Pakistan finance minster arrives in US to attend IMF, World Bank meetings

Pakistan finance minster arrives in US to attend IMF, World Bank meetings
Pakistan Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb gestures while speaking with media representatives at the finance ministry in Islamabad on March 22, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 April 2024
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Pakistan finance minster arrives in US to attend IMF, World Bank meetings

Pakistan finance minster arrives in US to attend IMF, World Bank meetings
  • The development comes amid Islamabad’s efforts to reach an agreement with the IMF for a new bailout program
  • Pakistan remains in need of external financing to shore up its reserves to escape another macroeconomic crisis

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, has arrived in Washington D.C. to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, Pakistani state media reported late Sunday.

The development came amid Islamabad’s efforts to reach a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a new loan program by the end of the current fiscal year in June.

Pakistan successfully completed a final review of its current $3 billion IMF deal this month, clearing the way for the disbursement of a final tranche of nearly $1.1 billion.

However, the South Asian country remains in desperate need of external financing to shore up its foreign exchange reserves and escape yet another macroeconomic crisis.

“During his stay in US, the Finance Minister will meet IMF and World Bank officials,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported. “Meetings with international media and think tank representatives are also included in the Finance Minister’s schedule.”

On Friday, Aurangzeb met with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to discuss Pakistan’s economic strategy ahead of his meetings with IMF and World Bank officials.

“He discussed with the prime minister his scheduled meetings with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other organizations during the visit,” the Pakistani finance ministry said.

“The overall economic situation of the country was also discussed in the meeting.”

Last week, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva confirmed Pakistan was in discussions with her organization on a potential follow-up loan program to its nine-month, $3 billion stand-by arrangement (SBA).

The IMF chief recognized Pakistan’s commitment to structural economic reforms during an event at the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington. She, however, noted that some important issues, including the tax base and overall economic transparency, were yet to be addressed by Pakistani authorities.


Over 16,000 Pakistani pilgrims opt for government’s new shorter duration Hajj package 

Over 16,000 Pakistani pilgrims opt for government’s new shorter duration Hajj package 
Updated 11 sec ago
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Over 16,000 Pakistani pilgrims opt for government’s new shorter duration Hajj package 

Over 16,000 Pakistani pilgrims opt for government’s new shorter duration Hajj package 
  • Government Hajj scheme previously ran for 38-42 days, now shorter deal of up to 30 days also available
  • Pakistan’s Hajj 2024 quota is 179,210 pilgrims of which 63,805 pilgrims will use the government scheme

ISLAMABAD: More than 16,000 pilgrims have chosen the government’s new short duration Hajj package, state-run media said on Wednesday, an option that allows believers to complete the journey in up to 30 days.
Previously, the government Hajj scheme ran for 38-42 days, but a shorter package of 25-30 days has been made available for the first time this year. 
Hajj 2024 is expected to take place from June 14-19, coinciding with the peak of sweltering summer temperatures in the region and raising concerns about the well-being of millions of pilgrims gathering in Makkah from around the world.
“Over 16,000 intending pilgrims have chosen a short Hajj package introduced by the government this year,” state-run Radio Pakistan said, quoting Director General Hajj Abdul Wahab Soomro. “The package is a gift for the busy people who intend to perform Hajj in a short duration.”
Soomro said numerous steps were being taken to facilitate pilgrims during their stay in Saudi Arabia, with space for pilgrims acquired timely in Mina and a train service made available to transport them to Mashayer.
Pakistan has a Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims this year. Of them, 63,805 pilgrims will be performing the pilgrimage under the government scheme, while the rest will be accommodated by private tour operators, according to the Pakistani religious affairs ministry.
Around 40,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have so far arrived in Madinah and Makkah through 164 flights under the government scheme. The number of pilgrims who arrived under the private scheme stands at 5,500. 
As many as 114 flights will be transporting another 34,422 Pakistanis to Jeddah till June 9.
This year, Pakistan is also due to send 550 Hajj assistants and 400 doctors and paramedical staff to Saudi Arabia to ensure that the pilgrimage process, including food, transportation and accommodation, is managed efficiently.


Human Rights Watch urges Pakistan to reform land laws amid eviction drives targeting urban poor

Human Rights Watch urges Pakistan to reform land laws amid eviction drives targeting urban poor
Updated 10 min 51 sec ago
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Human Rights Watch urges Pakistan to reform land laws amid eviction drives targeting urban poor

Human Rights Watch urges Pakistan to reform land laws amid eviction drives targeting urban poor
  • Watchdog says authorities should ensure no one made homeless, compensate loss of land, provide resettlement
  • Officials have said in the past they are only working to remove structures that “encroach” on public lands, state property

ISLAMABAD: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Pakistan this week to reform its colonial-era land laws which the watchdog said were being used to forcibly evict low-income residents, shop owners, and street vendors to make room for public and private development projects.
The latest HRW report titled “I Escaped With Only My Life: Abusive Forced Evictions in Pakistan” details alleged widespread and abusive forced evictions that the rights body said disproportionately affected the most economically and socially marginalized communities in Pakistan. Authorities had evicted thousands of people without adequate consultation, notice, compensation, resettlement assistance, or means of redress in violation of their basic rights, the document said. 
Forced eviction is defined as “the permanent or temporary removal against their will and without the provision of, and access to, appropriate forms of legal or other protection.”
“The Pakistani government urgently needs to reform its colonial-era land laws so that they are equitable, transparent, and in line with Pakistan’s international obligations,” HRW Senior Counsel Saroop Ijaz said.
“The authorities should ensure that no one is made homeless due to eviction, compensate the loss of land, and provide for the resettlement of those displaced.”
The government and police have not yet commented on HRW’s latest report, but officials have said in the past they were only removing structures that “encroached” on public lands or state property, which they deem both necessary and justified. Encroachment is a crime under several provincial and regional laws, and those convicted face fines or even prison sentences.
In its report, HRW interviewed at least 36 victims of forced evictions in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi who alleged that police used excessive force to remove tenants and, in some cases, also made illegal arrests. Interviewees also said there was “little consistency and less rationale” for evictions on the pretext of anti-encroachment drives. Victims said police were arresting and prosecuting those who resisted evictions, while corruption in land acquisition, and poor land registration mechanisms made it impossible for them to prove ownership of their land.
“Many of those evicted, in addition to losing their homes, frequently lose their livelihoods and access to essential public services, such as schools and health care,” the report said. “These practices worsen social and economic inequalities, disproportionately burdening people and households with low incomes, and who often are ethnic minorities.”
Pakistan’s colonial-era Land Acquisition Act (LAA) 1894 provides the template for public land acquisition in the country more than a century after its enactment. 
“The law and others based on it give the government almost exclusive authority to decide what falls within its scope and to displace people with minimum procedural safeguards that are contrary to international human rights law and standards,” the report added.


Karachi braces for heat wave today amid sizzling weather across Pakistan

Karachi braces for heat wave today amid sizzling weather across Pakistan
Updated 15 min 13 sec ago
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Karachi braces for heat wave today amid sizzling weather across Pakistan

Karachi braces for heat wave today amid sizzling weather across Pakistan
  • The country’s chief meteorologist predicts temperature in the port city to hit 45°C for the next three days
  • Pakistan is in the grips of an intense heat wave since last week, with temperatures soaring past 52°C in Sindh

KARACHI: Pakistan’s southern Karachi port city will start experiencing heat wave today that is likely to persist until the end of the week, said the country’s chief meteorologist on Wednesday, as different cities have already been enduring sizzling weather, with upper portion of Sindh province recording temperatures exceeding 52° Celsius.
Earlier this month, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) of Pakistan issued a warning regarding soaring temperatures in certain areas of Sindh and eastern Punjab province, saying they were expected to surge to 40°C between May 15 and 30.
“The temperature will rise up to 45 degrees Celsius,” said Sardar Sarfraz, chief meteorologist, adding that since the situation would persist until June 1 and not for five consecutive days, it would technically be considered a partial heat wave.
Sarfraz noted that the weather in other parts of Sindh had been very hot, with Mohenjo Daro almost reaching a point where it could break its own record of 53.5°C on May 27, 2010.
“Mohenjo Daro’s temperature reached 52.5 degrees Celsius, the third highest for the country,” he said.
In Pakistan, Sarfraz mentioned that the highest temperature was recorded at 54°C in Turbat in 2017, making it the country’s highest and the fourth highest in the world.
Speaking to Arab News, Jawed Memon, a weather expert, said Karachi had already experienced “feels-like” heat wave for the past seven to nine days. However, he said the situation was likely to remain bearable in the next few days.
“Due to these dry and dusty winds, significant drop in humidity levels is expected, specifically from tonight and the feels-like temperatures won’t be so high,” he said
Climate change exacerbates heat waves in Pakistan, with extreme temperatures becoming more frequent.
The country, among the top ten most vulnerable to climate impacts, also faces untimely downpours, floods and droughts.
These heat waves lead to various illnesses, contributing to significant economic losses and weather-related deaths in summer season.
In 2015, Karachi witnessed a deadly heat wave, claiming more 2,000 lives, while devastating floods in 2022 killed around 1,700 people and affected over 33 million across the country, necessitating extensive rebuilding efforts.


Judge recuses from Imran Khan’s marriage appeal case amid chaos in court compound

Judge recuses from Imran Khan’s marriage appeal case amid chaos in court compound
Updated 29 May 2024
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Judge recuses from Imran Khan’s marriage appeal case amid chaos in court compound

Judge recuses from Imran Khan’s marriage appeal case amid chaos in court compound
  • The court was expected to announce verdict in appeals challenging seven-year sentence each for Khan and his wife
  • Lawyers attacked the complainant in the case who was later accused of using ‘inappropriate language’ by PTI leaders

ISLAMABAD: An Islamabad district and sessions court judge hearing appeals challenging the seven-year jail sentence each for former prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Bibi decided to recuse himself on Wednesday after reserving the judgment in the matter last week until today, May 29.
Khan and his wife were sentenced and fined in February by a court that ruled their 2018 marriage broke the law. Bushra was accused of not completing the waiting period mandated by Islam, called “Iddat,” after divorcing her previous husband and marrying Khan.
The Khans signed their marriage contract, or “Nikkah,” in January 2018 in a secret ceremony seven months before the former cricket superstar became prime minister for the first time. There was controversy over whether they had wed before the Iddat period was complete. After initial denials of the marriage, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf confirmed it weeks later.
The Khans both deny wrongdoing.
The judge announced his recusal shortly after lawyers supporting ex-PM Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party assaulted Khawar Manika, Bibi’s former husband and complainant in the case.
“The above referred two appeals are pending adjudication before undersigned and complainant / respondent No. 02 Khawar Farid Manika has shown his mistrust on me today in open court,” Judge Shahrukh Arjumand wrote in a note to the Islamabad High Court after listing the titles of the appeals in the subject line.
“It is humbly submitted to transfer the two (02) appeals … to any other court of competent jurisdiction,” he added.
The judge, however, noted the complainant and his counsel had “always tried to frustrate and delay the proceedings on one pretext or other, therefore, time frame may be fixed for disposal of appeals.”
Television footage showed Manika being manhandled in the court compound.
The PTI leaders attributed the incident to Manika’s provocative language during the hearing while addressing a news conference after the incident.
“He spoke very inappropriately inside the court,” Barrister Gohar Khan, also a top PTI leader, said. “He used words that we cannot even mention in front of the camera.”
He noted that his party had high hopes from the court, adding it should have announced the verdict in “the bogus case” against Khan and his wife and suspended the sentence against them in today’s hearing.
Bibi is currently serving out two prison sentences at Adiala Jail where Khan is also incarcerated. In January, both were sentenced to 14 years in prison in a case that relates to accusations they undervalued gifts from a state repository and gained profits from selling them while Khan was prime minister from 2018-22.


PM orders medical assistance as 28 killed in bus accident in southwestern Pakistan

PM orders medical assistance as 28 killed in bus accident in southwestern Pakistan
Updated 28 min 55 sec ago
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PM orders medical assistance as 28 killed in bus accident in southwestern Pakistan

PM orders medical assistance as 28 killed in bus accident in southwestern Pakistan
  • The incident took place in Washuk district when a Quetta-bound bus fell into a ravine after one of its tires burst
  • Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif instructs the authorities to provide all possible medical assistance to the injured

KARACHI: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif expressed grief over a traffic accident in the southwestern Balochistan province on Wednesday after a bus lost control and fell into a ravine, killing at least 28 people.
Fatal accidents are common in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed and roads, particularly in many rural and mountainous areas, are in poor condition.
Such incidents are particularly common in Balochistan where single carriage roads connect various cities and even some highways lack modern safety features.
“In this difficult time, we stand with the grieving families and express our heartfelt sympathy,” Sharif was quoted as saying by a statement circulated by his office.
The statement said the prime minister instructed the relevant authorities to provide all possible medical assistance to the injured and prayed for their speedy recovery.
Speaking to Arab News, Muhammad Ismail Mengal, the assistant commissioner in Baseema, where the incident occurred, said the bus was traveling from Gwadar to Quetta.
“When it reached Kalghali in the Baseema sub-division of Balochistan’s Washuk district, one of its tires burst, causing the bus to fall down [from the mountainous highway],” he continued. “As a result, 28 people, including three women and three children, died, while 27 others were injured.”
“Four of the injured are in critical condition, for whom a Pakistan Army helicopter will arrive shortly to airlift them to Quetta,” he added. “The remaining injured have been transferred to CMH [Combined Military Hospital], Khuzdar.”
Balochistan Chief Minister Mir Sarfaraz Bugti also expressed sorrow and regret over the incident.
“Deeply saddened by the loss of valuable lives in the bus accident,” he said. “We share the grief of the relatives of the deceased.”