Pakistan’s election body reserves verdict on reserved seats for party joined by Khan-backed candidates

Pakistan’s election body reserves verdict on reserved seats for party joined by Khan-backed candidates
Pakistan Frontier Constabulary (FC) personnel stand guard in front the Election Commission office in Islamabad on February 9, 2024, a day after national elections were held in the country. (AFP/File)
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Updated 28 February 2024
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Pakistan’s election body reserves verdict on reserved seats for party joined by Khan-backed candidates

Pakistan’s election body reserves verdict on reserved seats for party joined by Khan-backed candidates
  • Sunni Ittehad Council, joined by ex-PM Khan’s candidates, are seeking reserved seats for women, minorities
  • The inaugural session of Pakistan’s lower house of the parliament is scheduled to take place on February 29

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s election regulator on Wednesday reserved its judgment on petitions filed by the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party seeking its share of reserved seats for women and religious minorities in the National Assembly, a day before the inaugural session of the lower house of Pakistan’s parliament is held.
The SIC’s numbers in parliament were bolstered after candidates backed by former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party joined it after the Feb. 8 elections, aiming to secure a share in the reserved seats. Khan-backed candidates won the highest number of seats in the polls but since a court ruling in January forced them to contest as independents, they cannot form a government on their own and are not entitled to the reserved seats.
Khan-backed candidates joined the SIC to avoid that technicality but the party has not been allocated a share in the reserved seats in national and provincial legislatures so far. The SIC has filed at least four separate applications with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking its share of the reserved seats. 
The inaugural session of Pakistan’s National Assembly is scheduled to take place on Feb. 29 at 10:00 a.m. Khan’s PTI has warned that any assembly session held before reserved seats are not officially notified would be “illegal.” The PTI has also dismissed the Sindh and Punjab Assembly sessions held earlier this week where the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) elected their members as chief ministers of the provinces. 
A five-member bench of the ECP, chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja on Wednesday, heard petitions filed by the SIC and other political parties, including the PPP, the PML-N and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) concerning the reserved seats. 
“It is the legal right of the Sunni Ittehad Council to get the reserved seats,” Barrister Ali Zafar, representing the SIC, argued before the bench, insisting it had become a parliamentary party after it was joined by independent candidates backed by Khan. 
The PTI’s rivals argue that the SIC is not a parliamentary party as its candidates had not contested the Feb. 8 polls from its platform. 
Zafar urged the ECP to decide the matter “as early as possible,” saying that reserved seats allocation would also affect the upcoming presidential and Senate elections. He accused the Pakistani election regulator of resorting to “intentional delay” in the matter. 
The chief election commissioner responded by saying the ECP had held at least three meetings to discuss the allocation of reserved seats, and decided to hear the matter after a “detailed consultation.”
“The SIC is a registered political party with an electoral symbol and it could not be denied of its share in the reserved seats,” Zafar argued.
Farooq H. Naek, the PPP’s counsel, argued that the SIC had not submitted a priority list with the ECP before elections and had missed the deadline to claim their share in the reserved seats. Likewise, the PML-N’s counsel, Azam Nazir Tarar, said that a political party should contest elections, win at least a few seats to get their share in the reserved seats. However, he said the SIC did not contest polls as a party.
“Reserved seats cannot be given to independents as per law,” Tarar argued.
Farogh Nasim, the MQM-P’s lawyer, pointed out that the SIC was not a parliamentary party hence the ECP should allocate the reserved seats to his party as per its quota. 
“The SIC chief himself contested this election as an independent, therefore the party does not deserve the reserved seats,” he added.
The election commission reserved its judgment on the matter after the arguments were concluded.


US sanctions four international companies for aiding Pakistan's missile program

US sanctions four international companies for aiding Pakistan's missile program
Updated 22 sec ago
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US sanctions four international companies for aiding Pakistan's missile program

US sanctions four international companies for aiding Pakistan's missile program
  • US State Department announces sanctions against three Chinese companies and one based in Belarus
  • State Department says companies supplied missile-applicable items to Pakistan’s ballistic, long-range missile programs

ISLAMABAD: The US State Department announced this week it has imposed sanctions on three Chinese companies and one Belarus-based company for supplying items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program. 

As per a press release, the State Department announced sanctions against China-based companies Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited, Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co. Ltd, Granpect Company Limited and the Belarus-based Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant. 

“These entities have supplied missile‐applicable items to Pakistan’s ballistic missile program, including its long-range missile program,” a press release issued late Friday stated. 

The State Department said Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant had worked to supply special vehicle chassis to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program. 

“Such chassis are used as launch support equipment for ballistic missiles by Pakistan’s National Development Complex (NDC), which is responsible for the development of Missile Technology Control Regime Category (MTCR) I ballistic missiles,” it said. 

Washington alleged Xi’an Longde Technology Development Company Limited supplied missile-related equipment, including a filament winding machine, to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program that was also destined for NDC. 

“Filament winding machines can be used to produce rocket motor cases,” the State Department said. 

It said the Tianjin Creative Source International Trade Co. Ltd. supplied missile-related equipment to Pakistan’s long-range ballistic missile program, including stir welding equipment. 

It said the company’s supplies were likely destined for Pakistan’s Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission (SUPARCO), which develops and produces Pakistan’s MTCR Category I ballistic missiles.

It further said Granpect Company Limited worked with SUPARCO to supply equipment for the testing of large-diameter rocket motors. 

“In addition, Granpect Co. Ltd. also worked to supply equipment for testing large-diameter rocket motors to Pakistan’s NDC,” it added. 

The sanctions mean all property and interests in property of the companies in the US or in possession or control of American citizens are blocked and must be reported to the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the State Department said. 

They also mean that all transactions by American citizens, or those within (or transiting) the US that involve any property or interests in property of the companies, are prohibited unless authorized by a general or specific license issued by OFAC or exempt.

Pakistan has so far not responded to the US State Department’s action. 


Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir sets sights on T20 World Cup after comeback

Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir sets sights on T20 World Cup after comeback
Updated 31 min 42 sec ago
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Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir sets sights on T20 World Cup after comeback

Pakistani pacer Mohammad Amir sets sights on T20 World Cup after comeback
  • Amir played his first T20 international match for Pakistan on Thursday after a nearly four-year hiatus
  • Pacer says he feels his body is fitter compared to 2019 when he last played for Pakistan in a World Cup 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani fast bowler Mohammad Amir said this week he has set his sights on the upcoming T20 World Cup 2024, as he gears up to mark his return to international cricket after a nearly four-year hiatus. 

The 32-year-old pacer played his first match on Thursday against New Zealand in Rawalpindi but did not bowl a single delivery as rain suspended play during the first over of the match. 

Amir, one of Pakistan’s most prolific fast bowlers, retired in December 2020 after being dropped from the side. He changed his mind last month and decided to restart his career, which had also been stalled by a spot-fixing ban in 2010.

“The way the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) management brought me back, it is for a short-term goal, the [T20] World Cup,” Amir told PCB Digital in an interview on Friday. “And that is the biggest goal.”

The left-arm pacer pointed out that Pakistan had played in the semifinal of the T20 World Cup 2021 and competed in the final of the T20 World Cup in 2022. However, it had failed to “cross the line” and become world champions on both occasions. 

“If that happens [Pakistan win the World Cup] it would be a huge achievement for me, to be a part of that team,” he said. 

Amir said he feels he is much fitter compared to 2019 when he last represented Pakistan in a World Cup tournament.

“See, you cannot express yourself properly in the ground until you’re fit,” he said. “So I feel the way my body feels fresh right now, I can chip in more and prove beneficial to the team via my performance.”

The pacer credited his wife and children for helping him stay positive. 

“She makes sure that all my focus is on cricket,” he said. “I think that always gives me energy and helps me to face whatever I have to.”

Pakistan face New Zealand in the second T20 fixture of the five-match series in Rawalpindi today, Saturday. The two sides will lock horns in Rawalpindi on April 21 before meeting for the remaining two fixtures in Lahore on April 25 and 27. 

Teams:

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Usman Khan, Abrar Ahmed, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi

New Zealand: Michael Bracewell (captain), Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Jacob Duffy, Dean Foxcroft, Ben Lister, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Robinson, Ben Sears, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi


Pakistan’s finmin discusses energy, tax reforms with senior World Bank official

Pakistan’s finmin discusses energy, tax reforms with senior World Bank official
Updated 52 min 18 sec ago
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Pakistan’s finmin discusses energy, tax reforms with senior World Bank official

Pakistan’s finmin discusses energy, tax reforms with senior World Bank official
  • Pakistan has vowed to broaden its tax base, reform energy sector and privatize loss-making state-owned entities
  • Pakistan’s finance minister is in Washington to attend spring meetings by the International Monetary Fund, World Bank

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb underlined the government’s resolve to carry out reforms in the energy and tax sectors in his meeting with a senior World Bank official this week, the finance ministry said on Saturday, as Islamabad grapples with an economic crisis amid surging inflation and low foreign exchange reserves. 

Reeling from a macroeconomic crisis, Pakistan has assured international financial institutions and bilateral partners it would take concrete measures to broaden its tax base, carry out reforms in the energy sector and overhaul loss-making state-owned enterprises (SOEs). 

Aurangzeb has been in Washington since last week to participate in spring meetings organized by the IMF and World Bank. His tour is an important one for the South Asian country as Pakistan’s ongoing nine-month, $3 billion loan program with the International Monetary Fund designed to tackle its balance-of-payments crisis, expires this month.

Aurangzeb met Martin Raiser, the World Bank’s regional vice president for South Asia, on Friday to discuss the government’s economic reforms. 

“Underlined the reform thrust of the government in the areas of energy, tax reforms and SOEs,” the finance ministry said. “Informed that government was pursuing short and long-term goals in these sectors.”

Aurangzeb said the World Bank’s focus on climate change, digitalization and human development aligns with Islamabad’s priorities, highlighting the government’s vision to realize the country’s true potential for economic growth. 

“Agreed on the need for reforms in the agriculture sector, water management and waste-water treatment,” the ministry said. 

Aurangzeb met World Bank’s President Ajay Banga on Tuesday during which he spoke about the government’s reforms in tax and energy sectors and highlighted Pakistan’s progress on privatization of government entities. 

In an interview on Monday, the Pakistani finance minister had said Islamabad would seek a fresh three-year IMF program, adding that the government plans to continue with necessary policy reforms to rein in deficits, build up reserves and manage soaring debt servicing.

In a separate statement, the finance ministry said Aurangzeb met China’s Finance Minister Lan Fo’an on Friday. During the exchange, the Pakistani finance chief thanked his Chinese counterpart for Beijing’s regular rollovers which helped plug Pakistan’s external financing gaps. 

“Informed that Pakistan was entering into a larger and extended program with IMF and looked forward to the support of China,” the ministry said, adding that he highlighted the government’s economic reforms in various sectors during his meeting with the Chinese official. 


Pakistan to train 1 million youth annually to export skilled human resource to Gulf countries

Pakistan to train 1 million youth annually to export skilled human resource to Gulf countries
Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistan to train 1 million youth annually to export skilled human resource to Gulf countries

Pakistan to train 1 million youth annually to export skilled human resource to Gulf countries
  • Islamabad is planning to roll out a new education policy next month, with a focus on vocational training and out-of-school children
  • Educationists, however, say the real challenge for the government is to ensure implementation of the policy, focus on teacher training

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government is working on a new education policy to impart technical skills to one million youth annually to export trained human resource to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, an official said on Friday.

The cash-strapped South Asian nation of 241 million has been working on a holistic national education policy to cover technical training for the youth by enrolling over 2.5 million out-of-school children.

The Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a federal body led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to attract investment from foreign and domestic sources, has given specific targets to the education ministry to finalize a comprehensive policy to improve the education sector.

“This new policy aims to impart vocational training to at least one million youth per annum to export skilled workforce to Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries,” Rana Mujtaba, a spokesperson for the Pakistani ministry of education and professional training, told Arab News.

“It will be rolled out in May.”

There are around 9 million overseas Pakistanis living and working in different countries, including 2.8 million in Saudi Arabia, who remit around $30 billion back home annually to support the country’s fragile economy.

“Majority of our overseas workforce is unskilled labor. Therefore, the government is now focusing on enhancing vocational capacity of the youth,” Mujtaba said.

In the National Education Policy 2017-2025, Pakistan aimed to raise its literacy rate from the existing 60 percent to 90 percent by 2025, narrow down the gender gaps, reduce rural and urban imbalance, improve quality of education, promote technical and vocational education with skill development programs, and ensure good governance. But all this has yet to be achieved.

Mujtaba said Pakistan’s vocational training institutes already had a “strong affiliation” with Saudi Arabia, where all training certificates were accepted.

“The SIFC that is chaired by the PM has given a general direction to the ministry to work on a new education policy to improve the sector’s performance,” he said.

The spokesperson dispelled the notion that the education ministry was working on the new education policy without taking provincial governments on-board, since education has primarily been a provincial subject in the South Asian country.

“The federal government is in fact supporting the provinces in improving the education sector. All provincial ministers and education secretaries are on-board as the federal ministry has sought inputs from all of them,” he said.

“This will be a holistic policy that will also address the issue of out-of-school children, improving the higher education’s standards, domestic and foreign scholarships for the students.”

Educationists and public policy experts said the government had already devised numerous policies and produced documents to improve the education sector, but it would lack in implementation of these plans.

“The silver lining in the new policy is that the government is for the first time focusing on out-of-school children, but there needs to be an effective mechanism in place with clear timelines to address this issue,” Taimur Bandey, an educationist, told Arab News.

“The government needs to allocate its resources for teachers training and upgrade libraries and laboratories in the institutions to improve the education standards.” 


Pakistani PM orders authorities to expedite anti-smuggling operations amid economic crisis

Pakistani PM orders authorities to expedite anti-smuggling operations amid economic crisis
Updated 20 April 2024
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Pakistani PM orders authorities to expedite anti-smuggling operations amid economic crisis

Pakistani PM orders authorities to expedite anti-smuggling operations amid economic crisis
  • PM Sharif chairs high-level meeting to review progress on countrywide anti-smuggling measures
  • Orders effective monitoring of the Afghan transit trade, action against smugglers and hoarders

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered law enforcement agencies to expedite Pakistan’s nationwide anti-smuggling campaign, state-run media reported this week, as Islamabad tries to navigate a tricky path to economic recovery. 

Pakistan’s caretaker administration announced a countrywide crackdown against smuggling and black marketing in September 2023 as the South Asian country reeled from an economic crisis that has seen its foreign exchange reserves plummet, currency devaluate sharply and inflation rise to record highs. 

PM Sharif’s government has vowed to continue the country’s anti-smuggling operations to ensure Pakistan makes steady economic progress. 

“Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif has directed the law enforcement agencies to expedite the countrywide anti-smuggling campaign,” the state-run Radio Pakistan reported on Friday. It said the development took place during a high-level meeting chaired by Sharif in Islamabad on Friday to review the anti-smuggling operations in the country. 

In October last year, Pakistan imposed a 10 percent processing fee on several items imported from Afghanistan under a transit trade agreement to stop the illegal entry of goods from the country. In the meeting on Friday, Sharif ordered authorities to ensure effective monitoring of the Afghan transit trade items to prevent their smuggling. 

“He directed the customs authorities to conduct a third-party audit of the system that monitors Afghan transit trade,” state-run media said. 

Authorities told Sharif during the meeting that a list of smugglers, hoarders and their facilitators has been prepared and provided to law enforcement agencies and provinces. 

The Pakistani prime minister appreciated law enforcement agencies for taking effective action against smuggling and ordered authorities to enhance cooperation to crack down on the illegal activities.