Chinese officials in Pakistan
Chinese delegation with its Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad during the talks Sunday | @CathayPak/Twitter
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Here’s what’s happening across the border: Sindh government restricts movement of hardline religious scholars ahead of Muharram; a Pakistani V-blogger is captivating YouTube users with his recipes. 

Low-key welcome sets tongues wagging on Pak-China ties

The presence of just low-level Pakistani officials to welcome the powerful Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, who is on a three-day visit to the country, has set off speculation on if this was a “deliberate downgrade”.

Yi is the first senior Chinese leader to visit the country since Imran Khan became Prime Minister. The symbolism was noted by none other than the perceptive Mushahid Hussian, journalist, thinker and politician:

This comes on the back of the Imran Khan government recently forming a nine-member committee to review the flagship China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project. The committee is slated to meet for the first time this week. Commerce, textiles, industry and investment minister Abdul Razak Dawood, a member of this committee, said it would “think through the CPEC — all of the benefits and the liabilities”.

The Imran Khan government, it seems, is trying to find fault with the previous Nawaz Sharif regime, and CPEC seems to be a perfect instrument to beat it with.

Shah Mehmood Qureshi, the Pakistan foreign minister, however, tried to make up lost ground. Speaking to reporters, he said Beijing may be willing to renegotiate the 2006 trade deal with Pakistan, and clarified that the CPEC project has not inflicted a debt burden on Pakistan. “When these projects get completed and enter into operation, they will unleash huge economic benefits,” Financial Times quoted Qureshi as saying.

Some analysts are now wondering if Pakistan would ask China to revisit the terms of the agreement of this mega infrastructure plan. Pakistan’s new Finance Minister Asad Umar and Dawood, however, said that they wouldn’t want to offend Beijing even as they were in the midst of reviewing CPEC agreements signed in the past five years

Fact is, as Pakistan’s foreign reserves continue to fall — right now, it is just over $10 billion — it is right now in the middle of deciding upon another IMF bailout in the coming few weeks. If it does, it will be its 13th in a span of three decades. Speculation is rife that Pakistan is looking for $9 billion from the IMF. Other analysts wonder if the extent of a possible IMF payout is linked to a bailout by the Chinese. Perhaps that was another reason for the Wang Yi visit. After all, Pakistan and China describe their relationship as an “all-weather friendship.” With CPEC tying Pakistan further into Beijing’s sphere of influence, the question is how far Beijing is likely to go to defray some of Pakistan’s loans.

Some reports do quote some Pakistani government officials citing Beijing’s intent to indeed help Pakistan deal with its foreign exchange crisis, but there’s the news that China is asking Pakistan to reduce its large deficit. Pakistan certainly has a tough choice ahead.

Transwoman burnt alive while trying to resist rape attempt

A transgender woman was allegedly set on fire Thursday by unidentified men in Sahiwal city of Punjab, reported Dawn. She died while being taken to a hospital in Lahore.

The incident took place when she resisted a rape attempt by the men in a deserted cab station near Sahiwal Mall Mandi Chowk, reported Daily Pakistan.

According to hospital sources, the victim suffered 80 per cent burns on her body.

In the wake of violence against transgenders, Pakistan’s parliament in May this year passed a law guaranteeing basic rights to transgenders and outlawing discrimination against them.

Interesting tweets of the day

Junaid Safdar, the grandson of Nawaz Sharif and the son of his daughter Maryam Nawaz, Mondaychallenged PM Imran Khan on his government’s claims that it would institute a welfare state in the country.

This was in connection with the arrival of Imran Khan’s sons, Suleman and Qasim, in Pakistan and the degree of high-level security given to them in their journey from the Islamabad airport to PM’s Bani Gala residence.

Jungjoo Gernail in his usual manner of mocking people and events in Pakistan, tweeted a message in light of the recent visit of a Chinese delegation led by the Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Pakistan.

His message attacked Pakistan’s silence on China’s ill-treatment of Uighur Muslims till the time the latter guaranteed loans to the former to pay-off its debts.

300 ‘firebrand’ scholars face restriction of movement ahead of Muharram

The Sindh home department Saturday issued a notification restricting the movement and travel of 300 ‘firebrand’ scholars for the next 60 days in the wake of Muharram, Dawn reported.

The notification read instructions to do so in a bid to ensure public safety and maintain public order as it had ‘reasons to believe that’ actions of such scholars could fuel unprecedented instances such as those of ‘inflammatory/provocative speeches’.

It also cited that such preventive actions were being taken to avert ‘hatred and ill-will’ that could spread among different sects due to statements by this group of people.

Writer and blogger Syed Husain couldn’t refrain from commenting that such people should be banned altogether instead of placing just this small restriction on them.

Pakistan’s new Gwadar airport to open this year

Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, China and Pakistan have agreed Sunday to begin operations at the new Gwadar International Airport before the end of the year, reported The Nation.

In a meeting at National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), China, both sides also decided to open a technical institute and a hospital.

They also came to the agreement to develop transport infrastructure projects.

Minister for Planning, Development and Reform (PD&R), Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar said, “To achieve the new set targets, the government is dedicated to putting all its energies together to make progress at the earliest”.

Rising cooking star of Pakistan on Internet

Having left his job as a production manager in a football manufacturing factory, video blogger Mubashir Saddique is garnering a lot of viewers on YouTube with his family’s secret recipes.

The 33-year-old Saddique has his own YouTube channel Village Food Secrets, which he launched in January last year. Since then he has uploaded 350 videos and has 5,28,204 subscribers, with the largest number of views from India, Pakistan, US,UK and Saudi Arabia.

“From the UK (aside from the Pakistani diaspora) and India, it is the Punjabi speaking community,” he says of his viewer base. “They (viewers) say the food, the landscape, my use of earthenware crockery helps in reducing their yearning for home,” he adds.

In just a-year-and-a-half, Saddique has become tech-savvy, with a better quality microphone, a drone “for aerial photography” and an electric rice cooker, all sent by his brother in South Korea.

(With inputs from Rupanwita Bhattacharjee and Jyoti Malhotra)

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