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Pakistan

Imran Khan calls off 'long march'; gives 6-day ultimatum

He demanded the assemblies be dissolved forthwith and elections announced.

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Imran Khan calls off 'long march'; gives 6-day ultimatum
GNN Media: Representational Photo

Islamabad: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan has called off his most anticipated long march, giving a six-day ultimatum to government to dissolve assemblies and announce elections. 

While addressing the participants of the ‘Azadi March’ at Jinnah Avenue, Imran Khan said he had reached Islamabad after 30 hours of travelling from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).

He warned the government that if announcement of elections will not be made, he will return to Islamabad-- demanding assemblies be dissolved forthwith.

Khan and the top party leaders left the container soon after the speech while the party workers managed to enter the Red Zone despite heavy security.

Before the arrival of PTI Chairman Imran Khan at the designated area, the PTI MNAs and workers gathered at D-Chowk where a clash broke out between them and anti-riot police and law-enforcement agencies. 

Police baton-charged and tear-gased the protesters.

The D-Chowk turned to a battle field between the Islamabad police and the PTI leaders and activists on early Thursday. 

PTI MNA Zartaj Gul got fainted. Many women and children got affected by tear gas shelling.  

Some officials of police and Rangers also suffered injuries in clashes. The protesters set some trees and vehicles ablaze. 

In a statement released on Twitter, the police noted that when the fire bigrade doused the blazes, the protestors once again set fire the Express Chowrangi on fire. 

Since being removed from power through a no-confidence vote in April, the cricketer-turned politician heaped pressure on the Pakistan's fragile new coalition rulers by staging mass rallies, touting a claim he was turned out from office in a "foreign conspiracy". 

In a centrepiece showdown with his rivals, Khan had called for supporters of his party to gather in Islamabad and stage a sit-in until fresh elections are called.

The government headed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has pledged to stop the convoy from entering the city, calling the rally an attempt to "divide the nation and promote chaos".

All major roads surrounding Islamabad, where a heavy security presence is in place, were blocked off with shipping containers while entry and exit points of major nearby cities were also cut off.

Sporadic clashes broke out between police and protesters who have tried to clear the roads, with tear gas fired in several cities.

Khan joined the march in dramatic fashion, arriving in a helicopter that touched down on a motorway clogged with supporters outside the city of Mardan.

The convoy later crossed a bridge that straddles PTI-run Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and government-run Punjab province, where shipping containers blocking the route were pushed to the side of the road by protesters.

Earlier, soldiers were dpeloyed at the Prime Minister's Office and the Parliament to avoid any untoward incident in the wake of PTI's long march and presence of charged workers.

"Pakistan Army has been called in for the security of government’s offices located in the Red Zone," the notification read. 

As the situation turned chaotic after the police clashed with the PTI workers ahead of former prime minister Imran Khan's political rally in Islamabad, the government has sought the help of the army to control the situation. 

 


 

World

Rainstorms lash northeast China, trapping cars, buses in floods

Alerts for flood risks were also issued in Jilin province, north of Liaoning.

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Rainstorms lash northeast China, trapping cars, buses in floods

Beijing: Heavy rain battered China's northeastern rust belt on Thursday, triggering floods that trapped buses, swamped roads and disrupted commuters in cities, with more storms forecast for coming days.

In Shenyang, capital of Liaoning province, its 7.6 million residents were caught off-guard by the unexpectedly heavy rain even though several red alerts, the highest in a four-tier storm warning system, were issued on Wednesday.

Residents woke up to public messages on their mobile phones telling them to delay heading to work and call off any non-essential activities because of "extreme weather".

Traffic police data showed 52 waterlogged sections of roads, 30 of which were closed.

Five students and a driver were marooned in a school bus in one inundated area and had to be saved by rescuers in rubber boats, state television reported.

From the province of Hebei in the north to Anhui in the east, many motorists were trapped in their cars as engines stalled on waterlogged roads, state television footage showed this week.

In the past month, China has grappled with extreme weather from heatwaves to historic floods, with meteorologists blaming climate change and also the first typhoon of the season, Chaba.

Alerts for flood risks were also issued in Jilin province, north of Liaoning.

In Yanji, a Jilin city on the border with North Korea, a man was hailed for his bravery on social media after he dived into a raging river to rescue his wife despite not knowing how to swim, footage from state-run Xinhua news agency showed.

The two sustained some scrapes but suffered no severe injuries.

"I swear in my next life, I'll still marry him," the wife said in the footage, smiling.

Over the next 12 hours, flood-swollen rivers were expected to inundate farmland and urban areas in the cities of Changchun and Siping.

Liaoning and Jilin are expected to see more heavy downpours in the next two days before the rains start to dissipate.

SOURCE: Reuters

 

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Pakistan

SBP increases intertest rate by 125bps to 15pc

Acting Governor Dr Murtaza Syed says the "most important" objective behind the move is to control spiraling inflation

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SBP increases intertest rate by 125bps to 15pc

Karachi: The State Bank of Pakistan Thursday increased the interest rate by 125 basis points (bps) to 15 per cent.

After chairing the monetary policy committee (MPC) on the policy rate, the central bank's Acting Governor Dr Murtaza Syed addressed a press conference, saying the "most important" objective behind the move was to control spiraling inflation.

He attributed the rise in inflation to global reasons, such as the Russia-Ukraine war, and domestic developments, including a "very high economic growth".

Syed said that while a high economic growth rate was usually a good development, Pakistan's economy was structured in a way that it would start facing problems if the rate was six per cent for two years in a row.

 Inflation had risen because of fiscal expansion, he added.

"The environment is very complex and uncertain. We have seen this kind of inflation globally after 50-60 years."

The acting governor, however, expressed the hope that the country would get past the phase of high inflation in the same way that it had been successful in combatting the coronavirus pandemic.

Syed said that inflation would remain between 18 to 20pc in the current fiscal year, however, the SBP would try to make sure that it did not rise beyond 20pc.

If the SBP had not raised the benchmark policy rate, it could have led to a worse situation — hyperinflation and more pressure on the currency, he said.

The central bank acting chief said economic growth was expected to come in at 3 to 4pc in the current fiscal year, which would reduce the risk of a further rise in inflation.

"The inflation number will remain high but we will try that it does not increase. We will try to control month-on-month [inflation] but the year-on-year [inflation] will unfortunately remain between 18 to 20pc."

He emphasised the need to control food prices. "While the monetary policy cannot control this, the agricultural output can be increased and bottlenecks in supply distribution can be addressed."

Meanwhile, SBP Deputy Governor Sima Kamal said the Monetary Policy Committee had decided that the Export Finance Scheme (EFS) and Long-Term Finance Facility (LTFF) rates would be 5pc less compared to the interest rate.

"We want to keep supporting the exporter ... this is a very important step," she said.

The central bank earlier raised the benchmark interest rate by 150 bps to 13.75pc in May.

Later in a statement, the SBP said Pakistan was facing a large negative income shock from high inflation and necessary but difficult increases in utility prices and taxes.

"Under the MPC’s baseline outlook, headline inflation is likely to remain elevated around current levels for much of FY23 before falling sharply to the 5-7 percent target range by the end of FY24, driven by tight policies, normalisation of global commodity prices, and beneficial base effects," the statement added.

It underlined that headline inflation rose significantly from 13.8pc in May to 21.3pc in June, the highest since 2008.

"The increase was broad-based—with energy, food and core inflation all rising significantly—and more than 80 percent of the items in the CPI basket experiencing inflation of above 6 percent."

The SBP noted the three encouraging developments — the passage of budget based on "strong fiscal consolidation, $2.3bn commercial loan from China and robust economic activity — were overshadown by global inflation and other factors.

The SBP said the the current account deficit rose to $1.4bn in May, on the back of lower exports and remittances partly due to the Eid holiday. "Based on PBS data, the trade deficit rose to $4.8bn in June, more than $1.7bn higher than its February low."

It said the the current account deficit was projected to narrow to around 3pc of GDP "as imports moderate with cooling growth, while exports and remittances remain relatively resilient".

The central bank noted that expected completion of the ongoing IMF review will catalyse important additional funding from external sources that will ensure that Pakistan’s external financing needs during FY23 were met.

For fiscal sector, the SBP said the fiscal stance in FY22 was unexpectedly expansionary, with the primary deficit estimated at 2.4pc of GDP, which was "double that of the previous year and more than thrice the budgeted primary deficit of 0.7pc of GDP".

The SBP said the monitoring committee will continue to carefully monitor developments affecting medium-term prospects for inflation, financial stability, and growth and will take appropriate action to safeguard them.

 

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Sports

Pakistan squad’s support personnel tests positive for Covid-19

He will undergo five-day quarantine

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Pakistan squad’s support personnel tests positive for Covid-19

Lahore: Pakistan Test squad’s support personnel Malang Ali tested positive for Covid-19, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) informed on Thursday.

The squad arrived in Colombo on Wednesday evening at 6:00pm Pakistan time.

The team official confirmed that Malang tested positive for Covid-19 in the on-arrival Rapid Antigen test.

The masseur will now undergo five-day isolation and will be allowed to come out of isolation upon returning a negative RAT test on the fifth day, he added.

Pakistan will play a three-day warm-up match between 11-13 July. The first Test will be played at Galle from 16 July, while the second Test will be staged at Colombo from 24 July.

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