Danyal Aziz calls on Shahbaz Sharif, Ahsan Iqbal, joins PML-N

LAHORE: Former Chairman National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) Danyal Aziz met the former Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and announced his joining the PML-N.The meeting took place at PML-N Secretariat, Model Town. Shahbaz Sharif is learnt to have welcomed Danyal into the party’s fold, terming him an honest person. He also discussed the political situation in Narowal with Danyal. PML-N Deputy Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal was also present on this occasion.

PML-N tickets only on merit, says Nawaz

LAHORE: PML-N President Nawaz Sharif has said his party will issue tickets for National and provincial seats purely on merit.

Addressing the PML-N parliamentary board meeting on Wednesday, Nawaz said by the grace of Allah, an elected government accomplished its tenure without the umbrella of anyone while the Pakistani people acted like a civilised nation and showed extreme maturity. He said since the general elections were going to be held, it was the responsibility of every voter to exercise the right of franchise only in favour of pious and dedicated candidates.

He said the future of the democratic system was the basis of states, sovereignty and dignity of nations. The PML-N leader hailed the decision of Sardar Akhtar Mengal for contesting the forthcoming elections.

Meanwhile, the PML-N parliamentary board had finalised the aspiring candidates for National and provincial assemblies’ seats from the Punjab. According to the board’s decision, the Sharif brothers and Hamza Shahbaz will contest from Lahore.

Nawaz said the people would now be having another opportunity to elect their representatives for five years in a free atmosphere.

He said the priority of the PML-N would be continuation of democracy and economic revival of the country so that it could become one of the top 10 economically strong countries.

For this purpose, he pledged to make Pakistan peaceful and educated, provide cheap and surplus energy as well as infrastructure for fast communication. -Agencies

Correspondent adds: A meeting of PML-N senior leaders was held in Lahore in which the party showedits satisfaction over the developments made by the former Punjab government. According to a press release on Monday, the meeting was chaired by Nawaz Sharif.

Well done Shahbaz!

LAHORE – PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, at a party meeting, praised the five-year performance of the Punjab government under the chief ministership of Shahbaz Sharif.
He said Shahbaz Sharif performed duties with utmost dedication, honesty and diligently that was unprecedented in the history. He said Shahbaz lived up to the party expectations for which the party leaders also feel proud and confident before the people.
He said by delivering to the cause of public service in Punjab, Shahbaz set indelible examples whereof confidence of the politicians and the masses in democracy has raised. Also, Nawaz has said that sovereignty of a country and dignity of its nation rests in the continuity of democracy. Addressing the party parliamentary board members at Model Town on Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif said: “Democracy is like a tree under which a society develops.”
“Any act which hinders growth of democracy amounts to denying wellbeing and progress to a nation and committing a national crime,” he held.
Nawaz said the nation once again got an opportunity to freely elect their representatives for another five years and get their lot changed.
He said after winning the election the PML-N would promptly move ahead with a determination and commitment to find out means to make available to the nation electricity at cheap rates and fast means of communications as they are basic for economic progress of a country.

Shahbaz condoles death of Inzamam’s father

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif has expressed deep sense of sorrow and grief over the death of father of former test cricketer and Pakistan Cricket Team captain Inzamam-ul-Haq. The chief minister prayed that may Allah Almighty rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant courage and strength to the members of the bereaved family to bear the irreparable loss with fortitude.

ECP to apply articles 62, 63: CJ

ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on Wednesday remarked that those conducting the scrutiny of papers of candidates are to implement Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, was hearing the constitutional petition of Dr Mubashir Hassan against alleged pre-poll rigging and for the strict implementation of Articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.

During the hearing, A K Dogar, counsel for Dr Mubashir Hassan, submitted that former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf had violated the Constitution on November 3, 2007, by imposing emergency in the country, and he is now going to participate in the general elections.

The chief justice said that such an objection could be raised at the concerned forum from where Musharraf is submitting his nomination papers.

The counsel, while citing the July 31, 2009, judgment of the court, said: “The Constitution can’t be held in abeyance at the will and whim of the army chief,” adding, “It is firmly laid down that holding in abeyance of the Constitution or any of its provisions or having an effect on its continuation in any manner is subversion of the Constitution and thus constitutes the offence of high treason.”

The chief justice said that he was unaware of what his status was. A K Dogar replied that there is a judgement in PLD 1997 SC 84 that the judgment of the court becomes part of the Constitution. He said that Article 62 and 63 needed to be enforced.

The chief justice replied that it is the duty of the Returning Officer (RO) where it is to be applied. Justice Chaudhry asked the counsel if he had some specific person in mind, and then they had ruled that the court would hear person-specific cases.

A K Dogar said that there is a declaration in the judgement against Pervez Musharraf therefore the former president stands convicted. The chief justice asked him to go to the RO and raise objections there.

Upon this the counsel said that he did not ask for initiating proceedings against Musharraf.

During the proceedings, the CJ observed that the objective of the petition is to ensure implementation of Article 62 and 63 of the Constitution, saying that the ECP knows better how to apply both the articles in letter and spirit.

He further said that they have passed an order yesterday (Tuesday) regarding the details of the candidates. The chief justice categorically said that the court cannot make a law or issue a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in a matter.

Meanwhile, Azher Siddique, one of the counsels for the petitioner, alleged that the Election Commission was concealing facts regarding verification of the degrees of parliamentarians.

The chief justice asked him to identify such persons who provided wrong information to the Commission so that the court could summon them for prosecution.

Later, allowing amendments in the petition, the court adjourned the hearing for two weeks.

Online adds: During the proceedings, the chief justice observed: “Voters should know what are the credentials of the candidate contesting election from his respective constituency. A voter can file his objections in this respect. It is not known to the court what objection the voter is going to file. Fake degrees have no more importance now. There is a difference between the 2008 polls and the upcoming polls. No condition of a BA degree is in place now. All the stakeholders are agreed on it that the elections be held in a fair and transparent manner.”

$288m repayments to IMF in next 5 days

ISLAMABAD – Pakistani rupee and foreign exchange reserves are likely to remain under pressure in the days to come, as country would return around $288 million to International Monetary Fund (IMF) under Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) loan facility in next five days.
Sources informed that Pakistan would repay an amount of $144 million to IMF under Stand-by Arrangement (SBA) loan facility today (Thursday) and it would return same amount of $144 million on the first day of next month (April). Another repayment will be made amounting to $533 million in May 2013. “Pakistan will repay $143.7 million to the IMF today (Thursday) for which arrangement has been made”, said Syed Wasimuddin, chief spokesman of State Bank of Pakistan while talking to The Nation on Wednesday. He further said that Pakistan would repay another installment to the Fund on April 1.
The financial experts believe that huge repayments to the Fund would keep Pakistani rupee and foreign exchange reserves under pressure in the days to come. Pakistan foreign exchange reserves currently stand at $12.436 billion (on March 15, 2013) wherein central bank held reserves stand at $7.451 billion and commercial banks reserves at $ 4.985 billion. The rupee fell to an all-time low level of Rs 100 against the dollar in the open market in February 2013 due to repayment of $146 million to the IMF under the SBA loan facility. Therefore, it is feared that rupee and reserve would come under pressure in the days to come. However, the experts are of the view that the government could lessen pressure on the rupee and forex reserves by utilizing overseas Pakistanis remittances in a judicious manner.
Pakistan has already paid around $3.24 billion against the total loan of $7.80 billion. The rupee is likely to remain under pressure because of IMF repayments as the foreign exchange reserves have declined to $8.5 billion in February.
The country acquired the loan in 2008 after fragile economic conditions and for supporting the economy. Pakistan got a loan of $7.80 billion in March 2008 when the dollar-rupee value was around Rs 64 in the open market. Pakistan has to pay around $1.57 billion in excess against retiring loan with interest and hike in dollar value of $8.53 billion.
The economic experts believed that Pakistan would approach IMF for fresh loan programme due to the current poor economic conditions of the country because of the continuous borrowing by government from State Bank of Pakistan, lowering down foreign reserves, no further direct foreign investment hopes in the next six months and poor law and order situation.
The country’s external account is under extreme pressure since the inflows were negligible during the year 2012, while outflows eroded the reserves. The remaining amount due under the IMF/SBA (standby arrangement programme) until September 2015 is $3,239 million. The remaining repayments to the IMF and other international financial institutes would certainly hit the country’s external position with weak reserves and sharply declining foreign investments.
The government is repaying the loan, $7.6 billion, taken in 2008 under the SBA, which was increased to $11.3 billion, but the country was not eligible for the last two disbursements of $3.2billion due to its failure to comply with the performance criteria. The government failed to bring reforms to the General Sales Tax (GST) and the power sector, which became the reason for suspension of the programme.
Sources said in the next financial year, Islamabad would have to repay $3.4 billion to the IMF. Hence, Pakistan would have no option, but to seek a fresh bailout package from the IMF to remove the possibility of a default.

SC issues contempt notice to Ashraf

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued contempt of court notice to former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in the rental power projects case.

The court issued the notice to Ashraf for trying to influence it by writing a letter to the Chief Justice, asking him to constitute a commission to investigate the RPP case.

A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry heard the case.

The chief justice remarked that Raja Pervez Ashraf attempted to approach the court for a separate commission which was tantamount to seeking “favours from the court without the completion of the due process.”

The court also observed that the writing a letter in his official capacity also amounted to influencing the court.

“It could have been possible for him to appear in person or through a counsel instead of writing the letter.”

The court added that Ashraf had already exhausted legal remedies.

“We direct notice to be issued to Raja Pervez Ashraf under the article 204(3) read with contempt of court ordinance of 2003 to file a reply as to why contempt proceeding should not be initiated against him,” the court ordered.

Adjourning the hearing, the bench ordered Ashraf to appear before the court in two weeks time.

Poor tax collection: FBR, finance ministry shift blame on to each other

ISLAMABAD: 

As criticism mounts over inability of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) to meet targets, tax authorities have defended their performance and instead held the finance ministry responsible for making inaccurate assumptions at the time of presentation of budget.

FBR Chairman Ali Arshad Hakeem faced embarrassment on Tuesday when the finance ministry told Prime Minister Mir Hazar Khan Khoso that the FBR had miserably failed to achieve the revenue collection target for the current fiscal year.

According to FBR’s documents, in the first 26 days of March, it collected Rs128.5 billion compared to Rs98.3 billion in the same period of last year, a 30.8% increase which the tax authorities have described as impressive and much higher than inflation unadjusted gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate.

Of the total, the collection of direct taxes rose 60.2% at Rs50.7 billion against Rs31.6 billion in March last year.

In indirect taxes, Rs55.7 billion was received as sales tax compared to Rs48.5 billion received last year, a growth of 15%. Federal excise duty collection increased 16.9% at Rs8.2 billion compared to Rs6.9 billion in March last year. Growth in customs duties was 24.6% as the FBR bagged Rs14 billion against Rs11.2 billion last year.

“The exceptional increase in revenues in March is a seasonal phenomenon as at the close of each quarter tax collection jumps because of advance payments,” said Dr Ashfaque Hasan Khan, Dean of Business School of National University of Science and Technology.

Unlike the high growth in March, tax collection in nine months (July-March) stood at Rs1.29 trillion, up Rs81.8 billion or 6.8% over the corresponding period of last fiscal year, according to the FBR documents. This is far short of the growth rate of 26% that the FBR needs to meet the annual tax collection target of Rs2.381 trillion.

Reasons for shortfall

The FBR was of the view that the finance ministry had set this year’s tax target on unrealistic foundations and the board would defend its position in front of the prime minister.

The ministry had expected the nominal GDP to remain around 16%. Contrary to this, the nominal GDP has so far been around 12% as both inflation and GDP growth targets have been revised downward.

The FBR’s performance too has been marred by political appointments on key posts. According to officials, people with tainted past have been brought to important positions under political considerations and the FBR chairman has little option to make appointments.

Another big hurdle that stands in the way of boosting revenues is the tax break given to influential lobbies by the previous government, the officials said.

The FBR has withdrawn various tax measures announced on the eve of federal budget like 1% tax on all types of manufacturing. Apart from this, tax relief has been given to sugar and steel industries, allegedly under political compulsion.