Smog disrupts GCC-Pakistan flights

This picture taken on November 10, 2017 shows the grand Faisal Mosque covered in heavy smog in the Pakistan's capital, Islamabad. (AFP / AAMIR QURESHI)
Updated 10 November 2017
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Smog disrupts GCC-Pakistan flights

ISLAMABAD: The smog currently plaguing eastern Pakistan shows no sign of abating.
In recent days, it has disrupted flights, forced the government to change school timings, and posed a serious health risk, particularly in the densely populated province of Punjab.
The country’s national carrier, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), has mostly rescheduled, rerouted, or even canceled some of its flights. Over 60 flights were delayed on Friday morning alone, including international and local flights. Several GCC-Pakistan flights were affected.
PIA spokesman Mashood Tajwar told Arab News, “PIA has to adjust the timings of its flights due to prevailing weather conditions, and keeping in view safety requirements, as the airline cannot operate flights with poor visibility.” He added that the current weather conditions were “expected to prevail for the next few days.”
The polluted air that blankets cities in Punjab and some areas of the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) is hazardous to health, especially for the elderly and for children going to school or college early in the morning when the smog levels are high. Doctors have suggested adopting preventive measures when outdoors and using masks when traveling. Hospitals have reported a hike in cases of irritation of the skin and/or eyes, respiratory problems, coughing, and sore throats.
Mansoor Ali Shah, the chief justice of Lahore High Court, has ordered the concerned authorities in Punjab to update the court about measures adopted to control and prevent the smog.
Naseem-ur-Rehman, director of the Environment Protection Department (EPD), told a local television station that a number of preventive measures have been taken: The Punjab government has imposed a ban on farmers burning their leftover crops until December 16, and 150 factories have also been shut down, he claimed.
Police have partially closed several sections of the country’s main highway — known as the motorway — between Lahore and Islamabad because of visibility issues, particularly at night and in the early morning, while some cities have also reportedly made special arrangements to avoid traffic jams and accidents.
Dr. Mohammad Hanif, a Pakistani meteorologist, told Arab News that a lack of rain, dust and emissions from factories and vehicles, and smoke from burnt crops are the leading factors behind the toxic smog.
He added that rain or strong winds would disperse the smog, but there is no rain forecast in the next fortnight.


Australia mulling embassy move to Jerusalem: PM

Updated 16 October 2018
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Australia mulling embassy move to Jerusalem: PM

  • Morrison says he was “open-minded” to proposals to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel
  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying he had discussed the possible embassy move with Morrison
SYDNEY: Australia is considering moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Tuesday, following the lead of US President Donald Trump.
Morrison called a press conference to say he was “open-minded” to proposals to formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move his nation’s embassy to the holy city, a sharp break with the policy of successive Australian governments for decades.
“We’re committed to a two-state solution, but frankly it hasn’t been going that well, not a lot of progress has been made, and you don’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Morrison said.
He described proposals to recognize Jerusalem and move Australia’s embassy as “sensible” and “persuasive” and would be considered by the government.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a statement saying he had discussed the possible embassy move with Morrison.
“He informed me that he is considering officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel & moving the Australian embassy to Jerusalem. I’m very thankful to him for this,” Netanyahu tweeted.
The surprise announcement came just days before a crucial parliamentary by-election in a Sydney district that has a significant Jewish electorate and where the candidate for Morrison’s Liberal party, a former ambassador to Israel, is trailing in opinion polls.
A loss in the election would wipe out Morrison’s one-seat majority in parliament.
“Scott Morrison is now so desperate to hang on to his job, he is prepared to say anything if he thinks it will win him a few more votes -– even at the cost of Australia’s national interest,” said the opposition Labour party foreign policy spokeswoman Penny Wong.
Morrison came to power in August after a revolt by hard-line conservatives in the Liberal party ousted his more moderate predecessor, Malcolm Turnbull.
Turnbull’s government had explicitly distanced itself from the decision by Trump to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as “unhelpful” to the peace process.
Morrison rejected suggestions that his decision to consider following Trump’s lead was a result of US pressure or related to the by-election in Sydney’s Wentworth district on Saturday.
“I have made this decision without any reference to the United States,” he said. “It has not come up in any discussion that I have had with the president or officials.”
Trump’s move ruptured decades of international consensus that Jerusalem’s status should be settled as part of a two-state peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians.
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