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a) Transition tests: Pakistan in election mode

The appointment of a caretaker Prime Minister in Pakistan, under whom the country will face general elections on July 25, sets the stage for the second consecutive transfer of power from one civilian government to another. This in itself is a landmark for democracy in Pakistan, where no civilian Prime Minister has completed a full term in office; only in 2013 did a government complete its full tenure for the first time. The choice of Nasirul Mulk, a former Chief Justice, as caretaker Prime Minister has been welcomed across the spectrum, with leaders of the main political parties, including the Pakistan People’s Party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Jamaat-e-Islami, issuing statements commending outgoing Pakistan Muslim League (N) Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s decision. During his time in the Supreme Court, Justice Mulk heard several contentious constitutional matters, including one in which a sitting Prime Minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, was summoned on contempt charges in 2012. He was also on the seven-judge bench that issued a restraining order against the then all-powerful President, Pervez Musharraf, in 2007. In 2013-14 he served as the acting Chief Election Commissioner, which will hold him in good stead in his task of taking Pakistan through free and fair polls and conducting necessary government business in the interim in an impartial manner. However, Justice Mulk and his caretaker Cabinet will have crises to deal with over the next two months. To begin with, Pakistan is set to be placed on the grey list by the international terror financing watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, at its plenary session in June. The second issue is internal but stems from the same problem: Pakistan faces the danger of terrorists and extremists being ‘mainstreamed’ into the electoral arena and marginalising the political centre, which is already missing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after his disqualification from public office by the Supreme Court. Hafiz Saeed’s Milli Muslim League has already gone to court to demand recognition. Security during the campaign will also be a challenge. Earlier this month, an attack on the PML(N) office in Karachi and an assassination attempt on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal underlined just how serious the threat is to politicians. As caretaker Prime Minister, Justice Mulk will be also required to steady the economy. A balance of payments crisis, for which the outgoing government has reportedly asked Beijing for a loan of $1 billion to $2 billion, will add to Pakistan’s burgeoning debt on account of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The caretaker regime has its task cut out, and it will need internal support and that of its neighbours and the world community. The successful completion of the exercise will be a positive signal for all of South Asia as well, with Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan (in that order) all due for elections over the next year.

b) Policy on biofuels: Green push?

At a time when rising oil prices are putting increasing pressure on the economy, even small steps to encourage the use of biofuels are welcome. The Cabinet this month approved a National Policy on Biofuels, which encourages the generation and use of biofuels such as ethanol. It primarily tries to address supply-side issues that have discouraged the production of biofuels within the country. For one, it allows for a wider variety of raw materials to be used as inputs to produce ethanol that is blended with petrol. Until now, only ethanol produced from sugarcane was approved for this purpose. Under the new policy, feedstock for biofuels includes sugar beet, corn, damaged foodgrain, potatoes, even municipal solid waste. This will likely reduce the cost of producing biofuels and improve affordability for consumers, particularly during times when oil prices reach discomforting levels. In India, industrial-scale availability of ethanol so far has been only from sugar factories, which were free to divert it to other users such as alcohol producers, who would pay more. The oil companies have been floating tenders for ethanol supply, but availability lags behind their needs, because the price is often not attractive enough for the sugar industry. The Centre hopes the new policy will also benefit farmers, who will be able to sell various types of agricultural waste to industry at remunerative prices. But given the technology available, a large chunk of the biofuel will have to come from the sugar sector for now. Therefore, pricing is the key. The government estimates that ethanol supply of around 150 crore litres in 2017-18 could save foreign exchange worth over 4,000 crore. The production of biofuels from agricultural waste, it is hoped, will also help curb atmospheric pollution by giving farmers an incentive not to burn it, as is happening in large parts of northern India. But policy should not get ahead of technological and financial feasibility — and options should be realistically laid out for farmers. There is also a need for caution in using surplus foodgrain to produce ethanol. And while removing the shackles on raw material supply can have definite benefits, it cannot make a significant difference to biofuel production as long as the supply-chain infrastructure that is required to deliver biofuels to the final consumer remains inadequate. To address this issue, the new policy envisages investment to the tune of 5,000 crore in building bio-refineries and offering other incentives over the next few years. The government should also take steps to remove policy barriers that have discouraged private investment in building supply chains. Until that happens, India’s huge biofuel potential will continue to remain largely untapped.


1) Consecutive

Meaning: Following each other continuously.

Example: “Five consecutive months of serious decline”

Synonyms: Successive, Succeeding.

2) Tenure

Meaning: The holding of an office.

Example: “His tenure of the premiership would be threatened”

Synonyms: Incumbency, Term of office.

3) Spectrum

Meaning: Used to classify something in terms of its position on a scale between two extreme points.

Example: “The left or the right of the political spectrum”

4) Commending

Meaning: Present as suitable for approval or acceptance; recommend.

Example: “I commend her to you without reservation”

Synonyms: Recommend, Suggest.

5) Contentious

Meaning: Causing or likely to cause an argument; controversial.

Example: “A contentious issue”

Synonyms: Controversial, Disputable.

6) Summoned

Meaning: Order (someone) to be present.

Example: “A waiter was summoned”

Synonyms: Send for, Call for.

7) Contempt

Meaning: The offence of being disobedient to or disrespectful of a court of law and its officers.

Example: “When he was found to have lied to the House this was a contempt”

8) Restrain

Meaning: Prevent (someone or something) from doing something; keep under control or within limits.

Example: “The need to restrain public expenditure”

Synonyms: Prevent, Stop.

9) Stead

Meaning: The place or role that someone or something should have or fill (used in referring to a substitute).

Example: “You wish to have him superseded and to be appointed in his stead”

10) Interim

Meaning: The intervening time.

Example: “In the interim I’ll just keep my fingers crossed”

Synonyms: Meantime, Meanwhile.

11) Impartial

Meaning: Treating all rivals or disputants equally.

Example: “The minister cannot be impartial in the way that a judge would be”

Synonyms: Unbiased, Unprejudiced.

12) Crisis

Meaning: A time of intense difficulty or danger.

Example: “The current economic crisis”

Synonyms: Catastrophe, Calamity.

13) Grey list

Meaning: The grey list is composed of firms working with the investment bank, often in matters of mergers and acquisitions.

14) Plenary

Meaning: (Of a meeting) to be attended by all participants at a conference or assembly, who otherwise meet in smaller groups.

Example: “A plenary session of the European Parliament”

Synonyms: Full, Fully constituted.

15) Stems

Meaning: Originate in or be caused by.

Example: “Many of the universities’ problems stem from rapid expansion”

Synonyms: Have its origins in, Arise from.

16) Mainstream

Meaning: The ideas, attitudes, or activities that are shared by most people and regarded as normal or conventional.

Example: “They withdrew from the mainstream of European politics”

17) Arena

Meaning: A place or scene of activity, debate, or conflict.

Example: “He has re-entered the political arena”

Synonyms: Area, Scene.

18) Marginalising

Meaning: Treat (a person, group, or concept) as insignificant or peripheral.

Example: “By removing religion from the public space, we marginalize it”

19) Assassination

Meaning: The action of assassinating someone.

Example: “The assassination of President Kennedy”

Synonyms: Murder, Killing.

20) Underlined

Meaning: Emphasize (something).

Example: “The improvement in retail sales was underlined by these figures”

Synonyms: Emphasize, Give emphasis to.

21) Burgeon

Meaning: Begin to grow or increase rapidly; flourish.

Example: “Manufacturers are keen to cash in on the burgeoning demand”

Synonyms: Grow rapidly, Increase rapidly/exponentially.

22) Cut out

Meaning: (Of a motor or engine) suddenly stop operating.

Example: “Both the lifeboat’s engines cut out at times as they hit the seabed”

Synonyms: Stop working, Cease to function.

23) Address

Meaning: To give attention to or deal with a matter or problem.

Example: “The issue of funding has yet to be addressed”

24) Blend

Meaning: Mix (a substance) with another substance so that they combine together.

Example: “Blend the cornflour with a tablespoon of water”

Synonyms: Mix, Mingle.

25) Feedstock

Meaning: Raw material to supply or fuel a machine or industrial process.

Example: “The advantage of efficient technology and low-cost feedstocks”

26) Likely

Meaning: Such as well might happen or be true; probable.

Example: “Speculation on the likely effect of opting out”

Synonyms: Probable, Distinctly possible.

27) Affordability

Meaning: Ability to be afforded; inexpensiveness.

Example: “The rapid spread and increasing affordability of wireless communication”

28) Discomfort

Meaning: Make (someone) feel anxious or embarrassed.

Example: “The unknown leaker’s purpose was to discomfort the Prime Minister”

Synonyms: Discomfit, Make uneasy.

29) Divert  

Meaning: Distract (someone) from something.

Example: “She managed to divert Rose from the dangerous topic of Lady Usk”

Synonyms: Distract, Detract.

30) Floating

Meaning: Not settled permanently; fluctuating or variable.

Example: “Floating exchange rates”

Synonyms: Unsettled, Not settled.

31) Lags

Meaning: Fail to keep up with another or others in movement or development.

Example: “They waited for Tim who was lagging behind”

Synonyms: Fall behind, Straggle.

32) Remunerative

Meaning: Financially rewarding; lucrative.

Example: “Highly remunerative activities”

Synonyms: Lucrative, Well paid.

33) Chunk

Meaning: A part of something, especially a large part.

Example: “A chunk of text”

34) Curb

Meaning: A check or restraint on something.

Example: “Plans to introduce tougher curbs on insider dealing”

Synonyms: Restraint, Restriction.

35) Incentive

Meaning: A thing that motivates or encourages someone to do something.

Example: “Give farmers an incentive to improve their land”

Synonyms: Inducement, Motivation.

36) Feasibility

Meaning: The state or degree of being easily or conveniently done.

Example: “The feasibility of screening athletes for cardiac disease”

Synonyms: Practicability, Practicality.

37) Surplus

Meaning: More than what is needed or used; excess.

Example: “Make the most of your surplus cash”

Synonyms: Excess, Excessive.

38) Shackles

Meaning: If you are shackled by something, it prevents you from doing what you want to do.

Example: “The country is shackled by its own debts”

39) Envisage

Meaning: Contemplate or conceive of as a possibility or a desirable future event.

Example: “The Rome Treaty envisaged free movement across frontiers”

Synonyms: Foresee, Predict.

40) Untapped

Meaning: (Of a resource) not yet exploited or used.

Example: “The vast untapped potential of individual women and men”

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