the Chief Justice- Sardar Asif Saeed Khan Khosa expressed that suo moto powers would be exercised rarely saying, “It will be used when absolutely necessary.” Further he expressed commitment to take steps in best interest of judiciary saying, I would like to assure you that all such steps will be taken in the best interest of the institution of judiciary and that in all manner of circumstances we shall like and prefer to be correct rather than erratic and proper rather than popular”. Highlighting civilian supremacy, Justice Khosa shed light on the prevailing trust deficit between institutions saying, “Every organ has reasons for sticking to its declared position. There is no gainsaying that all the three organs of the State, i.e. the Legislature, the Judiciary and the Executive are always to strive hard for exercising their powers and performing their functions to the best of their abilities while maintaining their independence and operational autonomy but at the same time when it comes to steering the ship of the State and handling the larger national issues all such organs are to work in tandem in finding solutions which advance the spirit and purposes of the Constitution.”

Economy –

  • Global food and agriculture producer Cargill on 17th January renewed its long standing commitment to Pakistan by announcing plans to invest more than $200 million in Pakistan in the next three to five years.

The announcement was made after a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and other senior government officials, and Cargill’s global executive team at PM Office. Cargill’s team was led by head of Global Strategy and Cargill Asia Pacific region chairman, Marcel Smits, and Cargill Agricultural Supply Chain President Gert-Jan Van Den Akker.

  • Reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) dropped by $148 million during the week ended on Jan 11 on account of debt servicing and other official payments.

The SBP reserves fell to $6.9 billion — their lowest level since April 11, 2014 when they hit a trough of $4.984bn. The dollar stocks of central bank have breached the $7bn-mark for the first time in almost five years. On the other hand, holdings of the commercial banks edged up to $6.588bn, from $6.548bn stood while total liquid reserves of the country stood at $13.489bn during the period under review.

  • Pakistan’s economic confidence fell sharply in the final quarter of 2018 as it continues to struggle with macroeconomic imbalances, according to the Global Economic Conditions Survey (GECS).

The latest edition of GECS from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) and Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) through a global poll of 3,800 accountants found Pakistan’s economy to be amongst the lowest in the South Asian region. Other regions recorded a negative confidence score with signs of growth weakening in the world’s three biggest economies – the US, China and the Euro zone.

  • Pakistan’s oil import bill jumped nearly 15 per cent year-on-year to $7.6 billion during 1HFY19 from $6.675bn in same period last year, Pakistan Bureau of Statistics reported on 17th January 2019.

The country’s petroleum bill is steadily on the rise despite the fall in international prices. The government has taken several measures to cut import bill in a bid to ease pressure on the dwindling foreign exchange reserves. Pakistan has already finalized agreements with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates for a deferred oil facility which will allow the country to receive oil from the two Gulf nations with payment deferred for 365 days. According to the latest data, imports from almost all of the categories — barring agricultural and petroleum groups — shrank during the period under review. As a result, the overall import bill edged lower by 2.29pc.

  • The government found another reason to sigh with relief on 17th January 2019 as the crucial current account deficit (CAD) slipped slightly by 4.4 per cent to $7.98 billion, driven by a fourth quarter decline of 10 per cent, according to data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

The CAD lies at the heart of the economy’s difficulties since it is primarily responsible to draining the foreign exchange reserves that have fallen to slightly more than one month’s import cover since hitting a peak of 5 months import cover in October 2016. Last year the CAD hit a record high of $18.619bn, implying loss of reserves at roughly $1.5bn per month.


F.C Exchange Rates of PKR as of 19th January 2019
Countries PKR rate as of 12th January 2019 PKR rate as of 19th January 2019
U.S.A. 139.10 139.30
U.K. 177.00 179.34
Euro 159.80 158.60
Japan 1.2900 1.2900
Saudi Arabia 36.95 37.05
U.A.E. 37.95 38.10


Pakistan Stock Exchange Indices as of 18th January 2019

KSE 100 increased to 39306 on January 18 from 39244 in the previous trading session as of January 17 as compared to 39,049.08 last week.

Position as of 18th January 2019
Symbols KSE100 PSX-KMI
Advanced (Curr.) 184
Declined (High) 116
Unchanged (Low) 21
Total (Change) 321



Position as of 11th January 2019
Symbols KSE100 PSX-KMI
Advanced (Curr.) 130
Declined (High) 161
Unchanged (Low) 30
Total (Change) 321


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