Pakistani businesses to halt all exports on ‘black day’ next week to protest new taxes 

Pakistani businesses to halt all exports on ‘black day’ next week to protest new taxes 
Pakistani vessels pass by container ships being loaded with cargo at the port of Karachi, 08 September 2003. (AFP/File)
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Updated 25 June 2024
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Pakistani businesses to halt all exports on ‘black day’ next week to protest new taxes 

Pakistani businesses to halt all exports on ‘black day’ next week to protest new taxes 
  • Pakistan hopes plan to raise taxes in proposed budget, boost state revenues will help win approval for IMF loan 
  • Taxes have notably been slapped on previously protected export-oriented sectors such as textiles 

KARACHI: Representatives of Pakistani exporters on Tuesday announced they would observe a “black day” next week in which all exports would be halted to protest new taxation measures in the federal budget 2024-25

The South Asian country hopes its plan to raise taxes in the proposed budget and boost state revenues will help it win approval from the IMF for a loan to stave off another economic meltdown. 

Pakistan has set a challenging tax revenue target of $47 billion for the next fiscal year, a 40 percent jump from the current year to strengthen the case for a new bailout deal. The big rise in the tax target is made up of a 48 percent increase in direct taxes and 35 percent hike in indirect taxes. Non-tax revenue, including petroleum levies, is seen increasing by a whopping 64 percent.

Taxes have notably been slapped on previously protected export-oriented sectors such as textiles, which consistently make up over half of Pakistan’s exports, and whose receipts keep a persistently high external account deficit in check.

Immediately after the budget speech, the representative body for the sector, All Pakistan Textile Mills Association, had called for a review, terming the budget “extremely regressive” and one that “threatens the collapse of the textile sector and its exports.” It warned of “dire consequences for employment and external sector stability, as well as for overall economic and political stability and security.”

“On Export Black Day, not a single export consignment will be dispatched from the entire country,” Jawed Bilwani, chief coordinator of the All Exports Association of Pakistan, said at a press conference on Tuesday. 

Representatives of 20 export sector associations announced a symbolic strike to protest what they called the failure of the government to maintain a fixed tax regime and the approval of a proposal for 29 percent tax on exported income. 

As part of the strike, over 20 export industries will observe an “Export Black Day” next week and halt all exports. If the exporters’ demands were not met, they would announce further actions, Bilwani said. 

Under the fixed tax regime, Pakistan exporters had to pay 0.25 percent as Export Development Fund(EDF) and withholding tax of 1 percent of export turnover in addition to 0.25 to 0.35 percent bank charges which constituted 1.85 percent of the total turnover, according to exporters. With new tax measures, exporters said they would not be able to cover operational costs and may need to shut down. 

“This budget is detrimental to exports,” Iftikhar Ahmed Sheikh, President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), said, adding that proposals in the budget would compel exporters to entirely cease operations.

Addressing another press conference at the Karachi Press Club, fruit and vegetable exporters warned that placing exports under the normal tax regime would have a “very serious impact” on the economy of Pakistan.

 “Abolition of fixed tax regime will significantly reduce exports and closure of export units will lead to widespread unemployment,” Waheed Ahmed, the Patron-in-Chief of All Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters Association (PFVA), said. “The tax revenue targets will not be met, shortage of foreign exchange will further depreciate rupee above all.”

The end of the fixed tax regime will also require exporters to maintain records of their income, expenditure and profits which they said was not possible under current circumstances due to supply chain issues.

“In the case of the 29 percent tax imposed on export income in the Federal budget 2024-25, the focus of exporters will be diverted from the main goal of enhancing the export of fruits and vegetables from Pakistan since they will spend more time in maintaining records of income, expenditure and profit,” Ahmed added.

In a separate press conference, Chairman of Pakistan Gem and Jewelry Traders and Exporters Association (PGJTEA) Habib-ur-Rahman said the export industry of gold jewelry was currently suffering a “severe crisis.”

“Exports are suspended and the 18 percent sales tax requirement on advance gold purchase from foreign buyers under the Entrustment Scheme by the Federal Board of Revenue has dashed the hopes of exporters,” Rahman said, adding that the export of gold ornaments would be reduced from $100 million to $1-2 million if the sales tax exemption was not restored on the export of gold ornaments.

In a rare move, representatives of the country’s salaried class also lodged their protest against new taxation measures.

Ubaidullah Shareef, the President of Salaried Class Alliance Pakistan, a newly formed body, said the government had “further burdened” the already struggling salaried class.

“The salaried class pays three times more tax than exporters and retailers,” Shareef said, highlighting that educated segments of society were leaving the country due to oppressive taxes.


Another journalist shot dead in Pakistan’s restive northwest within a month

Another journalist shot dead in Pakistan’s restive northwest within a month
Updated 14 July 2024
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Another journalist shot dead in Pakistan’s restive northwest within a month

Another journalist shot dead in Pakistan’s restive northwest within a month
  • Hassan Zeb was gunned down in Nowshera district of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • KP has been the scene of several attacks on police, security forces and anti-polio vaccinators in recent weeks

PESHAWAR: Unidentified gunmen on Sunday shot dead a Pakistani journalist in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, police said.
Hassan Zeb, who was affiliated with a local newspaper, was gunned down in Akbarpura Bazaar of KP’s Nowshera district, according to police.
This is the second such killing in the province, which borders Afghanistan and has been the scene of a number of militant attacks, in less than a month.
On June 19, unidentified assailants had shot dead Khalil Jibran, a former president of the Landi Kotal Press Club, in KP’s Khyber tribal district, according to police.
“Two unidentified bike riders opened fire on the journalist, leaving him dead on the spot,” Hameed khan, a police officer at the Akbarpura police station, told Arab News. “Initial investigation suggests that the slain journalist had no personal enmity.”
No group claimed responsibility for the killing.
In a statement, KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur extended his sympathies to Zeb’s family and directed police do the needful for the arrest of the perpetrators.
Pakistan witnessed a spike in militant violence in its two western provinces, KP and Balochistan, since the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile truce with the government in November 2022. The group has intensified its attacks in recent months.
Earlier this week, an army captain and two militants were killed in separate gunfights in North and South Waziristan districts of the KP province, the Pakistani military said.
Islamabad has blamed the surge in violence on militants operating out of neighboring Afghanistan. Kabul denies the allegation and says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue of Islamabad.


Pakistan PM orders early completion of inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum power plant closure

Pakistan PM orders early completion of inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum power plant closure
Updated 14 July 2024
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Pakistan PM orders early completion of inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum power plant closure

Pakistan PM orders early completion of inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum power plant closure
  • Power generation at Neelum-Jhelum project was suspended in May this year due to a technical fault
  • Located on River Neelum in Azad Kashmir, the project generates 5.15 billion units of power annually

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered early competition of an inquiry into closure of the 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum hydropower plant in Azad Kashmir and asked authorities to make it functional again, Sharif’s office said on Sunday.
Located on River Neelum in Azad Kashmir, the project generates 5.15 billion units of power annually but has faced several problems in recent years.
The project first shut down in 2021 due to a fault in its head race tunnel but was later restored. The same problem was detected in April 2024 and power generation was suspended in May.
Presiding over a meeting in Islamabad, Sharif directed officials to immediately complete the investigation report regarding the recent shutdown.
“The Prime Minister issued directives to identify those responsible for the defects in the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project and take strict action against them,” Sharif’s office said.
“The Prime Minister directed to urgently form a committee regarding reactivation of Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project.”
The participants of the meeting were informed that the closure of the project was causing a huge loss to the national exchequer.
Geophysical and seismic factors were ignored in the construction of the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project and adequate concrete lining of head race tunnel was not done, according to officials.
A third-party validation of project was not done well in time and the place where the current fault occurred is the rock burst zone.
Sharif said “criminal negligence” was committed by not doing third party validation of the project.
In May, Sharif had lamented that $5 billion was spent on the project despite its initial cost being estimated at $40 million, saying it was “unfortunate” that the project was still facing technical issues.
The prime minister had described the Neelum-Jhelum project as one of “national significance” in the power sector and saying it must remain functional.


Ex-PM Khan party activist Sanam Javed arrested in Islamabad after brief release — lawyer

Ex-PM Khan party activist Sanam Javed arrested in Islamabad after brief release — lawyer
Updated 14 July 2024
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Ex-PM Khan party activist Sanam Javed arrested in Islamabad after brief release — lawyer

Ex-PM Khan party activist Sanam Javed arrested in Islamabad after brief release — lawyer
  • Javed has been in jail on charges of inciting people to violence over Khan’s brief arrest in May 2023
  • Khan’s party says it has been facing mass arrest of members for standing by Khan, authorities deny it

ISLAMABAD: Sanam Javed, a member of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was arrested in Islamabad after her brief release in a case relating to street violence in Pakistan over Khan’s arrest in May last year, her party and lawyer said on Sunday.
Khan’s arrest in a graft case on May 9, 2023 saw hundreds of his supporters allegedly pour into the streets across the country, ransacking military and other properties.
Thousands, including Javed, were arrested in the aftermath and some were tried by military courts after the authorities promised to bring the perpetrators of the violence to justice.
Javed’s lawyer, Ali Ashfaq, said on X that she was once again arrested by the Islamabad police after being released on Sunday in a case relating to May 9 violence.
“We handed her over to police without resistance,” Ashfaq said. “This should be the way of law-abiding people and this is what we did.”

Javed was earlier released by an Islamabad court in a case registered against her by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for allegedly inciting people to violence on May 9, 2023.
The PTI woman activist has faced a number of cases based on similar charges in Lahore, Gujranwala and other cities.
On July 11, the Lahore High Court discharged her in a case relating to May 9 riots registered against her in Gujranwala. However, she was rearrested by the Islamabad police as soon as she stepped out of the Central Jail of Gujranwala on Saturday.
Khan’s PTI party says it has been facing a crackdown and mass arrest of its members for standing by Khan, who has been in jail since August last year. Pakistani authorities deny the allegations.
On Saturday, Khan and his wife Bushra Khan were arrested by Pakistani authorities in a case involving illegal sale of state gifts, after a court accepted their appeals against a ruling that they had violated the country’s marriage law and ordered their immediate release.
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 ex-premier 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.
Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan says the cases against him are “politically motivated,” aimed at keeping him from returning to power. Pakistani authorities deny this.

 


Pakistani women married to Afghan nationals entitled to dual nationality, court rules

Pakistani women married to Afghan nationals entitled to dual nationality, court rules
Updated 14 July 2024
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Pakistani women married to Afghan nationals entitled to dual nationality, court rules

Pakistani women married to Afghan nationals entitled to dual nationality, court rules
  • Peshawar High Court issued the verdict on 65 petitions filed by individuals who had Afghan citizenship, married Afghan nationals or had children with them
  • The petitioners moved the court after last year’s directives by Islamabad for all illegal foreigners to leave the country by November 2023 or face arrest

PESHAWAR: A high court in Pakistan has ruled that Pakistani woman married to Afghan nationals were entitled to hold dual nationality despite possessing the Afghan Citizens Card (ACC) or Proof of Registration (PoR), with a lawyer representing petitioners describing the ruling as a “landmark” development.
A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), comprising Justice Arshad Ali and Justice Wiqar Ahmad, issued the 62-page judgment, deciding 65 petitions on issues surrounding Pakistani citizenship filed by individuals who either had ACC or PoR cards, married an Afghan national or had children born to Pakistani-Afghan parents.
The decision, announced on July 9, came after a number of Pakistani and Afghan nationals filed petitions in the high court to seek relief following last year’s directives by the Pakistani government for all illegal foreigners to leave the country by November 2023 or face arrest.
“This is a landmark decision of the Peshawar High Court as several individuals were suffering for years. This is not an issue of these 65 individuals but thousands of individuals who have been suffering over some time now,” Nouman Muhib Kakakhel, one of the lawyers who represented the petitioners, told Arab News on Sunday.
“Pakistan didn’t have any dual nationality law with Afghanistan. This decision will pave the way for many to address their issues in the court.”
The verdict divided the case into four categories, including children born to Pakistani and Afghan parents with ACC or PoR cards issued in their name, Pakistanis holding an ACC who claim dual citizenship, Afghans married to Pakistani nationals seeking PoR or citizenship, and individuals who were Pakistani but were mistakenly declared Afghan and issued ACC cards.
“The situation that emerges from this analysis invariably leads one to a conclusion that a female Pakistani citizen who marries an Afghan citizen can retain dual nationality. Similarly, children born out of such wedlock can also retain their dual nationality of Pakistan as well as Afghanistan till attaining the age of 21 years,” the verdict read.
“They cannot be denied citizenship status as citizens of Pakistan for the reason that they are ACC or PoR holders. Their entry can co-exist, as such in NADRA database as well as in other databases of the government of Pakistan. Their CNICs [computerized national identity cards], if issued already, couldn’t be blocked for the reason that names of such persons have been found in the data of Afghan Citizenship or they have been found to be holders of PoRs.”
About such children, the court ruled that they would be “entitled to citizenship of Pakistan by issuance of Form B, notwithstanding the fact that they have been entered [as] ACC or PoR holders.”
The court ruled that the applications of Pakistani nationals, who had acquired ACC and PoR cards, would be “processed and decided swiftly by realizing that certain citizens of the state are also suffering and their grievances require to be remedied quickly.”
Hayat Roghani, a human rights activist, the verdict would encourage many Afghans and Pakistanis, who had been facing similar issues, to go to a court for relief.
“The Afghan refugees have lived together with Pakistani Pashtuns and have relations with each other,” he said. “The last year’s order of the Pakistan government to expel undocumented foreign nationals to their countries intensified the problems of Pakistanis too.”
Roghani noted that Pakistani Pashtuns and Afghan refugees had shared businesses and married each other, but the directives to expel foreign nationals made things difficult for them both.
“The decision of the Peshawar High Court is a precedent and many others will benefit from it in the future,” he added.


Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 

Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 
Updated 14 July 2024
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Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 

Pakistani minister, Iraqi envoy discuss possibility of free entry visas for pilgrims 
  • Pakistani Shia Muslims Muharram travel to Iraq’s Najaf, Karbala cities during Muharram every year
  • Iraqi envoy assures Pakistan’s interior minister of making travel easier for pilgrims, says state media 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi discussed the possibility of free entry visas for Pakistani pilgrims into Iraq with the country’s envoy Hamid Abbas Lafta, state-run media reported. 

Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala hold tremendous significance for Shia Muslims around the world, including from Pakistan, who travel to these cities during the first two months of the Islamic lunar calendar to recall the sacrifices made by Imam Hussain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 

Lafta met Naqvi and Chaudhry Salik Hussain, the minister for overseas Pakistanis in Islamabad to discuss ways to improve the travel experience for Pakistani pilgrims in Iraq. 

“The discussion highlighted the possibility of free entry visas for Pakistani pilgrims and increasing the number of people allowed to visit each year,” the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported. 

Pakistan’s national airline last week launched special flights to Najaf city during Muharram for the country’s pilgrims. Pakistan said it would operate return flights for pilgrims from Najaf from July 20. 

Naqvi expressed “serious concern” about travel agents charging Pakistani pilgrims excessive fees, ensuring the Iraqi envoy he would take action against those breaking the law. 

“He also requested the Iraqi government to consider the issue of permitting Pakistani pilgrims to keep their passports while in Iraq,” the APP said. 

The Iraqi ambassador assured full cooperation in making travel easier for Pakistani pilgrims and provided a list of travel agents who had been overcharging visitors, the state media said. 

“The two sides also agreed to quickly finalize a visa waiver agreement for diplomats and officials from both countries,” APP said. 

The APP said both countries are additionally working on a deal that will make it easier for Pakistani workers to obtain work permits in Iraq.