Army didn’t help PTI come to power: Imran

ICMD, MAy 1, 2019 Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday hit out at the opposition saying that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came into power through its own performance rather than help from any army general. “No General Jilani brought the PTI up,” he said, while addressing a convention to mark the 22nd anniversary of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the federal capital. “It’s been over two decades since PTI was founded and we need to understand what this struggle was about. Struggle is never a straight journey, there are highs and lows. People get disheartened and leave you, [and] some come back,” he said. “I had nothing to gain from politics. I had everything a person could have – wealth, fame, respect. I could have spent my life just by commenting on cricket,” he said. “But a man of faith knows he has to answer to the God. The more you receive [from God], the more responsibility you have [towards society],” he added. He reiterated that under no circumstances would a deal be struck with the opposition parties, adding that the accountability proceedings will continue. “They have joined hands to save themselves from accountability, but I won’t give them any sort of relief despite all their efforts and conspiracies,” he said. “Let them do whatever they can, I won’t give them any NRO,” he asserted. “Nawaz Sharif has asked for permission to travel abroad for treatment. Isn’t it then the right of every other prisoner to go abroad for treatment?” he asked. “In Naya Pakistan, laws are same for everyone,” he maintained. -- DT Comment on

Pakistan hopeful of success in the talks with IMF

ICMD, Amy 1, 2019 Adviser to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh on Wednesday said that negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a proposed bailout package would continue during the next few days, and that Pakistan was hopeful of success in the talks with the global lender. Pakistani officials and IMF representatives held an important meeting in the federal capital earlier in the day. The Pakistani delegation was led by Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and included three additional secretaries and a senior joint secretary from the Finance Ministry. Secretaries from the power and petroleum divisions, and the chairmen of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) also participated in the talks. In a brief conversation with journalists following the conclusion of the day’s talks, Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said initial negotiations were held with the IMF team, which was also briefed on the economic reforms. The visiting IMF delegation, which arrived in Islamabad on Monday, is expected to conclude the technical details of the proposed loan by May 6. The proposed bailout package is expected to range between $7 billion and $8 billion. According to sources, Wednesday’s round of talks focused on briefing the IMF team on the tax amnesty scheme by the FBR, privatisation programme, power and gas tariffs and the government’s policies. Prime Minister Imran Khan had met IMF Director Christine Lagarde on Friday on the sidelines of the second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, China. During the meeting, the two sides had agreed on the importance of the IMF programme for the country and reviewed the relationship between Pakistan and the global lender. Imran had identified areas of reforms and initiatives being undertaken by his government to stabilise the economy, control inflation and achieve fiscal balance. The two parties had also agreed on the need for a social safety net for vulnerable groups of society. After the meeting, the IMF director, in a social media post, had said that she was glad to have a meeting with the Pakistani premier, in which a comprehensive policy package was discussed to alleviate the country’s economy. “We discussed prospects for a comprehensive policy package and international financial support to help stabilize the economy of Pakistan, and also the need to strengthen governance and protect the poor,” she had said.

Qadri quits TLP; apologises to govt, army and judiciary

ICMD, May 1, 2019 The detained leader of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), Pir Afzal Qadri, has tendered an apology to the government of Pakistan, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and the judiciary for his provocative statements following the Supreme Court decision to acquit Christian woman Asia Bibi in a high-profile blasphemy case. “I made provocative remarks feeling disheartened and depressed by the apex court decision in the blasphemy case. I am extremely regretful over this inciteful behavior towards the government, judiciary and the chief of army staff,” Qadri said in a video statement. Announcing his retirement from the active politics he said: I had decided last year to bid farewell to the politics due to poor health. Now I am announcing my retirement from active politics,” he said in his statement.

'No plan to close down madaris in country: govt'

ICMD, April 28, 2019 Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Dr. Noor-ul-Haq Qadri has brushed aside all assumptions regarding government intentions to close down religious schools and said the government is committed to taking all clerics on board for promotion of diversity and tolerance and making Pakistan an Islamic welfare state. In his keynote address at the eighth meeting of the National Islamic Scholars Council here on Sunday at a local hotel, the minister urged ulema to influence and guide the government for the establishment of Riasat-e-Madina. Admiring the religious leadership for streamlining national religious thought through Paigham-e-Pakistan Conference, the minister urged ulema and scholars to refrain from becoming part of any negative propaganda. He said nothing like the closure of madaris in the country is under consideration and the students and teachers must not come under the influence of such negative and baseless rumors. The minister said the government will take all ulema and religious scholars on board to transform Pakistan into a country ensuring protection to all religious minorities, adding that the ulema should play an effective role for promotion of unity and understanding in the society. He emphasized the need to discourage violence and hatred through scholarly discourse and constructive discussions. Qadri said the clerics should help people resolve their issues in the light of Islamic teachings. He said ulema have a role to play for maintaining lasting peace and protection of the homeland. He said all schools of thought should spread the Islamic teachings with wisdom and good advice. He also appreciated the organizers for holding such a conference wherein ulema and scholars from across the country participated. During the conference proceedings, religious scholars unanimously called for an increased role of ulema at the national and regional level to work for peace and sectarian harmony. They were in complete agreement that discouraging all manners of violent tendencies in society was a collective responsibility of all Pakistanis, including the religious scholars. While pledging to strive for a peaceful and tolerant society in Pakistan, the ulema and scholars emphasized that difference of opinion should not be used as a channel to engender hatred and hostilities among the people. -- DT

Iran sets free 107 Pakistani nationals

ICMD, April 28, 2019 The Iranian authorities on Sunday handed over 107 illegal Pakistani immigrants to Levies force at the Taftan border. According to the Levies authorities, the Pakistani nationals were arrested by Iranian authorities from various places as they were illegally trying to go to Europe via Iran. Following the necessary process, a case was registered against them and then handed over to FIA for further investigation. The development comes days after Pakistan and Iran agreed to boost security cooperation and set up a ‘Joint Rapid Reaction Force’ to fight terrorism and guard the common border between the two countries. Speaking at a joint press conference in Tehran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Prime Minister Imran Khan had said both the countries will not allow terrorist activities from each other’s side and that security chiefs of the two countries will discuss ways to boost cooperation. They had also agreed that cementing cooperation between Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province and Pakistan’s Balochistan province including opening of new border crossings and border markets will contribute towards improvement of the economic situation of local residents and constitute a step towards resolving border challenges and insecurities.

Pak-China FTA to be signed on April 28

ICMD, April 23, 2019 Ambassador of China to Pakistan Yao Jing on Monday said that the Free Trade Agreement (FTA)-Phase II between Pakistan and China will be signed on April 28, besides other important agreements related to China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) during the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to Beijing. Addressing a press conference here, the Chinese envoy said the FTA has been finally concluded after eight years of negotiations and it will be inked by the commerce ministers of two countries during the visit of the Pakistani prime minister. Under the FTA-Phase II, he said, China will provide market access to 90% of Pakistani commodities at zero-rated duty, while Pakistan will give China market access to 65% tariff lines. Briefing media about the upcoming Belt and Road Forum to be held in Beijing from April 25 to 27, the ambassador said world leaders, including heads of state and government from 37 countries, will attend the forum’s roundtable summit, but Pakistan being a major partner of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the most important of all. “Chinese prime minister and president are looking forward to the visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China where he will also hold bilateral meetings with the Chinese leadership to build further consensus on bilateral trade ties,” he added. The Chinese envoy pointed out that China wants a more prosperous and developed Pakistan as without sustainable development in the neighbouring countries, Beijing cannot sustain its development. He said under the CPEC’s industrial cooperation, the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Rashakai was going to be inaugurated during the current month where 20 factories will be set up initially. He said employment in the SEZs will be given to the local people and the latest technology will be transferred from China to Pakistan.

'Unemployment among graduates rising at alarming rate'

ICMD, April 23, 2019 The overall unemployment rate in Pakistan during the past decade has increased from 5.1% to 5.7%, while the unemployment rate among graduates rose alarmingly to 16.3% in 2017-18 from 5.3% in 2006-07, reveals the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). The Pakistan Employment Trends 2018 survey conducted by the PBS revealed alarming proportions as the unemployment rate among female graduates rose significantly to 41% in 2017-18, while it was 9.7% in 2006-07. Male graduates’ unemployment rate surged to 7.3% in 2017-18 from 4.6% in 2006-07. Similarly, the unemployment rate among intermediates rose to 11.7% in 2017-18 from 6.5% in 2006-07, while under-matric jobless rates swelled to 6.4% in the said period. “Unemployment rate constitutes rising curve from (5.1%) in 2006-07 to (5.7%) in 2011-12 and lose steam in the last three years. Males and females unemployment rates make a similar pattern, however, the latter is higher than the former. The distance between males and females unemployment rates does not seem to be shrinking during the period,” said the report. Province-wise breakup indicates that the unemployment rate in Sindh rose to 5% from 4.8%, and the unemployment rate in Balochistan surged to 4% from 3.9%. However, the unemployment rate in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab fell marginally during the said period to 7.3% and 5.7% from 7.9% and 6%, respectively. According to the survey, employment to population ratio tends to increase from 49.8% in 2006-07 to 50.7% in 2009-10 and decelerates thereafter to end up 48.9% in 2017-18. “By gender, a sort of decrease obtains for males from 2006-07 to 2012-13 and a sort of decline is observed in the year 2017-18. However, employment to population ratio of males is about three to four times of that female which is at variance with the cause of gender equity. The gap is closing with the passage of time.” The survey revealed that youth (15-24 years) employment to population ratio seemed to wave down from 40.9% at beginning of the period (2006-07) to a level of 36.9% at the end (2017-18) of the period. “Similar curvature is made in the case of males and females. Again, the figures for males are more than double the corresponding figures for females. However, the disparity is shrinking down the time lane,” it added. However, it said the labor force participation rate marginally increased from 52.5% at the beginning of the series in 2006-07 and hovered around in its proximity till the end of the period (51.9% in 2017-18). “Likewise participation rates of males remain in the close vicinity of 81% during the period, with higher start in 2006-07 (83.1%). Females participation rates remain steady of one-fourth (21.3%) of males participation rates in 2006-07 till the end of the series (22.8%) in 2017-18.” -- DT

Islamic State claims responsibility for Sri Lanka bombings

ICMD, April 23, 2019 Islamic State has claimed responsibility for coordinated bombings in Sri Lanka, which killed 321 people and injured about 500 others, the group's AMAQ news agency said on Tuesday. The group did not give evidence for its claim. The Sri Lankan government has blamed National Thowheeth Jamaath (NTJ) after seven suicide bombers struck three churches and three hotels on Sunday. Speaking at the emergency session of Parliament, State Defence Minister Ruwan Wijewardene said “Preliminary investigation revealed that what happened in Sri Lanka was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurch.” Mr. Wijewardene has proposed banning the NTJ. However, the Islamic State’s claim does not mention the Christchurch shooting. -- Courtesy Reuters/HT