Posts Tagged ‘Sibi’

PML-N, PPP mull over joining hands in by-polls

ISLAMABAD: After going separate ways during the recent election for the key offices of prime minister and president and causing serious damage to the opposition’s unity, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are now considering joining hands in the coming by-elections.

A PML-N delegation, headed by Opposition Leader in the Senate Raja Zafarul Haq, met PPP Secretary General Nayyar Bokhari at his residence here on Sunday and conveyed him a message of the PML-N leadership that the two parties must work together from the platform of joint opposition inside and outside the parliament.

The PML-N delegation comprised Senator Chaudhry Tanveer, former minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry and former MNA Anjum Aqeel.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, Mr Bokhari said the two sides had discussed the possibilities of fielding joint candidates in next month’s by-elections to be held in 11 constituencies of the National Assembly and 26 of the provincial assemblies. These seats have fallen vacant due to different reasons, including resignations by those elected on more than one seat and death of some contesting candidates.

Zafar-led delegation conveys party high-command’s message to Peoples Party

Mr Bokhari said they had discussed various options and proposals, but refused to provide details, saying he could not do so before discussing them with his party’s leadership. He said the PML-N leaders had also sought time so that they could also consult their leadership.

In reply to a question, the PPP leader said cooperation between the two parties would not be limited to two or three seats, and they would have to agree on a formula for all the constituencies.

Asked if the PML-N delegation had conveyed any message of their supreme leader Nawaz Sharif, Mr Bokhari said, “The message was simple that we should work as joint opposition inside and outside the parliament to give a tough time to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) government.”

He expressed the hope that there would be more meetings between the two parties in a few days and said that not only the PML-N, but other opposition parties would also be taken on board, if they (the PPP and PML-N) reached consensus.

Similarly, when contacted, PML-N’s Raja Zafarul Haq said the two sides had agreed to increase coordination and cooperation with a view to playing an effective role of opposition. He said they had discussed the option of jointly contesting the upcoming by-elections, but no final decision had been made so far.

Sources said the main purpose of the visit of the PML-N’s delegation was to seek cooperation on the two National Assembly seats — NA-53 Islamabad and NA-60 Rawalpindi. However, they said, Mr Bokhari made no commitment with the PML-N team and stressed the need for a broader cooperation and adjustments on all the seats being contested in the by-polls.

The sources said that PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif was reaching Islamabad on Monday (today) after which contacts between the country’s two major parties and arch rivals of the past were expected to increase. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari is also expected to be present in the capital as the National Assembly is also in session.

It was the first direct and formal contact between the two parties after the Sept 4 presidential elections in which the PPP had fielded Chuadhry Aitzaz Ahsan whereas the PML-N and other opposition parties had nominated Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman as their joint candidate against the PTI’s Dr Arif Alvi.

Despite hectic efforts and mediation of other parties, the PML-N had refused to vote for Mr Ahsan due to his controversial remarks about the illness of Nawaz Sharif and his wife Kulsoom Nawaz whereas the PPP had also refused to withdraw from the race.

The failure of the opposition parties to field a joint candidate virtually provided a walkover to Dr Arif Alvi who managed to win the election without facing any difficulty.

And after facing humiliation in the presidential poll, the two parties started passing the buck holding each other responsible for it.

Making a direct attack, PML-N information secretary Senator Mushahidullah Khan had alleged that Mr Zardari had damaged democracy. He alleged that the PPP had ditched the combined opposition twice — first by refusing to vote for Shahbaz Sharif in the election for the prime minister and then by unilaterally nominating Aitzaz Ahsan as the presidential candidate.

Another PML-N leader Engineer Amir Muqam was of the opinion that Prime Minister Imran Khan and president-elect Dr Alvi should be “thankful” to Mr Zardari for the party’s victory in the presidential election.

Similarly, when a reporter sought Mr Zardari’s comments on the PML-N allegations, he had said with his usual smile on his face: “They are saying that Zardari has broken the opposition alliance. Why shouldn’t we say that Mian Sahab (Shahbaz Sharif) has never been in the opposition?”

The grand opposition alliance formed by 11 parties soon after the July 25 elections had fallen apart within weeks following the PPP’s refusal to vote for PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif against PTI chief Imran Khan in the election of prime minister despite agreeing on a formula during a meeting of the multiparty conference.

The PPP backed out of its commitment and asked the PML-N to replace Mr Sharif with some other candidate, explaining that the party could not vote for him as he had made some controversial remarks against Mr Zardari during the election campaign.

The cracks within the opposition ranks deepened when the PPP unilaterally nominated Mr Ahsan as the presidential candidate, drawing the ire of other opposition parties.

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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Swiss region overwhelmingly votes for ‘burqa ban’

A second Swiss canton will introduce a regional “burqa ban”, after voters in St Gallen on Sunday emphatically backed prohibiting all face-covering garments in public spaces.

At the same time, voters across Switzerland resoundingly rejected initiatives aimed at boosting local farming and promoting more ethical and environmental standards in food production, amid fears of cost hikes and reduced consumer choice.

In the northeastern canton of St Gallen, nearly 67 per cent of voters came out in favour of introducing the implicit “burqa ban”, according to official results, which showed turnout was 36 per cent.

That paves the way for the canton to follow the example of the southern region of Ticino, where ,a law was introduced two years ago, that appeared to be aimed at burqas and other Muslim veils.

Three other cantons — Zurich, Solothurn and Glarus — have rejected introducing such bans in recent years.

A text stipulating that “any person who renders themselves unrecognisable by covering their face in a public space, and thus endangers public security or social and religious peace will be fined” was adopted by lawmakers in St Gallen late last year.

That law passed the regional parliament with support from the populist right and centre parties — but the issue was put to the people after the Green and Green Liberal parties demanded a referendum.

Supporters of the ban insisted in campaign literature that “it is integral to our culture and our values to be able to look each other in the eyes without hiding”.

‘Islamophobic’

The Islamic Central Council of Switzerland on Sunday slammed the ban as “Islamophobic”.

Other opponents have insisted the ban was useless, stressing that very few women wear burqas or other face-covering veils in St Gallen.

Opponents have also pointed out that the canton already has a law prohibiting face-covering during demonstrations that require police authorisation as well as at sporting events.

A review published recently on the effect of the law introduced in Ticino in 2016 meanwhile showed that football fans had felt the most impact, while fines for burqa-use could be counted on one hand, the ATS news agency reported.

Switzerland’s government last year opposed an initiative aimed at creating a nationwide burqa ban, saying it should be up to the regions to determine if such measures are appropriate.

Voters across Switzerland are however expected to be called to vote on the issue next year after the populist rightwing Swiss People’s Party gathered the 100,000 signatures needed to put any subject to a referendum as part of Switzerland’s famous direct democratic system.

Swiss snub ‘fair food’

At the national level, the Swiss meanwhile overwhelmingly rejected two schemes linked to agriculture and food security which urged a shift towards more ethical and environmentally friendly food production, as well as protection for Swiss farmers against cheap food imports.

The final results showed that 61 and 68 per cent of voters respectively rejected the “Fair Food” and “Food Sovereignty” initiatives.

The “Food Sovereignty” initiative, which had the backing of Switzerland’s powerful farmers’ union, had among other things called for turning a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMO) into a total ban.

Early polls had suggested strong backing for both initiatives, but support fell after the government, parliament and other opponents argued they could send prices skyrocketing, limit consumer choice and might violate Switzerland’s international trade obligations.

Geneva and three other French-speaking cantons supported both initiatives, but the German-speaking part of the country voted massively against them.

Also on Sunday, Swiss voters overwhelmingly backed a proposal to enshrine support for cycling in the constitution.

All 26 cantons and nearly 74 per cent of voters came out in favour of adding an article to the constitution giving federal authorities more responsibility for developing cycling paths across the country.

The text meanwhile only provides federal authorities with the possibility of stepping in on matters related to promoting cycling without obliging them to do so, and the cantons are expected to remain largely in charge.

The national votes this time failed to garner much excitement, resulting in below-average turnout, with only 37 per cent of eligible voters casting their ballots.

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Gunmen attack Iran military parade, killing at least 24

A Revolutionary Guard member carries a wounded boy after a shooting during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran on Saturday. — AP

A Revolutionary Guard member carries a wounded boy after a shooting during a military parade marking the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran on Saturday. — AP

Gunmen attacked an annual Iranian military parade Saturday in the country’s oil-rich southwest, killing at least 24 people and wounding 53 others, local media reported.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the assault in Ahvaz, which saw gunfire spray into a crowd of marching Guardsmen, bystanders and government officials watching from a nearby riser. However, Iran faced a bloody assault last year from the Islamic State group and Arab separatists in the region have attacked oil pipelines there in the past.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif immediately blamed the attack on regional countries and their “US masters,” further raising regional tensions as Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers is in jeopardy after President Donald Trump withdrew America from the accord.

“Iran will respond swiftly and decisively in defense of Iranian lives,” he wrote on Twitter.

State television aired footage of the aftermath of the assault on Ahvaz’s Quds, or Jerusalem, Boulevard, which like many other places around the country saw an annual parade marking the start of Iran’s long 1980s war with Iraq. The images included paramedics trying to help one person in military fatigues as other armed security personnel shouted at each other. The semi-official ISNA news agency published photographs of the attack’s aftermath, with bloodied troops in dress uniforms helping each other walk away.

A local news agency in Khuzestan province, of which Ahvaz is the capital, aired grainy mobile phone footage showing parade goers fleeing as soldiers lay flat on the ground. Gunfire rang out in the background.

“Security forces have restored security in the area but the parade has totally been disrupted,” a reporter on the scene for Iranian state television said by phone in a live broadcast. “People have been killed but we have no figures yet.”

Zarif on Twitter said that the gunmen were “terrorists recruited, trained, armed & paid by a foreign regime”. He did not immediately elaborate. However, Arab separatist groups in the region have launched attacks on oil pipelines there in the past and Iran. The separatists also accuse Iran’s Shiite theocracy of discriminating against its Sunni Arab citizens. Iran has blamed its Mideast archrival, the Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for funding their activity.

Reports of how the attack unfolded remained unclear immediately afterward. The state TV reporter said the gunfire came from a park behind a riser. The semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the Guard, said two gunmen on a motorcycle wearing khaki uniforms carried out the attack.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, top center, reviews army troops marching during the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran on Saturday. ? AP

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, top center, reviews army troops marching during the 38th anniversary of Iraq’s 1980 invasion of Iran on Saturday. ? AP

The state-run IRNA news agency said the attack killed 24 people and wounded 53, citing “knowledgeable sources” without elaborating. It said gunmen were dressed in Guard uniforms and targeted a riser where military and police commanders were sitting.

Khuzestan Gov. Gholamreza Shariati told IRNA that two gunmen were killed and two others were arrested.

Who carried out the assault also remained in question. State television immediately described the assailants as “takfiri gunmen”, a term previously used to describe the Islamic State group. Iran has been deeply involved in the fight against IS in Iraq and has aided embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s long war.

Among those involved are members of the Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The Guard also has vast holdings in Iran’s economy.

Meanwhile, Guard spokesman Gen. Ramazan Sharif told ISNA that an Arab separatist group carried out the attack, without elaborating. However, those groups in the past previously have only attacked unguarded oil pipelines at night.

Saturday’s attack comes after a coordinated ,June 7, 2017 Islamic State group assault, on parliament and the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in Tehran. At least 18 people were killed and more than 50 wounded.

Khomeini led the 1979 Islamic Revolution that toppled the Western-backed shah to become Iran’s first supreme leader until his death in 1989. The assault shocked Tehran, which largely has avoided militant attacks in the decades after the tumult surrounding the Islamic Revolution.

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No precedent of how India ‘trampled diplomatic norms’ by cancelling meeting: FM Qureshi

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said he was “deeply saddened” by how New Delhi first accepted and later ,backtracked from a meeting between Qureshi and his Indian counterpart, Sushma Swaraj.

Speaking to reporters at Islamabad airport before departing on a visit to the United States, the minister said it was their understanding that it would be beneficial for the entire region if countries sat down for dialogue and find solutions to the outstanding issues.

“I was deeply saddened by how India first accepted our goodwill gesture and then backtracked from it,” he said.

Qureshi said the Indian government had to “look for reasons” to justify cancelling the meeting after initially agreeing to it, adding that New Delhi had used the issue of stamps of Kashmiri freedom fighters as an “excuse”.

He said it was inappropriate on India’s part to state a development from July (the issuance of stamps) as the reason to cancel the meeting that was due to take place in September.

“It was an opportunity [for progress in bilateral ties], which I think India’s domestic circumstances did not allow to materialise,” the foreign minister said.

“There is no precedent of how diplomatic norms were trampled” by India in the cancellation of the meeting, he added.

New Delhi had on Friday called off a meeting between the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), just a day after confirming the development.

India Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, confirming the development, cited “unclean intentions” on Pakistan’s side.

The MEA spokesperson referred to the “killing of Indian security forces” allegedly by “Pakistani entities” and Islamabad’s decision to release stamps allegedly “glorifying terrorists” as the reasons behind the cancellation of the meeting.

Pakistan Post had issued 20 special postage stamps on July 24, according to ,The Nation,, carrying photos of Burhan Wani and his two associates. Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri freedom fighter, was slain by Indian troops in 2016.

Although the stamps were issued on July 24, a day before the general elections were held, the issue was ,raised by Indian media, in the 24 hours after New Delhi agreed to the meeting.

US engagements

Foreign Minister Qureshi will reach Washington today on a visit that includes talks with the Trump administration and the new Pakistani government’s first interaction with the United Nations.

The minister’s first official engagement of this week-long tour is an address to the Pakistani community in Washington, and the same day he flies to New York to attend the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly, which began on Sept 18.

The high-level General Assembly debate, however, begins on Sept 25 and is scheduled to last for nine working days. Qureshi is expected to address the General Assembly on Sept 29.

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Ecuadorian Foreign Minister María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the president-elect of the 73rd session, will chair the debate on “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies.”

The main event of Qureshi’s visit, however, is an expected meeting with US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo in Washington.

This would be a follow-up to their first meeting in Islamabad earlier this month when they agreed to work together to “reset” the troubled relations between their countries.

A tweet by the Government of Pakistan quoted the foreign minister as saying that he will present Pakistan’s stance on different matters at the UNGA session. He also expressed the confidence that his meeting with Pompeo “will prove to be important in taking forward bilateral relations with Washington”.

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Roadside bombing kills 8 children in northern Afghanistan

At least eight children have been killed in a roadside bomb explosion in northern Afghanistan’s Faryab province on Friday, an official said.

Karim Yuresh, spokesman for the provincial police chief, said six other kids were wounded in the blast that took place late on Friday afternoon in Shirin Tagab district.

Yuresh said that according to a hospital report, two of the wounded kids are in a critical condition.

All of the children are between five and 12 years of age and were playing when the bomb exploded, he added.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but Yuresh blamed Taliban militants who usually plant roadside bombs to target Afghan security forces in different parts of the province.

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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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SC to hear next week petition seeking Imran’s disqualification

ISLAMABAD: A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar will take up next week a petition seeking disqualification of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

According to the cause-list issued by the apex court, the petition has been fixed before the bench comprising CJP Nisar, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan for Monday (Sept 24).

The petition was filed by Barrister Danyal Chaudhry in May last year soon after the apex court had constituted a six-member Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to probe allegations of corruption against then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, and has been pending before court since then.

The petitioner was seeking a special oath to the JIT members for protecting them from getting influenced by the speeches of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf chief Imran Khan.

Plea was filed in May last year soon after the apex court constituted JIT to probe corruption allegations against Nawaz Sharif

The petition filed through Advocate Quasain Faisal Mufti had requested the apex court to restrain Imran Khan from activities which could influence the minds of the JIT members because his speeches and press releases could prejudice the investigation team. It also feared that if Mr Khan was not stopped from making political statements, it might allegedly result in derailment of democracy — a process running successfully and smoothly for a decade.

The petition had also requested the Supreme Court to order the Pakistan Electronic Media Regula­tory Authority (Pemra) not to allow broadcast by the electronic media of any material which jeopardised the sovereignty, integrity and solidarity of Pakistan and well-being and prosperity of the people of Pakistan.

The petitioner was of the opinion that people could not afford any turmoil or turbulence at this juncture when the country and its people were trying to bridge the trust and peace deficit, which over the years developed due to unbridled waves of terrorism that had lessened after remarkable efforts by the country’s armed forces, but not yet completely overcome.

International forces had been given the task of sabotaging the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor against which certain indigenous political forces due to their innocence acted as a catalyst to sabotage the historic and giant project — an emblem of long-lasting Pakistan-China friendship, the petition emphasised.

It recalled that due to the PTI’s 2014 sit-in in Islamabad, the Chinese president had deferred his visit to Pakistan, resulting in jeopardising different projects pertaining to the CPEC because of political uncertainty that negatively impacted the country’s financial markets. The foreign exchange reserves had also declined considerably as a result, it argued.

The petition alleged that Imran Khan was making speeches to undermine the Panama Papers case judgement and further influence the expected outcome of the JIT investigation. In some of his statements, it said, Mr Khan was making allegations against different institutions including but not limited to those who were bestowed upon with the responsibility to investigate the allegations as ordered by the Supreme Court.

The petition alleged that the conduct of Mr Khan amounted to destabilising the government and hampered the functioning of the federal government by weakening its writ and thus destabilising the confidence of the government in making decisions in respect of national and international affairs.

Besides other things, the petition had sought disqualification of Imran Khan for not disclosing his alleged loved child Teriyan White in his nomination papers for the general elections.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018

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Ashura being observed today amid tight security

QUETTA: Frontier Corps personnel seal a shop in a market on Muharram procession route here on Thursday.—PPI

QUETTA: Frontier Corps personnel seal a shop in a market on Muharram procession route here on Thursday.—PPI

ISLAMABAD: Ashura will be observed on Friday with solemnity to pay homage to Imam Hussain and other martyrs of Karbala amid strict security to protect mourners from any terrorist attack across the country.

Apart from the security measures, local administrations, all over the country, have placed hospitals and ambulance services on high alert. Moreover, the governments of the four provinces, AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan have taken adequate measures to ensure security on the day.

As there will be no Ashura procession in the federal capital, police and administration of Islamabad will cooperate with the Rawalpindi administration to carry out checks at all entry points between the twin cities.

However, extraordinary security arrangements have been made in Rawalpindi considering the past incident at Raja Bazaar as Ashura has coincided with Friday.

In 2013, authorities had to impose a curfew in parts of Rawalpindi after sectarian clashes erupted during a Muharram 10 (on Friday) procession near Fawara Chowk, that left at least eight people dead and dozens injured.

The security has remained a matter of concern for over a decade because of a number of incidents of suicide attacks and sectarian violence.

Apart from police, Ran­gers and Frontier Corps personnel have been deployed in many cities on the routes of Ashura processions, while the army is also kept standby and can be called in case of an emergency.

Pillion-riding has been banned in many cities across the country. Although a blanket blackout of cellular service across the country is not under consideration on 10th Muharram, citizens can face partial suspension of the service in different cities due to security reasons, said sources in cellular companies.

Police have already conducted a survey of procession routes across the country and sealed all shops, houses and buildings on the routes after a thorough check by bomb disposal squads.

On Thursday, Minister of State for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi reviewed the security arrangements of main procession in Sector G-6 Islamabad. He said no compromise or sluggishness would be tolerated over such arrangements as it is prime responsibility of the government to ensure protection to the lives and property of the citizens.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2018

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Islamabad part of solution in Afghanistan: US

WASHINGTON: Pakistan has to be a part of a solution in Afghanistan, says a Pentagon report, summarising the US military chief’s recent visits to friendly nations, including Pakistan.

The report, released this week, says that the main purpose of Gen Joseph Dunford’s visit to these nations was to “maintaining and building alliances”.

Gen Dunford, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also reached out to “prospective partners to encourage cooperation and interoperability.”

Pentagon report quotes America’s top military official as saying Pakistan can help bring Taliban to
peace talks

The report says that the chairman visited Islamabad early this month because “Pakistan is key to the ‘South Asia Strategy’ that President Donald Trump espoused in August 2017. Pakistan has to be a part of a solution in Afghanistan.”

The report notes that Gen Dunford joined US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to meet Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Chief of the Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The report also includes a quote from Gen Dunford about the US team’s meeting with Gen Bajwa. “When we talked to Gen Bajwa on a military-to-military level, we listened to the prime minister very carefully [and] we listened to the secretary very carefully,” the US general said. “The objectives were very consistent between the secretary and prime minister. Gen Bajwa and I agreed that we will leverage the military-to-military relationship for the secretary and prime minister and, more importantly, for President Trump’s South Asia Strategy.”

The report, however, also highlights the need to implement the decisions taken at the US-Pakistan meetings. “Actions speak louder than words and the Pakistani leaders agreed to ‘reset’ their relationship with the United States,” it adds, backing it up with another quote from Gen Dunford.

“What we want to see: the Taliban at the peace table dealing with Afghans,” Gen Dunford said. “And we believe the Pakistanis play a unique role in bringing the Taliban to the peace process.”

Talking to journalists here earlier this week, Pakistan Navy Chief Admiral Zafar Mahmood Abbasi also said that Islamabad’s relations with Pakistan were gradually improving and it was no longer an aid-based relationship.

“Our relationship with the US has turned the corner and is, now moving in the right direction,” he said. “It is not on the lowest ebb.”

He said that seeking US aid was not Pakistan’s primary consideration.

“We want good relations with or without security assistance. We can work without US assistance.”

The Pentagon report points out that from Islamabad, Gen Dunford flew to New Delhi to join US Defence Secretary James N. Mattis, and Secretary Pompeo for the 2+2 Talks with Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj.

In India, the US team discussed regional and global concerns, such as Afghanistan, North Korea and terrorism, with Indian leaders.

It also refers to a statement by Ms Sitharaman, saying that the military-to-military cooperation had been a “key driver” of the US-India relationship.

The report includes Secretary Pompeo’s quote, saying: “We have a responsibility to advance those shared values: rule of law; national sovereignty; good governance; the protection of fundamental freedoms, rights and liberties; free, fair and reciprocal trade relationships and peaceful resolutions of territorial and maritime disputes.”

From New Delhi, Secretary Mattis and Gen Dunford went to Kabul on an unannounced trip and met US, coalition and Afghan officials. The visit was a chance to hear directly from those most directly affected by strategies in the region.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

President Alvi addresses the parliament for the first time — DawnNewsTV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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President Alvi addresses the parliament for the first time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Balochistan, KP govts asked to file replies on plea highlighting coal miners fatalities

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has asked Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to file replies on a petition moved to highlight deaths of mine workers, especially the fatalities of 327 coal miners in Balochistan and Darra Adam Khel from 2010 to 2018.

The court issued notices to the respondents when human rights activists Usama Khawar Ghumman, Zafar Iqbal Kalanauri and Ali Javed Darugar pleaded before the apex court to take cognizance of the issue by exercising its suo motu power.

The petitioners has pleaded in court to appoint a commission to probe into the deaths of 327 coal miners in Balochistan, especially the killing of nine miners in Darra Adam Khel on Sept 12.

318 miners have died in 45 incidents in Balochistan alone

They argued that the commission so formed should consist of eminent labour experts from the relevant government departments and civil society and financed by the provincial governments.

The commission should be tasked to suggest precautionary measures to be adopted by coal mines to prevent accidents in future, they suggested.

They submitted that dying in a coal mine was one of the worst deaths imaginable. They highlighted the need for a better workplace protection to coal miners than currently being given.

The petitioners highlighted at least 45 incidents of painful death of 318 coal miners in Balochistan from 2010 to 2018 and submitted that fatalities in the coal mining sector in Pakistan were becoming far too common. Thus there is a dire need for better labour protections, it said.

Just in the first eight months of 2018, at least 50 miners have died in Balochistan and in the last one month of August, 17 coal miners perished in two separate incidents. Likewise, 15 miners died on Aug 12 due to an explosion in a coal mine in Sanjdi area of Balochistan. Similarly, on Sept 2, two labourers suffocated to death in Machh in Kachhi district of Balochistan.

The petition has been sent not only to Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar but also to other judges of the Supreme Court.

The petitioners also asked the court to seek reports from the mines and mineral development secretary and director general, respectively, chief inspector of mines and commissioner of the mines labour welfare in Balochistan.

They stated that the report should also explain how many times inspections to mines have been carried out by the chief inspectors, mines, in the province in the last eight years. The inquiry reports must also include as to how many inspected mines had been found to be compliant with the health and safety requirements mandated by the relevant mining laws and that how many persons had been prosecuted under the Mining Act for failing to take safety measures in the period 2010 to 2018.

The petitioners also asked the court to assign responsibility and liability to persons, including government officials, as well as departments, for failing to protect workers/employees of coal mines and failing to ensure that all due precautions were taken to prevent accidents due to criminal negligence or for not performing their statutory duties.

They also asked the court to assign responsibility and liability of mine owners, agents or managers for failing to take necessary measures for ensuring safety of miners.

The petitioners asked the court to direct the mines director general to file a report indicating the number of licences that had been cancelled under Rule 57 read with Rule 31(1)(b) of the Balochistan Mineral Rules 2002. The petitioners also asked implementation of the Balochistan Mineral Rules 2002 in letter and spirit and cancel the licences of leaseholders who had failed to discharge their obligations under such rules.

The Supreme Court should also initiate and pursue criminal proceedings against the responsible and liable persons and order the provincial governments to constitute inquiry courts of competent persons under Section 21 of the Mines Act in all the cases of “accidental explosion, ignition, outbreak of fire or irruption of water or other accidents” that have occurred in the period between 2010 and 2018 in which 318 labourers have died.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2018

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FM Qureshi in Kabul to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reached Kabul to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other senior officials during his maiden trip to any country after assuming his new responsibilities, Radio Pakistan reported on Saturday.

Speaking to Dawn on Friday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that FM Qureshi would meet President Ghani and other senior Afghan officials during his day-long visit to Kabul on Saturday. “The main purpose of the foreign minister’s visit is to improve coordination on security-related issues between the two countries,” he added.

To underscore the importance of the trip, he said it would be Qureshi’s first visit to Kabul (after becoming foreign minister) and it showed that Afghanistan was on top of Pakistan’s foreign policy.

On Sept 3, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani had phoned FM Qureshi to greet him on his appointment as foreign minister. He also extended him an invitation to visit Kabul.

Media reports suggest that FM Qureshi will extend an invitation on behalf of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Afghan President Ghani to visit Pakistan.

Marked improvement in relations has been observed since Islamabad and Kabul agreed to operationalise the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS) — the new bilateral ties framework that, according to the Foreign Office, provided the most comprehensive institutional mechanism to discuss all mutual issues.

During their ,phone conversation earlier this month,, both Qureshi and his Afghan counterpart Rabbani agreed that the next round of APAPPS would soon be held in Islamabad.

Civil-military leadership discusses foreign policy, security challenges

Also on Friday, the country’s civil and military leadership sat together at PM Office to discuss foreign policy challenges.

Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, Inter-Services Intelligence director general Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar, FM Qureshi, the foreign secretary and other senior officials were present at a high-level meeting chaired by PM Khan.

“Bilateral relations with certain friendly countries and issues relating to security came under discussion during the meeting,” said a brief statement issued after the meeting.

However, the information minister told Dawn that the meeting discussed issues related to foreign policy and security. “The participants also discussed the strategy for the future visits of some foreign dignitaries,” he added.

Moreover, he said, the army chief also briefed the meeting about his last visit to Kabul.

Gen Bajwa had travelled to Kabul in June and held a one-on-one meeting with Afghan President Ghani.

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UK legislators’ team rejects plea for Ishaq Dar’s deportation

LONDON: A British parliamentary team has rejected a lobby petition demanding a parliamentary debate on the issue of deportation of former Pakistani finance minister Ishaq Dar, describing its contents as “libellous”.

The petition started by an activist from the UK about a month ago has so far gathered around 82,000 signatures.

Under the UK parliamentary system, an individual or a group can highlight an issue of public importance through a lobby petition and get signatures to gather support for the cause. Once the petition gets over 100,000 signatures, the issue involved is debated in the House of Commons, the lower house of British parliament.

Describes contents of petition started by an activist from Britain about a month ago as ‘libellous’

All such petitions are monitored by a team from the UK parliament for its content and behaviour of the groups and individuals launching and supporting it. The team can reject any petition if it finds that the information contained in the petition is libellous, false or defamatory at any stage during the process. In such a situation, the team informs all those who have signed the petition, explaining them the reason of its decision.

The team sent a similar email to more than 80,000 signatories of the petition demanding a debate on the issue of Ishaq Dar.

“We rejected the petition you supported — “Deport absconder Pakistan’s Ex-Finance Minister Ishaq Dar back to Pakistan,” said an email written by the team on Friday.

“It included confidential, libellous, false or defamatory information, or a reference to a case which is active in the UK courts,” it added.

“In any case, we can’t accept your petition because we’re not sure exactly what you’d like the UK Government or Parliament to do,” it further said.

“We think you would like the UK Government to extradite Ishaq Dar to Pakistan. The UK has no formal extradition treaty with Pakistan. Section 194 of the Extradition Act 2003 does allow special extradition arrangements in exceptional circumstances. However, under current law, an extradition process is initiated at the request of the government of the country in which the individual has been convicted of a crime. It would therefore be the Pakistani Gover­nment’s responsibility to initiate such proceedings,” it added.

The team also highlighted the standards or the petition and said that all the petitions must call for a specific action from the UK government or the House of Commons and must be about something that the government or the House of Commons is responsible for. The team said it rejected petitions that didn’t meet the rules. “If we reject your petition, we’ll tell you why. If we can, we’ll suggest other ways you could raise your issue,” it added.

“We publish the text of petitions that we reject, as long as they’re not: defamatory, libellous or illegal in another way; about a case that is active in the UK courts or about something that a court has issued an injunction over,” it concluded.

According to media reports, the petitions committee said it reviewed the online petition after getting 10,000 signatures for its consideration but rejected it on technical and legal grounds.

Former finance minister Dar presently resides in the UK without a passport after his diplomatic passport was cancelled.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

,,

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

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

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

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

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

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CPEC to be opened to other countries: minister

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Dawn, September 14th, 2018

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