Pakistan says TAPI gas pipeline ‘much-needed project,’ must be launched without delay

Pakistan says TAPI gas pipeline ‘much-needed project,’ must be launched without delay
In this handout photo, taken and released by Pakistan's Ministry of Finance, Caretaker Finance Minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar chairs the Economic Coordination Committee meeting in Islamabad on December 20, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Government of Pakistan)
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Updated 28 December 2023
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Pakistan says TAPI gas pipeline ‘much-needed project,’ must be launched without delay

Pakistan says TAPI gas pipeline ‘much-needed project,’ must be launched without delay
  • Pipeline will link energy-rich Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India through Afghanistan
  • Work on project has been stalled due to differences over price review, delivery points

ISLAMABAD: The Turkmenistan Afghanistan Pakistan India (TAPI) gas pipeline is a “much-needed” project that needs to be launched without delay, Pakistan’s top economic forum said on Thursday after a high-level consultative meeting.
The pipeline will link the energy-rich Central Asian country of Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India, and is expected to carry 33 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas each year along a route stretching 1,800 km (1,125 miles) from Galkynysh, the world’s second-biggest gas field, to the Indian city of Fazilka near the Pakistan border.
However, work on the project has been stalled due to differences over price review and delivery points.
Caretaker Finance Minister Shamshad Akhtar chaired a meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) to discuss the TAPI pipeline, and other economic matters with the consultative forum.
“The forum observed that it [TAPI] was a much-needed project and should be launched without delay,” a statement from the Ministry of Finance said.
The forum also discussed the inflationary situation in the country, directing the National Price Monitoring Committee to continue “regular coordination” with provincial governments to ensure price stability and to keep hoarding and profiteering in check, the ministry said.
As per the original TAPI deal, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India would have 15 percent share of gas, while Turkmenistan would get 85 percent. Under the existing gas sale-purchase agreement, the gas delivery point is the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border, which Pakistan wants moved to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
Pakistan, hit by a shortage of imported gas, this year cut power output in a move that hurt the economy just as it reeled from soaring inflation and a sliding currency.


Washington says will engage with PM Sharif’s government to advance Pak-US ‘shared interests’

Washington says will engage with PM Sharif’s government to advance Pak-US ‘shared interests’
Updated 11 sec ago
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Washington says will engage with PM Sharif’s government to advance Pak-US ‘shared interests’

Washington says will engage with PM Sharif’s government to advance Pak-US ‘shared interests’
  • Shehbaz Sharif, 72, was sworn in as Pakistan’s new prime minister on Monday after a contentious election
  • US State Department spokesperson says Washington values “longstanding partnership” with Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Washington will engage with newly elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government to advance both countries’ “shared interests,” the US State Department spokesperson said this week a day after Pakistan’s newly elected premier was sworn in. 

Once close allies during the Cold War, relations between Pakistan and the US have seen ups and downs over the years. Ties between Islamabad and Washington deteriorated when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021. The US suspected Pakistan provided sanctuary to the militants, a charge Islamabad has always denied. 

Relations between the two countries further soured when former prime minister Imran Khan accused Washington of orchestrating his ouster from office via a parliamentary vote in April 2022, alleging that the US colluded with his political rivals to oust him. Washington has denied the allegations. 

The previous Pakistani government under Sharif, from April 2022 to August 2023, made efforts to improve ties with Washington. In September 2022, Sharif met US President Joe Biden at a reception for world leaders in New York. During the brief interaction between the two leaders, Biden resolved to help Pakistan as it suffered from the cataclysmic 2022 floods. 

Sharif, 72, was sworn in as Pakistan’s prime minister for a second time on Monday. He heads a country facing an overlapping security, economic and political crises. 

“We have said before, we value our alliance — long standing partnership — with Pakistan and have always viewed a strong, prosperous, and democratic Pakistan is critical to United States-Pakistan interests,” US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a press briefing on Monday. 

“And our engagement with new prime minister Shehbaz Sharif and his government will continue to focus on advancing the shared interests.”

Sharif’s niece, Maryam Nawaz Sharif, was elected last Monday as Pakistan’s first woman chief minister. She was elected to the chief executive’s post of Punjab, Pakistan’s most prosperous and populous province. The post has long been a stepping stone to becoming the country’s prime minister.

Miller said Maryam’s election to the post was a “milestone” in Pakistani politics. 

“We look forward to cooperating with Pakistan more broadly on integrating women more fully into the country’s political life, in the economy, including through the US-Pakistan Women’s Council, civil society and other decision-making spaces,” he said. 

Sharif was elected to the prime minister’s post three weeks after the Feb. 8 general elections threw up a hung National Assembly, unleashing weeks of protests by opposition parties over allegations of rigging and vote count fraud.

Pakistan’s newly elected prime minister now faces an overlapping trio of political, economic and security crises, much like in his previous tenure. Sharif’s first order of business will be negotiating a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The current IMF program expires this month. 

The new PM will also have to tackle a spike in attacks by the Pakistani Taliban and other groups, including separatists.


Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks

Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks
Updated 57 min 25 sec ago
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Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks

Pakistan’s PM directs team to engage IMF on financial assistance talks
  • Pakistan’s government will negotiate long-term program with IMF after its short-term program expires this month
  • Shehbaz Sharif takes over the reins of a country facing an overlapping security, economic and political crises
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has directed his team to prepare an action plan to revive Pakistan’s economy and proceed with talks on an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), state-media reported on Tuesday, as the South Asian country scrambles to avoid a macroeconomic crisis by clinching a long-term bailout program with the international lender. One of the foremost challenges facing Sharif and his government would be to negotiate a long-term bailout program with the IMF, as Pakistan’s short-term program expires this month. Pakistan’s fragile $350-billion economy is in desperate need of external financing to shore up its foreign exchange reserves and escape a looming macroeconomic crisis. Hours after he was swearing-in ceremony, the Pakistani premier chaired an hours-long meeting in which he tasked authorities to devise an action plan to revive Pakistan’s economy, the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. The finance secretary provided a detailed briefing of the country’s economic situation in the meeting. “We have got the mandate to improve the economy and this is the top priority of our government,” Sharif was quoted as saying by the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) in a report. “PM Shehbaz directed for immediate initiation of talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) regarding its Extended Fund Facility,” the report said. Sharif said Pakistan’s loss-making state-owned institutions would be privatized so that they do not become a “burden” on the economy. “PM Shehbaz asked all the banks and financial institutions to prepare strategies for the promotion of small and medium businesses so that the youth could be helped stand on their own feet,” the report said. The prime minister also directed reducing the size of the government by merging or closing institutions that were “no longer needed.” The prime minister described the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a hybrid government body established to attract international investment in Pakistan’s key economic sectors, as a “very important step” in bringing about economic stability in the country. He said the SIFC would be further strengthened by his government. For Pakistan, committing to a new IMF program, however, will mean committing to steps needed to stay on a narrow path to recovery. This would limit policy options to provide relief to a deeply frustrated population and cater to industries that are looking for government support to spur growth. Inflation touched a high of 38 percent with record depreciation of the rupee currency under Sharif’s last government from April 2022 to August 2023, mainly due to structural reforms necessitated by the IMF program. Pakistan continues to be enmeshed in economic crisis with inflation remaining high, hovering around 30 percent, and economic growth slowing to around 2 percent. PM Sharif will have to contend with Pakistan’s economic crisis at a time when the country is wracked with political instability. Pakistan’s controversial Feb. 8 national polls were marred by controversy and allegations of vote-rigging, denied by the country’s election regulator. Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party has led nationwide protests against the alleged rigging. The PTI has vowed to continue protests across the country until its mandate is not recognized. Meanwhile, the South Asian country faces mounting attacks from militant outfits in the country, especially the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The TTP have increased attacks in Pakistan since a fragile truce between them and the state broke down in November 2022.

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’
Updated 05 March 2024
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Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’

Forbes names two Pakistanis among Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’
  • This year’s list featured 100 entries, with 104 women from 27 different sectors and 28 nationalities
  • The banking and financial services sector led the list with 26 entries, followed by health care and others
ISLAMABAD: Forbes, an American business magazine, has named two Pakistanis in its list of the Middle East’s ‘100 Most Powerful Businesswomen’ for the year 2024. This year’s list featured 100 entries, with 104 women from 27 different sectors and 28 nationalities, according to Forbes. The banking and financial services sector led the list with 26 entries, followed by health care with 13, and investments and technology with six entries each. There were 35 newcomers to the list, from 15 different sectors. Shaista Asif, co-founder and group chief executive officer (CEO) of PureHealth Holding health care network in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was ranked 4th on the list. She co-founded the health care corporation in 2006 and was appointed group CEO in Dec. 2023. Her group’s initial public offering (IPO) raised a total of $986 million by offering 10 percent of its issued share capital on the first market of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) in Dec. 2023. The IPO was oversubscribed by 483 times in the retail tranche and by 54 times in the professional subscriber tranche, according to Forbes. “In January 2024, the group acquired the UK’s largest independent operator of hospitals, Circle Health Group, for $1.2 billion before debt,” the American magazine reported. “PureHealth acquired Sheikh Shakbout Medical City, the U.A.E.’s largest health care complex, valued at $600 million with revenues of $585.4 million.” Shazia Syed, another Pakistani and the Unilever general manager for North Africa, Levant and Iraq, secured 9th position on the list for her extensive experience working at several corporations. “Syed assumed her current role in 2021 and is also the Arabia Senior Customer Development Lead. She joined Unilever in 1989. She also sits on the board of United Bank Limited in Pakistan, is a member of the Board Risk & Compliance Committee, and is the chairperson of the Board Audit Committee,” Forbes wrote. “She previously sat on the boards of Pukka Tea and Pepsi Lipton, was the president of the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and was the director of the Pakistan Business Council.”

Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations

Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations
Updated 04 March 2024
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Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations

Sweden arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 with Pakistan among top destinations
  • Sweden has a growing defense industry with Saab making the Gripen fighter jet, the Global Eye surveillance aircraft and anti-tank weapons
  • Top 10 destinations for Swedish arms exports includes the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Germany, India and Norway

STOCKHOLM: Sweden’s arms exports rose 18 percent in 2023 to reach 1.6 billion euros as the Russia-Ukraine war drove a search for weaponry, a government agency said Monday.

Most of the exports went to European Union countries and 39 countries which Sweden cooperates with, the Swedish Inspectorate for Strategic Products (ISP) said in a statement.

Sweden has a growing defense industry with Saab making the Gripen fighter jet, the Global Eye surveillance aircraft and anti-tank weapons.

“The degradation of the security situation and the continuing rearmament in the world means that the Swedish defense industry can expect many orders for a long time,” said ISP director general Carl Johan Wieslander in a statement.

“Swedish military equipment is attracting great interest, particularly in Ukraine,” he added.

Turkiye also benefited from Swedish arms, according to ISP, with exports in 2023 worth four million Kronor (356,000 euros).

In 2019, Stockholm introduced restrictions on arms sales to Ankara in response to Turkiye’s military incursion into Syria.

The embargo was lifted following negotiations between the two countries during Sweden’s NATO accession process.

“The resumption of arms exports to Turkiye clearly shows that Sweden places greater importance to NATO membership than to respecting human rights, democracy and international law,” said the peace and disarmament NGO Svenska Freds in a statement.

“The arms industry wants to present itself as a contributor to freedom and democracy, but Swedish arms companies also export (their products) to undemocratic regimes, countries that violate human rights and international law,” the NGO added.

People in these countries “pay a high price” for flourishing arms industry, it said.

The top 10 destinations for Swedish arms exports are the United States, Brazil, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, Germany, India, Norway, France and the Czech Republic.


Pakistan issues visas to over 100 Indian Hindu pilgrims for visit to Katas Raj temples

Pakistan issues visas to over 100 Indian Hindu pilgrims for visit to Katas Raj temples
Updated 04 March 2024
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Pakistan issues visas to over 100 Indian Hindu pilgrims for visit to Katas Raj temples

Pakistan issues visas to over 100 Indian Hindu pilgrims for visit to Katas Raj temples
  • The 900-year-old Katas Raj temples are one of the holiest sites in South Asia for Hindus
  • Thousands of Indian Sikhs and Hindus come to Pakistan to visit their holy sites annually

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi said on Monday it had issued 112 visas to a group of Indian Hindu pilgrims to visit the Katas Raj temples in Pakistan’s eastern Punjab province from March 6 till March 12.

The 900-year-old Katas Raj temples, one of the holiest sites in South Asia for Hindus, form a complex of several temples connected to one another by walkways that surround a pond named Katas that Hindu sacred texts say was created from the teardrops of Shiva as he wandered the Earth inconsolable after the death of his wife Sati.

The complex is located in the village of Katas in Punjab’s Chakwal district, some 110 km (70 miles) south of the capital Islamabad.

“Charge d’Affaires, Mr. Saad Ahmad Warraich, wished the pilgrims a spiritually rewarding yatra and safe journey,” the Pakistani high commission said in a statement.

Under the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines of 1974, each year thousands of Sikh and Hindu pilgrims from India visit Pakistan to attend various religious festivals and occasions.

“The issuance of pilgrimage visas to them is in line with the Government of Pakistan’s efforts for facilitating visits to religious shrines and promoting interfaith harmony,” the high commission added.

Non-Muslims make up only a little over three percent of Pakistan’s more than 241 million population.

In 2021, Pakistan opened the Kartarpur corridor as a visa-free crossing, allowing Indian Sikhs to visit the temple just 4km (2.5 miles) inside Pakistan where Sikhism’s founder Guru Nanak died in 1539.

Many Sikhs see Pakistan as the place where their religion began as Nanak was born in 1469 in a small village near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore.