Posts Tagged ‘sindh’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

De-politicisation of bureaucracy

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

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

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

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

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

Three points for new LG system

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

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

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

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

Audit reports of metro bus projects received

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

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

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

‘Modi caught in scandals’

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

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

Published in Dawn, September 24th, 2018

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Sattar, MQM-P leaders allege rigging, challenge election results in SHC

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Farooq Sattar and five other party members filed petitions in the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Saturday, alleging that their defeat in the recent general elections was a result of rigging.

Amir Moeen Pirzada from NA-241, Waqar Shah from PS-97, Masood Mehmood from PS-98, Asif Ali Khan from PS-126 and Jamal Ahmed from PS-130 also filed petitions, urging the high court to order recounting in their constituencies as they suspected rigging.

Sattar, who had lost from Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Aamir Hussain Liaquat from NA-245, cast doubts on the election results saying that MQM-P members who contested elections were not given Form-45. While talking to the media, he claimed that MQM-P members were “forcefully declared as losers” and that the elections were “engineered”.

Take a look: ,NA-245 — a new constituency where Farooq Sattar is pitted against Aamir Liaquat,

He also asked why the “presiding officers drove our polling agents out [of the rooms] during the counting process”.

“Imran Khan had promised to reopen as many constituencies as we ask,” Sattar said and added that he had evidence of rigging in his constituency. He then demanded the video footage of the counting between 7pm-1am.

“They [presiding officers] turned some people’s victories into losses and others losses into victories,” he said.

Pirzada, in his petition, alleged that ballot papers from his constituency were burned and dumped in a trash heap. He further said that he, along with other petitioners from the MQM-P, lodged a complaint with the Election Commission of Pakistan, but the body “remained silent even after such a huge incident”.

Though Sattar highlighted the reservations of MQM-P members who lost the elections, he distanced himself from the other party members at the SHC. He filed his petition separately and did not talk to the other MQM-P leaders who were in the high court building at the time.

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Accountability court issues arrest warrants for MQM’s Babar Ghauri in KPT corruption case

An accountability court on Saturday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Muttahida Qaumi Move­ment-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Babar Ghauri in a reference pertaining to Rs2.8 billion corruption in the Karachi Port Trust (KPT).

NAB has alleged in the reference — filed on the Sindh High Court’s orders — that eight men, including Ghouri, in connivance with each other had illegally regularised 940 employees of KPT, causing Rs2.8bn loss to the national exchequer.

The court on Saturday issued non-bailable arrest warrants for Ghauri and deferred hearing the reference until October 17.

NAB had first taken this case to the SHC which had directed that a ,reference on the matter be filed in the accountability court by August 8,.

Earlier, the SHC had ,directed NAB to arrest Ghauri as part of the investigation,.

“What had the NAB done to arrest Ghauri and others? If some accused persons are still absconding, they should be arrested,” a member of the SHC bench had remarked at the time.

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IG Imam orders preparation of proposals for Sindh Police reforms

Inspector General of Police Sindh Dr Syed Kaleem Imam on Thursday established a committee to prepare draft proposals for the reformation of the Sindh police system along the lines of the Police Act of 2002.

This decision was taken in a high level meeting chaired by the provincial police chief and attended by senior officials at the Central Police Office.

“The meeting decided to set up a body to prepare a draft for the police system based on the Police Act 2002,” said a brief statement issued after the meeting.

IG Imam also directed police officers to prepare recommendations to introduce an “alternate dispute resolution mechanism in the Sindh police on the pattern of Khyber Pakhunkhwa police and Islamabad police.”

Administrative affairs of the Central Police Office (CPO) and other departmental matters also came under deliberation, and the IG issued necessary directions in these matters, the police spokesperson said.

The IG also issued directions to ensure the installation of a biometric entry system at the CPO within the next 10 days.

It was also decided in the meeting that suggestions would be sought from the Sindh government to increase driving license fee and ticket challans.

In his ,first address to the nation,, Prime Minister Imran Khan had mentioned a desire to introduce police reforms in other provinces modelled around the Khyber Pakhtunkhawa police model.

“We need to fix our police,” Khan had said in his maiden speech. “The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police is our biggest success. We won the election because of how good our police had become.”

“We do not have the power to do so in Sindh, but we will work with the Sindh government as well to do what we can,” PM Khan had mentioned in his address.

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Mobile services suspended in parts of Karachi ahead of Ashura

Residents of Karachi are experiencing partial suspension of cellular services on Wednesday, the 8th of Muharram, ahead of Ashura.

The cellular services have been suspended in areas through which mourning processions will pass during the day.

Citizens took to social media to post that they stopped receiving mobile signals starting in the morning.

Some were taken by surprise by the blockage of signals in their area.

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Sindh Home Secretary Kazi Kabeer told Dawn that mobile phone services will remain suspended between 7am and 12 midnight on 8th, 9th and 10th Muharram in various cities of Sindh including Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Khairpur, Larkana, Shikarpur and Jacobabad.

In Karachi, the cellular service will be blocked only in areas near procession routes for the convenience of the public, he said.

Mobile services are suspended every year during Ashura as part of the security measures.

According to a letter sent by the Sindh government’s Home Department to the interior ministry and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), dated August 30, the provincial authorities had requested the federal government to place a ban on mobile services/internet in major cities of Sindh on the 8th, 9th and 10th of Muharram.

The request was made in view of “apprehensions of coordination of criminal activity by miscreants/criminals through the use of cellular phones/internet during Muharram related majlis (religious gathering) and processions”.

The mobile companies could be asked to restore cellular services in case of an emergency, the letter read.

Several key roads in Karachi and other cities of Sindh will remain closed for mourning processions, and traffic from blocked roads will be diverted to alternative routes that were ,notified by the Karachi traffic police, on Tuesday.

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On Muharram 8, a procession will be taken out at 1:30pm from Nishtar Park, and will end at Hussainian Iranian Imambargah.

The federal government has declared 9th and 10th Muharram as public holidays.

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

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

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


Highlights

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

Dire straits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The external situation is worse.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relief measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Revenue measures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Development budget

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

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

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

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

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

‘A lot of potential in this nation’

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-adjustment speculation

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

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

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

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

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CJP takes notice of 10-year-old girl’s death in Karachi police ‘encounter’

Chief Justice Saqib Nisar on Tuesday took notice of the ,death of 10-year-old girl Amal Umer,, who had reportedly been shot by policemen during an alleged encounter in Karachi last month.

The CJP’s notice comes days after Amal’s mother Beenish Umer’s account of the incident ,appeared in Dawn,. The suo motu notice concerns the “irresponsible firing” by the police as well as the “failure of [a] well-known medical hospital to provide emergency medical aid as required by the law”.

Take a look: ,How the system failed us,

The court issued notices to the Sindh Attorney General, provincial secretary health, former IGP Amjid Jawaid Saleemi and the administrator of National Medical Centre (NMC). The case will be heard on Sept 25, read a notification issued from the office of SC’s registrar.

Amal was shot during an alleged crossfire between police and robbers that occurred in Karachi’s Defence area last month. Later, Deputy Inspector General (DIG) South Javed Alam Odho admitted that the bullet that killed Amal was fired by a policeman.

After she was shot, Amal’s parents, who were in the car with her, took her to NMC where she passed away after being denied medical treatment. According to Beenish, the hospital told the injured girl’s parents to take her to Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre or Aga Khan Hospital. NMC also refused to arrange an ambulance for Amal, who had suffered a head wound.

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Sharjeel Memon named as suspect in liquor case challan

Incarcerated PPP leader Sharjeel Memon on Tuesday was listed as one of the accused in a challan submitted to the judicial magistrate by the investigation officer (IO) in a ,liquor case against the politician,.

The report said that one of the bottles recovered from Memon’s room in Dr Ziauddin Hospital, Clifton contained “two inches of alcohol”.

According to the challan, on Sept 1 suspicions arose that illegal activities were taking place in the room where Memon was admitted. The IO said that Shakar Din, one of the accused, had admitted that he had dumped a liquor bottle in the dustbin.

Muhammad Jam, Mushtaq Ali and Din also confessed to replacing the bottles when the ‘raid’ took place. All three of them were arrested earlier for allegedly being connected with the presence of liquor at the hospital.

The challan also names Assistant Superintendent Jail Naseem Ahmed Shajra and other police officials as suspects in the case.

Memon is currently being held in Karachi’s Central Jail. The challan says that Memon is in police custody while Din, Ali and Jam are on bail. Other suspects are on the run, according to the challan.

Earlier this month, Chief Justice Saqib Nisar had conducted a ‘raid’ on a room of Dr Ziauddin Hospital in Clifton, which was declared a sub-jail by provincial authorities, where Memon was staying, and reportedly found “liquor” there.

Soon after the bottles were confiscated, the PPP leadership had insisted that the bottles did not contain alcohol but honey and olive oil.

The chemical report signed by Director of Laboratories and Chemical Examiner to the Government of Sindh Dr Zahid Hasan Ansari confirmed that one bottle contained honey while the other contained olive oil.

Meanwhile, it appeared that Memon’s blood also did not contain any traces of alcohol, DawnNewsTV said while quoting the test report.

Probe team looking for ‘foul play’

A special team formed by Karachi AIG Dr Amir Ahmed Shaikh and led by DIG South Javed Alam Odho is conducting an investigation into the liquor case against Sharjeel Memon.

An official privy to the matter said that if any foul play or manipulation is detected, the investigation team may take new blood samples from Sharjeel and send them for third-party verification.

The source also said that the whole episode occurred inside the sub-jail and the jail authorities are responsible for whatever happened within their premises.

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Asad Umar presents amendments to budget for ongoing fiscal year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Development sector

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

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

‘A lot of potential in this nation’

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

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

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

On the grapevine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The new prices will take effect from October.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The court subsequently summoned Buzdar to court.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pakpattan incident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The court summoned Buzdar to court.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pakpattan incident

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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PPP warns of strong ‘resistance’ if Kalabagh dam project is revived

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has warned of strong “resistance” if the controversial Kalabagh dam project is revived, terming such a move an “utter disrespect” to parliament and the people of the country.

PPP Senator Sassui Palijo said in a statement here on Sunday that the provincial assemblies of three provinces had rejected Kalabagh dam and “whoever will support this rejected dam will face strong resistance”.

Take a look: ,CJP hints at charging dam opponents with treason,

The statement was issued by the party apparently in reaction to the remarks of Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar at a ceremony in Lahore on Saturday in which he had said that only Kalabagh dam “guaranteed the survival and security of Pakistan”.

The CJP stated that they had not stopped pursuing the matter of Kalabagh dam’s construction.

“If the nation agrees then we will also build Kalabagh dam after the construction of Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand dams,” the CJP had reportedly said at the ceremony.

However, the PPP senator said that talking about Kalabagh dam amounted “to rubbing salt on the wounds of the people of Sindh”.

Ms Palijo said the people of Sindh were faced with acute shortage of water and only 30 per cent of land could be cultivated this year. She said that because of lack of water downstream Kotri barrage, thousands of land in Thatta and Badin had been eaten by the sea water.

It may be recalled that Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had even expressed his reservations over the proposed construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam.

Talking to media in Karachi last week, the Sindh chief minister had stated that he was not against the construction of Bhasha dam but had “some reservations” over its “location and availability of water in the system” in such a quantity that the dam could be filled.

In reply to a question about the Bhasha dam, he had said it (the dam site) lay in the seismic area and the quantity of water required to fill the dam was not available in the (Indus) system.

Mr Shah had said that the Bhasha dam project was originally initiated by the PPP government, but objections were raised on its technical issues. Therefore, he insisted, “the Centre needs to take the federating units on board” over such controversial projects.

The chief minister said that his government and party’s policy on construction of dams was very clear as the Sindh government was constructing 34 small dams and work on them had almost been completed while work on 16 other (small) dams was to begin soon.

In May, the then opposition leader in the National Assembly, Syed Khursheed Shah, had even warned that the people of Sindh might have to close the province’s border and cut it from the rest of the country if it would continue to be denied its due water share. Mr Shah is also opposed to the idea of building dams through donations.

Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2018

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PM Khan expresses concern over surge in Karachi street crime

Prime Minister Imran Khan in his maiden visit to Karachi expressed concern over the reported surge in street crime in the metropolis and called for coordinated efforts to purge the city of criminal activities during a high-level meeting on law and order at State Guest House on Sunday.

The PM, who is on a one-day visit to the city, also attended a fundraiser and chaired a meeting held to review progress on federal government-funded projects in the city.

Sindh Chief Secretary Azam Suleman Khan gave a detailed briefing on the law and order situation in the province in general and Karachi in particular, which followed a presentation by the Director General (DG) Rangers Maj Gen Muhammad Saeed on the Karachi operation.

PM Khan meets President Arif Alvi at State Guest House. ? DawnNewsTV

PM Khan meets President Arif Alvi at State Guest House. ? DawnNewsTV

During the meeting ? which was attended by Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Karachi Corps Commander Lt Gen Shahid Baig Mirza, DG Rangers, chief secretary and Sindh Inspector General Police Kaleem Imam, as well as other concerned civil officials ? the PM took strong exception to the cases of abduction of children in the city. He sought coordinated action against abductors, the urgent recovery of children and the provision of relief to parents.

The prime minister appreciated measures being taken for cleanliness in the metropolis. He directed that the efforts be expedited in order to provide relief to the people.

PM Khan was also briefed on Karachi’s water crisis in a meeting where Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar and city commissioner Saleh Farooqi were also among the attendees.

In the meeting, the PM was informed of the K-4 water supply project’s progress, and also told that Karachi’s daily water need now stands at 918 million gallons.

Later in the day, the premier headlined a fundraiser dinner for the Diamer Bhasha dam at Governor House, where he delivered a speech and defended the dam-building drive.

“In 1947, Pakistan had per-capita water of 5,600 cubic metres but today only 1,000 cubic metres are left,” he said. “If we continue like this then by 2025 there will be a massive shortage of water. It will affect our food security and our agricultural production will go down.

“Those who say that dams should not be built, I would like to quote them some statistics. China, the country that is progressing at the fastest pace in the world, has 84,000 dams, including 5,000 big dams. India, too, has 5,000 dams and they are still building more. And we only have two major dams.”

The PM said that the country is heavily in debt, adding that new “dams cannot be financed through budget either”, which is why “we have decided to do fundraising”.

“I am the biggest fundraiser of Pakistan’s history,” he said. “I have been raising funds for 30 years. The target that we have to reach every year is Rs30 billion. God willing, we will raise more than that because I can see that Pakistanis have been mobilised, both in and out of the country.”

The PM said that in addition to the Diamer Bhasha dam, the govt is also looking about to start work on Mohmand Dam which, he said, is “very feasible”.

“We will work on both the dams simultaneously,” he said.

Sindh CM expresses concerns over transfers

Meanwhile, CM Shah discussed Sindh’s problems with the prime minister, and expressed his reservations against the transfer of high-level officials.

“Without being informed in advance, the transfer of officials out of Sindh is not the right way,” the provincial chief minister said.

CM Shah also expressed his concerns regarding the deductions in Sindh’s financial resources, telling the PM: “Sindh is already facing financial problems. If the funds are stopped at federal level, Sindh will face further losses.”

The CM claimed that “a desalination plant is is the sole solution to Karachi’s water crisis” and urged “the federal government to help them in this regard”.

Sindh governor, CM receive PM

The premier, who arrived in Karachi earlier today, was greeted at the airport by Governor Imran Ismail and CM Shah at the airport.

PM Khan pays his respects at Quaid’s mausoleum.

From there, he went straight to the Quaid’s mausoleum, where he laid a floral wreath and offered fateha. He also signed the guestbook at the mausoleum.

The PM met President Arif Alvi at State Guest House along with other officials. Accompanied by the Sindh governor and chief minister, the prime minister planted a sapling on the premises of the State Guest House, and also held a joint meeting with the two officials.

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The PM’s visit comes ,a day after President Arif Alvi,, a former MNA from Karachi, visited the metropolis and tasked Sindh Governor Imran Ismail with monitoring federal government-funded development projects and vowed to make his hometown’s infrastructure just like other mega cities in the world.

A statement issued after the meeting quoted Alvi as saying: “The Sindh governor from now on will monitor the progress of federal government-funded development projects in Karachi and other parts of the province for their timely completion.”

Governor Ismail during the meeting said that the federal government would “take into account the feedback and opinions of provincial and city governments while executing its projects.”

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PM Khan vows to transfer powers to grass-root level during meeting on local govt setup

Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Saturday that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf believes in transfer of powers to grass-root level, “which is only possible by strengthening the local government system, ,Radio Pakistan, reported.

Chairing a meeting in Islamabad regarding the local government system, the premier said, “Empowered people in a local government system can be the best form of the government.”

PM Khan said people should be allowed to take decisions on their own, which was only possible by ensuring a strong local government system in the country.

He said a revised local government system will be made functional based on the governance pattern implemented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

“People will be strengthened by empowering the local bodies,” the prime minister said.

Earlier this month, PM Khan had constituted a committee to recommend within a week a proposal for a new local government structure that will be scrutinised and presented before the provincial assemblies to initiate the required legislation process within a month.

While presiding over a meeting at PM Office, PM Khan had said that new laws must be prepared so that they could be enforced in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the provinces where his PTI has its government. Sindh, where the PPP has its government, and Balochistan, where a BAP-led coalition is in power, would be asked to enforce the new LG system under Article 140-A of the Constitution, he had said.

The prime minister had been of the view that the transfer of power at the grassroots level and people’s empowerment in the real sense was the main plank of PTI’s agenda of reforms. PM Khan had said the past practice of centralisation of power had deprived the people of any meaningful say in government affairs.

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Over 170,000 posts vacant in federal govt, autonomous bodies

ISLAMABAD: As many as 171,237 posts in the federal government and its autonomous organisations are currently vacant, almost 18 per cent of the total sanctioned strength of the departments and bodies.

In its statistical bulletin about employees of the federal government and its autonomous bodies for 2016-17, the Establishment Division has put the total sanctioned strength at about 1.13 million (1,137,843 to be exact) and said that 966,606 employees were working against these posts, showing a shortfall of about 18pc.

The total number of sanctioned federal government posts stood at 649,176 but 570,553 employees and officers were available for these positions, showing a vacancy of about 78,623 posts or 12pc. These included vacancies for 9,235 officers of grade-17 and above and 69,390 staff of grade-16 and below.

Similarly, a total of 396,053 employees were working in autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies of the federal government against their sanctioned strength of 488,667, a shortfall of about 19pc.

Sindh, Balochistan have fewer employees as compared to their quotas

An official explained that posts fell vacant in routine over the years due to retirement, death or resignation of employees, but the huge backlog of vacant posts is mainly because of a general restriction on hiring during the tenure of the previous government.

The bulletin showed that 488,667 sanctioned posts of autonomous bodies and corporations included 76,544 meant for officers in BS-17 and above and 412,123 staff below grade-17. The total number of vacant posts in these bodies stood at 92,614 including 8,047 officers and 84,567 staff.

Against the total existing strength of 966,606 officers and staff working in various ministries, corporations and semi-autonomous bodies, Punjab has the highest share of employees, 489,799 persons, that is slightly higher than its 50pc quota allocation. The joint quota for Punjab and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) has been set at 50pc according to which the two should have a total of 483,303 employees.

Among the 396,053 employees working in autonomous or semi-autonomous bodies too Punjab has a lion’s share of 221,067 employees, accounting for 55.81pc of the total. This is significantly higher than the combined quota for Punjab and ICT. However, their occupancy in the federal government jobs, at 47pc or 268,732, is lower than their quota.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa far exceeds its 11.5pc quota and currently has about 24.55pc share in the posts of federal government and its bodies. The provincial representation in federal jobs (both government and corporations) stands at around 198,455 against the 111,159 positions it should have in line with its quota. As such, the province has grabbed 87,296 more jobs than its quota.

The province has 140,056 employees working in federal ministries while its strength in various autonomous or semi-autonomous bodies currently stands at 14.75pc or 58,402 employees. The major reason behind its high share of jobs is that people joining the Frontier Corps and the KP Elite Force are mostly from the province.

Balochistan continues to have less employees than its 6pc quota. The total number of its employees working in autonomous bodies stands at 17,270 which accounts for only 4.36pc of the federal jobs. Likewise, a total of 23,226 employees are working in the federal government, accounting for a share of just 4.07pc.

Put together, Balochistan has 40,456 employees working in the federal government and its bodies instead of the 57,996 staff in line with its 6pc quota, showing a shortfall of 17,270.

Sindh too has not been able to secure its full 19pc job quota at the federal level. Sindh’s share should be 183,655 employees but its current strength stands at 166,182, showing a shortfall of 17,473.

Rural areas of Sindh should have 110,193 employees, according to its 11.4pc quota but its existing strength stands at 86,387 — a shortfall of 23,806 employees. In contrast, its urban areas have a larger presence in the federal jobs at 79,795 compared to 73,453 it should have under their 7.6pc quota. Therefore, the urban areas have 6,333 more employees as compared to their quota.

Rural areas of Sindh have 46,691 or 8.18pc jobs in federal government and 39,696 employees in autonomous bodies or 10.02pc share. Urban areas of Sindh have 33,390 employees in the federal government (5.85pc) and 46,405 in autonomous bodies (11.72pc).

Under Article 27 of the original 1973 Constitution, the quotas for the provinces were fixed for 40 years and that period ended in 2013. Soon after coming to power, the PML-N government had decided through a cabinet decision to extend the quota system for another 20 years and introduced a bill in parliament for the purpose.

The bill, however, could not become law in the next five years. As such, the quotas are effectively observed under the cabinet decision without a mandatory constitutional requirement per se.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018

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Engro makes big shift, to bet on rising middle class

KARACHI: Pakistan’s largest listed conglomerate Engro Corporation is planning to shape its future growth by targeting country’s vast population and expanding middle class as it strategises to spend its $500 million cash pile.

Pakistan’s chemicals-to-energy conglomerate Engro Corp has seen its fortunes rise on the back of massive Chinese investment. The corporation is best known for its fertiliser and petrochemicals factories as well as engineering projects.

It is Pakistan’s largest listed conglomerate, and after recovering from a brush with bankruptcy in the early part of this decade is now sitting on Rs 60 billion cash pile.

It has been a major beneficiary from Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) splurge, working with Chinese firms on coal and power projects worth billions of dollars.

Engro’s rising fortunes since 2012, when its factories were crippled by gas shortages, mirror the improvements in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation where economic growth has accelerated due to vast Chinese investment and a sharp decline in militancy and power outages.

In the near term, Engro’s outlook is linked to a mile-long $1.5bn coal mine in the Thar desert near the Indian border, part of Beijing’s pledge to invest about $60bn in Pakistan.

But with reports of government’s intentions to review BRI contracts due to higher costs, analysts see rising risks for Engro and say planned power plants around the mine may struggle to obtain financing.

Ghias Khan, Engro’s chief executive, told Reuters this week he was “pretty confident” the government would not re-open deals with sovereign guarantees. “If they do, that will have a very negative impact,” Khan said.

Pakistan’s economy has been shaken by a shortage of dollars, and speculation that Islamabad may turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ease current account pressures.

Closer to consumer

Undeterred by Chinese investment jitters and the wobbly economy, Khan said Engro was weighing acquisitions and looking to invest in agriculture, healthcare, real estate, communications and other consumer-linked sectors to profit from rising incomes in the Muslim majority country of 208m people, 60 per cent of whom are aged under 30.

“We’ve come to a realisation; what has gotten Engro where it is today is not good enough for our next phase of growth,” Khan said in an interview at Engro’s ocean-front headquarters in Karachi, an Arabian Sea metropolis. “What we are proud of is our ability to execute large-scale projects and put up large industrial complexes. We acknowledge the need to get into businesses which are more related to the population growth, and take us closer to the consumers.”

In Karachi, mushrooming shopping malls and ever-rising number of cars on the road point to a multi-year consumer boom as people’s disposable incomes have doubled this decade, analysts say.

Khan compared Pakistan’s current economic level, population growth and per capita income – at about $1,600 – to where China, South Korea and India were at earlier stages in their development.

“If you look at sectors that did well when they were where Pakistan is today … like real estate, automobiles, healthcare, logistics – everything is somehow related or linked to population growth or the middle class,” Khan said.

Coal Bonanza

The company, born out of an employee buyout of Exxon’s Pakistan operations in the 1990s, was also looking to penetrate deeper into the petrochemicals sector, and was exploring projects to set up naphtha, ethane crackers or polypropylene facilities at the ports of Karachi or Gwadar, Khan added.

What Engro will do with its 60bn rupees ($490m) cash pile has been under a lot of discussion in the Pakistan’s equity market. “One thing is very clear: how we invest these 60bn rupees … will determine how this organisation looks 10-15 years from now,” said Khan, adding a decision would be made “hopefully soon”.

In the meantime, the company is expanding its coal projects in Thar, located in the remote desert of Sindh province. Pakistan says it has the world’s seventh largest coal reserves, but it is of the low-grade lignite variety. Successive attempts at large-scale mining have failed over the decades.

Helped by Beijing’s cash and Chinese expertise, Engro began digging the Thar coal mine in 2016 with China Machinery Engineering Corporation. The extracted coal will feed into a 660MW power plant — which is also built by Engro — part of about 4,000MW of power generation planned by various Pakistani consortiums by 2021.

Analysts say Engro has locked in returns on equity of about 30pc per annum – in dollar terms – with a sovereign guarantee on the power projects. Engro declined to reveal equity returns on power projects, but with Pakistan looking to control its ballooning current account deficit to avoid another IMF bailout, Khan said the new government was likely to want power plants that do not rely on imported fuel.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2018

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