World Islamic Finance Forum hears of Pakistan’s economic plans and progress

World Islamic Finance Forum hears of Pakistan’s economic plans and progress
Dr Miftah Ismail, Advisor to Prime Minister on finance, Revenue and economic affairs speaks at the inaugural session of World Islamic Finance Forum 2018. (AN photo)
Updated 19 March 2018

World Islamic Finance Forum hears of Pakistan’s economic plans and progress

World Islamic Finance Forum hears of Pakistan’s economic plans and progress

KARACHI: The government of Pakistan is planning to issue Islamic bonds worth Rs100 billion ($900 million) by the end of the current government’s tenure, the opening session of the World Islamic Finance Forum 2018 has heard.
Dr. Miftah Ismail, adviser to the prime minister on finance, revenue and economic affairs, also revealed that a scheme enabling Pakistanis to bring US dollars from abroad and declare the assets will be launched this month.
Ismail said that for the first time in 10 years, Pakistan is on course to achieve growth in gross domestic product of six percent by the end of the fiscal year.
“Despite structural, political, and law-and-order problems, the government is able to achieve this growth rate,” Miftah said.
Responding to requests from the Islamic-banking sector, Ismail said he would create a post at the Ministry of Finance to exclusively deal with the Islamic-finance industry.
“I will soon convene a meeting of a committee for the implementation of the recommendations of the Steering Committee for Promotion of Islamic Banking in Pakistan”, he said.
He also pointed out that 12,000 megawatts had been added to the country’s electricity supply network after years of power shortfalls.
“Some of the problems are now things of past, including power deficit, as the government has added electricity, something that was not done during past 66 years of history of the country,” said Ismail.
As expected, he said there would be no new taxes introduced in the upcoming federal budget, saying the aim of government would be to “maximize growth, not to maximize revenue.”
The government will abolish three or four taxes based on “the good suggestions of stakeholders,” he revealed, adding that many taxes are not benefiting the government in terms of income, but are being used as a way to harass taxpayers.
Ismail described the overall health of economy as absolutely fine.
“The government is taking steps to curtail the current account deficits, which are expected to be tamed in the next year,” he said. “Imports are expected to slow down because of the machinery being imported for production purpose.”
Foreign-exchange reserves at the central bank will remain at $12.5 billion at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2018).
Pakistan needs to achieve growth of eight to 10 percent to generate employment for young people, Ismail said, adding that the federal government is lacking the resources to spend much on development, forcing the government to borrow.
“Federal government gives 60 percent of resources to the provinces, and after paying pension and debt servicing the government starts with a deficit — that is why we are forced to borrow,” he said.
Ismail also stressed the need for the construction of dams, otherwise the country would face “water load shedding” — restrictions in the supply.
Earlier, Jameel Ahmed, the deputy governor of State Bank of Pakistan, stressed the importance of modernizing Islamic banking to help alleviate poverty.
“The Islamic banking industry needs to come up with modern financial products,” he said, calling for introduction of facilities based on modern financial technology.
Shaikh Ebrahim Bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, chairman of the board of trustees of the Accounting and Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions, spoke about the progress of Islamic banking and standardizations being implemented globally to strengthen Islamic financing. Pakistan has the capability to play a leading role in the expansion of Islamic finance, he added.
The two-day World Islamic Finance Forum, which began on March 19 at the Movenpick Hotel in Karachi, is organized by IBA Center for Excellence in Islamic Finance, with the theme of “Expanding the Footprint of Islamic Finance: Innovation, Fintech and Regulations.”
The speakers include renowned local and international academics and leading industry figures, who have gathered to generate innovative ideas to stimulate the growth of Islamic Finance growth and overcome challenges.


Japan faces new coronavirus emergencies, three months before Olympics

Japan faces new coronavirus emergencies, three months before Olympics
Updated 8 min 58 sec ago

Japan faces new coronavirus emergencies, three months before Olympics

Japan faces new coronavirus emergencies, three months before Olympics
  • An official declaration of the emergency is expected later Friday
  • The measure will coincide with the annual Golden Week holiday, Japan’s busiest travel period

TOKYO: Japan’s government is to declare virus states of emergencies in Tokyo and three other regions on Friday, exactly three months before the Olympic opening ceremony, as new infections surge.
The measures will be stricter than Japan’s last state of emergency, imposed in parts of the country from January, but still fall short of the harsh lockdowns seen in some parts of the world.
“We have a strong sense of crisis,” Japan’s minister for virus response Yasutoshi Nishimura said Friday.
The measures will ask businesses serving alcohol to shut or stop serving alcohol between April 25 to May 11, and also shutter major commercial facilities such as shopping malls and department stores.
An official declaration of the emergency is expected later Friday – with the measure expected to cover Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo regions initially.
Previous emergencies have been expanded to other areas after being announced, and experts say the term may be extended if the spread of the virus continues.
“We will take strong, brief and focused emergency measures,” said top government spokesman Katsunobu Kato, calling restaurants “key points of infection” after an expert advisory panel endorsed the proposal.
The measure will coincide with the annual Golden Week holiday, Japan’s busiest travel period. It could involve cutting some train and bus services to discourage movement.
Authorities in affected regions are also likely to bar spectators from sports events – but officials have been insistent that the emergency measures will have no impact on staging the Olympics.
Although the measures won’t start until Sunday, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike urged citizens to start observing them right away.
Japan has seen a comparatively small COVID-19 outbreak, with fewer than 10,000 deaths despite never imposing the strict lockdowns seen in other countries.
But cases surged over winter and have rebounded after the previous state of emergency was lifted in March.
Tokyo on Thursday recorded 861 new infections, figures not seen since January, while Osaka logged 1,167 cases, slightly down from a record number a day earlier.
Authorities in Osaka have said health facilities there are already overwhelmed, with beds for seriously ill patients running short.
Japan’s vaccine program is moving slowly meanwhile, with just over 1.5 million people given a first shot and only around 827,000 fully vaccinated.
Only the Pfizer vaccine has so far been approved, and approvals for the Moderna and AstraZeneca formulas are not expected before May at the earliest.
Taro Kono, the minister in charge of Japan’s vaccine rollout, said requests from local authorities for vaccine doses from May 10 had exceeded planned supply.
“I am sorry. There has been an overflow” of demand, Kono said Thursday, adding that a higher-than-expected uptake could result in swift vaccination of Japan’s elderly.


Frantic hunt for Indonesian submarine as rescuers hone in on radar contact

Frantic hunt for Indonesian submarine as rescuers hone in on radar contact
Updated 9 min 51 sec ago

Frantic hunt for Indonesian submarine as rescuers hone in on radar contact

Frantic hunt for Indonesian submarine as rescuers hone in on radar contact
  • Late Thursday, the military said it picked up signs of an unidentified object with high magnetism at a depth of between 50 and 100 meters

BALI, Indonesia: Indonesia’s desperate search for a missing submarine and its crew of 53 honed in on a radar contact Friday, with just hours to go before the stricken vessel’s oxygen reserves ran out.
The ramped-up hunt comes as Australia and the United States are set to join the search off the coast of Bali where the sub disappeared more than two days ago during training exercises.
Late Thursday, the military said it picked up signs of an unidentified object with high magnetism at a depth of between 50 and 100 meters (165 to 330 feet).
Ships equipped with sonar-tracking equipment were deployed in the hopes that the object could be the KRI Nanggala 402, which was equipped with oxygen reserves that could last until early Saturday, authorities said.
“We’ve only got until 3:00 am tomorrow (Saturday) so we’re maximizing all of our efforts today,” said Indonesian military spokesman Achmad Riad.
“Hopefully there will be a bright spot.”
But an oil spill spotted where the submarine was thought to have submerged pointed to possible fuel-tank damage, fanning fears of a deadly disaster.
There are also concerns that the submarine could have sunk to depths believed to be as much as 700 meters (2,300 feet) – well below what it was built to withstand.
The German-built vessel was scheduled to conduct live torpedo exercises when it asked for permission to dive. It lost contact shortly after.
On Thursday, the US military said it would send airborne teams to help in the search, while Australia said two ships were on their way to assist.
Neighboring Singapore and Malaysia have already dispatched ships that are expected to arrive at the weekend, including the city-state’s MV Swift Rescue – a submarine rescue vessel.
India said Thursday it had sent a ship to assist in the hunt.
But hopes of finding the crew alive were fading fast.
“If there is serious damage on the boat itself, it could potentially mean a few things, for example, there will be very limited spaces for the crew with very limited oxygen,” said Collin Koh, a naval affairs specialist and research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.
“It could also mean that the reserve tanks for the oxygen might potentially be damaged as well. So it will further reduce the oxygen level.”
Submarines are equipped to prevent carbon dioxide buildup, but if the equipment was damaged that could also pose a serious risk, Koh added.
“It’s not just about whether there will be enough oxygen, but it’s also about the level of carbon dioxide within the interior that could determine the fate of the submariners,” he said.
While Indonesia has not previously suffered a major submarine disaster, other countries have been struck by accidents in the past.
Among the worst was the 2000 sinking of the Kursk, the pride of Russia’s Northern Fleet.
That submarine was on maneuvers in the Barents Sea when it sank with the loss of all 118 aboard. An inquiry found a torpedo had exploded, detonating all the others.
Most of its crew died instantly but some survived for several days – with a few keeping heart-breaking diaries written in blood to their loved ones – before suffocating.
In 2003, 70 Chinese naval officers and crew were killed, apparently suffocated, in an accident on a Ming-class submarine during exercises in 2003.
Five years later, 20 people were killed by poisonous gas when a fire extinguishing system was accidentally activated on a Russian submarine being tested in the Sea of Japan.
And in 2018, authorities found the wreckage of an Argentine submarine that had gone missing a year earlier with 44 sailors aboard.


Video: California deputy shoots Black man within a minute

Video: California deputy shoots Black man within a minute
Updated 23 April 2021

Video: California deputy shoots Black man within a minute

Video: California deputy shoots Black man within a minute
  • Town sheriff says the videos show the victim was threatening Deputy Andrew Hall and was possibly throwing rocks at drivers
  • Video released on day Hall was charged with manslaughter in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Filipino man in 2018
SAN FRANCISCO: A white sheriff’s deputy in the San Francisco Bay Area shot and killed a Black man in the middle of a busy intersection about a minute after trying to stop him on suspicion of throwing rocks at cars last month, newly released video showed.
Graphic body camera footage showing Deputy Andrew Hall shooting Tyrell Wilson, 33, within seconds of asking him to drop a knife was released Wednesday, the same day prosecutors charged Hall with manslaughter and assault in the fatal shooting of an unarmed Filipino man more than two years ago.
The charges came a day after former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of killing George Floyd, a Black man whose death last May helped spark a national reckoning over racial injustice and police brutality.
The new video in California shows Hall calling out to Wilson and walking toward him March 11 as Wilson walked away. Wilson eventually turns to face the deputy, holding a knife, and says, “Touch me and see what’s up.”
As they stand in the intersection, Hall asks him three times to drop the knife as Wilson motions toward his face, saying, “Kill me.” Hall shoots once, and Wilson drops to the ground as drivers watch and record video.
The entire confrontation lasted about a minute.
An attorney for Wilson’s family released another video Thursday taken by someone stopped at the intersection.
“It doesn’t seem like he was doing anything,” someone says. After Hall shoots Wilson, which can be clearly seen in the video, another person says, “Oh, my God. ... This dude just got shot and killed, bro.”
Attorney John Burris said Hall was unnecessarily aggressive toward Wilson, who was not causing any problems and was backing away from the deputy before he was shot without warning.
“This is a homeless man, he’s walking away, minding his own business. He’s basically saying go away, leave me alone,” Burris said. “You felt compelled to kill him.”
Contra Costa County Sheriff David Livingston said the videos show Wilson was threatening Hall and was possibly throwing rocks at drivers.
“He did threaten Officer Hall,” Livingston said. “And he did start advancing toward Officer Hall in the middle of a major intersection. Officers are forced to make split-second decisions to protect themselves and the public, and that’s what happened here.”
Prosecutors have faced intensifying outcry after Wilson’s death, with critics saying they took too long to make a decision in the 2018 killing that Hall carried out. The deputy shot 33-year-old Laudemar Arboleda nine times during a slow-moving car chase.
Burris, who also is representing Arboleda’s family, said that if prosecutors had acted more quickly in the Arboleda case, Wilson might still be alive. Burris said both men were mentally ill.
The Contra Costa County district attorney’s office said it charged Hall with felony voluntary manslaughter and felony assault with a semi-automatic firearm in Arboleda’s death.
“Officer Hall used unreasonable and unnecessary force when he responded to the in-progress traffic pursuit involving Laudemer Arboleda, endangering not only Mr. Arboleda’s life but the lives of his fellow officers and citizens in the immediate area,” District Attorney Diana Becton said in a news release.
Hall’s attorney, Harry Stern, said prosecutors previously deemed the deputy’s use of force in the 2018 case justified, “given the fact that he was defending himself from a lethal threat. The timing of their sudden reversal in deciding to file charges seems suspect and overtly political.”
Deputies slowly pursued Arboleda through the city of Danville after someone reported a suspicious person in November 2018. Sheriff’s department video shows Hall stopping his patrol car, getting out and running toward the sedan driven by Arboleda. Hall opened fire and kept shooting as Arboleda’s car passed by, striking him nine times.
Hall testified at an inquest that he was afraid Arboleda would run him over.
The district attorney’s office says Wilson’s shooting is being investigated.

Russia orders troops back to base after buildup near Ukraine

Russia orders troops back to base after buildup near Ukraine
Updated 23 April 2021

Russia orders troops back to base after buildup near Ukraine

Russia orders troops back to base after buildup near Ukraine
  • The buildup has heightened tensions with NATO members, who have earlier pressed Russia to release hunger-striking opposition figure Alexei Navalny,
  • Russia reportedly has more than 40,000 troops deployed on Ukraine’s eastern border and over 40,000 in Crimea

MOSCOW / KYIV: Russia announced on Thursday it was ordering troops back to base from the area near the border with Ukraine, apparently calling an end to a buildup of tens of thousands of soldiers that had alarmed the West.
The currencies of both Russia and Ukraine rose sharply after the announcement, signalling relief among investors just hours after Russia also ended war games in Crimea, the peninsula it occupied and annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
A confirmed pullout of the troops brought in on top of the permanent contingent will likely be welcomed by Western countries that had been expressing alarm at the prospect of further Russian intervention in eastern Ukraine. Russian-backed separatists have been fighting the Ukrainian government in the region since 2014.
The Ukrainian president’s spokeswoman said this month that Russia had more than 40,000 troops deployed on Ukraine’s eastern border and over 40,000 in Crimea. Around 50,000 of them were new deployments, she said. Moscow has not provided any troop numbers.
In a tweet, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine “welcomes any steps to decrease the military presence & deescalate the situation in Donbas (eastern Ukraine),” adding “Grateful to international partners for their support.”
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba had told Reuters Kyiv did not know whether Moscow intended to launch an attack or not, and said the West must make clear it would stand with Ukraine if Russia did so.
“So it can go in either direction now,” Kuleba said. “And this is why the reaction of the West, the consolidated reaction of the West, is so important now, to prevent Putin ... from making that decision.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was aware of Russia’s announcement and was watching the situation on the border closely. “We’ve heard words. I think what we’ll be looking for is action,” Price said.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said he had ordered troops involved in exercises to return to their bases by May 1, as they had completed what he called an “inspection” in the border area.
“I believe the objectives of the snap inspection have been fully achieved. The troops have demonstrated their ability to provide a credible defense for the country,” Shoigu said.

Equipment left
Military hardware was to be left at a training ground near the city of Voronezh, about six hours’ drive from Ukraine, so that it could be used again later this year in another big scheduled exercise.
Hours earlier, Shoigu had attended maneuvers in Crimea, which Moscow said involved 10,000 troops and more than 40 warships. Russia also announced it had arrested a Ukrainian man in Crimea as a spy.
The troop buildup near Ukraine was one of several issues that have raised tensions between Russia and the West.
Last week, the United States tightened sanctions on Russia over accusations that it had hacked computers and meddled in US elections, and the Czech Republic accused Moscow of a role in deadly explosions at an arms dump in 2014.
Both countries expelled Russian diplomats, prompting angry denials and tit-for-tat expulsions by Moscow.
Western countries have also urged Russia to free jailed hunger-striking opposition figure Alexei Navalny, with Washington warning of “consequences” should he die in prison. Russia says the West should not interfere.
In a major speech on Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin sounded a defiant note, warning Western countries not to cross unspecified “red lines.” But Putin is also participating this week in a climate summit organized by US President Joe Biden.
In Moscow, the Kremlin said Putin was aware of an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to meet to discuss the crisis.
“If the president considers it necessary, he will reply himself. I have nothing to say on that now,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. 


India hospital fire kills 13 COVID-19 patients

India hospital fire kills 13 COVID-19 patients
Updated 50 min 5 sec ago

India hospital fire kills 13 COVID-19 patients

India hospital fire kills 13 COVID-19 patients
  • Second coronavirus wave blamed on a new virus variant and lax government rules
  • India’s health care system has long suffered from underfunding

MUMBAI: Thirteen COVID-19 patients died in a hospital fire on Friday in the latest tragedy to hit India’s health care system as it buckles under a devastating wave of infections.

The outbreak has been blamed on a new virus variant and lax government rules allowing huge religious and political gatherings to take place in recent months.

The latest fire broke out in the hospital in the outskirts of Mumbai at around 3:00 am (2130 GMT), a local official said. It has since been put out and the cause was being investigated.

“There were 17 patients inside when a fire broke out in the ICU of Vijay Vallabh Hospital, out of which 13 died and four have been shifted to other facilities,” fire department official Morrison Khavari said.

India’s health care system has long suffered from underfunding and the new COVID outbreak has seen critical shortages in oxygen, drugs and hospital beds, sparking desperate pleas for help.

Earlier this week, 22 COVID-19 patients died at another hospital in the same state when the oxygen supply to their ventilators was disrupted by a leak.

And four patients died when a blaze broke out in a private hospital in Maharashtra earlier this month. In March a fire at a Mumbai clinic killed 11.

India has recorded around four million new infections this month alone, dashing hopes at the start of the year that the country may have weathered the worst of the pandemic.

The surge in infections has been partially blamed on large-scale outdoor events including the vast Kumbh Mela gathering in Haridwar, which between January and this week attracted an estimated 25 million Hindu pilgrims, mostly without masks or social distancing.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was set on Friday to hold at least three crisis meetings on oxygen supplies and the availability of critical medicines.

The capital New Delhi continues to be among the worst hit, with hundreds of thousands of new infections and many new hospitalizations in the last few days.

Hospitals in the city have been posting daily desperate appeals over depleting oxygen supplies to the state and national government.

“SOS — Less than an hour’s oxygen supplies at Max Smart Hospital & Max Hospital Saket. Awaiting promised fresh supplies from INOX since 1 am... Over 700 patients admitted, need immediate assistance,” Max Healthcare, one of the biggest private hospital chains, said on Twitter early Friday morning.

Other private hospital chains in the region have posted similar video messages and social media posts in recent days.

At least six hospitals ran out of oxygen supplies in the Indian capital late Thursday night, with several others left with just a few hours’ worth.

“25 sickest patients have died in last 24 hrs Oxygen will last another 2 hrs... Major crisis likely. Lives of another 60 sickest patients at risk, need urgent intervention,” the medical director of the Sir Gangaram Hospital in New Delhi said in a statement.