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    Russia banned from Olympic Games over doping scandal

    Russia was banned from the Olympics and world championships in a range of sports for four years on Monday after the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) ruled to punish it for manipulating laboratory data, a WADA spokesman said.

    • Published in Sports

    ADB has showed a monthly increase of Rs21 billion in the Pakistan's debt per month

    Contrary to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government’s claim of reducing the flow of circular debt to Rs12 billion a month, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has showed a monthly increase of Rs21 billion in the debt at the end of August.

    If the ADB’s claim is true, it raises questions over the government’s claim of a huge improvement in the energy sector.

    The PTI government has brought improvement in the energy sector as compared to what the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had left behind.
    Government’s efforts and timely subsidy payments have slowed down the flow of circular debt from Rs38 billion per month in August 2018 to Rs21 billion in August 2019, stated an ADB report which became the base for approval of a $300-million energy-sector policy loan by the ADB board on Friday.

    The report has been shared with the ADB president and its board of directors. If one goes by the ADB’s findings, the federal government seems to have exaggerated its performance, which can severely dent the credibility of the Ministry of Energy.

    On August 28, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Petroleum Nadeem Babar said “the government has reduced the monthly circular debt to a single digit due to effective policies”. Similarly, while speaking at a press conference on October 3, Federal Minister for Power Omar Ayub said during the tenure of PML-N government, the circular debt was rising by Rs38 billion per month but “it has now been reduced to Rs10-12 billion per month”.

    Last month, The Express Tribune asked Nadeem Babar about the reasons behind the different claims made by the government and international creditors. Babar replied that the reason behind the different numbers were different base months.

    However, following the release of ADB report, it is now evident that the ADB and the government were not taking different months into account for reporting the circular debt.

    The ADB has acknowledged Rs89 billion on account of efficiency improvement and an anti-theft programme since November 2018.

    Pakistan and the ADB have agreed on a three-year energy-sector reform programme in return for a loan of $1 billion, which will be disbursed in three tranches subject to fulfillment of prior conditions. Some of the conditions have already been met including a quarterly increase in electricity tariffs, which paved the way for approval of the first tranche of $300 million on Friday.

    The ADB noted that between fiscal year 2019-20 and 2021-22, a declining GDP growth rate with an average of 3.3%, coupled with a rising inflation on average of 9.1%, would continue to constrain government finances. The government’s external financing needs were expected to be $29.9 billion in the current fiscal year and continue to increase by 2024, it added.

    The ADB stated that the total amount of circular debt was a threat to the economy and the immediate priority was to stop further accumulation, or the flow, of circular debt and subsequently address the stock reduction.

    As a result of tariff notifications in 2019 after a hiatus of three years, the government will recover an additional Rs470 billion from the electricity consumers. The tariffs are now based on the new uniform tariff mechanism according to amendments to the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (Nepra) Act, which incorporates budgeted subsidies and cross-subsidisation among distribution companies to help control sector deficits.

    After the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the PTI government has also committed to the ADB that it will surrender the executive powers to notify the increase in electricity tariffs by amending the Nepra Act.

    The deadline to submit the draft bill to parliament is the end of current month.

    By amending the Nepra Act, the increase in electricity tariffs will be done through an automatic mechanism to update power generation costs in tariffs in each quarter without a government notification, according to the ADB report.

    Generation costs accounted for more than 75% of end-user tariffs currently and the automated mechanism would prevent the backlog of system costs even if tariff notifications were delayed, it added.

    In order to secure the next loan tranche of $300 million, the PTI government has promised the ADB that electricity tariffs for fiscal year 2020-21 will be finalised before the start of the year in July 2020. The PTI government has also assured the ADB that the accumulation of circular debt will be kept below Rs120 billion in the current fiscal year, which means that prices will be raised further as the flow still remains above Rs12 billion a month.

    Another condition for the next tranche is that Pakistan will have to secure the approval of Council of Common Interests (CCI) for the National Electricity Policy 2019 and the Integrated Energy Plan.

    • Published in Business

    Lahore High Court to hear Maryam's petition for removal of name from ECL

    The Lahore High Court (LHC) will hear Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Vice President Maryam Nawaz's petition on removing her name from the Exit Control List (ECL) on December 9.

    A two-member bench of the high court headed by Justice Baqir Ali Najfi will hold proceedings of the case from December 9. Maryam has requested the court to direct the government to remove her name from the no-fly list so she can travel abroad for six weeks to take care of her father, Nawaz Sharif.

    Last month , the LHC had directed the government to remove Nawaz's name from the ECL for four weeks, without any conditions, so he could seek medical treatment abroad.

    In the petition, Maryam said that she was suffering from a lot of mental stress as her father's health was in grave condition and she could not monitor him.

    The PML-N leader stated in the petition that she had been Nawaz's primary caregiver ever since her mother died. Maryam said in the petition that her father had initiated projects worth billions of rupees in Pakistan that no other preceding or succeeding government had been able to match.

    She asked the court to remove her name from the ECL till the final verdict of the case filed against her was not announced.

    Maryam also challenged the legality of her name being placed on the no-fly list by saying that she had yet not presented her arguments and asked the court to remove her name from the ECL till the final verdict in her case is announced.

    The PML-N leader’s name along with her father Nawaz Sharif’s was placed on the no-fly list last year, following their conviction in the Avenfield reference.

    • Published in General

    PCB recall Fawad Alam after ten years for historic test series

    The 16-member squad to play against Sri Lanka in the upcoming Test series was announced on Saturday, with the surprising inclusion of Fawad Alam.

    Alam failed to make the selection last year during the England and Ireland tour triggering a massive backlash against then chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq.

    Chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, who famously did not pick Alam for the entirety of his captaincy, made the announcement today.

    He said that the 34-year-old middle-order batsman was selected because of his past record over 4-5 years as well as his recent prolific scoring in domestic cricket. "So we will make efforts to give him a chance and utilise his form."

    Alam last played a test match against New Zealand at Dunedin in 2009, eight months after an attack on the Sri Lanka team bus at Lahore that shut the doors of international cricket on Pakistan.

    He scored a century in his debut test against Sri Lanka in July 2009 and has scored over 12,222 runs in a 16-year first-class career at a healthy average of 56.84.

    Alam is one of the two changes selectors have made from the squad that lost the two-Test matches against Australia.

    He has replaced Iftikhar Ahmed while leftarm fast bowler Usman Shinwari comes in in place of young fast bowler Mohammad Musa.

    "We have been struggling in bowling. Shinwari's recent form has been very good and the consensus is that his energy and his bowling on flat pitches has been great in all the matches he has played recently," said Misbah.

    Misbah said Musa will remain with the test squad and will continue working with bowling coach Waqar Younis.

    "Our thinking is that we need consistency in the team and that's the reason we didn't make a lot of changes for the series against Sri Lanka," Misbah said. "There should be continuity so that players get confidence. We made changes where we feel it's necessary."

    Misbah was given three responsibilities chief selector, head coach and batting coach when the Pakistan Cricket Board removed head coach Mickey Arthur and batting coach Grant Flower after the World Cup while chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq stepped down.

    "We have chosen a team with a view to getting back on the winning track. [...] The team we have selected is one we think will be a match-winning combination," said Misbah in the lead up to the announcement of the team members.

    He said he wished to clarify that all the selections are not his alone.

    "The perspective is that it's a one-man show," Misbah said. "I think there should be clarity on this: there are six selectors who closely watch players in domestic cricket and also do work with the players on their technique. They know all the minuses and pluses of these players very well. Their say is very important in the selection."

    He said that the team was chosen after a detailed debate and consensus.

    The squad will be lead by Azhar Ali and includes Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (wicket keeper), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah, and Usman Shinwari.

    The first match of the series will be held from December 11-15 at the Rawalpindi cricket stadium. The second will be held at Karachi's National Stadium from December 19-23

    • Published in Sports
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