Pakistan’s state-owned airline scales back flight operations amid financial crunch

Pakistan’s state-owned airline scales back flight operations amid financial crunch
A Pakistan International Airlines plane carrying a handful of passengers, which is the first international commercial flight to land since the Taliban retook power in Afghanistan on August 15, is seen after landing at the airport in Kabul, on September 13, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 14 September 2023
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Pakistan’s state-owned airline scales back flight operations amid financial crunch

Pakistan’s state-owned airline scales back flight operations amid financial crunch
  • The government has turned down a $76 million bailout package requested by Pakistan International Airlines
  • The national flag carrier needs to pay at least $100 million to leasing firms and deal with other expenses

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) has started scaling down flight operations amid a major financial crunch, reported an international news outlet on Wednesday, while seeking a government bailout to clear mounting debts and unpaid bills.

Pakistani authorities have frequently released huge chunks of money in the past to help the debt-ridden state-owned enterprise meet its operational expenses. However, PIA has continued to rack up billion of rupees in arrears and losses over the years.

The previous Pakistani administration of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said it wanted to privatize the airline, while the caretaker government of the country has instructed relevant authorities last week to finalize its restructuring plan.

The current administration also turned down PIA’s request for a Rs23 billion ($76 million) bailout package to help ease off its financial crisis.

“State-owned Pakistan International Airlines Corp. must pay at least $100 million immediately to about half a dozen leasing firms it has engaged for chartering aircraft, airport authorities, aircraft spares and others,” Bloomberg, an international media outlet that delivers business news, said. “PIA also hasn’t been able to pay salaries or airport charges.”

“Pakistan’s flag carrier has begun scaling back its operations as unpaid bills rack up and lessors block the carrier from flying their aircraft unless it makes overdue payments,” it added.

PIA made its request for a financial bailout at a time when the country is facing an economic crisis and avoided sovereign debt default by getting a $3 billion loan approved by the International Monetary Fund.

Last week, Pakistan’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) asked the Finance Division and the State Bank of Pakistan, but only after a restructuring plan was finalized and approved.

Meanwhile, the country’s airline continues to struggle to stay financially afloat.


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

23 of 49 suspects in Pakistan blasphemy lynching case arrested — police
Updated 29 sec ago
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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.


Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan from India to mark death anniversary of Sikh empire’s first emperor 

Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan from India to mark death anniversary of Sikh empire’s first emperor 
Updated 43 min 5 sec ago
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Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan from India to mark death anniversary of Sikh empire’s first emperor 

Pilgrims arrive in Pakistan from India to mark death anniversary of Sikh empire’s first emperor 
  • Ranjit Singh was first Maharaja of Sikh Empire, which ruled northwest Indian subcontinent in 19th century
  • Death anniversary rituals will be centered around the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal city

ISLAMABAD: Around 447 Sikh pilgrims from India have arrived at the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib shrine in the Pakistani city of Hassan Abdal to attend events marking the 185th death anniversary of Ranjit Singh, the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, state media reported on Sunday.

Sikhs are a small minority mostly based in the Punjab region that is divided between Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India, but several key Sikh holy sites are in Pakistan, including the famed Gurdwara Panja Sahib, some 45 kilometers northwest of Islamabad. The shrine is one of Sikhism’s holiest sites and it is believed that the handprint of the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak, is imprinted on a boulder there.

Nanak was born in what is now called Nankana Sahib in present-day Pakistan. Ranjit Singh, popularly known as Sher-e-Punjab or “Lion of Punjab,” was the first Maharaja of the Sikh Empire, which ruled the northwest Indian subcontinent in the early half of the 19th century.

“As many as 447 Indian Sikh pilgrims have arrived at the Gurdwara Punja Sahib in Hassan Abdal to participate in rituals in connection with the 185th death anniversary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh,” Radio Pakistan said on Sunday. 

The pilgrims were welcomed by officials of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee as well as the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB), a key government department that administers evacuee properties, including educational, charitable or religious trusts left behind by Hindus and Sikhs who migrated to India after partition.

Group leader Sardar Khushwint Singh thanked the government for allowing a large number of Sikh pilgrims to visit religious sites in Pakistan, the report said.

The Sikh pilgrims arrived in Pakistan by foot on Friday through the Wagha Border, according to the ETPB, where they were welcomed by Additional Secretary Shrines Saif Ullah Khokhar, along with the head of the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, who is also the provincial minister for minority affairs. 

Khokhar told media the pilgrims would be provided free accommodation, meals, transportation and medical facilities during their stay in Pakistan. 

“After completing immigration and customs formalities, the sikh pilgrims departed for Gurdwara Panja Sahib on special buses,” the ETPB said. “The main ceremony for Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s death anniversary will be held on June 29 at Gurdwara Dera Sahib in Lahore.”

Pakistan’s government has taken significant steps in recent years to make Sikh holy sites more accessible to devout Sikhs, particularly those from India. In 2019, Pakistan established the Kartarpur Corridor, a visa-free border crossing and religious corridor that devotees from India can use to visit a famous gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometers from the India-Pakistan border on the Pakistani side.


Azhar Mahmood to pursue legal action against ‘false allegations’ following Pakistan’s T20 WC exit

Azhar Mahmood to pursue legal action against ‘false allegations’ following Pakistan’s T20 WC exit
Updated 23 June 2024
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Azhar Mahmood to pursue legal action against ‘false allegations’ following Pakistan’s T20 WC exit

Azhar Mahmood to pursue legal action against ‘false allegations’ following Pakistan’s T20 WC exit
  • Coach mulling legal options amid widespread allegations families of players, coaching staff traveled to US on PCB expense 
  • Pakistan team and management in line of fire this month as squad failed to qualify for second round of ICC T20 World Cup 2024

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan cricket team’s assistant head coach, Azhar Mahmood, warned on Saturday he would pursue legal action against those levelling “false” allegations against him and his family for traveling to the United States (US) at the expense of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) during the ongoing T20 World Cup series. 

The Pakistan team and management have been in the line of fire this month as the national squad failed to qualify for the second round of the ICC T20 World Cup 2024. The criticism has revolved around the team’s performance as well as that the families of players and coaching staff traveled to the US on the PCB’s expense. 

“I will be pursuing legal advice against those responsible for making these false allegations toward me and my family, and strict action will be taken accordingly,” the former cricketer said in a post on X. “We will not be further discussing this matter on social media.”

He called the allegations “baseless and false,” and said the culture of falsely accusing and misleading people was turning “ridiculous and dangerous.”

Pakistani media has also widely reported this week on captain Babar Azam mulling legal action against YouTubers and former players who had accused him of misconduct during the T20 World Cup.

Pakistan fell to the tournament’s biggest upset when the United States, a tier-two member of the game, beat the 2009 champions via Super Over. Defeat by arch-rivals India then left Babar’s side with a mountain to climb to advance.

Babar had stepped down as captain of all three formats after Pakistan failed to make the knockout stage of the 50-overs World Cup in India last year, but was reinstated as white-ball skipper ahead of the 20-overs showpiece in the US and West Indies.


Number of Pakistani women officers taking combat courses in US up 150 percent in decade — report

Number of Pakistani women officers taking combat courses in US up 150 percent in decade — report
Updated 23 June 2024
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Number of Pakistani women officers taking combat courses in US up 150 percent in decade — report

Number of Pakistani women officers taking combat courses in US up 150 percent in decade — report
  • 55 women attended IMET courses from 2020-2023, which is more than double the 22 women who participated from 2013-2019
  • Over the last two consecutive years, Pakistan led the region in sending female military officers for courses in the United States

ISLAMABAD: The number of Pakistani women officers who received military training in the United States increased by 150 percent in the last decade, according to a report released this month by the US State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs.

Since 2013, the number of Pakistani female military personnel participating in the International Military Education and Training program (IMET) has significantly grown. The State Department-sponsored program is designed to build military-to-military relationships with partner nations by funding international military students to attend American military training and education courses.

“Fifty-five women have attended IMET courses from 2020-2023, which is more than double the 22 women who participated from 2013 to 2019,” the report said. “In addition, over the last two consecutive years, Pakistan has led the region in sending female military officers for courses in the United States.”

The report said Pakistani women officers had been attending specialized courses focused on topics such as anti-terrorism and anti-piracy, military justice, information technology, cyber strategies, public affairs, gender-based violence, and medical-related courses.

Two women attended the US Naval Postgraduate School and completed their MBAs in financial management. Another student from the Judicial Commission returned to Pakistan to take an appointment in a train-the-trainer capacity and was tasked with updating Pakistan’s own curriculum. In addition, two female officers had qualified for Pakistani staff college this year, which would open the opportunity for them to attend staff college in the United States as well.

“With women now in the combat arms ranks in the Pakistani military, female officers are attending professional military education courses and returning to the force to be considered for leadership positions,” the report added. 


Mob lynchings in spotlight in Pakistani parliament as top minister seeks national strategy

Mob lynchings in spotlight in Pakistani parliament as top minister seeks national strategy
Updated 23 June 2024
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Mob lynchings in spotlight in Pakistani parliament as top minister seeks national strategy

Mob lynchings in spotlight in Pakistani parliament as top minister seeks national strategy
  • A mob beat a tourist to death on Thursday night in Swat after accusing him of burning pages of the Qur’an
  • Last month, a Christian man attacked by a mob on charges of burning Qur’an died of injuries in hospital 

ISLAMABAD: The recent mob lynching of a local tourist accused of desecrating the Qur’an resonated in the National Assembly on Saturday as a prominent federal minister urged the house to devise a national strategy to prevent such violence in the future.
A tourist belonging to Pakistan’s Sialkot city was dragged from a police station by the mob in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday before being killed and set on fire. Such incidents are not uncommon in Pakistan where a mere accusation of blasphemy can lead to mob violence.
“If it had been an isolated incident, it might have been overlooked, but this is a series of events,” Federal Minister for Planning and Development Ahsan Iqbal told parliament. “It is my request to you that this assembly should take notice of this incident since our society is on the brink of disaster where street justice through mob lynching is done in the name of religion, trampling the constitution, law and all fundamental principles of the state.”
Iqbal suggested that the National Assembly constitute a special committee to review the causes behind such incidents and create a plan of action.
Last month, a Christian man in his seventies was attacked by a mob on charges of burning pages of the Qur’an and later died of his injuries in eastern Pakistan.
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 global outcry.