Pakistan News

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday that Pakistan would “actively support” the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action, adding that the country would also advocate “specific steps” to advance sustainable development in least developed countries (LDCs).

The prime minister made the remarks while addressing the fifth United Nations Conference (UN) on LDCs in Doha. According to the UN, Doha Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2022-2031 manifests a new generation of renewed and strengthened commitments between the least developed countries and their development partners, including the private sector, civil society, and governments at all levels.
“Excellencies, as we come to the end of the Istanbul Programme of Action, we’ve chartered out a vision and strategy for the sustainable development of LDCs [and] it is both timely and important to revisit its implementation.
“Despite progress in some areas, implementation of the Istanbul Programme of Action has remained insufficient and uneven,” he said, adding that only four countries were able to “graduate” out of the least developed status.

“In fact, LDCs were victims of the pandemic of inequality, unavailability of vaccines, technologies, finance and opportunities. And they continue to be affected by the climate crisis with cascading effects of different shocks, often at the same time.

“While LDCs make up 14 per cent of the global population, they account for only 1.3pc of the global gross domestic product (GDP), 1pc of global trade and merely 1.4pc of global foreign direct investment (FDI).”

PM Shehbaz said “multiple crises” had taken a heavy toll on the world’s LDCs. “Their GDP growth has plummeted, international trade has shrunk, poverty and food insecurity has risen [and] inequality has widened. Due to these factors, developing countries like Pakistan have also suffered a severe setback to their developmental goals.”
He went on to say that Pakistan expressed full support and solidarity with developed countries in their quest for social progress and economic prosperity.

“As we move towards the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action, Pakistan will continue to advocate several specific steps to advance sustainable development in LDCs,” the premier said, adding that meeting the programme’s “ambitious targets” would require revitalised global partnerships based on effective means of implementation in certain areas.

Firstly, we must address vaccine inequity through adequate and timely access to safe and effective vaccines for LDCs, he said.

The prime minister also said that the official development assistance (ODA), comprising 0.7pc of the gross national income (GNI) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, must be fulfilled. He said that 0.15 to 0.2pc must be allocated to LDCs.

PM Shehbaz also called for addressing the “increasingly unsustainable debt burden” of many LDCs. “It is a matter of great concern that six LDCs are classified as suffering from debt burden while 17 are at high risk of debt distress.”
The premier further said that universal access to social protection should also be provided in order to support the most “needy and vulnerable”.
“We also need to reform the unequal financial architecture [and] make it people-centric and designed to address special needs and weaknesses of LDCs.”
Lastly, an international technology compact aligned with the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) should also be adopted, the premier said, adding that it should offer easy access to developing countries in order to develop their productivity and bridge the digital divide. “This would enable the least developed and other developing countries to participate on an equal footing in the emerging knowledge-based economy.”
PM Shehbaz said that he was “pleased” to note the Doha Programme of Action had set an ambitious target to enable 15 additional LDCs to meet the criteria for graduating by 2031.
“Concrete measures agreed upon in the programme of action […] are laudable. Putting the welfare of millions of people belonging to LDCs at the centre of affirmative policy action remains our most cherished goal,” the premier said, assuring the participants that Pakistan would “actively support” the implementation of the Doha Programme of Action.
At the end of his speech, Shehbaz also congratulated the emir of Qatar for the “immaculate arrangements” made for the UN conference after hosting the FIFA World Cup last year.
He added that Qatar had further “bolstered its standing in the comity of the nations as a champion of sustainable development of the global south”.

GUJRAT: Waving a toy truck at a well-attended public meeting, PML-N chief organiser Maryam Nawaz Sharif in a renewed attack on Imran Khan and his ‘facilitators’ on Friday asked the PTI to use ‘truck’ as its election symbol instead of ‘bat’.
The suggestion came soon after an audiotape purportedly of PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry and his advocate brother Faisal Chaudhry surfaced.
In the tape, Mr Fawad purportedly asked Mr Faisal for arranging a meeting between two judges. He told Mr Faisal to assure the judges that a ‘truck’ stood behind them.
Ms Sharif said Imran Khan has been calling for contempt of court proceedings against her over her speeches about certain judges, but pointed to audio leaks featuring conversation between several PTI leaders about judges, and wondered whether the PTI chairman would make a similar demand for his party leaders.
“When Parvez Elahi, Yasmin Rashid and Fawad Chaudhry’s audiotapes surfaced, who were talking about the judges of the superior court, isn’t this contempt of court?” she asked, while addressing the PTI chairman.
“The truck has ruined the country and now all its wheels will be punctured and it will be sent back home,” Ms Sharif said and added that when she showed them the mirror they called it contempt of court.
Tells ‘facilitators’ to stop supporting Imran; claims judges admitted they were pressurised into convicting Nawaz
Dispelling the impression her party is shying away from polls, she said PML-N is fully ready to contest the elections whenever they are held and told the charged crowd that PML-N is going into the elections to win, and not to lose.
“Those who taunt us of being scared of elections have themselves gone into hiding in a rat’s hole,” she said, apparently referring to Imran Khan who has been living in his Zaman Park residence since a murder attempt on him last year.
The big rally was attended by PML-N workers from across Gujranwala and Gujrat divisions at Ghulam Hussain Park in Gujranwala.
Ms Nawaz announced that she would run the election campaign on the slogan of seeking justice for PML-N supreme leader Mian Nawaz Sharif.
“Are you ready to get justice for Nawaz Sharif and will you support me in seeking justice for their party leader?” she asked the audience amid applause.
She claimed that the judges who punished her father in false cases were now speaking that they had been pressurised to convict Nawaz Sharif.
“I ask the facilitators of Imran Khan why do you want to protect a person whose boat has sunk in deep waters,” Ms Sharif said.
She said Imran Khan was now “done and dusted” but his facilitators had still some time left in their jobs and wondered why were they sinking themselves along with him.
The PML-N leader said that the person who had allegedly doubled the country’s loan during his four years in office and who had entered into an agreement with the IMF had now been raising questions about the current inflation and price hike in Pakistan.
She further said that the man who allegedly hatched a conspiracy against then prime minister Nawaz Sharif with the help of Justice Khosa, Justice Saqib Nisar and retired Gen Faiz Hameed had now been asking about the reasons why Pakistan was going down. Similarly, she said, the person who was once called the “biggest dacoit” of Punjab by Mr Khan has now been given a top office in the PTI.
Questioning his capability as a leader, Ms Sharif said the PTI chairman failed during the PTI’s May 25 protest march, then again in the long march and now the Jail Bharo Tehreek which flopped because the leader himself was hidden in Zaman Park — which she termed Zamanat (bail) Park — but kept asking his workers to court arrest.
Similarly, she said, first he tendered resignation from the National Assembly, then dissolved the Punjab and KP assemblies and now he was trying to go back into the assembly. “Can a mentally stable person make such decisions?” she questioned.
Earlier, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said that in contrast with the PTI, the leadership of PML-N had faced the jails boldly and did not ask its workers to go to jail.
Federal minister Rana Sanaullah and Khurram Dastgir Khan also spoke.

LAHORE: Deputy Commissioner (DC) Rafia Haider has rejected permission to organise the Aurat March on the grounds of security concerns, ‘controversial’ cards and banners supporting women’s rights, and the likelihood of clashes with members of Jamaat-i-Islami’s ‘Haya March’.
Civil society, political parties, and rights organisations condemned the deputy commissioner for rejecting the plea to organise Aurat March on International Women’s Day on March 8.
The Aurat March organizing committee had requested a no objection certificate (NOC) from the district administration to hold a rally on March 8 at Nasser Bagh, Lahore, followed by a march around the perimeter of the park.
However, DC Haider rejected the plea in the wake of threat alerts from security agencies.
“Following the current security scenario, threat alerts, and law and order situation, and in light of activities like controversial cards and banners for awareness of women’s rights and the strong reservation of the general public and religious organizations, especially JI’s women’s and student wings, who had also announced a program against the Aurat March,” said a statement issued by the DC.
March body vows to go ahead as per plan on March 8
There is fear of conflict between the two groups, therefore, the NOC may not be issued for the holding of the Aurat March and Convention at Alhamra Hall, The Mall, and Aiwan-i-Iqbal, and a rally from the Lahore Press Club to Charing Cross, and also at a rally at Nasser Bagh, on March 8 to avoid any law and order situation or mishap.
The Aurat March organising committee strongly condemned the DC for rejecting their application to hold the event. “Women, khawaja sara community, transgender persons, gender non-conforming people, and allies of the Aurat March have the right to the assembly under Article 16 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” they said.
They said that the DC denied the NOC under the pressure of the JI’s “Haya March.”
They said the denial to hold Aurat March was against their constitutional right, and the DC did not take action against the group for inciting violence against them.
They said they were denied permission to gather at Nasser Bagh and other avenues, such as the Lahore Press Club, Alhamra, and The Mall. “We do not require an NOC to exercise our constitutional right to march. There is no legitimate “public order” rationale to prevent us from assembling, marching and making our voices heard,” reads the statement.
They added the administration has forgotten that the courts have already upheld their right to hold Aurat March in 2020. “Lahore and Islamabad high courts upheld the march’s constitutional right to speech and assembly and directed the government to grant permission to carry out the march,” the committee said.
They said they would hold the march on March 8 and would not allow anyone to snatch their constitutional right.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also strongly condemned the Lahore district administration for rejecting Aurat March organisers permission to hold a public rally marking International Women’s Day on March 8.
“It is regrettable that their right to peaceful assembly is routinely challenged by the district administration because ‘controversial’ placards and ‘strong reservations’ from the public and religious organisations ostensibly create law-and-order risks. This is a poor defence.”
The HRCP demanded that the caretaker Punjab government uphold the Aurat March’s right to freedom of peaceful assembly and provide the marchers with full security.
One of the committee members, Hiba, told Dawn that the DC allowed the JI to hold a rally to celebrate their “Haya Day” but refused to permit to hold Aurat March.
She said the administration was rejecting their plea discriminatory. “We’ll approach the court to get permission as the march organizers got permission to hold a march in the past too,” she said.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Ltd on Friday approved a rollover of a $1.3 billion loan for cash-strapped Pakistan, which will help shore up its depleting foreign exchange reserves, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said.
The facility will be disbursed in three instalments. The first one of $500 million has been received by the State Bank of Pakistan, Dar said in a tweet. “It will increase forex reserves,” he said.
The money, which Dar said has been repaid by Pakistan to the ICBC in recent months, is crucial for the country’s economy, which is facing a balance of payment crisis, with its central bank foreign exchange reserves dropping to levels barely able to cover three weeks of imports.
Earlier in the day, Dar had in a press conference, said Pakistan was expecting financing from ICBC.
Pakistan has already received a $700 million loan from China to help boost its forex reserves.
Dar said the total $2bn is in effect Pakistan borrowing back the debt repayments it has paid to Beijing for previously agreed loans.
He said Pakistan will need $5bn external financing to close its financing gap this fiscal year, which ends in June.
More external financing will be coming to Pakistan only after Islamabad signs a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which the minister said should be done by next week.
The lender has been negotiating the deal with Pakistan since early last month to clear its ninth review, which if approved by its board will issue over $1bn tranche of $6.5bn bailout agreed in 2019.
“We will, God willing, take this country out of this quagmire,” Dar said, dismissing concerns of a default risk.

ISLAMABAD: In a split verdict on Wednesday, the Supreme Court directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to consult with President Arif Alvi for polls in Punjab and Governor Ghulam Ali for elections in KP, so that elections could be held within the stipulated timeframe of 90 days.
The verdict of three to two cautioned Governor Ali that he was in breach of his constitutional responsibility since he did not announce the date for elections after the provincial assembly was disbanded.
As it set aside the Feb 20 decision of the president to hold a poll in KP on April 9, the court ordered the governor to fix the election date after consultation with the ECP.
The majority judgement, given by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Munib Akhtar, and Justice Muhammad Ali Mazhar, however, allowed the ECP to propose a poll date that deviates from the 90-day deadline by the “barest minimum”, in case of any practical difficulty.
The leeway was given since the court was “informed that on account of delay in the emergence of the poll dates, it may not be possible” to meet the deadline. It was also the case that possibly on account of a misunderstanding of the law, the ECP did not make itself available for consultation as required under Section 57 of the Elections Act 2017, the majority judgement said.
‘Unjustified suo motu’
On the other hand, the minority view, given by Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail, was that the suo motu was initiated with “undue haste” and was “unjustified”.
There was no justification to invoke the extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the constitution for initiating suo motu proceedings or entertain petitions under Article 184(3) since a single bench of the Lahore High Court (LHC) has already decided the matter in favour of the petitioner on Feb 10 and the judgement was still in the field, it added.
Likewise, the intra-court appeals filed before LHC are still pending, and besides, none of the petitioners before the high court has approached the Supreme Court under Article 185(3), the judgement said.
The minority ruling further explained that the suo motu and the two petitions in the light of the principles settled in the Manzoor Ilahi and Benazir Bhutto cases, do not constitute a fit case to exercise extraordinary original jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 184(3). The detailed judgement will come later.
Whereas the majority judgement said, since the election on the dissolution of the provincial assembly has to be held within a time period stipulated by the constitution, the president or the governor must discharge the constitutional responsibility of appointing a date for the election within the shortest time possible.
Likewise, the ECP must proactively be available to the president or the governor and be prepared for such consultation as required for a date for the holding of general elections, the ruling said and added that in relation to the dissolution of the Punjab Assembly, the constitutional responsibility for appointing a date for the general election that must follow was to be discharged by the president.
The constitutional responsibility for appointing a date for the general election that must follow was to be discharged by the governor, the judgement said, also explaining that the Feb 20 order of the president was “constitutionally competent and thus affirmed insofar as it applies to the Punjab Assembly”.
In the case of KP, the same is “constitutionally invalid insofar as it applies to KP assembly” and is set aside, the judgement said.
Constitutional duty of the federation
The judgement also emphasised that it was the constitutional duty of the federation, in terms of Article 148(3), to ensure that the government of every province was carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
There can be no doubt that this duty includes ensuring that a general election to the assembly of every province is held, and enabled to be held, in a timely manner within the period set out in the constitution, it added.
This duty is in addition to, and applies independently of, the duty cast under Article 220 on all executive authorities in the federation and in the provinces to assist the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and ECP in the discharge of his or their functions, as per the order.
The court said the federation and in particular the federal government is obligated, on an immediate and urgent basis, to forthwith provide ECP with all such facilities, personnel and security as it may require for the holding of the general elections.
In like manner, it is the duty of the provincial governments, acting under the caretaker cabinets, to proactively provide all aid and assistance as may be required by ECP, the judgement said. The three matters (suo motu and two petitions) are found maintainable and stand disposed of, the majority judgement said.
The judgement also explained that parliamentary democracy was one of the salient features of the constitution. There can be no parliamentary democracy without parliament or the provincial assemblies and there can be neither parliament nor provincial assemblies without the holding of general elections as envisaged, required and mandated by and under the constitution, the judgement said.
While holding general elections has different aspects and requirements, one that is absolutely crucial is the timeframe or period in which such elections are to be held, the majority judgement said.
The time periods set down in Article 224(1) and (2) respectively are constitutional imperatives that command complete fidelity, the judgement said.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s exports of merchandise shrank for the sixth month in a row dipping by 18.67 per cent year-on-year to $2.30 billion in February, stoking fears of massive layoffs in the industrial sector.
In the first eight months (July to February) of 2022-23, exports were down 8.65pc at $18.79bn compared to $20.57bn in the corresponding period last year. The drop shows the government would find it difficult to achieve the export target this fiscal year.
Imports dipped 31.51pc to $4.009bn in February compared to $5.85bn over the corresponding month of last year. In the first eight months, the imports fell 23.56pc to $40.09bn this year from $52.45bn over the corresponding period last year.
Between July and February FY23, the trade deficit decelerated 33.18pc to $21.30bn from $31.87bn over the corresponding months of last year.
Trade deficit narrows 33.8pc in first eight months of FY
In February trade deficit fell 43.56pc to $1.70bn on a year-on-year basis.
The export proceeds are declining mainly because of internal and external factors raising fears about the closure of industrial units, especially textile and clothing.
The exports started posting negative growth in the first month of the current fiscal year — July — barring August when a slight increase was recorded because of the backlog of the preceding month. Export contraction is a worrisome factor, which will create problems in balancing the country’s external account.
Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers & Exporters Association ex-chairman Ijaz A. Khokhar told Dawn that the government will have to come up with some measures to reverse the industry closure.
He said buyers have withheld their orders mainly because of political and economic uncertainty in the country. Mr Khokhar suggested the government should come up with clear statements to give signals to foreign buyers that their orders will be delivered on time.
“This is a very tough condition”, he said, adding the government will have to support small and medium enterprises. He said a further increase in the interest rate on Thursday will make it almost impossible for SMEs to get access to credit.
The government on Wednesday discontinued subsidised electricity to the export sector. This will further add to the cost of the export sector and will render it uncompetitive on the world markets, especially against its rivals from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Mr Khokhar said buyers are shifting toward Bangladesh, Vietnam and other countries. The government will have to play a role in this uncertainty, he said, adding ministers should give positive messages to international buyers.
Buyers are sceptical about Pakistan’s economy after rating downgrades by the international rating agencies in the past few months.
Exporters believe that one of the main reasons behind falling exports was the exchange rate instability. The discontinuation of duty drawbacks on local taxes and levies by the government has also created liquidity issues for the export sector.

THERE appears to be no end to the tales of woe and misery emerging from Balochistan. While the province’s misfortunes are well documented, the grim discovery of the bodies of a woman and two young boys from a well in the Barkhan area only confirms that the law of the jungle reigns supreme in the hapless province.
According to the victim’s husband Khan Muhammad Marri, his wife Granaz and his two sons, including a minor, were allegedly kept in the private jail of provincial minister Abdul Rehman Khetran for the last four years. Police say the three bodies had gunshot wounds in the head and showed signs of torture. As per Mr Marri, five more of his children, including a minor daughter, remain illegally confined.
It remains unclear why the victims had been kept in the private jail, while in a video doing the rounds on social media the woman, holding a copy of the Holy Quran, begs the state and society to save their lives.
Mr Khetran, who was arrested yesterday, denied culpability, saying it is a ‘conspiracy’ against him, while Marri tribesmen remain camped out in Quetta’s Red Zone with the victims’ coffins, demanding justice. An FIR has been registered against ‘unknown’ suspects.
One wonders how such a gruesome state of affairs can exist in a nation which claims to be ruled by the law. In large swathes of Pakistan, particularly Balochistan, the law has no meaning. This is not the first time Abdul Rehman Khetran has been accused of running a private jail.
Such an illegal facility was discovered in 2014 when law enforcers raided his property in Barkhan after he reportedly tortured police officers. Unfortunately, such grotesque behaviour is the norm, and not an exception, especially in places where the feudal mindset is entrenched. But in a state that supposedly adheres to the constitutional order, there can be no place for private jails.
The protesters in Quetta want action against Mr Khetran, and have also called upon the prime minister to visit them. This inhuman crime must be thoroughly probed and the guilty brought to justice, without considering their connections and clout.
Moreover, the remaining prisoners must be freed and the menace of illegal jails ended throughout Pakistan. Our claims of being a civilised society will be meaningless if the killers of Granaz’s children are not brought to justice.

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