Posts Tagged ‘Imran khan’

Prime Minister Khan asks ‘why lawmakers are so scared of the ECL’

Prime Minister Imran Khan in a tweet on Thursday asked why lawmakers were “so scared” of the Exit Control List (ECL) and why they were so keen to go abroad.

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The tweet comes ahead of a federal cabinet meeting today, in which the removal of the name of PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — among others — from the ECL is expected to be discussed, DawnNewsTV reported. According to ,Radio Pakistan,, the cabinet meeting will also discuss the overall political and economic situation of the country.

“There is so much work to be done by politicians in and for Pakistan — the land they claim to love but some cannot wait to take frequent trips abroad and lawmakers have iqamas or residences abroad,” Prime Minister Khan added in his tweet.

“Can anyone explain this strange phenomenon to those of us who would be quite happy to remain in and work for Pakistan because we actually love Pakistan,” the premier asked in another tweet.

Shortly after, Bilawal replied to the premier on Twitter, saying: “Obviously selected PM doesn’t understand the concept of human rights or freedom of movement.”

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“Funny it’s only the opposition members on ECL, government members are busy travelling. Including PM who despite promising not to travel for first six months has made more than seven trips so far!,” the PPP chairman added.

On the recommendations of the joint investigation team (JIT) tasked with probing the fake accounts case, the federal cabinet had in its meeting on December 27, 2018 ,decided to place the names of 172 individuals — who were named in the investigation report — on the ECL,, including Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Faryal Talpur, Chief Minister 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 the Sindh chief minister on the no-fly list based on JIT’s recommendation, ordering the federal cabinet to reconsider its “hasty decision”.

The government, however, had said it would ,wait for the court’s written judgement,.

During a National Assembly session on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi ,regretted that the government had shown haste, in placing the names of 172 people on the ECL.

Attempting to placate the PPP, 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 the travel ban, not to take the names off the list immediately.

Later in the day on Wednesday, the Supreme Court ,finally released its order, pertaining to the removal of the names of Bilawal as well as Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah from ECL, noting: “Removing of the names will not prevent NAB [National Accountability Bureau] to probe and in case sufficient material is found connecting these individuals with cognisable offences, it will not be precluded from making an appropriate request to the federal government to place their names on [the] ECL again or take any appropriate action provided by law.”

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MQM delegation calls on PM Khan amid brewing tensions within ruling coalition

A Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) delegation on Wednesday called on Prime Minister Imran Khan at PM House in Islamabad to discuss issues ,pertaining to their coalition, in the Centre.

The meeting came in the backdrop of rising tensions between the PTI-led coalition ,government and the opposition.,

The PPP and the PML-N were reportedly forming an alliance in order ,to give ‘tough time’ to the incumbent government.,

In wake of the rising tension between the government and the major opposition parties, the PTI’s coalition partners were ,pushing the ruling party to fulfil the promises, made at the time of forming the coalition.

The MQM delegation talked about the challenges faced by people living in the megacities in Sindh. The premier responded by saying that he was aware of aware of the challenges faced by the people of Sindh. “The federal government will play its role to resolve these problems,” he said.

It was decided during the meeting that a committee will be constituted under the chairmanship of Sindh Governor Imran Ismail to strengthen the coordination between the two parties in connection with development projects on the provincial level.

The two sides also decided that obstacles in the restoration of the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) will be removed on a priority basis. It was also decided that the premier will lay the foundation stone of a university in Hyderabad.

Besides the Minister for Information Technology Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Minister for Law and Justice Dr Farogh Naseem and MNA Syed Ameenul Haq, the meeting was also attended by Minister for Finance Asad Umar, Special Assistant to PM Naeemul Haq and MNA Malik Mohammad Amir Dogar.

On Monday, Balochistan National Party (BNP-Mengal) leader Sanaullah Baloch said his party had ,decided to review its relations with the ruling PTI, government in Islamabad following the by-election on a Senate seat in Balochistan.

On Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad ,Chaudhry visited the temporary headquarters, of the MQM in Bahadurabad, where he discussed implementation on several decisions made between the two coalition partners a few months ago.

On the occasion, the federal minister had brushed aside the impression of any dispute or disagreement between the two sides. The minister had told reporters, “In today’s meeting, we have discussed and reviewed the memorandum of understanding which we signed at the time of formation of the government. Several points of the MoU have already been executed while others will also meet the same fate soon.”

Earlier in the same meeting, MQM’s deputy convener Kanwar Naveed Jameel reminded the federal minister of promises of funds from the Centre for a public university in Hyderabad and other development schemes in urban Sindh.

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‘NAB will not arrest PPP leaders at the whim of a federal minister’

A day after Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry criticised the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) for what he implied was ,leniency on part of the watchdog,, the bureau clarified on Wednesday that it would never arrest anyone merely at the whim of a minister.

On Tuesday, the minister had told reporters at the residence of PTI’s Haleem Adil Shaikh in Karachi that he was surprised as to why NAB was not arresting Asif Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah despite the fact that their names had appeared in the joint investigation team (JIT) report as “key suspects”.

Take a look: ,NAB chairman should appear before parliament, demands Zardari,

“It’s quite unfortunate that the performance of NAB is not satisfactory and moving at a slow pace,” he had said, adding that, “Zardari and Faryal Talpur have held the people of Sindh hostage while Murad Ali Shah facilitated all their wrongdoings despite holding a key office in the province and all this is documented in the JIT report. Despite all these facts [they] have not been arrested yet, which is quite surprising.”

NAB in today’s press release rejected the impression that it was moving at a slow pace. In a statement, the watchdog said it has so far not received written orders from the Supreme Court in this regard and that it will devise its strategy as per the apex court’s orders.

Moreover, the bureau announced it has decided to write to Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) to acquire content of news items pertaining to the “statements of a minister regarding a case being followed by NAB”.

The watchdog was referring to Fawad Chaudhry as he had said on multiple occasions that NAB should withdraw the case against Prime Minister Imran Khan and that it should also apologise in this regard.

The statement read that NAB would examine the entire issue as to why it was being asked to shut and withdraw the case. The anti-corruption watchdog will also examine the issue under the NAB law if the statements were tantamount to attempts to manipulate NAB proceedings, it added.

“NAB rejects all types of pressures and assures that all investigations are carried out as per the law and the Constitution to uphold the requisites of justice,” the statement read.

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Gondal appointed Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Coordination

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ,official spokesperson, Nadeem Afzal Gondal has also been appointed Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Parliamentary Coordination, it emerged on Wednesday.

A notification dated Jan 15 issued by the Cabinet Division states that Gondal’s appointment “shall be in honorary capacity” and with immediate effect.

Read more: ,A politician finds his lost voice,

Gondal, a former PPP leader and a political heavyweight, had joined the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf last year. He was appointed as the prime minister’s official spokesperson yesterday ? a move that came as a surprise because he is a newcomer to the party and there are several senior PTI leaders who could have been considered potentials for the slot but were not.

The prime minister’s hefty media team already comprised Iftikhar Durrani, the PM’s Special Assistant on Media with the status of a minister of state; Yousuf Baig Mirza, the PM’s Special Assistant on Media Affairs; Muhammad Sarfaraz, a deputy secretary and head of the PM’s official media cell; and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, the government spokesman.

However, despite the presence of these heavyweights, prime minister Khan has in the past tended not to rely on them and expressed his views directly through tweets.

Read more: ,Gondal appointed prime minister’s spokesperson,

A source in the Prime Minister’s Office said that Gondal would be working as the premier’s spokesman on an honorary basis without a salary or other perks.

Gondal, also known as Nadeem Afzal Chan, joined the PTI ,in April last year,, shortly before the July 25 general elections.

Before this, he was counted as one of the main leaders of the PPP in Punjab and was fairly vocal in the media in defending the policies of his party, presently in opposition.

He served as the chairman of the National Assembly’s Public Accounts Committee for nearly a year, from April 25, 2012, to March 16, 2013.

He began his political career as a tehsil nazim from Malakwal in 2001. Subsequently, he was elected MNA from NA-64 (Sargodha-I) as a PPP candidate in the 2008 general election. During the next election, in 2013, he contested again from the same constituency and platform, but was defeated by Muhammad Aminul Hasnat Shah.

In October 2017, he resigned from the post of PPP Punjab secretary general, going on to quit the party itself in April 2018, and joined the PTI.

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Five-year revival plan for PIA by March, promises CEO

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Internat­ional Airlines (PIA) will submit a five-year ‘Strategic Business Plan 2019-2023’ to the government by March.

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday, PIA CEO Air Marshal Arshad Malik said the plan, currently being developed, consists of cost-cutting and revenue generation through detailed analysis of the market, right sizing operations, work centre, flights and routes for the revival of the national carrier.

PIA’s financial restructuring will be carried out through government support and at the same time the current fleet will be reviewed and purchase of new aircrafts will be decided, he said.

Explaining PIA’s financial health, he said the current operational losses are at Rs3 billion per month but this bleeding would be successfully plugged. The accumulated losses have risen to Rs431.1bn, while loans/borrowings have touched Rs247.7bn.

The government will announce a new aviation policy in February to boost PIA’s business, he said. Prime Minister Imran Khan has assigned the task of drafting a new aviation policy to Privatisation Minister Mohammad Mian Soomro and the Secretary Aviation.

The Open Skies policy of the previous governments brought losses to the national carrier, Mr Malik said. The government has already decided in principle to end the open skies policy.

“PIA’s 550 weekly international flights were brought down to 101 flights. Foreign carriers took away the business from 101 flights per week to 555 flights per week. These airlines are supported by their respective governments, particularly the Gulf carriers which get fuel subsidy whereas PIA does not get any subsidy. How can PIA compete with other airlines in the market,” he questioned.

He claimed to have taken “bold steps” for cost cutting. Duration of flights to Europe will now be reduced by an hour as a result of flying over the territories of Iran and Turkmenistan. Previously, all Europe-bound PIA flights avoided flying over these two countries just to avoid payment of fee to the civil aviation agencies of Iran and Turkmenistan, resulting in extra consumption of fuel. However, the matter has been resolved with the intervention of Army and PAF chiefs, he said.

On route economics, Mr Malik said PIA is under compulsion to operate flights to Gwadar, Turbat, Panjgur and Saidu Sharif routes whether or not these routes make a profit. “The annual loss on operating flights on socio-economic routes amounts to Rs452 million,” he said.

Sharing details, Mr Malik said that in addition to the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, there are another 23 properties owned by PIA in Tashkent, Tehran, New Delhi, Bombay, New York, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.

“These properties have been abandoned and virtually forgotten,” he said. “Assistance of the Foreign Office has been sought to engage ambassadors in these cities to evaluate these properties. Either these properties would be disposed off or will continue as source of income,” the CEO added.

At the press conference, the CEO said that flights on seven international routes have been stopped since these were costing Rs500m to the airline. “PIA had been facing losses on these routes for a long period,” he said. Citing the example of Islamabad-Beij­ing-Tokyo-Beijing-Islamabad route, he said an aircraft would be blocked for five days, with resting of crew members for equal number of days. Moreover, on the Tokyo-Beijing flight, PIA was allowed to pick only 80 passengers on a 350-seat aircraft, he added.

As part of cost-saving operations, PIA has now introduced five new international routes including Islamabad-Doha-Isla­mabad, Karachi-Jeddah-Karachi, Multan-Muscat-Multan, Sialkot-Sharjah-Sialkot, Peshawar-Al Ain-Peshawar and Lahore-Bang­kok-Kuala Lumpur-Karachi.

“In these routes, PIA is getting 95pc seat occupancy. Aircraft from loss-making routes have been shifted to profitable ones.”

On the occasion, the privatisation minister announced that PIA will start Peshawar-Kuala Lumpur flights from April.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019

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US seeks Pakistan’s help for coaxing Taliban back into talks

ISLAMABAD: Senior US official Lisa Curtis on Tuesday opened her ,visit to Pakistan, with meetings amidst reports that the process of engagement with the Taliban for restarting the Afghan peace process had stalled.

US Special Envoy for Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Amb Zalmay Khalilzad, who too was due in Islamabad, could not reach here because of changes in his itinerary. Amb Khalilzad in his latest trip to the region has faced several unexpected changes. He is currently in Afghanistan.

“His schedule has been fluid all week,” a diplomatic source said, adding that the special envoy was likely to visit Islamabad in the next few days.

No details about Ms Curtis’ meetings were publicly available. She is believed to be here to push for resumption of engagement with the Taliban in addition to certain bilateral issues.

Senior US official Lisa Curtis arrives in Islamabad for meetings

Pakistan last month facilitated a meeting between the US special envoy and Taliban representatives in Abu Dhabi. UAE and Saudi officials attended the meeting as observers. It was agreed at the Abu Dhabi meeting that the process would continue and another meeting would be convened, but no date and venue for the next interaction has been set so far.

A diplomatic source said: “The Taliban are refusing to talk to the Afghan government. The US wants Pakistan to pressure Pakistan-based Taliban leadership to accept direct negotiations with the Afghan government.” The Pakistani government, he further said, was insisting that it had little control over the Taliban.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, meanwhile, talking to president of the East-West Institute and former US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter said: “Pakistan fully supports a political settlement in Afghanistan which is the only viable option to end this conflict.”

Mr Khan emphasised the need for ensuring regional security so that economic progress could take place.

Mr Munter said he continued to advocate strong relationship between Islamabad and Washington as Pakistan was an important country of the region and critical to US national security objectives.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019

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Opposition leaders unite to form committee for ‘joint strategy’

Opposition parties in the National Assembly on Tuesday decided to form a committee to devise a joint opposition strategy on various issues, including a ,second extension in the tenure of military courts,.

The decision was taken at a meeting of opposition leaders hosted by Leader of Opposition in the NA Shahbaz Sharif over lunch in his chamber at Parliament House.

Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal speak to reporters after the meeting. — DawnNewsTV

Shahbaz Sharif and Bilawal speak to reporters after the meeting. — DawnNewsTV

Speaking to reporters after the nearly two-hour-long meeting, Shahbaz said the opposition leaders had decided to form a committee to devise a joint strategy and deal with the government on various issues.

The committee, which according to Shahbaz will have representation from all opposition parties, will also be responsible for holding negotiations with the government on the issue of an extension in the tenure of military courts. “The combined opposition will adopt whatever path is in the national interest,” he added.

The leader of the opposition also criticised the “worst incompetence” of the PTI government and once again termed as “cronyism” the government’s move to ,award the Mohmand dam contract, to a consortium led by Descon, which he alleged was owned by a sitting adviser to the prime minister.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari — who attended the meeting along with his father, former president Asif Ali Zardari — in his remarks said the opposition’s human and democratic rights were under attack from all sides by the government, but the opposition leaders were “not ready to compromise” on these two rights.

“The opposition has today decided on a very good strategy to form a committee and have a joint opposition inside the parliament as well as outside,” the PPP chairman said.

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Meanwhile, asked whether the opposition parties would come together in the shape of an alliance, Zardari responded: “The union HAS taken place.”

PPP chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari arrives for the opposition leaders' meeting. — DawnNewsTV

PPP chairman Bilawal-Bhutto Zardari arrives for the opposition leaders’ meeting. — DawnNewsTV

Shahbaz, the PML-N president, had earlier welcomed Zardari to the meeting with a hug, as the two main opposition parties increasingly appear to join hands to give the PTI-led government a tough time.

Also in attendance were PPP’s Sherry Rehman and Naveed Qamar, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) MNAs Maulana Asad Mehmood and Maulana Abdul Wasay, Awami National Party leader Ameer Haider Khan Hoti, PML-N’s Ahsan Iqbal, a Balochistan National Party representative and other leaders.

An elaborate menu was on offer at the luncheon, including seafood, the traditional dishes of qourma and pulao, homemade vegetables and dessert.

A day earlier, on the ,opening day of the National Assembly’s new session,, when Zardari entered the hall amidst desk-thumping by the opposition members, Shahbaz had gone to him and shook his hand.

NA session suspended after ruckus

Earlier on Tuesday, business in the lower house was disrupted again after the opposition lodged a strong protest against the deputy speaker’s decision not to hold a re-vote when an opposition MNA introduced a bill pertaining to the quota of judges in the Islamabad High Court.

The deputy speaker returned to the House after an hour to announce adjournment of the session. It will resume tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11am. — DawnNewsTV

The deputy speaker returned to the House after an hour to announce adjournment of the session. It will resume tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11am. — DawnNewsTV

JUI-F MNA Aliya Kamran had moved a bill seeking an increase in the number of judges of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) from six to 10, and a quota accommodating all the provinces on IHC benches.

Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari opposed the bill, but Deputy Speaker Qasim Khan Suri held a verbal vote and subsequently rejected the bill after it appeared to have been voted against.

Kamran then challenged the vote and the deputy speaker ordered a headcount. The headcount revealed that 96 MNAs opposed the bill, while 94 were in favour of it. Therefore, the NA decided against the move.

Take a look: ,PM Khan lashes out at opposition for ‘pressure tactics’ after NA walkouts ,

Members of the opposition gathered in front of Suri’s dais, asking him to order another vote on the bill but the deputy speaker rejected the demand and suspended House proceedings.

The deputy speaker returned to the House after an hour to announce adjournment of the session. It will resume tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11am.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Imran Khan took to Twitter to lash out at the opposition for disrupting National Assembly proceedings by staging regular walkouts. The opposition had walked out of the NA yesterday after opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif accused the treasury benches of using foul language.

The prime minister said that the repeated walkouts indicated that this was “the only function they (opposition) intend to perform”.

He claimed that walkouts are used as “pressure tactics” to “seek an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and evade accountability for corruption in NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases not initiated by PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf)”.

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PM Khan lashes out at opposition for ‘pressure tactics’ after NA walkouts

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday lashed out at the opposition for disrupting National Assembly proceedings by staging regular walkouts.

In a tweet — which came a day after the ,opposition walked out on the opening day, of the National Assembly’s new session — the prime minister said that the repeated walkouts indicated that this was “the only function they (opposition) intend to perform”.

He claimed that walkouts are used as “pressure tactics” to “seek an NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) and evade accountability for corruption in NAB (National Accountability Bureau) cases not initiated by PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf)”.

In another tweet, the prime minister wondered if democracy for the opposition meant “immunity from corruption”.

“It seems for them being elected is a license to plunder the country,” he added.

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A day earlier, PPP leader and former president Asif Ali Zardari had lashed out at NAB on the floor of the assembly, demanding that the chairman of the country’s ,top anti-corruption watchdog be summoned, before parliament for his recent actions against parliamentarians.

The opposition members then staged a walkout as soon as Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda took the floor to respond to the speeches of Leader of the Opposition Shahbaz Sharif and Zardari.

So far, the current assembly has had 34 sittings, out of which the premier has attended six, including the one held for his election as premier. The opposition has staged several walkouts from the NA since the new government came to power, leaving Speaker Asad Qaiser ,struggling with the formation of house committees, as the opposition flexes its muscles to give the ,ruling coalition a tough time, on a number of issues, including the ongoing energy crisis, ‘one-sided’ accountability, the mini-budget and the recent increase in the prices of medicines.

The delay in the formation of over three dozen committees has badly affected the legislative work of parliament, and the National Assembly is functioning with only two committees, including the Public Accounts Committee, that was formed last month after a deadlock between the government and opposition over naming Shahbaz Sharif as chairman of the committee was broken.

‘Baseless allegations’: politicians react to prime minister’s tweets

When asked about the premier’s claims that opposition was seeking an NRO by staging repeated walkouts, Leader of Opposition Shahbaz Sharif said that “the allegations hurled by Imran Khan are so baseless that they don’t merit a response”.

PPP Chairman Bilawal, while talking to DawnNewsTV, pointed out that “Imran Khan does not even come to the parliament”.

“What does he know about parliamentary proceedings?” he asked.

“The prime minister had promised that he will ,appear before the parliament and answer questions,. But that promise turned out to be false as well,” Bilawal regretted.

Referring to a proposal to grant an extension to military courts, the PPP chairman said that “it is hardly possible for his party to support the bill”. He added that the government had not yet approached his party for consultation over the matter.

Prime Minister’s aide Mirza Shahzad Akbar agreed with his leader and said that attending the National Assembly session was used as a “pretext” to escape accountability.

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PML-N spokesperson Marriyum Aurangzeb, in a video message, claimed that “Imran Khan’s tweets show that he is worried because of the incapability of his federal cabinet”.

“The parliament whose cost Imran Khan is fretting about is the same that he remained absent from for five years,” she said and added: “Mr Imran, parliament and government are not run over Twitter.”

She also referred to the premier’s low attendance in the assembly, saying that “the Pakistani public was about to give out an advertisement to look for their prime minister.”

Aurangzeb accused Prime Minister Khan of “seeking an NRO for his ineptness by hurling allegations” and declared that the “opposition will not remain silent”.

“You will not be granted an NRO over Aleema [Khanum's overseas properties' case] and foreign funding,” the former information minister said, adding that the opposition will continue to question the poor performance of the government.

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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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NAB chairman should appear before parliament, demands Zardari

PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Monday said that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman should appear before the parliament in person, instead of lawmakers going to him to discuss the bureau’s procedure for moving against opposition members accused of corruption.

Speaking during a National Assembly session, the former president said the time has come for the parliament to call the NAB chairman and “proclaim a law” that before any parliamentarian is summoned by NAB, their case should come to the house committee on law so it can decide whether there is actually a case against the said lawmaker or their family.

Editorial: ,Meaningful accountability,

Zardari said he was hearing of plans among various parties to call on the NAB chairman, purportedly to discuss the bureau’s anti-corruption drive that has ensnared several opposition members.

“Why will you go to the NAB chairman?” he asked the MNAs present, before declaring: “The NAB chairman should appear in person before the parliament.”

Zardari said the matter was not personal to him because he had encountered “many NABs” during his career and “will continue to face them”.

“The real issue is, what will happen when you are summoned [by the accountability watchdog]?” he said with a meaningful smile, addressing the treasury benches.

Zardari said his party was “totally happy” that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had today been ,given relief by the Supreme Court, in the Avenfield corruption reference. He added that the PPP also “does not want to see” Nawaz’s daughter, Maryam Nawaz, in the jail.

Speaking about his own troubles, he said it would be “uncalled for” and “above the law” if a new joint investigation team is formed comprising representatives of the ISI and other institutions, in the fake accounts case.

The PPP co-chairman said it was in the government’s interest to “tighten” the NAB as doing so will reduce the prevailing “insecurity” among the bureaucracy and the country will start functioning to some extent.

Criticising the PTI government’s performance of the first few months, he told the treasury members: “We will not bring down your [government], you will fall yourselves.”

He said he wants to work to strengthen the parliament and democracy, and pointing towards government benches said, “I also want to train these news friends that have come to the parliament.”

‘No foreign force can prevent economic slide’

Zardari said the international financial support being given to Pakistan by friendly countries is welcome, but no “foreign force” can prevent the economic slide the country appeared to be heading towards because of PTI government’s policies.

“Considering the financial situation at present [and] the way decisions are being taken arbitrarily… the country cannot be managed in this manner,” the former president said.

He said no foreign power, be it China or any other country, could save Pakistan once it starts its journey towards becoming a “failed state” on the sliding scale “because everyone will think of their own country”.

Zardari said during the PPP government’s tenure, he had generated interest for investment in Pakistan through his 15 visits to China. It later materalised in the form of the agreement leading to the handover of the Gwadar port to China, he added.

Shahbaz questions Mohmand dam contract award

Earlier, Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif expressed concern over the government’s move to ,award the contract for the Rs309 billion Mohmand dam, to a Descon-led consortium on a single bid basis.

He said the manner in which the contract had been awarded had “put question marks” on the entire procedure. The Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (Pepra) rules allow the award of contracts on a single-bid basis, but with certain conditionalities, he added.

“What was the urgency in awarding the contract?” the PML-N president questioned. “Why was rebidding not done?”

He said the bidding process for the project was initiated during the PML-N government, but it was the incumbent government that had awarded the contract. “The responsibility of awarding the contract for the project lies with the PTI government,” he added.

He said there was a “direct conflict of interest” in awarding the dam contract to the company allegedly owned by Abdul Razak Dawood, who is an adviser to the prime minister.

Shahbaz claimed that the PML-N government had eliminated loadshedding from the country by launching a number of projects on a war-footing basis

“If the country is facing loadshedding again then it is due to the negligence and incapability of the present PTI government.”

He said the current government was generating electricity through furnace oil which is the most expensive fuel and LNG-based power plants were presently not functioning to full capacity.

Opposition hatching conspiracy against dams: Vawda

As Federal Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda stood up to respond to Shahbaz’s criticism, the opposition refused to listen to him and staged a walkout.

Meanwhile, Speaker Asad Qaiser ordered a headcount after PPP lawmaker Shagufta Jumani pointed out the quorum. The opposition bid to disrupt proceedings by pointing out the quorum failed, however, with the speaker declaring the house in order after the headcount.

Vawda in his remarks criticised the opposition for staging a walkout after delivering speeches and presenting “wrong facts before the house”.

Defending the government’s award of the Mohmand dam contract to the Descon-led consortium, he said the project had been in files for 54 years and the PTI government had pulled it from there.

“The opposition is hatching a conspiracy against dams as they want to do politics on this issue,” he alleged.

Vawda said the Mohmand dam will be completed under Imran Khan’s government.

He said it was wrong to say that the contract had been awarded on a single-bid basis as five companies had submitted bids for the project after issuance of advertisements.

“The opposition leader has wrongly interpreted the Pepra rules,” he claimed.

The minister said the government will not offer any NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance-like deal) to the opposition leaders.

“Their politics have been buried [...] they will either go to jail or in exile.”

The NA was session was adjourned until 11am on Tuesday.

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Minister terms all previous budgets fake

LAHORE: Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Sunday said that all previous budgets were fake and now real budgets were being presented.

“The upcoming January 23 mini-budget will lay a foundation of Pakistan’s strong economy,” he said and added that the PTI government would come up to the expectations of people.

The information minister’s remarks come a day after Finance Minister Asad Umar on Saturday dispelled the impression that the ,upcoming mini-budget, would be loaded with new taxes. While addressing members of the business community in Karachi, Mr Umar had said that the mini-budget would focus on ease of doing business and measures to facilitate trade and industrialisation.

Says governance will improve in two to three years

The information minister urged people to have trust in the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, adding that governance would improve in two to three years.

“Have patience for two to three years and this government’s governance will be of par excellence,” he told the media at ThinkFest at Alhamra Arts Council.

Mr Chaudhry said PM Khan did not believe in giving relief (NRO) to any corrupt.

“One has already landed in jail, while the other will follow suit,” he said while referring to former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ex-president Asif Ali Zardari, respectively.

He reiterated that Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari were pressurising (the government) in and out of parliament but they would not get any NRO.

The information minister said that Mr Sharif’s and Mr Zardari’s parties had collapsed.

“They have dug their political graves with their style of politics. We didn’t contribute anything [to their troubles],” Mr Chaudhry said.

The minister expressed wonder over the way the trial of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif was being conducted, saying they were enjoying all freedom when compared with incarceration of Wali Khan, Faiz Ahmad Faiz and other high-profile people who remained in prison. “Nawaz Sharif flew to London during his trial and his lawyers cross-examined witnesses for 22 days.”

He said that Opposition Leader in National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif was in jail only on papers as he was living in his house and holding meetings and sometimes even called the NAB and prosecutors to appear before him. “I haven’t seen such a trial in my life,” he said and added, “still they are heading towards their political death”.

Responding to a question about former US Ambassador Cameron Munter that Pakistan had misused funds given by the US to counter terrorism as well as promote education, Mr Chaudhry brushed aside Mr Munter’s statement, saying he had retired long ago and did not know anything happening now.

He pointed out that the US had already discontinued the Coalition Support Fund. However, he added, Pakistan-US relations were now improving. He said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had visited Pakistan and later Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi met him in Washington leading to improvement in Pak-US ties.

“I guess Munter has not visited Washington for quite some time,” he said.

Referring to the PPP leaders’ names on the ECL, he said the direction was given by the JIT and the government had just implemented it.

Regarding his re-scheduled visit to Sindh and PPP minister Saeed Ghani’s assertion that he could stop him entering Sindh, Mr Chaudhry said Sindh was part of Pakistan and no one could stop him from going there. He said he was going to Sindh in connection with the affairs of his ministry and would obviously meet his colleagues there.

Mr Chaudhry said the information ministry would come up with a calendar of mega events in the country in a couple of weeks to allow space to thinkers and writers to speak up their minds.

Emphasising the need for promotion of tourism, he said Pakistan had decided to allow visa-free entry to people from 66 countries.

“People from across the globe will be invited to participate in various literary, cultural, social and religious festivals,” the minister said and added that the government was working on mechanisms to keep the events safe.

He said authors would be encouraged and film industry would be revived.

“PM Imran Khan’s vision is not just political but also social, and he wants to generate activity that will bring people closer unlike past rulers, who only worked to fill their coffers,” Mr Chaudhry said.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 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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Trump and PM Khan ‘may find some sort of common ground’ during meeting: ex-US envoy Munter

Former United States ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter on Sunday said President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Imran Khan “may find some sort of common ground” if and when a meeting is held between the two leaders.

Addressing an event organised by the Karachi Council on Foreign Relations, the former envoy said Trump and Khan are in power because they both have “very good political sense”.

“They have the fingertip feeling, as we say, they’re very clever with people,” he said while speaking at the event, ‘Brunch & Conversation with Ambassador Cameron Munter’, held at Karachi’s Movenpick Hotel.

Munter said there was a possibility that if the two leaders meet, they might find some common ground that could help improve their bilateral relationship.”Not the kind that typical analytical diplomats find, but they may find that there is common ground in some way,” he added.

On January 2, President Trump had ,expressed his desire to meet Prime Minister Khan, for talks on US-led efforts to jump-start the Afghan peace process. “I look forward to meeting the folks from the new leadership in Pakis­tan [and] we will be doing that in not-too-distant future,” he had said.

Following this, the Foreign Office had welcomed Trump’s remarks on ties with Pakistan and said the government was ,keenly waiting for the engagement at the highest level,.

“We look forward to positive engagement with the US at the leadership level,” FO spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal had said during a weekly media briefing.

During the event today, Munter expressed a desire for better relations between Washington and Islamabad, DawnNewsTV reported.

The former US envoy said that at a tactical level there was still a sense that the kind of ties the United States has with the Pakistani military are “valuable and important, if for no other reason then that there is still a residual [American] force in Afghanistan”.

He said it was the “competence” of the Pakistan Army that made them a “good partner” for Washington, and cited the example of the 2010 floods in Pakistan. During the catastrophic floods, he said he had opted not to call the PPP government to help the affected people, and instead approached the Pakistani military.

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Bilawal pledges to combat ‘politics of vendetta’

KOTRI: Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has vowed to fight the “politics of vendetta” saying he is not afraid of threats of the exit control list, National Accountability Bureau and imprisonment.

Addressing a public meeting here on Saturday after inaugurating Kotri-Jamshoro overhead bridge, he said the PPP had faced “Gen Zia’s lashes and Gen Musharraf’s prisons and exile” and it was not afraid of the incumbent “puppet and benami prime minister”.

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, PPP provincial president Nisar Khuhro and MPA Malik Asad Sikandar also spoke on the occasion.

PPP leader warns PTI govt against testing patience of jiyalas

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said if the people of Sindh, Balochistan, southern Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa decided to “take on Islamabad” to secure their rights and protest against deprivation, it would prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the “fake government”.

He warned the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government against testing patience of PPP jiyalas, saying if it didn’t refrain from it, the PPP would show it how “theft of vote” was avenged.

He said the PPP preferred service delivery like construction of bridges over the River Indus, canal lining, road networks, subsidy to farmers and provision of employment in Thar and quality cardiac care services.

He said the “selected prime minister” and the Punjab chief minister could not compete with the Sindh chief minister.

“Your plan to oust us through conspiracies has failed and you will fail again,” he said while addressing PM Imran Khan.

He said an inept federal government was meting out step-motherly treatment to the people of Sindh who were being punished for voting for the PPP.

He said Imran Khan needed to learn principles of politics before talking about principled politics and added that the finger of umpire worked in cricket and the people’s will in politics.

He accused the PTI of making false promises and fraudulent claims and said Pakistan was heading backwards under its government. “The national economy remains weak and people are drowning in the tsunami of price hike while mills and shops are being closed.”

The PPP leader said poor people didn’t have two square meals a day because their sources of livelihood had been snatched.

He said those who talked about providing 10 million jobs and five million houses to people had snatched from them already available job opportunities and deprived them of shelter.

“Pakistan does not have electricity, gas and investment but the federal ministers are claiming there is no price hike and advising people to be patient. The eyes of the ministers are closed with arrogance and minds intoxicated with power while their hearts are insensitive”, he said.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari accused the government of closing water and electricity supplies to Sindh which contributed 80pc of gas produced in Pakistan.

He said billions of rupees of the Sindh government had been withheld which badly affected development process.

He asked for what crime the people of Sindh were being pushed against wall and then answered his question, saying because they did not vote for “puppets” and were loyal to the Bhuttos.

He said the government didn’t know how the rupee got devalued and the wheels of economy got jammed although it claimed to be working faster than light’s speed.

“The government doesn’t know how the debt of Rs5bn has increased but those who said they preferred suicide over the begging bowl are now celebrating foreign borrowings”.

Mr Bhutto-Zardari said the federal government had tried to commit robbery over the mandate of Sindh in just three months but got only disappointment and shelved the plan.

CM Shah said the Kotri-Jamshoro bridge had been completed in a record period of time and urged Mr Bhutto-Zardari to take up the issue of dualisation of Indus Highway between Jamshoro and Sehwan in the National Assembly.

Earlier, Mr Bilawal-Bhutto visited residence of Asad Sikandar during which shops of the area were closed by the administration. He also took tea at the residence of MPA Hina Dastagir.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Doctor allowed to examine Nawaz

LAHORE: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s doctor examined him after workers of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) held a demonstration outside the Kot Lakhpat jail on Saturday against the Punjab government for not taking care of their leader.

A good number of PML-N workers, led by former ministers Ahsan Iqbal and Pervaiz Malik, chanted slogans against the government and the jail administration for not allowing Mr Sharif’s cardiologist to see him after he complained of pain in his left arm.

On Friday, Maryam Nawaz had claimed that the jail authorities were not allowing her father’s cardiologist to examine him.

However, after PML-N workers’ protest, the jail administration allowed cardiologist Dr Adnan to examine Mr Sharif and he suggested some tests for the PML-N leader.

Talking to reporters, Ahsan Iqbal said: “Non-provision of health facilities to Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif is a violation of basic human rights. This is being done in revenge.” The acting secretary general of PML-N warned that if Mr Sharif’s health deteriorated because of lack of medical care, a case would be lodged against the prime minister, chief minister, home secretary and the jail superintendent.

He urged the chief justice of Pakistan to launch a probe into the offshore holdings of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sister Aleema Khanum.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2019

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Not going to IMF for now, mini-budget to be unveiled on Jan 23: Asad Umar

The federal government has decided not to enter an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme for now, Finance Minister Asad Umar said on Saturday.

The finance minister made the remarks while talking to businessmen at the Karachi Chamber of Commence and Industry (KCCI).

Umar said that instead of ,rushing into the IMF programme,, the government was exploring alternative options.

Furthermore, the finance minister announced that the government will unveil a mini-budget on Jan 23 instead of Jan 21. He associated the two-day delay to an impending foreign trip of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The finance minister said that his visits of Lahore and Karachi were regarding a one-point agenda: the amended finance bill, which he said will facilitate businessmen.

Umar indicated that the amended bill will also carry “some good news” for the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) .

The minister said that he consulted all stakeholders over the upcoming mini-budget, assuring the assortment of businessmen that tax anomalies will be eliminated in the budget.

The minister rejected the impression that the government was only borrowing money, stressing that several agreements have also been signed to bring investment into the country.

“The impacts of the investment agreements will start surfacing from the next week,” he added.

Asad Umar, even before he was sworn in, had said that the economy would need an infusion of more than $12 billion within six weeks.

In a later ,interview with Bloomberg,, he had said that the nation’s financial gap was somewhere between $10bn to $12bn, adding that the new government would need a bit extra so it doesn’t “live on the edge”.

In October last year, Saudi Arabia had announced a $6 billion bailout package for Pakistan’s ailing economy. The package includes $3bn in balance of payments support and just as much in deferred payments on oil imports.

The UAE had also announced a package exactly the same size and terms and conditions as given by Saudi Arabia. The all-weather friend, China too, had pledged to lend $2 billion to Pakistan to shore up dwindling foreign exchange reserves.

Moreover, Islamabad and Riyadh are expected to ink memorandum of understanding (MoUs) to bring in ,Saudi investment in excess of $10bn, this month. Pakistan is also eyeing similar MoUs with China, the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia over the next two months.

The federal cabinet has also approved a strategy to issue so-called ‘Panda bonds’ in the Chinese market to raise foreign exchange from global markets.

‘Budget bomb’

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in a statement strongly opposed the government’s upcoming mini-budget.

The party’s vice president, Senator Sherry Rehman, expressed grave reservations against rising inflation and the government’s announcement of the mini budget.

“Will this inquilab sarkar (revolutionary government) announce a new mini budget every four months?” she asked.

She said that the government should make preparations for an annual budget and that this was not the time to announce a mini budget.

The PPP leader likened the decision to a “budget bomb” being dropped on the people, based on supposed conditions put forth by the IMF.

“Every month new taxes are being imposed and some commodity or the other sees a hike in prices.

“One day the ,prices of medicines go up, and the next, a mini budget is announced,” Rehman said adding that the government is “robbing the people of the right to live”.

She said that the “tsunami of change” had now transformed into a “storm of inflation”.

Rehman recalled that inflation stood at 5.8 per cent in July, whereas now it had gone up to 6.2pc.

She said that those who claimed being “friends of businessmen” are in fact their enemies and declared that the government is incapable of running the economy.

The PPP leader further criticising the government’s performance said that in the past five months, they had “done nothing but raise slogans for economy and accountability”.

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