We are fully prepared to respond to the entire spectrum of direct and indirect threats. COAS 

Taking notice of a “hostile narrative being propagated by India”, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Raheel Sharif during a corps commander’s conference on Monday said the Pakistan Army is “fully prepared to respond to the entire spectrum of direct and indirect threats”, according to an Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) statement.

Presiding over the conference at General Headquarters, Gen Raheel said the Army was fully cognisant of and closely watching the latest developments in the region and their impact on national security.

The Army chief also expressed satisfaction over the operational preparedness of the Army.

The conference provided an in-depth review of the external and internal security situation and operational preparedness of the armed forces,

“Pakistan’s armed forces together with their resilient nation have surmounted every challenge and will thwart any sinister design against integrity and sovereignty of the country in future as well,” the COAS said.

On Sunday, India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh termed Pakistan a ‘terrorist state’ in an anti-Pakistan rant, hours after suspected militants attacked an Indian army base in India-held Kashmir (IHK).

Rajnath’s vitriol comes as Pakistan and India gear up for a showdown at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session starting Monday.

Pakistan is preparing to “forcefully” highlight the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir at the UN session, whereas India intends to counter Pakistan’s stance by raising the Balochistan issue, arguing that the Baloch are also seeking independence from Pakistan and deserve international support.

India is also backing Baloch activists to hold a demonstration outside the UN headquarters during the prime minister’s speech.

Both Pakistan and India are trying to persuade the US to support their respective positions. The US, however, appears to have decided not to take sides.

Pakistan has had to contend with incendiary remarks by Indian lawmakers with increasing frequency as both countries lock horns over the Kashmir issue.


Salman didn’t want to do Prem Ratan Dhan Payo with me: Sonam Kapoor

People are quick to judge Sonam Kapoor’s fame, crediting her film offers to her famous father, Anil Kapoor. Dispelling that notion, the Neerja actor dishes the details on how she made it into Bollywood.

“I lost out on a lot of films because of my father. Salman Khan didn’t want to do Prem Ratan Dhan Payo with me. He was like, ‘Anil Kapoor has been my close friend. How can I romance his daughter?’ It was really difficult and weird,” Sonam reveals in an interview with HuffPo India.

Relating another similar incident, she says, “Farah Khan is one of my mother’s best friends yet I haven’t done a Farah film, nor does she look at me as an actress she’d want to cast. It’s a different, non-work relationship.”

She also adds that the top actresses in the industry do not come from the film fraternity.

“The top heroines today — Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra — are both women who aren’t from the industry. And are you telling me that Alia Bhatt is where she is because of her family and not because of her talent? Nepotism exists everywhere but that doesn’t make the journey any easier.”

Pointing out why the silver spoon upbringing doesn’t help in the bagging films, Sonam explains, “It’s a business and nobody will invest crores in the film’s production, and another few in marketing only because you’re related to someone… and completely talent-less. It just doesn’t add up.”

“You audition. I auditioned for Saawariya along with Shivani Kapoor, Shraddha Kapoor and Deepika Padukone. There’s a process and we are all equal when we go through it. I even auditioned for Delhi 6 and projects for Yash Raj Films. I didn’t just wake up one day to have all these films in my roster!”

Having said that, the actor believes that regardless of what the story is, it will always be highlighted in a manner that benefits the media.

“It doesn’t suit the popular narrative, which is that of an industry girl having it easy. This version almost contradicts it. At the end of the day, people, including journalists, are biased and believe in what they choose to believe in,” she says.

She’s one lucky actor to not have been linked to any scandals, but she has her PR team to thank for that, Sonam says, “I cannot imagine life without them, we’ve been with each other since I started out as an actor. They know everything. And they’re good at controlling it because very rarely does something about my personal life come out in the papers.”

But that’s also because she lives a rather scandal-free life.

“That’s true. I have never dated anybody from the industry, never had a scandalous affair with someone, I avoid parties and I cannot touch alcohol. I’m literally curled up in my bed with a book by 10 in the night almost every other day.”

PM in US to tell world about Kashmir’s plight

NEW YORK – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif arrived here on Sunday to address the 71st annual session of the United Nations’ General Assembly which was opened on September 13 at the magnificent building of the UN Headquarters. This would be Nawaz Sharif’s fourth address to the UNGA during his three Premiership terms.

Premier Sharif has a hectic agenda ahead as he would be holding 11 bilateral meetings on the sidelines of the UN session to which he will address in the afternoon of Sept 21.

During these bilateral meetings he would exchange views on international, regional and bilateral issues but his focus would remain on fast deteriorating situation in occupied Kashmir where Indian troops have unleashed brutal atrocities against unarmed innocent Muslims struggling for liberation.

Those who the prime minister would be meeting include Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Muhammad Bin Naïf, Iranian President Hassan Rohani, prime ministers of Japan, New Zealand and Nepal, Turkish president and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. He would also have an informal interaction with US President Barack Obama during a summit-level meeting on the plight of refugees being held on Sept 19 (Monday).

Since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not attending the UNGA session, Nawaz Sharif will have a clear advantage to vigorously apprise the world leaders on unprecedented and untold miseries of the Kashmiri people now being subjected to consistent curfew for well over 55 days.

The Indian delegation is being headed by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, who is set to deliver her speech on Sept 26 after the address of PM Sharif.

Last year while addressing the world community in this UN building, Nawaz Sharif reminded the global forum of not fulfilling the pledges it made over 65 years ago for ensuring the Kashmiri people their right to self-determination through a UN-supervised plebiscite so that they could choose to stay with India or Pakistan.

Premier Nawaz has written two letters to the UN Secretary General to take notice of the Indian crimes in occupied Kashmir by its violent troops who were using palate guns. In his last year speech at the UNGA, he presented a four-point agenda to his Indian counterpart leading to the lasting peace in Occupied Valley as well as in South Asia.

According to informed diplomatic sources, there is a strong possibility that Nawaz Sharif may make a serious and sincere effort for rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, taking advantage of the presence of two top leaders from hostile Muslim countries in New York. It may be recalled that Premier Sharif along with COAS General Raheel Sharif had made a similar attempt after the start of armed conflict in Yemen.

When asked, these sources confided to The Nation that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may join this effort since Turkey is second Muslim state that enjoys equally good relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr Maleeha Lodhi was seen making frantic efforts to organise vital bilateral meetings of the PM with leaders of important friendly countries. Foreign Secretary Azaz Ahmed Chaudhry had joined her on Saturday to further these efforts. PM’s Special Assistant Tariq Fatmi is accompanying the prime minister while Foreign Affairs Adviser Sartaj Aziz would be arriving here tomorrow.

The prime minister will thank the New Zealand Premier for opposing the Indian move to secure membership of Nuclear Supply Group.

PM Nawaz would also update his Chinese counterpart Keqiang on the progress on CPEC.

The prime minister will have three speech opportunities, addressing the United Nations’ General Assembly session on Monday; he would then attend the UN special meeting on the plight of refugees.

The UNGA is hosting a high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim of bringing countries together behind a more humane and coordinated approach. This is the first time the General Assembly has called for a summit at the Heads of State and Government level on this subject and it is a historic opportunity to come up with a blueprint for a better international response. It is a watershed moment to strengthen governance of international migration and a unique opportunity for creating a more responsible, predictable system for responding to large movements of refugees and migrants.

The second issue the meeting would be taking up is the Syrian conflict, which is now in its sixth year and has already claimed over 300,000 lives.

Against a backdrop of rising ethnic and religious tensions, fighting in the Mideast and Africa, extremist attacks across the world and a warming planet, there are plenty of other issues for the 135 heads of state and government and more than 50 ministers that they are expected to attend to and try to tackle.

“It’s no secret there’s a lot of fear out there, and the uncertainties sparked by Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the threat posed by the ISIS extremist group, and attacks in many parts of the world by it and other terrorist groups.

US President Barack Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis on the margins of UNGA 71 on September 20 to galvanise significant new global commitments to increase funding to humanitarian appeals and international organisations and admit more refugees through resettlement or other legal pathways.

The summit calls upon participants to increase refugees’ self-reliance and inclusion through opportunities for education and legal work. While speaking on this occasion, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would also highlight the issue of Afghan refugees in Pakistan and his government’s resolve to handle the situation according to the UN Charter.

The theme of the General Assembly debate is “The Sustainable Development Goals: a universal push to transform our world”, as was announced by the newly-elected President of the United Nations, Peter Thomson in August.

Economic report card, yea or nay?

In recent years, Pakistan’s equity market has outperformed its regional rivals in China and India by a big margin despite poor security conditions at home and worse-than-regional key macro-economic indicators, according to Forbes magazine.

The magazine’s endorsement of the Pakistani market must have cheered up the Nawaz Sharif government, struggling to deliver on its election promises, such as ending rolling blackouts, in the face of a political challenge by the rival Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf.

Such endorsements by foreign institutions and media are often touted by the government as a ‘success certificate’ of its economic and financial policies. What the government and its supporters tend to conveniently overlook, or downplay, while flaunting ‘international approvals’ are the ‘words of caution’ that often accompany these endorsements as footnotes.

The country’s economy is in a much better shape now than it was over three years ago …The IMF feels that the economy has now reached a position where it will be able to absorb mild shocks

The country’s economy is indeed in a much better shape now than it was before the PML-N came to power over three years ago. It has picked up momentum and growth has escalated to an eight-year high of 4.7pc. Inflation is at its lowest in decades and is expected to remain much below the target of 6pc for the present year.

The current account deficit has been significantly reduced to an average 1pc, from 4pc, and the fiscal gap has been almost halved to 4.3pc from 8.2pc of GDP. Remittances sent by Pakistani workers from across the world have peaked to $19.90bn from $13.9bn, and foreign exchange reserves have doubled and are good for the five-month import bill of the country. The IMF feels that Pakistan economy has now reached a position where it will be able to absorb mild shocks.

But that is that. Little has been done so far to restructure the economy on a sustainable growth path as is reflected by sliding exports, failing agriculture and a collapsing power sector. Private investment is still depressed despite the interest rate of 5.75pc being at its lowest in 46 years. Pakistan remains a frontier market in the eyes of foreign investors with risks outnumbering positive developments as is indicated by falling FDI over the years.

Exports have dropped by a fifth in three years. And this downward journey continues unhindered with the country’s overseas shipments going down by 8.19pc and imports rising by 10.32pc in the first two months of the ongoing fiscal, to August from a year ago. The trade gap has, thus, widened by over 27pc, wiping out benefits of low global oil prices and growing remittances.

Several domestic and international factors are responsible for the continual drop in exports, especially textiles. No doubt, the slowdown in global demand is one major reason for the falling exports but a cursory look at the increasing share of India, Vietnam and Bangladesh in global textile trade shows that our textile products, which fetch 55-60pc of export revenues, have been priced out in the international market because of an appreciating exchange rate, power shortages and the myriad taxes on exporters.

“(Smaller) textile mills are under stress and closing down. Larger groups are holding up but it is only matter of time that some of them also start caving in, unless problems restraining the sector’s growth are resolved,” Mian Mohammad Mansha, chairman of the Nishat Group of Companies, had told the writer last month.

Others agree. “It is crucial for policymakers to support the country’s export sector in order to accelerate overall economic growth in the near to medium term, protect jobs and reduce pressure on forex reserves, as large foreign debt payments become due over the next few years,” Ali Khizar, an economic analyst, argued.

Pakistan is to repay an average $5bn a year in foreign debt payments until 2020, according to the central bank. Saad Khan, a financial analyst at Arif Habib Securities, says forex reserves could drop from the present $22bn to $17-18bn because of higher machinery imports, falling exports, stagnating remittances and debt repayments by the end of the present financial year.

“An increasing machinery import bill on account of CPEC power projects and corporate expansion plans will bring some pressure on reserves, but it will fuel growth — though in the long run.”

Farmers feel that agricultural growth will remain subdued for many years because the government has failed to implement structural reforms in this sector.

“The food import bill will rise over time because farmers are under enormous stress owing to high production costs, water shortages, lower international commodity prices and changing climate patterns,” Rao Ijaz, a grower from Bahawalnagar, said.

“Little is done to prepare agriculture to meet future challenges.”

Last but not least, the government’s planned power sector reforms seem to have fallen through. With its focus on maximising generation before the next elections, it has totally ignored issues like high system losses, improving bill recovery from users and privatising distributions companies. Many private power producers doubt the government claims of achieving its generation target.

“Even if the generation target is achieved, it will have an uphill task of taking power to the doorsteps of users, as well as controlling loss and theft, and recovering bills in full that add to generation costs and make electricity enormously unaffordable for consumers,” said a private power producer.

Asad Zaman, vice-chancellor of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics, doesn’t agree with critics of the government policies and believes that the economy is in great shape with the twin deficits under control, inflation down, interest rates at their lowest in many decades, and forex reserves at a historic high.

“The economy is growing rapidly as domestic and foreign private investment is pouring in. With the IMF programme out of the way the government is thinking of ways to increase public development spending. Actually, we can exceed the growth target for the current year if we push a little harder.”

But can we

After Uber, Careem announces ‘upto 30pc’ slash in ‘Go’ fares for Karachi residents

A price war between Careem and Uber appears to be heating up, as Dubai-based Careem on Saturday announced a slash in ‘Go’ booking fares of up to 30 per cent for residents of Karachi days after Uber cut its rates by 30pc for Lahoris.

Careem said Karachiites can now book ‘Go’ rides at a rate of Rs11 per kilometre as compared to an earlier rate of Rs15/km ─ a discount of nearly 30pc.

Careem’s ‘Economy’ ride service has also received a Rs2 price cut, from Rs17/km to Rs15/km.

Careem entered the Pakistani market last year, launching its services in Karachi, Lahore and later Islamabad.

The cab hailing service, alongside its rival San-Francisco based Uber, gained instant popularity among a Pakistani population that has quickly adopted 3G and 4G technology.

Uber began operating in Lahore earlier this year and recently expanded operations into Karachi in August. The ride-sharing service celebrated its first six months in Lahore with an announcement on Sept 1 that it would slash fares for the provincial capital by 30pc in order to “boost demand”.