Tag Archives: Pick

PCB to pick new chief selector

KARACHI: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided against persuading former captain Rashid Latif to reverse his decision of withdrawing from the post of national chief selector; hence a new name is in the reckoning for the coveted job.

PCB chairman Najam Sethi, who was in Dubai to attend the crucial International Cricket Council (ICC) meeting when Latif refused to take charge as the chief selector, said he was disappointed with the former wicket-keeper’s decision.

Latif accepted the offer to become chief selector in February, but declined to take charge last week. The veteran, while turning down the offer, said he does not want to get ‘embroiled in controversy’. Officials close to the matter said Latif wanted to appoint former captain Mohammad Yousuf in the selection committee, but the PCB was reluctant.

Following Latif’s withdrawal, reports suggested that Sethi summoned him on April 14 to hear his grievances with the former captain, saying he has no issues in meeting the chairman if he receives a formal invitation.

But it seems that the PCB is unlikely to convince the former captain and may opt for a new selection committee.

“Latif has pulled out of his commitment to the PCB,” Sethi told The Express Tribune.

“I am very disappointed; the matter is now closed.”

Latif was the third former captain in recent months to quit the post without selecting a single team. Moin Khan and Aamir Sohail were also named replacements after Iqbal Qasim’s resignation from the post last year, but had to leave within a few days due to different reasons.

Speculations are rife that Moin, who failed in his first stint as head coach in the World Twenty20, may come back as the chief selector. He was appointed in the same post by Sethi, but was shown the door by former chairman Zaka Ashraf, who appointed Sohail afterwards.

PCB advised only to back Amir: Sethi

The PCB will not provide support to Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif, unlike Mohammad Amir, who has been given full support
regarding his ban.

However, the former captain, who is serving a 10-year ban in the spot-fixing case, appealed for equal treatment for himself and Asif, who was handed a seven-year ban.

The PCB is only pursuing Amir’s five-year ban, the minimum length of time as per the ICC rules in the aftermath of the 2010 spot-fixing scandal during Pakistan’s tour of England.

Sethi said the PCB was supporting the young fast-bowler after consulting with top lawyers in the UK.

“The PCB took the British Queen’s Counsel’s opinion, which advised only in favour of Amir for various reasons. So I am pursing his case.”

Amir, who was just 18 when he received the ban, got sympathy from various quarters, as he was also the first one to plead guilty of spot-fixing and cooperated with the ICC.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2014.

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Rudderless HEC: PM to pick new chief soon


After nearly a year, it looks like the Higher Education Commission (HEC) may finally get a new chief. The premier has invited a cabinet minister, who was also chief of the first selection committee to meet with him and select a new chairperson.

A committee headed by Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal had sent three names for the prime minister’s approval in January. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat told The Express Tribune that it was likely the PM would select a candidate from amongst the three names sent to him.

Iqbal confirmed the development, “The PM has invited me to discuss the three candidates and there is a possibility he might review them before asking Asif to conduct fresh interviews.”

After former HEC chief Javaid Laghari’s term expired last August. On November 12, 2013, the government chose University of Engineering and Technology Peshawar Vice Chancellor Imtiaz Hussain Gilani as an acting chairperson. His tenure ended on February 12, 2014.

A six-member search committee to select a new chief, headed by Iqbal, was announced by the PM in January. It was later pared down to three and the other two members were scholar Dr MB Shami and economist and former State Bank chief Dr Ishrat Husain.

Some 103 applications were received from across the country, from which 21 candidates were shortlisted and 18 were called for an interview by the search committee. On February 11, the committee chose three names, that of HEC Executive Director Dr Mukhtar Ahmad, National Textile University Faisalabad Rector Dr Niaz Ahmad and former Karakoram International University vice chancellor Dr Najma Najam.

The PM had initially rejected all three names a month after they were received and constituted a new committee to hold another round of interviews. According to sources in the education ministry, a vice-chancellor recommended by an MNA was not considered. This was the main reason the PM had ordered fresh selection of candidates. But they said it looked like fresh interviews would not be conducted and the PM would select a candidate from the three names forwarded to him.

Iqbal was asked to suggest other candidates, but he resigned when he learnt he would have to go through the whole process again. The PM constituted a new four-member committee comprising Minister for Science and Technology Zahid Hamid, State Minister for Education Balighur Rehman, Special Adviser to the PM Tariq Fatemi and Principal Secretary to the PM Javed Aslam. Subsequently, Asif was nominated to head the new search committee.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2014.

Vote radio! Vote bucket! Take your pick in Afghan polls

KABUL: Parachute or laptop computer? Sunrise or binoculars? Five days before polling, Afghan voters are spoilt for choice as they prepare to make their selection from an oddball array of candidates’ symbols.

The designs help illiterate voters differentiate between hundreds of contenders standing in presidential and provincial council elections on April 5, a decade after the first polls of the country’s post-Taliban era.

Ballot papers have options ranging from the humble kettle and the sacred prayer mat to an office chair, a fearsome lion, an elegant butterfly and an unexpected basketball net.

Other eye-catching designs include paint brushes, naan bread, a calculator, a ladder, parrots, a pencil sharpener and, in land-locked Afghanistan, a sailboat in full rig.

The symbols are decided through a mixture of candidate preferences and allocation by the Independent Election Commission (IEC), which is organising the vote.

Eight candidates in the race to succeed President Hamid Karzai have launched nationwide poster campaigns that prominently feature their personal symbol.

“We chose the radio because each Afghan family has at least one radio in their home, and it is the key source of information in the villages,” Javed Faisal, spokesperson for leading presidential hopeful Zalmai Rassoul, told AFP.

“Our symbol shows that we believe people should know about the candidates, their manifestos and their policies. It also means we believe in democracy, freedom of speech and the media.”

Before the campaign began in early February, all the presidential teams gathered at the IEC to select their symbols, with Rassoul given the choice between an umbrella and a radio, according to his officials.

Ashraf Ghani stuck to the same symbol as in his unsuccessful 2009 campaign – the Quran holy book, which might be perceived as an unfair choice in a devout Muslim nation such as Afghanistan.

“We have not heard any complaints,” Hamidullah Farooqi, a member of Ghani’s campaign team, told AFP.

“If anyone thinks our sign is problematic, I think that is un-Islamic of them. This nation has huge respect for the Quran.

“The commission gave candidates the chance if they wanted to have their own signs, and we took advantage of this opportunity.”

One runner who certainly embraced the idea was Gul Agha Sherzai, who glories in his nickname of “the bulldozer”, which he earned for pushing though major road and infrastructure projects – as well as for his forceful personality.

“Sherzai is the champion of construction in Afghanistan,” said Fraidoon Kakar, his spokesperson, explaining the team’s symbol of a smart yellow bulldozer.

“He earned the nickname when he worked day and night to finish the road from Kabul to Laghman in 28 days. (As governor of Nangarhar province) he spent millions of dollars and built most of the roads that exist today.”

In contrast, Abdullah Abdullah, a front-runner this year who came second in 2009, went for a sober pen and paper.

“It shows culture, thought, ability and civilisation,” said campaign spokesperson Sayed Fazil Sancharaki. “We got it in the lottery, and we liked it, and had no objection.”

While President Karzai’s brother Qayum Karzai (pencil) and Abdul Rahim Wardak (dove and two swords) have dropped out since the ballot papers were printed, those still in the race include Abdul Rab Rasoul Sayyaf (oil lamp) and Hedayat Amin Arsala (head of wheat).

The simultaneous elections for council seats in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces demand plenty of imagination to dream up symbols for each candidate, with 457 people running in Kabul province alone.

Among the highlights are ladders, cassette tapes, buckets, envelopes, footballs, satellite dishes, petrol pumps and hair combs.

“We had a specific person to do this job,” election commission spokesperson Noor Mohammad Noor told AFP.

“Using a big archive that we have developed from previous elections and from elsewhere, we gave each provincial candidate five options and they could choose one.

“In the presidential race, it was more flexible. If they wanted, they could bring their own symbol which we then checked.

“There haven’t been any complaints, so the system has worked well.”

Other developing countries also use election symbols, including Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh and India, where carrots, chessboards and violins have been among the designs deployed to tempt the electorate.

Afghan polls have often been targeted by militants and the 2014 campaign has seen several bloody suicide attacks in Kabul against election offices, a luxury hotel and compounds where foreigners live.

The next Afghan president must struggle to bring peace to the country despite the Taliban insurgency and the departure of 53,000 US-led combat troops by the end of this year.

Power bills of local govt departments: Sindh refuses to pick tab


Authorities in Sindh have refused to take responsibility of the power dues piled up against local government departments – which will make it harder for the federal government to deduct heavy payables of the provinces at source from the divisible pool.

The federal government has made a demand of its own: allocate an amount in the provincial budget to pay outstanding bills against different provincial departments.

Power sector receivables have surged to Rs495 billion. Out of this total debt, Rs84.36 billion dues are pending against the provinces, of which Sindh is to pay Rs53 billion. In addition to it, Karachi Electric (KE) is to pay Rs45 billion against the 650MW power supply from NTDC.

Sources told The Express Tribune that the federal government in a meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI) held on February 10 had proposed at source deduction of 50 per cent of the heavy payables of the provincial governments from the divisible pool but Sindh had opposed it and refused to take responsibility of local government departments. Sindh also says that the illegal connections should also be cut before placing in the mechanism of deducting power bills at source.

Officials said that provinces were responsible for the power dues against their departments and therefore they should pay. “Sindh province is not even willing to take responsibility of jails and agriculture tube wells,” officials said adding that it was socio-political issue and Sindh government should help recover the dues against different provincial departments.

The ruling PML-N government had paid Rs480 billion to clear the circular debt after coming into power. However, it had piled up again and the federal government was to receive Rs495 billion from the power consumers, including provinces. The Punjab government is to pay Rs6.2 billion, Balochistan Rs5 billion, Sindh Rs53 billion and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Rs2 billion. In addition, K-P had said that it would help recover outstanding dues from consumers in its province.

Punjab, Sindh and K-P had agreed in principle to deduct a minimum 50 per cent of the outstanding liabilities for deduction at source through federal adjuster to clear power bills. However, Sindh government has refused to give a final word on it.

According to sources, Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar chaired a meeting of provincial finance ministers on December 16, 2013 to put in place federal adjuster to deduct power bills against provinces at source.

Dar informed the provincial finance ministers that inability of provincial government departments to pay their electricity dues had resulted in cash flow problems of power distribution companies and even power producers and fuel suppliers were finding it difficult to run the business.

He said, therefore, it was very important that provincial governments should pay their electricity bills without delay.

Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister on Finance Murad Ali Shah highlighted the issue of illegal connections and clarified that due to huge number of illegal connections, the government of Sindh was not in a position to identify the exact profile or quantum of outstanding liabilities, unless such illegal connections were disconnected.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2014.

Change in govt: Investment inflows could not pick up pace


Numbers tell everything. So far, for foreign investors, it seems that there is no difference between the government led by former prime minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf and current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

This is contrary to the expectations that a steady decline in foreign investment would come to a halt after the PML-N, which is considered business-friendly, formed the government in the Centre.

According to a presentation that the Ministry of Finance gave to Nawaz Sharif late last month, foreign investment dropped 27.5% in the first half of fiscal year 2013-14. The country got only 1.8 million in foreign investment compared to 1.8 million in the same period of previous fiscal year.

The figure should spark worries for the leadership that claims to be business-friendly and has promised to fetch .5 billion in foreign investment in its first year of government. The target seems impossible to touch as seven and a half months are already gone.

Foreign direct investment has been on a constant decline since peaking at .4 billion in 2007-08.

Unless the government brings foreign investment, its balance of payments woes will not ease and prospects of economic growth will remain dim. Also, a significant reduction in public sector spending will stifle growth.

Precarious law and order situation and acute shortage of energy are said to be the major impediments to investment inflows.

More hurdles

Other factors, of which many could be addressed easily, are surely hurting foreign investment more than a terrorist attack in a settled area of the country. These factors remain unaddressed and are rather aggravating to the disadvantage of the government.

The World Bank, in its annual report on Ease of Doing Business, has downgraded Pakistan’s ranking to 110 out of 189 countries. The Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICCI) is not surprised by the steady decline in foreign investment and has blamed it on the lack of enthusiasm for implementing policies and bad governance.

“We have been regularly asking the government to investigate the cause of such a sharp decline, which, among other things, is largely caused by investor’s perception of selective and lukewarm implementation of policies and governance,” said a latest report of the OICCI.

The government should not take the OICCI report lightly, as its 138 members contributed Rs724 billion in taxes in 2012. They hold assets worth Rs6.1 trillion and provide jobs to 150,000 people.

Among the biggest hurdles to foreign investment that have not been addressed are ad hoc measures, bad governance and red tape.

Intelligent team?

The government has so far been unable to assemble an able team to run the Board of Investment (BOI) – a body that should ideally provide one-window facility to investors. In less than seven months, a second BOI chairman has been brought.

After Mohammad Zubair was appointed chairman of the Privatisation Commission, another PML-N loyalist Dr Miftah Ismail was picked to head the BOI.

The board lacks policy direction because of the prevailing ad hoc system and the directors general, who are senior than the secretary, are reluctant to report to him. A Grade-20 officer, who was promoted to Grade 21 last week, is the BOI secretary.

BOI is said to be not effectively approaching the investors and has so far failed to perform its core function of advocacy. Its Karachi office, which was earlier processing visa applications within three days, is now taking more than two weeks, which is enough to irritate the investors.

Only China and Turkey

Last week, Nawaz Sharif removed all 62 honorary investment counsellors with a stroke of pen. Though all of them were not working efficiently, those stationed in Japan, Malaysia, Egypt, Canada and Norway were trying to convince investors to invest money in Pakistan. In place of them, new counsellors, with loyalty to the PML-N as the key yardstick, are being appointed.

The government is focusing all its energies on wooing investors from China and lately from Turkey and ignoring other potential investors. Probably, considering the lukewarm response to reforms, the International Monetary Fund is now pushing the country to implement a plan aimed at improving business climate. The plan talks about eliminating bottlenecks in starting a business, getting permit and trading across the border.

Published in The Expres Tribune, February 17th, 2014.

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Pick and drop: Schools adding to already troubled traffic


Having a house or a business near a school is becoming increasingly problematic as coming to school on foot is almost unthinkable these days. Almost every student either uses a personal or a hired vehicle, creating chaos at school opening and closing times.

With most private schools located in congested areas, traffic problems are further compounded.

Rawalpindi is experiencing severe traffic problems these days as parents and van drivers park to collect students from the educational institutions situated on every road and street of the city.

Residents of Sir Syed Chowk area look at the problem getting awful day by day as they see hundreds of cars parked in the surrounding streets. They have written to school authorities asking them to call on school van drivers and parents to be more considerate, but all their efforts have gone in vain.

The owner of a bookshop across Viqarun Nisa School and College on Jehangir Road says, “The problem was highlighted after a parked car almost ran over a schoolgirl’s foot, nearly injuring her.”

Manzar Naqvi, the father of fourth grader, says, “Justifications from parents such as ‘I want to get home quickly as my other child is sick’, or van drivers saying ‘there is no other place to park my vehicle’ are just inexcusable as poor car parking creates a nuisance for others. The safety of children is a concern for everyone facing such situations on a daily basis.”

Parents and van-drivers park their vehicles in front of residents’ driveways and even in the middle of the road, which also holds up traffic, says Asad Abbas, a nearby baker.

Talibul Moula, a teacher at a private school on Tipu Road, says, “Parking problems at ‘closing bell’ time are quite serious and are getting acute with the passage of time as more private schools are popping up in every corner of the city. Also, many schools sit near T and Y-junctions of roads, which makes it even worse.”

“The safety of children should be of paramount importance. What are we teaching our children through this traffic mismanagement?” asks Hamid Taqi, a teacher at a local school.

“While I recognise the trouble caused to residents, the major concern remains the protection of children, and this problem must be dealt with sincerely,” says Alamdar Hussain, the principal of a private school on Shaheed Oun Muhammad Rizvi Road.

“Sans any concrete measures, the problem will only get worse if more schools are established in the areas, as van drivers and parents are not considerate of residents’ problems and the children’s safety,” says Hamid Hussain, a retired college professor.

“As a society, we have a duty to change our conduct for the sake of our children. Manners breed manners. We must all try and mould the society and behaviour we want our children to be part of,” said Abida Naqi, a private school principal.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 16th, 2014.

Artistic treat: Valentine’s Art Show allows visitors to pick exquisite gifts


For those who are still indecisive about what gift to buy for their loved ones this Valentine’s Day, Grandeur Art Gallery in Zamzama may offer some help.

Women, traditions and poetry are incorporated into the artworks of 10 prominent Pakistani artists who are featuring their work at the Valentine’s Art Show.

The gallery owner, Neshmia Ahmed, said that the event was an annual show and usually held on February 14.

“I decided to hold the show on February 13 this year because everyone is busy with their loved ones on Valentine’s Day. This exhibition will allow people to buy gifts for their loved ones,” she added.

The show is displaying artworks of Omar Farid, Ather Jamal, Wahab Jaffer, Mashkoor Raza, Akram Spaul, Abrar Ahmad, AS Rind, Sadiq Hussain, Inam Raja and Farrukh Shahab.

“The show doesn’t really tie-in with Valentine’s Day,” confided Ahmed. “I did ask the artists to try to stick to the theme, but only some have complied.”

Pointing at the paintings, she said, “Raza and Jaffer have stuck to the theme. Both of their paintings are bursting with red. All artists are prominent, so even if some did not stick to the theme, having their work is an honour in itself.”

Portraying women in vibrant colours, Rind said he had painted in his usual style. “I usually paint women. My palette is Rajasthan and Cholistan, and the colors are bright and rich.”

Gesturing towards his work, he said, “There’s no hidden meaning. I just want people to see my paintings and feel better. It is art for art. In these times, we [artists] need to paint something just to make people feel better. I often seek inspiration from Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s poetry. I’ve added flowers, the red ones, in the painting for this occasion. They have made the paintings even brighter.”

Pointing towards another painting at the gallery, one that is not for sale, Rind said, “This painting is thematic. The eyes of a woman are sewn shut in the painting and it represents our traditions. Though we have many good traditions in Pakistan, this painting is representative of the traditions that are misused.”

The gallery was full of paintings of women, from Raza’s bright red depictions to Raja’s brown hues.

Art lovers admired the work with soft appreciative murmurs. The artists also mingled with the crowd, speaking about their own work and commenting on that of the others.

The show will continue on till February 23.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 15th, 2014.

Pick up your pace: Imports not the only issue denting local car sales


An argument often put forward for the low volume of car sales on imported ones is proving to be a wrong one.

While car imports have declined significantly in the last 12 months, sale of local ones has not picked up as expected.

By now, it has become apparent that there exists a problem with the local car industry with their declining sales not just depending on the  ‘heavy’ import of used cars.

Import restrictions have dented sales of imported cars as they declined by a massive 62% in the last six months (Jul-Dec 2013). However, contrary to expectations, sales of locally-produced cars jumped by a meager 6.5% during the same period.

Sales of locally-produced cars reached 61,252 units in the first six months of fiscal year 2014 (FY14) compared to 57,540 in the same period of last year. On the other hand, car imports declined to 11,263 from 29,576 units in the same period.

Analysts believe the sales of locally-produced cars will increase in the second half of FY14. Car sales usually jump in the first six months of the year, but they estimate that the overall jump in the fiscal would not be more than 8%.

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This is not such a bad news for local car producers but it is not as good as one can expect following the government’s restrictions on car imports – the previous government had reduced the age limit of used car imports from five years to three years in December 2012.

“There is more than one reason why sales of local cars have not picked up in the first six months of FY14 despite a huge decline in car imports,” JS Global Capital analyst Atif Zafar said.

The main causes include a backlog of imported used cars, low economic activity in the country, high prices and lack of choices for customers especially in the small cars’ category, Zafar added.

It was FY12 that jolted the local car industry in which car imports jumped by a record 165% to over 55,703 cars, up from just over 21,000 the year before.

However, 2012 was a good year for both as even local car assemblers saw their sales rise by 23% to just over 154,255 vehicles. But then in FY13, sales of both imported and local cars declined sharply by 18.5% and 22% respectively.

Looking at the data of the last two fiscal years, one can safely say that the current one should be a good year for the local industry. Sales of locally produced cars are going to increase at a time when car imports are going to cut by half.

“Low sales of locally produced cars indicate two things: the purchasing power of people is limited and, second, local car producers do not offer enough options to customers,” All Pakistan Motor Dealers Association Chairman H M Shahzad said.

“What the government needs to do is allow imported cars that give more options to the consumers. At the same time, it must also collect taxes from importers to increase its income.”

Fewer choices in small  cars’ range

Over the last two years, small imported cars have dented sales of local cars the most. The discontinuation of Suzuki Alto and Daihatsu Cuore (both 1,000cc or below category cars) from June 30, 2012 was another reason that hit local car sales.

Pak Suzuki and Indus Motor ceased to make these models after the government’s deadline to produce all new cars on Euro II emission standards after June 2012.

Out of the five engine categories, the share of small cars (up to 1000cc) in the total imported cars was 45% in FY12. It jumped to 59% in FY13 and it is now touching a massive 72% in the first six months of the current fiscal year. This development will certainly pinch local carmakers who have failed to introduce new models in this category in the last one-and-half years.

“We want to introduce new models in small cars’ category but the minimum price of those cars will be Rs1.1 million. Now tell me who will buy such an expensive one?” an official of a car company told The Express Tribune who chose to remain anonymous.

Analysts say customers’ preference for imported small cars is obvious. They also say that customers’ interest in imported small cars is because of the sharp rise in prices of cars (both local and imported). Moreover, small cars have gained more popularity because of slow economic growth and the rise in the cost of petroleum products in recent years.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2014.

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Reding: Britain can’t pick, choose benefits

With the stagnant state of the French economy, and continued discussion of a British referendum on the EU, Becky spoke to European Commission Vice President Viviane Reding.

In France, unemployment is currently above 10%, and there is a distinct lack of recent growth. Reding stated that that is an issue they are aware of. "The European Commission as you know analyses all the national budgets before they go to the national parliaments and we make our recommendations in that sense. We have made these recommendations also for France, and we have called for very strategic fundamental reforms in France, we just hope that the French President and his government will hear these calls because yes, we do need a strong French economy in a strong European economy."

After Becky questioned her about David Cameron's statement that "migrant numbers are out of control, Reding replied "you cannot pick and choose on this. Britain has given its signature for the whole single market."

When pushed on the possible outcome of a British referendum on membership, she told Becky "A British referendum is an absolutely British affair and this has nothing to do with European politics, that has to be clarified by the British people."

In the meantime what she aims for is a strong Europe. "Not a fragmented Europe with nothing to say, where others impose their say on the Europeans."