Thursday, October 11, 2018
#Pakistan- #PPP - Bilawal Bhutto : Girls’ education and vocational training across the board and without any discrimination is the sole guarantee of Pakistan’s prosperity and progress
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has said that girls’ education and vocational training across the board and without any discrimination is the sole guarantee of Pakistan’s prosperity and progress.
In his message on the occasion of International Day of the Girl Child, he said that a future based on progress and prosperity could remain a dream without empowering them and taking them on board in all matters. PPP’s provincial government is taking every step for bringing our daughters ahead in every section of life and field.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said that Sindh’s incumbent government of PPP has ensured free and standard education for girls and is supporting girl students with cash stipends, nowhere in any other province.
The PPP Chairman said that his party is the sole party that fully represents the women and is the biggest advocate of women’s rights and is their guardian.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari saluted all those women who have stepped forward in all sections of life and field while defeating many impediments at every level and social taboos.
Our women who have courageously overcome the social taboos and governmental restrictions would one day represent the true colours of Fatima Jinnah, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Asima Jehangir and Maryam Mukhtar. Let us respect them and value them, said the PPP Chairman.
By Maria Abi-HabibAfter Pakistan’s government signaled that it would seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, Prime Minister Imran Khan this week did the exact opposite of the austerity measures the global body is demanding: He inaugurated a public-housing project to deliver five million homes. That tension — between Mr. Khan’s campaign promises to build the social welfare state and the prescriptions to help set Pakistan’s devastated economy right — is leaving investors at home and internationally guessing about the policies he truly intends to pursue. But investors typically detest such uncertainty and responded this week by offloading the Pakistani rupee, which hit a historic low, while hammering the stock market with a sell-off, wiping $2 billion off the index’s value. There is only more uncertainty ahead. On Thursday, the Pakistani government formally began the process of seeking an I.M.F. bailout worth up to $12 billion. But analysts say the country’s financing gap may be as high as $20 billion, leaving investors worried that the government may not ask the fund for a robust-enough package while continuing to ask China and Saudi Arabia for more loans, after taking several billions of dollars worth of loans from Beijing this year alone. The concern surrounding Pakistan’s economic course and Mr. Khan’s intentions has clearly left the I.M.F. skeptical, and the result may be a tough road ahead for the country if it is to get its bailout.
The fund’s managing director, Christine Lagarde, insisted on Thursday that Pakistan provide “absolute transparency” on its debts, many of which are owed to China as part of its Belt and Road construction program. Pakistan is a showcase for China’s initiative, hosting up to $62 billion of Chinese investments, most financed by costly loans taken from Chinese state-owned banks.Any bailout for Pakistan would require “complete understanding and absolute transparency about the nature, size, and terms of the debt that is bearing on a particular country,” Ms. Lagarde said, as she prepared to meet the Pakistani delegation later Thursday at the I.M.F. and World Bank Group annual meetings in Bali, Indonesia. Later that day, the I.M.F. released a statement saying that Ms. Lagarde had met the Pakistani team and that the fund would send a team to Islamabad in the coming weeks to initiate discussions for a bailout program. Ahead of Pakistan’s July elections, Mr. Khan promised to open up the books on Chinese investments and even cut projects that were unnecessary or too costly. Pakistan’s previous government, led by ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was harshly criticized for refusing to publicly disclose the financing terms and conditions around China’s investments, leaving the country in the dark about exactly how much debt it has committed to repay. Critics of the previous Pakistani government, including Mr. Khan, accuse it of doing a poor job negotiating the Chinese loans and say that the costs were often inflated, leaving Pakistan with a debt load it will struggle to repay. But since coming to office in August, Mr. Khan has not opened the books, perhaps because of pressure from China, officials say. The United States has accused Beijing of using “debt trap diplomacy” to load up countries with debt in order to secure political and military demands, a charge China’s government denies. Although Pakistan faces an external debt burden of $8 billion this year, the first payments to China as part of the Belt and Road Initiative come due in 2019, with $1 billion owed, officials say. Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves hit a four-year low last week, hovering at $8.4 billion according to the central bank. That is less than enough to cover even just two months of imports. “Going to the I.M.F. was inevitable. There was no other way out, not only to bridge the financing gap but to provide confidence to the markets,” said Farrukh Saleem, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Economy.
He added: “Even if China had given $26 billion to Pakistan, it doesn’t give confidence to the markets. It’s not just about the bailout but getting into an I.M.F. monitoring program,” which gives investors assurance that Pakistan is taking on needed economic reforms, allowing the country to tap other debt markets. Although Mr. Khan maintains that he will pursue both the I.M.F. bailout and loans from “friendly countries,” those statements contradict the stance of both his finance minister and information minister, Fawad Chaudhry, who said that the conditions on those outside loans were unacceptable. “We spoke with the United Arab Emirates, China, Saudi Arabia and held consultations with other countries,” Mr. Chaudhry said in televised remarks Tuesday. “We did not want to take the money the way it was being given to us.”
The information minister did not explain what the conditions were. But Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. have in the past requested that Pakistan join their war in Yemen, which has bogged down those countries financially while creating one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises as Yemeni civilians are killed by bombing and starvation. On the campaign trail before the July elections, Mr. Khan championed austerity even as he promised to build an Islamic welfare state. The new project to build five million housing units is a signature part of his “Naya Pakistan” agenda — meaning New Pakistan — to kick-start the economy and provide support to the country’s poorest. But going to the I.M.F. will likely mean cuts to those welfare state dreams. “With the I.M.F., there will be an impact on the government not fulfilling its election promises. But welcome to the real world,” said Mr. Saleem, the economy ministry spokesman. ImageThe contradicting remarks coming out of Islamabad have left investors confused about how seriously Mr. Khan’s government will commit to the I.M.F.’s austerity terms. This would be the latest in at least 12 I.M.F. programs Pakistan has undertaken in the last few decades, failing to complete the structural reforms required in all but one bailout package. “This crisis could have been averted better if the government had declared their plan two months ago, when they came to power. Instead they gave mixed messages, leaving the markets guessing. A lot of damage could have been averted with timely clarity,” said Ashraf Wathra, the former central bank governor under the previous government. While Mr. Wathra acknowledges that the previous government is at fault for the ballooning national debt, he says Mr. Khan should have taken the overwhelming advice from economists to go to the I.M.F. as soon as possible. This week, the Pakistani rupee fell as low as 137 to the United States dollar, shedding 10.2 percent of its value. The biggest ever one-day fall was in 1998, when the rupee fell 11 percent after Pakistan tested nuclear weapons. Pakistan’s business community, and even ardent supporters of Mr. Khan’s party, have also been angry at what many described as “dithering” ahead of the decision to go to the I.M.F. Farooq Sarwar, a Rawalpindi-based importer of food, toiletries and confectionary items, has said he has had to cut down on his stock, worried stores he supplies will close down as customers cut their spending as the rupee falls in value. “The dip in the dollar has affected the importers in a way that no one knows what to do right now,” Mr. Sarwar said. “We had high expectations from the current government and thought they will take steps after taking people in to confidence. But it seems they had done no homework.”
The visiting FATF delegation still has more than a week in-country. Yet some key points have begun to emerge. Such as how the team held questions-and-answer sessions with three important agencies: the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA); the Financial Monitoring Unit (FMU); and the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF). This is crucial to helping both sides pinpoint how and which terror financing risks have been identified and assessed. Not to mention the role of law enforcement agents (LEAs) on the investigation front. For a lot has changed since Pakistan was formally grey-listed back in June. Especially with regards to the militant-mainstreaming project. Meaning that certain outfits proscribed by the state merely underwent a name-change and participated in the summer’s elections. Naturally, this brings to the fore the question of fund-raising. Thus the pressure is on the Imran Khan government; despite it having only been in power for around 45 days. Be that as it may, the FATF delegation is interested in immediate measures for both the short- and longer-term. Towards this end, therefore, the visiting team has directed the country to track all financial transactions totalling $3,000 and above across the board.; from real estate agents to accountants to stockbrokers to lawyers. This makes sense. For providing a paper trail is paramount. As the Prime Minister will still recall from the afterglow of Panamagate. Yet the Centre must not overlook and therefore repeat the mistakes of the past. Namely, its own lackadaisical approach to settling its bills when it comes to media advertising. For, to be sure, the fourth estate — both electronic and print — remains one of Pakistan’s most undocumented industries as far financing goes. That is, when federal governments delay payments to ad agencies, it is media houses and employees who get burned. This results in the former operating in the red while staff receive intermittent cash payments. From whichever way this is looked at, the endgame is the same: an erasing of the money trail. It is hoped that both PM Khan and his team as well as the FATF representatives will urgently address this state of affairs. Not least because the country’s journalists are already working in a hostile environment. And that last thing we, the fourth estate, need is a loaded gun held to our heads; demanding to know how we (barely) make our money.
Not impressed with Pakistan's efforts to combat terror financing, a delegation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has asked it to do more to strengthen its legal framework if it wants to avoid being blacklisted by the Paris-based anti-money laundering watchdog, according to a media report on Thursday. Currently placed on the FATF'S 'grey list', Pakistan has been scrambling in recent months to avoid being added to a list of countries deemed non-compliant with anti-money laundering and terrorist financing regulations by the FATF, a measure that officials here fear could further hurt its economy. A second team of experts from the FATF arrived over the weekend to review the progress made by Pakistan on an action plan agreed in June to address global concerns.
Dawn reported that the delegation of the Asia Pacific Group (APG) of the FATF was not impressed with the progress made by Pakistan so far as it found the legal framework insufficient, and the institutional arrangements weak. According to sources, the delegation feared that the setup installed for scrutinising the activities of non-profit organisations, brokerage houses, exchange companies and donations of corporate entities - registered under the companies act - was not robust enough.The sources said that the APG believed that even in areas where the legal framework appeared vigorous, the implementation mechanism was not geared to track down financial flows of the entities in question, because the agencies involved were not well-connected, according to the report. This weakness was prominent in real estate brokerages where large business transactions remained outside the ambit of legal records. A team of the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) reported to the APG that brokerage houses were largely documented though real estate dealers and their operations were generally outside its area of regulation. The APG also noticed shortcomings in commodity trading - and the effectiveness of laws against money laundering through cross-verification of service providers.The sources said the delegation asked the relevant authorities to issue deadlines for resolving the flagged weaknesses so that the problems could be remedied and future performance evaluations be made on the proposed matrix. The authorities would also have to properly record the number of donation boxes placed by religious and other organisations at restaurants and business centres among other places. Besides, all currency and real estate dealers would have to record every transaction - both small and large. The purpose of the mutual evaluation visit is to assess the effectiveness of Pakistan's Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regime under FATF methodology. The visiting team included Ian Collins of the United Kingdom's Scotland Yard, James Prussing of the United States Department of the Treasury, Ashraf Abdullah of the Financial Intelligence Unit of the Maldives, Bobby Wahyu Hernawan of the Indonesian Ministry of Finance, Gong Jingyan of the Peoples Bank of China and Mustafa Necmeddin Oztop of the Turkish Ministry of Justice. In June 2018, Pakistan made a high-level political commitment to work with the FATF and the APG to strengthen its AML/CFT regime and to address its strategic counter-terrorism financing-related deficiencies by implementing a 10-point action plan. The successful implementation of the plan and its verification by the APG is a prerequisite for the FATF to remove Pakistan from its grey list. Earlier in August, the APG - as part of the mutual evaluation -identified a series of deficiencies in Pakistan's AML/CFT mechanisms. By the end of September next year, Pakistan must comply with the 10-point action plan it committed to with the FATF or else it will fall into the black list. The authorities are required to upgrade agencies and their human resource assets to be able to handle foreign requests to block terror financing and freeze illegal assets. The authorities are working on strengthening laws for extradition of those involved in terror financing and money laundering on requests from FATF-member countries. By January next year, Pakistan will identify and assess domestic and international terror financing risks to and from its system to strengthen investigations and improve inter-agency cooperation, the Federal Investigation Agency, the State Bank of Pakistan, the SECP, banks, the interior department as well as all other associated federal and provincial agencies, the report said.