Pakistan News

• Vows to continue Sehat Card, Ehsas Ration schemes if returned to power
• PTI moves LHC for disqualification of Shehbaz, Bilawal, Rana Sana
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: Expressing his gratitude to the nation for what he called “foiling an international conspiracy” by supporting his candidate, Parvez Elahi, in the recent Punjab chief minister’s election, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chair­man Imran Khan on Wedne­sday ruled out any possibility of sitting down for talks with the ruling coalition.
“I can talk to the [Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan], the separatists of Balochistan and Sindh, but not with thieves. Will you speak to someone who robs your home?” he said in his address on Wednesday night, which was being celebrated as a ‘thanksgiving day’ on the call of his party.
Read more: Big blow to PML-N's Hamza as SC strikes down deputy speaker's ruling; Elahi to take over as Punjab CM
“Throughout my life, I have witnessed such enthusiasm only once before, and that was during the 1965 war; at that time, everybody thought that the nation was fighting. And now, I saw the same enthusiasm among the masses during the by-polls in the 20 constituencies of Punjab,” he said.
Insisting that he wanted good relations, even with US — which he accuses of trying to engineer his ouster from power through a conspiracy — but urged the nation to prefer “death to slavery”. “I do not want bad relations with the US, where we export more than any other country and where a large number of the Pakistani community resides. But death is better than slavery and we have to live with self-respect,” he added. Saying that general elections were the sole solution to the prevailing crises facing the country, brought on by the ineptitude of the government that was imposed on the nation through foreign conspiracy, Mr Khan vowed that once he comes into power again, he would put the country on its own feet and would only ask overseas Pakistanis and not the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for financial assistance.
In his remarks, which sounded like an early election speech, Mr Khan once again expressed a complete lack of trust in the incumbent Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja. He continued to allege that Mr Raja was involved in rigging in the recent by-elections for 20 seats of the provincial assembly, where his party won the bulk of seats.
During his speech, he also vowed to resume the Sehat Card and Ehsas Ration—two flagship schemes launched by his previous regime in the province, upon his return to power.
The PTI chairman’s pledge to resume two major schemes in Punjab seemed to negate the impression that he may seek to dissolve the assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the party is currently ruling, to pressurise the federal government to step down and announce general elections.
The former prime minister, while commenting on recent decision of the Supreme Court that made Pervez Elahi chief minister Punjab and nullified the victory of Hamza Sharif in the recent election for the slot, said it was clear in the Constitution that the parliamentary leader, not the party head, could decide which side the party will vote for in the polls.
“But leaders of the ruling coalition bashed institutions and the judiciary when the decision came against them,” he said.

LHC moved against PM
In a major move against the ruling coalition in the centre, the PTI has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court seeking the disqualification of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan.

PTI’s former lawmaker Andleeb Abbas and Advocate Hassaan Khan Niazi jointly filed the petition saying the prime minister misused his powers and violated the Constitution by allowing his son Suleman and nephew Hussain Nawaz, both are proclaimed offenders, to meet Saudi crown prince during an official visit.

The petitioners further stated that the prime minister took his cabinet members to London to meet former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and former finance minister Ishaq Dar, both proclaimed offenders before the courts of the country.
They asked the court to disqualify the respondents and also direct the police to initiate criminal proceedings against the PM and his cabinet members.
Ikram Junaidi also contributed to this report

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Wednesday warned of imposing governor's rule in Punjab if he was restricted from entering the province.
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said he had already begun drafting a summary for the imposition of governor's rule, which is moved by the interior ministry, because of the kind of statements opposition political leaders had been making.

"If my entry is restricted, it will be grounds for governor's rule," he asserted.
The interior minister's presser comes hours after PML-Q's Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was sworn in as the Punjab chief minister following the Supreme Court verdict which declared Hamza Shehbaz's victory in the July 22 run-off election as void.

President Dr Arif Alvi administered the oath to Elahi at Aiwan-i-Sadr in Islamabad. Elahi had to rush from Lahore to the federal capital after Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman refused to carry out the job.
Elahi's swearing-in capped a months-long saga over the provincial chief executive that began with Usman Buzdar's resignation.
During today's press conference, the minister said the SC's decision had "created complications and destabilised the political situation" because of which the rupee was tanking and the stock market was falling.

Even a second-grader would interpret Article 63-A — which is related to the disqualification of lawmakers over defection — as saying that the votes of dissident lawmakers would be counted in the election, he claimed.

He further stated that the SC's recent verdict contradicted the Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) decision to de-seat 25 dissident PTI lawmakers who had voted for Hamza in the April 16 election, which was, in turn, based on an order of the apex court.

The ECP's verdict had been based on MPAs not following the instructions of the party head whereas the SC had stated the parliamentary party head's instructions should be followed, he stated.
He went on to say that Hamza should have remained the chief minister since the votes of those 25 dissident lawmakers would not be subtracted from his tally in the April election.
"It is my opinion that the interpretation of Article 63-A will not sustain. Any lawyer will say it amounts to rewriting the Constitution. It is not the SC's authority to rewrite the Constitution and we will defend the parliament's authority," Sanaullah said.
"This situation is unfortunate and we want to restrict our words [...] An independent, uncontroversial and impartial judiciary is any country's basic need. No country can progress without it."

'Regulating judicial authority'
The interior minister said that the incumbent government did not seek to curb the judiciary's authority but wanted to "regulate" it.
If the chief justice took suo motu notice and formed benches in consensus with the advice of fellow jurists, then letters like the one circulating since yesterday would not happen, he said, while referring to the one written by Justice Qazi Faez Isa to the Judicial Commission of Pakistan.
In response to a question about whether the PML-N-led coalition government in the Centre would find it difficult to rule now that they no longer had control of Punjab, Sanaullah said: "The federal government has its own role. It is present everywhere. It has so many departments and their resources and budgets are bigger than provincial departments. This kind of conversation is being done by people who neither have intelligence nor knowledge.
"The federal government is a coalition government and it is present everywhere," he emphasised.
In response to a question of what the government would do if PTI Chairman Imran Khan decided to hold another long march to Islamabad, Sanaullah said they should remember the incidents of May 25 — the last time the former ruling party had done a long march to the capital, which was marked by violence.
"If he (Imran) tries to mount [a protest] from Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, we will stop them there and if the police do not stop them, we will do it ourselves. They should not think they will find empty roads and will be facilitated while coming towards Islamabad."
In response to another question about PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif's return, the interior minister said not only would Nawaz come back to Pakistan but he would also lead the party's campaign in the next general elections.
Separately, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz also criticised the court's decision and termed it "judicial murder".
"How will you justify this blatant injustice? This is judicial murder but the victim this time is justice. What have you done, chief justice?" she said in a tweet.

'PTI can pull plug on federal govt'
Meanwhile, talking to media persons later in the day, former federal minister Fawad Chaudhry claimed that dismantling the federal government was no longer a big deal for the PTI.
"The federal [government] is on a ventilator and we can pull the plug whenever we want to," he said.
The PTI leader bashed federal ministers Rana Sanaullah and Marriyum Aurangzeb for not respecting the apex court's order. "The SC issued a verdict yesterday and today you are talking about governor's rule in Punjab.
"I suggest you read the law on governor's rule once so that you understand the conditions under which it can be imposed," he said.
Talking about the SC's ruling on Punjab CM elections, Chaudhry said that the apex court's decision was historic. "The judges had to endure political pressure and even threats. The way they have stood firm, such instances are rare in Pakistan."
He continued that these were the same three judges who had passed a ruling three months ago which eventually led to Imran's ouster as prime minister.
"We have a lot of reservations about that decision. But this doesn't mean we will go against the courts."
Chaudhry further suggested Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif should show "strength", claiming that PML-N's leadership had gone to pieces under pressure.
"We [PTI] have a core committee meeting in which we will decide on bringing a change in Islamabad," he said, adding that the party was more interested in holding fresh elections and wanted to discuss electoral reforms with other political parties.

The Punjab wheat worries have a bad habit of not only renewing themselves periodically but getting complex as well. With the early release of official wheat eating up to 20 per cent of stock even when the historical start time of release season is still more than a month away, it is time for the government to recalculate its earlier calculated risks and also assess emerging ones. The Food Department is doing exactly that.

Its earlier calculations were: Punjab had procured 4.5 million tonnes of wheat this year, with a carry-over of 700,000 tonnes — thus arriving at a total of 5.2m tonnes. It added 1m tonnes to its earlier target of 3.5m tonnes as additional security for the year at a time when imports are expected to be costly, as well as with procedural hiccups because of the war in the Black Sea region that meets 80pc of Pakistan’s requirements. So, a million tonnes addition was made as insurance for the year.

Its yearly calculations concluded that it needs 6m tonnes to safely sail through the season, thus facing a deficit of 0.8m tonnes for which it placed a demand for a million-tonne share of imported wheat.

Before that, Punjab tried to convince the Pakistan Agriculture Services and Storage Corporation (Passco) to sell one million tonnes of its local stocks: it thought that the local supply would not have quality issues like the imported commodity and would also be time- and cost-effective. The latest agreement, as revealed by the Food Department officials, is that Passco will provide half a million tonnes of imported and half local wheat.
The complexity of sufficient procurement continues with the early release of the staple in Punjab and the four different prices at which it can be bought
However, these calculations went askew when the new Punjab government, which took over on April 30, ordered the immediate and subsidised release of wheat. The millers normally grind private purchases for the first four months before knocking on official doors in September.

With official releases starting in mid-May this year at a rate of 16,000 tonnes a day (or roughly 425,000 a month), the first three months have so far cost the Food Department around 1.2m tonnes — denuding it of the advantage it secured with one million tonnes of additional purchase. The department is now holding 4m tonnes and has nine full months to go before the next crop hits the market.

These nine months would also be increasingly drier ones, pushing daily releases beyond 25,000 tonnes a day, or around 600,000 tonnes a month. Punjab now thinks that its stocks may last till January, leaving the last three months of the season uncovered for the national staple.

These calculations were made on paper which did not cover contingencies like an earlier release, routine slippages through provincial and national borders and hoarders’ behaviour and capacity in a scarcity situation. These enervating possibilities, even probabilities, are adding to uncertainties.

Stakeholders are nervous especially since Pakistan’s wheat is relatively cheaper compared to the international price and hence the risk of it finding its way to neighbouring countries, especially Afghanistan, is very high — stretching to the extent of certainty. If Pakistan, or any of its federating units like Punjab, keeps releases high, the chances of slippages will only increase and add volatility to the market.
Another layer of explosive instability is going to be the price factor. At present, three different prices are operating in the market, which are going to be four shortly. Punjab is releasing wheat at a rate of Rs1,665 per maund, under a subsidy package. It purchased this wheat at Rs2,200 per maund — subsidising each maund by Rs535 and burdening the provincial exchequer every day.
Beyond this officially-subsidised regime, wheat is trading at Rs3,000 per maund in the open market, and, if the millers are to be trusted, increasing by the week. On the third plank is imported wheat, which will cost anything between Rs3,500 to Rs4,000 per maund. According to market calculations, imported wheat would entail a Rs50-60 billion subsidy for every million tonnes if it has to be brought down to the level of local wheat price (without subsidy). If any government wants to subsidise it, an additional amount would be required.

At what rate would Punjab make normal releases in the next month or so, introducing a fourth price in the market? How to equalise them all? No one knows exactly or has the financial capacity to do so. This situation will continue dogging the market for the rest of the season because the gap between the three prices is beyond the financial capacity of any player — be it federal or provincial or both joining hands.
The gap in prices also reflects confusion at the policy level or incorrect preferences that add to the unpredictability of the market. Take the example of Punjab’s policy on wheat where the preference for releasing wheat below the purchase price has not been limited to any one government: everyone has done it and left the department holding and servicing a Rs621bn baby — the current food circular debt that Punjab owes.
Despite this staggering cost, the policy continues: “Since the Food Department loan comes from a consortium of banks, not the provincial exchequer, every new government finds it easy to enjoy this free and popular lunch and leave the bill on the table. If it was financed through the provincial kitty, the government would have to pay or divert its resources to finance wheat purchase or release.
“The present rate of Rs1,665 per maund has been approved by the Punjab cabinet. It approved this below the purchase price exactly at a time when it was assailing the previous federal government for selling petrol at lower than the purchase price — terming it an economic landmine for its government,” an official of the Punjab Food Department points out.

In final words, one can say that though it is a combination of local and international factors, which are essentially beyond the control of the government, affect supply and price, Pakistan makes matters worst through policy failure and governance crisis — and hapless Pakistanis pay the price.

ISLAMABAD: A high-level military huddle on Friday discussed ‘peace talks’ with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and decided to pursue the matter in accordance with “comprehensive security strategy”.

The national security meeting, chaired by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen Nadeem Raza, was attended by all three services chiefs — Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Zaheer Ahmed Baber Sidhu —, ISI Director General Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Faiz Hamid, and other senior officials.

Though the meeting carried the impression of a Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee session, it wasn’t one. A JCSC meeting would normally include the director general of Strategic Plans Division, and secretaries of ministries of defence and defence production, but none of them were there.

It was the first of such meetings, involving all the armed services, since the army-led talks with the militants in Afghanistan assumed a public profile with briefings for political leaders and the Parliamentary Committee on National Security on the issue by the army top brass.
Decides to pursue matter in accordance with ‘comprehensive security strategy’
“The forum was given a detailed briefing on review of national security situation specific to Western Border, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan,” the ISPR said about the meeting. It added that “fast-paced developments in the realm of strategic and conventional policies, the importance of peace in Afghanistan for sustainable development in the region and the operational preparedness of the armed forces” were also discussed.
The participants, the ISPR said, resolved to respond to “entire spectrum of threats” in accordance with the “comprehensive security strategy”.
It apparently means that the approach would go beyond the usual ‘kinetic strategy’ — an apparent reference to the peace talks.
The military leadership had told the political leadership at the earlier briefings that it wanted to give peace a chance, but would respond with full force if the TTP did not abide by the agreement that may be eventually concluded.
The meeting noted its “complete satisfaction” and “full confidence” in the readiness of all the three services.
The participants, the ISPR said, while reaffirming the resolve of the armed forces to befittingly respond to the threats, “lauded the sacrifices of security agencies in the fight against terrorism”.

Punjab Governor Balighur Rehman on Saturday administered the oath to newly re-elected Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz after a day of drama that ended with Chaudhry Parvez Elahi's shock defeat in the contest for the slot as provincial assembly Deputy Speaker Dost Mazari decided not to count the votes of PML-Q lawmakers.

Hamza, clad in a black sherwani, was administered the oath at a ceremony held at the Governor House in Punjab.
In the television footage of the ceremony, slogans of "Aik Zardari Sab Pe Bhaari" (one Zardari outweighs them all) were heard immediately after Hamza took the oath.

It is the second time that Hamza beat Elahi in the contest for the Punjab CM. The last time he had secured victory on April 16, his oath-taking had been delayed for days with then-governor, Omer Sarfraz Cheema, refusing to administer the oath to him. Eventually, National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf administered the oath to him on April 30, following the Lahore High Court's directives.

Hamza's re-election
The run-off election for the province's top office was held yesterday, in line with the Supreme Court's directives.
The session, which began hours after its scheduled time, saw Hamza being re-elected as the chief minister of Punjab by three votes after Deputy Speaker Mazari rejected all 10 votes cast by the PML-Q on the pretext that they had violated the orders of their party chief.
After counting the polled votes, the deputy speaker had announced that Elahi bagged 186 votes, while Hamza could get just 179 votes. However, he had refrained from declaring Elahi the chief minister.
Instead, he had indicated that as party chief, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain's instruction to PML-Q members to vote for Hamza instead of Elahi held greater sway.
Drawing the attention of the house to a letter he received from the Chaudhry clan's patriarch, said to contain directions for all 10 party MPAs (including the candidate himself) to vote for PML-N candidate Hamza, he had said he personally phoned Shujaat to verify the contents of the message. “I called Shujaat Hussain myself and asked whether he had written the letter regarding instructions to party MPAs, and he confirmed it thrice,” Mazari said.
In light of this conversation, he declared: “I disregard all 10 votes polled by PML-Q MPAs as they violated the party president’s instructions, in line with the ruling of the Supreme Court”.
The ruling he referred to was issued on a presidential reference seeking the SC's opinion on Article 63-A — which pertains to the disqualification of lawmakers on grounds of defection — and said the votes of lawmakers defecting from the party were not to be counted.
The deputy speaker had subsequently announced that Hamza had won the election of the chief minister, since the 10 deducted votes reduced Elahi’s tally to 176, while Hamza remained on top with 179.
The ruling was severely criticised by Elahi, his supporters and the PTI.
An outraged Elahi had asked how the deputy speaker could reject the vote of the candidate himself, while former law minister Basharat Raja tried to mount a legal defence, arguing that it was not the party chief’s prerogative, rather that of the parliamentary party leader, to issue the party line.
When Raja had told the deputy speaker that he was “doing everything wrong”, Mazari asked him to challenge his decision.
To substantiate this claim, former federal minister Moonis Elahi, who is Parvez Elahi’s son, had shared on Twitter a letter issued by parliamentary leader Sajid Ahmad Khan to all 10 MPAs directing them to vote for his father.
“Yesterday, PML-Q parliamentary party chaired by parliamentary party leader Sajid Ahmad Khan in Punjab Assembly held its meeting and it was unanimously decided that Parvez Elahi is the CM candidate,” Moonis Elahi tweeted.
Parvez Elahi has challenged Hamza's re-election in the Supreme Court and the PTI's Fawad Chaudhry has said his party may also approach the apex court on the matter,

Zardari-Shujaat meetings
Prior to the provincial assembly session for Hamza's election, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had held two back-to-back meetings with Shujaat at the latter’s residence, which continued well after midnight. When he did finally leave, Zardari left Shujaat’s residence while waving the victory sign.
However, at the time, Shujaat had said there was "no question" of issuing a letter stating that PML-Q members' votes in favour of Elahi were not to be counted.
Referring to these meetings, a Dawn editorial on Saturday said: "The ruling coalition might be thankful for Zardari’s late-night machinations, but they have done little to solve the multiple crises Pakistan is mired in. In fact, this episode will open another unneeded chapter for judicial intervention in the political domain."

How did all this start?
Events leading to Hamza's re-election started in February, as the vote of no-confidence was taking shape against Imran Khan, the then prime minister.
The PTI was trying to prevent the on-the-fence PML-Q from voting with the opposition, which was courting it.
Eventually, Usman Buzdar, the chief minister at the time, resigned from his seat to make way for Elahi as the joint PTI-PML-Q candidate.
Come election time, 25 PTI dissidents voted for Hamza. Their were instrumental in helping Hamza over the line; he received a total of 197 votes while 186 votes are required for a simple majority.

What happened next?
Following Hamza's election, the PTI sent a declaration to Punjab Assembly Speaker Elahi declaring the 25 MPAs as defectors.
Subsequently, Elahi had sent the reference to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), urging it to de-seat these lawmakers for defecting from the PTI by casting their votes in Hamza's favour in violation of party directions.

Most of the 25 dissident MPAs tried to justify their action of voting in favour of Hamza by claiming that they had received no directives from the party. They raised procedural objections and claimed they never received any show-cause notices — a mandatory requirement.

On May 20, the ECP de-seated the 25 dissident MPAs, stating that they had defected from the party. Since these lawmakers were no longer members of the House, Hamza lost his majority.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ordered the chief minister's re-election to be held on July 22 (today).
Five MPAs for reserved seats were notified by the ECP on July 6, leaving 20 empty seats. By-elections for the 20 seats were held on July 17 (Sunday) in which the PTI routed the PML-N to bag 15 seats while the latter secured only four seats.

Since the by-election results, the government and opposition have flung allegations and counter-allegations at each other.

WASHINGTON: The United States has also removed Pakistan from a list of countries that allow the recruitment of child soldiers.
On Tuesday, the US State Department upgraded Pakistan on another list of states that do not take adequate steps to curb human trafficking — removing it from a watch list of potential violators.
Pakistan was placed on the Child Soldiers Prevention List (CSPA) in 2021.
The 2021 report accused Pakistan of providing “material support to non-state armed groups that recruited and used child soldiers”.
The previous report also claimed that the Pakistani government did not report investigating, prosecuting, or convicting individuals of child soldiering offences in 2021.
It urged Pakistan to “cease support to non-state armed groups that recruit and/or use child soldiers”.
The State Department also noted that in April 2019, the Pakistani military announced it would bring more than 30,000 religious schools under the government’s control, some of which non-state armed groups used to forcibly recruit child soldiers.
The 2022 CSPA List includes governments of the following countries: Afghanistan, Myanmar, Central African Republic, Congo, Iran, Mali, Russia, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, and Yemen.
The CSPA prohibits assistance to governments that are identified in the list under the following authorities: International Military Education and Training, Foreign Military Financing, Excess Defence Articles, and Peacekeeping Operations, with exceptions for some programmes undertaken pursuant to the Peacekeeping Operations Authority. The CSPA also prohibits the issuance of licences for direct commercial sales of military equipment to such governments.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has projected that Pakistan's economic growth will "recover slightly" in fiscal year 2022-23 (FY23) on the back of structural reforms.

In a supplement report of the Asian Development Outlook released on Thursday, the ADB stated that Pakistan's GDP growth was expected to be moderate in FY22, which ended in June, on fiscal tightening measures to manage growing demand pressures and contain external and fiscal imbalances.

The ADB stated that it marginally revised inflation figures for FY22 and "substantially" for FY23, citing effects of rising food and energy prices internationally as well as the government's hike in energy tariffs and removal of subsidies in the oil and power sectors in line with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement.

Rising inflation
The report noted that headline inflation is at double-digit levels in most of the Caucasus and Central Asia, in Mongolia in East Asia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in South Asia, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Myanmar in Southeast Asia. In addition, inflation in India was at seven per cent, higher than its central bank's target of 2-6pc, the report added.

It stated, however, that "inflation in the rest of developing Asia’s large economies remain manageable. So for the region as a whole, inflation remains moderate on average and much lower than elsewhere in the world."

It revised South Asia's inflation forecast to 7.8pc from 6.5pc in 2022 and 6.6pc from 5.5pc in 2023 on the back of increased prices of fuel, food and other commodities in the international market and domestic factors in some countries.

Developing Asia
The supplement report revised the growth forecast for developing Asia from 5.2pc to 4.6pc for 2022 and from 5.3pc to 5.2pc for 2023, reflecting "worsened economic prospects because of Russia’s continued invasion of Ukraine, more aggressive monetary tightening in advanced economies and Covid-19 lockdowns" in China.

"Even though the impact of Covid-19 has declined across most of developing Asia, the economic fallout from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on the region has increased. War-induced supply disruptions and escalating sanctions imposed on the Russian Federation have led to global commodity prices spiking and remaining higher than 2021’s already elevated levels. Because of this, inflationary pressures have increased in many regional economies."

The report stated that risks to developing Asia's economic outlook remained elevated and mainly associated with external factors. These risks included a substantial slowdown in global growth, aggressive monetary tightening by central banks, fallout from the war in Ukraine leading to price hikes, and rising food prices and shortages.

Go to top