Pakistan Records Additional Coronavirus Cases and Deaths

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Just recently, Pakistan has reported that a total of 5,050 people in the country contracted the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours. In addition, 114 existing patients of the disease succumbed to it in the same time period. This was reported on Sunday by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC). 


Of the total deaths that took place in the previous day, 104 patients passed away while in hospice. The remainder of the people, on the other hand, had not been admitted to hospitals. From the 114 people who died, 43 had been put on ventilators prior to their passing due to their worsening condition and increasing severity of the symptoms. 


The NCOC further reported that a large chunk of the deaths that were reported were in Punjab. As per the statistics lately, this number was followed by the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). 


As of now, the country has reported a total of 73,875 active cases. From these, 4,920 patients of the coronavirus were taken into hospitals to receive care. 630 hospitals across Pakistan are well-equipped with coronavirus facilities and can treat patients who have contracted the infection. 


There are 518 ventilators which have been occupied throughout the country. The highest number of these was taken up by patients in Gujranwala, which reported an occupancy of 88%. Multan recorded an occupancy of 81%, followed by Lahore and Islamabad at 79% and 57%, respectively. 


The nerve center went on to added that the majority of the oxygen-beds occupied in the country was also in Gujranwala, which reported an occupancy of 85%. Peshawar revealed that 72% of the oxygen-beds in the city were occupied, 71% in Gujrat, and 63% in Swat. 


In the last 24 hours, at least 46,066 tests of the deadly disease were conducted. Out of these, more than 8,000 were conducted in the province of Sindh, around 19,016 in the province of Punjab, over 8,000 in K-P, and 829 in Balochistan. The capital city reported that 7,223 tests were conducted there too, whereas 1,160 were conducted in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and 739 in the area of Gilgit Baltistan (GB). 


So far, 631,700 people have been successful in recovering from the lethal infection all over the country. As per the NCOC, a total of 721,018 coronavirus cases have been detected in Pakistan so far. Out of these, 268,750 were reported in the province of Sindh and 248,438 in Punjab. Similarly, K-P reported that 98,301 people had contracted the disease there, 20,241 in Balochistan, 5,127 in GB, and 12,461 in AJK. Islamabad also recorded a figure of 65,700. 


In addition, the total number of people who have succumbed to the virus in the country is 15,443. From these, 6,972 people passed away in Punjab whereas 4,529 of those who died were from Sindh. 2,618 deaths occurred in K-P, 215 in Balochistan, and 607 in the capital city of Pakistan. 



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Pakistani Government to Seek Help from IMF to Mitigate the Impact of the Pandemic

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On Tuesday, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan revealed that his government is soon going to be approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF). This, he said, is because the country requires another relief package because the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a serious blow to the economy. Moreover, the most in trouble at the moment is the service sector in Pakistan. 


Imran announced this while addressing the launch ceremony of the Pakistan National Human Development Report on Inequality of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). He added that the main concern of his government right now is to ensure that the poor people in the country are able to fend for themselves amidst the pandemic. 


The premier went on to say that officials will speak to the IMF because experts have alerted of disruptions in the future. He expressed unhappiness at the fact that the entire situation, as well as the government’s Ehsaas Programme, will now have to be reevaluated just when the economy was on its way to recovery and positive indicators had surfaced. 


According to the Prime Minister, the service industry in Pakistan is suffering, as well as in other parts of the world. The meeting with the UNDP was attended by many notable individuals along with Asad Umar, the Minister for Planning, the Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific of the UNDP, Kanni Wignaraja. The latter attended via a video link. 


Imran warned that the third wave of the novel coronavirus is even scarier than the last two waves. He referred to a statement made by the Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva, which said that conditions will not be imposed on those individuals who are suffering because of the pandemic. 


As per the word of the premier, a civilized society is one that takes care of the weakest members of the population and the measures it takes to reduce inequality. 


The report was presented by Dr. Hafiz Pasha, the lead author, which explores the numerous dimensions of inequality that is abundant in Pakistan. These dimensions have been focused on in-depth at both provincial and national levels, going on to lay emphasis on the inequality within and between the different provinces. 


Imran Khan praised the report and asserted that all the things mentioned in the report are nothing less than ‘elite capture. However, he said, ‘elite capture’ is a major problem for Pakistan, as well as almost every other developing country. 


The Prime Minister explained how there is opulence on one hand and extreme poverty on the other. He talked about how the pandemic has affected the poor and led to their conditions worsening, whether they live in rich or poor countries. 


The premier further observed how some rich individuals have gotten even richer during this pandemic. He went on to term the Financial Accountability, Transparency, and Integrity Panel report as ‘shocking’. It revealed that $1 trillion in taxes leaves developing countries each year whereas, roughly $7 trillion is laundered out. 



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Exams in Pakistan Scheduled for the Third Week of May

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In recent news, Shafqat Mehmood, the Federal Minister for Education, made an announcement stating that grades 1 through 8 will not have physical classes until the 28th of April. This is applicable only to those districts that are heavily affected by the novel coronavirus. 

 

He explained that these classes will take place online but, no student will be allowed to enter the school premises. This announcement was made shortly after he had a meeting with the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), scheduled to talk about the coronavirus situation in the country. 

 

The Minister went on to add that board exams for grades 9th, 10th, and 11th will begin from the third week of the month of May. On the other hand, exams held by Cambridge will take place on their scheduled dates.

 

He further stated that classes for grades 9th till 12th will operate as per the norm. However, strict adherence will be paid to the precautionary standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

 

He left it on the provinces to decide which districts, in which cities, they would like to impose a lockdown. Mahmood advised the relevant authorities of the provinces to focus on the areas that have been the most affected and thus, require the implementation of strict measures. 

 

The Federal Minister revealed that Sindh has announced that all classes in the province will remain closed, owing to the rising number of cases in the country.

 

He maintained that the NCOC will have another meeting on the 28th of April to review the overall situation and make additional decisions regarding educational institutions in the country. 

 

Providing insight on the meeting of the NCOC, Mahmood said that the main agenda was to discuss whether to reopen those specific educational institutions that have been shut down until the 11th of April. Another main aim of the gathering was to come up with a schedule for exams. 

 

Moreover, he informed that universities in the country will be requested to delay the admission process. 

 

The meeting of the NCOC was attended by several Health and Educational Ministers, who deliberated about the way forward for all educational institutions in the country. 

 

Keeping in mind the third wave of the coronavirus, on the 10th of March, the government gave an order to shut down all schools located in hotspots for the disease. This decision was relevant for two weeks, starting from the 15th of March. 

 

In other news, the Chief of the NCOC, Asad Umar, has revealed that broader lockdowns, stronger enforcement of SOPs, as well as increased restrictions are starting to show a positive impact on the coronavirus cases in the country. He informed that the positivity of the infection in Pakistan is slowing down. 

 

However, the Minister went on to caution that due to high number of cases recorded in the past two weeks, mortality rate, along with patients in critical condition, is likely to increase in the upcoming days. 



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Pakistan Witnesses the Highest Ever Number of Coronavirus Patients in Critical Condition

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The Chief of National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Asad Umar, announced on Sunday that the country’s tally for coronavirus patients in critical care has reached an all-time high. He revealed that as of Saturday, the number of people whose condition is quite critical reached 3,568. This is the greatest number that the country has seen so far.


The Federal Minister took to the micro-blogging site, Twitter, to reveal this grave news. He expressed his concern stating that a peak like this has not been witnessed in Pakistan ever since the beginning of the pandemic last year. 


Umar cautioned the masses of the rising number of cases in the country and directed the relevant authorities to implement stricter standard operating procedures (SOPs). He went on to add that a stronger enforcement of coronavirus guidelines is needed in the country. 


Addressing the citizens and residents of the country, the Federal Minister stressed upon the importance of cooperating with the administration, as it makes efforts for effective enforcement. 


The NCOC also published a report, issuing disease-related statistics in the country. It revealed that Punjab has been consistently recording the greatest number of deaths in the country. In the past 24 hours as well, the number of people who succumbed to the disease, was highest in the province, followed by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). 


On Saturday, the country also recorded more than 80 fatalities. Out of these, 49 had taken place in Punjab and 23 in K-P. As of now, the death toll in the country stands at 14,778. 


The nerve center for response to the disease in the country also went on to add that more than 60,000 people are currently suffering from the coronavirus. Out of these, over 5,000 cases were recorded in the past 24 hours. 


The report of the NCOC further clarified that around 55,605 tests had been conducted across Pakistan on the 3rd of April. Out of these, 5,020 turned up with a positive diagnosis and took the tally of reported cases in the country to a figure of 687,908. 


Out of the total number of people who have lost their lives to the deadly disease, 6,572 were recorded in the province of Punjab. Sindh reported that 4,509 had succumbed to the virus, K-P reported 2,440, and Balochistan reported 211. The capital city also revealed that 579 people had lost the battle with the coronavirus. 


364 patients in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and 103 from Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), were also declared dead as a result of contracting the infection. 


The NCOC added that from the 81 fatalities recorded on the 3rd of April, three had been from Sindh, 23 from K-P, 49 from Punjab, and one from AJK. Islamabad reported five of these as well. 


In addition, the total number of people who have recovered from the disease across the country currently stands at 613, 058. 


So far, Pakistan has conducted a total of more than 10,000,000 tests of the coronavirus. Around 631 hospitals in the country are well-equipped to provide disease-related facilities to the citizens and residents. 



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Saba Qamar Announces She is Calling Off Marriage with Azeem Khan

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Saba Qamar, a well-known actress, recently broke the internet soon after she announced that she was going to be tying the knot with Azeem Khan. However, in a recent turn of events, she has called off her marriage. 


Qamar and Azeem Khan, an entrepreneur and blogger, were hit with criticism soon after the announcement of their marriage went viral. 


When the actress had stated that she was going get married, fans everywhere celebrated her changed stance on marriage. However, the hate comments started to flow in when people found out who it was she was going to be marrying. 


Khan has been accused several times in the past for having problematic behavior, especially with women. Following the criticism of the decision made by the two, the entrepreneur took to social media to provide clarification for the allegations being made against him. 


However, the justifications did not seem to change Qamar’s mind. She took to social media to announce that she and Khan will be calling off their wedding on account of some personal reasons. She thanked her fans for always having her back and talked about realizing bitter realities. 


The actress further revealed that she had never met Khan face-to-face. They had only been in contact over the phone. 


Fans speculated that Qamar has once again lost her faith in marriage. They hoped that she will not give up on love due to this sudden turn of events. With the announcement that she was calling off the marriage, the actress went on to add that this is a difficult time for her. But, she expressed ‘this too shall pass’ in conclusion of her message. 



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Pakistan Decides to Develop its Own Vaccine for Coronavirus

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On Thursday, the National Assembly of Pakistan was informed of recent developments on the coronavirus side. The government has been making efforts to procure raw materials to battle the pandemic and so, Pakistan will be developing its own vaccine against the novel coronavirus. 


The house gathered for a meeting, which was chaired by Qasim Suri, the Deputy Speaker. The formation of a parliamentary committee for the purpose of electoral reforms was deferred by the house, to first consult the opposition parties about the matter. 


While the session was ongoing, a lawmaker occupying a minorities’ seat, Shunila Ruth, belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), requested the chair to declare a holiday on Good Friday, as well as Easter Sunday. The Chair also agreed that religious days for the minorities should count as holidays. 


As the Question Hour progressed, Dr. Noshin Hamid, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health, stated that around 70 million people in Pakistan will be given vaccinations against the coronavirus. These citizens and residents will be inoculated as part of the campaign to create ‘herd immunity’ to fight the disease. 


On the same note, she added that raw materials, which will help in battling the infection, are being procured in substantial quantities. According to her, it will help the country in developing its own formula for the vaccine. 


The National Assembly was further told that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, had decided to withdraw the notifications sent out to limit the powers of those secretaries who belong to 15 departments, assigned to the South Punjab Secretariat. 


The issue was also discussed in the lower house of the parliament. It was first brought up by Ahmed Hussain Dehar, a treasury member from the city of Multan. He highlighted that the South Punjab Secretariat had been established by the ruling party, PTI, however, the authorities awarded to the officers posted there had been limited. 


Moreover, MNA Malik Amir Dogar informed the house that additional secretaries working in 15 provincial departments had been assigned responsibilities in Multan but, they were reluctant to be subordinates to secretaries sitting in Lahore. In his words, the fact that the South Punjab Secretariat has been deprived of fully empowered secretaries is nothing less than a conspiracy. 


Ali Muhammad Khan, the Minister of State of Parliamentary Affairs, also revealed that the notifications that were deemed controversial have suddenly been withdrawn. It was speculated that the Prime Minister must have taken notice of the issue as well and decided to provide the deserved authorities to the secretaries in South Punjab. 


At the gathering, the State Minister went on to move for a motion and called for the formation of a joint parliamentary committee, in charge of electoral reforms. The opposition members expressed their objections, saying that their approval should also be taken into consideration before any such committee could be established. 


Shazia Marri, a lawmaker belonging to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), added that the party was in full support of electoral reforms. However, she took a jab at the NA-75 polls, which were conducted in February, and said that no reforms should include the disappearance of 20 presiding officers. 



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Pakistan Reports Around 5,000 New Coronavirus Cases

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In recent news, Pakistan reported that there were a total of 4,974 new patients of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours. Due to this addition in the number of people diagnosed with the virus, the tally of the novel coronavirus in the country is now at 672,931. 


As per the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the death toll in the country rose to 14,530. This was because no less than 96 people lost the battle to coronavirus and passed away in the last 24 hours. The most amount of deaths occurred in Punjab, followed closely by K-P. 


On the other hand, 2,148 patients of the disease recovered in a day, which took the total number of recoveries to a figure of above 605,000. 


Moreover, the NCOC added that the total number of active cases of the novel coronavirus across the country are now 53,127.


Where the occupancy of ventilators is concerned, the highest number of those occupied are in Multan and Lahore with 67%. They were followed by Islamabad and Gujranwala with 64% and 60% respectively. 


The report published by NCOC also stated that the largest number of oxygen beds occupied in Pakistan was in Swat by a total of 100%. It was followed by Gujranwala, Peshawar, and Gujrat, by 85%, 84%, and 74% accordingly.  


More than 50,055 tests of the coronavirus were conducted in the country in the past 24 hours. 9,634 were conducted in the province of Sindh, 8,672 in K-P, 22,624 in Punjab, 367 in Balochistan, 312 in G-B, 882 in AJK, and 7,564 in the capital city. 


Out of the total number of deaths reported in the past 24 hours, 4502 had occurred in Sindh, 6,427 people succumbed to the virus in Punjab, 2,363 in K-P, and 572 in Islamabad. 


More than 200 deaths were recorded in Balochistan, 103 in G-B, whereas 355 people died in AJK. 


The NCOC further informed that ever since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 10,000,000 tests have been conducted in the country. As of now, there are 631 hospitals across Pakistan that are fully equipped with coronavirus facilities. Over 3,000 patients have been admitted in these hospitals in the country. 


In other news, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has once again stated that Pakistan and its economy cannot afford to undergo a complete lockdown. He stated that businesses in the country will continue to operate, but on a limited scale. The restriction was placed in light of the raging third wave that is taking over the country. 


Just recently, the Prime Minister himself had tested positive for the infection. He chaired a meeting via video link of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) from his residence in Bani Gala. 


The meeting was attended by chief ministers representing all four provinces, who also joined through video conference. The premier directed all the relevant authorities to ensure the strict implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and running a campaign to encourage the use of masks. 



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Federal Government Removes Tariq Banuri as HEC Chairperson

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On Saturday, the Federal Government of Pakistan announced that it was removing Dr. Tariq Banuri as the head of the Higher Education Commission (HEC). The decision immediately took effect after the announcement. 


The Cabinet Secretariat issued a notification, which outlined that according to sub-section (5), when read with sub-section (5A), of Section 6 of the Higher Education Commission Ordinance of 2002, Dr. Tarqi Banuri is no longer the Chairperson of the HEC. The ordinance was amended as the Higher Education Commission (Amendment) Ordinance, 2021, which effectively removed Banuri from his position. 


Back in May of 2018, Banuri had been appointed as the head by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the former Prime Minister. His tenure was supposed to end in May of 2022. 


As outlined in the presidential ordinance, the tenure of the Chairperson of the HEC will now only be for a time period of two years. 


Reports have suggested that the employment of 15 consultants, on substantial salaries, is one of the main reasons for the dismissal of Banuri. It is believed that the appropriate rules were not followed when it came to the appointment of these consultants. 


The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) in Pakistan also observed the appointments of these consultants. Thus, they asked for clarification from the HEC itself. 


It is also said that Banuri used to avoid meetings held with vice-chancellors. He also did not listen to any of the grievances of public universities. 


Despite the fact that stakeholders had strong reservations regarding the Ph.D. and associate degree program, Banuri had been quite inflexible on the matter. He also refused to meet with any vice-chancellor and talk about any issue, regardless of which province they belonged to. 


Ever since Burani was dismissed, no other person has been assigned the responsibility of being the Chairperson of the HEC.


The former Chairperson is a Ph.D. in Economics, graduated from Harvard University. He also holds an M.A in Development Economics, which he received from Williams College. He is a well-known writer and has written around 20 books, as well as 30 research papers. 


Banuri has had an unblemished academic career and he possesses a deep understanding of research. He was the first of the handful who were suggested to the Prime Minister for the position of the Chairperson of HEC, back in 2018. Consequently, he was appointed by Khaqan Abbasi for his outstanding credentials. 


Where his professional life is concerned, Banuri began his career working as a civil servant in the country. Later on, he left for the US because he wanted to study for a Ph.D. at Harvard University. He has also served in the development and social sector in countries other than Pakistan. 


However, the former Chairperson of HEC is also known for having important connections at the local and international level, both. Moreover, he has ties with non-government institutions as well, which are useful when it comes to collaborations, scholarships, as well as the internationalization of the education sector in the country. 



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Cambridge Reschedules Exams for O Levels Students in Pakistan

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Due to the rising cases of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan, thousands of students voiced their concerns. Soon after, Shafqat Mehmood, the Federal Minister for Education, made an announcement for them. 


According to him, Cambridge International has decided that O Level exams in the country will be rescheduled owing to the increase in the number of cases of the disease in the country. The new date for these exams will now be the 15th of May, 2021. 


Shafqat revealed that he had detailed discussions with the foreign body of education to try and have the exams delayed. He went on to add on the micro-blogging site, Twitter, that further details will be disclosed by Cambridge later.


On the other hand, the education minister asserted that exams for A and AS Levels will be held as per the schedule originally designed by the British board. According to him, all standard operating procedures (SOPs) will be strictly enforced to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. 


On his official Twitter handle, Shafqat also wished students good luck for their upcoming exams. As per this decision made, the first exam for O-level students is most likely to take place on the very first day after Eid-ul-Fitr. 


No less than 90,000 students from across the country have registered to participate in the upcoming O and A Level examinations for the month of June 2021. Of these total number of registered students, 50,000 will now give exams as per the changed timetable for O Level examinations. 


Cambridge International also released its own statement confirming that A and AS Level exams will proceed as originally timetabled. However, they added, IGCSEs as well as O Level exams will now take place from the 15th of May. 


The press release added that the foreign education board is working hard to make sure that the students in Pakistan are safe while advancing their education. It applauded the efforts being made by the authorities and schools in the country to ensure the protection of the students. It went on to assert that the announcement made by the Federal Minister of Education came after several meetings with education officials, representing the government in Pakistan. 


The statement concluded that with the aid of the Pakistani government, the foreign board of education will be holding exams for A and AS Level students as per the original plan. This is being done to ensure that these students can easily move on to the next stage of their academic life. 


Cambridge further added that it is looking for ways to make the delayed exams work without causing any harm to the health of the students. Therefore, it will be working closely with the relevant authorities in the Pakistani government. 


The foreign board has also clarified that it will not be repeating the same approach as last time. This means that there is no possibility of them switching to grades that are assessed by the schools of the students. The statement released promised to provide more details in the weeks to come. 



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Umar Warns About Stricter Coronavirus Restrictions

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On Thursday, Asad Umar, the Federal Minister for Planning, warned the citizens of the country that stricter coronavirus restrictions may be imposed. This announcement of his came against the backdrop of several major instances of non-compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs)

 

The minister took to Twitter, the micro-blogging site, to observe that there has been a sharp rise in the positivity of the infection in the past couple of days. He also noted that daily admissions in hospitals, as well as the number of people in critical condition, have increased. 

 

He further urged the citizens of the country to be wary of the new strain of the virus from UK. He revealed that it is deadlier and more contagious than the one from Wuhan.

 

In the past 24 hours, Pakistan has recorded a total of 3,495 new cases of the virus, which is the highest number in this year. The tally for the disease now stands at 607,453. 

 

As per the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the death toll in the country surpassed 13,000 after 61 people lost their lives to the virus in the last 24 hours alone. Majority of these reported deaths occurred in the province of Punjab, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

 

On the other hand, 1,634 patients in total recovered from the virus the previous day, which has taken the number of recoveries to 577,501.

 

The NCOC further informed that as of now, there are 24,592 active cases of the novel coronavirus in the country. 

 

Of the total 3,495 new infections, Punjab reported 1,824 cases. It was followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with 624 cases and Sindh with 384 cases. 103 cases were reported in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 22 in Balochistan. The capital city of the country alone had more than 500 cases in a day.

 

Further data from the NCOC revealed that from the 61 deaths reported in the past 24 hours, 43 were of people in Punjab, nine from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, one from Sindh, and six from AJK. Two deaths were reported in the capital whereas, no one died in the province of Balochistan.

 

Just a day earlier, the Commerce Division had announced that it would be coming up with a plan to eliminate duty exemptions on material and machinery related to imports of the coronavirus. This was announced shortly after the Chinese government gifted 500,000 doses of the vaccine to the country. 

 

A senior official of the Commerce Ministry also added that it had been given the responsibility of removing exemptions on material related to coronavirus imports. This task was delegated to ensure the protection of the local industry. 

 

Right now, the local industry is producing coronavirus related material and equipment, which requires it to pay a general sales tax of 17%. The local products had become uncompetitive due to the zero-duty regime being imposed on the imports of coronavirus related machinery.

 

The government of Pakistan had provided exemptions to 61 personal protective equipment (PPEs) and diagnostic support from all taxes and duties in March of last year. 

 

Therefore, the local industry began to manufacture the equipment and informed the cabinet of these developments. In addition, the Cabinet Minister called for funds for the purpose of coronavirus. 



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NA Temporarily Cancels Activities Due to Surge in Coronavirus Cases

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As coronavirus cases in the country are on the rise due to the third wave of the disease, the National Assembly has informed that it will be temporarily suspending all of its activities for the time being. 


The administration of the NA secretariat released a statement, which stated that the offices of the secretariat will stay closed for the next two days.


The announcement further added that all the sessions of the special and standing committees, as well as the public accounts, have been canceled. The offices, the statement informed, will remain closed until the 16th of March. 


The notification also revealed that the Capital Development Authority (CDA) was previously directed to disinfect the offices of the secretariat. On the same note, the staffers had been instructed to get tested immediately, if any symptoms emerged. 


The concerned officers have been told that they can ask the basic staff to rejoin the office from the 17th of March. 


In addition, all staffers will now have to wear a face mask before they enter the secretariat. The timings for the offices from the 17th of March will be from 10am to 4pm. 


As per data published by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Pakistan reported a total number of 2,664 cases on Saturday alone. Around 53 deaths had been recorded because of which the death toll in the country is now at 13,487. 


So far, Pakistan has recorded more than 603,000 cases, out of which 569,798 people have since recovered from the disease. 


Asad Umar, the Federal Minister, also confirmed last week that the third wave of the infection has begun in Pakistan. He attributed the rising number of cases to the UK strain of the disease, which recently emerged. 


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PDM Experiences a Rude Awakening

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In recent news, Sadiq Sanjrani of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) pulled off another victory for the position of the Senate chairman in the previous elections. His win is being attributed to a mistake made by seven lawmakers in the upper house of parliament, which was also made in the National Assembly around nine days ago. 


Before the election started, the numbers as seen on the papers did not lean towards Sanjrani. He was the one candidate being backed by the government, who wanted to see him get re-elected. In a shocking turn of events, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, the presiding officer, rejected seven votes received by rival, Yousuf Raza Gilani. Consequently, the position of the Senate chairman went to BAP’s Sanjrani, who won by 48-42. 


Sanjrani had previously defeated the motion of no-confidence in the year 2018 and was able to repeat the same feat this year. He took his oath and remained seated in the chair that he has occupied for the past three years. 


As soon as he took charge of the Senate, the leader of the BAP’s first words were ‘Order in the House’. He proceeded to preside over the election for deputy chairman. 


Even more surprising was the fact that the position of the deputy chairman was taken by Mirza Muhammad Afridi. He was being backed by the ruling party of Pakistan, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and emerged victorious with a lead of 10 votes. 


Afridi is repeatedly claimed by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) as one of its senators. He received 54 votes whereas, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri, belonging to Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and backed by Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) as its joint candidate, received only 44 votes. 


Since the top position of the Senate was taken by candidates backed by the PTI, the 11-party opposition alliance was in a state of shock. On the other hand, the PDM had had a similar effect on the ruling party when it took hold of the seat of the federal capital in the Senate elections on the 3rd of March. 


Due to the victory of the anti-government party, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, had decided to take a vote of confidence. He turned to the National Assembly and started his second innings in politics, halfway through his constitutional term of five years. 


The defeat faced by the PDM on Friday, despite having a clear majority in the house, has set them back to square one. It has also provided a much-needed respite to the ruling government amidst ongoing political hostility in the country. 


When the elections of the chairman of the upper house of the parliament took place, Sanjrani emerged victorious with 48 votes, while Gilani only received 42. Seven votes cast in the favor of the latter were rejected, whereas one had been declared as invalid due to the voter’s stamp for both the candidates. 


Lawmakers, who belonged to the government as well as its allies, could be seen celebrating their victory even before Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, the Presiding Officer Senator, had announced the results. 



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PM Imran Believes PDM Will Face Failure Once Again

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The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, has made it clear that he believes that the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), is headed for failure. 


The 11-party opposition alliance was formed to dethrone the incumbent government, however, the premier asserted that they will not succeed in achieving any of their goals, as the entire nation knows that people were bribed in the Senate elections. This statement from the Prime Minister came after a video clip was leaked. 


Just a day before the parliamentary elections of the upper house, Ali Haider Gilani, the son of the joint candidate of PDM, Yousuf Raza Gilani, was recorded sitting with two ruling MPs of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). He was telling these men how to waste votes, who later claimed that their meeting with Ali Haider was only a part of their ‘sting operation’.


The MPs also claimed that they were only trying to expose the tactics of the opposition, who were trying to sabotage the vote bank of the government. 


Similarly, Abdus Salam Afridi, a member of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly, came forward and contacted the Election Commission of Pakistan. He alleged that he had video evidence to prove that one of the opposition leaders had tried to buy his vote. The ECP has asked the lawmaker to provide the evidence to it so that it may be thoroughly investigated. 


However, despite these turn of events, Gilani emerged victorious over Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, a candidate of the PTI, and won the Islamabad set in the Senate elections held on the 3rd of March. 


The Prime Minister of the country recently chaired a meeting of spokespersons of the government, to discuss the ongoing political situation. While addressing the attendees, he asserted that it is the responsibility of the Election Commission to ensure that transparent elections are conducted. However, he expressed his disapproval at the fact that the ECP failed to do just that. 


The premier firmly stated that the nation deserves transparent elections and that is exactly the course of action that the ECP should take. 


At the meeting, the people in attendance also reviewed the powers of the Election Commission and the Election Act. PM Imran vowed that he will put an end to the practice and tradition of coming to power by handing out money and then serving vested interests once in power. 


As per the Prime Minister, his party is already drafting electoral reforms, which will ensure that there is no corruption in any type of election. 


Separately, Senators Zeeshan Khanzada and Faisal Javaid also called on the premier. During the meeting, the two told the PM that Sadiq Sanjrani would prove to be the strongest candidate where the post of the Senate chairman is concerned.


They also expressed optimism at the success of the government, should Sanjrani hold the post.  


The elections for the deputy, as well as the chairman, have been scheduled for the 12th of March. It is also the date when the three-year-long tenure of Sadiq Sanjrani will come to an end. 



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Government Proposes Full Autonomy for the SBP

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It has recently been revealed that the federal government has given its approval for the absolute autonomy of the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP). Therefore, it is now free of responsibilities of supporting economic growth in the country, as well as providing budgetary loans in order to revive the stalled International Monetary Fund (IMF) program. A draft bill revealed this piece of important news. 


According to the SBP Amendment Bill, 2021, the primary objective of the central bank will be domestic price stability. However, the bill is silent on the inflation target and no accountability has been introduced in case the SBP fails to follow up on its price stability objective. 


On Tuesday, a meeting will be held amongst the members of the federal cabinet, who will take up the Amendment Bill for the purpose of its approval. The green light from the cabinet is a pre-condition, as well as 30 other conditions, when seeking to revive the stalled IMF program worth $6 billion. 


In order to meet another condition set by the IMF, the government will also be presenting the finance bill, during the meeting of the Senate. The purpose of this gathering is to ensure that 80 income tax exemptions are withdrawn. 


As per the bill of the SBP, supporting economic policies of the government will now only be a tertiary objective, as far as the central bank is concerned. In addition, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), as well as the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), cannot investigate the governor of the SBP, its executives, the deputy governors, or the board and committee members. 


Former officials of the central bank have also been awarded immunity against the FIA and NAB. 


In another major proposal, it has been suggested that the Fiscal and Monetary Policies Coordination Board be abolished. According to the proposal, this will put an end to the risk of any political party influencing the monetary policy of the SBP. 


The bill further recommended that the powers of the SBP to run quasi-fiscal operations be abolished as well. 


The central bank had sent the first draft of the bill to the Finance Ministry back in March of last year. However, the Ministry had proposed many changes and disagreed with various parts of it. 


In April of last year, the Cabinet Committee on Legislative Cases (CCLC) interfered and deferred the approval of the bill. It stated that the reason for the deferral is the difference of opinion between the Finance Ministry and the SBP over the extent of the autonomy to be granted. 


The Finance Ministry has now directly sent the draft of the bill to the federal cabinet for approval. It has bypassed the CCLC and requested that the cabinet waive the approval of the Legislative Committee, due to the importance and urgency of the matter at hand. 


As expected, a handful of changes have been proposed in the preamble of the SBP bill. One major change is to set the domestic price stability as the primary objective, while fostering the development and maximum utilization of the productive resources of the country has been deemed as a tertiary objective. 



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Yousuf Raza Gilani Nominated by PDM for Senate Chairman

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On Monday, the 11-party opposition alliance by the name of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), nominated the former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousuf Raza Gilani, for the post of Senate chairman in the upcoming elections. Gilani just recently emerged victorious after going against the candidate nominated by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), in the Senate elections. 


This decision was made by the alliance unanimously at a meeting in Islamabad, which was being chaired by its head, Maulana Fazlur Rehman. 


The Chairman of PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, along with the Vice President of PML-N, Maryam Nawaz, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Aftab Sherpao, Gilani, Mahmood Khan Achakzai, as well as Raja Pervez Ashraf all were present at the meeting. The three-time Prime Minister of the country and the Quaid of PML-N, Nawaz Sharif, also attended the meeting through video-link, while residing in London. 


The high-level huddle had gotten together to evaluate the current political situation in the country, soon after the current Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, won the vote of confidence. 


The lower house of the parliament, on Saturday, reaffirmed its confidence in the premier by voting in his favor. Khan polled an overwhelming win of 178 votes, which is six more than the magical number 172. However, the PDM was not pleased, and they boycotted the NA session that was convened specially by the President of the country, Arif Alvi, for the trust vote of the PM. 


Imran Khan had voluntarily sought out a fresh vote of confidence in the parliament, after the PTI candidate, Hafeez Sheikh, was shockingly defeated by Gilani. Those elections were held on the 3rd of March in the Senate, after which the PDM claimed that the result was a vote of no-confidence against the premier. 


In its meeting, the leadership of the PDM also sat down to discuss its strategy for the joint candidate for deputy chairman of the upper house, and the long march. 


During the meeting, the attendees were also presented with recommendations for grand anti-government demonstrations, by the special committee set up previously for the long march. 


According to the suggestions made, the long march should commence in Karachi from the 26th of March with a procession, and all rallies should reach Islamabad on the 30th of March by 3pm. 


Moreover, the committee also advised that all the parties involved should mobilize as many people as they can and take up responsibility for the expenses incurred.


It went on to suggest that a centralized system be created to mobilize people and in order to do so, trade unions, traders, and farmers should be contacted. According to the members of the committee, all the arrangements should be made on the location chosen for the sit-in, right before the participants arrive on the site. 


Bilawal Bhutto also addressed the meeting and revealed that the election for the post of Senate chairman will take place in four days. He added that it is vital for the PDM to win their election, as it will allow them to add another victory to their credit. 



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Shibli Says the PM will not be Pressurized by Any Opposition Alliance

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Senator Shibli Faraz, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, has called out all the eleven opposition parties united under the banner of an alliance, referred to as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM). According to him, these parties want to reestablish their stronghold in the world of Pakistani politics once again to make boatloads of money and fulfill their vested interests. 


Shibli went on to say that the opposition parties are working hard under the PDM to apply pressure onto the current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. However, he pointed out, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, will not be influenced by any political party and their efforts. 


The Minister asserted all of this while addressing a press conference in Islamabad, of the Press Information Department (PID). This was only a day after the Prime Minister was victorious in the parliament and won the vote of confidence with an overwhelming majority. 


The Senator went on to add that the Prime Minister, as well as his party, are strong believers of the politics of ideology. He added that the party will continue to walk this path and will not be deterred by any influence from the PDM. 


The leader of the PTI stated that the reason the party is still functioning and active is because its members are not focused on serving their self-interests. He added that everyone associated with the party is fully devoted to its ideology and is not distracted by petty gains. 


Moreover, Shibli observed that it is the party’s ideology that allows them to receive the mandate of the masses, time and time again.


On the other hand, he claimed that people have openly rejected the ideologies presented by the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), as well as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). Instead, he added that their control has been reduced only to single provinces. 


The Minister for Information and Broadcasting maintained that the current PTI government and the party, represent the entire nation of Pakistan, whereas no other party has ever come close to doing the same thing. According to him, much of the opposition that the party faces is from those who do politics based on their individual interests. 


Shibli further added that such corrupt and self-serving politicians are the reason that the institutions in the country, as well as its democracy, society, and values, have been destroyed. 


Directing a question at the people present at the press conference, the Senator questioned how representatives as corrupt as those of PML-N and PPP, would work to protect the rights of the people of Pakistan. He asked how these people will present themselves in the parliament, and consequently, legislate against their own vested interests. 


Shibli remarked that for corrupt politicians, votes and politics are only a form of business. Therefore, they function with people who are in politics for the same purpose. 



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Resignation of MNA Demanded Due to Child Marriage

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The Civil Society has demanded the resignation of Maulana Salahuddin Ayubi, an MNA, who recently got married to a 14-year-old child in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. 


Members of the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN) made it clear that they were disappointed by the MNA’s actions and illegal marriage to a young girl in Chitral. It was further revealed that the 14-year-old was studying at the Government Girls High School in Jughoor. Her date of birth at the time of enrolment was recorded as 28th of October, 2006, which indicated that she had not attained the age of the marriage, as instructed by Pakistani law, when she got married to the Maulana. 


The legal age in all the provinces, except Sindh, in the country, is 16. Currently, Pakistan has the sith-greatest number of absolute child brides across the world, which is a figure of 1.9 million. 


The rates of child marriage in the country remain alarmingly high to date. More than 21% of the girls in Pakistan are married off even before they turn 18, and 3% as well before the age of 15. 


Where the provinces are concerned, the prevalence has been observed to be the greatest in Sindh with 33%. It is followed by 29% in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 22% in Balochistan, and 20% in Punjab. 


It has also been estimated that if the country was to put an end to Child and Early Age Marriage (CEAM), it could potentially save around $77 million by the year 2030. It could also lead to a raise in productivity and earnings by a figure of $6229 million. In addition, it is predicted that halting CEAM will lead to a decline in the multi-dimensional poverty level in Pakistan, which is the number one priority for the government right now. 


Salahuddin Ayubi had previously been elected to the National Assembly, through the constituency of NA-263, Kila Abdullah. He took the position as a leader of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F). 


Coordinator of the Pakhtunkhwa Civil Society Network (PCSN), Taimur Kamal, stated that MNA Salahduddin Ayubi should resign right away because he has violated the Child Marriage Restraint Act 1929, according to which any girl below the age of 16 cannot be married to in the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, as well as any other place in the country. 


The Coordinator of the Child Rights Movement (CRM), Sana Ahmad, also had a few words to say on the topic. She revealed that girls are bought and sold like heads of cattle for the purpose of marriage, and then eventually smuggled out of the city. She added that this is nothing but a modern and newer way of trafficking humans. 


Ahmad also pointed a finger towards organized gangs operating in Chitral, who are also involved in the buying and transportation of underage girls. According to her, wealthy people often come to the city of Chitral to look for a second wife and then do not care for them afterwards. 



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20 Lawmakers Absent from Meeting with PM in Peshawar

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In recent news, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, had a meeting with provincial lawmakers from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as national lawmakers. However, it was observed that 20 of these lawmakers were not present at the meeting, which included two former provincial ministers. These two had been expelled from the cabinet a short while ago. 


Shaukat Yousafzai, the Provincial Minister, did not pay any heed to the absence of these lawmakers. He downplayed the significance of their missing out on the meeting by saying that they had previously informed the Prime Minister about prior engagements. According to him, Mehmood Khan, the Chief Minister, also knew that these 20 lawmakers would not be attending the meeting. 


While on a visit to the provincial capital, the premier chaired a meeting of the cabinet of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Also present at the meeting were members of the provincial assembly belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI). The gathering was held at the Governor’s House and took place against the backdrop of the ruling party suffering a loss at the recent by-polls in the city of Nowshera. 


Sources revealed that 14 members of the National Assembly (MNAs) and 6 Provincial Assembly members (MPAs) from the province were not in attendance at the meeting. This included two former cabinet members, Liaquat Khattak and Sultan Muhammad Khan. 


Two absent members were said to be out of the country. Government sources also confirmed that these two had various other engagements to attend to. 


When asked, Yousafzai revealed that the lawmakers had skipped the meeting after the Prime Minister himself had granted them permission to do so. The Provincial Minister further insisted that they had all been in touch with the leadership of the party and were wholly committed to maintaining the party discipline. 


During the meeting, the Prime Minister asserted that he will ensure transparency in the democratic system. He said that his politics aims to serve the masses and work for the betterment of the coming generations. 


A detailed presentation was given while in the meeting to the Prime Minister. It talked about the ongoing development projects taking place in various provinces, specifically in merged tribal districts. Several party-related matters, as well as the overall political situation was also discussed at length. 


Imran talked to the lawmakers of the party stating that the manifesto of the ruling party is to ensure that masses are served wholeheartedly and a no discrimination policy is followed. However, he added, some people have only joined politics to earn money rather than serve the people of the country. 


According to the Prime Minister, a nation is doomed when there is no morality left, and the people cannot distinguish between right and wrong. He went on to say that the country has been lagging in different fields due to the fact that politicians have come to power only to ‘steal money’. He insisted that politicians should focus on utilizing money only for public service. 



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Tareen Denies Having a Meeting with Gilani

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The leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jahangir Tareen, was recently questioned about rumors of him meeting Yousuf Raza Gilani, the leader of the Pakistan Peoples Party. The leader outright rejected that he had ever even been in contact with the former Prime Minister, and affirmed that his support and loyalty lies with PTI. 


Tareen was recently disqualified by the Supreme Court against holding any public office for life. He stated that he has always supported the PTI with his heart and soul and so, his loyalties will never change. 


Gilani was recently nominated to be the joint candidate for a general seat from the capital city of Pakistan in the upcoming polls in the Senate on the 3rd of March. His nomination came from the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), an 11-party opposition alliance. His opponent, Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, the Federal Minister for Finance, is also contesting for the same seat. He was nominated by the PTI.


Soon after Gilani was nominated, rumors started circulating, according to which, the former premier had a meeting with Tareen and urged the PTI leader to support him as he contests for the Senate seat. 


Just last year, a gulf between the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, and Tareen widened after it was revealed that the PTI leader was involved in the sugar scandal. However, he laid blame on the principal secretary of the premier, stating that he was the reason that the two’s relationship was suffering. Khan and Tareen have been friends and confidants for a long time. 


Back when the Federal Investigation Agency was conducting an inquiry on the sugar scandal in June of 2020, Tareen travelled to United Kingdom and used a special aircraft to do so. However, he returned in a time span of five months. 


Ever since then, Tareen has made sure to maintain a distance from the Prime Minister, as well as other leaders of the ruling party. But, rumors have long been circulating that the PTI leader has been in constant contact with the premier by way of social media. It is also being said that Tareen provides suggestions to Khan when it comes to economic affairs. 



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Misconduct Leads to the Dismissal of an Officer from FBR

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In recent news, the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) dismissed an officer from the civil service. It was claimed that he was responsible for ‘misconduct’ and ‘inefficiency’, as well as raising the bet for more than a 100 cases, which had been pending for years.


The dismissal orders made it clear that the competent authority vetted all the relevant material from the case, along with all its aspects. Consequently, it decided that it was inevitable to impose a major penalty upon the accused, Dr. Sajid Hussain Arain, who was then dismissed from the FBR. 


Arain was working as a grade-19 officer at the Inland Revenue Service. This was not the first time that he was dismissed. Previously as well, Arain was let go on account of integrity issues. The FBR headquarters revealed that he was last posted at the Chief of its headquarters in the City of Lights. 


When Arain was first dismissed, he made efforts to secure relief from the tribunal. Eventually, he had emerged victorious and managed to stay on. Mohammad Bakhtiar, the Member Administrator of the FBR, was the authorized officer assigned to the case. 


On the 29th of August 2019, the director general at the time, Tanveer Malik, had taken to defining Arain. According to him, the dismissed officer was nothing more than a hardened criminal, who had brought shame on the civil service of Pakistan. These words were spoken at the proceedings of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance. 


Malik further added that Arain’s crimes also involved issuing bogus part refunds. The standing committee had taken it upon itself to look over the issue of corruption cases, which had been pending for disposal for several years at the FBR. As of November of 2015, more than 180 officers of the FBR had been facing inquiries. They were being investigated under the Efficiency and Disciplinary Rules 1973. 


Even today, the cases of these allegedly corrupt officers remain pending on account of the apparent support that they received from people on the inside of the FBR. In a handful of cases, the charges of inefficiency and corruption have been proved against these officers. 


However, some of them were able to obtain stay orders from themselves. When the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, was elected, he vowed that he would weed out corruption from its roots in the FBR. To date, the revenue board has not made any progress in any of the cases. 


Nadeem Rizvi, as spokesman for the FBR, indicated that around 124 inquiries are currently underway against those officers belonging to grade-17 to 21. 


Another FBR officer revealed that two additional cases of officers working in grade-18 and 19 will be decided in the upcoming weeks. The integrity drive of the revenue board, up until recently, was only focused on low-grade staff. 


Dr. Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, the Finance Minister, just last week made his displeasure known at the lack of integrity displayed by the top tax management at the FBR. 



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