Pakistan round-up: Wikipedia blocked for ‘blasphemous’ content


NEW DELHI: Talks with IMF for a bailout package to aid Pakistan’s struggling economy hits more hurdles, Wikipedia banned for “blasphemous” content, and other news that made headlines in the neighbouring country last week in our Pakistan round-up:
IMF, Islamabad differ over fiscal deficit, GST rates
IMF has worked out a fiscal gap of approximately Rs 900 billion, equivalent to 1 percent of Pakistan’s GDP. However, Pakistani authorities have contested such a huge fiscal gap and proposed applying a different formula, that shows it is in the range of Rs 400-450 billion.
Also, IMF is asking to jack up the GST rate from 17 to 18 per cent but the government is resisting it tooth and nail.
PM Shehbaz Sharif’s statement on Sunday makes it clear that the deal is anything but done.
β€œThe IMF is looking critically at every book, be it petroleum, finance, commerce or the power sector. They are looking at each and everything, every subsidy.”
Pakistan inflation at 48-year high
Inflation has risen to a 48-year high in crisis-hit Pakistan, according to data released last week by the country’s statistics bureau.
Year-on-year inflation in January 2023 was recorded at 27.55 per cent, the highest since May 1975, with thousands of containers of imports held up at Karachi port.
Pakistan has less than $3.7 billion in the state bank — enough to cover just three weeks of imports.
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Wikipedia blocked for ‘blasphemous content’
The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) has blocked Wikipedia due to the website’s refusal to remove allegedly offensive or blasphemy material.
PTA stated that Wikipedia was approached for blocking or removal of the said content by issuing a notice under applicable law and court order(s).
An opportunity for a hearing was also provided; however, the platform neither complied by removing the blasphemous content nor appeared before the authority.
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Pakistan to seek Afghan Taliban leader’s help to control TTP
A desperate Pakistan has sought Afghan Taliban chief Haibuttallah Akhundzada’s help to rein in the outlawed Pakistani Taliban outfit responsible for a wave of terror attacks in the country.
The TTP, which is believed to have close links to al-Qaeda, has threatened to target top leaders of the ruling coalition if the government continued to implement strict measures against the militants.
The Afghan Taliban have so far not taken any step to expel TTP operatives from the country, at the cost of straining ties with Islamabad.
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Former minister sent to 14-day judicial custody
A court in Islamabad has sent Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid β€” a close aide of PTI chief Imran Khan β€” on a 14-day judicial remand.
The former interior minister is facing serious charges as he levelled allegations against PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari for plotting to assassinate Khan. He was arrested on Thursday; his bail hearing is scheduled for hearing on Monday.


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