Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 

Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 
Pakistan's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Ishaq Dar, is chairing a meeting in Islamabad, Pakistan, on May 24, 2024. (PID)
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Updated 12 June 2024
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Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 

Deputy PM’s post an honorary one sans any office, Pakistani court told 
  • Islamabad High Court hears plea challenging Ishaq Dar’s appointment to deputy PM post
  • Defense counsel urges court to form larger bench to address cases of dual appointments

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Cabinet Division on Wednesday informed a Pakistani high court that the deputy prime minister’s post was an honorary one and that no “special office” had been established for it, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Aamir Farooq was hearing a plea filed by Sher Afzal Marwat, a leader of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Marwat had challenged Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar’s appointment to the post in April. 

Marwat’s plea filed last month said Dar was already holding the office of the federal minister for foreign affairs when the cabinet division issued a notification on April 28 with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s approval for his appointment to the post. 

It argued that the prime minister’s office was a constitutional one but the post of deputy premier was not known in Pakistan’s constitution and no other law allowed the cabinet division to issue such a notification. Dar’s appointment as deputy premier was made for “personal reasons” at the “cost of public exchequer,” the petition argued. 

“The Cabinet Division on Wednesday informed the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that the designation of deputy prime minister was an honorary post, and no special office had been established in that regard,” APP reported. 

The Defense counsel, Riaz Hanif Rahi, said Dar’s appointment as deputy prime minister was honorary and urged the court to form a larger bench to address dual appointment cases in the interest of good governance. Subsequently, the court adjourned the hearing.

Dar, who is a former four-time finance minister of Pakistan, was earlier made the head of a special committee of PM Sharif’s cabinet on privatization before he was appointed deputy premier.

The 73-year-old chartered accountant is considered to be the closest ally of PM Sharif’s elder brother, Nawaz Sharif, who is also a three-time former prime minister

Political analysts at the time believed Dar’s appointment to the post was an indication that Nawaz was trying to assert his control of the government indirectly.

Before Dar, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi was appointed the deputy prime minister of Pakistan in 2012.


Malala calls for Pakistan to stop deporting undocumented Afghans

Malala calls for Pakistan to stop deporting undocumented Afghans
Updated 29 sec ago
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Malala calls for Pakistan to stop deporting undocumented Afghans

Malala calls for Pakistan to stop deporting undocumented Afghans
  • More than 600,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan since Islamabad last year ordered undocumented migrants to leave or face arrest
  • Human rights monitors have warned that some sent to Afghanistan faced persecution by the Taliban, who came into power in 2021

LONDON: Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai called for Pakistan to stop deporting undocumented Afghans, saying she was especially concerned about the “dark future” awaiting women and girls sent back.
“It is deeply concerning that Pakistan is forcing Afghan refugees based in Pakistan back into Afghanistan, and I’m deeply concerned about the women and girls,” the activist, who was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 2014, told AFP in an interview on Friday.
Despite extending leave for Afghan refugees with permits to stay in Pakistan for another year, Islamabad this week said it would remove illegal migrants.
More than 600,000 Afghans have fled Pakistan since Islamabad last year ordered undocumented migrants to leave or face arrest.
Human rights monitors have warned that some sent to Afghanistan faced persecution by the Taliban, who came into power in 2021 and have imposed an austere form of Islam, barring girls from higher education and excluding women and girls from areas of public life.
“A lot of these girls in Pakistan were studying, they were in school, these women were doing work,” said Malala, 27, who grew up in Pakistan’s Swat valley.
She had to move to the UK after she was shot, aged just 15, for resisting the Pakistan Taliban’s then-ban on girls’ education in her hometown.
“I hope that Pakistan reverses its policy and that they protect girls and women especially because of the dark future that they would be witnessing in Afghanistan,” she added.
Speaking to AFP on her birthday, recognized by the UN as Malala Day, the activist launched into the challenges facing the only country in the world where girls over 12 are barred from school.
“I cannot believe that I’m witnessing a time when girls have been banned from their education for more than three years,” she said, adding that while the situation was “shocking,” she “admired the resilience of the Afghan activists.”
The Malala Fund is campaigning for the UN to formally broaden their definition of crimes against humanity to include “gender apartheid” — a phrase the UN has used to describe the situation in Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, the UN and Taliban sat down for talks in Doha for the first time since the latter came to power but without women in attendance.
Malala said the Doha talks made a “compromise on the future of women and girls,” calling for a “principled engagement” with the Taliban.
“World leaders need to realize that when they sit down with the Taliban... and they’re excluding women and girls, they are actually doing a Taliban a favor,” she said.
“I want to call out those countries as well — that includes Canada and France — who have a feminist foreign policy” to “condemn” conversations like the Doha talks, she added.
Malala also called for an “urgent” ceasefire in the war in Gaza.
“It is horrifying how many schools have been bombed in Gaza, even more recently the four schools,” she added, referring to four schools that were hit by Israeli air strikes this week.
According to the education ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, 85 percent of educational facilities in the territory are out of service because of the war.
“It is deeply concerning because we know that children do not have a future when they’re living under a war, when their schools and homes are destroyed,” said Malala.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, which coordinates nearly all aid to Gaza, said it used more than half its budget before the war to fund education.
However, it is facing funding woes after several countries including the United States and Britain suspended aid following Israeli accusations that its workers were involved in Hamas’s attack against Israel on October 7.
Some countries like Australia and Germany have however resumed funding when evidence could not be found to support Israel’s claims.
“When it comes to humanitarian support, all countries should be making no compromise. They should make sure that all the immediate and urgent needs of people are provided, and UNRWA is an example of that,” Malala said of countries resuming funding for the group.
“I do hope that all countries are providing aid and support because it’s about those innocent people and civilians who need to be protected.”


Pakistan court orders Imran Khan, wife be freed ‘immediately’ in case over violating marriage law

Pakistan court orders Imran Khan, wife be freed ‘immediately’ in case over violating marriage law
Updated 18 min 26 sec ago
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Pakistan court orders Imran Khan, wife be freed ‘immediately’ in case over violating marriage law

Pakistan court orders Imran Khan, wife be freed ‘immediately’ in case over violating marriage law
  • Khan, wife Bushra were sentenced to seven years in prison in February by court that ruled their 2018 marriage broke Islamic law 
  • Marriage case was only one keeping Khan in prison, two convictions against him were suspended and he was acquitted in third case

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court on Saturday accepted appeals filed by former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Khan seeking the suspension of a ruling that they had violated the country’s marriage law, and ordered the pair be “immediately” released from prison, the ex-premier’s party said.
Khan and his wife were sentenced to seven years in prison 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 in the Iddat case.
“Additional Session Judge Afzal Majoka has dismissed charges on Mr.& Mrs.Khan in Iddat case, ordering his release,” Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said in a message to reporters. “So far Mr.Khan has no case that could keep him in prison, unless of course there’s a concealed one which his legal team isn’t aware of.”
Pakistani local media also widely reported on the acquittal. 
“If they are not wanted in any other case, then PTI founder Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi should be released [from jail] immediately,” Dawn newspaper reported Judge Majoka as ordering after accepting the appeals and suspending the conviction. 
Khan has been in jail after being convicted in four cases since last August. Two of the cases have since been suspended and he was acquitted in a third, so the Iddat case was the only one keeping him in prison. An anti-terrorism court earlier this week also dismissed three bail pleas by Khan in cases involving riots on May 9 last year and declaring there was “reasonable” evidence of his involvement.
“ATC has canceled bail [in May 9 cases] but not ordered arrest,” the PTI said. “Pre-arrest bail is being moved.”
The PTI said Bushra had bail in the Toshakhana case, in which a Pakistani anti-graft court jailed Khan and his wife for 14 years each on charges of illegally selling state gifts.
“She has bail in the Toshakhana case so there is no legal reason to keep her in jail,” PTI senior leader Zulfi Bukhari said in a text message. “Anything to keep her imprisoned will be illegal.”
Khan’s convictions had ruled the 71-year-old out of the February general elections as convicted felons cannot run for public office under Pakistani law. Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan says all cases against him are motivated to keep him out of politics.
The criminal complaint against Khan and Bushra’s marriage was brought by her ex-husband, Khawar Maneka, to whom she was married for about 30 years.
Khan has often called Bushra his spiritual leader. She is known for her devotion to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam.
Born Bushra Riaz Watto, she changed her name to Khan after her marriage. Her husband and followers commonly refer to her as Bushra Bibi or Bushra Begum, titles that denote respect in the Urdu language.
Khan’s two previous marriages — to Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of tycoon James Goldsmith, and television journalist Reham Nayyar Khan — ended in divorce.


PM urges efforts to make new $7 billion loan deal Pakistan’s last IMF bailout

PM urges efforts to make new $7 billion loan deal Pakistan’s last IMF bailout
Updated 31 min 26 sec ago
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PM urges efforts to make new $7 billion loan deal Pakistan’s last IMF bailout

PM urges efforts to make new $7 billion loan deal Pakistan’s last IMF bailout
  • The new loan, spanning over 37 months, is subject to approval by the IMF executive board
  • It came on condition of reforms including hiking household bills and expanding the tax net

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday urged officials to make speedy and tireless efforts to make a newly secured $7 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Pakistan’s last bailout from the global lender.
The prime minister’s statement came during a meeting of fiscal authorities of the country he presided over in the federal capital of Islamabad.
The meeting came hours after Pakistan reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a new $7 billion loan, which is subject to IMF board’s approval.
Sharif congratulated Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb and other officials for their hard work in the recent budget that helped materialize the deal.
“Now is the time that we have to act and act speedily and work tirelessly, only then it would be last IMF program,” he said in televised comments.
“Taxing common people who pay tax, if you will impose further tax on them, [then] it’s a premium for those who don’t pay tax and it’s a penalty for those who are honest taxpayers.”
The deal came weeks after Sharif’s government presented its first budget, aiming to collect Rs13 trillion ($44 billion) in taxes, a 40 percent increase from the last fiscal year.
The government has said that it would ensure an increase in the number of taxpayers in the country from the existing 5 million people who paid taxes.
During the meeting, Sharif asked the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) chairman to collect even the “last penny.”
“Whatever you need in the public interest, national interest to collect the last penny, which is our due right, I will spend any amount of money to get those gadgetries which are required for this purpose,” he offered.
Islamabad wrangled for months with IMF officials to unlock the new loan announced on Friday, which will be paid out over 37 months.
It came on condition of far-reaching reforms including hiking household bills to remedy a permanently crisis-stricken energy sector and uplifting pitiful tax takings.
More unusual methods have seen the tax authority block 210,000 SIM cards of mobile users who have not filed tax returns in a bid to widen the revenue bracket.
Under the deal “revenue collections will be supported by simpler and fairer direct and indirect taxation including by bringing net income from the retail, export, and agriculture sectors properly into the tax system,” IMF Pakistan mission chief, Nathan Porter, said in a statement.
Islamabad also aims to reduce its fiscal deficit by 1.5 percent to 5.9 percent in the coming year, heeding another key IMF demand.
The IMF said the loan and its conditions should allow Pakistan to “cement macroeconomic stability and create conditions for stronger, more inclusive and resilient growth.”
But Pakistan’s public debt remains huge at $242 billion and servicing it will still swallow up half of the government’s income this fiscal year, according to the lender.


Pakistan signs agreement with UAE firm for expertise to drive foreign investment

Pakistan signs agreement with UAE firm for expertise to drive foreign investment
Updated 13 July 2024
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Pakistan signs agreement with UAE firm for expertise to drive foreign investment

Pakistan signs agreement with UAE firm for expertise to drive foreign investment
  • Islamabad established the SIFC, a civil-military hybrid forum, in June last year to attract investment
  • The UAE consultancy firm will provide expertise over a period of 18 months focusing on a number of areas

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) has signed an agreement with an Emirati consultancy firm, AT Kearney Middle East Limited, for the promotion of foreign investment in the country’s diverse sectors, Pakistani state media reported on Saturday.
Islamabad established the SIFC, a civil-military hybrid forum, in June last year to attract foreign direct investment in agriculture, mining, information technology, defense production and energy sectors.
A team of AT Kearney and Pakistan’s Public-Private Partnership Authority officials held a detailed meeting with the SIFC national coordinator to discuss the roadmap for collaboration, the Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“The UAE company will provide expertise over a period of eighteen months focusing on a number of key areas to drive foreign investment,” the report read.
“The agreement includes strategies for attracting investment in key sectors and conducting pre-feasibility studies for selected projects.”
The development comes amid a push for foreign investment by Pakistan, which has been facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation.
The South Asian country is making desperate attempts to boost foreign investment and has reached a $7 billion loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support its $350 billion fragile economy.


At UNRWA summit, Pakistan reaffirms commitment to humanitarian aid, reconstruction efforts in Gaza

At UNRWA summit, Pakistan reaffirms commitment to humanitarian aid, reconstruction efforts in Gaza
Updated 13 July 2024
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At UNRWA summit, Pakistan reaffirms commitment to humanitarian aid, reconstruction efforts in Gaza

At UNRWA summit, Pakistan reaffirms commitment to humanitarian aid, reconstruction efforts in Gaza
  • The statement came as UN chief appealed for funding for beleaguered UN agency helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere
  • UNRWA’s 30,000 staff provide education, primary health care and other development activities to about 6 million Palestinian refugees

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reaffirmed its commitment to humanitarian aid and reconstruction efforts in Gaza during a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) pledging conference in New York, Pakistani state media reported on Saturday.
The statement came as the UN chief appealed for funding for the beleaguered UN agency helping Palestinian refugees in Gaza and elsewhere in the Middle East, accusing Israel of issuing evacuation orders that force Palestinians “to move like human pinballs across a landscape of destruction and death.”
UNRWA’s 30,000 staff provide education, primary health care and other development activities to about 6 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
Pakistan has dispatched more than eight planeloads carrying over 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza since the outbreak of Israel’s war on Gaza in October last year, the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“In New York, Second Secretary of the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations Rabia Ijaz advocated for a comprehensive reconstruction plan for Gaza and reiterated readiness to partner in the reconstruction of educational institutions,” the report read.
She also called for an urgent implementation of a peace plan for Gaza as outlined in the UN Security Council resolutions.
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
Since the beginning of Israel’s war, Pakistan has repeatedly raised the issue at the UN and other world forums, demanding international powers and multilateral bodies stop Israeli military actions in the Palestinian territory.
Israel’s latest evacuation orders in Gaza City have come with more civilian suffering and bloodshed.
Since the Hamas attack that killed some 1,200 Israelis on Oct. 7, Israeli ground offensives and bombardments have killed more than 38,300 people, mostly children, in Gaza, according to the Palestinian health ministry.