KARACHI: The Sindh government on Friday announced that it would launch its Peoples Bus Service on the Lyari Expressway to lessen travelling problems of commuters.
A decision to this effect was taken in a meeting held under the chairmanship of Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, who also holds the portfolios of transport and mass transit.
It was decided in the meeting to start the Peoples Bus Service on Lyari Expressway to reduce the travel problems of the people, said a statement issued after the meeting.
“National Highway Authority member Muneer Memon and DIG Highways and Motorway Police Javed Ali Mahar briefed the participants of the meeting regarding the flow of traffic on the expressway,” it said, adding that it was decided to conduct a survey and start plying the buses on a trial basis on the expressway.
“The start of Peoples Bus Service on the Lyari Expressway will reduce the traffic burden on roads. The Sindh government will provide best travel facilities to the people,” Mr Memon said.
The Lyari Expressway carries the traffic from Sohrab Goth to Mauripur and vice versa. The NHA allows only cars, wagons/pickup and mini-truck to use the expressway on payment of prescribed toll.
Transport Secretary Saleem Rajput, Sindh Mass Transit Authority managing director Kamal Dayo, additional secretary-transport Kiran Shaikh, DIG-traffic Ahmed Nawaz Cheema, Shoaib Ahmed, Abdul Shakur Arain and others were present in the meeting.
Finance Minister Ishaq Dar on Saturday “reassured” the nation that Pakistan will not default and promised that the government had planned reforms for the country’s “long-term betterment”.
Speaking to a delegation of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Islamabad, Dar said: “Our main objective today is just to assure you that as your economic team, we are putting in all the efforts to get out of this [crisis].”
“God-willing, we will be coming up with new ideas in the weeks to come. There will be the budget and some work after that as well for Pakistan’s long-term betterment. We will bring an agricultural revolution in Pakistan, [and] a sovereign wealth fund will be created,” he said.
The minister’s assurances come as the country still awaits the much-delayed signing of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) staff-level agreement, which would unlock $1.1 billion in financing for the cash-strapped nation as part of its $7bn package.
Pakistan on Thursday recorded its highest-ever annual inflation of 37.97 year-on-year with the finance ministry terming flood damages, disruptions in supply chains, devaluation brought by the macroeconomic imbalances, and political uncertainty as the potential reasons for the price hike.
In another assault, the Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority (Ogra) last night asked the government to increase gas tariff by 45 per cent to 50pc for all consumer groups across the country to meet revenue requirement of two gas utilities — Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) and Sui Southern Gas Company Limited (SSGCL)
At the outset of his address, Dar admitted that the tough economic decisions taken by the government had put an “undoubtedly great burden on the business community and the common man”.
At one point, he stated that the government’s top priority was to ensure that “there is not a single day’s delay in Pakistan’s sovereign commitments”. Dar asserted that there had been no such delay thus far.
“Some people like to give dates that [Pakistan] will default on so and so date — they should be ashamed. They should be well-wishers [of Pakistan] and be loyal to their soil.
“Pakistan is a sovereign country. Pakistan has trillions of dollars of assets. If we have external debts of 100 billion, we also have assets,” he maintained.
Dar claimed that one asset relating to gas infrastructure was equivalent to 50pc of Pakistan’s debt.
Recounting the economic difficulties the country faced in 2014, the minister said that one year was difficult but then “everything was normal once things had settled down”.
The PML-N leader went on to claim that Pakistan had become the “best economy in South Asia” and the policy rate was 6.5pc when the PTI government took over.
According to Dar, there were “only two options” available with the parties currently in power when they took over in 2022 — either to “let the previous government stay [in power] and wait for complete destruction to take place, god forbid or to take a bold decision”.
Admitting that the government knew it would not be easy to deal with the economic crises, the minister said they took the difficult decision of “taking responsibility no matter the loss to the political capital”.
He then asserted that the “most difficult reforms have taken place” and expressed hope that there would be no issues in multilateral dealings as well.
KARACHI: The prices of wheat and pulses have failed to subside even after massive imports in the first 10 months of the current fiscal year as consumers were still paying hefty prices for the commodities.
The government spent over $1 billion to import 2.68 million tonnes of wheat during July-April FY23 compared to $795 million for procuring 2.20m tonnes in the corresponding period last year.
The average per tonne (APT) price of grain stood at $393 this fiscal year compared to $360 in the corresponding period last year.
Similarly, a whopping $818m was spent to import 1.14m tonnes of pulses compared to $520m on the 783,634 tonnes in the same period last year. The APT price this year was $715 against $664 last year.
Traders plead with govt to allow private wheat import
The latest Sensitive Price Index showed that the average national price of a 20kg wheat bag increased to Rs2,628.17 in the week ending on May 25 as compared to Rs1,250.50 in the corresponding period last year.
Similarly, the average prices of gram pulse, mash and moong have increased from Rs180.67 to Rs248.60 per kg, from Rs287.37 to Rs448.11per kg and from Rs172.20 to Rs281per kg, respectively.
Faisal Anis Majeed, who is an importer of pulses, said black gram was also being imported from Australia due to short low crop output in Pakistan.
The local production was between 250,000-275,000 tonnes against the consumption of 700,000 tonnes per annum.
Besides, the bulk of black gram went up in March on the back of soaring demand as it was a vital ingredient to make gram flour (besan).
Similarly, the quantity of wheat imported has also risen gradually in the last few years.
The Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) imported 1.7m tonnes of wheat in FY21 as per the federal government’s directives. It delivered 1,021m tonnes to Punjab, 444,935 tonnes to KP, 117,528 tonnes to Sindh and 114,532 tonnes to Pakistan Agricultural Storage and Services Corporation (Passco) through tenders to stabilise the prices.
In FY2022, 2.23m tonnes were imported, of which KP got 519,412 tonnes while Passco received 1.68m tonnes.
The private sector was only once given permission to import 1.45m tonnes during FY21 and after that, TCP was tasked with importing the commodity.
On its website, TCP said it had imported 2.66m tonnes in 2022-23 via Karachi and Gwadar ports, of which Gwadar Port was utilised to import 450,000 tonnes through. The entire imported quantity of 2.66m tonnes was delivered to Passco.
Private wheat import
Pakistan Flour Mills Association, Sindh Zone Chairman Aamir Abdullah said the government usually releases wheat from October to April in Sindh and Punjab through quota allocation instead of ensuring a full year’s supply, forcing them to buy costly wheat from the open market, which resulted in higher flour prices.
He said the only way to stabilise flour prices was to allow millers to import one million tonnes of wheat from Ukraine, which now costs less than locally produced wheat.
He claimed that the cost and freight rate or C&F rate of Ukraine wheat last year was between $265 to 270 (Rs 90,000) per tonne, while the locally produced wheat carried a price tag of Rs 120,000 per tonne.
Mr Abdullah claimed that Ukraine wheat prices would drop further after the arrival of the new crop in July.
He quoted the price of flour No2.5 at Rs 130 per kg and fine and super fine flour at Rs 140 per kg, which he claimed remained unchanged since Ramazan despite a ban on inter-provincial wheat movement in Sindh.
Cereal Association of Pakistan Chairman Muzamil Chappal urged the government to allow the private sector to import at least 500,000 tonnes or one million tonnes of wheat to bring down flour prices.
He said wheat imports by the private sector from Ukraine can bring down prices of flour varieties much earlier than the government’s import.
Mr Chappal said the rate of pulses remained high due to the rupee devaluation against the dollar in the last 10 months. However, various pulses are now selling under cost due to low demand during summer.
As per the Economic Survey, the wheat crop in FY21 was 27m tonnes but in FY22, it plunged to 26.4m tonnes. However, the country has reaped bumper crops this year with 27.5m tonnes, raising hope of reduced prices in the coming days.
LAHORE: A joint investigation team (JIT) probing the attack on Lahore Corps Commander House (Jinnah House) on May 9 has summoned PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Tuesday (today).
Mr Khan has been asked to appear before the JIT at 4pm at the Qilla Gujjar police headquarters.
He has been called for questioning in a case registered with the Sarwar Road police station against the attack.
Mr Khan has been nominated in the case for allegedly abetting the attackers who ransacked and set fire to the Jinnah House when he was in prison.
“Imran Khan is required to attend the office of the DIG Investigation to join the investigation proceedings entrusted to the JTI formed by the Punjab government,” reads the summon notice issued by Lahore DIG (investigation) Kamran Adil, who is heading the JIT.
Lahore police chief Bilal Siddique Kamyana confirmed that the PTI chief has been summoned for questioning.
An official source said that the former prime minister will be questioned to determine the scale of his involvement in the attack.
He added that a number of other senior PTI leaders and activists have been nominated in the FIR.
Imran Khan was summoned after Lahore SSP (investigation) Dr Anoosh Masood visited Kot Lakhpat jail on Monday where PTI leader Dr Yasmin Rashid and fashion designer Khadija Shah are being held. They were arrested in connection with the attack.
The SSP’s visit came after Imran Khan accused the caretaker Punjab government of “maltreating PTI’s women supporters who were in prison”.
“I have heard about the rape of PTI women political prisoners,” he said on Sunday without providing any evidence.
SSP Anoosh Masood is also heading one of the 53 JITs, notified by the Punjab government comprising police officers, to conduct and finalise investigations into the cases registered in the aftermath of the May 9 attacks across the province.
She will probe the attacks on police, Askari Tower and other sensitive installations.
LAHORE: The ambiguities of government policy over talks with the PTI came into sharp focus on Sunday, with a key minister flatly ruling out the possibility of negotiations in a post-May 9 scenario while another hinting at a way out if Imran Khan apologises and repents.
Talking at the Geo News programme Jirga, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said negotiations with Mr Khan could be held if he took “corrective measures”, apologises to the nation, admits his mistake and promises not to do anything like May 9 in the future.
The minister said that before that fateful day — when violent protests erupted across the country after Mr Khan’s arrest — the government negotiated with PTI with “sincere intentions” and the two sides agreed on all matters except the date of election.
He said peaceful protest was everyone’s right, but attacks on armed forces’ installations should not be condoned.
Meanwhile, in Lahore, Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique said there was no way talks could be held with the PTI in the current situation.
“There used to be an environment and agenda for holding parleys on any issue. But the existing atmosphere is not suitable for talks,” he told reporters, adding that no one would like to hold dialogue with the talks committee formed by Mr Khan.
Mr Rafique was probably referring to the seven-member committee that the former prime minister appointed on Saturday.
The minister said he always supported negotiations despite several differences with the PTI. He said the government attempted to engage in dialogue and both sides even agreed on several issues, including simultaneous elections.
However, when the government’s team contacted Mr Khan, the PTI chief refused to accept any of the points, Mr Rafique said, adding: “Now, after all that bullying, there is no space for dialogue.”
The minister, who was talking to the media after visiting the Lahore corps commander’s residence, also known as Jinnah House, said that a tragedy took place at the venue on May 9.
He regretted that valuable things “preserved” at the site, including the Quaid-i-Azam’s room, his writing table, and handwritten notes, were damaged and burnt on that fateful day.
He alleged that the PTI leadership and ticket-holders were involved in the arson despite knowing about the sanctity of the installation. “This fire did not erupt because of petrol or matchbox, but chemicals,” he claimed.
The railways minister also claimed that Mr Khan “poisoned the minds of the youth and sowed the seeds of hatred in their minds for years”.
He recalled that during the Pervez Musharraf government, PML-N workers had also been protesting almost daily, but kept in mind the “sanctity of cantonments”.
Asked who was responsible for preventing the May 9 riots, he said this question should be put to the Punjab caretaker government.
Mr Rafique also urged the former prime minister and the entire PTI leadership to accept their mistake and apologise to the whole nation over the May 9 riots. “They should do issue a public apology,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon pointed out that half of the individuals appointed by Imran Khan to the negotiation committee were currently in hiding.
He said PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari had made it clear that before any negotiations, Mr Khan should apologise for the “injustices and wrongdoings” committed during his tenure.
Google is expanding its efforts to empower Pakistanis with in-demand digital skills through the Google Career Certificates (GCC) program. As part of its commitment to Future Forward Pakistan, Google will provide 44,500 new GCC scholarships by the end of 2023.
The initiative aims to support individuals, especially women and young graduates, in realizing their career aspirations. A new study conducted in collaboration with the Economist emphasizes the importance of digital skills for Pakistan’s competitiveness in the global market.
New Courses and Scholarships:
Business Intelligence, Advanced Data Analytics, and Cybersecurity: Google has added three new courses to the GCC program in collaboration with IRM and TechValley. These courses will equip learners with employer-recognized certificates in high-demand fields. Scholarships: The additional scholarships will offer more opportunities for individuals from diverse backgrounds to access digital skills training. Google’s commitment to distributing 45,500 Google Career Certificates by the end of 2023 aims to bridge the digital skills gap and create equal opportunities. Study Findings:
Growing Importance of Digital Skills: The study reveals that employees consider digital skills crucial, with 57.3% identifying them as the most important to acquire. Digital skills not only enhance job prospects but also improve confidence and competence in areas such as communication, analysis, and critical thinking. Relevance of Soft Skills: Soft skills, including communication and adaptability, are essential across various sectors and job roles. 47% of employees consider soft skills important for upskilling, with adaptability, flexibility, and communication being the top priorities.
Government’s Role: The study suggests that the government can play a vital role in facilitating a conducive ecosystem for digital skills development. Collaborating with companies, organizations, and communities can ensure equal access to upskilling through incentives and supportive policies.
Impact and Testimonials:
Empowering Freelancers: GCC graduate Iqra Malik, a Data Analyst Freelancer, shares how the program transformed her life, providing valuable skills that enabled her to excel in freelance work, support her family financially, and take on diverse projects.
Career Progression: Saif Ullah, a Digital Marketing graduate, highlights the impact of completing the GCC program on his personal and professional life. The certification helped him secure a job as a performance marketer, explore freelancing opportunities, and create a roadmap for his future career path.
Expansion of Skills:
To create well-rounded professionals ready for the job market, Google’s partners, IRM and TechValley, will launch a soft skills program for GCC graduates. The program covers critical topics such as Communication Skills, Personal Branding, Time Management, and Critical Thinking.
ISLAMABAD: The government on Saturday cancelled the diplomatic passports of nine PTI leaders and the Awami Muslim League (AML) chief, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.
The PTI leaders whose passports have been revoked include Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Asad Umar, Pervez Khattak, Azam Swati, Ali Amin Gandapur, Ali Muhammad Khan, Zartaj Gul, Farrukh Habib and Aon Abbas Bappi.
Former interior minister Sheikh Rashid and the nine PTI leaders are among those who are still standing with embattled PTI chief Imran Khan and have not left the party.
The list does not include the names of Fawad Chaudhry, Shireen Mazari and Ali Zaidi — the former members of Imran Khan’s cabinet who have said their goodbyes. It was not immediately clear if they also held diplomatic passports or not.
Red diplomatic passports, approved by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, are issued in Pakistan to the dignitaries of the state, diplomats and other entitled categories in pursuance of Para 45 of Part I of the Passport and Visa Manual, 2006.
Machine-readable diplomatic passports are processed and issued by the headquarters of the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports in Islamabad based on an authorisation issued by the foreign ministry.
Citizens entitled to diplomatic passports include the country’s president, the prime minister, the Senate chairperson, the National Assembly speaker, the Chief Justice of Pakistan, provincial governors, chief ministers, federal ministers and ministers of state, and the attorney general for Pakistan.
Others include former presidents and prime ministers; spouse and dependent children of former prime ministers, Senate chairpersons and National Assembly speakers; special assistants to the prime minister; foreign secretaries; and all functionaries of the federal government with the status of minister or minister of state.The chairperson of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee and chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force hold diplomatic passports as long as they hold the offices.
The prime minister can authorise the issuance of diplomatic passports in special cases. Except for the president, prime minister, Senate chairperson and the National Assembly speaker, all other holders of diplomatic passports are supposed to surrender their passports within 30 days after leaving their respective offices.