Pakistan News

KUWAIT: The Ministry of the Interior (MoI) is currently studying a proposal to prevent all types of visas to about 10 countries, the majority of which are from Africa, including Madagascar, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Benin, Mali and Congo, and 3 other countries outside Africa, reports Al-Qabas daily. Well-informed security sources said this action is largely due to absence of embassies of some of these countries inside Kuwait, despite the presence of their nationals in big numbers estimated in the thousands, which makes the deportation of their citizens following judicial verdicts or in case of violators of residence laws difficult especially in terms of security when the citizens of these countries are arrested for violating public morals and use of narcotics saying the procedures of deportation becomes very complex and time-consuming.

The sources pointed out that what complicates the process of deporting the violators from the nationals of those countries is that some of them deliberately hide, destroy or get rid of their passports, which puts the security services in a state of confusion as there are no embassies in the country which can issue them travel documents to leave the country.

LOCATED as the country is in a tough neighbourhood, and confronting multiple external and internal crises, it is essential that Pakistan’s foreign policy is progressive and receptive to swiftly changing global realities, without compromising on principles. In this regard, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s comments made at a think tank in Islamabad recently about the need to engage with India, as well as addressing the country’s ‘isolation’ in the international arena, are food for thought.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari was of the view that disengagement with India had not worked in Pakistan’s favour, while calling for a focus on economic diplomacy and engagement with this country’s eastern neighbour. In particular, he said that disengagement — specifically after India unilaterally made changes to occupied Kashmir’s special status in 2019 — had not helped the Kashmir cause, or addressed rising Islamophobia in India, while arguing that better ties could have aided Pakistan in tackling these key issues with that country.

Considering the sensitivity of the matter, the Foreign Office later said there had been no change in Pakistan’s policy towards India, and that while this country desired constructive engagement, Delhi’s “unabated hostility … impeded the prospects of peace”.

The matter of ties with India is indeed complicated. Pakistan’s position on India-held Kashmir — as well as the condemnation of anti-Muslim violence under BJP rule and the recent vile remarks targeting the Holy Prophet (PBUH) — is a principled one. For there to be long-lasting peace in South Asia, the Kashmir issue needs to be resolved as per the wishes of the disputed region’s people, while anti-Muslim violence and prejudice at the state level in India must end immediately.

Yet, in order to resolve these issues and other irritants, the option of engagement is better than sabre-rattling. That is why if either country offers dialogue, there should be a positive reception from the other, instead of an arrogant reaction. In the long term, engagement is the only way to achieve regional peace, with the alternative being perpetual confrontation.

Moving beyond the Pakistan-India relationship, this government — and all future dispensations — must adhere to a foreign policy that is flexible, yet does not compromise on national interests. Foreign policy should be above petty politics and party lines, putting Pakistan’s interests foremost.

A focus on maintaining friendly relations with all neighbours, as well as trade and investment links with states further afield, will yield diplomatic dividends. Cementing relations with traditional allies such as China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, etc and improving ties with the US, EU, Iran, Russia and others is important.

Admittedly, crafting a foreign policy that maintains a balance between all these actors is a considerable task, as some of these states are in direct confrontation with each other. But for Pakistan, the most viable option is to stay away from bloc politics, and maintain neutrality to ensure it does not get ensnared in other people’s wars.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan warned that inflation is set to rise further and the country is headed towards becoming the next Sri Lanka, which is suffering its worst economic crisis since independence.

Addressing party workers across the country through video link, Mr Khan asked people to take to the streets against inflation “for their own good” and ramp up their struggle against the “imported government”.

PTI workers and supporters took to the streets in various cities across the country to protest against rising inflation on Mr Khan’s call.
At various protest sites, screens were installed for his online address that he delivered a little after 10pm.
Says PTI wants not just elections, but free and fair elections; claims conspiracy against PTI govt hampered economy
“I have called you to protest against price hike as it is in your own favour. The poor class, including salaried people, farmers and labourers, will suffer more because of the inflation. I will again give you a call for the protest, which will be continued until we get the date of the free and transparent election,” he said. “We do not want just elections. We want free and fair elections.”

He said the current government was claiming that Imran Khan had laid landmines, but the fact was that the PTI had increased petrol and diesel prices by just a few rupees while the incumbent rulers had raised it by more than Rs100.

Rejecting the notion that the recent price hikes were because of the International Monetary Fund’s programme, Mr Khan said the current government had been in the IMF programme for the last two weeks, but the PTI government was in the programme for the last two and a half years.
“We also got instructions by the IMF to increase prices, but we instead reduced the price of petrol by Rs10,” he said.
The former prime minister said the economy was in abysmal condition due to which international ratings of the country and its institutions had been downgraded, which would make it unable to get loans for dams.
Mr Khan also claimed that Finance Minister Miftah Ismail had asked for “relief” from the US envoy stationed in Islamabad.

“We took the remittances to $31bn and exports to $32bn. But then a conspiracy was hatched by Mir Jafar and Mir Sadiq which hampered the economy,” he said.

“I contacted the neutrals and tried to convince them that it was not the right time to bring a new regime as they cannot control the issues and handle the economy,” Mr Khan said, using a euphemism to refer to the military.

“Khurram Dastgir has confessed that they have come to power because of the fear that [the then opposition] would have been sent to the jail by Imran Khan,” the PTI chief said.

Countrywide protests
The PTI protests were held in all major cities, including Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Quetta, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and Multan. The demonstrations are also being held in other cities of the country.
On Thursday, the PTI chief called on citizens to hold protests across the country on Sunday against the “imported” government.
In Lahore, a large number of protesters, including women and children, reached the Liberty Chowk, where a mega electronic screen was installed to display Mr Khan’s speech.
Speaking on the occasion, PTI central Punjab president Dr Yasmin Rashid and general secretary Hammad Azhar said the flood of inflation had pushed the poor masses to commit suicide as they could hardly make ends meet.
In Karachi, too, hundreds of PTI workers and supporters congregated on Shahrah-e-Qauideen to join the countrywide demonstrations.
Led by former Sindh governor Imran Ismail, PTI’s Sindh president Ali Zaidi, senior leaders and legislators, the charged protesters, including women and children, chanted slogans and danced to party songs.

In Peshawar, many PTI workers gathered at Hashtnagri Chowk. A 20-foot screen was installed at the site to show Mr Khan’s speech. Former Defence Minister Pervez Khattak, MNA Arbab Aamir Ayub, KP Environment Minister Ishtiaq Urmar and female MPAs were also present on the occasion.

NA-240 by-polls
Earlier on Sunday, the PTI chairman contacted the party’s provincial leaderships in Sindh and Punjab over incidents of violence and the arrest of an MPA in Karachi and Lahore.
He also demanded that the NA-240 by-election be declared null and void, claiming that only eight per cent of the voters used the right to vote.
Mr Khan, who was ousted as prime minister earlier this year through a vote of no confidence in parliament, contacted PTI Sindh president Ali Zaidi and former governor Imran Ismail through telephone and inquired about the arrest of MPA Shabbir Qureshi in Karachi.
He also spoke to party leader Khalid Gujjar in Lahore and asked about his son, who was injured because of firing allegedly by PML-N workers.
While condemning the Sindh and Punjab police for the incidents, Mr Khan said the police did not take such steps in a democratic country.

Meanwhile, while chairing a meeting of the party’s political committee, Imran Khan said the Election Commission of Pakistan had failed to hold a peaceful and transparent election in just one constituency.
One person was killed and nine were injured due to violence on the election day, which was also marred by low turnout.
“Only 8pc people have cast their vote, which clearly indicates that they don’t trust the current electoral system. It is strange that the election commission has not declared the result of the election null and void. I demand that the election should be held again,” Mr Khan said.

According to a report submitted to the party chairman, the turnout in the June 16 by-poll was less than 9pc, as only 39,729 of the 529,855 registered people cast their votes. The report also claimed that most political parties had refused to accept the election results.

Dastgir’s ‘confession’
Lashing out at the government for back-breaking inflation, PTI leader and Mr Khan’s chief of staff Shahbaz Gill demanded that a judicial commission should be formed to probe the statement of PML-N leader Khurram Dastgir, “who tried to drag the military into politics”.

Addressing a press conference on Sunday, he said the reality of a cipher came to the fore after Khurram Dastgir’s “confession”, which had also exposed the government that it “conspired” to oust the PTI government earlier this year to secure an NRO 2 and not for the country’s betterment.

He said that Mr Dastagir should be asked as to why he had concerns about the change of the army chief, adding that the “thieves” knew that Imran Khan had come close to their accountability and therefore “they conspired and ganged up against him”.
He said the power minister tried to drag the army into politics and action should be taken against him.
Imran Ayub in Karachi, Mansoor Malik in Lahore and Manzoor Ali in Peshawar also contributed to this report

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have not yet been able to reach close to a staff-level agreement for revival of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF), leaving authorities in a tight spot to bridge the gap and get the updated federal budget for the fiscal year 2022-23 passed by the National Assembly.

The authorities in the finance ministry were expecting to conclude the staff-level agreement by Sunday (June 19) on the basis of revenue and expenditure measures that could deliver next year’s primary budget (the difference between revenues and expenditures, excluding interest payment) in Rs152 billion surplus.

However, the IMF staff still has reservations over Rs9.5 trillion expenditures projected by the authorities for the next fiscal year. The revenue measures in the budget, according to IMF estimates, are also insufficient to deliver slightly over Rs7tr target.

A top finance ministry official confirmed on Sunday night that they had not yet received the first draft of memorandum of economic and financial policies (MEFP) from the IMF as targeted earlier because certain matters remained unsettled. “We are working very closely with the IMF and will soon reach some conclusion,” the official said.

The government is targeting to secure the passage of the budget 2022-23 from the National Assembly on June 27-28, according to the finance ministry’s schedule of events. For this to happen, it has to reach an agreement with the IMF so that the agreed measures could be protected in the budget. In any case, the budget has to be passed by parliament by 28 to legally ensure its implementation with effect from July 1, as required under the Constitution.

While the two sides remained divided over personal income tax slabs and rates, the federal authorities received another setback after the provinces came up with their budgets which created another shortfall of almost one per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) — apparently meaning that the primary account would be in a massive deficit — rather than Rs152bn surplus.

The federal government had projected Rs800bn cash surplus from the four provinces in the budget for next fiscal year. However, so far only the Punjab government announced a budget with Rs125bn surplus, while Sindh presented a Rs35bn deficit budget. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has neither committed a surplus nor projected a deficit in its budget. Balochistan has not yet announced its budget, but is highly unlikely to provide any sizeable surplus.

Based on Rs800bn provincial surplus, the Centre had projected an overall budget deficit for the next fiscal year at Rs3.8tr or 4.9pc of GDP because it had estimated its own federal budget deficit at Rs4.6tr or 5.9pc of GDP. This means that unless the federal government is able to convince the provinces to curtail their expenditures or increase revenues, the primary account would be in Rs650bn deficit.

This comes at a time when the KP government was already running on overdraft to meet its expenditures during the current fiscal year. The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet has approved a supplementary grant — budget overrun — of Rs115bn for KP as late as last week i.e. after the presentation of the federal budget.

In a report last week, the finance ministry had reported to the ECC that the federal government had, under an IMF conditionality, prohibited borrowing from the State Bank of Pakistan by the federal and provincial governments. Prior to these IMF-sponsored reforms, the provinces were availing ways and means advances (overdraft facility) from the SBP.

In order to enable the provinces to continue availing such advances after the prohibition, the ECC had in June 2020 put in place a new lending policy for the provincial governments, besides enhancing their ways and means limits. Under that policy, the facility of ways and means advances is provided to the provincial governments by the Centre instead of the SBP.

In this regard, tri-partite agreements have been signed with all the four provinces. The agreement authorises the SBP to debit/credit federal and provincial government accounts as and when a province is in need of ways and means advance or has sufficient balance to clear the advance availed by that province. The existing limit of the ways and means advances of the four provinces is about Rs164.3bn — Rs77bn for Punjab, Rs39bn for Sindh, Rs31.3bn for KP and Rs17bn for Balochistan.

The provision of Rs15bn under the head of ways and means advances to the provinces was included in the outgoing budget as federal miscellaneous investment and other loan and advances, but KP has availed Rs115bn cumulatively during the year as of June 9, 2022.

In order to adjust the expenditure of Rs100bn made by the KP government in excess of the allocated limit as well as likely future requirements of the provinces during the outgoing year, supplementary grant of Rs130bn was required for which schedule of supplementary grants for Rs100bn will be issued forthwith. However, schedule of supplementary grants for the balance amount will be issued on a need basis as per ways and means advances availed by the provinces.

The finance ministry explained that this expenditure would have no impact on the overall fiscal deficit of the federal government as the payments are for a limited time period and as and when cash balance position of the provinces improves, as a result of divisible pool transfers, the SBP reverses the transaction together with mark-up and the same is booked as capital receipts/non-tax receipts of the federal government.

Days after Pakistan received "good news" from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari reiterated Pakistan's "high-level" commitment to continue aligning the country's anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terror financing (CFT) regime with global standards.
His remarks come after the FATF acknowledged on Friday that Pakistan had met all 34 items on two separate action plans.
The next step entails a visit to the country to verify the implementation and sustainability of the country's money laundering and counter-terrorism financing measures before removing it from its increased monitoring list, also known as the "grey list".
The watchdog had included Pakistan among its increased monitoring jurisdiction in June 2018.

"The government of Pakistan is committed to continue this positive trajectory of reforming the financial sector as part of its larger strategic objective of strengthening Pakistan’s economy," the foreign minister said in a statement released by the Foreign Office on Sunday.
"I am certain that this good news from FATF will restore confidence in Pakistan’s economy and act as a catalyst for sustained growth and development."
The foreign minister reiterated the government's "high-level commitment to continue aligning our AML/CFT regime with global standards".
He added that the country was looking forward to the on-site visit and "a successful and early culmination of the process leading to Pakistan’s exit from the grey list".

Welcoming FATF’s unanimous acknowledgement of completion by Pakistan of its 2018 and 2021 action plans, the minister commended the "hard work and dedicated efforts" of Pakistan’s FATF team that he said led to the successful completion of all technical requirements of both plans.
"This was the result of concerted national efforts and complete harmony of interests by all stakeholders," he added.
"The announcement by the FATF plenary of granting an on-site visit to Pakistan is a welcome development. It reflects the remarkable progress made by Pakistan to enhance the effectiveness of its AML/CFT regime," he said.

Pakistan qualifies for on-site visit
While announcing the watchdog's decision on Friday, FATF President Dr Marcus Pleyer acknowledged the reforms implemented by the country, saying "they are good for the stability and security of the country".

At the conclusion of the four-day plenary in Berlin, he, however, added that "Pakistan is not being removed from the grey list today. The country will be removed from the list if it successfully passes the on-site visit".
Pleyer had said Pakistan would have to ensure [during the visit] that it effectively tackled money laundering and funding of terrorist groups.

Hina Khar cautions against celebrating prematurely The following day, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar cautioned against premature celebration, but nonetheless termed the country's progress so far nothing short of a "herculean effort".

On the planned on-site visit, she said it was a necessary procedural requirement before the FATF deems the country worthy for removal from its grey list.
However, she did voice optimism that Pakistan was "one step away" from exiting the said list that it had been on for four years.
While talking about the lessons that Pakistan had learnt, Khar said the message for the country was "never again".

"Never again will we want to be part of any list that will require us to divert our attention from our national requirements to [international] reporting requirements. We never want to slip into this again. This is the biggest lesson."

GILGIT: A doctor and her husband saved a teenage boy life who fell in a lake in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Naltar valley by giving him emergency medical treatment. The incident happened on June 14, according to a source in Gilgit-Baltistan’s tourist police.

A boy, 14-year-old Arif Khan, fell in the Satrangi Lake while grazing cattle, after which his uncle Tariq Mir, 17, jumped into the lake to save his drowning nephew. However, while Arif Khan lost his life, the couple managed to save Tariq Mir by providing him with emergency medical aid. Israr Ahmad Chaudhary, a resident of Multan, told Dawn that he along with his wife, Dr Quratul Ain Hashmi, and other family members had reached Naltar by local jeeps at 12am on June 14. Tariq Mir jumped into a lake to save his nephew, who did not survive Upon arrival in upper Naltar, they saw some people gathered near the lake and screaming. Mr Chaudhary said he and his wife stepped out of the vehicle and noticed that Tariq Mir was just taken out from water and was unconscious.

The locals managed to pull the youth out of the lake, but he did not have a heartbeat and was unconscious because his lungs had been filled with water. The couple immediately started giving the boy cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), a lifesaving technique that helps to keep the flow of blood and oxygen in the body when heart and breathing stop. They managed to save Mr Mir’s life and he gained consciousness after some time. Mr Chaudhary said his local driver, Muhammad from Nagar, jumped into the lake and also tried to rescue Arif Khan, but he couldn’t survive. Both the uncle and his nephew were residents of upper Naltar, a famous tourist destination in Gilgit-Baltistan.

A video of the couple trying to save the boy amid screaming family members went viral on social media, with people describing it as a heroic effort and an example of humanity. Social media users, politicians, professionals and journalists also appreciated the couple. Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Minister Khalid Khurshid paid homage to Dr Quratul Ain and her husband. By providing timely emergency medical care, the couple had saved a precious life which was highly commendable, the chief minister said.

THAT Pakistan has finally got the assurance of an on-site visit from the FATF to verify the “implementation and sustainability of the country’s money-laundering and counterterrorism financing measures” before it is formally removed from the task force’s increased monitoring (grey) list, is the best outcome we could have hoped for from the current review.
It means that Pakistan should be removed from the grey list in October once the on-site inspection is conducted.

In its recent Berlin plenary, the global money-laundering and terrorist-financing watchdog has made its initial determination that Pakistan has substantially completed two action plans, complying with all 34 items, noting that this showed that the “necessary political commitment remains in place to sustain implementation and improvement in the future”.

According to the watchdog: “Pakistan demonstrated that terror-financing investigations and prosecutions target senior leaders and commanders of UN-designated terrorist groups and that there is a positive upwards trend in the number of money-laundering investigations and prosecutions being pursued in Pakistan... .”

This assessment of Pakistan’s efforts to exit the grey list is primarily based on the extensive work done by the previous PTI government to simultaneously complete two challenging action plans given to it for compliance to avoid being blacklisted.

Yet it will be unfair to not give credit to the coalition government for using diplomatic channels to help the country exit the list. There are reports that China had recently been working quietly to help Islamabad on this front.

Many believe that the decision also indicates tacit US support. If true, it means that we are now closer to the restoration of the IMF bailout, even if not there yet. Once formally removed from the list, the country will see its credit rating improve, giving confidence to foreign investors.

That several actions implemented over the last four years wouldn’t have been possible without the military’s consent shows the army has remained supportive of the civilian efforts to exit the list.

Last but not the least, the conviction of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed on terrorism-related charges must also have strengthened Pakistan’s case.

No matter how encouraging it is, Pakistan’s success in meeting FATF’s anti-money-laundering and antiterrorist-financing standards in an exceptionally short time frame, despite the efforts of certain foreign powers to get the country blacklisted, should not make the authorities complacent as had been the case previously.

We have been on the grey list thrice since 2008. Being downgraded to that list again would do irreparable damage to the economy and international trade. It is, therefore, hoped that the nation’s civilian and military leadership will continue to show the highest level of political commitment to address the leftover deficiencies in the country’s AML/CFT regime, and carry on the good work to update and strengthen the relevant laws, regulations and procedures in the months and years to come.

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