Shahbaz for distribution of 10,048 subsidised tractors before year end

LAHORE – Punjab Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif has asked the agricultural department to complete distribution of tractors on subsidised price before December 31 next.

Shahbaz Sharif said agriculture sector is a foundation and its promotion and betterment is a surety to the economic and agricultural self-sufficiency at the national level. He said Punjab government has initiated many development programmes aimed at welfare and uplift of farming community, in addition to increasing agriculture productivity to realise the dream of agriculture sector growth. He said farmer-friendly steps taken by the provincial government have yielded positive and encouraging results and per acre productivity has gone much higher. He said Punjab government has initiated process of provision of subsidised tractors, under the Green Tractor Scheme, to farmers, throughout the province, whereas these tractors are being given to the farming community after a transparent balloting process.

The CM expressed these views while presiding over a high-level meeting regarding progress in provision of tractors under Green Tractor Scheme. Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Special Assistant Zaeem Hussain Qadri, Chairman Planning & Development, Secretaries of Agriculture, Finance, Industry and authorities concerned attended the meeting.

The CM said that during the current year as many as 10,048 tractors are being distributed among farmers while Punjab government is extending a subsidy of Rs.2 lakh on every tractor. He said as many as 10,000 tractors are being distributed throughout the province, after a transparent balloting and merit, while 48 tractors would be distributed at Dera Ghazi Khan and tribal areas of Rajanpur.

He said quota for South Punjab districts has been fixed to be more than the proportion of their population, in order to provide maximum agriculture facilities to farmers of South Punjab.

He directed the concerned authorities to expedite the process of provision of tractors to farmers, which should be completed by December 31 at all costs. The Chief Minister also directed to constitute a high-level committee in this regard, which will oversee the process of transparent distribution of tractors.

CM for smooth flow of traffic on MBS route

LAHORE – Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has directed the traffic police officers to ensure smooth flow of traffic on the Metro Bus Service (MBS) route.

Presiding over a meeting regarding traffic management on metro bus project and Kalma Chowk underpass on Thursday, Shahbaz directed the chief traffic officer (CTO) to ensure smooth flow of traffic during construction of metro bus project and extension of Kalma Chowk.

He insisted an awareness campaign should be launched to apprise the citizens of alternative traffic arrangements and directed installation of road safety flexes.

The chief minister said effective safety measures should be adopted around Kalma Chowk underpass, to ward off possibility of any untoward incident. He said traffic police officers should monitor the performance of traffic wardens though CCTV cameras on the Metro Bus routes.

The CM also announced providing free masks to motorcyclists and cyclists to save them from dust and pollution because of construction. He also directed Members Assembly to daily visit the routes, and guide the masses.

Also, the chief minister said after computerisation of the record, people will get rid of the land mafia and exploitation they faced in getting ‘Fard’ of their property.

Presiding over a meeting held in connection with computerisation of the Revenue Land Record here Thursday, the CM said computerisation of land record was being carried out expeditiously in 22 districts of the province and 26 service centres had been made operational while the process of data entry in other 12 districts would soon start.

Shahbaz said the Land Record Management Information System (LMRIS) was a public welfare and revolutionary programme of the Punjab government which was being speedily implemented.

He said the system would save the masses from the corruption of patwaris and tehsildars and give the people an easy access to information and documents regarding their land. The CM directed that qualified IT experts should be recruited on merit for this project.

It was informed to the CM about 900 villages had been made operational under this modern system while the number of service centres was also being increased.

Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, Senior Member Board of Revenue, Secretary Information, Lahore Division Commissioner, DCO, Punjab Information Technology Board Chairman, LRMIS Project Director, Lodhran DCO besides concerned officials were also present on the occasion.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said “Chief Minister’s Self-Employment Scheme” was a significant step towards making country as was envisioned by Quaid-e-Azam and Allama Iqbal. Presiding over a meeting regarding the Scheme, the chief minister said deserving persons were being provided interest-free loans, upto Rs 50,000. He said the target of providing interest-free loans to one and a half lakh families had been fixed, which would be achieved soon.

“Self-employment scheme is a revolutionary programme, which will bring about a positive change in the society,” the CM added. He directed to review the possibility of increasing the limit of interest-free loans, from Rs 50 thousand, upwards.  Senator Pervaiz Rashid, Special Assistant Zaeem Hussain Qadri, Chairman Planning and Development, Secretaries of Finance, Industries, Agriculture, Social Welfare, Executive Director of “Akhuwat” Dr Amjad Saqib besides concerned officials were present.

The CM said incompetent federal rulers had established records of corruption, loot and plunder, besides throwing the country into darkness and despondency.

Maryam to attend PML-N convention

PESHAWAR: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Women Wing leader Maryam Nawaz Sharif would attend the women’s convention of the party here on December 8.

The newly appointed provincial President of PML-N Women Wing Tahira Bukhari told The News here on Tuesday that all arrangements had been finalised to hold the event. She said Maryam Nawaz as the chief guest had assured to attend the convention.

She said that women activists from five districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa would participate in the convention. She said similar conventions would be organised in other districts too.

Tahira Bukhari said that Maryam Nawaz was impressed with the traditions, love, sincerity and hospitality of the party workers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and this was the reason she wanted to visit and meet party activists.

The PML-N female leader dispelled the impression that her party was finding it hard to replace Shazia Aurangzeb, who was recently removed from her post.

PML-N Women Wing office-bearers for Malakand: Amrosha Kamal and Shabana Kamal were nominated as chief organiser and organising secretary, respectively, for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Women Wing, Malakand, at the party’s onvention.

A press release said Mehnaz was elected as chief organiser and Rozina Shahzaram Khan as organising Secretary for PK-98. This was announced by PML-N Women Wing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Organizer Sobia Khan.

CM for provinces consent to build KBD

Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has said that Kalabagh Dam should be constructed with the consent of all the provinces.

According to a handout, he was talking to the media after addressing the inaugural ceremony of the campaign “Helmet for All” on The Mall here on Thursday.

Shahbaz said construction of dams was essential for strengthening economy and PML-N’s stance on the issue was clear that the consensus among the four provinces regarding the Kalabagh Dam was vital. He hoped a consensus would be created on the issue among the provinces. He said the PML-N had always abided by decisions of the courts. He said the Punjab government was launching a programme of giving free helmets to the deserving youth throughout province and in the first phase, 20,000 helmets would be provided on merit.

Addressing the opening of the campaign, he said the policy of distributing helmets would be given a final shape within few days and this programme would be implemented in phases.

The chief minister said in addition to helmets, the government would also give solar lamps to the male and female students of the schools under “Ujala Programme.” He disclosed that an agreement with the Chinese company for provision of solar lamps had been made and the company, besides supplying solar lamps, would also provide 10,000 solar lamps free of cost to the Punjab government which cost about Rs120 million. He said that launching of the campaign of provision of helmets to the youth was a praiseworthy step of Ch Sarwar.

Land record: Shahbaz Sharif has said that as a result of computerisation of land record in the province, no one will be able to exploit the people in obtaining the “Fard” of their property and they will also get rid of land mafia.

He was presiding over a meeting on the Land Record Management Information System here on Thursday. Shahbaz said computerisation of land record was being carried out expeditiously in 22 districts of the province.

The chief minister said 26 service centres have had been made operational while the process of data entry in other 12 districts would soon be started.

Nepra proposes importing electricity

ISLAMABAD: National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) has asked the government to import electricity from India and Iran to end the ongoing power crisis as the concerned institutions have failed to resolve it.

The regulator came up with the said recommendations in its state of industry report 2012 issued here on Thursday. Nepra projected that the power crisis would continue till 2020 and the only solution was for the government to import electricity from neighbouring Iran and India.

Nepra clearly mentioned in its report that the government and its institutions had failed to cope with the power crisis and there was no short term solution available. It further said that the power crisis was adversely affecting GDP growth in the country’s economy.

Moreover, the power crisis had affected the industrial sector and unemployment had subsequently increased.

The report revealed that electricity theft and line losses had swelled to 35 percent in the KESC system and 40 percent electricity is wasted due to electricity theft and line losses in the rest of the country.

The report also said that all the transactions of the central power purchase agency were illegal as there were no sales and purchase agreements. The electric power distribution companies had failed to improve their output as per the standards set by Nepra. The report further said that 14000MW of electricity had been generated against the country’s capacity of 23,000MW.

Nepra recommended importing electricity from India and Iran. According to the report, Nepra expressed grave concern over increasing deterioration in the output of the public sector electricity generation power plants and the National Transmission Dispatch Company (NTDC). The electric power regulator also criticised the massive surge in illegal connections.

The report also said that the NTDC was generating costly electricity by utilising the inefficient power sector electricity generation plants to provide 650 MW to the KESC despite the fact that the KESC had the capacity to generate additional 650 MW of electricity. The plants which were lying idle with the KESC were much better than the power plants that the NTDC had, said the report.

Rupee falls

KARACHI: The rupee continued its depreciation against the US dollar on Thursday as it fell to a record low of 96.66 at the interbank market, said dealers.

Market dealers said that the demand pressure of the US currency dented rupee’s value against the dollar in the currency market.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves went down to $13.575 billion during the week ended November 23, while the official international reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan also dropped below $9 billion to stand at $8.860 billion, showing an adverse balance of payments position. Analysts said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan repayments led to a sharp depletion in foreign exchange reserves and put pressure on the rupee. Pakistan paid the seventh installment worth $394.3 million to the IMF under its standby loan arrangement (SBA) facility last week.

Outflows push forex reserves to 3-year low

KARACHI: Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves fell to a three-year low of $13.5 billion during the week ended November 23, 2012 because of external debt obligations and high import payments, the central bank reported on Thursday.

The reserves held by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) also dropped below $9 billion, showing an adverse balance of payments position of the economy.

A latest breakup of the foreign reserves revealed that liquid foreign reserves slumped by $270 million to $13.575 billion while the central bank witnessed a drawdown of forex reserves by $382 million to $8.860 billion.

In the absence of bilateral and multilateral financing, the IMF loan repayments would lead to a sharp depletion of reserves, analysts said.

They said the reserves have fallen to an alarming level and are only sufficient to cover just less than three months of import and debt repayments.

The official international reserves will continue to come under pressure from continued loan repayments, they added.

The country’s balance of payments outlook remains precarious despite showing surplus in current account during the four months of the current fiscal year.

The sustainability factor in the current account surplus is likely to end November onwards, analysts observed.

“The decline in reserves impaired severely the country’s ability to meet its external obligations and, given a sluggish pace of foreign direct investment (FDI) along with uncertain prospect of foreign inflows, country’s reserves are likely to stay under pressure, facing further downturn in the remaining course of current fiscal year,” said Ahsan Mehanti, a senior analyst at Arif Habib Corporation.

“However, on the basis of assuming a robust growth in remittances from overseas workers, which may go up to $14 billion and improvement in portfolio flows at the local equity market, the balance of payments is likely to be at a comfortable level during the current fiscal year,” he said.

As on September 30, 2012, country’s foreign debts stood at $66.2 billion as on September 30, 2012 and trade deficit was at $6.44 billion in the four months of ongoing fiscal year. This casts a shadow over external sector outlook, as most of debt servicing obligations are due in this fiscal year.

Pakistan has paid the seventh installment worth $394.3 million to the IMF under its standby loan arrangement (SBA) facility last week. It has paid $2.522 billion to the IMF, since February 2012. The next installment of SDR258.4 million is due on February 26, 2013. The IMF and scheduled debt repayments are draining forex reserves and straining continuously Pak rupee.

According to a report, Pakistan’s buffer to external financial shocks or to a loss of domestic confidence in the rupee would be thin.

This fragility in the external payments position highlights Pakistan’s high reliance on multilateral or bilateral financing that has proven to be unstable over recent years.

Pakistan’s current account prospects for the fiscal year 2013 are unlikely to show an improvement, it said.

But with export growth in low single-digit and a contraction in import growth, it is too soon to see exports dipping back into the red or oil prices edging higher resulting in the current account deficit, the report predicted.

It warned while the external vulnerability indicators (EVI) were at a prudent of 32.3 percent in last fiscal year, it could climb rapidly if reserve hemorrhaging continues.

The external payments pose a serious downside risk to the local currency also as the local unit has depreciated by 0.6 percent against the US dollar during November.

ECP, govt fail to reach consensus

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the Sindh administration are divided over the implementation of the Supreme Court order for the delimitation of constituencies in Karachi, sources said on Thursday.

The sources told The News that at a meeting the ECP and the provincial administration had failed to reach a consensus on the issue of redrawing the city’s constituencies.

Insiders said both sides had decided to consult a third stakeholder, political parties, on Friday (today).

The sources said the government thought delimitation was the ECP’s job and conveyed to it that it could not interfere in its jurisdiction.

They a senior bureaucrat had walked out of a meeting on the jurisdiction issue.

Now representatives of the PPP, MQM, PML-N, PML-Q, PML-F, ANP, JI, JUP, JUI-F, Sunni Tehreek, Tehreek-e-Insaaf and others have been invited to Friday’s meeting.

The city administration has taken the stand that the situation will become difficult if any changes are made in the constituencies at this stage, and warned that the elections will also be affected.

The meeting was attended by Secretary ECP Ishtiaq Ali Khan, provincial election commissioner Sono Khan, the city commissioner, five deputy commissioners, and representatives of Nadra. The chief secretary presided over the meeting.

Reko Diq case: SC seeks documents tying Mincor, TCC

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has sought contract documents of the Mincor Resources NL’s making the Tethyan Cooper Company (TCC) it’s representative, DawnNews reported.

A three member bench of the apex court, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and comprising of Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, resumed the hearing in the Reko Diq case.

While presenting his arguments, counsel for the TCC Khalid Anwar told the court that the exemption granted to TCC was extended even after the passage of seven years.

Anwar said that the Australian TCC was registered in 2007 in Pakistan and that the company had only entered into an agreement in 2002.

Justice Gulzar inquired from the TTC lawyer if the Balochistan government had approved the merger between the TCC and the US based BHP company, adding that the TCC does not seem to be a direct party to the Reko Diq agreeement.

Barrister Khalid Anwar told the court that the TCC was included in the agreement as a representative of the Mincor Resources NL on Oct 24, 2000.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry sought the documentation authorising the TCC as a representative for the Mincor company adding that agent companies do not possess absolute powers of the principal company while conducting business and that the representing company performs limited operations.

Chaudhry further inquired that under what law was the TCC authorised to work with complete powers of the principal company.

The bench had taken up a petition of Dr Abdul Haq Baloch seeking a restraining order against the federal and provincial governments from attending the proceedings of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and the International Chambers of Commerce (ICC) in view of an earlier court order asking the Balochistan government to request the international arbitrators to withhold their hearing until a decision by the court on the matter.

Tethyan Copper Company, a Canadian and Chilean consortium of Barrick Gold and Antofagasta Minerals formed to explore gold and copper, had invoked the jurisdiction of the ICC and ICSID against the government of Pakistan for not renewing the prospective Reko Diq minerals license in accordance with Balochistan Mining Rules 2002.

The ICSID has already reserved its judgment on the dispute.

Waheeda Shah case: SC stays by-poll in PS-53; admits appeal for hearing

ISLAMABAD: Admitting Waheeda Shah’s appeal for hearing, the Supreme Court on Friday directed the authorities to stop the by-election in the provincial assembly constituency of PS-53 Tando Mohammad Khan, DawnNews reported.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk, admitted Shah’s appeal for hearing.

After the arguments by Shah’s counsel, Hashmat Habib, the bench issued a restraining order for the PS-53 by-election which had been scheduled for Dec 4.

Shah had filed the appeal against the rulings of the Sindh High Court and the Election Commission of Pakistan.

On Nov 4, Chief Election Commissioner retired Justice Fakhrudin G. Ebrahim had upheld the disqualification of Shah, a candidate who had slapped an election official during polling on Feb 25 in the by-election of the PS-53 constituency of Sindh Assembly. Her disqualification had barred her from being elected as a member of an assembly for two years.

According to the CEC’s verdict, Shah had been found guilty of slapping Presiding Officer Habiba Memon and others during the polling of by-elections at the polling station No 16 and had therefore been found guilty of interfering in the polling process.

The ECP had earlier taken serious notice of the incident and by a majority decision, thereafter directed the returning officer to take cognisance of the offence under the relevant section of the Representation of the People’s Act, 1976.

The returning officer, vide decision dated March 5, 2012, had convicted Shah of committing an offence under Section 86(3)(b) of the act and imposed a fine of Rs1,000 on her.

In pursuance thereof, on March 7, 2012, the ECP had declared the poll of PS-53 void under Section 103-AA of the Act and disqualified Shah from being elected as a member of an assembly for two years under Section 100 of the Act by separate majority decisions.

Subsequently, the Sindh High Court had maintained her conviction but quashed her disqualification on the ground that the power to disqualify under Section 100 of the Act rested exclusively with the Chief Election Commissioner and not with the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Shah was subsequently declared disqualified by the CEC.