The Supreme Court (SC) has directed Auditor General of Pakistan (AGP) to conduct within two weeks special audit of schemes and works executed in the constituency of former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf during the last days of the outgoing PPP government. The court also ordered that it may be informed how much amount was released for how many schemes during 2012-13. A three-memebr bench of SC led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry took up the case of illegal use of development funds by former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf for hearing on Tuesday. The CJP remarked, “No money is available for generation of power. People are dying due to load shedding. On the other hand, the erstwhile government withdrew development funds of trillion of rupees and spent it on irrelevant people and schemes. We have been asking since several days but no one is there to explain it. The construction of Bhasha dam was stopped. Youths are the future of Pakistan. Their scholarships were suspended and this amount was spent on irrelevant places. All have joined hands to devour the money. No one is realising the situation. The difficulty is that we don’t know who we can trust. This practice is continuing since 1985. Amount was released despite the curbs. Money was provided to Raja Basharat, Moonis Elahi, Sardar Mushtaq and Mehmood Khan Achakzai. It was not known to AGPR that the government was on the way to exit and this amount could not be released. We will take account of even a single pie.” AGP Tahir Mehmood told the court that the PM could spend the money under Khushhali programme. “Such powers rested with the PM that he could utilise funds of 12-year Khushhali programme.” The CJP remarked, “Why are you lending such support on political basis. Money was given to irrelevant people in the constituency. The AG had said that parliament could legislate with reference to development projects. Ban was imposed on uplift projects from February 7 to March 15. Despite that, billions of rupees were given without verification.” Mehmood said the finance deputy secretary had got released the amount through pressure. The CJP remarked, “We have to see now where Rs 42 billion were spent or were it devoured by the people.” Cabinet Division Secretary Zafar Iqbal said the amount was spent under seven heads. “This amount was spent on construction of roads, bridges, drains, boundary walls of grave yards and electrification of areas.” The CJP said the jobs related to district governments and “you have assigned this work to members of parliament”. “No one is ready to assist us. We will call the AG and give the decision after hearing his arguments. We cannot afford more delays. How much money was released during the last days of the government when the election commission had imposed a ban?” The court was told that the ban was imposed on March 11. All was done on the day when it was a holiday. Justice Ejaz remarked, “After doing every thing you claim you know nothing. No one is ready to give even a pie to the poor. The PM is not a monarch that you have to comply with whatever he says.” The CJP said government was constructing drains by leaving aside construction of Bhasha dam and putting at stake the future of the nation by stopping scholarships to youth. “We talk of transparency. Who will conduct checking of expenses? You all are conniving with each other,” the CJP remarked, adding that “Rs 7,736 million were given to you. This amount was released on March 15. Where has it gone?” The court observed that the Finance Ministry had been pressurising the AGP office for releasing funds and directed the ministry to file its reply. “The Finance Ministry tried to take over the administrative powers of AGP. Former finance secretary should file reply on this count,” the court ordered. The court also issued notice to AG seeking reply from him about the discretionary powers of the PM. The hearing case was adjourned for two weeks.
Two suspected militants of central Asian origin apprehended in North Waziristan were shifted to Peshawar from Miranshah for interrogation purposes. Highly-placed official sources told Pakistan Today on Wednesday that during a search operation, law enforcement agencies arrested several suspects, who were taken to Miranshah, where two of them were identified as Central Asian nationals. The sources said both the suspects introduced themselves as Chechens. The two were later taken to Peshawar under tight security where they could be interrogated by teams from various law enforcement and secret agencies. The sources said the purpose of further interrogation was to net out their accomplices and links in the region. It is after about a period of six years that the law enforcement agencies have been succeeded in arresting two foreign militants from North Waziristan.
US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Olson has said holding dialogue with the Taliban was the prerogative of Pakistani government. Talking to reporters in Islamabad on Wednesday, Olson said any dialogue with Taliban was for the Pakistani government to decide. However‚ he said‚ any reservations regarding these proposed talks would depend on terms and conditions of the dialogue with Taliban. Terming the recent general elections a big success of Pakistani nation in which democratic forces emerged victorious, he said a historic turnout was witnessed in the elections and reflected that the people had confidence in democracy. He said the elections proved to be a defeat for those who were against democratic values and holding of elections. Earlier‚ inaugurating an English language laboratory at SOS Children's Village in Islamabad ‚ he said the US was rehabilitating buildings of 800 schools affected by the 2005 earthquake in Pakistan. He said the US was also helping launch new degree programmes in 90 universities and colleges besides giving scholarships to 12,000 students studying in various institutions in Pakistan. Olson said Washington was also providing $15 million dollars to NGOs to improve socio-economic condition at community level.
Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang will be arriving in Islamabad today (Wednesday) on a two-day landmark visit. It is Keqiang’s first visit to Pakistan after assuming charge as the prime minister and he would be accorded a warm welcome by the Pakistani government. President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Justice (r) Mir Hazar Khan Khoso will receive Prime Minister Keqiang. Six JF-17 thunder fighters of the Pakistan Air Force will escort the Chinese premier’s aircraft after its entry into the Pakistani airspace. The JF-17s will guide the special Air China Boeing 747 aircraft to the Nur Khan Air Base, where a 21-gun salute will herald its arrival. The visit is taking place immediately after the general elections in Pakistan. It will provide an opportunity to the Chinese premier to meet the newly-elected political leadership in the country. On the eve of his visit, the Chinese premier hinted at his government’s likely initiatives for increasing imports from Pakistan, stating that “China takes its trade imbalance with Pakistan seriously and is taking measures to address the issue as there is great potential to be tapped in their economic cooperation”. “Pakistan’s export to China last year increased by nearly 50 percent. China is Pakistan’s second largest trading partner and fourth largest export market. Steady progress has been made in their cooperation in energy, infrastructure, telecommunications and financial sectors,” he added. The Chinese premier will be accompanied by Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Minister for Commerce Gao Hucheng and National Development Reform Commission Chairman Xu Shaoshi. After his arrival today, the Chinese premier will meet President Zardari at the Presidency. Then he will hold talks with the president and the prime minister after which there will be a joint press stakeout. Prime Minister Khoso will host a banquet for the Chinese prime minister in the evening. Keqiang will also be conferred upon the highest award of Nishan-e-Pakistan. He will also hold a joint meeting with the Senate chairman and the National Assembly speaker and will also address the Senate. Leaders of the political parties will also call upon the visiting Chinese prime minister. On May 23, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif will call on the Chinese premier. He will also visit the Pakistan-China friendship Centre with Prime Minister Khoso and is also scheduled to plant a tree in Shakarparian. Prime Minister Khoso will bid farewell to the Chinese premier on Thursday and the six JF-17s will again escort the dignitary until the aerial limits of Pakistan. Premier Keqiang’s visit will mark yet another important step forward in reinforcing the strategic partnership between the two countries and open up new avenues for bilateral cooperation. In an earlier interview with the Pakistani media, the Chinese prime minister said, “When it comes to Pakistan, the first word that comes to the mind of the Chinese is ‘iron brother’. To us, the Chinese, Pakistan is always a trustworthy friend who is as solid as iron.” “Actually, the Chinese refer to Pakistan as Iron Pak. This testifies to the strength of China-Pakistan friendship. In 1986, I led a youth delegation to Pakistan. Wherever we went, in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, we were greeted with rapturous welcome. The petals showering on us and brightly smiling faces are still fresh in my memory, as if it happened only yesterday. I will never forget the goodwill of the Pakistani people,” he added.
Six independent candidates elected from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) on Monday announced joining the PML-N. The six, including Shahji Gul, Bismillah Khan, Sajid Toori, Ghazi Gulab Jamal, Bilal Rahman and Nazir Khan, met PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif in Raiwind before announcing the decision. The members from the tribal region have selected Abbas Afridi as their leader, who according to PML-N sources had already met the PML-N chief. The successful FATA candidates also assured the PML-N leadership of their full support and cooperation for the party in government formation.
It was learnt on Wednesday that up to a quarter of proposed spending budgeted under the next fiscal year’s federal development programme depended on Pakistan’s relations with international creditors. Meanwhile, uncertainty continues to linger over the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s policy towards the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Finance Ministry sources said that budget makers estimated receipts worth Rs112 billion as loans for projects in the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) 2013-14. This foreign loan component formed almost 25% of the total proposed development budget of Rs 450 billion for the next fiscal year. The National Economic Council, which would be headed by the new prime minister, would accord a final approval to next year’s PSDP before its presentation to the National Assembly. Foreign contributions are key to the PSDP’s overall size as loaned money was usually used to procure machinery and equipment for different projects. However, uncertainty regarding the timely disbursement of foreign funding was perpetual due to factors such as the timely execution of projects and the country’s relations with international creditors. Sartaj Aziz, tipped as the next adviser to the prime minister on the economy and foreign affairs, recently said that his government would not negotiate for a new programme with the IMF for at least the next three to four months. The IMF usually did not provide funds for project assistance and released money only for balance of payments crises. However, the other creditors who do – like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) – have always looked to the IMF before extending any assistance to Pakistan. Due to Islamabad’s strained relations with the IMF, the World Bank and the ADB have suspended budgetary support to Pakistan. The latter two were also in the process of canceling various project loans, primarily because of Pakistan’s inability to complete projects punctually and its bureaucratic mismanagement. Aziz’s statement heightened uncertainty as economic managers were planning their budgetary projections for the next fiscal year, a Planning Commission official said. While foreign loans for development projects were important, there was always risk in their disbursement by donors, said former State Bank of Pakistan Governor Dr Ishrat Husain. He added that slow progress on projects caused slow disbursements from international lenders. Dr Husain is also critical of the PSDP structure: he maintains that the fragmentation of PSDP allocations into various categories, like the Peoples Works Programme (which is spent at the discretion of the prime minister and parliamentarians), has rendered the PSDP ineffective and leaving little impact on economic growth. Planning Commission spokesperson Asif Sheikh said a final decision will be taken regarding the share of the foreign loan component in the total size of the PSDP after due diligence. He said the Planning Commission, having learnt from past mistakes, would take only those foreign loans into account which have already been affirmed by lenders. Out of a total of Rs 360 billion size of the PSDP for the current fiscal year, the foreign loans component was Rs 100 billion. Approximately Rs 84 billion had been received by early May, Sheikh said. Pakistan’s increasing reliance on foreign loans exposed it to exploitation by lenders, sources warned. For instance, China’s Exim Bank withheld $448 million despite committing that sum to the 969 megawatt Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project, which greatly affected work on its development. The Exim Bank forced Pakistan’s hand, asking the country to take another loan for the controversial Safe City Project, designed to protect major cities from terrorist attacks by installing scanners at key areas. The Supreme Court of Pakistan had earlier struck down the project after finding serious flaws in its contract. After the Exim Bank’s refusal to release funds otherwise, the government was forced to negotiate an expensive $500 million loan from the Standard Chartered Bank to continue work on the Neelum-Jhelum project.
The Finance Ministry has released a sum of Rs 15 billion to the Ministry of Water and Power to ensure provision of fuel to thermal power plants to overcome the energy crisis. On the other hand, ,masses irked by prolonged outages ran out of patience and resorted to immense and vociferous protests on the streets of Punjab and KP on Tuesday. The decision for provision of the fund was taken in a meeting held under caretaker Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso on Tuesday. The Finance Ministry would release another Rs 7.5 billion to the Ministry of Water and Power this month per the decision, besides arranging Rs 42 billion next month on this count. The release of this amount would ensure continuity of fuel supply to thermal power plants, enabling them to generate power in conformity with their potential. When the PPP-led coalition government came into power, the power shortfall stood at 3,000MW and the circular debt was around Rs 250 billion. Soon after assuming power, the government claimed it would end load shedding by December 2009. But these claims proved only hollow promises and the problem aggravated further. On the contrary, the circular debit surged to Rs 600 billion and power shortfall escalated to 6,000 megawatts. Citizens of Punjab have to face power outages for up to 16 hours a day in urban areas and 21 hours in rural localities. Energy sector experts warn that if no emergency arrangements are made by the new government, it would become hard for the people to spend the summer. They opined that the government would have to introduce duty-free policy for the period ranging between 5 to 10 years for the private sector to import power generation machinery. Payments of billion of rupees will also have to be made to gas and oil marketing companies immediately. PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif is contemplating importing 10,000MW of electricity from India. The PML-N-led government will consider seriously evolving short term and long term strategy to import 1000MW from India to over come power shortage. Meanwhile during protests against the power outages, people in Lahore staged a protest outside the residence of PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, raising slogans against the caretaker setup. Protests were also held in Multan’s Chowk No 9, Bahawalnagar’s district bar association and Peshawar. Officials of water and power have put the electricity production at 11,260MW against a demand of 15,000MW, an overall shortfall of 3,740MW.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Mohammad Ibrahim on Tuesday said that the people should not fear radicalisation of curriculum if the provincial education department goes to his party as its education programme was similar to that of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf. “It is only propaganda. If other countries make their children aware of their war history, our children should also know about it. We need to prepare ourselves for the defence of our country,” Ibrahim told reporters. The people holding key positions in the provincial bureaucracy feel the likely decision to assign the provincial education department to JI may cause more harm than good. “If given the provincial Education Department, we will act in line with the basic principles of our Constitution,” Ibrahim said, rejecting fears that JI might propagate jihad in textbooks. He said there was nothing unconstitutional in the curriculum at the moment, so his party would not bring big changes to the curriculum. Education experts do not agree with the JI provincial chief’s contention. A former chairman of Peshawar Textbook Board and current vice chancellor of Bacha Khan University, Charsadda Professor Fazl-i-Rahim Marwat, said many changes had been made to curriculum since 2006 to bring in the message of peace and progressive thought. “Everyone knows JI protested against these changes and forced us to reverse changes in Islamiat and English textbook,” he said. Marwat feared that subjects, which propagated radical or biased mindset, should not be present in the education system. “We have shown invaders as heroes. There exists a specific mindset, which we tried to change but it is still there,” he said, referring to the past efforts to remove gender stereotyping, violence and religious/sectarian biases from the curriculum. “We’d tried our best to change things before putting them in right perspective but the curriculum is now going to be handled by JI, whose inclinations are known,” he said. However, Ibrahim brushed aside such reservations and said, “Nobody should have any fears about radicalisation of curriculum if the provincial education department goes to Jamaat-i-Islami.” He said JI leaders had held meetings with PTI leadership and Qaumi Watan Party on distribution of ministerial portfolios and they all had showed willingness to hand the education department over to his party. “If the education department is given to us, we will coordinate with PTI on all educational matters. We will promote literacy and offer free education to children up to the age of 16,” he said. PTI, which has emerged as a leading political party in the provincial assembly after May 11 polls, had promised in its election manifesto that it would declare education emergency, increase education spending from two percent to five percent of gross domestic product, introduce inform education system by doing away with the divide between the public and private sector, remove gender stereotyping, revise and improve textbooks and curriculum, and involve community in school management, and double girl enrollments in schools. However, there are many in the education department who feel that if given the major education department, JI could turn out to be a major hurdle to the implementation of the PTI emergency steps for education reforms. “If PTI tasks JI with managing the Education Department, it might radicalise curriculum,” an official said. He said the education department was important because teachers of government schools and colleges and politicians had a nexus to protect each others’ interests. “Teachers help politicians during elections and politicians help them after coming to power,” he said. The official said the chief minister should keep the education portfolio with himself to check political interference in the key department.
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) leader Yousaf Shah on Tuesday said Nawaz Sharif has indirectly contacted Samiul Haq to start negotiations with the Taliban. He said that JUI-S would give final reply of the PML-N’s request after Nawaz would take oath of prime minister. He said that to eliminate terrorism from the country, the government would have to change foreign and internal strategy by making independent policies. Shah said the PML-N wanted to initiate dialogue process with the Taliban to improve the law and order in Pakistan and showing seriousness on the matter. Nawaz had repeatedly hinted to start talks with the Taliban. He revealed that Nawaz sent a message to JUI-S head Samiul Haq and sought cooperation to establish peace in the country. He said that Samiul Haq responded positively by saying that he had made serious efforts to bring peace back to the country in the past and would continue in future too. “Although PML-N gained heavy majority in National Assembly but the negotiation process with Taliban could not be started unless Nawaz assume the charge of chief executive of the country. At present he has not any official office”, Shah added.
In the changing politics of the province, Nawab Changez Marri has emerged as the dark horse, a strong candidate by the PML-N for the office of Balochistan chief minister. Before that Sardar Sanaullah Zehri was PML-N’s candidate for the top office of the province but in a new twist in the local politics, the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party is not ready to accept Zehri as the leader of the House, hence creating a problem for the PML-N to pick a new candidate. It is learnt that the PkMAP leadership has asked PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif to name somebody else. Marri, son of Khair Buksh Marri, is the party’s general secretary in Balochistan. Following a change of heart on the part of party leadership, it seemed that lady luck had smiled on Nawab Marri. But Zehri is not happy with the party’s decision. On Tuesday, Nawaz deputed Zafar Iqbal Jhagra to convince Zehri to not insist for the coveted office in the greater interest of the party. But so far Jhagra has not been able to achieve his goal. The PML-N is all set to form government with the support of smaller parties in Balochistan. The PkMAP is the leading party in the Balochistan and so the main ally of the PML-N.
Former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) minister Arshad Abdullah and his 18 aides were arrested from courtroom on Wednesday after his interim bail extension plea was rejected. Five cases, including intervention in official work, were registered against the former minister. He was granted bail until today (Wednesday). When he appeared before the court to get extension in the interim bail the judge dismissed his plea and ordered police to arrest him. Complying with the court orders, police arrested the former minister and his 18 companions.
Former law minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Arshad Abdullah was arrested on Wednesday from a session court in Charsadda after the court cancelled his pre-arrest bail application in a case registered against him for attacking a police check post and freeing an apprehended associate. The police had lodged an FIR against Abdullah and 18 others who were accused of attacking a police check post in Charsadda’s Utmanzai area on April 26 and freeing an associate who was apprehended by the security personnel at the check post for carrying an unlicensed weapon. Abdullah and his accomplice were arrested within the court premises and were handed over to the city police station.
Refusing to take action against Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain, the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday postponed the hearing of a case against Altaf’s controversial statements and asked the petitioner to prove the maintainability of the case in the court. Heading a three-judge bench, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that it was not the job of the Supreme Court to take notice of statements that would create law and order crisis in the country as that was the job of the law enforcement and security agencies. The petition was filed by the Watan Party. Barrister Zafarullah, who represented the petitioner, read out the excerpts of Altaf Hussain’s speech published in newspapers. Zafarullah accused Hussain of threatening to divide Pakistan. Chastising the petitioner, the chief justice said that Altaf Hussain should have been made the respondent in the case if his speech was objectionable. The petitioner replied that MQM’s chairman had been named the respondent in the petition. Continuing to grill the petitioner, the chief justice told Watan Party’s representative that the MQM was “probably” headed by Farooq Sattar, not Altaf, according to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) documents. When the bench was told that Altaf Hussain did indeed head the party, Justice Ejaz said that the Supreme Court could not go after “every party leader making a speech.” The apex court adjourned the case hearing for one week. During his speech in Karachi last week when PTI workers were holding a demonstration at Teen Talwar area of Clifton, Hussain made some remarks that created controversy and prompted many Pakistani and British citizens to file complaints at London Metropolitan Police.
Intervening in the bureaucratic deadlock between the caretaker government and the country’s powerful administration, the Supreme Court on Wednesday cancelled all appointments and transfers of officers made by the government in the three months of their tenure. The SC also directed the attorney general to get a written answer from the caretaker government regarding the changes made. According to officials, the primary role of the caretaker setup was to host and oversee elections which were now over. All transferred or appointed officers will revert back to original postings. In an unprecedented move, the caretaker government of Balochistan announced the creation of two more districts, Sohbatpur and Lehri, days before its departure. Sources say the reason for this is not administrative, but political. Dividing the Khosa and Domki strongholds will allegedly benefit both the outgoing caretaker CM Balochistan and the caretaker prime minister. Caretaker Chief Minister Nawab Ghaus Bakhsh Barozai’s brother lost the elections in Sibi. It is, reportedly, after this incident that the decision to separate Sibi from Lehri was taken to ensure that Barozai retains his seat from Sibi. Hailing from Sohbatpur, caretaker prime minister Khoso was also seen supporting a candidate who eventually lost to Mir Zafarullah Jamali from the Jaffarabad constituency. Khoso, upset at the defeat, reportedly separated Sohbatpur from Jaffarabad district to ensure undivided political influence in the region.
The anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Islamabad on Wednesday reserved its ruling on a bail plea filed by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in the judges’ detention case. According to details, the ruling was reserved during a hearing of the case by ATC judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi. During the hearing, public prosecutor Amir Nadeem Tabish said clause 780-A pertaining to terrorism had been added to the list of charges against Musharraf, making the case against him even more strong. In his arguments, Tabish added that judges and their family members had been detained in their homes for months and that the charges against the former army strongman were of a serious nature, who should not be granted bail. He further said that the emergency imposed by Musharraf in the country on November 3, 2007 was detrimental not only towards the judges but for the public at large. However, Musharraf’s counsel Ilyas Siddiqui argued that there was no evidence against his client and requested the court to grant the bail application. Tabish moreover told the judge that he had been appointed public prosecutor in the case only until the court’s ruling on Musharraf’s bail plea, adding that he had no authority to present a charge sheet in the case. At this, the judge expressed amazement and asked as to how it could be that one public prosecutor was appointed for Musharraf’s bail plea and another to present charges against him. Subsequently, the judge inquired of the investigation officer as to when would the charge sheet against the former military ruler be finalised. Responding to the query, the officer said that three institutions had been approached in this respect; however, all had so far failed to submit their responses. The court reserved its ruling on the bail plea after the parties concluded their arguments.
Pakistani Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan on Wednesday left the hospital two weeks after breaking bones in his back in a fall at an election rally, a hospital spokesman said. The 60-year-old politician was ordered to remain immobile in bed after he fractured vertebrae and a rib in a dramatic tumble just days before the May 11 general election, where his party made a major breakthrough. Khwaja Nazir, a spokesman for the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Hospital in the eastern city of Lahore, where Khan was being treated, said that the Pakistani politician had returned to his home in the city. “He would stay in his Lahore home for three days and then would be shifted to his home in Islamabad,” Nazir said. “Doctors have advised him rest, for two more weeks.” On Tuesday, he was fitted with a specially designed spinal brace, which enabled him to stand upright for the first time since his fall and doctors said that Khan was able to walk unaided for over 300 meters without any discomfort or pain. Khan, who leads the PTI, electrified much of the campaign with his calls for reform and galvanised many young people to take part in voting for the first time.