Govt wants Fata mainstreaming by May 31- PM

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government desires to see implementation of the Fata reforms package — aimed at mainstreaming of the country’s tribal areas — before completion of its five-year term on May 31.

Speaking on the floor of the National Assembly at the fag end of the opening day of the budget discussion on Wednesday, the prime minister disclosed that the National Implementation Committee on Fata Reforms, which met earlier in the day, had taken a number of key decisions and finalised the “timeline” for various actions required to be taken for mainstreaming of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Mr Abbasi, whose announcement overshadowed the nearly two-hour long budget speech of Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, disclosed that he was coming directly to the house after attending the meetings of the Fata reforms committee and the National Security Committee and said he would soon take the parliamentary leaders into confidence on these decisions.

The prime minister said he wanted to have broad-based consultations on the issue of elections (for Fata representatives) of the National Assembly and the provincial assembly, hinting at the proposed merger of the tribal areas with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Unanimous resolution in NA condemns PML-N ministers for using abusive language against PTI women; Khursheed Shah says opposition totally rejects budget

Amidst desk-thumping by the treasury members, Mr Abbasi announced that the Agency Development Fund had been abolished from today (Wednesday).

“We want to complete all the modalities within four weeks and all the parties should be on board in this regard as we want to do all this with consensus,” he said.

The prime minister’s speech was centred on consultations on the timeline for implementation of the Fata reforms package as well as the mainstreaming of the tribal areas, creating confusion whether he meant completing the consultation process or mainstreaming the tribal areas by May 31.

Mr Abbasi said that during the meeting of the Fata reforms committee, which was also attended by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, they had prepared a “timeline” for taking various steps towards mainstreaming of Fata and he would soon take all the parliamentary leaders and other stakeholders into confidence in this regard.

He said the meeting had decided that the local government elections in Fata would be held “before October” this year so that the people living in the tribal areas could get their representation. He said that they would “finalise (modalities for) the elections of the National Assembly and provincial assembly in consultation with all the parties and the opposition leader” to avoid any controversy.

The prime minister said that both the National Assembly and the Senate had already passed the bill seeking to extend the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the high court to Fata.

Acknowledging the sacrifices of the personnel of law enforcement agencies, civilians and the locals, he said Fata mainstreaming should be implemented as there were no two opinions as all the political parties and the people of Pakistan were on one page over the issue.

Mr Abbasi said that in terms of development, Fata would be brought on a par with other parts of the country and for that purpose, in addition to the current allocation, Rs1,000 billion would be required for development in Fata over the next 10 years.

The government was committed to providing the required funds for that purpose, he said, adding that some matters were related to the National Finance Commission Award while others might need the approval of the Council of Common Interests.

The prime minister said he had visited Miramshah in Fata with the army chief on Monday where law and order had been restored with the efforts and sacrifices of the army.

According to sources, the meeting of the Fata reforms committee was attended by Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz, the governor and chief minister of KP, Minister for States and Frontier Regions retired Lt Gen Abdul Qadir Baloch and other civil and military officials. The meeting decided to immediately abolish the political agent tax collection.

Besides this, the sources said, it had also been decided that the federal government would allocate budget for each tribal agency. The meeting also decided that the collective and territorial responsibility would go phase-wise starting immediately with direct policing through Levies in urban centres which would gradually be extended with recruitment and training of the law enforcement personnel.

Controversial data firm Cambridge Analytica closes down

LONDON: Cambridge Analytica, the data firm embroiled in a controversy over its handling of Facebook user data, and its British parent firm SCL Elections have ceased operations, the company said on Wednesday.

Cambridge Analytica and SCL Elections will begin bankruptcy proceedings, the firm said, after losing clients and facing mounting legal fees in the controversy over reports the company harvested personal data about Facebook users beginning in 2014.

“The siege of media coverage has driven away virtually all of the Company’s customers and suppliers,” the company’s statement said.

“As a result, it has been determined that it is no longer viable to continue operating the business, which left Cambridge Analytica with no realistic alternative to placing the company into administration.” Allegations of improper use of data on 87 million Facebook users by Cambridge Analytica, which was hired by President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign, has hurt the shares of the world’s biggest social network and prompted multiple official investigations.

“Over the past several months, Cambridge Analytica has been the subject of numerous unfounded accusations and, despite the company’s efforts to correct the record, has been vilified for activities that are not only legal, but also widely accepted as a standard component of online advertising in both the political and commercial arenas,” the company’s statement said.

The firm is shutting down effective Wednes­day and employees have been told to turn in their computers, the Wall Street Journal reported earlier.

Cambridge Analytica is a part of SCL Group, a government and military contractor that says it works on everything from food security research to counter-narcotics to political campaigns. The group was founded more than 25 years ago, according to its website.

Real Madrid reach third straight Champions League final

MADRID: Last time, it was a late pen­­alty. This time, a goalkeeping blunder.

Real Madrid keep finding ways to get out of trouble in the Champions League.

Real conceded early again at home and barely held on for a draw 2-2 against Bayern in Tuesday’s semi-final match, advancing 4-3 on aggregate to stay on track for a third consecutive European title. But with Cristiano Ronaldo held scoreless for the second time in as many games, Real needed a blunder from Bayern goalkeeper Sven Ulreich to gift them their second and crucial goal on the night.

“It’s a Champions League semi-final. You will always suffer,” Real coach Zinedine Zidane said. “Nothing is easy. Football is like that, you have to suffer. And when you win, it feels even better, although it’s not too good for your heart.”

Joshua Kimmich scored for Bayern in the third minute to set the stage for another comeback at the Santiago Bernabeu, like the one Juventus nearly pulled off in the quarter-finals before Ronaldo converted an injury-time penalty. But the hosts reacted quicker this time, with Karim Benzema equalising early in the first half and scoring again just after halftime after an embarrassing mistake by Ulreich when he allowed a back pass into the area to go underneath him.

Bayern went within a goal of eliminating the European champions when former Real player James Rodriguez scored in the 63rd, and it pressured the hosts until the end, but it was not enough to avoid a third straight elimination against the Spanish club.

“We were the best team in both games but we were not able to reach the final,” Bayern coach Jupp Heynckes said. “We dominated. They should thank (goalkeeper Keylor) Navas for his performance, especially toward the end of the match.”

The German club, who have now been knocked out in the Champions League semi-finals in four of the last five seasons, had several good chances in the final minutes but were unable to capitalise.

By successfully defending their 2-1 win from last week, Real stayed on track for a third consecutive European title, and fourth in five seasons.

Europe’s most successful club with 12 trophies, Real will play the final against either Liverpool or Roma.

“It was a crazy match,” Zidane said. “We struggled in the beginning, conceding early and not being able to play our game. But it was a lot better in the second half. We pressed up front and got the second goal.”

Bayern started well and easily created scoring chances, while Real tried to control possession but only threatened on counterattacks with the speed of Ronaldo and Marco Asensio up front.

Kimmich netted from inside the area after Real captain Sergio Ramos failed to clear a ball crossed into the area by Corentin Tolisso.

It was an eerily similar start to Real’s match against Juventus, when they conceded in the second minute while trying to protect a 3-0 first-leg advantage. Real conceded twice more in that game but eventually advanced thanks to Ronaldo’s injury-time penalty.

This time, Real reacted a lot more quickly, with Benzema equalising in the 11th with a firm header after a well-placed cross from the left by Marcelo.

Benzema hasn’t been playing regularly as a starter and was a surprise addition to the line-up by Zidane. He had scored only once in his last 12 appearances in all competitions.

“It was a perfect night for me and for everyone,” Benzema said.

The French striker gave Real a 2-1 lead after Ulreich’s howler. The goalkeeper appeared to lose his footing while trying to get to the ball and seemed to hesitate to stop it with his hands before missing it entirely as he went to the ground. That allowed Benzema to run onto the ball for an easy finish into an open net.

REAL Madrid’s Gareth Bale (L) vies with Bayern Munich’s Sandro Wagner.—AFP
REAL Madrid’s Gareth Bale (L) vies with Bayern Munich’s Sandro Wagner.—AFP

“It was tough to concede that goal so early in the second half,” Heynckes said. “It was a gift.”

Bayern weren’t done yet and Rodriguez equalised with a low shot from inside the area. The Colombian playmaker didn’t celebrate, instead raising his hands in an almost apologetic gesture to the home fans.

Bayern unsuccessfully appea­led for a handball by Marcelo just before halftime, when the Real defender appeared to be just inside the area.

“I’d be lying if I said the ball didn’t touch my hand,” the Brazilian left back said. “And if it touched my hand, I think it was (a penalty).”

Meanwhile Robert Lewandowski continued to struggle up front, as he went a fifth straight Champions League game without a goal for the first time in his career.

Real, playing in their 250th Champ­ions League match, are the first team to make it to three European finals in a row since Juventus from 1996-98.

IMF sees mounting risks, sharp drop in growth for Pakistan next year

WASHINGTON: The International Monetary Fund projected on Wednesday that Pakistan’s growth will moderate to 4.7 per cent in fiscal year 2019 from 5.6pc in 2018.

In its regional economic outlook update for the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan (MENAP) region on Wednesday, the IMF notes that “an increase in macroeconomic vulnerabilities and domestic policy slippages have weakened Pakistan’s economic outlook, with growth now projected to moderate to 4.7pc in FY19”.

In January, the IMF said it expected growth in Pakistan to pick up in 2018-19. The government has targeted 6.2pc growth for next year in its latest budget.

Contrary to the govt target of 6.2pc growth for next year, the Fund says it is likely to be 4.7pc

The report credits improved energy supply, investment related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, and strong credit growth for the raise in Pakistan’s growth to an estimated 5.6pc in the outgoing FY18, from 5.3pc last year.

The report, however, places Pakistan among the countries where “delays in implementation or completion of structural reforms and political and policy uncertainty” continue to weigh on growth. Besides Pakistan, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon are also placed in this category.

Pakistan is also placed among the countries where upcoming elections and a more challenging political environment could slow the reform process.

“A high perception of corruption and lack of transparency in some of these countries could not only affect macroeconomic outcomes directly, reducing investment and productivity, but could also heighten social tensions and hinder reform,” the IMF warns.

The report notes that some countries in the MENAP region are slowly taking steps to improve governance and transparency while additional efforts are also being made to bolster the business environment, with Pakistan recently strengthening its bankruptcy framework.

After three years of decline, exports of MENAP oil-importing countries grew by 6.4pc in 2017 and are projected to accelerate by 8.4pc in 2018 and 8.6pc in 2019.

In Pakistan, Egypt and Tunisia, this was largely due to improved external demand and greater exchange rate flexibility while Pakistan also benefited from a pickup in cotton prices.

Import growth in MENAP nations is projected to slow to 4.8pc in 2018 from 6.8pc in 2017 and remains broadly steady around 5.5pc over the medium term.

In Pakistan, Djibouti and Mauritania, this import compression “partly reflects an anticipated slowdown in capital imports for infrastructure projects”.

The IMF notes that public debt levels in non-oil producing MENAP countries remain elevated, exceeding 80pc of GDP in several nations.

“Such large debt stocks represent a significant burden on the economy. Debt service crowds out growth-enhancing expenditures,” the report adds with a warning that large debt stocks also add to external vulnerabilities given the large share of external debt.

“This burden will increase since financing costs are likely to rise in line with the expected tightening of monetary policy in advanced economies,” says the IMF, while urging borrowing nations to focus on efforts to reduce debt.

The IMF, however, points out that inflation pressure in the region has abated, with inflation broadly stable at about 12pc. In Pakistan and Morocco, decline in food prices helped bring the inflation down while in some countries monetary tightening also helped.

A review of the banking sector in MENAP countries shows that non-performing loans remain high but are declining. In most MENAP nations, banking sectors have generally remained stable, liquid, and adequately capitalised.

Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan are among the countries that are beginning to embrace financial technology to increase financial inclusion.

For enhancing resilience, Pakistan and Egypt are advised to enhance deposit insurance arrangements.

The IMF notes that tighter and more volatile global financial conditions could increase borrowing costs further for MENAP oil importers, adding to existing fiscal sustainability concerns, weighing on bank balance sheets, and undermining private sector activity. A 200-basis point increase in interest rates relative to the baseline would raise financing costs for Lebanon, Egypt, and Pakistan by 0.9, 0.8, and 0.7 percentage point of GDP, respectively.

“Tightening of global financial conditions could precipitate capital outflows from the region that would put pressure on external positions and exchange rates,” the report warns.

Over all, growth in the MENAP region is estimated to have reached 4.2pc in 2017 and is projected to increase further to 4.7pc this year and to 5pc on average during 2019–23. Some countries may experience faster growth.

Further strengthening of the outlook for the euro area will continue to support economic activity in MENAP through exports, remittances, foreign direct investment, and tourism.

Right to Education (RTE) law toothless for student of Hassanabdal 

School head denied admission to student in his school

While all the four provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) have introduced laws vis-à-vis free and compulsory education for children in Pakistan, a school head in Hassanabdal in denial of law to student seeking admission in grade 9, as there is no secondary classes facility in his school.

Slogans like ‘parha likha Punjab’, ‘education for all’ and ‘education sector’s reforms program’, 100 percent enrollment campaign “Chalo School”, Jahalat Say Azadi drive, education of the poor  by the poor and `Parho Punjab, Barho Punjab’,  no matter how sweet they may sound to the ears but that only in statements of the politicians but the ground reality is quite different for a student in Hassanabdal. Mujhaid Riasat – a student of Government middle school Baburki while talking to newsmen here on Tuesday has said that he passed middle standard examination after appearing in Punjab examination board. He applied for admission in Government higher secondary school Hassanabdal as his village school offer education only at 8 th grade. But from last two months despite frequent visits, the school head has denied him admission what he attributes to his poor academic abilities.

His father Mr Riasat claimed that even to get enrolled his son, he met with member Punjab assembly  from Hassanabdal Shahwaiz Khan and said member parliament has telephoned to school headmaster to get enroll the student but he even refused to obey his orders.

Pakistan had been graded among countries having highest number of the Out-of-School Children (OOSC) as according to a survey up to 24 million children and students, up to the intermediate level, were to be enrolled as such denial would discourage admissions to government schools where as Chief Minister Punjab claimed to bring each child of Punjab to school before the 2018 election as he recently announced that up to 12 million children have been enrolled in the Punjab, and the target is 100 per cent by 2018 under the `Parho Punjab, Barho Punjab’ programme.

Commenting on the issue, Asim Meer- head of local NGO, working in social and education sector has claimed that according to Article 25-A of the amendment, “the state shall provide free and compulsory education to all children aged five to 16 years, in such a manner as may be determined by the law”.  He added that similarly, Article 38(d) delineates the obligation of the state to “provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief…” Following the 18th Amendment, education has become the responsibility of the provinces. He said that school head has denied the student, his fundamental and constitutional right.

When contacted, Mr Asad, headmaster government higher secondary school Hassanabdal has claimed that the lad is poor enough in studies even though he could not write an English essay. When asked that if he is so poor that how can he passed the 8 th grade board examination, from Punjab examination commission, he replied that the school staff just to show their results succeed to pass their student through cheating. When asked that “right of education” is basic constitutional right of a child and Punjab has launched enrollment drive to enrolled out of school children, he said that he has own  departmental powers  and rights of admission to induct a child in his school.