Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince congratulates Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistani PM

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince congratulates Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistani PM
A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace shows Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (R) welcoming Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Jeddah on April 30, 2022. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 March 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince congratulates Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistani PM

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince congratulates Shehbaz Sharif on becoming Pakistani PM
  • Sharif, 72, took oath of his office at a ceremony held at the President House in Islamabad on Monday
  • Felicitations also poured in from China, Turkiye and Iran on Sharif’s election as prime minister of Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Monday congratulated Shehbaz Sharif after he was sworn-in as 23rd prime minister of Pakistan, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

The National Assembly, lower house of Pakistan parliament, elected Sharif as the leader of the house by 201 votes, defeating jailed former prime minister Imran Khan-backed candidate, Omar Ayub.

Sharif, 72, took oath of his office for a second term at a ceremony held at the President House in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.

“His Highness Crown Prince congratulates Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif on the occasion of his swearing in as the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” the SPA said on X.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and brotherly relations. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates, serving as the top destination for remittances for the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Earlier, felicitations also poured in from China, Turkiye and Iran on Sharif’s election as the prime minister on Sunday.

Sharif, who previously served as prime minister after Khan was ousted from office in April 2022, will have several challenges to deal with. His main role will also be to maintain ties with the military, which has directly or indirectly dominated Pakistan since independence.

He also takes over at a time when the new government will need to take tough decisions to steer the country out of financial crisis, including negotiating a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after the current IMF program expires this month.

Sharif will have to juggle relations with the US and China, both major allies, while dealing with deteriorating ties with neighbors India, Iran and Afghanistan. Pakistan is also facing a troubling rise in militancy, which Sharif’s government will have to immediately tackle.


More than 20 killed by lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab, Balochistan

More than 20 killed by lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab, Balochistan
Updated 13 April 2024
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More than 20 killed by lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab, Balochistan

More than 20 killed by lightning strikes in Pakistan’s Punjab, Balochistan
  • The deaths occurred in Muzaffargarh, Rajanpur, Lodhran, Bahawalpur, Dera Bugti and Pishin
  • Authorities advise masses to stay at safe places during bad weather, avoid unnecessary travel

ISLAMABAD: More than 20 people were killed by lightning strikes amid heavy rains and thunderstorms in Pakistan’s Punjab and Balochistan provinces, authorities said on Saturday.
The death toll from lightning strikes in Punjab’s Muzaffargarh, Rahim Yar Khan, Rajanpur, Lodhran, Bahawalpur and Bahawalnagar districts has risen to 17, according to the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA).
PDMA Director-General Irfan Ali Kathia has directed deputy commissioners of these districts to provide best medical care to the injured persons.
“I am extremely sorry for the loss of human lives,” DG Kathia was quoted as saying by the PDMA. “Financial assistance will be provided to the families of the deceased.”
He said combating natural calamities was only possible through joint efforts and instructed all civic bodies to stay alert.
“The public is requested to stay in safe places during bad weather,” the official said. “Avoid unnecessary travel.”
In the southwestern Balochistan province, at least eight people were killed in similar incidents in Surab, Dera Bugti, Pishin and other areas, according to local media reports.
Rains, thunderstorms and gusty winds hit Balochistan, Punjab and Khyber Paktunkhwa (KP) provinces on Friday. Intermittent showers continued in these regions on Saturday.
In KP’s Lower Chitral district, a man died after roof of a house collapsed amid heavy rain, according to provincial authorities. The rains triggered landslides in multiple areas in the country’s northwest.
Pakistan has been prone to natural disasters and consistently ranks among one of the most adversely affected countries from the effects of climate change.
Last month, heavy rains in Pakistan’s Balochistan triggered urban floods in Gwadar and Kech districts, destroying nearly 100 homes and killing at least five people.
In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people. Over 33 million people were affected by the floodwaters — a staggering number close to the population of Canada.
Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools as well as thousands of kilometers of roads and railways still need to be rebuilt.


Pakistan PM meets Muslim World League chief, lauds him for promoting Islam’s true image

Pakistan PM meets Muslim World League chief, lauds him for promoting Islam’s true image
Updated 13 April 2024
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Pakistan PM meets Muslim World League chief, lauds him for promoting Islam’s true image

Pakistan PM meets Muslim World League chief, lauds him for promoting Islam’s true image
  • MWL Secretary-General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa arrived in Islamabad on April 7 on a nine-day trip
  • The visit is aimed at fostering interfaith harmony and strengthening Saudi Arabia-Pakistan bilateral relations

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday met with Muslim World League (MWL) Secretary-General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and lauded him for his valuable contributions for the promotion of true image of Islam around the world, PM Sharif’s office said.
Dr. Al-Issa arrived in Islamabad on April 7 on a nine-day trip aimed at fostering interfaith harmony and strengthening Saudi Arabia’s bilateral relations with Pakistan. The MWL is a Makkah-based non-governmental organization that represents followers of Islam around the world.
In his meeting with the MWL secretary-general in Islamabad, PM Sharif thanked Dr. Al-Issa for visiting Pakistan on the occasion of Eid Al-Fitr and conveyed his best wishes for King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
“He [Sharif’s] also acknowledged the critical role of Muslim World League in developing unity among the Muslim Ummah, advocating for Muslim causes around the world and in spreading the message of peace, tolerance and inter-faith harmony,” the PM’s office said in a statement.
“Extending his best wishes to the Secretary General for the success of his ongoing visit, the Prime Minister assured him of Pakistan’s continued support and partnership with the Muslim World League.”
Sharif underscored that Pakistan attached utmost importance to its strong fraternal ties with Saudi Arabia that were rooted in common faith, shared values and culture, according to the statement. The MWL secretary-general praised the prime minister for his commitment and efforts to further strengthen ties between the two countries.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as the top destination for remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.
Saudi Arabia has also often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid by regularly providing the South Asian country oil on deferred payment facilities and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its foreign exchange reserves.
During his ongoing visit to Pakistan, Dr. Al-Issa has delivered the Eid Al-Fitr sermon at the Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad and visited an orphanage in the Pakistani capital, where he shared the joy of Eid Al-Fitr with orphaned children.
In his sermon, Al-Issa called on Muslims to keep Palestinians close to their hearts and in their prayers as they celebrated Eid. He also spoke about the responsibility of Muslims to use their actions to project Islam in its true light.


Pakistan, Chinese firm sign $200 mln deal to convert thermal power plant on solar energy

Pakistan, Chinese firm sign $200 mln deal to convert thermal power plant on solar energy
Updated 13 April 2024
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Pakistan, Chinese firm sign $200 mln deal to convert thermal power plant on solar energy

Pakistan, Chinese firm sign $200 mln deal to convert thermal power plant on solar energy
  • Pakistan has been struggling with a balance of payments crisis, record inflation and steep currency devaluation
  • To cut its energy import bill, Islamabad is looking for cheaper imports and alternate ways for power generation

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has signed a $200 million agreement with a Chinese firm for the conversion of a thermal power plant on solar energy, Pakistani state media reported on Saturday.
The agreement, which was realized through Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), would help upgrade an existing thermal power plant to a 300-megawatt solar power plant, the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.
“The project will generate 400 million units of electricity per year at a significantly lower cost, reducing the cost from forty-five rupees to fourteen rupees per unit,” the report read.
“The project will eliminate the need for Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO).”
The conversion of the project on solar energy is estimated to save $44 million annually due to a reduction in import bills and offer attractive returns to stakeholders.
Cash-strapped Pakistan lacks adequate resources to run its oil- and gas-powered plants and imports most of its energy needs. The South Asian country is struggling with a balance of payments crisis, record inflation and steep currency devaluation.
In order to deal with the problems, Islamabad is currently looking to secure cheaper energy imports and find alternate ways to lessen the cost of power generation.


Over 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival

Over 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival
Updated 13 April 2024
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Over 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival

Over 3,000 Indian Sikh pilgrims arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi festival
  • Sikhs are small minority based in Punjab region divided between Muslim-majority Pakistan, Hindu-majority India
  • The Baisakhi festival marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year and symbolizes renewal and spiritual rejuvenation

ISLAMABAD: More than 3,000 Sikh pilgrims arrived in Pakistan from India on Saturday to celebrate the Baisakhi harvest festival, Pakistani state media reported.
Sikhs are a small minority based in the Punjab region that is divided between Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India, but several Sikh holy sites ended up being in Pakistan after the partition of the Subcontinent in 1947.
Baisakhi, the spring harvest festival primarily celebrated in Punjab and northern India, marks the beginning of the Sikh New Year and symbolizes spiritual rejuvenation, with celebrations centered around Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Hasan Abdal, some 45 kilometers northwest of Islamabad.
“Over three thousand Sikh yatrees [pilgrims] from India arrived [in] Pakistan through Wagha border today,” the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported. “The officials of Evacuee Trust Property Board received the yatrees.”

Sikh pilgrims chant slogans before leaving for Pakistan to celebrate ‘Baisakhi’, a spring harvest festival, in Amritsar on April 13, 2024. (AFP)

The shrine in Hasan Abdal 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.
Vaisakhi is also meant to mark the day when Gobind Singh, the 10th and final guru of Sikhism, established the discipline of Khalsa, through which the faithful can aspire to the ultimate state of purity.
During their stay in Pakistan, Sikh pilgrims will be visit their religious places in Hasan Abdal, Nankana Sahib, Narowal, Eminabad and Badami Bagh in Lahore, according to the report.
The EPTB has finalized all arrangements for the pilgrims, including accommodation, security and transport.

Sikh pilgrims chant slogans before leaving for Pakistan to celebrate ‘Baisakhi’, a spring harvest festival, in Amritsar on April 13, 2024. (AFP)

 


Pakistan repays $1 billion in Eurobonds, says central bank

Pakistan repays $1 billion in Eurobonds, says central bank
Updated 13 April 2024
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Pakistan repays $1 billion in Eurobonds, says central bank

Pakistan repays $1 billion in Eurobonds, says central bank
  • The bond, which was launched in 2014 and repaid on Friday, was maturing this month
  • It comes as Islamabad struggles with balance of payments crisis, currency devaluation
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s central bank has repaid $1 billion in Eurobonds, it said on Saturday, a scheduled payment ahead of the South Asian nation seeking a long-term bailout from the International Monetary Fund. The bond, launched in 2014 and repaid on Friday, was maturing this month. “The payment was made to the agent bank for onward distribution to the bond holders,” the central bank said in a statement. Islamabad has been struggling with a balance of payments crisis, record inflation and steep currency devaluation since an IMF standby arrangement averted a sovereign default. Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb is due to leave on Sunday for Washington to attend the IMF-World Bank spring meeting, where he will start negotiations for Pakistan’s 24th long-term IMF bailout. Aurangzeb briefed Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif about the new IMF program on Friday, the government said in a statement. The IMF standby arrangement of $3 billion Islamabad secured last summer expired on Thursday. Its final tranche of $1.1 billion is expected to be released after the multilateral lender’s board meets later this month. The two sides have spoken in recent weeks about negotiating the longer-term bailout to continue with necessary policy reforms to rein in deficits, build up reserves and manage soaring debt servicing. Pakistan is in discussions with the IMF for a potential follow-up program, the IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday.