Islamabad: A report by the US State Department has revealed that the US has given $265 million to Pakistan during the current fiscal year. The money has been given under the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for assisting Pakistan in its counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency activities.
The fund improves Pakistan’s ability to conduct counterinsurgency operations, particularly in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and enhances the country’s ability to participate in maritime security operations and counter maritime piracy.
“Pakistan has cooperated with the US in counter-terrorism efforts and since 2001, has captured more than 600 Al-Qaeda members and their allies, and the US maintains a strong security partnership with Pakistan,” reports Dawn citing the report released by the US State Department.
The report comes as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is due to visit the US later this month, starting from Oct 21.
The report added that the US also gave Pakistan $5 million in the current fiscal year under the International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance.
US is also Pakistan’s largest bilateral trading partner, according to the report.
During the current fiscal year, $18.72 billion was remitted back to Pakistan from overseas Pakistanis, of which 14.4 per cent was remitted back from the US.
Pakistan has taken steps over the years to liberalize its trade and investment regimes, either unilaterally or in the context of commitments made to the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Bank, said the report released by the state department.
Furthermore, major US investments are concentrated in fast-moving consumer goods, construction, chemicals, energy, transportation, and communications, stated the report.
In January 2015, the US pledged $250 million to help Pakistan facilitate the relief, reconstruction, and the return of FATA communities displaced by counter-terrorism operations.
A Pakistani court has summoned several TV reporters from the country’s largest private TV station over accusations of “ridiculing” last year’s ruling that barred Valentine’s Day celebrations and its media coverage across the country.
On February 14, Geo TV’s popular Report Card show dedicated a 15-minute segment to discussing the justification of the court’s ban on Valentine’s Day coverage and celebrations.
Two of the panelists in the show questioned the rationale for the ban.
Hasan Nisar, a prominent Lahore-based political analyst, declared the restrictions “illogical” and “ridiculous” for society.
“I do not even have anything to say on it, it’s funny,” Nisar said.
Echoing Nisar, Imtiaz Alam, a leading reporter and panelist of the show, said the restrictions were “useless.”
“How can the court interfere as it is against the fundamental rights of the people? Do we have Taliban regime in Pakistan?” Alam asked.
“This is a cultural martial law and curfew to enforce the extreme ideologies. This is a sick mindset, and the moral policing through PEMRA [Pakistan Electronic Media Authority] is shameless,” Alam said.
Last year, on February 13, Islamabad’s High Court declared Valentine’s Day celebration un-Islamic and imposed a ban on any public or official celebrations.
The government reinstated the ban for a second consecutive year earlier this month to comply with the court’s ruling.
PEMRA also issued a fresh directive to remind its TV and radio licensees to refrain from promoting the day on their stations.
“Respondents are directed to ensure that nothing about the celebrations of Valentine’s Day and its promotion is spread on the electronic and print media,” PEMRA’s notification reads.
On charges of failing to adhere to the court’s order and PEMRA’s instruction, Islamabad court summoned the Geo TV host, two guests and the chief executive officer of the station to appear before the court next week and defend themselves in a contempt-of-court case.
“This act of the host and the participants apparently is tainted with malafide, ulterior motives, aims to undermine the authority of the court and to disrespect the order passed by the court, which clearly comes within the definition of the contempt of court,” the court said, according to local media.
The ban on Valentine’s Day celebrations and sensitivity toward it are not new in Pakistan. Some political and religious groups, such as Jamaat-i-Islami, have carried out rallies and protests against the celebration of the day, declaring it “unethical and un-Islamic.”
There have been instances in the past where local authorities prohibited the February 14 festivities in different cities across the nation.
In 2016, President Mamnoon Hussain also warned Pakistanis to stay away from celebrating Valentine’s Day, declaring it was “not a part of Muslim tradition, but of the West.”
Valentine’s celebrations have increased in Pakistan over the last decade, particularly among the country’s youth.
The enforcement of the ban on its celebration and media coverage for a second consecutive year has sparked a larger debate among some of the country’s liberal and conservative circles.
A section of the society defends the celebrations and considers them harmless, though for others the day does not have any place in their religious practices or their traditions.
Pakistan, for the most part, is a conservative Muslim society. Public displays of affection are not the norm and often are viewed as unacceptable.
But some Pakistanis, like Saleema Hashmi, a Lahore-based artist, and renowned educator, believe the system is focusing on “irrelevant issues” at the expense of more important and pressing issues the country faces.
“Don’t our courts have better things to do instead of passing rulings on celebrating a mere romantic day?” she asked. “I do not understand how celebrating or denouncing Valentine’s Day can impact our religion, traditions, social or cultural norms.” (VOA)