· Jailed Saudi women’s activist ‘refuses’ to absolve authorities of torture
A prominent Saudi women’s rights activist has rejected an offer that would see her freed in return for agreeing to sign and record a statement saying she had not been tortured while in custody. Instead, Loujain al-Hathloul (30) has reiterated her accusations of maltreatment, which she delivered earlier this year in open court. She and three other women detained in May 2018 have accused the authorities of holding them in solitary confinement, sexual assault and administering beatings and electric shocks. Saudi officials have denied the allegations. Hathloul was arrested along with a dozen other female activists and an unknown number of male supporters on allegations of “conspiring with hostile entities” by contacting and speaking to foreign journalists and human rights organizations. Detainees were also charged with cybercrime and communicating sensitive matters over the internet, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison. The women were detained shortly before the ultra-conservative kingdom lifted the world’s only ban on female driving. They have also campaigned for an end to the system of male guardianship, which treats women as minors from birth to death.
· UAE allies deal decisive blow to Saudi war aims in Yemen
The seizure of the port city of Aden by South Yemeni separatists has deepened fundamental divisions between the chief regional partners in the devastating war in the poorest country in the region. Divisions are over aims, strategies, allies, and whether to continue the war. By taking control of Aden, the seat of the Saudi-sponsored Yemeni regime, the Emirates’ separatist allies have dealt a decisive blow to the Saudi war aim of dominating a united Yemen if and when the northern Houthi rebels are defeated. The Saudis have adopted a strategy that their Emirati partners could not, ultimately, tolerate. From the outset of the war, Saudi-backed president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi had no credibility in Yemen or with the Emiratis who have repeatedly called for his replacement. He was elected unopposed in 2012 for a two-year term, which was extended until 2015. He and most of his ministers live in Riyadh and have been dubbed the “government of the hotels” by detractors. The Saudis have also adopted Yemen’s Sunni fundamentalist Islah party as the vehicle to rule Yemen. The Emiratis regard Islah as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and therefore their enemy.
· Shooting at Norway mosque being treated as terror attack
Police in Norway’s capital have said the shooting at a mosque that wounded one person is being investigated as an attempted terrorist attack. One suspect is in custody after the shooting at the Al-Noor Islamic Centre in the Oslo suburb of Baerum on 10th August. Police said they believe no-one else was involved. They said the alleged perpetrator is also a murder suspect in a separate case. Oslo police official Rune Skjold told a news conference 11th August that the suspect, a man in his 20s, has been found to hold extreme right-wing views and animosity toward immigrants. After the shooting, police went to his residence and said they found his 17-year-old sister dead.
· Clashes between regime loyalists and insurgents in rebel-held northwest Syria killed 59 combatants on 13th August, a war monitor said. More than two dozen also died in Syria air strikes in two days – rights group
Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a jihadist group led by Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate, has since January controlled most of Idlib province as well as parts of neighboring Hama, Aleppo and Latakia provinces. Several other armed rebel groups also operate in the region. Fighting in southern Idlib and rural Latakia on Tuesday claimed the lives of 29 pro-government forces as well as 30 jihadists and allied rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. It came as regime warplanes pummeled the Idlib region with air strikes, killing three civilians in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, the Britain-based monitor added. Regime forces and anti-government fighters have been caught in fierce battles in the region for days, as the former presses with an advance toward a strip straddling the Hama and Idlib governorates. Air strikes have also resulted in the deaths of more than two dozen civilians in northwestern Syria in the last two days in an escalation of a Russian-backed offensive against the last major rebel stronghold, a war monitor and local activists said on 17th August.
- Yemeni separatists have taken control of the strategic city of Adenafter days of fighting with forces backing the internationally recognized government.
A spokesperson for the Southern Transitional Council (STC) told CNN the group took over the city including its presidential palace, port and airport. Aden has been the seat of the Saudi-backed government since Houthi fighters took over Sanaa in 2014. “We are not inside the presidential compound, which is on an island, but we have secured its entrances and exits,” Nizar Haytham, the STC spokesperson, told CNN. CNN wasn’t able to verify the claims. However, the interior minister of the country’s internationally recognized government conceded a defeat in what he called a “successful coup.” “The successful coup destroyed what’s left of this country’s sovereignty,” Ahmed Al-Maysary said in a video circulated on social media. He said he recorded the video in Aden right before fleeing to Riyadh. He was the only minister on the ground making statements to the public about the fighting.
- UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has set out his plan to stop Boris Johnson from leading the country into what many fear could be a catastrophic ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
The Labor Party leader has announced he will begin consideration of a vote of no confidence in Johnson’s government “at the earliest opportunity” and seek to form a “strictly time-limited” caretaker government, in a letter sent on 14th August to leaders of other UK parties and senior backbenchers in Parliament in the hope of rallying their support. Corbyn did not specify a date for a no confidence vote; however it would have to be after parliament returns from summer recess on September 3 and before the current Brexit deadline of October 31.
- British Airways faces a record $230 million fine after a website failure compromised the personal details of roughly 500,000 customers.
It would be the largest penalty yet under a tough privacy rule known as the General Data Protection Regulation, which came into force last year in the European Union. The UK Information Commissioner’s Office said that weak security allowed user traffic to be diverted from the British Airways website to a fraudulent page starting in June 2018. The regulator said the company will have a chance to contest the proposed fine. Attackers were able to harvest customer details including log ins, payment cards, and travel booking details, according to the regulator. The airline disclosed the incident in September 2018. The £183.4 million ($230 million) fine is roughly 1.5% of British Airways’ annual revenue. The carrier, which is owned by IAG (ICAGY), said it would fight the penalty.
- Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has instructed the country’s central bank to stop providing foreign currency for food imports, according to a statement from his spokesman
Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu said on 13th August the move is aimed at improving Nigeria’s agricultural production and attaining more food security. “The president … said the foreign reserve will be conserved and utilized strictly for diversification of the economy, and not for encouraging more dependence on foreign food imports bills,” reads the statement. Shehu also quoted Buhari as saying, “Don’t give a cent to anybody to import food into the country.”
· Gibraltar releases Iranian tanker in defiance of US
Gibraltar has released an Iranian tanker at the centre of a dispute between Britain and the Islamic republic after a court set aside a last-minute US legal bid to seize the vessel. The decision will ease tensions between London and Tehran that have been running high since British commandos and Gibraltar police seized the Grace 1 in July, alleging it was transporting Iranian crude to Syria in violation of EU sanctions. Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s chief minister, said on Thursday that in “light of the assurances” Gibraltar had received from Iran that the Grace 1 would not violate EU sanctions “there are no longer any reasonable grounds for the continued legal detention” of the tanker.
· Tehran shifts approach to Yemen war
Iran’s supreme leader has held a surprise meeting with a senior Yemeni Houthi rebel official, marking a major change at the highest level in Iran’s stance toward the Yemen war waged by regional rival Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.Tehran has, so far, given diplomatic backing but limited material aid to the Houthis, although they have been portrayed as Iranian proxies by the Saudis and their allies.While there was no indication of how Iran might become more involved in Yemen during talks with Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salam, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared his “support for the mujahidah [struggle] for Yemen”, and accused Saudi Arabia and the Emirates of seeking “to divide Yemen”.“This plot should be strongly resisted and a unified, coherent Yemen with sovereign integrity should be endorsed,” he said. He called for “domestic dialogue” and accused the Saudis and Emiratis of committing “war crimes” while the West exhibited “indifference”.
- Thousands of people, many waving Pakistani and Kashmiri flags, protested outside the Indian High Commission in London on 15th August in support of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.
India’s decision to revoke special status for the portion of Kashmir it occupies, along with a communications blackout and curbs on movement, caused fury in Pakistan, which cut trade and transport links and expelled India’s envoy in retaliation. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered an Independence Day speech on Thursday that spotlighted his decision to remove the special rights of Kashmir among the bold moves of his second term. India’s day of independence is being observed as Black Day in Pakistan to protest the ongoing brutalities and human rights abuses in Indian-occupied Kashmir.
- An attack claimed by Yemeni rebels sparked a fire in a Saudi gas plant on 17th August but caused no casualties or disruption to production, state-owned energy company Saudi Aramco said.
“Saudi Aramco’s response team controlled a limited fire this morning at the Shaybah natural gas liquefaction facility,” the energy giant said. “There were no injuries and no interruptions to Saudi Aramco’s oil operations.” The Huthi rebels have carried out a spate of cross-border missile and drone attacks targeting Saudi air bases and other facilities in recent months in what it says is retaliation for the Saudi-led air war in Yemen. Early on 17th August, the Huthis issued a statement claiming a “massive” attack against a Saudi gas installation, which they said was hit by 10 drones.
- Singapore slashed its full-year economic growth forecast on 13th August as global conditions were seen worsening and data confirmed the slowest growth rate in a decade amid mounting fears of recession in the city-state.
The government cut its forecast range for gross domestic product in Singapore — often seen as a bellwether for global growth because international trade dwarfs its domestic economy — to zero to 1 per cent from its previous 1.5pc-2.5pc projection. Singapore’s downgrade adds to concerns globally about the effect of increasing protectionism on exports and production. The deterioration in the global outlook has pushed central banks to cut interest rates and consider unconventional stimulus to shield their economies. “GDP growth in many of Singapore’s key final demand markets in the second half of 2019 is expected to slow from, or remain similar to, that recorded in the first half,” the trade ministry said in a statement on 13th August. The ministry flagged a host of growing economic risks including Hong Kong’s political situation, the Japan-Korea trade dispute, the Sino-US tariff war, slowing growth in China and Brexit.
5 of the world’s biggest economies are at risk of recession Five big economies are at risk of recession. It won’t take much to push them over the edge.
The British economy shrunk in the second quarter, and growth flat lined in Italy. Data published Wednesday show Germany’s economy, the world’s fourth largest, contracted in the three months to June. Mexico just dodged a recession— usually defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction — and its economy is expected to remain weak this year. And data suggest that Brazil slipped into recession in the second quarter. Germany, Britain, Italy, Brazil and Mexico each rank among the world’s largest 20 economies. Singapore and Hong Kong, which are smaller but still serve as vital hubs for finance and trade, are also suffering.
China’s massive economy is growing at the slowest pace in nearly three decades as the country wages a prolonged trade war with the United States, which will impose new taxes on Chinese exports in September and December. The International Monetary Fund last month cut its forecast for global growth this year to 3.2%, the weakest rate of expansion since 2009. It also downgraded its expectations for 2020 to 3.5%. Investors are increasingly worried. The bond market is flashing warning signs and more than a third of asset managers surveyed by Bank of America expect a global recession in the next 12 months.
GLOBAL INDICES AS OF 16th and 17th August 2019
As compared to 8th and 9th August 2019
|Global indices as of 16th and 17th August 2019|
|NASDAQ (Aug 16)||7,895.99||7766.62|
|FTSE (Aug 16)||7,117.15||7067.01|
|CAC (Aug 16)||5,300.79||5236.93|
|DAX (Aug 16)||11,562.74||11412.67|
|SGX NIFTY (Aug 17)||11,069.50||11054.00|
|NIKKEI 225 (Aug 16)||20,418.81||20405.65|
|STRAITS TIMES (Aug 16)||3,115.03||3126.09|
|HANG SENG (Aug 16)||25,734.22||25495.46|
|TAIWAN WEIGHTED (Aug 16)||10,420.89||10327.13|
|KOSPI (Aug 16)||1,927.17||1938.37|
|SET COMPOSITE (Aug 16)||1,631.40||1604.03|
|JAKARTA COMPOSITE (Aug 16)||6,286.66||6257.59|
|SHANGHAI COMPOSITE (Aug 16)||2,823.82||2815.80|
|Global indices as of 8th and 9th August 2019|
|NASDAQ (Aug 09)||7,959.14||8039.16|
|FTSE (Aug 09)||7,253.85||7285.90|
|CAC (Aug 09)||5,327.92||5387.96|
|DAX (Aug 09)||11,693.80||11845.41|
|SGX NIFTY (Aug 10)||11,089.50||11125.00|
|NIKKEI 225 (Aug 09)||20,684.82||20593.35|
|STRAITS TIMES (Aug 08)||3,168.94||3184.69|
|HANG SENG (Aug 09)||25,939.30||26120.77|
|TAIWAN WEIGHTED (Aug 08)||10,494.49||10386.18|
|KOSPI (Aug 09)||1,937.75||1920.61|
|SET COMPOSITE (Aug 09)||1,650.64||1665.12|
|JAKARTA COMPOSITE (Aug 09)||6,282.13||6274.67|
|SHANGHAI COMPOSITE (Aug 09)||2,774.75||2794.55|
- With celebrations, slogans and prayers as the Pakistani nation on 14th August observedits 72nd Independence Day in solidarity with Kashmiris in light of India’s move to annex occupied Kashmir.
The government had made the decision to dedicate August 14 this year to Kashmiris two days after occupied Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its autonomous status by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in India. The day dawned with a 31-gun salute in the federal capital and 21-gun salute in the provincial capitals, while special prayers were said for the peace and prosperity of the country and for the people of occupied Kashmir. Jubilant citizens took out rallies across the country carrying national and Azad Jammu and Kashmir flags. They chanted slogans of Pakistan Zindabad and Kashmir Baney Ga Pakistan (Kashmir will become Pakistan).
- Prime Minister Imran Khan, while addressing a special session of the Azad Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly on 14th August, warned Indian premier Narendra Modi that any action by India in Pakistan would be countered with a stronger response.
Agreeing with the AJK Prime Minister, Raja Farooq Haider, who in his speech in the AJK parliament had said India would also look to create trouble in Pakistan after Kashmir, Prime Minister Imran said: “This will not stop in Kashmir — this hate-filled ideology will come towards Pakistan.” “We have information and we have had two National Security Committee (NSC) meetings. The Pakistan Army has full knowledge that India has made a plan to take action in AJK,” he shared in his address during what was his first visit to the region since becoming the prime minister in 2018. “Like the action they took in Balakot after Pulwama, according to our information, they have made a more horrendous plan now.
- The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) holds a consultative meeting on 16th August to discuss the Kashmir issue as Pakistan urges the world body to implement its own resolutions on this 70-year-old dispute.
“We hope the Security Council discussion will be guided by the statement of the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres who has voiced concern over the situation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” said Pakistan’s UN envoy Maleeha Lodhi. She pointed out that the secretary general had also emphasised the need to resolve this “issue in accordance with applicable Security Council Resolutions and the Charter of the United Nations”. The UNSC resolutions uphold the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination while the UN charter guarantees their basic human rights. As Ambassador Lodhi noted, last week Mr Guterres also expressed concern about the human rights situation in India-held Kashmir.
16th August consultative meeting has been called on China’s request to decide whether the UNSC should hold an emergency meeting to consider the current situation in Kashmir. If nine of the 15 members vote in favour, the council will meet again to consider Kashmir. If not, the council will issue a media statement, expressing its concern on the situation in the Valley and urging India and Pakistan to avoid any action that can lead to an armed conflict between the two. Yet, this marks the first time in over 50 years that the UN Security Council is holding an exclusive meeting on Kashmir, even though consultative. “The issue before the Security Council is also about the pain, suffering and plight of over 14 million people who have been now locked up in their own homes,” said Ambassador Lodhi while underlining the need for the UNSC to fulfil its obligations.
- As per Meteorological Department’s prediction, Karachi experienced torrential rain this month.
27 people died and many more were injured. The situation was compounded by Eidul Azha that was being celebrated at the same time. Scores of cattle markets were set up in different locations across the city in addition to the central outlet along the Super Highway. Poor animals and their hapless keepers had to face a tough ordeal. Prices fell down sharply as animals began to fall sick due to the downpour and the filth. The rain caused a complete breakdown of urban life. Poor design and management of roads, drainage, intersections, underground sewers and sidewalks caused unparalleled chaos and damage. Due to the over spilling of drains and the absence of properly directed flow of rain water, streets, transit ways and lanes were rendered unusable. The mayhem exposed grave shortcomings in planning, development and management of a city that houses over eight per cent of the national population. Many factors contributed to this disappointing scenario.
- Three soldiers of the Pakistan Army were martyred in firing by Indian forces from across the Line of Control (LoC), Inter-Services Public Relations Director General Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said on 15th august.
Two civilians were also killed and another injured in Battal sector of Poonch district due to shelling from across the restive LoC, officials said. In a tweet from his official account, Maj Gen Ghafoor said that the Pakistan armed forces, in a counter-attack, had killed five Indian soldiers and injured several others while bunkers were also damaged. “Intermittent exchange of fire continues,” he wrote.
- The federal government on 17th August appointed Aamir Khan as the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) with immediate effect, a notification issued by the Finance Division said.
Aamir Khan replaces Farrukh Sabzwari, who was appointed the corporate sector regulator’s chairperson just seven months ago. The federal cabinet had last week decided to change chairmen of both SECP and its Policy Board, ending a long-standing dispute between the two.
- Banks are parking their money in government securities in huge sums at higher rates whereas private sector has found no space to borrow from financial institutions since the beginning of FY20.
The State Bank of Pakistan’s latest data shows the government borrowed Rs1.367 trillion from July 1 to Aug 2 (33 days) as against net debt retirement of Rs20.2bn during the same period last fiscal year. This shift in government’s borrowing to the private banks came as a result of SBP’s decision to stop lending to the centre and finance its cash shortages. Banking money’s flow now directed towards the government papers is likely to hit economic growth by adversely affecting the investment landscape of the country. The cash-strained government is also trying to maximize its revenue through different tax measures. However, this has taken a toll on economic activity in the country as traders have registered a strong reaction through calls for strikes and shutdowns. The trade bodies and the Federal Board of Revenue are yet to reach any final decision that may remove such uncertainty and logjam between the government and industry. Recently the SBP governor also hinted towards economic uncertainty but remained hopeful that the set targets were clear and achievable. According to the data, private sector recorded a net retirement of Rs122.3bn during this period, as compared to Rs36.3bn paid back in same period last fiscal year. The persistent rise in policy rates by the central bank lured private sector to start investing in the government papers, which offers a higher return without any default risk. The current key interest rate of 13.25 per cent has pushed up the returns on both short-term treasury bills and the long-term Pakistan Investment Bonds.
- The government has disbanded the Financial Advisers’ Organization (FAO), giving the heads of federal ministries and divisions full autonomy to independently utilize development and non-development funds of all departments and projects under their control.
The decision has been made under a new law “Public Finance Management Act, 2019” passed by the parliament on the request of the finance ministry as part of its agreement with the International Monetary Fund. “In pursuance of Section-28 of the Act, the office of Financial Advisers’ Organization is disbanded/abolished” said a notification issued by the Ministry of Finance shortly before Eid holidays. It said the new law had been enacted to ‘strengthen management of public finance to improve and implement the fiscal policy for better macro-economic, financial and budgeting management. As a result, the finance ministry has officially recalled about 20 financial advisers (FAs — grade 20 officers) from the federal ministries and about 42 deputy financial advisers (DFAs — grade 19 officers) from various divisions of the federal government for onward absorption in various government agencies through the Establishment Division.
- The country will need to invest around $15 billion in a short period for inducting an additional 0.2 million trucks to fill the gap being created by implementation of axle load regime.
A number of trade and industry bodies have asked the government to stop arbitrary implementation of axle load regime which could turn out to be disastrous as it would raise freight costs by up to 100 per cent. In a briefing to Prime Minister Imran Khan, trade bodies including shipping agents, stevedores, the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) and Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry drew his attention towards the magnitude of the crisis. These bodies alleged that the arbitrary decision to implement axle load regime had been taken without due thought and consideration of ground realities and without taking on board the stakeholders. Present road and rail network, trucks and rolling stocks are completely inadequate to handle the current volume of cargo movement and situation would worsen substantially if the axle load policy was allowed to work, the trade bodies cautioned. In a comprehensive presentation to PM Khan, they pointed out that presently about 0.3m trucks move about 300m tonnes of cargo annually. In order to meet the new axle load requirement, an additional 0.2m trucks costing around $15 billion would be needed.
- Pakistan’s exports to the European Union have stagnated in the last four years despite waiver of duties on several products under the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+).
The GSP+ facility, implemented from Jan 1, 2014, helped promote exports from Pakistan to the EU by almost 21 per cent in the first year. However, “no tangible growth was recorded in export proceeds to EU in the following four years”, a senior official of the commerce ministry said. He admitted that the full potential of GSP+ is yet to be achieved despite the fact that the facility has been in place for the last five years. Before the GSP+ scheme, Pakistan’s exports to 28-member EU stood at €4.54 billion in 2013, which jumped to €5.51bn in 2014. In the second year of the GSP+ scheme, exports further jumped by 10pc to €6.09bn. However, since 2016 the exports proceeds have remained stagnant at €6.30bn in 2016, €6.69bn in 2017 and €6.88bn in 2018. On the other hand, Pakistan’s imports from EU, which were at €3.84bn in 2013, have also increased in tandem with exports during the last four years to reach €5.66bn in 2018. In the post-GSP+ period, the country’s imports from the EU rose to €4.09bn in 2014, €4.44bn in 2015, €5.34bn in 2016, €6.15bn in 2017.
- As the demand for steel bars grows in the wake of increase in infrastructure products and construction of high-rise housing projects, the government has decided to implement standards in the sector.
The Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) has called a meeting of all stakeholders and experts after Eid holidays to establish steel standards and its implementation across the country. “Last year, around seven million tons of steel bars were produced in the country and the average growth in this sector is more than eight per cent, but that is taking a toll on the quality,” said Shaban Khalid, former president Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI) and Director Ittehad Steel Industries. The initial paper prepared by PSQCA shows that only 10-15pc steel mills out of around 800 in the country were following the quality standards in producing steel bars used for the construction sector. “The business of steel bars is growing but the challenge faced by construction sector is ensuring quality and this becomes serious especially while executing the government sector infrastructure project such as bridges,” said Senator Ahmed Khan, chairman Senate Standing Committee on Industries and Production. He added that the quality of raw material was one of the key impediments in construction of high rise buildings in the country. “We have serious housing and office space shortage, the construction industry is vibrant but ensuring quality standards of certain raw material including steel is essential,” he stressed.
The PSQCA has formed a committee in this regard to revise steel bar standards for ensuring its quality. It will also suggest the enforcement procedure to this end.
- Around eight per cent of the total declarants have opted for pay-later option under the Tax Amnesty Scheme, 2019.
The total tax collections under these declarations are estimated to be around Rs10.9 billion. The Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) is in the process of analyzing the data to ascertain outcome of the scheme in terms of assets declarations and revenue collection. The pay later option is only available to those individuals who have declared their assets before the June 30 deadline. The scheme was extended only for three days until July 3. The facility allows declarants an extra year to pay their taxes with different default surcharge rates on a quarterly basis until June 30, 2020.
|F.C Exchange Rates of PKR as of 16th August 2019 as compared to 9th August 2019|
|Countries||PKR rate as of 9th August 2019||PKR rate as of 16th August July 2019|
Pakistan Stock Exchange Indices
As of 16th August 2019 As Compared
To 9th August 2019
|Position as of 16th August 2019|
|Symbols||KSE100 Index||PSX-KMI All Shares Index|
|Advance 73 (Curr)||Current 28764.63||Current 13453.11|
|Decline 194 (High)||High 29429.07||High 13764.61|
|Unchanged 16 (Low)||Low 28691.79||Low 13409.42|
|Total Change 283||-664.44||-311.50|
|Position as of 9th August 2019|
|Symbols||KSE100 Index||PSX-KMI All Shares Index|
|Advance 144 (Curr)||Current 29429.07||Current 13764.61|
|Decline 134 (High||High 30034.68||High 14031.86|
|Unchanged 17 (Low)||Low 29332.80||Low 13707.86|
|Total Change 295||-308.91||-142.07|