Pakistani court acquits ex-PM Khan’s loyalist accused of inciting attack on army general’s residence

In this picture, taken on May 9, 2023, supporters of former Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan clash with police during a protest against the arrest of their leader in Lahore. (Photo courtesy: AFP/File)
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Updated 03 June 2023
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Pakistani court acquits ex-PM Khan’s loyalist accused of inciting attack on army general’s residence

  • Dr. Yasmin Rashid was released by the anti-terrorism court due to lack of ‘incriminating material’ against her
  • She served as a provincial health minister and was arrested after an audio leak which she said was ‘doctored’

ISLAMABAD: An anti-terrorism court on Saturday acquitted a female leader of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party following her arrest last month on charges of inciting people to target the official residence of a top general in Lahore who stormed the building and set it on fire.

The incident took place on May 9 when Khan was arrested from the Islamabad High Court on corruption charges, leading to violent protests in various parts of the country. Hundreds of people vandalized government buildings which also included sensitive military installations.

The development was followed by audio leaks of PTI leaders, suggesting the senior party members were instigating their supporters to target state properties.

Former Punjab health minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid, who is known for her loyalty to Khan, was also accused of provoking people on the basis of a recorded phone conversation, though she maintained her audio clip had been “doctored” to falsely implicate her in the case.




In this picture, taken on January 30, 2023, former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's aide Dr. Yasmin Rashid gestures during a press conference in Lahore. (Photo courtesy: APP/File)

“Investigating Officer has requested for 14-day physical remand of Yasmin Rashid for Photogrammetry, Voice Match Tests and recovery of mobile phones etc. whereas perusal of record reveals that neither Dr. Yasmin Rashid is nominated in FIR [police complaint] nor involved through supplementary statement and she was summoned in this case on the disclosure of co-accused which has no evidentiary value in the eye of law,” said the court while announcing its decision.

“Since no incriminating material is available on record to connect her with the commission of offence, therefore, request of Investigating Officer is turned down and she is accordingly discharged from instant case,” it added. “She be released forthwith, if not required in any other case.”

The police and caretaker administration of Punjab said they had arrested people involved in vandalism through scientific means, including facial recognition and geofencing.

The former prime minister’s party questioned the arrests of its leaders and supporters after Rashid’s release, saying they had been thrown into prison on fake cases.

“Who will be punished for keeping thousands of PTI workers, including Dr. Yasmin Rashid, in jail for 24 days in a false case and spreading false propaganda in the media,” the PTI asked in a Twitter post.

It added that Rashid was an elderly woman who had survived cancer and spent her whole career as a medical practitioner saving people’s lives.

Khan has denied in the past that his party members were involved in the violent May 9 protests while pointing a finger at intelligence agencies for orchestrating the mayhem to justify a crackdown on his party.


Pakistan’s central bank releases ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines, seeks input for FinTech growth

Updated 08 December 2023
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Pakistan’s central bank releases ‘regulatory sandbox’ guidelines, seeks input for FinTech growth

  • The emergence of high-tech companies for efficient service delivery has posed regulatory challenges for Pakistan
  • The regulatory sandbox approach has also been adopted by other countries to develop final set of rules for startups

ISLAMABAD: The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) adopted a collaborative approach to developing a regulatory framework for startups and FinTech companies by issuing preliminary guidelines on Friday with an aim to test them against innovative products and business models before adopting the final set of rules.

The SBP’s “regulatory sandbox” approach is designed to provide a controlled environment for innovators to test their products and technologies, making it easier for the regulator to understand their implications for financial stability and consumer protection.

“State Bank of Pakistan has issued draft guidelines on regulatory sandbox for public consultation,” it said in a brief statement.

The SBP added this would allow the regulated entities, such as startups and FinTech firms, to participate in the process of testing new products and their preferred business models within the provided legal framework.

“As envisioned in SBP Vision 2028, the regulatory sandbox will encourage innovation in digital financial services and facilitate the existing and new market participants to build robust digital payments ecosystem in Pakistan,” the central bank explained in its statement.

“Similarly, it will help SBP to issue instructions and regulations for new and innovative FinTech solutions, ultimately resulting in increased financial and digital inclusion in the country,” it added.

The SBP said its initiative would strengthen its engagement with stakeholders in shaping the future of the country’s financial industry.

It invited banks, FinTech firms, industry experts, public and all interested parties to participate in the consultation process.

Pakistani startups, especially in fintech, e-commerce and logistics, have been attracting considerable investment from both domestic sources and international venture capital firms.

This burgeoning ecosystem, fueled by significant government support and a surge in digital adoption among a young, tech-savvy population, is said to be positioning the country as an emerging hub for technological innovation and entrepreneurship.

As the country increasingly depends on high-tech companies for efficient service delivery, it has been encountering various regulatory challenges.

The regulatory sandboxes approach has also been adopted by other countries, including the United Kingdom, Singapore, Australia and Canada etc., among many others.

Each country’s sandbox is tailored to its specific regulatory environment and financial sector needs, though the core idea is to provide a space where new and potentially disruptive financial technologies can be tested safely and without immediately incurring the full burden of financial regulation.


Security forces kill five militants in Pakistan’s northwest

Updated 08 December 2023
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Security forces kill five militants in Pakistan’s northwest

  • ISPR says the intelligence-based operation followed reports of militant presence in Tank district
  • Security personnel recovered weapons, ammunition and explosives from the area after the operation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces have killed five militants in an intelligence-based operation in the country’s southwest, said the army’s public relations wing, ISPR, in a statement on Friday.

The operation was carried out in Tank district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province between Thursday and Friday night after the security forces got information of militant presence in the Mullazai area.

The subsequent operation led to intense exchange of fire in which the militants were killed.

“The killed terrorists remained actively involved in numerous terrorist activities against Law Enforcement Agencies as well as extortion and target killing of innocent civilians,” the ISPR said.

“A cache of weapons, ammunition and explosives was also recovered during the operation,” it added.

Pakistan has experienced a surge in militant attacks since the beginning of the year in the two western provinces of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that are situated right next to Afghanistan.

Officials in Islamabad have frequently blamed a proscribed militant network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for these attacks.

The TTP is said to have its leadership based in Afghanistan, making the Pakistani authorities request the administration in Kabul not to let their soil be used by armed groups to launch attacks against other countries.

The ISPR said the security forces had launched a “sanitization operation” in the area to eliminate any other militants as part of the country’s efforts to wipe out extremist violence.


Pakistan stock market crosses another historic milestone by surging past 66,000 points

Updated 08 December 2023
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Pakistan stock market crosses another historic milestone by surging past 66,000 points

  • Analysts say the current bull run at the stock market is fueled by IMF program and policy measures for economic improvement
  • An economic expert asks the government to comply with the IMF standby arrangement to ensure macroeconomic stability

KARACHI: Pakistan equities on Friday hit yet another record high by breaching the 66,000-mark amid bullish sentiments built on the International Monetary Fund (IMF) program and completion of its first review, rupee stability, and the government’s plan to raise Rs90 billion through Islamic bonds, equity analysts said.
The key stock index, KSE100, closed the weekend trading session at a historic high level of 66,223 after gaining 1,505 points, or rising 2.33 percent. During the trading week, the index collectively gained 3,730 points. The recent rally has increased the market capitalization from $31.3 billion to $32.8 billion in a week.
“The stocks closed at a new record surge and new all-time high amid rupee stability and the government’s plan to launch Rs90 billion worth of Ijarah Sukuks for retail investors to diversify funding sources,” Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Corporation, told Arab News.
He attributed the bull run to falling external debt, the positive outcome of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a civil-military hybrid forum established to fast-track decision-making and promote investment from foreign nations, and expectations for a current account surplus in November 2023.
In a landmark development for the country’s financial markets, the federal government launched one-year Ijarah Sukuk earlier in the day from the platform of Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) in the first phase.
In total, the government plans to raise Rs90 billion through three auctions of the bond.
Speaking at the gong ceremony, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar said Pakistan’s economy faced multiple challenges at the start of the financial year 2023-2024, but the government had tried to solve the structural and macroeconomic issues which helped improve the situation.
“I would like to thank the effort of all stakeholders to bring our economy back on track by lowering the exchange rate of dollar from all-time high of approximately 307 on September 5, 2023, in the interbank market to around 284 today,” he said.
Kakar maintained the capital market served as a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and growth in the realm of finance.
“It provides fuel to business to expend, create jobs and contribute to overall development of society. As a part of federal government, we are committed to fostering an environment that nurtures and sustains this growth,” he added.
The prime minister said the capital market acted as a stabilizing force, absorbing shocks and steering the economy toward stability.
Economists say the current bull run is fueled by the successful completion of $3 billion IMF bailout program review, strong earnings growth and the steps taken by the government to discourage smuggling of various commodities and foreign currencies.
Pakistan expects another tranche of $700 million from IMF after the global lender’s board meeting on January 11, 2024.
“Pakistan stock exchange has tailwind of the IMF program, the completion of the first review, the enforcement measures by the establishment including curbing smuggling, de-dollarization and some improvements in the Afghan transit trade,” Dr. Khaqan Najeeb, former advisor to the finance ministry, told Arab News.
Going forward, he said the country would have to comply with the IMF standby arrangement to design another program for long term macroeconomic stability.
He noted this required more structural reforms in the economy after the new government takes over in the wake of the next general elections.


Pakistan’s information minister affirms commitment to timely elections amid challenges

Updated 08 December 2023
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Pakistan’s information minister affirms commitment to timely elections amid challenges

  • Murtaza Solangi says the constitution requires Pakistan to be governed by elected representatives who will soon be at the helm
  • He says the caretaker administration will provide financial, administrative and security-related support to the election commission

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi on Friday reiterated the government’s commitment to holding transparent and free elections in the country next year, though he acknowledged challenges on the way.
The national elections were originally expected to take place in November after the dissolution of national and two provincial assemblies in August before the end of their term. However, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced to redraw hundreds of constituencies across the country on the basis of a digital census held in April this year before arranging the national polls.
ECP officials scheduled the voting process for the last week of January before announcing Feb. 8 as the final date after consulting President Arif Alvi on the Supreme Court’s instructions.
Given Pakistan’s uncertain political environment and a surge in militant attacks since the beginning of this year, local media outlets have been speculating about the possibility of yet another delay.
“The federal government has a commitment to free, impartial and transparent elections,” Solangi said during a news conference in Pakistan’s southwestern Quetta city. “There should not be any doubt in this regard.”
“Elections will be held across the country on Thursday, February 8, 2024,” he continued. “There are definitely problems and difficulties. But whatever the needs of the election commission – whether they are financial, administrative or security-related – it is our responsibility to fulfill them.”
The information minister vowed the federal government would work with the four provincial administrations to carry out “this historic duty.”
“It is written in the preamble of our constitution that this country will be run by its elected representatives,” he added. “So that day is not far away.”
Earlier this week, Pakistan’s media regulatory authority addressed satellite news channels in a notification to warn them against broadcasting any fake, misleading or speculative report on the upcoming general elections in the country.
The notification was issued in response to a complaint filed by the ECP against speculation about another election delay in the country.
The media regulator said such reports could shatter public confidence in the voting process and undermine the credibility of the election authority in the country.a


Pakistan targets $50 billion export goal in five years with focus on textile sector

Updated 08 December 2023
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Pakistan targets $50 billion export goal in five years with focus on textile sector

  • The country has set up Export Advisory Council while eyeing $100 billion export target in the long term
  • Pakistan’s commerce minister says the country needs export driven growth to alleviate financial challenges

KARACHI: Pakistan wants to increase its exports to $50 billion in five years, according to a commerce ministry statement released on Friday, by strengthening its textile sector and arranging a major expo to promote its products.

The country aims to achieve a $100 billion export target in the long term to address its recurrent economic crises. Last year, its export revenue stood at $39.42 billion, marking a 24.94 percent increase from 2021.

The official statement said an inaugural meeting of the country’s Export Advisory Council was chaired by the commerce minister Dr. Gohar Ejaz earlier in the day to discuss how to increase Pakistani exports and make them more competitive.

“Dr. Ejaz highlighted the importance of increasing exports as a means to bolster national income and drive economic development,” the ministry announced. “He stressed that a robust export strategy can potentially alleviate the burden of debt, positioning Pakistan competitively in the global market.”

“As part of the broader agenda, the council also considered proposals to elevate domestic exports to $50 billion within the next five years,” it added.

The minister acknowledged the textile sector had traditionally made the largest contribution to the country’s exports, though he maintained it had still been operating far below its actual potential.

“To address this, the council discussed plans to organize a Textile Expo, a dedicated platform aimed at boosting textile exports,” said the statement.

Ejaz expressed confidence that Pakistan’s textile exports could reach $50 billion through concerted efforts and strategic initiatives, contributing significantly to the country’s overall economic growth.

Pakistan’s textile sector is frequently described as the backbone of its economy and employs 40-45 percent of the total labor force in the country.

The minister envisioned Pakistan’s GDP to rise to $1 trillion dollars, saying it would increase its average per capita income three times.

He also emphasized that Pakistan needed export driven growth to alleviate balance of payments problem.

The commerce ministry informed the new council comprised of prominent figures and would help address pressing challenges faced by Pakistani export sector.