One killed, 14 injured as explosion hits petroleum company convoy in southwestern Pakistan

One killed, 14 injured as explosion hits petroleum company convoy in southwestern Pakistan
In this file photo, taken on February 28, 2024, Police personnel set roadblocks near the provincial legislature of Pakistan’s Balochistan Assembly in Quetta. (AFP/File)
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Updated 30 March 2024
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One killed, 14 injured as explosion hits petroleum company convoy in southwestern Pakistan

One killed, 14 injured as explosion hits petroleum company convoy in southwestern Pakistan
  • Local administration official says the convoy was targeted by an improvised explosive device in Harnai district
  • No group has claimed responsibility so far, though Baloch separatists have launched such attacks in the past

QUETTA: A staff member of Mari Petroleum Company Limited (MPCL) was killed and 14 others injured on Saturday after a powerful blast struck the convoy of its survey team visiting an oil exploration site in Balochistan’s Harnai district, confirmed a senior local administration official.

MPCL, the largest petroleum company in Pakistan, was granted a license in 2001 by the central government to explore oil and gas reservoirs across the country. Earlier this year in February, it announced the discovery of highly promising hydrocarbons in Balochistan’s Kohlu district, adjacent to the Harnai district.

The area has been a hotbed for Baloch separatists who have frequently targeted security forces and laborers working on strategic projects in the region.

Speaking to Arab News, the deputy commissioner of the area, Ali Javed Domki, said the survey staff of MPCL was targeted in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion while conducting a survey near the mountainous areas of the Harnai district.

“One employee of the company was killed and 14 injured when their vehicle was hit by a powerful explosion,” he continued. “[The paramilitary] Levis teams rushed to the spot after the blast and shifted the injured to Quetta for better medical care.”

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for attacking the convoy.

Chief Minister Balochistan Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti strongly condemned the attack and called the it a “cowardly move by terrorists.”

“People of Balochistan and the security forces are united against the enemies of peace who want to terrorize the masses,” he added.

Bugti ordered an inquiry report about the attack on MPCL staff members from the provincial home department and directed quality health care for the injured.

Pakistan has witnessed a surge in attacks against security forces and foreign workers in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces in recent month.

Five Chinese engineers working on a hydroelectric project were killed in a suicide attack in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province earlier this week.

Balochistan, which is rich in natural resources, has been a scene of low-level insurgency for several decades where separatist groups continue to launch violent attacks against security personnel and foreign nationals.


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
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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 Sikhs arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi harvest festival

Over 3,000 Indian Sikhs arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi harvest festival
Updated 13 April 2024
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Over 3,000 Indian Sikhs arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi harvest festival

Over 3,000 Indian Sikhs arrive in Pakistan for Baisakhi harvest 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.

Karachi couple dedicates engagement ceremony to solidarity with Palestine

Karachi couple dedicates engagement ceremony to solidarity with Palestine
Updated 13 April 2024
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Karachi couple dedicates engagement ceremony to solidarity with Palestine

Karachi couple dedicates engagement ceremony to solidarity with Palestine
  • Ismail Talha and Hamna Hamayun set aside their carefully laid plans for the ceremony, making keffiyehs the dress code
  • Rather than accepting the traditional ‘salami’ cash gift, they requested the guests to put the money into Gaza donation box

KARACHI: Like most couple, Ismail Talha and Hamna Hamayun had made numerous plans to make their engagement memorable, though they decided to abandon them in the wake of Israel’s war in Gaza to express solidarity with the people of Palestine in a unique way.
As the guests started arriving at the Tulip Banquet Hall in Karachi on Friday night, they adorned Palestinian keffiyehs in keeping with the new plan. The hosts served them carefully cooked food and delectable desserts.
Instead of adhering to the tradition of presenting “salami,” a cash gift for the couple, however, the guests put the money into a Gaza fund donation box, symbolizing solidarity with the victims of Israel’s ongoing military campaign in the Palestinian territory.

A donations box for Gaza placed at the engagement ceremony of couple who who dedicated their engagement ceremony to solidarity with Palestine in Karachi, Pakistan on April 12, 2024. (AN Photo)

“We also had our desires,” Talha told Arab News, remembering how he and his fiancée discussed ideas of how to make their engagement ceremony memorable. “But when we saw the injustices being done to our Muslim brothers and sisters, mothers, and children in Palestine, we said how could we [implement all those plans].”
“We thought why not create awareness about Palestine,” he continued, explaining the decision of incorporating the Palestinian cause into the engagement ceremony.
While the idea was unconventional for all guests, it left a lasting impression on some, Junaid Tariq being one of them.
“Usually, when we attend such ceremonies, we witness music and new themes being planned,” he told Arab News. “But what I saw at this ceremony felt very good. They remembered the Muslims of Palestine.”
“I found the concept very impressive,” he added.
Talha’s father, Shaikh Muhammad, captured the sentiment of the ceremony, pointing out it was not possible to overlook the plight of Palestinians even in moments of joy.
“This is an occasion of joy, everyone [we know] is gathered here, food and drinks are being served, but our sorrow [over the situation in Gaza] on this occasion of happiness is overwhelming,” he said.
A successful entrepreneur in the travel industry, he emphasized his desire to convey the message of solidarity to the Palestinian people, assuring them that Pakistan would continue to firmly stand with them in their struggle.
“Our hearts can’t rejoice because of the situation in Palestine, the oppression and atrocities committed by Israel, the way they bombarded women and children and the way they are committing crimes against humanity,” Talha’s father said.
“Our hearts beat with them,” he said, before presenting a keffiyeh to a guest in an expression of solidarity and support for Palestine.


Military says two soldiers, militant leader killed in operation in Pakistan’s northwest

Military says two soldiers, militant leader killed in operation in Pakistan’s northwest
Updated 13 April 2024
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Military says two soldiers, militant leader killed in operation in Pakistan’s northwest

Military says two soldiers, militant leader killed in operation in Pakistan’s northwest
  • The operation was conducted after security forces received information on militant presence in Buner district
  • The militant killed in the operation was involved in extortion and target killings, with a bounty of Rs5 million

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces lost two soldiers while carrying out an intelligence-based operation in the country’s northwestern Buner district on Saturday, during which a high-value militant target was killed and two of his accomplices were injured.
Pakistan has witnessed an uptick in militant violence for well over a year after the banned militant network, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), called off a fragile ceasefire with the government in November 2022.
Since then, there has been a resurgence of deadly suicide bombings targeting security forces, political rallies and Chinese workers, primarily in the western provinces of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, which are situated adjacent to Afghanistan.
“On 13 April 2024, security forces conducted an intelligence based operation in Buner District, on reported presence of terrorists,” the military’s media wing, ISPR, announced in a statement.
“During the conduct of operation, after an intense fire exchange, HVT [high-value target] Terrorist ring leader Saleem [alias] Rabbani was [killed], while two other terrorists were injured,” it added.
The ISPR said the targeted militant was involved in several militant activities against the security forces as well as extortion and target killings of civilians.
It continued that he was wanted by the law enforcement agencies and the government had fixed a bounty of Rs5 million on him.
“During the operation, two brave sons of soil, Lance Havildar Mudassar Mehmood (age-36 yrs; resident of district Rawalpindi) and Lance Naik Haseeb Javed (age-27 yrs; resident of district Poonch, AJ&K), having fought gallantly, embraced Shahadat [martyrdom],” the ISPR said.
The statement informed the security forces were carrying out sanitization operation in the area to eliminate any other militants found in the area.