Posts Tagged ‘Education’

Mini-budget hikes taxes, cuts uplift spending

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Asad Umar presents the Finance Supplementary (Amendment) Bill, 2018, in the National Assembly on Tuesday.—INP

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Asad Umar presents the Finance Supplementary (Amendment) Bill, 2018, in the National Assembly on Tuesday.—INP

• Excise duty on cars of 1800cc and above doubled
• Ban on car, property purchases by non-filers withdrawn
• Banking transactions of non-filers to be taxed at 0.6pc
• Regulatory duties on additional 312 items
• CPEC spending protected

ISLAMABAD: Partially reversing income tax relaxations and reducing the development budget, the PTI government announced a supplementary budget on Tuesday with a total fiscal adjustment equal to 2.1 per cent of GDP (roughly Rs805 billion), including Rs183bn worth of revenue measures.

Finance Minister Asad Umar delivered his inaugural budget speech for the PTI government in an unusually calm environment — a rare opportunity — as the opposition PPP and PML-N listened to him in silence. The minister reciprocated by conceding that the economic crisis was 15-30 years in the making and not the specific fault of any one political party.

Ramsha Jahangir

Ramsha Jahangir

A key reversal on the revenue side was elimination of the restriction on non-tax filers on purchase of real estate and automobiles. In the last budget of the PML-N government, a ban had been imposed on non-filers of tax returns to purchase new cars and property. The car manufacturers and real estate developers were up in arms against the decision that had plummeted car and property sales by up to 50pc.

The finance minister claimed that the ban was being removed because it was interfering in the ability of overseas Pakistanis to do business and invest in Pakistan.

Even with such a massive fiscal adjustment described by the minister as a ‘bypass surgery’, the target for fiscal deficit for the financial year 2018-19 was put at 5.1pc instead of 4.9pc set in the budget passed by parliament in May this year. Reforms will follow in about a month or so to put the economy on the road to recovery, he said.

Mr Umar said the supplementary budget for the current year had become inevitable because of severe economic crisis and necessitated by the “unrealistic” budget announced by former finance minister Miftah Ismail.

In that budget, he added, revenue collection was overstated by Rs350bn and expenditures were understated by Rs250bn and Rs286bn projected as cash surplus from the provinces was also unlikely to materialise when they jointly posted a Rs18bn deficit last year despite similar anticipated surpluses.

He said the combined Rs890bn impact of these three unrealistic targets would actually take the fiscal deficit to Rs2.78 trillion at the end of the year, or 7.2pc of GDP, instead of Rs1.89tr reflected in the budget books.

For his own part, the finance minister provided no budget books for a record or future reference. The public is left to piece together the numbers from the budget speech and a brief press conference immediately following it, after which the minister departed with Prime Minister Imran Khan for Saudi Arabia.

The revenue target has been revised downward by Rs45bn to Rs4.39tr. The minister said the development programme had been capped at Rs725bn (down from Rs1030bn in original budget), compared to actual expenditure of Rs661bn last year. Of this the core development to be financed out of budget would be Rs575bn, while Rs100bn infrastructure funding needs of the National Highway Authority would be met through what he called “innovative financing” the details of which would be discussed in the parliamentary committee.

In doing development restructuring, Mr Umar said the major initiatives under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor launched by the previous government would be fully protected. Likewise, Rs23bn allocated for large dams will also not be reduced but supplemented with donations on the calls of the prime minister and the chief justice of Pakistan to reduce their completion time from 8-9 years to 6-7 years. The funding to the Higher Education Commission is also unchanged.

On top of that, Rs50bn will be provided through public-private partnership to the Karachi Infrastructure Development Company on the instructions of the prime minister.

Giving background, the finance minister said the target for last fiscal deficit was set at 4.1pc of GDP, but it reached 6.6pc (Rs2.293tr) that was in reality 8.2pc when taken into account the impact of circular debt kept outside the budget — exactly where it was when the PML-N took over from the PPP in 2013.

The external situation was even worse, he said, adding that the current account deficit had climbed to $18.1bn last year from $2.5bn at the end of 2012-13. External debt touched $95bn last year instead of $60bn five years ago and yet foreign exchange reserves were falling rapidly and were enough to cover just 6-7 months of imports.

“The alarm bells have been ringing for quite some time,” Mr Umar said, adding: “The crisis is almost on our doorsteps now, unless tough decisions are taken to arrest and then reverse the situation.”

Talking about the Rs183bn revenue measures, the minister said that about Rs92bn would be recovered through the use of “modern technology” and without increasing tax rates on individuals — a pointer towards administrative measures used by all governments in the past when undertaking a stabilisation effort. The remaining Rs91bn would be additional revenue “to come from the rich”, non-filers and enhanced duties on expensive mobile phones, import of luxury food items and luxury cars and SUVs.

For example, he said the non-filers would now be able to buy property and vehicles of 1800cc and above but at a higher registration rate. The federal excise duty on 1800cc cars and above has been increased from 10pc to 20pc.

The minister said the ratio of income tax on all those below annual income of Rs2.4 million (Rs200,000 per month) had been kept unchanged, but income beyond Rs2.4m would be subjected to a maximum of 29pc tax rate on non-salaried and 25pc on salaried, instead of up to 35pc last year.

In a political move, the finance minister announced withdrawal of tax exemption on housing allowance, conveyance and sumptuary allowances of the prime minister, ministers and governors. When asked whether such exemptions would also be withdrawn from judges and generals, Mr Umar said no and added that they were government servants and not interested in ruling the nation.

He said a projection for Rs300bn collection as petroleum development levy was also unrealistic and had been capped at the last year’s collection of Rs189bn. The tax on all bank transactions by non-filers that was set at 0.6pc by the PML-N government two years ago and then brought down to 0.4pc has also been reversed to 0.6pc.

He said the pension for EOBI employees would be increased by 10pc. Likewise, Rs4.5bn would be released immediately for 8,276 houses to be built out of welfare funds that have been stopped by the previous government. He said the prime minister had also approved construction of 10,000 houses in the next phase.

The minister said regulatory duty had been imposed on import of 312 tariff lines and increased on another 295 high-end luxury items with additional impact of Rs12-13bn.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2018

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Govt, opposition to have equal representation in parliamentary body to probe poll rigging charges

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi announced on Tuesday that a “transparent” parliamentary committee will be formed to probe charges of rigging in the July 25 elections on the opposition’s demand.

Speaking during a session of the National Assembly that is currently underway, the minister revealed that the probe body will have equal representation from the government and the opposition.

The committee will be headed by a lawmaker belonging to the government, while no members of the Senate will be its members.

Qureshi had earlier announced that the probe committee will have proportionate representation from the treasury and opposition benches; however, the government agreed to equal representation from either sides after talks with opposition leaders.

The parliamentary committee will prepare the terms of reference (ToR) to investigate the charges of rigging in the July 25 elections, Qureshi said, adding that the body will be “empowered”.

In response to PPP lawmaker Shazia Marri’s demand that the committee be led by an opposition member, Qureshi said such committees are usually headed by the government and previously a similar committee was led by former finance minister Ishaq Dar.

Every child born in Pakistan has right to citizenship: PM

Speaking in NA, Prime Minister Imran Khan ,defended his earlier stance, of granting citizenship to the Bengali and Afghan children who were born in Pakistan.

“Every child born in the country has a right to citizenship,” he said.

PM Imran Khan speaks during the NA session. — DawnNewsTV

PM Imran Khan speaks during the NA session. — DawnNewsTV

In response to a question, the prime minister said it is a globally recognised law that a child born in a country gets its citizenship.

He said around the world, separate laws are applied to migrants and children of migrants born in the host country.

“Now the third generation of Bengalis are living in Pakistan and ,specifically in Karachi,. As they have no computerised national identity cards, they are unable to get jobs and even admission in educational institutes.”

“We have been briefed that jobless youngsters are responsible for rampant street crimes in Karachi. What will be their future if we don’t grant them citizenship? They can’t go back as they are the third generation living in this country and what would they do if we don’t grant them citizenship?” Khan asked.

The prime minister said he has taken up the issue on humanitarian grounds, adding that international conventions bound countries not to send back migrants forcefully.

Talking about Afghan migrants, he said they should return and the government is already working on their voluntary repatriation.

He also made it clear that a final decision is yet to be taken to this effect. “The issue is open for debate, give your suggestions,” Khan said in response to criticism from the opposition benches.

During the same NA session, Finance Minister Asad Umar ,presented the amended finance bill, for the remaining months of fiscal 2018-2019.

In his budget speech, the minister detailed the amendments the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-led government is bringing to the federal budget announced by the PML-N government in May this year.

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In maiden parliamentary address, President Alvi urges lawmakers to support the govt

President Dr Arif Alvi on Monday made his inaugural address in a joint sitting of the parliament, where he talked about wide-ranging problems plaguing Pakistan and urged the lawmakers to support the govt in taking the country forward.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had claimed that the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had assured the government that its members will not disrupt the proceedings.

However, the session started with a protest from opposition lawmakers, which was overruled by Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser, following which opposition lawmakers — mostly from the PML-N — walked out as the president began his speech.

“Today’s address marks the beginning of the new parliamentary year,” President Alvi said. “I am grateful to be elected to Pakistan’s highest Constitutional office, and pray that I will be able to fulfill the responsibilities that have been given to me.

President Alvi addresses the parliament for the first time — DawnNewsTV

The new president commented on the continuation of parliamentary democracy in the country, saying: “Pakistan’s parliamentary system has been a victim of instability due to various reasons. However, that the fact that past three governments have been able to complete their terms is encouraging.”

President Alvi stressed the need to root out corruption and strengthen the nation’s various institutions.

“The elections proved that the nation is tired of dishonesty and is looking from relief,” he said. “This government wants to make a new Pakistan, and we need to remember that we are one nation.

“On one hand, to rid the nation of corruption, we need saaf shaffaf institutions, on the other hand, we need to strengthen the institutions that are responsible for accountability, so that they could function and do their job without any fear.

“Governments are only successful when they cater to the needs of their people. The current government has set out to make a Naya Pakistan, it is this same slogan that led us to winning the elections.”

The president urged his audience to support the government in its austerity drive, and also help it cut down its dependencies on foreign loans.

“I wish that we all take part in the austerity initiatives taken by the government in an effort to create Naya Pakistan,” he said. “These measures include ending the practices of protocol for members of the government. If we take on the practice of austerity we could get back on track and head towards the right direction.

“We need to remember the fact that we are a nation in debt. And then we take on more debt to pay off the interest on our old debts, instead of building development projects. According to the law, the loan to GDP ratio should not be more that 60 per cent. However, for the past several years, we have been breaking our own law.

“We need to follow the example of the state of Madinah to take the country forward. In his final address, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had said that no person had any advantage over another on the basis of caste, creed or religion. Islamic nations are based on these principles and Dr Allama Iqbal and Quiad-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah also dreamed of a Pakistan where the welfare of the people is at the fore and the state works for the betterment of its people.

“Pakistan is going through a very difficult phase, but our nation is high-spirited, and it is also heartening to see the way the overseas Pakistanis are looking forward to rebuilding this nation.”

President Alvi, in his maiden address, also talked about the growing water crisis in the country. “There is a lack of water in Pakistan,” he said. “Our urban centres are facing severe environmental pollution. In these circumstances we need to build dams and plant trees to tackle the issue.

Prime Minister Imran Khan was also in attendance during the joint session — DawnNewsTV

Prime Minister Imran Khan was also in attendance during the joint session — DawnNewsTV

“We need to give a preference to drip irrigation over traditional irrigation processes. As a nation we also need to bring a change in our lifestyles and take on more water conservation practices.”

President Alvi called for countrywide improvements in the educational and healthcare sectors, while also urging the empowerment of women, without which he said “no country can progress”.

He assured the parliament that Pakistan’s relations with other countries during the PTI rule will be further strengthened. “China, the US, Iran and Turkey’s FMs [have had meetings with us],” he said. “God willing, our relations with all of them will improve.”

The president said that instead of indulging in “blame game” on the Kashmir issue, he would like for the govt to “continue its efforts at every level”.

President Alvi also paid tribute to the efforts of Pakistan Army in the war against terrorism, and referred it as “the most successful army”, adding that “the world should learn from us”.

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President Alvi addresses the parliament for the first time

President Dr Arif Alvi is addressing the lawmakers of Pakistan for the first time in a joint sitting of the parliament.

The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had claimed that the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party had assured the government that its members will not disrupt the proceedings.

However, the session started with a protest from opposition lawmakers, which was overruled by Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaiser, following which opposition lawmakers, mostly from the PML-N, walked out as the president began his speech.

“Today’s address marks the beginning of the new parliamentary year,” President Alvi said. “I am grateful to be elected to Pakistan’s highest Constitutional office, and pray that I will be able to fulfill the responsibilities that have been given to me.

“The elections proved that the nation is tired of dishonesty and is looking from relief. This government wants to make a new Pakistan, and we need to remember that we are one nation.

The president urged his audience to support the government in its austerity drive, and also help it cut down its dependencies on foreign loans.

“I wish that we all take part in the austerity initiatives taken by the government in an effort to create Naya Pakistan,” he said. “These measures include ending the practices of protocol for members of the government.

“We need to remember the fact that we are a nation in debt. And then we take on more debt to pay off the interest on our old debts, instead of building development projects. According to the law, the loan to GDP ratio should not be more that 60 per cent. However, for the past several years, we have been breaking our own law.

“We need to take on the example of the state of Madinah and build a country based on that model. We need to initiate new housing projects and build schemes to provide our youth with jobs. If we are able to do so, that is what tabdeeli is going to be, and it will be the basis of Naya Pakistan. I look towards our lawmakers to come up with strategies that make all of this possible.”

President Alvi in his maiden address, also talked about the growing water crisis in the country. “There is a lack of water in Pakistan,” he said. “Our urban centres are facing severe environmental pollution. In these circumstances we need to build dams and plant trees to tackle the issue.

“We need to give a preference to drip irrigation over traditional irrigation processes. As a nation we also need to bring a change in our lifestyles and take on more water conservation practices.”

President Alvi called for countrywide improvements in the educational and healthcare sectors, while also urging the empowerment of women, without which he said “no country can progress”.

The government had earlier convened the joint sitting on Sept 13 and regular sessions of the National Assembly and the Senate on Sept 14, but cancelled it a day before at the PML-N’s request and to avoid possible criticism of the move as it was coinciding with the funeral of former first lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz.


This is a developing story that is being updated as the situation evolves. Initial reports in the media can sometimes be inaccurate. We will strive to ensure timeliness and accuracy by relying on credible sources, such as concerned, qualified authorities and our staff reporters.

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Sahiwal headmistress critically injures minor for ‘using her toilet’

SAHIWAL: A public school headmistress tortured a Class II student for allegedly using her toilet in an emergency.

The incident happened at the Government Girls Middle School in village 2/10-L near Harappa city on Thursday noon.

Iram Shahzadi was so critically injured that she received 10 stitches to her private organs. Dr Zahid confirmed to Dawn over phone that the child’s private organs were wounded. She was admitted to the DHQ Hospital in a critical condition.

The girl’s family claimed when they submitted an application for registration of a case, Harappa police not only allegedly refused to register it, but also discouraged the girl’s father from moving against headmistress Farkhanda Batool.

The parents claimed that the police also refused to issue them a medical docket.

Sources said that on Friday Shahzadi’s parents succeeded in getting a medical docket from Harappa area magistrate Tajammul.

Shahzadi’s mother Sakeena Bibi told Dawn that the medical superintendent of DHQ teaching hospital conducted a medical examination of her daughter that confirmed critical injuries to her private parts. The parents demanded a departmental inquiry from the education chief executive officer and registration of a criminal case against the headmistress.

Iram Shahzadi, 6, is a resident of village 2/10-L. On Thursday morning at school, she wanted to use a toilet and in the urgency she used the headmistress’s toilet as the other washrooms were non-functional. When she came out, the headmistress saw her and started slapping Shahzadi.

Witnesses said the headmistress pushed and shoved the girl, who hit a cement wall and steps and started bleeding from her private parts. On seeing the blood, the headmistress took the girl to her room and locked the school’s main gate.

A witness said that later headmistress Batool took Shahzadi to her cousin’s house in the village and attempted to stop the bleeding. When the girl’s parents found out about the incident after two hours, they took their daughter to a private hospital where doctors examined her and gave her 10 stitches.

Sakeena told Dawn that the headmistress’s family, instead of apologising to them, were pressurising them against reporting the incident to the authorities.

“The headmistress’s relatives threatened us to be silent when we decided to move an application to Harappa police station,” her husband, Riaz, added.

Headmistress Batool did not respond despite repeated attempts.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018

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PM Khan woos bureaucracy, promises to protect it from political pressure

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday addressed civil servants in Islamabad, asking them to support the government through a “down cycle” over the next two years and to support its “out-of-the-box” policy reforms.

The prime minister, in his address, highlighted various challenges that the nation was facing.

“We don’t have money to run our country; the majority of the population is young and looking for jobs; and the loans we took, instead of creating wealth so that we could repay them, have created projects that are running losses.”

He also discussed statistics on out-of-school children, malnourished children, high mortality of women in labour, and infant deaths due to waterborne diseases.

“I’m surprise that there hasn’t been outrage over this before.”

“We need to get out of this debt trap and we need to change ourselves and our nation,” he told the civil servants.

“If you look at history, nations make it through challenges when the people and the government become one. The army is also more effective when the nation is behind it,” he said.

He added that the government must assume responsibility for the people and the people themselves must own the government as their own.

“Nothing is impossible; but for that, people need to change,” he said.

“Maybe God has created this crisis because he wants us to change. We will change when we start thinking, before spending a single rupee, of the children who are out of school,” the prime minister said.

“Look at Singapore: they have exports of $303 billion but we have exports of $20bn. They have a knowledge economy [...] We have so many universities here that feature in the top 500 in the world.”

“We as leaders need to understand and ask ourselves; this money that I am spending on myself, can I spend it on the people of Pakistan? I ask this of all our leadership and our executive committee here. And I hope that you, the executive arm of this country, whatever policies we make [will help us implement them]. Unless you implement them, we cannot be successful.”

“Accountability is our cornerstone and without it we cannot progress. Corruption is our biggest issue. It isn’t just the looted money that is a problem, but the destruction of institutions in the process that is a great issue.”

“If Imran Khan wants to loot money, he will have to ruin the National Accountability Bureau and post his men in [senior positions] everywhere. Otherwise I’ll get caught. If there is transparency in the west, it isn’t because they are more honest: it is because their institutions are strong and they are afraid of getting caught.”

“Accountability is important for the country. I received some complaints about the bureaucracy and I spoke to the chairman NAB. I said: ‘If you do investigate any bureaucrat, do not humiliate him, do it subtly’,” PM Khan said.

“If the bureaucrat ‘takes chances’ and doesn’t do the work, however many policies we make ? we’re taking risks and thinking out-of-the-box here [...] we won’t be successful.”

“People ‘take chances’, they make mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself. It isn’t a bad thing. But you must differentiate between that and stealing money.”

“I give you my assurance that if you have committed any mistakes, I will stand with you and ensure that there is no undue pressure on you.”

“Whatever your political affiliation, whether you like Imran Khan and PTI or not, this doesn’t concern me. I am only concerned with your performance. If you perform for my country, we will stand with you and help you.”

PM Khan also complained about the “degeneration” of the civil services over time due to political interference.

“I want our bureaucracy to be at the same level as it was [in the 60s],” he said. Giving the example of his party’s reform of Khyber Pakthunkhwa’s police force, he said it was done because it was “isolated from political pressure. We didn’t allow any interference. It was very difficult because our political class is used to this. We bore the pressure, there was a lot of pressure from our MPs. They would tell us ‘We can’t win the election this way’,” he said.

“We trained them, did selection on the basis of merit. And they are now a model police force that we hope to replicate in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.”

“We want our bureaucracy to be the same way ? promoting people on the basis of merit, isolated from political pressure [...] When your performance is built on merit, you rise to the top on your own.”

“I assure you that we will protect our bureaucracy from political pressure,” he vowed.

He also added that “quick postings and transfers are the most disruptive for governments”.

PM Khan also addressed issues with the salary structure of civil servants.

“In 1935, I was reading that a commissioner with his salary could buy 70 tolas of gold. My father, who was a government engineer in the 1970s, could buy a car with one month’s salary.”

“Because bureaucrats had good remuneration, there was no temptation. The living wage is not enough for you to survive on your salaries,” he said.

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“I ask you to bear this difficult time, it won’t last long. Countries have cycles. No country goes straight to the top. You must look at it as a down cycle. But there is great potential in Pakistan. If we fix the governance structure, there is so much potential in this country.”

“Overseas Pakistanis ? you can’t imagine how much money they have ? that money doesn’t come here because of a lack of faith in governance. We will have so much money for the salaried class that you will be able to give your children quality private education.”

“I was reading about the Singapore model — they would give their civil servants the best salaries so that they wouldn’t have any temptation to make money in other ways. I recognise that this is a difficult time, inflation is high, and your salaries don’t match your qualifications. But if you decide to make it through the next two years — you can write it down, that if we fix our governance in these two years — there will be so much money [to go around] in this country.”

“Debt will go down, employment will increase, and Pakistan will be attractive in the world as an investment and tourist destination.”

“We will work with full force. I will isolate you from political pressure and will not allow you to be humiliated during the process of accountability. I only want that you support this ambitious reforms programme fully. It is not for me, it is for our children.”

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - September 14, 2018 at 2:25 pm

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CPEC to be opened to other countries: minister

ISLAMABAD: Criticising the last PML-N government for what it called wasting a lot of time, the PTI government on Thursday announced that it would speed up implementation of the $62 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), open it to other countries and hire international consultants for financial modelling of future projects.

Speaking at a news conference after a meeting held to review progress of CPEC-related projects, Minister for Planning and Development Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar played down some critical comments about Chinese loans in the CPEC portfolio, but hinted at exploring new financing options for future projects.

Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing also attended the 56th quarterly progress review meeting.

Responding to a question about the possibility of re-negotiating with China for rescheduling of loans to prolong repayment period under CPEC projects, the minister said China had executed $6bn infrastructure projects through loans and their repayments were not due before 2021.

He said Chinese loans were among the $95bn total outstanding foreign loans and the government would meet all financial obligations on Pakistan. He criticised the PML-N government for constructing motorways and roads at a cost of $6bn and the Lahore Orange Line Train project at $2.5bn, but putting the critical Main Railway Line (ML-1) project worth $9bn on the back burner.

Says government will expedite implementation of $62bn corridor project, hire international consultants for financial modelling of future schemes

“We have decided to conduct a study for exploring new mode of financing in order to undertake future projects on a build, operate and transfer basis, instead of the existing mode of engineering, procurement and construction contracts by securing loans,” he said, adding: “We are working on financial modeling of future projects.”

Mr Bakhtiar, who was a PML-N lawmaker in previous parliament, said the PTI government had decided to abandon future energy projects based on imported coal, perhaps not knowing that the ban on all future projects based on imported fuel was imposed in August 2016 when it emerged that already contracted projects would be enough to meet the immediate energy crisis. The minister, however, clarified that the ongoing power projects like those at Sahiwal and Port Qasim would continue to function and would remain operational.

He said the government also decided to create a business council to have larger input and consultations to take the CPEC to a higher trajectory, particularly through industrialisation and the maritime sector. “We have decided to establish new joint working group for social economic development where projects related to education, health, vocational training and capacity building will be firmed up.”

Responding to a question, Mr Bakhtiar said power sector circular debt was the biggest challenge Pakistan faced at the moment, adding that no energy policy could succeed unless power distribution companies were turned around. He said energy mix would also be changed as the last PML-N government had focused only on power generation but ignored transmission and distribution that resulted in piling up of circular debt.

The minister said the government had taken important decisions regarding the CPEC, including the ongoing projects of energy and infrastructure which would be completed under the early harvest programme. The industrial cooperation, he said, would be boosted because manufacturing base had shrunk in the country.

Mr Bakhtiar said the last government had wasted five years whereby it could not focus on development of Gwadar and ML-1, adding that the new government would open up for investments in Gwadar by countries, other than China and Pakistan. He said Pakistan was infrastructure deficient and required $200bn to meet infrastructure requirements.

The minister said the government would hire independent consultants for devising best design and execution plan for projects like ML-1 because it was necessary to have best possible advice with a cost of $2-3 million before executing them. He said the previous government’s catch-up mode compromised bargaining position, but now studies would be done before visiting China in November or December this year for the next Joint Working Group meeting.

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018

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Surname change case: SC asks father of petitioner to pay daughter’s expenses

The Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday resumed hearing of an unusual case of a 22-year-old woman seeking the removal of her father’s name from official documents and replacing it with her mother’s name instead.

Tatheer Fatima claimed that her father had abandoned her in her childhood and that she had never seen him. She raises an important question in her petition: whether or not an individual who abandons his child either before or after birth can be called the father of that child. She also asks if a child can be entitled to be registered as a citizen of Pakistan without identifying the parents.

In the last hearing of the case ? which it described as the first of its kind ? the Supreme Court named the law secretary, the director general of the Immigration and Passport department as well as the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) as respondents in the petition. The bench also directed Nadra officials to acquire information about Tatheer’s real father so that he could be summoned to court.

Her father, who appeared before the three-judge bench today, was asked by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar when he had last seen his daughter and why he hadn’t contacted her for many years.

Tatheer’s father said that he last met her in 2002.

“You did not meet your daughter for 16 years,” Justice Nisar responded. “You should be ashamed.”

The father claimed he had attempted to meet his daughter, to which the CJP asked: “What efforts did you make? We cannot see anything.”

When the top judge asked him what sort of a father he was for leaving his daughter, he responded saying that he had not left her. Instead, he said, it was Tatheer’s mother who did not allow him to meet her.

The court directed the father to pay the financial expenses he owed to her. “You will have to remedy this,” the top judge told her father, “The expenses for all the years that have passed will be recovered from you, even if you need to steal [to get the money].”

When he told the court that he was a poor man, the court ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to probe his financial records to determine whether this was true. The FIA DG was directed by the court to closely examine the case.

“If you are poor, you will face the civil case and go to jail,” the CJP asserted.

The top judge said that he would see to it himself how the damage caused to Tatheer could be remedied.

With regards to the change in her last name the CJP told her father that Tatheer wanted his name removed as her last name and changed to ‘Tatheer Fatima binte Pakistan’ instead.

“Pakistan is our mother and our father also,” the CJP remarked. But, he added, Islamic law does not allow for a father’s name to be removed from a daughter’s name.

The Nadra director, who was present in court, was given 10 days to provide all records to the court.

The court also directed that Tatheer’s birth certificate and educational record, that state her name as Tatheer Fatima binte Pakistan should be changed, with her father’s name added to her first name.

During the hearing, Tatheer said when she was a Matric student, she required some documents from her father. But he had told her he would only hand them over if she submitted a written statement to the nearest jail saying that her mother was a woman of bad character and that Tatheer didn’t want to live with her.

She said it should be the right of children who are deprived of their parents to adopt the name of those who have raised them. She maintained that her mother had braved great difficulties to raise her as a single parent and children should have the right to take the name of those who take responsibility for them.

She again asked the court to allow her father’s name to be removed from all government paperwork.

Her mother Fehmida Butt said that providing money was not the only responsibility of a parent, and that removing her father’s name from her documentation would give Tatheer satisfaction.

The court appointed Makhdoom Ali Khan as an assistant to the court and adjourned the case for 10 days.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Tatheer said that she had spent all her time with her mother. “I may not have seen a childhood, but I have seen the workshops and seminars [that my mother attended].”

Despite this, she said, fighting back tears, she still had to face people alleging that her mother’s character was questionable. “How? Prove it,” she said.

Tatheer asked why she should keep the name of a person who has not given her name any respect in his family.

When she was asked about the CJP’s earlier comments that, despite how one’s parents behave with them, children must respect their parents, Tatheer responded saying that a father’s respect is created when their child recognises them to be a relation and gives them that status.

“You can only receive respect when you give someone the opportunity to respect you. If you misbehave with them, you will not get respect,” she asserted.

Tatheer’s father also spoke to reporters after the hearing, saying: “I cannot bear it. I wish the ground would open up and swallow me.”

Tatheer seeks remedy beyond existing laws

Tatheer’s petition is basically an appeal against a similar plea which was rejected by the Islamabad High Court on May 17, 2017. The high court, Tatheer had pleaded earlier, had failed to appreciate before dismissing her plea that she was not seeking any treatment in accordance with the law — instead a remedy which was above the prevailing laws.

She had also questioned Nadra’s earlier attempt of seeking a ‘fatwa’ from a religious authority of Saudi Arabia and Iran to formulate a policy about the registration of orphans in Pakistan, saying that she did not feel like an orphan in the presence of her mother, Fehmida Butt.

“The use of orphan for me is an insult to my loving mother and to Pakistan,” she had contended, highlighting that her status should be determined under the Constitution of Pakistan rather than in the light of customs in Saudi Arabia or Iran.

The court in the least hearing had observed that neither Islamic laws nor laws of the land allowed deletion of a father’s name from a person’s official documents, such as passports.

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Prime Minister House to be converted into high-quality postgraduate institute: minister

Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood announced on Thursday that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government will turn the Prime Minister House into a postgraduate university of a high quality.

Addressing a press conference regarding the new government’s plans for state-owned properties, the minister announced that additional construction will also be carried out on the land behind the residence meant for the premier after a formal plan is devised in this regard.

The PM House is spread over 1,096 kanals and Rs 470 million are spent on its upkeep annually, said Mehmood, who was heading a committee formed to decide how government-owned buildings could be utilised in public interest.

“[The] PM House will become a high-quality university or institution that will be unique with its education in Pakistan,” he said.

In his ,first address to the nation, after being elected, Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that he would be staying in a “three-bedroom house that served as the military secretary’s residence”, instead of the Prime Minister House.

“I wish that the PM House will be turned into a university. It is in a great location to be one,” Khan had said at the time.

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Murree

The minister announced that the Government House in Murree, which the Punjab government had spent Rs600m on recently, will be transformed into a “heritage boutique hotel”.

“You can see gold plating on the commodes in the bathrooms of the [building],” Mehmood said, adding that around Rs35m are spent on the property’s maintenance every year.

The Punjab House in Murree, the annual expenses of which are Rs25m, would be turned into a tourist resort. The transformation will be done by the private sector, however, the Punjab government will carry out the formalities, Mehmood announced.

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Rawalpindi

A Punjab House, with a Governor’s Annexe attached to it, is located in Rawalpindi’s central district. Spread over 70 kanals, the property is used a rest house and Rs40m is spent on its upkeep annually, the minister revealed.

The rest house will either be converted into a higher education institute for IT/incubation centre, or the National College of Arts in Pindi will be shifted to this building, Mehmood announced.

Lahore

The Governor House in Lahore is spread over 700 kanals, the minister revealed. The schools and vocational training institutes located on its compound will be separated and the Governor House itself would be converted into a museum and an art gallery. The property’s grounds will be opened to the public as a park, which will include a small zoo.

According to the minister, former Punjab chief minister was using 90 Shahrah-i-Quaid-i-Azam in Lahore as one of his offices. This building, the annual maintenance cost of which is Rs80m, will be transformed into a craft museum and a hall within it will be changed into a convention centre which will be rented out for events, he announced.

The Chanda House in Lahore will be turned into Governor Office as an alternative to the expansive Governor’s House.

A state guest house situated on Mall Road, the upkeep of which costs Rs5m annually, will be converted into a five-star hotel, the minister revealed.

Karachi

The government plans to transform the Governor House in Karachi into a museum and bring its parkland into public use. These plans will be executed in consultation with the Sindh government.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, meanwhile, will shift into a state guest house in the city.

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SC questions land legislation in Bahria Town case

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Wednesday questioned political connections and intention behind the passage of a law that resulted in the exchange of land between the Malir Development Authority (MDA) and Bahria Town Karachi.

“Who built a big house in Lahore and how the Sindh government doled out prized lands to a third party,” wondered Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar while heading a five-member bench that had taken up a petition seeking review of its judgement in the Bahria Town Karachi case.

In its May 4 verdict, the SC had barred the Bahria Town Karachi from selling plots or apartments from the housing scheme and also declared transfer of lands between the MDA and the Bahria Town Karachi as illegal.

Hints at referring the matter to NAB

The CJP observed that the Colonisation of Government Land Act was amended only to consolidate the lands for onward transfer to a third party with retrospective effect due to political connections. The court made it clear that it was not striking down the law. “But to derive true interpretation, we have to go into the intentions behind adopting the law,” the bench observed.

The observation came when senior counsel for Bahria Town Karachi Ali Zafar argued that the court could not question intention of legislators behind the passage of a particular law.

Around 9,385 acres of land in 43 Dehs was consolidated by the MDA and handed over to the Bahria Town Karachi in 2015. The purpose was to build a private housing society at a 25-minute drive from the Jinnah International Airport and nine kilometres from the Karachi toll plaza on the Superhighway.

At the hearing, Bahria chairman Malik Riaz tried to explain his position by claiming that never in the history of Pakistan, a quality living style equivalent to that of a five-star hotel facility — rather better than what was available in the United Kingdom or other developed countries — was available to “middle and lower middle class at affordable prices”.

Mr Riaz asked the CJP to visit the housing scheme and then determine whatever penalty he had to pay to continue with the project. The CJP retorted that he did not want to label him but Robin Hood also used to do many good works by doling out among the poor what he got from the rich.

Also representing the builder, Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan argued that the court should never lose sight of the fact that the Bahria Town Karachi converted a barren desert into a Dubai-like living facility.

Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, however, observed that the court was being asked to close its eyes and consider the quality of work by ignoring the illegality in the entire transaction. Such kind of arguments would not be acceptable in any court of the world, said Justice Khosa, adding that the court could never validate any such illegality.

Justice Khosa repeatedly reminded the counsel pleading the Bahria Town case to understand the gravity of the illegalities. The CJP observed that the court would not allow any individual to swallow or monopolize the public land, because the assets belonged to posterity.

The court, however, floated the proposal that the entire project be taken over by the MDA while assuring those who owned properties in the scheme that they would not be affected, or the builder be asked to pay the penalty, the remaining balance and the profit earned by utilising the lands.

The court also hinted at referring the matter to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to determine who were instrumental in the transfer of lands to the third party.

Mr Zafar, the defence counsel, argued that the MDA had transferred 7,068-acre land to the Bahria Town Karachi for the development of a housing scheme in exchange for land of an equal size. The value of the land provided by the MDA to the Bahria Town Karachi was Rs6.2 billion but the land that was given by the Bahria Town Karachi to the MDA in exchange was valued at Rs5.8 billion. Of this, he added, Rs240 million had been paid whereas Rs20 million was still in balance.

When he cited Article 38d of the Constitution that obligates the government to provide basic necessities of life like food, clothing housing, education etc, Justice Khosa said the purpose of that article was to provide such necessities to the destitute or the shelterless and not for the enrichment for big mansions.

Justice Khosa described the interpretation offered by the counsel as ‘beneficial interpretation’.

When the counsel argued that providing housing facilities was part of the public policy, the CJP questioned whether acquisition of land for a third party also part of the public policy.

The counsel, however, argued that proper master plan and zoning for the development of a planned city instead of current haphazard town planning was the need of the day.

The court highlighted that the developer was not selling properties to the destitute but to the rich. The court then postponed further proceedings till Oct 1.

Published in Dawn, September 13th, 2018

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PM wants proposals on LG system finalised in 48 hours

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the special committee on local bodies to finalise within the next 48 hours its recommendations regarding changes in the existing local government system in the country.

The directive was issued by Mr Khan during a meeting of the committee at the Prime Minister Office here on Tuesday. According to an official handout, the meeting attended by representatives from the four provinces deliberated upon various proposals about the local government system.

During a meeting of the federal cabinet last month, the prime minister had constituted six task forces to suggest steps to implement the government’s 100-day plan of ‘change’ and introduce reforms in different sectors, including civil services and the local government system.

The prime minister has also constituted a task force to suggest measures for implementation of the planned merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Chairs meeting to review progress of Fata merger with KP

The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had announced during its election campaign and after assuming power that it planned to introduce a KP-like local government system throughout the country for better delivery of services to the masses. Opposition parties, particularly the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, have opposed the move and decided to resist it.

Fata merger

Meanwhile, the prime minister also presided over a meeting to review the progress of merger of Fata with KP.

According to the official news agency APP, the prime minister assured the participants that the federal government would provide additional resources req­uired for the uplift of the tribal areas, besides playing an effective role in allocation of a development package meant for the areas out of the National Finance Commission (NFC) award.

The meeting took stock of the progress on the merger of the tribal areas and different administrative and legal measures taken in this regard.

The prime minister called for ensuring the implementation of the new system aimed at merger of the tribal areas with KP while keeping in view the prevalent traditions and customs of the tribesmen. He stressed the need for consultations with the tribesmen on implementation of the new system. Employment opportunities for the youth of the areas should be ensured and no one should be made jobless as a result of the administrative measures, he said.

The prime minister said the specific quota for the tribal people in educational institutions and universities should not be affected. He called for expediting the efforts for introduction of the local government system in the tribal areas.

For consultation and seeking feedback of the tribal people with regard to the progress and prosperity of the areas, swift introduction of the local government system was a requisite, Mr Khan observed. He underscored the need for improving the conditions in the areas of health and education. The mechanism for speedy and inexpensive justice should also be evolved, he said.

The meeting was attended by Finance Minister Asad Umar, Law Minister Dr Farogh Nas­eem, Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri, KP Governor Shah Farman and Chief Min­ister Mahmood Khan, Adviser to the PM Shahzad Arbab, federal and provincial secretaries and other officials.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018

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US ups pressure on Palestinians, closes PLO’s mission in Washington

The United States on Monday announced to shutter the Palestinians’ mission in Washington, adding further pressure on them to enter peace talks with Israel.

State Department spokeswoman Heath Nauert accused the Palestine Liberation Organisation of ,refusing to support negotiations, while a Palestinian official called the move a “dangerous escalation” of tensions in the region.

“We have permitted the PLO office to conduct operations that support the objective of achieving a lasting, comprehensive peace between Israelis and the Palestinians since the expiration of a previous waiver in November 2017,” said Nauert.

“However, the PLO has not taken steps to advance the start of direct and meaningful negotiations with Israel,” Nauert said.

“To the contrary, PLO leadership has condemned a US peace plan they have not yet seen and refused to engage with the US government with respect to peace efforts and otherwise,” she said.

The announced closure was the latest move by President Donald Trump to push the Palestinians into peace talks, toward what the US president has termed the “ultimate deal.” But the Palestinians have accused the Trump administration of being one-sided in its approach.

“This is yet another affirmation of the Trump administration’s policy to collectively punish the Palestinian people, including by cutting financial support for humanitarian services including health and education,” PLO secretary-general Saeb Erekat said in a statement.

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Pakistan, China agree to broaden CPEC base

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China on Sunday agreed to formally invite “third-country” investors to be part of the $60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and add social sector and regional development schemes to the existing portfolio of CPEC projects.

The understanding on addition of “two major dimensions” to the CPEC projects came about at a long meeting between the Planning, Development and Reforms Commission of Pakistan and the National Development and Reforms Commission (NDRC) of China on Sunday.

Read: ,CPEC top priority, FM Qureshi assures Chinese minister,

At the four-hour meeting, the Pakistani team was led by Minister for Planning Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar while the NDRC’s vice-chairman, Ning Jizhe, led the Chinese delegation. Planning Secretary Zafar Hassan, CPEC’s project director Hassan Daud and officials of the NDRC and Chinese Embassy also attended the meeting.

Sources said that Beijing wanted involvement in the upcoming special economic zones (SEZs) of countries friendly to both Pakistan and China because it wished to steer clear of adverse criticism, particularly from the US and India, about possibility of secretive deals that “remain beyond public eye”.

No country was specifically mentioned in this regard and Central Asian, European and other countries including Turkey, Russia and Saudi Arabia could invest in the nine SEZs proposed, said an official.

Gwadar to be ‘re-prioritised’ as hub of heavy industry

Gwadar would be re-prioritised as a centre of industries for export markets where these countries could invest alone or in partnership with Pakistan or China, to take advantage of the city’s trans-shipment potential and location apart from the free-zone incentives it offered.

The government led by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) wished to include in the project portfolio social sector schemes — involving clean drinking water, health, education and technical training — to bring the huge initiative in line with Prime Minister Imran Khan’s priority areas of human development. This could be done by making some changes in the seven central pillars of the CPEC’s Long Term Plan.

The official, however, agreed that China and Pakistan had so far not been able to settle key issues about development of the Rashakai or Hattar SEZ in the first phase of industrial cooperation. Thus, it would be difficult to attract “third-country” investors immediately.

He insisted that the two sides would work from now on to achieve the big objective and recalled that even the basic issues of CPEC were not settled in the first meeting.

Mr Bakhtiar, he said, had already ordered the relevant agencies to take the various SEZ projects to the groundbreaking stage within three months as a lot of time had already been wasted.

“Realigning the goals of CPEC, Pakistan has introduced new targets of socioeconomic and regional development under this unprecedented mega project,” said the Planning Commission in an official statement.

The minister reaffirmed his government’s commitment to the CPEC and “categorically said that all-out efforts would be made for the success of this project of economic development and prosperity. CPEC is a reality… aimed at initiating a modern era of trade and economic growth”, said the statement.

To achieve the new targets, the government was dedicated to putting all its energies together to make progress at the earliest, said the official.

During the meeting, both the sides said that CPEC — “an icon of the Belt and Road Initiative” — was an engine of rapid growth for Pakistan and a manifestation of the strong Pak-China relations that would continue to promote inclusiveness.

The Pakistani team also told the visiting dignitaries that the PTI-led government accorded top priority to the development of Gwadar as a standalone project. The port city would be transformed into a trans-shipment hub and a centre for industrialisation with special focus on industrial units enjoying incentives that could produce a high rate of return.

The two sides agreed that industrial cooperation should be the main area of attention so that efforts were made to encourage relocation of Chinese industries with a view to increasing exports and maximising employment opportunities.

The Pakistani side said that progress had now been expedited and investors from across the world were being encouraged to populate the SEZs.

Mr Bakhtyar said his government intended to encourage projects based on indigenous sources of energy, including Thar Coal.

On the occasion, Mr Ning praised the PTI-led government’s agenda and its efforts for socioeconomic development of the country. He reiterated the commitment that Chinese companies would effectively work for completion of the CPEC projects.

The two sides also decided to further expedite key development projects in Gwadar and ensure groundbreaking this year of the New Gwadar International Airport, a technical institute and a hospital there.

Published in Dawn, September 10th, 2018

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Alibaba’s Jack Ma to step down as chairman in September 2019, will be succeeded by company’s CEO

Jack Ma, who founded e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and helped launch China’s online retailing boom, announced on Monday that he will step down as the company’s chairman next September.

In a letter released by Alibaba, Ma said he will be succeeded by CEO Daniel Zhang, an 11-year veteran of the company. Ma handed over the CEO post to Zhang in 2013 as part of what he said was a long-planned succession.

Ma, a former English teacher, founded Alibaba in 1999 in an apartment in the eastern city of Hangzhou to connect Chinese exporters with foreign retailers. It expanded into consumer retailing, becoming the world’s biggest e-commerce company by total value of goods sold, as well as online finance, cloud computing and other services.

Ma, who turned 54 on Monday, became one of China’s most famous entrepreneurs and one of the world’s richest.

The Hurun Report, which follows China’s wealthy, estimates his net worth at $37 billion.

Alibaba’s $25 billion initial public stock offering on Wall Street in 2014 is the biggest to date by a Chinese company.

Alibaba said Ma will remain a member of the Alibaba Partnership, a group of 36 people with the right to nominate a majority of its board of directors. That arrangement limits shareholder control, but Ma has defended it as a way to keep Alibaba focused on long-term development.

“This transition demonstrates that Alibaba has stepped up to the next level of corporate governance from a company that relies on individuals, to one built on systems of organisational excellence and a culture of talent development,” said Ma’s letter.

Ma said he wants to “return to education” but gave no details.

Alibaba is part of a group of companies including games and social media giant Tencent Holding Ltd, search engine Baidu.com Inc and e-commerce rival JD.com that have revolutionised shopping, entertainment and consumer services in China.

E-commerce sales in China rose 32.2 per cent last year to 7.2 trillion yuan ($1.1tr), accounting for 20 per cent of total retail spending.

Alibaba was founded at a time when few Chinese used the internet. As internet use spread, the company expanded into retailing and services.

Few Chinese used credit cards, so Alibaba created its own online payments system, Alipay.

Zhang, Ma’s planned successor, joined Alibaba in 2007 after working at Shanda Entertainment, an online games company. Zhang served as president of Alibaba’s consumer-focused Tmall.com business unit.

Ma, known in Chinese as Ma Yun, appears regularly on television. At an annual Alibaba employee festival in Hanzhou, he has sung pop songs in costumes that included blonde wigs and leather jackets. He pokes fun at his own appearance, saying his oversize head and angular features make him look like the alien in director Steven Spielberg’s movie “E.T. The Extraterrestrial.”

Alibaba raised $5 million from investors including Goldman Sachs, and $20 million from Japan’s Softbank in 1999.

The next year, Alibaba faced its biggest threat when eBay acquired EachNet, which had 80pc of China’s small retail e-commerce market.

Ma fought back by launching Taobao, an eBay-style consumer-to-consumer site. By 2006, Ma had won; eBay gave up and turned over its China operation to a local partner.

In 2005, Yahoo Inc paid $1 billion for 40 percent of Alibaba and turned over control of Yahoo China. Alibaba bought back half of Yahoo’s stake for $7.1 billion in 2011 and the US company made billions more from the 2014 IPO.

Ma’s success was tempered by complaints Alibaba allowed counterfeiters to thrive on its sales platforms.

The US Commerce Department cited Alibaba.com and Taobao on its annual list of “notorious markets” from 2008 to 2011. Both were later removed but complaints from makers of luxury goods and other brand owners intensified.

The luxury company Kering, owner of brands including Gucci and Saint Laurent, accused Alibaba in a 2015 lawsuit of facilitating counterfeit sales. The two sides settled the dispute last year with an agreement to cooperate in combating trafficking in fakes.

Also in 2015, a Chinese Cabinet agency accused Alibaba of profiting from misleading advertising and failing to deal effectively with fraud. In a reflection of the importance of Alibaba’s success to communist leaders, the agency said its report was written in mid-2014 but the release was delayed to avoid disrupting the IPO.

Alipay became a freestanding company, Ant Financial, in 2014. Alibaba also has expanded into entertainment, set up its own film studio and invested in logistics and delivery services.

Alibaba reported profit last year of $9.8 billion. It said the total value of goods sold across all of its platforms rose 28 percent over 2016 to 4.8 trillion yuan ($768 billion).

In 2011, Alibaba faced complaints it had transferred control over Alipay to a company controlled by Ma without immediately informing shareholders including Yahoo and Softback.

Alibaba said the move was required to comply with Chinese regulations, but some financial analysts said the company was paid too little. The dispute was later resolved by Alibaba, Yahoo and Softbank.

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UN envoy terms stay of Afghans in Pakistan ‘a protracted refugee crisis’

NOWSHERA: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi has described the decades-long stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan as “a protracted refugee crisis” and urged the world community not to forget the displaced people.

“We call them protracted refugees and I always say that protracted refugees should not be forgotten,” he said while talking to media personnel after visiting the Voluntary Repatriation Centre (VRC) for Afghan refugees at Azakhel, Nowshera, on Saturday.

UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock and film star Mahira Khan, who has been designated the UNHCR advocate for refugees and youth of the host communities, accompanied Mr Grandi.

Calls film star Mahira Khan powerful advocate for highlighting refugees’ issues

The high commissioner said the stay of Afghans in Pakistan for nearly four decades was one of the longest refugee situations in the world. He said these Afghans would complete 40 years of their refuge next year.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (R) interacts with an Afghan refugee family at the Azakhel Voluntary Repatriation Centre as UNHCR advocate and actress Mahira Khan (L) looks on. ? AFP

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi (R) interacts with an Afghan refugee family at the Azakhel Voluntary Repatriation Centre as UNHCR advocate and actress Mahira Khan (L) looks on. ? AFP

He rejected the perception that Afghan refugees in Pakistan would never go back to their country. More than four million had returned to Afghanistan over the past 20 years and many were ready to go back home, he said.

“We saw this morning that refugees were going back, but not many, because they (Afghans) are concerned about their security,” he said.

Millions of Afghans took refuge in Pakistan when the former Soviet Union invaded their country in 1979. According to the UNHCR, over four million refugees had returned to their country since 2002.

Pakistan is still hosting around three million Afghan nationals, including 1.4 registered refugees. Voluntary repatriation had slowed down during the last two years because of surge in violence, lack of basic amenities and unemployment in Afghanistan.

Officials said that only 10,000 refugees had returned to Afghanistan since March 1, 2018 which indicated the slow pace of return. Only 45 refugee families left the VRC for their home country on Saturday as the sprawling VRC, Azakhel, was offering a deserted look.

Only a few Afghan boys and girls who were invited to the meeting with the UNHCR and his entourage were seen taking selfies with Mr Grandi and Mahira Khan. The two met refugee children, women and youth who apprised them of their problems.

“Unfortunately the situation has deteriorated. We have to help Afghans to get out of this bad period of insecurity, poverty and bring back services especially education,” the high commissioner said.

Mr Grandi said that Prime Minister Imran Khan during their meeting in Islamabad on Friday was very clear about the problems of refugees and assured him that Pakistan would never force (Afghans) to go back to Afghanistan.

He called for more resources and most importantly political attention to help Afghans restore peace to their country. “We should not be pessimistic,” he said, adding that they would help young Afghans to go back and rebuild their country.

He said that young refugees needed education and skill to rebuild their country.

He called Mahira Khan a very powerful advocate to highlight issues and thanked Pakistan for a very long hospitality to Afghan refugees.

Ms Khan while speaking on the occasion said: “I am very happy to be doing this job”. She said that more than half of the refugees were children. “If we come together we can make future of this world better,” said the film star.

Earlier, Mark Lowcock said that he visited Bara, Khyber tribal district, and talked to local people about the situation. He said 10,000 houses and hundreds of schools and other buildings had been destroyed during militancy in Khyber district.

He said he saw children sitting on the floor in schools. He said the government had launched schemes in affected areas and people were given cash through ATMs to rebuild their damaged homes.

Meanwhile, Mr Grandi commended charitable work of the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, saying that providing free-of-cost treatment to underprivileged cancer patients was a noble act.

“Hospitals like this are a symbol of hope for thousands of cancer patients who have little resources,” Mr Grandi said during his visit. The UN refugee agency had provided high-tech machines worth Rs710 million to Peshawar’s Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer hospital to support free-of-cost treatment to cancer patients, including Afghan refugees.

The radiotherapy machines will be fully operational by the end of this year. The UNHCR will also provide training to technicians to operate the equipment effectively. The new cancer equipment will provide some 30,000 treatment sessions to both Pakistanis and Afghan refugees in 2019.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2018

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Punjab govt likely to act against DC’s for complaining to CEC

LAHORE: The Punjab government intends to take strict disciplinary action against the two deputy commissioners (DCs) for violating rules of business by writing letters to the chief election commissioner (CEC) and releasing them to the media complaining about political meddling in official affairs.

Sources in the Punjab government say an inquiry report into Chakwal DC’s writing of a letter to the CEC, Supreme Court and the chief secretary about alleged political interference by a Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf MNA in official working has been received by the government. Now the government is waiting for the report about a similar act by the Rajanpur DC.

“If both deputy commissioners are found breaking the chain of command, strict disciplinary action will be taken against them,” a senior official told Dawn.

The official said a DC’s act of writing a letter to the CEC was breaking of a chain of command. The Pakpattan district police officer was also transferred owing to misstatement of facts to senior officials, the official claimed.

About senior minister Aleem Khan’s assertion that political bosses could not give a free hand to the bureaucracy to act on its own and that they would interfere to establish writ of the government, sources said the bureaucracy was now asking the political government to devise a policy, hold a debate in the cabinet and take a consensus decision about transfer and posting of officials.

Second cabinet meeting in a week to be held today

Until a formal policy is devised, senior officials say that any order of transfer and posting would be considered “picking and choosing” and warrant a justification.

“The Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) officials have identified a number of officials, who came on a three-year deputation but stayed for eight to 14 years, and the minister wants to remove them,” the official disclosed.

In line with the government’s strategy to bring issues to the cabinet for debate, the official said a presentation would be given by the ACE director general to the cabinet on Saturday (today).

“If the cabinet agrees that all officials crossing their three-year deputation tenure should be sent packing, the action will be taken in no time,” the official said.

Regarding implementation of transfer orders of senior bureaucrats working in Punjab, an official concerned said the Punjab government would relieve all bureaucrats transferred from Punjab in a matter of days.

To a question about the Sindh government not accepting senior officials and instead asking them not to relinquish their charge, the official said the matter concerned the federal government that relieved the officials. “The Punjab government will comply with the federal government’s transfer and posting orders in letter and spirit,” the official stated.

CABINET MEETING: The Punjab government is holding its second cabinet meeting in a week on Saturday (today) and plans to merge the Punjab specialised healthcare and medical education as well as primary and secondary health departments into one.

The former Punjab government had bifurcated the health department in October 2015.

The administrative secretaries of both departments are scheduled to make a presentation to the cabinet and seek approval for the merger. The cabinet also plans to accord ex-post facto approval for its standing committees on finance and development, and legislative business. It will also approve constitution of steering committee and sub-committees for the prime minister’s 100-day agenda.

The cabinet is also set to discuss a suo motu case regarding utilisation of large vehicles by ministers/officers beyond their entitlement. It will also discuss appointment of former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police inspector general Nasir Durrani as chairman of the Federal Commission on Police Reforms as well as the commission members’ appointments.

The cabinet will be given briefings by the transport secretary about Orange Line Metro Train project, the specialised healthcare and medical education secretary on Pakistan Kidney and Liver Transplant Institute, the energy secretary about energy projects, the industries and commerce secretary on public sector companies, the ACE director general on the working, performance and issues in the establishment and the local government and community development secretary about proposed amendments to the local bodies system.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2018

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Govt ready to take tough decisions, amend budget

ISLAMABAD: Amid demand by majority of the private sector members of the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) for tough economic decision-making within its first two months, the government on Thursday pledged to introduce major changes to the federal budget 2018-19 to make it ‘realistic’.

The first meeting of the ,recently reconstituted EAC, was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan which could not be attended by three international economists of Pakistani origin because of technical reasons. “They could not make it because our web-link was down,” an official said.

The three members were Dr Atif R. Mian of Princeton University and Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy, Dr Asim ljaz Khawaja, Sumitomo-FASID professor of Member International Finance and Development at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Dr lmran Rasul, professor of Economics at University College, London.

Also read: ,The hopes and fears attached to Imran Khan’s premiership,

The meeting was told that there would be major changes to the budget 2018-19 based on ground realities and realistic revenue and expenditure projections. The question of approaching the International Monetary Fund for a bailout did not come under discussion, the sources said.

No discussion by EAC on approaching IMF; three working groups on debt, fiscal challenges and current account deficit to be formed

The meeting decided to set up three working groups on debt, fiscal challenges and current account deficit and have separate meetings with Finance Minister Asad Umar over the next week based on which another follow-up meeting would be held with the prime minister.

Most of the participants told the government to make best use of its political and social capital to take tough decisions, wherever required, without taking into account political repercussions within first two months. They believed it would get difficult day by day if the government delayed major decisions.

Some of the members also advised the government to review a major tax relief, particularly relating to income tax exemptions and discounts offered by the PML-N government because that could provide more than Rs90bn cushion. This should be given a serious thought to undo popular and pro-rich decisions of the previous government instead of increasing electricity and gas rates for all because energy costs burden the lower and middle income groups the most.

Informed sources said the finance minister responded that it would be a very difficult decision to withdraw tax relief. He said once given a facility could not be withdrawn.

Likewise, it was also proposed not to expand subsidies, particularly for the big fish like textile sector’s basic products and instead value-addition sectors should be supported because that was where the big return could be secured.

Majority of the participants advocated expanding the tax net and strengthening budgeting besides taking long-term steps to long-term development challenges like job creation, developing the education sector, enhancing productivity and improving the performance of the government sector.

The prime minister assured the participants that the EAC should come up with recommendations and the government would fully implement them irrespective of the political cost provided they were in the long-term economic interest of the people and the country.

The participants also recommended institutionalising the role of EAC for better coordination and continuous policy advice and complained it used to be a debating club in the past governments. It was in this background that the prime minister desired a follow-up meeting next week of the EAC on the basis of initial consultations of the working groups on financial, debt and current account related matters.

Imran Khan welcomed the participation of members of the council and hoped their experiences and recommendations would be fruitful for addressing immediate and long-term challenges facing the national economy besides improving reform agenda of the PTI-led government.

Those who attended the meeting from private sector included Dr Farrukh lqbal, Dean and Director of the Institute of Business Administration; Dr Ashfaque Hassan Khan of National University of Sciences and Technology; Dr ljaz Nabi of Lahore University of Management Sciences; Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri of Sustainable Development Policy Institute; Dr Asad Zaman of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics; Dr Naved Hamid of Lahore School of Economics; Syed Salim Raza, former governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP); and Sakib Sherani, former principal economic adviser.

The official members who attended the meeting included Minister for Finance, Revenue and Economic Affairs Asad Umar, Minister for Planning Development and Reforms Division Khusro Bakhtiar, Secretary of Finance Division Arif Ahmed Khan, SBP Governor Tariq Bajwa, Adviser on Institutional Reforms Dr Ishrat Husain and Adviser on Commerce Abdul Razaq Dawood.

Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2018

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