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IMF approves $6 billion agreement with Pakistan for 3-years

Sun. 12 May 2019

Advisor to Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said on Sunday that a staff-level agreement has been reached with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on a 39-month Extended Fund Facility (EFF) programme of $6 billion.

While speaking exclusively to state-run television, Shaikh said that “I want to tell you that after month”s long discussion, a staff-level agreement has been singed with the IMF and it would be approved by the IMF Executive Board”. However, an official said that 1.3 percent of the GDP (around Rs 600 billion) taxation measures have been agreed with the Fund to target 0.6 percent primary deficit in the next fiscal year and claimed that an agreement was also reached that in the first fiscal year Rs100 billion power tariff adjustment would be made.

The Advisor explained that an IMF programme was required because there was pressure on foreign exchange reserves and country was required to meet the debt obligations. The size of debt is $90 billion. He said that trade balance increased in the negative by $20 billion during the last fiscal year. Shaikh added that the country”s financing needs were $12 billion yearly which could not be met in the absence of an IMF programme. He pointed out that the IMF is an international institution, which helps its member countries overcome balance of payments challenges. The major benefit of the IMF programme is that the country would get $6 billion from the IMF and an additional $ 2 billion to 3 billion from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB). He said that the programme would send a positive signal across.

He said that this would be the last IMF programme, if unlike past, we are able to implement structural reforms successfully to move on the path to sustainable growth by boosting country”s exports, and increase investment. Otherwise, he said that IMF programme deals were inked in the past as well but structural reforms were not undertaken.

About electricity and gas prices increase, he said that in case of increase in electricity prices, there would be no impact on those using up to 300 units as government would earmark Rs 216 billion, up by Rs 50 billion in the next fiscal year”s budget to provide relief to those consuming up to 300 units monthly. He said that for social safety net, Rs 180 billion will be allocated, additional Rs 80 billion, for fiscal year 2019-20 to protect the vulnerable from the impact of the programme.

A statement was also issued by the IMF which stated that the Extended Fund Facility arrangement aims to support the authorities” strategy for stronger and more inclusive growth by reducing domestic and external imbalances, removing impediments to growth, increasing transparency, and strengthening social spending.

An ambitious structural reform agenda will supplement economic policies to rekindle economic growth and improve living standards. Financing support from Pakistan”s international partners will be critical to supporting the authorities” adjustment efforts and ensure that the medium-term programme objectives can be achieved.

In response to a request by the Pakistani authorities, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission led by Ernesto Ramirez Rigo visited Islamabad from April 29 to May 11 to discuss IMF support for the authorities” economic reform programme. At the end of the visit, Ramirez Rigo made the statement that “the Pakistani authorities and the IMF team have reached a staff-level agreement on economic policies that could be supported by a 39-month Extended Fund Arrangement (EFF) for about US$6 billion.

This agreement is subject to IMF management approval and to approval by the Executive Board, subject to the timely implementation of prior actions and confirmation of international partners” financial commitments.

The programme aims to support the authorities” strategy for stronger and more balanced growth by reducing domestic and external imbalances, improving the business environment, strengthening institutions, increasing transparency, and protecting social spending. “Pakistan is facing a challenging economic environment, with lacklustre growth, elevated inflation, high indebtedness, and a weak external position.

This reflects the legacy of uneven and procyclical economic policies in recent years aiming to boost growth, but at the expense of rising vulnerabilities and lingering structural and institutional weaknesses.

The authorities recognize the need to address these challenges, as well as to tackle the large informality in the economy, the low spending in human capital, and poverty. In this regard, the government has already initiated a difficult, but necessary, adjustment to stabilize the economy, including thorough support from the State Bank of Pakistan.

“The forthcoming budget for fiscal year 2019-20 is a first critical step in the authorities” fiscal strategy. The budget will aim for a primary deficit of 0.6 percent of GDP supported by tax policy revenue mobilization measures to eliminate exemptions, curtail special treatments, and improve tax administration.

This will be accompanied by prudent spending growth aimed at preserving essential development spending, scaling up the Benazir Income Support Programme and improve targeted subsidies, with the goal of protecting the most vulnerable segments of society.

“The State Bank of Pakistan will focus on reducing inflation, which disproportionately affects the poor, and safeguarding financial stability. A market-determined exchange rate will help the functioning of the financial sector and contribute to a better resource allocation in the economy. The authorities are committed to strengthening the State Bank of Pakistan’s operational independence and mandate.

“An ambitious structural reform agenda will supplement economic policies to rekindle economic growth and improve living standards. Priority areas include improving the management of public enterprises, strengthening institutions and governance, continuing anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism efforts, creating a more favourable business environment, and facilitating trade. To improve fiscal management the authorities will engage provincial governments on exploring options to rebalance current arrangements in the context of the forthcoming National Finance Commission (NFC). “The IMF team is grateful to the Pakistani authorities for open and constructive discussions and their hospitality.”

‘Courtesy Business Recorder’

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Kekra-1 well in deep sea: No oil, gas reserves found off Pakistan shore

KARACHI: Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Petroleum Nadeem Babar has said that drilling at Kekra-1 well in deep sea near Karachi has been stopped after no oil or gas reservoir could be found. Talking to Media, Nadeem Babar said after reaching at the depth of 5,500 metres in deep sea at Kekra-1 in G-bloc, ENI, the operator, the drilling was stopped after gas and oil reservoirs could not be found there.

 The 17th attempt to find hydrocarbons off the shore of Pakistan has been futile as no oil and gas reserves have been found.

Around four months ago, Italian firm ENI, the operator of the Kekra-1 offshore block, started drilling in a joint venture with US firm ExxonMobil, one of the world’s largest oil and gas firm, and the Pakistan state-owned Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL).

Each of the four firms has a 25% participating interest in the block. “No reserves were discovered after drilling up to over 5,000 metres,” a senior government official.

He added that Dutch firm Shell had also carried out offshore drilling 10 years ago but failed to find hydrocarbon reserves.

The official said the ENI, in partnership with other companies, had invested around $100 million and predicted a 13% success rate during drilling.

However, the official noted that India had found offshore reserves after 40 attempts.

“Therefore, Pakistan should continue its efforts because there is a long area where the presence of reserves is expected,” he added.

The drilling was carried out in ultra-deep waters some 280 kilometres away from the Karachi coast.

The well was spudded on January 13 this year, targeting a carbonate reservoir with a prognosed total depth of 5,660 metres.

Some surveyors had found the block ‘Indus-G’ similar to the Indian offshore Bombay High oilfield, which produces 350,000 barrels per day of crude oil, while others described it as similar to the ones in the oil- and gas-rich Kuwait.

The Exxon Mobil Corporation, through the ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Pakistan, had acquired a 25% participating interest in the Indus-G Block in May 2018. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar confirmed that no reserves had been found. He added that the office of the Petroleum Concessions DG had been informed about the results of the drilling. “Drilling was carried out up to a depth of more than 5,500 meters in Indus-G block.”

In recent months, the government had repeatedly pinned its hopes on the discovery of the reserves, and many citizens were sure of a change in fortunes for the country.

In March this year, Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that the nation should expect “good news” soon, hinting at the possibility of discovering major offshore oil reserves.

In an interaction with journalists, the premier said the offshore drilling off the coast of Karachi was in its final stages and there could be a major find. “We should all pray that Pakistan gets this natural resource in substantial quantity,” he added.

A few days ago, Federal Maritime Affairs Minister Ali Zaidi had also raised hopes expressing his optimism about finding the reserves

He said a pressure signal had released at the depth of 5,474 meters during drilling and that was a “positive sign”.

“Pressure was released at different locations during drilling which is good news and blowout pre-vendor caps have been installed there,” he added. Exploration in the Indus offshore dates back to the 1960s when the Sun Oil Company of the US drilled three wells. Later, Wintershall of Germany, Husky of Canada, Occidental of the US, Petro Canada, Total of France, Shell of the Netherlands and Eni of Italy also drilled wells in the Indus offshore.

So far 16 wells have been drilled in the area. Some of them fell short of their target because of technical issues while others reported quantities of non-commercial gas.

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Pakistan Army conducts successful training launch of Shaheen-II ballistic missile

By News Desk | May 23, 2019

The Pakistan Army on Thursday 23rd May  2019 ,conducted a successful training launch of the Shaheen-II surface-to-surface ballistic missile, said a statement from the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).

“Successful training launch of surface to surface ballistic missile Shaheen-II conducted. Capable of carrying both conventional & nuclear warheads upto a range of 1500 KMs. Shaheen-II fully meets Pak’s strat needs towards maintenance of desired deterrence stability in the region”. DG (ISPR) Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor.

The ballistic missile test comes a day after Pakistan’s arch-rival India conducted a test of the supersonic Brahmos cruise missile. The training launch was aimed at ensuring the operational readiness of Army Strategic Forces Command, responsible for Pakistan’s ballistic missile forces. The military’s media wing added that the “Shaheen-II is a highly capable missile that meets Pakistan’s strategic needs towards the maintenance of desired deterrence stability in the region”.

Today’s training launch, having its impact point in the Arabian Sea, was witnessed by Director General Strategic Plans Division, Commander Army Strategic Forces Command, Chairman NESCOM, senior officers from the Army Strategic Forces Command and scientists and engineers from strategic organisations. Chairman JCSC and the services chiefs congratulated the scientists and engineers on conducting the successful training launch.

The president and the prime minister have also conveyed their congratulations on the successful launch of the missile.

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Launching ceremony of Maritime Patrol Vessel held at Karachi shipyard

KARACHI ( 22 May 2019) : Launching ceremony of 1500 Tons state of the art Maritime Patrol Vessel being built for Pakistan Maritime Security Agency (PMSA), was held at Karachi Shipyard & Engineering Works (KS&EW).

Vice Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Kaleem Shaukat graced the occasion as Chief Guest.

The Maritime Patrol vessel is a multi-mission vessel with steel hull and aluminum super structure having length of 95 m & breadth of 12.2 m and can achieve maximum speed upto 26 knots.

The ship has been built in technical collaboration with China Shipbuilding & Trading Company (CSTC) and Huang Pu Shipyard, China. The ship is fully equipped to enforce maritime security, search and rescue missions in maritime exclusive economic zone of Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, the Chief Guest congratulated KS&EW, CSTC (China) and Huang Pu Shipyard, China on achieving this important milestone ahead of scheduled timeframe and said that it is yet another land mark project that speaks volumes of the evergreen friendship between China and Pakistan.

He added that responsibilities of Pakistan Navy and PMSA have increased manifolds after CPEC and extension in EEZ.

The launching ceremony was attended by high ranking officials from Government of Pakistan, Pakistan Navy, China Shipbuilding & Trading Company, Huang Pu Shipyard, China and KS&EW.

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Pakistan army’s separate special force will protect CPEC projects & Chinese nationals

Pakistan has faced a very challenging war against terrorism during the last two decades. Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor

Islamabad, Pakistan: The Pakistan Army will raise another division-size special force to protect Chinese nationals and projects under the CPEC, military spokesman Major General Asif Ghafoor has said, days after the brazen terror attack on a luxury hotel in Balochistan.

Describing the USD 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as a living example of deep-rooted friendship between Pakistan and China, Major General Ghafoor, Director General of the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR), said the Pakistan Army was fully determined to ensure the security of the project.

Talking to the Chinese media in Rawalpindi on Saturday, he said the Pakistan military had raised a whole division-size force to protect the project and they were planning to deploy another division for this purpose. Earlier reports said a Special Security Division (SSD) comprising 9,000 Pakistan Army soldiers and 6,000 para-military forces personnel has been set up for the security of the CPEC project and Chinese nationals working on it. Ghafoor said Pakistan faced a very challenging war against terrorism during the last two decades, and now the security situation was under control.

Talking about the CPEC role in the country, he said the economic prosperity brought about by the CPEC will fail the motives of terrorists, as with the success of project more employment and business opportunities will be unveiled and with more economic opportunities coming in, people’s lifestyle will improve and inimical elements will fail gradually, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

He claimed that the security situation in Balochistan had improved since the launch of the CPEC and now there was a better infrastructure, as many Chinese projects were underway, and with every coming day security, development and investment situation will get better. The Pakistan Army spokesman’s comments came days after terrorists attacked the Pearl Continental luxury hotel in the port city of Gwadar in the restive Balochistan province, killing at least eight persons, including four civilians and a Pakistan Navy soldier. The attack was claimed by the Balochistan Liberation Army  one of the most-organised terrorist groups of Baloch nationalists fighting against security forces. The group was also involved in the terrorist attack at the Chinese consulate in Karachi last year. Ghafoor said: “Today’s Gwadar is not what it used to be two years ago and in future it will be on a par with the ports of developed countries”.

Gwadar port is one of the focal points of the CPEC with many Chinese workers from other provinces of Pakistan working at the port. China is investing heavily in Balochistan under the CPEC. The CPEC, launched in 2015, is a planned network of roads, railways and energy projects linking China’s resource-rich Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region with Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea.

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Pakistan and Russia sign Joint Statement on

No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space

(22-05-2019) Pakistan and Russia signed a Joint Statement on No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space on 22 May 2019 in Bishkek. The Joint Statement was signed by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Outer space is being used by an increasing number of States. Pakistan has been consistently highlighting the risks of weaponization of Outer Space, which threaten the long term sustainability of peaceful space activities. The use of force against space based objects, the development and deployment of Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) systems and their integration

 into space assets have added worrying dimensions to the issues relating to Outer Space.

There is an urgent need to address gaps in the international legal regime governing the exploration and use of outer space with a view to ensuring that no one threatens peaceful activities and applications of space technologies for socio-economic

 development.

Pakistan and Russia share a common position on the prevention of arms race in outer space and work collectively in various international fora towards that goal. The signing of today’s Joint Statement on No First Placement of Weapons in Outer Space

 is a reflection of convergence of views between the two sides. Pakistan and Russia have reiterated their commitment to refrain from the threat or use of force in Outer Space activities. We encourage other responsible space-faring nations to follow this example.

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Suicide blast outside Data Darbar Shrine:  13 people were martyred & wounded 30

LAHORE (Wed. 8  May)  A total of 13 people, including five elite force personnel, a security guard and five civilians, have been martyred and 30 others sustained critical wounds in the attack that targeted vehicles of police elite forcenear the entrance gate for female visitors at Data Darbar.

According to details, deceased Mudassir’s family complained about the negligence and lack of health facility at the hospital and said that the victim died due to ill-treatment.

Hundreds of Muslims were at the Data Darbar as the country marks the holy month of Ramazan. The impact of the blast shattered the windows in nearby vehicles and buildings, bystanders told the media.

“Police was the prime target in this attack. We are collecting forensic evidences to ascertain the nature of the blast. This attack has left nine dead and 24 injured,” said Ashfaq Khan, deputy inspector general of police operations in Lahore.

The shrine has been targeted previously  a 2010 suicide attack there killed more than 40 people  and is guarded by heavy security.

An attack in Lahore in March last year left nine people dead, while a major blast targeting Christians celebrating Easter in a park in 2016 killed more than 70 people.

How it happened

The blast occurred near a mobile of the Elite Force parked near Gate Number 2 at 8:54am on Wednesday. There were five people in the van — four policemen and one driver. The driver was not in the van at the time of the blast. Other cars nearby were also damaged in the blast.

Punjab IG Arif Nawaz has confirmed that the police were “100%” targeted in the attack. The attacker could have hit another side (of the Data Darbar) but chose to approach the police van stationed there, he told the media outside the shrine. The police are stationed there round the clock as part of routine security, he said. He said a 7kg bomb was used.

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Terrorists storm Gwadar Pearl Continental hotel

Three terrorists killed, soldier among 5 martyred in Gwadar attack: ISPR

QUETTA:  BY STAFF REPORT , Saturday 11 May, 2019

According to Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the terrorists attempted to force their way into the hotel and were challenged by the security guards. Two guards were killed by the assailants firing. “Security forces cordoned off the area and encircled the terrorists on the stairs leading to the top floor,” it further said, adding that the guests were safely evacuated from the hotel.

Pakistan Army’s media wing on Sunday 12 May,  announced that three terrorists were killed and five people, which include four hotel workers and a Pakistan Navy soldier, were martyred in the attack on a luxury hotel in Gwadar. In a statement announcing the completion of a clearance operation at Pearl Continental, Gwadar, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) confirmed that six people, which include two army captains, two navy soldiers and two hotel employees, were injured in the attack.

The ISPR said the terrorists attempted to enter the hotel with the aim of targeting or taking guests hostage. A security guard at the entry point challenged the terrorists and denied them entry into the main hall, forcing them to take a staircase leading to the upper floors. It was in this exchange of fire that a security guard named Zahoor embraced martyrdom.

The attackers kept firing indiscriminately as they ascended the stairs and martyred three hotel employees identified as Farhad, Bilawal and Awais, while two more workers suffered injuries.

The ISPR said Quick Reaction Forces of the army, navy and police immediately reached the hotel to secure and evacuate guests and staff members. In this exchange of fire, a Pakistan Navy soldier, Abbas Khan, embraced martyrdom, while two army captains and two navy soldiers were injured.

The statement said the terrorists bodies have been held for identification.

The attack was claimed by the proscribed Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), which said that four fighters of Majeed Brigade had managed to breach the high-security hotel and killed “a number of Chinese and Pakistani investors” present in the premises. No independent confirmation of the BLA’s claim was made at the time of filing of this report.

A twitter account linked with the BLA identified the assailants as Munseb Baloch alias Kareem, Asad Baloch alias Mehrab, Hammal Fateh Baloch alias Habib, and Kachkol alias Commando.

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UN honours Pakistani peacekeeper posthumously

Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi accepts award from UN chief on behalf of soldier’s family

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Friday honoured 119 military, police and civilian peacekeepers from 38 countries, including a Pakistani soldier, who lost their lives in 2018 and early 2019 while serving in UN peacekeeping operations in hotspots around the world. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presided over the special ceremony during which the Dag Hammarskjold Medal was awarded posthumously to the peacekeepers who made the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of peace.

The event, held at UN Headquarters in New York, marked the annual International Day of Peacekeepers. Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi, accepted the award from the UN chief on behalf of the family of Naik Mohammad Naeem Raza who died while serving with the UN Organisation Stabilisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO).

Speaking to APP afterwards, she said she was “humbled and honoured” to receive the award on behalf of Shaheed Raza. “This medal to our hero Naik Mohammad Naeem Raza is recognition by the UN Secretary General of the sacrifice, dedication and professionalism of Pakistan’s peacekeepers,” Ambassador Lodhi said. “Pakistani peacekeepers continue to serve UN peacekeeping missions with distinction and fly the flag of Pakistan high,” she said. “Their sacrifices are testimony to Pakistan’s commitment to uphold international peace and security.”

Pakistan is currently the sixth largest contributor of uniformed personnel to UN Peacekeeping. Currently, Pakistan contributes more than 5,200 military and police personnel to the UN peace operations in the Central African Republic, Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and the Western Sahara. During the ceremony, the Secretary-General also awarded the “Captain Mbaye Diagne Medal for Exceptional Courage” posthumously to Private Chancy Chitete of Malawi. The medal is named for a Senegalese peacekeeper who was killed in Rwanda in 1994 after saving countless civilian lives. This is the first time the medal has been awarded since the inaugural medal was presented to Captain Diagne’s family in his honour in 2016.

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