Pakistani expatriates call for respecting people’s mandate for post-election political, economic stability

Commuters ride past election banners of Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) party, hung along a road at the constituency of Sharif, in Lahore on February 7, 2024, a day prior Pakistan's national elections. (AFP/File)
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Updated 19 February 2024
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Pakistani expatriates call for respecting people’s mandate for post-election political, economic stability

  • The Feb. 8 national election, marred by vote-rigging allegations, has sparked nationwide protests in Pakistan
  • Overseas Pakistanis say “only a publicly mandated administration” can bring political, financial stability to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani expatriates on Sunday called for respecting the people’s mandate after the Feb. 8 national election and for the formation of a new government at the earliest to ensure political and economic stability in the South Asian country.

The election, which was marred by mobile network outages and delayed results, has sparked nationwide protests over alleged vote-rigging, with former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan both claiming victory.

The situation has heightened uncertainty in the South Asian country that faces numerous challenges, including negotiations for a new International Monetary Fund (IMF) program to stabilize the struggling $350 billion economy after the current $3 billion program expires in March.

This week, Moody’s, an American financial services company that rates the creditworthiness of borrowers ranging from private enterprises to governments, said prolonged delays in the government formation may further compound Pakistan’s problems.

Some of the around 9 million Pakistani expatriates, who actively contribute to the socio-economic development of their homeland, believe the people of the South Asian country have spoken “loud and clear” in this election and their will needs to be honored.

“This was a record-shattering and game-changing election for Pakistan where people have spoken and spoken very loud and clear,” Imtiaz-ul-Hassan Bukhari, a 45-year-old Pakistani expatriate in Connecticut, United States (US), told Arab News.

“Now, there is a need to honor the democratic process and form the government as per the aspirations of the people to bring political stability.”

Bukhari said Pakistani people refused to vote for the “establishment-backed candidates” and decided to vote for their future.

The indecisive election presented no clear winner, with independent candidates loyal to Khan, winning the highest 101 parliamentary seats, according to official results.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party of three-time former PM Sharif, who was seen as the military’s favored candidate in this election, came in second with 75 seats. Sharif denies being favored and the military, which has ruled Pakistan on several occasions, says it does not interfere in politics.

But political uncertainty persists in the country as independents made up the largest group in the legislature after the vote, but cannot form a government on their own, having run as individuals and not a party.

Khan, who is in jail on graft charges, and his PTI party allege the vote was rigged to keep him from returning to power. The caretaker government and the election commission have rejected the accusations.

Chaudhary Muhammad Ahmed, a 44-year-old expatriate working at a multinational company in Saudi Arabia, wanted the prompt establishment of a new federal government in Pakistan to address the challenges.

“The new government to be formed might face so many challenges and top of them is to provide jobs and employment opportunities to the youth coming out of the universities,” Ahmed told Arab News over the phone from Jeddah.

Other challenges for the upcoming government included stabilizing the economy, strengthening foreign exchange reserves, and bringing down inflation, according to Ahmed.

Qaisar Abbas Gondal, 41, said the post-election situation in Pakistan was “very concerning.”

“It has been more than 10 days, but still there is no clarity which shows the current system is not fit for purpose,” he told Arab News from London.

“Other countries are focusing on their policies to uplift people’s lives, but unfortunately in Pakistan, the [military] establishment is playing politics which is causing long-term international reputational damage to Pakistan.”

Gondal said the people of Pakistan had rejected conventional parties and voted for a “change,” adding the establishment must accept and respect the people’s decision “without any interference.”

“Only a publicly mandated administration can bring political and financial stability to Pakistan,” he said. “I think the current chaos will continue and there is no immediate hope of stability.”

Mansoor Ali, a 35-year-old Pakistani expatriate based in Qatar, said the expectations of overseas Pakistanis after the election were “exceedingly high,” given the urgent need for swift economic reforms.

“While there may be some uncertainty surrounding the formation of the next government, we strongly believe that rapid economic reforms are urgently needed,” he told Arab News from Doha.

Ali said Pakistan was confronted with numerous challenges, including economic insecurity, inflation and a lack of foreign investment.

“It is imperative for the new administration to address these issues promptly and effectively to pave the way for a brighter future for Pakistan and its citizens both at home and abroad,” he said.

Overseas Pakistanis believe that creating a politically stable and unified government while setting political differences aside was crucial in navigating Pakistan through its current challenges, according to Ali.

“Now is the time for coordinated action to guide Pakistan toward a prosperous, secure, and stable future, to create confidence among overseas Pakistanis in remittances and investments in our own country,” he added.


Seven Pakistanis, including two women, feature in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list this year

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Seven Pakistanis, including two women, feature in Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia list this year

  • The American magazine annually compiles the list to celebrate 300 young people for their innovative abilities
  • The seven Pakistanis have contributed to the fields of art and finance along with enterprise and consumer technology

ISLAMABAD: Two women among a group of seven Pakistanis were featured in the popular Forbes 30 Under 30 list this week, earning international recognition for their leadership abilities in their respective professional fields.
The American business magazine annually compiles the 30 Under 30 list to celebrate 300 remarkable individuals under the age of 30, selected across 10 categories, each featuring 30 standout figures.
These young leaders are recognized for their innovative contributions and influence in areas such as technology, arts, finance and science, marking them as trailblazers poised to shape the future of their industries in their respective regions.
Among the fintech entrepreneurs facilitating access to capital, Forbes named Lahore-based Aleena Nadeem on top, saying her company EduFi was helping more Pakistanis go to university.
“Nadeem’s concept is simple,” the magazine wrote. “She realized some paycheck-to-paycheck families couldn’t handle lump sum payments at the start of a semester— but could afford tuition paid monthly.”
“EduFi has partnered with 27 Pakistani colleges (a number that’s doubled in the past six months), who funnel prospective customers its way,” the article added. “It does its own credit-vetting, then pays tuition for approved students who repay the loan on a monthly basis as they study.”
It also mentioned Bushra Sultan, a Pakistani filmmaker, creative director and production designer, saying her work addressed her country’s constraints on women.
“Her most notable work is in fashion and beauty,” the magazine said. “A campaign for Demesne Couture called ‘Guria’ depicted two opulently dressed women being controlled like puppets by giant hands pulling strings, a comment on the country’s wedding industry and the demands made on brides.”
“Sultan is also known for her audacious ‘Chimera’ campaign featuring headless women,” it added.
Much like Nadeem, Pakistan’s Sarkhail Bawany was listed among the fintech entrepreneurs.
Bawany is the head of product at fintech company Abhi, which empowers workers to withdraw a percentage of their salary before the next paycheck when they need emergency cash.
“Abhi works on a B2B2C model, partnering with companies such as Unilever Pakistan to offer the service as a benefit to employees,” Forbes said, adding the company had also expanded to the Middle East and Bangladesh.
Others Pakistanis on the list include Kasra Zunnaiyyer, the co-founder of Karachi-based Trukkr, which has developed a management platform for Pakistan’s logistics sector. Zunnaiyyer made it to the Forbes list in the Enterprise Technology category.
The line-up also had Adeel Abid, Aizaz Nayyer and Ali Raza, who established the Karachi-based platform for freelancers called Linkstar.
“The company helps freelancers create free portfolio websites that can be upgraded with advanced functionalities such as international payments and social media integration,” the magazine announced.


Pakistan calls for removal of technology restrictions to aid developing nations at UN meeting

Updated 18 May 2024
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Pakistan calls for removal of technology restrictions to aid developing nations at UN meeting

  • Access to emerging technologies in the Global South is often influenced by geopolitical concerns
  • Pakistan says equitable access to technology can help developing nations meet future challenges

ISLAMABAD: A senior Pakistani diplomat at the United Nations urged technology-producing nations on Friday to remove restrictions on the equitable spread of scientific knowledge and equipment, saying it would help advance developing countries.

Access to emerging technologies in the Global South is often influenced by geopolitical concerns, as international relations and trade policies can dictate the availability and distribution of these resources.

This geopolitical gatekeeping not only restricts technological advancement in less developed nations but also perpetuates global inequities in access to cutting-edge tools and innovations.

In case of Pakistan, US export controls limit access to high-end technologies, particularly those with dual-use capabilities that might be diverted for military purposes.

“Unless fair and equitable access to new and emerging technologies is provided to developing countries, and all undue restrictions removed, the Global South will lag even further behind in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” Ambassador Usman Jadoon, Pakistan’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN, told a Security Council meeting.

According to an official statement, he underscored the transformative power of science in improving lives and anticipating threats through climate modeling, disease surveillance, and early warning systems.

Additionally, he highlighted Pakistan’s significant strides in nuclear technology, space exploration and biotechnology, saying that his country wanted to leverage scientific advancements for progress and stability.

“New and emerging technologies play an undeniable role in the progress of any society and in maintaining international peace and security when used in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter,” he continued.

Ambassador Jadoon mentioned Pakistan’s concerns about the unregulated military applications of emerging technologies and supported calls for establishing legally-binding norms to regulate their use, ensuring regional and global stability.

He affirmed his country’s commitment to unlocking the potential of science for peace and progress, advocating for responsible scientific practices and international cooperation to build a safer and more prosperous future.

 


Students urge government for evacuation as five Pakistanis injured in Kyrgyzstan mob violence

Updated 18 May 2024
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Students urge government for evacuation as five Pakistanis injured in Kyrgyzstan mob violence

  • Around 6,000 Pakistanis are studying in Bishkek, where violence erupted after some Egyptians quarreled with locals
  • Pakistan embassy has asked students to stay indoors, though many of them suspect resumption of violence tonight

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistani students in Kyrgyzstan on Saturday urged their country’s administration to make arrangements for their evacuation from the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek after mob violence against foreign nationals enrolled in various universities broke out on Friday evening in which five Pakistani medical students got injured.

A Facebook post by Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in the Central Asian city said the violence began after the emergence of online videos showing a brawl between Kyrgyz and Egyptian medical students that took place on May 13.

The mobs mostly targeted hostels of medical universities and private residences of international students, including Pakistanis, in Bishkek. According to the Pakistan embassy, around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in different institutes in Kyrgyzstan and nearly 6,000 of them live and study in Bishkek.

Speaking to Arab News over the phone, Rana Taha, a final year medical student in the Kyrgyz city, he was stuck at his flat with other Pakistani students without any food and water.

“We have been frantically calling our embassy and the local authorities for assistance, but they are only advising us to stay indoors,” he said. “The paramilitary troops are patrolling the streets since the situation is still not under control.”

“The locals attacked our flat twice in the early hours of the day, but luckily they failed to barge in,” he continued. “We appeal our embassy to evacuate us to safety or make arrangements for our safe flights to back home.”

Nisar Ali, a fourth-year medical student from Peshawar, said the local police appeared to be “assisting the rioters,” instead of stopping them.

“They [rioters] are not discriminating among international students,” he informed. “Although it started between Egyptian students and locals, they are now attacking every foreigner, whether they are Indian, Pakistani, Egyptian, Bangladeshi, or citizens of any other country. Every other student is injured. Several of my friends who lived in the hostel have been attacked and are severely injured.”

Ali said the violence started at about 10pm on Friday, but the Pakistan embassy did not answer the calls until morning.

“I live with Pakistani friends in an apartment,” he added. “We have locked ourselves in with all lights off. We have nothing to eat, and we cannot go out, as going out means you are going to be attacked.”

He noted some peace was restored when the army troops arrived in Bishkek, but the students were still not feeling safe.

“We appeal to the government of Pakistan to safely evacuate us,” he said.

Pakistan’s ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hasan Zaigham confirmed while speaking to Arab News over the phone that five Pakistani students had been injured.

“One of them is admitted in a local hospital with some jaw injuries, while four others were released after first aid,” he informed.

“No Pakistani is killed or raped in the violence,” he said, rebutting rumors on social media. “The situation is under control now as Bishkek authorities have dispersed all the miscreants.”

The ambassador said they had advised Pakistani students to stay indoors and get in touch with the embassy in case of any urgency.

“We are in touch with the local law enforcement authorities to ensure safety of our students,” he added.

However, Muhammad Waleed, a final year medical student, said they had not received any “support from the Pakistan embassy despite our repeated calls and messages,” though they were informed to stay indoors.

“I am taking shelter here in Bishkek at a human rights organization’s office along with dozens of other Pakistani students,” Waleed informed over the phone. “Most of the students are still stuck in their hostels and apartments.”

He acknowledged the situation got better when the paramilitary troops were deployed in the city, though he said the situation was still fluid.

“We want Pakistani government to immediately arrange for our safe travel to back home as the situation may escalate again once the troops are pulled out,” he added.

Raj Kumar, a resident of Tharparkar district in Pakistan, told Arab News his sister was a medical student in Bishkek, adding that students there were suspecting the resumption of violence tonight.

“Those girls including my sisters are terrified by the situation,” he said. “They need to be relocated to a safer place.”

“We want to know what is the course of action contemplated by the Pakistan embassy there and the ministry of foreign affairs in particular,” he added.

Tariq Aziz, a Karachi resident, also said his daughter was “trapped inside a flat along with three friends,” which was located opposite to the hostel that was attacked last night.

“When I talked a little while ago, my daughter told me that only one message came from the Pakistan embassy, saying not to leave the flat. But there is no guarantee that the rioters, just like they broke the doors of several other flats where students were residing, will not break door of their flat too,” he told Arab News.

“A long time has passed since the violence started. The Pakistan embassy should not send messages but arrange security for the girls and safely take them to the airport,” he added.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry summoned Kyrgyzstan’s top diplomat in the country in response to the mob violence and handed him a protest note.

“It was impressed on the Kyrgyz charge d’affaires that the Kyrgyz government should take all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of Pakistani students and citizens,” it said in a statement.

Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, the Pakistani foreign office spokeswoman, said the Pakistani embassy had responded to hundreds of queries by students and their families. She said the country’s envoy and his team were available on the emergency contact numbers: +996555554476 and +996507567667.

“In case the numbers do not connect because of phone traffic, please text/WhatsApp,” Baloch said on X.

The Pakistani embassy reported earlier it had been able to contact over 250 students and their family members in Pakistan, adding the violence appeared to be directed at all foreign students and was not specific to Pakistanis.

It said this was an evolving situation and they would inform the Pakistani community in Kyrgyzstan and their relatives in Pakistan about any further developments.

 


PM Sharif constitutes Economic Advisory Council as Pakistan aims to put economy on track

Updated 18 May 2024
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PM Sharif constitutes Economic Advisory Council as Pakistan aims to put economy on track

  • The EAC is non-constitutional, independent body that advises the government on important economic issues
  • Pakistan is currently navigating a tricky path to economic recovery after it narrowly escaped default last year

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has constituted an eight-member Economic Advisory Council (EAC), the Finance Division said on Saturday, as the South Asian country aims to revive its struggling $350 billion economy.
The Economic Advisory Council (EAC) is a non-constitutional, independent body in Pakistan formed to advise the government, more specifically the prime minister, on economic issues of national significance.
Pakistan, which has been facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, last month completed a short-term $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) program that helped stave off a sovereign default.
However, the South Asian country is still dealing with a high fiscal shortfall and while it has controlled its external account deficit through import control mechanisms, it has come at the expense of stagnating growth, which is expected to be around 2 percent this year, compared to negative growth last year.
“The EAC will be chaired by the prime minister, who will convene its meeting with any required frequency,” the Finance Division said in a notification.
The council members include Jahangir Tareen, Saquib Sherazi, Shahzad Saleem, Musadaq Zulqarnain, Ijaz Nabi, Asif Peer, Ziad Bashir and Salman Ahmed.
The development comes amid Pakistan’s talks with the IMF for a fresh bailout after its $350 billion economy slightly stabilized following the completion of the last IMF program, with inflation coming down to around 17 percent in April from a record high of 38 percent in May last year.
While Islamabad has said it expects a staff-level agreement by July, both Pakistani and IMF officials have refrained from commenting on the size of the program. The South Asian country is expected to seek around $7-8 billion bailout from the global lender.
Pakistan has to meet a primary budget deficit target of Rs401 billion ($1.44 billion), or 0.4 percent of its gross domestic product, for the current fiscal year before the government presents its budget in June.


Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to Pakistan will prove to be ‘game changer’ in bilateral ties — minister

Updated 18 May 2024
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Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to Pakistan will prove to be ‘game changer’ in bilateral ties — minister

  • Pakistan’s deputy PM this month said the much-awaited visit was ‘on the cards,’ but neither side has confirmed any dates
  • The statement came amid Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s efforts to increase bilateral trade and reach investment agreements

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi said on Saturday that a proposed visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Pakistan would prove to be a “game changer” in bilateral ties between both countries, adding the entire Pakistani nation was awaiting the high-profile visit.
Naqvi said this during his visit to the Saudi embassy in Islamabad, where he met the Kingdom’s ambassador, Nawaf bin Saeed Al-Malki, according to the Pakistani interior ministry. The two figures discussed matters of mutual interest, including the Crown Prince’s visit, Pakistan-Saudi Arabia relations and bilateral cooperation in various fields.
Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar this month said a much-awaited visit of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Islamabad was “on the cards” and could materialize any time during May. But neither of the two sides has confirmed any dates.
“The historic brotherly friendship of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is turning into a beneficial economic relationship,” Naqvi was quoted as saying by his ministry.
“The people of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The visit of the Saudi Crown Prince will prove to be a game changer in relations between the two countries.”
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have lately been working closely to increase bilateral trade and investment deals, with the Crown Prince last month reaffirming the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite an investment package of $5 billion.
A high-level Saudi business delegation, led by the Kingdom’s Assistant Minister of Investment Ibrahim Al-Mubarak, this month visited Pakistan to explore investment opportunities in various sectors, including mineral, energy, agriculture and petroleum.
“Saudi Arabia has supported Pakistan in every test,” Naqvi said. “The recent visit of Saudi Arabian investors to Pakistan was very successful.”
On the occasion, the Saudi ambassador said the Kingdom attached “great importance” to its relations with Pakistan, according to the Pakistani interior ministry.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense, and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as a top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.
Saudi Arabia has also often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid by regularly providing it oil on deferred payment and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.