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PM Shehbaz Sharif announces relief package for farmers

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Monday announced a relief package worth billions of rupees for farmers after cataclysmic floods badly hit the agricultural sector.

“I have come to terms with the fact that the country’s progress is directly proportional to the development of Pakistan’s agricultural sector,” the prime minister said while addressing a press conference alongside federal ministers and members of the government’s economic team.

Unprecedented flash floods caused by historic monsoon rains have washed away roads, crops, infrastructure and bridges, killing over 1,700 people and affecting more than 33 million, over 15% of the country’s 220 million population.

Final estimates put the damage from Pakistan’s recent deadly floods at more than $30 billion, the planning ministry’s Post-Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA) report stated, adding that the reconstruction needs are over $16 billion.

According to the report, agriculture, food, and livestock suffered losses worth $3.7 billion (Rs800 billion).

Climate-induced flooding across Pakistan has destroyed agriculture resulting in a decrease in the production of major crops. Sugarcane production has been reduced by 8%, rice by 40.6%, and cotton by 24.6%.

The premier said for the ongoing fiscal year, the government will provide loans worth Rs1,800 billion to the farmers — four times more than the preceding year.

“As you all know, the incumbent finance minister [Ishaq Dar] is quite strict […] and he will ensure that all the amount is provided to the farmers,” PM Shehbaz said, highlighting that the commercial banks avoid giving loans to small farmers and entrepreneurs and look for secure investments.

The PM said the markup on the loans taken by farmers belonging to flood-affected areas has been waived off and for this, the government has allocated nearly Rs11 billion.

The Centre and smaller provinces will also provide more than Rs8 billion to small farmers in flood-affected areas, he said, adding that the government would also provide loans worth Rs50 billion to youngsters living in rural areas and are willing to become professional farmers.

Loans for tenant farmers

He said that the loans to youngsters would be provided on a markup less than the market rate and the government will set aside nearly Rs6.5 billion for this venture.

The prime minister announced interest-free loans for tenant farmers in flood-hit areas. “Subsidy worth Rs5 billion have been allocated for these loans,” PM Shehbaz maintained.

In addition to this, the government increased the value of Produce Index Unit (PIU) from Rs4,000 to Rs10,000 for obtaining loans for agriculture purposes.

He maintained that they would promote small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the agriculture field as Rs10 billion have been allocated for the SMEs’ modernisation scheme in the agriculture sector.

Subsidy on urea, DAP

Sharing further details, the premier announced that following a tough negotiation with the government, the fertiliser plants have agreed to slash Rs2,500 per bag on Di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) — the DAP bag will now be available at Rs11,250 in the market.

Earlier the DAP bag was being sold at around Rs14,000.

In collaboration with the provinces, 1.2 million bags of certified wheat seeds would be provided to farmers in flood-ravaged areas free of cost, the prime minister said, adding that Rs13.20 billion were allocated for the programme. Of the Rs13.20 billion, 50% would be provided by the Centre, he added.

He further revealed that the government has planned to import 500,000 tons of urea out of which 200,000 tons have already arrived in Pakistan.

The PM praised the industries minister and his team for negotiating the deal in a manner that helped the government save $100 per ton — as under the government-to-government deal urea was available at $600 per ton initially but because of the constant efforts of the authorities concerned price was brought down to $500 per ton.

“In order to strengthen the agriculture sector of Pakistan, the government has also decided to allocate Rs30 billion as subsidy on urea so that the small farmers can get the fertiliser at cheaper rates.

Govt decides to import second-hand tractors

The premier lamented the tractors locally manufactured in Pakistan cannot be exported because of the ban imposed; which has also increased the cost of tractors for the common farmers.

“I along with Dar and other authorities concerned tried to end the monopoly of the tractor industry; however, the stakeholders straight away refused to cooperate with the government,” PM Shehbaz said, adding that keeping this situation in mind the government has decided to import second-hand tractors.

The prime minister said that the government, out of obligation, has decided to import up to five years old second-hand tractors (with proper certification) in order to help farmers who cannot afford the locally-manufactured tractors.

He clarified that had the tractor industry cooperated with the government they wouldn’t have taken this decision, which is expected to dent the local industry. The premier also announced that a 50% rebate on duty will also be given to those importing these five-year-old second-hand tractors, 36% rebate on three-year-old tractors, and the concession rates will be calculated accordingly.

In a tweet earlier, the prime minister said: “Today I am going to announce a huge package for the revival of agriculture in the country. I believe that only through the development of agriculture can the country face the challenges of food security.”

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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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