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Opposition to hold symbolic Punjab Assembly session at Lahore hotel

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LAHORE: The Opposition on Wednesday decided to hold a symbolic Punjab Assembly session at a local hotel in Lahore after the PTI-led government sealed off the provincial assembly.

PML-N Vice President Maryam Nawaz and Opposition Leader in the Punjab Assembly Hamza Shahbaz have reached the hotel, while PML-N members and members of the PTI’s Jahangir Tareen and Aleem Khan are already present there.

PML-N leader and MPA Rana Mashhood Ahmad Khan has claimed that more than 200 MPAs are present in the session.

The Tareen and Aleem groups have parted ways with the PTI and Prime Minister Imran Khan and decided to support the Opposition’s candidate for the chief minister’s office.

The chief minister’s office had fallen vacant after PTI’s Usman Buzdar resigned following Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision to nominate PML-Q’s Pervaiz Elahi as the new CM.

Hours before this, the PML-N leader had said that she would attend the “Punjab Assembly ijlaas” to support Hamza — “who clearly has the majority” in the provincial assembly.

The Opposition parties are holding a symbolic session of the Punjab Assembly — like the one held in the National Assembly after the no-confidence motion was dismissed by Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri — where they will elect Hamza as the new chief minister.\

Meanwhile, the crisis in the Punjab Assembly deepened after the PTI filed a no-confidence motion against Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari and the joint Opposition also decided to file a similar motion against Speaker Pervaiz Elahi.

The political situation took a new turn after Deputy Speaker Dost Muhammad Mazari decided to summon a session today, instead of April 16 — a decision that drew the PTI and PML-Q’s ire, and they refused to accept it.

On the instructions of Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Parvez Elahi, a heavy contingent of police has been deployed outside the assembly secretariat to avoid any untoward situation.

Elahi also banned the entry of media persons to the provincial assembly, security staff confirmed.

The security of the provincial legislature has also put up barbed wires on the main gate of the assembly.

Speaking to Geo News earlier today, Mazari had said that the Punjab Assembly secretariat was “not cooperating” with him.

“I did not consult the Punjab government, the PTI or the speaker. I summoned the Assembly session in light of the Supreme Court’s orders,” Mazari had said.

The speaker, Elahi, has also withdrawn the powers of the deputy speaker.

Number game in Punjab

Both candidates — Hamza and Elahi — need at least 186 votes in the House of 371 to win the poll for the slot of CM Punjab.

With the house comprising 371 MPAs, the PML-N seems highly optimistic about regaining the crown of Punjab that it lost in 2018.

The Opposition claims that its joint strength comprising its own 160 MPAs (PML-N total strength is 165 out of which five MPAs are siding with the government), seven MPAs of PPP, and the rest from the rebel groups of PTI headed by Tareen and Aleem and four out of five independents, stands above 188.

On the other hand, the ruling coalition’s candidate has also used his experience and influence in winning the support of the JKT group’s MPAs. MPA Rafaqat Gilani, a part of the JKT group, has publicly claimed that he was “siding with Imran and cannot leave him at a crucial time”.

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government contests Imran Khan and Qureshi’s exoneration in the cipher case

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On Thursday, the federal government led by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court contesting the exoneration of former Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the well-known cipher case.

Citing procedural and jurisdictional issues, the Ministry of Interior has appealed the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) ruling.

In hearing the cipher case, the High Court allegedly overreached its power, arguing that judges cannot change laws where Parliament has not expressly passed legislation.

Despite receiving government-funded legal representation, the petition emphasized Imran Khan and Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s lack of cooperation during the trial, submitting 65 separate motions and neglecting to cross-examine witnesses.

The petition contended that in order for a retrial to satisfy legal standards, the High Court should have ignored important evidence that was given during the trial. It requests that the appeals contesting the IHC’s June 3 acquittal be given a hearing date by the Supreme Court.

Case history

The cipher issue concerns a supposed diplomatic document that disappeared from Imran Khan’s custody. The cipher allegedly contained threats from the US to remove Khan from office, according to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party. Shah Mehmood Qureshi and several aides, including Asad Umar, are named in the First Information Report (FIR) submitted by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in accordance with Section 34 of the Pakistan Penal Code and Sections 5 and 9 of the Official Secrets Act.

The then-foreign secretary received a diplomatic cipher from Washington on March 7, 2022, according to the FIR. The lawsuit claims that by manipulating the data for their own benefit, Khan and Qureshi put the safety of the country at risk. It alleges that on March 28, 2022, Khan secretly met at his Bani Gala home and gave his Principal Secretary, Muhammad Azam Khan, instructions to change the content of the cipher to his advantage, jeopardizing national security.

The document asserts that Khan still has custody of the cipher, jeopardizing Pakistan’s encrypted messaging systems and possibly helping foreign forces, which would be detrimental to the nation. A complaint has been filed by the FIA’s Anti-Terrorism Wing against Khan, Qureshi, and other individuals for improper use of state secrets and unapproved possession of the cipher.

Acquittal by the Islamabad High Court

In the cipher case, on June 3, the IHC cleared Khan and Qureshi when Justice Aamir Farooq issued a succinct ruling in their favor. Their sentences were appealed in the case, which has since been a source of political and legal controversy, leading to their acquittal.

This acquittal and the ongoing legal and political struggles surrounding the cipher case are highlighted by the government’s subsequent move to contest it.

With potentially huge ramifications for the parties involved and the larger political scene, the Supreme Court’s decision over whether to hear the appeal will be keenly scrutinized.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urges political stability in order to accelerate economic expansion.

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Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former prime minister, emphasized on Thursday how important political stability is to Pakistan’s economic development and how the nation cannot prosper without it.

His concern was that export growth had not progressed, and he emphasized that stability in the current climate is vital to draw investments and carry out the necessary reforms.

In his criticism of the tax system, Abbasi brought up the erratic nature of tax laws and the transient nature of the most recent tax slab implementation. Insisting that difficult choices are unavoidable for economic recovery, he emphasized the necessity of designing a tax system that is equitable and does not burden the people.

Furthermore, arguing that the effectiveness of organizations like the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) and National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is essential for economic governance and transparency, Abbasi urged for changes within these and other organizations.

Abbasi, in his discussion of more comprehensive fiscal plans, suggested that the National Finance Commission (NFC) award be reviewed again and that power distribution companies (DISCOs) be decentralized to the provinces.

In order to reduce inefficiencies and corruption at the provincial level, he recommended looking into ways to share the cost of defense spending and decentralize the management of energy resources.

In closing, Abbasi emphasized that Pakistan’s economic trajectory will stay stagnant unless comprehensive changes are implemented immediately. To move the nation towards sustainable progress, he urged policymakers to give stability and structural reforms first priority.

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Through in-app QR payments, Zindigi and SBP streamline transactions involving sacrificial animals.

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With its in-app QR code payment system based on Raast, Zindigi—powered by JS Bank—has elevated the convenience of cashless payments for the procurement of sacrificial animals to a whole new level for Eid ul Adha.

This program uses QR code payments to streamline transactions for sacrificed animals for the general public and traders. It is a component of the State Bank of Pakistan’s Raast quick payment service.

This feature enables users of Zindigi and users of any digital banking apps or wallets to safely and easily make payments at certain cattle markets throughout Pakistan using Zindigi QR. The consumer must scan the QR code of the livestock merchant and pay the transaction amount in order to complete the payment.

In order to further financial inclusion and digital innovation in Pakistan’s developing economy, Zindigi and the State Bank of Pakistan have partnered. Both organizations are committed to improving the efficiency and accessibility of financial services, especially on holidays such as Eid ul Adha, by utilizing the most recent developments in fintech.

One of the most important steps toward promoting financial inclusion and economic empowerment at the local level is the integration of livestock markets into the digital economy. Farmers and retailers may take charge of their financial operations and help realize the larger goal of an inclusive digital Pakistan by adopting digital payments.

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