Pakistan seeks US support for ‘favorable’ international financing to fix power sector woes

Pakistan seeks US support for ‘favorable’ international financing to fix power sector woes
Pakistan's Minister for Power Awais Leghari (third right) meets Assistant Secretary of Treasury Brent Neiman (second left) in Islamabad on June 13, 2024. (Government of Pakistan)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Pakistan seeks US support for ‘favorable’ international financing to fix power sector woes

Pakistan seeks US support for ‘favorable’ international financing to fix power sector woes
  • Energy Minister Sardar Leghari meets US delegation led by Assistant Treasury Secretary Brent Neiman
  • “Fan replacement program” being launched for first time in Pakistan to increase energy savings, Leghari says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Energy Minister Sardar Awaiz Leghari has sought US assistance in securing international financing at “more favorable rates” to fix deficiencies in the South Asian nation’s ailing power sector, a statement from his office said on Thursday.

Restoring the viability of the energy sector is a major demand of the IMF, with which Pakistan is in negotiations for a new bailout loan ranging from $6 billion to $8 billion to avert default in an economy growing at the region’s slowest pace.

The IMF wants Pakistan to prevent further accumulation of circular debt in its power sector arising from subsidies and unpaid bills, and implement reforms to reduce costs by improving electricity transmission and distribution, moving captive power into the grid, improving governance, and combating theft.

Additionally, Pakistan needs to maintain power and gas tariffs at levels that ensure cost recovery, with adjustments made to safeguard the financially vulnerable, through existing progressive tariff structures.

In a report released in January, the IMF said Pakistan had missed its target for power sector arrears, largely due to lower-than-expected recoveries and tariffs.

On Thursday, a delegation from the US treasury department called on the Pakistani power minister and discussed collaborations in the energy sector as well as Islamabad’s reform agenda. 

A statement from Leghari’s office said he told the delegation about “the importance of US support in securing international financing at more favorable rates for Pakistan’s power sector.”

“He expressed the need for US technical assistance to address the gap between seasonal production and demand,” the statement added. 

Leghari informed the US delegation about plans to address the power sector’s deficiencies, adding that the reforms were aimed at improving Pakistan’s energy mix and rectifying other issues. 

The energy minister also informed the US delegation about reforms to increase private sector participation in the distribution and transmission of electricity. T

Discussing debt management, the energy minister also apprised the US team of a “fan replacement program” being launched by Pakistan in a bid to increase energy saving.

“The US Assistant Secretary of Treasury [Brent Neiman] appreciated Pakistan’s power sector reform initiatives and assured all possible cooperation to resolve Pakistan’s power sector problems,” the statement said. 


Two dead, several injured in northwest Pakistan amid monsoon rains, flood warning

Two dead, several injured in northwest Pakistan amid monsoon rains, flood warning
Updated 57 min 7 sec ago
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Two dead, several injured in northwest Pakistan amid monsoon rains, flood warning

Two dead, several injured in northwest Pakistan amid monsoon rains, flood warning
  • Pakistan’s disaster management body expects recent spell of monsoon rains to continue until July 21
  • The loss of life was caused in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Charsadda region due roof collapse amid heavy rains

PESHAWAR: Two people were killed and several others injured in the recent spell of rains in Pakistan’s northwest, an official statement released on Thursday confirmed, with the provincial Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) administration expressing sorrow over the development.

The recent loss of life followed an alert issued by Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) warning of floods in KP, Punjab and other parts of the country due to monsoon rains.

Pakistan experienced devastating floods in 2022, resulting in the deaths of approximately 1,700 people and causing extensive damage to houses, farmlands and public infrastructure.

It is also considered among one of the top 10 countries most vulnerable to climate change, despite contributing minimally to global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Two people were killed and several others injured as roofs of houses collapsed due to heavy rains in Shabqadar, Charsadda,” said the statement released by the KP government.

It also noted that Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur extended condolences and sympathies to the families of the deceased.

He directed the relevant district administration to provide timely medical assistance to the injured and ensure immediate relief to the affected.

The NDMA forecast rains and thundershowers a day earlier in the upper regions of the country from July 16 to 21 with occasional gaps.

It noted that rain could exceed 50 millimeters and cause flooding in local streams.

“The NDMA has issued instructions to all relevant departments to take necessary precautions to mitigate the possible effects of flooding and extreme weather,” the alert said.

“The public is advised to take precautions to avoid flooding and to ensure their safety from lightning strikes,” it continued. “Avoid going outside during bad weather and keep a safe distance from electrical poles and wires.”

The NDMA also announced the launch of its cellphone app, available on Google Play Store and iOS App Store, to help the public get timely alerts, adviseries and guidelines.


Rampant drug use fuels divorce rate, ruins hundreds of families in coastal Karachi village

Rampant drug use fuels divorce rate, ruins hundreds of families in coastal Karachi village
Updated 18 July 2024
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Rampant drug use fuels divorce rate, ruins hundreds of families in coastal Karachi village

Rampant drug use fuels divorce rate, ruins hundreds of families in coastal Karachi village
  • Rehri Goth has a population of nearly 70,000 and is primarily home to ethnic Sindhi fisherfolk
  • The coastal village has been a hub for drug peddlers, with addicts often lining its shabby streets

KARACHI: Maryam Ameer’s world fell apart when her 22-year-old son, an addict, threatened his wife with divorce. His words brought back painful memories from 20 years ago when her husband abandoned her due to his own drug use.

Ameer fought through years of hardship alone to raise her two sons, but now history seemed to be repeating itself, only with different characters and the same underlying cause of her suffering: the rampant flow of drugs into her coastal village in Karachi.

Rehri Goth, with a population of nearly 70,000, is primarily home to ethnic Sindhi fisherfolk and dates back to the 13th century. The coastal village has become a hub for drug peddlers in recent decades, with hundreds of addicts often lining its shabby streets.

“He says ‘I will divorce my wife too,’” 40-year-old Ameer said, taking a sigh and pausing her sewing machine, her sole source of income in all these years. “There is no one who may put an end to drugs [in this village]. [The lives of] Our sons are being destroyed because of this.”

Her voice tinged with grief as she recalled the moment her husband abandoned her.

“Life has been ruined for all women just because of these men,” she added. “They are not willing to quit this addiction.”

The rising divorce rate in Rehri Goth alarmed social worker Nawaz Ali, who married a woman divorced by an addict. This prompted him to conduct a manual survey in all eight neighborhoods of the village, uncovering some shocking facts.

“I compiled a list that included the names of 850 [divorced] women,” Ali told Arab News, adding: “There is no place [in this neighborhood] where you will not find divorced women.”

In a recent incident, Ali said a 14-year-old girl committed suicide after her parents forced her to marry a boy who was a drug addict.

Arab News interviewed around 20 women in the coastal town who were divorced by their drug-addicted husbands.

“My husband left me. He was also addicted,” said 29-year-old Shahida, who goes by a single name.

Her husband divorced her last week, leaving their infant daughter in her lap. Shahida’s elderly father, who catches crabs and other seafood for a living, now bears their expenses.

“It’s very difficult to manage the expenses of children,” she said.

While interviewing these women last Sunday, Arab News witnessed drug transactions openly taking place in the streets of Rehri Goth, but none of the addicts agreed to speak about the drug distribution network in the locality.

“Here, this whole area is infested with drugs. Wherever I sit, it’s a den of drugs,” said Mushtaq Ahmed, a police officer administering a drug rehabilitation center run by the Sindh police in Rehri Goth. “If you look around, you’ll see drugs being sold everywhere.”

Frequent police actions have failed to dismantle the network of drug peddlers and most of them vanish in the narrow streets at the sight of the law enforcers, according to Ahmed.

Kashif Aftab Ahmad Abbasi, senior superintendent of police (SSP), said they had “zero tolerance” for drug peddlers in Karachi’s Malir district, where Rehri Goth is located. He cited various drug busts in June, including seizures of 704 grams of ice, 3.41 kilograms of heroin, 52.189 kgs of charas and 51 bottles of wine, with cases registered against the offenders.

Nevertheless, drug dealers continue to occupy the streets, significantly affecting the community, particularly women.

“We don’t produce it at home, someone is supplying it from the outside,” said Hurmat Muhammad Rafiq, a social worker in her 40s who launched a campaign against the menace of drugs after her own son became an addict. “Someone or the other is supplying it. That’s why this [drug addiction] is growing.”

In addition to drugs, Rafiq said, early marriages were also contributing to the rising divorce rate in the area.

“Don’t marry off children at a young age. Let them grow up first, then arrange marriages for them,” she urged, after discussing a campaign plan with women in the neighborhood. “If they get married now [at an early age], within five to six months, they end up divorced.”

The men, who were addicted to drugs, had no regard for their wives, according to Rafiq.

“The husband comes back after smoking a cigarette, exhales smoke, and asks the wife if there is food or not. [She] says no, he kicks her and says, ‘I divorce you’,” she recounted.

“What is that poor woman supposed to do now?”


Global financial information service warns political risk could threaten Pakistan’s economic gains

Global financial information service warns political risk could threaten Pakistan’s economic gains
Updated 18 July 2024
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Global financial information service warns political risk could threaten Pakistan’s economic gains

Global financial information service warns political risk could threaten Pakistan’s economic gains
  • Fitch’s BMI says another flood or drought in Pakistan may pose a significant risk to the country’s agricultural economy
  • It says if the current government is replaced, Pakistan will be run by technocrats instead of moving toward fresh polls

ISLAMABAD: A leading international financial information service warned on Wednesday Pakistan’s current political turmoil could derail its fragile national economy, despite recent improvements in macroeconomic indicators.

The warning was issued by Business Monitor International (BMI), part of Fitch Group, in a comprehensive country risk report on Pakistan, including 10-year forecasts extending to 2033.

The report noted the country’s economic activity in the last fiscal year was stronger than most analysts had expected.

However, it also highlighted several internal and external risk factors that could impact the ongoing economic efforts of Pakistan’s current coalition administration.

“The country’s fragile political situation could ... derail the recovery,” the BMI report noted. “While Pakistan’s establishment parties were successful in creating a new coalition government following the February election, the strong electoral performance of independent candidates backed by jailed opposition leader Imran Khan suggests that there is significant dissatisfaction with the current political elite. Another round of protests in urban areas could disrupt economic activity.”

The report also maintained Pakistan’s economy remained prone to other shocks.

“Given that 40 percent of Pakistanis work in agriculture, another flood or drought would pose a significant risk to the economy,” it added.

The BMI report said Pakistani policymakers were likely to miss their ambitious budget targets, though they would manage to narrow the deficit, “slipping from 7.4 percent in FY2023/24 to 6.7 percent of GDP in FY2024/25.”

It also predicted that the current government would remain in power over the coming 18 months and succeed in pushing through with the fiscal reforms recommended by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“In the unlikely event that the government is replaced,” it continued, “the most likely alternative is a military-backed technocratic administration rather than fresh elections.”


Pakistan PM wishes US President Biden swift recovery after COVID-19 diagnosis

Pakistan PM wishes US President Biden swift recovery after COVID-19 diagnosis
Updated 18 July 2024
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Pakistan PM wishes US President Biden swift recovery after COVID-19 diagnosis

Pakistan PM wishes US President Biden swift recovery after COVID-19 diagnosis
  • Biden said earlier he would consider ending his reelection campaign if diagnosed with serious medical condition
  • There have been concerns about the 81-year-old president’s health, with many Democrats asking him to step aside

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday wished United States President Joe Biden a swift recovery after the latter tested positive for COVID-19 and began experiencing mild symptoms of the disease.

Biden, who is campaigning for reelection, had to cut short a trip to Las Vegas and flew to his beach home in Delaware to isolate.

The 81-year-old Democrat was reported to have contracted the disease shortly after saying he would consider ending his reelection campaign if diagnosed with a serious medical condition.

However, before entering self-isolation, he assured reporters he was feeling good.

“Wishing President Biden @POTUS swift and complete recovery from Covid,” Sharif wrote in a social media post in response to the development. “Good wishes.”

The infection comes at a critical moment for Biden’s campaign, with the president seeking to show he is up to the job after a disastrous debate performance against rival Donald Trump sparked concerns about his health and calls from some Democrats for him to step aside.

It is also the latest development in a tumultuous few days in an already frenetic White House race that saw Trump survive an assassination attempt at a campaign rally.

Biden was forced to cancel a speech to a union representing Latino workers who will be crucial for his election bid, having attended a campaign event earlier in the day and given a radio interview.

His spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was vaccinated and boosted, was now taking the Covid medication Paxlovid and “continues to carry out the full duties of the office while in isolation.”

With input from AFP


Pakistan advises its nationals to take precautions amid violent student protests in Bangladesh

Pakistan advises its nationals to take precautions amid violent student protests in Bangladesh
Updated 17 July 2024
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Pakistan advises its nationals to take precautions amid violent student protests in Bangladesh

Pakistan advises its nationals to take precautions amid violent student protests in Bangladesh
  • Tens of thousands of students have been holding nationwide protests since early July against public sector job quotas
  • PM Hasina has labeled protesters “razakar,” term for those who allegedly collaborated with Pakistani army during 1971 war

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan High Commission in Dhaka on Wednesday advised Pakistani students in Bangladesh to take necessary precautions and stay away from student protests in which at least six people have been killed and scores injured in the last 24 hours. 
Tens of thousands of students have been holding nationwide protests since early July against public sector job quotas, including a 30 percent quota for family members of freedom fighters from the 1971 War of Independence, amid high youth unemployment. 
Demonstrations intensified after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan, refused to meet the protesters’ demands and labeled those opposing the quota as “razakar,” a term used for those who allegedly collaborated with the Pakistani army during the 1971 war.
“Pakistan High Commission advises students to take all possible precautions for their safety and stay away from protests,” the High Commission said in a statement. “Campus residents have been advised to stay in their hostel rooms.”
On Wednesday morning, Deputy Prime Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar also spoke to the Pakistani High Commissioner in Bangladesh, Ambassador Syed Maruf, to inquire about the welfare of Pakistanis in Bangladesh.
“Maruf informed the Deputy Prime Minister about the security situation and the steps taken by the High Commission to ensure the welfare of Pakistanis in Bangladesh,” the statement said. “The embassy has opened a helpline for the convenience of people in distress.”
The protests turned violent this week when thousands of anti-quota protesters clashed with members of the student wing of the ruling Awami League party across the country. Six people, including at least three students, were killed during clashes on Tuesday, police said.
The protests are the first significant challenge to Hasina’s government since she secured a fourth consecutive term in January in an election boycotted by the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).