Amid row over Iran pipeline, Pakistan says has ‘right’ to buy gas from neighbors 

Amid row over Iran pipeline, Pakistan says has ‘right’ to buy gas from neighbors 
In this file photo, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif speaks during a joint press conference with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani after the first China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' Dialogue in Beijing on Dec. 26, 2017. (AFP/File)
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Updated 02 April 2024
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Amid row over Iran pipeline, Pakistan says has ‘right’ to buy gas from neighbors 

Amid row over Iran pipeline, Pakistan says has ‘right’ to buy gas from neighbors 
  • Defense Minister says US should give Pakistan alternative for cheaper gas if it opposes pipeline from Iran 
  • Pakistan and Iran pipeline project has for years faced delays, funding challenges and threat of US sanctions 

ISLAMABAD: Defense Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif this week responded to Washington’s criticism of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, saying it was the South Asian country’s right to buy gas at competitive rates from neighboring countries considering its economic crisis. 

The Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline, known as the Peace Pipeline, is a long-term project between Tehran and Islamabad that has faced delays and funding challenges for several years. The pipeline would transport natural gas from Iran to neighboring Pakistan.

Last week, the US said it did not support the pipeline project going forward and cautioned about the risk of sanctions in doing business with Tehran. Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik said last month Pakistan was seeking a US sanctions waiver for the project.

“If America tells us not to take gas from Iran and sanctions will be imposed on us, then it should also give us an alternative,” Asif told reporters on Monday. 

“If a neighbor is giving us gas at competitive rates then it is our right [to buy it],” he said. “America should view all these things in the context of our economic situation.”

Pakistan has pursued the pipeline as a way of alleviating severe energy shortages that have crippled its economy but the cash-strapped country also needs billions of dollars in aid from the US. 

On February 23, Pakistan approved the construction of a part of the pipeline amid fears of a potential $18 billion penalty for failing to complete the project on time.

India, unlike Pakistan, quit the project in 2009, citing costs and security issues — a year after it signed a nuclear deal with Washington. 

Pakistan, for its part, has made little progress on its section of the line for lack of funds and warnings it could be in violation of US sanctions on Iran, which sits on the world’s largest reserves of gas. Iran has spent hundreds of millions of dollars and nearly completed the 900-km (560 mile) pipeline to the Pakistan border


Pakistani pilgrims transition from Arafat to Muzdalifah, marking key rituals of Hajj journey

Pakistani pilgrims transition from Arafat to Muzdalifah, marking key rituals of Hajj journey
Updated 15 June 2024
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Pakistani pilgrims transition from Arafat to Muzdalifah, marking key rituals of Hajj journey

Pakistani pilgrims transition from Arafat to Muzdalifah, marking key rituals of Hajj journey
  • Pilgrims attended the annual Hajj sermon in Arafat where they were urged to pray for people of Palestine
  • After spending the night in Muzdalifah, pilgrims will perform symbolic stoning of the devil in the morning

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani pilgrims began moving to Muzdalifah on Saturday evening after spending the day in Arafat, where they had gathered in the morning to attend the annual Hajj sermon and engage in prayers and self-reflection, as confirmed by the country’s Ministry of Religious Affairs.
The Day of Arafat holds tremendous significance as it commemorates the moment more than 1,400 years ago when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) delivered his Farewell Sermon, calling for unity, equality and justice among Muslims.
After spending a reflective night under the starry sky in Muzdalifah, pilgrims will move to Mina in the morning to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil at Jamarat, an act signifying the rejection of evil.
“After completing the standing at Arafat, all Pakistani government Hajj pilgrims, along with other pilgrims, set off toward Muzdalifah,” the ministry said in a statement. “The Pakistani pilgrims departed for Muzdalifah under the guidance of their sector representatives.”
“The pilgrims seemed satisfied with the arrangements made by the Saudi authorities, and they continued to congratulate each other happily after completing their stay in Arafat,” the statement added.
Earlier, pilgrims from across the world attended the Hajj sermon delivered by one of the prayer leaders of the Grand Mosque in Makkah, Sheikh Maher bin Hamad Al-Muaiqly, who urged them to pray for the Palestinians who had been “harmed and hurt by their enemy.”
He noted the people of Palestine had been deprived of “food, medicine and clothing.”
Asked about their Hajj experience, Pakistani pilgrims said they were fortunate to be in Arafat to perform one of the greatest rituals in Islam.
“The experience in Mina and Arafat has remained very good,” Ilyas Kabir from DG Khan said in a video circulated by the ministry. “It is a great blessing to have the opportunity to perform Hajj. I urge the pilgrims to be patient.”
An elderly woman in a wheelchair, who said she had been performing Hajj with her son, informed that she had been praying for the entire Muslim world.
“I pray for all Muslims,” she said. “Good wishes, good intentions, especially for Palestine. May there be peace and tranquility. May Allah grant them freedom.”
The stoning ritual at Jamarat in the morning will be followed by the traditional animal sacrifice, leading to Eid Al-Adha celebrations across the world.
With input from AP


PM Sharif pledges next IMF bailout to be Pakistan’s last in 100-day progress address

PM Sharif pledges next IMF bailout to be Pakistan’s last in 100-day progress address
Updated 15 June 2024
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PM Sharif pledges next IMF bailout to be Pakistan’s last in 100-day progress address

PM Sharif pledges next IMF bailout to be Pakistan’s last in 100-day progress address
  • The prime minister envisions leaner governance structure, promises solid results within two and a half months
  • He says the government will send 300,000 Pakistanis for IT training to China, make exports more competitive

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday vowed to make the next International Monetary Fund (IMF) program the last one needed to cure his country’s ailing economy during a televised address that summarized the 100-day progress of his administration, which came into power after the general elections in February.
Sharif delivered the speech just a few days after his government presented its first $67.76 billion federal budget, setting highly ambitious revenue generation targets without specifying significant cost-containment measures.
Pakistan is also engaged in negotiations with the IMF for a longer-term bailout of around $8 billion, following a short-term loan of $3 billion that helped the country avert a sovereign debt default in June last year. Federal Minister for Finance and Revenue Muhammad Aurangzeb announced in a post-budget news conference this week that the country was hopeful to sign a staff-level agreement with the international lending agency in July.
The prime minister said in his speech his government had taken measures to attract foreign investment and enhance trade with other countries to end the borrowing cycle and find a way out of the debt trap.
“Pakistan will gradually escape the life of debts,” he said during the address. “It is difficult, but not impossible. There are examples in the modern world where many countries approached the IMF only once, and then never returned to it for the rest of their lives.”
“We have gone there 24 or 25 times,” he continued. “Today, I promise you that, God willing, if we strictly follow our program and fully commit to the goals we have set, then this program we are taking might be the last IMF program in the history of Pakistan. After this, we will stand on our own feet and surpass our neighboring countries in the race for development.”
The prime minister said his administration had already brought down inflation from 38 to 12 percent.
Sharing his vision for rapid economic progress, he said the government would not run businesses or enterprises but facilitate the private sector to take the lead. He also noted that his administration was working toward a leaner governance structure and reduced expenses.
“It is the primary duty of my government to eliminate royal expenditures,” he said. “All such ministries and institutions that have become a burden on the nation instead of serving it, and have not only incurred unjust expenses but have also become centers of corruption, their elimination has now become inevitable,” he continued. “It is my foremost duty to abolish them. Therefore, a ministerial committee has been formed on this matter, and I assure you that, God willing, I will bring you positive results within the next two and a half months.”
Sharif said his government was working to create a business-friendly environment and had arranged for 300,000 young Pakistanis to receive information technology training in China every year.
He also noted it had brought down the power tariffs for industries by Rs10.50 per unit to bring down production costs and make Pakistani exports more competitive in international markets.


Pakistan PM advocates digital governance, eyes cost cuts and transparency with E-Office initiative

Pakistan PM advocates digital governance, eyes cost cuts and transparency with E-Office initiative
Updated 15 June 2024
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Pakistan PM advocates digital governance, eyes cost cuts and transparency with E-Office initiative

Pakistan PM advocates digital governance, eyes cost cuts and transparency with E-Office initiative
  • The E-Office plan is part of a broader initiative to make the governance structure leaner and more efficient
  • The PM also held a meeting to discuss the rationalization of state expenses before the budget presentation

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Saturday the digitization of government ministries and subordinate departments would save Pakistan billions of rupees and ensure transparency while presiding over a meeting to review the transition to electronic-office (E-Office).
This initiative is part of a broader plan to make the governance structure leaner and more efficient, held shortly after discussions on the rationalization of state expenses before Wednesday’s federal budget presentation.
“The main purpose of using E-Office is to provide the public with better services and bring transparency to the government system,” Sharif told at the meeting. “The use of paper will be minimized, which will also have positive effects on the environment. The transition to E-Office will save billions of rupees for the national treasury.”
The prime minister instructed relevant authorities to make E-Office user-friendly and secure.
He also urged speeding up progress on a cooperation agreement with the Chinese technology company Huawei in this connection, which he discussed during his recent five-day visit to China.
These meetings to reform government structure and operations come at a critical time when Pakistan faces large and persistent fiscal deficits that contribute to macroeconomic instability.
The issue is significant as the government seeks another International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout, where reducing government expenses could help reallocate funds to more pressing economic issues.


Body of one missing Japanese climber found on Spantik peak, search continues for second

Body of one missing Japanese climber found on Spantik peak, search continues for second
Updated 15 June 2024
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Body of one missing Japanese climber found on Spantik peak, search continues for second

Body of one missing Japanese climber found on Spantik peak, search continues for second
  • The two Japanese climbers were reported missing on Monday while trying to summit the 7,027-meter peak
  • Authorities say the rescue team comprising two helicopters are ‘working tirelessly in challenging weather’

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: The body of one of the two Japanese climbers was found at the 7,027-meter Spantik peak on Saturday, confirmed local officials, after they were reported missing by another group of mountaineers earlier in the week, prompting authorities in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region to launch a rescue operation.
Pakistan is home to five of the world’s tallest mountains that loom above 8,000 meters, including K2 and Nanga Parbat, known for their treacherous climbs.
Spantik, more popularly called the Golden Peak, is largely viewed as more accessible and straightforward. The Japanese climbers, Ryuseki Hiraoka and Atsushi Taguchi, were attempting to summit it in the Karakoram Range when they went missing on Monday, June 10.
“The dead body of a Japanese climber has been found and the search for the other one is underway,” Naiknam Karim, CEO of Adventure Tours Pakistan, told Arab News in a text message.
The deputy commissioner of Shigar district, Wali Ullah Falahi, informed over the phone that the body of Hiraoka was traced during a helicopter search.
He added that a nine-member rescue team had also left the base camp at 5 AM to look for the missing mountaineers.
“The body was found 300 meters below Camp-3,” he added.
Earlier, a statement circulated by his office confirmed that the body had been retrieved while the search for the second climber was going on.
“The search team, comprising two Pakistan Army helicopters and crewed by high-altitude climbers and experts, has been working tirelessly in challenging weather conditions to locate the missing climbers,” it said.
The statement also noted the Pakistani authorities were keeping the Japanese embassy officials informed about the developments.
According to official figures, over 8,900 foreigners visited the remote Gilgit-Baltistan region in 2023 where the summer climbing season runs from early June to late August.


Pakistan PM Sharif conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Qatari emir

Pakistan PM Sharif conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Qatari emir
Updated 15 June 2024
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Pakistan PM Sharif conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Qatari emir

Pakistan PM Sharif conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Qatari emir
  • Eid Al-Adha marks Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son on God’s command
  • The three-day event is one of the two major Muslim festivals on the Islamic calendar

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday held a telephonic conversation with Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, and conveyed him Eid Al-Adha greetings, Sharif’s office said.
Several Muslim countries, mainly in the Middle East, will celebrate the three-day Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, this week, while others will mark the occasion on Monday. It commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as recounted in the Holy Qur’an.
During his conversation, the prime minister extended warm greetings and best wishes to the emir, the government, and the brotherly people of Qatar on behalf of the government and the people of Pakistan.
“The two leaders exchanged views on the importance of Eid ul Adha, which symbolizes sacrifice, compassion, and unity,” Sharif’s office said in a statement.
“Both leaders also spoke about the plight of the brave and innocent people of Palestine and urged the international community to redouble peace efforts and ensure an immediate end to violence and bloodshed in the region.”
The prime minister and the Qatari emir reaffirmed the strong bond of friendship and brotherhood between both countries and discussed ways to further strengthen bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields.
“The Prime Minister expressed his appreciation for Qatar’s support and cooperation with Pakistan, particularly in the areas of trade, investment, and labor,” the statement read.
“The two leaders agreed to continue to work together to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and beyond.”
Sharif thanked the Qatari emir for accepting the invitation to undertake an official visit to Pakistan and said the dates of his visit would be worked out soon.
Islamabad signed several agreements and letters of intent with Qatari companies in January this year to enhance employment opportunities for Pakistani workers in Qatar.
In 2021, the Qatari government announced conditional arrival visas for Pakistani nationals, while Qatar established an air bridge and sent urgent aid to Pakistan including food, tents and hygiene kits after the 2022 floods.