Pakistan News

ISLAMABAD: Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shahbaz Sharif’s case should be broadcast live for the public to see, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said on Monday, adding that the government had requested the Chief Justice of Pakistan in this regard.

"The government wants the public to witness what evidence Shahbaz produces in the court proceedings to prove his claimed innocence," the minister said addressing a press conference in Islamabad.

Speaking about the attorney-general of Pakistan’s (AGP) letter to Shahbaz, he said that Shahbaz has been asked to report to the committee formed to monitor PML-N supremo Nawaz Shahbaz’s case, explaining to them the reasons behind the delay in his return.

“The Sharif brothers — Nawaz and Shahbaz — used to say that the Pakistani law does not apply to their children,” he said, adding that if the allegations against them are false, they should be acquitted.

The minister added that recovery from them is “very important”.

Taking a jibe at the PML-N leaders, Fawad said that a child in their family is born later but a palace on his/her name is bought beforehand.

The federal minister was of the view that under the 18th amendment, powers were transferred to the provinces; however, the Sindh government now wants the power to be transferred to districts.

“The Sindh government did not participate in reforms,” he said, complaining that it has deprived its citizens of basic facilities, like health cards.

Fawad further added that the provincial government is not providing its capital Karachi with its due share in resources.

“Under National Finance Commission (NFC), funds will be transferred to provinces from the Centre which will then be transferred to the districts,” he mentioned, adding the Sindh government has deprived its citizens of this right.

The minister said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan had put an end to corruption by introducing the local government system.”

Speaking about the PPP, Fawad said that former president Asif Ali Zardari and Company has also looted billions of rupees and recovery from them is also very important.

“Daily court proceedings should be held against them as they have looted the money of Pakistanis,” he said.

The minister further added that the whole world is now following Pakistan’s strategies in its fight against COVID-19.

“Our economy grew during the pandemic; although the country has witnessed inflation, it should be noted that revenue has also increased during this period,” he said.

“Pakistan is moving in the right direction,” he added.

Shedding light on the challenges faced by the incumbent government, he said that when assuming power, the PTI found the country in almost the “same condition which it was in right after partition.”

He underlined that despite the global pandemic COVID-19, the GDP for the fiscal year 2020-21 clocked in at 5.37%.

The attorney-general for Pakistan (AGP) on Monday wrote a letter to Shahbaz to bring back Nawaz.

The AGP has instructed Shahbaz to submit Nawaz’s medical reports within the next 10 days; in case he fails to do so, contempt of court petition will be filed against Shahbaz.

On November 16, 2019, the Lahore High Court (LHC) allowed Nawaz to go abroad for medical treatment, the letter read, mentioning that according to the doctors' instructions, Nawaz was allowed to leave for four weeks.

The AGP also mentioned that according to media reports, Nawaz is in good health, while when he was leaving the country, his condition was described as critical.

The letter further said that as soon as Nawaz reached London, “his condition improved.”

"After reaching London, Nawaz did not stay in the hospital for a single day and remained involved in his political activities," the letter stated.

The AGP highlighted that the affidavit and the court order was "violated as Shahbaz did not submit Nawaz’s medical reports."

Per the letter, the Punjab government has formed a committee to examine the medical reports of Nawaz. The committee submitted a report on January 17, which mentioned that no medical report has been submitted to the medical board by Nawaz’s doctors; therefore, the committee said that a final opinion cannot be given in this regard.

The attorney-general further wrote that before approaching the LHC in this regard, he has contacted the PML-N president to submit the medical report.

Prime Minister Imran Khan answers questions from the general public on live television. — PID

• Says inflation not just Pakistan’s problem
• Rules out holding talks with Shehbaz
• Chastises media, judiciary for ‘protecting mafias’

ISLAMABAD: Expressing confidence that people would never take to the streets against him, especially on the call of the ‘tainted’ opposition, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday warned his opponents that if he was forced out of office, he would become even more dangerous for them.

“If I exit the government, I will pose a greater threat to you. Right now, I am sitting quietly in my office and watching the drama unfold. But if I take to the streets, you will have nowhere to hide,” he said while answering callers’ questions, live on national television.

PM Khan lashed out at the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership, saying that while he was willing to talk to the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, or even the disgruntled Baloch, he would never sit down with opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif — even for dialogue on key national issues — because that would be tantamount to compromising over the corruption of the Sharif family.

During the telecast of the fifth ‘Aap Ka Wazir Azam Aap Ke Sath’, a town-hall style broadcast where the PM takes questions, he also called on former PM Nawaz Sharif to come back to face the cases against him, saying: “I am waiting for you… please come back.”

Ruling out the possibility of any reconciliation with the opposition, he said that he would never give them an NRO — a reference to the National Reconciliation Ordinance promulgated by former military ruler Pervaiz Musharraf — as that would be a massive betrayal.

PM Khan was confident that he and his party would not only complete their current term in office but would also win another full term, adding that the nation stood behind him, as he knew the people better than the opposition did.

“The reason why people came out for me was that I was trying to get back their looted wealth. You are only trying to cover your own [corruption],” he said.

“The people recognise your true face now and whatever you have done with this country over the last 30-35 years. You need to understand that the lava is simmering. Once people take to the streets, they only need to be pointed in your direction, and you’ll see everyone of them running off to hide in London,” he said, addressing the opposition.

Global inflation

In response to a caller’s question, he admitted that inflation was only problem that gave him sleepless nights, but then went on to paint a rosy picture of the country’s economic condition.

Terming it an “emerging economy”, he counted a number of his government’s achievements and asked why society was so despondent.

PM Khan recalled that all economic indicators were showing upward trends and stressed the need for self-reliance in local goods manufacturing and increased tax collection. “The clothes I am wearing are also locally made,” he said, pointing to his outfit during the broadcast.

Insisting that inflation was a global phenomenon that had taken a toll on developed economies like the US and UK as well, he blamed the price hike of commodities on the disruption in the supply chain caused by the pandemic.

He claimed that a global surge in petroleum prices had also contributed to increase in prices of electricity and transport. However, he conceded that the salaried classes were hardest hit by this inflation, but reassured them that professionals and government employees would be given relief once the government met its tax collection targets.

He also chastised the media for not presenting a full picture of what was happening on the economic front.

PM Khan accused journalists of only painting what he called a ‘bleak’ picture of the economy. Terming certain journalists ‘mafias’, he said they were merely trying to advance the agenda of the opposition and never projected the achievements of the government.

He said that while positive criticism was a good thing, he stressed the need to differentiate between propaganda, fake news and reality.

Enumerating achievements

However, the PM noted that under his rule, the country’s GDP had been increased by 5.37 per cent despite the challenge of the pandemic.

He claimed that the construction sector was booming and that salaries for construction workers had shot up due to the high demand for skilled labour.

The prime minister also said that thanks to a bumper crop, people in agricultural communities had earned Rs1,400 billion, while their income had increased by Rs165,000 per head.

Large-scale manufacturing, he said, also witnessed a growth of 10pc, while revenue from tax collection had reached over 6,000 billion rupees.

He pointed out that due to incentives granted to the IT sector, its exports had also surged and record exports worth $31 billion were recorded with remittances soaring to $30 billion.

Role of judiciary

The prime minister called on the judiciary to be “merciful to the people” and not to support “mafia and cartels”.

He said the government was trying to reform the criminal justice system for the first time in the country’s history as different cartels had made a killing in the past through hoarding and profiteering. “Sugar, flour and cement cartels have eaten up over Rs250 billion,” he added.

“I recently called a meeting of eight regulators who informed me that these cartels have obtained 800 stay orders from different courts. An amount of Rs 250 billion is stuck in litigation.”

In addition, he said, according to FBR cases to the tune of Rs 2,500 billion were also lingering due to litigation.

Google paid tribute on Saturday to late architect and activist Perween Rahman with a custom doodle on what would have been her 65th birthday. She was born on January 22, 1957 in Dhaka.

The doodle depicts the activist looking at Orangi Town, the place she dedicated her life to, from the window of her office.

After the war of 1971, Rahman and her family relocated to Karachi where she pursued a degree in architecture and did her post-graduate studies in housing, building and urban planning. She is known for her work in the goths [shanty towns] scattered across Karachi as part of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), an NGO working with underserved communities for the provision of basic amenities such as low cost sanitation, housing, health, education and credit for micro enterprise.

Rahman's dedication to help the 1.5 million residents of Karachi's Orangi Town led her to be appointed as the head of OPP's housing and sanitation programmes. With her taking the lead behind every project the NGO was able to partner with government to set up 650 private schools, 700 medical clinics and 40,000 small businesses. Rahman was conferred a posthumous Sitara-e-Shujaat for her work and dedication.

Actor Ahsan Khan shared the doodle on his Instagram Stories and recalled a 2021 film based on Rahman's life.

Rahman was murdered on March 13, 2013 in Orangi Town. On December 17, a Karachi Anti-Terrorism Court sentenced four men to life imprisonments for her murder.

Rahman's sister Aquila Ismail told Google, "We are deeply touched by this gesture from Google. It is life-affirming to see that Perween’s contribution to Pakistan, the values she stood for and her legacy are being celebrated today. May we all strive to be just in our actions and continue to find inspiration in life itself, like our beloved Perween."

Lahore High Court's (LHC) Justice Ayesha A. Malik was notified as a judge of the Supreme Court (SC) of Pakistan on Friday, officially becoming Pakistan's first-ever woman judge to be green lighted to sit on the apex court.

According to a notification issued by the law ministry, her appointment has been approved by President Arif Alvi and will come into effect as soon as she takes oath of office.

The notification, a copy of which is available with, said: "In exercise of powers conferred by clause (1) of article 177 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the president is pleased to appoint Mrs Ayesha A. Malik, a judge of the Lahore High Court, [...] as a judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan with effect from the date she takes oath of her office."

The development comes two days after the Parlia­­mentary Committee on the Appointment of Superior Judiciary approved the appointment of Justice Malik as a judge of the SC.

For months, Justice Malik’s elevation to the SC was debated as many said it went against the principle of seniority since she is the fourth most senior judge of the LHC.

Those in favour of her elevation pointed out that seniority was not a requirement for appointment to the apex court according to the Constitution and that the country’s judicial history is full of instances of male judges from provincial high courts being elevated without consideration to seniority.

After the parliamentary committee approved her appointment, Senator Farooq H. Naek, who heads the body, had said the committee still believed in the principle of seniority for appointment of judges, but the approval for Justice Malik was given because it was the first time a woman was being elevated to the apex court.

"We have approved Justice Malik's name in national interest," the senator had said.

The Judicial Commission of Pakistan (JCP) had earlier this month approved Justice Malik for elevation to the apex court by a majority of five to four during a heated session that had lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours.

This was the second time that the JCP held a meeting to decide on Justice Malik's appointment. A lack of consensus during an extended meeting of the JCP on Sept 9 last year had forced the commission to defer a decision on her appointment.

During the JCP's Sep 9 meeting, four members of the commission had opposed the proposal to elevate her, while an equal number supported it.

Justice Maqbool Baqar, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood, former judge Dost Mohammad Khan and a representative of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), Akhtar Hussain, had opposed the idea whereas Chief Justice CJP Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial, Federal Law Minister Barrister Dr Farogh Naseem and Attorney General (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan had favoured Justice Malik.

At the time, the Supreme Court Bar Association President Abdul Latif Afridi had called a countrywide protest to express anger over disregard to the seniority principle in the appointment of judges to the apex court.

The same criticism was levelled this time as well, with the legal fraternity calling on the chief justice to postpone the JCP meeting. In case the meeting was not called off, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) and all bar associations said they would boycott all court proceedings, from the superior judiciary to the lower courts.

While the JCP was holding its session, lawyers had arranged a protest and convention in a nearby office of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA). They accused the judiciary of favouritism in the appointment of superior court judges and thus harming its image.

Through a resolution, the convention had asked the JCP to adhere to the seniority principle in appointments to the apex court from the provincial high courts until such time as fair, transparent and objective criteria for appointment of judges at all levels were framed in consultation with all stakeholders and appropriate amendments to the Judicial Commission Rules were made.

In a related development, LHC Bar Association President Maqsood Buttar had moved a petition before the Supreme Court earlier this month seeking directions that the JCP invite all relevant stakeholders; judges, senior lawyers and bar representatives, members of the parliamentary committee, the federal and provincial governments and civil society and structure the process of judicial appointments to the superior courts to make them more objective and transparent.

The petition also sought directions for the JCP to frame comprehensive and detailed rules/guidelines to structure both the process of and parameters for appointment.

The petition had also asked that until the criteria was developed, the JCP should stick to the seniority principle in the elevation of high court judges to the Supreme Court.

Justice Malik completed her early education from schools in Paris and New York and then completed her senior Cambridge from the Karachi Grammar School.

She studied law at the Pakistan College of Law in Lahore and went on to do her LLM from the Harvard Law School Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, where she was named a London H Gammon fellow 1998-1999.

From 2001 to the date of her elevation as a high court judge, she worked with the law firm of Rizvi, Isa, Afridi and Angell, first as a senior associate and then a partner in charge of the firm’s Lahore office.

Justice Malik has appeared as a pro-bono counsel for several NGOs working on poverty alleviation, microfinance and skills-training programmes.

She is also author of a number of publications and has taught banking law at University of the Punjab and mercantile law at the College of Accounting and Management Sciences Karachi.

Pakistan has revised up its economic growth rate for 2020-21 to 5.37 per cent from 3.9pc, Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar said on Thursday.

"The growth in 2020-21 was 5.37pc," he said in a tweet, adding that the National Accounts Committee (NAC), a government body that reviews the economic indicators, had approved the revised estimate of gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

This is the second time the GDP rate for 2020-21 has been revised, from an initial 2.3pc set in the 2020 annual budget to 3.9pc later.

The statistics bureau also shifted its economy's baseline, which pushed the figure up further to 5.57pc, a statement from the planning ministry said.

With the new 2015-16 baseline, it said, total GDP has reached $346.76 billion with a per capita income of $1,666.

The economy recovered between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021, its fiscal year. It's GDP contracted in the previous fiscal year due to the global impact of Covid-19 shutdowns.

For 2021-22, a target of 4.8pc has been set but policymakers are hopeful growth will cross five per cent.

Umar said the revised number showed the second-highest growth in the last 14 years. The higher growth was mainly due to strong industrial growth between April and June, he said.

With inflation at 12.3pc, surging food and energy prices have put Prime Minister Imran Khan under increasing pressure from the middle classes, his main base of support.

His government presented a mid-year budget earlier this month to end tax exemptions on a variety of sectors to raise $1.93bn for the current fiscal year under International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditions.

The IMF has made further budgetary tightening a condition for the revival of a stalled $6bn funding programme before the next tranche could be approved in a board review set for January 28.

Prime Minister Imran Khan launched the National Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Policy on Wednesday, underlining the importance of supporting small businesses and startups and saying the country would see the benefits of this policy in days to come.

Addressing the policy's launching ceremony in Islamabad, the premier said the government was now directing its efforts towards facilitating the SME sector, which he said was ignored previously.

"We are giving it incentives ... and the importance that it was not given until now."

He highlighted that one of the most significant steps taken under the new policy was facilitating small businesses in taking loans from banks.

"The SME sector is the biggest source of employment and has a considerable share in wealth creation," he underscored, regretting that in Pakistan, the SME sector's contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) was not as much as it should be.

The prime minister identified difficulties faced by small businesses in getting loans and credits as one of the reasons behind it not contributing to the GDP to its full potential.

In this regard, he gave the example of Silicon Valley — the hub of startups and global technology companies in the US.

He said Silicon Valley, where ideas of young people were supported by means of making resources available to them, brought about a "revolution of technology" in the US.

"Venture capitalists backed ideas [there], they took a chance, and people as young as 25 tp 26 year old went on to become billionaires," he said.

The youth, he said, were more driven, passionate and "dream big". As one grows older, the premier added, "we take fewer risks ... and initiatives".

"Therefore, it is important that the government facilitate the youth [in getting] credit," Prime Minister Imran explained, also encouraging the private sector to make venture capital investments.

He also expressed pleasure over a "$500 million investment in Pakistani startups from outside the country".

Previously, he recalled, the investment in the sector from outside the country was negligible. "And this means that we are heading in the right direction."

As the prime minister again stressed the importance of investing in the youth, he went on to identify further reasons that hampered the progress of SMEs.

Besides difficulties in borrowing from banks and getting credit, high property prices was another problem they faced, he said.

"The land is so expensive in cities that it is difficult for them to buy property to establish a setup," the prime minister elaborated, adding that the government was now giving them land on lease as part of its efforts to facilitate them.

Yet another problem, he said, was red-tapeism.

To address this, "our government has decided that we will take action against any department found to be creating hurdles for an enterprise, [be it] associated with the agriculture, industrial or services [sector], that creates employment," he added. "We will take action against anyone creating hurdles for them."

Turning his attention to exports, he said, "We feel ashamed that countries like Singapore, which has a much smaller population than Pakistan, have surpassed us in terms of exports." Their exports to population ratio was much higher than that of Pakistan, he noted.

"So we have to focus on exports and we will give special preference to [entities] that export. All of the government's orientation will be towards wealth creation now and SMEs have a big role to play in this regard," the premier said.

Moreover, he continued, the government was also trying to reduce regulations for SMEs to further facilitate them. In this regard, he particularly spoke about the "NOC (no-objection certificate) regime", which hampered the progress of SMEs.

The prime minister said "inspections are also being streamlined. We will make complete use of information technology".

He added that "Pakistan will see in days to come how beneficial this policy launched today will be for the society."

The prime minister assured that he would preside over meetings to address any issues faced in the implementation of this policy.

Through this policy, he said, "we are giving an opportunity to Pakistanis to participate in the country's wealth creation."

On a separate note, he recounted the problems his government faced at the beginning of its tenure and credited it for "record exports, remittances and tax collections" despite these challenges.

Expressing the hope that the government would exceed the tax target of Rs8,000 billion he intended to achieve during the five-year tenure of his regime, Prime Minister Imran said work was being done with the help of the National Database and Registration Authority to develop a system for identifying persons and entities that didn't pay taxes.

"Yes the situation is not good," he acknowledged, identifying rising inflation as one of the factors behind it.

But inflation, he said, was not because of the government's decisions but because "imports increasing three time is bound to exert pressure on the rupee".

"And there has also been pressure due to rising prices of commodities in the international market," he said. "Despite this, you see wealth creation today," he said, adding that it was a result of decisions and reforms by his government.

The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday rejected a request by the PTI to keep certain portions of a report by a scrutiny committee of the ECP confidential.

The scrutiny committee was formed in 2019 to audit foreign funding received by the PTI. The case began in 2014 when the party's founding member, Akbar S Babar, filed it.

A written order was issued by the ECP after Babar complained that certain portions of the report had not been provided to him.

"No document of the scrutiny committee is confidential," the ECP said in its order.

Babar triumphantly tweeted about the development, saying: "ECP ends secrecy in PTI foreign funding case."

He said that now "all documents, including 'eight volumes' acquired through State Bank of Pakistan" which were kept secret will now be shared with him.

The next date of hearing is set for February 1, he added.

PTI's counsel Anwar Mansoor had contended that there are certain flaws in the report which must be amended. "If we have been at fault anywhere, we will admit it," he had said.

Meanwhile, the ECP directed the scrutiny committees formed to probe foreign funding of the PPP and PML-N to submit a report in the next 10 days.

'PTI only party that attaches importance to transparent fund collection'

In response, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Farrukh Habib said that the PTI is the sole political party that attaches importance to transparency in the funds collection process.

Talking to the media, he said Akbar S Babar, "apparently on the payroll of the PML-N", had been fully exposed by the findings of the ECP scrutiny committee.

It was, in fact, a storm in a tea cup, as according to page 81 of the committee’s report, Babar "could not produce any document or evidence, which could be presented in any court of law", he said.

The minister said Babar used to claim that the PTI was being funded from India and Israel, but "he could not present any proof" in that regard.

Similarly, he said, PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz "harped on the same allegation" outside the Election Commission of Pakistan many times, "but she faced embarrassment when it was proved wrong" in the scrutiny committee’s report.

The PTI runs its affairs in a transparent manner and the Opposition’s accusations about its funds collection process "proved false", he said.

Habib said that the PTI is a party which is "equally supported" by Pakistanis both at home and abroad.

He asked Babar to apologise to overseas Pakistanis for "hurting their sentiments" by levelling "baseless allegations".

The minister challenged Maryam and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari to disclose details of their parties accounts.

"The PML-N should tell the nation who Bhoon Das and Shujat Azeem are and what amounts they had deposited in the party's accounts," he remarked.

Likewise, Bilawal should also divulge details about "an account of Rs350 million", he added.

Similarly, he said, Maulana Fazlur Rehman should also disclose as to "how he had received funding from Libya".

The minister requested the ECP to activate the scrutiny committee as soon as possible so that sources of funding of all other parties, including the PPP and the PML-N, are also scrutinised.

The ECP should resolve the issue as per the decision of the Supreme Court, he added.

He said there was a mention of Walton Cricket Ground in the report, but it was "nothing unusual" as a "friendly cricket match was played" between Pakistani nationals and the money was transferred "through a banking channel".

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