US says it doesn’t support Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project going forward

US says it doesn’t support Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project going forward
US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller speaks during a press briefing in Washington, US, on March 26, 2024. (US State Department)
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Updated 27 March 2024
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US says it doesn’t support Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project going forward

US says it doesn’t support Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project going forward
  • US State Department cautions about the risk of sanctions in doing business with Tehran
  • Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline has been facing delays and funding challenges for several years

WASHINGTON: The US said on Tuesday it does not support a Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project from going forward and cautioned about the risk of sanctions in doing business with Tehran.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT
The Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, known as the Peace Pipeline, is a long-term project between Tehran and Islamabad, and has faced delays and funding challenges for several years. The pipeline would transport natural gas from Iran to neighboring Pakistan.
Iran and Pakistan had signed a five-year trade plan in August 2023 and set a bilateral trade target at $5 billion.
Pakistan’s Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik said this week that his country was seeking a US sanctions waiver for the gas pipeline from Iran.
KEY QUOTES
“We always advise everyone that doing business with Iran runs the risk of touching upon and coming in contact with our sanctions, and would advise everyone to consider that very carefully,” a US State Department spokesperson told reporters in a press briefing.
“We do not support this pipeline going forward,” the spokesperson added, saying that Donald Lu, the State Department’s top official for South and Central Asia, had said as much to a congressional panel last week.
CONTEXT
A few weeks ago, Pakistan and Iran engaged in tit-for-tat strikes when they exchanged drone and missile strikes on militant bases on each other’s territory.
Washington’s relations with Iran have been thorny for a long time and the US has issued multiple rounds of sanctions on Iranian entities.
Officially allies in fighting extremism, Pakistan and the US have had a complicated relationship over the years, bound by Washington’s dependence on Pakistan to supply its troops during its long war in Afghanistan but plagued by accusations Islamabad played a double game.
Some Pakistani politicians have also accused Washington of meddling in Pakistan’s domestic politics, charges that Washington denies.


PM Sharif pledges next IMF bailout to be Pakistan’s last in 100-day progress address

PM Sharif pledges next IMF bailout to be Pakistan’s last in 100-day progress address
Updated 15 June 2024
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PM Sharif pledges next IMF bailout to be Pakistan’s last in 100-day progress address

PM Sharif pledges next IMF bailout to be Pakistan’s last in 100-day progress address
  • The prime minister envisions leaner governance structure, promises solid results within two and a half months
  • He says the government will send 300,000 Pakistanis for IT training to China, make exports more competitive

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday vowed to make the next International Monetary Fund (IMF) program the last one needed to cure his country’s ailing economy during a televised address that summarized the 100-day progress of his administration, which came into power after the general elections in February.
Sharif delivered the speech just a few days after his government presented its first $67.76 billion federal budget, setting highly ambitious revenue generation targets without specifying significant cost-containment measures.
Pakistan is also engaged in negotiations with the IMF for a longer-term bailout of around $8 billion, following a short-term loan of $3 billion that helped the country avert a sovereign debt default in June last year. Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Muhammad Aurangzeb announced in a post-budget news conference this week that the country was hopeful to sign a staff-level agreement with the international lending agency in July.
The prime minister said in his speech his government had taken measures to attract foreign investment and enhance trade with other countries to end the borrowing cycle and find a way out of the debt trap.
“Pakistan will gradually escape the life of debts,” he said during the address. “It is difficult, but not impossible. There are examples in the modern world where many countries approached the IMF only once, and then never returned to it for the rest of their lives.”
“We have gone there 24 or 25 times,” he continued. “Today, I promise you that, God willing, if we strictly follow our program and fully commit to the goals we have set, then this program we are taking might be the last IMF program in the history of Pakistan. After this, we will stand on our own feet and surpass our neighboring countries in the race for development.”
The prime minister said his administration had already brought down inflation from 38 to 12 percent.
Sharing his vision for rapid economic progress, he said the government would not run businesses or enterprises but facilitate the private sector to take the lead. He also noted that his administration was working toward a leaner governance structure and reduced expenses.
“It is the primary duty of my government to eliminate royal expenditures,” he said. “All such ministries and institutions that have become a burden on the nation instead of serving it, and have not only incurred unjust expenses but have also become centers of corruption, their elimination has now become inevitable,” he continued. “It is my foremost duty to abolish them. Therefore, a ministerial committee has been formed on this matter, and I assure you that, God willing, I will bring you positive results within the next two and a half months.”
Sharif said his government was working to create a business-friendly environment and had arranged for 300,000 young Pakistanis to receive information technology training in China every year.
He also noted it had brought down the power tariffs for industries by Rs10.50 per unit to bring down production costs and make Pakistani exports more competitive in international markets.


Pakistan PM advocates digital governance, eyes cost cuts and transparency with E-Office initiative

Pakistan PM advocates digital governance, eyes cost cuts and transparency with E-Office initiative
Updated 15 June 2024
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Pakistan PM advocates digital governance, eyes cost cuts and transparency with E-Office initiative

Pakistan PM advocates digital governance, eyes cost cuts and transparency with E-Office initiative
  • The E-Office plan is part of a broader initiative to make the governance structure leaner and more efficient
  • The PM also held a meeting to discuss the rationalization of state expenses before the budget presentation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Saturday the digitization of government ministries and subordinate departments would save Pakistan billions of rupees and ensure transparency while presiding over a meeting to review the transition to electronic-office (E-Office).
This initiative is part of a broader plan to make the governance structure leaner and more efficient, held shortly after discussions on the rationalization of state expenses before Wednesday’s federal budget presentation.
“The main purpose of using E-Office is to provide the public with better services and bring transparency to the government system,” Sharif told at the meeting. “The use of paper will be minimized, which will also have positive effects on the environment. The transition to E-Office will save billions of rupees for the national treasury.”
The prime minister instructed relevant authorities to make E-Office user-friendly and secure.
He also urged speeding up progress on a cooperation agreement with the Chinese technology company Huawei in this connection, which he discussed during his recent five-day visit to China.
These meetings to reform government structure and operations come at a critical time when Pakistan faces large and persistent fiscal deficits that contribute to macroeconomic instability.
The issue is significant as the government seeks another International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, where reducing government expenses could help reallocate funds to more pressing economic issues.


Body of one missing Japanese climber found on Spantik peak, search continues for second

Body of one missing Japanese climber found on Spantik peak, search continues for second
Updated 15 June 2024
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Body of one missing Japanese climber found on Spantik peak, search continues for second

Body of one missing Japanese climber found on Spantik peak, search continues for second
  • The two Japanese climbers were reported missing on Monday while trying to summit the 7,027-meter peak
  • Authorities say the rescue team comprising two helicopters are ‘working tirelessly in challenging weather’

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: The body of one of the two Japanese climbers was found at the 7,027-meter Spantik peak on Saturday, confirmed local officials, after they were reported missing by another group of mountaineers earlier in the week, prompting authorities in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region to launch a rescue operation.
Pakistan is home to five of the world’s tallest mountains that loom above 8,000 meters, including K2 and Nanga Parbat, known for their treacherous climbs.
Spantik, more popularly called the Golden Peak, is largely viewed as more accessible and straightforward. The Japanese climbers, Ryuseki Hiraoka and Atsushi Taguchi, were attempting to summit it in the Karakoram Range when they went missing on Monday, June 10.
“The dead body of a Japanese climber has been found and the search for the other one is underway,” Naiknam Karim, CEO of Adventure Tours Pakistan, told Arab News in a text message.
The deputy commissioner of Shigar district, Wali Ullah Falahi, informed over the phone that the body of Hiraoka was traced during a helicopter search.
He added that a nine-member rescue team had also left the base camp at 5 AM to look for the missing mountaineers.
“The body was found 300 meters below Camp-3,” he added.
Earlier, a statement circulated by his office confirmed that the body had been retrieved while the search for the second climber was going on.
“The search team, comprising two Pakistan Army helicopters and crewed by high-altitude climbers and experts, has been working tirelessly in challenging weather conditions to locate the missing climbers,” it said.
The statement also noted the Pakistani authorities were keeping the Japanese embassy officials informed about the developments.
According to official figures, over 8,900 foreigners visited the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region in 2023 where the summer climbing season runs from early June to late August.


Pakistan PM Sharif conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Qatari emir

Pakistan PM Sharif conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Qatari emir
Updated 15 June 2024
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Pakistan PM Sharif conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Qatari emir

Pakistan PM Sharif conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Qatari emir
  • Eid Al-Adha marks Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s command
  • The three-day event is one of the two major Muslim festivals on the Islamic calendar

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday held a telephonic conversation with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and conveyed him Eid Al-Adha greetings, Sharif’s office said.
Several Muslim countries, mainly in the Middle East, will celebrate the three-day Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, this week, while others will mark the occasion on Monday. It commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as recounted in the Holy Qur’an.
During his conversation, the prime minister extended warm greetings and best wishes to the emir, the government, and the brotherly people of Qatar on behalf of the government and the people of Pakistan.
“The two leaders exchanged views on the importance of Eid ul Adha, which symbolizes sacrifice, compassion, and unity,” Sharif’s office said in a statement.
“Both leaders also spoke about the plight of the brave and innocent people of Palestine and urged the international community to redouble peace efforts and ensure an immediate end to violence and bloodshed in the region.”
The prime minister and the Qatari emir reaffirmed the strong bond of friendship and brotherhood between both countries and discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields.
“The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for Qatar’s support and cooperation with Pakistan, particularly in the areas of trade, investment, and labor,” the statement read.
“The two leaders agreed to continue to work together to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and beyond.”
Sharif thanked the Qatari emir for accepting the invitation to undertake an official visit to Pakistan and said the dates of his visit would be worked out soon.
Islamabad signed several agreements and letters of intent with Qatari companies in January this year to enhance employment opportunities for Pakistani workers in Qatar.
In 2021, the Qatari government announced conditional arrival visas for Pakistani nationals, while Qatar established an air bridge and sent urgent aid to Pakistan including food, tents and hygiene kits after the 2022 floods.


‘Heads must roll’: Pakistan ex-stars, media slam T20 World Cup exit

‘Heads must roll’: Pakistan ex-stars, media slam T20 World Cup exit
Updated 15 June 2024
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‘Heads must roll’: Pakistan ex-stars, media slam T20 World Cup exit

‘Heads must roll’: Pakistan ex-stars, media slam T20 World Cup exit
  • The 2009 champions were knocked out after rain abandoned USA-Ireland match
  • They suffered a shock defeat to first-timers USA before losing to arch-rivals India

KARACHI: Pakistan’s ex-stars and media blamed team discord and biased selection for the Asian cricket powerhouse’s humiliating first-round exit from the Twenty20 World Cup.
The 2009 champions were knocked out after the USA-Ireland match was abandoned because of rain — the earliest-ever elimination from a T20 World Cup for Pakistan.
They suffered a shock defeat to first-timers USA before losing to arch-rivals India. Pakistan’s only win was against Canada.
“Pakistani players think that if they don’t perform well, the coaches will be sacked, and nothing will happen to them,” former captain Wasim Akram said during a broadcast after the defeat to India.
“It is time to keep the coaches and change the entire team.”
Throughout the tournament, the team was dogged by allegations of internal discord and that some players were in the squad because of favoritism and not merit.
Fans and analysts also criticized the team’s management for not picking the right players for the World Cup.
Former player Kamran Akmal said Shadab Khan was chosen to play because he is close to captain Babar Azam, and that meant leaving out leg-spinner Usama Mir, the top wicket-taker in this year’s Pakistan Super League.
“When you select players based on friendship, you’ll get these results,” Akmal told AFP. “Mir should have been in the squad... That was a big injustice.”
Reports of discord over the swap also marred Pakistan’s warm-up for the World Cup. They lost to Ireland, lost 2-0 to England and drew 2-2 against a depleted New Zealand.
“Some poor administrative and selection decisions in the run-up to World Cup resulted in the team’s inability to progress,” said the English-language newspaper The News.
The 2024 edition marked a dramatic fall for Pakistan from the last World Cup two years ago, when they reached the final.
“I am disgusted and will not watch the World Cup any more,” said Mohammad Asim, a Pakistani fan.
“The team selection was biased and based on friendship,” said the 19-year-old university student.
And Salim, a taxi driver, said the team was “finished” after losing to a new side like the USA.
Pakistan are due to host next year’s Champions Trophy, and there are calls for a major shake-up in the team and the management.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Mohsin Naqvi — who is also the country’s interior minister — said changes were imminent.
“Pakistan team needs a major surgery,” he told local media after the India defeat.
“We must endeavour to make the Pakistani cricket team one of the best in the world. The nation does not expect such a disappointing performance.”
But one former captain said the board is part of the problem.
“Before we shift the blame to the players, first the PCB and its governing body needs to be sacked,” Rashid Latif wrote on the social media platform X.
“These are the people responsible for selecting the players. Heads must roll, but would they?”