Posts Tagged ‘Bank’

NA must debate withdrawal of Rs3m from Musharraf’s accounts: PML-N

ISLAMABAD: The main opposition party in the National Assembly, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), on Wednesday submitted six adjournment motions seeking debate on different issues, including ,cash withdrawal from former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s frozen bank accounts, and increase in prices of medicines.

One of the adjournment motions, a copy of which is available with Dawn, stated that recent reports of cash withdrawal from the former military ruler Gen Musharraf’s frozen bank accounts had raised serious doubts over the ongoing impartial accountability mantra of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government.

“This is a clear evidence of incompetence and politicisation of the government departments by incumbent rulers, and is a serious failure of the government in upholding court orders. It is requested to adjourn proceedings of the National Assembly and discuss the issue,” the motion stated.

Adjournment motions tabled in the house seeking discussion on drug price hike, Mohmand dam contract, power crisis

According to media reports, around Rs3 million had been withdrawn from the frozen bank accounts of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf.

Former interior minister Ahsan Iqbal, while speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, said that withdrawal of the money from the bank accounts showed that orders of the Supreme Court had been ignored.

The adjournment motion, regarding the increase in prices of medicines by nine to 15 per cent, stated that the recent increase in prices of medicines, including essential and life-saving drugs, had badly affected all segments of society.

“This unprecedented increase in prices of medicines has a serious impact on the welfare of the common man and the issue is clear evidence of mismanagement and incompetence of the government,” he said.

Through other adjournment motions, the PML-N has sought debate on the power crisis, award of contract for the Mohmand dam, progress in projects under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and increase in debt.

Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2019

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - January 17, 2019 at 9:25 am

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Shah Mahmood regrets ‘haste’ in placing names on ECL in fake accounts case

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday regretted that the government had shown haste in placing the names of 172 people — who were named in an investigation report in a case pertaining to fake accounts — on the Exit Control List (ECL).

“We showed haste in placing the names on the ECL,” the foreign minister said. “The government does not want to do anything in a rush now.”

Qureshi was responding to criticism from the PPP over the “government’s failure” to act upon the Supreme Court’s directives to remove the names of the people from the ECL. During today’s National Assembly sitting, the PPP protested over the delay by the government to take the names off ECL despite a Supreme Court order in this regard.

On the recommendations of the joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the case, the federal cabinet had in its meeting on December 27 last year decided to place the names of 172 individuals on the ECL, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Murad Ali Shah, Farooq H. Naek and several other leaders and provincial ministers belonging to the PPP.

Last week, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had ,grilled the state prosecutor, over why the government had decided to place names of Bilawal and Sindh CM on the no-fly list based on JIT’s recommendation, ordering the federal cabinet ,to reconsider its “hasty decision”,.

“How long will this government commit contempt of court?” asked PPP leader Shazia Marri in today’s session.

Attempting to placate the opposition party, Qureshi said that the matter was ,discussed in a federal cabinet meeting, and the government had decided to wait until the detailed verdict is released. According to Qureshi, the top court had ordered the government to consider the removal of travel ban, not to take the names off the list immediately.

“The government has not refused to remove the names from the ECL; it has only sought time,” he insisted.

PPP MNA Naveed Qamar pointed out that Chief Justice Nisar — who is heading the bench hearing the suo motu case regarding a delay into a 2015 probe into money laundering via fake bank accounts — was retiring on Jan 17, questioning if the government was waiting for him to leave office.

The foreign minister assured the lawmaker that the government “has great respect for the chief justice and his orders will be implemented even after his retirement”.

PPP leaders accused the government of “using the ECL as a tool for political victimisation”.

“Names of PTI members are removed from the ECL within 24 hours,” Qamar claimed, adding that Liaquat Jatoi, a PTI leader, was also placed on the no-fly list; however, he was travelling with “impunity”.

Qamar and Yousuf Talpur, another PPP MNA, demanded that the attorney general be summoned to the parliament to give his view on the matter.

Qureshi urged the opposition to “show patience” on the matter.

PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also backed PPP, saying that if the PML-N believed the government’s motive behind placing Bilawal’s name on the ECL was to serve democracy, it would have supported the move.

“Bilawal has never been in the government,” the former premier pointed out. “The government should have removed his name from the ECL to show generosity, without waiting for written orders.”

‘No justification for extrajudicial killings’

Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar raised the issue of enforced disappearances in the assembly, saying that a young man, who had allegedly been picked up from North Waziristan, was found dead.

“Does the state have the power to provide justice to the family of the murdered man?” he asked.

He regretted that former Malir SSP Rao Anwar — accused of killing four innocent men in a fake encounter — had been “set free” by the court.

Mohsin also demanded to know if the joint investigation team, formed to probe police officer Tahir Dawar’s brutal murder in November last year, had made any progress.

He seconded Abbasi’s demand that Bilawal’s name be removed from the ECL, adding that a ‘black list’ was also maintained which had no legal status.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said that the government was working on the issue of enforced disappearances and hoped that the opposition will support the legislation in this regard.

She said Shehryar Afridi, the state minister for interior, should brief the parliament on the developments in Tahir Dawar’s murder investigation, adding: “We also want to know about [the progress in investigation].”

“Government is trying to rectify the issue of maintaining a black list as there is no logic behind it, the minister said.

She agreed that Rao Anwar should be punished for his crimes. “The government should look into this matter; at how he [Anwar] is enjoying privileges,” she stated.

After his arrest in the ,Naqeebullah Mehsud murder case,, the former SSP was confined for a few months to his home, declared a sub-jail, but subsequently granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in July last year.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - January 16, 2019 at 10:25 pm

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Shah Mahmood regrets ‘haste’ on part of govt in placing names on ECL in fake accounts case

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday regretted that the government had shown haste in placing the names of 172 people — who were named in an investigation report in a case pertaining to fake accounts — on the Exit Control List (ECL).

“We showed haste in placing the names on the ECL,” the foreign minister said. “The government does not want to do anything in a rush now.”

Qureshi was responding to criticism from the PPP over the “government’s failure” to act upon the Supreme Court’s directives to remove the names of the people from the ECL. During today’s National Assembly sitting, the PPP protested over the delay by the government to take the names off ECL despite a Supreme Court order in this regard.

On the recommendations of the joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the case, the federal cabinet had in its meeting on December 27 last year decided to place the names of 172 individuals on the ECL, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Murad Ali Shah, Farooq H. Naek and several other leaders and provincial ministers belonging to the PPP.

Last week, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar had ,grilled the state prosecutor, over why the government had decided to place names of Bilawal and Sindh CM on the no-fly list based on JIT’s recommendation, ordering the federal cabinet ,to reconsider its “hasty decision”,.

“How long will this government commit contempt of court?” asked PPP leader Shazia Marri in today’s session.

Attempting to placate the opposition party, Qureshi said that the matter was ,discussed in a federal cabinet meeting, and the government had decided to wait until the detailed verdict is released. According to Qureshi, the top court had ordered the government to consider the removal of travel ban, not to take the names off the list immediately.

“The government has not refused to remove the names from the ECL; it has only sought time,” he insisted.

PPP MNA Naveed Qamar pointed out that Chief Justice Nisar — who is heading the bench hearing the suo motu case regarding a delay into a 2015 probe into money laundering via fake bank accounts — was retiring on Jan 17, questioning if the government was waiting for him to leave office.

The foreign minister assured the lawmaker that the government “has great respect for the chief justice and his orders will be implemented even after his retirement”.

PPP leaders accused the government of “using the ECL as a tool for political victimisation”.

“Names of PTI members are removed from the ECL within 24 hours,” Qamar claimed, adding that Liaquat Jatoi, a PTI leader, was also placed on the no-fly list; however, he was travelling with “impunity”.

Qamar and Yousuf Talpur, another PPP MNA, demanded that the attorney general be summoned to the parliament to give his view on the matter.

Qureshi urged the opposition to “show patience” on the matter.

PML-N leader Shahid Khaqan Abbasi also backed PPP, saying that if the PML-N believed the government’s motive behind placing Bilawal’s name on the ECL was to serve democracy, it would have supported the move.

“Bilawal has never been in the government,” the former premier pointed out. “The government should have removed his name from the ECL to show generosity, without waiting for written orders.”

‘No justification for extrajudicial killings’

Waziristan MNA Mohsin Dawar raised the issue of enforced disappearances in the assembly, saying that a young man, who had allegedly been picked up from North Waziristan, was found dead.

“Does the state have the power to provide justice to the family of the murdered man?” he asked.

He regretted that former Malir SSP Rao Anwar — accused of killing four innocent men in a fake encounter — had been “set free” by the court.

Mohsin also demanded to know if the joint investigation team, formed to probe police officer Tahir Dawar’s brutal murder in November last year, had made any progress.

He seconded Abbasi’s demand that Bilawal’s name be removed from the ECL, adding that a ‘black list’ was also maintained which had no legal status.

Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said that the government was working on the issue of enforced disappearances and hoped that the opposition will support the legislation in this regard.

She said Shehryar Afridi, the state minister for interior, should brief the parliament on the developments in Tahir Dawar’s murder investigation, adding: “We also want to know about [the progress in investigation].”

“Government is trying to rectify the issue of maintaining a black list as there is no logic behind it, the minister said.

She agreed that Rao Anwar should be punished for his crimes. “The government should look into this matter; at how he [Anwar] is enjoying privileges,” she stated.

After his arrest in the ,Naqeebullah Mehsud murder case,, the former SSP was confined for a few months to his home, declared a sub-jail, but subsequently granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in July last year.

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Govt will ‘need to take practical steps’ if PPP does not bring change to Sindh, warns Fawad

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry warned on Tuesday that if the PPP is unable to bring change to Sindh and the chief minister does not resign, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government “will need to take practical steps”.

Chaudhry, while speaking to reporters upon arrival in Karachi, explained that the government wants “the PPP to bring change themselves”, and for a new chief minister to take the place of Murad Shah, a senior PPP leader who was ,named in the joint investigation team’s report, in the fake accounts case.

“We want to first give them an opportunity [to bring change]. If this opportunity is not availed, and they do not take advantage of it, and Murad Shah does not resign, then we will certainly need to take practical steps here,” he said.

When asked about the possibility of the PTI forming a forward bloc in the PPP to remove the provincial government, Chaudhry responded that any person who carries the pain of the people of Sindh in his heart will want change in the province, no matter what party he belongs to.

He said that even ‘serious’ members of the PPP wanted change, adding that when this issue began, PPP members had themselves contacted the PTI and asked it to step forward for change.

“It is also a right of the people of Sindh to see the wave of change that the three other provinces have seen, that all of Pakistan has seen. It is the right of the people of Sindh that they become part of this change,” he added.

The federal minister pointed out that Sindh had not contributed to the National Finance Commission award for the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) although the “other provinces and the federal government had given their share for its development”.

The PTI-run Federal, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments had ,decided on Jan 4, to jointly provide the equivalent of 3pc of the federal divisible pool for uplifting Fata after its merger with KP.

Chaudhry claimed that although the PPP paints itself as a “vision of democracy”, when the time for action came, it disassociated itself from Fata.

He alleged that Sindh’s money would “not be spent on the poor people” of the province. “It will go to the Omni Group and into branches of the Zardari Gropu of companies. The painful thing is that Sindh’s funds are being spent in London and Dubai.”

He claimed that those who are “closest to the people will talk about change”, and that a large majority of the PPP MPAs would side with the PTI.

PTI-PPP tussle heats up

A tussle between the PPP and PTI over money laundering and the fake bank accounts case has heated up in recent days, with the ruling party in Sindh accusing the Centre of attempting to dislodge the provincial government and warning it of dire consequences if any attempt is made to arrest top party cadre.

Chaudhry’s two-day trip to Sindh scheduled for December was shelved after Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar’s observations during an earlier hearing of the fake accounts case indicated that the PTI was trying to topple the PPP government.

Chaudhry was allegedly tasked by the prime minister to ,meet leaders of political parties apart from the PPP, during his earlier trip to Sindh and seek their support for dislodging the PPP government.

The information minister, however, ,has denied that his party wishes to dislodge the PPP, government. “We do not want to dislodge the PPP government in Sindh but want to forge consensus on the demand for resignation of Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah to ensure fair trial of Asif Ali Zardari and company,” he had said earlier, adding that the PTI had no intention to impose governor’s rule in Sindh or repeal the 18th Amendment.

The information minister had explained ,during an earlier press conference, that his visit had been cancelled by Prime MInister Imran Khan to reject the impression that the Centre wanted to topple the Sindh government.

PPP is the majority party in the Sindh Assembly with 99 seats while the PTI and its allies have a total of 64 seats. The PTI requires 18 more members to outnumber the PPP to form its government in the province. However, it is believed that it would be a hard nut to crack to defeat the PPP in the provincial assembly as the party enjoys a formidable position in the province since long and has been in office there for over a decade.

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Minister says govt will uphold LNG contract with Qatar

ISLAMABAD: The government on Monday said it was requesting Qatar for reduction in the price of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and its supplies on delayed payments under the existing 15-year supply contract, but would abide by all the other clauses in the contract.

Speaking informally to a group of media persons, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan also said Pakistan and Saudi Arabia would sign an MoU for up to $10bn Saudi investment in Gwadar during the visit of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) in the last week of February.

Also read: ,New wave of mega LNG projects is approaching,

He said Prime Minister Imran Khan “may request Qatar government to provide credit facility for LNG supplies and revise the prices” when he visits Doha on Jan 22. Finance Minister Asad Umar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi have already visited Doha one after the other in recent weeks and are understood to have put the matter on the table, he said.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) has been criticising the contracts signed by the previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government for import of LNG from Qatar at a price equivalent to 13.39 per cent of international benchmark crude oil price and two terminals set up by the private sector for re-gasifying imported LNG.

PTI earlier criticised gas deal signed by PML-N govt, Doha to be requested for price reduction

On Nov 30, the petroleum minister had said the government was considering completely renegotiating the 15-year contract for LNG import with Qatar, adding that a final decision would be made after an in-camera briefing by his ministry to the prime minister.

On Monday, he said the government would abide by the 15-year agreement but still ask for a price reduction from the Qatari ruler, and another 10-year contract with another supplier that became the basis of final LNG price with Qatar. He said Pakistan has long-term LNG supply agreements and would honour them.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have committed a total of $6bn in safe deposit of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) bank of Pakistan and $6.4bn credit worth of oil facility for balance of payments support. Pakistan’s LNG import bill roughly comes to about $4bn per annum.

Talking about the visit of Saudi minister for energy, minerals and industry to Gwadar on the weekend, the petroleum minister said Saudi Arabia was firming up its plan to invest up to $10bn in Gwadar for a refinery and a petrochemical complex and an MoU would be signed during the visit of MBS in the last week of next month.

Saudi Arabia, he said, had also offered Pakistan to supply LNG to meet gas shortages while some other countries and investors were also keen on entering Pakistan’s LNG market that would result in competition and result in low LNG prices.

The Saudi minister also expressed strong interest for investment in four areas including petrochemical complex, mineral resources, industry and renewable energy. Initially, the minister has committed $10bn investment in the petroleum sector including an oil refinery having a 200,000-300,000 tonnes per day refining capacity and petrochemical complex in Gwadar. He said the minister took aerial view of two pieces of land — one within 30km radius of Gwadar and another 80km away and would select one of them shortly. Riyadh, he said, was also interested in LNG-based power plants.

Besides the Saudi refinery, the minister said a similar capacity refinery had already been taken in hand by Parco at Khalifa Point land for which has already been transferred to Parco. These two refineries would help Pakistan meet total requirement of finished petroleum products and still have some capacity for re-export of some products. Once the two refineries are up and running, Pakistan is expected to import only crude instead of refined products, he said adding almost half of consumption of oil products in Pakistan was currently met through imports — a heavy burden on foreign exchange.

Responding to a question, he said the government was in the process of giving improved incentives to exploration companies to boost onshore drilling. He said the offshore exploration had already been given attractive incentives including in the form of tax and duty exemptions and the government was considering extending them to onshore areas as well.

He said the new oil and gas exploration policy would address most of the current challenges facing the nation. He said that he had held meetings with chief ministers of Balochistan, KPK and Sindh to take them on board on new energy policy and would take other stakeholders into confidence before a formal announcement in March.

Talking about new gas schemes, the minister said the cabinet had already discussed the issue as all three gas surplus provinces had first right on gas utilization under Article 158 of the Constitution and they were not ready to provide gas supply to other provinces. He said Punjab was gas deficit and rising demand there meant its industry could not compete with their counterparts in other provinces for which Rs25bn subsidy had recently been extended.

He said the government was working on comprehensive energy policy to address all these issues because countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Qatar had huge gas reserves but were not supplying gas in pipelines. Pakistan was perhaps the only country in the region where consumers had luxury of pipeline gas and there was no rationale to further increase the gas network.

Published in Dawn, January 15th, 2019

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Mohmand Dam inauguration ceremony postponed again

The much-awaited inauguration ceremony of the Mohmand Dam ,scheduled for Sunday, was postponed for at least the second time this month, government officials said.

The ceremony for the dam was ,to be held on January 2, but was rescheduled until today due to a controversy that emerged following the award of the contract of the hydropower project.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai confirmed to DawnNewsTV that the ceremony today had been postponed.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Media Iftikhar Durrani said a new date would be announced after consultation with Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, who would attend the inauguration ceremony.

Durrani ruled out the impression that the project’s inauguration had been delayed due to any controversies. He said the tender for the project was awarded in the PML-N government’s tenure and the incumbent government had no role in the matter.

Chief Justice Nisar had last week taken offence over not being informed about the rescheduling of the ceremony and had said he may not attend.

Justice Nisar has paid close attention to the issue of water scarcity and had ordered the ,creation of the Dam Fund, in July last year ? a fund that appeals to the general public and overseas Pakistanis for donations for the construction of the Mohmand Dam and the Diamer-Bhasha Dam.

The top judge’s initiative was later joined by the prime minister. 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, according to State Bank of Pakistan data in December 2018.

Justice Nisar and Prime Minister Imran Khan were to be the chief guests of today’s event.

Mohmand Dam contract controversy

The dam contract was ,awarded on a single-bid basis to a consortium, of three companies led by Descon, a company previously owned by Adviser to the Prime Minister on Commerce Abdul Razak Dawood, in which he and his family members ,currently hold ownership stakes,.

A second contestant for the bid, a consortium comprising the Frontier Works Organisation, Andritz Hydro and Power China was technically disqualified and its financial bid was not considered, some top-ranking national contractors cited by Dawn said earlier.

The award of the bid to the Descon-led consortium raised questions about a possible conflict of interest and the process of the award.

Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda claimed the controversy around the award of the dam’s contract has been created “on the agenda of international powers”.

He said that Dawood had already resigned from the company before the bidding was held on July 18 ? before the new government came to power. He added that the PM’s adviser had nothing to do with the contract and had no way to influence the bidding process.

Descon only holds 30pc of shares in the consortium and the bids were evaluated by technical experts comprising Nespak, an Australian company, and another foreign firm, according to Vawda.

Wapda Chairman Hussain said that it was coincidental that the single bidder’s price was also almost the same as estimated by the government and insisted there was no conflict of interest in the award of the contract to a company having links with a sitting cabinet member.

Although Hussain agreed that Descon was linked to Dawood, he maintained it had nothing to do with the bidding conducted by Wapda and dismissed the notion that he or the body was facing pressure over the groundbreaking of the project.

Abdul Razak Dawood in a statement also explained that he had founded and headed Descon like several other business ventures, but had disclosed all his business associations in writing to the prime minister and resigned from these positions before joining the government to ensure transparency and avoid conflict of interest.

The Mohmand Dam project

The construction of the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam ? which will be situated on the Swat river in the Manda area ? is said to be imperative to resolve the problems of water scarcity and electricity shortfall in the country.

A sum of Rs2bn has been allocated for the project in the Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19.

Work on the dam will ,begin this month, and is expected to be complete within five years. It will have the capacity to store 0.676 MAF of water and generate 800 megawatts of electricity. It will also irrigate 16,000 acres of land and increase agricultural production in the area.

The completion of the project will require 8,668 acres of land mostly in Mohmand tribal district and some parts of Bajaur and Malakand.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - January 13, 2019 at 5:25 pm

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PML-N calls for JIT to probe closure of cheap power plants

ISLAMABAD: The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has expressed serious concerns over the ongoing energy crisis in the country and called for constitution of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe into the “closure of world’s cheapest power plants” in the country.

Speaking at a news conference at the National Press Club on Saturday, former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, former minister of state for finance Miftah Ismail and the party spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb lashed out at the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government for its “directionless and failed” economic policies, which had drastically brought down the country’s growth rate in just five months.

“This government has failed in just five months. The country is in a state of recession. The growth rate has come down to four per cent and inflation is constantly increasing,” said Mr Abbasi.

The former prime minister claimed that when the PTI government came to power, there was no shortage of electricity and gas in the country. He alleged that the government was generating some 4,200 megawatts of electricity through furnace oil, which was considered to be the most expensive way of producing electricity.

“The world’s cheapest power plants are closed and electricity is being produced through most expensive fuel, causing a daily loss of Rs1 billion to the national exchequer,” he said, demanding that an inquiry should be ordered to probe why cheaper power plants had been closed.

“Since a new culture of forming JITs has been developed in the country, I demand that a JIT be formed to find out those responsible for the present energy crisis in the country,” Mr Abbasi said.

The former premier said when the PML-N had assumed power in 2013 the country was facing worst kind of electricity and gas loadshedding. However, he said, it was the PML-N government which brought the country out of the energy crisis under the leadership of Nawaz Sharif. He, however, regretted that due to “incapability” of the present rulers, this was the second consecutive month that the people had been suffering from electricity and gas shortages.

The PML-N leader castigated the government for removing heads of two gas utilities, stating that they could not be held responsible for the gas shortage. Without elaborating, he also accused the government of “diverting” the ships carrying LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas).

Responding to the allegations regarding corruption in the LNG deal with Qatar, he said he took all the responsibility for bringing LNG to the country and was ready to defend it at any forum.

Speaking on the occasion, former finance minister Miftah Ismail alleged that the government had already borrowed Rs1,400 billion from the State Bank of Pakistan whereas the PML-N government had borrowed Rs288bn from the SBP during its entire five-year term.

Mr Ismail, who had presented the last budget of the PML-N government, explained that borrowing from the SBP meant printing of more currency and increase in inflation. He said the PTI had promised to provide 10 million jobs in five years for which a growth rate of nine to 10 per cent was required. He said the PML-N government had brought down the inflation to a single digit from the 14 per cent it had inherited in 2013. The inflation, he regretted, was again showing an upward trend.

Responding to a question, Mr Abbasi said that due to the “visionless economic policies” of the rulers, the government now intended to present a second mini-budget within six months. He said the government had been forced to present another mini-budget as it had failed to meet the revenue target and stop increase in its own expenses due to rising inflation.

He said the government was planning to put more burden on the masses to pay off Rs400bn interest on loans.

Responding to another question, Mr Abbasi said that so far the government had not contacted the opposition on the issue of the military courts. He, however, said that the government would have to explain before parliament why there was a need for giving another extension to the military courts. The former premier also accused the government of using the exit control list (ECL) as a tool to victimise its opponents.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Asad says tax-free mini-budget to be unveiled on 23rd

KARACHI: Dispelling the impression that the up­­coming mini-budget be­ing announced on Janu­ary 23 would be loaded with new taxes, federal Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Asad Umar has said that it will focus on ease of doing business and other measures to facilitate trade and industrialisation.

The minister was addressing members of the business community during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) on Saturday.

The minister also visited the residence of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) member and former chairman of Rice Exporters Asso­ciation of Pakistan (Reap) Rahim Janoo.

Talks with IMF under way though govt not in a hurry to approach it for support, minister tells business community

Mr Umar said last year had been difficult not only for the government but also for the business community as during the five months of the current fiscal (July-Nov­e­mber) only $818 million came under Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) against $1.35 billion in the same period of last financial year.

However, he said, the country’s standing in the index for ease of doing business improved to 136 from a recent ranking of 147 among 190 countries but the PTI government would strive hard to bring it down to double digit.

The minister disclosed the World Bank had taken a number of measures for improving ease of doing business for Pakistan but they were still below the level of other economies in the region.

He said cost of doing business was a major problem for the industry in Pakistan as it was higher than other regional countries particularly with regard to the utilities costs and tariffs. Citing an example, he said gas tariffs in Bangladesh, India and Vietnam are $3.35, $4.60 and $6 respectively, whereas it was $7.96 along with added cost of Rs2,000 as Gas Infrastruc­ture Develop­ment Cess (GIDC) in Pakistan.

The minister agreed that multiple taxes in Pakistan was another hurdle in fast industrialisation and economic growth as a lot of time was consumed by entrepreneurs in sorting tax issues and all this had to be corrected in due course as the government was fully committed to promoting investment and generating jobs.

Rs400bn refunds outstanding

Responding to a question raised by FPCCI President Daroo Khan Achakzai, the minister said that Rs400 billion outstanding refunds pending with the government and belonging to export trade would be disbursed soon.

The finance minister said the country’s biggest province Balochistan deserved to be given special attention as the country’s development depended on its progress and prosperity.

Border trade

He said that for improving border trade at Chaman, a special committee had been set up under Balochistan Chief Minister Jamal Kamal Khan and commander of the army’s southern command, and provincial finance minister and members of the Quetta chamber as its members.

Mr Umar said the government wanted to bring structural changes in border trade and also make it legal as locals had been depending on it for centuries. He also said that credit facility would be provided for trade in Balochistan, as banks were currently reluctant to give credit.

Mr Umar said that a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Gwadar was being developed but it would take some time. He said both the federal and provincial governments had agreed to work in the meantime on existing industrial estate at Hub and all infrastructure facilities including power of 1,200 megawatts would be set up. “We are focused to remove all unnecessary departments, which become hurdle in way of progress and added that presently five departments are engaged in a work that could be done by one,” he lamented.

Responding to a question, the minister said negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) were under way though the government was not in a hurry to approach the IMF for support.

Addressing the business community, Mr Umar said the private sector would have a leading role in the 21st century whereas the government would only provide infrastructure and work as facilitator by removing all sorts of bottlenecks for quick investment and industrialization.

He said professionals were being inducted in financial institutions on merit while the discretionary powers of low-ranking officials of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) were being withdrawn.

In reply to a question, the minister said there was nothing secret about the debts taken under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as their details had already been made public.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Indian officials try to create problems for Pakistani team at FATF meeting

ISLAMABAD: While the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has ,expressed satisfaction over, Pakistan’s efforts as well as plans against money laundering, India continues to raise questions about terror financing.

“The proceedings went well and almost all the FATF members appreciated measures taken by Pakistan and actions planned by it,” sources told Dawn after the conclusion of a three-day conference in Sydney, Australia.

The sources said that India kept asking questions about the measures Pakistan had taken against Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and other such organisations. It dem­anded that the steps be made public.

The Pakistani delegation explained that all the actions recommended by the FATF had been taken and a compliance report submitted to its headquarters.

The delegation also made it clear that it would be the Pakistan government’s decision whether or not to publicise actions taken against banned organisations and would not succumb to desires of any specific member.

Most other members seem satisfied with Islamabad’s efforts against money laundering, terror financing

Pakistani officials also made it clear that they would not respond to verbal questions from adversaries but would be ready to provide comprehensive responses if written queries were submitted.

The sources said the Indian delegates then filed a total of 28 questions with the FATF, which were shared with the Pakistani delegation.

Pakistan assured the FATF that responses to the questions would be provided in the next review meeting scheduled to be held in Paris on Feb 17-18. All the questions raised by the Indian delegates pertained to actions taken to block terror financing.

The sources said that Pakistan also told the FATF that there was no need for amendments to anti-money laundering laws and the Paris-based financial watchdog accepted Pakistan’s view.

While the action plan presented by Pakistan was accepted by the FATF as reasonable, the country would now follow up with implementation through strengthening of agencies and processes to combat money laundering and terror financing under international obligations.

The Pakistani delegation was led by Finance Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan and comprised representatives of the State Bank of Pakistan, National Counter Terrorism Authority, Federal Investigation Agency, Federal Board of Revenue and Financial Monitoring Unit.

An official claimed that the FATF had highlighted a few matters that were doable by May this year, but progress would need to be registered by February this year. A broader examination of the full compliance with international commitments will take place at another meeting in May, possibly in Sri Lanka or Australia.

Officials said the FATF had gone through the report dispatched by Pakistan last week before the review meetings with the Pakistani delegation involving questions and answers about the performance so far and the way forward. They said the FATF team appeared convinced over the steps and measures taken by the authorities to combat terror financing and money laundering in line with the UN resolutions.

The Pakistani delegation explained the implementation status of plans for various government agencies. Its report identified Pak-Afghan and Pak-Iran borders as key routes for terror financing and money laundering and reported that a total of 4,643 suspected transactions had been identified and blocked since 2015, including 3,677 suspected transaction reports and 966 financial intelligence reports.

A total of 1,167 transactions were seized last year alone, including 975 STRs and 210 financial intelligence reports.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2019

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US judge says Cali man jailed for attending terrorist camp in Pakistan was wrongfully convicted

A federal magistrate on Friday recommended overturning the ,controversial 2006 conviction, of a California man accused of attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan and plotting an attack in the United States.

Hamid Hayat, now 36, who was then a young cherry-picker from Lodi, has served about half his 24-year sentence.

But US Magistrate Judge Deborah Barnes said he likely never would have been convicted were it not for the inexperience of his defense attorney, who failed to call alibi witnesses.

“A reasonably competent attorney would have done more to investigate Hayat’s alibi,” Barnes said in a 116-page opinion.

Her recommendation that the conviction be vacated now goes to US District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr.

He presided over Hayat’s original trial, conviction and sentencing and previously rejected a defense motion over whether Hayat was properly represented at trial. Either side can appeal Burrell’s eventual decision.

Barnes heard new testimony from witnesses who said Hayat, who was born in California, never had time to receive terror training while visiting relatives and getting married in his ancestral village in Pakistan.

Barnes also found that Hayat’s defense attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, should have put on evidence from an expert on false confessions who could have countered prosecutors’ claim that Hayat confessed.

Mojaddidi, an immigration and family law attorney who was trying her first criminal case, said she “passionately represented Hamid Hayat as a young attorney and worked with a great team of lawyers and investigators in his defense.”

She said in a statement that she always has believed he is innocent and is elated by Barnes’ recommendation.

Prosecutors are reviewing the magistrate’s recommendation, US Attorney McGregor Scott said.

“It has consistently been our position that Mr Hayat received effective representation at trial and that his conviction by a jury, subsequently affirmed by the Ninth Circuit, is completely valid,” he said in a statement.

One of the three appellate judges dissented when the court upheld Hayat’s conviction in 2013, saying jurors erred in convicting Hayat based on predictions of what he might have done.

Hayat’s attorneys said Barnes’ opinion goes beyond finding that his conviction should be overturned.

“The judge found the testimony of the alibi witnesses sufficiently credible to conclude that Hamid would likely not have been convicted if the jury had heard these witnesses,” they said in a statement. “That is effectively a finding of actual innocence.”

Investigators initially claimed five men were part of an al-Qaida “sleeper cell” in the agricultural community south of Sacramento.

But federal prosecutors eventually deported three of the men without charges, while Hayat’s father, an ice cream truck driver, admitted only to a customs violation after a jury couldn’t decide whether he lied to federal agents about his son’s activities.

Only Hayat was convicted in 2006 of providing material support to terrorists and lying to FBI agents.

Prosecutors alleged that he had a “jihadi heart” and plotted attacks on hospitals, banks, grocery stores and government buildings.

Critics have held the case out as an example of investigators’ and prosecutors’ overzealous approach to the Muslim community after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

“The prosecution took advantage of post-9/11 hysteria to convict him,” Basim Elkarra, executive director of the Sacramento Valley office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement.

The FBI ,paid an informant $230,000, over three years to infiltrate a Lodi mosque and record conversations with imams and worshippers after he improbably claimed to have seen several high-ranking al-Qaida officials there in the late 1990s.

The informant encouraged Hayat to attend a training camp while he was in Pakistan.

His attorneys said Hayat’s eventual confession was coerced during a marathon FBI interrogation and that the terror training camp was closed during the time in 2003 and 2004 when prosecutors said Hayat was purportedly there for three to six months.

He was arrested shortly after returning to the United States in 2005.

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‘Breakthrough’ as India greenlights Chenab hydropower projects inspection by Pakistan

After ,more than four months of dilly-dallying,, India has agreed to fulfil its commitment of getting its two hydropower projects — 1,000MW Pakal Dul and 48MW Lower Kalnal — inspected by Pakistani experts, officials said on Friday.

Pakistani Commissioner for Indus Waters Mehr Ali Shah said a delegation of Pakistani experts will visit the two Indian project sites on Chenab River for an inspection, scheduled for later this month.

“India has also given positive signals regarding inspection of other projects constructed on Chenab River,” he revealed while speaking to DawnNewsTV.

Examine: ,Why the Indus Water Treaty has stood the test of time,

Shah said Pakistan had achieved this “success” after forcefully raising the issue of India’s violation of the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT)

Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda hailed the development as a “major breakthrough”, saying a delegation led by Shah will visit the Indian hydropower projects at the Chenab Basin for an inspection between January 27 and February 1.

,,

“It’s indeed a feather in [the] Ministry for water resources’ cap. We welcome this gesture from India and we expect the same spirit for resolution of other outstanding issues,” the minister said in a series of tweets.

Vawda observed that Pakistan and India have been engaged in the dispute relating to IWT “for ages”, but New Delhi had now agreed to schedule the visit of Pakistani experts “due to our continued efforts”.

India had ,originally agreed to allow Pakistani experts to inspect, the aforementioned two projects during the 115th meeting of the Permanent Commission for Indus Waters (PCIW) held between the two countries from August 29 to 30 in Lahore last year.

Besides agreeing to an inspection of the Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnal projects, which was scheduled for September, India had also consented to a survey by Pakistani experts of the Kishanganga project at Jhelum basin at a later stage. Reciprocally, Pakistan had agreed to allow India to carry out inspection of Kotri Barrage over the Indus after September.

After initially scheduling the inspection of the projects at Chenab Basin by Pakistani experts from October 7 to 11, New Delhi had ,postponed the same, on the pretext of local bodies’ elections in the respective areas.

During the last week of October, the Pakistani Indus water commissioner had telephoned his Indian counterpart, Pradeep Kumar Saxena, and urged him to give a schedule for the experts’ visit. However, Saxena then said it wouldn’t be possible during the first or second week of De­c­em­ber due to local Punchayat elections in Indian occupied Kashmir — the region where these projects are located.

After a reminder in November, Islamabad had on December 24 ,once again urged India, through a letter to fulfil the commitment it made in August to schedule the hydropower projects’ inspection by Pakistani experts.

Pakistan’s objections

Pakistan has objections to the pondage and freeboard of Lower Kalnal, and pondage, filling criteria and spillway of Pakal Dul hydropower projects on Marusadar River — a right bank tributary of the Chenab.

Read: ,Pakistan’s concerns regarding India’s Pakal Dul and Lower Kalnal projects,

Under the Indus Waters Treaty, both Pakistan and India are bound to inspect projects and share data related to water flow, storage and releases, and floods.

The treaty also empowers the two countries to mutually resolve their water related issues on their own or through arbitration and appointment of independent experts and other relevant forums.

Under the provisions of IWT, waters of the eastern rivers — Sutlej, Beas and Ravi — had been allocated to India and the western rivers — the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab — to Pakistan, except for certain non-consumptive uses by India.

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‘Will not let Asghar Khan’s efforts go to waste’: SC decides against closing 2012 case

The Supreme Court on Friday, a day after the family of late Air Marshal Asghar Khan opposed the closure of a case related to financial scams of the 1990s, summoned the defence secretary to apprise it of the status of cases against army officers allegedly involved in the case.

The apex court had notified Khan’s heirs after the ,Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) last month suggested, that the case relating to the ,implementation of the 2012 verdict, be closed since the authorities did not have enough evidence to launch a criminal prosecution against the individuals named in the judgement of the apex court.

In 1996, Asghar Khan had filed a human rights petition in the SC, accusing the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of doling out money to a group of politicians in the 1990s.

The case was initiated by the air marshal after Benazir Bhutto’s interior minister, retired general Naseerullah Babar, had claimed in the National Assembly in 1994 that the ISI had disbursed funds to “purchase” the loyalty of politicians and public figures so as to manipulate the 1990 elections, form the Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (IJI), and bring about the defeat of the PPP.

Sixteen years after the petition was filed, the SC in its judgement — penned by then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry — ruled that the 1990 general elections had been polluted by dishing out Rs140m to a particular group of politicians only to deprive the people of being represented by their chosen representatives.

According to the FIA report, 18 politicians in their statements submitted in the SC denied receiving the funds to allegedly manipulate the 1990 polls.

The agency has contended that the statements of witnesses recorded in the case so far had gaps and did not correlate with each other. Moreover, the investigation agency has also remained unsuccessful in securing financial records from the relevant banks since the matter is 24 years old.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, while hearing the case today, questioned how the court could just dismiss its decision. “We will get further investigation done,” he asserted, adding that Salman Akram Raja would assist the court.

“How can this case proceed?” he asked. “A verdict has already been announced, but look what’s happening now, when it is time for implementation.”

Justice Nisar recalled that it had been suggested “that some individuals should be separated from the case”.

“That should not happen,” Raja said. “A man has said ‘I have distributed the money’,” he pointed out.

“We will not let Asghar Khan’s efforts go to waste,” Justice Nisar asserted. “The Asghar Khan family was not taken into confidence over the suggestion that the case be closed. If the FIA lacked the authority, it could have gotten the investigation done by another institution,” the chief justice added.

“When the verdict was announced, I met then-chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry,” the top judge recounted. “I said to Chaudhry that he had announced such a massive verdict that if the court now does nothing more, even that was enough.”

“The Asghar Khan and Asia Bibi case verdicts are historical,” Raja commented.

“A military court is trying the army officers who were involved. There is a separate trial against civilians,” the chief justice said. “The cabinet had said that a military court would try them (army officers). How can we reach a final conclusion after separate investigations?” he wondered.

“We don’t know what action the military has taken so far, why not summon a report from them too?” he suggested.

“Don’t get the impression that the military is beyond the jurisdiction of this court,” Justice Nisar said. “As the chief justice, I would like to tell them that all this is within our jurisdiction.”

“Why don’t we summon the defence secretary?” he suggested.

The court in today’s hearing decided that it was not satisfied with the conclusions reached by the FIA and asked the agency to submit a response to ,Khan’s family’s joint reply,.

The SC also ordered that a notice be sent to the defence secretary and asked him to apprise the court on which army officer’s cases were sent to military courts and what progress had been made in the investigation. The court ordered the reply to be submitted in a week and adjourned the case until Jan 25.

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US, Pakistan need to be honest about differences: senator

WASHINGTON: “To be honest about differences, that’s important, to be honest,” said Bob Casey, a senior member of the US Senate while describing how he thinks relations between the United States and Pakistan can improve.

Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, pointed out that historically the United States and Pakistan “have been very good friends” but “that relationship has cooled, somewhat in the last few years”.

Senator Shaheen, who as a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Near Eastern and South and Central Asian Affairs plays a key role in shaping US policies towards Pakistan, acknowledged the need to rebuild the once-close relationship and urged the Pakistani-American community to play its role by getting involved in the American political process.

“I think it is important for us to figure out how to right the relationship, so that we can continue to be very strong allies,” she said.

These two senior members of the Democratic Party were among about 20 lawmakers who spoke at a reception that the Pakistani American Political Action Committee (PAK PAC) hosted for the new, 116th Congress in Washington on Wednesday night.

The presence of so many American lawmakers at a Pakistani reception was a pleasant surprise as these days US senators and congressmen maintain a safe distance from Pakistan.

Even the Pakistan Embassy struggles to lure US lawmakers to its receptions and recently turned to state legislators to ensure an American presence.

But that seems to be changing with a softening of the US administration’s approach towards Pakistan. There seems to be a realisation in Washington that the administration’s attempt to force Pakistan to change its Afghan policy is not working. So, they are now seeking Islamabad’s cooperation for ensuring a graceful end to America’s longest military engagement, the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan.

Senator Casey, the first Democrat to win re-election to the Senate from Pennsylvania, however, was honest and frank in explaining how he thinks US-Pakistan ties can be mended.

He urged both sides to ensure that “we continue to engage even when we have disagreements” and one of the most important areas of cooperation, he added, has to be counterterrorism.

“There’s no place in the world that has suffered more gravely from terrorism and terrorist attacks than Pakistan,” he said, noting that Pakistanis have worked with the US government in implementing US counterterrorism strategies.

“Sometimes it works. Sometimes we do not share enough information. Sometimes it is a breakdown,” said Senator Casey, explaining why Washington often seems frustrated with Islamabad.

“And every president, I think, should have the right to question the relationship, to ask more questions about the bilateral relationship,” said the senator in an apparent reference to President Donald Trump’s recent statements about Pakistan. “But I think it is of critical importance that we continue to engage to defeat terrorists and to counter any terrorist activity,” he added.

Senator Casey noted that the US and Pakistan have also had difficulties in maintaining a strong economic and trade relationship.

“We should continue to pursue that because the Pakistani people have a lot to offer the world and have a lot to offer our markets. And I hope we can continue that,” he said.

Senator Shaheen remin­ded Pakistani-Americans that “democracy is only as good as the people who engage in it” and if they wanted to influence policy-making, they need to get engaged.

“It is really important because that’s how we make policies. Unless we engage, we are not going to change the things we disagree with,” she said.

House of representatives; Democrats Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Elissa Slotkin, Susan Wild, Madeleine Dean, Greg Stanton, Steven Horsford, Raja Krishna­moorthi, Andre Carson, Mary Gay Scanlon, Andy Levin, and Max Rose, and from among Republicans; Joe Wilson, Jack Bergman, Brian Fitzpatrick and Jim Banks attended the reception.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019

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SBP says it advised banks to provide PTI bank accounts information to ECP

ISLAMABAD: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has explained that it had advised all banks to provide information about bank accounts of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

Clarifying a news item headlined “,PTI operating 18 undeclared bank accounts: SBP report,” published in Dawn, the State Bank’s chief spokesman said on Thursday that the ECP had in July last year approached the SBP for assistance in obtaining information about PTI’s bank accounts from 2009 to 2013 as per the commission’s mandate enshrined in the Con­stitution and the Elections Act, 2017.

“SBP while discharging of its duties advised all banks to provide the required information/data directly to ECP by due date, as per procedure laid down under the law,” the clarification said, denying issuance of any report relating to the PTI’s bank accounts to the ECP.

“SBP neither maintains the database of banks’ individual accountholders nor possesses any related information/record thereof. Banks being the custodian of customers’ information may directly provide this information to various agencies, on case-to-case basis, as per procedure laid down under the respective laws. Therefore, it is out of question that SBP has reported 18 undeclared bank accounts of PTI out of total 26 to the ECP,” it added.

Informed sources confirmed that the data, which revealed that the PTI was operating 18 undeclared bank accounts, had directly been provided by the scheduled banks to the ECP on the advice of the State Bank.

The letter to the State Bank governor on July 3, 2018. — Dawn

The letter to the State Bank governor on July 3, 2018. — Dawn

According to documents available with Dawn, the ECP director general (law), who heads the commission’s scrutiny committee mandated to examine the allegations of receipt of funding by the PTI from prohibited sources, had written a letter to the State Bank governor on July 3, 2018, seeking assistance from the SBP in obtaining information rela­ted to PTI’s bank accounts.

The information sought included list of bank accounts maintained by the PTI anywhere in Pakistan from 2009 to 2013, with data-wise details of transactions, country-wise list of all funds transferred to the PTI accounts from abroad during the period separately for each financial year, including particulars of remitters, and monthly bank statements of all the accounts for each financial year (2009-2013).

Subsequently, the State Bank had on July 12, 2018 written letters to the presidents/chief executives of all banks with copy of the letter. “….You are advised to provide the requisite information directly to the Election Commission of Pakistan before July, 16, 2018 positively under intimation to the State Bank of Pakistan. In case of non-existence of PTI account with your bank, a NIL position may kindly be reported to the Commission,” the SBP letter read.

Credible sources insist that the data showed the PTI was operating 26 bank accounts across the country, but only eight of them had been declared before the ECP.

Former ECP secretary Kanwar Dishad, while talking to Dawn, said it was irrelevant if the SBP had provided information about PTI’s bank accounts directly to the ECP or the data had been generated from the banks on its directives. He said the ECP enjoyed the powers to take back the symbol of any political party found to have been involved in concealing its funding and bank account details.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019

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Cabinet decides to continue travel ban on PPP leaders

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to continue the travel ban on Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) stalwarts, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

The decision was made at a federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan at his office on Thursday.

The cabinet in its meeting on Dec 27, 2018 had decided to ,place names of 172 suspects, of the fake bank accounts and money laundering case, including top PPP leaders and Bahria Town owner Malik Riaz, on the Exit Control List (ECL). However, the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the case, had expressed surprise on Dec 31 over placing of the names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah on the ECL and ,ordered the government to review the decision,.

Party urges Supreme Court to take notice of ‘dictatorial move’

The cabinet in its last meeting had referred the matter to a special committee of the interior ministry to review it. On Thursday, the committee presented its report to the cabinet recommending removal of 20 names from the ECL, including those of the PPP leaders.

However, Prime Minister Khan and his team rejected the recommendations and decided that the names of the top leaders of the PPP would remain on the ECL.

“The federal cabinet has decided not to remove names of Mr Bhutto-Zardari and Mr Shah from the ECL,” said Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry at a press conference held to brief the media on the decisions made by the cabinet.

He said names of the PPP leaders would remain on the ECL until a detailed written order of the Supreme Court was received. “After going through the order, we will decide whether the names of the PPP leaders should be removed from the list or the government should file a review petition against the apex court’s decision,” he added.

The minister said another committee — comprising Law Minister Farogh Naseem, the PM’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi and Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan — had been constituted to review the travel ban on the 172 suspects. The committee will present its report to the cabinet in its next meeting.

The names of the 172 suspects were placed on the ECL on the recommendations of a Joint Investigation Team formed by the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the PPP has reacted to the cabinet’s latest decision and termed it a “dictatorial decision”.

“The cabinet decision has not only exposed the ‘ugly’ face of Imran Khan but the fact that dictatorship is prevailing in the country which does not even accept the decisions of the Supreme Court,” said PPP leader Dr Nafisa Shah in a statement.

She claimed that the JIT report was prepared by the PM’s Assistant Shahzad Akbar who misused his authority and the PM’s office. “It seems that Imran Khan is scared of Bilawal Bhutto’s politics and employing negative tactics,” she added.

The PPP leader called on the apex court to take stern notice of the government’s “rigidness” and alleged that the “puppet” government was “using accountability and the ECL as tools for arm-twisting of political opponents”.

Giving details of other decisions taken by the cabinet, the information minister said the cabinet expressed satisfaction over the government’s economic policies which, according to him, had started bearing fruit.

He said the prime minister ordered the law ministry to compile a negative category list in 48 hours as per directive of the apex court of the government jobs which could not be given to Pakistani nationals having dual nationality.

Gas shortage

The cabinet also discussed prevailing gas shortage in the country as a result of which the people are facing problems in the chilly weather.

Mr Chaudhry said one of the biggest gas supply distribution systems in the world, which was in Pakistan, had started giving losses to the government because only 28 per cent of the people were receiving gas through it while others were turning on their stoves through other sources, including liquefied natural gas. “Majority of the people are deprived of gas but the mammoth system is giving us losses.”

He said the prime minister directed the petroleum ministry to formulate a comprehensive policy on the use of gas.

The minister said former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had left a burden of Rs157 billion circular debt to be paid by the gas sector, adding that there was no debt on the sector when Mr Abbasi had assumed charge as petroleum minister during the term of the last Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government.

Talking about Rs1.5 million one-month electricity bill of Prime Minister House, the minister said Imran Khan was astonished why the PM House had received such a heavy bill despite the fact that he had cut down its expenditures and use by not living in it.

“During former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s tenure 85,000 electricity units were consumed by the PM House and now half of it is consumed. Even then the present consumption is quite higher than the PM’s expectations,” he added.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister ordered an audit of the staff responsible for managing the PM House.

According to him, the cabinet decided to appoint senior officials as heads of different government departments on temporary basis.

Aviation Secretary retired Squadron Leader Shahrukh Nusrat has been made acting managing director of the Civil Aviation Authority and retired air marshal Arshad Malik acting chief executive officer of the Pakistan International Airlines. Muhammad Saleh Farooqui has been given additional charge of managing director of the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company.

Anjum Asad has been appointed member of the National Tariff Commission and Ayesha Aziz managing director of the Pak-Brunei Investment Company.

Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019

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Cabinet to wait for SC written order regarding removal of names from ECL: Fawad Chaudhry

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said the federal cabinet has rejected the recommendations of the interior ministry to remove the names of 20 individuals from the Exit Control List (ECL).

He was addressing a press conference following the ,federal cabinet meeting in Islamabad,.

The information minister said that the law ministry had informed the cabinet that the Supreme Court’s written order pertaining to the removal of names from the ECL has not been issued as yet.

Chaudhry said a cabinet committee has been formed, which includes Minister for Law and Justice Barrister Dr Farogh Naseem, Minister of State for Interior Shahryar Afridi, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Accountability Shahzad Akbar and the Interior Secretary Azam Suleman Khan. This committee will review the issues pertaining to the 172 names, looking at the roles of each person, following which it will present its recommendations to the cabinet.

The minister added that once the written orders of the SC are issued, the cabinet will also seek the committee’s guidance regarding whether a review appeal of the court order should be submitted or not.

A visibly disturbed Supreme Court on December 31 ,had ordered the federal cabinet to reconsider, its “hasty decision” of placing the names of 172 individuals, including Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and other Pakistan Peoples Party stalwarts, on the ECL.

The court had taken up the report of a joint investigation team (JIT) constituted to probe fake bank accounts revolving around a 2015 inquiry into the suspicious transactions when ‘benami’ accounts were identified.

On the recommendations of the JIT, the federal cabinet had in its meeting on Dec 27 last year decided to place the names of 172 individuals on the ECL, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Murad Ali Shah, Farooq H. Naek and several other leaders and provincial ministers belonging to the PPP.

But the apex court had asked the federal cabinet to reconsider the decision in its next meeting and decide the matter after due application of mind instead of merely relying on the JIT recommendations.

“The JIT report is not a holy scripture,” the chief justice had obser­ved, adding that a sitting chief minister was being stigmatised.

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PTI operating 18 undeclared bank accounts: SBP report

ISLAMABAD: A report submitted by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has revealed that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is operating at least 18 undeclared bank accounts across the country.

According to the information gathered from scheduled banks and submitted to the ECP by the SBP, the PTI is operating 26 bank accounts in different cities of the country, but only eight of them have been declared before the commission. The remaining 18 bank accounts fall in the category of fake or illegal bank accounts as these have not been declared in PTI’s annual audit reports submitted to the ECP as required under the law.

The annual audit reports submitted to the ECP include a certification of authenticity and accuracy by PTI chairman Imran Khan — a legal requirement for all party heads.

It is feared that details of these illegal accounts and their money trails could put Mr Khan, Imran Ismail and others — some of whom are in senior government positions — in legal jeopardy as they are principal and co-principal signatories of these accounts.

Party claims it has submitted all central accounts to ECP

Sources said the details of these undeclared bank accounts, including two in Karachi and one each in Peshawar and Quetta, had been shared at a meeting of the ECP’s scrutiny committee headed by the commission’s director general (law) in October last year.

In July 2018, after exhausting all attempts to requisition PTI bank statements and record, the ECP wrote to the SBP to requisition the party’s bank statements. Consequently, the SBP wrote letters to the presidents of all scheduled banks, seeking PTI bank statements for the period 2009-13 to be submitted to the ECP by July 16, which was finally done.

Since the revelation of fake or illegal PTI accounts in the presence of the party’s representatives at a meeting of the scrutiny committee last year, the PTI has stopped cooperating with the ECP — a reflection of which was the absence of any PTI representative in the scheduled scrutiny committee meeting on Wednesday.

The meeting was adjourned after petitioner and PTI’s founding member Akbar S. Babar, his legal team headed by Badar Iqbal Chaudhry, the ECP director general (law) and two senior auditors from the defence establishment waited for over an hour for any PTI representative to show up.

The result of PTI’s non-cooperation is that the ECP scrutiny committee has yet to finalise the audit of PTI’s foreign funding and submit its findings to the commission since its inception in March despite holding over two dozen meetings. Initially mandated to complete the scrutiny process in one month, but due to lack of PTI cooperation to submit its accounts and bank statements requisitioned by the committee, its time frame was extended by two months and subsequently for an indefinite period.

When contacted, Mr Babar termed the whole episode the biggest funding fraud and said that it probably required a detailed forensic audit to know the exact extent and depth. He, however, refused to divulge any information on the undeclared bank accounts of the PTI.

The PTI has been pushing for keeping the scrutiny committee’s proceedings as secret and had also filed an application to this effect in the ECP and a writ petition in the Islamabad High Court.

PTI reaction

PTI’s central finance secretary Azhar Tariq, when contacted, said: “We have submitted all the central accounts being handled by us.” He said the PTI had asked the State Bank to share the details of the accounts it had submitted to the ECP, but the SBP governor asked the party to seek information directly from the banks. He said these might include some accounts being run by the party’s provincial offices and some of them might not be operational.

He said the ECP scrutiny committee was exceeding its jurisdiction as under the Supreme Court orders it was supposed to authenticate the details submitted by petitioner Babar, which had not yet been done.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2019

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Via DAWN.com

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