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Evacuations speed up as flood warning for Sutlej upgraded



• Another 8,500 people rescued in 24 hours
• Sutlej River sees ‘high flood’ at two sites
• Water level also on the rise in Indus River

LAHORE: Nearly 8,500 people and 350 animals were evacuated over 24 hours from several flood-hit districts of Punjab as water continued to discharge at high speeds at different sites on the Sutlej River, rescue services said on Friday.

According to the Meteor­ological Department’s 11pm advisory, the Ganda Singh Wala and Islam headworks were in “high flood”, as the rate of water flow was around 122,000 and 152,000 cubic feet per second (cusecs).

The flow rate at the two sites was 115,000 cusecs (medium) and 120,000 cusecs (high) around the same time a day ago.

The flow rate at the third site, Sulemanki headworks, was around 86,000 cusecs (medium) on Friday night. (One cubic foot is roughly equal to 28.3 litres.)

The water level was also on the rise in the Indus River, whereas Chenab, Ravi and Jhelum rivers were witnessing a normal flow.

As many as 23 villages were affected in Bahawalpur, 12 in Khairpur Tamiwali, and seven in Hasilpur due to a high flood at Islam headworks and thousands of people would have to leave their homes to relief camps.

The rescue operations were expanded last week after several hundred villages and thousands of acres of cropland were inundated when the Sutlej River burst its banks on Sunday. Most of the evacuations were reported in Bahawalpur and Kasur districts.

Small-scale evacuations began in July after India diverted water from dams into the Ravi River, which flows from India into Pakistan.

A spokesperson for the PDMA said on Friday that the authorities were already expecting India to release water again due to a new spell of heavy rains, leading to a high flood in Sutlej in a day or two. The PDMA had issued a flood alert to administrations of the respective districts, he said.

In a statement, the authority confirmed that a high-level flood was passing through Islam headworks. The statement quoted the PDMA director general as urging people to avoid bathing and any recreational activities in urban rivers and canals.

He also called upon authorities to remain alert and to enforce Section 144 around the rivers.

Farooq Ahmad, Rescue 1122’s spokesperson in Punjab, said 425 rescue boats, along with 1,660 rescuers, were deployed to the flooded areas as the river swells.

He said some 8,500 people were evacuated over the past 24 hours, including 1,896 people in Kasur, 887 in Okara, 2,853 in Pakpattan, 704 in Bahawalnagar, and 2,124 in Vehari.

He said rescue operations were ongoing in the areas of Attari, Puran, Baqir K. Mahar, Jamal Kot, Pana Mahar, Head Sulemanki, Darazke, Mahlo­shek­hoka, Nama Jendika, Khairabad and Rateki.

CM visits Okara

Meanwhile, Caretaker Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi visited a flood-affected village near Attari, in Okara district, and reviewed the water situation in the Sutlej River.

The chief minister also visited a relief camp being set up along with Khema Basti and met flood victims.

Mr Naqvi noted that 278,000 cusecs of water had arrived in the Sutlej River after 35 years. He said the evacuation of people was being ensured from the affected areas and it was the government’s foremost priority to protect citizens.

In its Friday advisory, the Pakistan Meteorological Department said it expected rain and thundershowers (with a few moderate to heavy falls) until Sunday (tomorrow) with occasional gaps in Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, Murree, Gall­iyat, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal, Jhelum, Mandi Bahauddin, Hafizabad, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Narowal, Lahore, Kasur, Shei­k­hupura, Chitral, Dir, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Mansehra, Kohistan, Abbottabad, Hari­pur, Kohat, Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi and Nowshera.

Rains were also expected until Saturday (today) in Kurram, Lakki Marwat, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Karak, Waziristan, Mian­wali, Sar­godha, Khushab, Faisal­abad, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang and Bhakkar, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Musa Khel, Bar­khan, Zhob, Kalat and Khuzdar.

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2023


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Fiscal reforms critical for economic stability, sustainable growth in Pakistan: World Bank



Pakistan’s economy slowed sharply in fiscal year 2023 with real gross domestic product (GDP) estimated to have contracted by 0.6 per cent, according to the World Bank.

In a report released on Tuesday, titled ‘Pakistan Development Update: Restoring Fiscal Sustainability’, the global body said the decline in economic activity in the country reflects the cumulation of domestic and external shocks including the floods of 2022, government restrictions on imports and capital flows, domestic political uncertainty, surging world commodity prices, and tighter global financing.

The report said the previous fiscal year ended with significant pressure on domestic prices, fiscal and external accounts and exchange rate, and loss of investor confidence.

“The difficult economic conditions along with record high energy and food prices, lower incomes, and the loss of crops and livestock due to the 2022 floods, have significantly increased poverty.”

As per the report, the poverty headcount is estimated to have reached 39.4pc in fiscal year 2023, with 12.5 million more Pakistanis falling below the lower-middle income country poverty threshold ($3.65/day 2017 per capita) relative to 34.2pc in fiscal year 2022.

“Careful economic management and deep structural reforms will be required to ensure macroeconomic stability and growth,” said World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Najy Benhassine said in the report.

He added: “With inflation at record highs, rising electricity prices, severe climate shocks, and insufficient public resources to finance human development investments and climate adaptation, it is imperative that critical reforms are undertaken to build the fiscal space and public means to invest into inclusive, sustainable, and climate-resilient development.”

Without a sharp fiscal adjustment and decisive implementation of broad-based reforms, Pakistan’s economy will remain vulnerable to domestic and external shocks.

Predicated on the robust implementation of the IMF stand-by arrangement (SBA), new external financing and continued fiscal restraint, real GDP growth is projected to recover to 1.7pc in fiscal year 2024 and 2.4 per cent in fiscal year 2025, the report added.

It said economic growth was therefore expected to remain below potential over the medium term with some improvements in investment and exports.

According to the report, limited easing of import restrictions thanks to new external inflows will widen the current account deficit in the near term and weaker currency and higher domestic energy prices will maintain inflationary pressures.

“While the primary deficit is expected to narrow as fiscal consolidation takes hold, the overall fiscal deficit will decline only marginally due to substantially higher interest payments.”

The report underlined that the economic outlook was subject to extremely high downside risks, including liquidity challenges to service debt payments, ongoing political uncertainty, and external shocks.

“These macroeconomic challenges can be addressed through comprehensive fiscal reforms of tax policy, rationalisation of public expenditure, better management of public debt, and stronger inter-government coordination on fiscal issues,” said Aroub Farooq, economist at the World Bank, and author of the report.

To regain stability and establish a base for medium-term recovery, the report recommended reforms to drastically reduce tax exemptions and broaden the tax base through higher taxes on agriculture, property and retailers; improve the quality of public expenditure by reducing distortive subsidies, improving the financial viability of the energy sector, and increasing private participation in state-owned enterprises.

The Pakistan Development Update is a counterpart to the semiannual South Asia Development Update by the World Bank. This report assesses economic developments, prospects, and policy challenges within the South Asia region, the lender said.


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India tells Canada to withdraw 41 diplomats: report



India has told Canada that it must repatriate 41 diplomats by October 10, the Financial Times reported on Tuesday.

Ties between New Delhi and Ottawa have become seriously strained over Canadian suspicion that Indian government agents had a role in the June murder in Canada of a Sikh separatist leader and Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who India had labelled a “terrorist”.

Nijjar, 45, was the president of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple in Surrey, British Columbia and advocated for the creation of a Sikh state known as Khalistan.

India has dismissed the allegation as absurd.

On September 21, Trudeau called on India to cooperate with an investigation into the murder of the separatist leader in British Columbia and said Canada would not release its evidence for their claims.

India suspended new visas for Canadians and asked Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country on the same day.

Last week, the Indian foreign minister spoke to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan about Canadian allegations of New Delhi’s possible involvement killing of the separatist leader in Canada.

Jaishankar said that New Delhi had told Canada it was open to looking into any “specific” or “relevant” information it provides on the killing.

Trudeau, who is yet to publicly share any evidence, said he has shared the “credible allegations” with India “many weeks ago”.

The Financial Times, citing people familiar with the Indian demand, said India had threatened to revoke the diplomatic immunity of those diplomats told to leave who remained after October 10.

Canada has 62 diplomats in India and India had said that the total should be reduced by 41, the newspaper said.

The Indian and Canadian foreign ministries did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said earlier there was a “climate of violence” and an “atmosphere of intimidation” against Indian diplomats in Canada, where the presence of Sikh separatist groups has frustrated New Delhi.


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Imran’s life ‘in danger’, moved to lower class cell in Adiala Jail: lawyer



Former prime minister Imran Khan’s lawyer, Naeem Haider Panjutha, claimed on Tuesday that the PTI chief was moved to a lower class cell at the Adiala Jail last night and feared the ex-premier’s life was in danger.

Imran was shifted to Attock jail on August 5, 2023, after a court sentenced him to three years in prison in the Toshakhana case for concealing details of gifts he received as the prime minister of Pakistan.

After his sentence in the Toshakhana case was suspended by the Islamabad High Court, the government detained the ex-premier in the cipher case. He has since remained behind bars on judicial remand.

On September 26, Imran was shifted to Central Jail Adiala from District Jail Attock following IHC orders passed on a plea filed by the PTI.

Last night, the police ramped up security in the vicinity of the Adiala jail by deploying elite commandos and setting up additional security pickets to ensure foolproof measures. The decision was taken in light of recommendations by the Special Branch and relevant departments following a survey of Adiala Jail.

Talking to reporters in Islamabad today, Panjutha, spokesman to Imran on legal affairs, said Imran’s wife Bushra Bibi met the former prime minister in Adiala Jail today.

“There is danger to Imran Khan’s life,” he claimed. “Imran can be slow food poisoned … he is being mentally tortured and his movement has been restricted.”

Panjutha alleged that he had received reports last night that the PTI chief was moved to a lower class cell. “Security personnel has been stationed outside the cell and mobile phones have been taken for them,” he said, claiming that these were new ways of “breaking” Imran.

The PTI lawyer added that a petition pertaining to Imran’s conditions in jail was filed in the IHC and the application was fixed for hearing on October 5.

“There were objection [by the court] earlier that the matter has already but decided but no directions have been passed on Imran Khan’s health, which is a basic fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution,” Panjutha added.


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