Pakistan’s top IT body says government signed ‘death warrant’ of industry with budget 2024-25

In this photograph, taken on March 8, 2024, people work at their stations at the Systems Limited, one of Pakistan’s largest software export companies, in Karachi. (AN Photo/File)
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Updated 14 June 2024
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Pakistan’s top IT body says government signed ‘death warrant’ of industry with budget 2024-25

  • Pakistan’s IT sector continued growth momentum in April marking another all-time high of $310 million inflows
  • Chairman of P@SHA says IT industry was already facing a dearth of skilled and highly-skilled workforce

KARACHI: Officials of the Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA) on Thursday expressed “profound apprehensions” about Pakistan’s national budget announced a day earlier, saying the IT Industry’s proposals had been “completely overlooked” and demanding amendments to the finance bill.
Pakistan’s IT sector continued its growth momentum in April this year, marking another all-time high record of $310 million in inflows. Central bank data shows the country achieved 62 percent year-on-year growth in the sector. During the 10 months of the current fiscal year (10MFY24), IT exports clocked in at $2.59 billion, up by 21 percent annual basis as compared to $2.14 billion recorded in 10MFY23.
Pakistani IT exports are expected to rise to above $3.5 billion after the caretaker government allowed a retention limit from 35 percent to 50 percent in the Exporters’ Specialized Foreign Currency Accounts.
Against this background, Ali Ihsan, senior vice chairman of P@SHA, said the government had signed the “death warrant” of the IT industry with the new budget.
“The government should have been aware that the last savior of Pakistan’s economy is the IT industry,” Ihsan said, “be it exports, current account management, employment generation or foreign direct investment.”
Muhammad Zohaib Khan, the chairman of P@SHA, said the IT industry was already facing a dearth of skilled and highly-skilled workforce:
“The government should have given a special package to the human resource pool to enable IT companies to continue with the momentum of double-digit growth in IT exports.”
He said higher income taxes on the salaried class included in the budget would “further fuel the brain drain of the skilled workforce from the IT industry of Pakistan,” adding that an allocation of Rs79 billion ($282.8 million) was primarily for the government’s own projects and IT parks while the industry as a whole and IT companies had been neglected.
“The situation was already alarming vis-à-vis taxes and human resource availability and P@SHA has, time and again, duly presented the facts and relevant proposals to the government,” Khan added.
On taxation measures, the P@SHA chief emphasized that the burden on IT companies was further compounded by the failure to address the challenges posed by the remote worker tax regime.
“Ironically, instead of removing the anomalies in current tax laws, additional taxes have been levied on imports of equipment and GST on hardware has been counterproductively enhanced from 5 percent to 10 percent,” Khan said.
He said the budget “directly” contradicted the Ministry of IT and Telecom’s claims of supporting the industry for investments and exports, demanding “necessary amendments” in the finance bill to ensure that Pakistan’s IT sector continued on its “spectacular growth trajectory.”


One month on, families of tourists abducted in southwestern Pakistan await their recovery

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One month on, families of tourists abducted in southwestern Pakistan await their recovery

  • The Baloch Liberation Army separatist group kidnapped seven ethnic Punjabi tourists from a picnic spot in Balochistan on June 19
  • The group offered release of the seven abductees in exchange for the release of its fighters, but Pakistani authorities have refused the offer

QUETTA: The world of Shan Raza, 58, fell apart last month when he came to know that his three sons, Rehan, Farhan and Hassan, had been abducted by a separatist group along with two of his relatives in Pakistan’ southwestern Balochistan province.
Since then, Raza has been trying hard to bring a smile on the faces of his grandchildren, whom he finds wearing a dismal look since their fathers were taken away from Shaban, a tourist spot some 35 kilometers away from the provincial capital of Quetta.
Pakistan’s most impoverished Balochistan province shares its border with Iran and Afghanistan and has been the scene of a low-level insurgency for the last two decades. The separatists demand independence from Pakistan and seek control over provincial resources like gold and copper.
These groups have often targeted Pakistani forces and people from the Punjab province, the heartland of Pakistani military and political elite, in the restive southwestern region over what they say are enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings of Baloch men. Pakistan denies it.
Raza’s sons, his nephew and a relative had gone to Shaban for picnic on June 19. They were among seven people abducted from the spot by the outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA).
“My entire house is empty now, my family keeps asking me about the release of my abducted sons, but now we are in very gloomy conditions for the last thirty days,” Raza told Arab News this week.
“The tears in the eyes of my wife and daughters-in-law are dried, they want nothing from me but the safe return of my sons.”
Recalling the day when his sons left home for Shaban, the 58-year-old said they had initially planned to go to Peer Ghaib, another picnic spot in Balochistan’s mountainous Bolan district, but he didn’t allow them due to security concerns.
“Then they told me that they were going to Shaban, but I didn’t know this place was not safe either,” Raza added.
Shortly after their abduction, the BLA offered the government to negotiate their release in exchange for BLA fighters incarcerated in Pakistani jails.
The group this month announced it would “implement punishments of the arrested suspects” after the government refused to negotiate their release, but there has since been no news of the hostages. The separatists accuse ethnic Punjabi settlers in Balochistan of spying for state agencies, though they have rarely offered any evidence to support their claim.
But Raza was hopeful that the government might be making efforts to secure the release of his sons and others. “I want nothing from them [Pakistani officials], but a safe recovery of my sons,” he said.
Shahid Rind, a spokesman for the Balochistan government, said the government and Pakistani security forces were making joint efforts to recover the abductees.
“The chief minister met with the despondent families and apprised them of government efforts,” Rind told Arab News. “[But] the demand to release detained terrorists for a swap of Shaban abductees is unacceptable for the government of Balochistan.”
Rihan, the son of Raza’s abducted nephew Muhammad Raza, said his family was praying day and night for the release of his father. “My mother, sister and grandmother are very much depressed since my father was kidnapped,” the 13-year-old said.
Raza said the wait for his sons and other abductees has been “excruciating.”
“We run toward the door on every single knock and get alerted on every single call on our cell phones with hopes that my sons will return home,” the dejected father said, with teary eyes.


Pakistan’s northwestern province forms inquiry commission after deadly shooting at Bannu rally

Updated 8 min 42 sec ago
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Pakistan’s northwestern province forms inquiry commission after deadly shooting at Bannu rally

  • KP administration says the commission will ensure ‘transparent’ probe and its report will be made public
  • It says the incident occurred at a sensitive area in Bannu cantonment that was on alert due to militancy

PESHAWAR: The provincial administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) on Saturday announced the establishment of an inquiry commission to ensure a “transparent investigation” into the killings of people in a shooting incident at a rally in Bannu a day earlier, where people were calling for peace amid a surge in militant attacks.
At least two persons were killed and more than 20 injured after gunfire triggered a stampede at the procession attended by tens of thousands of people. The demonstration was held at a time when KP, which borders Afghanistan, has seen a surge in attacks on security forces, government officials and anti-polio vaccination teams in recent weeks.
The shocking increase in daily attacks led the residents of the area to demand peace only a few days after 10 soldiers were killed by militants in the cantonment area in Bannu.
In a statement shared on his social media account, KP government’s spokesperson Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif said Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur was personally monitoring the situation in the city.
“The chief minister has also announced the formation of a commission for a transparent investigation into the incident,” he informed. “The commission will conduct an impartial investigation and present a report, which will be made public. The role of those responsible will be determined and legal action will be taken.”
Local residents and some Pakistani politicians accused the security forces of the shooting incident, though the KP official was reticent about who was responsible.
“The unpleasant incident occurred at a sensitive location in Bannu cantonment, the same place where a suicide bombing took place recently,” he added. “Sensitive areas generally have high security alerts, and soldiers and civilians were martyred in the suicide attack. The sensitive nature of this location was also a factor in yesterday’s unfortunate incident.”
The KP spokesperson urged the public to exercise “extreme caution” given the current wave of militant attacks.
Meanwhile, a global rights organization, Amnesty International, took notice of the firing incident in Bannu, calling it a violation of the right to peaceful assembly.
“The use of lethal force at a peaceful rally advocating for peace is unlawful and is at odds with the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials,” it noted in a statement.
“The Government of Pakistan has repeatedly failed to promote and facilitate peaceful assembly, and to ensure the safety of protesters,” it continued. “[Amnesty] urges the government to promptly investigate and hold to account officials responsible for the attack.”
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also said it was “appalled” by the development.
“This seemingly state-sanctioned violation of citizens’ right to life and right to freedom of peaceful assembly is reprehensible and reflects a dangerous contempt for citizen-led calls for peace,” it added.
The participants of the public gathering in Bannu have announced to continue their rally.


Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Israeli occupation of Palestine, calls on world to implement it

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan welcomes ICJ ruling on Israeli occupation of Palestine, calls on world to implement it

  • The International Court of Justice on Friday said Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank and east Jerusalem violated international law
  • Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in 1967 Mideast war, Palestinians seek all three areas for an independent state

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday welcomed the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) advisory opinion on Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and demanded the world implement the ruling to ensure the Palestinians get their due rights.
The United Nations (UN) top court said Israel’s settlement policy in the West Bank and east Jerusalem violated international law as it delivered on Friday a non-binding advisory opinion on the legality of Israel’s 57-year occupation of lands sought for a Palestinian state.
Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians seek all three areas for an independent state. The ICJ ruling could have more effect on international opinion than it will on Israeli policies.
In a post on X, Sharif said the ICJ ruling that Israel must end its occupation and illegal settlements was a vindication of the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people.
“I urge the international community & UN to implement the ruling, ensuring Palestinian self-determination through a two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions,” he said.
“Proud that Pakistan contributed to the case, demonstrating our unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause.”


Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters.”
Friday’s ruling by the ICJ came against the backdrop of Israel’s devastating 10-month military assault on Gaza, which was triggered by the Hamas-led attacks in southern Israel.
The court also found that Israel’s use of natural resources was “inconsistent” with its obligations under international law as an occupying power.
In a separate case, the ICJ is considering a South African claim that Israel’s campaign in Gaza amounts to genocide, a claim that Israel vehemently denies.


Pakistan to invite Chinese companies for investment in seven major sectors

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan to invite Chinese companies for investment in seven major sectors

  • Development comes days after Pakistan reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a $7 billion loan
  • Islamabad is trying to boost foreign investment to cut its reliance on foreign debts to support economy

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has decided to invite Chinese companies for investment in seven major sectors of the economy, Privatization Minister Abdul Aleem Khan said on Saturday, amid the South Asian country’s quest for foreign funds to support its economy.
The statement came after a meeting attended by Khan, Commerce Minister Jam Kamal Khan with regard to bilateral trade between Pakistan and China, according to Pakistan’s Privatization Commission.
These major sectors include medical appliances, plastics, clothing, leather, meat, fruit and vegetables, and waste and fodder, while a strategy for joint ventures between Chinese and Pakistani companies has been finalized.
“Cooperation between Chinese companies can increase bilateral trade by $1 billion,” Khan, who is also the chairman of Pakistan’s Board of Investment (BOI), was quoted as saying in a statement by Privatization Commission. “Pakistan wants to open new doors of bilateral trade with China in various fields.”
Khan asked officials to immediately discuss the proposals with investment firms and take measures to set up new industries where maximum supply of electricity was possible. “For Chinese companies, the Pakistani embassy in Beijing should also be taken on board,” he said.
Commerce Minister Jam Kamal also held detailed discussions regarding Chinese companies and trade affairs, according to the statement. He directed his ministry to fully cooperate with and join efforts of the Board of Investment.
Pakistan, which has been facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, this month reached a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $7 billion loan.
The South Asian country is making desperate attempts to boost foreign investment to cut its reliance on foreign debts to support its $350 billion fragile economy.


Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan

Updated 20 July 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s KSrelief continues aid projects in Lebanon, Pakistan

  • KSrelief implemented Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan’s Sindh and Balouchistan provinces
  • During the program, KSrelief’s medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful surgeries

RIYADH: Saudi aid group, KSrelief, has distributed 25,000 bags of bread in Akkar Governorate and Miniyeh District in Lebanon.

The distribution comes as part of KSrelief’s Al-Amal Charitable Bakery project to support Syrian and Palestinian refugee families, and the host community living in northern Lebanon, benefiting 125,000 individuals.

KSrelief continues to distribute bread to refugee families in northern Lebanon. (SPA)

Elsewhere, KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10.

During the program, rolled out in cooperation with the Albasar International Foundation, KSrelief's volunteer medical team examined 21,614 cases, distributed 4,683 eyeglasses, and performed 2,038 successful eye surgeries.

KSrelief implemented the Saudi Noor Volunteer Program to combat blindness and eye diseases in Pakistan's provinces of Sindh and Balouchistan from May 15 to July 10. (SPA)