Pakistan’s national airline to formally invite newlywed British royals to visit

Britain’s Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex emerge from the West Door of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, in Windsor, on May 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 May 2018
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Pakistan’s national airline to formally invite newlywed British royals to visit

  • Formal invitation letter will be delivered to the British High Commission, PIA spokesperson tells Arab News
  • Pakistan International Airlines hopes that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will visit the northern areas of the country, just as Princess Diana did in 1991

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will formally invite Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, the newlywed British royal couple, to visit the scenic northern areas of the country, the airline’s spokesman told Arab News on Monday.
“We have prepared the official draft of the invitation that will be delivered to the British High Commission in Pakistan on Tuesday,” said Mashood Tajwar, the spokesperson of the country’s national flag carrier.
“We are offering them to visit and enjoy the beauty of the northern areas of Pakistan on behalf of our managing director,” he added, saying that the royal couple would also enjoy the warm hospitality of the people of Pakistan.
In an apparent marketing move, PIA had earlier invited the newlyweds via a Twitter message to experience the splendor of the country’s northern areas, reminding them of Princess Diana’s four-day solo trip to the region in September 1991.
The princess had visited Peshawar and Chitral where she was presented with the area’s traditional cap, adorned with a beautiful feather, and an embroidered coat.
PIA also posted a picture of her wearing Gilgit-Baltistan’s traditional dress and sitting with two local children. The airlines offered to send the royal couple one of its aircraft if they accepted the invitation.
“We watched the Royal Wedding and remembered Princess Diana and her trip to the northern areas of Pakistan, and we thought how wonderful it would be for the newlyweds to visit our northern splendors as well. So, Prince Harry and Princess Meghan, we are ready, just let us know when,” PIA tweeted.
The invitation drew mixed responses on social media.
Some people expressed their readiness to welcome the royal couple, with some saying it was a nice gesture.
But others lambasted the airline for what they thought was its poor performance. “By the time they get to Lahore, the royal couple will have their first child,” mocked one social media user.
The country’s loss-making national flag carrier is aggressively working towards rebuilding its public image. However, it has been losing around Rs45 billion ($389.3 million) per year and its accumulated losses are estimated to be about Rs316 billion.
Recently, the Economic Coordination Committee approved a Rs20 billion bailout package for PIA — the fifth of its kind in one-and-a-half years.
The government has developed a strategic business plan to improve the performance of the airlines. The plan will prioritize segregation of non-core functions from core functions, product improvement, route rationalization, and cost reduction/optimization. It will also develop HR capability and modernize its IT systems.
PIA has refurbished its fleet of 32 aircraft. It has also abandoned unprofitable routes and increased the number of flights on profitable routes such as Saudi Arabia and China.


Fury clouds funeral plans for Italy bridge victims

Updated 17 August 2018
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Fury clouds funeral plans for Italy bridge victims

  • The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country
  • According to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part in the state funeral, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend

GENOA: Grieving relatives wept over the coffins of dozens of victims of Genoa’s bridge disaster Friday amid growing fury over a planned state funeral, while rescuers pressed on with their tireless search for those missing in the rubble.
The collapse of the Morandi bridge, a decades-old viaduct that crumbled in a storm on Tuesday killing at least 38 people, has stunned and angered the country, with Italian media reporting that some outraged families would shun Saturday’s official ceremonies.
Italy’s government has blamed the operator of the viaduct for the tragedy and threatened to strip the firm of its contracts, while the country’s creaking infrastructure has come under fresh scrutiny.
Authorities plan a state funeral service on Saturday at a hall in Genoa, coinciding with a day of mourning.
Relatives who gathered at the hall on Friday embraced and prayed over lines of coffins, many adorned with flowers and photographs of the dead.
But according to La Stampa newspaper, the families of 17 victims have refused to take part, while a further seven have yet to decide whether they will attend.
“It is the state who has provoked this; let them not show their faces, the parade of politicians is shameful,” the press cited the mother of one of four young Italians from Naples who died.
The father of another of the dead from Naples took to social media to vent his anger.
“My son will not become a number in the catalogue of deaths caused by Italian failures,” said his grieving father, Roberto.
“We do not want a farce of a funeral but a ceremony at home.”
Despite fading hopes of finding survivors, rescue workers said they had not given up as they resumed the dangerous operation to search through the unstable mountains of debris.
“Is there anyone there? Is there anyone there?” one firefighter shouted into a cavity dug out of the piles of concrete and twisted metal, in a video published by the emergency services.
Between 10 and 20 people are still missing, according to Genoa’s chief prosecutor.
Ten people remain in hospital, six of them in a serious condition.
Hundreds of rescuers are using cranes and bulldozers to cut up and remove the biggest slabs of the fallen bridge, which slammed down onto railway tracks along with dozens of vehicles.
“We are trying to find pockets in the rubble where people could be — alive or not,” fire official Emanuele Gissi told AFP.
Officials say about 1,000 people in all are working on the disaster site, 350 of them firefighters.
The populist government has accused infrastructure giant Autostrade per L’Italia of failing to invest in sufficient maintenance and said it would seek to revoke its lucrative contracts.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded that the company offer up to 500 million euros ($570 million) to help families and local government deal with the aftermath of the disaster.
The dead also include children, one as young as eight, and three Chileans and four French nationals.
The French nationals, all in their 20s, had traveled to Italy for a music festival, and other victims included a family setting off on holiday and a couple returning from their California honeymoon.
More than 600 people were evacuated from around a dozen apartments beneath the remaining shard of bridge.
On Thursday evening the first residents of some buildings in the affected area were allowed to return home, though others are too badly damaged to save.
The Morandi viaduct dates from the 1960s and has been riddled with structural problems for decades, leading to expensive maintenance and severe criticism from engineering experts.
Its collapse prompted fears over aging infrastructure across the world.
Italy has announced a year-long state of emergency in the region.
Autostrade, which operates and maintains nearly half of Italy’s motorways, estimates it will take five months to rebuild the bridge.
It denies scrimping on motorway maintenance, saying it has invested over one billion euros a year in “safety, maintenance and strengthening of the network” since 2012.
Atlantia, the holding company of Autostrade which is 30 percent owned by iconic fashion brand Benetton, has warned that the government would have to refund the value of the contract, which runs until at least 2038.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Autostrade “had the duty and obligation to assure the maintenance of this viaduct and the security of all those who traveled on it.”
The disaster is the latest in a string of bridge collapses in Italy, where infrastructure generally is showing the effects of a faltering economy.
Senior government figures have also lashed out at austerity measures imposed by the European Union, saying they restrict investment.
But the European Commission said it had given Rome billions of euros to fix infrastructure.