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Sugar price fuels weekly inflation above 26pc

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ISLAMABAD: The short-term inflation witnessed a year-on-year increase of 26.32 per cent for the week ending on Aug 7 mainly due to a sharp increase in the retail price of sugar across the country and petroleum products, showed the official data released on Friday.

According to the PBS, the highest recorded retail price of sugar, reaching Rs200 per kg, was observed in Quetta and Peshawar, followed by Rs195 in Karachi and Rawalpindi, Rs190 in Islamabad and Rs180 in Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan, Gujranwala, Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana.

The national average price maximum stood at Rs200 per kg.

Sugar became more expensive because of two reasons. A lot of sugar was taken out of the country through smuggling. Also, the PDM government has allowed legal exports of sugar since February.

According to sources, nearly 800,000 tonnes of sugar have been smuggled across the western border. At the same time, the PDM government has allowed the export of 250,000 tonnes of sugar since February. The ECC has banned the export of the sweetener in early August.

The short-term inflation, measured by the Sensitive Price Index (SPI), remained elevated. It, however, increased 0.96pc from the preceding week, showing a rising trend for the past seven consecutive weeks.

In the energy sector, the price of diesel rose by 6.28pc, LPG 5.19pc and petrol 5.12pc, respectively. In the past two weeks, the government has increased petroleum prices unprecedentedly. The real impact of petroleum products is expected in the next week’s data.

Of the 51 items in the SPI basket, prices of 32 goods soared, five dropped and 14 remained unchanged compared to the previous week.

During the week under review, the items whose prices increased the most over the same week a year ago were: wheat flour (117.71pc), gas charges for Q1 (108.38pc), sugar (107.36pc), cigarettes (100.16pc), rice basmati broken (90.66pc), tea Lipton (88.41pc), chillies powder (86.05pc), rice Irri-6/9 (84.18pc), gur (72.83pc), gents sponge chappal (58.05pc), gents sandal (53.37pc), salt powdered (52.07pc), powdered milk (42.45pc) and bread (42.33pc).

The biggest rise week-on-week was in the price of tomatoes (17pc), pulse masoor (10.87pc), sugar (6.73pc), garlic (4.66pc), gur (3.62pc), pulse moong (3.55pc), onions (3.43pc) and pulse gram (3.25pc).

In May, the SPI stayed above 45pc for three weeks after hitting an all-time high at 48.35pc on May 4.

The rupee depreciation, rising petrol prices, sales tax and electricity bills are among the key contributors to this inflationary trend. According to the latest IMF forecast, the average Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the current fiscal year is projected to be 25.9pc from the previous year’s 29.6pc.

Meanwhile, a decrease was also observed on a week-on-week basis in prices of chicken (3.20pc), cooking oil 5-litre (1.03pc), vegetable ghee 2.5 kg (0.47pc), tea Lipton (0.43pc) and vegetable ghee 1 Kg (0.14pc)

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2023

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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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Pakistanis among 40 nations facing backlash for reporting rights abuses

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is among the 40 countries across the world where over 220 individuals and 25 organisations faced threats and retaliation from the state and non-state actors for cooperating with the United Nations on human rights, reveals a new report of the UN Secretary-General.

The report titled, ‘Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights’ covering the period from May 1, 2022 to April 30, 2023, was recently presented at the Human Rights Council (HRC) session in Geneva. The session will continue till Oct 6.

The report says human rights defenders and other civil society activists are increasingly under surveillance and continued to face legal proceedings, travel bans and threats and they are given prison sentences for cooperating with UN’s human mechanisms.

The UN secretary-general said that the organisation has a collective responsibility to prevent and address intimidation and reprisals, guided by the principle of “do no harm” and a victim- and survivor-oriented approach.

Civil society activists face legal proceedings, jail sentence, travel bans and threats for cooperating with UN’s rights mechanism, says report

“Considerable progress has been made in shedding light on and addressing the issue, including through initiatives on civic space under ‘Call to Action for Human Rights’, the UN chief said.

“The UN is committed to strengthening its efforts to prevent reprisals, including through clear zero-tolerance messages and by awareness-raising among staff, member states and civil society interlocutors. We will further strengthen our response to reprisal cases and ensure appropriate systems are in place to identify, document and report on incidents, including those in the annual reports. We will reinforce the dissemination of information on what reprisals are and how to report incidents, in particular for UN bodies where reprisals are repeatedly reported,” he added.

“A global context of shrinking civic space is making it increasingly difficult to properly document, report and respond to cases of reprisals, which means that the number is likely much higher,” said Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, in her presentation to the HRC on Thursday.

“Despite ongoing efforts, regrettably, the number of reported acts of intimidation and reprisal by state and non-state actors remains high and their severity is very concerning,” she said.

“The global trends documented this year are also similar to those identified in previous reports, but with new emerging tendencies,” the UN official said.

Among the growing trends noted in the report is the increase in the number of people either choosing not to cooperate with the UN due to concerns for their safety, or only doing so if their identities remain anonymous.

Victims and witnesses in two-thirds of the countries listed in the report requested anonymous reporting of reprisals, compared with one-third in the last year’s report.

Most of the people who reported facing reprisals for their cooperation with the Security Council and its peace operations, as well as with the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues did so on the condition of anonymity.

Algeria, Afghanistan, Andorra, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Colombia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, France, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Qatar, the Russian Federation, South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Yemen, and the State of Palestine are also on the list alongside Pakistan.

Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023

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Trump business empire under threat as New York fraud trial opens

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Former US president Donald Trump will appear in a New York court on Monday as a civil fraud trial against him and two of his sons kicks off, with the case threatening the Republican’s business empire as he campaigns to retake the White House.

In Monday’s case, Judge Arthur Engoron has already ruled that Trump and his sons Eric and Don Jr committed fraud by inflating the value of the real estate and financial assets of the Trump Organization for years.

New York Attorney General Letitia James is now seeking $250 million in penalties and the removal of Trump and his sons from management of the family empire.

Trump said late Sunday he planned to be present for the start of the trial on Monday morning.

“I’m going to Court tomorrow morning to fight for my name and reputation,” the 77-year-old wrote on his Truth Social platform. “This whole case is a sham!!!”

In addition to this civil case, Trump also faces several major criminal proceedings in the months ahead.

He is scheduled to appear before a federal judge in Washington on March 4 on charges of trying to overthrow the results of the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden.

Trump will then be back in New York state court, this time on criminal hush money charges, and later in a Florida federal court, where he is accused of mishandling classified documents after leaving office.

Finally, he will also have to answer to state charges in Georgia, where prosecutors say Trump illegally tried to get the southern state’s 2020 election results changed in his favor.

In the New York civil case, Engoron ruled that Trump, his two eldest sons, and other Trump Organisation executives lied to tax collectors, lenders, and insurers for years in a scheme that exaggerated the value of their properties by $812 million to $2.2 billion between 2014 and 2021.

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