Pakistan finance minister meets US envoy, shares plans to meet international financial obligations

Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar (right) and US Ambassador Donald Blome meet in Islamabad, Pakistan on May 26, 2023. (Photo courtesy: @MIshaqDar50/Twitter)
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Updated 27 May 2023
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Pakistan finance minister meets US envoy, shares plans to meet international financial obligations

  • The meeting comes as Pakistan makes desperate attempts to secure crucial IMF funds before budget in June
  • Negotiations over key budget targets are one of the last hurdles before the IMF approves a $1.1 billion bailout

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Friday called on US Ambassador Donald Blome and shared with him the government’s policies for growth and stability, Pakistani state media reported, amid an economic meltdown in the South Asian country.

Pakistan has been making desperate efforts to secure a $1.1 billion loan tranche from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with its forex reserves dropping to critically low levels, currency depreciating and inflation hovering at a historic high. The funding is a part of a $6.5 billion bailout package the IMF approved in 2019, which is due to end in June, prior to the budget.

Negotiations over key budget targets such as the fiscal deficit are one of the last hurdles before the IMF approves a staff-level agreement to release $1.1 billion in funding, which has been delayed since November, that is crucial for Pakistan to resolve an acute balance of payments crisis.

During the meeting, Dar and Blome discussed matters of mutual interest and enhancing the existing bilateral relations between both countries, the state-run APP news agency reported.

“He (Dar) shared economic policies and priorities of the government to address the challenging economic environment and set the economy to stability and growth,” the report read.

“He informed Ambassador Blome about the government’s pragmatic plans related to revenues and expenditures for meeting its national as well as international financial obligations.”

Since January, several rounds of talks between the IMF and Pakistan have failed to revive the program, leaving the cash-strapped South Asian nation with barely a month’s cover for import payments.

The situation has led to fears of a default on the country’s international financing obligations as the IMF program nears its expiry on June 30.

Ambassador Blome expressed confidence in the policies and programs of the government for economic sustainability and socio-economic uplift of the masses, according to the report.

He extended his support to further promote bilateral economic, investment and trade relations between both countries.


Pakistan to kick off anti-polio campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Monday 

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Pakistan to kick off anti-polio campaign in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa from Monday 

  • The five-day campaign aims to vaccinate 7,478 million children across the province
  • Children below 5 years of age will be vaccinated across five divisions during first phase 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s health authorities have finalized preparations to launch an anti-polio campaign in the country’s northwest that aims to vaccinate 7,478 million children in the area, a report in the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said on Sunday. 

According to APP, the five-day campaign will commence across KP from Monday, Oct. 2, and during its first phase, children below five years of age would be administered polio drops in Peshawar, Kohat, Mardan, Malakand, and Hazara divisions. 

 Polio is a highly infectious and incurable disease caused by the poliovirus, which mainly affects children under the age of five. The virus invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death in some cases. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic.

“In the first phase of the campaign, around 63,628,95 children will be vaccinated against polio in all districts of Peshawar, Kohat, Mardan, Malakand, and Hazara divisions,” an official of the National Emergency Operation Center was quoted as saying by the APP. 

During the second phase of the campaign, from Oct. 9-13, around 11,1681 children in Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan divisions will be vaccinated against the disease, the official added. 

“During this anti-polio campaign, vitamin A will also be given to children to increase their immunity,” the official said, adding that children up to the age of five living in Afghan refugee camps throughout the province would also be vaccinated. 

He said a total of 34,551 teams of trained polio workers would take part in the campaign, adding that around 54,567 police personnel have been deployed to ensure their security. 

Attempts to eradicate polio in Pakistan have been hit by attacks targeting inoculation teams that have claimed hundreds of lives in over a decade.

Opposition to all forms of inoculation grew after the US Central Intelligence Agency organized a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. 


2 militants, police constable killed during gunbattle in eastern Pakistan— Punjab CTD

Updated 01 October 2023
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2 militants, police constable killed during gunbattle in eastern Pakistan— Punjab CTD

  • Militants attack police patrolling post in Esakhel town in Mianwali district, says Punjab CTD
  • Clash between police, militants takes place days after two suicide blasts killed 65 in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Two militants and a police constable were killed during a gunbattle between Punjab’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and militants on Sunday in the country’s eastern Mianwali district, police said. 

According to a statement by the Punjab CTD, militants attacked a police patrolling post in Esakhel town located in Mianwali, prompting a heavy exchange of fire between the two sides. 

“After four hours of intense fighting, CTD Punjab killed two terrorists while another was severely injured,” Punjab’s Inspector General Dr. Usman Anwar was quoted as saying in a statement by police. 

“A search and sweep operation in the area is underway.”

Anwar said the slain militants were involved in various militant activities across the country, adding that police were further investigating the case. 

“Police are further probing the case while the militants’ accomplices are being pursued,” Anwar was quoted as saying. 

He appreciated CTD Punjab for foiling the attack and killing the militants, heaping praise on the police constable who was killed in the exchange of fire. 

“We salute Constable Haroon Khan who achieved the lofty status of martyrdom during the line of duty,” Anwar was quoted as saying. 

The clash between Punjab CTD and militants takes place days after two bomb blasts in Pakistan’s southwestern and northwestern provinces killed at least 65 and injured scores. 

On Friday, a suicide blast targeted a crowded gathering held to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Mustang city, killing at least 60 people. Hours later, an explosion in Pakistan’s northwestern Hangu city killed five others. 

No militant outfit has so far taken credit for the attacks. Pakistan has accused India of having a hand in the attacks and has vowed to hunt militants across the country. 


In Pakistan’s Gilgit city, new women’s market is ‘one-stop shop’ for gems and handicrafts

Updated 01 October 2023
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In Pakistan’s Gilgit city, new women’s market is ‘one-stop shop’ for gems and handicrafts

  • Riverside market in Gilgit was inaugurated in August to develop tourism and economically empower local women
  • With 24 shops, market has a wide variety of handmade products that showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region

GILGIT: Every day at the break of dawn, 28-year-old Haseena Farman unlocks her riverside shop of handcrafted shawls, sweaters, gemstones and decorative items and waits for customers.

Business has been going well since she opened the store in a recently inaugurated, eco-friendly women’s market that has become a godsend for women entrepreneurs in the mountainous northern city of Gilgit.

The market, which was inaugurated in August and has 24 shops so far, is a joint project of the Gilgit Development Authority and the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry and has, in the words of businesswomen like Farman, given them a “special place” of trade in a region where, like many other parts of Pakistan, cultural and religious norms and social expectations act as barriers to prevent women’s entry into the business sector.

According to Gilgit-Baltistan’s Education Department, the female literacy rate in the area has been recorded at 41 percent while the male literacy rate has been recorded at 66 percent. Despite high literacy rates, women form only 15.5 percent of the labor force in Gilgit-Baltistan, according to data by the Agha Khan Rural Support Network, a non-profit company. 

“Earlier, we [women] didn’t have a special space [to sell our products],” Farman told Arab News. “I used to make these items for my cousins, relatives and sisters … After the opening of this market, we have got a proper setup.”

The photo taken on September 30, 2023 shows a shop at the Gems and Handicraft Market in Gilgit, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

“So far, it’s going well and I hope it will also continue to be like this in the future.”

Razia Asif, another female entrepreneur at the market who sells gems, jackets and decorative items, said she used to sell her goods from home until the market launched. 

“We opened this shop a month ago,” she said. “We have been given the opportunity by the government to bring our products to market.”

Speaking to Arab News, GDA director Sajid Wali described the market as a “one-stop shop” to buy local handicrafts, gemstones, dried fruits and traditional cuisines at affordable rates while enjoying a beautiful riverside view.

Wali also hoped, he said, that the market would serve both as a bustling tourist spot in the near future while empowering women of the region at the same time.

“We know the women of Gilgit-Baltistan have the skills,” he said.

The photo taken on September 30, 2023 shows a videw of the Gems and Handicraft Market in Gilgit, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

“However, only a limited number of products prepared by them reach our markets due to lack of opportunities. Their [home-based] businesses don’t run very smoothly all the time. We know these things and have tried to bring these women into a proper retail market.”

Mubareka Gul, an executive member of the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gilgit division, said women of the area previously found it difficult to market and sell their goods.

“For the first time in history [in Gilgit], women can run these businesses in a friendly environment under tight security,” she said. “This is a family market and families come and visit this place.”

“The women trained by us, who did not have direct market access, have become successful due to the government of Gilgit-Baltistan and the Women Chamber of Commerce,” Gul added. “We hope that this market will become a business hub.”

Gul urged the public to visit the newly inaugurated trade center with family members and explore the products being sold.

“I have visited this market two, three times,” Sultana Karim, a visitor, told Arab News as she bought cushions for her drawing room. 

“Each time it is a pleasure to come here because a variety of products are available.”


Team Director Mickey Arthur joins Pakistan squad in India to bolster World Cup preparations

Updated 01 October 2023
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Team Director Mickey Arthur joins Pakistan squad in India to bolster World Cup preparations

  • As head coach from 2016-2019, Arthur led Pakistan to their Champions Trophy title in 2017
  • Pakistan cricket team will face Australia on Oct. 3 for their second and last warm-up match 

ISLAMABAD: With only a few days left before the World Cup kicks off, Pakistan Team Director Mickey Arthur joined the men’s cricket team in India on Sunday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement, as the green shirts aim to bolster their preparations for the showpiece tournament. 

Arthur, who was appointed by the PCB in April this year to the team director’s post, has been available to the squad in a limited capacity owing to his contract with Derbyshire. The South African was not present with the Pakistani team during their series against Sri Lanka in July and was also unavailable during Pakistan’s series against Afghanistan in August. In the Asia Cup held last month, Arthur joined the team for just one fixture.

“Team director Mickey Arthur has joined the national men’s side in Hyderabad, India,” the PCB said in a statement. 

Led by skipper Babar Azam, the Pakistan men’s cricket team arrived in India on Sept. 25 to take part in the 50-over World Cup which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 5. The South Asian country will begin its World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Oct. 6 before taking on Sri Lanka on Oct. 10 and then India on Oct. 14. 

Arthur was Pakistan’s head coach from 2016 to 2019, during which the green shirts won the Champions Trophy title in 2017 and also climbed to the top of the T20I rankings.

Pakistan, however, were unable to impress in Test cricket with Arthur and a league-stage exit from the 2019 World Cup led to him being replaced as head coach by former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq.

After losing to New Zealand in the opening warm-up fixture on Friday, Pakistan will take on Australia in their second and last World Cup warm-up match on Tuesday, Oct. 3. 


Pakistan’s army chief says operation against militants to continue ‘unabated’

Updated 01 October 2023
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Pakistan’s army chief says operation against militants to continue ‘unabated’

  • General Syed Asim Munir’s statement comes after Friday’s suicide blasts that killed over 65 in Pakistan 
  • Pakistan’s army chief visits Quetta for briefing on recent attacks, inquires after victims at CMH Quetta

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir said that the security operation against militants would continue “unabated,” state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported on Saturday, a day after two suicide blasts killed at least 65 people in the country. 

At least 60 were killed and scores injured on Friday when a suicide blast targeted a gathering held to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Mustang. In a separate attack the same day, militants targeted a mosque at a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district to kill five more people. 

No militant groups have so far taken responsibility for the attacks but Pakistan’s Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti said on Saturday that India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) was behind the blasts. 

“Our operation against terrorists would continue unabated and the Armed Forces, Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies shall not rest till the menace of terrorism is rooted out from the country,” the APP report quoted the army chief as saying. 

Munir said these words during his visit to Quetta where he was briefed on the recent bomb blasts in a meeting attended by senior civil and military leaders. 

Without mentioning any entity, the army chief said militants were backed by the “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” 

“These terrorists and their facilitators, having no link with religion and ideology, are proxies of the enemies of Pakistan and its people,” he was quoted as saying. 

Later, the army chief visited the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Quetta to inquire after the injured and met the victims’ families. During his visit, Munir lauded Balochistan Police and law enforcement personnel for their bravery and resilience, APP said. 

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in the two western provinces located near Afghanistan following the 2021 Taliban return to power in Kabul.

According to statistics compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, the first half of the ongoing year saw about an 80 percent increase in attacks compared to the corresponding period in 2022.