Chinese vice-premier due in Pakistan today for 10-year corridor project celebration

Update Chinese vice-premier due in Pakistan today for 10-year corridor project celebration
Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng attends the 9th China-France High Level Economic and Financial Dialogue at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing on July 29, 2023. (AFP/file)
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Updated 30 July 2023
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Chinese vice-premier due in Pakistan today for 10-year corridor project celebration

Chinese vice-premier due in Pakistan today for 10-year corridor project celebration
  • He Lifeng was instrumental in the planning and execution of multiple CPEC projects in Pakistan 
  • Authorities order closure of all schools, private firms and banks in Islamabad on Monday, Tuesday 

ISLAMABAD: A top Chinese official is scheduled to begin a three-day visit to Pakistan today, Sunday, to attend the 10-year celebrations of a joint corridor project launched by the two countries and interact with top leaders in Islamabad. 

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a significant infrastructure development and regional connectivity project, was launched by the two countries to build a major trade route between the Gwadar Port in southwestern Pakistan and China’s northwestern region of Xinjiang. 

While the two sides agreed to work on the multibillion-dollar CPEC projects in April 2015, they became central to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which was first mentioned by President Xi Jinping during a visit to Kazakhstan in September 2013. 

The BRI aims to recreate the ancient Silk Route, though on a much larger level, to connect China with a number of countries in its immediate neighborhood and extend to various areas in Europe and Africa. 

“At the invitation of the Government of Pakistan, H.E. He Lifeng, Vice Premier of China and Member of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party will visit Pakistan from 30 July to 01 August 2023,” the foreign office said in a statement on Saturday. 

“During the visit, Vice Premier He will attend the 10th-anniversary celebrations of CPEC and call on the President and the Prime Minister.” it continued. “He will also be the chief guest at an event celebrating the Decade of CPEC.” 

The foreign office said the Chinese vice premier played a prominent role in China’s international economic relations and implementation of the BRI, of which CPEC was a flagship project. 

“As the Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission (2017-23), he was instrumental in the planning and execution of multiple CPEC projects in Pakistan,” it added. 

Meanwhile, the administration in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad announced the closure of all schools, colleges, universities, private firms, markets and commercial banks on Monday and Tuesday. 

The foreign office said the visit was part of regular high-level exchanges and dialogue between the two states, reflecting the importance Pakistan’s attributed to China which had always supported Islamabad’s core strategic interests. 

China was also among the group of countries, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which rescued Pakistan’s economy by depositing significant amounts in its central bank and rolled over billions of dollars of loans. 

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also praised the administration in Beijing for financially assisting Pakistan in a selfless manner during his recent visit to Gwadar. 


Ex-Pakistan PM’s party lawmakers continue hunger strike in Islamabad for his release

Ex-Pakistan PM’s party lawmakers continue hunger strike in Islamabad for his release
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Ex-Pakistan PM’s party lawmakers continue hunger strike in Islamabad for his release

Ex-Pakistan PM’s party lawmakers continue hunger strike in Islamabad for his release
  • Over two dozen lawmakers of Khan’s party have staged hunger strike outside Parliament House in Islamabad to demand his release
  • Khan’s party leaders vow to continue hunger strike for “as long as necessary,” resist any government move to ban the PTI

ISLAMABAD: Lawmakers belonging to former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party on Wednesday continued their hunger strike to demand his release from prison, vowing to “take on” the government’s plan to ban the party. 

Over two dozen PTI lawmakers, including the Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Omar Ayub, have been holding a hunger strike outside the Parliament House in Islamabad since Tuesday to press for Khan’s release from prison. 

Khan has been in jail since August last year, even though all four convictions handed down to him ahead of a parliamentary election in February have either been suspended or overturned.

After being acquitted on the last of those four convictions, authorities rearrested Khan and his wife in an old corruption case on charges of selling state gifts unlawfully. He also faces an accusation of inciting his supporters to attack military installations in May last year. Khan denies all the accusations.

The hunger strike also takes place after Information Minister Ataullah Tarar announced on July 15 that the government plans to ban the PTI over the “proven” charge that the party received foreign funds from sources illegal in Pakistan, and because of rioting by its supporters last year that targeted military installations. 

“I think that we have to just laugh it off,” Ayub told Arab News from the PTI’s hunger strike camp, reacting to the government’s announcement to ban the party. 

He was sitting with other lawmakers of the party who held Khan’s portraits and placards inscribed with the words “Release Imran Khan.”
 
“They [the government] can’t beat us in the political arena, so they have resorted to this,” Ayub added. “We will take them on.”

The government’s announcement to ban the PTI came following the Supreme Court’s recent verdict in which it accepted the PTI as a legitimate political party and awarded it reserved seats for women and minorities in parliament. The verdict was a blow to the Shehbaz Sharif-led coalition government, causing it to lose its two-thirds majority in Pakistan’s parliament.

 Ayub said the PTI had organized the hunger strike to not only demand Khan’s and his wife’s release from prison but also to protest against soaring inflation and militancy in the country.

“This hunger strike is geared toward or targeted toward getting Prime Minister Imran Khan, his wife and first lady Bushra Bibi and all our politically imprisoned prisoners who were imprisoned because of their political beliefs of supporting Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he said.

He described the government as an “illegal” one, holding it responsible for rising inflation and militancy in the country. Ayub called for fresh elections to overcome these crises. 

“This is a token hunger strike, and we will continue this as long as is necessary,” he vowed. 

’DRAMA’

Meanwhile Senator Talal Chaudhry, a member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, described the PTI’s hunger strike as a “drama.” 

He accused the PTI of always conspiring to weaken the country, saying that the party was always protesting whether through hunger strikes or “conspiracies to shut down Pakistan.”

“They will not get anything through these strikes,” he said. “What sort of a hunger strike is this that it begins after lunch and ends before the evening tea?“

The rise in tensions between the government and the PTI takes place after police raided the headquarters of Khan’s party in Islamabad earlier this week. 

The PTI’s senior media manager Ahmed Waqas Janjua and its information secretary Raoof Hassan were arrested by authorities on accusations they were pushing an “anti-state narrative” to undermine Pakistan’s sovereignty.

“The recent crackdown is because the government has lost all, I would say, legitimacy in the eyes of the people,” Ayub said. “They don’t have anything to offer.”


Pakistan Army rescues three foreign mountaineers stranded at K2 mountain 

Pakistan Army rescues three foreign mountaineers stranded at K2 mountain 
Updated 24 July 2024
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Pakistan Army rescues three foreign mountaineers stranded at K2 mountain 

Pakistan Army rescues three foreign mountaineers stranded at K2 mountain 
  • Foreign climbers from Singapore, Netherlands and Ecuador rescued in Pakistan Army helicopter
  • Two mountaineers fell on glacier while the third suffered from flu and severe cough

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Army on Wednesday rescued three foreign mountaineers after they encountered difficulties while attempting to summit the towering K2 mountain in the country’s northern region, the army’s media wing said. 

K2, the world’s second-highest peak which stands at 8,611 meters, lies in Pakistan’s Karakorum Range. It is nicknamed “the savage mountain” by high-altitude climbers who often encounter great difficulty in summiting it. 

The mountaineers, who hailed from Singapore, the Netherlands and Ecuador, were rescued by a Pakistan Army helicopter after they fell ill while climbing the mountain. 

“I’m Kim and I am from Holland. I had a big fall from a glacier and now the Pakistan Army is rescuing me from the glacier,” she said while sitting in the army’s helicopter. 

Another climber from Singapore, who did not mention her name, said she suffered from flu while attempting to summit the mountain. 

“I got really, really sick,” she said. “Thank you to the Pakistan Army for rescuing me.”

The third foreign climber from Ecuador had his arm in a sling, saying that he had fractured it while climbing the mountain. 

Home to some of the tallest peaks and stunning landscapes, Pakistan attracts foreign climbers and tourists from around the world in every mountaineering season, making it a premier destination for adventure enthusiasts.

According to official figures, over 8,900 foreigners visited the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region in 2023 where the summer climbing season runs from early June to late August.


Pakistan to complete road network to China, Central Asia to promote trade— minister

Pakistan to complete road network to China, Central Asia to promote trade— minister
Updated 24 July 2024
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Pakistan to complete road network to China, Central Asia to promote trade— minister

Pakistan to complete road network to China, Central Asia to promote trade— minister
  • Pakistan recently offered Central Asian countries to become part of its $65 billion energy and infrastructure corridor with China 
  • Islamabad has increasingly sought to position itself as a trade and transit hub connecting landlocked Central Asian states with the world 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will complete a large road network connecting it to Central Asian countries and China with the object of promoting trade and investment, the country’s privatization minister said on Wednesday, as Islamabad eyes regional connectivity to ensure economic growth. 

Pakistan has increasingly sought cooperation in terms of trade and investment with regional allies and financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in recent months to recover from a macroeconomic crisis. 

Pakistan recently offered Central Asian states to become part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, under which Beijing has pledged around $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other projects in Pakistan. Islamabad believes the corridor presents a strategic opportunity for landlocked Central Asian states to transport their goods more easily to regional and global markets. 

Privatization Minister Abdul Aleem Khan met French Ambassador Nicolas Galle in Islamabad on Wednesday to discuss trade and bilateral ties between the two countries. 

“He [Khan] said the road network to China and Central Asian countries will be completed to promote trade in the region,” state broadcaster Radio Pakistan reported. 

Khan said Pakistan was privatizing its loss-making public entities to strengthen its economy, adding that these institutions have the potential to perform better and earn profit. 

“The French envoy expressed his country’s interest in investing and business activities across various sectors in Pakistan,” the state broadcaster said. 

“They also discussed various proposals for enhancing bilateral trade between the two countries.”

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has repeatedly said Pakistan aims to seek regional alliances and mutually rewarding financial partnerships with allies, rather than loans, to steer its economy toward recovery. 

The South Asian country narrowly avoided a sovereign default last year when it secured a last-gasp $3 billion financial assistance package from the IMF. Pakistan’s economic crisis has seen its inflation reach double digit figures, foreign exchange reserves plummet to historic lows and its currency weaken significantly against the US dollar over the past two years. 


Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to heat

Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to heat
Updated 24 July 2024
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Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to heat

Over 100,000 schools in Pakistan remain closed due to heat
  • Pakistan is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change, including hotter heat waves
  • Pakistan’s southern Sindh province decides to close schools for additional two weeks to ensure children’s well-being

KARACHI: School summer holidays will be extended by two weeks in southern Pakistan because of high temperatures, affecting more than 100,000 schools, an education official said Tuesday.

Pakistan is increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather conditions resulting from climate change, including heatwaves that are hotter and more frequent and monsoons that are heavier and longer.

“We decided to close schools for an additional 14 days for the children’s well-being,” Atif Vighio, a spokesperson at the education department in Sindh province, told AFP.

Planned power cuts, also known as load-shedding, happen frequently in Pakistan due to an ongoing power supply crisis.

The load-shedding varies from city to city, but in rural areas of Sindh they can last for more than 12 hours a day, leaving schools without fans.

“As a teacher, I am worried about how I will complete the curriculum, but as a mother, I am concerned about kids going to school in this heat,” a public school teacher told AFP, asking for her name not to be used.

“It is the load-shedding we are worried about, not just the heat.”

The government has said more than 26 million children are out of school due to poverty.

Pakistan struggled through a series of heatwaves in May and June, with temperatures peaking at more than 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit) in parts of rural Sindh.

Authorities in Punjab province, the country’s most populous, started summer vacations in May one week early to protect children from the searing heat.

The UN children’s agency UNICEF said more than three-quarters of children in South Asia — or 460 million — are exposed to temperatures above 35C (95F) for at least 83 days per year.

Despite contributing less than one percent to global greenhouse gas emissions, Pakistan has experienced severe weather-related disasters in recent years due to changing weather patterns.


Punjab’s disaster management authority sets up relief camps in flood-prone areas

Punjab’s disaster management authority sets up relief camps in flood-prone areas
Updated 24 July 2024
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Punjab’s disaster management authority sets up relief camps in flood-prone areas

Punjab’s disaster management authority sets up relief camps in flood-prone areas
  • Current spell of monsoon rains in Punjab expected to continue till July 25, says disaster management authority 
  • Pakistan’s disaster management authorities have warned monsoon rains could trigger “emergency” situation in Punjab

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) announced on Wednesday that it has set up relief camps in the province’s flood-prone areas, as monsoon rains continue to lash various cities in eastern Pakistan. 

The PDMA spokesperson said rainfall was recorded in Punjab’s Bahawalpur, Rawalpindi, Sheikhupura, Lahore, Joharabad, Attock, Chakwal, Faisalabad, Sialkot and Okara districts of during the last 24 hours.

“PDMA has established flood relief camps in the respective areas given possible flood risk,” Director General PDMA Irfan Ali Kathia said, adding that the current spell of monsoon rains in Punjab is expected to continue till July 25.

“Arrangements are complete because of flood risk in vulnerable districts.”

Heavy monsoon rains have lashed Punjab and Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provinces this week. At least 24 people were killed and 80 injured in Punjab this month as heavy rains lashed many parts of the province, according to official figures.

Highlighting that heavy rains could trigger flash floods that could pass through the Sulaiman Mountains in Pakistan, Kathia said the PDMA’s control room and district emergency operation centers were monitoring the situation 24/7.

He warned people against touching electric wires and poles and advised them against traveling unnecessarily in bad weather. He requested them to undertake preventive measures during the monsoon season.

Kathia said the water flow in all rivers and barrages of Punjab was at the normal level, highlighting that the level of water in Mangla Dam remains at 56 percent and Tarbela at 68 percent. The water levels in the Indian dams on rivers Sutlej and Ravi were up to 37 percent.

Pakistan is recognized as one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change effects. Unusually heavy rains in June 2022 triggered flash floods in many parts of the country, killing over 1,700 people, inflicting losses of around $30 billion, and affecting at least 30 million people.