Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 

Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 
Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan speaks during a press conference in Cairo, Egypt, on January 28, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 April 2024
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Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 

Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 
  • Visit comes days after Pakistan, Saudi Arabia reaffirmed commitment to expedite $5 billion investment
  • Pakistan state media on Sunday said Saudi Arabia would invest $1 billion in Reko Diq mining project 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will arrive in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries, the Pakistani foreign office said.
The Saudi foreign minister’s visit comes a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion.
“The visit takes place essentially to expedite follow up on the understanding reached between Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and HRH Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during their recent meeting in Makkah Al Mukarramah to enhance bilateral economic cooperation,” the foreign office said in a statement. 
“This visit is aimed at lending positive impetus to enhanced bilateral cooperation and mutually rewarding economic partnership.”
The Saudi delegation comprises the foreign minister, minister of water and agriculture, minister of industry and mineral resources, deputy minister of investment, and senior officials from the Saudi energy ministry and the Saudi Fund for General Investments, according to the Pakistani foreign office.
The Saudi delegation is expected to hold meetings with the Pakistani president, the prime minister, the foreign minister and counterpart ministers, as well as the army chief and members of the apex committee of the Special Investment Facilitation Council, set up last year to oversee all foreign investments. 
The Saudi government has not yet commented on the visit or its agenda. 
Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.
Saudi Arabia has also often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid by regularly providing it oil on deferred payment and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.
On Sunday, Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the Reko Diq copper and gold mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.


Pakistan seeks US support for favorable international financing to fix power sector woes

Pakistan seeks US support for favorable international financing to fix power sector woes
Updated 13 June 2024
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Pakistan seeks US support for favorable international financing to fix power sector woes

Pakistan seeks US support for favorable international financing to fix power sector woes
  • Energy Minister Sardar Leghari meets US delegation led by Assistant Treasury Secretary Brent Neiman
  • “Fan replacement program” being launched for first time in Pakistan to increase energy savings, Leghari says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Energy Minister Sardar Awaiz Leghari has sought US assistance in securing international financing at “more favorable rates” to fix deficiencies in the South Asian nation’s ailing power sector, a statement from his office said on Thursday.

Restoring the viability of the energy sector is a major demand of the IMF, with which Pakistan is in negotiations for a new bailout loan ranging from $6 billion to $8 billion to avert default in an economy growing at the region’s slowest pace.

The IMF wants Pakistan to prevent further accumulation of circular debt in its power sector arising from subsidies and unpaid bills, and implement reforms to reduce costs by improving electricity transmission and distribution, moving captive power into the grid, improving governance, and combating theft.

Additionally, Pakistan needs to maintain power and gas tariffs at levels that ensure cost recovery, with adjustments made to safeguard the financially vulnerable, through existing progressive tariff structures.

In a report released in January, the IMF said Pakistan had missed its target for power sector arrears, largely due to lower-than-expected recoveries and tariffs.

On Thursday, a delegation from the US treasury department called on the Pakistani power minister and discussed collaborations in the energy sector as well as Islamabad’s reform agenda. 

A statement from Leghari’s office said he told the delegation about “the importance of US support in securing international financing at more favorable rates for Pakistan’s power sector.”

“He expressed the need for US technical assistance to address the gap between seasonal production and demand,” the statement added. 

Leghari informed the US delegation about plans to address the power sector’s deficiencies, adding that the reforms were aimed at improving Pakistan’s energy mix and rectifying other issues. 

The energy minister also informed the US delegation about reforms to increase private sector participation in the distribution and transmission of electricity. T

Discussing debt management, the energy minister also apprised the US team of a “fan replacement program” being launched by Pakistan in a bid to increase energy saving.

“The US Assistant Secretary of Treasury [Brent Neiman] appreciated Pakistan’s power sector reform initiatives and assured all possible cooperation to resolve Pakistan’s power sector problems,” the statement said. 


Pakistan shares close at record high after budget dispels concern over capital gains tax hike

Pakistan shares close at record high after budget dispels concern over capital gains tax hike
Updated 13 June 2024
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Pakistan shares close at record high after budget dispels concern over capital gains tax hike

Pakistan shares close at record high after budget dispels concern over capital gains tax hike
  • Benchmark share index closed up 4.9 percent at 76,338 points after presentation of budget, which looks to raise tax revenue of $47 billion
  • Budget aims to strengthen case for new IMF bailout deal, as Pakistan seeks estimated loan ranging from $6 billion to $8 billion

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s benchmark share index made its biggest single-day gain in nearly a year to close at a record high, a day after the government unveiled a budget that cheered investors by avoiding an anticipated increase in capital gains tax, despite an ambitious tax revenue target.

The benchmark share index closed up 4.9 percent at 76,338 points after the presentation of the budget, which looks to raise tax revenue of 13 trillion rupees ($47 billion) for the year starting July 1, up nearly 40 percent from the current year.

“The market was expecting an increase in capital gains tax and so investors had reduced exposure significantly,” said Adnan Sheikh, assistant vice president of Pak Kuwait Investment Co.

A record day was expected following the budget and Monday’s cut of 150 bps in the central bank’s policy rate, as “equities are the best option for the medium term,” said Sheikh.

Pakistan’s international sovereign bonds also rallied with longer-dated maturities seeing the largest gains. The 2036 bond added 1.4 cents — its biggest gain in more than two months — to be bid at just over 77 cents in the dollar, Tradeweb data showed. .

Following a post budget press conference on Thursday, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb told Reuters that Islamabad plans to raise up to $1 billion through international bonds in the 2025/26 fiscal year, adding that up to $300 million will be raised through Chinese markets.

Apart from the capital gains tax, analysts say the budget and other revenue measures were in line with expectations.

The budget aims to strengthen the case for a new bailout deal from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), as Pakistan seeks an estimated loan ranging from $6 billion to $8 billion, to avert default in an economy growing at the region’s slowest pace.

“We believe this budget will serve as prior action for a new IMF program,” Topline Securities said in a note.

Topline said that if parliament passes the budget in compliance with IMF measures, it expected a forward price to earnings ratio of 6.93 in three years time, for a historic high, from 3.4 now.

Defending the decision to boost tax revenue, Aurangzeb said the present tax-to-GDP ratio of a little under 10 percent was not sustainable.

Key objectives for the upcoming fiscal year include efforts to increase the ratio gradually to 13 percent in the next three years, Aurangzeb told a press conference after presenting the budget in parliament.


Pakistan’s top investigation agency moves court against acquittal of ex-PM Khan in state secrets case

Pakistan’s top investigation agency moves court against acquittal of ex-PM Khan in state secrets case
Updated 13 June 2024
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Pakistan’s top investigation agency moves court against acquittal of ex-PM Khan in state secrets case

Pakistan’s top investigation agency moves court against acquittal of ex-PM Khan in state secrets case
  • A high court in Pakistan earlier this month overturned jailed former PM’s conviction on charges of leaking state secrets
  • Despite acquittal order by Islamabad High Court, Khan will remain in prison for now due to a conviction in another case

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has challenged in the Supreme Court a decision by a high court to overturn jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s conviction on charges of leaking state secrets, the ex-premier’s party said on Thursday.

Khan, 71, had been sentenced to 10 years in prison by a lower court on charges of making public a classified cable sent to Islamabad by Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington in 2022. He has been in jail since August last year.

On June 3, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) overturned the state secrets case conviction, saying an “instant appeal is allowed” and Khan was acquitted of the charges. Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Khan’s foreign minister during his tenure from 2018-2022, was also acquitted of the charges. Both however remain in jail due to other legal cases against them. 

“FIA has challenged IHC decision, acquitting former Prime Minister Imran Khan & Former Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, in the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) said in a text message sent to journalists. 

“Interestingly appeal filed by FIA is based on short order of IHC whereas detailed verdict is yet to be announced.”

Khan has said the classified cable was proof of a conspiracy by the Pakistan military and the US government to topple his government in 2022 after he visited Moscow just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Washington and Pakistan’s military deny that accusation.

The state secrets case was one of four in which Khan was convicted just ahead of Pakistan’s national election in February. In two other cases the sentences have since been suspended.

But despite the June 3 acquittal, Khan, a former cricket star, will remain in prison serving a seven-year sentence over another case relating to his marriage to his third wife, Bushra Khan, also known as Bushra Bibi, which a court said contravened Islamic law. 

A ruling on the couple’s appeal against the sentence was postponed last month and the proceedings transferred to another court after a judge recused himself following an accusation of bias made by Bibi’s former husband, according to Khan’s lawyers.

Khan and his party were banned from contesting the February election, but candidates backed by the jailed leader still won the most seats. They did not have the numbers to form a government, which was instead led by an alliance of his rivals led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif.

With inputs from Reuters


Pakistan says will collaborate with Arab states for implementation of UNSC-backed ceasefire plan in Gaza

Pakistan says will collaborate with Arab states for implementation of UNSC-backed ceasefire plan in Gaza
Updated 1 min 19 sec ago
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Pakistan says will collaborate with Arab states for implementation of UNSC-backed ceasefire plan in Gaza

Pakistan says will collaborate with Arab states for implementation of UNSC-backed ceasefire plan in Gaza
  • Pakistan will start its new term as non-permanent member of the UN Security Council on January 1, 2025
  • Ambassador Akram says Pakistan seeks dialogue with India to address outstanding issues, including Kashmir

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will work with Arab states and other Muslim countries to seek the implementation of two United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions for a ceasefire in Gaza, Islamabad’s top diplomat at the United Nations said on Wednesday, a week after Pakistan was elected as a non-permanent member of the Council.

Pakistan will replace Japan, which currently occupies the Asian seat, on January 1, 2025, to begin a two-year term after being elected to the top UN body for the eighth time with 182 votes in the 193-member General Assembly. 

“We are trying to do together with our Arab and Muslim brothers, to get an implementation of the Security Council’s decisions on a ceasefire, on providing humanitarian access for the besieged people, the Palestinians, and Gaza, and to promote reconstruction and finally of course to promote the vision of a two-state solution which everybody agrees is the only course through which a durable peace can be established in the holy land,” Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Munir Akram, told Arab News in a Zoom interview from New York.

On Monday, the UNSC backed a proposal outlined by US President Joe Biden for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza strip and urged the Palestinian group to accept the deal aimed at ending the eight-month-long war.

Akram said the United States proposal called for the implementation of a ceasefire plan, which was negotiated by Egypt, Qatar, and the US.

“Now the question is whether this resolution will be implemented and again, the question of implementing resolutions when it comes there, the United Nations has limited capability for enforcement,” he said, adding that the UN had no military means to implement its decisions and sanctions required passage by the UNSC, which was difficult due to the power of veto. 

The world had witnessed many instances where actions had been blocked in the Security Council because of the use of the veto, Akram said. 

“This is where we have to explore what is possible and what is doable to get to the objectives that we all want, which is ceasefire in Gaza, humanitarian help, reconstruction, and a two-state solution.”

As a non-permanent member of the UNSC, the ambassador said Pakistan would promote an international order based on the UN Charter, emphasizing self-determination, sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference, and prohibiting the use or threat of force.

“We will seek for the implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir and other conflicts and will also be seeking to strengthen UN peacekeeping capabilities to make UN peacekeeping more effective,” Akram said. 

When asked about his country’s expectations from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been sworn in for a third term, Akram said Pakistan “looked forward” to the possibility of dialogue to address all outstanding issues, including the principal issue of Kashmir.

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a flashpoint between Pakistan and India since their independence from British rule in 1947. Both countries rule part of the Himalayan territory but claim it in full and have fought two wars over the disputed region.

“Pakistani government is open to a constructive dialogue with India,” Akram said. “We hope this will be a dialogue without preconditions and that we would be able to promote more normal relations and a relationship based on the principle of sovereignty and equality of states.”


National Press Club lauds Pakistan’s announcement of health insurance scheme for journalists

National Press Club lauds Pakistan’s announcement of health insurance scheme for journalists
Updated 13 June 2024
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National Press Club lauds Pakistan’s announcement of health insurance scheme for journalists

National Press Club lauds Pakistan’s announcement of health insurance scheme for journalists
  • Finance minister announced reviving stalled health insurance scheme for 15,000 journalists during budget speech
  • National Press Club president urges government to also add benevolent fund and pension scheme to new budget

ISLAMABAD: The National Press Club on Thursday lauded the Pakistan government for including a Rs1 billion ($3.6 million) health insurance scheme for journalists in the budget for fiscal year 2024-25, urging the administration to also consider adding a benevolent fund and pension program.

Pakistani finance minister Muhammad Aurangzeb on Wednesday announced a health insurance scheme for journalists and media workers while presenting the federal budget 2024-25 in the National Assembly. In the first phase of the scheme, some 5,000 journalists and media worker will be provided with health insurance, which would be extended to another 10,000 journalists in the second phase. 

“Shehbaz Sharif, when he took the oath of the prime minister for the second time, he ordered to revive health insurance for journalists and media workers,” the finance minister said in his budget speech.

The Rs1 billion allocation was made in the finance bill for FY23 but the scheme could not be started after the dissolution of the Prime Minister Sharif-led coalition government ahead of February 8 national elections.

Azhar Jatoi, the president of the National Press Club in Islamabad, lauded the government for reviving the stalled health insurance project, which he described as a “long standing demand” of journalists and media workers. 

“It is unfortunate that the majority of our news organizations don’t provide sufficient health coverage to their employees, so this government initiative will help cover this gap,” Jatoi told Arab News.

A delegation of journalists had called on Information Minister Attaullah Tarar on Thursday and demanded that the government also include a benevolent fund and pension scheme in the budget. 

“The minister has promised to review our proposals for the benevolent fund and pension,” Jatoi said. “The provinces are already providing the benevolent fund facility to journalists, so we want the government to start it in the center as well where over 3,400 journalists and media workers are registered with the press club.”