Pakistan’s ruling party, key ally to hold further talks to bridge budget differences

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Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (right) meets PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari in Islamabad, Pakistan on June 20, 2024. (Government of Pakistan/X)
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Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif (center) meets former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and representatives of his party, Pakistan Peoples Party, in Islamabad, Pakistan on June 20, 2024. (Government of Pakistan)
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Updated 21 June 2024
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Pakistan’s ruling party, key ally to hold further talks to bridge budget differences

  • Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz agree to form committees to resolve differences 
  • Bhutto-Zardari led PPP has accused government of ignoring its recommendations in federal budget

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ruling party and one of its major coalition allies, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Thursday agreed to form committees to bridge their differences over the fiscal budget and other matters related to the allocation of development funds, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said in a statement. 

Differences between the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PPP parties arose last week when the government unveiled its much-awaited Rs18.877 trillion ($67.76 billion) federal budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 on Wednesday. 

The tax-heavy budget is expected to play a pivotal role in Pakistan’s negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a fresh financial assistance program with the global lender. The PPP alleged that the government did not take it into confidence regarding key aspects of the budget.

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari called on Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif with a delegation of senior party leaders on Thursday to discuss the main points of contention between them, ahead of the key vote on the budget slated for next week. PPP lawmakers’ votes will be crucial for the government, without which it would not be able to pass the document. 

“All political parties have to work together for the country’s progress, prosperity and public welfare,” Sharif was quoted as saying in a handout issued by the PMO after the meeting concluded. 

The prime minister said the government has taken measures in the budget to provide relief to the common man.

“Further consultation will continue through the committees,” the statement said. 

It pointed out how Pakistan’s benchmark index rose to a historic high on Thursday, saying that it was proof that the budget had been validated by traders and investors. 

Pakistan’s benchmark share index rose 2.8 percent to a new record high on Thursday, as investors welcomed the budget since it avoided an anticipated increase in capital gains tax, despite an ambitious tax revenue target.

Pakistan’s parliament held a debate session on the budget after a hiatus of a week on Thursday. Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub described it as “economic terrorism.”

“This budget in actuality is economic terrorism against the people and the future of the country,” Ayub said. 

'RUBBER STAMP IN PARLIAMENT'

PPP lawmaker Sehar Kamran told Arab News earlier this week that the government had ignored her party in pre-budget consultations and wanted to use them as a “rubber stamp” in parliament to have the budget passed.

“Shehbaz Sharif’s government wants to use us as a rubber stamp in parliament to pass the budget, but we won’t do it if our reservations are not addressed,” Kamran said.

Kamran said the two parties also disagreed over the distribution of development funds and various projects related to Pakistan’s provinces.

The PPP, which voted Sharif into power after the contentious national election in February, is not part of the federal government but has its government in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. 

“If the government needs our votes in parliament to pass the budget, then it will have to listen to us first to address our grievances,” she had said.


Pakistan’s disaster management authorities warn of floods in Sindh, Punjab from next week

Updated 6 sec ago
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Pakistan’s disaster management authorities warn of floods in Sindh, Punjab from next week

  • Heavy monsoon rains killed 24, injured 80 in Punjab last weekend, as per official figures
  • Monsoon rains expected to lash parts of Sindh, Punjab from Monday to Thursday next week

ISLAMABAD: The Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMA) in Pakistan’s Sindh and Punjab provinces have warned of flash floods in the country’s two provinces from next week amid a forecast of heavy rains, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported on Sunday. 

Heavy monsoon rains have lashed Punjab and Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces this week. At least 24 people were killed and 80 injured in Punjab last weekend as heavy rains lashed many parts of the province, official figures said.

“Provincial Disaster Management Authorities of Punjab and Sindh have warned of flash floods in various cities of the provinces due to heavy monsoon rains, likely to start from tomorrow till Thursday,” Radio Pakistan reported.

PDMA Punjab spokesperson said floods were expected in Punjab’s cities of Rawalpindi, Attock, Jhelum, Chakwal, Mandi Bahauddin, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Hafizabad, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Narowal, Sahiwal, Jhang, and Toba Tek Singh, among others. 

As per Pakistan’s Meteorological Department, rains and thunderstorms are likely to occur in Sindh’s Tharparkar, Umarkot, Badin, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Hyderabad, Tando Mohammad Khan, Tando Allah Yar, Matiari, Kambar, Shadad kot, Kashmore, Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Ghotki, Sukkur, Thatta and Sajawal districts.

“The spokesperson said PDMA issued an alert for the administration of these cities to take necessary precautions,” Radio Pakistan said. 

The spokesperson urged the public to follow the government’s instructions and take necessary precautionary measures to avoid any damage.

Pakistan is recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change effects in the world. Unusually heavy rains in June 2022 triggered flash floods in many parts of the country, killing over 1,700 people, inflicting losses of around $30 billion, and affecting at least 30 million people. 


Over 70 local businesses show interest in collaborating with Chinese firms relocating to Pakistan

Updated 8 min 59 sec ago
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Over 70 local businesses show interest in collaborating with Chinese firms relocating to Pakistan

  • Government says Chinese firms in textile, medical, plastic and leather sectors will be brought to Pakistan
  • PM Sharif says the transfer of Chinese industries will improve economy, create jobs and strengthen exports

ISLAMABAD: More than 70 local businesses have expressed interest in collaborating with Chinese firms planning to shift their industrial units to Pakistan, according to a briefing given to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif during a meeting on Saturday to review progress on bilateral cooperation between the two countries.

The meeting was a continuation of the prime minister’s five-day visit to China last month, during which he interacted with investors and participated in wide-ranging business-to-business engagements.

Sharif also met top Chinese leaders, including President Xi Jinping, and discussed the possibility of enhancing cooperation under the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Apart from that, he visited Chinese agricultural zones and reached an understanding to send Pakistani students interested in learning advanced techniques to increase crop yield amid mounting concerns related to climate change.

“A comprehensive roadmap for the transfer of Chinese industries to Pakistan was presented to the meeting,” said a briefing given to the prime minister according to an official statement released after the meeting. “Collaboration with Chinese companies will be established to transfer Chinese textile, medical and surgical instruments, plastic and leather industries to Pakistan.”

“Seventy-eight Pakistani companies have initially expressed deep interest in collaborating to transfer Chinese industries to the country,” it added.

Sharif was also told that a comprehensive plan to send 1,000 students to China for advanced agricultural training at government expense had been completed.

“The first batch of students will be sent to China at the start of this academic year,” the statement said. “The next batch will be sent to China’s advanced agricultural universities after learning the Chinese language in Pakistan for which the plan has been completed.”

The prime minister said that China was a long-standing friend that had always helped Pakistan in difficult times.

“The Chinese leadership is committed to further increasing investment in Pakistan,” he continued. “The transfer of Chinese industries to Pakistan will improve the national economy, create new employment opportunities and increase Pakistan’s exports.”


Pakistan PM mourns Sheila Jackson Lee’s death, praises her for strengthening bilateral ties

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan PM mourns Sheila Jackson Lee’s death, praises her for strengthening bilateral ties

  • The US Congresswoman was suffering from pancreatic cancer and died on Friday at the age of 74
  • She was the founder of the Pakistan Caucus that was launched in 2004 to foster strong relations

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday expressed grief over the death of American Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, saying she played a significant role to strengthen her country’s bilateral ties with Pakistan.
The US Congresswoman was suffering from pancreatic cancer and died in Houston on Friday night at the age of 74. She was the founder and co-chair of the Pakistan Caucus launched in 2004 within the United States House of Representatives.
The forum was established with the goal of fostering stronger US-Pakistan relations and addressing issues of mutual concern between the two countries.
“Deeply saddened to learn about the sad demise of @JacksonLeeTX18 Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee,” Sharif said in a social media post. “As Co-chair of the Pakistan Caucus in the US House of Representatives, she was a champion for stronger ties between Pakistan and the United States.”
“Her contributions will be remembered and missed for years to come,” he continued. “May her soul rest in peace. My heartfelt condolences to her family and her supporters.”
 


The Pakistan Caucus has been instrumental in facilitating high-level meetings and discussions between officials of the two countries, helping to address mutual concerns such as regional security and trade opportunities.


Ex-PM Khan’s party alleges ‘abduction’ of senior media manager amid government crackdown

Updated 20 July 2024
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Ex-PM Khan’s party alleges ‘abduction’ of senior media manager amid government crackdown

  • PTI’s international media coordinator was taken away from his residence by people in plain clothes at 4 AM
  • Ahmed Janjua’s wife filed an application in a local court for his recovery, requesting an immediate hearing

ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party announced on Saturday its senior media manager had been “abducted,” adding the development was part of an ongoing crackdown against the party which had deteriorated the human rights situation in the country.
PTI has been facing a crackdown for over a year after people carrying its flag indulged in violent protests and vandalized government buildings and military properties following Khan’s brief detention on corruption charges.
Since then, several of its top leaders, including the ex-premier himself, have been incarcerated in different parts of the country and tried in a number of legal cases against them.
The recent development took place when the party’s international media coordinator was taken away from his residence, making his wife file an application in a court for his recovery.
“My International Media Coordinator Ahmed Janjua and 3 other SM [social media] activists have been abducted early morning,” said Zulfi Bukhari, a senior PTI leader and close aide to the former prime minister, in a social media post. “In the past 2 weeks there has been a serious crackdown on PTI social media [team].”
Bukhari attributed it to the team’s international reporting of “all the atrocities” taking place in Pakistan.
“This continuous deterioration of basic human rights won’t be allowed to continue for long,” he added.

 Janjua’s wife, Farhana Barlas, filed an application in the Islamabad High Court, requesting an immediate hearing. However, the court is likely to take up the case on Monday since the incident took place over the weekend.
According to her application, 20 people in plain clothes forcibly entered the house at 4 AM on Saturday after breaking the door.
They took away Janjua’s laptop and cellphones before dragging him away.
The family tried to file a First Information Report (FIR) with the police, but it was not registered by the relevant officials.
Janjua’s wife said her husband had been taken away due to his affiliation with Khan’s political party.
She nominated the federal secretaries of the defense and interior ministries as the respondents, along with the inspector general of police and the station house officer of the local police precinct.

 


Key coalition ally of Pakistan government opposes ban on ex-PM Khan’s political party

Updated 20 July 2024
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Key coalition ally of Pakistan government opposes ban on ex-PM Khan’s political party

  • PPP says it will not become part of any ‘undemocratic move,’ though the matter will be decided by top leaders
  • The government announced its plan to impose a ban on PTI for alleged involvement in anti-state activities

ISLAMABAD: A key coalition ally of the Pakistan government on Saturday distanced itself from the decision to ban jailed former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party for its alleged involvement in anti-state activities, saying it would not become part of such an “undemocratic move.”
Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Attaullah Tarar announced the government’s plan earlier this week to ban Khan’s party, just days after the Supreme Court handed PTI a major legal victory by declaring it eligible for reserved seats for women and minorities in the national and provincial assemblies.
Tarar justified the decision on the basis of “available evidence,” saying the ex-PM’s party was guilty of inciting violent protests last year, which made its followers set government buildings on fire, along with publicizing state secrets.
Shortly after his announcement, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s coalition partners, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), said they had not been taken into confidence.
Subsequently, government representatives, including Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar, held a meeting with President Asif Ali Zardari, the PPP co-chairman, on Friday and told him about the decision to file treason charges against Khan and two senior PTI leaders, former President Arif Alvi and ex-Deputy National Assembly Speaker Qasim Suri.
“We have clearly told Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s representatives our party would not become part of any undemocratic move like banning the PTI,” Sehar Kamran, a PPP lawmaker, told Arab News. “We are the government’s key coalition partners but we were not consulted on its decision to slap a ban on Imran Khan’s party.”
Kamran said the PPP would take the matter to its Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting for a final decision, though “one thing is for sure that we are not going to be part of any undemocratic, unconstitutional and illegal action of the government.”
She said it was not clear yet as to when her party’s CEC meeting would be called as the party chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was out of the country.
“The government should try to find out democratic and constitutional solutions to its problems,” she added.
Sharif’s another key coalition partner, MQM-P, also said they were not taken on board before the announcement of the government’s decision to ban PTI and file treason charges against Khan and other leaders.
“Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s party has not contacted us yet for consultation on their decision to ban PTI and file treason charges against the party’s leadership,” an MQM-P media cell official told Arab News on condition of anonymity.
“We will discuss the matter in our party before making the final decision whether we should stand by the government or not,” he continued. “It is too early to say anything about it. Let’s wait for the government to share its plans with us first.”
Arab News reached out to the information minister for comment but did not receive a response.