US urges Pakistan to reconsider its clampdown on aid agencies

The International Rescue Committee, along with several partner organizations, is collaborating with the Pakistan Reading Project to teach more than one million girls and boys to read in a country which has one of the highest child illiteracy rates in the world. (Photo Courtesy: International Rescue Committee website)
Updated 05 December 2018
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US urges Pakistan to reconsider its clampdown on aid agencies

  • Authorities reject registration applications filed by 18 INGOs
  • Government says it is committed to pursuing an open and transparent policy

ISLAMABAD: The US State Department on Tuesday urged Pakistan to reconsider its decision to suspend the licenses of several International Nongovernmental Organizations (INGOs) operating in the country forcing them to close shop.
“We encourage Pakistan to engage with all international partners who share their commitment to a bright future for Pakistan,” Heather Nauert, US State Department Spokesperson said in a statement.
Nauert said that Washington recognizes the vital role played by the INGOs in the country, in collaboration with Pakistani institutions, on causes ranging from disaster management to human and economic development, to promoting human rights and democratic values.
“These organizations, which also employ thousands of Pakistanis countrywide, share the government of Pakistan’s and the Pakistani people’s vision for a vibrant, healthy, democratic, and prosperous country,” the US official said.
She added that the US thanks these organizations and their employees for their contributions to Pakistan’s development. “In that context, the United States regrets that the government of Pakistan has required 18 INGOs, many of which have been working in Pakistan for many years, to close their operations in Pakistan,” the statement read. 
Reacting to the statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry issued a press release on November 15 stating that the government had carefully reviewed the concerns being expressed about some of the INGOs’ working in Pakistan.
“Broadly, three concerns have been highlighted. One, there is a lack of clarity or insufficient information on the grounds for rejection. Secondly, the INGO registration process is non-transparent. Third, the decision on the closure of operations would somehow constrain the space for INGOs and civil society in Pakistan.”
However, the Foreign Ministry re-affirmed the government’s commitment to pursue an open and transparent INGO policy, which is underpinned by national laws, rules, and regulations. “Pakistan’s INGO policy framework is fully aligned with nationally determined development priorities and needs. We recognize and appreciate the assistance from the donor community and INGOs,” the Foreign Ministry statement read.
“As for the shrinking space, the evidence is contrary to assertions. Out of 141 that had applied for registration since October 2015, the applications of 74 INGOs have been approved which is more than 50% approval rate. These numbers do not count the applications of other INGOs which are being processed,” it added.


Bulls welcome PM Khan to Karachi with 738-point stock market gain

Updated 10 December 2018
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Bulls welcome PM Khan to Karachi with 738-point stock market gain

  • Premier assures promotion of CPEC project listings and reduction of advance tax
  • Move would help increase volume and market capitalization, analysts say

KARACHI: Bulls from Pakistan’s equity market gave a rousing welcome to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday during the premier's visit to Karachi after he promised to create a conducive environment for investors which would include listings of projects from the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) initiative. 

The benchmark KSE-100 Index closed on Monday in the green zone, gaining 738 points – or 1.9 percent – and closed at the 39,300-level. Investors were mainly motivated by PM Khan’s meeting with a delegation from Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX). 
“Stocks showed a strong recovery after the PM’s affirmation of a fast-track enactment of PSX proposals on taxes, regulations, and CPEC debt listings,” Ahsan Mehanti, Chief Executive of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News. 
Oil and gas exploration companies led the recovery, as OPEC and Non-OPEC countries decided to cut oil production by 1.2 mbpd from January 2019 onwards. This attracted investors towards oil scrips, such as PPL (+5 percent), OGDC (+4.25 percent), POL (+3.66 percent) and MARI (+2.66 percent), and the sector added 257 points to the index. 
During the trading session, the volumes increased by 20 percent to 154 million while traded value fell by one percent to $48 million, according to Topline Securities. 
“Trade remained higher, led by oversold banking, cement, and auto stocks. Renewed institutional interest on likely rationalization of PSX taxes and government measures for raising investor confidence acted as a catalyst in the bullish close at PSX,” Mehanti added.
On Sunday, a delegation led by PSX Chairman Sulaiman Mehdi met the prime minister and discussed strategies to rejuvenate the stock market. 
“The meeting was very fruitful and the PM agreed to revive investors’ confidence in PSX,” a statement issued by the PSX, after the meeting, read. 
PM Khan assured the delegation that Advance Tax of 0.02 percent on purchase and sale of shares (both sides) would be reduced to 0.01 percent. He also agreed to allow capital losses to be carried forward to up to three years from the initial one year, rationalization of taxation of holding companies on inter corporate dividend; and rationalization of capital gain tax on equities in line with real estate in the next budget, the statement added. 
CPEC is the umbrella of the Chinese mega project under the One Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that is expected to stimulate economic activity across more than 65 countries. China is investing around $60 billion in Pakistan’s infrastructure and energy projects. 
PM Khan also assured the delegation of capital market to promote a listing of government and CPEC project debt at PSX. 
“It is good sign because it will increase the depth of the market following the listing of big Chinese companies,” Zafar Moti, former director of PSX, told Arab News. 
“There are many projects under CPEC, some of them have commenced operations and others are in the pipeline in public and privates sectors,” Muhamamd Sohail, CEO of Topline Securities, said. 
“The listing of CPEC projects will increase volume, market capitalization and, most importantly, shareholders, both Chinese and Pakistani, will know the real value of their projects after price discovery,” he added. 
PM Khan, during his daylong visit to Karachi, held separate meetings with different groups of traders, including with those from the Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Karachi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and Overseas Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 
Representatives from the business community expressed concerns over the recent devaluation of the rupee, interest rate hike and gas tariff increase, and raised the Gas Infrastructure Development Cess issue.