Election Commission of Pakistan rules senate polls to be held ‘as per past practice’

A Pakistan anti-terrorist force personal uses a metal detector to check the area of the Election Commission in Islamabad on August 26, 2008. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 March 2021

Election Commission of Pakistan rules senate polls to be held ‘as per past practice’

  • On Monday supreme court said upcoming senate elections would continue to be held through a secret ballot as per the constitution
  • Election commission says forming three-member committee to come up with recommendations on how to use technology to check against corruption in elections

ISLAMABAD: A day after the Pakistani Supreme Court ruled that upcoming senate elections would continue to be held through a secret ballot as per the constitution, the election commission said on Tuesday polls on March 3 would be held “as per past practice.”
The court’s ruling on Monday came in response to a presidential reference filed on December 23, 2020 seeking the court’s opinion on whether voting in senate elections could be held through an open ballot.
The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan has argued that open balloting would introduce transparency into a voting process that has long been plagued by irregularities, with national and provincial lawmakers accused of selling their votes.
Leaders of an 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have opposed the government’s move to try to hold senate elections through an open ballot, and one of the major parties in the alliance, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, had filed a petition in the supreme court against a presidential election amendment ordinance.
“Due to time constraint, ensuing Senate Election scheduled for 3rd March, 2021, will be conducted as provided in the Constitution and Law as per past practice,” the election commission said in a statement.
In it’s ruling on Monday, the court had directed the election commission to use technology to check against corrupt practices in the election and “to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly, and in accordance with law and that corrupt practices are guarded against.”
Attorney General Khalid Javed Khan said it was now up to the election commission to select what method to use in the upcoming elections to check corruption.
“The ECP is bound to investigate and trace the ballot to see whether any corrupt practice occurred,” he said in a statement after the verdict, adding that the election commission was “constitutionally bound” to follow the opinion of the Supreme Court and implement it without any amendments to existing rules or legislation.
In its statement on Tuesday, the election commission said it had decided to constitute a three-member committee to gather input on the use of technology in senate elections, saying it would prepare recommendations based on the input within four weeks.
Senate elections are scheduled to be held on March 3 for 48 seats. Each member of the Upper House of the Parliament is elected for a six-year term. Half of the senate members retire after every three years and new one are elected. The house has equal representation from all four provinces.


Saudi, Iranian foreign ministers to meet during Ramadan

Updated 11 sec ago

Saudi, Iranian foreign ministers to meet during Ramadan

  • The diplomats discussed in a phone call a number of issues relating to the trilateral agreement signed in China 
  • The Kingdom and Iran agreed on March 10 to re-establish diplomatic ties and reopen their embassies within two months

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, have agreed to meet during the month of Ramadan, the Saudi Press Agency reported early Monday. 

The diplomats also discussed in a phone call a number of issues relating to the trilateral agreement signed in China. 

"During the call, a number of common issues were discussed in light of the tripartite agreement that was signed in the People's Republic of China," Saudi state news agency SPA said. 

“The two ministers also agreed to hold a bilateral meeting between them during the ongoing month of Ramadan.” 

Ramadan is likely to end on April 20. 

The Kingdom and Iran agreed on March 10 to re-establish diplomatic relations and reopen their embassies within two months following years of tensions. 


Ex-PM Khan to appear before Islamabad court seeking bail in cases over clashes with police 

Updated 20 min 41 sec ago

Ex-PM Khan to appear before Islamabad court seeking bail in cases over clashes with police 

  • Hundreds of Khan supporters clashed with police on March 18 as the ex-PM led a caravan to an Islamabad court 
  • Islamabad administration has banned public gatherings in the capital, tightened security ahead of Khan appearance 

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan will appear before an Islamabad court on Monday, today, to seek bail in five cases registered against him over clashes between his supporters and the capital police earlier this month. 

Hundreds of Khan supporters clashed with police on March 18 as the former premier led a caravan to the Pakistani capital from the eastern city of Lahore to appear before an Islamabad district court in a case involving the sale of state gifts. 

The clashes left several people injured on both sides and forced the court to adjourn proceedings of the case, popularly known as the Toshakhana reference, until March 30. However, Khan was booked in five more cases over clashes outside the Islamabad judicial complex. 

The Islamabad administration has imposed Section 144 (ban on public gatherings and display of weapons) in the federal capital, whereas the capital police have tightened security ahead of Khan’s appearance before the court. 

“Section 144 is in force in Islamabad. Violators will be arrested,” the Islamabad police said on Twitter. “In the light of court orders, only concerned persons will be allowed to enter the court premises.” 

Khan, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April last year, has for months been agitating against the government of PM Shehbaz Sharif and pushing for snap elections nationwide. 

He later dissolved two provincial legislatures ruled by his party and allies in a bid to pressure the government into announcing snap polls. 

The former premier faces dozens of cases across the country, with charges against him ranging from terrorism to sedition. 


In southwest Pakistan, fried vermicelli is everyone’s favorite Ramadan delight

Updated 37 min 50 sec ago

In southwest Pakistan, fried vermicelli is everyone’s favorite Ramadan delight

  • Many Pakistanis, fasting from dawn till dusk, prefer the staple, called ‘pheni,’ with hot milk in pre-dawn meals
  • Customers complain of increase in pheni’s price, bakery owners attribute it to soaring inflation across the country

QUETTA: After offering afternoon prayers, 54-year-old Muhammad Aziz starts displaying buckets filled with round bunches of fried vermicelli, called “pheni,” to attract customers to a local sweet shop in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta. Aziz, who works as a manager at the sweet shop, says the demand for the staple food item “increases” in southwest Pakistan during the holy month of Ramadan. 

In southwestern Pakistan, pheni is a Ramadan delight as people love to consume the light food item in their pre-dawn sehri meals. Vermicelli enthusiasts often consume it with hot milk and tea, which helps them avoid heavier meals during suhoor. 

“The demand for pheni increases in Ramadan because customers eat it with hot milk in their suhoor,” Aziz, 54, told Arab News on Saturday. “In Ramadan, we sell almost five to six buckets a day and each bucket contains 15-20 kilogram of pheni.” 

Mumtaz Ali, 43, has been making vermicelli for the last 20 years at Quality Sweets, a famous sweet shop in Quetta. Ali says his team, which comprises 12 members, works for 15 hours a day during Ramadan to prepare six sacks of vermicelli. 

Each sack weighs 85kg. 

“In Ramadan we hire extra labor who work in the vermicelli section for a month but we stop making pheni after the 23rd of Ramadan,” Ali told Arab News, adding that the focus then shifts toward confectionary items for Eid. 

Explaining how the snack is prepared, Ali says “high quality” of flour is used to make vermicelli, which his workers knead with their hands and through machines. Next, it is mixed with water and salt. 

“Then we apply ghee to it and later we stretch the dough and make them into dough balls,” he said. “We then bring it here [to the kitchen] and fry it here to bring it into this position.” 

With inflation soaring to a decades-high in the country, bakery owners in Balochistan have also increased the price of pheni this Ramadan season. A kilogram of the round, slender threads has risen to Rs650 ($2.30) from Rs500 ($1.74) last year. 

“Inflation increases day-by-day, previously it increased in a year but now prices jump within a week,” Muhammad Javed Butt, who owns a bakery in Quetta, told Arab News. 

“Flour and oil prices have increased which is why we have to slightly up the [pheni’s] rate to maintain its quality.” 

But it nonetheless remains a part of people’s pre-dawn meals in Balochistan, he added. 

Khalid Hussain, 65, who buys pheni for his family every Ramadan, said they have it in sehr and iftar with milk. 

“Children love it a lot, they mix it with milk and really enjoy it,” he told Arab News. 

Hussain said there may be many baked items for Ramadan but pheni is the “most eatable” one. 


'Wonderful' Afghanistan thump Pakistan to claim T20I series in Sharjah

Updated 53 min 55 sec ago

'Wonderful' Afghanistan thump Pakistan to claim T20I series in Sharjah

  • Needing 22 off last two overs, Najibullah and Mohammad Nabi hit a six each in penultimate over
  • Zadran then hit the winning boundary off Zaman Khan’s last over to chase down the 131-run target

SHARJAH: Afghanistan overcame late nerves in the closing overs to beat Pakistan by seven wickets in the second Twenty20 international on Sunday and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-game series. 

Needing 30 off the last three overs, and 22 from the last two, Najibullah Zadran and Mohammad Nabi hit a six each off pace bowler Naseem Shah in the penultimate over to reduce the target to five runs. 

Zadran then hit the winning boundary off Zaman Khan’s last over to chase down the 131-run target with one ball to spare. 

“It’s a great honor and pleasure to lead this wonderful team,” said Afghanistan skipper Rashid Khan. 

“It was a great effort with the ball, and then we took it deep and finished it.” 

He added: “I think 130 was a good total. We tried our best to take it deep and finish it. Our strategy was to go out there and make sure you take responsibility. We have players to finish it like Nabi and Najib.” 

Pakistan’s 130-6 in 20 overs was built around a sedate 57-ball 64 not out by all-rounder Imad Wasim — his maiden T20I half century. 

This was Afghanistan’s first bilateral T20I series against any of the top six teams — India, England, Pakistan, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia. 

They have previously won a T20I series each against the West Indies and Bangladesh and five in five against Zimbabwe. 

Rahmanullah Gurbaz (44 off 49 balls) and Ibrahim Zadran (38 off 40 balls) set the platform during their 56-run second wicket stand. 

However, their slow batting left Afghanistan needing to score 46 off the last 30 balls. 

Najibullah (23) and Nabi (14) remained unbeaten to seal the victory. 

“Our motive for this series was to check out talented young players and we have to back them in the future,” said Pakistan captain Shadab Khan. 

Earlier, Pakistan’s recovery was led by Imad who hit two sixes and three boundaries to rescue Pakistan from 63-5 after winning the toss and batting. 

Imad and Shadab (32) added 67 for the sixth wicket. 

Pakistan had got off to a disastrous start with left-arm pacer Fazalhaq Farooqi claiming Saim Ayub and Abdullah Shafique, both for nought, in the first over of the innings. 

Farooqi finished with 2-19 in his four overs. 

Shafique has now been dismissed for nought on four successive occasions in five T20Is since making his debut in November 2020. 

Mohammad Haris hit a six and two boundaries in his nine-ball 15 while Tayyab Tahir scored a 23-ball 13. 

The stockily built Azam Khan, who rose to fame with his power hitting in the recent Pakistan Super League, fell to spinner Rashid Khan, scoring just one after his nought in the first game. 

Shadab, who is deputising for rested skipper Babar Azam, hit three boundaries in his 25-ball knock. 

Imad’s previous best of 47 had come against Sri Lanka in Lahore in 2019. 


‘Friendly countries’ expected to fulfill commitments for IMF deal — finance minister

Updated 26 March 2023

‘Friendly countries’ expected to fulfill commitments for IMF deal — finance minister

  • Pakistan would not default, government doing its best to steer Pakistan out of “difficult situation,” says Ishaq Dar
  • Dar had said Pakistan’s IMF deal being delayed over friendly countries’ assurances to fund balance of payment gap

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said on Sunday that “friendly countries” were expected to materialize their commitments to Pakistan which would pave the way for Islamabad to finalize its loan revival deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report.

Earlier this month, Dar told Pakistani parliamentarians that Pakistan’s deal with the IMF is being delayed as the global lender wants assurances and commitments from “friendly countries” to fund its balance of payments gap to materialize.

Though the finance minister did not name the “friendly countries” specifically, it is understood that he was referring to Saudi Arabia, China and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). All three are close allies of Pakistan who have bailed come to its aid whenever Islamabad faces an economic crisis.

Pakistan has been struggling to revive a stalled loan program with the IMF which would unlock a tranche of $1.1 billion, crucial for the country to stave off a balance of payment crisis. The South Asian country’s reserves have dipped to historic lows over the past couple of months, as it desperately seeks external financing to pay off its debts and sustain its economy.

“Addressing as chief guest an Iftar dinner hosted by the Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) in honor of foreign diplomats, Dar said that friendly countries were expected to materialize their commitments with Pakistan that would pave the way to close the deal with the IMF and revive the economy,” the APP said.

The finance minister said Pakistan “would not default,” adding that the government was doing its best to steer the country out of a “difficult situation” to ensure its sustainable growth.

While Pakistan desperately waits for the IMF to revive the stalled loan program, the South Asian country grapples with decades-high inflation and a deepening political crisis. Pakistan’s restrictions on imports — in its bid to prevent the outflow of dollars — have caused banks to delay or deny the opening of Letter of Credits (LCs) for the import of goods.