Posts Tagged ‘PTI’

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

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

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

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

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

Editorial: ,After 100 days…,

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

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

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

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

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Foreign minister sees talks on US financial aid restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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NA goes into another session without committees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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Inquiry into Pakistan Steel Mills closure dropped for want of proof

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

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

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

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

Move may facilitate consultation with Hubco over revival plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alvi addresses seminar

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

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

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

‘NAB must continue work despite propaganda’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Saad spills the beans on PML-N strategy to ‘go soft’ on PTI

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Khawaja Saad Rafique has spilled the beans on his party’s strategy to “go soft” on the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and “mysterious silence” of former prime minister’s daughter Maryam Nawaz.

The former railways minister also believes that his ‘difficult days’ may be over if he becomes a “good boy” and keeps mum on the wishes of the powers that be.

“We fear that if political temperature is raised, democracy may be derailed and that is why we are not going for agitation,” Mr Rafique said at a press conference here on Friday.

“We want to save Pakistan from repeat of another [Bangladesh-like] incident. At present there is a civil martial law in Pakistan in the name of democracy. We see a terrible political future of Prime Minister Imran Khan the way things are going. It is very much likely that Mr Khan will not be able to complete his term,” he said, adding that the country could not be run through “puppet rulers”.

Says Maryam is silent but silence has its own voice

“Such a selective premier like Imran Khan is brought in the wake of rigged polls. Imran Khan and those supporting him want that vocal leaders are sent to jail. Going to jail is the fate of only politicians and a few civil servants. We are told to stitch our lips and become ‘good boys’ and if don’t we are tagged ‘bad boys’. Let me tell you I will play on front foot,” he declared and urged that those involved in “this dangerous game” should stop playing it as it would be detrimental to the solidarity of the country.

In reply a question about prolonged silence of Maryam Nawaz, the PML-N leader said: “Yes, she is silent but silence has its own voice.”

Ms Nawaz has stopped tweeting and issuing statements since she got bail in the Avenfield reference along with her husband and father in September.

Mr Rafique, who is being named as ‘beneficial owner’ of the Paragon Housing Scheme, took on the National Accountability Bureau for forcing his ‘old friend’ Qaisar Amin Butt to become an approver against him.

“Mr Butt, who started his political career as a councillor along with me, was forced by NAB to turn an approver against me. A magistrate before whom Mr Butt did not give statement against me was changed. Then in the presence of NAB officials a statement of its (NAB’s) choice was extracted from Mr Butt (against me) in violation of the Lahore High Court’s order,” he said and alleged that four other witnesses in this case were tortured [to extract statements against him].

Pointing to his younger brother Khawaja Salman Rafique, who was sitting next to him during the press conference, the PML-N leader said: “He is an innocent man and he is also facing the music [in the NAB case] because of me.”

He said that evidence against him and his brother was being collected in the Paragon housing case for the last one and a half years. “In the PML-N case, NAB first makes arrests and then starts collecting evidence.”

Mr Rafique alleged that Shahzad Akbar, special assistant to the prime minister on accountability, was a link between NAB and Imran Khan. “Shahzad Akbar holds meetings in NAB as he is the link between the bureau and the premier.”

He also said that two new trains were operated on Mianwali and Karachi routes on 100 per cent loss on the wishes the prime minister and the president. “Because of these trains, substantial increase was made in the fares.”

The PML-N leader taunted PM Khan for his failure on the diplomatic front with India. “Today Imran Khan is begging India to hold talks but the latter is refusing it. The damage done to CPEC by PTI is more than what India could do,” he said.

Reacting to the former railways minister’s remarks, Punjab Information Minister Fayyazul Hasan Chohan criticised the former for his “dubious role” in the PML-N. “Saad Rafique along with Qaiser Amin Butt launched Paragon Housing Scheme in 2000 when Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif were attending court hearings [in different cases during the Gen Musharraf regime]. Could both Khawaja brothers have made business without striking a deal with a dictator [Musharraf]?” he told reporters outside the Punjab Assembly. Mr Chohan said Mr Rafique was upset after Mr Butt became an approver against him.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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Midterm polls govt’s way to ensure absolute majority: Rabbani

KARACHI: Former Senate chairman Senator Raza Rabbani has said that the idea of midterm elections in the country is being floated to ensure that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) gets absolute majority in the National Assembly.

Addressing a press conference in the Sindh Assembly building here on Friday, he said: “It seems Imran Khan, who doesn’t have absolute majority right now, will be handed the desired majority in the house through the midterm elections.”

He said the government lacked a two-thirds majority in the National Assembly and it seemed the government “would be given” such a majority through the midterm elections. “What dynamics and forces have compelled him [the prime minister] for new elections that early?” he asked.

He said that it was unfortunate that the jurisdiction of judiciary and other institutions was not being respected as defined in the Constitution. “In my opinion, at present there is a serious crisis of governance in the country. Unfortunately, the mechanisms for judiciary, executive and legislative, as defined in the Constitution, were neither being acted upon accordingly, nor were they being respected,” he regretted, adding that every institution was interfering in the other’s constitutional jurisdiction.

Mr Rabbani said the country was on the verge of an economic disaster and parliament had become virtually crippled.

“No one knows on what preconditions we are getting the loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and on what interest? Neither the people of this country nor parliament is being taken into confidence over such a crucial deal,” he said.

He said it was high time that parliament was strengthened to deal with challenging times. He deplored the waning influence of the Council of Common Interests and demanded that the government announce the new National Finance Commission (NFC) Award.

“The NFC Award was not awarded during dictatorships and such negative tradition should not be followed by democratic governments,” said Senator Rabbani.

He said the Senate should be empowered to allow for any delays in the NFC Award, adding that any cuts in the award would not be in the interest of less populous provinces.

Mr Rabbani proposed an amendment to Article 57 of the Constitution to make chief ministers members of the Senate so that they could raise issues involving their provinces before members of the upper house.

He also proposed that a senator of necessity become a resident of a province from where he or she was being elected. Senator Rabbani also demanded mandatory approval by the Senate for the federal budget.

He said the country could not be rescued from persisting crises until parliament and federation were strengthened “no matter how heavy loans we get”.

He said the 18th Amendment was not a divine book and could be amended. However, he expressed his concern that plans were afoot to interfere in provincial subjects like health and education by the federal government through ordinances.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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US report highlights murky world of ‘contractors’ in Pakistan

WASHINGTON: “The contractor must maintain a constant capability to surge to any location within Afghanistan or Pakistan” within a 30-day period, says an official US announcement released in 2010.

The announcement — highlighted by The Nation, the oldest US weekly, in May 2010 — solicits bids from private war contractors to secure and ship US military equipment through sensitive areas of Pakistan into Afghanistan.

Among the duties the contractors were required to perform was “intelligence, to include threat assessments throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan”.

The solicitation notice — almost completely ignored by the Pakistani media — also underlines the enormity of the task: “There will be an average of 5,000” import shipments “transiting the Afghanistan and Pakistan ground lines of communication (GLOC) per month, along with 500 export shipments”.

The terms of the contract indicate that US personnel were directly involved in these operations, although a bulk of the force was hired locally, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Ninety American contractors were among the 65,000 people killed in Pakistan in 17 years, it says

A May 25, 2010 article in The Nation, by journalist Jeremy Scahill, points out that among the firms listed by the US Department of Defence as “interested vendors” were an Afghan firm tied to a veteran CIA officer and run by the son of a former Afghan defence minister, Gen Abdul Rahim Wardak, and a Pakistani firm with links to Blackwater, a private security company based in the US.

Although often highlighted in the US media, the mysterious world of private contractors drew little attention in Pakistan until recently, when a report by the Brown University’s Costs of War Project mentioned that 90 American contractors were among the 65,000 people killed in Pakistan in the last 17 years.

The activities of private contractors in Pakistan did not receive much attention in the US media either, mainly because the death tolls in Afghanistan and Iraq were much higher.

According to the Brown University report, a total of 7,820 private American contractors have been killed since 2001. Of them 3,937 were killed in Afghanistan, 3,793 in Iraq and 90 in Pakistan.

For most Pakistanis, even 90 contractors are far too many as the number makes them realise that hundreds of private American contractors have been operating in their country without their knowledge.

But the 2010 solicitation expla­ins why the United States had to hire a large number of private contractors in Pakistan. It identifies “current limitations on having US military presence in Pakistan and threat levels precluding US Military active invol­vement” as the main reasons for hiring private contractors.

Defining a contractor’s functions, the solicitation states: “The contractor must be proactive at identifying appropriate methods for obtaining the necessary in-transit visibility information.”

Although no official statistics are available about the total number of American contractors deployed in Pakistan, in 2012 the US Central Command informed Congress approximately 137,000 contractors were working for the Pentagon in the greater Middle East region that includes Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Of that total, 40,110 were US citizens, 50,560 were local hires, and 46,231 were from neither the US nor the country in which they were working.

“These numbers do not reflect the totality of contractors. For example, they do not include contractors working for the US State Department,” journalist David Isenberg wrote in the Time magazine on October 9, 2012.

According to the US Department of Defence data, at the peak of their deployment (2008-2011) contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan represented 52 per cent of the total force, averaging 190,000 contractors to 175,000 uniformed personnel.

Focusing on the situation in Pakistan, journalist Antony Loewenstein, wrote in an Australian publication in April 2012 that in Pakistan “private security is a state within a state”.

He wrote that a total of 62 retired military officials were running these private companies and at least half of them “had been arrested and then released for corruption and working for the Americans”.

According to him, “the most revealing company name” on the 2012 list was G4S Wackenhut Pakistan. G4S is a British behemoth in the security industry with a troubling human rights record.

A January 2010 report of the Foreign Policy (news site) also covers the period when private security was its peak in Pakistan. It notes that in 2010, the top UN security official, Gregory Starr, the former head of US State Department Security, advocated an increase in the use of private security firms in Pakistan.

The report notes that the UN “accelerated its move toward hired guns” in Pakistan after the Taliban launched an attack against a UN residence in October 2009, killing five UN employees.

The report also identifies some of the companies active in Pakistan in that period, including Blackwater/Xe, Triple Canopy, Dyncorps and Aegis. Most of them have now hired local partners.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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Nawaz says rupee should not be devalued without govt permission

ISLAMABAD: Wondering over Prime Minister Imran Khan’s assertion that he did not know about the ,recent devaluation of the Pakistani rupee against the US dollar,, former prime minister and supreme leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Nawaz Sharif said on Friday that never once the local currency was devalued without his permission during the previous PML-N government.

Speaking to reporters outside the accountability court where he appeared in connection with a reference against him, he said during his tenure rupee was not devalued even 10 paisas without the government’s permission. During the whole term of the PML-N government the rupee did not experience the kind of huge devaluation that it faced during the four-month period of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government, he added.

Answering a question about Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claim that he had learnt about the rupee’s devaluation through the media, Mr Sharif said “that should not have been done without the approval of the prime minister”.

Ex-PM justifies PML-N govt’s measures to stabilise local currency’s value against dollar

He said the rupee had never been devalued without his permission during the PML-N government and that was the reason that his government had remained successful in stabilising the value of the local currency.

In reaction to PM Khan’s assertion that the PML-N government had taken artificial measures to stabilise the rupee’s value against the dollar, the former prime minister questioned: “What was that artificial method by the way?”

He claimed that international financial institutions rated Pakistan’s economy strong and balanced from 2013 to 2017 when his party was in power. The world had appreciated his government’s economic performance, he said, adding the stock market’s benchmark index had increased from 19,000 to 53,000 points during his tenure.

He claimed that as per a report of the International Monetary Fund the country’s growth rate during the PML-N government was 6.6 per cent.

The former prime minister criticised the economic policies of the PTI government, saying they had caused price hike in the country. The PTI government had increased the prices of gas, fertilizer and petroleum products despite the fact that oil prices were moving downward in the international market. “The economy grows with sincerity, honesty and hard work and not by taking U-turns,” he added.

Mr Sharif claimed that the PML-N government was also successful in the fight against terrorism.

The former prime minister alleged the July election in the country were rigged and cited the example of a National Assembly seat that his brother Shahbaz Sharif lost to a PTI’s candidate with a very small margin.

Mr Sharif said despite his reservations about the National Accounta­bility Ordinance which was introduced by military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, he and other leaders of his party faced cases made by the National Accoun­tability Bureau (NAB) against them. Though his party considered it a flawed law, PML-N leaders faced NAB cases, he said, adding “we have faced NAB and now it is others’ turn to face them”.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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Merkel loyalist wins battle for party leadership

HAMBURG: Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, a close ally of Angela Merkel, won a tight race to succeed her as party leader on Friday, seeing off a longtime rival of the German chancellor.

The contest, which required a runoff vote to secure a 52 per cent majority for AKK as she is known, is expected to increase the likelihood that Merkel will be able to see out her fourth term until 2021.

AKK, 56, pledged to maintain continuity after 18 years of Merkel at the helm while opening up the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) to more grassroots democracy.

In a brief, upbeat address before the vote that brought many delegates to their feet, she called on the party to reject the politics of fear as the far-right makes inroads in Germany and Europe.

“We must have the courage to stay the course against the Zeitgeist,” she said.

AKK beat corporate lawyer Friedrich Merz, 63, who had quit politics in 2009 after losing a power struggle to Merkel and long nursed a grudge against the more centrist chancellor.

The third candidate — vocal Merkel critic and current health minister Jens Spahn — lost in the first round.

Merkel, 64, had earlier mounted a staunch defence of her moderate course since becoming chancellor in 2005.

Accepting a lengthy standing ovation from delegates, many tearful and holding “Thanks, boss” placards aloft, a visibly moved Merkel said the party had won four national elections under her by holding fast to its principles.

“In difficult times we shouldn’t forget our Christian and democratic stance,” she said.

Pointing to the rise of populism worldwide and what she called a breakdown of shared Western values, Merkel acknowledged the order she had championed was at risk.

“Whether it’s the rejection of multilateralism, the return to nationalism, the reduction of international cooperation to deal-making or threatened trade wars… hybrid warfare, destabilisation of societies with fake news or the future of our EU — we Christian Democrats must show in the face of all these challenges what we’ve got,” she said.

Handpicked by Merkel as general secretary of the party in February, AKK was immediately seen as the chancellor’s anointed crown princess.

Her modest style, even temper and largely middle-of-the-road policies mirror Merkel’s, while both women are respected for the flash of steel they have shown at decisive moments.

While she has called for tougher policies on refugees who commit crimes, AKK firmly backed Merkel’s fateful 2015 decision to welcome more than one million asylum-seekers from crisis zones such as Syria and Iraq.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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Candidates subjected to online abuse, misinformation in July polls: report

KARACHI: The internet-driven 2018 general elections were marred by misinformation and fake news, and the candidates, particularly women, were subjected to online abuse in the absence of a code of conduct for digital poll campaigns by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), an election monitoring report has observed.

The Digital Rights Foun­dation (DRF) — a digital advocacy group — on Friday released its report titled “Participation of female politicians in Pakis­tan’s General Election 2018”.

The DRF found that women politicians were more likely to receive comments that were personal in nature whereas abuse faced by male politicians was focused on their political views.

Analysis of 43,372 comments from the Facebook pages of 43 women politicians from seven major political parties revealed that a majority of both abusive and unwelcoming comments were classified as political victimisation (49 per cent), with 25pc of comments classified as sexist, 23pc as personal abuse, 2pc as threats and 1pc as racist.

In terms of the number of active female politicians on social media, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was ahead of its counterparts Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N). However, the report noted that although a lesser number of women politicians from the PTI were active online, they had more online engagement in terms of followers and response to posts than women of other parties.

The report observed that women politicians from the Awami National Party, PML-Q and PPP received a higher percentage of unwelcoming comments.

The report pointed out that there was no monitoring of social media activities by the ECP and the code of conduct for elections was not applied to the activities of parties online.

The DRF’s monitoring on July 24 revealed that social media campaigns of several major political parties remained active. It observed that Facebook and Twitter accounts of various parties, including the three biggest parties — PTI, PML-N and PPP — had been posting material that qualified as campaigning on their official social media pages.

It also noted that PTI’s Snapchat account (pti.imrankhan) was active after the deadline of midnight between July 23 and July 24. It said that SMS directed at the voters of constituency NA-131 by the PTI were also delivered after the ECP deadline for canvassing. A political party was streaming live through its YouTube account till noon on July 24, it added.

The report said that out of the 89 Facebook ads of major political parties monitored by DRF, 36pc of ads came from PTI’s official Facebook page, 32pc from Shahbaz Sharif’s Facebook page and 12pc from PML-N’s official Facebook page.

All the parties interviewed by the DRF indicated that they had experienced issues regarding fake news and propaganda through social media. However, the parties had no concerted strategy in place to tackle the issue, it noted.

Nighat Dad, executive director of the DRF, said: “Online spaces are emerging as a space for political engagement, but the experience of female politicians is qualitatively different and is marked by sexist and abusive comments online. We have seen that election activities on social media are wholly unregulated and not subject to the ECP’s Code of Conduct.”

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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Nawaz welcomes Imran’s remarks on early elections

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Thursday welcomed the remarks of incumbent Prime Minister Imran Khan about early elections and claimed that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was ready to go for a contest.

After testifying in the Flagship Investment reference in the accountability court, Mr Sharif during his informal discussion with journalists said that if the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) wanted to go for midterm elections, this would be a blessing for the people of Pakistan.

“The people are happy over these remarks as they want to get rid of this government even before the schedule time,” he said.

According to him, the PML-N is in a position to win elections whenever they are held.

While recording his testimony before the accountability court, Mr Sharif said that the reference against him was not only against legal norms, but also contrary to religious, social and ethical values of society.

Says reference against him is not only against legal norms, but also contrary to values of society

He said it was ironic that the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was trying to portray a fair and transparent matter as an illegal practice. Around eight million overseas Pakistanis earn their livelihood in different countries and some of them secured distinction in their respective professions and businesses. “Have overseas Pakistanis or their parents in Pakistan ever faced references for sending or receiving remittances?” he asked.

He pointed out that his sons sent him different amounts from time to time not because he was the owner of their businesses, but they did it for being his children.

According to the statement of the former prime minister, “there are four ingredients to be proved by the prosecution, (i) The onus is on the prosecution to prove that the accused has paid for certain property, (ii) Titled documents were in possession of the accused person, (iii) The properties are in possession and being occupied by the accused, and (iv) It is on the prosecution to prove motive for benami. In case, the prosecution levels allegation of benami it is up to them to prove the allegation”.

The statement further said: “As far as this [Flagship Investment] case is concerned, everyone knows the treatment meted out to Sharif family for two and half years in the name of accountability. None in Pakistan has ever faced such [harsh] accountability.”

The statement, however, termed it a matter of pride that the ruthless accountability could not prove an iota of corruption against Mr Sharif or his family members.

It claimed that the whole case against him was based on assumptions. It started from allegations of billions of rupees corruption and ended with the offence “assets beyond means” and the prosecution could not prove that as well, he added.

Mr Sharif then gave a background of his family properties and industries which were run by his father Mian Mohammad Sharif. He told the court that in 1969-70, his family purchased seven bungalows comprising 10 kanal each and their Ittefaq foundries were dealing with steel furnaces, sugar mills, cement industry parts, defence-related products, gear boxes and many others.

Mr Sharif said that in January 1972, Ittefaq foundries were nationalised in Pakistan whereas they were taken over by the Bangladeshi government after the fall of Dhaka. In 1979, while Ittefaq foundries were operating at a loss, they were returned to the Sharif family which invested a huge amount and turned them into a profitable organisation again.

He said that both his sons had been helping Mian Sharif since they had been students and both of them started independent business during the lifetime of their grandfather. The former prime minister said that his family business paid a huge cost for politics.

During the regime of military dictator retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, his family business was victimised. The then regime converted his house in an old home and his brothers Shahbaz and Abbas Sharif had to live in rented houses. Even today, industrial units owned by the Sharif family were not working due to political victimisation, he said.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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NAB chief unhappy over PM’s claim about low conviction rate

ISLAMABAD: National Accountability Bureau (NAB) chairman retired Justice Javed Iqbal has refuted Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claim that the conviction rate of NAB is seven per cent.

Speaking at a function organised by the Rawalpindi NAB on Thursday, he said: “A few days ago NAB was criticised that its conviction rate is 7pc. I do not know why he [PM] skipped a zero [at the end], because the actual conviction rate of NAB is above 70pc. I am saying it with conviction.”

Presenting his government’s performance during its first 100 days last week, PM Khan had said that the conviction rate of NAB was 7pc, while in Malaysia it is 90pc.

Retired Justice Iqbal assails government for withholding funds

Retired Justice Iqbal criticised the government for not releasing outstanding funds of NAB, putting the organisation under a severe financial crunch.

“No matter if you criticise me, I will not respond, but if you criticise NAB without any reason I will not sit idle and being the head of the organisation I will come up to defend it,” retired Justice Iqbal asserted.

He said a very limited budget was given to NAB and as a result of that hardship allowance and hiring facilities were very low in the organisation.

Referring to the recent rejection of NAB’s demand regarding release of Rs1 billion fund, the NAB chief said: “When an action is taken against any government functionary, NAB

allowance is stopped or its budget is cut, but these tactics will not stop the caravan of NAB.”

He said NAB would bear the hardships but would not compromise on its principle of across-the-board accountability. “All those in the government or in the opposition who committed corruption and caused losses to the country will be accountable to Almighty Allah, NAB and courts of the country,” he said.

PM’s adviser on media Iftikhar Durrani said at a press conference on Thursday that there was a room for improvement in NAB. He said there was a decision of the Balochistan High Court that no additional fund should be given to NAB.

Dawn has learnt that the government has refused to release Rs1bn funds demanded by NAB under the Recovery and Reward Fund.

According to the bureau, the government has to pay Rs1.6bn to NAB as its 2pc share in the recoveries in bank default cases.

Published in Dawn, December 7th, 2018

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PTI minister Azam Swati resigns ‘to uphold moral authority’

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Azam Swati, who is being probed over allegations that he played a role in the transfer of a former capital police chief, tendered his resignation to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday.

“To uphold my moral authority, I sent my resignation to the PM [and told him] that I cannot work under these conditions,” Swati said.

“Now I will defend my case without any portfolio or authority.”

Swati, a member of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), is currently facing a case in the Supreme Court over accusation that he had influenced the transfer of former Islamabad Inspector General of Police Jan Mohammad.

The police official’s transfer took place after Swati’s son had registered a case against a family of slum dwellers for ,allegedly trespassing, on his family’s land. Five people, including two women, were arrested for trespassing on the land and beating up Swati’s guards.

They were released after a day’s detention as police said a settlement had been reached between the minister and the detained family.

The altercation, coupled with the IGP’s transfer, had caught the attention of the media as well as the apex court.

The SC at one point had pondered taking action against Swati under Article 62 of the Constitution before forming a joint investigation team to probe the case.

On November 19, the court-formed JIT had ,held Swati and his employees responsible, for the altercation that took place at his farmhouse and allegedly transpired into the police chief’s transfer.

Swati, regarding the IGP’s transfer, had earlier disclosed that the police chief was contacted on his mobile phone after making 38 calls and he promised action on his complaint against the neighbours. The next day, he had said, the IGP was approached again to get a follow-up and in response he replied: “No one has talked to you yet?”

On his attitude, “I lodged complaints with the prime minister, the Senate chairman, leader of the house and the state minister for interior,” the minister had said.

While this episode was unfolding, it had appeared that Swati’s family may have been encroaching upon government land, following which the Capital Development Authority had issued Swati’s wife, the owner of the property, a notice to remove encroachments and unauthorised construction from her farmhouse in 15 days.

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SC summons DHA in Bahria Town land allotment fee case

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Thursday issued summons for Defence Housing Authority (DHA) representatives to appear in court for the next hearing of a case pertaining to Bahria Town’s land allotment practices.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who is heading the bench hearing the case, ordered that representatives of DHA be present in court for the next hearing after the lawyer representing Bahria Town insisted that providing buyers with an allotment letter instead of a sale deed is a practice that all housing societies have in common.

“All housing societies do the same. DHA also follows the same practice,” Bahria’s lawyer argued.

“Whatever [rule] is applied to you will also be applied to DHA,” the top judge made clear, noting that the latter is a “strong company”.

“If it is to be said [in their case] that issuing allotment letters is wrong and proper registration should be done, then the rule shall apply to all [housing societies],” the apex judge said.

Earlier, Justice Nisar said that billions of rupees were owed to the government under the head of transfer fees. “You provide an allotment letter [to buyers] instead of a sale deed. You do not pay transfer fees and capital value tax,” he noted.

“According to your calculation, to date Rs14 billion are due [to the government],” the chief justice said while adding that Bahria Town’s forensic audit should be done.

The lawyer for Bahria Town responded by saying that the policy surrounding sale deeds is not crystal clear on the matter.

However, the chief justice rubbished the argument, stating: “Land cannot be transferred without a sale deed. Whatever has been done to date is illegal.”

“The payment of the complete fee for land registration is your responsibility,” he added.

To this, the defence lawyer said that DHA and all other housing societies also employe the same practices, prompting Justice Nisar to summon DHA to the next hearing of the case, which will be held on December 13.

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