The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday disposed of a petition filed by journalist Imran Riaz Khan against his arrest, ruling the case did not fall within its jurisdiction and advised the petitioner to approach the Lahore High Court (LHC).
Khan was arrested by the Attock police Tuesday night on the outskirts of Islamabad as he was headed to the federal capital to acquire pre-arrest bail from the IHC in a treason case registered against him.
Sources in the police department told Dawn that a contingent of the Attock police supported by a team of the Elite Force took the journalist into custody and moved him to the Attock City Police Station.
They said a case was registered against the journalist at the city police station on June 25 under sections 505-1(C) (statements conducing to public mischief with intent to incite, or which is likely to incite, any class or community of persons to commit any offence against any other class or community), 505 (2) (whoever makes, publishes or circulates any statement or report containing rumour or alarming news with intent to create or promote feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious, racial, language or regional groups or castes or communities), 501 (printing or engraving matter known to be defamatory), and 109 (punishment of abetment if the Act abetted committed In consequence and where no express provision is made for its punishment) of the Pakistan Penal Code and six different sections of the Prevention Of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016.
Later, the journalist also shared a video of himself at the time of the arrest wherein he could be seen sitting in his car surrounded by police officials. “You have taken my [bulletproof] car and weapons, registered 20 FIRs against me, now you want to arrest me as well, go ahead and arrest me,” he said defiantly as he got out of the car to surrender.
Immediately after the incident was reported, a contempt petition was filed by Khan's legal team in the IHC naming the police chiefs of Islamabad and Punjab as respondents. Taking late-night action, Justice Athar Minallah had issued notices to the Islamabad police chief and chief commissioner and told them to appear before the high court.
During the hearing today, Khan's counsel contended that his client was arrested from the Islamabad Toll Plaza. "In the LHC, the police had given us a report which said 17 cases were registered against Riaz.
"I have separately also filed a contempt petition in the LHC," he said. "But the court was never told about the FIR booked last night."
Here, Justice Minallah remarked that every court had its own jurisdiction and the LHC could look into this matter. "The arrest of Imran Riaz Khan in Attock does not fall under the jurisdiction of this court," he said, continuing that the IHC couldn't investigate issues pertaining to Punjab. The journalist's counsel, however, argued that the court's orders, barring any arrests, had been violated. He also stated that the Islamabad police, not Punjab's, had arrested Khan.
"The court had talked about arrests in Islamabad. Khan was arrested outside the court's jurisdiction," the IHC chief justice reiterated, adding that if the LHC ruled that the arrests were made in Islamabad, "you can bring the order here". The court, subsequently, disposed of the petition and instructed the journalist to approach the LHC as it would be in his "best interest". In a recent video on his Youtube channel, the journalist had directly addressed Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and alleged that he was threatened after asking questions from military sources about the country's current political and economic situation.
Over the past few months, several cases have been lodged against pro-PTI senior journalists including Khan, Arshad Sharif and Sabir Shakir for allegedly spreading hate against army and state institutions. In May, Khan had filed two petitions with the LHC through his lawyer Mian Ali Ashfaq and obtained pre-arrest bails.
ISLAMABAD: The military on Tuesday secured the nod of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security’s for peace talks with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after conceding to the Pakistan Peoples Party’s demand for the process to be overseen by a parliamentary committee.
“There was nearly a consensus that the talks should be held except for opposition by head of National Democratic Movement Mohsin Dawar,” one of the participants of the meeting told Dawn.
The Prime Minister Office, in a statement on the meeting, meanwhile, said: “The Parliamentary Committee on National Security formally approved the process of negotiations and approved the formation of a ‘Parliamentary Oversight Committee’.”
The parliamentary blessing for the process, which had for a large part been exclusively run by the military in complete secrecy, is being seen as a major endorsement of the controversial negotiations with the outlawed group that is responsible for the loss of nearly 70,000 lives in the country.
Lawmakers told negotiations being held for ‘strengthening regional and internal peace’, bringing conflict to an end Negotiations with the TTP began in October last year on the demand of the Afghan Taliban, but broke down soon afterwards. The process was secretly revived in April after the TTP mounted a series of attacks on security forces and eventually a ceasefire was clinched. Currently, a three-month truce is being observed, while the talks are continuing.
Lately, the negotiations assumed a more public profile with the participation of tribal elders, some Pashtun politicians, and clerics. The lawmakers were told by the military and intelligence officials that the talks with the TTP were being held for “strengthening regional and internal peace”. “It is an opportunity for bringing the conflict to an end,” the political leadership was told.
The four-hour-long meeting, chaired by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, was attended by the 27 members of the high-powered parliamentary committee that comprises the prime minister, the leaders of the house and opposition in the Senate and leaders of the parliamentary parties. Additionally, members of standing committees of the Senate and National Assembly on defence had been invited.
There was also a long list of about 62 special invitees, including JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat-i-Islami emir Sirajul Haq, chief ministers of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, the president and prime minister of AJK, special envoy for Afghanistan and other key parliamentarians.
Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, ISI Director General Gen Nadeem Anjum and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Faiz Hamid, who has been spearheading the talks, were also present on the occasion.
This meeting followed an earlier briefing by the military leadership on TTP talks for the parliamentary leaders at the PM House on June 22. The demand for a parliamentary committee for monitoring the talks was made by PPP chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. The military leadership accepted that in line with the commitment given to the leaders of political parties at the last meeting that no extra-constitutional concessions would be given to the TTP in the ongoing dialogue and any deal made with the group would be subject to the parliamentary approval. In the talks, the TTP has demanded withdrawal of security forces from the erstwhile tribal areas, annulment of the 2018 merger of tribal agencies with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, release of its fighters and compensation for the damages it suffered. Pakistani authorities are, meanwhile, asking for disbanding of the banned organisation, laying of arms, and respect for the Constitution. The PCNS was told that there could be no compromise on the merger of erstwhile tribal areas, respect for the Constitution, and disarming of the group. These were described as Pakistan government’s ‘red lines’. An impression was given to the parliamentary leaders that the TTP had softened its position on these three issues. A general amnesty is planned to be announced for TTP militants once a deal is reached.
The political leaders were informed that in case of a deal, up to 30,000 TTP militants and their family members are expected to return back to Pakistan. Some members asked about the leverages enjoyed by the government in the talks. They were told that those were mostly economic. On being reminded about the failed peace agreements of 2008 and 2009, the military leaders said the option of kinetic action remains very much on the table in case the militants backtrack after concluding the deal.
PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan on Monday approached the Supreme Court to challenge amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 — which disallows overseas Pakistanis from voting electronically — contending that they were "discriminatory" and "violative of fundamental rights and merits".
The bill seeking electoral reforms, as well as another seeking changes in the accountability laws, were passed by the National Assembly and the Senate in May. After approval from both houses of parliament, only the president's assent was required for it to become law. However, President Dr Arif Alvi sent back the bills on June 5, following which the government convened a joint sitting of parliament on June 9 to consider the bills, which were approved the same day.
Procedurally, after bills are passed by the joint sitting, they are presented to the president once again for his assent. If the president does not give his approval within 10 days, it is deemed to have been given. Despite this, Alvi had once again sent back both the bills without his signature.
Imran has already approached the apex court to challenge the recent amendments to the National Accountability (NAB) Ordinance. In the petition filed today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the ex-premier named the Federation of Pakistan through the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) as respondents.
He argued that the amendment made to Section 94(1) violated the fundamental right to vote of 10 million overseas Pakistanis. "Overseas Pakistanis send home remittances of approximately $30 billion annually, constituting approximately 10 per cent of Pakistan's gross domestic product".
Significantly, he stated, under Article 5(2) of the Constitution, overseas Pakistanis were subject to the laws of Pakistan and even to its tax laws under "certain circumstances".
"To disenfranchise such a large group of Pakistani citizens, on the basis of their locality, by not granting them the facilities for the exercise of their fundamental right to vote, would be to violate the principles of freedom of association and equality of citizens enshrined in Articles 17, 25, and 51 of the Constitution," the petition said.
It went on that as per "various reports", overseas Pakistani could change outcomes in up to 186 constituencies in the National Assembly, adding that the same was also true for the provincial legislatures. Hence, not allowing them to vote would undermine the process of holding elections "honestly, justly and fairly", the petition said. Imran also highlighted that the amendment was a deliberate attack at his party by the PPP and the PML-N because they knew the PTI had a huge number of supporters outside the country.
Subsequently, he demanded that the court declared the amendment to be unconstitutional and strike it down. He also called for the court to direct the ECP and all relevant authorities to take necessary steps to give effect to the right of overseas Pakistanis to vote in all future elections, especially the upcoming general elections from their country of residence.
The petition also urged the court to direct the ECP to grant the necessary approvals and funds to Nadra for developing the new i-voting system "without any prejudice" so that it could be used in the next general elections.
Amendments to election laws Under the amendment to Section 94 of the Election Act of 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security and financial feasibility of such voting and shall share the results with the government, which shall, within 15 days from the commencement of a session of a house after the receipt of the report, lay the same before both houses of parliament.
Under the amendment to Section 103 of the Election Act, the ECP may conduct pilot projects to utilise EVMs and the biometric verification system in by-elections.
ISLAMABAD: Amid severe energy crunch and unprecedentedly expensive fuel imports, Pakistan is seeking more gas imports on deferred payments from Qatar, which is irritated by roadblocks to its infrastructure investment plans, particularly in import terminals.
Authorities in Islamabad are engaging with Qatar at different levels to ramp up Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) supplies to Pakistan to make up for shortage of four to five cargoes (about 400-500 million cubic feet of gas per day) every month.
At almost every engagement, the other side wants to hear an update on the removal of hitches to its plans to set up a merchant LNG terminal near Karachi.
The government has failed in last three attempts over the past couple of weeks to secure even a single cargo for July from the spot market as whatever quantities are available in the spot or otherwise are herded by the Unites States towards Europe suffering energy shortages amid the Russia-Ukraine war and ready to pick every molecule at any cost.
Doha irritated over roadblocks to its infrastructure investment plans The single bid again from Qatar at $40 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) for a July delivery was too expensive to be accepted against Qatar’s long-term contract price of $11-14. For the next few months, it looks highly unlikely that the government can use its own capacity as sport price of LNG is not viable.
Informed sources said Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik visited Qatar a few weeks ago for additional LNG quantities. When approached, he chose not to comment on Qatar specifics but said the government was tapping all avenues to see how additional molecules are secured to meet needs of the local industry and the people at competitive costs.
He said various pricing models were in his mind, but the real challenge was the availability of additional energy quantities. He said the government would encourage private investment for competition and end monopolies. “We would not like to see a few faces in every field,” he said.
The sources said the Qatari ambassador in Islamabad also recently called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and had a follow-up session with Dr Malik to convey that Qatar Energy was getting all the wrong vibes about its LNG terminal.
However, it is not only Qatar’s Energas but also Mitsubishi’s Tabeer Energy that have been running around with licences for LNG terminals, marketing and sales without any success on signing of pipeline capacity.
Informed sources said not only the gas companies but regulatory bodies and relevant ministries had been delaying the contract signing for pipeline capacity or providing third party access to two upcoming merchant terminals — private projects without government guarantee for LNG sales and purchases with private sectors on commercial terms.
They have even received threats that their soon-expiring licences would not be renewed. In the meanwhile, options for construction of new terminals for Pakistan many be diminishing as European clients rush for additional LNG processing capacity.
Dr Malik again wrote to Qatar that the government of Pakistan and its people appreciated Doha for its continued support, particularly in the supply of LNG under mutually beneficial long-term contracts. He reiterated that Pakistan’s “desire to enhance the number of cargoes of LNG from Qatar under the two existing long term sale purchase agreements, on deferred payments” and reassured that Pakistan “government is also diligently working to do away with the stumbling blocks relating to third party access which will accelerate the process of investment by Qatar Energy in infrastructure development for LNG import”.
The petroleum minister said Islamabad realised the limitations on account of the current turmoil in the energy markets but expected “a positive response” from Qatar for additional LNG cargoes that would further strengthen bilateral friendship.
Informed sources said Qatar Petroleum believed that merchant LNG terminals were being road blocked to create space for expansion of existing LNG terminals developed with government guarantees.
The two new private licencees — Qatar’s Energas and Japan’s Tabeer — were particularly perturbed by a narrative at a recent Turnaround Conference of the Planning Commission about possible inability of Energas and Tabeer to come up with new terminals and hence expansion of existing terminals after withdrawal of international arbitration and local accountability cases. Energas and Tabeer were not invited to the conference.
The two existing terminals were awarded through a tender process in which the entire capacity of the terminal and is associated infrastructure was for the sole use of the government. The terminal operators were given a guaranteed rate of return on the basis of roughly $100 million per annum for the next 15 years.
As part of the contacts, the government had the right to provide access to third parties through its own quota for the purpose of reducing its financial exposure. The existing terminals, however, now want to increase throughput capacity (LNG volumes) at additional charge from new customers, on top of over and above the guaranteed payments from the government. This would also mean reduced storage and increased throughput on the government capacity.
Officials said such an arrangement could entail legal questions and would need the tender process to be amended. Also, the Sui gas companies — the sole distributors of gas — would have to agree to waive their rights on storage and berthing and throughput containment to accommodate third parties.
Already, the existing six cargo throughputs per month from a 170,000 cubic metres of storage is already well above global standards with a significant exposure on the guaranteed LNG long-term contracts from Qatar.
Tabeer and Energas are seeking to build new terminals for their own consumption and their private clients and at their own private industry risk unlike $100 million per annum guaranteed for the first two terminals.
Both have already received the go-ahead from cabinet and its other forums to utilise the pipeline capacities but Sui companies have still not executed contracts despite strict reminders from the energy ministry and the regulator, Ogra.
Qatar has yet again asked Islamabad that it wants to invest in Pakistan to allow its infrastructure to remain feasible with backup supplies. Without such infrastructure, long-term contracts may be at risk as seen in Europe in recent months where because of low storage, LNG cargoes were either stranded or sold to other markets at significant discounts to buyers.
Doha may not commit additional long-term contracts for the consideration that the value chain in Pakistan was unable to accommodate more than 10 long-term cargoes per month on the two terminals.
KUWAIT (Agencies): The Ministry of Health (MoH) announced on Sunday the availability of the coronavirus second booster dose according to the ministry’s regulations. This booster, which is the fourth Covid-19 consecutive vaccine dose, is of great importance for some segments of the society including those prone to severe complications in case they get infected by the Covid-19 virus, the Ministry added in a statement today.
The vaccination center in Mishref Fairground wears a deserted look as very few citizens and expats turn up for the corona booster dose. Not many have taken the third booster dose as yet while the fourth booster dose is also available, They should only take this second booster after a period of four months after taking the first Covid-19 dose booster, which is the third consecutive Covid-19 vaccine, it added.
The Ministry called on all the people aged above 50 years old, as well as people aged above 12 years old to take the second booster, especially those suffering from low immunity system like cancer patients undergoing chemical treatment, and patients of organ transplantation receiving medications that decrease the immunity system, or those receiving high doses of Cortisone which decreases the body immunity. It also called on individuals aged 12 and above to take the first Covid-19 booster, according to the latest scientific and international recommendations, in order to enhance the immunity gained from the first two Covid-19 vaccine doses.
The Ministry also stressed the importance of taking the first and second Covid-19 vaccine doses for children aged five years old and above to decrease the possibility of severe infections by the virus, wishing all segments of the society everlasting health and safety.
The Ministry of Health has announced that it will follow-up of positive corona cases through the ‘immune’ application during the isolation period instead of the Shlonak application, reports Al- Qabas daily. The health sources indicated that the period of isolation for infected individuals is limited to 5 days from the date of infection, with a commitment to wearing a face mask for the next 5 days.
At least 19 people were killed while 11 others were injured after a passenger bus plunged into a ravine in Balochistan's Zhob district on Sunday morning, officials said.
The bus, which was carrying more than 30 passengers, was travelling from Islamabad to Quetta. Television footage showed rescue workers assisting bloodied passengers, while in another scene, the wreckage could be seen.
Sherani Assistant Commissioner Mehtab Shah told Dawn.com that the incident occurred near Dhana Sar. He said that the bus plunged into the ravine while speeding, killing 19 passengers and injuring 11 others.
Rescue teams rushed to the scene soon after receiving information, Shah said, adding that the bodies had been taken to the hospital where the process to identify them was under way. Medical superintendent of Civil Hospital Zhob, Dr Noorul Haq, said that the injured being brought to the facility were in critical condition. He also said that the death toll was expected to rise. Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo expressed grief over the lives lost in the incident. He also offered his sincere condolences to the victims' families. He ordered an emergency be declared in Civil Hospital Zhob to ensure treatment for the injured. Later, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also expressed deep grief and sorrow over the lives lost. The premier directed the authorities concerned to provide immediate and medical aid to the injured, a Radio Pakistan report said. Last month, 22 people were killed, including nine members of a family, when a passenger van fell into a ravine near Qila Saifullah district of northern Balochistan. The van, carrying 23 passengers and en route to Zhob from Loralai, fell into the 200-foot-deep ravine when it reached Akhtarzai area. Hafiz Muhammad Qasim Kakar, the deputy commissioner of Qila Saifullah, said the driver was speeding and broke through a protective wall at a bend in the road, falling hundreds of feet into the ravine.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s trade deficit ballooned to an all-time high of $48.66 billion in the outgoing fiscal year from $30.96bn a year ago, indicating an increase of 57 per cent on the back of higher-than-expected imports, provisional official data showed on Saturday. The trade deficit reached such an alarming level despite a ban imposed on more than 800 items in May. The coalition government’s battle against a bloated trade gap has failed to produce the desired result as it widened by 32.3pc to $4.84bn in June from $3.66bn a year ago. It was largely driven by an almost double increase in imports compared to exports. The outgoing fiscal year’s trade deficit has crossed the $37bn figure of 2017-18, which was mostly led by imports related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. In the subsequent years, the trade gap dropped to $31.8bn in 2018-19 and then further to $23.2bn in 2019-20 before bouncing back to $30.8bn in 2020-21 and then a whopping $48.664bn in 2021-22. The $48.66bn gap between imports & exports in FY22 is significantly higher than the $30.1bn a year ago The outgoing year’s trade deficit is propelled by the highest-ever increase in oil prices and commodities in the international market. The trade deficit has been on the rise owing to an unprecedented increase in imports due to a rise in global commodity prices, while exports stagnated at around $2.5bn to $2.8bn a month, mostly those of semi-finished products and raw materials. The trade deficit came in at $4.04bn in May and $3.78bn in April, which indicates that no let-up was seen in monthly deficits when former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted in April through a vote of no confidence in parliament.
Import bill rises The import bill increased 43.45pc to $80.51bn during 2021-22, up from $56.12bn a year ago.
In June alone, the import bill edged up to $7.74bn from $6.28bn over the same month last year, reflecting an increase of 23.26pc. Imports increased by 14.32pc month-on-month in June. In May the import bill was recorded at $6.77bn while it stood at $6.67bn in April. The government imposed a ban on the import of nearly 800 luxury and non-essential goods on May 19. According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2021-22, the jump in imports is recorded in all the major groups. Multiple factors have contributed to the steep rise in imports during the period under review. Rising global commodity prices contributed significantly to the increasing import volume.
Disaggregated data on imports indicates that the energy group is the largest source of the increase in imports, contributing to a one-third of the year-on-year increase in imports during the period.
Similarly, price-led pressures were also noted across non-energy commodities imported by Pakistan, such as edible oil (palm and soya bean), sugar, tea, fertiliser and steel. At the same time, the domestic demand for imported raw materials — such as cotton, steel and capital goods — was also elevated in the wake of the policy-induced economic rebound.
Exports pick up For the first time, not only the export target was achieved but it exceeded the psychological barrier of $30bn. Pakistan’s exports remained below this level for the last decade.
Pakistan’s exports increased 26.6pc to $31.845bn in the just-ended fiscal year, up from $25.160bn a year ago. Exports grew 6.48pc to $2.89bn in June, up from $2.72bn in the previous year. Exports rose 18pc to $25.3bn in 2020-21, up from $21.4bn the previous year. In the outgoing fiscal year, the government projected the annual export target for commodities at $31.2bn and services at $7.5bn. According to an official report, around two-thirds of the increase came from the textile sector, especially from the high value-added segment. Pakistan’s textile exporters capitalised on the available policy support — including the SBP’s concessionary refinance schemes for working capital and fixed investment, and the regionally competitive energy tariffs — and managed to ship higher volumes to key destinations like the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Higher cotton prices also helped to increase the export unit prices of both low- and high-value-added textile products. Apart from textiles, rice exports also rebounded during the 2021-22 fiscal year mainly due to the non-basmati variety.