ISLAMABAD: Pakistani finance minister Miftah Ismail said on Monday talks to resume an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout program, suspended earlier this year, were “on track,” refuting media reports that the scheme had been postponed.
Pakistan last week said it had received economic and financial targets from the IMF that once agreed and ratified should pave the way for the lender to unlock a suspended $6 billion loan program.
Pakistan desperately needs the money to avert a balance of payment crisis that is being brought closer by the day as result of the sharp rise in global oil and commodity prices. Central bank foreign currency reserves have fallen dangerously low, and the economy is reeling from a sharp depreciation in the Pakistani rupee and double-digit inflation.
Pakistan entered the IMF program in 2019 spread over three years and three months, but with less than half the amount disbursed, the IMF suspended the bailout earlier this year after the previous prime minister, Imran Khan, announced unfunded subsidies for the oil and power sectors. Khan’s government was ousted in April.
A Pakistani news website reported on Monday the IMF program had been “further postponed and the point of dispute is the improvement of anti-corruption regulations.”
“I have been reading with some amusement all the tweets and stories about IMF program being postponed or delayed due to some anti-corruption law,” Ismail said on Twitter. “There is no truth to it. The IMF program is on track.”
I have been reading with some amusement all the tweets and stories about IMF program being postponed or delayed due to some anti-corruption law. There is no truth to it. The IMF program is on track. https://t.co/6c0MNvQ0g3
Needing to get back in the IMF’s good graces, the new government, led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, has removed fuel subsidies, and made adjustments in a budget presented on June 10 that aimed at reducing the government’s fiscal deficit, which was one of the IMF’s key requirements.
Delivering an update following talks between Pakistani and IMF officials, Ismail said in a tweet last week that government had received the IMF’s Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) containing economic and fiscal targets under the seventh and eighth reviews of the program.
Having the two reviews completed at the same time raises the prospect of $1.9 billion being disbursed once the IMF board gives the all clear to resume the bailout program.
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government said on Saturday it will start vaccinating children aged five to eleven against COVID-19 from mid-September as infection figures are again on the rise.
After reporting a significant decline in COVID-19 cases earlier this year, Pakistan did away with almost all coronavirus restrictions. It has been witnessing a spike in infections since June, although health authorities say the situation largely remains under control and has fully vaccinated against COVID-19 over 88 percent of the population aged above 12 years.
“We will be starting COVID-19 vaccination of children aged between five to eleven years by mid-September,” Muazzam Abbas Ranjha, a vaccination lead at the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Islamabad told Arab News.
“The process for procurement of the vaccine and special syringes for the purpose is underway, and we’ll be receiving them next week.”
Ranjha said that Pakistan has done “extremely well” in immunizing its population against the pandemic and that’s why the numbers of deaths and infections have remained low compared to the neighboring countries.
“Now it’s time to immunize our children against the disease to curb the virus spread,” he said. “It is vital to administer the vaccine to our children as well to immunize the whole population against the virus.”
The country has conducted 20,272 COVID-19 tests in the last 24 hours, out of which 728 turned out to be positive or 3.59 percent with three deaths. A total of 161 patients are in critical condition, the official data says.
Ranjha said the number of daily infections in the country was under control as the government was constantly monitoring the situation.
“There is nothing alarming so far, but the people should still keep following health guidelines like mask wearing and social distancing at public places to evade the infection,” he said.
Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, told Arab News the vaccination of children would help boost general immunity.
“The scientific data available shows the vaccine for children is safe and effective,” he said, adding that the government should roll out an awareness before starting the drive.
“Developed countries have already started vaccination of the children to curb the virus, and it is highly recommended that we should also start it as quickly as possible.”
QUETTA: A single bed, modest wooden furniture, and black and white photographs on the walls of a small bedroom in a 19th-century residence in southwest Pakistan present an unassuming setting.
But this is no ordinary room: it has special significance for Pakistanis as the place where the country's founding father spent some of the last days of his life.
The Ziarat, or Quaid-e-Azam, Residency, has a two-story wooden structure amidst a juniper forest and was built during British rule in 1892. Located in Ziarat Valley, a picturesque hill station in Balochistan province, the house was a summer retreat of Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam (Great Leader). It was also where Jinnah stayed for two months as he tried to recover from a lung disease a year after the success of his movement to separate Pakistan from India on Aug. 14, 1947 after the end of British colonial rule.
Decades later, people from across the country visit Ziarat to pay tribute to Jinnah's memory.
“We have read about the Quaid Residency in books and heard stories from our elders … but when I stepped inside the residency, my feelings changed,” Chanda Ashraf, a 21-year-old student from Gujranwala, told Arab News.
“Inside this residency, I have experienced how the Quaid lived here and his existence was tangible,” she said. “I request all Pakistanis to visit this place once in their lifetime.”
The house has eight rooms, fitted with cedar wood. Jinnah’s bedroom is on the second floor, in front of his sister’s, Fatimah Jinnah, who took care of him in Ziarat.
Jinnah had had tuberculosis since the 1930s, but hid his condition because he believed it would hurt him politically, historians say. In July 1948, Jinnah arrived in Quetta and journeyed to the higher retreat at Ziarat, where the Pakistani government sent the best doctors it could find to treat him. It was here that a diagnosis of tuberculosis and advanced lung cancer was confirmed.
On August 13, on the eve of the first anniversary of the independence for which he had fought so hard, the founding father was moved to the lower altitude of Quetta and finally back to Karachi on September 11, 1948.
Jinnah died later that night at 10:20 pm at his home in Karachi. He was 71 years old and Pakistan was a little over one.
Today, the Quaid’s clothes and the tableware he and his sister had used at the Ziarat summer home are on display at the residency - now a museum and one of Pakistan’s most widely visited national heritage sites.
The Quaid-e-Azam Residency has also appeared on the 100-rupee note since 2006.
Muhammad Rahim, who for the past 19 years has been working as an official tour guide at the residency, said he was proud to be working at the house belonging to the man who had “struggled for an independent country for our future generations.”
“My late uncle Toti Khan had performed duties in the residency when Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had come to live here back in the summer of 1948,” he told Arab News.
“Despite two janitors hired for cleaning Quaid’s residence, I clean the entire residency with my hands, because I consider it as my service for the Quaid.”
The building was damaged in 2013, when a blaze tore through its wooden structure after a grenade attack by a Baloch separatist group. It was restored within four months.
Balochistan has long been the scene of a low-level insurgency, and a few attacks have been reported in Ziarat district in recent years, but the province’s tourism minister, Abdul Khaliq Hazara says, told Arab News the security situation was normal and thousands of people visited Jinnah’s residence every year.
“The government has been developing the infrastructure in Ziarat to facilitate tourists,” he said. “The Quaid Residency is a national heritage.”
A visitor Mohamad Alam Qasim said: "Not just for Balochistan, this is Pakistan’s heritage. Quaid-e-Azam was our national hero. He was everyone's leader."
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan condemned on Saturday a suicide blast that targeted Saudi security forces during an attempt to arrest a man linked to a deadly 2015 bombing in the Kingdom.
Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when security forces attempted to arrest him in Jeddah earlier this week, the Presidency of State Security said on Friday.
When the militant blew himself up, he died at the scene, with the explosion injuring three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident.
“Pakistan strongly condemns the recent terrorist incident in Jeddah, resulting in injuries, including to a Pakistani national,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement.
“The Government and people of Pakistan reiterate their full support for and deep solidarity with the leadership, government and brotherly people of Saudi Arabia against any threats to the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Al-Shehri was suspected of being a member of a militant cell that coordinated the 2015 suicide bombing of a mosque in Abha frequented by security force members.
Eleven members of the security forces and four Bangladeshi nationals were killed in the 2015 attack.
KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance division on Saturday brought out a comprehensive report on 75 years of the country’s economic journey, showing the economy had improved its growth potential over a period of time despite tough challenges.
Pakistan is poised to celebrate its 75th independence anniversary on Sunday.
The South Asian nation of over 220 million people is currently facing a daunting challenge of managing a stuttering economy, as it faces a huge current account deficit projected at nearly four percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The country’s foreign exchange reserves have also been consistently depleting in recent months, though officials say Pakistan will soon be in a position to stabilize its external sector with the assistance of friendly countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Pakistan’s GDP rose from $3bn to $383bn from 1950-2022,” the report said. “In 1950, GDP was 1.8 percent and in 2022 it is 5.97 percent.”
The report noted the per capita income in Pakistan also rose from $86 to $1,798 within the same period.
“Exports rose from $355.5 million to $72.0 billion from 1950-2022,” it added, “while Tax Revenues rose from Rs. 0.31 billion to Rs. 6,126.1 billion from 1950-2022.”
The finance division said Pakistan only inherited 34 industrial units at the time of its independence out of the 921 currently operating in the country.
“FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] increased from $1.2 million in FY1950 to $1,867.8 million in FY2022,” it noted, “while the remittances increased from $0.14 billion in FY1973 to $31.2 billion in FY2022.”
“Pakistan has made significant headway in spite of the many challenges that it has faced,” the report maintained. “The nation was able to transform itself into a semi-industrial economy and hub for business activities.”
The finance division added its aspiration was to put the economy on a higher growth trajectory through greater investment, efficiency and productivity.
ISLAMABAD: Months after Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan said his government was brought down by the administration in Washington, the American chapter of his party has hired a public relations firm to improve its image in the United States through information distribution and media management.
Khan was driven out of power in a no-confidence vote in April after he lost his parliamentary majority. However, he told his workers and supporters he was “punished” for pursuing an independent foreign policy which was not liked by the US.
He also maintained the “international conspiracy” against him had succeeded since it was carried out with the help of “local abettors,” though his allegations were later denied by US and Pakistani officials repeatedly.
According to the agreement, a copy of which is available on the Internet, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) US chapter has engaged Fenton/Arlook LLC for six months from August 1 on a monthly retainer fee of $25,000 to arrange media briefings and help the party with placement of articles and broadcasts.
“Fenton/Arlook shall provide public relations services, including but not limited to distributing information to and briefing journalists, placing articles and broadcasts, arranging interviews with representatives or supporters of PTI, advising on social media efforts and other such public relations services,” the agreement said.
The US firm noted its client did not include the PTI party registered in Pakistan.
“This is an agreement between a PR firm, not a lobbyist, and a group of US citizens,” Sajjad Burki, Khan’s focal person for the US, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “We are not lobbying for PTI Pakistan, and certainly not within the US administration.”
The former prime minister’s political rivals sharply reacted to the development, saying he had many faces.
Senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal accused Khan of “begging [the] USA” after telling his followers that his government was toppled on Washington’s behest.
I have never had any doubt that Imran Khan has hundred faces. What he poses and professes is a smoke screen. Behind this smoke screen is the face of an ego maniac, narcissist & selfish person.
He is now begging USA by all means whether sending emissaries or engaging lobbyists. https://t.co/AaXtIwbz2Q