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
Pakistan's Minister for Power Awais Leghari (third right) meets Assistant Secretary of Treasury Brent Neiman (second left) in Islamabad on June 13, 2024. (Government of Pakistan)
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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. 


Pakistani religious party stages pro-Palestine sit-in at key Rawalpindi-Islamabad traffic junction

Pakistani religious party stages pro-Palestine sit-in at key Rawalpindi-Islamabad traffic junction
Updated 13 July 2024
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Pakistani religious party stages pro-Palestine sit-in at key Rawalpindi-Islamabad traffic junction

Pakistani religious party stages pro-Palestine sit-in at key Rawalpindi-Islamabad traffic junction
  • Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan says it will stay at Faizabad Interchange until the governments meets its demands
  • The party wants official boycott of Israeli products along with a proclamation declaring Netanyahu a terrorist

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani religious party on Saturday announced its decision to stage a sit-in at a major traffic junction connecting Rawalpindi and Islamabad to express solidarity with the people of Palestine and pressure the government to meet its demands regarding the ongoing war in Gaza.
Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), known for its hard-line stance on blasphemy laws, has previously staged sit-ins at the Faizabad Interchange.
The presence of large numbers of protesters in the area significantly disrupts traffic, forcing drivers to take longer, alternative routes between the two cities.
The TLP workers, led by their young leader Saad Rizvi, took out a protest rally from Liaquat Bagh in Rawalpindi to Faizabad before deciding to set up a protest camp at the interchange.
“We will stay here until our demands are met,” Rizvi was quoted as saying in a TLP statement.
“Our first demand is to send food and medical aid to the oppressed Palestinians,” he continued. “Our second demand is for the Pakistani government to announce a boycott of Israeli products on an official level. Our third demand is to declare Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a terrorist.”
The war in Israel began last October and has so far claimed the lives of about 39,000 people, mostly women and children.
While Pakistan’s civil society and political factions have consistently brought out pro-Palestinian rallies, it is not clear what prompted the TLP to initiate the sit-in nearly nine months into the war.


Pakistan’s ruling party to evaluate Supreme Court reserved seats verdict on Monday

Pakistan’s ruling party to evaluate Supreme Court reserved seats verdict on Monday
Updated 13 July 2024
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Pakistan’s ruling party to evaluate Supreme Court reserved seats verdict on Monday

Pakistan’s ruling party to evaluate Supreme Court reserved seats verdict on Monday
  • Khawaja Asif says the top court has ‘opened the Pandora’s box’ with its ‘dangerous’ verdict
  • PML-N founding leader Nawaz Sharif may hold a meeting in Murree to evaluate the situation

ISLAMABAD: The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party will decide whether to appeal a Supreme Court verdict involving reserved parliamentary seats for women and minorities, which favored its archrival and former premier Imran Khan and his party, said a prominent government functionary on Saturday.
The top court handed a major legal victory to Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Friday, declaring it was eligible for these seats after being turned down by the country’s election commission, which noted they could only be distributed among political parties based on the number of seats won by them in the national polls.
PTI candidates had contested the February 8 elections as independents after the Supreme Court revoked their party symbol due to intra-party elections deemed as flawed. Despite emerging as the single largest bloc in the National Assembly, PTI-backed candidates were denied their share of reserved seats, which were subsequently allocated to PML-N and its coalition partners.
The Supreme Court, however, criticized the election authority for misconstruing its verdict on the election symbol, affirming that PTI was and remains a political party.
“This decision will be made on Monday,” Federal Minister for Defense Khawaja Asif told a news conference in Sialkot when asked if the PML-N would appeal the Supreme Court verdict.
“Whatever our position in parliament is, it will make the decision,” he continued. “I don’t think it is appropriate to comment on whether to appeal or not, or what the reaction should be at this time.”
Asif maintained the ruling party’s reaction would be within the legal and constitutional framework.
“We will definitely adopt the process provided by the constitution and law to seek relief,” he said. “However, this will be a collective decision that we will follow.”
Legal experts believe the Supreme Court’s verdict would pose a challenge to the ruling coalition that may require PTI’s support with some legislations.
Asif said the top court had “opened the Pandora’s box” with its verdict that could prove “dangerous” for the country.
Meanwhile, local media outlets widely reported the PML-N founder and three-time, former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif had summoned a party meeting on Monday that would be held in Murree.
All of the top PML-N leaders are expected to be present to evaluate the Supreme Court decision and determine their course of action.
The party’s legal team will also brief the participants and highlight various options open to them.


Provincial health department of Sindh reports three deaths caused by brain-eating amoeba in Karachi

Provincial health department of Sindh reports three deaths caused by brain-eating amoeba in Karachi
Updated 13 July 2024
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Provincial health department of Sindh reports three deaths caused by brain-eating amoeba in Karachi

Provincial health department of Sindh reports three deaths caused by brain-eating amoeba in Karachi
  • Naegleria fowleri is an emerging problem in Pakistan, where the first case was reported in 2008
  • Health department says all three deaths in Karachi took place during the ongoing month of July

KARACHI: At least three Karachi residents have died from Naegleria fowleri, a brain-eating amoeba, in the first two weeks of July, a spokesperson of the health department in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province said on Saturday, adding two of these deaths occurred this week.
Naegleria fowleri is found in freshwater sources like lakes, ponds, rivers, hot springs and poorly managed swimming pools and pipes connected to tap water. The micro-organism enters the human body through the nose and causes a sudden infection of the brain called naegleriasis.
In most cases, the infection is fatal.
It’s a relatively new problem in Pakistan. The first case of Naegleria fowleri infection was reported in Karachi in 2008. Since then, over a hundred people have died from the infection, with all three Karachi cases this year occurring in July.
“The latest deaths have occurred on Thursday,” said Ali Nawaz Channa, spokesperson for Sindh health department, while speaking to Arab News. “A 35-year-old died in Aga Khan Hospital while a 22-year-old garment factory worker died in Jinnah Hospital.”
The family of the latter was quoted in a health department report as saying that he visited a nearby swimming pool with friends last Sunday. Subsequently, he developed a fever on Monday and was admitted to the hospital on Wednesday. His condition deteriorated on Thursday and was put on ventilator support but could not survive.
The other patient was admitted to Aga Khan Hospital and died after “ten days of battle with high grade fever,” the official report added. The family suspects the infection was contracted from performing ablution at a nearby mosque.
Prior to them, another patient, a resident of Qur’angi area of the city, died last Friday, according to the health department.
A 2021 Sindh health department study conducted in 50 Union Councils of Karachi found that 95 percent of the water samples were completely unfit for human consumption, which experts believe is one of the major reasons behind the spread of the brain-eating amoeba.
Primary amebic meningoencephalitis, the brain infection caused by the amoeba, has common symptoms including extreme headache, changes in taste, high fever, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting.
Symptoms occur within 24 hours of infection, but since they resemble meningitis, the infection is rarely diagnosed early enough through a blood test.
Medical experts warn late treatment is not always effective.


One paramilitary soldier killed, another injured in southwest Pakistan

One paramilitary soldier killed, another injured in southwest Pakistan
Updated 13 July 2024
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One paramilitary soldier killed, another injured in southwest Pakistan

One paramilitary soldier killed, another injured in southwest Pakistan
  • The incident was caused by an IED blast when a Frontier Corps vehicle was escorting a water tanker
  • No group has claimed responsibility, though Baloch separatists have targeted soldiers in the past

QUETTA: A paramilitary soldier was killed and another injured in an explosion caused by an improvised explosive device (IED) on Saturday in the restive southwestern province of Balochistan, which has been prone to insurgent violence for decades.
The blast targeted a Frontier Corps (FC) vehicle escorting a water tanker in the Akhtarabad neighborhood near the western bypass area of Quetta, the provincial capital, according to police.
Balochistan, sharing a porous border with Iran and Afghanistan, has witnessed a decades-long insurgency with separatists accusing successive governments of unfairly exploiting the mineral-rich region’s resources, a claim denied by the state.
While Baloch separatist armed groups typically operate independently, recent reports suggest increasing cooperation between these groups and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
“A Frontier Corps vehicle was passing through Akhtarabad when there was an IED blast in the western bypass area,” Rashid Ali, Station House Officer of Shalkot Police, told Arab News. “One FC soldier was killed while another received minor injuries.”
No group has so far claimed responsibility for the attack, though Pakistani security forces have been the main target of separatists and other militant groups in the province. These armed factions have also launched attacks against Chinese nationals working on energy and infrastructure development projects.
“The FC vehicle was damaged in the blast and the injured soldier was shifted to a hospital for treatment,” the police official said, adding: “Law enforcement agencies have cordoned off the area and are gathering evidence from the crime scene.”
Meer Zia Ullah Langau, Balochistan’s Minister for Home and Tribal Affairs, condemned the attack and directed authorities to bolster security arrangements in the area.
In recent months, Baloch separatist groups have intensified their attacks against security forces and ethnic Punjabi residents who often travel to the province for daily wages.
On June 21, the outlawed Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) abducted seven Punjabi tourists, and last week, the group announced plans to “punish” them after the government refused to negotiate for the release of incarcerated BLA fighters.


Pakistan asks authorities to revise revenue strategy to reduce country’s debt

Pakistan asks authorities to revise revenue strategy to reduce country’s debt
Updated 13 July 2024
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Pakistan asks authorities to revise revenue strategy to reduce country’s debt

Pakistan asks authorities to revise revenue strategy to reduce country’s debt
  • The statement came hours after Pakistan reached a staff-level agreement with International Monetary Fund for a new $7 billion loan deal
  • Islamabad agreed in exchange to conduct further unpopular reforms, including widening the South Asian nation’s chronically low tax base

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday asked Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) officials to re-evaluate and revise their strategy to enhance revenue collection to rid Pakistan of a massive public debt of $242 billion, Sharif’s office said.
The statement came hours after Pakistan reached a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a new $7 billion loan deal. Islamabad agreed in exchange to conduct further unpopular reforms, including widening the South Asian nation’s chronically low tax base.
Pakistan last year came to the brink of default as the economy shriveled amid political chaos, catastrophic 2022 floods and decades of mismanagement. The nation was saved by last-minute loans from friendly countries as well as support from the IMF, but its finances remain in dire straits with high inflation and staggering public debts.
Presiding over a meeting of officials at the FBR headquarters, Sharif called the revenue watchdog the “backbone” of the country’s economy and urged that sectors which were not paying taxes must be brought into the tax net.
“The prime minister issued the directives to immediately release Rs2 billion to develop the Web Based One Customs (WeBOC) System on modern lines,” Sharif’s office said in a statement.
He said the process of FBR’s digitization had begun and it would be completed in the most “comprehensive and coordinated manner,” promising full support to the revenue collection body in acquiring the latest technology.
Officials informed the participants that 4.9 million taxable persons had been identified in the country by using modern technology, according to the statement. PM Sharif directed increasing the tax base and bringing these persons into the tax net immediately.
During the 2024-25 fiscal year beginning on July 1, Sharif’s government aims to raise nearly $46 billion in taxes, a 40 percent increase from the previous year. It has used more unusual methods, including blocking 210,000 mobile connections, to compel people to file their tax returns. Islamabad also aims to reduce its fiscal deficit by 1.5 percent to 5.9 percent in the coming year.
But Pakistan’s public debt of $242 billion remains a huge problem for the South Asian country and servicing it may swallow up half of the country’s income in 2024, according to the IMF.