Pakistan’s finance minister likely to meet IMF delegation on sidelines of Geneva conference

Pakistan finance minister Ishaq Dar gestures during a press briefing in Islamabad on January 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/FinMinistryPak)
Short Url
Updated 08 January 2023

Pakistan’s finance minister likely to meet IMF delegation on sidelines of Geneva conference

  • The event will take place tomorrow and focus on reconstruction activities in Pakistan in the wake of floods
  • The finance minister’s meeting with IMF officials is viewed as important amid the country’s economic woes

ISLAMABAD: An International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation is expected to hold an elaborate meeting with Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar in Geneva, said the global lending agency’s spokesperson on Sunday, as the country’s top government functionaries prepare to travel to the European city to attend a UN climate conference.

The event, which is scheduled to take place on Monday, will bring together heads of state and government along with senior representatives of international financial institutions and donor agencies.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host the conference which will highlight Pakistan’s reconstruction needs in the wake of the recent floods that killed more than 1,700 people and affected over 30 million others.

While the gathering is not billed as a pledging conference, Pakistani and UN officials are expected to highlight that around $16.3 billion are needed to carry out rehabilitation activities.

“The Managing Director had a constructive call with Prime Minister Sharif in the context of the International Conference on Resilient Pakistan to be held in Geneva on Monday, January 9,” an IMF spokesperson said in a media statement. “The MD again expressed her sympathy to those directly affected by the floods and supported Pakistan’s efforts to build a more resilient recovery.”

“The IMF delegation is expected to meet with Finance Minister Dar on the sidelines of the Geneva conference to discuss outstanding issues and the path forward,” the statement added.

Pakistan is facing a major economic crisis with mounting current account deficit, dwindling foreign exchange reserves and rapidly depreciating national currency.

The country’s central bank announced on Friday its forex reserves had plummeted to an alarmingly low level of $5.6 billion in the last week of December.

Under the current financial circumstances, experts have warned the government has no option but to meet the IMF terms and conditions to secure external financing.

The prime minister expressed his administration’s resolve on Saturday to implement the economic reforms specified by the international lender while giving a bailout plan in 2019, though these adjustments entail heavy political cost since it requires Pakistan to end fuel and power subsidies which can lead to spiraling inflation.

Pakistan’s finance minister also acknowledged the country’s economic woes last week, though he maintained the situation was under control since the government was expecting to receive financial deposits from some friendly nations.

An IMF review under the bailout facility is pending since September. Its successful completion can help the country secure about $1 billion from the global lending agency.

Pakistan polls regulator to unveil final constituency list today, rejects ‘rumors’ of election delay

Updated 30 November 2023

Pakistan polls regulator to unveil final constituency list today, rejects ‘rumors’ of election delay

  • Says will approach media regulator against those spreading false news
  • Election Commission has announced vote would take place on Feb. 8

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s main election oversight body has rejected “rumors” of a delay in general elections, and plans to release the final list of constituencies today, Thursday, state-media said. 

The Election Commission of Pakistan announced earlier this month the vote, originally expected in November and then scheduled for the last week of January, would instead take place on Feb. 8, a date chosen following consultations with the country’s President Dr. Arif Alvi that were requested by the Supreme Court.

“Election Commission has decided to approach PEMRA against those spreading such false news [of election delay] so that legal action can be taken against those spreading such misleading news,” the ECP said in a statement, referring to the electronic media regulator.

“The news that election lists have not been prepared is completely false.”

Pakistan’s state news agency APP reported that the ECP would release “the final list of constituencies based on the 7th Population and Housing Census 2023 on Thursday, earlier than initially planned.”

“Objections concerning the new constituencies for the national and four provincial assemblies were deliberated and concluded on November 22,” APP reported.

Pakistan’s parliament was dissolved by the president on then Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s advice on Aug. 9, setting the stage for a national election amid political and economic crises. A caretaker administration subsequently took over with the constitutional mandate to hold new elections in 90 days.

However, as the outgoing Sharif government had approved the results of a new census in August, the election commission was constitutionally bound to redraw hundreds of new constituency boundaries based on the fresh population count, delaying the election by several months.

Meanwhile, there has been widespread speculation in Pakistan that elections may be delayed even beyond February. The opposition party led by former premier Imran Khan says there are plans to delay polls as Khan’s popularity, even from behind bars, grows.

Analysts have said any delay in the election could fuel public anger and add to uncertainty in the nuclear-armed nation.

The last general election in July 2018 was won by the party of the cricketer-turned-politician Khan, who was sworn in days later as prime minister for the first time.

Khan has been at the heart of political turmoil since he was ousted as prime minister in a no-confidence vote last year, raising concern about Pakistan’s stability. He has since been convicted and jailed in a graft case, following which he has been barred from taking part in any election for five years.

Khan has accused the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan intermittently since independence in 1947, of being responsible for his ouster. The military has denied the charge.

In addition to the legal issues that could crop up if the vote is delayed, the side-lining of Khan, the country’s most popular leader according to polls, will cast doubt over the credibility of the elections.

Arab-Islamic ministerial committee meets at UN headquarters to discuss Gaza war

Updated 30 November 2023

Arab-Islamic ministerial committee meets at UN headquarters to discuss Gaza war

  • Meeting led by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan
  • Ministers call for lasting peace, implementation of two-state solution

RIYADH: A ministerial committee assigned by the Joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit held a meeting on Wednesday at the UN headquarters in New York, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meeting was led by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and attended by representatives from China, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Turkiye, Indonesia, Malaysia and the UAE.

The agenda focused on recent events in Gaza, including the outcomes of the humanitarian truce for Palestinian prisoners and efforts to achieve a ceasefire.

The meeting underscored the role of the UN Security Council’s permanent members in protecting civilians and enforcing international humanitarian laws, and highlighted the need to establish secure channels to allow urgent humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

The ministers reiterated their call for lasting peace through the implementation of resolutions supporting a two-state solution and the creation of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state based on 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The committee also urged the global community to consistently apply international legal and moral principles, and to protect Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank from the Israeli army and violent illegal settlers.

Pakistan PM in Dubai to attend World Climate Action Summit under COP28

Updated 30 November 2023

Pakistan PM in Dubai to attend World Climate Action Summit under COP28

  • Kakar plans to use the conference to call for early operationalization of loss and damage fund
  • There is no consensus between governments yet on who will pay for fund, where it will be located

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar arrived in Dubai on Wednesday where he will attend the World Climate Action Summit being held this week during the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP 28.

World leaders, business luminaries and civil society members are descending on Dubai this week for the opening of the United Nations’ annual climate change conference (COP28), which will run from Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 and look to address some of the most-pressing issues related to what experts say is a rapidly accelerating climate crisis.

Pakistan, one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, has set up its own pavilion and will use the conference to remind wealthy countries of their “crucial” responsibility in supporting climate-vulnerable nations and the need for “equity and justice” in global climate policies, the planning ministry in Islamabad said in a handout last week.

Pakistan Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (left) is being received by the Minister for Justice of the United Arab Emirates, Abdullah Sultan bin Awad Al Nuaimi and Pakistan Ambassador to the UAE, at Dubai's Al-Maktoum International Airport on November 29, 2023. (Photo courtesy: PMO)

Last year’s summit in Egypt came on the heels of record floods in Pakistan that killed over 1,700 people and caused more than $30 million in damages to the economy. This year’s conference comes as Pakistan, while only contributing 0.9 percent to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, remains one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change.

A deal to create a “loss and damage” fund was hailed as a breakthrough for developing country negotiators, headed by Pakistan, at COP27 in Egypt last year, overcoming years of resistance from wealthy nations. But since the summit, governments have struggled to reach consensus on the details of the fund, such as who will pay and where the fund will be located.

“The Prime Minister will head the Pakistani delegation at the 28th Conference of Parties,” Kakar’s office said in a statement after he was received at Dubai’s Al-Maktoum Airport by UAE Minister for Justice Abdullah Sultan bin Awad Al Nuaimi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE and other diplomatic staff.

“The Prime Minister will attend the World Climate Action Summit on December 1 and 2.”

Kakar plans to use the conference to call for the early operationalization of the loss and damage fund and argue for the inclusion of developing countries in the fund, not just least developed states.

A special UN committee tasked with implementing the fund met for a fifth time in Abu Dhabi earlier this month, following a deadlock in Egypt last month, to finalize recommendations that will be put to governments when they meet in Dubai next week. The goal is to get the fund up and running by 2024.

Prior to arriving in Dubai, the prime minister was in Kuwait where he signed ten major investment deals. Earlier this week he also signed multibillion dollar investment and bilateral cooperation agreements with the UAE.

UN chief urges world not to look away from ‘epic humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza

Updated 30 November 2023

UN chief urges world not to look away from ‘epic humanitarian catastrophe’ in Gaza

  • Says “far greater” number of children killed in Gaza in weeks than total number killed in any conflict since he became secretary-general.
  • Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan says temporary truce not enough, reiterates calls for a permanent cease-fire

NEW YORK CITY: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday that a “far greater” number of children have been killed by Israel in Gaza in a matter of weeks during the current conflict than the total number of children killed “during any year, by any party to a conflict since I became secretary-general.”

The people of Gaza are in the midst of “an epic humanitarian catastrophe before the eyes of the world. We must not look away,” he added.

As he welcomed the ongoing, last-minute negotiations taking place in an attempt to extend the truce in the war, Guterres once again stressed the need for “a true humanitarian ceasefire.”

Speaking during a meeting of the Security Council, he said it is imperative that the people of the region are given “a horizon of hope” in the form of efforts to move in a “determined and irreversible” way toward a two-state solution.

“Failure will condemn Palestinians, Israelis, the region and the world to a never-ending cycle of death and destruction,” he added.

The high-level Security Council meeting, which took place on the annual UN-organized International Day for Solidarity with the Palestinian People, was chaired by Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi. China holds the rotating presidency of the 15-member council this month.

“We should work toward a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire with the greatest urgency and as the utmost priority,” Wang said.

“What happened between Palestine and Israel over the decades shows, time and again, that resorting to military means is definitely not a way out.”

He added that China hopes the pause in military operations over the past few days will not prove simply to be a brief hiatus before a new round of violence, warning that “resumed fighting would only, most likely, turn into a calamity that devours the whole region.”

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, lamented the lack of any international mechanism for ensuring accountability for actions during the war, and the Security Council’s inability to take any steps to prevent Israeli violations of the rules of war and international law.

He told council members that the Nov. 11 summit in Riyadh adopted a resolution that reflected the will of Arab and Islamic peoples to “stem the bloodshed, deliver assistance, put an end to violations, overcome this unjustified suffering in Palestine, and stand with the Palestinian people to achieve their legitimate demands to take back their occupied territory and establish an independent state.”

Prince Faisal called for the ongoing implementation of Security Council Resolution 2712 and for efforts to build on it to achieve “a comprehensive and immediate ceasefire.” The resolution, adopted by the council on Nov. 15, calls “for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip … to enable … full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access.”

Israel’s representative to the UN, Gilad Erdan, accused the foreign ministers “of some Arab countries” of coming to New York to support a “terror organization that aims to annihilate Israel.”

He equated calls for a ceasefire with support for Hamas and its “continued reign of terror” in Gaza. “Don’t you see the contradiction here?” Erdan asked council members. “Calling for both a ceasefire and peace is a paradox.” He added that “more food, water and medical supplies will not bring us closer to a solution.”

Prince Faisal asked the council: “What will help us reach a solution, according to Israel? More bloodshed? More death?”

Urging Israel to heed Arab calls for peace, he added: “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia presented an Arab peace plan in 1982. We also had the Arab Peace Initiative in Beirut in 2002. And the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) recognized the State of Israel in 1993.

“Where is the Israeli peace plan? Where is the Israeli recognition of the State of Palestine? We are peace-loving nations and peace has always been our strategic choice, but we also want it to be the choice of Israel as well.”

Prince Faisal said the time has come for the world to recognize an independent Palestinian state, and called for Palestine to be granted full membership of the UN. Currently it has observer state status.

He also called for an international peace conference to take place, under the auspices of the UN, with the aim of developing and implementing a two-state solution.

He told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York: “The danger is that if … this truce expires we will return to the killing at the scale that we have seen, which is unbearable. So we are here to make a clear statement that a truce is not enough. What is needed is a ceasefire.”

The prince added that a glimmer of hope can be found in the fact that public opinion worldwide is beginning to shift as people become increasingly aware of “the unfolding catastrophe” in Gaza, and that violence is not the answer.

Asked whether Arab nations should help ease the current pressure on Palestinians and their suffering by taking them in as refugees, he said they “do not want to leave their land. We won’t encourage them or force them to leave their land and we are not going to work with anyone who has that agenda.

“The Palestinians have a right to their land, and they have a right to live in safety and security and dignity on their land, and that is what we will push for and work toward.”

Riyad Maliki, the Palestinian foreign minister, told the Security Council that anyone who is still not sure about whether they oppose the war in Gaza or the need for it to end should “check their humanity.”

The current truce must become “a permanent ceasefire,” he said, because “the massacres cannot be allowed to resume.”

He added: “Our people are faced with an existential threat. Make no mistake about it. With all the talk about the destruction of Israel, it is Palestine that is facing a plan to destroy it, implemented in broad daylight.”

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said her country has urged Israel “to take every possible measure to prevent civilian casualties as it exercises its right to safeguard its people from acts of terror.” The use of civilians as human shields by Hamas “does not lessen Israel’s responsibility,” she added.

Pakistan PM arrives in Dubai to attend major UN climate conference

Updated 29 November 2023

Pakistan PM arrives in Dubai to attend major UN climate conference

  • Pakistan will set up its own pavilion at the event and focus on building climate resilience with other states
  • Prime Minister Kakar will attend the World Climate Action Summit beginning on Dec. 1 at COP28 conference

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Wednesday arrived in Dubai to attend the United Nations climate conference scheduled to be held between Nov. 30 and Dec. 12, with the participation of around 70,000 people, including global leaders, academics and youth representatives.
According to officials in Islamabad, Pakistan will set up its own pavilion and focus on critical issues to help countries across the world build climate resilience together.
Mitigating the impact of climate change has become a major priority for the government after the country was hit unprecedented monsoon rains and floods that caused massive infrastructure and agricultural losses last year.
Kakar will attend the COP28 conference where he will spearhead Pakistan’s delegation and present its case.
Minister for Justice of the United Arab Emirates H.E. Abdullah Sultan bin Awad Al Nuaimi, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the UAE and the Pakistani diplomatic staff welcomed the Prime Minister at Dubai’s Al-Maktoum Airport,” said a brief statement issued after the Pakistani PM’s arrival.
“The Prime Minister will attend the World Climate Action Summit on December 1 and 2,” it added.
Kakar, who is on a week-long visit to the Middle East to sign multibillion-dollar deals, is accompanied by Foreign Minister Jalil Abbas Jilani, Finance Minister Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, Climate Change Minister Ahmed Irfan Aslam and Energy Minister Muhammad Ali.
The Pakistani delegation plans to call for an early operationalization of the loss and damage fund to help countries vulnerable to climate change deal with natural disasters caused by erratic weather conditions.
It also intends to argue for the inclusion of developing countries in the fund, diverging from developed nations’ focus only on the least developed states.
Prior to arriving in Dubai, the prime minister held some vital meetings with the top Kuwaiti leaders and witnessed the signing of ten major investment deals in the Gulf country.