Net-metering, tax controversies cloud future of solarization in Pakistan despite government clarification

Net-metering, tax controversies cloud future of solarization in Pakistan despite government clarification
In this file photo, taken on March 10, 2012, a Pakistani company employee arranges a solar panel during a marketing demonstration in a park in Islamabad. (AFP/File)
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Updated 20 May 2024
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Net-metering, tax controversies cloud future of solarization in Pakistan despite government clarification

Net-metering, tax controversies cloud future of solarization in Pakistan despite government clarification
  • Government says it won’t end net-metering policy for solar power producers, promises to honor commitments made by companies
  • Pakistan’s energy woes stem from high capacity charges consumers pay due to long-term government contracts with power producers

KARACHI: Controversies about net-metering and imposition of a new tax have cast a cloud over Pakistan’s transition to solar energy despite the government’s ambitious plans, stakeholders said on Monday, adding the situation has left them in a state of uncertainty.

Pakistan approved the net-metering policy in 2017 that allows consumers to sell excess electricity produced by their solar systems to power distribution companies, resulting in significant savings in their monthly bills.

However, the energy ministry stirred a controversy last month by declaring that net-metering was promoting “unhealthy investments” in installation of solar power by affluent domestic and industrial consumers, hinting at cutting the buyback rates.

“Before this [controversy], people were shifting to solar [energy] in such a way that we thought that 100 percent Pakistan embraced solar energy,” Zulfiqar Ali, an importer, supplier and installer of solar panels, told Arab News on Monday.

“Now, we’re witnessing a stark contrast, a slowdown in inquiries, stagnation in projects, all amidst a talk of governmental reconsideration of solar energy policies.”

Ali said the net-metering issue had a lot of effect on the market as the purchasing groups suddenly went silent and the deals that were going on became stagnant. “The planned projects have gone into an idle position, people are neither saying yes nor no,” he added.

Recent reports published by local media about new taxes and an end to net-metering policy further compounded the situation and prompted Energy Minister Awais Leghari to explain the government’s position on the matter. 

“We completely reject these stories. The agreements our companies have made with net-metering users, whether they are for five years, six years, or seven years, will not be altered in any way and the government will not damage its reputation, nor will it cause any inconvenience to those investors,” Leghari said at a press conference in Lahore on Sunday.

He said the government was fully committed to renewable energy and solarization and was in favor of continuing the net-metering policy. 

“If, after studying it over the next few months, there is a need to revise it, it will be done very responsibly and in consultation with stakeholders,” Leghari said.

“After the approval of the entire government, if necessary, we will rationalize this. At this moment, we are committed to fulfilling all the contracts we have signed with various people. We will uphold the integrity of the entire government and move forward together.”

But despite the government’s assurances, an atmosphere of uncertainty prevails in the South Asian country with regard to solarization.

“I wanted to install solar panels at my rooftop to mitigate the impact of high electricity bills but now I am unable to take a decision because of the government’s intended moves of either taxing panels or curtailing net-metering benefits,” said Khalid Abbas, a resident of Karachi, adding that he would wait for clarity on the subject.

Solar panel suppliers said people, who were buying solar panels by selling their cars or jewelry, had stopped purchasing the equipment. 

“Residential consumers who wanted to install 5-20KW panels have stopped and are waiting for clarity,” Zulfiqar said.

Pakistan’s energy woes stem from the substantially high electricity bills, mainly due to the capacity charges that are as high as 65 percent and the nation is bound to pay these to power producers, even though their plants stand idle. 

The power purchase price (PPP), or the average per unit price based on the generation cost, is Rs20.60, which includes Rs14.09 capacity charges, and Rs6.21 fuel and variable charges, according to Pakistan’s reference tariff for fiscal year 2023-2024.

Pakistani energy experts believe the volume with which solar energy is increasing is still “insignificant” and does not even make 1 percent of the total power generation in the country.

“But the way it is going on in Pakistan, perhaps a significant portion of our net-metering will be done from it,” Dr. Khalid Waleed, an expert on energy economics, told Arab News. “Around 2,000MWs will be coming from net-metering. So, it should not be discouraged at all.”

When consumers switch to solar power, Waleed said, capacity charges are borne by other consumers that ultimately increases their power burden. 

Experts say the country won’t be able to get rid of the capacity charges before 2050 due to long-term contracts made with power producers.


Pakistan’s Sindh government teams up with local NGO to provide artificial limb to camel after leg amputation

Pakistan’s Sindh government teams up with local NGO to provide artificial limb to camel after leg amputation
Updated 13 sec ago
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Pakistan’s Sindh government teams up with local NGO to provide artificial limb to camel after leg amputation

Pakistan’s Sindh government teams up with local NGO to provide artificial limb to camel after leg amputation
  • A landlord in Sindh’s Sanghar district allegedly chopped off the camel’s leg after it trespassed on his field
  • Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon confirms five people have been arrested for involvement in crime

ISLAMABAD: The government in Pakistan’s Sindh province has been working closely with a local non-government organization (NGO) for the treatment and rehabilitation of a camel, whose leg was chopped off by a local landlord this week, an official of the NGO taking care of the animal said on Sunday.
The development came after local media widely reported that a landlord in Mund Jamrao village in Sindh’s Sanghar district had allegedly chopped off the camel’s leg for trespassing on his field seeking fodder.
The owner of the camel, a poor peasant named Soomar Behan, was contacted by police after the episode went viral on social media, but he refused to file a complaint against the landlord following which police took action.
Five people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the crime, with Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon confirming that a case had been registered against the suspects for amputating the camel on the state’s behalf.
On Saturday, CDRS Benji, a non-profit working for stray and injured animals in Pakistan, provided treatment to the camel at one of its shelters in the provincial capital of Karachi.
“The Sindh government has been working closely with the CDRS Benji project for the treatment and rehabilitation of the camel,” Sarah Jahangir, a CDRS Benji director, told Arab News.
“They [Sindh government] have brought in a team from BIONIKS Pakistan to prepare an artificial limb.”
She said the 8-month-old female camel was in acute pain and everyone was coming together to help the camel because the prosthetic would take time as it needed around two months for the wound to heal before proper measurements could be taken.
“We are trying to heal her infection and soothe her pain with heavy painkillers, antibiotics and other medications,” Jahangir added.
Anas Niaz, cofounder of Pakistan’s BIONIKS biotechnology startup, said his organization was trying to make the limb for the camel.
“We are working on the limb for the camel as right now it needed to heal, which will take around 1-2 months time and after that rehabilitation of the camel will start,” he told Arab News.
“As the camel will need replacement from time to time, this will be an ongoing process that we are actively managing.”
Niaz said all costs for the treatment and rehabilitation of the animal would be covered by donors.
Section 429 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) states that anyone who kills, poisons, maims, or renders useless any animal of the value of ten rupees or upwards, shall be punished with imprisonment of either a term of up to two years or be fined for the offense, or both.
Sindh Information Minister Memon earlier confirmed the registration of a case against the suspects, describing the amputation as a “humanely unacceptable” act.
“While the police is still doing its work, proper medical treatment is being provided to the poor animal,” Shazia Ata Marri, a Pakistani lawmaker from Sanghar, wrote on X.
CDRS Benji said its staff had cleaned the camel’s wound to make sure it was not infected.
“Cammie the camel is settling into her new home,” the NGO wrote on Facebook with a video showing the camel feeding, a white bandage wrapped around her leg.
“She is in pain, and it was traumatizing for her to be carried into the shelter. But she is eating now and taking in everything around her with those beautiful, intelligent eyes.”


Pakistan PM conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Bahrain’s king, other Muslim rulers

Pakistan PM conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Bahrain’s king, other Muslim rulers
Updated 53 min 40 sec ago
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Pakistan PM conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Bahrain’s king, other Muslim rulers

Pakistan PM conveys Eid Al-Adha greetings to Bahrain’s king, other Muslim rulers
  • 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: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday conveyed Eid Al-Adha greetings to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa and other Muslim rulers.
Several Muslim countries, mainly in the Middle East, marked the three-day Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, on Sunday, while others will celebrate the occasion on Monday. It commemorates Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as recounted in the Holy Qur’an.
Sharif held a telephonic conversation with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa and exchanged warm greetings on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, according to the Pakistan PM’s office.
“The two leaders expressed their mutual respect and admiration for the strong historical ties between Pakistan and Bahrain, built on shared values and cultural affinities,” it said in a statement.
“The Prime Minister acknowledged and appreciated Bahrain’s support and cooperation in various fields over the years. In particular, he thanked His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for his respect and affection toward Pakistan.”
The three-day festival of Eid Al-Adha is one of the two most important festivals on the Islamic calendar. Muslims celebrate the occasion by slaughtering animals such as cattle and goats and share their meat among family and friends and the poor.
In his telephonic conversation with Tajikistan’s president, Sharif and Emomali Rahmon greeted each other on Eid and expressed their wishes for peace, prosperity, and development of both countries.
“The two leaders also expressed satisfaction at the positive trajectory of bilateral relations and reaffirmed their shared desire to enhance ties in through trade, energy, and connectivity,” Sharif’s office said.
“Both leaders also discussed the upcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Astana and reiterated their commitment to strengthen mutually beneficial regional integration and cooperation.”
During another phone call, Sharif and Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev exchanged Eid wishes and reviewed recent developments in bilateral relations, especially in the domain of trade, defense and energy.
“They expressed satisfaction on the positive trajectory of relations and agreed to continue working closely to further strengthen bilateral ties to match the political goodwill that exists between both countries,” Sharif’s office said in a statement.
“In addition, they also discussed ways to deal with common challenges, especially climate change. The Prime Minister congratulated Azerbaijan for hosting the COP29 in Baku later this year and thanked President Aliyev for extending a personal invitation to him to participate in the event.”
Sharif also spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and conveyed his best wishes to him on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha.
“They reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in various fields, including trade, investment, defense, and tourism,” Sharif’s office said.
“The Prime Minister and the President also discussed ways to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in the region and beyond.”


Pakistani Taliban announce three-day ceasefire with government on Eid Al-Adha

Pakistani Taliban announce three-day ceasefire with government on Eid Al-Adha
Updated 16 June 2024
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Pakistani Taliban announce three-day ceasefire with government on Eid Al-Adha

Pakistani Taliban announce three-day ceasefire with government on Eid Al-Adha
  • The Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), are a separate group but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban
  • In recent months, TTP has claimed a number of attacks mainly in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province that borders Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban on Sunday announced a three-day ceasefire with the government in Islamabad on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha, amid a renewed surge in militant violence in the South Asian country.
The Pakistani Taliban, or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), are a separate group but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban. They have been emboldened since the Afghan Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in 2021.
In recent months, the Pakistani Taliban have claimed a number of attacks and are suspected by officials in several others, mainly in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province that borders Afghanistan.
In its statement, the TTP said its leader, Mufti Abu Mansoor Asim, announced the ceasefire on June 17-19, which correspond with the three-day Eid festival, on the “demand of the Pakistani people.”
“Therefore, all institutions and Mujahideen of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan should obey the above orders,” the group said in a statement. “If an action is taken by the [Pakistani] army and security agencies on this occasion, then all Mujahideen should ensure their self-defense.”
Similarly, the group said, its leader had issued a decree to reduce the sentences of all “prisoners” held by the TTP by two months.
Pakistan has witnessed a spike in militant violence in its two western provinces, KP and Balochistan, since the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile, months-long truce with the government in November 2022.
Pakistan says Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers are giving shelter to TTP fighters across the unruly border. The Afghan Taliban government insists it doesn’t allow anyone to use Afghan soil for violence in any country.


Pakistan to play for pride against Ireland today in Florida dead rubber

Pakistan to play for pride against Ireland today in Florida dead rubber
Updated 16 June 2024
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Pakistan to play for pride against Ireland today in Florida dead rubber

Pakistan to play for pride against Ireland today in Florida dead rubber
  • Both Pakistan and Ireland have already been eliminated from T20 World Cup following dismal performances
  • Pakistani all-rounder Imad Wasim concedes team at “lowest point,” calls for “drastic change” in country’s cricket

ISLAMABAD: Skipper Babar Azam’s side will face Ireland today, Sunday, in Florida a dead rubber with the two Group A sides are already out of the ICC T20 World Cup 2024 following a string of poor performances this month.
India, with seven points from three wins and an abandoned match, have qualified for the Super Eight stage of the World Cup. The other team to join the 2007 champions from Group A is the United States, which shocked the world on June 6 by beating Pakistan in a Super Over thriller.
Azam’s side then succumbed to a six-run defeat against India in New York on June 9 in a low-scoring contest, which triggered furor on social media in Pakistan. Cricket fans in Pakistan lamented the team’s poor batting performance who failed to chase a 120-run target.
Pakistan, who have beaten only Canada in the tournament so far, lost their chance to qualify after the USA-Ireland match was washed away by rain on Friday.
“Match Day. Our final game of the tournament,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) wrote on social media platform X ahead of the fixture.
’PAKISTAN AT LOWEST POINT’
Speaking at a pre-match conference on Saturday, Pakistani all-rounder Imad Wasim conceded the green shirts were at their lowest point following a first-round elimination from the World Cup.
“This is the lowest point. You can’t go any lower than this. That’s the fact,” he told reporters at a news conference. 
Asked whether there needed to be major changes, the 35-year-old left-arm spinner said it was clear that radical changes were needed.
“It’s not my domain but I think there should be changes and there should be a drastic change so we can move forward,” he said.
Wasim, who came out of a brief retirement for this tournament, said that the change needed to be far-reaching.
“In everything and every aspect. How to take the game on? How to play the game? This is what I believed in and this is why I came back and tried to do things but it didn’t happen,” he added.
Squads:
Pakistan: (probable) 1 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 2 Saim Ayub 3 Babar Azam (capt) 4 Fakhar Zaman 5 Usman Khan 6 Shadab Khan 7 Imad Wasim 8 Shaheen Afridi/Abbas Afridi 9 Naseem Shah/Abrar Ahmed 10 Haris Rauf 11 Mohammad Amir
Ireland: (probable) 1 Andy Balbirnie 2 Paul Stirling (capt) 3 Lorcan Tucker (wk) 4 Harry Tector 5 Curtis Campher 6 George Dockrell 7 Gareth Delany 8 Mark Adair 9 Barry McCarthy 10 Josh Little 11 Craig Young/Ben White


Pakistan creating special police unit to protect foreigners in Islamabad— interior minister

Pakistan creating special police unit to protect foreigners in Islamabad— interior minister
Updated 16 June 2024
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Pakistan creating special police unit to protect foreigners in Islamabad— interior minister

Pakistan creating special police unit to protect foreigners in Islamabad— interior minister
  • Pakistan’s interior minister meets China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong in Islamabad 
  • Separatist and religiously motivated militants have targeted Chinese nationals in Pakistan recently

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government is creating a special police unit for the protection of foreign nationals in Islamabad, Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi said on Sunday, as Pakistan looks to bolster security for Chinese citizens in the country. 

Naqvi’s comments came during a meeting with China’s Ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad on Sunday, state broadcaster Radio Pakistan said. 

China is a major ally and investor in Pakistan but both separatist and religiously motivated militants have attacked Chinese projects in recent years, killing Chinese personnel. 

The most recent attack targeting Chinese nationals took place in March when five Chinese workers were killed in a suicide bombing. The Chinese nationals were on their way to a hydropower project funded by Beijing being built in Dasu in the country’s northwest when their vehicle was targeted. 

“Mohsin Naqvi said a separate force SPU [Special Protection Unit] is being created in Islamabad for the protection of foreign nationals,” Radio Pakistan said in a report. 

The March blast was the third major attack in a little over a week on China’s interests in the South Asian nation, where Beijing has invested more than $65 billion in infrastructure, energy and other projects as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

China has repeatedly called on Pakistan to ensure its nationals in the South Asian country are kept safe from militant attacks. Islamabad has since then taken measures to enhance the security of Chinese nationals in the country. 

Naqvi briefed the Chinese envoy regarding the security plan for Chinese engineers and staff working on CPEC and other projects, the state media said. 

“The minister said no one can create a rift in the eternal friendship between Pakistan and China and any such conspiracy will never be allowed to succeed,” Radio Pakistan said. 

The minister said the security of Chinese nationals working for Pakistan’s construction and development was Islamabad’s first priority. 

“The Chinese ambassador expressed satisfaction over the security arrangements,” Radio Pakistan said. 

An SPU of the police has already been formed in Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi for the security of Chinese nationals in the metropolis. 

Sindh’s top cop earlier this week reviewed security measures for Chinese nationals in the southern Pakistani province.