Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa called on Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud last week. The COAS reiterated Pakistan's commitment to the security and protection of the two Holy Mosques (Harmain Sharifain) and also the territorial integrity of the kingdom. The Saudi king and the COAS agreed that both the countries share great history of cordial relations which has transformed into an enduring partnership. It was also acknowledged that both Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are vital players in regional stability “with significant responsibility towards the entire Muslim Ummah”. Both re-emphasised the need to continue working to eliminate the menace of terrorism and reinforce the mechanism to roll back extremism. The crown prince and the foreign minister were also present in the meeting.
Indian troops target school van in AJK
One civilian was martyred and four schoolchildren were injured when Indian troops violated ceasefire by targeting an AJK school van at the Line of Control (LoC) in the Nakial sector last week. According to the ISPR, Pakistani troops effectively responded and targeted the Indian posts. The condition of three of the injured students was stated to be critical. Pakistan conveyed to New Delhi that deliberate targeting of civilians, villages and civilian transport and a school van was condemnable. The move came on the same day when Pakistan was mourning the deadly attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School two years ago.
World Bank appoints envoy to save Indus Waters Treaty
The World Bank has appointed an envoy to safeguard the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) and help resolve the disagreements between India and Pakistan over the construction of two hydroelectric plants. The two countries had approached the World Bank a couple of months ago to resolve the issues regarding two hydroelectric power plants under construction along the Indus River system. Pakistan objected to the projects saying that it would have an impact on the flow of Chenab and Neelum rivers. The processes under the treaty concern the Kishenganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plants. The power plants are being built by India on, respectively, the Kishenganga and Chenab Rivers.
Army top brass reshuffled
In a significant command and staff reshuffle in the Pakistan Army, the newly-promoted Lieutenant General Bilal Akbar has been appointed the Chief of General Staff (CGS) while Lt-Gen Naveed Mukhtar has been appointed as DG ISI in place of Lt Gen Rizwan Akhtar. Meanwhile, Major General Muhammad Saeed, GOC 18 Infantry Division, Hyderabad, has been posted as DG Rangers, Sindh. Both Lt-Gen Bilal Akbar and Lt-Gen Naveed Mukhtar were serving in Karachi as DG Rangers and Corps Commander, Karachi, respectively and they have been moved to two most powerful positions. Lt-Gen Naveed Mukhtar was appointed DG ISI after approval from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. DG ISI Lt-Gen Rizwan Akhtar has been transferred to the National Defence University (NDU) as its president. Following the appointment of new corps commanders in Karachi, Multan and Rawalpindi, Chief of Army Staff General Bajwa also appointed Lt-Gen Nazir Butt as Corps Commander, Peshawar, in place of Lt-Gen Hidayatur Rehman, who has been moved to fill in the position of Inspector-General Training and Evaluation (IGT&E) at the General Headquarters. With both the superseded three-star generals – former Corps Commander Multan Lt-Gen Ishfaq Nadim Ahmed and former Corps Commander Bahawalpur Lt-Gen Javed Ramday – retiring from the Pakistan Army on December 17, Army Chief General Bajwa has brought in his team. Military spokesman, DG ISPR Lt-Gen Asim Salim Bajwa has also been transferred as Inspector General Arms, a move which was on the cards. While Major General Asif Ghafoor has been appointed as the new DG ISPR.
In place of retiring Lt-Gen Javed Ramday, the newly-promoted Lt-Gen Sher Afgun has been appointed Corps Commander Bahawalpur. Lt-Gen Nazir Butt, who had been the MS to a former prime minister and Defence Attache in the United States, was picked as Corps Commander, Peshawar. The other postings and transfers announced by the ISPR are that of newly-promoted Lt-Gen Hamayun Aziz who has been appointed Inspector General C&IT at the GHQ; newly promoted Lt-Gen Qazi Ikram who has been appointed Chief of Logistic Staff at the GHQ; newly-promoted Lt-Gen Muhammad Afzal will continue as DG FWO; and newly-promoted Lt-Gen Naeem Ashraf has been appointed Chairman Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT).
Pakistanis quiver as UAE demands tax information
Last week account holders in a major UAE bank began receiving letters alerting them that soon they will be required to furnish information “with a view to determining where they are resident for tax purposes”. In days to come, customers with other banks will start receiving the same letter. The effort is part of a programme to bring UAE banks into compliance with what is called the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), agreed upon by a group of signatory countries under the umbrella of the OECD, which aims to curb tax evasion through offshore havens.
According to bankers in Dubai who are directly involved in ensuring compliance matters and spoke in the background only, as of Jan 1, 2017, all existing high net worth individuals will be asked to furnish details of their permanent residency and the citizenship they hold, and their tax status in their own countries. High net worth is defined as holding an account with a balance of $1 million and above, and the disclosure will be required from residents and non-residents alike.
All new customers for any bank or other financial institutions, will be required to furnish the same information regardless of their net worth. From Jan 1, 2018, this requirement will become mandatory for everyone, “regardless of who you are”.
According to the CRS guidelines, if a company has a dormant account, details of its beneficial owners will need to be compiled by the bank. It is not clear yet how the central bank intends to treat the many companies registered by outsiders within its jurisdiction. Since the news broke, a wave of anxiety has swept through Pakistan’s wealthy elite, and for good reason. For a number of years now, ads have been appearing in Pakistani media inviting people to invest in Dubai property, and unofficially sourced data from the Dubai Land Authority has fed a steady news flow claiming that more than $2 billion has flowed into Dubai real estate by Pakistanis every year for the past three years. – Dawn