PM Khan chairs special meeting of cabinet to review each ministry’s performance

A special meeting of the federal cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad on Monday, reviewed the performance of each ministry and decided that they would be tasked with a specific strategic plan for implementation over the five years, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

The review meeting was held in order to further improve the performance of every ministry and work towards the enhancement of people’s quality of life.

During the meeting, the actions taken by respective ministries with regards to service delivery, austerity measure and future plans were discussed, with a view of how to improve each ministry’s performance.

According to Radio Pakistan, it was decided that review meetings would be held on a quarterly basis to gauge the performance of every ministry, adopt midway course corrections when required and to ensure that the overall performance of the government was on track.

Editorial: ,After 100 days…,

A tweet shared by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) said PM Khan was reviewing the performance of each ministry on the basis of the government’s 100-day agenda.

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In a separate tweet, PTI said the performance of each ministry was being reviewed on the basis of three aspects which were: contribution to savings through austerity drive, number and [the] nature of new projects initiated as well a future roadmap.

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They added: “Accountability is the main pillar of democracy. PM Khan upheld merit when he chose his ministers and he is upholding merit once again as he reviews the performance of all ministers at the completion of governments first 100 days”.

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On ,November 29,, a special event held at the Jinnah Convention Centre in Islamabad to review PM Khan’s first 100 days in power.

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Karachi Circular Railway anti-encroachment operation to start from Tuesday: official

Joint Director of Land and Railway Imtiaz Siddiqui on Monday announced that the anti-encroachment drive to clear the land allocated for the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) has been delayed by a day.

The drive was scheduled to start from today but Siddiqui said that authorities granted the people occupying the KCR land an additional day to vacate their shops and homes.

Siddiqui, while talking to the media, said that the authorities would now initiate the operation from the furniture market in Karachi’s Ghareebabad area.

,Anti-encroachment drive: Govt asked to take experts, affected people on board on rehabilitation plan,

“We don’t want anyone to suffer any losses,” the official said, adding that the people had already been issued a notice.

Siddiqui noted that 1,200 encroachments stood intact on the land earmarked for the defunct metro rail system.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation plans on vacating about 360 acres from encroachers after an ,order issued by the Supreme Court, last month in this regard.

Also read: ,What are the consequences of the anti-encroachment drive?,

As many as 5,653 illegally constructed structures are expected to be razed during the operation to clear more than 29 acres of KCR land.

So far, more than 3,000 shops have been demolished in different areas of Karachi, according to estimates based on information accessed from multiple sources.

Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, however, has promised that the authorities will relocate shops that had been razed in recent days during the ongoing anti-encroachment operation.

The Sindh chief minister has also ordered that the affectees be compensated. However, the authorities have not provided a concrete plan for the rehabilitation of the displaced people as yet.

Following the outcry against the operation by the business community, the Centre last week decided to ,file a review petition, in the Supreme Court against the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the metropolis.

On his day-long visit to Karachi yesterday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had declared that the government will stand by the people who had fallen victims to the anti-encroachment operation and would not allow exploitation of citizens under the guise of the ongoing drive.

Complexities of encroachment

,According to researchers at the Karachi Urban Lab, (KUL), maps show that the KCR starts from the Drigh Road Station on the Pakistan Railways main line and, after crossing Sharea Faisal short of Karachi airport, it passes through populated areas of Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, SITE, Baldia, Lyari, Kharadar, Mithadar and finally touches Karachi City Station.

“The KCR is a 29.32km single-track, wide-gauge railway, along 16 stations. And there are a total of 4,653 families living in 28 different settlements all across Karachi that are being forced to move because of this project. Sindh government’s own study in 2011 established that 70pc of these residents have been living in these settlements for at least 20 years,” said KUL researcher Arsam Saleem while presenting his study regarding the anti-encroachment operation in Karachi on Saturday.

The housing demand in Karachi is estimated at 80,000 new units per year. “The formal sector supplies 32,000 housing units and another 32,000 are built in katchi abadis. Meanwhile, 75.5pc of the city’s residents are classified as poor, and as such they constitute the majority of the unmet demand. The result has been the continuous demand for katchi abadis,” according to KUL researchers.

But buying, selling or renting an accommodation is not easy either. Citizens are not sure if they are being defrauded and whether or not the schemes they are investing in are legal. KUL ascribes this insecurity to Karachi’s conflicts and the informalisation of the formal sector in housing and development.

“Encroachment is not a poor person looking to save some petty cash. It is a complex network involving government institutions, in an official or unofficial capacity, seeking to reap the rewards of quick land dispensation with none of the risks attached,” said Saleem.

Operation at M9

Meanwhile, authorities on Monday started an operation against encroachments along the Karachi-Hyderabad M9 motorway.

The encroachments are being removed through the use of heavy machinery, DawnNewsTV reported.

A heavy contingent of police is present at the site of the action.


With additional reporting by Asim Khan in Karachi.

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Foreign minister sees talks on US financial aid restoration

MULTAN: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi says there are chances of restoration of a dialogue with the US government for the restoration of American financial assistance to Pakistan.

Speaking at a reception here on Sunday, minister said the government was making efforts to bring foreign investment to the country to improve economy. He said foreign missions abroad had been asked to make efforts to bring investment to Pakistan.

He said that political leadership of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan had no objection to the creation of south Punjab province, however a `small segment’ in Sindh and Punjab had some reservations.

“A small segment in Sindh thinks that the creation of south Punjab may pave the way for the demand for the division of Sindh which is totally baseless as no one is demanding the division of Sindh,” he said.

He said that the PTI government was sincere for the creation of south Punjab. “Right now we are trying to create a consensus among political parties.”

He said initially a sub-secretariat (of south Punjab) would be established in Multan for which funds would be allocated in next fiscal. Qureshi said he was not aware of changes to be made in the ministries.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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Street criminals in Karachi to be jailed for up to 7 years: CM Shah

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, while chairing the 23rd session of the apex committee in Karachi, vowed to end the rampant street crime in the port city, for which he claimed legal reforms are being considered.

As part of amendments to the law, the chief minister said, the cases of streets crimes would be heard by special magistrates under Section 30 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC), adding that those convicted will be handed prison sentences ranging from three to seven years.

“We need to end the menace of street crime,” CM Shah said, adding that all law enforcement agencies were working together on the issue.

The 23rd meeting of the apex committee was attended by Karachi corps commander, Sindh chief secretary, director general (DG) Rangers, Sindh inspector general of police and other officials.

Furthermore, the apex committee was apprised that Sindh Police and Rangers had conducted a security audit of the entire province. At this, CM Shah issued instructions to fix the weaknesses identified during the security audits.

The meeting was also informed that 62 buildings and other institutions in the province, previously named after Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain, had been renamed.

During the meeting, the implementation of the decisions taken in the previous session were also reviewed.

While speaking to the media after the apex committee meeting, Sindh Chief Minister’s Adviser on Information Murtaza Wahab said that a pilot project will be initiated in the Safe City project red zone.

He said that those who repeatedly commit crimes will be dealt with in a different way. “They are repeatedly given bail,” he said adding that they would be stopped.

Wahab added that to improve the Safe City project, cyber crime will also be controlled and help will be taken from the Army. Safe City cameras will also be improved.

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NA goes into another session without committees

ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly is set to go into its sixth session from today (Monday) with Speaker Asad Qaiser ,still struggling to end a deadlock, between the government and the opposition over the issue of the chairmanship of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

The speaker has already issued order for production of Opposition Leader and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) president Shahbaz Sharif for a fourth time to allow him to attend the session which is expected to continue for two weeks.

Last week, Mr Qaiser during a chat with reporters had expressed the hope that he would be able to constitute the committees of the house during the session.

He stated that he was in contact with both the government and the opposition parties over the issue of the committees and hopefully it would soon be resolved “amicably”.

Under the rules, Speaker was bound to constitute over three dozen house committees by Sept 17

The speaker has summoned a meeting of the House Business Advisory Committee before start of the session in which he is expected to take up the PAC chairman issue with the parliamentary leaders of all the parties having representation in the NA.

Mr Qaiser had to stop the process of the formation of the committees due to the opposition’s threat to boycott all the committees if the ruling party did not offer the PAC chairmanship to Opposition Leader Shahbaz Sharif as per the “parliamentary traditions”.

The opposition parties claim that the speaker in a meeting with them had previously agreed to their demand of nominating Mr Shahbaz as the PAC chairman, but later backtracked from his commitment due to the resistance by his party members.

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is unwilling to give the PAC chairmanship to Mr Shahbaz, saying that it could not allow him to review the projects that had been initiated and executed by the government of his elder brother Nawaz Sharif.

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has many times stated that the government could go ahead with the formation of the committees without the opposition.

The inordinate delay in the formation of the committees has started to affect functioning of parliament, which has almost become dysfunctional as far as the legislative work is concerned. With the present government already completing its 100 days in the office, the NA has been able to only pass the Finance (Supplementary) Bill.

Under the rules, the speaker was bound to constitute all the standing and functional committees “within 30 days after the election of the Leader of the House (prime minister)”.

Since the prime minister was elected on August 18, the speaker had time till September 17 for the formation of over three dozen house committees.

All the opposition parties had already handed over the names of their members for the committees to the NA Secretariat as per rules, but the speaker had to stop the process when the opposition announced that its members would withdraw from all the committees if the PAC chairmanship was not offered to them as per tradition.

Although there is no restriction on the government in the rules to give the chairmanship of the PAC to the opposition parties, it has been a parliamentary practice and tradition for the past 10 years that the office is given to an opposition member in order to ensure transparency in financial matters.

In the Charter of Democracy, the PML-N and the PPP had agreed in May 2006 that “the chairmen of public accounts committees in the national and provincial assemblies will be appointed by the leaders of opposition in the concerned assemblies”.

PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb told Dawn that Mr Shahbaz had convened a meeting of the senior party leaders on Monday morning to discuss the current political situation in the country and the issue of the PAC chairman.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly Secretariat on Sunday issued a 19-point agenda for the coming sitting.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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Inquiry into Pakistan Steel Mills closure dropped for want of proof

ISLAMABAD: The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has closed an investigation into the curtailment of natural gas supply to Pakistan Steel Mills (PSM) that led to closure of the country’s largest industrial unit in June 2015.

The inquiry was ordered on a reference moved in December last year by then chairman of the National Assembly’s standing committee on industries and production Asad Umar, who is currently holding the portfolio of finance.

The reference sought investigation into why the gas supply was cut to the mill, forcing it to shut down, or no intervention was made by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government when both the PSM and the gas utility, Sui Southern Gas Company, were owned by the government.

“No incriminating evidence necessitating further inquiry was available, hence the matter merits closure,” stated a recent NAB letter to the PSM, explaining that the “executive board [of NAB] observed that all allegations were examined during inquiry. However, no aspect of criminality was found. On the recommendations of the executive board, the chairman [of NAB] approved the closure of inquiry”.

Move may facilitate consultation with Hubco over revival plan

This comes at a time the ministry of industries and production ordered the PSM to call an urgent meeting of its board of directors to approve ‘consultation as well as data sharing with Hub Power Company (Hubco) for a revival plan.

The PSM board’s chairman has been writing to the ministries of industries and finance for the past couple of months to fill the positions of chief executive officer (CEO) and chief financial officer (CFO), which have been vacant since May 2016 and June 2013, respectively.

Mr Umar wrote in his letter to the NAB chairman that the mill closure was incurring a loss of Rs1.4 billion every month, resulting in loss of precious foreign exchange due to import of steel. He said the NA panel had decided to send the reference to NAB in July last year, but the communication was delayed by bureaucratic means, compounding the suspicion of collusion in the shutdown of a national asset.

The reference put on record that salaries to employees were being paid with a lag of several months and retirement benefits were overdue for several years with reports of the employees committing suicides.

“Why has the situation been allowed to continue as explained for more than two years without any decision to resolve the problem and who was responsible?” Mr Umar had asked in the reference.

The total losses and payable debt liabilities of the PSM are reported to have gone beyond Rs470billion, including about Rs13bn built since the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government came to power.

A month ago the government dropped the PSM from its privatisation list, but the company remains without a CEO and a CFO. All the eight executive positions of directors are still vacant while 24 of the 25 general managers are missing.

The only general manager in the mill is looking after CFO’s work.

Informed sources said the PSM revival plan being discussed with Hubco would benefit mostly from an in-depth study conducted by Pak-China Investment Bank, which was the financial adviser in 2015.

According to the study, after an initial investment of $289 million (about Rs40bn at current exchange rate), uninterrupted power supply and a new management, the PSM with its ideal location, market and facilities has the potential of becoming a profitable enterprise.

Also, the industrial complex can generate and put together funds required for expanding its production capacity to three million tonnes from its previous capacity of one million tonnes. The bank had proposed a three-phased development and expansion plan with a capital investment of $288.77 million in the first phase, $300.4m in the second and $296.62m in the third (total $885.8m — approximately Rs123bn).

“The way for PSM to achieve three-phased transformation and revitalisation is through privatisation, formation of a new management team and overall optimisation of the supply chain,” the investment bank said.

It recommended handing over of the management control to a new buyer.

The study concluded, on the basis of field surveys, extensive data and in-depth discussions, that the PSM had a high starting point, complete process chain and the advantages of resource acquisition and regional market. Being situated near the largest city with over 20million population and close to the 50,000-tonne bulk cargo wharf relying on raw material and fuels import, the PSM owned rare logistic cost advantages, it stated. With the expansion of production capacity in future, its harbour could also be used to ship products to the rest of the market.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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No injustice to be done during anti-encroachment drive: PM

KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that no injustice would be done with anyone in the name of operation against encroachments.

The federal government wanted to provide homes to the homeless and if injustice had been done to anyone during the anti-encroachment drive, it would stand by the victims, he said during his visit to Karachi on Sunday.

During the ,daylong visit,, the prime minister met business leaders as well as key politicians, including Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail briefed Mr Khan on the law and order situation and the possible fallout of the ongoing operation against encroachments.

On a query from the prime minister, the chief minister told him [PM] that “the provinces can work with the federal government as long as each recognises its constitutional jurisdiction”. He said the federation needed to fulfil its commitment on the K-IV and KCR projects.

Mr Khan said that during his party’s last tenure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the federal government used to launch projects of electricity and gas in that province.

The chief minister told him that the federal government was more than welcome to do launch projects in Sindh as these items fell in the federal domain and asked him to spend more on electricity and gas projects in the province.

After the conclusion of Mr Khan’s visit, Governor Ismail told newsmen that injustice had been done with the poor under the cover of the Supreme Court’s order against encroachments and “we will request the chief justice to stop this operation”.

Mr Ismail said there was no tension between Sindh and the federation. The chief minister was heard attentively.

He said ongoing projects in Sindh were part of the NFC Award. “We have decided to summon a meeting in Islamabad for considering the K-IV water project.”

In reply to a question, he said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf or the federal government had no link with the operation against encroachments.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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Rs1bn donated by overseas Pakistanis for dams since July

ISLAMABAD: Overseas Pakistanis have so far contributed around Rs1 billion while local individuals as well as institutions have donated Rs7.47bn to the Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams fund, according to the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).

Within a span of five months, a total of Rs8.46bn was deposited in The Supreme Court of Pakistan and the Prime Minister of Pakistan Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dams Fund, the SBP data showed.

Also read: ,Not every diaspora Pakistani can donate $1,000. But even if Diamer-Bhasha reaches its funding goal, then what?,

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar took the initiative of collecting donations by launching the fund on July 6 that was later joined by Prime Minister Imran Khan, making it a joint venture to overcome the country’s water scarcity.

Till December 6, according to the SBP, the overseas Pakistanis shared 10.6pc of the total contribution for the construction of the dams.

Locals contribute Rs7.47bn in PM-CJP joint initiative

Earlier, the prime minister in his televised address to the nation had appealed to the estimated nine million overseas Pakistanis, particularly those living in European countries and the United States, to contribute at least $1,000 per head to the noble cause, and warned that Pakistan could face famine-like conditions by 2025 if new water reservoirs were not built.

The CJP recently visited the UK for fundraiser to avert the looming threat of drought in Pakistan in coming years.

Around $14bn is required for the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha dam.

Within Pakistan, the contributions were made through cheques, cash and mobile phone message service. An amount of Rs125m was received through SMS services of the four cellular phone service companies operating in the country.

Many overseas Pakistanis sent their donations through debit and credit cards, while many others deposited money in the SBP Nostro account and commercial banks overseas.

Most of the foreign donations, around Rs362m, came from the Pakistanis living in the US, followed by around Rs214m from those living in the UK, while those in Canada donated Rs107m.

Other major donations by the overseas Pakistanis came from the United Arab Emirates (Rs65m), Saudi Arabia and Qatar (around Rs40m each), Switzerland (Rs32m) and others.

Generous contributions were also made by the overseas Pakistanis living in Norway, Turkey, Japan, China, Sweden, Russia, Brazil, Malaysia, New Zealand, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Austria, Brunei, Denmark, the Netherland, Belgium, Finland, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Fiji, Ireland, South Korea, Thailand, Oman, Jordan, the Maldives, Nigeria, Peru, Tunisia and the Philippines.

When contacted, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Syed Zulfikar Abbas Bukhari hailed the contribution from Pakistanis working abroad for the noble cause and said they always came forward to support the country in difficult times.

He announced constitution of an overseas Pakistanis associates committee, which would be mandated to raise fund till the completion of dams. He said the confidence of overseas Pakistanis was boosted after PM Khan assured them of maximum facilitation.

Mr Bukhari pledged to bring in more money from upcoming fundraisers he was scheduled to attend abroad.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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Call for making UN suggestions on human rights public

LAHORE: Veteran journalist and human rights activist I.A. Rehman on Sunday urged the government to make the 2017-18 Universal Period Review (UPR) of the United Nations Human Rights Council public and present it in parliament, explaining that UNHRC recommendations favour the country and its ­people.

“The world is not conspiring against Pakistan. The UPR recommendations and the Euro­pean Union’s G-Plus demands are all in favour of our country and people,” Mr Reh­man said, urging the government to take all stakeholders into confidence while presenting Pakistan’s performance on the recommendations for the next UPR.

Mr Rehman was sharing his assessment of Pakistan’s performance during the third UPR in 2017 at the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) office.

The talk was arranged to mark 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that Pakistan along with many other countries signed on December 10, 1948. Sir Zafarullah represented Pakistan when the declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

HRCP asks government to take stakeholders into confidence on measures being taken to improve situation

Former HRCP secretary general Mr Rehman, who is currently its honorary spokesman, said Pakistan had a longer relationship with human rights than many other countries in the world, as the beginning was made during the freedom movement. Despite being a colony, the British India was a member of the League of Nations and Sir Zafarullah represented Pakistan when the universal declaration was adopted by the UN General Assembly.

Soon after the creation of Pakistan, two committees — one for determining basic principles of the constitution and another on fundamental rights — were formed, Mr Rehman said, adding that the committee for determining fundamental rights was headed by the Quaid-i-Azam himself.

He said the basic human rights chapter, which was written in 1950, was later made part of Pakistan’s first constitution in 1956. All the constitutions contained the 1950’s chapter of human rights with some amendments, he added.

Elaborating the UPR, the rights activist said that under the auspices of the Human Rights Council, all member states were given the opportunity to declare what actions they had taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to meet their human rights obligations.

In 2008, he said, the UPR made 51 recommendations for improvement in human right situation in Pakistan. In 2012, he added, the number of recommendations rose to 167, while it surged to 289 in 2017-18.

Addressing civil society members, students, lawyers, human rights activists and media persons at the event, Mr Rehman said it was a duty of civil society to ask the government to make the recommendations public so that the people could see whether or not the authorities had implemented what had been recommended to them. The recommendations should also be placed before parliament to make the legislators aware of the country’s international human rights obligations.

Besides, he said, the country was required to revise its lists of human rights and their nature as they tended to change with the passage of time.

HRCP chairperson Dr Mehdi Hasan said human rights could not be ensured without introducing true democracy in the country.

Meanwhile, in a statement, the HRCP expressed grave concern over “the exponential rise in the number of recommendations Pakistan has received from its peers with respect to human rights concerns in the country”.

“It is a matter of serious concern that, from 167 recommendations in 2012, Pakistan’s human rights barometer now stands at 289 — [the number of] recommendations received under the third UPR in 2017. Of these, it [the country] has ‘supported’ 168, ‘noted’ 121 and ‘rejected’ four recommendations.

“HRCP strongly urges the state to commit to its willingness to continue cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanism, and to apply both in principle and practice the UPR recommendations it has ‘noted’ as well as ‘supported’,” it said.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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‘We want to promote and protect investment’: PM Khan assures Karachi businessmen

Prime Minister Imran Khan arrived in Karachi on Sunday for a day-long visit during which he met with various members of the business community to seek their advice and assured them of the government’s commitment to “promote and protect investment in the country”.

Khan was received at the airport by Sindh Governor Imran Ismail. The two held a one-on-one meeting, during which they discussed matters related to the political situation and ongoing development projects, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

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A Pakistan Stock Exchange delegation led by PSX Chairman Sulaiman Mehdi also called on the prime minister today and discussed matters related to the economy.

Finance Minister Asad Umar, Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar, Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Syed Ali Haider Zaidi, Minister for Information Technology Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Minister of State for Revenue Hammad Azhar, Adviser to the Prime Minister Dr Ishrat Hussain, and Special Assistants to the Prime Minister Naeemul Haque and Iftikhar Durrani were also in attendance.

The premier was briefed regarding the issues faced by the stock market and brokers. Khan gave the assurance that necessary steps were being taken to bring stability to the market.

“The [incumbent] government has brought a different mindset. We want to ensure promulgation of businesses and investment and want to offer protection for the same. We want to bring stability to the market. This is why I have come to you for advice,” the prime minister was quoted as saying.

“There is a lot of investment being made in the country by investors abroad. Pakistan has a lot of potential for investment,” he added.

The delegation congratulated Prime Minister Khan on assuming office and appreciated the government’s efforts to bring financial stability to the country.

During the meeting, both sides agreed on the need for the government to broaden the tax base and for PSX to make better use of IT in the stock market. They also concurred on the need to put a stop to illegal transactions.

The delegation pledged its full support for the government’s fiscal policy and presented its recommendations for continued financial stability in the country.

The premier also met with a delegation from the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The delegation comprised prominent businessmen including Siraj Qasim Teli, Tahir Khaliq, Haroon Agar, Shamim Firpo, and Junaid Ismail Makda.

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According to PTI’s official Twitter account, Khan also met officials of the city’s traders association, “who discussed with him the problems they currently face”. Finance Minister Umar and other ministers were also present during the meeting.

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The premier during his visit is expected to receive briefings and exchange ideas about provincial development projects, citizens’ problems, the anti-encroachment drive in the city and other affairs.

He is expected to also consult party leaders on the above-mentioned and other important matters.

This is his second visit to the city since his election.

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President Alvi urges citizens to play their part in fight against corruption

President Arif Alvi ,in a message on the occasion, of International Anti-Corruption Day on Sunday called upon all citizens to contribute towards eliminating corruption and paving the way for economic growth and prosperity.

Alvi recalled that International Anti-Corruption Day was observed due to the 2003 ratification of the United Nations Convention against Corruption which sought to raise public awareness about financial crimes.

“This day serves as a reminder not only to the people of Pakistan but also to the citizens of all nations around the globe about the harmful effects of corruption,” he explained.

Describing corruption as “a major hindrance against development and prosperity”, the president said that it hurt business and the economy, which “in turn sabotages the prosperity of the nation”.

“Corrupted economies remain unable to function properly because corruption prevents free functioning of the natural laws of the economy. As a result, corruption in a nation’s political and economic operations causes its entire society to suffer,” he added.

Billions of rupees in public funds are lost annually to corruption, directly affecting “the ability of the government to provide even proper basic services to the public”, the president said.

“NAB being the apex anti-corruption agency of Pakistan has been mandated to keep this menace in check as well as to create awareness among the public at large about corruption,” Alvi said, noting that the “sheer scale of this challenge calls for combined efforts to confront it head on”.

Although the government is committed to eradicating this menace, he said, NAB alone cannot win this fight.

He called upon and urged all segments of society to unite in bringing out changes in attitude and contribute towards efforts in putting an end to corruption to support economic growth in order to bring prosperity.

Alvi addresses seminar

President Arif Alvi on Sunday expressed a resolve to strengthen NAB in order to better check corruption while addressing a seminar held on International Anti-Corruption Day in Islamabad, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

While addressing the event at Aiwan-i-Sadar, President Alvi called corruption “an assault on humanity”.

He added that corruption cases should be taken to their logical conclusion by strengthening prosecution.

‘NAB must continue work despite propaganda’

National Accountability Bureau (NAB) Chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal also addressed the seminar at Aiwan-i-Sadr today.

Iqbal warned elements in society trying to “spread propaganda” against NAB that the people of Pakistan were not so gullible that they could not differentiate between right and wrong.

The NAB chairman said that the bureaucracy had been worried since he came to power, but assured them that he himself had remained a bureaucrat and would use the resources available to NAB with integrity and “in the best possible way”.

Describing the country’s bureaucracy as its spine, he said that “if it hurts, therapy must be done”.

“The Supreme Court has said this many times, that every bureaucrat will only follow those orders which are in according with law,” he said, adding that the apex court had in the past always taken action in the event that a bureaucrat was being treated unfairly.

“People should know that NAB is using it’s authorities,” Iqbal said.

He added that those who had previous called NAB “dead wood” were now, to some extent, willing to accept that it had become a tree with branches and was in bloom.

“Whether you do propaganda or not, NAB must continue its work,” the chairman stated.

Iqbal said that we are no longer living in a time “when you are given a wrong order and you say that it is okay”.

He concluded by noting that every step taken by NAB will be for the citizens and state of Pakistan.

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Two Chinese nationals arrested in raid at illegal alcohol factory in Islamabad

Two Chinese nationals were arrested by police after a raid at an illegal alcohol factory in Islamabad’s sector F-10/4 area, a police spokesperson said on Sunday.

The two suspects were producing as well as selling alcohol of various brands. ? Photo courtesy of Islamabad Police

The two suspects were producing as well as selling alcohol of various brands. ? Photo courtesy of Islamabad Police

Large quantities of beer of various brands, as well as machinery to brew the alcohol were recovered from the house where the manufacturing unit had been established.

The two suspects were producing as well as selling alcohol of various brands, the police spokesperson told DawnNewsTV. They were arrested after they failed to present a licence or permit to run the brewery.

A first information report (FIR) was registered against the duo under Section 3/4 of Prohibition (Enforcement of Hudood) Ordinance 1979 at the Shalimar police station.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Operations Waqaruddin Syed congratulated the police team that carried out the raid on Saturday over their performance.

He directed all officers to continue the crackdown against drug peddlers and added that such individuals, who are set on disrupting the peace in society, should not be dealt with leniently.

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FBR recommends new taxes to bridge shortfall

ISLAMABAD: After dealing with the external sector deficit, the government’s attention is now being drawn to a growing shortfall in tax revenues that is beginning to bite.

In the first five months of the fiscal year, a shortfall of approximately Rs102 billion has been recorded in revenue collection, and this week officials from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) gave a briefing to the prime minister about the situation, with suggestions on how the shortfall can be reduced in coming months.

In the briefing, the FBR pointed to an erosion of the tax base due to the large tax cuts announced in the last budget of PML-N government in April, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend collection of tax on mobile phone cards. Also, the government’s decision to slash sales tax on petroleum products has cost the exchequer almost Rs35bn thus far.

In June this year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended deduction of taxes on the top-up of prepaid cards by mobile phone service providers. “We have witnessed Rs16bn shortfall from the telecom sector in the first five months of the current fiscal year owing to the suspension of taxes on prepaid cards,” the FBR sources told Dawn.

Revenues hurting due to tax relief given to various parties

FBR has proposed that the federal government should approach the Supreme Court to find a way to restore these taxes. The annual revenue collection alone from these taxes on prepaid cards is around Rs80bn.

In another proposal, the FBR urged the federal government to fix sales tax on every litre of the petroleum products from January instead of charging sales tax on price, since the price fluctuates and throws off all revenue projections.

“We have urged the government to immediately take up these two issues to arrest the decline in revenue,” an official source said on condition of anonymity.

Due to the government’s reduction in the sales tax rates on petroleum products, FBR has recorded Rs35bn shortfall in the first five months of the year. To reverse this trend, FBR has suggested to the federal government to fix sales tax on each petroleum product irrespective of increase or decrease in prices.

The PML-N government had also used this mechanism of fixed sales tax rate on petroleum products in the year 2016, to prevent revenue collection from declining steeply when oil prices fell.

The tax base has eroded by about Rs90bn from beginning of the current fiscal year. The provisional revenue collection reached Rs3,844.5bn, which is lower than the target set at Rs3,935bn. The FBR had initially targeted a total collection of Rs4,103bn for the fiscal year.

And the target for the current fiscal year was set with 14pc growth in mind over the revised revenue target in the fiscal year 2017-18 which was missed by Rs90bn.

The prime minister was informed that the pre-election measures have additionally contributed to the revenue shortfall in the first five months of the fiscal year. The relief given to the salaried class has led to a decline of Rs18bn in shortfall in income tax collection followed by Rs13bn from contractions of development budgets at the federal and provincial levels during the months under review.

The other measures announced in the last budget that also contributed to the shortfall include a Rs3bn drop in income tax from dividends, and another Rs1bn from fixing the condition of return-filer for purchase of property effective from current fiscal year.

The lowering of sales tax rates on fertilisers also led to a shortfall of Rs4bn in the first five months, another Rs5bn by replacement of LNG imports with furnace oil (difference of tax rates), and another Rs1bn due to closing of some sugar mills in Sindh.

According to the sources, there are several other products on which duty rates were lowered in the last budget, leading to drop in revenue collection. The only area where revenues will be restored partially is the income tax for salaried class, the sources said, adding the impact would be visible by end of June 2019.

It is not unusual for new governments to face revenue shortfalls in their first few months. The PML-N government faced a Rs40bn shortfall in 2013, which was bridged through a minibudget.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2018

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In a historic first, President House opened to public

ISLAMABAD: For the first time in the country’s history, President House on Saturday opened its doors to the public as part of the government’s plans to allow the people to access state-owned buildings.

Earlier, the government had opened Governor Houses in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and a state-owned rest house in Murree to the public.

Speaking to reporters after meeting the visitors at President House, Mr Alvi said: “We have made efforts to fully facilitate public visits to Aiwan-i-Sadr.”

He said he would open President House to the public twice a month and would also direct the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to open the adjacent park to President House.

The president said that historical documents and belongings of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan would be displayed at President House.

“We will request parliament to give the historical document of the 1973 Constitution signed by its makers and it will be displayed here for the public,” he said.

The president said that he wanted to bridge the gap between President House and the masses which had widened in the last 70 years.

He said that President House was opened to school and college trips as well.

Replying to a question, Mr Alvi rejected the impression that Aiwan-i-Sadr was opened to divert attention from the challenges being faced by the government, saying that the office of the president was apolitical.

Earlier, a large number of people from twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad visited the highly secured building of Aiwan-i-Sadr.

Talking to Dawn, the visitors appreciated the decision of the government to open the gates of President House to the public. It remained open from 9am to 4pm.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2018

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Controversy erupts over information portfolio; Chaudhry offers to step down in Rashid’s favour

In an interesting turn of events on Saturday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry offered to voluntarily step down from his post in favour of Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid after the latter reportedly claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan had discussed a proposed portfolio “reshuffle” with him.

Sheikh Rashid’s ‘controversial’ comments were aired by a section of private media channels, showing him talking to a person before the start of a press conference in Lahore.

During the ‘off-camera’ discussion, the railways minister claimed that the prime minister had called him four times to deliberate on the matter. Moreover, passing remarks about Chaudhry’s recent trip to the United Kingdom, Rashid reportedly said that the minister was having a “picnic in London”.

As soon as news about these comments started making rounds on social media, Chaudhry took to Twitter saying he will be “more than happy to vacate [his] position for Sheikh Rasheed and serve as MNA”.

“We all use trust [and] powers bestowed by [the] people of Pakistan, and [the] PM decides who is best fit in the role,” the information minister said. He, however, made it clear that until he is a minister he will “not bow to blackmailing of advertisement lobby”.

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Later in the day, Rashid appeared on a private media channel and tried to issue a ‘clarification’ about his earlier remarks, saying Chaudhry was like a younger brother to him.

“I have no intention to take over the information ministry. Even if the premier offers me the portfolio I will politely refuse,” Rashid said while talking to ARY News.

It is pertinent to mention that the prime minister has reportedly summoned a meeting of the federal cabinet on Monday to review the performance of federal ministers on an individual level.

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Govt wants SBP to consult Centre on exchange rate

ISLAMABAD: Exactly a week after the ,currency devaluation, and interest rate hike that tumbled markets and ,stirred a political debate,, the government on Friday asked the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to work out a mechanism of consultations with the Centre on the exchange rate.

The issue came under discussion at a meeting of the Monetary and Fiscal Policies Coordination Board (MFPCB) presided over by Finance Minister Asad Umar. According to sources, the minister expressed reservations over the timing of the recent monetary policy and told SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa that the government fully supported the central bank’s independent role but it should be taken on board on such issues.

The MFPCB had last met on Nov 29 and expressed concern over the growing budget deficit and inflation, increasing government borrowing from the SBP and sluggish revenue performance. The following day, the SBP had increased its policy rate by 150 basis points to 10pc and the rupee lost almost 3.8 per cent value against the dollar.

Finance Minister Asad Umar expresses reservations over the timing of central bank’s recent monetary policy

A member of the board told Dawn that the finance minister also desired a long-term strategy on exchange rate roadmap and argued that the improvement on the export side did not originate from the currency devaluation but smooth energy supplies. This was evident from positive signs appearing on the export front before currency adjustments in December.

The member said the SBP governor stood his ground on the autonomous role of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) of the central bank and believed the exchange rate adjustment was a globally-accepted tool. He said the political furore was caused by the timing of the exchange rate adjustment last week because it coincided with the completion of the first 100 days of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government in power.

Under the existing legal arrangement, the MPC comprised 10 members, but the finance secretary was no more a member and used to be seen as a source of federal government influence on independence of the State Bank.

The sources said Dr Asad Zaman, vice chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), also supported the SBP governor’s stance and argued that irrespective of short-term signs from here and there, there was no argument on the fact that long-term export performance had to come from exchange rate movement. Therefore, he said, there should be no pressure on the central bank on such matters.

Generally, the MFPCB was of the view that recent changes in the monetary policy stance were appropriate at current levels given the projections for inflation in the fiscal year 2019-20. The real interest rates were significantly positive and would help manage aggregate demand and reduce output gap closer to sustainable levels.

Going forward, the board expects that the MPC would continue to make data-driven decisions based on macroeconomic fundamentals. It appreciated the government’s proposed adjustment plan to bring the current account to its norms soon while adjusting fiscal deficit gradually to a sustainable level.

The government explained that they were focused on a growth model based on export promotion, productivity gains and structured institutional governance. The MFPCB advised the authorities to be more forthcoming with the stakeholders to explain the homegrown adjustment plan which seemed to be effectively working for the stabilisation of the economy.

The sources said the SBP reiterated its concern over the government’s heavy reliance on central bank borrowing, but noted that the situation might continue for another couple of months until some foreign inflows materialised.

On the exchange rate front, the MFPCB discussed the recent volatility in the rupee parity and was of the view that the present developments were mainly explained by market’s demand-supply gap of dollar liquidity on the one hand and more underlying structural impediments on the other.

In principal, the parity should be at their competitive-enhancing levels. Accordingly, after the latest adjustments, it is now more reflective of economy’s medium-term needs and market conditions. The MFPCB “anticipated that the short-term conditions on the exchange rate front were likely to normalise. Particularly, availability of deferred oil facilities and the recent decline in international oil prices is expected to reduce pressures in the Pakistan foreign exchange market in the near-term”, a statement said.

Moreover, bilateral flows would close the financing gap for FY19 and these positive developments would build foreign exchange reserves in the coming months, the board hoped.

The impact of fiscal consolidation measures implemented in recent months would be visible from the second quarter of the current financial year. “The consolidation is an important element of the homegrown adjustment plan and will play an integral part in ensuring economic stability,” the statement said.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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Sindh govt seeks review of SC orders on encroachments

KARACHI: The Sindh government has moved the Supreme Court with a plea to review its orders regarding removal of encroachments from amenity spaces and a request to stop the ongoing demolition exercise by the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) till a workable solution is prepared to address the issue of rehabilitation of affected people.

The Sindh government through the provincial advocate general filed an application in Islamabad on Friday, requesting the apex court to review its orders passed on Oct 26 and Nov 27. The court might take up the matter at its Karachi registry next week, AG Salman Talubuddin told Dawn.

Take a look: ,The ‘clean-up’ of Empress Market doesn’t have to be this way,

The application said that the court on Oct 26 directed top officers of the Cantonment Board Karachi (CBK) and the KDA along with the commissioner of Karachi and the inspector general of Sindh police to conduct a joint exercise to remove encroachments, particularly those on footpaths outside Empress Market and its surrounding areas, adding that pursuant to the Oct 26-27 order, this exercise was to serve as a model for the purpose of curbing general menace of encroachments in Karachi.

By the subsequent order dated Nov 27, it was said, the apex court directed the deputy commissioners of Karachi’s East and South districts, the magistrate concerned as well as the cantonment board and the Rangers to assist the city mayor in his efforts to clear encroachments from inside and outside the Empress Market and its surrounding areas, including Saddar and public footpaths.

This order further directed that encroachments in and around public parks must also be removed while the apex court also made it clear that no law and order situation be created while removing encroachments, stated the application.

It was further submitted that the demolition and removal of encroachments that began after the issuance of the SC orders had not been confined to Empress Market and its surrounding areas; rather it this was being conducted in a very expensive manner across the city; and much outside the confines of the court orders.

“This state of affairs has created a sense of dismay amongst the residents of Karachi who, as a result of the demolition, are being deprived of their sources of livelihood and, in some areas, of their dwelling spaces,” the application said, adding that while there had been a number of violent protests, the most significant protest took place in Mehran Town (under the KDA’s control) last week which resulted in destruction of public property by the protesters, arson and injuries to at least three officials of the KDA.

In addition to the very grave social and humanitarian issues that arose on daily basis as a result of the indiscriminate demolition, the likelihood of more incidents like that in Mehran Town was increasing, the Sindh government argued. Additionally, the properties of a significant number of persons, who claimed to be in possession of valid title documents, had also been demolished, which had caused unrest among the people, it added.

The Sindh government maintained that while it was committed to resolving the issue of encroachment, the SC’s indulgence was sought for carrying out the same in a systematic and sustainable manner so that any untoward law and order situation might be avoided.

Keeping in view the pressing issues arising as a result of the indiscriminate demolition, the Sindh government said that it had decided to reactivate the Lines Area Rehabilitation Project to rehabilitate the effected shopkeepers of Empress Market and its surrounding areas, adding that it was also exploring further avenues for rehabilitation of the affected persons.

However, it said, the speed at which these proposals could be made effective could not keep the pace with the speed at which demolition was taking place on daily basis.

Therefore, it pleaded the apex court to review/revisit its Oct 26 and Nov 27 orders and direct the forthwith cessation of the ongoing demolition exercise until such time, as the Sindh government and all other entities concerned prepare a workable solution to address the above-mentioned issues and place the same before the SC for its consideration.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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