Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Thursday that matters between the government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) related to the completion of the ninth review of a $7 billion loan programme were expected to be settled today. “Everything is going alright,” he said in response to a question on how the discussions with the visiting IMF delegation were going. “The final round is going on right now. I meet them (IMF team) every day and will today as well. “It is expected matters will be settled today,” Dar said. “We will give you the news very soon.” The finance minister was responding to questions from reporters after addressing a road safety conference in Islamabad. A delegation of the IMF, headed by Nathan Porter, is currently in Islamabad for discussions on the ninth review. The talks are scheduled to be concluded today. The review’s completion would not only lead to a disbursement of $1.2bn from the IMF but also unlock inflows from friendly countries and other multilateral lenders that Pakistan needs to stave off default. Minister of State for Finance and Revenue Aisha Ghaus Pasha told journalists on Wednesday that the government and the global lender were “very close to the finalisation” of a Memorandum of Economic and Fiscal Policies (MEFP). She said the MEFP would be handed over to Pakistan by the IMF once all issues are finally settled. She said a lot of things had been settled while the lender required clarity on some aspects, which the government team was trying to address. This was also confirmed by the Ministry of Finance. In a written statement, the ministry said the talks with the IMF continued on Wednesday and “focused on fiscal table, financing, etc. There is a broad consensus on the reform actions and measures”. It added the mission chief also called on the finance minister and briefed him about the talks. “The mission is working on putting it all together and will finalise the MEFP,” said the finance secretary, who declined to comment on whether the scheduled talks would be extended to achieve a staff-level agreement. It is essential for Pakistan to reach an agreement with the IMF as the foreign exchange reserves have depleted to $3.09bn as of Jan 27, only enough to cover 18 days’ worth of imports.
ISLAMABAD: As the International Monetary Fund and the government currently discussing a plan to rescue Pakistan’s economy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has proposed that the Fund should work with Islamabad to strengthen social protection and mitigate harm to the most vulnerable by advancing economic rights. IMF should work with the government by broadening social protection systems and minimising reform measures that risk further harm to the most vulnerable people. With poverty, inflation, and unemployment soaring, Pakistan is facing one of the worst economic crises in its history, jeopardising millions of people’s rights to health, food and an adequate standard of living, the HRW said in a statement issued on Monday. Pakistan’s negotiations with the IMF, which continue through Feb 9, are meant to clear the IMF’s 9th review of its Extended Fund Facility paving way for the release of a $1.1bn tranche. The inflow would ease the crippling shortage of foreign exchange and unlock access to other funding, including from multilateral and bilateral donors, said HRW, which is defending human rights worldwide. Says conditions could exacerbate social and economic hardship “Millions of Pakistanis have been pushed into poverty and denied their fundamental social and economic rights,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The IMF and the Pakistani government have a responsibility to address this crisis in a way that prioritises and protects low-income people.” Pakistan’s social protection system, the Benazir Income Support Programme (BISP), is a government cash transfer programme that targets women living in extreme poverty. While the programme is an important initiative assisting millions of households, it needs to be expanded significantly to protect large segments of the population from the added burden of potential additional IMF-mandated measures raising prices for necessities. The conditions the IMF places on this loan could either exacerbate social and economic hardship or provide desperately needed relief to Pakistanis while addressing the crisis’s underlying causes. Several adjustments proposed by the IMF as conditions for Pakistan to get the IMF loan and address the immediate economic crisis would have both a direct and indirect negative impact on low-income people.
Security forces killed 12 terrorists of the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) during an intelligence-based operation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Lakki Marwat area, the military’s media wing said on Wednesday. According to a statement issued by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), security forces and the terrorists exchanged fire late Tuesday night during which the militants were killed. “Terrorists’ movement and activities were being watched by intelligence tentacles for the last one week. Terrorists were lured in by providing a vehicle for escape that was intercepted and neutralised,” the ISPR said. Weapons, ammunition and Afghan currency were also recovered from the terrorists during the operation, it stated, adding that security forces were carrying out a clearance operation in the area. “Locals appreciated the operation and lauded the efforts of Pakistan Army in eliminating terrorism,” the statement concluded.
An Islamabad district and sessions court rejected on Tuesday Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid’s post-arrest bail petition in a case pertaining to his remarks against former president Asif Ali Zardari. The Islamabad police had arrested the PTI ally on Feb 2 for allegedly making defamatory remarks against the PPP leadership after which the court had granted the police his two-day physical remand. Upon completion of his physical remand, an Islamabad court had on Feb 4 sent Rashid on a 14-day judicial remand in the case filed at the city’s Aabpara Police Station, rejecting the police request for another physical remand. The same day Rashid had filed a post-arrest bail petition in the court. He had also approached the Islamabad High Court (IHC) urging it to bar authorities from filing new cases against him on the basis of his political statements. On Tuesday, the IHC had ordered the police to not take further action against the AML chief in cases filed against him in Karachi and Balochistan. Earlier today, the court of Judicial Magistrate Umar Shabbir had taken up Rashid’s petition and reserved the verdict on his plea. The hearing At the outset of the hearing, Rashid’s lawyers Abdul Razik Khan and Intizar Panjhota submitted the detailed order released by the IHC yesterday along with the power of attorney. At that, the judge asked Khan if his stance was that the AML leader was not a part of the conspiracy to murder PTI Chairman Imran Khan. “Sheikh Rashid referred to Imran’s statement and said that what he [the PTI chief] said was correct,” the lawyer responded and subsequently started presenting his arguments. Khan said that the case against his client was lodged two days before he had passed remarks against Zardari. “Even if a murder is reported, the FIR is not prepared this quickly. “There is a conspiracy being hatched against Imran but no FIR has been registered against that […] but a case was immediately lodged when it comes to defamation of Zardari,” he contended. Khan then read out the contents of the FIR registered against Rashid. He said that the police issued a notice to the AML chief on Jan 30. “Sheikh Rashid didn’t receive them, instead they were being run on television. The next day, the notices were cancelled and an FIR was lodged,” he stated, adding that the police should have first recorded Rashid’s statement, investigated his remarks and then taken action. The lawyer argued that not a single state officer had filed a complaint against his client. The allegations against Rashid, he went on, were leveled by a common citizen who is a PPP supporter. “It would have been different if Zardari had registered a case. Zardari sent a defamation notice to Imran Khan for his remarks but when it comes to Sheikh Rashid, who had just said that Imran spoke the truth, a case was directly registered.” Referring to the IHC verdict issued on Monday, Khan said that no further investigation was required in the case and pleaded that his client should be immediately granted bail. “The police found nothing from him during the investigation […] the case against him was only registered on the pretext of political revenge,” he contended, adding that the police had raided the AML chief’s house and took him away in “two bulletproof cars”. Meanwhile, Panjhota said that no one from Zardari’s family recorded a statement in the case. “Not a single untoward incident took place after Rashid’s remarks.” He added that the sections invoked in the FIR against Rashid could only be included if a state officer was the complainant. At one point during the hearing, the judicial magistrate observed that Rashid passed remarks against the interior minister at the hospital. “Can such a statement not create anarchy in the country?” At that, Rashid’s lawyer replied that the statement was issued while Rashid was in policy custody and hence it held no value. The IHC has also suspended an application related to this, he added. On the other hand, prosecutor Adnan said that Rashid’s statement was not an ordinary one. “Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan have many followers. Sheikh Rashid wants to create conflict between two big groups,” he stated. The ex-minister issued a statement saying that the services of terrorists had been sought to kill the PTI chief, prosecutor Adnan said. “That is a very big statement. Asif Ali Zardari, against whom the statement was made, is the former president.” He said that the AML chief wished to “influence” the proceedings by highlighting the fact that he had been a minister 16 times. “Sheikh Rashid was arrested with great difficulty. If he gets bail, he will run away,” the prosecutor said. Meanwhile, the complainant’s lawyer Salman Munir said that if Rashid’s statements past statement were examined, they were based on inciting two groups against each other. He argued that the AML chief would resort to doing the same if he was granted bail. “How can a person who has not stopped making [such] statements during his detention stop when he is released?” After hearing the arguments, the judge reserved the verdict. The petition In his petition, Rashid demanded that Zardari, Bilawal, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif and Sanaullah be held responsible and taken action against in case any harm was caused to Rashid. It said: “During the arrest, if Sheikh Rashid loses his life, then the named personalities would be responsible for it. If any harm is caused to Sheikh Rashid, then action should be taken against the named suspects.” The petition claimed that the AML chief was being “made a target of political vendettas for raising his voice for Imran Khan”. It requested that the Punjab and Sindh inspector generals and home secretaries guarantee his life is protected. String of cases Rashid was arrested on Feb 2 on a complaint filed by Raja Inayatur Rehman — the vice president of PPP Rawalpindi Division — wherein he said that the AML chief, in a television interview on Jan 27, alleged that Zardari got the assistance of some terrorists to plan former prime minister Imran Khan’s murder. The first information report (FIR) was registered at Islamabad’s Aabpara Police Station under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups, etc) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC). Another case was also registered against him at the Murree police station for manhandling a police official at the time of the arrest. It was registered under Sections 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 186 (obstructing public servant in discharge of public function) and 506(ii) (criminal intimidation) of the PPC. Moreover, it emerged the next day that yet another case was lodged against Rashid by Karachi’s Mochko police on the complaint of a local PPP leader for using “extremely filthy and immoral language” against PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari while talking to the media outside Islamabad’s Polyclinic Hospital. The FIR was registered under Sections 153 (wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot), 500 (punishment for defamation), 504 (intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of the peace) and 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) of the PPC. Later, a fourth case was also registered against the AML leader in Balochistan’s Lasbela as per his lawyer’s arguments on Feb 4.
Overwhelmed rescuers struggled to save people trapped under the rubble as the death toll from a devastating earthquake in Turkiye and Syria surpassed 5,000 on Tuesday, with despair mounting and the scale of the disaster hampering relief efforts. An official 51-member Pakistani rescue team was also set to touchdown in Istanbul today, federal minister Saad Rafiq said on Twitter. In the Turkish city of Antakya near the Syrian border, where 10-storey buildings had crumbled onto the streets, Reuters journalists saw rescue work being conducted on one out of dozens of mounds of rubble. The temperature was close to freezing as the rain came down and there was no electricity or fuel in the city. The magnitude 7.8 quake hit Turkiye and neighbouring Syria early on Monday, toppling thousands of buildings including many apartment blocks, wrecking hospitals, and leaving thousands of people injured or homeless. In Turkiye, the death toll climbed to 3,381 people, Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) said. The death toll in Syria, already devastated by more than 11 years of war, stands at more than 1,500, according to the Syrian government and a rescue service in the insurgent-held northwest. Freezing winter weather hampered search efforts through the night. A woman’s voice was heard calling for help under a pile of rubble in the southern Turkish province of Hatay. Nearby, the body of a small child lay lifeless. Weeping in the rain, a resident who gave his name as Deniz wrung his hands in despair. “They’re making noises but nobody is coming,” he said. “We’re devastated, we’re devastated. My God … They’re calling out. They’re saying, ‘Save us’ but we can’t save them. How are we going to save them? There has been nobody since the morning.” Ayla, standing by a pile of rubble where an eight-storey building once stood, said she had driven to Hatay from Gaziantep on Monday in search of her mother. Five or six rescuers from the Istanbul fire department were working in the ruins — a sandwich of concrete and glass. “There have been no survivors yet. A street dog came and barked at a certain point for long, I feared it was for my mother. But it was someone else,” she said. “I turned on the lights of the car to help the rescue team. They took out only two bodies so far, no survivors. In Kahramanmaras, north of Antakya, families gathered around fires and wrapped themselves in blankets to stay warm. “We barely made it out of the house,” said Neset Guler, huddling with his four children. “Our situation is a disaster. We are hungry, we are thirsty. It’s miserable.” Ankara declared a “level 4 alarm” that calls for international assistance, but not a state-of-emergency that would lead to mass mobilisation of the military. AFAD official Orhan Tatar said 5,775 buildings had been destroyed in the quake, which had been followed by 285 aftershocks, and that 20,426 people had been injured. The Turkish disaster agency said 13,740 search and rescue personnel were deployed and more than 41,000 tents, 100,000 beds and 300,000 blankets had been sent to the region. Aftershocks The earthquake, which was followed by aftershocks, was the biggest recorded worldwide by the US Geological Survey since one in the remote South Atlantic in August 2021. Another earthquake of 5.6 magnitude struck central Turkiye on Tuesday, the European Mediterranean Seismological Centre said. Monday’s quake was the deadliest in Turkiye since one of similar magnitude in 1999 that killed more than 17,000. Nearly 16,000 were reported injured in Monday’s quake. Poor internet connections and damaged roads between some of the worst-hit Turkish cities, homes to millions of people, hindered efforts to assess the impact and plan help. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, preparing for a tough election in May, called the quake a historic disaster and said authorities were doing all they could. In the Turkish city of Iskenderun, rescuers climbed an enormous pile of debris that was once part of a state hospital’s intensive care unit in search of survivors. Health workers did what they could to tend to the new rush of injured. People take rest next to bonfire in the rubble in Hatay, after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck the country’s southeast on February 6, 2023. — AFP “We have a patient who was taken into surgery but we don’t know what happened,” said Tulin, a woman in her 30s, standing outside the hospital, wiping away tears and praying. In Syria, the effects of the quake were compounded by the destruction of more than 11 years of civil war. In the rebel-held northwest, the death toll stands at more than 740 people, according to the Syrian civil defence, a rescue service known for digging people from the rubble of government air strikes. The civil defence said hundreds of families were trapped under the rubble and time was running out to save them. Residents and rescuers search for victims and survivors amidst the rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake in the village of Besnaya in Syria’s rebel-held northwestern Idlib province on the border with Turkiye, on February 6, 2022. — AFP “Every second means saving lives and we call on all humanitarian organisations to give material aid and respond to this catastrophe urgently,” said Raed al-Saleh, head of the civil defence. A top UN humanitarian official in Syria said fuel shortages and the harsh weather were creating obstacles to its response. “The infrastructure is damaged, the roads that we used to use for humanitarian work are damaged, we have to be creative in how to get to the people … but we are working hard,” UN resident coordinator El-Mostafa Benlamlih told Reuters in an interview via video link from Damascus. The death toll in Syrian government-held areas rose to 812, the Syrian state news agency SANA reported. PM Shehbaz to leave for Turkiye tomorrow Meanwhile, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb has said that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif will depart for Turkiye tomorrow. She tweeted that the premier will meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and express condolences with the lives lost in the earthquake. Later in the day, Aurangzeb said that PM Shehbaz has decided to launch the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund to support earthquake victims in Turkiye in these difficult times. “The federal cabinet has decided to donate their one-month salary to the relief fund,” she revealed. Separately, PM Shehbaz said in a tweet that the destruction in Turkiye and Syria was mind numbing. “24 hours after the devastating earthquake hit Turkiye & Syria, scenes of death and destruction are mind-numbing. It breaks the heart to witness sheer scale of unfolding human tragedy,” he said. The premier added that solidarity with Turkiye and Syria should translate into “tangible and timely material support for suffering humanity”. First batch of relief items arrive in Turkiye On Tuesday morning, the first batch of relief items from Pakistan reached Turkiye, a Pakistan Air Force spokesperson said. “Pakistan Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft carrying members of search and rescue teams and blankets from PAF Base, Nur Khan has landed in Turkiye,” he said in a statement. The PAF aircraft is carrying relief goods from people of Pakistan for the earthquake affected brethren of Turkiye, the spokesperson added. Earlier, the Pakistan Army’s media wing said that two contingents; urban search and rescue team — comprising rescue experts, sniffer dogs, search equipment and a Medical team comprising army doctors, nursing staff and technicians along with 30 bedded mobile hospital, tentage, blankets — and other relief items had been dispatched to Turkiye. “The aid contingents have flown to Adana via a special Pakistan Air Force aircraft on the night of February 6-7, 2023, to undertake relief efforts for the Turkish people while working in close coordination with the Turkish government, AFs and their Embassy in Islamabad,” a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said. It stated that the contingents would stay in Turkiye until the completion of the relief and rescue operation. “People and AFs of Pakistan stand with our Turk brethren and offer all available support in this hour of need,” the statement added. Additionally, Minister for Railways Khawaja Saad Rafique said that a Pakistan International Airline (PIA) airplane will take a 51-member rescue team to Istanbul today. “PK-707 will depart from Lahore for Istanbul with the Pakistani rescue team and their special equipment,” he tweeted, adding that measures for the delivery of relief items had also been completed. Rafique further said that the delivery of relief goods has been made cost-free on all PIA flights to Istanbul and Damascus. The items can be delivered to PIA’s cargo terminal through the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).
Former president retired General Pervez Musharraf passed away on Sunday after a prolonged battle with the rare disease amyloidosis. He was 79. In a statement issued immediately after his demise, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said that the Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and all the services chiefs have expressed heartfelt condolences. “May Allah bless the departed soul and give strength to the bereaved family,” the military’s media wing said. The former military ruler was hospitalised for three weeks in June last year. “Going through a difficult stage where recovery is not possible and organs are malfunctioning. Pray for ease in his daily living,” his family said at the time in a statement via Musharraf’s official Twitter account. The family had issued the statement after the news of his demise had started circulating on social media after some Pakistani and Indian publications carried it. The retired general’s illness came to light in 2018 when the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) had announced that he was suffering from the rare disease amyloidosis. Amyloidosis is the name for a group of rare, serious conditions caused by a build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in organs and tissues throughout the body. The build-up of amyloid proteins (deposits) can make it difficult for the organs and tissues to work properly. The party’s Overseas President Afzaal Siddiqui had said that Musharraf’s condition had “weakened his nervous system”. At the time he was being treated in London. On March 30, 2014, Musharraf was indicted for suspending the Constitution on November 3, 2007. On December 17, 2019, a special court handed Musharraf death sentence in the high treason case against him. The former military ruler left the country in March 2016 for Dubai to seek medical treatment and didn’t return to Pakistan since.
KARACHI: The Sindh High Court on Friday directed the provincial authorities to file a report within a week about special powers being enjoyed by the Sindh Rangers. A two-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh also directed the official concerned of the paramilitary force to file a report regarding the vehicle of petitioner Mohammad Azam, who said that it was in the custody of Rangers. The bench asked under which law the paramilitary force had been empowered to stop and seize vehicles of citizens. A provincial law officer submitted that besides police, other law enforcement agencies had been given policing powers under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997. Subsequently, the bench questioned whether such vehicles, said to be in possession of Rangers, were used in incidents of terrorism. Citing the director general of Rangers and commander of the North Nazimabad wing as respondents, the petitioner stated that he was a dairy farmer. He went to his native village in Punjab and upon his returned he came to know that his two employees and his car were missing. He submitted that he approached the police station concerned and police and his personal sources informed him that his car was in the possession of respondents at Rangers Wing 35 located at North Nazimabad.