Saudi development agency signs $100 million in loans with Pakistan for hydropower projects in Kashmir

Saudi development agency signs $100 million in loans with Pakistan for hydropower projects in Kashmir
Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (second left), Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) CEO Sultan Al-Marshad (left), and the delegation are pictured after a meeting at the PM Office in Islamabad, Pakistan on March 22, 2024. (Government of Pakistan)
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Updated 22 March 2024
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Saudi development agency signs $100 million in loans with Pakistan for hydropower projects in Kashmir

Saudi development agency signs $100 million in loans with Pakistan for hydropower projects in Kashmir
  • The projects are expected to prevent deforestation in areas where people still rely on wood for energy
  • The two projects will generate 70 megawatts of electricity that will be transmitted to the national grid

ISLAMABAD: A visiting Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) delegation signed two loan agreements of about $100 million with Pakistan’s economic affairs ministry on Friday to finance two important hydropower projects in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

The SFD is a Saudi government agency that provides development assistance and financial aid to developing countries in the form of loans and grants. It aims to support these countries in implementing projects that promote economic stability and growth, improve infrastructure and enhance living standards.

The SFD has also been instrumental in aiding Pakistan’s economy by depositing money in the country’s central bank to help boost its foreign exchange reserves. Additionally, it has funded various development projects in Pakistan, including infrastructure, education and health initiatives to contribute to the country’s socio-economic development.

The Saudi agency has now agreed to bankroll two hydropower projects in Azad Kashmir to support Pakistan’s efforts for energy sustainability and economic growth.

“To enhance development cooperation, #SFD CEO, H.E. Mr. Sultan Al-Marshad, signed today with Pakistan’s Secretary Ministry of Economic Affairs, H.E. Dr. Kazim Niaz, two development loan agreements to finance Shounter Hydropower Project worth $66 Million & Jagran-IV Hydropower Project worth $35 Million,” the SFD announced in a social media post.

Earlier, the delegation met Pakistan’s economic affairs minister Ahad Khan Cheema who witnessed the signing of the agreements.

According to a statement released by his office, the two projects “aim at harnessing the indigenously available hydropower potential and generating 70 MW hydropower which will be transmitted to national grid.”

“Moreover, it will help in eradicating the menace of deforestation by providing electricity as an alternative to the energy needs of the local communities, who hitherto are entirely dependent on forest wood,” it added, “and create economic opportunities for socioeconomic uplift of the people of AJK.”

Cheema also appreciated the role and support of SFD to Pakistan at a challenging time and emphasized further strengthening of ties in the future.

The top SFD official leading the delegation also assured the Saudi agency’s continued support to Pakistan.

Later, the SFD delegation met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif who appreciated the support of the Saudi agency while highlighting the need to expedite the processing of new projects.


Pakistani rice traders warn government of drop in exports due to additional taxes

Pakistani rice traders warn government of drop in exports due to additional taxes
Updated 35 sec ago
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Pakistani rice traders warn government of drop in exports due to additional taxes

Pakistani rice traders warn government of drop in exports due to additional taxes
  • Local traders of the commodity set $5 billion of export target before government introduced new tax regime
  • National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce will take up the issue in its forthcoming meeting next week

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani rice traders on Friday warned the government of a possible reduction in their exports to $2 billion, against the ambitious $5 billion target, blaming the new tax regime expected to make them pay a larger share of their earnings than in the past.
The country’s rice exports to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China, Malaysia and other countries reached $3.9 billion in the last fiscal year, a noticeable improvement compared to the previous year’s $2.1 billion, reflecting an upward trajectory.
For the current fiscal year, Pakistani rice traders have been eyeing $5 billion. However, they say this might not happen due to the government’s decision to replace the Final Tax Regime with the Hybrid Tax Regime, which would double the tax rates and force exporters to file returns each month.
The Final Tax Regime refers to a system where specific sources of income, such as dividends, have final tax deductions made at the source, meaning no further tax is payable. In contrast, the Hybrid Tax Regime applies to businesses or individuals with multiple income streams, combining final taxed income with additional taxable income, requiring more meticulous filing of returns and higher overall tax rates.
“This new tax regime will leave us uncompetitive in the international market,” Chela Ram Kewlani, Chairman Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, told Arab News. “This will automatically result in a drop in our rice exports to $2 billion as we have already been doing business at record high markup rates and electricity costs.”
He said the new tax regime would open the door for the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the country’s tax collection body, to audit their business, resulting in “corruption and harassment” of rice exporters.
“There is a clear contradiction in the government’s statements and actions,” he said. “They want to boost the exports, but at the same time they want to burden the sector with heavy taxes.”
Kewlani said, besides the new tax regime, the government would levy 10 percent super tax if the exports of a trader went beyond Rs4 billion ($14.4 million).
He informed the exporters held a meeting with Federal Minister for Finance Muhammad Aurangzeb last week to discuss the issue, though it did not yield their desired results.
“You are aware of the economic situation, so the government has no option but to levy additional taxes on the rice exports,” he said while quoting the finance minister.
Muhammad Jawed Hanif, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Commerce, said he was aware of the challenges posed by additional taxes, adding the committee would discuss the matter in its next meeting.
“We have a meeting on July 24 wherein we will discuss these rice export issues,” he told Arab News.
“All issues related to exports will be on my priority list as the country badly needs foreign exchange through increased exports of our products,” he added.


Pakistan’s election body to enforce top court’s reserved seats verdict, may seek further legal guidance

Pakistan’s election body to enforce top court’s reserved seats verdict, may seek further legal guidance
Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan’s election body to enforce top court’s reserved seats verdict, may seek further legal guidance

Pakistan’s election body to enforce top court’s reserved seats verdict, may seek further legal guidance
  • The court said earlier this month ex-PM Khan’s PTI was eligible for reserved seats for women and minorities
  • ECP dismissed PTI’s criticism asking its top official to step down while accusing him of bias against the party

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s election regulatory body said on Friday it would enforce the Supreme Court’s verdict in a case involving the reserved seats for women and minorities in national and provincial legislatures, adding it had asked its lawyers to determine if there were areas where it needed the court’s further guidance.
The country’s top court delivered a major decision in favor of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, saying it was eligible for reserved seats in national and provincial assemblies, even as it put pressure on the fragile coalition currently ruling the federation.
PTI candidates were forced to contest the February 8 general polls as independents after the party was stripped of its election symbol of the cricket bat by the top court for not holding proper intra-party elections. While these candidates won the most general seats, the ECP ruled they were not entitled to the reserved seats since they were meant for political parties.
Subsequently, these seats were allocated to other political factions, mostly from those in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s ruling coalition. But the Supreme Court reversed the decision while criticizing the ECP for misconstruing its decision related to the election symbol by depriving PTI of its reserved seats.
“The election commission has decided to implement the Supreme Court’s decision,” the ECP said after holding a meeting to discuss the verdict. “However, the election commission has instructed its legal team to immediately identify any points of the Supreme Court decision that pose implementation challenges so that further guidance can be sought from the court.”
It also responded to PTI’s criticism, which called for the top ECP official to step down following the Supreme Court’s verdict, accusing him of harboring a bias against the party.
“The election commission did not validate PTI’s intra-party elections, which PTI contested on various forums, and the election commission’s decision was upheld,” it said.
It pointed out that PTI lost its election symbol for the same reason.
“Therefore, any accusations against the election commission are highly inappropriate,” it added.
Pakistan’s ruling coalition criticized the Supreme Court’s decision, with some of its members pointing out the court gave relief to PTI, though it had not originally filed the case.
However, the Supreme Court said in its decision that “PTI was and is a party,” despite its earlier verdict depriving it of election emblem right ahead of the general polls.


Pakistan deploys advanced warship for regional maritime security, port protection

Pakistan deploys advanced warship for regional maritime security, port protection
Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan deploys advanced warship for regional maritime security, port protection

Pakistan deploys advanced warship for regional maritime security, port protection
  • PNS Yarmook is equipped with latest weapons and equipment, capable of dealing with multifaceted threats
  • It will also be used for ‘naval diplomacy’ during its deployment period and visit various ports around the region

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has deployed a warship for regional maritime security and to protect commercial vessels arriving at its ports, according to a statement released by the military’s media wing, Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), on Friday.
The development comes as the country plans to upgrade its southern port facilities to strengthen its economy by bolstering trade with countries worldwide.
Pakistan has also offered the landlocked Central Asian states access to its harbor in Karachi while aiming to increase its capacity for handling incoming and outgoing cargo.
“The Pakistan Navy has deployed the warship PNS Yarmook on a regional maritime security patrol in the Indian Ocean,” the ISPR said in a statement. “Equipped with modern helicopters, PNS Yarmook will ensure the safety of commercial vessels arriving at and departing from Pakistani ports.”
The statement said the warship would participate in joint operations and exercises with friendly countries in addition to its own operations.
PNS Yarmook will also be part of “naval diplomacy” and visit various regional ports during its deployment.
“This ship is equipped with the latest weapons and equipment, capable of dealing with multifaceted threats and conducting extensive maritime operations,” the ISPR continued.
“Pakistan Navy warships regularly perform duties on regional maritime security patrols,” it added.


Pakistan announces $250 million investment by Abu Dhabi Ports over 10 years in Karachi

Pakistan announces $250 million investment by Abu Dhabi Ports over 10 years in Karachi
Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan announces $250 million investment by Abu Dhabi Ports over 10 years in Karachi

Pakistan announces $250 million investment by Abu Dhabi Ports over 10 years in Karachi
  • Senior company delegation briefs PM Sharif on plans to upgrade the container terminal facility
  • The improved infrastructure will help the docking of ships carrying up to 120,000 tons of cargo

ISLAMABAD: Abu Dhabi Ports Pakistan will invest $250 million in the country over a period of ten years, an official statement announced Friday, as it plans to build an advanced port facility in the country’s seaside metropolis of Karachi.
Last year in May, the leading maritime and logistics provider based in the United Arab Emirates, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Karachi Port Trust to construct a premier transshipment hub in the city.
The Pakistani officials expressed hope at the time that the UAE company would help transform Karachi Port into a world-class maritime facility.
“Abu Dhabi Ports Pakistan will invest $250 million in Karachi Port over the next ten years,” said an official statement released after a high-level delegation of the company called upon Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.
“A state-of-the-art, fully-equipped multipurpose terminal, being constructed with an investment of $130 million, will be completed in the next two years,” it added while quoting from a briefing given by the delegation members.
The statement said the company wanted to improve container terminal facilities at the Karachi Port by installing automated gates, an additional 200 meters of berth extension and crane rail tracks.
“The construction of new infrastructure at the terminal will allow the docking of ships carrying up to 120,000 tons of cargo, thereby increasing economic activities at the port,” it continued.
The prime minister hoped digital technology and modern machinery would improve the management of goods and containers at the port.
He also directed the authorities to improve the container system to minimize the clearance time.
“The agreement with Abu Dhabi Ports aims at transparency, increased efficiency, and improved port operations,” he was quoted as saying.
He assured the UAE company of his government’s full support regarding the implementation of Pakistan’s agreement with it to maximize its benefits.
The prime minister also instructed railway officials to provide freight wagons and necessary rolling stock to make the project operational and enhance cargo transportation from the terminal.


US calls for media safety following journalist’s killing in Pakistan’s northwest

US calls for media safety following journalist’s killing in Pakistan’s northwest
Updated 19 July 2024
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US calls for media safety following journalist’s killing in Pakistan’s northwest

US calls for media safety following journalist’s killing in Pakistan’s northwest
  • Malik Hassan Zaib was fatally shot by unknown gunmen on motorbike in KP’s Nowshera city
  • State Department says journalists should be allowed to carry out their duties worldwide

ISLAMABAD: The US State Department on Thursday emphasized the importance of journalist safety worldwide while commenting on the killing of a Pakistani reporter in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province by unidentified gunmen last week.
Malik Hassan Zaib, who was fatally shot by unknown people on a motorbike in KP’s Nowshera city, was the eighth journalist to be killed in Pakistan in the ongoing year.
His assassination was condemned by press freedom organizations that maintained it highlighted the increasing dangers faced by journalists in the South Asian state.
Asked about the development during the State Department media briefing, the principal deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said it was vital for journalists to be able to carry out their responsibilities anywhere in the world.
“Journalists need to be protected and they need to be allowed to do their jobs, whether that be the United States, whether that be Pakistan, whether that be in the Gaza Strip,” he said. “That is something that we feel strongly, and it’s something that is deeply personal to the Secretary [Antony Blinken].”
“It’s obviously personal to us and this team having – spending most of our days engaging with you all,” he continued. “But simply put, journalists need to be protected and need to be able to do their jobs.”
The Pakistani correspondent’s death also prompted New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists to urge the Pakistani authorities to deal with the “horrifying wave of violence” against the media.
It also asked the government to bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice.
“The continued impunity for those who attack journalists is creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in Pakistan, which prevents the practice of free and independent journalism,” it added.