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Cataclysmic floods in Pakistan kill over 1,100, including 380 children

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  • United Nations describes floods as “unprecedented climate catastrophe” while appealing for aid.
  • Pakistan receives nearly 190% more rain than 30-year average so far this year.
  • Guterres to head to Pakistan next week to see effects of catastrophic floods.

CHARSADDA: Torrential rains and flooding have submerged a third of Pakistan and killed more than 1,100 people, including 380 children as the United Nations appealed for aid on Tuesday for what it described as an “unprecedented climate catastrophe.”

Army helicopters plucked stranded families and dropped food packages to inaccessible areas as the historic deluge, triggered by unusually heavy monsoon rains, destroyed homes, businesses, infrastructure and crops, impacting 33 million people, 15% of the 220 million-strong South Asian nation.

The country has received nearly 190% more rain than the 30-year average in the quarter through August this year, totalling 390.7 millimetres (15.38 inches). Sindh province, with a population of 50 million, was hardest hit, getting 466% more rain than the 30-year average.

“One third of the country is literally under water,” Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman told Reuters, describing the scale of the disaster as “a catastrophe of unknown precedent”.

She said the water was not going to recede anytime soon.

At least 380 children were among the dead, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif told reporters during a briefing at his office in Islamabad.

“Pakistan is awash in suffering,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video message, as the United Nations launched an appeal for $160 million to help the South Asian nation. “The Pakistani people are facing a monsoon on steroids — the relentless impact of epochal levels of rain and flooding.”

Guterres will head to Pakistan next week to see the effects of the “unprecedented climate catastrophe,” a UN spokesperson said.

He said the scale of the climate disaster commanded the world’s collective attention.

Nearly 300 stranded people, including some tourists, were airlifted in northern Pakistan on Tuesday, a state-run disaster management agency said in a statement, while over 50,000 people were moved to two government shelters in the northwest.

“Life is very painful here,” 63-year-old villager Hussain Sadiq, who was at one of the shelters with his parents and five children, told Reuters, adding that his family had “lost everything.”

Hussain said medical assistance was insufficient, and diarrhoea and fever common at the shelter.

Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited the northern valley of Swat and reviewed rescue and relief operations, saying that “rehabilitation will take a long, long time.”

The United States will provide $30 million in support for Pakistan’s flood response through USAID, its embassy in Islamabad said in a statement, saying the country was “deeply saddened by the devastating loss of life, livelihoods, and homes throughout Pakistan.”

‘Obligation to help’

Early estimates put the damage from the floods at more than $10 billion, the government said, adding the world had an obligation to help Pakistan cope with the effects of man-made climate change.

The losses are likely to be much higher, said the prime minister.

Torrential rain has triggered flash floods that have crashed down from northern mountains, destroying buildings and bridges, and washing away roads and standing and stored crops.

Colossal volumes of water are pouring into the Indus river, which flows down the middle of the country from its northern peaks to southern plains, bringing flooding along its length.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said hundreds of thousands of people were living outdoors without access to food, clean water, shelter or basic healthcare.

Guterres said the $160 million he hoped to raise with the appeal would provide 5.2 million people with food, water, sanitation, emergency education and health support.

‘Not enough aid’

Prime Minister Sharif said that amount of aid would need “to be multiplied rapidly,” pledging that “every penny will reach the needy, there will be no waste at all.”

Sharif feared the devastation would further derail an economy that has already been in turmoil, possibly leading to an acute food shortage and adding to skyrocketing inflation, which stood at 24.9% in July.

Wheat sowing could also be delayed, he said, and to mitigate the impact of that, Pakistan was already in talks with Russia over wheat imports.

General Akhtar Nawaz, chief of the national disaster agency, said at least 72 of Pakistan’s 160 districts had been declared calamity-hit.

More than two million acres (809,371 hectares)of agricultural land were flooded, he said.

Bhutto-Zardari said Pakistan had become ground zero for global warming.

“The situation is likely to deteriorate even further as heavy rains continue over areas already inundated by more than two months of storms and flooding,” he said.

Guterres appealed for a speedy response to Pakistan’s request to the international community for help, and called for an end to “sleepwalking towards the destruction of our planet by climate change.”

“The extreme monsoon flooding tells us that there is no time to waste, the climate tipping point is here,” said Rehman, the climate change minister, adding Pakistan is looking for the developed world to not let it pay for other countries’ carbon-backed development.

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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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