Pakistan army chief says will help government check pilferage of resources, economic losses

Pakistan caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (center right) and akistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir (center left) chair a meeting of the provincial apex committee in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 10, 2023. (Photo courtesy: PID)
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Updated 11 October 2023
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Pakistan army chief says will help government check pilferage of resources, economic losses

  • Pakistan last month launched army-led nationwide crackdown against currency smugglers, hoarders, black marketers
  • Army is working closely with government as part of Special Investment Facilitation Council to attract foreign investments

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir has said the military would provide “full support” to the government and law enforcement agencies in taking action against illegal activities that were causing pilferage of national resources and economic losses.

Pakistan launched an army-led nationwide crackdown against currency smugglers, hoarders, and black marketers in its bid to stave off an economic crisis that had significantly weakened the country’s national currency, causing its reserves to deplete and inflation to skyrocket to unprecedented levels. Following the crackdown, Pakistan has seen a marked improvement in its national currency.

The army is also working closely with the government as part of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) that was set up in June to attract foreign investment, particularly from Gulf nations. The council has identified five sectors as priority, namely energy, agriculture, mining, information technology and defense production, as Pakistan deals with a balance of payments crisis and requires billions of dollars in foreign exchange to finance its trade deficit and repay its international debts in the current financial year.

“COAS [Chief of the Army Staff] highlighted that Army will provide full support in concert with LEAs and other government departments for enforcement actions against spectrum of illegal activities with full force to deny pilferage of resources and economic losses that the country suffers due to these activities,” Munir was quoted as saying in a statement from the prime minister’s office on Tuesday, after he visited Quetta with Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar and attended a meeting of the provincial apex committee.

The forum was briefed about a revised National Action Plan and operations against militant groups as well as efforts against smuggling and narcotics rings in Balochistan. The security of foreign nationals employed at projects run by Chinese companies as well as Pakistani state-owned and private firms was discussed, as was the repatriation of illegal immigrants, foreign currency regularization measures, and progress on SIFC initiatives in Balochistan.

“Initiatives taken by SIFC at federal level should have a trickledown effect in each province for the people of the area,” Kakar said.

“Balochistan is rich in mines and minerals and development in this sector will generate economic activity and job opportunities for the people of the area. Moreover, investments in agriculture and IT should also be focused apart from human resource development.”

The rupee hit a record low of 307.1 against the dollar on Sept. 5 but has made a sharp recovery since the country’s financial regulator and security agencies began taking action the next day to curb black market operations.

The crackdown on black market operators against the informal market has resulted in tens of millions of dollars pouring back into Pakistan’s interbank and open markets, dealers say.

A market-determined exchange rate is a key condition for Pakistan receiving a $3 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that was agreed in July to help avert a sovereign default.

While there have been other attempts to curb the black market when the rupee has been under stress, the latest push came after licensed dealers requested the army chief to take action, rather than leave it solely to the civilian caretaker government that was put in place in August to run Pakistan till elections, currently expected to be held early next year.


Pakistan sets big Rs13 trillion revenue target for year to June 2025

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan sets big Rs13 trillion revenue target for year to June 2025

  • Pakistan presents federal budget to strengthen case for new IMF loan agreement
  • Pakistan has projected sharp drop in fiscal deficit for new financial year at 5.9 percent of GDP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has set a challenging tax revenue target of 13 trillion rupees ($46.66 billion) for the year starting July 1, a near 40 percent jump from the current year, to strengthen the case for a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund.
The ambitious revenue targets for the fiscal year through June 2025 were in line with analyst expectations.
Key objectives for the upcoming fiscal year included bringing the public debt-to-GDP ratio to sustainable levels and prioritising improvements in the balance of payments position, the government’s budget document showed.
Pakistan has projected a sharp drop in its fiscal deficit for the new financial year at 5.9 percent of GDP, from an upwardly revised estimate of 7.4 percent for the current year.
GDP would expand 2.4 percent in the current year, missing the budgeted target of 3.5 percent, the government said in its economic review on Tuesday, despite revenues being up 30 percent on the year, and the fiscal and current account deficits being under control.
Pakistan will look to widen the tax base to avoid burdening existing tax payers to meet its targets, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said while presenting the budget.
While Pakistan is expected to stick to fiscal prudence under a new IMF program, growth will stay constrained, said Abid Suleri of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute think tank.
“Many of the measures taken to achieve fiscal sustainability will impact growth negatively, at least in the near future,” he said.
Pakistan is in talks with the IMF for a loan of about $6 billion to $8 billion, as it seeks to avert a default for an economy growing at the slowest pace in the region.
But a recent economic uptick, falling inflation and an interest rate cut on Monday have stirred government optimism over the prospects for growth.
The key policy rate could fall further this year and economic growth would continue to rise, Aurangzeb had told reporters a day before presenting his first budget.


Pakistan’s T20 World Cup fate hangs in balance as India face US

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan’s T20 World Cup fate hangs in balance as India face US

  • Pakistan need US to lose their remaining two matches against India, Ireland to stay alive
  • Babar Azam’s side lost their opening two matches against India, US in this year’s World Cup

ISLAMABAD: Millions of Pakistani cricket fans will be hoping their arch-rivals India thump the United States on Wednesday when the two sides meet in New York for a T20 World Cup competition so that the green shirts stay alive in the tournament. 

Pakistan, who notched their first win of the T20 World Cup 2024 against Canada on Tuesday night in New York, need the US to lose their remaining two matches against India and Ireland. Skipper Babar Azam’s side, who lost to the US and India in their opening two matches of the World Cup, also need India to beat Canada on June 15 to stand a chance in the tournament. 

If the US wins even one more point, Pakistan’s journey in the World Cup will come to an abrupt end in the first stage. Even one match affected by rain would spell the end for Pakistan, as the US requires only one point to move to the second round.

“USA bracing up for another epic clash,” the International Cricket Council (ICC) wrote on social media platform X. It shared a picture of the American cricketers practicing before the fixture. 

Pakistan’s new white-ball coach Gary Kirsten last week bluntly said the green shirts needed to evolve if they wanted to live up to the standards of international cricket. 

“I think for me the most important thing for every international player is that you continue growing and developing as a player, and understanding what the demands of international competition are,” Kirsten said at the post-match conference after Pakistan lost to India on Sunday. 

“The game is changing pretty much every year. So, if you’re not up to it and you’re not improving, you’re going to get found out somewhere.”

Squads:

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Rishabh Pant (wk), 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Shivam Dube, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Arshdeep Singh

USA (probable): 1 Steven Taylor, 2 Monank Patel (capt & wk), 3 Andries Gous, 4 Aaron Jones, 5 Nitish Kumar, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Harmeet Singh, 8 Jasdeep Singh, 9 Nosthush Kenjige, 10 Saurabh Netravalkar, 11 Ali Khan 


Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat

  • Pakistan unlikely to buy LNG cargoes until November due to oversupply, high prices
  • Countries seek more LNG cargoes due to extreme heat, driving spot prices to high levels

KARACHI: Pakistan is unlikely to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes on the spot market until at least the beginning of winter in November due to oversupply and high prices, its petroleum minister told Reuters.

Extreme temperatures across Asia have pushed countries to seek more cargoes of LNG to address higher power demand, driving spot prices to their highest since mid-December. Asia spot LNG last traded at $12.00 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on Friday.

However, LNG demand in the second largest South Asian LNG buyer was “subordinate to supplies,” the minister told Reuters, despite heatwaves baking the country of 300 million people with temperatures surging to a near-record.

“The question of getting more LNG when we can’t sell the amount of LNG that we already are obtaining from our long-term contracts, it does not apply,” Musadik Masood Malik, Pakistan’s petroleum minister, told Reuters in an interview.

Annual power use in Pakistan, which gets over a third of its electricity from natural gas, is expected to fall consecutively for the first time in 16 years, due to higher tariffs curbing household consumption.

Poor and middle-class households are still feeling the impact of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout of Pakistan last year, which contributed to higher retail prices. A series of power tariff hikes over 12 months was a key part of the IMF program which ended in April.

Industrial demand has also remained tepid due to a cloudy economic outlook.

Pakistan, which last bought a spot LNG cargo in late 2023, canceled its spot LNG tender for delivery in January. Malik attributed the cancelation to oversupply, adding that there were “not a lot of customers” at current LNG spot prices.

Malik said Pakistan was keen to adopt more renewable energy to cut its import bill and exposure to geopolitical shocks. The country suffered widespread power outages due to its inability to buy expensive LNG after prices surged due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Any country that is importing $15-18 billion of fuel, how can it be sustainable when the total exports are south of $30 billion? So we have to move away from the imported elements such as LNG,” he said.

Pakistan was also trying to access less expensive natural gas by building a pipeline with Iran, but was wary of sanctions, he said.

“We basically are trying to work out the solution whereby we can have access to less expensive gas, but in a manner which does not invoke any sanctions on Pakistan. It all depends on legal interpretations,” he said.

“From our perspective, we don’t want to get into litigation and we don’t want to get sanctioned.” 


Pakistan, Muslim World League to host global conference on girls’ education in September

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistan, Muslim World League to host global conference on girls’ education in September

  • Eminent scholars, education ministers from Islamic countries to attend three-day event
  • Event to explore solutions to various barriers to education millions of girls face daily 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government will join hands with the Muslim World League to host a “landmark” global conference on girls’ education in September, state-run media reported on Wednesday, to ensure girls have better access to education and other facilities. 

According to the Malala Fund, 12 million girls are out of school in Pakistan and only 13 percent of girls advance to grade IX. The international non-governmental organization says social norms such as gender stereotypes and preference for educating boys continue to prevent girls from accessing education. 

State broadcaster Radio Pakistan said the primary objective of the three-day conference is to “explore and formulate” effective strategies to enable institutional responses and ensure better resource allocation for promoting girls’ education on a global scale.

“This event aims to bring together a diverse group of international and national dignitaries, including education ministers from numerous Islamic countries, to address and find solutions to different challenges faced by girls in the education sector,” Radio Pakistan said. 

It said eminent scholars, education experts, policymakers and various other stakeholders are expected to attend the conference. They will share their expertise, experiences, and best practices in the field of girls’ education. 

“The event will serve as a crucial platform for sharing experiences, discussing the multifaceted challenges faced by girls in accessing education, and exploring innovative solutions to overcome these barriers,” Radio Pakistan explained. 

It said PM Sharif has constituted a dedicated committee to organize the event in a “befitting and efficient manner.” 

The state-run media said the committee is headed by Secretary of Education Mohyuddin Wani and includes lawmaker Nausheen Iftikhar, representatives from the foreign office, the federal directorate of education and the Capital Development Authority (CDA). 

“This event marks a significant step toward the global promotion of girls’ education, demonstrating Pakistan’s commitment to being at the forefront of this vital initiative,” Radio Pakistan said. 

“By hosting such a crucial conference, Pakistan aims to contribute substantially to the global dialogue on education and help forge a path toward a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape for girls worldwide.”


Pakistani forces killed 181 militants in 7,000 operations in two months — state media 

Updated 12 June 2024
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Pakistani forces killed 181 militants in 7,000 operations in two months — state media 

  • Pakistan is grappling with a rise in militancy it blames on neighboring Afghanistan
  • Kabul rejects accusations, says rising violence in Pakistan is domestic issue for Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: At least 181 militants were killed by security forces in over 7,000 operations in Pakistan’s southern and northern provinces in the last two months, state media reported on Wednesday, as the South Asian state grapples with a rise in militancy. 

Islamabad blames the uptick in attacks on neighboring Afghanistan, saying Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train militants to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Kabul has previously said rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.

The TTP has been waging a war against the state to try to overthrow the government for nearly two decades. It wants to run Pakistan as an Islamic state governed by its own harsh interpretation of Islam.

“Security forces have killed 181 terrorists in over 7,000 operations in different parts of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan from April 1 till 10th of this month [June],” Radio Pakistan said on Wednesday. 

The “terrorists” were killed during cross-border infiltration from Afghanistan but “the timely response of security forces foiled the sordid designs of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan,” the report added, saying infiltration attempts were made in KP’s Bajaur, Dir and Chitral.

“To conceal its failure, TTP forced the people of tribal areas for target killing and kidnapping for ransom,” Radio Pakistan added, referring to a way of killings of security and government officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “The TTP network involved in targeting the Chinese nationals was also behind bars.”

Last week, a bomb blast targeting a military truck killed seven soldiers in northwestern Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan in one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent months. In March, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers that was on its way from Islamabad to a camp in Dasu, the site of a major dam project. Five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the assault.