Saudi Arabia and Pakistan at ‘very advanced stage’ of finalizing $14 billion oil refinery deal — minister

Exclusive Saudi Arabia and Pakistan at ‘very advanced stage’ of finalizing $14 billion oil refinery deal — minister
Pakistani Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik speaks during an interview at the Embassy of Pakistan in Washington, DC, on May 8, 2023. (AFP/File)
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Updated 22 July 2023
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Saudi Arabia and Pakistan at ‘very advanced stage’ of finalizing $14 billion oil refinery deal — minister

Saudi Arabia and Pakistan at ‘very advanced stage’ of finalizing $14 billion oil refinery deal — minister
  • The petroleum minister says several GCC countries have shown interest in participating in the deal
  • The multibillion-dollar project was agreed during Saudi crown prince’s official visit to Pakistan in 2019

KARACHI: Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are on the verge of finalizing a game-changing $14 billion deal for an advanced oil refinery, expected to boost the South Asian state’s crude oil processing capacity, according to an exclusive conversation with the country’s petroleum minister on Saturday.

The multibillion-dollar state-of-the-art oil refinery project, with a capacity to process 350,000-450,000 barrels of crude oil per day, was initially agreed upon during the official visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019.

As per the plan, a petrochemical complex would also be set up along with the refinery.

“The good news ... is that we are in very advanced stages of finalizing the deal between Pakistan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and hopefully some other GCC [Gulf Cooperation Council] countries have shown some level of interest in participating in that deal through which we would set up a $10 to $14 billion world-class scaled refinery,” Dr. Musadik Malik, the petroleum minister, told Arab News on the sidelines of a meetup with journalists in Karachi.

“We are moving very fast on it,” he continued. “My personal aspiration and hope was to conclude this deal before the change of hands of the government.”

Pakistan is moving toward general elections after the current coalition administration finishes its constitutional term next month. However, Malik said most of the work had been done while expressing optimism that the next political government would be in a position to sign the refinery deal.

“I’m still very hopeful that we would move it at such advanced stages that it would be very easy for the incoming administration to finalize the deal and sign it,” he said.

Asked about the currencies that will be used in commercial deals for the refinery, the minister noted the government was open to trade in any currency.

“We are open to all kinds of currencies,” he said, adding: “We can do them in Saudi Riyal, we can do it in RMB [Chinese Yuan], we can do it in dollar, we can do it in pounds. This is an above-board business, so it doesn’t matter which currency it is.”

The refinery will be set up in Pakistan by Saudi Aramco which has already conducted the feasibility study and is currently analyzing the modalities, including the engineering work required for the project.

Last week, Aramco declined to comment about the current status of the project in response to an Arab News query.

The Aramco refinery project will increase Pakistan’s oil refining capacity which is currently about 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) which is equivalent to 20 million tons per annum. However, the country’s actual capacity utilization at this stage is around 11 million tons.

The mega oil refinery and petrochemical complex are expected to help Pakistan in technologically. Additionally, it will also be beneficial for skill enhancement and human capital development, direct and indirect employment generation, strengthening of allied sectors, and the country’s socioeconomic development.


Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister

Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister
Updated 1 min 11 sec ago
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Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister

Pakistan hopes to get new IMF loan by early July, says finance minister
  • Pakistan’s current $3 billion financial arrangement with IMF expires in late April
  • Islamabad is seeking “bigger,” long-term loan to ensure macroeconomic stability

Pakistan is hoping to reach a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund by June or early July, its finance minister said on Tuesday.

The country’s current $3 billion arrangement with the fund runs out in late-April, which it secured last summer to avert a sovereign default.

Islamabad is seeking a long-term bigger loan to help bring permanence to macroeconomic stability as well as an umbrella under which the country can execute structural reforms.

“We are still hoping that we get a staff-level agreement by June or early July,” Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb told a conference in Islamabad.

He returned from Washington last week after leading a team to attend the IMF and World Bank’s spring meetings. “We had very good discussions in Washington,” he said.

He said he did not know at this stage the volume and tenure of the longer program.


Pakistan ‘rarely’ punished officials for rights abuses in 2023— State Department report

Pakistan ‘rarely’ punished officials for rights abuses in 2023— State Department report
Updated 13 min 40 sec ago
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Pakistan ‘rarely’ punished officials for rights abuses in 2023— State Department report

Pakistan ‘rarely’ punished officials for rights abuses in 2023— State Department report
  • US State Department releases annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” for the year 2023
  • Report says Pakistan witnessed extrajudicial killings, torture and restrictions on media freedoms last year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government “rarely” took steps to identify and punish officials who may have been involved in rights abuses in 2023, a report released by the US State Department said on Tuesday, pointing out incidents of extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, violence against journalists and restrictions on media freedom had taken place in the country last year. 

US Department of State released its annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices” to highlight rights issues in several countries, including Pakistan. In the report, Washington identified that Pakistan last year witnessed arbitrary killings, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearance, torture and “cases of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment by the government or its agents.”

“The government rarely took credible steps to identify and punish officials who may have committed human rights abuses,” the report said. 

Cases of “enforced disappearances” of citizens have long plagued Pakistan, where militants have waged a war against the state for decades. Families say people picked up by security forces often disappear for years, and are sometimes found dead, with no official explanation. Pakistani security agencies deny involvement in such disappearances.

The report also pointed out that last year Pakistan had seen incidents of restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, violence against journalists, unjustified arrests, disappearances of journalists, censorship and criminal defamation laws. 

Pakistan’s recent actions to restrict Internet and mobile services throughout the country, especially on days when elections are held, have invited criticism from rights organizations and Washington. The interior ministry last week confirmed it had banned social media platform X in February to protect national security, maintain public order, and preserve the country’s “integrity.”

The State Department report further pointed out that rights issues in Pakistan during 2023 included extensive gender-based violence, including domestic or intimate partner violence, sexual violence, early, child and forced marriages. It said Pakistan had also reported incidents of female genital mutilation and crimes involving violence or threats of violence targeting members of religious, racial and ethnic minorities. 

The report added that violence, abuse and social and religious intolerance by militant organizations and other non-state actors, both local and foreign, contributed to a culture of lawlessness in the country. 

“Terrorist and cross-border militant attacks against civilians, soldiers, and police caused hundreds of casualties,” the report noted, crediting Pakistan’s military, police and other law enforcement agencies for carrying out “significant campaigns” against militants last year. 

The South Asian country has seen an uptick in violence, mainly suicide attacks, since November 2022 when a fragile truce between militants and the state broke down. Pakistan has since then carried out military operations against the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and a Baloch separatist militant organization, the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) in the country’s two western provinces that border Afghanistan.


Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence

Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence
Updated 23 April 2024
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Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence

Pakistan, Iran agree to ban ‘terrorist organizations,’ exchange intelligence
  • Interior ministers of Pakistan, Iran agree on joint action plan to deal with “terrorism,” says state media 
  • Both representatives agree to ensure effective border management, prevent smuggling and trafficking of drugs 

ISLAMABAD: The interior ministers of Pakistan and Iran on Monday decided to ban “terrorist organizations” in their respective countries, the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report, as both countries move to bolster strained ties during Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s ongoing visit to Pakistan. 

Pakistan and Iran have had a history of rocky relations despite a number of commercial pacts, with Islamabad being historically closer to Saudi Arabia and the United States. Pakistan and Iran are also often at odds over instability on their shared porous border, with both countries routinely trading blame for not rooting out militancy.

Tensions surged in January when Pakistan and Iran exchanged airstrikes, both claiming to target alleged militant hideouts in each other’s countries. Both sides have since then undertaken peace overtures and restored bilateral ties.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Ahmad Vahidi, met in Islamabad on Monday to discuss bilateral issues and matters of mutual interests. 

“Pakistan and Iran on Monday decided in principle to ban terrorist organizations in their respective countries,” the APP said.

“The two sides agreed on a joint plan of action to deal with the menace of terrorism being a common problem, with further improving mutual support and exchange of intelligence information.”

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi and his Iranian counterpart, Dr. Ahmad Vahidi, meet in Islamabad, Pakistan on April 22, 2024. (PID)

The two representatives decided to sign a security agreement regarding their decision “at the earliest,” the state-run media said. 

Naqvi and Dr. Vahidi also decided to increase cooperation in border management and take steps to prevent smuggling and trafficking of drugs.

“Minister Naqvi said that smuggling was a cause of economic loss for both countries and its prevention through border management would help promote mutual trade,” the APP said. “The two sides also agreed to activate the border markets as soon as possible.”

It was also decided that Iran would extend all possible facilities to Pakistani pilgrims who visit Karbala in Iraq for the Arbaeen pilgrimage. The Iranian interior minister invited Naqvi to visit Iran to assess the arrangements. 

Both sides also agreed to waive fines imposed on their nationals imprisoned in each other’s country.

Raisi arrived in Islamabad on Monday for a three-day visit to Pakistan, accompanied by his spouse and a high-level delegation of cabinet members and businesspersons. The two countries signed eight accords and memorandums of agreement in trade, technology, health, culture, information and judicial matters. Both countries agreed to enhance bilateral trade to $10 billion. 

The Iranian president met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Syed Asim Munir on Monday. He is scheduled to visit Pakistan’s southern port city Karachi, also its commercial hub, on Tuesday and meet the country’s provincial leadership there. 


Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi

Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi
Updated 23 April 2024
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Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi

Pakistani, UAE officials perform groundbreaking of bulk and general cargo terminal in Karachi
  • Pakistan’s maritime affairs minister says UAE’s investment an important “breakthrough” that has increased interest of other players
  • Multi-purpose terminal will handle grains, fertilizers and other kinds of export and import, says official of company operating terminal

KARACHI: Pakistani and United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials performed the groundbreaking of a $175 million Bulk and General Cargo terminal on Monday, describing it as an “important breakthrough” for the South Asian country in the maritime sector. 

Under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement between Pakistan and the UAE earlier this year, a new 25-year concession agreement was signed between AD Ports Group and Karachi Port Trust (KPT) in Feb. 2024 to outsource operations of the bulk and general cargo terminal.

Under the terms of the agreement, Karachi Gateway Terminal Multipurpose Limited (KGTML), a joint venture between AD Ports Group, as a majority shareholder, and Kaheel Terminals, a UAE-based company, will develop, operate and manage the Bulk and General Cargo Terminal, berths 11 to 17 at Karachi Port’s East Wharf. The move is expected to enhance Karachi’s position as a key player in the maritime industry.

Qaiser Ahmed Sheikh, Pakistan’s minister of maritime affairs, unveiled the KGTML plaque at Karachi Port on Monday, describing the UAE’s investment as a “very important breakthrough” which has increased the interest of other players in the maritime sector.

“This investment from Abu Dhabi Ports is very important for Pakistan, it is a breakthrough,” Sheikh told Arab News at the sidelines of the event. “It is the first investment in terminal and following this, there are many other companies who are also interested in Pakistan.”

The minister shared that Maersk Line, the largest owner and operator of US flag vessels, has also expressed interest in investing in Pakistan.

“We are looking forward to investment from other companies like, you see, other shipping lines,” Sheikh said. “We are having a meeting (on Apr. 25) with Maersk Line and we are also expecting (investment).”

Khurram Aziz Khan, KGTL’s chief executive officer, said AD Ports plans to invest about $157 million for the bulk terminal’s development, adding that it would handle all kinds of bulk cargo.

“This is basically a multi-purpose terminal which will not only handle grains but also fertilizers and other kinds of export and import, dirty or clean cargo as well,” Khan told Arab News.

“We are making a long-term investment to make it a regional hub not only for containers but also for the multi-purpose facilities,” Khan explained, adding that the project, once completed, will also save the time and cost of doing business.

He informed that AD Ports has an overall plan of investing about $395 million in the development of the container and cargo terminal.

“We have an overall plan of $220 million investment in the container terminal and $175 million of investment in the multi-purpose bulk terminal,” the KGTL chief said.

AD Ports Group also presented Sheikh a cheque for the upfront fee payment amounting to $50 payable to KPT as per the terms outlined in the Agreement for Outsourcing of Operations of Bulk and General Cargo Terminal.

Abdul Aziz Baloshi, chief executive officer of Fujairah Terminals, AD Ports Group, said the group was expanding its operations in Pakistan.

“Progress will be made through investment in the supply chain,” Baloshi said at the event. “Karachi port is the future of Pakistan and Pakistan is included in our priority list in the region.”

UAE’s Consul General Bakheet Atiq Al-Remeithi said Emirati investors are interested in investing on a large scale in Pakistan. He said their areas of interest included ports and shipping, railways, and other infrastructure.

“Apart from port investments, investments will be made in railway infrastructure, export zones, and other sectors,” Al-Remeithi shared.

 The port operator hoped that the facilities will help Pakistan become the regional hub for handling export and import of cargoes from Central Asian countries.

The agreement for the construction of the Bulk and General Cargo terminal at the Karachi port was based on the concession agreement secured by AD Ports Group to develop, operate and manage container terminal at berths 6-10 at Karachi port’s East Wharf in June 2023.

AD Ports Group had signed a 50-year concession agreement with KPT to secure the terminal’s operations. 


Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides

Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides
Updated 23 April 2024
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Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides

Met Office forecasts fresh rains in Pakistan, warns of flash floods and landslides
  • Windstorms and lightning may affect human lives, crops, loose structures, vehicles and solar panels
  • Met Office asks tourists to avoid unnecessary travel, farmers to manage crops accordingly on Apr. 24-29

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) on Monday said a fresh spell of rains was likely to hit parts of Pakistan this week, warning of flash floods and landslides in the country’s western regions.

A westerly wave is likely to enter western parts of the country on April 24 and grip most upper parts on April 26, according to a statement issued by the PMD.

As a result, rains, wind- or thunderstorms are expected in Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh as well as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir between April 24 and April 29.

“Isolated/moderate to heavy rainfall may generate flash flood in local nullahs/Streams of Balochistan specially (Noushki, Pishin, Harnai, Zhob, Barkhan, Gwadar, Kech and Awaran) on 26th & 27th April, while Dir, Swat, Chitral, Manshera, Kohistan and Kashmir on 27th and 28th April,” the statement read.

“Possibility of landslides in Upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Murree, Galiyat, Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan may affect the vulnerable locations from 27th to 29th April.”

During this period, the Met Office said, windstorm and lightning could affect human lives, crops, loose structures like electric poles, vehicles and solar panels.

“Farmers especially in wheat harvested areas are advised to manage their crops keeping in view the weather conditions,” it added.

“Tourists are advised to avoid unnecessary traveling particularly from 26h to 29th April.”

Pakistan has witnessed days of extreme weather, killing at least 78 people and destroying property and farmland. Experts say the country is experiencing heavier rains than normal in April because of climate change.

In 2022, downpours swelled rivers and at one point flooded a third of Pakistan, killing 1,739 people. The floods also caused $30 billion in damages, from which Pakistan is still trying to rebuild.