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Army rules out leaning towards ‘any political party, ideology’

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In his maiden press conference after assuming the post of Director-General (DG) of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry Tuesday reiterated the army’s stance that it does not have a leaning towards any political party or ideology as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) calls on the establishment for intervening in politics.

“The Pakistan Army is a national army. All political parties are respectable for us […] but we do not lean towards any political party or ideology,” the ISPR DG said while addressing the presser at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi.

The army’s spokespersons have repeatedly denied that the military is leaning towards anyone as political parties blame each other for having the establishment’s backing.

“If any army was used to further a specific political ideology anywhere in the world, it led to anarchy,” the ISPR DG said and called upon Pakistan’s political leadership to support the military’s professional thinking. 

The ISPR DG added that the government and the military have constitutional and non-political ties — a stance that the army has long stood by. “This non-political relationship should not be given a political colour.”

With several retired army men supporting PTI, the ISPR DG said that the veterans’ organisations should not become political as their purpose was to ensure veterans’ welfare and highlight their issues. 

Indian propaganda

During his presser, Major General Chaudhry said India’s propaganda still continues against Pakistan as he slammed the neighbouring nation for ceasefire violations.

The ISPR DG said that India had committed several ceasefire violations along the LoC this year and Pakistan had also taken down six Indian spy quadcopters. 

He noted that Pakistan had taken United Nations observers to the Line of Control (LoC) several times, while India had not done the same.

“India’s aggressive designs and baseless allegations cannot change history. India cannot change the historical status of Kashmir. If India plans any adventure, Pakistani forces will give a strong response.”

Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Asim Munir visited the LoC on his first tour after becoming army chief, he recalled. 

“Pakistan has fought the war against terrorism for two decades. Every Pakistani soldier is devoted to faith, piety and jihad in the cause of Allah.”

Referring to Operation Swift Retort in 2019 — in which Pakistan Air Force (PAF) shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani airspace and arrested an Indian pilot on the ground — the military spokesperson said that Pakistan could defend its territory. 

Pakistan’s situation holds importance in India’s internal matters, he said, adding that the Indian government talks about Pakistan’s politics also to divert attention from its own problems. 

India has been conducting false flag operations and propaganda against Pakistan, he iterated. “Some local elements advance India’s agenda knowingly or unknowingly,” he said without elaborating. 

Report to SC based on ‘ground realities’

In response to a question, he said the Ministry of Defence had already given a briefing to the Supreme Court regarding the deployment of troops for elections, which was based on “ground realities”.

The defence ministry briefed the apex court last week on why the government could not provide army personnel for elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — and the report has not been made public yet.

The government has repeatedly maintained that the polls cannot take place not only due to the ongoing economic turmoil, but also due to terrorism threats, and with the army busy in counterterrorism operations, it could not allocate security forces for elections.

To a question about what was in the report that the defence ministry had submitted to the top court, Maj Gen Chaudhry said that had there been a need to make the briefing provided to Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial public, then it would have already been disclosed.

“Those talks were held just between the institutions,” he said.

“It is not in the interest of the nation, country, and the army to push the armed forces into politics,” the military’s spokesperson remarked, a position that his predecessors have also maintained.

The ISPR DG added that it is the government’s prerogative to summon the Pakistan Army under Article 245 for election security or during natural disasters.

Terrorism situation

At the start of the news conference — his first after taking over the post — he said the purpose was to elaborate on the army’s professional activities, including analysing its counterterrorism operations. 

“The contacts between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Baloch [insurgent] organisations and foreign intelligence agencies has been proven.”

Pakistan’s civil and military agencies took great steps against terrorists, he said. 

Giving a breakdown of the menace of terrorism during the current year, he said 436 incidents had occurred, in which 293 people were martyred and  523 injured. 

During this period, security forces conducted 8,279 intelligence-based operations (IBOs), in which 1,535 terrorists were killed. Around 70 IBOs were being conducted daily, he added. 

“There is no no-go area in Pakistan,” he emphasised. However, terrorists were still disturbing the country’s peace.

The ISPR DG further said that 137 security officials have been martyred so far this year while 117 have been wounded. “The war against terrorism that Pakistan has fought is unprecedented and will continue till the last terrorist is eliminated,” he asserted. 

“Terrorist organisations and their facilitators’ have no ideology,  religion or faith. They attack mosques, police, religious scholars, mediapersons and citizens,” he said. 

He also expressed sadness that the police were blamed for any terrorist incident no matter how small. The police had given countless sacrifices, he said. 

Peshawar mosque attackers trained in Afghanistan

Referring to the suicide attack on a mosque in Peshawar in January, which claimed the lives of over 70 people, the ISPR DG said the blast was carried out by the banned militant group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar on the TTP’s orders.

“The attacker belonged to Afghanistan. The facilitators have been arrested. These terrorists were trained in different areas of Afghanistan.”

The masterminds of an attack on the Karachi police chief’s office have also been arrested, he said, adding that the terrorists had taken Rs3 million to carry out the attack. 

“No individual or group will be allowed to take the law into their own hands,” he stressed. “Attempts to sabotage CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridor) and other projects are being thwarted. All projects are being provided complete security.

“Different social welfare programs have been announced after slashing the army’s budget. The navy and airforce have also participated in relief activities.”

The ISPR DG said the army had reviewed its expenditures in view of the country’s economic situation. “Petroleum, ration and non-operational movement are being reduced.

“The journey towards permanent peace has begun.”

Border situation

Maj Gen Chaudhry further said around 3141 kilometre-long border has been fenced along the frontiers with Afghanistan and Iran to prevent infiltration of terrorists.

He said 98% border with Afghanistan and 85% with Iran has been fenced, while 85% of forts along the Afghanistan frontier and 33% with Iran have been completed.

He further said that 65% of erstwhile tribal areas have been cleared of land mines.

The ISPR DG added that it isn’t possible to completely seal the border between the two countries, and in the local context, Pakistan is home to over five million Afghan refugees, while the movement of people between the borders of the two states was substantial.

“On an annual basis, around 20,000 people cross the Pak-Afghan borders,” he said, noting that the local authorities were in talks with the interim Afghan government over border management.

Socio-economic uplift

Highlighting measures for the socio-economic uplift of the people, the ISPR DG said that 3,654 projects are being completed at a cost of Rs162 billion in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, while 95% of the affected population has returned to homes.

He said that around 14,000 people have been given jobs in Pakistan Army and the Frontier Corps under Youth Employment Scheme.

Similarly, over 1,200 students are getting an education in various institutions.

‘Army used to improve agriculture’

The military’s spokesperson added that with the growing population, Pakistan also faces a food security challenge.

“Governments in developed countries also use the army to improve agriculture. In this regard, the federal and provincial governments will decide what Pakistan Army’s role will be,” he said.

The Punjab government has allocated over 45,000 acres of land to the Pakistan Army for a “Corporate Agriculture Farming” project in the shape of a “joint venture” to enhance the crop yield in order to ensure food autarky.

However, officials in the Punjab government were prompted to issue a clarification and provide a rationale for allocation of land to the Pakistan Army.

A senior government official, on the condition of anonymity, said: “From the onset, it should be clear that the ownership of the land remains with the Punjab government.”

“The Pakistan Army is only providing a management structure; the corporate sector and local farmers will also be involved in the cultivation process,” he added.

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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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