‘Wonderful’ Afghanistan thump Pakistan to claim T20I series in Sharjah

Batter of Afghanistan celebrates after thumping Pakistan to claim T20I series in Sharjah, UAE, on March 27, 2023. (@ACBofficials/Twitter)
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Updated 27 March 2023

‘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. 

Pakistani PM promises business-friendly, pro-people budget as IMF deal remains elusive

Updated 05 June 2023

Pakistani PM promises business-friendly, pro-people budget as IMF deal remains elusive

  • Sharif approves increasing Public Sector Development Program from Rs700 billion to Rs950 billion
  • Pakistan's national inflation rate rose to 37.97% in May, setting national record for second month

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday the budget for fiscal year 2023-24, due to be presented on June 9, would bring economic prosperity, business friendly policies and public welfare to the country, as an International Monetary Fund bailout deal remains elusive after months of talks. 

Millions of Pakistanis are struggling to cope as Pakistan's annual inflation rate rose to 37.97% in May, setting a national record for the second month in a row and adding to the South Asian nation's problems of a balance of payment crisis and the risk of a sovereign default. Inflation has been on an upward trend since early this year after the government took painful measures as part of fiscal adjustments demanded by the IMF to unlock stalled funding.

The IMF demands include the withdrawal of subsidies, a hike in energy prices, a market-based exchange rate and new taxation to generate extra revenue in a supplementary budget.

Islamabad says it has met the demands, but the IMF has yet to release the $1.1 billion funding stalled since November as part of the $6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility agreed in 2019.

The funding is critical for Pakistan to unlock other bilateral and multilateral financing. The IMF program is set to expire on June 30 this year.

“The central point of the fiscal year 2023-24 budget is going to be economic prosperity, public welfare and business friendly policies,” the prime minister said in a statement, as he approved increasing the Public Sector Development Program (PSDP) from Rs700 billion to Rs950 billion to boost growth and create job opportunities.

The statement came after the prime minister held a detailed meeting with coalition partners in Islamabad to incorporate their proposals in the upcoming budget.

“The government is endeavouring to ensure prudent utilisation of all available resources despite economic challenges,” he said, promising to allocate a “sufficient amount” for those affected by floods last year and start a flood response program to deal with the disaster in future.

Floods from record monsoon rains in Pakistan and glacial melt in the country’s mountainous north last year affected 33 million people and killed over 1,500, washing away homes, roads, railways, bridges, livestock and crops in damage estimated at $30 billion.

Separately, the Prime Minister’s Coordinator for Economy and Energy, Bilal Azhar Kayani, told Arab News Sharif’s government would be presenting a “pro-investor and pro-poor budget.”

He declined to share the total outlay of the budget or its revenue and taxation targets, saying: “These details will be revealed in the National Assembly on the budget day.”

He said finance ministry officials, including Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar, were meeting all stakeholders, including industrialists and professionals, to get their input on the budget: “We will be trying to entertain proposals of all stakeholders to make an investor friendly budget.”

Economists said the country’s net federal receipts were not sufficient to even pay for the markup and the government had to take domestic and foreign loans to bear all expenditures.

“Pakistan’s budget is in serious distress and in need of serious repair,” Dr Khaqan Hassan Najeeb, a former economic adviser to the government, told Arab News.  

He said that a look at the budget of FY-23 would reveal that Pakistan’s net federal receipts with the federal government would not be sufficient to even pay for the markup which had risen from the budgeted amount of Rs 3900 billion to Rs 5300 billion.  

“It is unfortunate that all other expenditures would have to be borne by taking domestic and foreign loans,” he said, adding that the same fact would become even larger as the markup payment for the FY-24 budget would be much bigger considering the rise of the policy rate to 21 percent.

“The borrowing needs would be higher without meaningful expenditure and tax reforms,” Najeeb said. “Without containment of a fiscal deficit to near 5 percent of GDP on a permanent basis Pakistan’s fiscal and debt sustainability will never be ensured.”

The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) suggested the government ensure tax reforms in the country and add new taxpayers to boost revenue.

“The taxation system in Pakistan contributes less than 10 percent of the GDP to the national exchequer, indicating that it is not balanced, broad-based and simplified,” Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, President FPCCI, told Arab News.

The taxation system's heavy reliance on indirect taxation and surcharges was damaging the economy, he said, adding that taxes were insufficient for debt servicing, defence, social welfare and public-sector development programs.

Sheikh said the upcoming federal budget was a golden opportunity for the government and the business community alike to agree upon and introduce budgetary measures and policies to enable industrial growth in Pakistan, explore avenues for import substitution and revive sick units through targeted, phased and result-oriented fiscal measures.  

“Industrialization is the key to wealth creation and reversing the trend of dwindling per capita income in the country; bridge trade deficit and create employment in these difficult times,” he said.

“We can only have healthy foreign exchange reserves on a sustainable basis if our industry earns substantive sums in a number of industrial sectors like many of our regional and sub-regional countries.”

Pakistan’s embattled ex-PM Imran Khan faces blackout on local media

Updated 05 June 2023

Pakistan’s embattled ex-PM Imran Khan faces blackout on local media

  • Coverage of Khan has disappeared from all mainstream news channels in the country
  • Khan's name and image not being aired, his mention has disappeared from news websites

ISLAMABAD: Coverage of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan has disappeared from all mainstream news channels in the country after the media regulator asked networks to block out people involved in rioting last month, a Reuters survey showed on Monday.
A directive, seen by Reuters, was put out by the regulator last week referring to violent protests in Pakistan last month following Khan’s brief arrest that saw military installations ransacked, allegedly by the former prime minister’s supporters.
The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) asked television licensees to ensure that “hate mongers, rioters, their facilitators and perpetrators” are “completely screened out from media.” It did not refer directly to Khan.
However, coverage of the former prime minister — Pakistan’s most popular leader according to polls — has disappeared to the extent that his name and image are not being aired. His mention has also disappeared from news websites.
PEMRA officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment and queries on whether the directives pertained to Khan, and if the directive was meant to be an all-encompassing ban.
Khan has long been the most televised politician in Pakistan, with his speeches and gatherings getting wall-to-wall coverage and widespread viewership.


The ban comes amidst a wider crackdown on Khan and his party that has seen dozens of his party members and thousands of his supporters arrested, which, he says, is being done by the country’s powerful military.
The military has not responded to a request for comment on that allegation by Khan. It has previously denied orchestrating his removal his removal from power in a parliamentary vote last year.
Khan himself was arrested on charges of graft but released two days later after courts deemed the manner of his detention illegal. He remains out on bail, but faces dozens of cases.
In an interview, Khan said that the incidents of violence was used as a “pretext” to for a “blanket ban” on him and his party.
“We cannot be mentioned on television,” said Khan, who now regularly speaks through his party’s YouTube channel.
Senior officials of four major news channels did not respond to request for comment.
Even ARY News, considered a pro-Khan channel by the former prime minister’s political opponents, had no mention of Khan on Monday, despite his standoff with the military dominating headlines globally for weeks.
“The reports of blocking all news related to Imran Khan is the latest in a series of disturbing steps that authorities have taken to crack down on the opposition,” Dinushika Dissanayake, Deputy Director South Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement.

Pakistan to ‘tighten our belt,’ rise again if IMF deal fails — PM

Updated 05 June 2023

Pakistan to ‘tighten our belt,’ rise again if IMF deal fails — PM

  • Hopes for resumption of IMF deal fading with bailout program agreed in 2019 due to expire on June 30
  • IMF funding is crucial for the South Asian country, which faces an acute balance of payments crisis

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said Pakistan was “very hopeful” of finalizing a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month but the nation would “tighten our belt” and move on if the deal fell through.

The PM’s comments come as hopes for a resumption of an IMF deal are diminishing, with a bailout program agreed in 2019 due to expire on June 30 at the end of the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The IMF funding is crucial for the $350 billion South Asian country, which faces an acute balance of payments crisis. This has raised concerns of a sovereign default, something which the minister dismissed.

The central bank's foreign reserves have fallen as low as to cover barely a month of controlled imports. Pakistan's economy has slowed, with an estimated 0.29% GDP growth for 2022-2023.

“We are still very hopeful that the IMF program will materialize. Our ninth review by the IMF will match all terms and conditions and, hopefully, we’ll have some good news this month,” Sharif said in an interview to international media published on Monday, after a visit by the PM to the Turkish capital Ankara for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inauguration.

“We have met all conditionalities. I repeat, each and every requirement of the IMF as prior actions has been met,” Sharif said. “Some of those actions are usually met after the board’s approval, but this time the IMF required that those actions be met before the board’s approval, so we have met them.”

On contingency plans in case the IMF talks fall through, Sharif said Pakistan had faced challenges in the past, and if needed, will “tighten our belt” and rise again.

The IMF's $1.1 billion funding to Pakistan, which is part of the $6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility agreed in 2019, has been held up since November.

Islamabad hosted the IMF mission in February to negotiate a series of fiscal policy measures to clear the 9th review. 

Pakistan had to complete a series of prior actions demanded by the IMF, which included reversing subsidies, a hike in energy and fuel prices, jacking up its key policy rate, a market-based exchange rate, arranging for external financing and raising over 170 billion rupees ($613 million) in new taxation.

The fiscal adjustments have already fueled Pakistan's highest ever inflation, which rose to 37.97% in May.

EU notes ‘deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of commitments ahead of GSP+ renewal

Updated 05 June 2023

EU notes ‘deficiencies in Pakistan’s implementation of commitments ahead of GSP+ renewal

  • GSP+ is a special trade arrangement offered to developing economies by European nations
  • Beneficiary nations commit to implement 27 conventions on rights, climate, governance

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has taken steps to “effectively” implement its international commitments regarding the European Union's Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) but “deficiencies” remain, a senior EU official said on Monday.

GSP+ is a special trade arrangement offered to developing economies by European nations in return for their commitment to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, environmental protection and governance. The current GSP framework will come to an end in December 2023.

To maintain the benefits of GSP+, Pakistan and other beneficiary countries will need to re-apply and submit a work plan outlining their commitment to implementing the relevant international conventions.

“Over the last ten years, Pakistan has taken steps to effectively implement its international commitments on the 27 conventions and all of which we are scrupulously noting,” Dr. Ewa Synowiec, principal advisor at the Directorate General for Trade of the European Commission, said via video link from Brussels as she addressed a national dialogue called GSP+ Week organized by the Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) and the Parliamentarians Commission for Human Rights (PCHR) with participation from key Pakistani stakeholders in the government, judiciary, media and civil society.

“However, deficiencies remained in many areas, and for this reason, it is a good initiative taken by this forum to organize this week-long program,” Synowiec said, adding that the EU would also get a final report on Pakistan’s actions from its mission in Pakistan.  

“The performance on international agreements and conventions are the basis of the GSP+ commitments and also the basis for the future of the program for all beneficiaries including Pakistan,” Synowiec added.

Her comments come as Pakistan has seen the mass arrests of leaders from former prime minister Imran Khan's party and the move to try them in military courts, following violent protests last month. Local and international human rights bodies have raised alarm about the crackdown against Khan and his party and said military courts infringe on due legal process. 

Leading journalists have also been picked up, with rights groups pointing fingers at Pakistan's powerful intelligence services often suspected of intimidating critics in this way. Their involvement has rarely been proved.

Amnesty calls for ‘urgent’ global action as searing heatwaves hit human rights in Pakistan

Updated 05 June 2023

Amnesty calls for ‘urgent’ global action as searing heatwaves hit human rights in Pakistan

  • New report calls on Pakistan government to develop comprehensive heat action plans consistent with human rights law
  • Pakistan's Jacobabad is one of the hottest places on earth, highest recorded temperature reached 52°C in June 2021

ISLAMABAD: Global action is urgently needed as a series of extreme heatwaves in Pakistan wreak havoc on human rights, Amnesty International said in its new report ‘A Burning Emergency: Extreme heat and the right to health in Pakistan,’ released on Monday to coincide with World Environment Day.

The document examines the impacts of extreme heat in Pakistan on people’s lives and right to health and livelihoods, and highlights the struggles of people living in poverty in some of the hottest cities in the world.

“Pakistan is on the frontline of the climate crisis,” said Dinushika Dissanayake, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director in South Asia.

“Climate injustice is starkly visible, with its people facing disproportionately severe consequences, often life threatening, despite their small contribution to climate change. Tackling a climate crisis of this scale requires global attention and action. Wealthier countries must make no mistake about the important role they play.”

“On World Environment Day, we hope our report serves as a reminder of our collective responsibility towards some of the most marginalized people exposed to extreme temperatures,” Dissanayake said.

“They are being forced to live in torrid conditions, as these searing temperatures rise every year while we idly let time go by. Without further delay, wealthier countries must demonstrate a decisive commitment to reduce emissions, rapidly phase out fossil fuels and provide funds to support people to adapt and quickly operationalize the Loss and Damage fund established at COP27.”

The report calls on the government in Pakistan to develop comprehensive heat action plans consistent with human rights law and standards, and to ensure that the rights of groups that are especially vulnerable to the health impacts of extreme heat are protected.

The report is based on in-person interviews with 45 people who experienced the adverse impacts of extreme heat during the summer months of 2021 and 2022 in Jacobabad and Lahore in Pakistan. 

Jacobabad is one of the hottest places on the planet. In June 2021, its highest recorded temperature reached an unbearable 52°C.

Amnesty International interviewed people at higher risk of exposure to heat, including agricultural workers, labourers in brick kiln factories, delivery riders, police officers, sanitation workers and others in outdoor work.

Health workers interviewed in Jacobabad and Lahore reported seeing increases in heatstroke, drowsiness, difficulty breathing, burning sensations in the stomach, dizziness, fever, body pain, eye infections, and headaches during periods of extreme heat.

“In May and June, many patients came to us because of the heatwave… Daily, we would receive 50-60 cases in the emergency department,” a health worker told Amnesty in Lahore.

Amnesty said its interviews revealed that while the impact of extreme heat is felt by everyone, some are much worse off because of their socio-economic status.

“We are more vulnerable to heat than anyone else. Hot weather impacts poor people. There is no escape for us,” a woman living in an informal settlement in Jacobabad said.

Day-wage workers that Amnesty International interviewed said that they had no choice but to continue working even if they feel hot, despite the health guidelines to stay indoors during periods of extreme heat.

A tractor driver in Jacobabad said: “If we take a break there is no daily wage… because of poverty, we have to work no matter the weather.”

People such as those living in poverty and working in the informal sector with precarious work, lower incomes and fewer opportunities for rest and shade, with limited or no access to support, are severely impacted by the extreme temperatures. Furthermore, multi-layered and intersecting forms of discrimination against women also undermine their ability to cope in heat waves, which has potentially dangerous implications for their health and that of their children.

Despite the searing temperatures in Jacobabad and Lahore, neither city has a heat action plan or climate-responsive social protection mechanisms in place. In Pakistan, more than 40 million people do not have access to electricity. Others have erratic and irregular supplies. People living in poverty do not have access to, or are unable to afford, electricity for fans or air conditioning units and neither can they afford to buy solar panels.

A lot of the public health advice on avoiding exposure to heat presupposes that people can afford to stay indoors, negotiate different working hours, access adequate water, healthcare and cooling mechanisms, Amnesty said.

“Well-designed and well-resourced social protection programmes can help mitigate some of the worst impacts of climate change as crisis upon crisis hits Pakistan,” said Dissanayake.

Amnesty International’s report sets out a comprehensive list of recommendations for the government in Pakistan and the international community. They include calling for the Pakistan authorities to conduct a needs assessment in the context of heatwaves, focusing on – and with the participation of – the most marginalized people, preparing and implementing human rights compliant heat action plans, and providing effective social protection in order to support people in coping with heatwaves.

“It is crucial that the wealthy states most responsible for the climate crisis provide funds to support not just adaptation but also remedy for the loss and damage people have experienced or will experience because of extreme heatwaves fueled by climate change in countries such as Pakistan,” said Dissanayake.

“This report tells us the story of the devastation that is following the unmitigated and irresponsible actions of governments, particularly the wealthy nations and others that are opposing a rapid and just transition away from fossil fuels. They must ensure human rights harms are not irreversible and work towards achieving climate justice in accordance with their human rights obligations.”