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PML-N plays religious card on reports of PTI’s international lawyer



LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: On the reports that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) is engaging eminent human rights barrister Geoffrey Robertson to represent its incarcerated chief Imran Khan in international courts in relation to unlawful detention and human rights abuses, the PML-N on Saturday tried to give it a ‘religious colour,’ alleging that he (Robertson) was a lawyer of novelist Salman Rushdie and that he (Khan) is conspiring against Islam and Pakistan.

Although the PTI has refuted reports on the hiring of a foreign law firm to represent Khan internationally, PML-N chief organiser Maryam Nawaz insists Khan’s double standards have been exposed.

“Isn’t it strange that Imran Khan chose a man to fight his case internationally who represented Salman Rushdie, a blasphemer. This shows two faces of Imran Khan. In Pakistan, Khan makes a claim of striving for Riasat-i-Madina and outside the country, he seeks the help of an anti-Islam firm,” Ms Nawaz said on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday.

A close aide to former premier Shehbaz Sharif and PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar told a presser here that Imran had appointed Rushdie’s lawyer to represent him at the international courts and he had crossed all limits. He also framed a charge sheet against Mr Robertson, alleging that he had written against the Pakistan Army and had close relations with Israel.

PTI denies reports, saying Imran never supported such initiative

“Pakistan and Imran Khan can’t go together,” he declared.

Tarar further said the PTI, on its official account on X, had shared the news of engaging Mr Robertson for Mr Khan, which it had now deleted.

“First, the PTI did the wrong thing, then defended it and now ran away from it. Imran Khan’s this action is a conspiracy against Pakistan and Islam,” Tarar declared.

Renowned journalist Mehreen Zahra Malik said on X: “Pinning a distinguished human rights lawyer, a UN war crimes judge, a counsel in many notable Old Bailey trials, someone who has defended hundreds facing death sentences, won landmark rulings on civil liberty from the highest courts in Britain, Europe and the Commonwealth, and the founder of Doughty Street Chambers, the largest human rights practice in Europe, as “Salman Rushdie’s lawyer,” has to be a new low”.

Later on, the PTI official handle on X reposted a couple of tweets in which it was alleged that the firm in question was also hired by PML-N leader and former minister Ishaq Dar for a libel case.

Ammad Yousaf, the president of a private channel, tweeted that Ishaq Dar and Nasir Butt of the PML-N and a media tycoon had also received the services of the firm. At this, Nasir Butt dared him to telecast his tweet on his channel in the UK, reminding him that the channel had paid him about 200k pounds. He asked Yousaf not to “twist this to suit your convicted criminal leader Imran”.

Meanwhile, the PTI categorically refuted the reports regarding the hiring of a foreign law firm to raise the human violations in Pakistan in international courts. According to a PTI spokesperson, Imran never supported any such initiative even in the face of the worst state operation and suppression and open violation of the constitution and the law in the country.

He rejected all the reports being circulated in the media regarding hiring of a foreign law firm, saying that there was no truth in such reports.

“The PTI neither approached any judicial forum outside Pakistan nor has any intention to do so in future,” he said.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2023


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Indian police raid media office, homes of journalists in illegal funding probe



Indian police raided the office of a news portal and the homes of journalists and writers linked to it on Tuesday as part of an investigation into suspected illegal foreign funding of the media company, two government officials said.

Laptops and mobile phones were taken away as part of the investigation into the media company NewsClick, the officials and some of the journalists said.

“A special investigations team launched a search operation to identify all those individuals who were possibly getting funds from overseas to run a media group with the main agenda of spreading foreign propaganda,” said an official in the interior ministry overseeing the raids by the Delhi Police.

The raids were part of an investigation by the Enforcement Directorate, India’s financial crime agency, into suspected money laundering by NewsClick, the official said.

Another ministry official said the raids were conducted at more than a dozen homes of journalists and some other writers linked to NewsClick.

“We have not arrested anyone and the search operations are still underway,” the second official said.

Both of the officials declined to be identified as they are not authorised to speak to the media. A Delhi Police spokesperson said he was not in a “position to comment, as of now”.

NewsClick officials were not immediately available for comment. It says on its website says it is an independent media organisation launched in 2009 dedicated to covering news from India and elsewhere with a focus on “progressive movements”.

Officials said the investigation began after a New York Times report in August named NewsClick as part of a global network receiving funds from American billionaire Neville Roy Singham, allegedly to publish Chinese propaganda.

NewsClick founder Prabir Purkayastha said at the time the allegations were not new and the organisation would respond to them in court.

The Press Club of India said it was deeply concerned about the raids.

India has fallen to 150th in the World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking by non-profit Reporters Without Borders, from 140th last year, its lowest ever.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government rejects the group’s findings, questioning its methodology, and says India has a vibrant and free press.


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In major milestone, first-ever women’s cricket match held in Swat



After enduring several restrictions and roadblocks, girls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Swat finally played the “first-ever” women’s cricket match in the Kabal tehsil on Tuesday.

Women cricketers from Kabal and Mingora tehsils participated in the match, which was played in the ground of the Government Girls Higher Secondary School Kabal.

During the 10-over thrilling contest, the Mingora women’s cricket team emerged as winners after beating Kabal by seven runs.

The game was attended by a large audience, which included female spectators, Babuzi Assistant Commissioner (AC) Luqman Khan, Kabal AC Junaid Khan, organiser and taekwondo champion Ayesha Ayaz, coach Ayaz Naik and others.

After the match, trophies, certificates and cash prizes were distributed among the players.

Speaking to, the women cricketers expressed their happiness and recalled how they had been barred from playing the sport.

Over the weekend, several clerics and a group of elders in the Charbagh tehsil had prevented the girls from playing cricket. They had called women’s participation in sports “immoral”.

After outcry from players and locals, Swat Deputy Commissioner Dr Qasim Ali Khan had instructed officials to find a “suitable location” for the match.

Sapna, one of the players, said: “I can’t find the words to describe how disheartened we felt when certain individuals prevented us from playing in Charbagh. It made us question whether we were not considered human beings and whether we had no rights.”

She said that she and her friends had been restless after that incident.

“But today, I am overjoyed that we were given the opportunity to play in front of a large audience and we emerged victorious,” she added.

Ayesha Ayaz, a 13-year-old budding taekwondo player who has secured two gold medals and one silver medal for Pakistan, stressed that the women of Swat possessed “remarkable talent” across various domains, including sports.

She advocated encouraging female participation in sports activities, asserting that they should not face obstacles but be granted opportunities to showcase their abilities and contribute to the nation’s prestige.

Naik, one of the match’s organisers, also expressed his gratitude to the district administration and organisers, hoping that they would continue promoting sports in the same way.

“This marks the initial step towards independent women’s sports activities, and we are committed to taking further substantial measures to offer increased opportunities to female players,” he said.


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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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