Saudi Arabia, UAE to invest $25 billion each in Pakistan in 2-5 years — PM

Special Saudi Arabia, UAE to invest $25 billion each in Pakistan in 2-5 years — PM
Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar (left) speaks with journalists at the Prime Minister's House in Islamabad, Pakistan, on September 4, 2023. (Photo courtesy: Government of Pakistan)
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Updated 05 September 2023
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Saudi Arabia, UAE to invest $25 billion each in Pakistan in 2-5 years — PM

Saudi Arabia, UAE to invest $25 billion each in Pakistan in 2-5 years — PM
  • Caretaker PM says Kingdom, UAE will make investments in minerals and mining among other sectors under new investment council
  • Pakistan set up Special Investment Facilitation Council in June to attract investment from foreign, particularly Gulf, countries

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Monday confirmed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would invest $25 billion each in cash-strapped Pakistan within the next five years as part of projects under a new investment council set up in June.

Pakistan constituted the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a hybrid civil-military forum, to fast-track decision-making and promote investment from foreign nations, particularly Gulf states.

A notification dated June 17 from then Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s Office said SIFC would seek investments in the energy, IT, minerals, defense, and agriculture sectors from GCC countries. The body, which has the army chief and other military leaders in key roles, aims to take a “unified approach” to steer the country out of economic crisis.

On Sunday, Pakistan’s army chief met leading business figures in Karachi and reportedly discussed the SIFC’s potential to attract up to $100 billion in investments from countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, and Kuwait.

“I can confirm it,” Kakar said in response to a question about whether Pakistan would receive investments of $25 billion each from the Kingdom and the UAE under the SIFC.

The Pakistani prime minister was speaking to international journalists at the Prime Minister House on Monday evening. He gave a 2-5 year timeframe for the Saudi and UAE investments to come through and said they would be focused on the mining and mineral sectors, among others.

Saudi Arabia and UAE have not yet commented on the PM’s statement.

Pakistan has reportedly approved 20 projects to pitch for multibillion-dollar investments from the Gulf and other states under the SIFC umbrella.

The identified projects include the Saudi Aramco Refinery, TAPI Gas Pipeline, Thar Coal Rail Connectivity, hydropower projects of 245 MW in Gilgit-Baltistan, handing over of 85,000 acres of land to a single investor, the establishment of cloud infrastructure, and telecom infrastructure deployment.

Last month, a delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Pakistan to explore investment opportunities in the mining sector as part of SIFC, aiming to tap into Pakistan’s $6 trillion estimated worth of mineral deposits. The Saudi delegation also attended Pakistan’s first dedicated summit on minerals in Islamabad.

In July, Pakistan established a Land Information and Management System, Center of Excellence ((LIMS-CoE) to modernize its agricultural sector, with Saudi Arabia providing an initial $500 million investment to set up the facility.

Continued economic and investment support from Saudi Arabia and other allies such as the UAE is key for Pakistan, as economic stabilization is a major challenge for PM Kakar, who took oath last month, with the $350 billion economy on a narrow recovery path after an ongoing $3 billion International Monetary Fund bailout averted a sovereign debt default. 

Economic reforms have already fueled historic inflation and interest rates and the country is in the grips of sporadic but nationwide protests against record electricity bills and fuel prices. 


Nine Pakistanis injured in UAE factory fire — Pakistan envoy

Nine Pakistanis injured in UAE factory fire — Pakistan envoy
Updated 6 sec ago
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Nine Pakistanis injured in UAE factory fire — Pakistan envoy

Nine Pakistanis injured in UAE factory fire — Pakistan envoy
  • The fire erupted late Saturday at the factory that produced chemical products for sanitizers, perfumes, Pakistani embassy says
  • The UAE is home to 1.5 million Pakistani expatriates and the second-largest source of remittances to Pakistan, after Saudi Arabia

ISLAMABAD: Nine Pakistani nationals were injured in a fire that erupted at a chemical factory in the United Arab Emirates’s (UAE) Ajman city, Pakistan’s top diplomat to the UAE said on Sunday.
The fire erupted late Saturday at the factory that produced chemical products used to make sanitizers and perfumes, according to the Pakistani embassy in the UAE.
The injured Pakistani nationals hailed from Shaheed Benazirabad in the southern Sindh province and Dera Ghazi Khan in the eastern province of Punjab.
“A sad accident of fire eruption occurred at sanitizers, perfumes related chemical products facility in Ajman, UAE late on February 24,” Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, told Arab News.
“Nine Pakistanis got injured in the ill-fated incident who were immediately rushed to different hospitals.”
The UAE is home to some 1.5 million Pakistani expatriates and the second-largest source of remittances to the South Asian country, after Saudi Arabia. A majority of these Pakistanis includes skilled laborers and technicians.
Tirmizi said the injured Pakistanis were admitted to hospitals in Ajman, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
“I assure you that all possible assistance shall be extended to fellow Pakistanis who became victims of the accident,” he said.
Hussain Muhammad, the Pakistani consul general in Dubai, said they were constantly in touch with the Emirati authorities and ensuring all-possible assistance to the injured Pakistani nationals.
“We are ensuring all possible assistance to the injured Pakistanis and [officials of] the Welfare Wing of Pakistan’s Consulate General, Dubai visited the hospitals immediately after the unfortunate occurrence and are constantly in touch with the relevant authorities,” he told Arab News.


Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day

Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day
Updated 4 min 35 sec ago
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Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day

Rights activists say free speech ‘critically under threat’ in Pakistan as X disruption enters eighth day
  • Access to the social media platform was restricted days after Pakistan’s controversial election, which was marred by rigging claims
  • Lawyer Jibran Nasir seeks contempt proceedings against Pakistan Telecommunication Authority for defying court’s order to restore X

KARACHI: Digital rights activists said on Sunday that free speech was “critically under threat” in Pakistan as the South Asian nation continued to experience a disruption of social media platform X for the eighth consecutive day, despite a high court ruling to immediately restore it.
The platform went down on the night of February 17, when a senior government official made a public admission of vote manipulation in the February 8 national election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in release of constituency results.
The suspension of mobile networks and subsequent delays in poll results led to widespread allegations of vote-rigging and sparked protests, mainly by jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, against alleged manipulation of results.
Usama Khilji, director of the Bolo Bhi Internet, censorship and gender advocacy group in Pakistan, said non-compliance of the court order meant there was “complete impunity” for the violation of the Constitution as well as orders of the higher judiciary.
“I think free speech is critically under threat,” he told Arab News, adding it was quite concerning as there was no protection of fundamental rights of the citizens of Pakistan.
The Sindh High Court this week ordered authorities to immediately restore the social media platform after concerned citizens in the southern Pakistan province of Sindh moved the court against the disruption of X.
Jibran Nasir, a human rights lawyer who filed one of the two petitions in the Sindh High Court, said he had already filed a contempt of court case against chairman of the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA), which regulates Internet and social media platforms in the country, over non-compliance of the court orders.
Arab News reached out to PTA spokesperson Malahat Obaid for a comment on the matter, but she referred the query to the interior ministry. There was no response from the interior ministry either.
Nasir, the human rights lawyer, said the unannounced restriction on X indicated the state was “scared of free speech.”
“These repeated interruptions, disruptions and now what we are seeing as prolonged ban on Twitter, or X, which is primarily a medium for information sharing where academic, journalists, politicians, people from different walks of life and the masses at large interact indicates that the state is scared of free speech, the state is petrified by the idea that citizens under the constitution can have the liberty to exercise their right to freedom of expression,” he told Arab News.
“It’s also indicative of the fear of the state that what can an empowered and informed electorate do, so that’s why to ensure that the people don’t have free access to flow of information and that they don’t have the medium where they can express their views.”
Nighat Dad, a digital rights activist, said while the disruption of X was a “blatant violation of civil liberties,” it had sent out a message to the world that Pakistan might not be a “good market” for them.
“Any banning or blocking, or disruption of any platform tells the world that there’s something wrong with our policies” she said, questioning who would bring their investment to Pakistan under such circumstances.
Amber Rahim Shamsi, director of the Center for Excellence in Journalism (CEJ) and another petitioner against the disruption, said the PTA was “violating its own rules and regulations” by banning the social media platform and the move had not helped stop any mis- or disinformation.
“Mis- and dis-information cannot be identified and documented on private Facebook accounts or WhatsApp groups,” said Shamsi, who also heads the iVerify Pakistan fact-checking platform.
“Banning Twitter has not stopped the spread of mis- and dis-information, but the ability of independent fact-checkers to trace and respond.”


Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder
Updated 25 February 2024
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Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder

Fast bowler Haris Rauf ruled out of PSL after dislocating shoulder
  • Haris Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder during Karachi-Lahore match on Saturday
  • Doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from injury, says Lahore Qalandars 

LAHORE: Fast bowler Haris Rauf has been ruled out of the remainder of the Pakistan Super League after dislocating his shoulder during two-time defending champion Lahore Qalandars’ two-wicket loss against Karachi Kings on Saturday.

The franchise said in a statement on Sunday that doctors have advised Rauf to rest for 4-6 weeks to recover from the injury after undergoing scans.

Rauf fell awkwardly on his shoulder in the last over while holding onto a stunning catch of Hasan Ali during Karachi’s thrilling run-chase as Lahore lost its fourth successive game in Pakistan’s premier domestic Twenty20 event.

Rauf struggled in the first three games but bounced back against Karachi with economical figures of 1-22 off his four overs.

“We are deeply saddened by Haris Rauf’s injury,” Lahore captain Shaheen Shah Afridi said. “It was painful to see him missing out … and his absence will be felt.”

Rauf’s injury is the second major bowling setback for Lahore after its premier spinner Rashid Khan of Afghanistan was ruled out before the tournament due to a back injury.


Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector

Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector
Updated 25 February 2024
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Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector

Pakistan approves mergers of leading Saudi company with stakes in its steel sector
  • M/s Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) deals in spot sales in Pakistan’s steel market, exports to South Asian country
  • Three mergers are not anticipated to raise competition concerns in the relevant market, says competition commission

ISLAMABAD: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) this week approved three mergers concerning a leading Saudi company that has a significant presence in Pakistan’s steel market, the regulatory body said. 

Based in the kingdom, M/s/ Saudi Iron and Steel Company (Hadeed) produces a range of steel products and deals in spot sales in Pakistan’s steel market. Hadeed also exports to the South Asian country through international traders.

The CCP said in its press release on Saturday that the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, sent a pre-merger application to CCP to acquire 100 percent shareholding of Hadeed from M/s. Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (“SABIC”).

“PIF has entered into a share purchase agreement with SABIC, under which SABIC agrees to sell its entire share capital of Hadeed to PIF,” the CCP said. 

The second merger involved Hadeed acquiring 100 percent shareholding of Al Rajhi Steel Industries Company from M/s. Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Rajhi & Sons Investment. 

Al Rajhi Steel, established in 1978, is a subsidiary of Al Rajhi Invest and is known for its steel manufacturing capabilities in Saudi Arabia. This involved a share exchange agreement between Hadeed and Al Rajhi Invest.

In the third stage, the CCP said PIF intends to dispose off its 44.5 percent shareholding in Hadeed to M/s. Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz Al Rajhi & Sons Investment, the CCP. It added that the move was intended to share control over Hadeed and Al Rajhi Steel to improve their respective production capabilities and increase their operational efficiency.

“These transactions, as per the information available, are not anticipated to raise any competition concerns in the relevant market,” the CCP said. 

It said Pakistan’s steel sector is “one of the most important industries in the country” and with investments, can raise the country’s GDP to bring benefits to both the economy and investors.


Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children

Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children
Updated 25 February 2024
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Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children

Pakistan inaugurates ‘pivotal’ polio campaign to immunize over 45.8 million children
  • Polio volunteers to immunize children under five years old from Feb. 26 to March 3, says national health ministry 
  • Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a Western ploy to sterilize Pakistan’s population

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s federal health secretary Iftikhar Shallwani on Sunday inaugurated a nationwide campaign against polio that aims to immunize over 45.8 million children against the disease, the national health ministry said. 

Pakistan is one of only two countries in the world where polio is endemic. The disease affects the nervous system of children and ultimately leads to paralysis.

The South Asian country’s efforts to contain polio have often been met with opposition, especially in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where militants have carried out attacks against vaccinators and the security teams guarding them. 

Many believe in the conspiracy theory that polio vaccines are part of a plot by Western outsiders to sterilize Pakistan’s population. 

Shallwani inaugurated the campaign, which is set to launch nationwide on Monday, by administering polio drops to children. 

“This pivotal campaign, scheduled from Feb 26 to Mar 3, aims to immunize over 45.8 million children under the age of 5 across the country,” the Ministry of National Health Services wrote on X platform. 

Shallwani said polio is a “terrible” disease that can cause paralysis in children.

“Unfortunately, it continues to be a threat to our children because some people refuse to vaccinate children based on misconceptions and false information about the vaccine,” he said. 

He said volunteers will deliver the vaccine to people’s doorsteps from next week, requesting parents to cooperate with them. 

“I implore you to recognize the threat posed by the poliovirus to your children and ensure that you open your doors to facilitate their vaccination,” the health official said. 

Pakistani masses’ doubts regarding polio campaigns were exacerbated in 2011 when the US Central Intelligence Agency set up a fake hepatitis vaccination program to gather intelligence on former Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.