Imran Khan says no militant groups will be allowed to operate on Pakistani soil

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said no militant group would be allowed to operate on Pakistani soil and carry out attacks abroad. (File/AFP)
Updated 08 March 2019
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Imran Khan says no militant groups will be allowed to operate on Pakistani soil

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said no militant group would be allowed to operate from Pakistani soil to carry out attacks abroad, days after his government announced a sweeping crackdown against militant organisations.
Pakistan faces growing international pressure to rein in extremist groups that carry out attacks in neighbouring India.
One such attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Feb. 14, claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) Pakistan-based group, killed 40 Indian paramilitary police and led to clashes between the nuclear-armed rivals as India retaliated.
Both countries carried out aerial bombing missions last week and even fought a brief dogfight over Kashmir before tensions cooled.
But the United States, Britain, and many other nations are urging Pakistan to act against anti-India militant groups.
Pakistan has a history of using extremist groups to pursue foreign policy aims in the region, but it has denied Indian accusations it actively supports militants fighting Indian forces in India's part of Muslim-majority Kashmir.
On Monday, Pakistan announced a new crackdown against militants and by Thursday, 182 religious schools run by banned groups had been seized, and more than 120 people detained.
"This government will not allow Pakistan's land to be used for any kind of outside terrorism," Khan said while addressing a rally in southern Pakistan.
"God willing, you will see that a new era is emerging."
Pakistani governments have in the past made similar pledges to stop militant attacks being launched from its soil, notably in early 2002, after a raid by Pakistani-based militants on India's parliament brought the two countries to the brink of war.
Crackdowns have been launched with fanfare but faded out after a while, with the proscribed groups able to survive and continue their operations.
Given the history, India has been sceptical about Pakistan's latest steps to dismantle militant groups, with Indian officials calling the action cosmetic.
But Khan said there was a huge desire to build a peaceful and stable Pakistan.
"We will not allow any militant group to function in our country now," he said.
Pakistani officials say this crackdown is part of a long-planned drive and not a response to Indian anger.
The South Asian neighbours have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir which they both claim in full but rule in part.


Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

Updated 25 May 2019
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Pakistan bracing for austere budget under IMF, finance chief says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is preparing a belt-tightening budget to tame its fiscal deficit, the de facto finance minister said on Saturday, adding that both civilian and military rulers agreed austerity measures were needed to stabilise the economy.
But Hafeez Shaikh, Prime Minister Imran Khan's top finance adviser, declined to say whether the military's hefty budget would be cut following last week's agreement in principle with the International Monetary Fund for a $6 billion loan.
The IMF has said the primary budget deficit should be trimmed by the equivalent of $5 billion, but previous civilian rulers have rarely dared to trim defence spending for fear of stoking tensions with the military.
Unlike some other civilian leaders in Pakistan's fragile democracy, Khan appears to have good relations with the country's powerful generals.
More than half of state spending currently goes on the military and debt-servicing costs, however, limiting the government's options for reducing expenditure.
"The budget that is coming will have austerity, that means that the government's expenditures will be put at a minimum level," Shaikh told a news conference in the capital Islamabad on Saturday, a few weeks before the budget for the 2019/20 fiscal year ending in June is due to be presented.
"We are all standing together in it whether civilians or our military," said Shaikh, a former finance minister appointed by Khan as part of a wider shake-up of his economic team in the last two months.
In the days since last week's agreement with the IMF, the rupee currency dropped 5% against the dollar and has lost a third of its value in the past year.
Under the IMF's terms, the government is expected to let the rupee fall to help correct an unsustainable current account deficit and cut its debt while trying to expand the tax base in a country where only 1% of people file returns.
Shaikh has been told by the IMF that the primary budget deficit -- excluding interest payments -- should be cut to 0.6% of GDP, implying a $5 billion reduction from the current projection for a deficit of 2.2% of GDP.
The next fiscal year's revenue collection target will be 5.55 trillion rupees ($36.88 billion), Shaikh told the news conference, highlighting the need for tough steps to broaden the tax base.