Dar says talks in August to bring back $200b in Swiss banks
ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance, Senator Ishaq Dar on Thursday said that talks will be held with Swiss authorities in August to bring back US$200 billion to Pakistan from banks in Switzerland.
In a statement issued here, he said talks would be held in several phases and it could take three to four years to bring back the said money to the country.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senator said that economic situation was fragile when his party took charge of the affairs of the country.
Dar said international monetary institutions had predicted that the country would be bankrupt in 2014, but the PML-N government with good performance proved that Pakistan has a strong economy.
Former president Asif Ali Zardari, who left office last September after five years, was dogged throughout his tenure by corruption allegations involving Swiss banks dating back to the 1990s.
He was accused along with his late wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, of using Swiss banks to launder $12 million of illegal kickbacks.
Switzerland enacted a new law in 2011 to make it easier for countries to recover assets stolen by politicians and hidden in its banks.
In early 2012, Switzerland said it had returned $1.83 billion in illicitly-placed assets to countries involved in the Arab Spring regime changes, but Pakistan's current tax agreement does not allow it to take advantage of the law.
According to a June 10 report, as the war of words between the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf intensified, the government announced last month that negotiations with Switzerland will begin in August to bring back around $200 billion stashed by Pakistani politicians in Swiss bank accounts.
Responding to a fresh tirade by PTI chief Imran Khan, Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal said his government would begin formal negotiations with the Swiss authorities in August.
Imran has alleged that the incumbent rulers have stashed their monies abroad while they were pleading for foreign investment in Pakistan.
In an angry retort, Iqbal alleged that Imran's party wanted to create political instability in the country 'at the behest of someone else'. He advised Imran's party to shun the 'politics of hatred and provincialism' that could undermine federalism.
Iqbal said the Federal Board of Revenue will enter into negotiations with the Swiss authorities but he wouldn't say how long it would take them to reach an agreement.
The Agreement for Avoidance of Double Taxation between Pakistan and Switzerland was last ratified in 2008. It saves individuals and companies from paying income tax more than once as money moves between the Swiss Federation and Pakistan. The cabinet has already given a go-ahead to the FBR to renegotiate a bilateral treaty on double taxation with Switzerland.
Stringent secrecy laws in Switzerland helped its banks invite clients from around the world. From large corporations avoiding tax to government officials taking graft money everyone used these banks to keep offshore accounts.
Since global financial meltdown, Swiss banks came under increasing pressure from United States and European Union to share information. Even India has stepped up efforts to catch tax evaders.
PM tasks Shahbaz, Nisar, Dar to contact Imran over march
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Mian Nawaz Sharif has tasked Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and Finance Minister Ishaq Dar to establish contact with the PTI chief Imran Khan regarding to forthcoming protest programme of the PTI on August 14.
According to sources, Nawaz Sharif held a meeting with Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore in which they discussed the Aug 14 march of PTI. The Punjab chief minister informed the premier about initial contacts with Imran Khan. The premier also decided to task Ishaq Dar and Chaudhry Nisar to establish contact with Imran Khan. The prime minister also asked them to keep him informed about progress in these contacts.
The sources said Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah has also accelerated efforts to convince Imran Khan to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to reduce the political tension.
Chaudhry Nisar has already contacted Imran Khan once and his second contact with the PTI chief is expected on August 4. Chaudhry Nisar had requested Imran Khan to reconsider his decision of march on Independence Day.
However, Imran Khan did not commit to anything and said he will respond after consultations with the party leaders after Eid. - INP
Nawaz questions Imran’s agenda
JEDDAH: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said democracy is the only solution of Pakistan's crises.
He said this in an interview at Jeddah Airport before departure for Pakistan. He said people of Pakistan voted in favor of democracy in 2013 elections. He said the government is actively working on economic reforms to bring the country out of crises. He said his government is committed to resolve public issues.
Talking about Imran Khan, he said he had accepted election results despite his reservations and now after one-year, he is talking about long march. He said Imran Khan should clarify his agenda behind long march slogans.
Nawaz Sharif says there is no room of politics of slogans and sit-ins in the country. He said some thousand people cannot derail democracy, brought with the help of millions of people.
He said Pakistan has witnessed many revolutions during the last sixty-five years but now if there is a revolution, it will come only through democracy.
The Prime Minister said 14th August ceremonies will be held in the night and the national flag will be hoisted in the morning.
To a question, the Prime Minister said 14th August will also be passed. He said thousands of people cannot make the mandate of millions of people hostage.
Nawaz Sharif said all serious political parties including religious parties believe in democracy and acting responsibly. - INP
Imran demands mid-term polls
ISLAMABAD: Chairman Tehreek i Insaf Imran Khan on Thursday reiterated his demand for mid-term elections, vowed to move ahead with his planned 'million march' towards Islamabad if his party's demand for the early polls is not accepted by the government.
"We want Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government dissolved, a caretaker setup installed, and midterm polls announced. Nothing short of these things will be able to budge us." Imran Khan told in a talk to a private Tv channel.
An adamant Imran expressed his determination that after reaching in the federal capital their dharna would continue till acceptance of their demands.
Commenting on the deployment of Pakistan Army in Islamabad and a possible use of brute force to keep PTI's marchers out of Islamabad, Imran Khan said that in case of any Model Town like violence, he would like to take a bullet in his chest before anyone else.
He lamented that rulers in sheer state of confusion had decided to use the armed force as shield to protect their unlawful rule.
PTI chief also warned US and Saudi Arabia against meddling in the affairs of Pakistan.
"I am asking both Washington and Riyadh to leave Pakistan's politics alone as it is none of their business", Khan said.
To a question, he said Chief of Minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif was sending fence-mending messages through a number of channels, but it was too late for a "deal."
"We are far beyond the political point-of-no-return, thus an understanding with PML-N was out of the question now", Khan stressed.
He alleged that the rulers have changed the democracy into monarchy, and turned their sons into princes. He further alleged that 33-year old son of prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif has accumulated a hefty wealth of rupees 200 billion and he lives abroad in rupees 7 billion flat. The rulers, he blamed are involved in money laundering, corruption and tax evasion.
The PTI chairman said that they had been seeking justice from the Parliament, election commission, election tribunals and the Supreme Court and all the efforts went in vain. He blamed that record rigging in the general polls was executed which disappointed us utterly. He said we had earlier demanded verification of votes in only four constituencies but the government was reluctant as they had realized that by doing its would amount to opening of a Pandora's box.
To a question about filing of case against him by the former chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, he said it would provide him a good chance to expose the misdeeds of his son, Irsalan Iftikhar, adding how Irsalan with meager education had been appointed at a high profile post in Baluchistan. - INP
23 bathers drown in rough seas off Karachi
Karachi: At least 23 bathers drowned in rough seas off Karachi, after defying a ban on swimming during the monsoon season officials said on Thursday.
The government on Thursday shut all the roads leading towards the Sea View beach. The bathers were among thousands who had taken to the beaches to celebrate the Eidul Fitr holiday.
Most took to the beach to beat the heat and because it is the cheapest leisure venue for the poor and low income groups.
Senior police officer Ibadat Nisar said police discovered three bodies washed up at the upscale Clifton beach on Wednesday evening, which prompted a wider search operation that was suspended overnight but resumed on Thursday.
"We started talking to picnickers on the beach and realised that the number of people who drowned was much higher than we thought, people whom we talked to told us about their friends or relatives who had gone missing while swimming," he said.
"The coastal area is very long and we cannot say how many people might be still missing - let's hope the number is not very big."
Witnesses said there were no life-guards present on the beach.
Commissioner Karachi Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui said that so far 21 bodies had been recovered with the assistance of a Pakistan Navy chopper and the rescue team.
He added that the administration had already imposed section 144 at the beach which prohibits the gathering of more than four persons at a place.
Two other boys drowned at the Hawks Bay, another beach which is rougher than the Sea View beach but where people largely stay away from there because of monsoon season.
The police had to baton charge those who continued to flout rules and ignore warnings.
Residents crticised the administration for their failure in protecting the picnickers.
Sources said that there have been 70 vacancies for the position of life guards at the city municipal offices but none of them had been filled despite the monsoon season when they are most needed.
Several ambulances were seen on the beach where the relatives of some of the missing were seen anxiously awaiting word of their loved ones.
Faiz Rahman, 32, said he and his younger brother had come to the beach on Wednesday to go for a swim along with two friends - who were now missing.
He said: "As we were swimming in the sea, I noticed the waves getting bigger and more rough, and I got scared and started swimming back.
"I also called my brother and friends to swim back to the shore. My brother returned but my two friends were still swimming as the waves got bigger I lost sight of them.
"I waited for around three hours but they didn't return."
But safety standards are very low with the few lifeguards on duty often unable to exert any authority.
Despite the deaths, hundreds of families including women and children continued to arrive at the Clifton Beach on Thursday, as some clashed with police and demanding to be allowed to swim.
"We are still searching for dead bodies and these people can see the dead bodies with their eyes but they are still fighting with us to allow them to swim in the sea," Fahad Ali, a police official deployed at the beach said.
"These people have came with their family members, there are women and children and you can see kids as young as six and their parents are fighting with us to allow them to swim in the sea," he said.
"This is the height of stupidity," he added.
Nisar, the senior police officer, said the government had imposed a ban on swimming in the sea before the start of the monsoon season in June. - AFP
PM provided opportunity to army to interfere in democratic process: Asfand
CHARSADDA: Awami National Party President Asfandyar Wali Khan has criticized the handing over the Federal Capital to the army for maintenance of law and order and said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif provided another opportunity to army to interfere in the democratic process.
Talking to party workers at Wali Bagh in Charsadda where he had come to congratulate him on Eidul Fitr, Asfandyar Wali said the ANP in no case could support invocation of article 245 to hand over Islamabad to army.
He said his party supports across the board operation in North Waziristan and it should be taken to logical conclusion as soon as possible whatever the consequences. He said peace in the region would be established only if the operation is successful.
He said the constitution allows peaceful protest to every one including Imran Khan and no one can be denied of this right. However he said the protest should be completely peaceful and orderly. He said the PTI chief could not see rigging during the elections but after the passage of one year, he is raising rigging the issue to derail democracy.
The ANP Chief came hard on the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by pointing out that due to inefficiency of the government, Rs 90 billion development budget went back to the central pool as the development projects could not be initiated. He said this is having negative impact on the people of the province.
He claimed that during its tenure, the ANP government carried out record development schemes and gave the province its own identity. He said the ANP government also extended full assistance to the IDPs of Swat operation and ensure honourable return of the affectees. - INP
Exchange of fire reported at LoC in Gultri sector
ISLAMABAD: Indian troops resorted to unprovoked firing early morning on Thurday at Line of Control in Gultri sector near Astore(Gilgit-Baltistan), according to a statement released by the Inter Services Public Relations on Thursday.
This is the first time that Indian troops resorted to firing in Astore sector of LoC.
"Pakistani troops responded effectively to the Indian firing", a spokesman for ISPR said in a statement.
Curfew imposed in parts of Khyber
PESHAWAR: Curfew was imposed in Char Wazgai area of Khyber tribal Agency to apprehend suspected militants, official sources said Thursday.
Sources of political administration of the agency said the curfew was aimed at arresting the terrorists who are creating law and order situation by attacking security personnel, civil administration, government installations and general public.
The sources said Peshawar-Jalalabad highway is opened for traffic.
The TTP and Lashkar-e-Islam operate in Khyber agency, also a main supply route for the NATO troops in Afghanistan. - NNI
Bolivia declares Israel a terrorist state
LA PAZ: Bolivia on Wednesday renounced a visa exemption agreement with Israel in protest over its offensive in Gaza, and declared it a terrorist state.
President Evo Morales announced the move during a talk with a group of educators in the city of Cochabamba.
It "means, in other words, we are declaring (Israel) a terrorist state," he said. The treaty has allowed Israelis to travel freely to Bolivia without a visa since 1972.
Morales said the Gaza offensive shows "that Israel is not a guarantor of the principles of respect for life and the elementary precepts of rights that govern the peaceful and harmonious coexistence of our international community." - Agencies
Israel snubs UN over Gaza assault; death toll now at 1,374
GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israel said on Thursday it would not pull troops from Gaza until it finishes destroying a network of cross-border tunnels, despite sharp United Nations criticism over the civilian death toll.
Speaking at the start of a special cabinet meeting in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would not accept any ceasefire that did not allow troops to continue destroying tunnels used by militants for attacking Israel.
"Until now, we have destroyed dozens of terror tunnels and we are determined to finish this mission -- with or without a ceasefire," he said at the start of a special cabinet meeting.
"So I will not accept any (truce) proposal that does not allow the IDF (army) to complete this work for the security of Israel's citizens."
And Washington said it had agreed to restock Israel's dwindling supplies of ammunition, despite increasing international concern over the death toll in Gaza, where more than 1,374 people have been killed in 24 days of violence.
Meanwhile, there was no letup in bloodshed with at least 10 Palestinians killed on Thursday, among them two women, raising the overall Palestinian toll to 1,374, medics said.
UN figures indicate two-thirds of the victims were civilians. - AFP
Militants not to be allowed to return to Waziristan: COAS
ISLAMABAD: Army Chief, General Raheel Sharif, has told the troops fighting the militants in North Waziristan tribal region, that "terrorists will not be allowed to return to the area."
The armed forces last month launched a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban and foreign militants in the region bordering Afghanistan after peace talks collapsed and the militants had increased attacks.
The army says a total of 570 "terrorists" have been killed since the Operation codenamed "Zarb-e-Azb" has been launched on June 15. The army spokesman says 34 security forces personnel have also been killed during the operation.
General Raheel celebrated Eid with the troops on the front lines in the war zone and paid tributes to them for their courage, an army statement said.
"The Chief of the Army Staff expressed his complete satisfaction over the achievements and progress of the operation made so far in North Waziristan," it said.
"While interacting with the troops, General Raheel appreciated their high state of morale, courage and determination in execution of the operation and advised them to stay focused on speedy and skillful conduct of operation against all terrorists."
He said now that the command and communication infrastructure of the militants has been disrupted, the armed forces will never allow them to return.
The Pakistan army chief also spoke on the need to strengthen the border mechanism with Afghanistan to prevent any infiltration from across the border to undermine the effects of operation.
"We will not stop short of eradicating this menace of terrorism from across the country," General Raheel said, emphasizing that only with sustained focus of the entire nation, Pakistan could be made a terror-free state.
The army chief also visited a camp for the people displaced as the result of the military operation in Bannu, and spent time with tribesmen.
Officials say that the military operation against the militants has uprooted around one million people, most of them living in Bannu.
General Raheel assured the people that a plan is being devised for their resettlement and that the armed forces and the tribal people will bring peace, development and prosperity to this region.
The spokesman says that 98 terrorist hideouts, 30 IEDs making factories, three ammunition making factories, a number of suicide bomber training centres have also been destroyed during the operation. - Xinhua
The army says the forces have completely cleared Miranshah, center of North Waziristan, of the militants and also 70 percent purged Mirali, the second major town and a main stronghold of the Pakistani and foreign militants.
Pakistani troops kill 6 militants near Afghanistan border
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani security forces in a troubled northwestern tribal region foiled an overnight cross-border attack from Afghanistan, killing six militants, two military officials said Wednesday.
The foreign ministry lodged a protest over the attack on a Pakistani border post and urged Kabul to take steps to eliminate "terrorist sanctuaries" on Afghan soil. It was a telling reversal for Pakistan, which for years has been accused by both Afghanistan and the United States of harboring insurgents that carry out such attacks from its side of the border.
Many militants are thought to have fled across the frontier after the Pakistani military on June 15 launched a major operation against insurgent safe havens in the North Waziristan region, which borders Afghanistan. Washington has for years urged Islamabad to launch such an operation against local and foreign militants using North Waziristan as a base for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif tried to start peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, but approved the military operations after militants attacked the country's busiest airport in Karachi.
Since then, the military said it has killed 570 militants and lost 34 soldiers. Authorities say over 800,000 people have also fled North Waziristan. The overnight attack took place in Dir when a group of about 70 militants attacked a border post on Tuesday night. The troops returned fire, killing six attackers and wounding nine others, the officials said. They said the rest fled back to Afghanistan.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to media.
A foreign ministry statement said a "strong protest" was lodged over the attack and that Afghan authorities were urged "to take effective steps to stop the use of Afghan territory for repeated cross border fire and physical attacks by terrorists". - Agencies
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