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PM Shehbaz hints at inking agreement with IMF this month

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PM Shehbaz hints at inking agreement with IMF this month

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday pinned hope that Pakistan and the Intrnational Monetary Fund (IMF) would ink an agreement regarding release of the latest tranche under the ninth review of the bailout programme.   

“We are making serious efforts to come out of tough circumstances,” he said while addressing the inaugural ceremony of Green Line Express train. 

The premier said the government was trying to save even a single penny to prevent economic crisis. The IMF delegation will be visiting Islamabad from January 31 to February 9 to continue discussions regarding the ninth review of the $7 billion Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

He said considering the dire situation of the foreign exchange reserves the government had developed a list of items that needed to be imported based on their necessity. Sharif added that the list included food and medical items. 

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The prime minister emphasized the adoption of austerity at a massive scale to tackle difficult economic problems.

He said the government had set its priority keeping in view its foreign exchange reserves, thus allowing the import of medicine and food as essential items. Sharif said courageous nations stand united while braving the challenges with resilience.

The premier expressed confidence that with dedication and commitment, the country would soon regain its glory.

Commenting on Green Line Express train service, the premier said the foundation laying ceremony of the project was held during his elder brother Nawaz Sharif’s tenure but like other projects, this one also failed to go through.

He regretted that the Green Line project, which was initiated during the tenure of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, was delayed by the previous government in a mala fide.

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He endorsed the concept of outsourcing Pakistan Railways to make it better equipped and at par with contemporary services.

The prime minister said Main Line-1 (ML-1) railway track was a top priority for the government and mentioned that China was committed to its early completion.

He pointed out that the previous government indulged in baseless accusations of corruption against Chinese companies, and stressed that the coalition government was working on restoring the ties.

The new train service comprising modern coaches imported from China was launched from the Margalla train station, Islamabad.

The prime minister visited various coaches of the train and appreciated the services provided for the travellers to make their journey comfortable.

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The turnaround time of the Green Line is set at 22 hours, which will be reduced gradually.

Addressing the ceremony, Minister for Railways and Aviations Khawaja Saad Rafiq said the ticket would cover breakfast, lunch, hi-tea, and dinner besides wifi. Apart from this, he said, high-quality bedding and utility kits will also be provided to the passengers.

He said around 2,200 passengers would benefit from the train service to be run between Islamabad to Karachi.

He said Pakistan Railways would formulate rules for the approval of the cabinet in the next few days regarding the collection of revenue from its land. He stressed

Speaking on the occasion, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar said Pakistan had become the 24th largest economy in the world under the leadership of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

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Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said the delay in development projects by the previous government incurred irreparable losses to the country.

— Inaugurates Green Line Express train service —

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday inaugurated Green Line Express train service in the federal capital.

The newly-inaugurated tram will travel between Islamabad and Karachi. 

According to a press release issued by the Pakistan Railways, the Green Line train will start its journey from Margalla station and have stops at Rawalpindi, Chaklala, Lahore, Khanewal, Bahawalpur, Rohri, Hyderabad and Drigh Road on the way. The state-of-the-art train will be operated with new coaches imported from China recently.

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The turnaround time of the Green Line is set at 22 hours which will be reduced gradually. 

On the instructions of Minister for Railways Khwaja Saad Rafiq, breakfast, lunch, hi tea and dinner will be provided to the passengers during the journey in the ticket price.

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Pakistan reaches new $7 billion loan deal with IMF

Pakistan reaches new $7 billion loan deal with IMF

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Pakistan reaches new $7 billion loan deal with IMF

Pakistan on Friday reached a staff-level agreement with the IMF for a new $7 billion loan with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to support its economy as well as deal with its debts.

Earlier this year, the IMF approved the immediate release of the final $1.1 billion tranche of a $3 billion bailout to Pakistan. Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb said the government planned to seek a long-term loan to help stabilize the economy after the end of that bailout package.

The new loan deal will last for 37 months. It is aimed at strengthening fiscal and monetary policy as well as reforms to broaden the tax base, improve the management of state-owned enterprises, strengthen competition, secure a level playing field for investment, enhance human capital, and scale up social protection through increased generosity and coverage in a major welfare program, the IMF said.

“The program aims to capitalize on the hard-won macroeconomic stability achieved over the past year by furthering efforts to strengthen public finances, reduce inflation, rebuild external buffers and remove economic distortions to spur private sector-led growth,” said Nathan Porter, IMF’s mission chief to Pakistan.

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The agreement is subject to approval by the IMF’s executive board.

Pakistan’s new coalition government presented its first budget in parliament last month, promising an increase of up to 25% in the salaries of government employees and setting an ambitious tax collection target.

The finance minister said Pakistan wants to collect 13 trillion rupees ($44 billion) in taxes, which would be 40% more than in the current fiscal year.

Aurangzeb also said the government will ensure that the number of taxpayers increases. Only about 5 million people in Pakistan pay taxes.

Analysts said the new budget of about $68 billion — up from $50 billion in the last fiscal year — was aimed at qualifying for a long-term IMF loan of $6 billion to $8 billion to help stabilize the economy. Pakistan in 2023 nearly defaulted on the payment of foreign debts.

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Money-laundering: Moonis Elahi, six others declared absconders

Money-laundering: Moonis Elahi, six others declared absconders

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Money-laundering: Moonis Elahi, six others declared absconders

The special central jail in Lahore has declared Moonis Elahi, son of Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, and six other accused absconders in the money-laundering case filed by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). 

The special central jail heard the money-laundering case on Saturday. The FIA submitted the incomplete challan of nine accused including Moonis Elahi in court. 

Chaudhry Moonis Elahi and other accused have been declared proclaimed offenders in the challan. The other proclaimed offenders are Farasat Ali, Imtiaz Ali, Amir Sohail, Wajid Ahmad and Amir Fayyaz. 

The accused Zara Elahi, Ahmad Farhan and Zaigham Abbas have been included in Column No 4 for being on bail. 

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The FIA has requested the court to freeze the properties of Moonis Elahi and other nine accused. The court has frozen the properties of seven accused, except Monis Elahi and Zaigham Abbas. 

Counsel for Moonis Elahi and Zaigham Abbas requested time for arguments on properties freezing matter from the court. 

The court directed the counsel to present arguments until Aug 20. Judge Tanveer Ahmed Sheikh issued the written verdict of early hearing on challan. 

The judgement mentions that Interpol is being engaged for the arrest of Moonis Elahi and Interpol has issued red notices to him. Zara Elahi is accused of receiving kickbacks. As per investigative officer, Zara Elahi couldn’t present evidence of her income sources. 

Zaigham Abbas is a cash boy of Moonis Elahi and accused Zaigham Abbas used to do illegal money transactions in the bank accounts of other accused. It has been alleged that accused Ahmed Farhan used to deposit money with bank accounts. 

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It is pertinent to note that the FIA registered the money-laundering and corruption case against Moonis Elahi on June 6, 2023.

Also read: FIA confiscates Chaudhry Moonis Elahi’s assets

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Pakistan, US pledge collaboration on multiple fronts

Pakistan, US pledge collaboration on multiple fronts

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Pakistan, US pledge collaboration on multiple fronts

 Federal Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi met US Ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome and both sides agreed to strengthen mutual cooperation in counter-terrorism, anti-narcotics, and security. 

The US ambassador visited the Ministry of Interior, where Naqvi welcomed him. Other officials were also present on the occasion. 

During the meeting, both sides discussed the Pakistan-US relations, security and other matters of mutual interest. They pledged to enhance cooperation in security, counter-terrorism, anti-narcotics, and other areas. 

Both sides agreed to organise “law enforcement dialogues” in October. 

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The interior minister assured the US ambassador of the ministry’s full cooperation in enhancing bilateral relations. 

Talking about his recent visit to New York, Naqvi said the issue of cooperation between Islamabad and the New York Police Department was discussed. He said a delegation of Islamabad police would soon visit New York to improve mutual cooperation. 

He said officers from Islamabad police were keen to receive training from the New York Police Department. 

The minister said Pakistan’s minorities were enjoying equal rights under the country’s constitution. He assured the ambassador that all possible measures had been implemented to net those involved in the Jaranwala incident. 

Regarding cricket affairs, Naqvi (who is also the chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board), lauded the US government for hosting a successful T20 World Cup. He said efforts were on to arrange a tri-nation series involving Pakistan, US and Canada. He also mentioned that Pakistan was working for a cricket league in America and Canada.

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The US ambassador expressed his gratitude, saying a number of cricket lovers enjoyed the T20 World Cup matches.

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