Religion minister thanks Saudi counterpart for facilitation of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims

Special Religion minister thanks Saudi counterpart for facilitation of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims
In this screengrab, taken from a handout video released by Pakistan’s Ministry of Religious Affairs on June 14, 2024, Pakistani Religion Minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain meets Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah in Makkah. (Photo courtesy: MORA)
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Updated 14 June 2024
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Religion minister thanks Saudi counterpart for facilitation of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims

Religion minister thanks Saudi counterpart for facilitation of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims
  • The statement came as Pakistan’s Hajj Mission in Saudi Arabia started moving pilgrims to Mina late Thursday
  • Pilgrims gather in Mina for the first day of Hajj, where they spend time preparing before heading to Arafat

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Religion Minister Chaudhry Salik Hussain on Thursday met Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah and thanked him for his “special attention” toward facilitation of Pakistani pilgrims during the Hajj pilgrimage, the Pakistani religious affairs ministry 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 if they are financially and physically able.
Pakistan has a Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims this year, of which around 70,000 people are performing the pilgrimage under the government scheme, while the rest have used private tour operators.
During the meeting with the Saudi Hajj and Umrah minister, Hussain lauded the Saudi government for introducing innovation and new facilities in Hajj arrangements every year.
“We [only] desire best facilities for government and private pilgrims from Saudi authorities,” Hussain was quoted as saying by the Pakistani religion ministry.
“I am happy with the special attention of the Saudi Hajj minister for the convenience of Pakistani pilgrims.”
The Saudi minister said the Pakistan Hajj Mission will be provided all-possible support in Mina and Arafat, according to the Pakistani religion ministry.
He said authorities were encouraging private companies to ensure better facilities at these places.
Pakistan’s Hajj Mission in Saudi Arabia started moving pilgrims to Mina late Thursday.
Hajj pilgrims gather in Mina for the first day of Hajj, where they spend time preparing spiritually before heading to the plain of Arafat.
The Day of Arafat is considered the most significant day of Hajj where pilgrims engage in deep prayer and reflection, seeking forgiveness and blessings.
Following this, they proceed to Muzdalifah at night to collect pebbles, then move to perform the symbolic stoning of the devil at Jamarat, culminating with the celebration of Eid Al-Adha through the ritual of animal sacrifice.
Pakistan’s Religious Affairs Secretary Zulfiqar Haider, who was part of the meeting, said the two sides would have a “one-window” contact for the next year’s Hajj.


Pakistani scooter brand, Chinese startup reach agreement to introduce solar e-bikes

Pakistani scooter brand, Chinese startup reach agreement to introduce solar e-bikes
Updated 14 sec ago
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Pakistani scooter brand, Chinese startup reach agreement to introduce solar e-bikes

Pakistani scooter brand, Chinese startup reach agreement to introduce solar e-bikes
  • Preliminary cooperation deal reached between Pakistan’s Road Kind, China’s AGAO Solar Mobility
  • Pakistan has set ambitious goal of running 30 percent of its vehicles on electricity by 2030

ISLAMABAD: Road King, a leading electric scooter brand in Pakistan, and AGAO Solar Mobility, a China-based startup specializing in solar-powered scooters, have reached a preliminary agreement to introduce eco-friendly solar e-bikes in Pakistan, APP reported on Monday.

Solar scooters are equipped with solar panels that convert solar energy into electrical energy for storage and are used to drive the scooter’s electric motor. They are best for short-distance travel and produce zero carbon emissions.

“The Chinese company expressed its willingness to provide Road King with technical support, product optimization, and marketing assistance for solar e-bikes,” APP reported on a meeting between executives of the two companies. “The goal is to jointly create high-quality transportation products that meet local market needs.”

“We will actively promote cooperation with the Chinese side and introduce solar e-bikes to the Pakistani market, stated the delegation from Road King,” APP said, quoting the Chinese firm, which said the environmental friendliness and high-efficiency performance of solar e-bikes “perfectly” aligned with Pakistan’s current demand for green transportation.

Pakistan has set an ambitious target to generate 60 percent of its energy from clean and renewable energy sources by 2030. The goal is part of a broader strategy to transition toward sustainable energy, which includes a significant push for solar and wind power development.

Additionally, Pakistan plans to have 30 percent of its vehicles running on electricity by 2030, aligning with global environmental targets and efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
 


Beijing reiterates calls for Pakistan to create ‘safe’ environment for Chinese workers and projects

Beijing reiterates calls for Pakistan to create ‘safe’ environment for Chinese workers and projects
Updated 28 min 10 sec ago
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Beijing reiterates calls for Pakistan to create ‘safe’ environment for Chinese workers and projects

Beijing reiterates calls for Pakistan to create ‘safe’ environment for Chinese workers and projects
  • China is a major ally and investor in Pakistan but militants have attacked Chinese projects and workers over recent years
  • Five Chinese workers were killed in a suicide bombing in March in the third major attack on Chinese interests in a week

ISLAMABAD: Beijing has reiterated its calls for Islamabad to create a “safe, stable and predictable” environment for Chinese workers, projects and institutions operating inside Pakistan and crack down on militant groups working against Chinese interests in the South Asian nation, Beijing’s ambassador said on Sunday. 

China is a major ally and investor in Pakistan but both separatist and religiously motivated militants have attacked Chinese projects over recent years, killing Chinese personnel. In the most high-profile recent attack, five Chinese workers were killed in a suicide bombing in March. It was the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan in a week.

In an interview to state-run Pakistani news agency APP, Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Jiang Zaidong said President Xi Jinping had discussed security challenges with Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif when he visited China in June. 

“President Xi Jinping made it clear that China supports Pakistan in firmly combating terrorism and hopes that Pakistan will continue to create a safe, stable and predictable business environment and effectively protect the safety of Chinese nationals, projects and institutions in Pakistan,” the envoy said.

Sharif had “promised” that Pakistan would “resolutely crack down on and severely punish the terrorists involved” in recent attacks and take all measures necessary to ensure the safety of Chinese personnel, projects and institutions in Pakistan, Jiang added. 

Speaking about Sharif’s visit, the envoy said its focus was on strategic and security cooperation and materializing an upgraded version of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in line with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Under CPEC, Beijing has pledged over $65 billion in investment in road, infrastructure and development projects in Pakistan as part of the Belt and Road scheme.

“Through Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s visit, the leaders of the two countries have drawn a blueprint, pointed out the path, and determined measures for the development of China-Pakistan relations in the new era,” he said, adding that the two leaders had agreed on cooperation in various sectors including mining, development of offshore oil and gas resources, clean energy, artificial intelligence, science and technology, finance and space cooperation. 

Consensus had been reached, the envoy said, on accelerating the Main Line-1 railways and Karakoram Highway projects, the year-round operation of the Khunjerab Pass, development of Gwadar Port and supporting Chinese companies to invest and operate in Special Economic Zones.

“At present, China-Pakistan cooperation is facing important opportunities for quality improvement and upgrading, ” Jiang said, “but also under the realistic pressure of climbing over obstacles.”


Imran Khan, wife file high court appeal against new graft case by Pakistan accountability bureau

Imran Khan, wife file high court appeal against new graft case by Pakistan accountability bureau
Updated 15 July 2024
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Imran Khan, wife file high court appeal against new graft case by Pakistan accountability bureau

Imran Khan, wife file high court appeal against new graft case by Pakistan accountability bureau
  • Hours after acquittal in ‘illegal’ marriage case on Saturday, new corruption referenced filed against couple by NAB
  • Reference relates to alleged “misuse of power” in acquiring gifts from a state repository called the toshakhana 

ISLAMABAD: Former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Khan have filed an appeal in the Islamabad High Court against a fresh corruption case registered against them hours after they were acquitted on Saturday on charges of marrying unlawfully, the ex-premier’s party said on Monday. 

The couple were sentenced to seven years in February this year in what has come to be called the Iddat case in which a lower court found them guilty of breaking Islamic law by failing to observe the required interval, or Iddat, between the divorce from a previous marriage of Bushra and her marriage to Khan. They had filed an appeal against their convictions and were acquitted on Saturday.

Khan was convicted in four cases ahead of a February national election and has been in jail since August last year, but all of the sentences against him, the last of them in the marriage case, have since been overturned or suspended. On Saturday, however, hours after being acquitted in the Iddat case, a fresh corruption reference was filed against the pair by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

“The petitions of Imran Khan and Bushra Bibi have been filed to Justice Aamer Farooq’s court to annul the summons notices in NAB’s new toshakhana [state treasury] inquiry and to stop NAB from proceedings,” Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf ​party said on X on Monday, referring to the chief justice of the Islamabad High Court.

On Saturday, a team of the anti-corruption watchdog arrested the couple from Adiala Jail where they have been imprisoned for months in the new reference related to the alleged “misuse of power in acquiring Toshakhana gifts.”

Khan was given jail sentences — one of 14 years and the other three years — in two cases pertaining to acquiring and selling state gifts. Both sentences have been suspended by high courts while his appeals are heard. 

Khan and his wife are charged in the Toshakhana case with selling gifts worth more than 140 million rupees ($501,000) in state possession, which he received during his 2018-2022 premiership. The gifts included diamond jewelry and seven watches, six of them Rolexes — the most expensive being valued at 85 million rupees ($305,000).

Pakistani media widely reported on Sunday that an accountability court had approved an eight-day physical remand each for Khan and Bushra in the new NAB reference. 

“The accountability court today [Sunday] has directed the NAB to interrogate the two suspects in Adiala jail and also ordered to produce the couple before the court on July 22,” Geo News reported. 

Khan is still facing trial on anti-terrorism charges in connection with violence against the military and other state installations that erupted following his brief arrest in May 2023. 

A court last week canceled Khan’s bail in the case, creating a new ground to keep him behind bars following his acquittal on the unlawful marriage charges.


Another journalist shot dead in Pakistan’s restive northwest within a month

Another journalist shot dead in Pakistan’s restive northwest within a month
Updated 14 July 2024
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Another journalist shot dead in Pakistan’s restive northwest within a month

Another journalist shot dead in Pakistan’s restive northwest within a month
  • Hassan Zeb was gunned down in Nowshera district of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province
  • KP has been the scene of several attacks on police, security forces and anti-polio vaccinators in recent weeks

PESHAWAR: Unidentified gunmen on Sunday shot dead a Pakistani journalist in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, police said.
Hassan Zeb, who was affiliated with a local newspaper, was gunned down in Akbarpura Bazaar of KP’s Nowshera district, according to police.
This is the second such killing in the province, which borders Afghanistan and has been the scene of a number of militant attacks, in less than a month.
On June 19, unidentified assailants had shot dead Khalil Jibran, a former president of the Landi Kotal Press Club, in KP’s Khyber tribal district, according to police.
“Two unidentified bike riders opened fire on the journalist, leaving him dead on the spot,” Hameed khan, a police officer at the Akbarpura police station, told Arab News. “Initial investigation suggests that the slain journalist had no personal enmity.”
No group claimed responsibility for the killing.
In a statement, KP Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur extended his sympathies to Zeb’s family and directed police do the needful for the arrest of the perpetrators.
Pakistan witnessed a spike in militant violence in its two western provinces, KP and Balochistan, since the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile truce with the government in November 2022. The group has intensified its attacks in recent months.
Earlier this week, an army captain and two militants were killed in separate gunfights in North and South Waziristan districts of the KP province, the Pakistani military said.
Islamabad has blamed the surge in violence on militants operating out of neighboring Afghanistan. Kabul denies the allegation and says rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue of Islamabad.


Pakistan PM orders early completion of inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum power plant closure

Pakistan PM orders early completion of inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum power plant closure
Updated 14 July 2024
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Pakistan PM orders early completion of inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum power plant closure

Pakistan PM orders early completion of inquiry into Neelum-Jhelum power plant closure
  • Power generation at Neelum-Jhelum project was suspended in May this year due to a technical fault
  • Located on River Neelum in Azad Kashmir, the project generates 5.15 billion units of power annually

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has ordered early competition of an inquiry into closure of the 969-megawatt Neelum-Jhelum hydropower plant in Azad Kashmir and asked authorities to make it functional again, Sharif’s office said on Sunday.
Located on River Neelum in Azad Kashmir, the project generates 5.15 billion units of power annually but has faced several problems in recent years.
The project first shut down in 2021 due to a fault in its head race tunnel but was later restored. The same problem was detected in April 2024 and power generation was suspended in May.
Presiding over a meeting in Islamabad, Sharif directed officials to immediately complete the investigation report regarding the recent shutdown.
“The Prime Minister issued directives to identify those responsible for the defects in the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project and take strict action against them,” Sharif’s office said.
“The Prime Minister directed to urgently form a committee regarding reactivation of Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project.”
The participants of the meeting were informed that the closure of the project was causing a huge loss to the national exchequer.
Geophysical and seismic factors were ignored in the construction of the Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project and adequate concrete lining of head race tunnel was not done, according to officials.
A third-party validation of project was not done well in time and the place where the current fault occurred is the rock burst zone.
Sharif said “criminal negligence” was committed by not doing third party validation of the project.
In May, Sharif had lamented that $5 billion was spent on the project despite its initial cost being estimated at $40 million, saying it was “unfortunate” that the project was still facing technical issues.
The prime minister had described the Neelum-Jhelum project as one of “national significance” in the power sector and saying it must remain functional.