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. 


Karachi hosts vibrant donkey cart race to revive traditional sport, engage youth in ‘positive activities’

Karachi hosts vibrant donkey cart race to revive traditional sport, engage youth in ‘positive activities’
Updated 23 June 2024
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Karachi hosts vibrant donkey cart race to revive traditional sport, engage youth in ‘positive activities’

Karachi hosts vibrant donkey cart race to revive traditional sport, engage youth in ‘positive activities’
  • Donkey cart races have been a cultural staple in various regions of Pakistan, particularly in rural environments
  • Part of a larger festival, the race witnessed maximum participation from the impoverished Lyari neighborhood

KARACHI: A unique donkey cart race, organized by the administration of Pakistan’s southern Karachi port city to promote the traditional regional sport, elicited an enthusiastic response on Sunday, with over 40 participants vying for the title.
Donkey cart races have been a staple in the cultural landscape of various regions in Pakistan, particularly in rural areas where they are often featured as part of local festivals or special events.
The sport not only embodies a tradition with significant social and entertainment value for these communities but also underscores the reliance on livestock, with donkeys predominantly used for logistical and transportation purposes.
Part of the Commissioner Karachi Sports Festival, the race brought together most participants from the impoverished Lyari neighborhood of the city and was described by the organizers as part of the effort to promote “positive activities” among youth.
“I earn for my children, and I earn for it [donkey] and it earns for me in return,” Abdul Qadir, who won the race, said gleefully. “I earn my living for my children through it [donkey cart] and feed it [the donkey] like I feed my own kids and I look after it, that’s why I got this prize today.”
Another participant, Shahjahan, who stood third in the competition, said he had been driving donkey carts for the past 25 years.
“I have taken part in over 20-25 races and won first, second and third prizes,” he said with the touch of pride. “God has given me respect. Even though I am a laborer by profession, I drive a donkey cart, but by the grace of god I am able to educate my children.”
The race that began from Karachi’s ICI Bridge and ended at the commissioner’s office on Club Road what attended by Mayor Murtaza Wahab as chief guest.
He described the event as part of the city’s “ancient culture and heritage” while appreciating the love of its residents for sports.
The ongoing sports festival in the city also includes a hockey tournament, girls’ basketball tournament, cycle race and shooting ball competition.


Pakistan government accuses PTI party of ‘standing with terrorists’ over opposition to new anti-terror operation

Pakistan government accuses PTI party of ‘standing with terrorists’ over opposition to new anti-terror operation
Updated 23 June 2024
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Pakistan government accuses PTI party of ‘standing with terrorists’ over opposition to new anti-terror operation

Pakistan government accuses PTI party of ‘standing with terrorists’ over opposition to new anti-terror operation
  • Top national security forum approves Operation Azm-e-Istehkam as Pakistan faces surge in militancy and mob violence 
  • Opposition led by PTI party says operation cannot be announced without approval from the parliament 

ISLAMABAD: Defense Minister Khawaja Asif on Sunday accused the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of “standing with terrorists” as the opposition backed by the party opposed a newly approved counterterrorism operation. 

Pakistan’s top national security forum on Saturday announced the Operation Azm-e-Istehkam, or Resolve for Stability, campaign after a meeting of the Central Apex Committee on the National Action Plan (NAP) that was attended by senior military leaders and top government officials from all provinces, including PTI-backed Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur.

The approval for the operation comes amid a surge in militant attacks across Pakistan and after a mob lynching this week of a local tourist over accusations of blasphemy in the northwestern Swat district.

“Even KP CM was present in the meeting yesterday, it was all decided in front of him, the measures that would be taken against terrorism,” Defense Minister Asif said on the floor of the house as cries of “end the operation” rang out through the hall. 

“Today by their demonstrations they are showing that they stand with terrorists, they are demonstrating against the martyrdoms rendered by the Pakistani army, they are demonstrating against the Pakistan army that’s sacrificing lives in the fight against terrorists.”

Before Asif’s speech, PTI lawmakers had staged an hour-long walkout against the operation, but later returned and began chanting slogans against Azm-e-Istehkam.

Speaking to the media outside parliament during the walkout, PTI Chairman Barrister Gohar Khan said the opposition was against the operation because it had not been discussed in parliament. 

“Our demand and point of order is that be it any operation, a full-fledged one or an intelligence-based operation, or be it in certain districts, it is imperative for parliament to be taken into confidence,” Khan said, arguing that an operation could not be launched simply with the approval of the NAP apex committee. 

“No matter how big the apex body is and no matter who comes and sits there, it can never supersede the parliament,” the PTI leader said. “According to the constitution, parliament is the supreme. Our demand is that no operation should be initiated without taking parliament into confidence.”

Senior PTI leader Asad Qaiser also spoke to reporters and gave a similar message:

“In simple and short words, we cannot support any kind of operation … What is this parliament for that you’re taking such a big decision and not consulting the parliament?”

THORN IN THE SIDE

Khan’s PTI is currently part of the parliament under the umbrella of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), which remains a thorn in the side of the fragile coalition government led by PM Shehbaz Sharif.

Weeks before the national election on Feb. 8, ex-PM Imran Khan’s PTI was stripped of its iconic election symbol of the cricket bat on technical grounds, and all its candidates had to contest polls as independent candidates. 

After the election in which Khan-backed independents won the most seats overall, they joined the SIC to claim a share in the reserved seats in the parliament for women and religious minorities. Under Pakistan’s election rules, political parties are allotted reserved seats in proportion to the number of parliamentary seats they win in the election. This completes the National Assembly’s total strength of 336 seats.

However, Pakistan’s election commission (ECP) had ruled in March that the Khan-backed SIC party was not eligible for extra reserved seats in the legislature, dealing a blow to the embattled group’s governing prospects and proving to be a major setback for Khan, who is in jail following a string of convictions. 

The election regulator’s decision was upheld by the Peshawar High Court but last month the Supreme Court overruled the verdict.

A 13-member bench of the Supreme Court, a full court, is now hearing a set of petitions filed by the chairman of the SIC challenging the denial of the reserved seats to the party and their distribution to other parties in Sharif’s ruling coalition.
 


Pakistan’s Punjab warns of urban flooding as 35 percent more rains expected this monsoon season

Pakistan’s Punjab warns of urban flooding as 35 percent more rains expected this monsoon season
Updated 23 June 2024
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Pakistan’s Punjab warns of urban flooding as 35 percent more rains expected this monsoon season

Pakistan’s Punjab warns of urban flooding as 35 percent more rains expected this monsoon season
  • Large swathes of the South Asian country were submerged in 2022 due to extremely heavy monsoon rains
  • Pakistan has also been in grips of heat wave since last month, with temperatures in some regions rising adobe 50°C

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab Disaster Management Authority on Sunday warned of urban flooding in parts of the province next month as monsoon rains start from July 1, with 35 percent more downpours expected this year in a country considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Large swathes of the South Asian nation were submerged in 2022 due to extremely heavy monsoon rains and melting glaciers, a phenomenon linked to climate change that damaged crops and infrastructure and killed at least 1,700 people, displaced millions and inflicted billions of dollars in losses.

“Heavy rains with thundershowers are expected in Upper Punjab, Central Punjab and South Punjab,” the PDMA said in a statement, announcing that the monsoons would begin in the province from July 1 and 35 percent rain more rain was expected this year compared to previous years. “Monsoon rains in July threaten urban flooding and hill torrents in South Punjab.”

The PDMA called on the district administration to ensure safety measures were put in place before the rains began. 

“Complete cleaning of rivers and drainage arrangements should be made as soon as possible,” the statement said. “Protection of life and property of citizens is the first priority and there is no room for negligence or irresponsibility.”

In 2010, the worst floods in memory affected 20 million people in Pakistan, with damage to infrastructure running into billions of dollars and huge swathes of crops destroyed as one fifth of the country was inundated.

Pakistan has also been in the grips of a heat wave since last month, with temperatures in some regions rising to above 50 degrees Celsius. 


Two paramilitary soldiers killed in northwest Pakistan by militants ‘infiltrating from Afghanistan’ — police

Two paramilitary soldiers killed in northwest Pakistan by militants ‘infiltrating from Afghanistan’ — police
Updated 23 June 2024
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Two paramilitary soldiers killed in northwest Pakistan by militants ‘infiltrating from Afghanistan’ — police

Two paramilitary soldiers killed in northwest Pakistan by militants ‘infiltrating from Afghanistan’ — police
  • Police say clashes reported on Saturday in different locations in Lower Dir but situation now “under control”
  • Islamabad says militants use safe havens in Afghanistan to launch attacks inside Pakistan, which Kabul denies

PESHAWAR: Two soldiers from Pakistan’s paramilitary Frontier Corps had been killed in two days of clashes between local security forces and militants who had allegedly infiltrated from neighboring Afghanistan into Pakistan’s northwestern border regions over the weekend, police said.

Islamabad blames an ongoing surge in militant attacks on Afghanistan, saying Pakistani Taliban, or TTP, leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train insurgents to launch attacks inside Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban rulers in Kabul say rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.

The TTP pledges allegiance to, and gets its name from, the Afghan Taliban, but is not directly a part of the group. Its stated aim is to impose Islamic religious law in Pakistan, as the Taliban have done in Afghanistan.

Mazhar Iqbal, a district police officer in Lower Dir, told Arab News clashes were reported on Saturday in different locations in the district but the situation was now “under control.”

“Backed by police, FC has been carrying out clearing operations,” Iqbal said on Sunday. “We have no reports of exact number of casualties on either side as of yet … The situation has now returned to normalcy. Security forces and police have started patrolling to thwart any untoward incident.”

A report issued by police in Dir yesterday, Saturday, said two FC soldiers had been killed and another injured in the clashes.

“Both sides are locked in intense fire and a search and strike operation is underway in mountainous areas by police and security forces,” the report said, adding that helicopter gunships were pounding militant hideouts in Lower Dir district on the Pakistani side.

Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper and other media outlets also reported infiltration by militants from the Afghan side via the Shahi border area at Lamotai Top, Suripao and Safarai forest.

“According to locals, members of the banned TTP, hailing from Lower Dir and Swat districts, often use the Shahi and Binshahi route to enter into Lower Dir and move further toward Swat,” Dawn said.

The Pakistan army and FC have not yet commented on the latest clashes. 

The TTP is responsible for some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan, including on security forces, churches, schools and the shooting of Malala Yousafzai, who survived the 2012 attack after she was targeted for her campaign against the Taliban’s efforts to deny women education.

Pakistani forces were able to effectively dismantle the TTP and kill most of its top leadership in a string of military operations from 2014 onwards in the tribal areas, driving most of the fighters into neighboring Afghanistan, where Islamabad says they have regrouped. Kabul denies this.


23 of 49 suspects in Pakistan blasphemy lynching case arrested — police

23 of 49 suspects in Pakistan blasphemy lynching case arrested — police
Updated 23 June 2024
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23 of 49 suspects in Pakistan blasphemy lynching case arrested — police

23 of 49 suspects in Pakistan blasphemy lynching case arrested — police
  • Swat District Police Officer Dr. Zahid Khan confirms formation of joint investigation team to probe Swat lynching 
  • Rights groups say Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute minorities or even against Muslims 

PESHAWAR: At least 23 out of 49 suspects identified in the case of the lynching of a man over suspected blasphemy earlier this week have been arrested, police said on Sunday, as the provincial government of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province set up a special investigation team to probe the incident of mob violence. 

A local tourist belonging to Pakistan’s Sialkot city was dragged from a police station by a mob in the northwestern Swat district on Thursday before being killed and set on fire over accusations he had burnt pages of the Qur’an. 

“23 suspects have been arrested in connection with the lynching case,” District Police Officer (DPO) Dr. Zahid Khan told Arab News. “A total of 49 identified and 2,000-2,500 unknown suspects have been nominated in the first information [police] report.”

Khan confirmed that a joint investigation team had been formed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa administration with members from the counter-terrorism, information technology and special branch departments.

Police teams were continuing raids to arrest remaining suspects, the DPO said, and authorities were using modern technology like facial recognition to identify people involved in the incident, videos of which were widely circulated on social media. 

Suspects in the case have been nominated under several Pakistani laws dealing with premeditated murder, rioting, unlawful assembly, being armed with deadly weapons and obstructing public servants in the discharge of public functions, among other charges. 

Lynchings are not uncommon in Pakistan where the mere accusation of blasphemy can lead to mob violence. 

Last month, a Christian man in his seventies was attacked by a mob on charges of burning pages of the Qur’an. He later died of his injuries in hospital. 

In 2021, a Sri Lankan factory manager was lynched in one of the highest-profile incidents in the country. Six people were sentenced to death for their part in the lynching after the incident sparked a global outcry.

Human rights groups say Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are often misused to persecute minorities or even against Muslims to settle personal rivalries.