Pakistan's ousted prime minister announces campaign for media freedom from next week

Pakistan's former Prime Minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) chief Imran Khan, delivers a speech to his supporters during a rally celebrate the 75th anniversary of Pakistan's independence day in Lahore on August 13, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 14 August 2022

Pakistan's ousted prime minister announces campaign for media freedom from next week

  • Imran Khan says journalists disseminating his party narrative have been targeted by government
  • Khan maintains Pakistan will return to 'dark days of dictatorship' without freedom of expression

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's former prime minister Imran Khan on Sunday announced to launch a public campaign for media freedom next week, saying the government was cracking down against journalists and media houses which were disseminating his party's narrative among people.
Khan was ousted from power in a no-confidence vote in April after losing his parliamentary majority. Since then, he has repeatedly said his administration was brought down by the United States in connivance with his political rivals since he was pursuing an independent foreign policy.
The allegation has been denied by Pakistani and American officials.
Senior members of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party have also expressed concern more recently after a private television channel, ARY News, was reprimanded by the country's media regulator for broadcasting a segment with a PTI leader which was described as "seditious" by officials.
"I want to warn our nation of an unprecedented crackdown campaign by Imported [government] & State machinery against media houses & journalists who are carrying PTI & my narrative to the public," Khan said in a Twitter post.
"In my mass public campaign across [Pakistan] from next week, I will take up issue of media freedom & freedom of expression," he continued. "If we allow these terror tactics, designed simply to target PTI & myself, to succeed, then we will be returning to the dark days of dictatorship when there was no independent media & no room for freedom of expression."
Khan named several journalists, most of them viewed as pro-PTI, in his social media posts, saying they had to face threats, violent attacks and arrests due to their reporting and analyses.
He added real independence could not "be achieved without a free media & freedom of speech as guaranteed in our Constitution."

 

ARY News was taken off air in several cities of Pakistan last week after Khan's chief of staff, Dr. Shehbaz Gill, said military personnel should not follow the commands of their top officials if they were "against the sentiments of the masses."
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) issued a show-cause notice to the channel, saying Gill's comments amounted to inciting mutiny within the army.
The channel's top management told Arab News on Friday its no-objection certificate had been revoked suddenly and unilaterally.
"What crime have we committed," its owner Salman Iqbal asked. "We are being punished for a statement by a politician which we have already disowned. But such stern action after a clarification shows that the government has made its mind to silence a critical voice."
The PTI chairman's Twitter posts also mentioned two ARY journalists who decided to leave the country after the Shahbaz Gill episode.
Khan's own administration was criticized for not upholding media freedom in the country since journalists critical of his government's policies were attacked or abducted on his watch.


Pakistani PM appreciates Saudi Arabia for support in wake of deadly floods

Updated 8 sec ago

Pakistani PM appreciates Saudi Arabia for support in wake of deadly floods

  • Muslim World League secretary general is visiting Pakistan
  • Dr. Al-Issa will be in Pakistan until October 14

ISLAMABAD: Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, the secretary general of the Muslim World League, called on Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif today, Thursday, with the latter expressing his appreciation for Saudi Arabia for supporting the South Asian nation in the wake of deadly floods that have killed at least 1,700 people and left 33 million scrambling to survive.

The Muslim World League is an International Islamic NGO based in Makkah that aims to spread the true message of Islam and advance moderate values that promote peace and tolerance.

Al-Issa will be in Pakistan until October 14.

“Highlighting the ongoing devastating impact of the floods in Pakistan which have affected more than 33 million people all across Pakistan, [PM] appreciated the support provided by Saudi Arabia to Pakistan during these hard times,” a statement from the PM’s Office said.

“Prime Minister also highlighted that the role played by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim World League and His Excellency [Al-Issa] for important Muslim causes, especially on Palestine and Kashmir is commendable.”

Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa (second from left), the secretary general of the Muslim World League, Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki (right), Saudi Ambassador to Pakistan, call on Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (left) is Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 6, 2022. (APP)

The statement added: “The Prime Minister expressed that Pakistan attaches great importance to its relationship with Saudi Arabia which is rooted firmly in our common religion, shared values and culture.” 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are close allies, with over 2.5 million Pakistani expats living in the kingdom, which is also the largest source of remittances to Islamabad. 


Pakistan thanks Kuwait for support after deadly floods

Updated 43 min 19 sec ago

Pakistan thanks Kuwait for support after deadly floods

  • Last month, Kuwaiti charities said Pakistan was “witnessing one of the worst humanitarian disasters”
  • Kuwaiti foreign ministry collaborating with 27 local charities to provide urgent relief for flood survivors

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, on Thursday thanked Kuwait’s ambassador to Pakistan for the Gulf nation’s support after recent floods in Pakistan that have killed at least 1,700 people and left 33 million scrambling to survive.

Last month, the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, had reported that the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs was collaborating with 27 local charities to provide urgent relief to Pakistan flood survivors. Other Gulf states like the UAE and Saudi Arabia have also sent thousands of tons of relief goods to Pakistan via land and air routes. 

“Ambassador of Kuwait, H.E. Nassar Abdulrahman J Almutairi, called on Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar at the Ministry,” the foreign office said. “MOS thanked Ambassador for Kuwait’s support during recent floods in Pakistan.”

Last month, Kuwaiti charities in a joint statement said Pakistan was “witnessing one of the worst humanitarian disasters.”

“Without urgent access to medical aid, food, water, and shelter, those affected are most exposed to grave risks,” the statement added, calling for more aid for the flood-ravaged nation.

The calls for aid from around the world come as hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who fled their homes are living in government camps set up to accommodate them, or simply out in the open.

Stagnant floodwaters, spread over hundreds of square kilometers (miles), may take two to six months to recede in some places, officials say, and have already led to widespread cases of skin and eye infections, diarrhea, malaria, typhoid and dengue fever.

The crisis hits Pakistan at a particularly bad time. With its economy in crisis, propped up by loans from the International Monetary Fund, it does not have the resources to cope with the longer-term effects of the flooding without international aid. 


Pakistan government to file Supreme Court reference to revive Reko Diq gold mine project

Updated 06 October 2022

Pakistan government to file Supreme Court reference to revive Reko Diq gold mine project

  • Reko Diq project is in southwestern Pakistan hosts one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits
  • Project was suspended in 2011 after Pakistan denied a joint venture, Tethyan Copper Company, a licence to develop it

KARACHI: Pakistan’s federal government will file a reference in the apex court next week for the revival of Reko Diq, a gold and copper project located in Balochistan province, the attorney general said on Thursday.  

The Reko Diq project in southwestern Pakistan, which hosts one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits, was suspended in 2011 after Pakistan denied a joint venture, the Tethyan Copper Company, comprising Barrick Gold of Canada and Antofagasta Minerals of Chile, a licence to develop it. 

Pakistan’s Supreme Court blocked Tethyan Copper in 2013 from developing Reko Diq following a court case over how the contract had been awarded.

But Barrick Gold ended a long-running dispute with Pakistan and is set to start to develop the project under an agreement signed earlier this year.

Under the out-of-court deal, an $11 billion penalty slapped against Pakistan by a World Bank arbitration court and other liabilities will be waived and Barrick and its partners will invest $10 billion in the project, Pakistan’s then Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had said.

On September 30, the federal cabinet approved filing a reference in the Supreme Court for the revival of the project.

“The reference will be filed after October 9 ... and all the consultations have been completed,” Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali told Arab News. “This reference and the agreement [signed with Barrick Gold] will be put before the apex court with the question of whether it negates the earlier judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.”  

The federal government plans to seek the court’s opinion on two questions:

“Whether the earlier judgment of the Supreme Court, the Constitution of Pakistan, laws or public policy prevent the federal and provincial governments of Balochistan from entering into the Reko Diq Agreements or affect their validity?' and 'If enacted, would the proposed Foreign Investment (Protection and Promotion) Bill, 2022 be valid and constitutional'," Pakistan's state-run media APP reported on Wednesday.

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 2019 announced a huge award of $5.8 billion against Pakistan in the Reko Diq case, filed in 2012 by Tethyan Copper. Damages included compensation of $4.087 billion by reference to the fair market value of the Reko Diq project at the time of the mining lease denial, and interest until the date of the award of $1.753 billion. The Tribunal also awarded TCC just under $62 million in costs incurred in enforcing its rights and also imposed another fine of $4 billion.

However, in March this year, the government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan signed an agreement with Barrrick Gold to avoid the $11 billion penalty.

The project will be operated by Barrick, which owns 50% stakes, while 25% shares each will be owned by the Balochistan provincial government and Pakistani state-owned enterprises. 

The first production of copper and gold is expected in 2027-2028.


Pakistan is not seeking climate ‘reparations’ after deadly floods — PM

Updated 06 October 2022

Pakistan is not seeking climate ‘reparations’ after deadly floods — PM

  • Sharif’s own climate minister Sherry Rehman has called for climate reparations from the wealthy polluting nations
  • Rich countries say purse strings tight due to soaring energy costs, fallout of Ukraine war and COVID-19 pandemic

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said this was not the “proper” time to seek climate reparations from wealthy nations, saying that instead he wanted them to take note of their climate impacts and act before it was too late.

Sharif’s statement comes as vulnerable countries ramp up demands for rich countries to pay compensation for losses inflicted on the world’s poorest people by climate change, and after deadly floods in Pakistan have killed over 1,700 people and affected 33 million, Hundreds of thousands of displaced people who are living in the open are being exposed to diseases like malaria, diarrhea, dengue fever, severe skin and eyes infections, cholera, dog and snake bites, all of which are fast spreading amid stagnant floodwaters that officials say will take several months to recede.

Amid the disaster, many Pakistani commentators, as well as Sharif’s own climate minister, Sherry Rehman, have been calling not for aid but for climate reparations from the wealthy polluting nations.

But in an interview to the Guardian published on Thursday, Sharif pushed back on this suggestion.

“We’re not asking about reparations,” he said. “No, we’re not. I don’t think talk of reparations is proper at this point in time. What I am saying is that they should take notice of the situation, take responsibility and act speedily before it’s too late, before the damage becomes irreparable – not just for Pakistan, but for the world.”

Sharif’s statement comes despite wealthy countries failing to deliver a promise for $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries lower emissions and prepare for climate change. Loss and damage payments would be in addition to that $100 billion.

Indeed, when diplomats from nearly 200 countries meet on November 7 in the beachside resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, for the UN climate summit, this issue is likely to dominate the talks: “loss and damage,” or climate-related destruction to homes, infrastructure and livelihoods in the poorest countries that have contributed least to global warming.

The world’s 46 least developed countries, home to 14 percent of the global population, produce just 1 percent of the world’s annual CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, according to the UN.

As COP27 approaches, climate losses are surging — in rich and poor countries alike. In recent weeks, wildfires have swallowed huge swathes of land in Morocco, Greece and Canada, drought has ravaged Italy’s vineyards, and fatal floods hit Gambia, China and Pakistan.

But COP27 will not be easy, as rich countries arrive with purse strings tightened by soaring energy costs, the economic fallout of the Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted wealthy countries spend trillions of dollars propping up their economies.


Pakistan central bank to complete probe soon into alleged FX manipulation by banks

Updated 06 October 2022

Pakistan central bank to complete probe soon into alleged FX manipulation by banks

  • Rupee has fluctuated wildly this year, leading authorities to suspect manipulation by banks and exchange companies
  • Rupee is currently at around 223.94 to the US dollar, down around 20 percent in 2022, it had lost 27% at one stage

KARACHI: Pakistan’s central bank will soon complete an investigation into alleged manipulation by commercial banks of foreign exchange operations in the country, an official said on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s rupee has fluctuated wildly this year, particularly recently, hitting record lows against the US dollar last month before suddenly rising in recent days, leading authorities to suspect manipulation by banks and exchange companies.

“The investigations are being carried out by the regulator and results might come soon,” the chief spokesperson for the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Abid Qamar, told Reuters.

He said he could not give an exact date for the completion, but said the probe had started some time back during the tenure of the previous finance minister.

The rupee is currently at around 223.94 to the US dollar, down around 20 percent in 2022. It had lost 27 percent at one stage, hitting a low of 220 on Aug. 31.

A parliamentary committee on Tuesday directed the SBP to take appropriate action against all banks and exchange companies involved in volatility in the exchange rate in recent weeks.

In 16 sessions up to Sept. 22, the rupee lost close to 9 percent against the dollar. Since then, it has gained about 7 percent, without any changes in economic fundamentals.

The rupee gains coincided with the return of Ishaq Dar as finance minister for his fourth stint. Dar has strongly favored intervention in currency markets and has come down hard on exchange speculation in the past.