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Pakistan

$30b flood assessment grossly flawed

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ISLAMABAD:

In a startling revelation, a top official has admitted that the government did not have district-wise data of the population affected by the recent devastating floods in the country, undermining the authenticity of the Post-Disaster Need Assessment report that put the losses at over $30 billion.

The shocking disclosure of ignoring the human cost in terms of man and material was made by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Director (Operations) Brig Muhammad Umar, while responding to a query during the National Assembly Standing Committee on Finance held on Wednesday.

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As the winter sets in, the absence of the data has left hundreds of thousands people without basic needs such as blankets and tents, leaving them at the mercy of fast approaching harsh weather, revealed the committee proceedings.

The committee meeting was convened to discuss two pressing issues — whether any punitive action was taken against the commercial banks that manipulated the exchange rate, and most important of all the relief and rehabilitation effort in the flood-affected areas.

“I do not have the data of the affected people,” commented the NDMA’s director (operations) when MNA Dr Nafisa Shah inquired whether he knew how many people were affected in Sindh’s Khairpur district.
Dr Shah raised the question when the director briefed that so far, the authority had distributed 9,000 blankets and about 9,380 tents in district Khairpur — the constituency of Dr Shah.

According to the assessment of Dr Shah, between 100,000 to 150,000 people have been affected by the floods in the Khairpur district. She said that since there was no town- and district-level data available with the NDMA so far, thousands of people in her constituency had been left at the mercy of harsh weather and in search of warm shelter and clothes to avoid being exposed to cold.

“There is no denying the fact that the relief goods are coming but there is no union council-level data available,” she added. The MNA said that house listing exercise had started but complained the exercise was carrying out at a slow pace.

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The revelations also put a question mark on the government’s claims of providing relief to the people and the utility of the PDNA report that has been prepared by the World Bank with the collaboration of the Asian Development Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the European Union.

The report has estimated the cost of damages and losses at $30.2 billion and worked out the reconstruction cost at $16.3 billion. But it does not provide the details of the 33 million flood-affected people that the government and the PDNA reports have claimed.

“One-third of the country has been under water, and 33 million people have been affected. Nearly 8 million people are reportedly displaced,” according to the PDNA. The report further stated that the floods had taken the lives of more than 1,700 people, one-third of which were children.

READ WB team reviews flood emergency funds utilisation

But Dr Shah said that about 5,000 to 6,000 children died only in her constituency, including those who died due to water-borne diseases. There are families who got food packets more than once but there are also families that have not received any food parcel due to absence of the data, Dr Shah added.

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Pakistan has been appealing to the world for aid to reach out to the affected people without having credible data of the affected individuals. In October Pakistan revised its emergency aid appeal to the United Nations members for $816 million to cover the most urgent needs of 9.5 million people. However, as of October 21, only 13.7% of the requested amount has been funded, according to the PDNA report.

Headed by the PML-N’s Qaiser Ahmad Sheikh, the standing committee also took the issue of a delay in penalising the commercial banks for currency manipulation.

The proceedings showed that the legislators belonging to the ruling alliance ran out of patience for the economic team’s failure to bring the rupee-dollar parity below Rs200 and also imposed fines.

“[Finance Minister] Ishaq Dar should appear before the standing committee and tell us why he is not able to bring the dollar down below Rs200”, demanded the PML-N’s senior legislator, Chaudhry Barjees Tahir.

Tahir said that poor are penalised for committing small crimes but the rich banks have been spared despite playing with the destiny of the nation. “Today’s big story is that no action has been taken against the banks”.

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SBP Deputy Governor Dr Inayat Hussain said that the hearing process of the banks was “almost complete” and the central bank was currently conducting “internal validation”. He said that the penalties against the banks would be imposed by November 30 – a similar statement given by the SBP governor earlier this week.

Hussain said that due to global and domestic problems, the capital inflows were drying up and the financial inflows were falling below the needs, resulting in constant pressure on the value of the rupee. The deputy governor hoped that the situation would improve in the next couple of months.

“First, we tried Miftah Ismail and then Ishaq Dar, now who is next in line”, questioned MNA Khalid Magsi from the Balochistan Awami Party – an ally of the government. He said that the economic direction of the country was still unclear. “It seems the SBP is lenient on the banks”, said Magsi.

The central bank informed the standing committee that based on the regular monitoring and complaints received from banks’ customers regarding charging higher margins in opening of import LCs, the SBP carried out an assessment of significant increase in foreign exchange income of the banks in the first half of 2022.

It added the significant increase in foreign exchange income was mainly due to the rise in daily volatility of exchange rate, which resulted in the widening of the spreads charged by the banks –a statement that Dr Shah said, indicated that the SBP was defending the commercial banks.

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Pakistan

Imran’s right of defence struck out in defamation case

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ISLAMABAD:

Additional District Judge Lahore Chaudhry Muhammad Asif struck out the right of defence of former prime minister since concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff were not submitted on Thursday.

“This court has been left with no option except to strike out the right of defence of the defendant (Imran Khan) in this case due to non-submission of requisite replies by the defendant regarding concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff. So, the right of defence of the defendant is hereby struck out in this case accordingly,” the order stated.

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The court asked the plaintiff to submit a list of witnesses on November 29.

It has been learned that the court has so far conducted 78 hearings of the case.

The order stated that the counsel for the defendant submitted an application for adjournment on the ground that the defendant was going to file a revised petition against the order of the court regarding the dismissal of concerned objections of the defendant.

Also read: ‘No objections’ to Imran’s helicopter landing at Parade Ground: GHQ

“From the perusal of record, it reveals that various reasonable opportunities have been provided to defendant to submit the requisite replies to concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff but the defendant has not done the needful,” it stated.

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“Vide previous order dated 17.11.2022, one more opportunity was granted to the defendant in this regard with the clarification that in case of submission of requisite replies from the defendant’s side regarding concerned interrogatories of the plaintiff on the next date, the right of defence of the defendant shall be struck out. No lawful justification exits for the grant of further adjournment,” it added.

The court rejected the adjournment plea of Imran’s counsel.

According to details, the defamation suit states that Imran started uttering false and malicious statements against the plaintiff (Shehbaz) that the latter offered Rs10 billion to the former through a common friend in exchange of withdrawing the case of Panama Papers pending before the Supreme Court (SC).

Also read: President Alvi in Lahore to consult Imran over COAS appointment

​​​It pleads that the baseless and defamatory statements by the defendant widely circulated by media lowered the integrity of the plaintiff and caused him extreme mental torture, agony and anxiety. The court has been requested to issue a decree for recovery of Rs 10 billion as compensation for the publication of defamatory content in favour of the plaintiff.

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In his written statement, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief states that one of his friends told him that someone known to him and also the Sharif family approached him with an offer to pay billions of rupees if he could convince him to stop pursuing the Panama Papers case.

Imran says that he disclosed the incident for the consumption of the public at large and in the interest of the public good does not constitute any defamation.





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Pakistan to send armed helicopter unit to UN peacekeeping mission

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UNITED NATIONS:

Pakistan and Bangladesh will each be sending an armed helicopter unit to the UN peacekeeping operations in Mali, which faces serious problems as several countries have withdrawn or announced plans to pull out their personnel, a UN spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Farhan Haq said that India will supply a utility helicopter unit to the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, and all three are expected to be deployed by March next year.

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“These provide much-needed support to our forces and are critical for early warning and rapid response to protect civilians,” the spokesman told reporters at the regular noon briefing at the UN headquarters in New York.

“The UN continues to discuss with member states the deployment of new assets and plans to fill longer-standing gaps in addition to those resulting from recent announcements” of withdrawals, he said.

Set up in 2013, MINUSMA has 17,622 personnel helping the Malian government combat terrorists operating in the country.

MINUSMA is one of the deadliest operations having claimed the lives of 292 peacekeepers.

France completed its withdrawal earlier this year and it was followed by Egypt in August.

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Germany said that it was withdrawing its personnel, who numbered 595 in the latest UN roster, from MINUSMA by May next year.

Also read: Who is country’s new army chief Asim Munir?

Britain is also pulling out its 249 personnel.

Ivory Coast also said that it would discontinue the participation of its personnel, who numbered 898, in MINUSMA when the current deployment ends because of a separate dispute with the Mali government over the arrest of its soldiers who went there on a mission unconnected to the UN.

Despite the dangerous nature of the Minusma, Pakistani military doctors serving in Mopti, a town in the fifth administrative region of Mali. have continued to serve, earning praise for their work. They operate a state-of-the-art hospital staffed with 75 medical personnel, including 10 women and 65 men, according to the UN.

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The hospital operates 24 hours a day, every day, and they are always on alert. All specialities are covered, from pharmacy to gynaecology. However, its main purpose is to perform life-saving and urgent surgery when peacekeepers are injured, it was pointed out.





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Imran urges ‘all Pakistanis to participate’ in PTI long march

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Former prime minister and PTI Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday urged all Pakistanis to participate in his party’s much-hyped long march on Saturday (Nov26) in what appears to be his final showdown with the incumbent government to force it to announce early election date.

“Dear Pakistanis, I want all of you to participate in our haqeeqi long march in Pindi at 1pm on Saturday,” he said in a short video statement.

Imran, who was removed from power through a vote of no confidence in April, said that only a nation which has justice in it will get real freedom. “When there is justice, there are rights. When there are rights, a nation is free. Only an independent nation is prosperous,” he went on to say.

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Read more: Interior ministry warns PTI of threats, urges postponing Pindi march

The former premier said that the nation will not stay silent until it gets real freedom. “I am coming for you despite my [health] condition and all of you need to come to Pindi for me,” he concluded.

Meanwhile, senior PTI leader Asad Umar presided over a meeting regarding the party’s preparation for the long march in Rawalpindi. Senior PTI leadership including Umar Ayub, Shibli Faraz, Ali Nawaz and others participated in the meeting.

The meeting discussed the overall preparations for the long march in Rawalpindi. The security plan, long march route and other significant matters came under discussion during the meeting.

The meeting was briefed that a caravan had left from Karachi for Rawalpindi whereas two others were ready to begin their journey to the garrison city from Quetta and Gilgit-Baltistan.

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A briefing was also given in the meeting regarding the accommodation of the participants.

Issues regarding the provision of all basic needs including food and accommodation to the participants of the march were also discussed in the meeting.

“The nation is fully united and eager to achieve real freedom,” Umar said, adding that the party would welcome caravans from all over Pakistan in Rawalpindi.

“The captain [Imran Khan] will lead the ocean of people in Rawalpindi on November 26,” he further said.





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