Pakistan News

PTI chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan on Monday approached the Supreme Court to challenge amendments to the Elections Act, 2017 — which disallows overseas Pakistanis from voting electronically — contending that they were "discriminatory" and "violative of fundamental rights and merits".

The bill seeking electoral reforms, as well as another seeking changes in the accountability laws, were passed by the National Assembly and the Senate in May.
After approval from both houses of parliament, only the president's assent was required for it to become law. However, President Dr Arif Alvi sent back the bills on June 5, following which the government convened a joint sitting of parliament on June 9 to consider the bills, which were approved the same day.

Procedurally, after bills are passed by the joint sitting, they are presented to the president once again for his assent. If the president does not give his approval within 10 days, it is deemed to have been given. Despite this, Alvi had once again sent back both the bills without his signature.

Imran has already approached the apex court to challenge the recent amendments to the National Account­ability (NAB) Ordinance.
In the petition filed today, a copy of which is available with, the ex-premier named the Federation of Pakistan through the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, the Ministry of Law and Justice, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) as respondents.

He argued that the amendment made to Section 94(1) violated the fundamental right to vote of 10 million overseas Pakistanis. "Overseas Pakistanis send home remittances of approximately $30 billion annually, constituting approximately 10 per cent of Pakistan's gross domestic product".

Significantly, he stated, under Article 5(2) of the Constitution, overseas Pakistanis were subject to the laws of Pakistan and even to its tax laws under "certain circumstances".

"To disenfranchise such a large group of Pakistani citizens, on the basis of their locality, by not granting them the facilities for the exercise of their fundamental right to vote, would be to violate the principles of freedom of association and equality of citizens enshrined in Articles 17, 25, and 51 of the Constitution," the petition said.

It went on that as per "various reports", overseas Pakistani could change outcomes in up to 186 constituencies in the National Assembly, adding that the same was also true for the provincial legislatures.
Hence, not allowing them to vote would undermine the process of holding elections "honestly, justly and fairly", the petition said.
Imran also highlighted that the amendment was a deliberate attack at his party by the PPP and the PML-N because they knew the PTI had a huge number of supporters outside the country.

Subsequently, he demanded that the court declared the amendment to be unconstitutional and strike it down. He also called for the court to direct the ECP and all relevant authorities to take necessary steps to give effect to the right of overseas Pakistanis to vote in all future elections, especially the upcoming general elections from their country of residence.

The petition also urged the court to direct the ECP to grant the necessary approvals and funds to Nadra for developing the new i-voting system "without any prejudice" so that it could be used in the next general elections.

Amendments to election laws
Under the amendment to Section 94 of the Election Act of 2017, the ECP may conduct pilot projects for voting by overseas Pakistanis in by-elections to ascertain the technical efficacy, secrecy, security and financial feasibility of such voting and shall share the results with the government, which shall, within 15 days from the commencement of a session of a house after the receipt of the report, lay the same before both houses of parliament.

Under the amendment to Section 103 of the Election Act, the ECP may conduct pilot projects to utilise EVMs and the biometric verification system in by-elections.

ISLAMABAD: Amid severe energy crunch and unprecedentedly expensive fuel imports, Pakistan is seeking more gas imports on deferred payments from Qatar, which is irritated by roadblocks to its infrastructure investment plans, particularly in import terminals.

Authorities in Islamabad are engaging with Qatar at different levels to ramp up Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) supplies to Pakistan to make up for shortage of four to five cargoes (about 400-500 million cubic feet of gas per day) every month.

At almost every engagement, the other side wants to hear an update on the removal of hitches to its plans to set up a merchant LNG terminal near Karachi.

The government has failed in last three attempts over the past couple of weeks to secure even a single cargo for July from the spot market as whatever quantities are available in the spot or otherwise are herded by the Unites States towards Europe suffering energy shortages amid the Russia-Ukraine war and ready to pick every molecule at any cost.

Doha irritated over roadblocks to its infrastructure investment plans
The single bid again from Qatar at $40 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) for a July delivery was too expensive to be accepted against Qatar’s long-term contract price of $11-14. For the next few months, it looks highly unlikely that the government can use its own capacity as sport price of LNG is not viable.

Informed sources said Minister of State for Petroleum Dr Musadik Malik visited Qatar a few weeks ago for additional LNG quantities. When approached, he chose not to comment on Qatar specifics but said the government was tapping all avenues to see how additional molecules are secured to meet needs of the local industry and the people at competitive costs.

He said various pricing models were in his mind, but the real challenge was the availability of additional energy quantities. He said the government would encourage private investment for competition and end monopolies. “We would not like to see a few faces in every field,” he said.

The sources said the Qatari ambassador in Islamabad also recently called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and had a follow-up session with Dr Malik to convey that Qatar Energy was getting all the wrong vibes about its LNG terminal.

However, it is not only Qatar’s Energas but also Mitsubishi’s Tabeer Energy that have been running around with licences for LNG terminals, marketing and sales without any success on signing of pipeline capacity.

Informed sources said not only the gas companies but regulatory bodies and relevant ministries had been delaying the contract signing for pipeline capacity or providing third party access to two upcoming merchant terminals — private projects without government guarantee for LNG sales and purchases with private sectors on commercial terms.

They have even received threats that their soon-expiring licences would not be renewed. In the meanwhile, options for construction of new terminals for Pakistan many be diminishing as European clients rush for additional LNG processing capacity.

Dr Malik again wrote to Qatar that the government of Pakistan and its people appreciated Doha for its continued support, particularly in the supply of LNG under mutually beneficial long-term contracts. He reiterated that Pakistan’s “desire to enhance the number of cargoes of LNG from Qatar under the two existing long term sale purchase agreements, on deferred payments” and reassured that Pakistan “government is also diligently working to do away with the stumbling blocks relating to third party access which will accelerate the process of investment by Qatar Energy in infrastructure development for LNG import”.

The petroleum minister said Islamabad realised the limitations on account of the current turmoil in the energy markets but expected “a positive response” from Qatar for additional LNG cargoes that would further strengthen bilateral friendship.

Informed sources said Qatar Petroleum believed that merchant LNG terminals were being road blocked to create space for expansion of existing LNG terminals developed with government guarantees.

The two new private licencees — Qatar’s Energas and Japan’s Tabeer — were particularly perturbed by a narrative at a recent Turnaround Conference of the Planning Commission about possible inability of Energas and Tabeer to come up with new terminals and hence expansion of existing terminals after withdrawal of international arbitration and local accountability cases. Energas and Tabeer were not invited to the conference.

The two existing terminals were awarded through a tender process in which the entire capacity of the terminal and is associated infrastructure was for the sole use of the government. The terminal operators were given a guaranteed rate of return on the basis of roughly $100 million per annum for the next 15 years.

As part of the contacts, the government had the right to provide access to third parties through its own quota for the purpose of reducing its financial exposure. The existing terminals, however, now want to increase throughput capacity (LNG volumes) at additional charge from new customers, on top of over and above the guaranteed payments from the government. This would also mean reduced storage and increased throughput on the government capacity.

Officials said such an arrangement could entail legal questions and would need the tender process to be amended. Also, the Sui gas companies — the sole distributors of gas — would have to agree to waive their rights on storage and berthing and throughput containment to accommodate third parties.

Already, the existing six cargo throughputs per month from a 170,000 cubic metres of storage is already well above global standards with a significant exposure on the guaranteed LNG long-term contracts from Qatar.

Tabeer and Energas are seeking to build new terminals for their own consumption and their private clients and at their own private industry risk unlike $100 million per annum guaranteed for the first two terminals.

Both have already received the go-ahead from cabinet and its other forums to utilise the pipeline capacities but Sui companies have still not executed contracts despite strict reminders from the energy ministry and the regulator, Ogra.

Qatar has yet again asked Islamabad that it wants to invest in Pakistan to allow its infrastructure to remain feasible with backup supplies. Without such infrastructure, long-term contracts may be at risk as seen in Europe in recent months where because of low storage, LNG cargoes were either stranded or sold to other markets at significant discounts to buyers.

Doha may not commit additional long-term contracts for the consideration that the value chain in Pakistan was unable to accommodate more than 10 long-term cargoes per month on the two terminals.

KUWAIT (Agencies): The Ministry of Health (MoH) announced on Sunday the availability of the coronavirus second booster dose according to the ministry’s regulations. This booster, which is the fourth Covid-19 consecutive vaccine dose, is of great importance for some segments of the society including those prone to severe complications in case they get infected by the Covid-19 virus, the Ministry added in a statement today.

The vaccination center in Mishref Fairground wears a deserted look as very few citizens and expats turn up for the corona booster dose. Not many have taken the third booster dose as yet while the fourth booster dose is also available, They should only take this second booster after a period of four months after taking the first Covid-19 dose booster, which is the third consecutive Covid-19 vaccine, it added.

The Ministry called on all the people aged above 50 years old, as well as people aged above 12 years old to take the second booster, especially those suffering from low immunity system like cancer patients undergoing chemical treatment, and patients of organ transplantation receiving medications that decrease the immunity system, or those receiving high doses of Cortisone which decreases the body immunity. It also called on individuals aged 12 and above to take the first Covid-19 booster, according to the latest scientific and international recommendations, in order to enhance the immunity gained from the first two Covid-19 vaccine doses.

The Ministry also stressed the importance of taking the first and second Covid-19 vaccine doses for children aged five years old and above to decrease the possibility of severe infections by the virus, wishing all segments of the society everlasting health and safety.

The Ministry of Health has announced that it will follow-up of positive corona cases through the ‘immune’ application during the isolation period instead of the Shlonak application, reports Al- Qabas daily. The health sources indicated that the period of isolation for infected individuals is limited to 5 days from the date of infection, with a commitment to wearing a face mask for the next 5 days.

At least 19 people were killed while 11 others were injured after a passenger bus plunged into a ravine in Balochistan's Zhob district on Sunday morning, officials said.

The bus, which was carrying more than 30 passengers, was travelling from Islamabad to Quetta.
Television footage showed rescue workers assisting bloodied passengers, while in another scene, the wreckage could be seen.

Sherani Assistant Commissioner Mehtab Shah told that the incident occurred near Dhana Sar. He said that the bus plunged into the ravine while speeding, killing 19 passengers and injuring 11 others.

Rescue teams rushed to the scene soon after receiving information, Shah said, adding that the bodies had been taken to the hospital where the process to identify them was under way.
Medical superintendent of Civil Hospital Zhob, Dr Noorul Haq, said that the injured being brought to the facility were in critical condition. He also said that the death toll was expected to rise.
Meanwhile, Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Abdul Qudoos Bizenjo expressed grief over the lives lost in the incident. He also offered his sincere condolences to the victims' families.
He ordered an emergency be declared in Civil Hospital Zhob to ensure treatment for the injured.
Later, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also expressed deep grief and sorrow over the lives lost. The premier directed the authorities concerned to provide immediate and medical aid to the injured, a Radio Pakistan report said.
Last month, 22 people were killed, including nine members of a family, when a passenger van fell into a ravine near Qila Saifullah district of northern Balochistan. The van, carrying 23 passengers and en route to Zhob from Loralai, fell into the 200-foot-deep ravine when it reached Akhtarzai area.
Hafiz Muhammad Qasim Kakar, the deputy commissioner of Qila Saifullah, said the driver was speeding and broke through a protective wall at a bend in the road, falling hundreds of feet into the ravine.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s trade deficit ballooned to an all-time high of $48.66 billion in the outgoing fiscal year from $30.96bn a year ago, indicating an increase of 57 per cent on the back of higher-than-expected imports, provisional official data showed on Saturday.
The trade deficit reached such an alarming level despite a ban imposed on more than 800 items in May.
The coalition government’s battle against a bloated trade gap has failed to produce the desired result as it widened by 32.3pc to $4.84bn in June from $3.66bn a year ago. It was largely driven by an almost double increase in imports compared to exports.
The outgoing fiscal year’s trade deficit has crossed the $37bn figure of 2017-18, which was mostly led by imports related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
In the subsequent years, the trade gap dropped to $31.8bn in 2018-19 and then further to $23.2bn in 2019-20 before bouncing back to $30.8bn in 2020-21 and then a whopping $48.664bn in 2021-22.
The $48.66bn gap between imports & exports in FY22 is significantly higher than the $30.1bn a year ago
The outgoing year’s trade deficit is propelled by the highest-ever increase in oil prices and commodities in the international market.
The trade deficit has been on the rise owing to an unprecedented increase in imports due to a rise in global commodity prices, while exports stagnated at around $2.5bn to $2.8bn a month, mostly those of semi-finished products and raw materials.
The trade deficit came in at $4.04bn in May and $3.78bn in April, which indicates that no let-up was seen in monthly deficits when former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted in April through a vote of no confidence in parliament.

Import bill rises
The import bill increased 43.45pc to $80.51bn during 2021-22, up from $56.12bn a year ago.

In June alone, the import bill edged up to $7.74bn from $6.28bn over the same month last year, reflecting an increase of 23.26pc. Imports increased by 14.32pc month-on-month in June. In May the import bill was recorded at $6.77bn while it stood at $6.67bn in April.
The government imposed a ban on the import of nearly 800 luxury and non-essential goods on May 19.
According to the Pakistan Economic Survey 2021-22, the jump in imports is recorded in all the major groups. Multiple factors have contributed to the steep rise in imports during the period under review. Rising global commodity prices contributed significantly to the increasing import volume.

Disaggregated data on imports indicates that the energy group is the largest source of the increase in imports, contributing to a one-third of the year-on-year increase in imports during the period.

Similarly, price-led pressures were also noted across non-energy commodities imported by Pakistan, such as edible oil (palm and soya bean), sugar, tea, fertiliser and steel. At the same time, the domestic demand for imported raw materials — such as cotton, steel and capital goods — was also elevated in the wake of the policy-induced economic rebound.

Exports pick up
For the first time, not only the export target was achieved but it exceeded the psychological barrier of $30bn. Pakistan’s exports remained below this level for the last decade.

Pakistan’s exports increased 26.6pc to $31.845bn in the just-ended fiscal year, up from $25.160bn a year ago. Exports grew 6.48pc to $2.89bn in June, up from $2.72bn in the previous year.
Exports rose 18pc to $25.3bn in 2020-21, up from $21.4bn the previous year.
In the outgoing fiscal year, the government projected the annual export target for commodities at $31.2bn and services at $7.5bn.
According to an official report, around two-thirds of the increase came from the textile sector, especially from the high value-added segment.
Pakistan’s textile exporters capitalised on the available policy support — including the SBP’s concessionary refinance schemes for working capital and fixed investment, and the regionally competitive energy tariffs — and managed to ship higher volumes to key destinations like the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.

Higher cotton prices also helped to increase the export unit prices of both low- and high-value-added textile products. Apart from textiles, rice exports also rebounded during the 2021-22 fiscal year mainly due to the non-basmati variety.

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan will lead a rally from Rawalpindi to the Parade Ground in the federal capital, the venue of his slated protest against the coalition government and record inflation, on Saturday (today).

Addressing a seminar titled ‘Regime change: Impact on Politics, Security and Economy’ and organised by Islamabad Policy Institute (IPI) on Friday, Mr Khan blamed the “imported government” for crushing the masses under the burden of “unbridled fuel price hikes and power outages”.

The former premier who was ousted from power through a no-confidence motion in April this year said that the incumbent government, in a short span of time, increased the price of petrol by Rs99 and diesel by Rs133 per litre instead of buying “cheaper oil from Russia”.

Repeating his allegations that he was removed from power through a US-backed conspiracy, the PTI chief alleged that Pakistan “suffered the most” because of the regime change and cited the current economic condition as proof.

Mr Khan claimed that the Pakistan Economic Survey, unveiled a day ahead of the federal budget, testified that the economy was flourishing during the PTI era with the agriculture and other sectors recording improvements.

He raised a question as to why his government was removed from power in spite of positive economic indicators. “We are told that our [PTI] government was not capable of reining in the price hike,” he said, adding that the incumbents unleashed a storm of inflation within three months. He further questioned, “Who should be blamed for this unprecedented price hike faced by the masses?”

According to the PTI chief, the current state of the national economy could lead Pakistan towards a national security crisis just like Sri Lanka. He added that economic security was also just as important as “military security”, insisting that the ‘neutrals’ – a euphemism he uses for the establishment – would also suffer if the economy collapsed.

Earlier, the former premier issued a statement asking his supporters to join PTI’s protest against inflation today. He expressed optimism that it would be a historic gathering at the Parade Ground.

Imran Khan said that people should come out in huge numbers against the “imported government” over political destabilisation, excessive load-shedding, and a massive hike in fuel prices.

LAHORE: The Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) on Friday booked Farhat Shahzadi alias Farah Gogi, a close friend of PTI chief Imran Khan’s wife Bushra Bibi, and her mother and arrested a former acting chief executive officer (CEO) of the Faisalabad Industrial Estate Development and Management Company (FIEDMC) and Special Economic Zone (SEZ) committee secretary in a case of illegal allotment of two industrial plots, measuring 10 acres, to a company owned by Gogi.

According to the first information report (FIR), a probe was initiated into the allegations of illegal allotment of plots to M/s AI-Muez Dairy & Foods (Pvt) Limited with the connivance of officer/officials of FIEDMC. The inquiry team comprised ACE director vigilance, deputy director (vigilance) and inspector/HQ.

It further stated that during the inquiry proceedings, the ACE team found illegalities committed by FIEDMC former CEO Rana Muhammad Yousaf, SEZ committee secretary Maqsood Ahmed and others.

The probe report said Farhat Shahzadi and her mother Bushra Khan established a company registered with the Security & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) with the name of ‘AI-Muez Dairy & Foods (Private) Limited’ on Nov 26, 2020. The company submitted its first manual application through its director Farhat Shahzadi to the FIEDMC acting CEO on Nov 30, 2020 for allotment of a plot measuring 10.5 acres in M3 Faisalabad Industrial Zone. The acknowledgment of the application was issued by the FIEDMC on Dec 9, 2020 to AI-Muez Dairy & Foods (Private) Limited after which the company was asked to provide documents to process the allotment, including construction schedule, utility services (electricity, gas, etc) and business plan/feasibility of the project.

Two plots worth Rs600m were allotted in Faisalabad for Rs83m
As per the version of Abdul Samie, DG of the SEZ and a member SEZ committee, the application could not be processed as the mode of submission of application was “changed from manual to online system after the notification of 11SEZ Zone Enterprise Admission and Sale, Lease and Sub-Lease of Plot Regulations 2021 dated Jan 15, 2021”.

The application was examined by Muhammad Yousaf and Maqsood Ahmad who recommended the case for the approval by the SEZ committee.
Maqsood Ahmad, SEZ committee secretary, issued notice for 25th meeting of the SEZ committee scheduled to be held on Oct 25, 2021 at FIEDMC office in Faisalabad in which the application for allotment of plot No 255 & 256 at phase-2 of M3-IC to M/s AI-Muez Dairy & Foods (Private) Limited and its admission as zone enterprise was a part of the agenda items”.

The SEZ committee meeting was held on Oct 25 and 27, 2021, in two sessions in which the allotment of both the plots and admission of Zone Enterprise was approved.

According to the probe report, the “meeting was attended and its minutes were signed by five members which is a violation of rules 39(4) of Rules 2013 and Regulation 3(14) of the SEZ Zone enterprises admission and sale, lease and sub-lease of plot regulations 2021 which requires the 75pc mandatory quorum of the SEZ committee in order to make any decision, which means that the meeting should have been attended by at least 6 members in order to make any decision regarding the allotment of plots and admission as Zone Enterprise. One of the members of SEZ Committee i.e. the representative of DC Office Faisalabad Rana Tahir Mehmood joined the enquiry proceedings and stated that he neither participated in the 25th meeting of SEZ committee nor did he sign the minutes of meeting”.
The Zone Enterprise admission letter for the allotment of both plots was issued to AI-Muez Dairy & Foods (Private) Limited on Oct 29, 2021 by Muhammad Yousaf, acting CEO/chairperson SEZ Committee. Consequently, the M/s AI-Muez Dairy & Foods (Private) Limited was issued a provisional allotment letter on Dec 6, 2021.

It surfaced during the enquiry proceedings that Mr Yousaf assumed the charge of CEO FIEDMC on Oct 20, 2021 on an acting basis and he got approval of the allotment of plot to M/s AI-Muez Dairy & Foods (Private) Limited in haste without fulfilling the requirements as mentioned in the Act and rules & regulations.

The probe alleged that Mr Yousaf and Maqsood Ahmad as chairperson and secretary of the SEZ committee, respectively while signing the checklist, gave undue benefit to the company replying upon the undertakings submitted by Mst Farhat Shahzadi (CEO), Bushra Khan (director) of the company and Ahsan Jameel, husband of Farhat Shahzadi, for provision of necessary funds, if required.

According to the probe, the “project cost stipulated by the company was Rs1.05bn whereas the net worth as per the wealth statement submitted by Ms Shahzadi is about Rs700m and total capital value (share) of the company worth Rs20m therefore neither the company nor the director and CEO of company had capital as required for investment in Special Economic Zone I FIDEMIC as per law”.
The plots were allotted on a subsidised rate offered by the government that was Rs83m but their market value was about Rs600m.
The report alleged the members of the SEZ committee of FIEDMC, in violation of rules, allotted precious land/plot to the company and committed criminal breach of trust and caused a loss to the national exchequer.

“The competent authority has approved the registration of case against Rana Muhammad Yousaf, Maqsood Ahmad, Farhat Shahzadi and her mother Bushra Khan.

“However, the role of Ahsan Jameel who gave the undertaking in favour of Farhat Shehzadi for provision of funds and others, including members of SEZ committee who were signatories of minutes of 25th meeting of SEZ committee, is ordered to be determined during the course of investigation,” the report said.

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