th prime minister in seven decades, besides the military strongmen who have ruled for long years, reinforces this. It is tad unfair to single out Pakistan. Many more nations practising varying forms of democracy, while adhering to democratic processes, have elected right-wing demagogues with dictatorial instincts. Pakistan’s 11th general election has pushed the nation further to the right, with little hope of any far-reaching changes in the lives of the people. Mercifully, the parties and their candidates who represent the forces of pseudo-religious extremism who had muscled into the country’s electoral system have been rejected by the people. Knowingly, but unwisely fostered by the establishment they are, however, unlikely to slow down their campaign for curtailing whatever little freedom is allowed to women and the media. The persecution of minorities could increase. There is no indication that civil society will be allowed to work in peace. Apprehensions arise as Imran Khan for long empathized with these forces to an extent the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) once nominated him to represent them to talk to the government. He supported former military ruler Pervez Musharraf after the latter’s 1999 coup, but fell out later. Musharraf famously called him “Taleban Khan”. And now, exiled Musharraf supports Imran. It was quite open. Fazlur Rehman Khalil, founder of Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and a US-designated global terrorist with links to al-Qaeda, formally joined Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI). With poll-day violence, not just the moderates, the mainstream Islamist parties also suffered electorally. Undoubtedly the world’s first cricketing hero-turned-politician to become the prime minister, the Oxford-educated, urbane Imran Khan represents all the contradictions of many foreign-educated third world leaders who must practice conservative politics. They abound in South Asia. But this has been Imran’s USP with Pakistan’s young, the middle classes and the rich, nurtured on a conservative ethos for over four decades that saw two long phases of military rule. He was ideal for the military establishment that co-opted him to oust the three time-premier Nawaz Sharif, its increasingly less pliable one-time protégé. Sharif’s ouster through months of political engineering for which the military establishment also co-opted the judiciary, yet again, and what domestic and international observers have called ‘micro-management’ of the elections helped catapult Khan to the top. This underscores the role the army has come to play of wielding power without grabbing it, through remote control. This is the unanimous verdict of whosoever has watched Pakistan. The establishment has got its man in, but limitations of this management of democratic processes are evident in the fractured popular mandate. Short of majority in the National Assembly, Imran must find allies. Smaller parties may join a coalition but managing it may turn out to be difficult for Imran, the one-man show used to dictating and being idolized. Next, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) that the establishment black-listed and engineered an exodus from has managed three-scores of seats, albeit a half of Imran’s score. It has emerged at the top in the all-too-critical Punjab province. Whoever forms the Punjab Government, it is not going to be easygoing. The once-powerful and popular Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), manipulated to keep away from joining forces with Nawaz, has retained its support base in Sindh. The loser in Sindh is the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), the party of ‘mohajirs’ or migrants from British India. It controlled and even terrorized Karachi, the commercial capital. Split into three and defanged with the ouster of its exiled founder Altaf Hussain, one of its factions may join Imran. MQM’s loss marks the decline of the mohajirs in Pakistan’s life, in political terms if not economic. The entire phalanx of losing parties, alleging large-scale rigging and irregularities, has demanded a re-election. This is a near-impossibility. There were two ‘spoilers’. One was Khan’s ex-wife Reham’s tell-all book leveling serious charges that seemed the work of a journalist and not a gossipy society lady. It was timed for the elections. Khan, well advised by his promoters, decided not to react at all and give currency to the book’s content. The book was ostensibly digested by Pakistan’s netizen that, however, do not go to the polling station. Beyond mud-slinging with the hope that some would stick, the book’s impact is doubtful. A deeply patriarchal society, Pakistan is not Europe or America. The other was a speech by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court who created a stir by accusing intelligence agencies, specifically the arm’s ISI, of interfering in affairs of the judiciary. A maverick, he has earned the ire of the establishment. Forget the polite language of the Twitter posting by the Army’s PR chief Asif Ghafoor, it was nothing short of a publicly expressed demand to sack the offending judge. An enraged Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar denounced attempts being made “to defame the judiciary” and vowed that ‘justice’ would be dispensed to the rebellious judge. Post-elections, he is heading the bench that is hearing petitions against the rebellious judge. Neither the foreign media, nor the Observers, were amused at the way the polls were conducted. The US State Department concurred with the European Union and the Commonwealth Observers and with the fears expressed by the Human Rights Commissions of Pakistan. As a nation that loves cricket, India would have wanted to welcome Imran. To be fair, he was not anti-India like, say, Javed Miandad. Hence, the only people excited are Imran’s starry-eyed cricket lovers innocent of or unmindful of how his political career has shaped or that the forces that have brought him to power live and thrive on being anti-India. Officially, the reaction was cautious as India does not see prospects of ground reality changing. With Imran expectedly making Kashmir the ‘core’ issue and harping on the UN resolutions, his so called olive branch means little. Only Track-II dialogue may resume at some stage. Any understanding of global affairs says that not talking cannot be a permanent posture in diplomacy. Also, since both countries are nuclear-armed which is a cause for concern to everyone far and near. It is a fact that both the USA that has India as its security ally, and China that is backing Pakistan on just about every issue, are pressing both to talk and let peace have a chance. Regionally, although Pakistan’s ultra-right lost electorally, the genie has been out the bottle for too long. Its growing presence poses a threat to not just Pakistan, but the whole region, especially India with which it has permanently hostile relations and with Afghanistan where its intentions are predatory. As most of these groups are hardcore Sunnis and are avowedly anti-Shia, Iran would have cause to worry. How China that has invested millions with millions more in the pipeline in the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) views the new political reality and tackles it would be worth watching. The CPEC is the flagship of its global BRI. Its Pakistan investments can bear fruit only amidst relative peace and stability. Gwadar, the port China has invested heavily in to gain access to the Indian Ocean, cannot function to its optimum capacity as long as Balochistan’s militant groups defying the army. Imran has arrived when geopolitical war has intensified in Asia. India is seen with the US while Pakistan and China are the other group with tacit support of Russia that has moved close to China to prevent the American advances. After all, America needs Pakistan to let it withdraw honourably from Afghanistan where it is stuck for 17 years with no sign of winning. So, much as Indians may feel important and strong, Pakistan, too, has its uses. There is speculation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had invited leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to his swearing-in 2014, could bless the new government in Islamabad along with other Saarc players, should such an invite go out from Imran. As both neighbours enter next month the 71st year of their respective independence and the Partition that came with it, will there be a “South Asia Moment”? The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org]]>
It has never been easier to do business in India. India welcomes the world to explore economic opportunities our nation has to offer!— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) October 31, 2017 “India has moved to 100th rank as a result of a number of reforms by the government. India is moving ahead in absolute ranking as well,” Annette Dixon, Vice President, South Asia region, told reporters earlier in the day. It will be only over a period of 1-3 years that the full impact of GST reform on ease of doing business can be assessed, she added. The report captures reforms implemented in 190 countries between the period June 2, 2016 to June 1, 2017.
Getting into Top 50 within reach: JaitleyGetting into the top 50 countries is a distinct possibility over the short term, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday. “We jumped over 30 places in three years, and as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said about setting a target to get among the top 50… I believe it is eminently doable,” Jaitley told reporters here following the release of World Bank Group’s latest report ‘Doing Business 2018: Reforming to Create Jobs’. “In 2014, we were ranked 142, and in the last two years India has gone from 131 to 130,” he said. “This is the highest jump any country has made in the ease of doing business rankings and is significant for India for our efforts on the 10 rankings’ criteria,” Jaitley said. “These 10 parameters are so tough that you don’t get credit for the reforms introduced till you actually see their results on the ground,” he said, adding that the World Bank’s cut-off date for considering performance is June of every year. Listing the areas which had boosted India’s ranking, Jaitley said that on “protection of minority investors” India had come up to fourth place on account of reforms like bringing in the Companies Act and setting up of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The report recognises India as one of the top 10 improvers in this year’s assessment, though the report does not take into account the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rolled out on July 1. “The biggest jump comes in the area of taxation reforms where we were ranked 172 last year and have moved up 53 places to be at 119 this year,” Jaitley said, adding that India can hope to get credit for GST in the rankings for “subsequent years”. “India made paying of taxes easier by requiring that payments are made electronically to the Employees Provident Fund and introducing a set of administrative measures for easing compliance with corporate income tax,” the report said. “India, with eight reforms, was one of this year’s top 10 improvers worldwide and the leading regional performer. This is the first year that India is in the top 100 economies globally,” it added. The Finance Minister noted that both on “ease of getting credit” and “electricity connections” India has come up to the 29th position this year. “On resolving insolvency, we were 136… then we brought in the Bankruptcy Code and now we have climbed 33 places to 103rd position,” he said.
“India has moved to 100th position as a result of a number of reforms by the government. India is moving ahead in absolute ranking as well,” Annette Dixon, Vice President, South Asia region, World Bank, told reporters earlier in the day. “India made paying taxes easier by requiring that payments are made electronically to the Employees Provident Fund and introducing a set of administrative measures easing compliance with corporate income tax,” the report stated. The report noted that India has adopted 37 reforms since 2003 with nearly half of these reforms having been implemented in the last four years. “India, with eight reforms, was one of this year’s top ten improvers worldwide and the leading regional performer. This is the first year that India is in the top 100 economies globally,” it said. “India is the only large country this year to have achieved such a significant shift. India’s score went from 56.05 in doing business to 60.76. This means last year India improved its business regulations in absolute terms – indicating that the country is continuing its steady shift towards best practice in business regulation,” the World Bank said in a statement. Dixon said, “Having embarked on a strong reform agenda to improve the business improvement, the significant jump this year is a result of the Indian government’s consistent efforts over the past few years. It indicates India’s endeavour to further strengthen its position as a preferred place to do business globally.” This year, the indicators on which reforms were implemented in Delhi and Mumbai, the two cities covered by the report are: starting business, dealing with construction permits, getting credit, protecting minority investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. “India performs well in the areas of protecting minority investors, getting credit and getting electricity. The country’s corporate law and securities regulations have been recognised as highly advanced, placing India in 4th place in the global ranking on protecting minority investors,” it said. The time to obtain an electricity connection in Delhi has dropped from 138 days four years ago to 45 days now, almost 20 days less than the 78 days average in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) high-income economies. While there has been substantial progress, India still lags in areas such as starting a business, enforcing contracts and dealing with construction permits, the report notes. The time taken to enforce a contract is longer at 1,445 days than it was 15 years ago. In starting a business, India has reduced the time needed to register a new business to 30 days now, from 127 days 15 years ago. However, the number of procedures is still cumbersome for local entrepreneurs who still need to go through 12 procedures to start a business in Mumbai. “Tackling these challenging reforms will be the key to India sustaining the momentum towards a higher ranking. To secure changes in the remaining areas will require not just new laws and online systems but deepening the ongoing investment in the capacity of states and their institutions to implement change and transform the framework of incentives and regulation facing the private sector,” Junaid Ahmand, Country Director India, World Bank said. Commenting on the World Bank’s report, Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said, “The huge improvement in ranking and score will immediately boost investor sentiments. The latest report validates the commitment of the government to fast-tracking economic reforms, addressing red tapism and facilitating business. The surge in ranking by as much as 30 places is an outcome of key reforms including digitisation of processes, enhancing tax payment and access to credit. “It is a matter of great pride that India has been named as among the top ten reforming economies in 2016-17 with as many as eight reform areas out of ten. In fact, India is well on its way to emerge as a global leader in protecting minority interests and is currently ranked 4th in the world.” Banerjee, however, rued that one of the most important reforms — GST — has not been considered in this year’s report owing to cut off date. “CII is confident that on the back of GST and other reforms that are planned, India would see an equally impressive improvement next year. It is not too distant in the future that India would break into the league of top 50 countries,” he added. (IANS) // ]]>