Islamabad: Amid a steady decline in Covid-19 infections, Pakistan's coronavirus positivity ratio further fell to 1.66% with 663 new cases.
According to National Command and Operations Center (NCOC), around 663 cases of coronavirus were reported while 11 people succumbed to the disease in the last 24 hours, taking the total death toll to 28,280.
Pakistan is presently experiencing the fourth wave of coronavirus which is said to be deadlier and more contagious than the previous three COVID waves.
The total number of cases has reached 1,265,047.
As many as 1,210,897 patients have recovered from the disease with 2,280 critical cases.
The number of patients swelled to 437,974 in the province with 12,849 causalities.
The number of infections has surged to 465,819 in the province, while the death toll has reached 7,530.
The confirmed cases have surged to 176,886 in the province with 5,686 casualties.
There are 33,128 confirmed cases while 352 patients have died from the infection so far.
AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan
There are 34,402 coronavirus cases in the AJK while the death toll has reached 740. On the other hand, there are 10,369 cases in GB with 186 coronavirus deaths.
There are 106,469 cases in the capital city while 937 people have lost their lives.
Cabinet opines ECP legally bound to hold next by-polls through EVMs: minister
Chaudhry Fawad Hussian says the commission should ensure use of the EVMs in all next elections as the Parliament had given mandate in that regard.
Islamabad: Two weeks after passage of bills related to electoral reforms from joint sitting of the Parliament, the federal cabinet on Tuesday viewed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was bound to hold all the next elections including by-polls through the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
“The cabinet while discussing the most important decision on the EVM opined that after amendment in the [election] laws, it is mandatory for the election commission to hold all next by-polls through EVMs,” Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told the media persons after the meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
“If elections are not conducted through the EVMs, there is another opinion that the government will not be able to fund them,” he said, explaining the existing election laws that only gave legitimacy to the polls via the machines.
He said Federal Minister for Law and Justice Dr. Muhammad Farogh Naseem was of the view that on prima facie, the government could only give funds to the ECP for elections if that were held through EVMs.
The government had formed a committee in that regard and the law ministry would give its opinion on the matter, Fawad added.
The minister said the ECP should ensure use of the EVMs in all the next elections as the Parliament had given mandate in that regard.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Faisal Sultan and Minister for Planning Development & Special Initiatives Asad Umar briefed the federal cabinet on new variant of the coronavirus (Omicron).
It was told that new variant’s transmissibility was fastest among other kinds of the coronavirus and spreading at tenfold pace in those countries where it had been reported.
Lethality of variant and efficacy of vaccine against this variant was yet to be known, he said, adding the federal Cabinet was told that those factors would be determined by next two to three weeks.
The Federal Cabinet has requested the provincial governments to revamp their vaccination drives and appealed to the public to get inoculated at the earliest so that this new variant could be dealt in a way as those of its previous kinds that were tackled in an effective way.
He said the arrival of Omicron was imminent as the steps taken by the government could only delay it for a brief moment of time.
Most important thing to deal with this variant was mask wearing and vaccination of the leftovers, he added.
Fawad said the Federal Cabinet had expressed serious reservations over the videos circulating on the social media networking sites showing that votes were being bought for the upcoming by-election in Lahore.
He said such illegal activities did not come to the fore in the by-election, if steps were taken by the ECP against horse trading in the recent Senate election.
The free and fair polls were lifeline of a democratic system where elections were the basis for formation of government, he said, highlighting the national election watchdog’s effective and important role in that regard.
He urged the ECP to take the matter of purchase of votes by specific political parties in Lahore to a logical conclusion.
Fawad said the Federal Cabinet was briefed by Minister for Science and Technology Shibli Faraz in detail about total number of required EVMs for the elections.
He said formalities for receiving $3 billion dollars in safe deposits and $1.2 billion worth of oil supplies on differed payment from Saudi Arabia had been completed.
The ITFC (International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation) had given additional $762 million to Pakistan which would ensure stability of rupee against dollar, he added.
The minister said a presentation on weekly prices of kitchen items was also given to the Federal Cabinet and it was noted that there had been a steady decline in commodities prices.
Price of sugar had seen substantial decrease in the last one month, he said, lashing out at the Sindh government for delaying crushing of sugarcane’s crops which caused increase in the price of sweetener.
He said prices of essential commodities in Karachi and Hyderabad were quite high which required urgent attention of the Sindh government.
It was Karachi which played major role in fluctuation of the Sensitive Price Index, he added. Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that with the increase in rice production, the country was likely to earn $4.75 billion foreign exchange. The weekly presentation of kitchen items given to the cabinet transpired that the prices of essential were on declining trend, he added.
He said it showed that 0.67 percent decrease had been registered in prices of essential items of daily use in recent days. In only month period sugar price had come down to Rs 60 per kg, he added.
He blamed Sindh government for increase in Sugar price. “Inflation is rampant in the cities like Karachi and Hyderabad,” he said adding that PTI government was being portrayed as inexperienced party but the party governing the province for over 30 years had failed to check food inflation.
The 40 percent upward trend in sensitive price index (SPI) was due to inflation in Karachi and Sindh, he said adding that the price of tomato had registered 15.4 percent decrease, onion price by 7.4 percent and chicken price had decreased by 6.6 percent recently. Wheat flour bag price had decreased by one percent, he added.
He said Liquefied Petroleum Gas price had decreased by 0.7 percent . Also the country has produced 9 million matric ton rice this year.
The cabinet observed that the Kitchen items were cheapest in Pakistan as comparing to the entire region. The government was doing utmost to minimize the impacts of global inflation, he said.
The minister said in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad a flour bag was available at Rs 1,100 per bag, and same was available at Rs 1,404 per bag in Karachi and Rs 1,443 at Hyderabad due to bad governance of Pakistan Peoples Party’s government.
He said in international market, a sack of urea was available at Rs 10,500 per bag, adding that it was available at Rs 1,700 per bag in Punjab.
A smuggler fetched upto Rs 7 million for smuggling a truck of urea from Pakistan to any other country, he added.
The minister said it was noted that the consumption of urea had abruptly increased in Sindh by 53 percent in last six months. It showed that hoarding was rampant in the province and smugglers were being facilitated in the province, he said, adding
due to this reason Punjab’s farmer was suffering and buying urea from black market. The Sindh government must check the hoarding to provide solace to farmers, he said.
The minister said PTI government had launched a crackdown against hoarders in Punjab, which helped decreasing the price of urea by Rs 400 per bag in the province. Some 347 FIRs were registered against hoarders and 244 were arrested, 21,101 inspections were conducted and 480 warehouses were sealed and Rs 30 million fine was imposed on hoarders in Punjab, he added.
Fawad said in contrary, Sindh government did nothing to check hoarding due to involvement of members of the sitting government.
Divulging cabinet decisions, he said Petroleum Division briefed the cabinet about vacant posts of Managing Director and Chief Executive Officers in the division and attached departments and appraised the cabinet that the appointment process on four vacant posts was continuing.
The cabinet tasked Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam to devise a long term policy to control smog on permanent basis, he added.
The minister said the cabinet okayed enhancing visa duration of Tablighi Jamat from 120 to 150 days, besides providing them E-Visa facility.
Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that Rana Shamim had stated in Islamabad High Court that the circulated affidavit was not issued by him. The question was that how affidavit was published in newspapers, he said, adding it was assumed that Nawaz Sharif was involved in the publication of Shamim’s affidavit.
He said some media persons were involved in the campaign launched against judiciary and army and hoped that the court would take the issue to the logical conclusion.
To a question, the minister said the protest campaign of opposition was seasonal and indeed their own workers did not toing the line of opposition.
He said the price of lentils including Channa and Mong were Rs 115 and 142 per kg respectively in different cities. The same lentil (Channa) were available in Karachi at Rs 195 per kg and Rs 159 kg in Hyderabad.
Giving comparison of tea prices, Fawad said tea was available in Pakistan at Rs 1,309 per kg. Whereas the per kg of tea in Bangladesh was Rs 897, India 1,203, Srilanka Rs 1,170.
The minister warned that our gas reserves were fast depleting and we had to evolve an alternative strategy to deal with the situation.
He said under the gas load management plan, gas supply to the CNG sector would remain suspended from December 1 to February 15, 2022.
He, however, said gas supply would be fully provided to the Independent Power Producers, fertilizer companies and export oriented industries.
The minister said five percent additional gas would be provided to the power plants being operated on the LNG. He said the gas saved from the CNG, cement and Captive Power Plants would be provided to the domestic consumers.
Fawad said the use of electricity was also being encouraged in the winter season and its tariff had been reduced for domestic consumers in order to entice them to shift their appliances such geysers and heaters to electricity.
Inflation rate in Euro Zone rises to a record high for November
Higher energy prices contributed the most to the latest inflation reading.
The euro zone’s inflation rate has risen to a record high in November, preliminary data showed Tuesday, prompting further questions about what the European Central Bank will do next with its monetary policy.
Headline inflation came in at 4.9% for the month, compared to the same month last year. This was above a consensus forecast of 4.5% from Reuters and was higher than October’s 4.1%. The figure was the highest on record in the 25 years that the data has been compiled.
According to Europe’s statistic office, Eurostat, energy is on track for its highest annual price rise in November at 27.4%, from 23.7% in October.
The data comes at a time when policymakers are waiting for more data on a new Covid-19 variant, omicron, which was reported for the first time last week in southern Africa.
The travel restrictions implemented in the wake of the new variant are raising concerns about how economies could suffer. Experts argue that societies are better equipped to deal with the virus now compared to the first Covid lockdowns, but market players have been on edge with the prospect of further restrictions.
Nonetheless, consumer prices rose once again in the euro zone off the back of higher energy costs and supply chain issues.
In Germany — a country historically scared of high inflation — the inflation rate hit a 29-year high in November. They were up by 6% from a year ago, as measured by the harmonized index of consumer prices.
The trend is the same in France, where the inflation rate reached 3.4% in November, the highest reading since 2008.
The question going forward is how the ECB will square the high inflation readings with uncertainty over the pandemic.
ECB Vice President Luis de Guindos said last week that the central bank still plans to end its emergency bond purchases program in March. However, market players want to know how the central bank will be adjusting its other tools.
“The Omicron variant has increased the level of uncertainty even further but for now we suspect that it will have a fairly small impact on inflation,” Jack Allen-Reynolds, senior Europe economist at Capital Economics, said in an emailed note to clients.
On the other hand, Rupert Thompson, chief investment officer at wealth manager Kingswood, said the latest figures make it more likely that the ECB will have to reduce monetary stimulus.
“Euro zone inflation now looks set to remain well above the ECB’s 2% target for much of next year and these numbers will make it all the harder for the central bank to justify continuing its QE [quantitative easing] program and holding off on any rate rise before 2023,” he said.
In addition, Charles Hepworth, investment director at GAM Investments, said: “It may be wishful thinking on the part of ECB President Lagarde when she declares that price pressures won’t run out of control – they already are and it’s difficult to follow the argument that it will abate soon.”
CJP Gulzar for returning military land not under defence use to govt
The army is there for the country's defence and not for doing business, he remarked.
The law didn't allow land meant for defence purposes to be used for commercial gains and that such land should be returned to the government after its strategic use, Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed on Tuesday said on Tuesday.
A three-judge Supreme Court bench headed by the chief justice and comprising Justice Qazi Mohammad Amin Ahmed and Justice Ijazul Ahsan resumed the hearing on the issue of military lands being used for commercial purposes.
During the hearing, the chief justice again snubbed Defence Secretary retired Lt Gen Mian Mohammad Hilal Hussain over commercial establishments being built on military land.
"The law's intention is not that defence land is used for any other purpose," Justice Gulzar reiterated. "If the land is not being used for defence then it will go back to the government."
"This is government land," the top judge said, noting that cinemas, petrol pumps, housing societies, shopping malls and marriage halls were being constructed on land meant for defence.
"General sahib, these are not defence purposes," he told the defence secretary, asking the attorney general to explain how the defence ministry would "limit the land's use to defence".
The court said it would interpret the law concerning the land of cantonment boards in light of the Constitution, with Justice Amin remaking: "This is also very important for the institution's own reputation."
The CJP then turned to the attorney general, saying "They must be made to understand the law, who will do that?"
He said a retired major had given the land of Global Marquees, a wedding venue near Gora Qabristan, on lease to a private party, and asked whether he had the authority to do so.
"The army did not take any action against the retired major," the CJP said, noting that millions of rupees were being earned through Global Marquees on a daily basis.
The CJP ordered authorities to demolish a wall built next to Kala Pul as well as the Grand Convention Hall "today".
The CJP expressed dissatisfaction over a report submitted by the defence secretary regarding the case, saying the report "claims the illegally built buildings have been demolished, but they are still there".
The defence secretary responded that he would visit the sites in person and take pictures to compile a new report.
"This situation is a cause of embarrassment for the army and us both," CJP Ahmed remarked, following which the attorney general offered to withdraw the report submitted today.
The court directed him to submit a detailed report within four weeks, identifying the purposes of each piece of cantonment land.
"Under the law, strategic land will only be used for defence purposes," the CJP told the defence secretary.
The secretary informed the court that the scope of the term "strategic objectives" was "wide", saying commercial activities also fell into the category of "strategic defence".
"Whenever the army goes to the borders, these activities are carried out for the purpose of welfare and to keep the morale of the army high," Hussain explained.
At this, the CJP said: "Secretary sahib everything is fine, but where is the cantonment there? All we can see there are houses."
Justice Ahmed pointed out that schools and marriage halls had also been built on Faisal Base land.
"It is being said that Masroor and Korangi airbases are being shut and [perhaps] commercial activities will be started there," the CJP added.
He noted that cantonment land had to be returned to the government after defence objectives were met.
"The army should not compromise on its bigger objectives for petty business," Justice Qazi Amin remarked, adding that the military should be mindful of the sanctity of its institution.
CJP Ahmed pointed out that shopping malls had also been built on defence land in Lahore and Quetta, saying "it is not clear how the Ministry of Defence will sustain these activities."
The defence secretary informed the court that a joint committee of all three armed forces had been formed to check violations of the law.
The CJP further said that "allotting houses to senior army officers does not fall under defence purposes."
"How can the army carry out commercial activities on state land?" he questioned, emphasising that state land should not be "exploited".
Justice Ahmed said the issue was not limited to Karachi, but such violations were common across the country.
Justice Amin said it was incomprehensible why the army needed to indulge itself in business, while the CJP noted that "the army has constructed a tall building on Gizri Road overnight."
He asked that if constructing cinemas, marriage halls and houses were "defence activities" then what was actual defence.
The CJP further said the land sold by some army officers for a few hundreds of thousands had been used to build houses that were now worth tens of millions.
"All the land of cantonments must be restored to its original condition," the CJ said, adding the SC would also review all of the army rules and laws in light of the Constitution.
"The army is there for the country's defence, not for doing business," the CJP remarked.
Later the bench adjourned the hearing for four weeks.
18.8 million mobile units manufactured in Pakistan in 10 months: Dawood
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Inflation rate in Euro Zone rises to a record high for November
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Govt announces no change in POL prices
Winter activity and political turmoil!
Government, opposition and public!
Present regime and dengue!
The repetition of history and the hidden sciences!
Whispers, rumors and rulers' narrative!
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