Posts Tagged ‘punjab’

Imran asks Punjab, KP to fine-tune new LG system

LAHORE: Prime Minis­ter Imran Khan on Sunday granted yet another extension in ,the deadline for local government reforms,, this time by 48 hours, and directed the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to fine-tune the new LG system, besides issuing orders for formation of a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe into loss of Punjab’s official record in fire incidents.

During his second visit to Lahore since assuming the Prime Minister’s Office, Imran Khan also chided the Indian leadership’s arrogance and said: “If India hurls threats, it will be given a befitting reply by the Pakistani nation. However, he declared, “Pakistan wants peace, friendship and trade to develop the region.”

He asserted that Pakistan would never bow to any pressure, not even by any super power.

He expressed these views while addressing the bureaucracy after holding meetings with Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and his cabinet members to review Punjab’s progress on the government’s 100-day agenda.

Says India will be given a befitting reply if it hurls threats though Pakistan wants peace, friendship and trade

Speaking to police officers and civil servants, Mr Khan said Pakistan wanted to have cordial relations with all nations and promote trade and economic ties to overcome the financial crisis. With a vital geo-strategic positioning, he said, Pakistan could attract massive foreign investment, provided it streamlined its governance system and win investors’ confidence. “I did not go to Saudi Arabia and the UAE to beg but to invite investment for Pakistan,” he explained.

De-politicisation of bureaucracy

In a tacit reference to the Pakpattan incident that resulted in the transfer of a district police officer, Mr Khan said he had allowed the bureaucracy to report any political meddling in official working to top bosses. He took serious note of complaints by two deputy commissioners and a police officer who, he said, had violated the chain of command. “Any move of making complaints public will not be tolerated from now onwards and will invite strict disciplinary action,” he warned.

He said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government wanted to free bureaucracy from political pressure and asked the bureaucracy to seize the opportunity and deliver in the best interest of people. He urged the bureaucracy to shun political affiliations and perform their duties professionally for the well-being of people and the country.

Mr Khan said that PTI members had been instructed that any issue they would face at the hands of bureaucracy should be reported to the chief minister, who himself would eventually sort out matters with the chief secretary and police chief.

“The PTI legislators will not directly interfere in bureaucracy’s functioning,” he promised.

He said bureaucrats should think afresh and serve the masses on merit. “This new mindset actually means Naya Pakistan,” he said, adding that the prime minister and chief minister offices would establish complaint cells to address grievances of the masses.

Three points for new LG system

Following the PM’s meeting with the Punjab cabinet, a separate meeting with CM Buzdar, a senior minister and law minister on local government system, federal information minister Fawad Chaudhry told the media that Mr Khan had held a detailed discussion on new local government system and finalised three basic principles – the LG system should be simple, hold direct elections and ensure empowering elected representatives to serve the masses at the grassroots level.

As the village councils’ experiment in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had rendered results, the PM wanted to resize union councils in Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan, he said. “Village council is a smaller unit catering to some 2,000 to 6,000 people, while each UC in Punjab covers around 30,000 people. The discussion is hovering around whether village councils be created or UC size be reconsidered,” he explained.

Besides, he said, there was a question whether the direct mayor election should be held at tehsil or district level.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister also assigned targets to respective ministers demanding that they should come up to the expectations to the leadership as well as the people of Punjab, who were looking towards them with a new hope. “The incumbent PTI government wanted to behave as a people-friendly government,” he said.

Audit reports of metro bus projects received

The information minister said the prime minister ordered investigation into all fire incidents that burnt important record in government offices.

He said reports of simple audit into metro bus projects in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan had been received but forensic audits would take time. “All these scandals will expose those involved in corruption and they will land in jails,” he asserted.

Answering a question, the information minister said ousted premier Nawaz Sharif’s political future was dark and now he should pray for his personal future as the Hill Metals Establishment case was near conclusion. He said the case found unaccounted for transactions worth Rs800 million to Maryam Nawaz and Rs160 million to a cook’s account. “Nawaz Sharif should bring nation’s money back to Pakistan,” he said.

‘Modi caught in scandals’

Answering a question about Pakistan’s offer and consequent Indian reply, the information minister said Pakistan wanted peace and wanted that the neighbouring atomic powers hold a dialogue on all longstanding issues. While India by cancelling the scheduled meeting of foreign ministers indicated its desire to weaken Pakistan, “this is not possible because only regions rise, not individual countries,” he said.

Mr Chaudhry said Indian premier Narendra Modi had been caught in an internal “Rafale scandal” involving $8 billion to $10 billion and wanted to shift public attention from internal to external politics to save his skin. He said Modi should contest his own case instead of shifting the blame on Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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Electricity tariff likely to go up by Rs2

ISLAMABAD: After having raised gas prices, the PTI government is working on a proposal to increase electricity tariff by an average of Rs2 per unit to partially finance the ever-rising circular debt.

A meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet has been called on Tuesday to take up a two-point agenda — electricity tariff and presentation on LNG (liquefied natural gas) terminals — sought by the power division and petroleum division, respectively.

While announcing ,up to 143pc increase in gas prices last week,, Petroleum Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan had said his ministry was not satisfied with LNG matters finalised by the previous government and “seriously examining” issues relating to LNG terminals.

He said the petroleum ministry, National Accountability Bureau and Federal Investigation Agency were simultaneously and thoroughly working on the subject as one of the two terminals was running on full capacity while the other was operating at below capacity since their inception. He said a report on faults and weaknesses of LNG mechanism would be submitted to the ECC for addressing them.

Report on weaknesses of LNG mechanism to be submitted to ECC tomorrow

A senior official told Dawn that the power division was seeking an approval for implementation of National Electric Power Regulatory Authority’s (Nepra) determination suggesting a gross increase of Rs3.90 per unit in consumer tariff under relaxed benchmarks for ex-Wapda distribution companies (Discos). After taking into account the amount of subsidy earmarked in the budget, the net increase in average consumer tariff has been worked out at about Rs2 per unit with a total impact of Rs200 billion.

Under the Nepra determination for 10 Discos, the average tariff has been increased to Rs15.45 per unit from Rs11.50, following the resolution of all outstanding issues pending before courts or at various levels of settlement or late notifications on account of prior-year adjustments, capacity payments, net hydel profit and additional power purchases.

The overall impact of net hydel profit to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as part of various decisions taken by the Council of Common Interests for the fiscal year 2017-18 was worked out at Rs250bn, but about Rs70bn of that amount was already part of the tariff being paid by consumers.

The regulator has now forwarded a fresh schedule of tariff showing additional tariff requirement for each consumer category for all Discos separately and after adjusting tariff differential subsidy in the budget, the fresh tariff increase for consumers was estimated at Rs2 per unit.

Nepra had concluded on Sept 7 the process of making public hearing on quarterly adjustments for prior-year power purchase prices for the fiscal year 2017-18 when it heard the requests of six distribution companies for quarterly adjustments.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had already given a go-ahead for notification of base tariff increase for Discos on the basis of a briefing given by the power division and Nepra with an impact of about Rs2 per unit or Rs200 billion on the existing power rates.

The regulator had worked out prior-year adjustments for the fiscal year 2015-16 that were notified by the federal government on March 22. The notified determination provides mechanism for quarterly adjustments on account of power purchase price.

Discos had sought prior-year adjustments against capacity payments, operation & maintenance, use of system charges and transmission & distribution losses other than fuel component.

Officials explained that the Nepra-determined tariff for fiscal years 2014-15 and 2015-16 could not be notified by the power division despite a lapse of almost four years. The division and power companies had filed a request for review with higher allowances for theft and losses which was rejected by the regulator. The government challenged the decision in the court which remanded the case back to the regulator with a directive to resolve the matter.

The regulator delivered its determination in October last year as desired by the power division, but a final tariff could not be notified as the then government shied away from taking a political decision so close to the elections that it had been insisting for over three years through amendments to the Nepra ordinance.

During a recent presentation by the power division, the ECC was given a rundown on the impact of industrial support package, Azad Jammu and Kashmir’s subsidised units, Balochistan agricultural tubewells and Fata receivables, as well as the impact of the existing time lag on tariff determination mechanism of Nepra.

The ECC had decided that there was no reason to keep sitting on the tariff determination and more so when it was providing relief in cash flows to the power sector marred by circular debt.

In the process, all Discos suffered financial losses — including the electric supply companies of Islamabad, Lahore and Faisalabad that were in profit until two years ago and placed in the privatisation list through capital market listings, but later withdrawn because of negative balance sheets.

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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‘We will strengthen you and you will strengthen the nation,’ PM Khan tells civil servants

Prime Minister Imran Khan promised to completely overhaul the governance systems of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the centre during a televised speech to civil servants on Sunday, which followed a high-level meeting in Lahore.

“There is a dire need to fix the way the police works and to depoliticise bureaucracy. Merit needs to be brought in and laws need to be practiced in letter and spirit,” he stressed.

“Never again, during any other government’s tenure, will you be given the freedom to do your job professionally,” he said.

In the address, he urged civil servants to value the freedom the PTI government will be providing them and not let it go to waste. He assured them that their work will not be interferred with and they will face “no pressure to engage in any wrongdoing whatsoever”.

Referring to the police, he said: “When the institution of police is politicised, it ceases to remain professional. When police starts taking sides, people are no longer willing to place their trust in it.”

Read more: ,Imran promises wide-ranging reforms: ‘All policies for the people’,

He said Pakistan, in the 1960s, had been an exemplary nation where meritocracy thrived “but it was brought down due to politicisation and lateral entities”.

The task now, he explained, was to reverse this direction the nation had been steered towards. He called on civil servants to help him in this initiative.

A warning

PM Khan cautioned, however, that the authority being given to civil servants came with added responsibility.

He said he was “very hurt that a police officer and two bureaucrats publicised what should have been a matter that goes up their chain of command.”

He was referring to the much publicised Pakpattan ‘incident’ which had resulted in the ,transfer of the district police officer, for alleged ‘misconduct’.

“Which government allows such a thing to take place? The IG should have been approached or the chief secretary,” the PM remarked, visibly irked as he further stressed the need for depoliticising the bureaucracy.

Issuing a final warning, the PM made clear that such ‘politicisation’ of the state’s inner workings will never again be tolerated.

“If such a thing occurs again, [which seems to be] based on some [political] agenda, I assure you the people involved will not be left off the hook and will be dealt with very strictly,” he said.

“This is simply an abuse of powers granted by the government [for you] to do good,” he said.

Explore: ,For a democratic Pakistan, more power needs to be given to local governments,

He said that ‘Naya Pakistan’ entails a new mindset and a new way of thinking, and expressed confidence that the nation would surpass the heights he believes it had reached in the ’60s.

“We will strengthen you and you will strengthen the nation,” he said, issuing a call of action to inspire civil servants to serve the people they are tasked with servicing.

“You have to keep your doors open and really listen to the people … so that people walk away satisfied simply because someone listened to them,” he explained.

He said that nationwide complaint cells would also be introduced, including one in the PM House where he will be regularly monitoring performance so that the government can respond in a timely manner to the people’s needs and bring an improvement in their lives.

“I request all police officials to take ownership and personally monitor their police stations so that the common man is not slighted against and justice is served” he said.

Good governance equals investment

The PM said that Pakistan’s problems all largely boil down to poor governance. He said that if governance is improved, Pakistan can secure major investment from abroad.

“I have just come back from a tour of UAE. We did not go there begging but to ask for funds. Their condition always is that our governance be improved and red tape reduced.”

He said that that Pakistan’s foremost priority should lie with improving governance, not only to fix internal deficiencies but to also create a more welcoming environment for investment which Pakistan sorely needs.

“Pakistan has great geo-strategic importance in the region. The biggest market right now, China, lies right to our north. India, if our relations with them improve, then they are the world’s second-biggest market.”

“I do hope that this ,arrogance that the Indian leadership has, [displayed] goes away. They have this misconception … when we reach out for friendship it is because we know that if our relations improve, the sub-continent has a real chance of defeating poverty.

“Our gesture should never be misconstrued as weakness. We are a nation that will never take pressure from anyone, be it a global power, lying down,” the premier said.

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Pakistan still willing to open Kartarpur crossing despite India’s ‘unfortunate’ decision: Chaudhry

Despite Indian government’s refusal to engage in dialogue, Pakistani authorities are willing to open the Kartarpur border crossing so that Sikh pilgrims can visit Gurdwara Darbar Sahib without a visa, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said in an ,interview to Hindustan Times, on Saturday.

Talking to the Indian publication, Chaudhry said that while ,India’s decision to cancel the meeting, — which was to be held between both countries’ foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly — was “unfortunate”, citizens should not be made to suffer.

Explore: ,What the Indian media is saying about Modi govt’s cancellation of UNGA meeting with Pakistan,

“This is an issue of the ordinary people, Sikhs and other Indian pilgrims, and an issue of faith,” he said in a phone interview. “They shouldn’t suffer and we want to formalise the informal proposal the Pakistan army chief made to [Punjab State Minister Navjot Singh] Sidhu.”

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Last month, Sidhu had visited Pakistan to attend Prime Minister Imran Khan’s oath-taking ceremony. He had also ,met Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa,, who told him that “when [Sikh community] celebrates the 550th birthday of Baba Nanak [...] we’ll open the Kartarpur-Sahib Corridor.”

In his interview to Hindustan Times, Chaudhry reiterated the government’s stance to look for a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue — which he said was the basic issue between Pakistan and India — and said that New Delhi had “wasted a wonderful opportunity [for peace] by rejecting the prime minister’s offer”.

On Friday, the Indian government had cancelled the meeting following domestic pressure just a day after it agreed to it. Pakistan, in response, ,voiced its “deep disappointment”, not only over the reasons cited for the cancellation of the meeting — the alleged killing of India’s Border Security Force’s soldier and Pakistan’s decision to release stamps honouring Kashmir freedom fighter Burhan Wani — but also over “reference in the Indian MEA statement to the person of the Prime Minister of Pakistan”.

Also read: ,’Pakistan has nothing to lose’ — analysts weigh in on Modi govt’s U-turn on UNGA meeting,

During his interview, Chaudhry said that while Pakistan had “several options” including war, the government considers it “foolish” to adopt a confrontational approach. Pointing out that both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers, Chaudhry asked: “Can’t we look for a solution to our problems through dialogue?”

Chaudhry said that India’s sudden change of heart is a result of the country’s domestic problems. He pointed out that elections in India were a few months away and “anti-Pakistan rhetoric sells” in the country.

He also rubbished India’s accusations of Pakistan’s interference in held Kashmir.

“It is wrong to hold Pakistan responsible for the ongoing struggle in held Kashmir,” he said, but reiterated that: “Pakistan supports Kashmiris’ struggle for freedom.”

He further said that Pakistani authorities had “solid evidence” of Indian interference in Balochistan.

Kulbhushan Jadhav — an Indian spy who is under the custody of Pakistan’s armed forces — is sufficient proof of India’s interference in Balochistan, Chaudhry said.

He said that Pakistan was ready to hold talks on every issue, but the efforts cannot remain one-sided.

“We cannot change our neighbours,” the information minister said. “India has to decide [its future strategy].”

“Pakistan extended an offer of peace”

Talking to the media at home, Chaudhry said that the Pakistani government had “talked about peace” and wanted to hold talks with India as both countries have had “bitter experiences” in the past.

“Pakistan and India have been fighting for the past 70 years. Both [countries] are nuclear powers. If a war breaks out, then the country that is left standing can keep talking,” he said.

Referring to an ongoing ,corruption scandal surrounding Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,, Chaudhry repeated his claim that New Delhi’s decision to cancel the meeting was influenced by domestic pressure.

“Just like Nawaz Sharif was caught up in the Panama Papers, Modi is now caught up in the Rafale planes scandal,” the information minister said.

He insisted that the development of the region was vital for the progress of India and Pakistan.

“In India, there is a mindset that in order for the country to progress, they must weaken Pakistan. But if you study history, this is not the case. The region must be strengthened for the countries to develop. Our army chief has also stressed this point earlier,” he said.

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Devolution only way to empower masses, PM Khan says

Prime Minister Imran Khan, on his visit to Lahore on Sunday, declared that strengthening local bodies is the primary agenda of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led government.

To discuss the establishment of local bodies, the premier chaired a meeting attended by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman and senior party leadership.

Addressing the meeting, PM Khan said that devolution of power is the only way to empower the masses. He added that the local body system would pave the way for future leadership and break the status quo.

Senior minister Aleem Khan, who is also heading a special task force, is expected to come up with a viable LG system to be introduced in the province.

Later, while briefing the media, Chaudhry said that in the next 48 hours, the participants of the meeting will decide the number of members to be included in village and union councils. The participants will also decide if direct elections should be held on the tehsil level or district level.

The prime minister also held a separate meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and his cabinet, in which he assigned various targets to provincial ministers, said Chaudhry.

“The vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan is that of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, and wherever the party has secured a majority, the premier will ensure that the vision is acted upon,” the information minister said.

Agenda for the day

PM Khan was to chair a cabinet meeting on Sunday to review the Punjab government’s performance on the PTI’s 100-day agenda. CM Buzdar had already reviewed the 100-day plan and progress of 15 government departments a day ago.

Following the cabinet meeting, the prime minister held separate meetings with commissioners and deputy commissioners at the chief minister’s secretariat and took up some administrative matters, including political interference in officials’ working.

All bureaucrats and police officers had been called to Lahore for the meeting.

A separate meeting was scheduled with Chief Minister’s Adviser Nasir Durrani, Inspector General Police Punjab Mohammad Tahir, the Intelligence Bureau chief as well as the Federal Investigation Agency director, media reports suggested.

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Hanif Abbasi shifted from Adiala jail to Attock prison after photo leak controversy

PML-N leader Mohammad Hanif Abbasi was on Saturday morning shifted from Adiala prison in Rawalpindi to Attock jail, sources told DawnNewsTV.

Abbasi, who is serving a life sentence after his ,conviction in the ephedrine quota case,, was shifted to the prison in Attock in the early hours of Saturday on the recommendation of a two-member inquiry committee, a source in Adiala jail said.

The committee was ,formed to investigate, how photographs were taken of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif and others in the office of the Central Jail Adiala superintendent prior to Sharif’s release on Wednesday on orders of the Islamabad High Court. Abbasi was one of the leaders seen in the photo.

Formed by Inspector General of Prisons Punjab Shahid Saleem Baig, the committee, which consists of Deputy Inspector General of Prisons Multan Region Malik Shaukat and Additional Inspector General Judicial Malik Safdar, was tasked with investigating who managed to bring a camera or phone into the office of jail superintendent Saeedullah Gondal. Mobile phones and cameras are not permitted within the prison facility.

The committee will interview Gondal and other jail staffers, as well as view CCTV footage of the visitors.

Members of the committee also visited Adiala jail, and recommended that Abbasi be transferred to Attock prison, sources told DawnNewsTV.

Two photographs released on social media showed Nawaz Sharif with Shahbaz, former adviser to the prime minister on aviation Sardar Mehtab Khan, Murtaza Javed Abbasi and Raheel Munir.

Another photograph showed Abbasi sitting beside Sharif in the jail superintendent’s office. The deputy inspector general of prisons Rawalpindi region could be seen sitting in the jail superintendent’s chair and speaking to both politicians.

Search operation

Following the shifting of the PML-N leader, a search operation was started at Adiala jail during which all barracks and cells of the prison were scoured.

Nearly 200 additional personnel were called from the prisons in Attock, Jhelum and Chakwal for the search operation at Adiala, sources revealed.

ANF had registered a case against Abbasi and his accomplices in June 2012 under sections 9-C, 14 and 15 of the Control of Narcotics Substances (CNS) Act for misuse of 500kg of ephedrine.

The CNS Court of Rawalpindi sentenced Abbasi to lifetime in prison in the case just before the July 25 general elections.

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Be the first to comment - What do you think?  Posted by PAK NEWS - September 22, 2018 at 12:25 pm

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Agency blacklisted for controversial advertisement showing Pakhtuns

LAHORE: Provincial Minister for Information and Culture Fayyazul Hassan Chohan says that the Pakhtuns are our brothers and their affection and love for Pakistan is strong and unshakable.

“The Punjab government condemns the objectionable advertisement regarding Pakhtuns, aired on the PTV News a few days back and assures that strong action would be taken against those responsible for the release of the advertisement,” he said and added that the advertising agency responsible for making this advertisement had been blacklisted and orders had been issued for action against all those responsible for monitoring of the ad before it went on air.

In a statement on Thursday, Mr Chohan said Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar had taken prompt notice of the objectionable advertisement and ordered an inquiry into it.

The information minister said a departmental inquiry had also been initiated into the advertisement.

Mr Chohan did not rule out the possibility that the objectionable material was included and aired unintentionally. However, he regretted it and expressed sadness over the negligence.

“The Pakhtuns have dignity, honour, patriotism and courage and enjoy equal respect in all the provinces of the country, including Punjab,” concluded the Information Minister.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018

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Law will take its course, PTI responds to Nawaz judgement

LAHORE: Stating that the decision of the Islam­abad High Court (IHC) to suspend the accountability court’s verdict in the Avenfield reference was on a “procedural basis”, Infor­mation Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that the government fully respected the country’s courts.

In a statement issued by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s media department on Wednesday, Mr Chaudhry said that the country’s courts were functioning independently and the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) was also an independent and autonomous institution and the government had no role to play in its activities.

Mr Chaudhry, who is also the information secretary of the ruling PTI, said the government respected the IHC’s order like all its previous judgements. He said the government as well as the people of Pakistan wanted action against all those involved in corruption.

Bilawal terms the verdict ‘relief’ to Sharifs

“The people of Pakistan want that their looted wealth brought back to the country and the government is working to achieve this objective,” he asserted.

Stating that the nation was now aware about the character of the Sharif family, he alleged that the Sharifs were yet to provide evidence of its ownership of billions of rupees. He said the law would take its course and the case would further unfold.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari termed the IHC verdict a “relief to the Sharif family”.

In a statement issued from Bilawal House Karachi, the PPP chairman said that after the death of Begum Kulsoom Nawaz, the Sharif family was going through “testing times”.

“The PPP and Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto fought for the independence of judiciary and were an integral part of this important movement. The PPP has also suffered at the hands of judicial verdicts but not once have we disrespected the courts,” he added.

The PPP chairman said he could not comment on the legal aspects of this verdict as courts were yet to decide on the appeals.

“We believe that our courts should not seem to be seen as part of any political victimisation. Rule of law and independence of judiciary are essential for any democratic system to thrive,” he concluded.

Similarly, PPP Punjab president Qamar Zaman Kaira in a separate statement said that as soon as the accountability court had announced 10-year jail term for the PML-N’s supreme leader, it was being expected that the (Islamabad) high court would bail out the ex-premier.

Mr Kaira said Nawaz Sharif had always been getting relief [from courts] and the it was repeated once again on Wednesday.

He said the grounds the IHC had made as basis in its verdict for releasing Nawaz Sharif would be known only in the detailed judgement.

Mr Kaira, however, said that so far only punishment had been suspended as the former prime minister would have to face the case and submit the money trail for the assets to which he had admitted ownership.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2018

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Government cuts development spending, increases taxes on country’s elite

Finance Minister Asad Umar on Tuesday presented the incumbent government’s amendments to the budget for fiscal 2018-2019, stressing that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led government had only two priorities as it grapples with “difficult times”: protect the poor and support exporters.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, ministers and lawmakers from both opposition and coalition parties were in attendance.


Highlights

  • Federal development programme cut by almost Rs250 billion to Rs725
    billion, with federal PSDP being target of most of the cuts
  • Budget deficit to be brought down to 5.1 per cent
  • Tax relief granted by PML-N revoked from salaried persons earning more than Rs200,000
    per month; tax rates still lower than last year
  • Tax rate in highest income tax slab raised from 15pc to 30pc
  • Increased federal excise duty on imports of luxury vehicles and duties on
    ‘expensive’ cell phones
  • Customs duty increased on more than 5,000 ‘luxury’ items. Regulatory
    duty increased on import of more than 900 items
  • Rate of withholding tax on banking transactions for non-tax filers
    increased to 0.6pc
  • Expansion of Insaf Sehat Card facility to Fata and Islamabad Capital
    Territory

Dire straits

Starting his speech with an invitation to opposition lawmakers, the finance minister acknowledged their past experience and said he was open to suggestions for amendments to the proposals he was about to present.

“Whatever suggestions you give, we will listen and accommodate if possible. We want to take parliament with us. We do not possess divine wisdom and do not believe only we can be right. Suggestions are welcome,” he said.

Moving on to an assessment of the country’s economic situation, Umar noted that the budget deficit had expanded to 6.6 per cent at the end of the last fiscal year from the 4.1pc that had been budgeted by the government for FY2017-18.

“When the PML-N government took over, the budget deficit had been 8.2pc of which the PML-N had said 1.2pc would go towards financing the circular debt. Five years later, we are at that same position,” Umar said. “We all remember the difficult decisions that the PML-N had to make to grapple with that situation. It is part of history now.”

The monetary value of the budget deficit — Rs2,293 billion — also does not reflect “what is happening off the books”, the finance minister said.

“The power sector alone faced a shortfall of Rs450bn over the last year, even after all the subsidies they received in the budget. This number is not included in the deficit. Similarly, there was a Rs100bn shortfall in the gas sector,” he explained.

“The most dangerous situation is that if we continue as we have, the budget deficit will expand to 7.2 per cent — Rs2,900bn — by the end of the ongoing year. This is the assessment of the finance ministry as well as economic experts, including past finance ministers and governors of the State Bank,” Umar said.

“The external situation is worse.”

“The current account deficit had been $2.5bn in 2012-13, when Raja Pervaiz Ashraf [of the PPP] was prime minister. In the fiscal year that just ended, the deficit had reached $18.1bn: more than 7.5 times higher.”

“As a result our external debt, which was $60bn, reached $95bn by the end of the previous government’s tenure,” the finance minister warned.

Warning that the country’s foreign exchange reserves had depleted to only two months of import cover, and drawing attention to the fall in the rupee’s value against the dollar, the finance minister said that difficult decisions had to be made or inflationary pressures would build up to the point that they would become unbearable for the average consumer.

“The warnings came long ago: we are now at the precipice of a crisis,” he said.

“If our reserves fall any further, we can imagine what the impact on the common man will be,” he warned.

“We need to decide — not the government alone, but this house — if we want to continue like this,” he said.

“In the last budget, the government overestimated the federation’s revenues by Rs350 billion and understated expenditures by Rs250bn. Furthermore, the projected provincial surplus of Rs286bn is unlikely to be realised if we realise that the provinces actually ran a deficit of Rs18bn,” he continued.

“In total, there’s a Rs890bn difference in the expected and the budgeted figures for the deficit which we have to contain. If we do not take measures, the budget deficit is expected to increase to Rs2,700bn,” he warned.

“These are difficult times, and they call for difficult measures. It does not take an economist to figure that out,” Umar said.

“But we also need to make sure the burden [of our economic measures fall] on those who can bear it. The poor are already resource stressed, and we cannot burden them further. Sure, we can seek bailouts from the IMF and employ stabilisation measures, but that is not the solution: Pakistan’s economy can only grow when our economy grows, our exports grow, our industries grow and our agricultural economy grows.”

Relief measures

“For farmers, we are ensuring the provision of urea by boosting local production and by importing 100,000 tons from abroad. A Rs6-7 billion subsidy has already been approved on urea for the Rabi season.”

“We will also provide Rs540,000 per family in Fata and Islamabad in the form of the Sehat Insaf Card to cover doctors’ fees and medicines on an immediate basis. The prime minister has also asked the Punjab government to introduce the facility in that province as well.”

“We have also directed the release of Rs4.5bn for the completion of a housing scheme for labourers on priority basis. As soon as these are built, we will start work on 10,000 more.”

Minimum pension has been increased by 10pc for EOBI pensioners who qualify for the lowest category of pensioners, the finance minister said.

“The past government had projected that it would increase the petroleum levy from Rs189bn to Rs300bn, but we feel that this is highly unfair on the underprivileged customer. We want to provide relief in this area and will absorb that impact.”

“The previous government had imposed regulatory duties on some goods, which we support as they have provided some relief on imports. However, we have decided to relieve duties on 82 tariff lines concerned with raw materials and inputs for export oriented sectors. This will translate into a Rs5bn relief.”

“The bigger decision that we made yesterday concerns the five zero-rated sectors. The textile industry in Sindh was already receiving gas at subsidised rates, but the industry in Punjab had to pay higher rates, which resulted in an imbalance in their competitiveness.

“Nearly 500,000 workers were jobless in Faisalabad and machinery was being sold at scrap rates. We wanted to revive it. We have therefore provided a Rs44bn benefit for the textile industry in Punjab so that they can retain their competitiveness among regional countries. We will also work to ensure more benefits for zero-rated sectors in our electricity policy.”

“We have only two priorities: protect the poor, and protect the exporter because they bring in the dollars,” the minister explained.

Revenue measures

“We will raise Rs183bn in additional revenue. Half of this, Rs92bn, will be raised merely through better administrative procedures that utilise technology to plug tax evasion and leakages in the system. The Federal Board of Revenue has accepted this challenge.”

To encourage taxpayers who are not filers to enter the tax net, the finance minister said the government was increasing the rate of WHT on banking transactions — not withdrawals — for non-filers back to 0.6pc.

The government would also remove the bar on non-filers from buying property in Pakistan because a lot of Pakistanis living abroad had complained saying the measure prevented them from buying property in Pakistan even though they were not even obligated to file taxes in the country.

“Please note that there are no additional taxes on tax filers,” the finance minister said.

“We have also decided to increase taxes on cigarettes. This is also something that is close to my heart — yes, national policies are not made on personal beliefs — but my own brother passed away a few months ago from lung cancer.”

“We have also increased some taxes on the rich. We have doubled the federal excise duty on cars of 1800cc engine capacity or more from 10pc to 20pc. The tax on several imported luxury items will be increased. Likewise, the duty will be increased on expensive phones. Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has the technology to prevent smuggling.”

“Last thing: we’ve deliberated this in detail. The last government had given sweeping tax relief to all kinds of people, including the most rich [...] The final decision we’ve taken is that we’ll maintain the Rs1.2 million annual salary limit on exemption. We are also maintaining the lowered tax rate for those earning between Rs100,000 to Rs200,000 per month.”

“That leaves 70,000 people. We believe that the people who have the means will not oppose us on this: we are increasing the tax rate applicable on them that was introduced in May, but still keeping it lower than what it was last year.”

The maximum tax rate will be 25pc for salaried persons and 30pc for non-salaried persons, the finance minister elaborated.

“And, since we’re asking the privileged to sacrifice for the sake of Pakistan, we have also decided to withdraw tax exemptions on various services from the prime minister, governors and ministers,” he added.

Development budget

“We recognise that the development budget provides a foundation for the future. The former honourable planning minister is seated here. He kicked off the CPEC programmes, which we will not allow a single rupee to be taken away from.”

“Mr Khwaja Asif also mentioned the budget for dams, and we will not alter anything about it. We will try to complete the two dams — Diamer Bhasha and Mohmand — in five or six years, instead of eight or nine,” Umar said, assuring the opposition.

“Rs661bn was spent on development last year; we will spend Rs725bn this year. But we need some financial innovation to do this. I invite the finance committee to meet on this separately.

“Out of this, we will be spending Rs50bn on development in Karachi. This is a joint venture between the federal and Sindh governments and the commissioner Karachi will be its chief executive.”

“We have also identified infrastructure priorities in detail with the National Highway Authority, on which we will spend Rs100bn. We will spend another Rs575bn on PSDP, and another Rs150bn off the balance sheet.”

‘A lot of potential in this nation’

Saying that he was sure past governments had done whatever they believed was necessary for the benefit of the country, Umar said the nation collectively needed to acknowledge that something needed to change.

“I believe that everyone in this room is a patriot,” Umar said, “But we need to acknowledge that the decisions we made in the past have not worked. We have not succeeded. We need to do something differently.”

Promising that he would uphold and continue with the projects introduced by past governments “that worked” — especially the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and dams — the finance minister stressed that there needed to be change.

“A lot of people sacrificed a lot for this country, but this country wasn’t gained by human effort alone: this nation was given to us by God. This nation has to succeed. We will do it together: Bilawal Bhutto will be a part of it; Shahbaz Sharif will be a part of our success. The leadership may be with Imran Khan, but the country will prosper together. There is so much potential in this country, and we will, God-willing, take it to new heights.”

“This nation has to succeed. We will do it together: Bilawal Bhutto will be a part of it; Shahbaz Sharif will be a part of it. The leadership may be with Imran Khan, but the country will prosper together.” — Asad Umar

Pre-adjustment speculation

Media reports had suggested that the government was looking at a fiscal adjustment of 1.5 to 2pc of gross domestic product (GDP), or Rs600-750 billion, through amendments to the federal budget 2018-19.

The government is aiming at a massive cut in development expenditure to the extent of over one per cent of GDP and through the withdrawal of tax and duty exemptions.

Consultative sessions continued until the last moment to deliberate completely banning the import of some 130-150 unnecessary items such as second-hand cars, while increasing duty rates on others including luxury items such as expensive phones, jewellery and food items. These trade measures are estimated to have an impact of over $1 billion on the current account deficit.

The current cumulative cost of tax and duty exemptions is estimated to be to the tune of Rs550bn which the government aims to bring down to around Rs200bn, thus transferring an impact of almost Rs350bn back to the people.

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PTI leaders issue apology for Punjab govt’s controversial ad

MNA Ali Wazir, in Tuesday’s National Assembly session, objected to a controversial public service announcement of the Punjab government that reportedly carried racist undertones against the Pakhtoon community.

Soon after Finance Minister Asad Umar ,delivered his budget speech,, Wazir — a Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM) leader — raised his objections against the aforementioned ad campaign.

Federal Minister for Defence Pervez Khattak agreed with Wazir’s viewpoint and issued an apology for the advertisement.

“This advertisement is akin to provoking the people,” Khattak said. “[We have] directed the Punjab government to immediately stop this advertisement.”

Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Afridi echoed Khattak’s sentiments, adding: “Targeting a particular community flares tempers, and we oppose all such measures.”

Mohsin Dawar, another PTM MNA, however, said that “an apology should come from the government of Punjab”.

On September 15, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had claimed that the ad in question was already off air.

“This advertisement was immediately taken off as soon it was brought to our attention,” he said on Twitter. “It was aired hardly a few times before channels were directed not to air such advertisement. I urge people not to circulate this rejected version.”

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Asad Umar presents amendments to budget for ongoing fiscal year

The amended finance bill for the remaining months of fiscal 2018-2019 was read out during the National Assembly session underway in the capital on Tuesday, September 18.

Prime Minister Imran Khan, ministers and lawmakers from various political parties were in attendance.

Finance Minister Asad Umar presented the budget speech, detailing the amendments the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI)-led government is bringing to the federal budget announced by the PML-N government in May this year.

The finance minister began his speech with an assessment of the country’s economic situation, noting that the budged deficit had expanded to 6.6 per cent from 4.1 per cent at the start of the last government’s tenure.

“The most dangerous situation is that if we continue as we have, the budget deficit will expand 7.2 per cent by the end of the ongoing year. This is the assessment of the finance ministry as well as economic experts,” Umar said.

Warning that the country’s foreign exchange reserves had depleted to only two months of import cover, and drawing attention to the fall in the rupee’s value against the dollar, the finance minister said that difficult decisions had to be made or inflationary pressures would build up to the point that they would become painful for the average consumer.

“We need to decide — not the government alone, but the parliament together — if we want to continue like this,” he said.

“The government overestimated revenues by Rs350 billion and understated expenditures by Rs250bn,” he continued. “In total, there’s a Rs890bn difference in the projected and budgeted figures for the deficit which we have to contain.”

“These are difficult times, and they call for difficult measures,” Umar said. “But we also need to make sure the burden of our economic measures fall on those who can bear it. The poor are already resource stressed, and we cannot burden them further. Sure, we can seek bailouts from the IMF and other institutions, but that is not the solution: we can only grow when our economy grows, our industries and our people grow.”

“For farmers, we are ensuring the provision of urea by boosting local production and by importing 100,000 tons from abroad. A Rs6-7 billion subsidy has already been approved.”

“We will also provide Rs540,000 per family in Fata and Islamabad in the form of the Sehat Insaf Card to cover doctors’ fees and medicines. We have also instructed the Punjab government to introduce the facility in that province as well.”

“We have also directed the release of Rs4.5bn for the completion of a housing scheme for the underprivileged.”

“Minimum pension has been increased to Rs10,000 for EOBI pensioners.”

“The past government had projected that it would increase the petroleum levy from Rs185bn to Rs300bn, but we feel that this is highly unfair on the average customer. The government will absorb that impact.”

“The big decision we made yesterday was a Rs44bn benefit for the textile industry in Punjab. We will also work to ensure benefits for the zero-rated sectors in our electricity policy.”

“We will also raise Rs183bn in additional revenue. Half of this will be raised merely through better administrative procedures that utilise technology to plug leakages in the system. The Federal Board of Revenue has accepted this challenge.”

“The rate of WHT on non-filers has been increased back to 0.6pc on banking transactions.”

“We have also decided to increase taxes on cigarettes. This is something that is close to my heart, as my own brother passed away a few months ago from lung cancer.”

“We have also increased some taxes on the rich. We have doubled the federal excise duty on cars of 1800cc engine capacity or more from 10pc to 20pc. We have also decided to increase the duty on several imported luxury products. Likewise, the duty will be increased on expensive phones.”

“Last thing: we’ve deliberated this in detail. The last government had given sweeping tax relief to all kinds of people, including the most rich. The final decision we’ve taken is that we’ll maintain the Rs1,200,000 limit on exemption. We are also maintaining the tax rate for those earning between Rs100,000 to Rs200,000. For all categories above that, we are increasing the tax rate that was applicable in May, but it will remain lower than what it was last year. We hope that the people who have the means will not oppose us on this.”

“And, since we’re asking the privileged to sacrifice for the sake of Pakistan, we have also decided to withdraw certain tax exemptions from prime ministers and ministers,” he added.

Development sector

“Rs661bn was spent on development last year, and we will spend Rs725bn this year. Out of this, we will be spending Rs50bn on development in Karachi. This is a joint venture between the federal and Sindh governments.”

“We have also identified infrastructure priorities for the National Highway Authority, on which we will spend Rs100bn. We will spend another Rs500bn on PSDP.”

‘A lot of potential in this nation’

Saying that he was sure past governments had done whatever they believed was necessary for the benefit of the country, Umar said the nation collectively needed to acknowledge that those measures had not worked.

Promising that he would uphold and continue with the projects introduced by past governments — especially the China Pakistan Economic Corridor and dams on which work is ongoing — the finance minister stressed that the economy’s success meant parliament’s success.

“This nation was given to us by God. There is so much potential in this country, and we will, God-willing, take it to new heights.”

On the grapevine

Prior to the commencement of the NA session, a meeting of the federal cabinet had approved the proposed amendments to the finance bill, sources told DawnNewsTV.

According to sources, the cabinet had decided to cut the federal development programme by almost Rs250 billion to Rs725 billion, whereas the budget deficit will be brought down to 5.1 per cent of the growth rate.

The government has also decided to increase regulatory duties on imports of vehicles and cell phones. It is also going to reduce the tax relief accorded to salaried persons as well as individual taxpayers.

According to sources, the government has also decided to raise the tax rate in the highest income tax slab from 15pc to 29pc. They said customs duty will also be increased on more than 5,000 items, whereas regulatory duty will be increased on the import of more than 900 items.

The ‘mini-budget’ will also increase the rate of withholding tax on banking transactions for non-tax filers.

The cabinet also approved the issuance of health cards, sources said.

Media reports have suggested that the government is looking at a fiscal adjustment of 1.5 to 2pc of gross domestic product (GDP), or Rs600-750 billion, through amendments to the federal budget 2018-19.

The government is aiming at a massive cut in development expenditure to the extent of over one per cent of GDP and through the withdrawal of tax and duty exemptions.

Consultative sessions continued until the last moment to deliberate completely banning the import of some 130-150 unnecessary items such as second-hand cars, while increasing duty rates on others including luxury items such as expensive phones, jewellery and food items. These trade measures are estimated to have an impact of over $1 billion on the current account deficit.

The current cumulative cost of tax and duty exemptions is estimated to be to the tune of Rs550bn which the government aims to bring down to around Rs200bn, thus transferring an impact of almost Rs350bn back to the people.

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Buzdar could quit if he’s unable to run Punjab affairs: CJP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Monday appointed Khaliq Dad Lak, national coordinator for the National Counter-Terrorism Authority (Nacta), to probe why and on whose instruction a senior police officer was transferred in the dead of night without following legal procedure against the backdrop of the Pakpattan incident.

A three-judge SC bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, also rejected an earlier inquiry report submitted by former police chief of Punjab Kaleem Imam who had been directed two weeks ago to investigate how Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Gujranwala chapter president Ahsan Iqbal Jamil Gujjar — in the presence of Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar — interfered in the administrative matter of police concerning Pakpattan District Police Officer Rizwan Gondal.

The highlight of Monday’s proceedings was the appearance of CM Buzdar before the apex court, which was visibly perturbed over the fact that Mr Gujjar was called to the CM Secretariat without recording his entry at gates, alleged attempts to undermine police force at the meeting and the DPO’s transfer after midnight.

The CJP observed that the inquiry to be conducted by Nacta would expose all links. During the proceedings, he also mentioned Article 62(1)(f) of the Constitution, which envisages lifetime disqualification of a public office holder on abuse of authority, in the case at hand.

SC rejects inquiry report by former provincial police chief and asks Nacta head to probe DPO’s transfer

The apex court had taken up suo motu notice of the Pakpattan DPO’s transfer for allegedly having an altercation with Khawar Fareed Maneka, former husband of first lady Bushra Imran.

Before postponing further proceedings for two weeks, the CJP suggested to CM Buzdar that he would earn respect in case he quit, realising that it was difficult for him to run the affairs of the country’s largest province in a proper manner.

The chief minister, however, argued that his intention behind the meeting was not bad as he had known Mr Gujjar even before the July 25 general elections. He said the PTI leader was called to the CM Secretariat to settle the controversy between the Maneka family and the police.

CM Buzdar said he had never tried to belittle the RPO and DPO, who he had called to the CM Secretariat in the absence of the Punjab IG as the latter was in Islamabad at that time.

In fact, he added, he showed respect to them and offered tea to the two police officers as he wanted that the officers settle the matter by themselves. After assuming office, the chief minister said he preferred to meet people himself. He said Mr Gujjar was asked to attend the meeting, because he had close links with the Maneka family.

Earlier in his statement given to the Punjab IG, CM Buzdar stated he had called the two officers as elders according to his traditions to address the fears of the Maneka family. It was not an official meeting as both police officers were treated with respect, he added.

The CJP said that the SC wanted to see the police completely independent and free from any political pressures, but it did not auger well if some influential person exerted pressure for the police officer’s transfer in the presence of the chief minister.

The CM should himself have solved the matter, he added.

The CJP recalled how someone said the DPO should be transferred since he did not want to see his face in the morning. He also expressed his surprise over Mr Gujjar’s becoming the guardian of the children of the Maneka family. Referring to the PTI leader, the court also regretted that persons like him destroyed the entire system. Mr Gujjar, however, tendered unqualified apology and threw himself at the mercy of the court.

The chief justice also cautioned the CM that he would have to face the music in case it was established that an attempt had been made to cover up something or someone.

He said he was at a loss to understand why the transfer orders had been issued shortly after midnight and why the DPO was transferred without initiating a proper procedure only to fulfil the wish of a friend of a powerful man.

“This is a question of the rule of law,” the chief justice observed, asking again why should police officers visit someone’s ‘dera’. “Is this the way to run such a big province?” he asked.

During the proceedings, Additional Advocate General for Punjab Shan Gul apprised the court that the DPO had himself decided to go to the ‘dera’. The law official of the Punjab government said efforts would be made to prevent anything like this happening again in future. A legal adviser was deputed at the CM Office for legal consultation, he added.

The CJP observed that the court had provided a chance to the Punjab IG to come up with a faithful report disclosing who had given the transfer orders. But IG Imam wasted the opportunity and brought humiliation to his own department by holding one of his officers at fault, he noted. IG Imam explained that he had issued transfer orders at around 10pm but it was executed around 1am. He also sought forgiveness of the court by extending apology.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2018

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10-20pc increase in gas prices for majority, 143pc increase for ‘upper class’

Following a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) on Monday, Minister of Petroleum Ghulam Sarwar Khan broke down the increase in gas prices across the country for media personnel.

Flanked by Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry, Khan explained that the government had categorised gas consumers into seven slabs instead of the pre-existing three to spread the impact of the gas price hike progressively.

The first slab, which comprises nearly 38pc of the consumers, groups together people who consume upto 50 cubic metres of gas per month. This category of customers will experience a nearly 10pc increase in gas prices, which the minister illustrated by explaining that the bill for a customer who pays Rs252 per month on average will now rise to Rs275.

The second slab, comprising users who consume up to 100 cubic metres of gas per month, will have to bear an increase of 15pc in prices.

The third slab, comprising users who consume up to 200 cubic metres of gas, will experience a 19pc increase.

“The first three slabs comprise consumers from lower and middle class,” Khan said. “They will bear a collective increase of 10-20pc in gas prices in the form of a few rupees.”

The price hike for the “upper class”, comprising consumers who use up to 300 cubic metres of gas per month, will be 25pc. This ‘upper class’, Khan explained, formed 16pc of all consumers.

The next category of customers, who use up to 400 cubic metres of gas per month, will have to bear a 30pc increase in gas prices.

The category of customers who use more than 400 cubic metres of gas per month will be slapped with 143pc higher tariffs.

In all, this would help raise Rs94 billion from end users, the minister explained.

The new prices will take effect from October.

He further said that CNG prices for consumers in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had been increased by 40 per cent from Rs700/mmbtu to Rs980/mmbtu.

The reason behind this hike, Khan said, was that since the two provinces produce more gas, they had been “enjoying a lower rate” of CNG. Prices in Punjab, he said, were higher because the province was using imported gas.

The ECC also approved a 57 per cent increase in gas prices for the commercial sector, a 40-50 per cent increase for the fertiliser sector, a 40 per cent increase for general industry, a 57 per cent hike for the power sector, and a 30 per cent increase for the cement sector.

Meanwhile, the ECC has also decided to lift all taxes imposed on Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) — which is used by 60 per cent of the people who don’t use CNG — and levy a flat 10 per cent Goods and Services tax on it instead.

As a result, Khan said that the price of an LPG cylinder, which was currently over Rs1,600, will decrease to Rs1,400.

“On one hand, we are adding a burden of 10-20 per cent [on domestic gas consumers] which is only of a few rupees,” Khan said. “But on the other hand, we are providing relief of Rs200/cylinder to the people who are poor and use LPG.”

Gas prices for “export industries”, including jute, carpet, textile, sports’ goods, leather and surgical goods, have not been increased.

In addition, the subsidised Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) imported by the private sector will be provided to the zero rated industries, Khan said. This will help the industries compete internationally, he said.

“We haven’t worked it out yet, but we will be giving subsidies worth billions of rupees on LNG,” Khan claimed. “We will be providing relief to our export industries.”

He said that government had also decided to provide subsidies to domestic industries like fertilisers, etc.

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Sharifs, Captain Safdar shifted back to Adiala jail as five-day parole ends

As the five-day parole granted to them by the Punjab government ended on Monday, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law were taken back to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail to resume their sentences in the Avenfield apartments reference.

A convoy of cars carrying the trio left Jati Umra — the Sharif family residence in Lahore — for the city’s old airport, where they were boarded on a special plane for Islamabad, sources told DawnNewsTV. Upon landing in the capital, they were taken directly to the prison.

Cars carrying Sharif family members leave Jati Umra. — DawnNewsTV

Cars carrying Sharif family members leave Jati Umra. — DawnNewsTV

Sharif, Maryam and Safdar were ,released on parole last week, after the death of three-time former first lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz in London. The parole was to end today at 4pm.

Before leaving for the airport, the three visited the graves of Kulsoom, her father-in-law Mian Sharif and brother-in-law Abbas Sharif and offered fateha, DawnNewsTV reported.

Begum Kulsoom had undergone several surgeries and chemotherapy treatment at a private hospital in London after being diagnosed with lymphoma in August 2017. She suffered a heart attack in mid-June and was put on a life-support machine. In the first week of August, her condition improved and she was taken off from the ventilator. However, her condition deteriorated again on Sept 9 and she breathed her last on Sept 11.

Her sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz along with their uncle Shahbaz Sharif and other party leaders offered her funeral prayers in London before her body was shifted to Lahore. After her second funeral, which was attended by her husband, daughter and other relatives besides workers and leaders of various political parties, she was laid to rest near the graves of her father-in-law and brother-in-law at Jati Umra on Sept 14.

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DPO Pakpattan transfer case: SC rejects IG Punjab’s report, orders Nacta inquiry into incident

The Supreme Court on Monday, while hearing a suo motu case pertaining to the transfer of the District Police Officer (DPO) Pakpattan, rejected a report submitted by former Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Syed Kaleem Imam.

It also ordered the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) chief, Maher Khaliq Dad Lak, to conduct an inquiry into the matter and submit a report within 15 days.

“We want the complete truth on this,” Chief Justice (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar said, adding that if he found that the report submitted by the IG had “favoured” someone, the matter would turn serious.

“If I find out that he has submitted a fabricated report he will never be able to serve in the police again,” the CJP said.

IGP Imam had submitted a ,report with regards to the Pakpattan DPO transfer case on Sept 12,, in which he had said that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was only acting as a mediator and had not attempted to influence the police in the transfer of DPO Rizwan Gondal.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who is heading a three-judge bench, criticised IGP Imam roundly today, accusing him of writing positive things in his report “in order to save one person”. The chief justice did not specify who that one person was.

“We reject your report,” the top judge said, adding: “IGP sahab, you have proven your own officer to be a liar in your report.”

“What kind of report is this? You have not investigated at all. You have sided with someone,” the CJP said. “You did nothing to uphold the respect of the police in your report.”

“You are not worthy of serving anywhere in this country,” the CJP said. “We will summon the secretary establishment in this regard and he will tell us.”

Imam, who was recently transferred to the post of Sindh police chief, replied: “My lord, I leave myself to the mercy of the court.”

“We were hoping to get justice from you and you are asking us for forgiveness,” the CJP responded.

The CJP asked the IGP if he had made the report himself, to which Imam responded in the affirmative. He explained that a committee had been set up to investigate the matter. He said that there were four individuals in the committee that night, including the Pakpattan DPO, the Sahiwal RPO Shariq Kamal, Ahsan Jameel Gujjar, and CM Punjab Usman Buzdar.

The CJP asked the IG Sindh what conversation had taken place between these individuals. “We are not concerned about other things,” he said.

The court subsequently summoned Buzdar to court.

The additional advocate general of Punjab told the court that the CM Punjab had been contacted and he would be present under all circumstances. He added that the time of the CM’s arrival would be confirmed and the court would be informed.

In an ,earlier hearing of the suo-moto case,, the CJP had said that the court wants the police to be “free and empowered” and it did not “sit well” that the CM of Punjab or someone “sitting with him” ? a reference to Ahsan Jameel Gujjar, an influential person close to the Maneka family ? was responsible for the officer’s transfer.

Gujjar and Buzdar had reportedly summoned DPO Gondal to the CM’s office for an explanation of the events in Pakpattan shortly before the officer was transferred from his posting.

In today’s hearing, the CJP asked where Gujjar was, as the court had also summoned him for today’s hearing.

Addressing the IGP, the top judge said, “You keep talking about Gujjar’s guardian certificate. Have you seen the certificate?”

Justice Nisar told IGP Imam that he was the kind of police officer who could not even ensure Gujjar’s presence in court.

“We are the ones who have to clear him,” the CJP remarked.

The top judge said that everyone was upset with the treatment of Maneka’s daughter. “But did you get upset with the treatment of police officials? What kind of an IG are you, that you cannot protect the police?” he asked.

There was a short break in the hearing until later this afternoon, when Buzdar and Gujjar appeared in court.

The CJP asked CM Buzdar if he had called an “unrelated” individual to the Chief Minister’s house, whose guardian Gujjar was, since he was referring to himself the guardian.

The CM Punjab responded that he had asked his staff to fix the problem.

The top judge asked him how he knew Gujjar and why he had called him at 10pm that night, to which Buzdar responded: “Since I have become chief minister, I meet people myself,” adding: “I presented the police officers tea with my own hands.”

CM Buzdar said that he told the police officers to take a look at the issue themselves. He also said that Gujjar had a personal relationship with the Maneka family.

The CJP said that IGP Imam had only “had only disgraced police officers”.

The top judged asked why it was said that night that “in the morning don’t show me this police officer’s face”, to which the chief minister responded saying he had not given any such orders.

“Chief Minister sahab, all your communications will come forward,” remarked Justice Nisar.

CM Buzdar said that the government was trying to depoliticise the police.

The CJP said that the issue should be investigated, adding that the court had rejected the IG’s report. He said that the IG tried to favour someone in his investigation.

“This is a question of the rule of law,” remarked the top judge.

Why should police officers operate on someone else’s dera? he asked. “Is this how a large province should be run?”

CJP Nisar enquired how Gujjar could be the Maneka children’s guardian since their father was still alive.

Nisar added that the court would give a strict “observation” against IG Kaleem.

The CJP also alleged that Gujjar had told the DPO to go to the dera.

The advocate general of Punjab said that the DPO had himself assumed that he was required to go to the dera, and that the court should set aside this matter now.

“We will make sure nothing like this happens again,” he said, adding that a lawyer had also been deployed to the CM’s Office to deal with such instances.

The RPO of Sahiwal deposed that the CM had told him to listen to Gujjar as he was his friend. He said that the DPO had informed him about the incident with the Maneka family and had said that they had gotten the impression that they were to go to the dera and ask for forgiveness.

The RPO said that the DPO told him that officers do not go to deras to seek forgiveness.

“Ahsan Jameel said that the deputy commissioner is responsible for what happens in his area,” the RPO said. “He told me to solve the problem.”

“I still can’t digest the fact that the transfer took place at 1 in the night,” the CJP remarked.

The DIG Headquarters, present for the hearing, said that the order actually came at 10pm, but he was out. There was another call at 12am, he said.

“It was my son’s birthday. I came back to the office at 1am to issue the order,” he said.

The CJP inquired why the transfer was done with such haste, asking: “was the sun not going to rise the next day?”

He also remarked that no record was made of the transfer, but it was just pushed through.

“This is not someone’s kingdom: this is a democracy.” the top judge remarked.

Nacta coordinator Khalid Daad Lak was subsequently ordered to launch an inquiry and present a report within 15 days.

Pakpattan incident

Late on August 23 or early August 24, Khawar Maneka was flagged to stop at a security picket in Pakpattan by police, but he allegedly refused and raced ahead. The police had subsequently chased him down and forced him to stop, after which harsh words were exchanged between the two parties.

Subsequently, Maneka demanded that DPO Rizwan Gondal should visit his dera to personally apologise to him, he added. When Gondal’s transfer orders started making rounds on Monday, it was widely speculated in news and social media that that the police officer was transferred because of the incident. The officer was allegedly transferred for refusing to apologise in person to Khawar Maneka over the altercation between him and the police.

The report submitted by IG Kaleem Imam in court last week stated that the chief minister had indeed summoned the police officials concerned without informing the IGP, but proceeded to act “only as an elder” to mediate between the parties in conflict.

The CM was very hospitable towards the police officers and during the meeting, which he “hosted”, the report states, the policemen were not harassed or pressurised in any way.

Imam, in his report, further observed that the Punjab CM neither issued any written orders or gave any directives pertaining to the DPO’s transfer. Instead, the report said, Buzdar had told the RPO to settle the issue himself, which “makes it clear that there was no interference in policing matters”.

However, the report noted that DPO Gondal had felt that he was being “interrogated by a stranger” in the presence of the RPO and the CM during the meeting. The report recommended that, in the future, Punjab CM go through the provincial IGP to summon any police officials instead of doing so directly.

The report stated that while the DPO was displeased with being called to the CM’s officer he hadn’t complained about being harassed or pressurised during the meeting.

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DPO Pakpattan transfer case: SC rejects IG Punjab’s report

The Supreme Court on Monday, while hearing a suo motu case pertaining to the transfer of the District Police Officer (DPO) Pakpattan, rejected a report submitted by the former Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Syed Kaleem Imam.

IGP Imam had submitted a ,report with regards to the Pakpattan DPO transfer case on Sept 12, in which he had said that Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar was only acting as a mediator and did not attempt to influence the police amidst the Pakpattan controversy that eventually led to the transfer of DPO Rizwan Gondal.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, who is heading a three-judge bench, lashed out at IGP Imam, today, saying that he had written positive things in his report “in order to save one person”, without specifying who that one person was.

“We reject your report,” the top judge said, adding: “IGP sahab, you have proven your own officer to be a liar in your report.”

“What kind of report is this? You have not investigated at all. You have sided with someone,” the CJP said. “You did nothing to uphold the respect of the police in your report.”

“You are not worthy of serving anywhere in this country,” the CJP said. “We will summon the secretary establishment in this regard and he will tell us.”

Imam, who was recently transferred to the post of Sindh police chief, replied: “My lord, I leave myself to the mercy of the court.”

“We were hoping to get justice from you and you are asking us for forgiveness,” the CJP responded.

The CJP asked the IGP if he had made the report himself, to which Imam responded in the affirmative. He explained that a committee had been set up to investigate the matter. He said that there were four individuals in the committee that night, including the Pakpattan DPO, Regional Police Officer Hassan Jameel Gujjar, and CM Punjab Usman Buzdar.

The CJP asked the IG Sindh what conversation had taken place between these individuals. “We are not concerned about other things,” he said.

The court summoned Buzdar to court.

The additional advocate of Punjab told the court that the CM Punjab had been contacted and he would be present under all circumstances. He added that the time of the CM’s arrival would be confirmed and the court would be informed.

In an ,earlier hearing of the suo-moto case,, the CJP had said that the court wants the police to be “free and empowered” and it did not “sit well” that the CM of Punjab or someone “sitting with him” ? a reference to Ahsan Jameel Gujjar, an influential person close to the Maneka family ? was responsible for the officer’s transfer.

Gujjar and Buzdar had reportedly summoned DPO Gondal to the CM’s office for an explanation of the events in Pakpattan shortly before the officer was transferred from his posting.

In today’s hearing, the CJP asked where Gujjar was, as the court had summoned him for today’s hearing.

Addressing the IGP the top judge said, “You keep talking about Gujjar’s guardian certificate. Have you seen the certificate?”

Justice Nisar told IGP Imam that he was the kind of police officer who could not even ensure Gujjar’s presence in court.

“We are the ones who have to clear him,” the CJP remarked.

The top judge said that everyone was upset with the treatment of Maneka’s daughter. “But did you get upset with the treatment of police officials? What kind of an IG are you, that you cannot protect the police?” he asked.

There was a short break in the hearing until later this afternoon, when Buzdar and Gujjar appeared in court.

The CJP asked CM Buzdar if he had called an “unrelated” individual to the Chief Minister’s house, whose guardian Gujjar was, since he was referring to himself the guardian.

The CM Punjab responded that he had asked his staff to fix the problem.

The top judge asked him how he knew Gujjar and why he had called him at 10pm that night, to which Buzdar responded: “Since I have become chief minister, I meet people myself,” adding: “I presented the police officers tea with my own hands.”

CM Buzdar said that he told the police officers to take a look at the issue themselves. He also said that Gujjar had a personal relationship with the Maneka family.

The CJP said that IGP Imam had only “had only disgraced police officers”.

The top judged asked why it was said that night that “in the morning don’t show me this police officer’s face”, to which the chief minister responded saying he had not given any such orders.

“Chief Minister sahab, all your communications will come forward,” remarked Justice Nisar.

CM Buzdar said that the government was trying to depoliticise the police.

The CJP said that the issue should be investigated, adding that the court had rejected the IG’s report. He said that the IG tried to favour someone in his investigation.

“This is a question of the rule of law,” remarked the top judge.

Why should police officers operate on someone else’s dera? he asked. “Is this how a large province should be run?”

CJP Nisar enquired how Gujjar could be the Maneka children’s guardian since their father was still alive.

Nisar added that the court would give a strict “observation” against IG Kaleem.

The CJP said that Gujjar had told the DPO to go to the dera.

The advocate general of Punjab said that the DPO decided to go to the dera himself and the court should forgive this.

“We will make sure nothing like this happens again,” he said, adding that a lawyer has also been deployed to the CM’s Office.

The RPO of Sahiwal said that the CM had said to listen to Gujjar as he was his friend. He said that the DPO had informed him about the incident with the Maneka family and had said that they got the impression that they were to go to the dera and ask for forgiveness.

The RPO said that the DPO told him that officers do not go to deras.

Pakpattan incident

Late on August 23 or early August 24, Khawar Maneka was flagged to stop at a security picket in Pakpattan by police, but he allegedly refused and raced ahead. The police had subsequently chased him down and forced him to stop, after which harsh words were exchanged between the two parties.

Subsequently, Maneka demanded that DPO Rizwan Gondal should visit his dera to personally apologise to him, he added. When Gondal’s transfer orders started making rounds on Monday, it was widely speculated in news and social media that that the police officer was transferred because of the incident. The officer was allegedly transferred for refusing to apologise in person to Khawar Maneka over the altercation between him and the police.

The report submitted by IG Kaleem Imam in court last week stated that the chief minister had indeed summoned the police officials concerned without informing the IGP, but proceeded to act “only as an elder” to mediate between the parties in conflict.

The CM was very hospitable towards the police officers and during the meeting, which he “hosted”, the report states, the policemen were not harassed or pressurised in any way.

Imam, in his report, further observed that the Punjab CM neither issued any written orders or gave any directives pertaining to the DPO’s transfer. Instead, the report said, Buzdar had told the RPO to settle the issue himself, which “makes it clear that there was no interference in policing matters”.

However, the report noted that DPO Gondal had felt that he was being “interrogated by a stranger” in the presence of the RPO and the CM during the meeting. The report recommended that, in the future, Punjab CM go through the provincial IGP to summon any police officials instead of doing so directly.

The report stated that while the DPO was displeased with being called to the CM’s officer he hadn’t complained about being harassed or pressurised during the meeting.

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Sharifs being shifted back to Adiala jail as five-day parole comes to an end

As the five-day parole granted to them by the Punjab government nears its end, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law are being taken back to Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail to resume their sentences in the Avenfield apartments reference.

A convoy of cars carrying the trio left Jati Umra — the Sharif family residence in Lahore — for the old airport, where they were made to board a special plane for Islamabad, sources told DawnNewsTV. Upon landing in the capital, they will be taken to the prison.

Cars carrying Sharif family members leave Jati Umra. — DawnNewsTV

Cars carrying Sharif family members leave Jati Umra. — DawnNewsTV

Sharif, Maryam and Safdar were ,released on parole last week, after the death of three-time former first lady Begum Kulsoom Nawaz in London. The parole will end today at 4pm.

Before leaving for the airport, the three visited the graves of Kulsoom, her father-in-law Mian Sharif and brother-in-law Abbas Sharif and offered fateha, DawnNewsTV reported.

Begum Kulsoom had undergone several surgeries and chemotherapy treatment at a private hospital in London after being diagnosed with lymphoma in August 2017. She suffered a heart attack in mid-June and was put on a life-support machine. In the first week of August, her condition improved and she was taken off from the ventilator. However, her condition deteriorated again on Sept 9 and she breathed her last on Sept 11.

Her sons Hassan Nawaz and Hussain Nawaz along with their uncle Shahbaz Sharif and other party leaders offered her funeral prayers in London before her body was shifted to Lahore. After her second funeral, which was attended by her husband, daughter and other relatives besides workers and leaders of various political parties, she was laid to rest near the graves of her father-in-law and brother-in-law at Jati Umra on Sept 14.

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