26,711 Pakistani pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia ahead of this year’s Hajj

26,711 Pakistani pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia ahead of this year’s Hajj
An official of Makkah Route checks the passport of a pilgrim at immigration as he leaves for Saudi Arabia for the annual Hajj pilgrimage from Pakistan on May 20, 2024. (SPA)
Short Url
Updated 21 May 2024
Follow

26,711 Pakistani pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia ahead of this year’s Hajj

26,711 Pakistani pilgrims reach Saudi Arabia ahead of this year’s Hajj
  • Around 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under both government and private schemes 
  • Over 1,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have arrived in Kingdom through private tour operators

ISLAMABAD: A spokesperson for Pakistan’s religion ministry said on Tuesday 26,711 Pakistani pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia ahead of next month’s Hajj, less than two weeks after the country kicked off its pre-Hajj flight operations to the Kingdom. 

This year, around 179,210 Pakistanis will perform Hajj under both the government and private schemes, for which a month-long flight operation started on May 9. This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14-19.

“Through 109 flights, 26,711 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have reached Saudi Arabia,” a spokesperson of the Religious Affairs (MoRA) said in a statement. “After an eight-day stay in Madinah, the first convoy of 6,011 Hajj pilgrims has left for Makkah.”

The spokesperson said over 1,000 Hajj pilgrims have arrived in Saudi Arabia through the private scheme, adding that 336 assistants or “Hajj Moavineen” have been deployed to help Pakistani pilgrims, and ensure their pilgrimage remains a hassle-free one. 

He said Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain visited the residences of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims in Makkah recently and also reviewed arrangements for their food and travel in the holy city. 

“Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Chaudhry Salik Hussain is expected to hold an important meeting with his Saudi counterpart today,” the spokesperson said. 

Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and requires every adult Muslim to undertake the journey to the holy Islamic sites in Makkah at least once in their lifetime, provided they are financially and physically able to do so.

Pilgrims from Pakistan’s southern port city of Karachi are availing the Makkah Route Initiative facility for the first time. Launched in 2019, the initiative allows for the completion of immigration procedures at the pilgrims’ country of departure. 

This makes it possible to bypass long immigration and customs checks upon reaching Saudi Arabia, which significantly reduces the waiting time and makes the entry process smoother and faster. 


‘Important to show respect,’ says Pakistan pacer Rauf after spat with fan 

‘Important to show respect,’ says Pakistan pacer Rauf after spat with fan 
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

‘Important to show respect,’ says Pakistan pacer Rauf after spat with fan 

‘Important to show respect,’ says Pakistan pacer Rauf after spat with fan 
  • Video of Rauf charging angrily at a fan in the US goes viral on social media 
  • Pakistan Cricket Board chairman warns of legal action if fan doesn’t apologize

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani pacer Haris Rauf urged fans to respect cricketers and their families after a video of his spat with a fan went viral on social media, days after Pakistan failed to qualify for the second round of the ICC T20 World Cup 2024. 

In a video that has gone viral on social media, Rauf can be seen talking to a few people as he stands with his wife somewhere in the United States. One of the men uses an expletive against Rauf at which the fast bowler can be seen rushing across a hedge toward the group as one of the men tries to stop him. 

The video appears to be shot in the United States. Pakistan’s last group-stage match at the T20 World Cup being held in the USA and West Indies was played in Lauderhill against Ireland. The green shirts won the fixture narrowly but were unable to qualify for the Super Eight stage of the tournament, having lost to minnows US and arch-rivals India earlier this month. 

Pakistan’s poor performance in the megaevent has enraged cricket fans and commentators alike. Many of them have called on skipper Babar Azam to resign and urged the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to probe the national team’s hapless performance in the tournament. 

“As public figures, we are open to receiving all kinds of feedback from the public. They are entitled to support or criticize us,” Rauf wrote on social media platform X. 

“Nevertheless, when it comes to my parent and my family, I will not hesitate to respond accordingly. It is important to show respect toward people and their families, irrespective of their professions.”

PCB Chairman Mohsin Naqvi took to social media to address the “appalling” incident, warning that such acts would not be tolerated. 

“Those who are involved must immediately apologize to Haris Rauf, failing which we will pursue legal action against the individual responsible,” he wrote on X. 

Compared to other Pakistani pacers, Rauf fared better in the T20 World Cup. The fiery pacer, known for clocking above 150 km/h on pitches that favor bounce and speed, grabbed seven wickets in four bowling innings, at an economy rate of 6.73. 


Pakistan’s ‘ambitious’ budget strengthens prospects for IMF deal— Fitch

Pakistan’s ‘ambitious’ budget strengthens prospects for IMF deal— Fitch
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Pakistan’s ‘ambitious’ budget strengthens prospects for IMF deal— Fitch

Pakistan’s ‘ambitious’ budget strengthens prospects for IMF deal— Fitch
  • Pakistan unveiled tax-heavy $67.76 billion federal budget last Wednesday 
  • American ratings agency Fitch says inflation, interest costs to decline next year 

KARACHI: Pakistan’s “ambitious” FY25 federal budget strengthens its prospects of securing a financial bailout package from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), American credit rating agency Fitch said on Tuesday, noting that it would narrow the country’s fiscal deficit but will cost its growth. 

Pakistan unveiled the much-awaited Rs18.877 trillion ($67.76 billion) federal budget for the fiscal year 2024-25 last Wednesday. The tax-heavy budget is expected to play a pivotal role in Islamabad’s negotiations with the IMF as the South Asian country desperately tries to avert a macroeconomic crisis. 

While inflation has dropped down to a 30-month low of 11.8 percent, Pakistan still needs the IMF’s financial assistance package to shore its foreign reserves and stabilize its weak currency. 

“Pakistan’s ambitious FY25 budget strengthens prospects for an IMF deal,” Fitch said in a press release. “It is uncertain whether fiscal targets will be hit, but even assuming only partial implementation of the budget, we forecast the fiscal deficit will narrow.”

Fitch said narrowing the fiscal deficit would reduce external pressures on Pakistan, though at a cost to the country’s growth. The rating agency said that as per its forecast, based on partial implementation of the budget, Pakistan will project a primary surplus of 0.8 percent, on shortfalls in revenue generation and an overshoot in current spending, partly offset by under-execution in development spending. 

“We believe tight policy settings may depress growth more than the government expects, and have reduced our growth forecast to 3.0 percent for FY25, from 3.5 percent, despite some improvements in short-term indicators of economic activity,” Fitch said. 

The American rating agency noted that Pakistan’s government debt looks set to decline to 68 percent of GDP by FYE24 due to high inflation and deflator effects, offsetting soaring domestic interest costs.

Fitch said it expects inflation and interest costs to decline, with economic growth and primary surpluses driving government debt/GDP gradually lower. 

It noted that Pakistan’s central bank cut policy rates for the first time in five years on June 10 by 150 points to 20.5 percent.

“We now forecast FY25 inflation at 12 percent, and the FYE25 policy rate at 16 percent,” it added. 

Fitch described external liquidity and funding as still Pakistan’s key credit challenges, despite stable debt dynamics. It said that while Pakistan may secure a new IMF deal, sustaining the tight policy settings necessary to keep external financing needs in check and to maintain compliance with a new EFF could become “increasingly challenging.”

Fitch noted that Pakistan’s external position has improved since February, adding that exchange rate reforms have attracted remittance inflows back to the official banking system while “strong” agricultural exports have also helped. 

“However, Pakistan’s projected funding needs still exceed reserves, at about USD20 billion per year in FY24–FY25, including maturing bilateral debt that we expect will continue to be rolled over,” the rating agency said. 

“This leaves Pakistan exposed to external funding conditions and policy missteps. Pakistan’s ‘CCC’ rating, affirmed in December 2023, reflects high external funding risks amid high medium-term financing requirements.”


18 killed in road accidents across Pakistan’s Punjab on first day of Eid 

18 killed in road accidents across Pakistan’s Punjab on first day of Eid 
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

18 killed in road accidents across Pakistan’s Punjab on first day of Eid 

18 killed in road accidents across Pakistan’s Punjab on first day of Eid 
  • Over 1,900 accidents reported across Punjab on first day of Eid Al-Adha, says Rescue 1122 service
  • Most accidents were reported in Lahore, where 418 people sustained injuries in 382 accidents

ISLAMABAD: Eighteen people were killed in various accidents across Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province during the first day of Eid Al-Adha, a rescue service confirmed on Tuesday. 

People from various parts of the country travel to their native cities and villages to meet family members during the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha. Road accidents in Pakistan, where traffic rules are rarely followed, are common especially during these holidays. 

“As many as 18 people died in different road accidents across the province on the first day of Eid Al-Adha,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said. 

“According to Rescue 1122, the rescue team responded to 1903 accidents in Punjab on the first day of Eid and provided first aid treatment to 2089 people.”

As per the rescue service, most of the accidents were reported in the eastern city of Lahore, where 418 people sustained injuries in 382 different accidents. One hundred and twenty-five accidents were reported in Faisalabad, 120 in Multan, and 108 in Gujranwala cities on Monday. 

At least 173 incidents of fire were reported at scattered places in the province, the state-run media said. 

Thirty-three fire incidents were reported in Lahore on the first day of Eid Al-Adha. Fire incidents were also reported in Rawalpindi, Attock, and Faisalabad cities of Punjab.

“Rescue 1122 spokesperson Farooq Ahmed urged citizens to contact the department in case of any emergency,” APP said. 


Religious leader succumbs to gunshot wounds, three killed in northwest Pakistan over Eid holiday 

Religious leader succumbs to gunshot wounds, three killed in northwest Pakistan over Eid holiday 
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

Religious leader succumbs to gunshot wounds, three killed in northwest Pakistan over Eid holiday 

Religious leader succumbs to gunshot wounds, three killed in northwest Pakistan over Eid holiday 
  • Maulana Mirza Jan of Jamiat Ulama-e-Pakistan Fazl party was shot by unidentified gunmen last Thursday
  • North Waziristan’s district administrator confirmed three bodies were found in the Mir Ali area on Tuesday morning

PESHAWAR: The senior leader of a prominent religious party succumbed to his wounds while three others were found dead in northwestern Pakistan on Tuesday, officials confirmed a day after the Pakistani Taliban announced a temporary ceasefire with the federal government. 

Maulana Mirza Jan, the president of the Wana chapter of the Jamiat Ulama-e-Pakistan Fazl (JUI-F) party, was shot by unidentified persons last Thursday. A close aide of the JUI-F party’s chief Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, Jan was receiving treatment at a hospital in Wana since then. 

Separately, North Waziristan’s district administrator confirmed three bodies were found in the Mir Ali area on Tuesday morning, adding that they had been killed by “unknown miscreants.”

“A strong voice of the tribal areas who also fought for them at every front, president of the JUI-F’s Wana chapter who was injured a few days earlier in a firing incident, Maulana Mirza Jan, has passed away after succumbing to his wounds,” the JUI-F said in a statement. 

Jan’s funeral prayers would be offered in Wana on Wednesday, June 19 at 09:00 a.m., the party added.

The development takes place a day after the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced a three-day ceasefire with the government in Islamabad from June 17-19 for Eid Al-Adha. 

The Pakistani Taliban 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.

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.


On Eid, Karachi’s Civil Lines neighborhood becomes hotspot for ‘premium’ animals 

On Eid, Karachi’s Civil Lines neighborhood becomes hotspot for ‘premium’ animals 
Updated 18 June 2024
Follow

On Eid, Karachi’s Civil Lines neighborhood becomes hotspot for ‘premium’ animals 

On Eid, Karachi’s Civil Lines neighborhood becomes hotspot for ‘premium’ animals 
  • After months of record inflation, many Pakistanis will be struggling to afford animals at prices starting from around $350
  • But expensive animals whose price can go beyond $10,000 are the ultimate symbol of social prestige and generosity 

KARACHI: For most of the year, Karachi’s Civil Lines neighborhood remains serene, a peaceful urban retreat of high-rise residential apartments and markets. 

But as Eid Al-Adha approaches, the quiet streets start bustling with activity as makeshift stalls and tents pop up, each equipped with soft bedding, special lights and fans in the service of special guests – expensive or ‘premium’ sacrificial animals. 

The prized animals, whose price can range between $3,000 and $11,000, are mostly raised on cattle farms outside the city, and moved to the Civil Lines neighborhood in the weeks ahead of Eid, giving the area a festival-like atmosphere.

Many people in Pakistan like to buy expensive sacrificial animals on Eid, as purchasing larger or more premium animals is seen as a mark of prestige and generosity. The preference for costly animals is also influenced by the desire to fulfill the religious obligation with the best possible offering.

“There is no price for passion,” Muhammad Mustafa, a student at the Institute of Business Administration whose family is associated with the cattle business, told Arab News.

“Everyone performs this [ritual] according to their budget in my opinion, so the prices of animals in our area can go above Rs2 million [$7,180] or Rs3 million [$10,770].”

These prices are sharp for Pakistan, where after months of record inflation, many will be struggling to afford even regular sheep at prices starting from around $350. But the expensive animals are also the ultimate symbol of social prestige in a country where the GDP per capita does not exceed $1,600.

“FUNFAIR”

Karachi, a city of over 20 million people, hosts the country’s largest cattle market on its outskirts, where animals from across Pakistan are put up for sale, as well as 21 other smaller bazaars.

However, what sets Civil Lines apart from other neighborhoods is not just the availability of expensive animals but also the large number of people who raise high-value breeds on farmhouses.

Mustafa is one of those who strikes deals with cattle farmers in advance, providing them with a calf, which is raised for a year or two until it becomes eligible for sacrifice, a determination based on the count of its teeth— two or more.

“It has four teeth, so we raised it for almost two years. It grabs its proper strength, catches its life, catches its round shape, so it feels attached to the heart, so we people sacrifice it,” he said as he gestured toward his cow that neighbors and friends had come to call “Black Beauty” and which is valued at Rs1 million ($3,588).

Connoisseurs also hire caretakers to look after the animals and provide them with customized and specially prepared feed and shelter in waterproof tents equipped with fans, cushioning and special lighting. 

Various local and international breeds of animals can be found in Civil Lines, including Sahiwal, Australian and Sibi breeds, with visitors stopping to take selfies with the beautiful cows and goats. 

“It’s about half-past midnight, and people here descend with their families after 10 o’clock and also serve their animals,” said Maaz Liaquat Abdullah, who works in the construction business. “The whole place becomes a funfair,.”

Abdul Rauf Shivani, a banker, attributed the popularity of high-priced animals in Civil Lines to the community’s “deep pockets.”

“What people do is basically they try to bring in the animals for sacrifice and they also try to give comfort to animals and make sure that they are actually in a very safe area,” Shivani added.

And while adults in the area typically buy expensive cows, children often opt to raise goats. 

One such kid was Mohammad Yahya, 6, who said he had raised his male goat at a farmhouse in Mirpur Khas in Sindh and affectionately called him Chanchanu.

“He runs very fast, he doesn’t come under control,” Yahya said as he placed some grass in front of his goat.

Around him, children led their animals along the streets.

“Most of the population living here is from the Memon community,” said Abdullah, the construction business professional, “who have the love for animals in their genes, especially the love for sacrificial animals.”