Pakistani Christians demand probe after enraged mob attacks churches, homes over blasphemy allegations

Pakistani Christians demand probe after enraged mob attacks churches, homes over blasphemy allegations
Christians hold placards during a protest in Karachi on August 19, 2023, to condemn the attacks on churches in Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: AFP)
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Updated 20 August 2023
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Pakistani Christians demand probe after enraged mob attacks churches, homes over blasphemy allegations

Pakistani Christians demand probe after enraged mob attacks churches, homes over blasphemy allegations
  • Archbishop Joseph Arshad seeks stern action against perpetrators like one witnessed after May 9 violence 
  • The senior leader of the Christian community also urges government to take serious steps for religious harmony 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Christian community on Saturday called for a comprehensive investigation into hours of violence that erupted in Jaranwala city, situated in the eastern Punjab province, where an enraged mob targeted churches and nearly two dozen homes belonging to minority Christians over an alleged desecration of the Qur’an. 

Police have already apprehended over a hundred suspects who were allegedly on the forefront of one of the most severe instances of anti-Christian violence in the country’s history. 

Addressing a news conference in Islamabad, however, Archbishop Dr. Joseph Arshad demanded similar action against people who burned The Bible as one taken against the supporters of an opposition party who vandalized government buildings and military installations earlier this year on May 9. 

“An example should be set by conducting a thorough investigation of the Jaranwala incident and bringing the people involved to justice so that no one dares to do anything like this in the future,” he emphasized. 

Archbishop Arshad described the August 16 events in Jaranwala as devastating for his community members. 

“The burnt down churches and the houses of the victims should be rebuilt,” he said. “The government should take steps to promote religious tolerance and harmony. It needs to take serious steps in this regard.” 

Pakistani authorities are interrogating a large number of suspects, among them a Muslim cleric who used the loudspeaker of his mosque to urge people to come out and protest against the alleged blasphemy done by two members of the Christian community accused of desecrating the Qur’an. 

According to some reports, more than 5,000 people poured into the city from other areas, with smaller mobs spreading to narrow alleys where they ransacked homes. 

Christians who fled in their hundreds criticized the police for failing to protect their property, with some sheltered by their Muslim neighbors. 


Pakistan’s opposition rejects government’s budget, disputes key figures

Pakistan’s opposition rejects government’s budget, disputes key figures
Updated 16 sec ago
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Pakistan’s opposition rejects government’s budget, disputes key figures

Pakistan’s opposition rejects government’s budget, disputes key figures
  • Finance Minister Aurangzeb presented $67.76 billion budget in parliament on Wednesday 
  • Opposition lawmakers allege government did not provide budget documents for their review

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s opposition lawmakers on Wednesday rejected the federal budget for the year 2024-25, alleging that the government had not fulfilled its constitutional requirements of providing budget documents for them to review and disputing key figures provided by Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb. 
The finance minister unveiled the much-awaited Rs18.877 trillion ($67.76 billion) federal budget for FY 2024-25 that set an ambitious revenue collection target of Rs13 trillion ($46.66 billion). The budget is expected to play a pivotal role in Pakistan’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to unlock yet another loan program. 
Opposition lawmakers from the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), backed by independent candidates affiliated with jailed former prime minister Imran Khan, protested during Aurangzeb’s speech. 
As they shouted slogans, the SIC lawmakers carried placards with “Release Imran Khan” written all over them. Throughout most of the finance minister’s speech, opposition lawmakers gathered in front of the Speaker’s dais and kept shouting anti-government slogans.
“A fake budget has been presented today, we reject it completely,” Omar Ayub Khan, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly, told reporters after the budget session.
“This is a joke with the nation and Pakistan.”
He described the budget as “illegal and unconstitutional,” saying the government had not provided budget documents for the opposition lawmakers’ perusal. He said it was possible the government would change important figures in the document by the next National Assembly session to be held on June 20.
“I want to categorically say here that today for the first time in the parliament, glaring constitutional violation has taken place during the budget,” he said. 
He disputed the government’s figures that said the gross domestic product (GDP) had grown by 2.38 percent, the agriculture sector by 6.25 percent, and the industrial and services sectors had each grown by 2.1 percent in the outgoing fiscal year.
“The budget they are presenting, this is not the real growth rate,” he alleged. 
Meanwhile, Aurangzeb credited the government’s policies for stabilizing the country’s economy. He noted that Pakistan’s reserves were no longer in a precarious situation and that the country’s economic indicators were improving. 
“Mr. Speaker, I think that despite political and economic challenges, our progress on the economic front in the past one year has been impressive,” the finance minister had said in his budget speech. 
However, SIC lawmaker Shandana Gulzar Khan said the public should have derived the maximum benefit from the government’s budget. Instead, she said they would have to pay heavy taxes. 
“You want to fix this country, you give this country to the people,” Gulzar told Arab News.
“Those who are paying taxes, you ensure that they get the maximum share of the budget, that they are able to send their children to school, that they are able to eat three times a day and they have access to a health card,” she added.


Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 

Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 
Updated 12 June 2024
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Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 

Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 
  • Islamabad High Court hears plea challenging Ishaq Dar’s appointment to deputy PM post
  • Defense counsel urges court to form larger bench to address cases of dual appointments

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Cabinet Division on Wednesday informed a Pakistani high court that the deputy prime minister’s post was an honorary one and that no “special office” had been established for it, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamir Farooq was hearing a plea filed by Sher Afzal Marwat, a leader of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Marwat had challenged Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar’s appointment to the post in April. 

Marwat’s plea filed last month said Dar was already holding the office of the federal minister for foreign affairs when the cabinet division issued a notification on April 28 with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s approval for his appointment to the post. 

It argued that the prime minister’s office was a constitutional one but the post of deputy premier was not known in Pakistan’s constitution and no other law allowed the cabinet division to issue such a notification. Dar’s appointment as deputy premier was made for “personal reasons” at the “cost of public exchequer,” the petition argued. 

“The Cabinet Division on Wednesday informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the designation of deputy prime minister was an honorary post, and no special office had been established in that regard,” APP reported. 

The Defense counsel, Riaz Hanif Rahi, said Dar’s appointment as deputy prime minister was honorary and urged the court to form a larger bench to address dual appointment cases in the interest of good governance. Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing.

Dar, who is a former four-time finance minister of Pakistan, was earlier made the head of a special committee of PM Sharif’s cabinet on privatization before he was appointed deputy premier.

The 73-year-old chartered accountant is considered to be the closest ally of PM Sharif’s elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, who is also a three-time former prime minister

Political analysts at the time believed Dar’s appointment to the post was an indication that Nawaz was trying to assert his control of the government indirectly.

Before Dar, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was appointed the deputy prime minister of Pakistan in 2012.


Pakistan sets big Rs13 trillion revenue target for year to June 2025

Pakistan sets big Rs13 trillion revenue target for year to June 2025
Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan sets big Rs13 trillion revenue target for year to June 2025

Pakistan sets big Rs13 trillion revenue target for year to June 2025
  • Pakistan presents federal budget to strengthen case for new IMF loan agreement
  • Pakistan has projected sharp drop in fiscal deficit for new financial year at 5.9 percent of GDP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has set a challenging tax revenue target of 13 trillion rupees ($46.66 billion) for the year starting July 1, a near 40 percent jump from the current year, to strengthen the case for a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund.
The ambitious revenue targets for the fiscal year through June 2025 were in line with analyst expectations.
Key objectives for the upcoming fiscal year included bringing the public debt-to-GDP ratio to sustainable levels and prioritising improvements in the balance of payments position, the government’s budget document showed.
Pakistan has projected a sharp drop in its fiscal deficit for the new financial year at 5.9 percent of GDP, from an upwardly revised estimate of 7.4 percent for the current year.
GDP would expand 2.4 percent in the current year, missing the budgeted target of 3.5 percent, the government said in its economic review on Tuesday, despite revenues being up 30 percent on the year, and the fiscal and current account deficits being under control.
Pakistan will look to widen the tax base to avoid burdening existing tax payers to meet its targets, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said while presenting the budget.
While Pakistan is expected to stick to fiscal prudence under a new IMF program, growth will stay constrained, said Abid Suleri of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute think tank.
“Many of the measures taken to achieve fiscal sustainability will impact growth negatively, at least in the near future,” he said.
Pakistan is in talks with the IMF for a loan of about $6 billion to $8 billion, as it seeks to avert a default for an economy growing at the slowest pace in the region.
But a recent economic uptick, falling inflation and an interest rate cut on Monday have stirred government optimism over the prospects for growth.
The key policy rate could fall further this year and economic growth would continue to rise, Aurangzeb had told reporters a day before presenting his first budget.


Pakistan stay alive in T20 World Cup as India thrash USA 

Pakistan stay alive in T20 World Cup as India thrash USA 
Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan stay alive in T20 World Cup as India thrash USA 

Pakistan stay alive in T20 World Cup as India thrash USA 
  • India beat United States by seven wickets after impressive performances from Yadav, Singh
  • Pakistan will next face Ireland in Sunday in yet another do-or-die World Cup clash for them

ISLAMABAD: India beat the United States by seven wickets on Wednesday to qualify for the second round of the T20 World Cup 2024, with their victory meaning Pakistan remain alive in the mega event. 

According to the points table, India are at the top with six points from three matches while the USA is at number two with four points. Pakistan is placed at number three with two points while Canada is at four with two points while bottom-placed Ireland are yet to open their account in the tournament. 

Pakistan, who notched their first win of the T20 World Cup 2024 against Canada on Tuesday night in New York, need the US to lose their remaining match against Ireland. Skipper Babar Azam’s side, who lost to the US and India in their opening two matches of the World Cup, also need India to beat Canada on June 15 to stand a chance in the tournament.

If the US wins even one more point, Pakistan’s journey in the World Cup will come to an abrupt end in the first stage. Even one match affected by rain would spell the end for Pakistan, as the US requires only one point to move to the second round.

“Being in the Super Eight is a big relief,” Indian skipper Rohit Sharma said at the post-match conference. “Playing here wasn’t easy, could’ve been anyone’s game. Had to stick till the end and take the game as deep as possible.”

Indian batter Suryakumar Yadav scored an unbeaten half-century as Arshdeep Singh took a career best 4-9 to steer India to a win. 

Pakistan face Ireland on Sunday, June 16, in a do-or-die World Cup clash. The green shirts have been subjected to immense criticism following their poor performance in the mega tournament. 

Pakistan’s new white-ball coach Gary Kirsten last week bluntly said the green shirts needed to evolve if they wanted to live up to the standards of international cricket.

“I think for me the most important thing for every international player is that you continue growing and developing as a player, and understanding what the demands of international competition are,” Kirsten said at the post-match conference after Pakistan lost to India on Sunday.

“The game is changing pretty much every year. So, if you’re not up to it and you’re not improving, you’re going to get found out somewhere.”


Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat

Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat
Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat

Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat
  • Pakistan unlikely to buy LNG cargoes until November due to oversupply, high prices
  • Countries seek more LNG cargoes due to extreme heat, driving spot prices to high levels

KARACHI: Pakistan is unlikely to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes on the spot market until at least the beginning of winter in November due to oversupply and high prices, its petroleum minister told Reuters.

Extreme temperatures across Asia have pushed countries to seek more cargoes of LNG to address higher power demand, driving spot prices to their highest since mid-December. Asia spot LNG last traded at $12.00 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on Friday.

However, LNG demand in the second largest South Asian LNG buyer was “subordinate to supplies,” the minister told Reuters, despite heatwaves baking the country of 300 million people with temperatures surging to a near-record.

“The question of getting more LNG when we can’t sell the amount of LNG that we already are obtaining from our long-term contracts, it does not apply,” Musadik Masood Malik, Pakistan’s petroleum minister, told Reuters in an interview.

Annual power use in Pakistan, which gets over a third of its electricity from natural gas, is expected to fall consecutively for the first time in 16 years, due to higher tariffs curbing household consumption.

Poor and middle-class households are still feeling the impact of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout of Pakistan last year, which contributed to higher retail prices. A series of power tariff hikes over 12 months was a key part of the IMF program which ended in April.

Industrial demand has also remained tepid due to a cloudy economic outlook.

Pakistan, which last bought a spot LNG cargo in late 2023, canceled its spot LNG tender for delivery in January. Malik attributed the cancelation to oversupply, adding that there were “not a lot of customers” at current LNG spot prices.

Malik said Pakistan was keen to adopt more renewable energy to cut its import bill and exposure to geopolitical shocks. The country suffered widespread power outages due to its inability to buy expensive LNG after prices surged due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Any country that is importing $15-18 billion of fuel, how can it be sustainable when the total exports are south of $30 billion? So we have to move away from the imported elements such as LNG,” he said.

Pakistan was also trying to access less expensive natural gas by building a pipeline with Iran, but was wary of sanctions, he said.

“We basically are trying to work out the solution whereby we can have access to less expensive gas, but in a manner which does not invoke any sanctions on Pakistan. It all depends on legal interpretations,” he said.

“From our perspective, we don’t want to get into litigation and we don’t want to get sanctioned.”