Ex-PM Khan’s party says National Assembly session cannot be called before reserved seats are allotted

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party's leader Gohar Khan (C) looks on during a press conference in Islamabad on December 29, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 27 February 2024
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Ex-PM Khan’s party says National Assembly session cannot be called before reserved seats are allotted

  • The inaugural session of Pakistan’s National Assembly has to be held by February 29 as per law 
  • Pakistan’s election regulator is yet to notify all reserved seats in provincial, national legislatures

ISLAMABAD: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party said on Tuesday that the National Assembly’s inaugural session, slated to be held this week, would be “illegal” if summoned before the country’s election oversight body notifies all the reserved seats in the parliament for women and minorities. 

The PTI emerged as the largest group in Pakistan’s National Assembly after bagging the highest number of seats in the Feb. 8 polls. However, its winning candidates joined the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) party last week to claim a share of the reserved seats. A court ruling forced PTI contestants to run as independent candidates during this month’s national polls. According to Pakistani law, independent candidates are neither allowed to form the government nor are entitled to a share in the reserved seats. 

The SIC has not been allocated a share in the 70 reserved seats for women and minorities in the provincial legislatures so far. The party has filed at least four separate applications with the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking its share of the seats, before the inaugural sessions of the national and provincial legislatures are held this week. 

The provincial assemblies of Sindh and Punjab convened their sessions last week and elected their chief ministers on Monday. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s election regulator has yet to decide about the SIC’s reserved seats. 

“If the National Assembly session is called, that will be illegal because the assemblies should be convened after all members of the House are notified,” PTI leader Barrister Gohar Khan told reporters outside the ECP’s headquarters in Islamabad.

He described the recently held sessions of Sindh and Punjab assemblies as “illegal,” saying that they had been conducted when there were still reserved seats left to be notified. 

The maiden National Assembly session is expected to be held on February 29, according to Pakistan’s constitution, which says the inaugural session should be convened within 21 days of national elections.

Three other major political parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) have filed applications with the election regulator, demanding their share in the remaining reserved seats. They argued that the SIC is not a parliamentary party as its candidates had not contested polls from the party’s platform. 

After a brief hearing into the matter, the ECP adjourned the case for Wednesday.

“The public has given us the mandate and we hope the election commission will decide on the matter as per the public’s aspirations,” the PTI leader said. “These [reserved] seats are for the SIC and no other party can lay claim on them.”

He said independent candidates who had won elections could join any political party within three days after they were notified as winners. 

SIC chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza said his party had moved the ECP for their share of the reserved seats six days ago. However, he regretted that a decision on the matter was yet to be made.

“We hope the ECP will decide on the matter this time as per law and the constitution,” he said.

PML-N’s Senator Azam Nazir Tarar, however, said the SIC is not a parliamentary party as it did not take part in the elections, hence it cannot lay claim to a share in the reserved seats.

“This is a party that didn’t contest elections, didn’t win a single seat, and they are saying they have the right to reserved seats because a bunch of independent candidates joined them,” Tarar said.


Pakistan, China sign multiple MoUs focusing on flood rehabilitation, IT and development

Updated 23 April 2024
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Pakistan, China sign multiple MoUs focusing on flood rehabilitation, IT and development

  • Agreements were signed during meeting of Chinese International Development Cooperation Agency officials with PM Sharif
  • Pakistan PM commended CIDCA for its vital support during 2022 floods that killed 1,739 people, caused $30 bln losses

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and China on Tuesday signed multiple memorandums of understanding (MoUs) that focused on flood rehabilitation, information and communication technologies, and development, Pakistani state media reported.

The agreements were signed during a meeting between a high-level delegation of the Chinese International Development Cooperation Agency (CIDCA), led by Luo Zhaohui, and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Islamabad.

The MoUs pertained to flood rehabilitation, information and communication technologies, Juncao technology to address soil erosion and desertification, and China-Pakistan Development Cooperation Planning (2024-2028).

“Welcoming the delegation, the Prime Minister said China is Pakistan’s most trusted friend and appreciated China’s steadfast support to Pakistan,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.

“Acknowledging CIDCA’s pivotal role in bolstering Pakistan’s economic development, the Prime Minister specifically commended CIDCA for its vital support during the 2022 floods and for its relief, rehabilitation, and reconstruction efforts in Pakistan.”

In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild.

The prime minister witnessed the signing of agreements alongside a Letter of Exchange on the establishment of a First Aid Center in Balochistan and Protocol on Cooperation in Human Resources Development under the Global Development Initiative.

“These agreements signify the deepening cooperation between Pakistan and China across various sectors,” the report read.

The meeting was also attended by China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong, members of PM Sharif’s cabinet and senior officials of Pakistan.

Beijing has been one of Islamabad’s most reliable foreign partners in recent years, readily providing financial assistance to bail out its often-struggling neighbor.

In July last year, China granted Pakistan a two-year rollover on a $2.4 billion loan, giving the debt-saddled nation much-needed breathing space as it tackled a balance-of-payments crisis.

China has inked more than two trillion dollars in contracts around the world under its Belt and Road investment scheme, with billions pouring into infrastructure projects in Pakistan.


Three militants killed, one arrested in Pakistan’s restive southwest — military

Updated 23 April 2024
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Three militants killed, one arrested in Pakistan’s restive southwest — military

  • The militants were killed in an intelligence-based operation in the Pishin district of Balochistan
  • Military says one militant apprehended in injured condition was identified as an Afghan national

ISLAMABAD: Three militants were killed and another was injured in a shootout with security forces in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, the Pakistani military said on Tuesday.

The shootout took place during an intelligence-based operation in the Pishin district of Balochistan, according to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the military’s media wing.

The militants were killed after intense exchange of fire during the conduct of operation.

“One terrorist was apprehended in injured condition, who has been identified as an Afghan national,” the ISPR said in a statement.

“A huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosives was also recovered during the operation.”

Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan, is the site of a long-running insurgency by separatists and religiously motivated militants, who have recently carried out a number of attacks in the region.

Gunmen this month killed nine people, who hailed from the eastern Punjab province, after abducting them from a bus on a highway near the Noshki district. The outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack.

Although the government says it has quelled militancy, violence by various groups has persisted in the region.

Last year, Islamabad also set a November deadline for all undocumented migrants, mostly Afghans, to leave or face arrest, forcing more than 500,000 Afghans to flee Pakistan.

Pakistan defended the crackdown by pointing to security concerns and is expected to begin a renewed push to deport more Afghan nationals in the coming weeks, according to officials.


At $306 million, Pakistan reported highest ever single-month IT exports in March — representative

Updated 23 April 2024
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At $306 million, Pakistan reported highest ever single-month IT exports in March — representative

  • The Pakistani IT exports surged by $49 million in the last month from $257 million recorded in Feb.
  • Representative calls the achievement a result of hard work of all stakeholders and favorable policies

KARACHI: Pakistan recorded highest ever single-month exports in the field of information technology (IT) in March, chairman of the country’s software houses association said on Tuesday.

The Pakistani IT exports surged by $49 million in the last month from $257 million recorded in the month of February, according to Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA).

The exports, which stood at $225 million in March 2023, recorded an increase of 36 percent on a year-on-year basis.

“Crossing $300 million in a single month makes the IT industry second to only textiles in Pakistan,” Zohaib Khan, the P@SHA chairman, said in a statement.

“It is pertinent to note that IT exports for the month of March 2024 is also the highest exports of the industry in a single month in the country’s history.”

Khan said this achievement was a result of hard work of all stakeholders and favorable government policies over the past several months.

“All we need is policy continuity coupled with new initiatives vis-a-vis skills development and branding of the IT sector on a global-scale for the country’s soft-image,” he said, urging the country’s finance and revenue authorities to give due consideration and incorporation to their budgetary proposals that had already been submitted at concerned forums. 

The P@SHA Chief reiterated the IT industry would fully support the initiatives of the Pakistani IT ministry in achieving the export target of $3.5 billion for the outgoing fiscal year, which ends in June.

“We should aim for $5 billion for the forthcoming fiscal year, i.e. FY25,” he added.


PepsiCo. reports double-digit revenue growth in Pakistan, China and other nations

Updated 23 April 2024
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PepsiCo. reports double-digit revenue growth in Pakistan, China and other nations

  • The company reported better-than-expected revenue in first quarter on strong demand for snacks, beverages
  • PepsiCo. has leaned heavily into price increases over the past two years to combat higher ingredient costs

PepsiCo. reported better-than-expected revenue in the first quarter on strong international demand for its snacks and beverages.

The Purchase, New York-based company said revenue rose 2 percent to $18.3 billion for the January-April period. That was higher than the $18 billion Wall Street forecast, according to analysts polled by FactSet.

Pepsi reaffirmed its financial guidance for 2024, including organic revenue growth of 4 percent. The company has said it expects to return to more normal rates of growth this year after several years of inflation-driven price increases.

That may have disappointed investors who have grown used to stronger growth at PepsiCo. Last year organic revenue grew 9.5 percent, for example. PepsiCo’s shares fell more than 2.5 percent in morning trading Tuesday.

In North America Frito-Lay revenue rose 2 percent while Pepsi beverage sales were up 1 percent. Sales were hurt by a recall early in the quarter of Quaker Oats cereal, bars and snacks because of potential contamination with salmonella. Quaker Foods sales dropped 24 percent during the quarter.

But the company saw 11 percent sales growth in Asia Pacific and 10 percent sales growth in Europe.

PepsiCo. Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta said the company is optimistic that consumer demand will continue to rise this year in the US and elsewhere.

“The consumer, globally, we think is very resilient,” Laguarta said during a conference call with investors. “It’s basically supported by two facts: very low unemployment or quite low unemployment globally and wages growing at a good pace in the majority of the countries where we participate.”

In Europe, sales were driven by demand in Eastern Europe, Laguarta said. In Western Europe, consumers saw fewer PepsiCo. snacks and drinks on grocery shelves during the quarter. Carrefour, one of Europe’s largest supermarket chains, announced in January that it was pulling PepsiCo. products from stores in France, Belgium, Spain and Italy due to unacceptable price increases. The two companies resolved their pricing dispute and Carrefour began restocking PepsiCo. products in early April.

The company said it also saw double-digit organic revenue growth in Mexico, Brazil, Egypt, Pakistan, China and Australia.

But Laguarta added a note of caution. Consumer spending in China remains cautious, he said, and PepsiCo. is also keeping a close eye on lower-income consumers in the US, who are buying fewer snacks or switching to store brands in the face of higher prices.

“The lower-income consumer in the US is stretched,” he said. “That’s a consumer that we are emphasizing in our commercial programs and we are learning how best to keep that consumer in our categories.”

PepsiCo. has leaned heavily into price increases over the past two years to combat higher ingredient costs. The fourth quarter of 2023 was the company’s eighth straight quarter of double-digit percentage price increases.

Those increases moderated in the first quarter. PepsiCo. said net pricing was up 5 percent globally during the quarter, while volumes fell 2 percent. PepsiCo. has said some of that volume decline is strategic. The company has been shrinking package sizes to meet consumer demand for convenience and portion control.

PepsiCo. said its net earnings rose 5.6 percent to $2 billion in the first quarter. Excluding special items, the company earned $1.61 per share. That beat Wall Street’s forecast of $1.52.


Pakistani families urge President Raisi to release cargo crew detained in Iran

Updated 23 April 2024
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Pakistani families urge President Raisi to release cargo crew detained in Iran

  • Jalal Ahmed, the cargo boat captain, was on his way from Dubai to Somalia when he was caught by Iran four years ago
  • The families of detained Pakistanis say they have not been informed of the charges against Ahmed, others on the boat

KARACHI: Families of Pakistani crew members aboard a cargo boat, which set sail from Dubai to Somalia but was detained by Iran four years ago, appealed to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Tuesday for their release, citing a lack of cooperation from Iranian authorities.
Raisi, who arrived in Pakistan on Monday for a three-day visit, flew to Karachi today after a brief stopover in Lahore. During his stay in Karachi, the Iranian president is slated to meet with government officials and businessmen.
The family of Jalal Ahmed, the captain of the cargo boat, along with others, staged a demonstration in front of the Karachi Press Club to highlight the difficulties they have faced in securing the release of their loved ones, who have been incarcerated in Iran’s Minab city for the past four years.
“We have come here because my brother is imprisoned in the city of Minab in Iran,” Gul Saba, Ahmed’s sister, told Arab News while urging Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif to intervene in the matter to secure the release of the detained crew members.
“We also appeal to Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi to release our brother and the other ten [people] who accompanied him,” she continued.
Saba added her 45-year-old brother, who has three children, was transporting cargo from Dubai to Somalia when his ship was stopped by the Iranian authorities.
She said her family members had traveled to Iran, but there had been no response from Iranian authorities.
“No statement has come [from Iranian officials] regarding why [the Pakistani crew members] have been imprisoned,” she added. “There may be no crime involved as their cargo ship was legal.”
Arab News could not independently verify the claims made by the affected family.
Jawad Jalal, Ahmed’s 10-year-old son, also participated in the protest along with his mother, Sadia Ahmed, and aunt Saba.
“When I was six, my father was imprisoned in Iran,” he said while reminiscing how Ahmed escorted him to school before being detained.
“He should be released so he can drop me off at school once again,” he continued, holding a placard emblazoned with the demand for his father’s release from Iranian prison.