Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout

Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Economist Pierre Olivier Gourinchas speaks during an interview with AFP at the IMF headquarters in Washington, DC, on July 26, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout

Washington urges Pakistan to prioritize economic reforms amid push for new IMF bailout
  • Pakistan is seeking at least a three-year multi-billion dollar loan package from IMF
  • US urges Pakistan and India to avoid escalation, find resolution through dialogue 

ISLAMABAD: The United States on Tuesday urged Pakistan to expand and prioritize economic reforms as Islamabad goes into negotiations for a new multi-year loan program from the International Monetary Fund. 

An ongoing nine-month, $3 billion IMF bailout designed to tackle a balance-of-payments crisis which brought Pakistan to the brink of default last summer will expire this month. Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, who is on a visit to Washington for spring meetings organized by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, has said Pakistan will be seeking an at least three-year new program worth “billions” of dollars.

“Pakistan has made progress to stabilize its economy, and we support its efforts to manage its daunting debt burden,” State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said when asked about Pakistan going into negotiations with the IMF for a new loan deal.

“We encourage the government to prioritize and expand economic reforms to address its economic challenges. Our support for the country’s economic success is unwavering, and we will continue to engage with Pakistan through technical agreements, as well as through our trade and investment ties, all of which are priorities of our bilateral relationship.”

Speaking about remarks made by Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh that India would enter Pakistan to kill anyone who escapes over its border after trying to carry out militant attacks, Miller said:

“The United States is not going to get in the middle of this, but we do encourage both India and Pakistan to avoid escalation and find a resolution through dialogue.”

Singh’s comments earlier this month came after the Guardian newspaper published a report stating the Indian government had killed about 20 people in Pakistan since 2020 as part of a broader plan to target “terrorists residing on foreign soil.”

Relations between India and Pakistan have worsened since a 2019 suicide bombing of an Indian military convoy in Kashmir that New Delhi said was traced to Pakistan-based militants and which prompted it to carry out an airstrike on what it said was a militant base in Pakistan. Islamabad denies state complicity in the suicide bombing or that India hit militant targets in Pakistan. 

Pakistan said earlier this year it had credible evidence linking Indian agents to the killing of two of its citizens on its soil. This week Pakistan said investigations had suggested India was behind the death of a Pakistani man suspected of killing alleged Indian spy Sarabjit Singh in 2013.

Canada and the United States last year accused India of killing or attempting to kill people in those countries.

Canada said in September that it was pursuing “credible allegations” linking India to the death of a Sikh separatist leader shot dead in June — claims that India said were “absurd and motivated.” 

The US similarly said in November that it had thwarted an Indian plot to kill a Sikh separatist leader and announced charges against a person it said had worked with India to orchestrate the attempted murder. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said India will investigate any information it receives on the matter.


Pakistan PM mourns the loss of Holy Ka`aba’s key bearer, offers condolences

Pakistan PM mourns the loss of Holy Ka`aba’s key bearer, offers condolences
Updated 22 sec ago
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Pakistan PM mourns the loss of Holy Ka`aba’s key bearer, offers condolences

Pakistan PM mourns the loss of Holy Ka`aba’s key bearer, offers condolences
  • Dr. Sheikh Saleh Al-Shaibi was born in Makkah and secured a doctorate in Islamic Studies
  • His family was assigned by the Prophet (PBUH) himself to be the caretaker of the Ka`aba

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday expressed grief and offered condolences over the passing of Dr. Sheikh Saleh Al-Shaibi, the guardian and key bearer of the Holy Ka`aba, who died earlier in the day.
Dr. Al-Shaibi, who was born in Makkah and secured a doctorate in Islamic Studies, initially worked as a university professor and published several books on religion and history.
He belonged to a family that has served as the caretaker of Ka`aba, the black cubical structure at the heart of Makkah’s Grand Mosque, since the city was conquered by the first Muslim community under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
“Dr. Sheikh Saleh Al-Shaibi had the unique honor of being the key bearer of the Ka`aba and every Muslim is proud of his fate for having such an honor,” Sharif said in a condolence message reported by Radio Pakistan.
He prayed for the high rank for the deceased in the afterlife and patience for the bereaved family.
Dr. Al-Shaibi became the caretaker of the Ka`aba in 2013 after his uncle, Abdul Qader Taha Al-Shaibi, passed away.
The Prophet (PBUH) had handed the key to the Ka`aba to his ancestor, Uthman Ibn Abi Talha, in the eighth year of hijra and ordered that the honor should forever remain in his family.


Lawyer says Pakistani court ruling offers hope for easier life for Afghan musicians, transgender refugees

Lawyer says Pakistani court ruling offers hope for easier life for Afghan musicians, transgender refugees
Updated 51 min 3 sec ago
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Lawyer says Pakistani court ruling offers hope for easier life for Afghan musicians, transgender refugees

Lawyer says Pakistani court ruling offers hope for easier life for Afghan musicians, transgender refugees
  • Peshawar High Court ordered Pakistani authorities not to deport these people seeking asylum in the country
  • Afghan musicians, transgender persons fled their country due to fear of persecution after the Taliban’s return

PESHAWAR: A lawyer representing undocumented musicians and transgender people from Afghanistan said on Saturday he was hopeful a recent court verdict would make his clients’ lives easier in Pakistan after they fled their country due to fear of persecution in the wake of the Taliban’s return to power in 2021.
A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court, comprising Justices Ijaz Anwar and Waqar Ahmad, instructed the Pakistani authorities not to “harass” these musicians while hearing their petition pending further proceedings.
It also issued an order prohibiting the forced repatriation of these individuals seeking asylum in Pakistan until the court issued its final directive.
The Afghan Taliban imposed a ban on music soon after taking over the capital city of Kabul over two years ago, considering it against the principles of Islamic Shariah.
The musicians filed a case in the Peshawar High Court last October to prevent their return to Afghanistan, following a massive deportation drive for unregistered foreigners initiated by Pakistani authorities citing security reasons.
“The recent development offers hope for Afghan artists and transgender people who fear persecution if they are deported to Afghanistan,” Advocate Mumtaz Khan told Arab News on Saturday.
He noted that many Afghan musicians were detained and harassed by the police due to a lack of documentation.
“The situation of Afghan musicians has remained dire,” he continued. “They cannot move freely or hold public concerts.”
Khan maintained these people had fled their country to save their lives where the Afghan interim administration officials had been arresting and beating musicians.
According to official documents prepared by the home and tribal affairs department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 354,255 unregistered foreigners have been repatriated via the northwestern Pakistani province that shares its border with Afghanistan since September 17.
The international community, including the United States and various UN agencies, has urged Pakistan not to deport vulnerable Afghan nationals, expressing concerns over risks to their lives amid ongoing human rights challenges in the neighboring state.
Speaking to Arab News, Faiz Muhammad Sakhi, a former musicology professor at the Kabul University who fled to Pakistan after the Taliban takeover, said his sons had been arrested by the police due to their lack of documents.
“I’m currently trying to secure their bail through court,” he said.
“Our lives are not very good in Pakistan,” he continued. “Neither can we go back to Afghanistan. I hope the recent court order will lessen our difficulties in this country.”


Pakistan PM says ‘soft states’ cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy

Pakistan PM says ‘soft states’ cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy
Updated 22 June 2024
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Pakistan PM says ‘soft states’ cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy

Pakistan PM says ‘soft states’ cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy
  • Shehbaz Sharif calls it a ‘grave mistake’ only to expect the armed forces to deal with the issue of militant violence
  • He asks the provinces to play their role, saying it was their joint responsibility after the eighteenth amendment

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday emphasized the necessity of developing a strong and comprehensive response to the challenge of militant violence in Pakistan, saying it was not possible for a “soft state” to strengthen its economy since it tends to lose confidence of potential investors.
Sharif made the observation while addressing the National Action Plan’s Apex Committee, a high-level forum that includes members such as the army chief, provincial chief ministers and heads of major civil and military law enforcement agencies.
The committee oversees and coordinates comprehensive national efforts to combat militant and other security threats within the country.
The prime minister’s statement comes just a day after senior Chinese politician Liu Jianchao said in Islamabad that Pakistan’s security challenges were undermining the confidence of investors from his country.
Liu’s statement reinforced concerns raised by authorities in Beijing following several attacks on Chinese nationals working on energy and infrastructure development projects in Pakistan, including a suicide bombing in March this year that killed five of them.
“For sustainable development in Pakistan, stability and the rule of law are essential,” said the prime minister. “It is our collective responsibility to enforce the writ of the state with full force and without exception.”
“A soft state can never earn the confidence of investors, whether they are domestic or foreign,” he continued. “Therefore, a healthy and strong economy cannot be envisaged in an unstable state plagued by terrorism.”
Sharif maintained fighting militant violence was the joint responsibility of all institutions of the state.
“We have very easily left this matter to the officers and soldiers of our armed forces,” he added. “The provinces and governments have completely absolved themselves of this responsibility. This is the dangerous approach that has developed over the past years.”
The prime minister noted this was not the way Pakistan could “end terrorism.”
“After the 18th amendment in the constitution, the provincial governments have a significant role in this effort and have also been provided resources,” he said. “Therefore, I expect that the provinces will play an active part in combating terrorism. Together, God willing, we will eradicate this scourge.”
He said it was important for everyone to take the ownership of the war against militancy, adding that leaving it to just one institution of the state would be a “grave mistake.”
Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s interior minister Mohsin Naqvi also held a meeting to review the security measures for foreign nationals, particularly the Chinese workers in the country.


‘Sacrifice won’t go to waste,’ Pakistan PM says as five soldiers killed in IED blast 

‘Sacrifice won’t go to waste,’ Pakistan PM says as five soldiers killed in IED blast 
Updated 22 June 2024
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‘Sacrifice won’t go to waste,’ Pakistan PM says as five soldiers killed in IED blast 

‘Sacrifice won’t go to waste,’ Pakistan PM says as five soldiers killed in IED blast 
  • IED blast targeted vehicle carrying security forces in Kurram district in northwestern province
  • Top officials attend funeral of Sepoy Haroon William, Christian soldier who was killed in latest blast 

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Saturday the sacrifice of Pakistan army soldiers killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast in northwestern Pakistan this week wouldn’t go to waste, as he vowed to continue the South Asian nation’s ‘war against terrorism.’
The IED blast targeted a vehicle carrying security forces personnel in Kurram district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the Pakistan army’s media wing said in a statement. 
The blast comes amid a rise in terror attacks mostly claimed by the Pakistani Taliban, known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, an ally of the Afghan Taliban but a separate group, which has stepped up its assaults in the region since the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021. Pakistan says the TTP uses Afghan soil to launch attacks in Pakistan, a charge that Kabul denies. 
On Saturday, Sharif and other top government and military officers including the army chief attended the funeral prayers in Islamabad of Sepoy Haroon William, a Christian soldier who was killed in the Kurram IED blast. 
“The army’s history is filled with such sacrifices. In yesterday’s unfortunate incident, Haroon William sacrificed his life for the motherland,” Sharif said as he addressed the funeral service. “Me, army chief and everyone hail their sacrifice for the nation, I believe this sacrifice will not go to waste.”
A day earlier, Sharif had vowed to continue “the war against the menace [of terrorism] till its complete elimination.”
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in recent years, predominantly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In January 2023 militants killed at least 101 people, mostly police officers, when a suicide bomber disguised as a policeman attacked a mosque in the northwestern city of Peshawar. In another major attack, five Chinese nationals were killed in a suicide bombing on their convoy in March.
Earlier this month, a report by the provincial counter-terrorism department (CTD) said 65 police officials were killed and 86 wounded in 237 incidents of terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the past five months. Police had killed 117 militants and arrested 299 others in a series of operations, the report added. 
Pakistani authorities often say Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers are providing shelter to TTP fighters across the two nations’ shared border. The Afghan Taliban government insists it doesn’t allow anyone to use Afghan soil for violence in another country. The TTP has also said it is not using Afghan soil to target troops in Pakistan.


Pakistani city of Peshawar hints at ‘complete ban’ on e-cigarettes, vapes

Pakistani city of Peshawar hints at ‘complete ban’ on e-cigarettes, vapes
Updated 22 June 2024
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Pakistani city of Peshawar hints at ‘complete ban’ on e-cigarettes, vapes

Pakistani city of Peshawar hints at ‘complete ban’ on e-cigarettes, vapes
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government bans public vaping in Peshawar district for 60 days
  • Sale of e-cigarettes prohibited within 100 meters of educational, health facilities 

PESHAWAR: Hinting at a complete ban on vaping devices, Pakistan’s northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has imposed interim measures prohibiting the public use of e-cigarettes, vapes and nicotine products in Peshawar district for 60 days, according to a notification issued earlier this month.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists e-cigarettes as harmful and while their long-term health effects are not fully known, they do generate toxic substances, some of which are known to cause cancer and increase the risk of heart and lung disorders.

“It is requested to order the following interim measures till the complete ban on e-cigarettes, vapes, and nicotine pouches by the KP government to safeguard the health of people from the devastating impact to the extent of Peshawar,” the city’s deputy commissioner said in a notification dated June 13. 

“This order shall come into force forthwith and shall remain enforced for 60 days unless modified or withdrawn.”

The interim measures include a ban on the usage, advertisement and sale of e-cigarettes, vapes and nicotine pouches in public places and on public transport. Additionally, nicotine products cannot be sold within 100 meters of any education or health facility or parks. The sale of e-cigarettes to people under the age of 21 has also been banned. 

The notification said violators of the order would be punished under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which relates to disobedience of orders promulgated by a public servant.

In 2019, the US reported 18 deaths due to a mysterious lung illness linked to e-cigarettes.

The WHO says high quality epidemiology studies consistently demonstrate that e-cigarette use increases conventional cigarette uptake, particularly among non-smoking youth, by nearly 3 times. 

“Evidence reveals that these products are harmful to health and are not safe. However, it is too early to provide a clear answer on the long-term impact of using them or being exposed to them,” according to the WHO website. 

Besides causing cancer and increasing the risk of heart and lung disorders, electronic delivery systems have also been linked to a number of physical injuries, including burns from explosions or malfunctions, when the products are not of the expected standard or are tampered with by users, the WHO says.