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Special court sends Qureshi to Adiala Jail on 14-day judicial remand in cipher case



A special court in Islamabad, recently established to hear cases filed under the Official Sec­rets Act, on Wednesday sent PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi on a 14-day judicial remand in the cipher case.

The former foreign minister was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) earlier this month in connection with a first information report (FIR) registered on August 15 under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 against ex-premier Imran Khan and Qureshi.

The FIR alleged that Imran, Qureshi and their other associates were involved in the communication of information contained in a secret classified document (cipher telegram received from Parep Washington dated March 7, 2022, to the Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs) to unauthorised persons by “twisting facts to achieve their ulterior motives and personal gains in a manner prejudicial to the interests of state security”.

The case was registered after an American news outlet The Intercept recently published what was claimed to be the contents of the diplomatic cable that had reportedly gone missing from Imran’s possession.

Imran had persistently claimed he was ousted from office last year under a “US conspiracy”. The PTI alleges that cipher contained a threat from the United States to oust Imran from power. Imran had since walked back on that narrative.

The FIA was initially investigating Imran for revealing the contents of a confidential diplomatic cable and keeping it in his possession. However, after former principal secretary Azam Khan disclosed that the cipher went missing from Imran’s custody, the investigation agency also started looking into this aspect.

After Qureshi’s arrest on Aug 19, a local magistrate in Islamabad had remanded the PTI leader in FIA custody for a day. Later, a special court had again handed him to the agency twice and had declared the proceedings as in-camera.

On Saturday, a six-member FIA team grilled the PTI chief in Attock Jail — where he has been incarcerated following conviction in the Toshakhana case — for over an hour.

Earlier today, Special Court Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain presided over Imran’s in-camera hearing, which was held at the district jail in Attock.

The judicial remand of the ex-premier, who was recently revealed to have already been detained in the cipher case along with the Toshakhana case, was extended by 14 days.

After the hearing, Judge Abual Hasnat Zulqarnain returned back to Islamabad, where he presided over Qureshi’s in-camera hearing.

In the afternoon, upon the completion of his two-day physical remand, the PTI vice-chairman was presented before the special court amid high security.

Special prosecutors Zulfiqar Naqvi and Shah Khawar appeared before the court while Qureshi’s legal team — comprising Advocate Babar Awan, Shoaib Shaheen and Umair Naizi — was present as well.

During the hearing, prosecutor Naqvi urged the court to grant the FIA further physical remand of the PTI leader, which the court rejected and instead, sent the PTI vice chairman back to the Adiala jail on a 14-day judicial remand.

Meanwhile, Qureshi, via his legal team, filed a post-arrest bail petition in the cipher case earlier today. Subsequently, the special court issued notices to the respondents, including the FIA, seeking responses till Saturday (September 2), when it will hear the plea.

Judge Zulqarnain also allowed the PTI leader’s legal team to meet him at the Adiala Jail, where lawyers Awan and Amna Ali plan to meet him today.


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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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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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