Pakistan’s interior minister resigns citing ‘personal reasons’

Special Pakistan’s interior minister resigns citing ‘personal reasons’
Pakistan's caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti speaks during a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, on October 26, 2023. (AP/File)
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Updated 16 December 2023
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Pakistan’s interior minister resigns citing ‘personal reasons’

Pakistan’s interior minister resigns citing ‘personal reasons’
  • Sarfraz Bugti resigned on Friday, hours before Pakistan’s election regulator issued schedule for polls
  • Two other Balochistan government officials resign less than two months before general elections

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Bugti resigned this week for “personal reasons,” his spokesperson confirmed on Saturday, less than two months before Pakistan heads to the polls.

The development takes place at a precarious time for Pakistan, as the South Asian country inches toward polls scheduled for Feb. 8 amid a surge in militant attacks, particularly in northwestern Pakistan.

“The federal minister tendered his resignation to the prime minister on December 13, which was accepted on Friday night,” Bugti’s spokesperson Rizwan Saeed told Arab News over the phone.

Pakistan’s election regulator announced the schedule for polls on Feb. 8 on the Supreme Court’s directives Friday night. Pakistan’s law bars any member of a caretaker set-up from contesting elections, prompting speculation Bugti stepped down to contest the upcoming polls.

Saeed did not comment when asked whether Bugti would contest elections from his home constituency in Dera Bugti.

Bugti, 42, is a member of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP). He was elected as a senator from Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province in 2021. He previously served as interior minister for Balochistan after winning the election in 2013.

Separately, two members of the Balochistan government confirmed they had resigned as well.

“I have resigned as minister and the chief minister of Balochistan has accepted my resignation,” Nawabzada Jamal Khan Raisani, provincial minister for youth, sports and culture, told Arab News.

Sardarzada Umair Muhammad Hassani, adviser to the chief minister for mines and mineral department, confirmed he had stepped down as well.

“For now, I have just resigned from the provincial cabinet but let’s see what the future may hold,” Hassani told Arab News.


Five Japanese workers narrowly escape suicide bombing that targeted their vehicle in Pakistan

Five Japanese workers narrowly escape suicide bombing that targeted their vehicle in Pakistan
Updated 14 sec ago
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Five Japanese workers narrowly escape suicide bombing that targeted their vehicle in Pakistan

Five Japanese workers narrowly escape suicide bombing that targeted their vehicle in Pakistan
  • Van had been heading to an industrial area where the five Japanese nationals worked at Pakistan Suzuki Motors
  • Insurgents have also targeted Chinese working on Pakistan on projects relating to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor

KARACHI: A suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden vest near a van carrying Japanese autoworkers, who narrowly escaped the attack Friday that wounded three bystanders in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi, police said.
The van had been heading to an industrial area where the five Japanese nationals worked at Pakistan Suzuki Motors, local police chief Arshad Awan said. He said police escorting the Japanese returned fire after coming under attack, killing an accomplice of the suicide bomber whose remains were found from the scene of the attack.
“All the Japanese who were the target of the attack are safe,” he said.
Images on local news channels showed a damaged van, as police officers arrived at the scene of the attack. Awan said the three passersby who were wounded in the attack were in stable condition at a hospital.
Police were escorting the van after receiving reports about possible attacks on foreigners who are working in Pakistan on various Chinese-funded and other projects, said Tariq Mastoi, a senior police officer. He said a timely and quick response from the guards and police foiled the attack and both attackers were killed.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion is likely to fall on a small separatist group or Pakistani Taliban who have stepped up attacks on security forces in recent years. Insurgents have also targeted Chinese who are working on Pakistan on projects relating to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which includes a multitude of megaprojects such as road construction, power plants and agriculture.
In March, five Chinese and their Pakistani driver were killed when a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan rammed his explosive-laden car into a vehicle when they were heading to the Dasu Dam, the biggest hydropower project in Pakistan, where they worked.
However, Japanese working in Pakistan have not been target of any such attacks.
Karachi is the largest city of Pakistan and the capital of southern Sindh province.


Pakistan police kill bomber, militant to thwart attack on Japanese nationals

Pakistan police kill bomber, militant to thwart attack on Japanese nationals
Updated 41 min 49 sec ago
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Pakistan police kill bomber, militant to thwart attack on Japanese nationals

Pakistan police kill bomber, militant to thwart attack on Japanese nationals
  • Japanese survivors moved to a safe place in police custody, police says
  • No immediate claim of responsibility for the attack from any militant group

KARACHI: Police in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi shot down a suicide bomber and a militant on Friday as they attacked a vehicle carrying five Japanese nationals, all of whom survived, a police spokesperson said.
Islamist militants seeking to overthrow the government and set up their own strict brand of Islamic rule have launched some of Pakistan’s bloodiest attacks over the last few years, sometimes targeting foreigners, such as Chinese.
The Japanese survivors have been moved to a safe place in police custody, the police spokesperson, Abrar Hussain Baloch, said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack from any militant group.


Pakistan seeks to engage with Global Gateway Strategy through European Investment Bank

Pakistan seeks to engage with Global Gateway Strategy through European Investment Bank
Updated 19 April 2024
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Pakistan seeks to engage with Global Gateway Strategy through European Investment Bank

Pakistan seeks to engage with Global Gateway Strategy through European Investment Bank
  • EU to invest in infrastructure projects worldwide under Global Gateway Initiative 
  • Over the period 2021–2027, the European Union seeks to invest €300 billion

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday met Ambassador of the European Union, Riina Kionka, and sought the EU’s support to help Pakistan carry out important reforms in various sectors and engage with the Global Gateway Strategy through the European Investment Bank.
The EU is Pakistan’s second most important trading partner, accounting for over 14 percent of Pakistan’s total trade and absorbing 28 percent of Pakistan’s total exports. Pakistani exports to the EU are dominated by textiles and clothing.
“The Prime Minister appreciated the continuous support of the European Union to Pakistan regarding the GSP Plus scheme,” a statement from the PM’s office said about his meeting with Kionka. 
“The Prime Minister said that the European Union can play an important role in providing consultation and expertise for important reforms in various sectors in Pakistan.”
Pakistan’s GSP+ status is a special trade arrangement offered by the EU to developing economies in return for their commitment to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, environmental protection and governance. 
The current GSP framework came to an end in December 2023 but Members of EU Parliament (MEPs) voted in October to extend the current rules on the scheme for another four years for developing countries, including Pakistan.
During his meeting Kionka, Sharif expressed satisfaction over existing institutional mechanisms “meeting regularly to exchange views on further strengthening cooperation” and indicated Pakistan’s interest in engaging constructively with the EU’s Global Gateway Strategy through the European Investment Bank.
The Global Gateway Initiative is a worldwide strategy by the European Union to invest in infrastructure projects worldwide. The project was initiated by the EU Commission under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen. Over the period 2021–2027, the EU will invest €300 billion.
The EU Ambassador briefed the PM on various cooperation initiatives, including an ongoing dialogue on migration and mobility issues between the two sides, as well as facilitating European businesses operating in Pakistan. Progress on the resumption of flights from Pakistan to EU countries was also discussed.


Pakistani finance minister, Saudi Fund for Development discuss funding for dam, highway

Pakistani finance minister, Saudi Fund for Development discuss funding for dam, highway
Updated 19 April 2024
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Pakistani finance minister, Saudi Fund for Development discuss funding for dam, highway

Pakistani finance minister, Saudi Fund for Development discuss funding for dam, highway
  • Aurangzeb is in Washington for IMF and World Bank spring meetings
  • Saudi FM was recently in Pakistan to discuss investment projects

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Finance Muhammad Aurangzeb met with Sultan Abdulrahman Al-Marshad, CEO Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), in Washington on Thursday and discussed investable projects, including a dam and a major national highway. 
Aurangzeb is in Washington for IMF and World Bank spring meetings. As he launches negotiations for a new three-year multi-billion-dollar bailout deal from the IMF, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud was in Islamabad earlier this week where he said Riyadh would be “moving ahead significantly” to invest in projects in the South Asian nation. 
The Saudi official’s visit followed a meeting in Makkah between Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in which the Kingdom had pledged to expedite $5 billion in investments.
“Briefed him [SFD CEO] about his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and that of Saudi delegation to Pakistan during this week,” the finance ministry said about the meeting between the Pakistani finance minister and the Saudi official in Washington. 
“Expressed satisfaction with the progress of ongoing projects. Discussed the funding of Diamer Bhasha dam and N-25 from Karachi to Chaman. Informed that Pakistan would pitch bankable and investable projects to Saudi investors.”
Diamer-Bhasha Dam is a concrete-filled gravity dam, in the preliminary stages of construction, on the River Indus between Kohistan district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Diamer district in Gilgit Baltistan. Upon completion, the dam dam would produce 4800 megawatts of electricity through hydro-power generation, store an extra 10.5 cubic kilometers of water for Pakistan that would be used for irrigation and drinking, extend the life of Tarbela Dam located downstream by 35 years, and control flood damage by the River Indus downstream during high floods.
The N-25 or National Highway 25 is an 813 km national highway in Pakistan which extends along from Karachi, Pakistan’s commercial hub, in Sindh province to the Chaman border via Quetta in the Balochistan province of Pakistan.
During the Saudi FM’s visit this week, investments in the Pakistani sectors of mining and minerals, agriculture, energy, information technology and infrastructure development were discussed. Speaking to journalists on Thursday, Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar said Pakistan had pitched an “epic menu” of investment projects worth $30 billion to Riyadh during Prince Faisal’s visit. 
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.


3.51 billion phone app downloads in Pakistan in 2023 amid spending surge — report

3.51 billion phone app downloads in Pakistan in 2023 amid spending surge — report
Updated 19 April 2024
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3.51 billion phone app downloads in Pakistan in 2023 amid spending surge — report

3.51 billion phone app downloads in Pakistan in 2023 amid spending surge — report
  • After two years of being fastest growing major market, new app downloads from Pakistan tapered off in 2023
  • Decline was in line with global slowdown that included many peer countries such as Egypt, Indonesia, Vietnam

KARACHI: Mobile app downloads in Pakistan declined to 3.51 billion in 2023 from 3.52 billion downloads last year while consumer spending rose to over $87 million from $82 million, according to a report released on Thursday.
Globally, the mobile app industry witnessed some recalibration where growth in new installs moderated 0.8 percent to reach 257 billion while consumer spending edged up 2.4 percent to $171 billion, according to a report by Data Darbar, a data and market intelligence platform, and Emirati streaming platform Begin.
“After two years of being the fastest growing major market, new app downloads from Pakistan tapered off slightly in 2023,” Natasha Uderani, co-founder of Data Darbar, said in a statement issued on Thursday.
The decline was in line with the global slowdown where many peer countries, such as Egypt, Indonesia and Vietnam, experienced similar trends, Uderani said.
Just over a third of all Pakistani downloads during 2023 were games while the share of apps stood at 64 percent. This aligned with the global trend where 34 percent of the installs were for apps and the remaining 66 percent for games.
However, with continuous decline in the cost of broadband, Pakistanis were now consuming more mobile data than ever, which meant that apps would take center stage for the country’s digitalization wave and the growth in downloads will reaccelerate in the coming years.
Meta and ByteDance dominated the most downloaded apps chart, with Tiktok comfortably taking the lead at almost 32 million installs during 2023 while WhatsApp Business followed behind, the data showed.
This was in line with the global trend where the two big tech giants remained the top publishers. Among games, the offline habits replicated in the online realm as three of the five most downloaded games in Pakistan were Ludo apps.
Among categories where publishers performed well, entertainment and finance stood out with downloads of 172 million and 144 million, respectively. The former featured Jazz-owned Tamasha in the top spot while Telenor’s Easypaisa led in the latter.
“The rise of streaming and finance apps in Pakistan underscores the underlying shift toward mobile for the delivery of not only entertainment but also banking services,” said Jonathan Mark, chief commercial officer of Begin, a UAE-headquartered streaming service launching in the GCC region and South Asia.
“As consumers become more tech-savvy and their demand for digital services increases, we expect to see further growth and innovation in these and other app categories.”
Pakistanis spent about 99 billion hours using mobile apps where 7.5GB average data was consumed by the users per month. This translates into a jump of 13.8 percent compared to 87 billion hours in 2022, meaning Pakistanis spent an additional 12 billion hours on their mobiles during the year, the report added.
The South Asian nation, in line with the global trends, also experienced a continuous decline in the average cost of one gigabyte (GB) of data. Compared to the FY18 levels, cost has plunged by 71.4 percent to Rs32.8. However, over the last two years, the rate of decline has moderated noticeably and is now in just single digits.
The total cellular subscriptions in Pakistan fell annually to close FY23 at 190.9 million, down 1.9 percent from 194.6 million, first instance of decline in at least six years, and possibly on record.
Both Jazz and Telenor, the two largest telecoms, contributed to the downward trend with their subscriptions falling by 4.1 million and 3.1 million, respectively, according to the report.
On the supply side, the total apps published by Pakistani developers continued its downward slide and hit just over 4,800 in 2023, down 11.4 percent. This was almost singularly driven by Google Play, where the count of Android apps fell by 600. Consequently, the share of iOS in the aggregate edged up to 22.3 percent.