Pakistan News

Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses a community event at Washington's Capital One Arena on Sunday. — Photo courtesy PTI Twitter

rime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a large crowd at a community event at Washington's Capital One Arena on Sunday, said that a 'Naya Pakistan' was being created in front of people's eyes.

"People ask where is 'Naya Pakistan', it is being created in front of your eyes," the premier said.

 

Earlier, organiser of the event Dr Abdullah Riar had said that they were expecting between 15,000 and 20,000 at the event.

PM Imran was accompanied by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, and Minister of State for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfi Bukhari.

Addressing the crowd in the American capital, Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the problem in Pakistan was that when political leaders were asked for answers, they say that political revenge is being taken, and when courts make decisions they say 'kyun nikala'.

"Today, what you see happening in Pakistan is what Naya Pakistan was about: these people had never been asked for answers before."

A view of the crowd at Washington's Capital One Arena. — Photo courtesy Govt of Pakistan Twitter
A view of the crowd at Washington's Capital One Arena. — Photo courtesy Govt of Pakistan Twitter

 

The premier said that there were two main reasons — a system of merit and accountability — due to which democracy had succeeded as a governance system and left monarchy behind.

Citing a sports example, the PM said that the Australian cricket team had dominated the sport as they have a system that brings up talent and relies on merit.

"I have played cricket all around the world. I have seen the most cricketing talent in Pakistan. But [because] there is no system of merit, we can't bring that talent up.

"This is why we are not dominating the world [in cricket] — because there is no meritocracy."

PM Imran said that America had succeeded thanks to a system based on meritocracy, through which good leaders replaced bad ones.

He regretted that in Pakistan there was a "type of monarchy" and merit did not come into play in the country.

"A society that doesn't have merit, doesn't go forward."

The premier said that the second factor that took democracy forward was leaders being held accountable.

"Democracy is successful when the leadership is answerable."

Prime Minister Imran said that cases against political leaders in Pakistan were not new.

"All the cases against them are old. We did not [start] any case [...] all we have done is make institutions independent."

"We have seen Pakistan go down before our eyes," he said, adding that when he was growing up in the country during the 1960s, Pakistan was considered to be the fastest developing country in the subcontinent and Asia.

He said the Pakistani bureaucracy was considered the top one in Asia and people used to come from abroad to study in the country.

"This is the same Pakistan we saw go down."

PM Imran explained that the form of socialism in place during the 1970s had led to industrial growth in the country stopping and then after 1985, bribery came into politics when the "real damage" took place.

"We saw Pakistan go down before our eyes."

He said two things — public office holders being held accountable and merit — were required to lift the country up.

"Anyone who is a public office holder should answer to the people."

While referring to political leaders in the country, the premier said: "They have one purpose, they want to hear three words from me NRO [National Reconciliation Ordinance]."

He said that now the powerful individuals in Pakistan were being held accountable, which included the seizure of their benami properties.

"Remember this is the time that Pakistan will change, it is changing before you."

The premier added that a merit-based system was required in the country.

"A system of merit will come when family-based politics end.

"Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is the first party where no relative or friend of Imran Khan is in any post," he said, adding that new leaders, such as Minister for Communications and Postal Services Murad Saeed and Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Division Hammad Azhar, would emerge from the party.

"Our country will rise before you. You will see we will fix the system and let the lower segment come up."

'Where did the money go?'

The premier said that ten years ago, the country's debt was Rs6,000 billion.

"After ten years, these two raised it to Rs30,000 billion," referring to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Ali Zardari.

"Where did the money go? We need to take [back] this money from them. I want to tell them again that you can do what you want.

"Everyone comes together to save democracy, to save their money. Come together, if you want to stage a 'dharna', I will give you containers.

"Do what you want, you will have to return the money."

While referring to Nawaz, PM Imran said that he would remove the former premier's TV and air conditioner from jail.

"I know that Maryam [Nawaz] bibi will make a lot of noise, but Maryam bibi give back the money, then he can go from jail."

PM Imran said that he had noticed that when former president Zardari went to jail, he would spend all of his time in the hospital.

"Asif Zardari, [we] will also keep you in jail, there will no TV nor will there be an air conditioner."

"It is very easy to be released from jail: return the money, we will release you from jail."

"Until today, the powerful in Pakistan were never questioned. This is the biggest change and this is why our country will rise."

Education

PM Imran said that the education system in Pakistan did not allow the less privileged to come up.

"There is an education apartheid. Here [in America] people are given opportunities."

The premier said that for the first time in Pakistan, they were attempting to fix the system of government schools in the country and attempting to introduce one main syllabus so that people have the opportunity to rise up.

Corruption

"Our country has been left behind because of one reason: corruption," said the premier.

He said that he had met companies in the United States, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and China for investment and they all said that they don't come to Pakistan because there is corruption.

"Through a clean government [and] by ending corruption, we will lift this country."

Riyasat-i-Madina

The prime minister said that the current government's vision was to turn the country into a welfare state on the pattern of Riyasat-i-Madina, Radio Pakistan reported.

He said that the principles of Riyasat-i-Madina were compassion, justice, rule of law, and looking after women, children and elderly.

The premier said that he would present the case of the Pakistani people before President Donald Trump, who he is scheduled to meet on Monday (today).

"I will not let you be embarrassed in front of Donald Trump."

During the event, a documentary of PM Imran's journey was also shown to the audience.

The premier concluded his address by vowing that he would never let Pakistan bow down before anyone.

Under changing international and regional situation, China and Pakistan should carry out closer coordination, says Xi. — Reuters/File

BEIJING: Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday pointed out that his three meetings with Prime Minister Imran Khan over the past eight months fully reflected the high level of China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership and said that both countries should carry out closer coordination and cooperation under the changing regional and international situation.

“Xi Jinping pointed out that in the past eight months, I met with the prime minister three times. This fully reflects the high level of China-Pakistan all-weather strategic partnership,” said a statement issued by the Chinese foreign minister after the meeting held between President Xi and Prime Minister Khan on the sidelines of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

The Chinese president remarked that under the changing international and regional situation, China and Pakistan should carry out closer coordination and cooperation to build a closer community of shared destiny.

Mr Xi emphasised that both the countries must maintain, consolidate and develop China-Pakistan all-weather relations and all-round cooperation.

He maintained that the two sides should thoroughly communicate on issues of common concern and jointly safeguard international and regional security and stability.

“We must expand and enrich the construction of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) with new focus on industrial parks, agriculture and people’s livelihood,” he added.

Mr Xi said it was necessary to seize the opportunity of the escalation of the China-Pakistan Free Trade Agreement and vigorously expand bilateral trade. China was willing to provide assistance to Pakistan within its ability, he added.

The Chinese president said his country supported Pakistan in carrying out the national anti-terrorism action plan and would help Pakistan strengthen its counter-terrorism capacity building, adding, “China supports Pakistan and India to improve relations.”

During the meeting, Prime Minister Khan said China was an all-weather strategic partner of Pakistan.

The Pakistani side thanked the Chinese side for its support and assistance for a long time and said Pakistan highly valued China’s positive role in promoting international and regional peace and security and was committed to continuously deepening its strategic relationship with China.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2019

Sources within Shehbaz's personal staff confirm that he would be returning to the country on Saturday. — AFP/File

Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif would be returning to Pakistan on June 8, a member of his personal staff confirmed to DawnNewsTV.

According to Sharif's staff, he would be returning to the country on Saturday. The development was also tweeted by an unverified account, seemingly belonging to the PML-N supremo's son Suleman.

 

It is pertinent to mention here that the budget for 2019-20 is to be presented in the parliament on June 11.

Earlier, lawyers had informed an Accountability Court that Sharif would be returning to Pakistan on June 11. However, it was also earlier said in court that the opposition leader would be returning to Pakistan after Eidul Fitr.

Sharif had announced a "quick visit" to London on April 9 after his name was removed from the no-fly list on Lahore High Court orders. Party sources had said at the time that he intended to return within 10-12 days.

Sharif faces court cases regarding corruption and dishonesty. In the Ashiyana housing scam, Sharif is accused of ordering the cancellation of a contract given to successful bidder Chaudhry Latif and Sons for the low-cost housing scheme, which led to the award of the contract to Lahore Casa Developers, a proxy group of Paragon City Private Limited, resulting in a loss of Rs193 million.

In the Ramzan Sugar Mills corruption case, Shahbaz Sharif and his son Hamza Shahbaz are accused of "fraudulently and dishonestly" causing a Rs213 million loss to the national exchequer.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday congratulated India’s premier Narendra Modi on his victory in the country's national elections.

"I congratulate Prime Minister Modi on the electoral victory of BJP and allies. Look forward to working with him for peace, progress and prosperity in South Asia," the prime minister said on Twitter.

 

Hours later, Modi responded to PM Imran's tweet, thanking him for his congratulatory message and saying that "I have always given primacy to peace and development in our region."

 

Modi claimed victory as results were being counted and vowed an "inclusive" future, with his party headed for a landslide win to crush the Gandhi dynasty's comeback hopes.

 

The BJP's main rivals Congress was far behind in the count, with Rahul Gandhi — the great-grandson, grandson and son of three premiers — suffering a humiliating loss in the Amethi seat held by India's once-mighty political dynasty for generations.

Read Indian election updates here.

Ties with Pakistan

Modi’s election victory was on the plank of national security, a campaign that gained strength in February when he sent warplanes into Pakistan to hit a suspected militant camp after a bomb attack in occupied Kashmir led to death of 40 Indian police officers.

India's move to send warplanes fanned the flames of nationalism and helped the BJP turn voters’ attention away from the flailing economy and onto matters of national security.

The airstrike “gave him the narrative he needed to counter all these allegations of non-performance, unemployment and rural distress. It reenergized him and enabled him to reclaim his image as a strong leader India needs at this juncture”, said political commentator Arti Jerath.

Last month, Prime Minister Imran had said there may be a better chance of peace talks with India if BJP wins the general election.

“Perhaps if the BJP — a right-wing party — wins, some kind of settlement in Kashmir could be reached,” the prime minister had told a small group of foreign journalists in an interview.

PRIME Minister Imran Khan shakes hands with President Xi Jinping before a meeting at the Great Hall of the People.—Reuters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China on Sunday embarked on the new phase of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor by signing memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) and socio-economic development and a new agreement on free trade.

The MoUs and the second stage Free Trade Agreement (FTA) were signed towards the conclusion of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s second trip to China in six months.

The prime minister’s latest visit to Beijing was for attending the second Belt and Road Forum and talks with the Chinese leadership on the expanded CPEC. The earlier visit was more about the future course of the CPEC after the change of government in Pakistan and soliciting Beijing’s help for dealing with the balance of payments crisis.

PM Khan in his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping assured him of Pakistan’s “unflinching commitment” to the CPEC and hailed its next phase, which includes newer areas like agriculture, industrial development and socio-economic uplift with livelihood projects.

The contours of the second phase of the CPEC have been finalised in view of priorities of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government related to socio-economic projects, greater involvement of the private sector and jobs creation.

President Xi appreciated Pakistan government’s agenda for socio-economic development and people-centred progress, the PM Office said.

The new phase of the CPEC would be characterised by industrialisation. The first Special Economic Zone comprising 20 factories is being set up in Rashakai, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The Rashakai SEZ Joint Venture and Licence Agreement was signed between the KP Economic Zones Development and Management Company and the China Road and Bridge Corporation.

Further progress on SEZs would depend on how the Rashakai project progresses. In the next stage, Chinese are planning to cooperate with Pakistan for setting up of a heavy industry SEZ in Dhabeji (Sindh) and a hi-tech SEZ in Islamabad. Chinese investors are, meanwhile, also signing up joint ventures in a local SEZ in Faisalabad.

In his meeting with Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Imran Khan hoped that Chinese investment in the SEZs would expand Pakistan’s industrial base and diversify its export basket.

The second most important MoU, signed by the two sides, was between the China International Development Cooperation Agency and Pakistan’s Ministry of Planning, Development and Reforms for implementation of the projects under Joint Working Group of the CPEC on socio-economic development. The projects in education, health, human resource development, poverty alleviation, agriculture, and water and irrigation sectors are being sponsored by the Chinese government for which Beijing would spend $1 billion. Twenty seven projects have been identified by the two governments. The PTI government had placed a special emphasis on this element of cooperation.

In view of trade being an important element of the CPEC, the two sides concluded the second stage the Free Trade Agreement. The new FTA, which was signed after negotiations spanning over seven years, is aimed at strengthening trade ties. Under the new FTA, China would open up 90 per cent of its market for Pakistani goods whereas Pakistan would share 65pc of its market with Chinese exports. This would also help in redressing, to a certain extent, the yawning trade imbalance between the two countries, which stood at $9.7 billion last year.

Premier Li hoped that the conclusion of the second phase of China-Pakistan FTA would give further boost to trade and economic relations between the two countries.

The two sides also signed an agreement on a technical package for upgradation of Pakistan’s main railway line ML-1.

On completion of ML-1, the Pakistan Railways will benefit in terms of increase in speed from 65km per hour to105km per hour to 120km/h to 160 km/h, increase in line capacity from 34 to 171 trains each way per day, increase in freight volumes from six to 35 million tons per year by 2025, increase in passenger trains from 20 to 40 each way per day and increase in railway share of freight transport volume from the current less than 4pc to 20pc.

Under the next phase of the agreement, the ministry of railways and the National Railway Administration of China will jointly start the construction work on the project. Prior to start of work, the final cost of the project would be worked out and agreement of financing would be finalised after considering the available options for financing, a spokesperson of the ministry of railways explained.

The signing of the ‘Declaration for Preliminary Design’ for completion of the first phase of Pakistan Railways’ existing mainline (ML-1) has laid the foundation of cooperation between Pakistan and China in the railways sector.

Other agreements signed during PM Khan’s visit were on setting up of a dry port at Havelian, economic and technical cooperation and cooperation in the field of marine sciences.

Geo-politics

President Xi, during his meeting with Mr Khan, reiterated China’s unwavering support to Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He expressed China’s appreciation for Pakistan’s sustained and successful efforts in the fight against terrorism and creating a peaceful neighbourhood.

“Both sides expressed satisfaction over the close cooperation between the two countries at multilateral fora and resolved to further deepen communication and coordination at all levels,” the PMO said.

During the meeting between PM Khan and Prime Minister Li, the two sides agreed to further deepen political, security, economic, education, science and technology, cultural and people-to-people relations.

Amin Ahmed also contributed to the report

Published in Dawn, April 29th, 2019

Zalmay Khalilzad (L) and Alice G Wells (R) arrive in Islamabad for delegation-level talks between Islamabad and Washington.— Photo courtesy of Radio Pakistan

Pakistani and United States (US) officials held delegation-level talks on the Afghan peace process in Islamabad on Monday, Radio Pakistan reported.

US Special Representative for Afghan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice Wells arrived in the capital today for a meeting with the government's interagency delegation led by Additional Secretary Americas Aftab Khokhar.

According to the state-run radio service, both sides are discussing bilateral relations and the Afghan reconciliation process today.

Meetings between Pakistani and US officials are believed to be quite significant in the backdrop of recent rounds of peace talks between the Taliban and the US in Qatar.

Earlier, the Foreign Office spokesman had also said that the meeting would be a part of "regular consultation on bilateral relationship and Afghan peace process".

On Sunday, Ambassador Khalilzad had warned that there would be no enduring peace in Afghanistan unless the Taliban adapted to the changes that had swept the country since they were ousted in 2001, added AFP.

Khalilzad is expected to meet with the Taliban in Doha in the coming days, but peace talks have been criticised for failing ─ so far ─ to include members of the Afghan government, which the Taliban view as a puppet regime.

Washington wants "to put an end to their expenses in Afghanistan and the dangers the forces face but also Washington has a responsibility and wants to end this war responsibly and leave a good legacy," Khalilzad had added.

On Friday, Khalilzad had said Prime Minister Imran Khan’s stance on Afghanistan had the potential to positively transform the region and give Pakistan a leading role.

Prime minister Imran on Thursday had underlined Pakistan’s unconditional support for Afghan peace process and urged the Taliban to call off their spring offensive.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will fight its case before the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on May 15 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, besides undertaking diplomatic efforts for performance-based review of its “robust” compliance with global standards against money laundering and terror financing.

This was the crux of an in-camera briefing to the Standing Committee of the National Assembly on Finance and Revenue. Finance Secretary Muhammad Younus Dagha, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman, executive officers of the State Bank of Pakistan, Commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) and representatives of foreign affairs and National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) updated the committee on FATF compliance.

Pakistan has so far complied with 19 out of 28-29 FATF indicators and made progress on five indicators relating to legislative and administrative actions, the committee was told, according to informed sources. The sources also said the government was hoping to comply with remaining actions by June this year, some of them through the finance bill 2019-20.

Pakistan has complied with 19 out of 28-29 indicators

The committee was also told that the ministry of foreign affairs would engage with influential countries on the FATF including the US as well as the European Union for “performance-based review” rather than being assessed from a geopolitical prism, for which they already had taken the position with FATF President Marshall Billingslea.

Mr Billingslea serves as the Assistant Secretary at the US Treasury Department also, heading the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes. In this capacity, he is responsible for policy development and international engagement pertaining to anti-money laundering and countering financing of terrorism (AML/CFT). He is reported to have assured Pakistan that its review would be based on performance and risk assessment without any political consideration.

Chairman of the NA standing committee Faizullah told journalists after the meeting they were satisfied with the government’s briefing on the FATF. He said the government was swiftly moving ahead with FATF conditions and hopefully matters would soon be settled. He said administrative and legislative steps were also being taken.

The committee said that nobody should be harassed or seen to be harassed as part of implementation of FATF conditions, Mr Faizullah said.

He said the government assured the committee that any official found harassing or misusing FATF conditions for ulterior motives would be dealt with strictly.

He said the standing committee would soon start discussions on proposed anti-money laundering bill.

Earlier, Mr Dagha told reporters that a government delegation would visit Sri Lanka on May 15 to present its case to the FATF.

Responding to a question, the finance secretary said the IMF staff mission was expected to visit Pakistan between April 27 and 29 for discussions on its bailout package.

He declined to comment on the budget deficit target for next year saying the ministry was currently in the process of budget making and had not yet firmed up fiscal deficit numbers.

Responding to another question, he said the finance ministry was planning to present the federal budget in the last week of May but May 24 was not the target date as was being speculated.

 

While discussing the work plan assigned by the Special Committee on Agricultural Products for uplifting agriculture, the committee was briefed by the chairman of the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC).

He said that PARC has already proposed three research and development projects in the budget of the next financial year, 2019-20, with a total cost of Rs2bn.

The additional secretary, ministry of national food security and research apprised the special committee that Asian Development Bank (ADB) had conducted a knowledge creation exercise for the purpose of report publication in 2018 for “Punjab basmati rice value chain analysis” and currently, the ADB was working on “Punjab sustained agriculture growth through enhanced agriculture management” by means of a technical assistance, to ensure a $100 million loan soon.

The committee recommended to the food security ministry and the PARC preparation of a comprehensive presentation along with their recommendations for improvement in research and development in the agriculture sector.

The committee expressed its concerns over the crop insurance policy of Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL). Syed Naveed Qamar, chairman of the Standing Committee on Commerce, assured the special committee that he would take up the matter with the commerce committee for further deliberations and a report on the matter would be presented to the special committee.

Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2019

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