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18:03 04:22 2023-03-27 5



Pakistan News

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday responded to President Dr Arif Alvi’s letter — which was sent to the premier earlier this week — in a bid to “set the record of the government straight” and bring the latter’s “partisan attitude” on record.

On Friday, the president asked the PM to direct federal and provincial authorities to assist the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in holding the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa elections in accordance with the orders of the Supreme Court to “avoid further complications”.

In a letter, Alvi also mentioned the “use of disproportionate force” by authorities against politicians, political workers, and journalists.
In a five-page strongly worded reply today, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, PM Shehbaz stated that Alvi’s letter was “blatantly partisan” and in parts read like “a press release of the opposition political party Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) whose one-sided, anti-government views you continue to openly espouse, notwithstanding your constitutional oath/office of President”.

The premier highlighted several occasions where, according to him, the president violated his oath including the order of the dissolution of the National Assembly on April 3 and failure to discharge his constitutional duty upon PM Shehbaz’s election as the prime minister.
“Despite the foregoing and several other instances, where you actively worked towards undermining a constitutionally elected government, I have made all-out efforts to maintain a good working relationship with you. However, the contents of your letter, its tone, and language have compelled me to respond to it,” the letter said.
PM Shehbaz said that the due process under articles 4 (Right of individuals to be dealt with in accordance with law, etc) and 10A (Right to a fair trial) of the Constitution was being afforded to everyone.
All the actions taken by the law enforcement agencies, he added, were being taken in accordance with the law.
“Regrettably and ostensibly due to your party allegiance, you have failed to note the sheer isolation of laws, contumacious disregard of court orders, attacking the law enforcement agencies, damaging public property, attempts to create chaos, civil and political unrest, and in short, to bring the country to the brink of economic default and civil war by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-lnsaf (PTI).

“Mr President, what has really ‘tarnished the image of Pakistan in the international community and is casting negative repercussions on the future of democracy and state of human rights in Pakistan’ is the complete disregard of the laws and the Constitution by the PTI,” PM Shehbaz pointed out in his letter.
He contended that the president had not once said anything regarding the conduct of former prime minister Imran Khan for his “aggressive, rather militant, attitude of a political order in complete defiance of court orders”.

Moreover, the premier stated that his government had ensured complete freedom of speech and expression as enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution, subject on to “reasonable restrictions”.
“Regrettably again, you never raised your voice or shared your concerns in the manner that you have in your letter, in the past while the PTI was in power.”
In his letter, PM Shehbaz also quoted several media reports detailing the clampdown on media by the previous government, adding that the National Commission for Human Rights was kept “dysfunctional” during PTI’s tenure.

“There are several reports of international human rights organisations, which reflect poorly on the track record of the previous government on severe violations of human rights and the fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan. All of this, unfortunately, escaped your attention.”
The prime minister further detailed what he called the “oppression” of his party when Imran’s government was in power.
He also said that the president gave dates for elections in the provincial assemblies of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa “at the behest of the PTI” but did not raise any concerns about the “malafide” dissolution of the provincial assemblies.
The letter emphasised that the president also did not take note of the effect of conducting elections in Punjab and KP before the National Assembly elections.
“This constitutional distortion has completely escaped your attention, which is quite saddening, given the role of the head of the state that the Constitution assigns to the President,” it added.

“The ECP has announced October 8, 2023, to be the new date for the polls in Punjab after taking into account the ground realities. All federal and provincial governmental authorities furnished the relevant information to the ECP. Being the constitutional body charged with the duty to organize and conduct elections, it is ultimately the ECP’s decision to assess whether the circumstances are conducive for organising and conducting free and fair elections, as required under clause (3) of Article 218.

“I do, however, wish to point out that you did not object to the use of language and a rather aggressive attitude of the federal ministers of the previous government, who actively attempted to undermine the authority and credibility of the ECP,” the prime minister noted.
He further stated that Alvi’s reference regarding meaningful consultation between the president and prime minister was “out of place”.
“Mr President, in the exercise of your functions, you must act on and in accordance with the advice of the Cabinet or the Prime Minister under clause (1) of Article 48.”

Concluding the letter, PM Shehbaz stated that he was “fully aware” of his duties, asserting that his government was fully committed to preserving, protecting, and defending the Constitution.
“However, our government is also determined to ensure that no one is allowed to violate the law, create unrest and attempt to cause irreparable harm to the state of Pakistan.

“I want to further assure you that our government will thwart any effort to undermine the constitutionally elected government,” the letter added.

LAHORE: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan has challenged the country’s incumbent rulers to put forward a plan to rescue the country from the many crises it found itself mired in, and laid out his own roadmap to recovery.

Addressing a massive public rally at Minar-i-Pakistan in the early hours of Sunday, the PTI chairman delivered a lengthy speech, which sounded more like a pre-election pitch, similar to the address he delivered at the same venue just over a decade ago.

During his address, he recalled all the high-handed actions that he said the state had taken against him and his party since his government was ousted in April last year.

In a question to the establishment, Mr Khan asked whether they had a programme to save the country from the current crisis. “I challenge that the incumbent rulers don’t have the ability or the intention [to save the country],” he said, adding that he would happily step aside if “[the establishment] tells me ‘we have a plan’… [but] I know what the programme is…there is no programme.”

According to Mr Khan, there was no “easy way out” of the prevailing crisis and said that while difficult decisions were required, only a government that had a public mandate could make such decisions.

Speaking about elections, the PTI chairman said a level-playing field in elections did not mean ‘tying up Imran Khan’s hands“ and using state machinery to favour his opponents.

Announcing his 10-point programme that he said would pull Pakistan out of the economic crisis, Mr Khan said that overseas Pakistanis will be motivated to invest in Pakistan to attract foreign direct investments to avoid going to the IMF again and again. “We will facilitate all those who would export and bring dollars into the country,” he added.
Mr Khan said his government would promote tourism, adding that the minerals sector would be focused on generating revenue. Mr Khan said the small and medium industries would be revived. He said his government would increase the tax net to generate revenue.
The PTI would resume the housing financing scheme and regularise katchi abadis (slums) as well as the health card programme, he said. The ex-PM said after coming to power his government would increase agri productivity with the cooperation of China. The government would take measures to stop money laundering, he said, adding that the current account deficit would be curtailed as well.

Containers on roads
The public gathering was slated to start 9pm, but due to road blockades, former prime minister Imran Khan reached the venue after 11:30pm, where he received a warm welcome from the charged crowd, including families, waving PTI flags and dancing to the party songs. The PTI public meeting – which was postponed twice – continued early into Sunday.

Earlier, supporters reached the venue after skirting containers placed on the roads leading to Minar-i-Pakistan by the city administration on the pretext of security. Not only were containers placed inside the city, but routes leading to the provincial capital were also blockaded in what appeared to be a bid to stop supporters from attending the rally, PTI leaders claimed. However, apart from PTI workers, residents of Lahore also faced considerably trouble commuting around the city due to these hurdles.
Interim Punjab Information Minister Amir Mir, however, rejected allegations regarding the deployment of barriers to stop people from going to the rally. “The government has temporarily closed a few routes so that passers-by can be frisked and searched to ensure security at the rally venue in line with the threat alerts,” Mr Mir said. “The purpose of the check posts is not to cause discomfort to the masses, but to provide them complete security,” he asserted.
However, the venue was sopping wet following a rainy spell, as well as the civil administration’s efforts, which inundated different sections of the ground. PTI leaders also claimed that internet services were also suspended in some parts of the city.
Similarly, a police crackdown that started after a standoff between law enforcers and party activists at Zaman Park intensified ahead of the public gathering, with the PTI claiming that more than 1,800 party workers who wanted to attend the rally were rounded up from across the province.

‘Cowardly attempts’
Earlier, the PTI chief Imran Khan had anticipated that the government “would put all sorts of hurdles to prevent people” from attending the gathering as part of their ‘cowardly attempts’ to flop the party’s power show.
However, he asserted that he still wanted to remind people that it was their fundamental right to attend a political gathering. “Everyone must assert their right as people of a free nation that won its independence and do come to Minar-i-Pakistan,” he urged.
Separately, in an interview with UK’s Channel 4 News, Mr Khan said the country was heading towards martial law because the incumbent government was completely violating the Constitution as it postponed general elections in Punjab ordered by the Supreme Court. “The PTI dissolved its governments in two provinces and the Constitution requires fresh elections in 90 days but the incumbent government is going beyond the law of the land,” Mr Khan lamented.
Answering another question about his opinion on whether Afghanistan should be asked to allow girls to go to schools, Mr Khan – instead of directly answering the question – said no Western country could dictate Afghans to do anything when they were being isolated. “Engage them, unfreeze their money, let them have stakes and only then they will listen to any outside force,” he advised.

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has asked the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to provide it the record of an agreement it signed with the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) in 2007 under which the civic agency handed over 1,500 kanals to the DHA and was in return supposed to get more than 700 developed plots.

However, the CDA has failed to get possession of the over 700 plots in lieu of its land which was handed over to the DHA about 14 years ago.

The two sides signed the agreement in 2007 under which the CDA handed over the 1,500 kanals in Zone 5 to the DHA. It was decided that in return the DHA would give 727 developed plots to the CDA.

The CDA had purchased/acquired the land under two awards announced in 1961 and 1964 for its own use, but all of a sudden in 2007 it handed over the land to DHA. As per its earlier announcement, the CDA would auction the plots to generate funds to be utilised on the development works.

FIA seeks record of agreement signed between two entities in 2007
The CDA almost every year in its budget showed the plots as its receivable assets. But it has so far failed to get the plots from the DHA.
Meanwhile, in a new twist to the issue, the FIA sought the record from the CDA about the agreement.
A letter issued by a deputy director of the FIA dated March 10, 2023, and addressed to the CDA chairman stated: “This agency is conducting the subject enquiry on complaint made by Dr Shafiqur Rehman based on the allegations of unilateral, arbitrary, void ab initio agreement dated 12-09-2007 for handing over CDA land (old Islamabad Highway) to DHA on land sharing basis. The alleged agreement was carried out between Brig (retired) Asad Munir, Member Estate CDA, and Brig (retired) Zafar Iqbal Shah, Director Land DHA.”
The FIA sought the complete file, including noting portion against the agreement dated 12-09-2007, present legal status of the questioned agreement, present status of the possession of 2400 kanals and speicfied in the questioned agreement.
The FIA in the letter also asked the stance of CDA about the state land in possession of Emar (a private developer) if any. Earlier, sources told Dawn that occasionally the matter of getting the plots from DHA came under discussion but due to unknown reasons there was no tangible progress.

In June last year, the CDA formed a four-member committee to visit the DHA and prepare a report. The sources said that though during the visit no official of DHA was present, representatives of a private company were present on behalf of the DHA.
According to the visit report compiled by CDA officials, the representatives of the company briefed the CDA about the three sites where plots could be given to the CDA. The report said that village Humak came under discussion but the land in this village already belonged to the CDA in the vicinity of Model Town.
The visiting team was also given a briefing on Sihala where CDA’s report said the land was without possession and cultivation was done by the locals on the site. Similarly, the site of Niazian Dadocha also came under discussion and according to the CDA this land was located adjacent to Dodocha Dam site.
The CDA’s 2019-20 budget documents, which pointed out revenue generation proposals, stated that: “According to an agreement between CDA and DHA, about 700 plots of different sizes are to be made available to CDA by DHA. Concrete steps are required to be taken by concerned formations to materialise the same at the earliest.”
When contacted, a senior officer of the CDA said that the civic agency will provide complete details of the case to FIA in response to its letter. He said that the CDA will also take up its case with DHA to resolve issues of pending plots.

WASHINGTON: For the first time since in its months-long negotiations with Pakistan, the Inter­national Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday tied assurances from the country’s external partners with the renewal of its package deal.

Julie Kozack, the Fund’s Director for Strategic Communi­cations, underlined this at a virtual news briefing here, where she also referred to the talks the IMF has been holding with Pakistan.

“Discussions are ongoing between IMF staff and the Pakistani authorities towards a Staff-Level Agree­­­­ment on policies to complete the ninth review of Pakistan’s extended Fund Facility. Timely finan­cial assistance from external partners will be critical to support the authorities’ policy efforts and ensure the successful completion of the review,” she said.

This could be a major disappointment for Pakistani officials, who hope that an agreement with the Fund on the completion of the ninth review of a $7bn loan programme would come first and would not only lead to a disbursement of $1.2bn, but also unlock inflows from friendly countries.

The IMF official acknowledged that Pakistan’s economy faced multiple challenges, including slowing growth, high inflation, and large financing needs. “And of course, this is all coming on the back of devastating floods, she added.
Ms Kozack also acknowledged that Pakistani authorities were committed to implementing the necessary reforms and had started to implement decisive actions to stabilize the economy and restore confidence.
The talks with Pakistan, she said, also focused on providing space to accommodate the needs related to the floods, including through an increase in social assistance through the Benazir Income Support Program, which aimed at the most vulnerable.
When asked what assurances Pakistan needed from its external partners, the official said: “At this point, ensuring that there is sufficient financing to support the authorities is the paramount priority.”
Explaining the link between these assurances and the IMF deal, Ms Kozack said: “A Staff Level Agreement will follow once the few remaining points are closed. I can also say that financing assurances, right, what we’re looking for here, are a standard feature of all IMF programmes.”
She pointed out that besides IMF’s support, Pakistan’s external fund facility (EFF) supported program receives financing from other multilateral institutions, including the World Bank, the ADB, and the AIIB and bilateral partners, notably China, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.
“So, we do need to ensure that we have those financing assurances in place in order for us to be able to take the next step with Pakistan,” said the IMF official, making it abundantly clear that Pakistan will need to have those assurances to finalise the deal.
The IMF’s resident representative in Pakistan, Esther Perez Ruiz, has already pointed out that a few remaining points, including a recently introduced fuel subsidy scheme, needed to be settled before a staff-level agreement could be signed.
Talking to Reuters, she said the Fund would ask the government for more details, including how the subsidy would be implemented and what protections would be put in place to prevent abuse.
Since last week, the IMF has been unusually candid in its statements about Pakistan. On Thursday the Fund clarified that the ninth tranche of its EFF programme with Pakistan was not linked to elections.
Decisions regarding the constitutionality, feasibility and timing of the provincial and general elections rest solely with Pakistani institutions,“ IMF’s Resident Chief in Pakistan Esther Perez Ruiz said in her statement.
Her statement came after the Finance Ministry informed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) earlier this week that the country was facing a severe economic crisis and financing the elections at this stage could cause the government to miss IMF targets.
Last week, the IMF also clarified that the IMF does not discuss defence issues with the borrower and that it never raised the nuclear issue in its discussions with Pakistani officials.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Saturday called on supporters to “assert their right as people of a free nation” by attending his party’s rally at the Minar-i-Pakistan today, where he intends to outline his “vision of Haqeeqi Azadi”.

In a tweet today, the PTI chief said his party would be holding its sixth public gathering at Minar-i-Pakistan, which he felt would “break all records”.
“My heart tells me it will break all records. I am inviting everyone in Lahore to attend after Tarawih prayers. I will give my vision of Haqeeqi Azadi and how we will pull Pakistan out of the mess cabal of crooks have put our country in,” Imran said.
While expressing concerns that the government may erect obstacles to prevent party supporters from reaching the venue, Imran asserted that it was the fundamental right of the people to participate in a political gathering.
“Everyone must assert their right as people of a free nation that won its independence and come to Minar-i-Pakistan,” he told his supporters.
According to PTI’s official Twitter account, the rally will begin after Taraveeh prayers at 9pm.
The former premier had on March 13 announced a rally at the Minar-i-Pakistan — the same venue where he launched his campaign for the 2013 elections with a massive show of power — would take place on March 19 but the Lahore High Court had directed the PTI to reschedule its rally and have a dialogue with the administration.
Subsequently, the LHC had on March 22 disposed of a petition of the PTI seeking permission to hold a public rally at venue after the party and the city administration reached an agreement.
Lahore PTI president Imtiaz Mahmood, the petitioner, had submitted his affidavit accepting the terms and conditions along with his undertaking that the rally at the venue will start on March 25 (today) at 10pm and will end around March 26 at 3am. The DC and the CCPO accepted the affidavit and the undertaking filed by the petitioner.
The PTI chief kicked off his election campaign from Lahore at the end of second week of March following wrangling with the interim government of Punjab over ban imposed by local administration on public gatherings.
The rally was originally scheduled for March 11 and March 12 but was postponed after the party failed to get relief either from the Election Commission or the Lahore High Court against the caretaker Punjab government’s order of imposing Section 144 in the provincial capital.
The interim Punjab government had imposed Section 144 citing a Pakistan Super League match in the Qaddafi Stadium and a marathon race in the city. However, in a notification on March 12, the administration had allowed the PTI to take out the public rally on Monday (March 13) but mentioned that it would carry “high-security risk due to the general and specific threats against political gatherings and previous instance of attack on the ex-prime minister”.

KARACHI: Amid unprecedented inflation and stagnating incomes, Pakistanis are all set to experience the toughest Ramazan ever as families will have to limit their purchases, especially food items, due to affordability issues.

Households with static incomes or enduring a drastic cut in salaries for the last four years by employers will be in hot waters as meeting kitchen expenses in the holy month would be impossible amid skyrocketing prices.

A large number of families whose bread earners have been rendered jobless due to an economic slowdown will be facing a serious challenge to arranging Iftari and Sehri for their dependents and would have to compromise their dignity by requesting for loans from their kith and kin or opting welfare organisations.
Massive increases in electricity and gas rates have further multiplied consumers’ woes.
Price comparison based on the data of the Sensitive Price Index (SPI) during the first week of Ramazan in April 2022 to a day ahead of this holy month, consumers remained in distress especially in procuring average quality wheat flour. A 20kg flour bag price has surged to Rs1,295-3,100 in various parts of the country versus Rs800-1,500 per bag last Ramazan. Five- and 10kg branded fine flour bags are now available at Rs820-870 and Rs1,600, showing a rise of 80-90pc over the last year.

Flour no. 2.5 and fine variety were available at Rs65-67 and Rs70-75 per kg which are now tagged at Rs140 and Rs150-160 per kg, respectively.
After price stability in the last week, onion sells at Rs100-200 as compared to Rs40-80 per kg last Ramazan. Consumers are now using Sindh crop as growers made hectic efforts to re-cultivate the crop.

The government had allowed imports to bridge the supply gap following the flood devastation of crops in Sindh and Balochistan in August last year.
Gram Pulse (Daal Channa) rate climbed to Rs220-320 from Rs148-200 per kg. Masoor, Moong and Mash rates surged to Rs240-330, Rs250-350 and Rs280-480 per kg from Rs190-240, Rs116-220 and Rs200-310 per kg since the last Ramazan.

As per SPI data, one kg ghee pouch of Dalda rose to Rs570-638 from Rs399-484. Five-litre Dalda cooking oil rate went up to Rs3,000-3,510 from Rs2,060-2,485. However, many retailers are demanding Rs650-670 for branded cooking oil and ghee.
Fresh milk, meat and greens
Fresh milk rates in various cities now hover between Rs120-210 per litre as compared to Rs90-150 a year back. One kg live poultry bird rate ranges between Rs360-550 per kg versus Rs240-350.
Mutton and beef with bones are now available at Rs1,100-1,800 and Rs500-900 as compared to Rs1,050-1,500 and Rs350-750 per kg. In Karachi, mutton retailers, who were charging Rs1,600 per kg two weeks back, are now demanding Rs1,800. Beef without bones is being sold at Rs1,000 per kg.
Potato rate crawled up to Rs40-100 per kg from Rs25-60 per kg. Sugar price increased to Rs100-110 from Rs83-95.
High-quality basmati rice sells between Rs300-500 per kg now as compared to Rs150-300 per kg last year.
Average quality basmati is now priced at Rs150-240 as compared to Rs80-140 per kg while Irri 6/9 (Sindh/Punjab) carries a price tag of Rs80-180 per kg as against Rs60-100.
White gram (white channa) sells between Rs400-450 per kg versus Rs250 last year, while black gram (kaala channa) is now available at Rs220-260 per kg in different sizes as against Rs120-150 last year.
Vermicelli and salt pack prices are almost double than last year. Lipton tea pack (less than 250 grams) now sells at Rs413-558 as compared to Rs250-260.
Impressive sales
Despite high inflation, external challenges and floods, the sales of Nestle Pakistan grew by a robust 22pc to Rs162bn during 2022 from Rs133bn in 2021. Its profit after tax soared to Rs15bn from Rs12.7bn, up by 18pc.
After investing Rs3.4bn in 2022, the consumer products giant has planned to invest Rs3bn during 2023 in operational reliability to meet consumer demand.
Sales of Friesland Campina Engro Pakistan Limited surged to Rs 73bn in 2022 from Rs 52bn in 2021, while profit after tax during 2022 swelled to Rs 2.46bn from Rs 1.8bn.
Unilever Pakistan Foods Ltd posted impressive sales of Rs28bn in 2022 as compared to Rs19.8bn in 2021, while profit after tax swelled to Rs8bn from Rs 5.16bn in 2021.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Wednesday ordered the government to make public the record of Toshakhana gifts received by public office holders from foreign governments and dignitaries between 1990 and 2001 as well.

The high court’s directives came days after the government, under a previous order of the court, had made public the details of foreign gifts retained by public office holders — presidents, prime ministers, federal cabinet members, politicians, bureaucrats, retired generals, judges and journalists from 2002 to 2022.

Justice Asim Hafeez issued the orders today while presiding a hearing on a petition filed by Munir Ahmad through Advocate Azhar Siddique seeking the government to make public the complete details of Toshakhana gifts received by political rulers and bureaucrats from foreign dignitaries since the creation of Pakistan.

In the previous hearing, a day after the release of Toshakhana records from 2002 onwards, the high court had directed the law officer representing the government to “submit in chamber” the remaining record before 2002, including the names of those who gave those gifts.

During today’s hearing, the judge said that any gifts received by the country from friendly nations should also be made public, adding that nothing should be hidden.
The Tosha­khana is a department under the administrative control of the Cabinet Division and stores precious gifts given to rulers, parliamentarians, bureaucrats, and officials by heads of other governments and states and foreign dignitaries.

According to Toshakhana rules, gifts/presents and other such materials received by persons to whom these rules apply shall be reported to the Cabinet Division.

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