Pakistan PM arrives in Saudi Arabia to attend OIC summit to discuss Israel’s war on Gaza

Update Pakistan PM arrives in Saudi Arabia to attend OIC summit to discuss Israel’s war on Gaza
Pakistan Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (left) arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on November 10, 2023, on a three-day official visit. (Pakistan PM Office)
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Updated 10 November 2023
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Pakistan PM arrives in Saudi Arabia to attend OIC summit to discuss Israel’s war on Gaza

Pakistan PM arrives in Saudi Arabia to attend OIC summit to discuss Israel’s war on Gaza
  • The extraordinary summit is convened at the request of Saudi Arabia in response to Israeli attacks on Gaza
  • Israel has so far killed more than 10,800 people, including over 4,400 children, the Gaza health ministry says

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar arrived in Saudi Arabia on Friday to attend an extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that would discuss the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza, confirmed his office in a brief statement.

The extraordinary summit is scheduled to be convened on Saturday at the request of Saudi Arabia in response to Israel’s war which has lasted for over a month and totally devastated the Palestinian territory.It aims to specify a joint Islamic position on the issue and spotlight the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza following the war crimes committed by the Israeli forces by deliberately targeting civilian population and residential neighborhoods.

“Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar has reached King Khalid Airport in Riyadh on a three-day official visit,” the PM Office in Islamabad announced. “Governor of Riyadh Prince Muhammad bin Abdul Rahman bin Abdul Aziz, Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Ahmed Farooq, and senior Saudi and Pakistani diplomatic staff welcomed him on arrival.”

Earlier in the day, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, a spokesperson for the Pakistani foreign office, said at a press briefing that her country was deeply concerned about the heinous crimes being committed against the Palestinian people as Israeli forces continued with their “campaign of terror and brutality” in Gaza.

“Pakistan welcomes the forthcoming Extraordinary Islamic Summit to be held on 11 November 2023 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The OIC Summit has been convened in response to the unprecedented Israeli attacks on Gaza and its environs, which have posed a grave threat to civilian population and precipitated a humanitarian crisis,” she said.

She informed that the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers would also be held before the summit where Pakistan would be represented by its top diplomat Jalil Abbas Jilani.

“Pakistan will continue to play its role to advance international consensus and galvanize efforts for an urgent end to Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and urgent provision of relief assistance to the people of Gaza,” Baloch added.

Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

The foreign office spokesperson issued the statement after Israeli strikes hit near hospitals in Gaza City as the military pushed deeper into dense urban neighborhoods in its battle with Hamas. The city is the focus of Israel’s campaign following the Palestinian group’s Oct. 7 incursion in southern Israel.

More than 1,400 people in Israel have been killed, most of them in the Hamas attack, and about 240 hostages were taken from Israel into Gaza by Hamas.

The number of Palestinians killed in the war has risen to over 10,800, including more than 4,400 children, according to the Gaza health ministry. In the occupied West Bank, more than 160 Palestinians have been killed in violence and Israeli raids.

For over a month, Baloch said, the people of Gaza had been subjected to the worst forms of collective punishment.

“Israeli forces are committing crimes against humanity with impunity as they indiscriminately massacre defenseless civilians and deliberately deprive them of food, water, shelter and medical care. The use of phosphorus bombs and threats of nuclear holocaust are being made against a people under occupation who are being forcibly evicted from their land,” she said.

“As a tragedy of epic proportions unfolds in Gaza, the UN Security Council must act to fulfill its responsibility to uphold peace and call for an urgent and unconditional cease-fire, lifting of the siege and commencement of rapid, unhindered humanitarian assistance.”

She called on the “backers of Israel” to prevail upon it to abandon its plans for settler colonialism, forced displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.


Pakistan’s Punjab province gears up for inaugural legislative session following governor’s order

Pakistan’s Punjab province gears up for inaugural legislative session following governor’s order
Updated 33 sec ago
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Pakistan’s Punjab province gears up for inaugural legislative session following governor’s order

Pakistan’s Punjab province gears up for inaugural legislative session following governor’s order
  • PML-N candidate Maryam Nawaz Sharif is expected to take over as the first female chief minister of the province
  • The inaugural session has been called by the governor after Sharif’s first parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday

ISLAMABAD: The post-election wheeling-dealing in Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province reached its culmination on Thursday after Governor Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman summoned the inaugural session of the legislative assembly for the oath-taking ceremony tomorrow.

The governor called the session only a day after the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) held a parliamentary party meeting under the leadership of Maryam Nawaz Sharif who is expected to take charge as the first female chief minister of the province soon.

The PML-N emerged as the largest party in the Punjab Assembly in the wake of the last general elections held earlier this month. According to media analyzes, the party is in a comfortable position to form the next provincial administration after its parliamentary party meeting was attended by well over 200 newly elected lawmakers.

“In exercise of the powers conferred under Article 109 read with Article 130(2) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, I, Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman, Governor of the Punjab, hereby summon the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab to meet on 23rd February 2024 (Friday) at 10:00 am, in the Provincial Assembly Chambers Lahore,” said the short order circulated by the Governor’s House.

A party requires 186 members to form the government in Punjab. The PML-N that won 137 seats has been joined by about two dozen independent members and is likely to bag a significant number of reserved seats.

Punjab holds a pivotal position in Pakistan’s politics due to its population density that gives it 141 out of 266 general seats in the National Assembly.

Historically, the party that secures a stronghold in Punjab often manages to form the government at the center.

The PML-N’s candidate for the position of chief minister, Sharif plans to set new governance benchmarks and shared her vision for the province during the parliamentary party meeting only a day earlier.
 


Pakistan’s finance ministry outlines fiscal challenges in annual risk report

Pakistan’s finance ministry outlines fiscal challenges in annual risk report
Updated 22 February 2024
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Pakistan’s finance ministry outlines fiscal challenges in annual risk report

Pakistan’s finance ministry outlines fiscal challenges in annual risk report
  • Inflation, climate change and increasing debt burden are some of the challenges to the country’s fiscal position
  • The ministry says moderation in international commodity prices is likely to contribute to a reduction in inflation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance ministry released the Fiscal Risk Statement FY2023-24 on Wednesday, providing an overview of potential risks and uncertainties that could impact the country’s fiscal outlook in the coming years.
The ministry is legally bound to prepare the statement under the Public Finance Management Act, 2019, which requires the annual budget to mention fiscal risks.
Pakistan’s economy has faced multiple challenges in recent years, affecting the economic growth and fiscal deficit.
The government has implemented several economic reforms to contain fiscal deficit and make the key sectors more efficient to attract more investment in the country.
However, this has also increased the inflationary pressure in the economy, with food prices touching record high levels in recent months.
“The inflation outlook has deteriorated, and there is heightened risk to external stability,” the ministry while specifying a key macroeconomic challenge. “The uncertainty surrounding the future adjustment path in energy prices is the main upside risk to the inflation outlook.”
However, the ministry said a potential moderation in international commodity prices was expected to contribute to a reduction in inflation in the country.
It also mentioned Pakistan’s debt problem as yet another risk factor.
“External debt constitutes 40.8 percent of total public debt, which may make the Government’s fiscal position vulnerable in the face of high current account deficits, low foreign exchange reserves, and a weakening exchange rate,” it said.
“Ongoing fiscal deficits require refinancing of the Government’s maturing debt while raising additional debt to fulfill the fiscal shortfall. A high level of short-term debt creates potentially significant refinancing challenges during periods of slower economic growth, higher fiscal deficits, and/or lower investor confidence,” it added.
The report warned that climate and natural hazard events could pose challenges to the government’s fiscal risk position.
The ministry recommended a restrictive monetary policy through higher interest rates, both to reduce inflation and help address external imbalances.
It also advocated for measures to improve the business environment by creating a fair and level playing field for the organizations to increase investment and trade.


Arab Monetary Fund, Pakistan central bank in talks to integrate cross-border remittance platforms

Arab Monetary Fund, Pakistan central bank in talks to integrate cross-border remittance platforms
Updated 22 February 2024
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Arab Monetary Fund, Pakistan central bank in talks to integrate cross-border remittance platforms

Arab Monetary Fund, Pakistan central bank in talks to integrate cross-border remittance platforms
  • Buna is a cross-border payment system supported by Arab central banks and fully owned by Arab Monetary Fund
  • AMF and Pakistan’s central bank signed agreement last year to integrate Buna and Pakistani platform Raast

KARACHI: The Arab Monetary Fund (AMF) and the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) are engaged in technical level talks to integrate their payment systems and facilitate cross-border remittances between the Arab region and Pakistan, the deputy governor of the SBP said.
The chairman of AMF and the governor of Pakistan’s central bank signed an agreement last year to establish a framework of cooperation between Buna, a cross-border payment system operated by Arab Regional Payments Clearing and Settlement Organization (ARPCSO) and owned by AMF, and Raast, a Pakistani instant payment system for real-time settlement of small-value retail payments, including inter-bank peer-to-peer and person-to-merchant transactions.
Technical talks are now on to integrate the two systems and facilitate millions of Pakistanis living in the Gulf region by enabling them to send remittances in real time at a lower cost. The integration will also benefit businesses through instant, safe and cost-effective cross border payments and aims to strengthen economic, financial, and investment ties between Arab countries and Pakistan.
“After signing the MoU, the negotiations are on with the technical teams, and at the technical level, the modalities and the developments needed at the end of Buna and at the end of Raast, they are being worked out,” Saleem Ullah, the deputy governor of the State Bank of Pakistan, told Arab News on Wednesday.
After the completion of the technical level talks, details would be shared with the vendor for execution, he added.
“Fortunately, the vendor is same for Buna and Raast. Once we are able to finalize the requirements, then those would be shared with the vendor, and then the vendor would be able to give us the timeline within which that development would be possible,” he added.
He said the execution of the project would take at least a year “but it would depend on the vendor estimates with respect to the developments that are to be developed for the purpose of developing this interface.”
Financial experts believe the initiative would benefit about five million Pakistanis living in the Gulf region and help Pakistan boost its remittance inflows through legal channels.
“The benefit for 5 million plus Pakistanis living in the Gulf would be lesser hassle in remitting money to Pakistan because the dependency on other international similar platforms see longer transaction turnaround time as these platforms either exist in the US or other markets,” Danish Kazi, financial and political analyst based in UAE, told Arab News.
Kazi said both affordability and access for common Pakistanis to encourage remitting through legal channels would increase with the new initiative.
“This would also help business transactions which means more export opportunities for Pakistani goods and services in the region,” he added.
 The aim was to regulate remittances through SBP instead of them moving via non documented sectors.
“Further, these remittances through Buna to Pakistan may also assist SBP to raise funds from Gulf markets using these as collateral or toward payments of such financing via commercial or government banks,” Kazi said.


Pakistan constitutes team to investigate social media campaign against officials post-election rigging claims

Pakistan constitutes team to investigate social media campaign against officials post-election rigging claims
Updated 22 February 2024
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Pakistan constitutes team to investigate social media campaign against officials post-election rigging claims

Pakistan constitutes team to investigate social media campaign against officials post-election rigging claims
  • The JIT has been formed after PM Kakar announced to defend civil servants against ‘violent trolls’ this week
  • The investigation team has been asked to identify and prosecute people behind the social media campaign

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s outgoing caretaker administration has set up a joint investigation team (JIT) to identify and prosecute individuals behind a social media campaign targeting government functionaries and election officials following widespread rigging allegations in the wake of the February 8 polls.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar announced his interim administration would defend civil servants against “violent trolls” in the wake of the political contest marred by delays in vote count that led to the speculation of election manipulation.
The interior ministry announced the formation of the JIT in a notification on Wednesday, saying it had been established under Section 30 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act (PECA) 2016.
Discussing its terms of reference, the notification said it would “investigate the malicious social media campaign attempting to malign the image of Civil Servants/Government Officials in connection with elections 2024.”
It added the JIT would also “identify and prosecute the culprits in accordance with applicable laws.” Additionally, it will propose measures to prevent such campaigns from occurring in the future.
The team comprises seven members from the Federal Investigation Agency, Intelligence Bureau, Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan Telecommunications Authority and National Database Registration Authority.
It will submit its preliminary report to the ministry within two weeks.
Prior to this development, a senior Pakistani bureaucrat made a public confession of changing the election outcome in 13 national and 26 provincial constituencies.
This led to a heated social media debate and subsequent closure of platform X in Pakistan.
Kakar said in his statement this week some people were trying to blackmail and pressurize civil servants to switch their loyalties from the state.
“The State of Pakistan shall defend the civil servants in discharging their constitutional duties, act against these violent trolls and ensure exemplary punishment to them,” he said. “There should be no doubt about our commitment to these noble civil servants serving the State and the people of Pakistan.”


Pakistan’s central bank confident of rapid transition to Islamic economy, says will meet 2027 deadline

Pakistan’s central bank confident of rapid transition to Islamic economy, says will meet 2027 deadline
Updated 22 February 2024
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Pakistan’s central bank confident of rapid transition to Islamic economy, says will meet 2027 deadline

Pakistan’s central bank confident of rapid transition to Islamic economy, says will meet 2027 deadline
  • The deadline for the transformation of national economy was given by the Federal Shariat Court in a 2022 verdict
  • Mufti Munib asks the authorities to directly set up Islamic banks instead of transforming conventional ones

KARACHI: Pakistan’s central bank on Wednesday expressed confidence in meeting the Federal Shariat Court (FSC)’s deadline to transition the country’s economy, including its banking sector, to an interest-free model, with a top official saying efforts were rapidly advancing in this area.
In April 2022, the FSC ruled that “riba” (interest) was prohibited in all forms, mandating Pakistan’s shift to an interest-free economy by December 2027.
The court’s decision requires the removal of the term “interest” from all applicable legal clauses and necessitates amendments to all relevant laws in accordance with the judgment.
“The decision given by the Federal Shariat Court is being implemented and we are working with the full spread so that the date given by the court is implemented,” Saleem Ullah, Deputy Governor of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), told Arab News on the sidelines of the 2nd National Islamic Economic Forum in Karachi. “We have developed and constituted various committees [for the purpose].”
The SBP official informed a high-level steering committee headed by the finance minister and the central bank governor had been constituted to oversees the strategy to implement the verdict.
“And then there is a committee headed by the two deputy governors, and that committee oversees the overall transformation process,” he continued, adding: “There are various work streams that have been constituted for that purpose and those work streams are actively performing their role.”
The SBP deputy governor informed work was being carried out to review the legal and regulatory frameworks along with the development of new financial products that were required to convert the public debt into sharia-compliant debt.
“We are very hopeful that by the will of God, with the collaborative efforts and kind of structure that we have created, we will be able to meet the deadline,” he added.
Addressing the forum, the central bank official said interest created an unjust system. He expressed optimism about expediting the journey of Islamic banking in Pakistan.
The market share of assets and deposits of Islamic Banking Industry (IBI) in the overall financial sector stood at 19.6 and 22.5 percent, respectively, by the end of September. However, the central bank has set the target to increase the share of Islamic banking system to 35 percent by 2025.
Speaking at the event Maulana Bashir Farooqi, founder chairman of Saylani Trust and convener of the forum, called for efforts “to wage a war against the interest-based banking system.”
Mufti Munib-ur-Rehman, a religious scholar, expressed concern over the “slow progress” of transformation toward Islamic banking in Pakistan.
He urged comprehensive economic planning by political leaders and economists for the next five to 20 years while calling for direct establishment of Islamic banks instead of opening the Shariah-compliant branches of conventional banks.