Pakistan, UAE to resolve payment dispute over PTCL privatization proceeds in ‘weeks’ – minister

This file photo, taken on July 15, 2008, shows Pakistani police deploy in front of the building of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), the largest landline telephone network, in Islamabad. (Photo courtesy: AFP/File)
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Updated 18 March 2023
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Pakistan, UAE to resolve payment dispute over PTCL privatization proceeds in ‘weeks’ – minister

  • Payment issue remains pending for the last 18 years due to a dispute over transfer of properties to Etisalat
  • Pakistan’s IT minister says the country’s ministries of finance and law are also involved in resolving the matter

KARACHI: The United Arab Emirates and Pakistan are expected to resolve a long-standing payment dispute involving $800 million in privatization proceeds from the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL), with the administration in Islamabad hoping to find a solution to the problem in the “next few weeks.”

Pakistan privatized its national telecommunication company in 2005 through a bidding process in which the UAE’s Etisalat emerged as winner, acquiring 26 percent of stakes in the company along with the management control for $2.6 billion.

However, Etisalat withheld $800 million, with the issue remaining unresolved for the last 18 years. The UAE telecom giant withheld the payment while saying Pakistan had not yet transferred some 3,400 properties to it as part of the privatization agreement.

Out of these properties, around 33 remain in dispute, as Pakistani officials say the determination of their value is still a key issue.

“The Ministry of IT has a dispute with Etisalat and PTCL. The dispute is that the value of these 32 or 33 properties is yet to be determined,” said Syed Amin-ul-Haque, the country’s minister for information technology, while exclusively speaking to Arab News on Friday.

The minister said talks with Etisalat were continuing, in which the ministries of finance and law and justice were also involved.

“Our meetings were held over the last few days, and the process of dialogue goes on,” he continued. “I understand that as the UAE is a brotherly country and we have good relations, we wish that the issue be resolved through dialogue.”

“I also believe that within the next few weeks, any solution to this dispute will be sorted out,” he added.

It may be recalled that the UAE telecom giant offered Pakistan around $300 million back in 2020 after deducting around $500 million against the properties. A similar offer was also made last December, though Pakistan rejected it.

With the recent massive devaluation of Pakistan’s national currency, the minister said the value of the properties had also increased.

“I think there are two, three things. We have linked it with the dollar, and the value is increasing with the rising dollar rate, which has gone up to Rs280,” he maintained. “Simultaneously, PTCL wishes that it should be allowed the commercial use of some places, but the Ministry of IT has shown its resistance.”

The minister said that after the payment of the privatization proceeds, the properties would be handed over to Etisalat.

“We have said that the payment should be made, and around 32 properties have been identified,” he added. “When payment will be completed, around 32 properties will be handed over to them.”


Pakistan can save $10 billion yearly through agri exports to Gulf states, China — army

Updated 9 sec ago
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Pakistan can save $10 billion yearly through agri exports to Gulf states, China — army

  • Third annual Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology Cattle Show kicks off in Karachi 
  • Show aims to highlight investment opportunities and technology in dairy, livestock, agriculture, and fisheries sectors 

KARACHI: Pakistan can save $10 billion per year through import substitution in the agriculture sector and exporting commodities to Gulf states and China, a senior military official said on Thursday at the inauguration ceremony of the third annual cattle show in Karachi.

The Dairy Agriculture, Livestock Fisheries and Advance Technology (DALFA) Cattle Show is held each year to highlight investment opportunities and advanced technology in the dairy, livestock, agriculture, and fisheries sectors of Pakistan.

Major General Shahid Nazir, Director General of Strategic Projects of the Pakistan Army, said the country imported more than $10 billion worth of agricultural products, calling for the production of exportable surplus to earn much needed foreign exchange.

“Pakistan can save about $10 billion per year through import substitution in the agriculture sector and exporting commodities to Gulf states and China,” Nazir told reporters after the inauguration of the cattle show.

He said the recently launched Green Pakistan Initiative, a joint effort between the Pakistan government and the army, would help improve the country’s agricultural development and grant unutilized lands to farmers to produce better yields using advanced technology. 

“Under the initiative advanced technology will be incorporated and the actual potential of Pakistan’s agriculture sector will be explored to achieve self-reliance,” Nazir said.

“We are facing the big challenge of foreign exchange and so there are two ways to earn the foreign exchange by saving $10 billion plus which are being spent on the import of agriculture products.”

He said collaborations in the agriculture sector had already started with Gulf countries.

“We have cultivated wheat on about 100,000 acres of land and are preparing for cotton and sunflower. In Sindh [province], for the first time, more than 4 million bales have been produced,” Nazir said. 

A new Special Investment Facilitation Council was set up in July last year to serve as a “one window operation” for foreign investors, with a special focus on attracting funds from Gulf nations. The initiative is a collaboration between the Pakistan army and government, with military officials including the arm chief holding key positions. 


Punjab assembly to hold inaugural session today as Imran Khan’s party announces protests 

Updated 23 min 27 sec ago
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Punjab assembly to hold inaugural session today as Imran Khan’s party announces protests 

  • Nawaz Sharif’s PML-N emerged as largest party in Punjab Assembly in elections held earlier this month
  • Imran Khan and his PTI party have rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging

LAHORE: Governor Muhammad Baligh-ur-Rehman has summoned the inaugural session of the Punjab legislative assembly for an oath-taking ceremony today, Friday, with the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party of former Prime Minister Imran Khan announcing protests outside the building against ‘rigging’ of Feb. 8 general elections.

An agreement to form a coalition government between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of three-time Premier Nawaz Sharif late Tuesday night ended days of uncertainty and negotiations after an inconclusive Feb. 8 election produced a hung national assembly. 

PML-N’s 79 and the PPP’s 54 seats together make a simple majority in parliament to form a government, which, however, will also rope in smaller parties in the coalition. Candidates backed by Imran Khan won 93 seats, but do not have the numbers to form a government. He and his party have rejected the results of the elections, alleging widespread rigging.

“Those Tehreek-e-Insaf candidates who won the Punjab Provincial Assembly election but have been defeated due to the forgery of Form 47 should protest peacefully in front of the Punjab Provincial Assembly tomorrow at 10 am along with supporters,” Hammad Azhar, PTI’s general secretary for central Punjab, said on X. “Everyone should join this protest.”

A party requires 186 members to form the government in Punjab. The PML-N won the greatest number of seats in the province, 137, has been joined by about two dozen independent members and is also likely to bag a significant number of reserved seats for women and minorities which are allocated based on the number of seats won in polls. 

Punjab, a province of more than 127 million people, over half of Pakistan’s population, is known as the country’s most heated battleground, contributing 173 of the 326 seats in Pakistan’s Parliament and is the heartland of the nation’s political, military and industrial elite.

Historically, the party that secures a stronghold in Punjab often manages to form the government at the center. Maryam Nawaz Sharif, the daughter of three-time former PM Nawaz Sharif, is poised to make history as the first woman chief minister of a Pakistani province. The PML-N’s candidate for prime minister is Shehbaz Sharif, Nawaz’s brother.

Separately, Sindh Governor Muhammad Kamran Khan Tessori issued an order summoning the inaugural session of the Sindh provincial assembly on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 11:00 a.m.

“In exercise of the powers conferred upon me under clause (a) of Article 109 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,1973 and other provisions enabling me in this behalf, I, Muhammad Kamran Khan Tessori, Governor of Sindh, hereby summon the Provincial Assembly of Sindh to meet on Saturday the 24th day of February 2024 at 11.00 a.m. at the Sindh Assembly Building. Karachi,” the order read.


Pakistan to present legal position on Israeli policies in Palestine at ICJ hearing today

Updated 36 min 48 sec ago
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Pakistan to present legal position on Israeli policies in Palestine at ICJ hearing today

  • Case is on ‘Legal Consequences arising from Policies and Practices of Israel in Occupied Palestinian Territory”
  • Palestinian representatives on Monday accused Israel of colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and genocide

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will present its legal position today, Friday, at ongoing advisory proceedings of the International Court of Justice on the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, a spokesperson for the foreign ministry said. 

The International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, is holding the public hearings from February 19-26 at the Peace Palace in The Hague, the seat of the Court. 

“Tomorrow [Friday] evening, Minister for Law and Justice, Ahmed Irfan Aslam, will present Pakistan’s position at the ongoing advisory proceedings of the International Court of Justice in the case on ‘Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem’,” the foreign office said.

“The proceedings stem from a December 2022 request by the United Nations General Assembly for an advisory opinion by the Court on the legal consequences of Israel’s policies and practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

During the course of Monday’s three-hour session at the court, seven representatives for the Palestinians said Israel’s rule in the West Bank and East Jerusalem was illegal, and accused the country of a litany of crimes, including colonialism, ethnic cleansing, apartheid and genocide.

Similar accusations were leveled against Israel by the South African delegation in court on Tuesday.

Jerusalem’s stance is that the ICJ advisory opinion sought by the UN General Assembly is illegitimate since numerous UN resolutions as well as bilateral Israeli-Palestinian agreements have established that the correct framework for resolving the conflict should be political, not legal.

Israel has not sent a delegation to the ongoing proceedings. 


IMF says won’t comment on ‘political developments’ after Imran Khan urges Pakistan election audit

Updated 58 min 53 sec ago
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IMF says won’t comment on ‘political developments’ after Imran Khan urges Pakistan election audit

  • IMF says will work with new government to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all Pakistanis
  • Khan plans to write to IMF urging audit of controversial Feb. 8 elections before it continues talks with Islamabad

KARACHI:The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday it would not comment on “ongoing political developments” in Pakistan after lawyers for former Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would write to the global lender urging it to call for an independent audit of controversial Feb. 8 national elections before continuing bailout talks with Islamabad.

Pakistan averted default last summer due to a short-term IMF bailout, but the program expires next month and a new government will have to negotiate a long-term arrangement to keep the $350-billion economy stable.

Ahead of the bailout, the South Asian nation had to undertake a slew of measures demanded by the IMF, including revising its budget, a hike in its benchmark interest rate, and increases in electricity and natural gas prices.

Pakistan’s vulnerable external position means that securing financing from multilateral and bilateral partners will be one of the most urgent issues facing the next government, ratings agency Fitch said on Monday.

“I’m not going to comment on ongoing political developments. So, I don’t have anything else to add to what I just said,” IMF Spokesperson Julie Kozack told reporters when asked to respond to reports of Khan’s letter.

“We look forward to working with the new government on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability and prosperity for all of Pakistan’s citizens.”

On Thursday, Bloomberg reported that Pakistan planned to seek a new loan of at least $6 billion from the International Monetary Fund to help the incoming government repay billions in debt due this year. 

The country would seek to negotiate an Extended Fund Facility with the IMF, the report said, and talks with the global lender were expected to start in March or April.


Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

Updated 22 February 2024
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Despite Islamabad fightback, skipper Rossouw inspires Quetta to victory

  • In low-scoring match, Rilee Rossouw holds his nerve with 34-run inning to guide Quetta to victory
  • Gladiators’ Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Wasim take three wickets each to keep Islamabad at bay

Islamabad: Despite a valiant fightback by Islamabad United, Quetta Gladiators continued their impressive run of the tournament by beating the former by three wickets at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Thursday. 

“Continuing our winning streak,” the Gladiators wrote on social media platform X after the match ended. 

Batting first, United scored a lackluster 138/9 at the end of their 20 overs courtesy of a stellar bowling performance from the Gladiators. Spinner Abrar Ahmed returned figures of 3/18 while Mohammad Wasim finished with 3/20. Akeil Hosein finished with 2/32 while pacer Mohammad Hasnain returned figures of 1/35. 

United’s only resistance in the batting department came from Agha Salman, who top-scored with a decent 33-run knock from 23 balls while opener Alex Hales scored 21 from nine deliveries. 

What should have been an easy chase for the Gladiators turned into a difficult one when United took quick wickets to put the pressure back on Rossouw’s squad. United skipper Shadab Khan returned figures of 2/24 while pacer Naseem Shah finished with 2/34. 

Rumman Raees and Hunain Shah took a single wicket each before Rossouw guided United to victory with a composed 34-run innings that came off 38 balls and featured only three boundaries. 

Opener Jason Roy provided the Gladiators an impressive start to the game by smashing 37 runs off 18 balls while Sherfane Rutherford held his nerves to score 29 runs from 23 balls before Naseem rattled his stumps.

The Gladiators and table-toppers Multan Sultans both have three wins from the tournament so far. Islamabad, with a single win and two losses, is at number three on the PSL points table.