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Pakistan

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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Pakistan

Terrorist who martyred two ISI officials in Khanewal gunned down in IBO

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  • Terrorist was at large after killing security officials.
  • Security forces conduct joint operation to nab militant.
  • Niazi succumbs to injuries after being injured in fire exchange.

A terrorist who martyred Naveed Sadiq and Nasir Hussain — the director and inspector of the Inter-Services Intelligence’s (ISI) Counter-Terrorism Wing — was gunned down by law enforcement agencies on Monday in an intelligence-based operation (IBO) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s (KP) Kurram Agency.

The slain terrorist, identified as Umar Niazi, was at large after he martyred the two ISI officials on January 3.

The security agencies arrested the terrorist with serious injuries following an exchange of fire. Niazi succumbed to his injuries after a while.

Intelligence agencies nabbed the terrorist before he could slip into Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, the terrorist martyred ISI officials Sadiq and Hussain when they were at a local hotel in Khanewal, Punjab.

Sadiq, meanwhile, was martyred in Khanewal at a time when he was on a mission to take down the network of a banned outfit operating from Afghanistan.

South Punjab Additional Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Sahabzada Shahzad Sultan said the perpetrators were on a motorcycle.

Both officials were posthumously awarded the Hilal-e-Shujaat and Tamgha-e-Shujaat.

Sadiq, who headed the ISI’s CTD wing, was awarded the Sitara-e-Shujaat on March 23, 2021, in recognition of his bravery and courage against anti-national elements.

He joined the police force as a sub-inspector in 2002. After appearing for a high-level exam in 2009, he was appointed to the ISI, the premier intelligence agency, as the assistant director.

During his tenure, the spy agency official exposed key networks of banned outfits. After months of efforts, he gained access to the high command of Daesh. He also neutralised the terrorists after raiding and finding their ambush site in Faisalabad.

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Pakistan

Islamabad court decides to indict Imran Khan in Toshakhana case

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ISLAMABAD: A local court in Islamabad has decided to indict Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan in the Toshakhana case.

The court has set February 7 as the date for the indictment of the PTI chairman. 

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Pakistan

Blast in Balochistan’s Kachhi leaves one injured

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  • Blast takes place in Kachhi district.
  • Police say explosives were placed on roadside.
  • Balochistan under constant terror attacks recently.

In yet another terror incident in the restive province of Balochistan, at least one person was injured after an explosion took place in the Kachhi district of the province, police said on Monday. 

The police told media persons that the explosives were placed on a roadside.

Balochistan has been under constant terror attacks recently with several incidents taking place in the province. 

Bolan incident

Recently, at least 18 people were injured after a remote-control bomb detonated on a railway track in Bolan, forcing the train’s engine and seven carriages off the track.

Railway authorities said that the injured had been shifted to Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Sibi.

The Jaffer Express train was travelling from Machh to Sibi, when the blast occurred, local authorities said.

“A relief train was dispatched from Sibi to rescue passengers of the train and bring them to Sibi safely. Passengers on the Jaffer Express coming from Peshawar to Machh were stopped at Sibi and are now being brought to Quetta via buses,” they added.

According to Deputy Commissioner Kachhi Agha Samiullah, the blast was carried out by a remote-control device.

On the other hand, the carriages of the derailed train are being lifted from the railway track.

Terror attacks

In the annual report issued by the Centre for Research & Security Studies (CRSS), Balochistan suffered from 110 attacks last year, becoming the second most vulnerable province in the country.

Over 250 people lost their lives in terrorist attacks and counter-attacks, whereas over 200 sustained serious injuries in the province.

The last month of the year witnessed over two dozen attacks in quick succession, and that became one-fourth of the total fatalities that occurred in Balochistan, a province which has just 6% of the country’s population.

According to reports, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Baloch Nationalist Army (BNA), the terrorist organisations, are mainly involved in terror incidents in the area-wise largest province of the country. In Balochistan, at least 14 major attacks took place mostly on security forces targets.

Security forces remained the primary target of terrorist attacks in the province.

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