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Nawaz Sharif to return to Pakistan in October: Shehbaz

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Former prime minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday said PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif would return to Pakistan in October.

“We held consultations with the senior leadership of the party and we have decided that our quaid [leader] Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif will return to Pakistan in October,” he told media persons in London.

Nawaz flanked Shehbaz and listened quietly as the latter made the announcement.

Shehbaz did not specify a date when Nawaz would return. However, Geo News, citing informed sources, reported that the elder Sharif’s date of return would be October 15. When Dawn.com reached out to party leaders earlier, PML-N Senator Afnanullah Khan said “no date has been finalised yet”.

Shehbaz landed at Heathrow earlier this week to meet his elder brother, discuss key political developments in the run-up to the general election and set a date for the party supremo’s return to Pakistan.

The elder Sharif departed the country in November 2019 for medical treatment following his conviction in a corruption case. He has not returned since and faces multiple cases in Pakistan. He was deemed an absconder the following February. Later in 2020, courts declared him as a proclaimed offender.

Earlier this month, reports of Nawaz’s impending return once again started making the rounds, but no official announcement was made from the PML-N supremo himself.

Over the last year, especially since the ouster of PTI Chairman Imran Khan and the change at the helm in April 2022, at several points, some PML-N leaders claimed that the senior Sharif is “coming back to Pakistan next month”.

On Aug 10, in response to a question by an anchor, Shehbaz had said Nawaz would return in September.

Meanwhile, sources had told Dawn that senior leaders and legal brains in the party had been deliberating for the past few days over the timing of Nawaz’s return and the cases he is facing in Pakistan.

Talking to reporters alongside his brother in London today, Shehbaz said: “All of you know that Nawaz Sharif’s name was not there in Panama [papers] … he was included [in the investigation] through a conspiracy and no action was taken against other people whose names were actually there in Panama [papers].

“Nawaz Sharif will, God willing, come to Pakistan and face the law, there are no two opinions on it.”

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Cnergyico imports Pakistan’s first private-sector Russian crude cargo

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Pakistan refiner Cnergyico has imported the country’s first private-sector shipment of Russian crude oil, it said on Monday, as the cash-strapped nation takes advantage of Moscow’s discounts on its oil exports.

The South Asian nation has started snapping up crude oil that Russia has discounted after its exports were banned from European markets over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Pakistan’s first cargo, imported by the government, arrived in June and a second government-to-government shipment is under negotiation.

It had been assumed that private imports would not be commercially viable because, among other things, cargoes have to be split and transferred to smaller ships as Pakistan’s ports cannot handle large tankers.

But Cnergyico used its single point mooring, which can accommodate deep-draft tankers, a company spokesman said in response to questions from Reuters. The crude is to be refined at the company’s refinery in the southwestern city of Hub.

Processing the 100,000-metric-ton shipment of Urals crude “marks an important milestone for the company and for the country as well,” said the spokesman. “It demonstrates the company’s capabilities and readiness to refine different types and complexities of crude oil.”

Cnergyico operates the largest refinery in Pakistan, with a capacity of 156,000 barrels per day (bpd), accounting for one-third of a national capacity of 450,000 bpd.

It is the only refinery with its own single-point mooring.

Cnergyico plans to sell gasoline and diesel refined from the Urals crude locally, and export furnace oil, or fuel oil, typically used in industrial boilers, power plants, and ship engines.

“There is ample demand for furnace oil in the global market, which can help Pakistan generate foreign exchange,” the spokesman said.

Cnergyico conducted due diligence and consulted with external sanctions counsel to ensure the import of Russian oil did not violate sanctions, he said.

Pakistan aims to import 100,000 bpd from Russia this year, which would account for the bulk of its total imports, help address a foreign exchange crisis and keep a lid on record inflation.

Last year, Pakistan’s total crude imports registered at 154,000 bpd.

The government paid in Chinese yuan for its first import of discounted Russian crude, which went to state-owned Pakistan Refinery Ltd.

Cnergyico declined to comment on what currency it used to pay for its Russian cargo.

A source with knowledge of the deal told Reuters that Cnergyico will also pay in yuan through a letter of credit from a Chinese Bank.

The benefits of the Russian discounts, however, are being offset by increased shipping costs and the lower-quality fuels produced from the heavy sour Urals crude grade compared with products refined from crude from Pakistan’s main suppliers, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, analysts say.

Cnergyico said it expects to make the Russian imports viable through the export of furnace oil to generate foreign exchange.

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PPP ‘only’ political party that wants timely elections, says Bilawal

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Taking a dig at his allies in the erstwhile Pakistan Democratic Movement-led ruling coalition, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Monday claimed the PPP was the “only” political party in the country that wanted timely elections.

“PPP is the country’s only party that wants elections to take place,” he said in a press conference in Karachi, lamenting how “so-called” political leaders were coming up with excuses to delay polls.

“You must have seen that sometimes a so-called leader comes on screen and says: ‘Delimitation has to happen and until then [elections can be delayed]’. Okay let’s accept delimitation [needs to be done] but that process has been completed so now there should be no issue in giving the date [for polls].

“If not delimitation, then sometimes someone begins talking about the weather that ‘it is very cold in February and January so how will we contest elections,’ while others talk about the law and order situation,” Bilawal said.

His statement appeared to be a criticism of JUI-F emir Maulana Fazlur Rehman’s concerns over holding elections in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtun­khwa at a time when they remain grip­­ped by intense winter.

In a media talk on Sunday, the JUI-F chief had said it was not possible to hold general elections in KP and Balochistan in January. “In January, weather would be harsh in Chitral, Khuzdar, and other parts of KP and Balochistan,” he had said.

The Election Commission of Pakistan earlier this month announced that general elections would be held in January next year but did not provide a date. In the run-up to polls, political parties have begun preparation for their electoral campaigns.

In another significant step toward polls, the ECP last week issued a report of preliminary delimitation of constituencies in light of the 2023 digital census.

Talking about the discourse over the timing of elections today, Bilawal said the public should realise who was running away from accountability in polls and who was ready to present themselves for answerability before voters.

“The PPP will continue its politics and would not rest before securing the notification for an election date,” he asserted.

Bilawal further said that the PPP was ready to present its ideology and manifesto before the public as a part of its preparations for the upcoming elections.

In a media talk earlier today, PPP’s Yousuf Raza Gilani echoed Bilawal’s remarks. “I have read Fazlur Rehman’s statement … apart from him, no one has raised any objections to elections in January,” he said.

The ex-prime minister also stated that any party that had reservations about delimitation should raise the issue with the ECP.

Meanwhile, PPP veteran leader Farhatullah Babar has said the “vibes say no elections” and warned of the consequences of “denying people free choice”, which he stated could invite disaster.

“Hold free, fair elections. Don’t play with fire. Federation at brink, don’t push it into pit,” he warned in a social media post on X (formerly Twitter).

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China thrill in track and field but footballers flop again at Asiad

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HANGZHOU: China swept four gold medals in track and field at the Asian Games on Sunday to celebrate national day, but their men’s football team failed to read the script and were dumped out by South Korea.

The hosts are running away at the top of the overall medals table in Hangzhou with 132 golds and still seven days of competition to go.

China is enjoying a long holiday for national day and patriotic fervour filled the 80,000-seater Olympic stadium in the eastern city for the evening’s athletics.

Waving mini flags and roaring on the home competitors, they were not to be disappointed.

Wang Jianan, nicknamed Ed­die, leapt an impressive 8.22m on his first attempt in the long jump. It proved enough to defend his title.

Discus thrower Feng Bin, who like Wang was dethroned as world champion in August, also bounced back in style to claim gold with a throw of 67.93m, a Games record.

“I’m really happy. After all, today is national day, a very special day for every Chinese person,” the 29-year-old Feng said.

“To win my first Asian Games medal on this day makes me extremely happy and excited.”

There was more home success through Lin Yuwei in the 100m hurdles and Zheng Ninali in the women’s heptathlon.

China’s men’s football team is often derided at home and they once again failed to get in the holiday mood.

They were outclassed and soundly beaten 2-0 by South Korea in the last eight to disappoint a bumper crowd of nearly 40,000.

The Koreans, who are chasing a third gold medal in a row in the under-23 competition, face Uzbekistan in the semi-finals.

Japan beat North Korea 2-1 and will play Hong Kong, surprise 1-0 victors over Iran, in the last four.

The North Koreans rounded on the Uzbek match officials at the final whistle and at least one furious player had to be held back by his team-mates.

China also suffered a comprehensive loss in the final of the women’s team badminton competition.

The South Korean squad raced onto the court and some players were in tears after a 3-0 win for their first gold in the event for nearly 30 years.

South Korea’s coach Kim Hak-kyun called the gold “precious” and said they were already targeting more success at next summer’s Paris Olympics.

“This is thanks to the determination, mindset, mentality and unity of our players,” said Kim.

China did however recover to win the final of the men’s team competition 3-2 after going behind to India.

The home nation also enjoyed double gold in table tennis, with Sun Yingsha winning women’s singles gold and the duo of Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin taking the men’s doubles title.

In some of the first action of the day, Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol snatched women’s golf gold after India’s Aditi Ashok blew a seven-shot overnight lead.

In the men’s event, rising star Taichi Kho kept his nerve despite a charge by PGA Tour star Im Sung-jae for a one-stroke victory.

It was Hong Kong’s first gold in golf at the Asian Games.

At the shooting range the Chinese women’s trap team of Li Qingnian, 42, Wu Cuicui, 35, and Zhang Xinqiu, 29, set a new world record of 357 points on their way to winning gold, eclipsing the previous world best of 354 points set by the United States in 2018.

In trap competitors wield shotguns and aim at clay-based targets being fired rapidly away from the shooter at different angles.

The silver medal went to India, whose team included Rajeshwari Kumari, 31, daughter of acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia and former Asian Games champion in shooting, Randhir Singh.

In the men’s U23 3×3 basketball, Mongolia won their first ever Asian Games bronze medal in a team event, before Taiwan pipped Qatar 18-16 to win gold and trigger elation on the court and a huge roar from Taiwan journalists in the media centre.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023

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