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Pak is broke, IMF calls for stronger fiscal measures

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Here’s what’s happening across the border: Pakistan foreign minister urges the US to resume military aid; every eighth prisoner executed in the world is a Pakistani.

IMF urges Imran Khan-led government to hike gas and power prices

To address the huge financing gap of $12 billion that Pakistan is facing, an IMF team Thursday recommended the enforcement of stronger fiscal measures such as a hike in gas and power tariffs, reported Dawn.

The report quoted Harald Finger, the leader of the IMF team on a week-long visit to Islamabad, as having blamed an “overvalued exchange rate, loose fiscal policy and an accommodative monetary policy” for Pakistan facing an “increasingly difficult economic situation, with high fiscal and current account deficits, and low international reserves”.

In this regard, the report suggested that the government needed to implement stricter domestic measures: “Policies should include more exchange rate flexibility and monetary policy tightening, further fiscal adjustment anchored in a medium-term consolidation strategy and strengthening the performance of key public enterprises together with further increases in gas and power tariffs”.

Foreign minister urges the US to resume military aid 

Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, keenly aware that his country is borrowing from its closest friends China and Saudi Arabia to stave off an impending economic crisis, has appealed to the US to restore at least some of its military aid. It was just a month back that the US had suspended $300 million aid to the country and earlier $500 million in January citing reasons for lack of actions against activities of militants.

The foreign minister was speaking at a press briefing at the US Institute of Peace, a Washington-based think tank,  about his country’s resolve under Imran Khan’s leadership to negotiate with the Taliban for initiating the peace process in Afghanistan.

Speaking on the futility of cutting aid to Pakistan, Qureshi’s reasoned response was: “Cutting off training, not giving precision equipment that could have been used against terrorism – I don’t know to what extent that will help.” He also mentioned Pakistan’s contribution to US’s success in curbing tensions in Afghanistan by saving their “billions of dollars”.

Mandarin to be made compulsory in Balochistan’s schools

The provincial government of Balochistan is contemplating the compulsory inclusion of Mandard in the region’s school curriculum, up to the matric level, amid mega-infrastructural projects planned by China in the area, The Nation has reported.

Salahuddin Noor Zai, additional secretary of Balochistan’s educational department, was quoted as saying, “The chief minister has directed to launch the programme in Gwadar’s educational institutes in the first phase that will be extended across the province later”.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s petroleum minister Ghulam Sarwar said Thursday that China does not hold any objection to Saudi Arabia’s investments in China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects, reported The News International.

Foreign minister asks newly-elected US envoy to be ‘sensitive’ of Pakistani opinion

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has asked that newly-appointed US special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, to be more considerate of Pakistani opinion in his ongoing reconciliation efforts of combating terror activities, reported Dawn.

Khalilzad has been known for his “not friendly” statements against the country.  When he was an ambassador to Afghanistan, he had suggested that the US declare Pakistan a terrorist state.

Qureshi also urged Khalilzad to not let his personal opinion affect his decisions for the country. “Obviously as individuals, we can say what we want, but once you have an official position you have to be more restrained and you have to be more sensitive, because only (then) can you be an honest broker,” Qureshi said.

Khalilzad has begun his first trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan as a part of US delegation from Thursday.

Pakistan on an average executes one person per day, report’s findings reveal

A recent report, ‘Counting the Condemned’, published by Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), an NGO working for prisoner rights, revealed that of every eight people executed in the world, one is a Pakistani. It highlighted a fact that Pakistan was subjecting its prisoners to the death penalty in large numbers and also stressed the need for reform in this area, reported Dawn.

According to the report, Pakistan accounts for 13 per cent of the world’s death sentences and around 26 per cent of the global death row population.

The report also claims that the Supreme Court of Pakistan has been executing people even if the crime is not that serious. It says that though the top court has overturned 85 per cent of death sentences since 2014, the high rates of execution must not be overlooked.

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