Posts Tagged ‘sindh’

Karachi Circular Railway anti-encroachment operation to start from Tuesday: official

Joint Director of Land and Railway Imtiaz Siddiqui on Monday announced that the anti-encroachment drive to clear the land allocated for the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) has been delayed by a day.

The drive was scheduled to start from today but Siddiqui said that authorities granted the people occupying the KCR land an additional day to vacate their shops and homes.

Siddiqui, while talking to the media, said that the authorities would now initiate the operation from the furniture market in Karachi’s Ghareebabad area.

,Anti-encroachment drive: Govt asked to take experts, affected people on board on rehabilitation plan,

“We don’t want anyone to suffer any losses,” the official said, adding that the people had already been issued a notice.

Siddiqui noted that 1,200 encroachments stood intact on the land earmarked for the defunct metro rail system.

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation plans on vacating about 360 acres from encroachers after an ,order issued by the Supreme Court, last month in this regard.

Also read: ,What are the consequences of the anti-encroachment drive?,

As many as 5,653 illegally constructed structures are expected to be razed during the operation to clear more than 29 acres of KCR land.

So far, more than 3,000 shops have been demolished in different areas of Karachi, according to estimates based on information accessed from multiple sources.

Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, however, has promised that the authorities will relocate shops that had been razed in recent days during the ongoing anti-encroachment operation.

The Sindh chief minister has also ordered that the affectees be compensated. However, the authorities have not provided a concrete plan for the rehabilitation of the displaced people as yet.

Following the outcry against the operation by the business community, the Centre last week decided to ,file a review petition, in the Supreme Court against the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in the metropolis.

On his day-long visit to Karachi yesterday, Prime Minister Imran Khan had declared that the government will stand by the people who had fallen victims to the anti-encroachment operation and would not allow exploitation of citizens under the guise of the ongoing drive.

Complexities of encroachment

,According to researchers at the Karachi Urban Lab, (KUL), maps show that the KCR starts from the Drigh Road Station on the Pakistan Railways main line and, after crossing Sharea Faisal short of Karachi airport, it passes through populated areas of Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Liaquatabad, Nazimabad, SITE, Baldia, Lyari, Kharadar, Mithadar and finally touches Karachi City Station.

“The KCR is a 29.32km single-track, wide-gauge railway, along 16 stations. And there are a total of 4,653 families living in 28 different settlements all across Karachi that are being forced to move because of this project. Sindh government’s own study in 2011 established that 70pc of these residents have been living in these settlements for at least 20 years,” said KUL researcher Arsam Saleem while presenting his study regarding the anti-encroachment operation in Karachi on Saturday.

The housing demand in Karachi is estimated at 80,000 new units per year. “The formal sector supplies 32,000 housing units and another 32,000 are built in katchi abadis. Meanwhile, 75.5pc of the city’s residents are classified as poor, and as such they constitute the majority of the unmet demand. The result has been the continuous demand for katchi abadis,” according to KUL researchers.

But buying, selling or renting an accommodation is not easy either. Citizens are not sure if they are being defrauded and whether or not the schemes they are investing in are legal. KUL ascribes this insecurity to Karachi’s conflicts and the informalisation of the formal sector in housing and development.

“Encroachment is not a poor person looking to save some petty cash. It is a complex network involving government institutions, in an official or unofficial capacity, seeking to reap the rewards of quick land dispensation with none of the risks attached,” said Saleem.

Operation at M9

Meanwhile, authorities on Monday started an operation against encroachments along the Karachi-Hyderabad M9 motorway.

The encroachments are being removed through the use of heavy machinery, DawnNewsTV reported.

A heavy contingent of police is present at the site of the action.


With additional reporting by Asim Khan in Karachi.

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Foreign minister sees talks on US financial aid restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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Street criminals in Karachi to be jailed for up to 7 years: CM Shah

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, while chairing the 23rd session of the apex committee in Karachi, vowed to end the rampant street crime in the port city, for which he claimed legal reforms are being considered.

As part of amendments to the law, the chief minister said, the cases of streets crimes would be heard by special magistrates under Section 30 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CRPC), adding that those convicted will be handed prison sentences ranging from three to seven years.

“We need to end the menace of street crime,” CM Shah said, adding that all law enforcement agencies were working together on the issue.

The 23rd meeting of the apex committee was attended by Karachi corps commander, Sindh chief secretary, director general (DG) Rangers, Sindh inspector general of police and other officials.

Furthermore, the apex committee was apprised that Sindh Police and Rangers had conducted a security audit of the entire province. At this, CM Shah issued instructions to fix the weaknesses identified during the security audits.

The meeting was also informed that 62 buildings and other institutions in the province, previously named after Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain, had been renamed.

During the meeting, the implementation of the decisions taken in the previous session were also reviewed.

While speaking to the media after the apex committee meeting, Sindh Chief Minister’s Adviser on Information Murtaza Wahab said that a pilot project will be initiated in the Safe City project red zone.

He said that those who repeatedly commit crimes will be dealt with in a different way. “They are repeatedly given bail,” he said adding that they would be stopped.

Wahab added that to improve the Safe City project, cyber crime will also be controlled and help will be taken from the Army. Safe City cameras will also be improved.

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No injustice to be done during anti-encroachment drive: PM

KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that no injustice would be done with anyone in the name of operation against encroachments.

The federal government wanted to provide homes to the homeless and if injustice had been done to anyone during the anti-encroachment drive, it would stand by the victims, he said during his visit to Karachi on Sunday.

During the ,daylong visit,, the prime minister met business leaders as well as key politicians, including Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail briefed Mr Khan on the law and order situation and the possible fallout of the ongoing operation against encroachments.

On a query from the prime minister, the chief minister told him [PM] that “the provinces can work with the federal government as long as each recognises its constitutional jurisdiction”. He said the federation needed to fulfil its commitment on the K-IV and KCR projects.

Mr Khan said that during his party’s last tenure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa the federal government used to launch projects of electricity and gas in that province.

The chief minister told him that the federal government was more than welcome to do launch projects in Sindh as these items fell in the federal domain and asked him to spend more on electricity and gas projects in the province.

After the conclusion of Mr Khan’s visit, Governor Ismail told newsmen that injustice had been done with the poor under the cover of the Supreme Court’s order against encroachments and “we will request the chief justice to stop this operation”.

Mr Ismail said there was no tension between Sindh and the federation. The chief minister was heard attentively.

He said ongoing projects in Sindh were part of the NFC Award. “We have decided to summon a meeting in Islamabad for considering the K-IV water project.”

In reply to a question, he said the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf or the federal government had no link with the operation against encroachments.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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FBR recommends new taxes to bridge shortfall

ISLAMABAD: After dealing with the external sector deficit, the government’s attention is now being drawn to a growing shortfall in tax revenues that is beginning to bite.

In the first five months of the fiscal year, a shortfall of approximately Rs102 billion has been recorded in revenue collection, and this week officials from the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) gave a briefing to the prime minister about the situation, with suggestions on how the shortfall can be reduced in coming months.

In the briefing, the FBR pointed to an erosion of the tax base due to the large tax cuts announced in the last budget of PML-N government in April, as well as the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend collection of tax on mobile phone cards. Also, the government’s decision to slash sales tax on petroleum products has cost the exchequer almost Rs35bn thus far.

In June this year, the Supreme Court of Pakistan suspended deduction of taxes on the top-up of prepaid cards by mobile phone service providers. “We have witnessed Rs16bn shortfall from the telecom sector in the first five months of the current fiscal year owing to the suspension of taxes on prepaid cards,” the FBR sources told Dawn.

Revenues hurting due to tax relief given to various parties

FBR has proposed that the federal government should approach the Supreme Court to find a way to restore these taxes. The annual revenue collection alone from these taxes on prepaid cards is around Rs80bn.

In another proposal, the FBR urged the federal government to fix sales tax on every litre of the petroleum products from January instead of charging sales tax on price, since the price fluctuates and throws off all revenue projections.

“We have urged the government to immediately take up these two issues to arrest the decline in revenue,” an official source said on condition of anonymity.

Due to the government’s reduction in the sales tax rates on petroleum products, FBR has recorded Rs35bn shortfall in the first five months of the year. To reverse this trend, FBR has suggested to the federal government to fix sales tax on each petroleum product irrespective of increase or decrease in prices.

The PML-N government had also used this mechanism of fixed sales tax rate on petroleum products in the year 2016, to prevent revenue collection from declining steeply when oil prices fell.

The tax base has eroded by about Rs90bn from beginning of the current fiscal year. The provisional revenue collection reached Rs3,844.5bn, which is lower than the target set at Rs3,935bn. The FBR had initially targeted a total collection of Rs4,103bn for the fiscal year.

And the target for the current fiscal year was set with 14pc growth in mind over the revised revenue target in the fiscal year 2017-18 which was missed by Rs90bn.

The prime minister was informed that the pre-election measures have additionally contributed to the revenue shortfall in the first five months of the fiscal year. The relief given to the salaried class has led to a decline of Rs18bn in shortfall in income tax collection followed by Rs13bn from contractions of development budgets at the federal and provincial levels during the months under review.

The other measures announced in the last budget that also contributed to the shortfall include a Rs3bn drop in income tax from dividends, and another Rs1bn from fixing the condition of return-filer for purchase of property effective from current fiscal year.

The lowering of sales tax rates on fertilisers also led to a shortfall of Rs4bn in the first five months, another Rs5bn by replacement of LNG imports with furnace oil (difference of tax rates), and another Rs1bn due to closing of some sugar mills in Sindh.

According to the sources, there are several other products on which duty rates were lowered in the last budget, leading to drop in revenue collection. The only area where revenues will be restored partially is the income tax for salaried class, the sources said, adding the impact would be visible by end of June 2019.

It is not unusual for new governments to face revenue shortfalls in their first few months. The PML-N government faced a Rs40bn shortfall in 2013, which was bridged through a minibudget.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2018

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In a historic first, President House opened to public

ISLAMABAD: For the first time in the country’s history, President House on Saturday opened its doors to the public as part of the government’s plans to allow the people to access state-owned buildings.

Earlier, the government had opened Governor Houses in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and a state-owned rest house in Murree to the public.

Speaking to reporters after meeting the visitors at President House, Mr Alvi said: “We have made efforts to fully facilitate public visits to Aiwan-i-Sadr.”

He said he would open President House to the public twice a month and would also direct the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to open the adjacent park to President House.

The president said that historical documents and belongings of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan would be displayed at President House.

“We will request parliament to give the historical document of the 1973 Constitution signed by its makers and it will be displayed here for the public,” he said.

The president said that he wanted to bridge the gap between President House and the masses which had widened in the last 70 years.

He said that President House was opened to school and college trips as well.

Replying to a question, Mr Alvi rejected the impression that Aiwan-i-Sadr was opened to divert attention from the challenges being faced by the government, saying that the office of the president was apolitical.

Earlier, a large number of people from twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad visited the highly secured building of Aiwan-i-Sadr.

Talking to Dawn, the visitors appreciated the decision of the government to open the gates of President House to the public. It remained open from 9am to 4pm.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2018

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Sindh govt seeks review of SC orders on encroachments

KARACHI: The Sindh government has moved the Supreme Court with a plea to review its orders regarding removal of encroachments from amenity spaces and a request to stop the ongoing demolition exercise by the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) till a workable solution is prepared to address the issue of rehabilitation of affected people.

The Sindh government through the provincial advocate general filed an application in Islamabad on Friday, requesting the apex court to review its orders passed on Oct 26 and Nov 27. The court might take up the matter at its Karachi registry next week, AG Salman Talubuddin told Dawn.

Take a look: ,The ‘clean-up’ of Empress Market doesn’t have to be this way,

The application said that the court on Oct 26 directed top officers of the Cantonment Board Karachi (CBK) and the KDA along with the commissioner of Karachi and the inspector general of Sindh police to conduct a joint exercise to remove encroachments, particularly those on footpaths outside Empress Market and its surrounding areas, adding that pursuant to the Oct 26-27 order, this exercise was to serve as a model for the purpose of curbing general menace of encroachments in Karachi.

By the subsequent order dated Nov 27, it was said, the apex court directed the deputy commissioners of Karachi’s East and South districts, the magistrate concerned as well as the cantonment board and the Rangers to assist the city mayor in his efforts to clear encroachments from inside and outside the Empress Market and its surrounding areas, including Saddar and public footpaths.

This order further directed that encroachments in and around public parks must also be removed while the apex court also made it clear that no law and order situation be created while removing encroachments, stated the application.

It was further submitted that the demolition and removal of encroachments that began after the issuance of the SC orders had not been confined to Empress Market and its surrounding areas; rather it this was being conducted in a very expensive manner across the city; and much outside the confines of the court orders.

“This state of affairs has created a sense of dismay amongst the residents of Karachi who, as a result of the demolition, are being deprived of their sources of livelihood and, in some areas, of their dwelling spaces,” the application said, adding that while there had been a number of violent protests, the most significant protest took place in Mehran Town (under the KDA’s control) last week which resulted in destruction of public property by the protesters, arson and injuries to at least three officials of the KDA.

In addition to the very grave social and humanitarian issues that arose on daily basis as a result of the indiscriminate demolition, the likelihood of more incidents like that in Mehran Town was increasing, the Sindh government argued. Additionally, the properties of a significant number of persons, who claimed to be in possession of valid title documents, had also been demolished, which had caused unrest among the people, it added.

The Sindh government maintained that while it was committed to resolving the issue of encroachment, the SC’s indulgence was sought for carrying out the same in a systematic and sustainable manner so that any untoward law and order situation might be avoided.

Keeping in view the pressing issues arising as a result of the indiscriminate demolition, the Sindh government said that it had decided to reactivate the Lines Area Rehabilitation Project to rehabilitate the effected shopkeepers of Empress Market and its surrounding areas, adding that it was also exploring further avenues for rehabilitation of the affected persons.

However, it said, the speed at which these proposals could be made effective could not keep the pace with the speed at which demolition was taking place on daily basis.

Therefore, it pleaded the apex court to review/revisit its Oct 26 and Nov 27 orders and direct the forthwith cessation of the ongoing demolition exercise until such time, as the Sindh government and all other entities concerned prepare a workable solution to address the above-mentioned issues and place the same before the SC for its consideration.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2018

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SC directs NAB to open investigation against Dr Mubarakmand over Thar coal project

The Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) to take action against nuclear scientist Dr Samar Mubarakmand and others responsible for losses caused to the national exchequer in Thar coal gasification project.

A three-member bench of the SC, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar, referred the project to the corruption watchdog, with instructions to investigate the individuals in light of the final audit report of the project, which was presented by the Auditor General of Pakistan in court today.

The SC on ,October 18, had ordered a forensic audit of the Thar coal project, directing the NAB to probe the matter and submit a report within 15 days.

The apex court had also sought a response from the Sindh government on the implementation of a report’s recommendations to avert environmental threats from the project.

The court today deemed that the Thar coal project was not “implementable” and had caused a heavy financial loss to the country.

The top judge remarked that Dr Mubarakmand had claimed “Pakistan would get free electricity” but “over Rs4 billion had been wasted” instead.

“Samar Mubarakmand is responsible,” Justice Nisar said. “He had made big claims but now he will have 20 excuses. Who will be held accountable for the billions of rupees that were spent?.

Dr Mubarakmand, in his defence, said that “Rs1bn was spent on feasibility”, adding that the project was approved after the government had “seen for itself that my project was operating”.

The Deputy Attorney General, meanwhile, told the court that until now Rs4.69bn have been spent on the Thar coal project but electricity was yet to be generated.

“It was the Sindh government’s responsibility to run this project,” the DAG reminded the SC bench.

The court instructed the federal government to furnish its report on the project within six weeks before adjourning the case till an unspecified date.

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Rs82bn plan launched to reduce rural poverty

ISLAMABAD: The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) on Wednesday unveiled Rs82 billion plan for the agriculture sector, with the aim of enhanced crop yield, improved water efficiency, livestock and fisheries development, and creation of agro-markets with the overall objective of uplifting small farmers and reducing rural poverty.

The transformative plan – based on recommendations made to Prime Minister Imran Khan by MNFSR Task Force – follows the ‘100 Days Agenda’ and is part of the Rs200 billion package for the agriculture sector by the federal and provincial governments.

In a press conference, Minister for National Food Security and Research Sahibzada Mehbub Sultan briefed about the comprehensive plan which will be implemented within two to three years.

Listing targets, the minister said that all goals are achievable and every effort will be made by the ministry in this regard.

In the area of crop yield, the minister said that an investment of Rs4 billion will be made through promoting mechanisation. Fifty per cent subsidy will be given to small farmers on the purchase of crops specific machinery; development of high-yielding varieties, and improved provision of certified seeds.

International experts will be engaged to set up new facilities and upgrade existing modern research institute while extension services at all level, agronomy, plant protection, marketing and crop processing methods will be reorganised in order to gain better production with less input.

The minister directed the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) to produce better seeds for the farmers. In this regard, the prime minister has sanctioned Rs4bn for the PARC.

For the development of fisheries sector, the plan envisages promoting shrimp farming, cage fish culture and trout farming in northern areas. Costing Rs8.6bn, the project will be extended to coastal areas, he said. A cage farming project is already working at the Head Panjnad, he said.

Water efficiency will be improved under the Rs68.60bn National Programme for Improvement of Watercourses in Pakistan Phase-II. The project is aimed at water course lining, enhancing command area of small and mini dams in barani areas and water conservation in barani areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As a result, 9 million acre feet (MAF) of water will be saved and made available for irrigation.

The ministry says about 47MAF of water is lost in conveyance in canals, distributaries and watercourses.

The minister announced that laser levelling will be provided to small farmers on subsidised prices. The government will arrange 12,000 new lasers over the next two to three years. In Sindh, there are 18,000 lasers while in Punjab the total number of lasers is 12,000, he said.

The prime minister has approved the Livestock Initiative Project for small and medium farmers. Under this, the Buffalo Calf Fattening Programme, Backyard Poultry Programme, and Small and Medium Dairy Farms will be promoted.

A mega Foot-And-Mouth Disease Project will be launched with the help of UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) at a cost of Rs763 million.

“UAE and China are major markets for Pakistan’s cattle but to explore exports. The project will help ensure that animals in affected areas are disease free within one year. Rahim Yar Khan, Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur would soon be declared disease free zones,” the minister said.

The Backyard Poultry Programme will be launched in 36 districts of the country. It aims to reduce stunting and improve nutrition value as well as reduce poverty at local level. In Punjab a similar programme is already underway.

The government will develop six markets in collaboration with the private sector to facilitate consumers in purchasing agricultural produce. A state-of-the-art market is being developed in Lahore that will be replicated in other five locations, he said.

Responding to a question about the current sugarcane crisis, the minister said the issue will be resolved in a couple of days.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018

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95pc Forms-45 not signed by polling agents, reveals Fafen audit

ISLAMABAD: The first-ever comprehensive audit of Form-45 has revealed that 95 per cent of the total 78,467 such forms tabulating results of the count prepared for the elections in 249 constituencies of the National Assembly had not been signed by the polling agents of political parties and candidates.

The audit carried out by the Free and Fair Election Network (Fafen) — a group of non-governmental organisations working to reform electoral processes — also discloses that in as many as 48 NA constituencies, not even a single form had been signed by the polling agents. The number could be higher when data of the remaining 23 constituencies will be available. The elections were held in 270 of the 272 NA constituencies while the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) uploaded the data of 249 constituencies on its official website.

According to Fafen, the proportion of un-signed Forms-45 was as high as 98pc in Balochistan where only 49 of the 2,437 such forms had been signed by the polling agents. It stood at 97pc in Sindh where merely 573 of the 17,493 forms bore signatures of the polling agents. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 634 of the 13,790 forms had been signed which means 95pc of them had not been signed. The proportion of un-signed forms was 94pc in Punjab where 2,705 of the 43,971 forms had been signed. The situation was comparatively better in the federal capital where 195 (25pc) of the 786 forms had been signed.

ECP rejects Fafen claim and says it will shortly release its own ‘authentic data’

Overall, 4,156 out of the 78,467 forms had been signed by the polling agents.

Under Section 90 (12) of the Elections Act, 2017, the presiding officer at each polling station is duty-bound to obtain on Form-45 and Form-46 the signatures of polling agents who are present at the time of finalisation of election results at the polling station. In case of refusal by any polling agent to sign the form, the Presiding Officers are duty-bound to record a note on the respective forms.

Although a legal requirement, neither Form-45 nor Form-46 has any specific section for the signing of polling agents. Notwithstanding the operational weaknesses of the legal requirement, which was also part of the previous Represen­tation of Peoples Act, 1976 (Section 38, Subsection 13), Fafen documented the scale of enforcement of the provision.

The network says that the consistent weak enforcement of this provision points to the need for parliamentary action for legislative amendment to ensure that this procedure is implemented in letter and spirit to bolster political parties and public confidence in election results.

When contacted, senior Fafen representative Mudassir Rizvi said that implementation of Section 90 (12) of the Elections Act was nearly impossible for the simple reason that this legal provision was subject to the presence of polling agents at the time of finalisation of Form-45 at a polling station.

“In case a political party contends that its polling agent was not asked by the presiding officer of a certain polling station to sign Form-45, it will have to prove the charge in an election tribunal by providing adequate evidence admissible under Pakistan’s law of evidence. In case of general election 2018, political parties will have to individually prove more than 70,000 such instances in election tribunals, which is impossible. This is because the law itself is weak,” he remarked.

ECP reaction

A senior ECP official, when contacted, rejected Fafen’s claim that 95pc Forms-45 did not bear signatures of the polling agents and said the commission would shortly release its own “authentic data”. He said Fafen’s data was based merely on the first page of Form-45 whereas more than one form had been used at various polling stations.

He said a second form had to be used where the number of candidates was more than eight and another form if the number exceeded 16. Moreover, in many cases polling agents had affixed signatures on back of the forms which had not been uploaded on the ECP website, he added.

The official said that another problem was that candidates had engaged inexperienced polling agents who were in many cases ‘hired’ for their daylong services. However, he agreed that the legal provision required a suitable amendment.

‘PPP stand vindicated’

In charge of the PPP election cell and former senator Taj Haider said the Fafen data fully vindicated the stand of the Pakistan Peoples Party of throwing out by force of polling agents at the time of vote count and not getting Form-45 signed by polling agents in blatant and gross violation of Section 90(12) of the Elections Act.

He pointed out that in a data covering 78,000 Forms-45 only 66 had been signed by the PPP polling agents. “The ECP propaganda that the polling agents of losing parties had left the polling station on their own is falsified by the fact that only 112 Forms-45 bear the signatures of PTI polling agents and only 78 those of PML-N polling agents,” he said.

Curiously enough, he added, there were 4,028 signed forms on which no political party had been mentioned. “One wonders if these signatures are genuine, or have been put there by some ‘duty conscious’ polling staff in order to increase the number of signed Forms-45,” he remarked.

Published in Dawn, December 6th, 2018

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Sindh High Court orders private schools to reimburse any increase in fees since September 20, 2017

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday ordered private schools to restore the fee structure in place on September 20, 2017 and reimburse any fees they may have charged from parents in excess of it.

Non compliance with the order will lead to contempt of court proceedings, the court warned. It also ordered private schools to cease and desist from the practice of collecting of three months’ worth of fees in one go.

The court also ordered private schools’ management to submit any financial details they had previously submitted to the Registrar of the Supreme Court.

A three-member bench of the SHC headed by Justice Aqeel Ahmed Abbasi, which has been hearing a case regarding more than five per cent increases in tuition fees by private schools and institutions, said that private schools have till the next hearing to abide by its orders.

During today’s hearing, Justice Abbasi had asked private schools if they had charged a higher fees than the amount they were charging on Sep 20, 2017, adding that if they had it was to their benefit to adjust it.

He reminded the private schools’ lawyer that the matter had been ongoing since 2005, and the court could have, but did not enforce a much older fee structure as it could have put the schools in financial difficulty.

The court subsequently ordered owners of private schools to issue fee challans or adjustment challans on the basis of the 2017 fees structure.

The court observed that since the schools had been charging much higher fees already, the parents may not be required to pay more money for the coming two or three months.

The next hearing of the case has been fixed for December 17.

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‘Why not sell Shaheen Air’s assets to recover unpaid amount?’ CJP asks

Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar on Monday remarked that Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Shaheen Air International (SAI) officials are “colluding to make a mess of things” as the Supreme Court resumed hearing a case regarding the airlines’ payment of dues to the CAA.

Justice Nisar was heading a three-judge bench hearing the case pertaining to a long-drawn dispute between both organisations regarding the airline’s non-payment of Rs1.5 billion to the aviation authority.

The CAA had ,partially suspended Shaheen’s international flight operations, in July 2018 due to the non-payment of its dues ? despite the Sindh High Court’s orders to this effect ? leaving ,passengers stranded in China,.

SAI had moved the high court against the CAA directive and the court ordered that the authority should not suspend the airline’s operations if it made the payments as per an agreed timetable.

The top judge asked CAA Director General Hassan Baig how much was payable to the aviation body by SAI, to which the CAA DG responded that Shaheen Air has yet to pay Rs1.34bn.

“Recovering dues is your job,” Justice Nisar remarked, adding: “It seems as though you have colluded to make a mess of things.”

“Where is the Shaheen Air chief executive officer?” the CJP asked. Baig responded that the CEO is out of the country, to which the chief justice remarked: “You drove him out of the country. You all are involved in this together.”

The chief justice asked how employees who had not received their salaries were getting by, and also wanted to know what assets SAI owns.

“Why not sell all of Shaheen Air’s property to recover the amount?” the CJP asked, summoning the airline’s CEO.

He asked for the SAI CEO to be present in court today or tomorrow ? at the latest ? and ordered a break in the hearing.

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Investigators claim ‘breakthrough’ in probe into attack on Chinese consulate

KARACHI: Investigators have achieved a “breakthrough” in their probe into the attack on the Chinese consulate as it has emerged that one of the killed militants had stayed in Karachi and carried out a prolonged reconnaissance while more than a dozen suspects and their abettors have been detained for interrogation, it emerged on Saturday.

Three heavily armed militants were shot dead in a shoot-out with police and Rangers during a gun-and-grenade attack on the Chinese consulate. Two police officials and two visa applicants, a father and son, were also killed in the Nov 23 assault.

The banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) claimed credit for the attack.

Consulate’s reconnaissance

Sources familiar with the proceedings of the investigation told Dawn on Saturday that it emerged during the probe that one of the killed militants, Abdul Raziq, resident of Kharan, with his accomplice Abdul Latif, hailing from Khuzdar in Balochistan, had visited Karachi on Aug 6 also. They both stayed at hotels in Lyari and Saddar and conducted reconnaissance of the consulate.

More than 15 suspects and abettors detained for questioning

With the help of technology, it has also been discovered that the killed militants had also stayed in Sindh’s two cities, Shahdadpur and Sukkur, before going back to Quetta. They returned to Karachi via Hub, Balochistan, on the night of Nov 23 and stayed for a while in the Shershah area of Karachi before launching the gun-and-grenade attack.

Sources told Dawn that a system launched by the Sindh police with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority a few days before the attack on the foreign mission was providing much help to the investigators.

Biometric authentication

The Sindh police on Nov 17 formally launched the biometric verification services at the Central Police Office in Karachi, which would help access record of criminals and identify unclaimed bodies with Nadra’s help.

The police now have access to data of at least one million criminals across the country, said the sources. A software has been provided to all hotels in the city and with the writing of a name and the computerised identity card number in a register the data will be transferred to the police’s control room “within 30 seconds”.

The sources said that this software helped the investigators ascertain that the killed militant Raziq and his accomplice Latif had stayed at two hotels in the city. It appeared that Raziq was commanding the attack on the consulate.

They said the technology was helping the investigators in intensifying the search for the suspects and their abetters.

At least 15 suspects and their accomplices have been detained for questioning, added the sources.

They revealed that the investigators had learned that the BLA separatists had been planning a deadly attack on the Chinese consulate for the last eight to 10 months.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2018

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TLP chief, aides to be tried for sedition, terrorism

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to try the detained leadership of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) in special anti-terrorism courts on charges of sedition and terrorism for delivering anti-state speeches and inciting violence during their three-day protests against Christian woman Aasia Bibi’s acquittal in a blasphemy case.

Speaking at a news conference on Saturday, Federal Minister for Information Fawad Chaudhry said cases had already been registered in various police stations of Punjab against four TLP leaders, including its chief Khadim Hussain Rizvi, and they would soon be produced in court after their formal arrests. He said the government had also decided that the TLP activists, who had damaged public and private properties on motorways, highways and in different parts of the country, would be tried on terrorism charges.

At present 2,899 TLP men were under protective custody in Punjab, 139 in Sindh and 126 in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, the minister said. According to him, TLP office-bearers Khadim Rizvi and Pir Afzal Qadri have been booked under treason and terror charges at police stations in Lahore and Gujrat, respectively, while Inayatul Haq Shah and Hafiz Farooqul Hassan have been booked under similar charges in Rawalpindi.

Minister says over 3,000 under protective custody for past one week

Mr Chaudhry said the TLP activists during their protests damaged state and private properties, including vehicles, causing a Rs50 million loss. He regretted that the TLP workers during their protests targeted women and children and used abusive language against state institutions. He said even religious scholars and Ulema in a recent conference had denounced such protests in the name of Namoos-i-Risalat.

He said the state could not be run by allowing some individuals or groups to damage public property or hurling threats at parliamentarians, judges and army generals.

Mr Chaudhry said the TLP people would be tried under Section 124 of the Pakistan Penal Code and they could face “life imprisonment”. He said the people who were present at the scene of violence but did not participate in any crime would be released after seeking ‘heavy assurances’ that in future they should not be found near the people involved in such activities.

Referring to the recent crackdown against the TLP, he said all institutions and intelligence agencies had participated in the operation. He declared that the state would not remain silent on a protest that violated the rights of people and was beyond the ambit of the Constitution and law.

Mr Chaudhry thanked the opposition parties and the media for their support to the state during the crackdown. He said the government had also consulted the opposition parties over its decision to try the TLP leaders on sedition and terrorism charges. He said they had bitterness with the opposition on a number of issues, but they were together if an issue was related to the state.

He evaded repeated questions about the present status of the agreement that the government had signed with the TLP leaders last month in order to persuade them to end their protest. “It was written in the agreement that no one would challenge the Constitution and take law into their own hands. But they [TLP activists] did not implement it. It takes two to tango,” he replied.

Asked if the government could impose a ban on the TLP, the minister said the matter was before the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Supreme Court, therefore, he could not make any comment. However, he added the government would certainly implement court decisions in letter and spirit.

The TLP activists have been under detention since Nov 23 when their leadership gave a fresh call for observing a ‘martyrs day’ on Nov 25 with the direction to gather at Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh for their onward march to Faizabad — the same venue where the group had staged a sit-in that had virtually paralysed Islamabad for three weeks last year.

The information minister had hinted at taking action against those involved in inciting violence and making seditious speeches during his recent visit to Karachi. He made it clear that the state would not ignore and forgive the acts of damaging the properties and delivering speeches against the government, the judiciary and the army. “The impression that this government is weak will be removed as we take further action,” he said in an apparent reference to the ongoing criticism of the government for entering into a deal with the TLP for ending the last month protests.

“The acts of damaging people’s properties and insulting the country’s political, military and judicial leaderships are unpardonable,” the minister had said, adding: “This is not a religious matter, it is related to rebellion. Should the state ignore mutiny? The credibility of a state that ignores rebellion becomes questionable. Therefore, we cannot turn a blind eye to it.”

The state would not forget and forgive the kind of speeches made against judges of the apex court, the army and the government, he asserted, clarifying that they had resolved the issue temporarily ‘under a strategy’ in order to defuse tension and open the blocked roads in towns and cities.

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2018

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‘State capacity biggest hurdle to foreign investment’

KARACHI: The PTI government has placed a great deal of emphasis on attracting foreign investment into Pakistan, and has taken trips to Saudi Arabia, Malyasia, the UAE and China in an effort to spur investor interest.

“We have found tremendous interest in Pakistan in all these countries,” says Haroon Sharif, chairman of the Board of Investment (BoI) who has the job of coordinating between the investors and the government. “The biggest hurdle for us is surely the weak capacity of the state to deal with private sector investors and find a way to deliver on their needs.”

He tells Dawn that the state lacks the experience to structure transactions, and it is primarily for this reason that international commitments made by the government come under frequent suspicion locally.

The lead route to get investments into the country is through construction of the Special Economic Zones (SEZs), he says, though other government-to-government deals are also in the works.

“We are welcoming investments from multiple countries for these zones,” he tells Dawn, adding that pace of work needs to be expedited. “They are being developed by the provinces,” he says, adding “and BoI is keen to get them up and running as soon as possible. The major hurdle is uninterrupted supply of utilities, mainly power but also gas and water.”

There is currently not enough power in the country to cater to large investments envisioned for these zones, he says, and adds that the possibility of using captive power for the zones is something that he is proposing. This puts the federal government in a bit of a chicken and the egg problem. Captive power becomes feasible if there are plants ready for offtake, but investors will be reluctant to set up plants if a clear supply of reliable power is not available. “We can explore some options like starting construction on captive power at the same time as the plants begin coming up,” he says.

Out of the four SEZs being built under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor umbrella, he says the one in Faisalabad is nearly complete, while that in Rashakai, KP, is in the final stage of getting approval for go-ahead. “Within one year they should be in a position to offer plots of land for investors,” Haroon says. Thus far, they have received 952 applications from various parties, but it is not clear how many of them are looking to set up a plant in the zone and how many are just real estate investors.

“Eventually the zone will have to become a one-stop shop to be successful,” he says, where banks should be available as well as labour and all other requirements for investment. That will take time.

Beyond Faisalabad and Rashakai, he says Dhabeji in Sindh is also moving along, albeit slowly. “They are now starting their bidding to find a developer,” the chairman tells Dawn. Provincial governments lack the resources to build these zones, he says, and they are looking for partners who will be interested in a Build Operate Transfer (BOT) arrangement on it. “The concern in that is that if Chinese partners go for BOT, then they might close the zones to Chinese companies only.”

Gwadar, however, will take time, he says. “The government of Balochistan is still working on it. Our biggest interest is in Gwadar is in the refinery.” That project had its beginnings in the trip to Saudi Arabia taken by Prime Minister Imran Khan, though it is far too early at this stage. “At the moment it is early days, I am still trying to finalise the memorandum of understanding, even the feasibility has not begun yet.”

One question mark hanging over the refinery project is what the Saudis intend to do with the refined oil output. The location is far from areas where traffic is heavy, so the output will need to be transported a great distance to reach the market. “That is up to them to figure out, whether to use a pipeline to Karachi, but certainly tankers will cost a great deal for this purpose,” says Sharif.

“I’m sure the Saudis are looking at this as an investment proposition, but there is a strategic interest as well,” he adds. The Kingdom is trying to diversify its investments, for example it putting up a $44 billion refinery in India.

“I need to build capacity of state institutions to absorb foreign investments. When investors show interest, the state needs to put technical expertise on the table. Request for proposals have to be drawn up, roadshows put up, financial modelling has to be done. Since the state has been doing investment on its own for so long, it has no capacity to deal with private sector partners as such.”

Foreign investors have shown solid interest to come to Pakistan, he says. “Now it is up to the government how we facilitate them, and how we close the transactions.” He says he has ten proposals from Malaysia alone, “very serious companies that want to come to Pakistan, from education and halal meat to agri business and IT. Can we offer the deal to them? Can we close the deal?”

Published in Dawn, December 2nd, 2018

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