Pakistan’s ailing national carrier cancels 14 flights amid fuel shortage

Pakistan’s ailing national carrier cancels 14 flights amid fuel shortage
Members of ground staff stand on the tarmac beside a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 13, 2021. (Photo courtesy: AFP/File)
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Updated 17 October 2023
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Pakistan’s ailing national carrier cancels 14 flights amid fuel shortage

Pakistan’s ailing national carrier cancels 14 flights amid fuel shortage
  • PIA spokesman says PSO has stopped fuel supply due to payment issues, warns of more cancelations
  • Government plans to privatize PIA which has accumulated hundreds of billions of rupees in losses and arrears

KARACHI: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) on Tuesday canceled 14 international and domestic flights due to fuel shortages after state-owned Pakistan State Oil (PSO) canceled supply over unpaid dues, a spokesman for the national carrier said.

The public enterprise, which the government has announced it will privatize, has accumulated hundreds of billions of rupees in losses and arrears, and is on the verge of default as the government has declined the airline’s request to provide Rs 23 billion ($76 million) in support for operational expenses. Last month, Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar directed officials to develop a restructuring plan aimed at enhancing the financial health of the airline.

Besides other financial needs for repairing parts and maintaining aircraft, the airline needs Rs100 million a day to pay for fuel from PSO, which canceled supply this week over Rs1.4 billion in unpaid dues.

Pakistan agreed to fiscal discipline plans as part of a $3 billion arrangement with the IMF, including the privatization of loss-making assets.

“The non-provision of fuel from PSO significantly affected flight operations on Monday, and we had to proactively cancel 14 flights [on Tuesday] due to fuel shortages,” PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan told Arab News.

“PSO has ceased fuel supply due to payment issues. They now demand advance cash payments only,” Khan said, warning of more flight cancelations in the upcoming days as the airline could not pay for fuel in advance.

“The government has made the decision to privatize the airline, however it has withdrawn any interim support in the meantime to keep the airline afloat.”

A spokesperson for PSO said he would get back with comments for this story. 

The flight suspensions come as PIA hopes to resume flights to the United Kingdom in the next two months. 

The PIA flights to Europe and the UK have been suspended since 2020 after the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency revoked the national carrier’s authorization to fly to the bloc following a pilot license scandal.


X disrupted in Pakistan for seventh day as Internet monitor reports VPN restrictions

X disrupted in Pakistan for seventh day as Internet monitor reports VPN restrictions
Updated 24 February 2024
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X disrupted in Pakistan for seventh day as Internet monitor reports VPN restrictions

X disrupted in Pakistan for seventh day as Internet monitor reports VPN restrictions
  • The platform was downed on the night of Feb. 17 amid protests by political parties over alleged vote-rigging
  • Pakistan’s national election this month was marred by a mobile network outage, delays in release of polls results

ISLAMABAD: Social media platform X was disrupted across Pakistan for a seventh consecutive day on Saturday after a general election marred by allegations of rigging, with an Internet monitor reporting restrictions on virtual private network (VPN) services.

The platform was downed on the night of Feb. 17 amid protests by political parties over alleged rigging of Feb. 8 national election in the South Asian country.

The disruption came hours after a senior bureaucrat said he helped rig the polls and accused the country’s chief justice and top election official of rigging polls.

Digital rights activists have attributed the disruption of X to its widespread use by public and political parties to organize demonstrations.

“Live metrics show #Pakistan’s X/Twitter restriction is ongoing into a seventh day,” NetBlocks, a London-based Internet monitor, said late Friday.

“With VPN services also widely restricted, users face increasing difficultly getting online amid heightened concerns over vote rigging after elections conducted under a telecoms shutdown.”

The Feb. 8 election was marred by a nationwide outage of mobile phone networks, with the caretaker government citing security reasons behind the suspension.

The blackout was followed by delays in the release of constituency results, giving rise to allegations of vote-rigging.

Several political parties, including jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI), have since been protesting alleged manipulation of election results in the country.


Pakistan’s Sindh provincial assembly holds inaugural session today amid opposition protests

Pakistan’s Sindh provincial assembly holds inaugural session today amid opposition protests
Updated 24 February 2024
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Pakistan’s Sindh provincial assembly holds inaugural session today amid opposition protests

Pakistan’s Sindh provincial assembly holds inaugural session today amid opposition protests
  • Ex-FM Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s PPP party won 84 seats in 130-member House in the Feb. 8 elections
  • The PPP party has nominated Murad Ali Shah for the post of chief minister of the southern province

KARACHI: The newly elected Sindh provincial assembly is holding its inaugural session today, on Saturday, amid protests by opposition parties over alleged rigging of Feb. 8 national election in Pakistan.

The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) bagged the highest 84 seats in the southern Pakistani province, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) that secured 28 seats, while 14 seats went to independents. The Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) religious party and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) won two seats each.

Supporters of the JI, GDA, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) and other nationalist parties gathered near the provincial assembly in Karachi’s South zone to protest alleged manipulation of results of Feb. 8 election, which was marred by a mobile network outage and delays in release of constituency results.

Hundreds of police personnel were deployed to keep opposition supporters from heading forward to the Sindh Assembly building, with local media reporting dozens of arrests. The session was scheduled to begin at 11am.

“We will not only compete with the governments of other provinces but also with the Center in performance,” Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, a former foreign minister and the PPP chairman, said at a meeting of newly elected party lawmakers in Karachi on Friday.

He nominated Murad Ali Shah, former Sindh chief minister, for the top provincial office once again, Syed Owais Shah for the role of speaker, and Anthony Naveed for the post of deputy speaker of the Sindh provincial assembly.

The PPP chairman announced that his party would forge a working relationship with all opposition parties in Sindh and address their legitimate grievances, according to a PPP statement. He urged the newly elected lawmakers to play their role in resolving the people’s problems in their respective constituencies.

“Be my eyes and ears,” Bhutto-Zardari was quoted as saying. “You play the role of a bridge between the people of your constituency and me; you are my ambassador to the people.”

In view of the protest calls, the Sindh caretaker government on Friday imposed a ban under Section 144 on public assembly, gatherings, protests, processions, and demonstrations in Karachi’s South zone, where the provincial legislature is located, for a period of 30 days, according to the provincial home department.

Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) empowers the administration to issue orders in public interest and place a ban on any activity for a specific period of time.


India and Pakistan drive US ticket demand for T20 World Cup

India and Pakistan drive US ticket demand for T20 World Cup
Updated 24 February 2024
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India and Pakistan drive US ticket demand for T20 World Cup

India and Pakistan drive US ticket demand for T20 World Cup
  • The highly anticipated clash in New York was over-subscribed by 200 times in public ballot for tickets
  • A 34,000-seat temporary venue has yet to be completed but is already assured of a sell-out crowd

Fort Lauderdale: Organizers of June’s T20 Cricket World Cup games in the United States say that early ticket sales have shown there is a huge demand for the sport among cricket lovers in the country.

The highly anticipated clash in New York between cricket rivals Pakistan and India was over-subscribed by 200 times in the public ballot for tickets, the International Cricket Council said.

The 34,000-seat temporary venue, Nassau County International Cricket Stadium on Long Island, has yet to be completed but is already assured of a sell out crowd for the June 9 encounter.

The tournament is being co-hosted by the West Indies and the United States.

While big crowds are expected in the traditional cricket countries in the Caribbean, this will be the first time that an international tournament is held in the United States with the 16 games in the country also including matches in Lauderhill, South Florida and Grand Prairie Stadium, near Dallas.

“We had amazing ticket interest. The ballot process showed there’s a really big demand,” T20 World Cup USA, Inc. chief executive Brett Jones told AFP on Friday.

“India-Pakistan is obviously a game that at every World Cup carries great interest. I think it’s really pleasing to see those two countries come to the USA,” he added.

Powerhouses India and Pakistan will play all their group games in the USA and are sure to attract packed crowds from the diaspora living in the country.

While organizers hope that they can “convert” some Americans to the game, they are well aware that there is already huge interest among immigrant populations and their focus is on serving those fans.

“I think, number one, we want to celebrate those that are already fanatical lovers of cricket. They deserve to see the best players in the world come into their backyard and have that chance,” said Jones.

“So, number one, we want to make sure that happens and they get to feel like they’re close to a game they love. Number two, I think it’s about spiking curiosity in the game,” he said.

Americans have never fallen for the charms of cricket, preferring baseball for their bat and ball action, but the sport is set to get an unprecedented platform in the country with the T20 format, including in the Los Angeles Olympics in four year’s time.

“Obviously there’s a great runway to the Olympics in LA in 28 and then on into Brisbane in 2032 for cricket, which again will keep it in the global view and the consciousness of a big country like the US. I think we’ve got those two things working for us,” said Jones.

“We’re saying we want to reward our cricket fans and lovers of cricket in the US, which is a huge market.

“Then we want to spike curiosity and really hopefully start a bigger conversation about the game and its benefits at the community level,” he added.

Ireland, Sri Lanka, South Africa, the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Canada will also play in the USA along with the host nation themselves.

While there is no lack of interest, organizers still have plenty to do to create the facilities and infrastructure needed for a global tournament.

Lauderhill, just outside Fort Lauderdale, has already played home to international cricket matches but is undergoing significant upgrades.

Grand Prairie opened last year as the venue for the new domestic tournament, Major League Cricket, but is also being enhanced for the tournament.

“We’re still going to have a lot of work to do to make sure we can provide access to our cricket fans,” Jones said.

“We want to show people that in a sports-mad country that demands entertainment, cricket is a great entertainment product,” he added.

The tournament will start on June 1 with the USA facing Canada in Texas.

USA vice-captain Aaron Jones says he hopes the team’s performances will offer inspiration to youngsters starting out in the sport.

“We want to show everybody in the world that the USA can be a cricketing country as well and be a role model for kids coming up,” he said.


Pakistan’s stocks gain 5 percent as political uncertainty surrounding new coalition government dissipates

Pakistan’s stocks gain 5 percent as political uncertainty surrounding new coalition government dissipates
Updated 24 February 2024
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Pakistan’s stocks gain 5 percent as political uncertainty surrounding new coalition government dissipates

Pakistan’s stocks gain 5 percent as political uncertainty surrounding new coalition government dissipates
  • The IMF statement expressing its willingness to work with the next government generated positive market sentiment
  • The KSE100 index gained about 900 points to close at 62,816 on Friday, as Punjab Assembly held its inaugural session

KARACHI: Pakistan’s equity market responded positively to a power-sharing agreement between two major political parties this week, as the uncertainty surrounding the formation of a new government dissipated, making the stocks close the weekend trading session with a five percent gain on Friday.
The late Tuesday night agreement to form a coalition government at the center was negotiated between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Together, the two political factions achieved a simple majority sufficient to form a government, though they will also embrace smaller parties in the coalition.
The benchmark KSE100 index gained 901 points or 1.5 percent to close at 62,816 on Friday, buoyed by the commencement of the new government formation process. This process began with the oath-taking ceremony during the inaugural session of the Punjab Assembly on Friday and will be followed by a Sindh Assembly session on Saturday.
“Stocks closed sharply higher after the Punjab Assembly was sworn in, easing political noise and the International Monetary Fund’s affirmation on working with the new government on policies to ensure macroeconomic stability,” Ahsan Mehanti, CEO of Arif Habib Limited, told Arab News.
Pakistani equity traders said investor confidence has increased as things are moving smoothly toward the formation of government at the federal and provincial levels.
“After the unexpected election results were announced, causing considerable anxiety among investors regarding future outcomes, the process of forming a new government has begun. This development has somewhat reassured investors,” Abdul Rauf, an equity trader, told Arab News.
Citing a statement from the IMF, Rauf said the fund seems happy with the new coalition government as both parties are experienced in dealing with it.
“PML-N and PPP will form the government together, and they have remained in power several times in the past, so they also have experience in dealing with the IMF,” he said, adding: “It seems that the IMF was quite pleased with them and expects a better outcome from them.”
Analysts believe that future market direction mainly depends on the next IMF program after the formation of the government.
“We feel that in the coming days, the IMF program will play a key role, and if the government of Pakistan quickly avails of the fund program, then the situation could substantially improve,” Sheheryar Butt, portfolio manager at Darson Securities, told Arab News.
Butt said it was predicted at the beginning of the year that the KSE100 index would cross the 76,000 level, but it still depended on how the government moved forward with the IMF program and its reform agenda.
“Pakistan is also facing an external [payment] gap, and if the external inflows continue and the privatization process is expedited, then you will see how the stock market goes up,” Butt added.
Analysts are optimistic that the current bullish sentiments will gain further momentum as the political landscape begins to stabilize with the formation of a new government expected in the coming week.


Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller

Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller
Updated 23 February 2024
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Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller

Peshawar end Multan’s PSL 2024 winning streak by snatching win in last-ball thriller
  • Peshawar Zalmi’s Arif Yaqoob returned figures of 3/43 to keep Multan Sultans from chasing the 180-run target
  • With their maiden PSL 2024 win, Peshawar Zalmi have gone from bottom place on the points table to number five

ISLAMABAD: Peshawar Zalmi ended Multan Sultans’ winning streak in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) tournament on Friday by clinching a five-run victory in a closely fought contest that was decided on the last ball of the match.
Batting first, Zalmi finished with a respectable total of 179/8 at the end of the first 20 overs. None of Peshawar’s batters were able to score a half-century, with Haseebullah Khan top-scoring with 37 runs from 18 balls while skipper Babar Azam hitting 31 runs off 26 balls. Rovman Powell scored a quickfire 23 from 11 balls while Luke Wood contributed with 17 runs off 12 deliveries.
Sultan bowlers David Willey, Mohammad Ali and Usama Mir took two wickets each while Shahnawaz Dahani and Abbas Afridi only got one.
When they came to bat, the Sultans faced an early setback when skipper Muhammad Rizwan was dismissed for 0 but opening batter Yasir Khan and Reeza Hendricks contributed with 43 and 28 respectively to give the Sultans some support. Dawid Malan smashed a 25-ball 52 runs knock but after his dismissal, the Sultans buckled. Khushdil Shah, Iftikhar Ahmed and Usama Mir failed to hold on to their nerves, scoring only 5, 16, and 12 runs respectively, as Zalmi bowled out Multan for 174 runs on the last ball of the match.
Zalmi’s Arif Yaqoob returned figures of 3/43 while Salman Irshad, Naveen-ul-Haq and Luke Wood finished with figures of 2/39, 2/44 and 2/13 respectively.
“Catches win matches,” the team exclaimed on its social media account after displaying brilliant fielding performance.

With their first victory of the match, Peshawar have gone from the bottom in the PSL points table to number 5 with their latest win.