With smog season looming, Pakistan shuts polluting brick kilns

In this file photo, Pakistani youths play cricket amid heavy smog in Lahore on Nov. 12, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 19 October 2018

With smog season looming, Pakistan shuts polluting brick kilns

ISLAMABAD: To combat worsening smog, Pakistan’s government has ordered all traditional brick kilns closed for 70 days starting Saturday, as it promotes new cleaner kilns that could cut pollution up to 70 percent.
But the measure has produced an outcry both from kiln owners, who want incentives to make the switch, and from kiln workers who fear losing income.
“How I will provide food to my three children during closure of the kilns?” asked Sumaira Bibi, 35, who with her 60-year-old husband frames up 1,200 bricks a day for a kiln near Islamabad, earning about $8.
Under the government order, all traditional kilns must shut from October 20 until December 31 to cut smog that has blighted parts of Punjab province, and other areas of the country, in recent years.
Pakistan has about 19,000 such kilns, said Shoaib Khan Niazi, president of the All Pakistan Brick Kiln Association.
The government has also ordered that all kilns be converted to “zig-zag” technology, a design change that makes more efficient use of fuel, according to the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency. No deadline for the switch has been set.
An internal zig-zag structure in kilns, combined with the use of an air blower, can cut the consumption of coal, slash emissions substantially and improve the quality of bricks produced, said Malik Amin Aslam, an adviser to Prime Minister Imran Khan on climate change issues.
Traditional kiln owners, however, are demanding a shutdown of no more than a month, and insisting on government help to make the design change.
Mehar Abdul Haq, a brick kiln owner in the Kasur district of Punjab province, said kilns should be shut for a maximum of 30 days or only on days when there is smog.
He said about 20 kilns in Punjab are in the process of being converted to zig-zag technology, with five or six now operating using it.
The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a Nepal-based non-governmental organization, has carried out two training programs on the technology for kiln owners in Pakistan, aiming to cut smog and climate-changing emissions.
But Haq said converting a conventional kiln to the new technology costs $15,000 to $20,000, a hefty investment.
“We have demanded the government either give loans on easy terms or provide interest-free loans to convert to the technology — but in vain,” he said.
Niazi, of the brick kiln owner’s association, said a 70-day closure would cause unemployment not only at brick kilns but in the coal and construction industries.
It would also drive up the cost of bricks in Pakistan, he said.
He said an average of 100 to 150 people worked at each brick kiln.
“Neither are we getting financial nor technical support from the government,” he said — though he admitted the zig-zag technology was environmentally friendly and energy efficient.
The technology uses 30 to 40 percent less energy than traditional kilns, and cuts the costs of bricks produced by up to half, Niazi said.
Naseem-ur-Rehman, a Punjab spokesman for Pakistan’s Environmental Protection Agency, said brick kilns were a major contributor to smog, along with vehicle emissions and burning of crop stubble.
Smog is a particular problem from late October through mid-January in Pakistan.
“We cannot end smog at all but we are trying to reduce it through steps at all levels,” Rehman said.
The new technology has benefits for kiln owners as well, he said, including cost and time savings, and a reduction in sub-standard bricks produced.
“What we are seeing is that this technology reduces carbon emissions more than 70 percent,” he said — which means those kilns using zig-zag technology will be allowed to operate during smog season.
But other kiln owners should expect that “we will keep on shutting these kilns after intervals to force them to covert to zig-zag,” he said.
Mome Saleem, an Islamabad-based environmentalist, said the closure of the kilns would help cut smog but other industries needed attention too.
“The government should formulate an inclusive strategy to combat the smog instead of just shutting the kilns,” she suggested.
Arif Jeewa, former chairman of the Association of Builders and Developers of Pakistan (ABAD), said a shutdown of brick kilns would have no impact on Pakistan’s commercial construction industry because it relied instead on cement blocks.
Aslam, the Prime Minister’s adviser, said the government was moving now to try to avoid smog problems in the months to come.
“We are shutting down brick kilns and factories that emit greenhouse gases in excess,” he said.
“The closure will have an economic impact — but so does their continued and unabated operation, which has a huge environmental impact,” he said.

Noor Mukadam did not contact anyone to express threat to her life — police

Updated 17 sec ago

Noor Mukadam did not contact anyone to express threat to her life — police

  • The daughter of a former Pakistani diplomat was found beheaded in the country's federal capital on July 20
  • The murder case is now said to be in its concluding stage in a local court in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Noor Mukadam, a former Pakistani diplomat’s daughter who was found beheaded in Islamabad last July, did not contact the police or other individuals to caution them about a threat to her life, an investigation officer revealed on Wednesday.

Mukadam’s murder in Islamabad’s upscale F-7/4 neighborhood on July 20 sparked public outrage and grabbed media attention unlike any other recent crime against women. The key suspect Zahir Jaffer was arrested from the crime scene on the day of the murder and has since been in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail.

Others charged in the case include Jaffer’s parents, Zakir Jaffer and Asmat Adamjee, their three household staff, Iftikhar, Jan Muhammad and Jameel, and six employees of Therapy Works, a counselling center from where Jaffer had received certification to become a therapist and where he had been receiving treatment in the weeks leading up to the murder.

The case is now in the concluding stage in Islamabad’s district court, where additional sessions judge Atta Rabbani has been conducting the hearings. Eyewitnesses have recorded their statements in the case and defense attorneys are now cross-examining them.

During the cross-examination on Wednesday by advocate Sajjad Ahmed Bhatti, who is representing Jaffer’s household staff, the investigation officer Inspector Abdul Sattar said Mukadam’s mobile phone was working from July 18 to July 20 until 10am. She had entered the Jaffer house on July 18, according to a CCTV footage.

“Noor Mukadam had received and made phone calls and text messages during these two days,” he said while referring to the call data obtained from her phone. “She didn’t inform the police or 15 [police emergency service], or any of her loved one through a phone call or message between July 18 and 20 that her life was in danger.”

The investigation officer said the three accused were not nominated in the initial police complaint, adding the plaintiff Shaukat Mukadam later filed an application against them on July 24 while mentioning their involvement in the murder.

Sattar said the police had not taken photogrammetry test of the three accused, adding that there was also no eyewitness in the case.

Earlier, Therapy Works counsel Akram Qureshi cross-examined the investigation officer. The counselling center employees had reached the crime scene before the police and one of them, Amjad, was attacked and injured by Jaffer while they were trying to physically overpower him.

The investigation officer said the DNA test of blood samples collected from the crime scene had confirmed Amjad’s presence, adding he had also admitted to the police that he was injured by Jaffer.

He said that Therapy Works employees informed the police after the arrest that they had reached the crime scene to provide medical assistance.

Sattar said that Amjad’s father had told the police he did not want to initiate any legal proceedings against the accused.

“We didn’t collect medico-legal certificate of Amjad from hospital, nor he become part of the investigation,” he said, adding that he was arrested on August 14 and his statement was recorded.

Judge Atta Rabbani kept taking notes and statements on his computer during the proceedings while making occasional interventions for clarification of any statement or remark of the investigation officer and defense lawyers.

Shortly after the hearing started, Islamabad police officials brought Jaffer, his father and other suspects in the crowded courtroom in handcuffs.

During the proceeding, two police officials made Jaffer stand at the back of the courtroom by holding him by his arms for at least two hours. Later, the police removed his handcuffs, allowed him to sit on a wooden desk and gave him a glass of water.

His mother Asmat Adamjee and another female relative remained seated in a chair in the courtroom. His father, Zakir Jaffer, who appeared composed and confident, also remained seated on a wooden desk during the proceeding and occasionally engaged in a conversation with a police official holding him by an iron chain.

Zakir Jaffer and his wife also seated side by side in chairs for a brief interaction in the courtroom.

The proceedings lasted for over three hours while a couple of armed police personnel stood outside the courtroom to avoid any untoward incident.

The court will now hand over a questionnaire to all suspects in the case to be submitted back before February 2.

The hearing will resume next Wednesday.

Former English striker Michael Owen says Pakistan 'perfect destination' for football

Updated 26 January 2022

Former English striker Michael Owen says Pakistan 'perfect destination' for football

  • Owen inaugurated the construction of the country’s first football stadium designed to meet international standards
  • The former English player is on a three-day visit to Pakistan for talent hunt organized by Global Soccer Ventures

KARACHI: Legendary English footballer Michael Owen on Wednesday inaugurated the construction of Pakistan’s first football stadium designed to meet international standards in Karachi while calling the country 'perfect destination' for the game.

The stadium is a joint initiative of Global Soccer Ventures (GSV) and the NED University of Engineering & Technology.

The event marked the beginning of the construction work on the stadium under the 10-year agreement to create the first soccer city in Pakistan.

“Pakistan is the perfect destination for football, and the passion of the young Pakistani footballers has no bounds,” Owen said while addressing the gathering attended by local students and footballers.

“I am thrilled to be part of Pakistan’s historic football transformation program, as I look forward to taking football to a whole new level,” he added.

The English footballer arrived in Pakistan on Tuesday and met with the army chief and other government functionaries in the federal capital. He is also scheduled to meet young players in Lyari, a town in Karachi which is frequently called “mini-Brazil” and the country’s football center on Thursday morning.

Former English footballer Michael Owen and NED University vice-chancellor Dr. Sarosh Hashmat Lodhi can be seen together during the groundbreaking ceremony of the country’s first football stadium designed to meet international standards in Karachi, Pakistan, on January 26, 2022 (Photo Courtesy: Sheeraz Mohiuddin)

The football stadium in Karachi is designed to meet the Union of European Football Associations’ standards. It has been inspired by German engineering and will be first in a series of football infrastructure projects in Pakistan by GSV.

The world class football facility will also have an international standard academy.

Speaking on the occasion, NED University vice-chancellor Dr. Sarosh Hashmat Lodhi praised the initiative.

“This will let our students and other football players from the city explore much-awaited opportunities,” he said. “International interest in grooming our young talent is a great opportunity for our youth. We are delighted to have international star Michael Owen as part of this life-changing vision. We hope this stadium will be making international football stars.”

GSV group chairman Yasir Mahmood said the 10-year agreement with the Pakistani university was in line with the government’s vision to empower youth and ensure their progress.

“GSV will materialize the dreams of youth by providing them with the opportunity to make their mark globally,” he said.

GSV chief executive officer Zabe Khan maintained the aim of the project was to “identify and develop players from the grassroots” while allowing them to continue their education.

Responding to an Arab News query, he said the project also had the government backing.

“We have the support of the government from top,” he said while hoping the initiative would transform Pakistan “into the greatest football playing nation.”

New treaties to streamline Pakistani-Saudi anti-trafficking efforts, prisoner transfer

Updated 26 January 2022

New treaties to streamline Pakistani-Saudi anti-trafficking efforts, prisoner transfer

  • Agreements were signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the kingdom last year
  • Saudi Arabia's cabinet approved the bills during a session chaired by King Salman on Tuesday

ISLAMABAD: Recently ratified agreements will help Pakistan and Saudi Arabia streamline the transfer of prisoners and measures to counter human and drug trafficking, Pakistani officials said on Wednesday.

The treaties were signed during Prime Minister Imran Khan's visit to the kingdom in May last year. Saudi Arabia's cabinet approved the bills during a session chaired by King Salman on Tuesday, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

"The agreements will play a significant role in streamlining issues related to transfer of convicted individuals, and drug trafficking," Aimen Nadeem, the spokesperson of the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh, told Arab News.

The Pakistani prime minister's special adviser on the Middle East, Tahir Ashrafi, said it was a "very welcoming and positive development."

"We are thankful to Saudi King and the cabinet for this,” he told Arab News.

Ashrafi said the treaty on trafficking will "enhance and strengthen Pakistan, Saudi Arabia cooperation in controlling illicit human and drug trafficking."

The treaty on prisoner transfer will allow individuals convicted in Saudi Arabia to complete their jail terms at home.

"They can spend their jail terms inside Pakistan," Ashrafi said, adding that the development was also awaited by the Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom.

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy deep-rooted strategic ties. Around 2.5 million Pakistani expats are living in the kingdom, and are the biggest single source of foreign remittances to the South Asian nation.

"Both countries have increased bilateral cooperation and engagements in many fields recently," Ashrafi said.

"A Saudi delegation is visiting Pakistan to enhance cooperation in green and clean environment projects. Similarly, a Pakistani delegation is visiting Saudi Arabia nowadays"

Foreign cricket stars to feature in Pakistan Super League

Updated 26 January 2022

Foreign cricket stars to feature in Pakistan Super League

  • Afghan players Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi have been roped in by Lahore Qalandars and Karachi Kings
  • PSL’s seventh edition will start in Karachi on Thursday and run through Feb. 27

ISLAMABAD: As Pakistan’s own professional T20 cricket league, the Pakistan Super League (PSL), is set to start on Thursday, fans will see several international cricket stars participating in the country’s most popular sports event.
Launched in 2016, the PSL has been a huge success, with over 80 million people, roughly 70 percent of Pakistan’s TV-viewing public, tuned in to watch the final game of the series last year.
Besides crowds of spectators, it also attracts foreign players. Here are some of those who will compete in the tournament this year.

Rashid Khan

Lahore Qalandars' Rashid Khan arrives for practice before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Lahore Qalandars and Quetta Gladiators at the National Stadium in Karachi on February 22, 2021.  (AFP/FILE)

Considered one of the world’s best spinners, the Afghan cricketer is also one of the most sought-after players, featuring in all prominent international cricket leagues, including Australia’s Big Bash League, India’s Indian Premier League (IPL) and the PSL.
Khan, 23, is known for bowling wicket-to-wicket and his googly — a leg-spinner’s trick that makes the ball spin against his normal stock delivery — has cemented his status as an automatic pick for Afghanistan across all formats of the game.
Khan has played 56 T20I matches, grabbing 103 wickets at an average of 12.73.
Like last year, he has been roped in for the PSL by Lahore Qalandars.
Mohammad Nabi

Karachi Kings' Mohammad Nabi takes part in a practice before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Islamabad United and Karachi Kings at the National Stadium in Karachi on February 24, 2021. (AFP/FILE)

Another big name from Afghanistan, the 37-year-old all-rounder is a strong middle-order batter who also bowls flight off-spin and can make important breakthroughs.
Like Khan, Nabi is an automatic pick for Afghanistan, providing stability and depth to its batting line-up. Nabi has enjoyed a few stints over the years as captain of the Afghan cricket team, leading them into the 2015 World Cup.
He has played a total of 318 T20s, scoring 4,851 runs from them and making 14 half-centuries. He has taken an impressive 296 T20I wickets at an average of 24.13 which includes a fifer.
Nabi will play for Karachi Kings under Babar Azam’s captaincy in this year’s PSL.

Imran Tahir

Multan Sultans' Imran Tahir celebrates after the dismissal of Lahore Qalandars' Dane Vilas during the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Multan Sultans and Lahore Qalandars at the Gaddafi Cricket Stadium in Lahore on February 21, 2020. (AFP/FILE)

A Pakistani-South African cricketer, Tahir has played for 25 teams, including four English counties, three South African franchises, an IPL team, and regularly features in the PSL.
Tahir, 42, has carved a reputation for himself as one of the best limited-overs leg-spinners of his time. His trademark celebration after taking a wicket has earned Tahir a massive fan following around the world.
From the 344 T20s that Tahir has played, he has managed to take 435 wickets which include three fifers, at an average of 19.59.
Playing for defending champions Multan Sultans, Tahir will undoubtedly prove to be a potent weapon for skipper Mohammad Rizwan during this year’s tournament.

Rilee Rossouw

Multan Sultans' Rilee Rossouw arrives to bat during practice before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Peshawar Zalmi and Multan Sultans at the National Stadium in Karachi on February 23, 2021. (AFP/FILE)

A PSL stalwart, the South African cricketer returns once again to play for Multan Sultans and will be a handy batter that helps Rizwan defend the trophy. He hasn’t played much international cricket but has enjoyed a stint with the IPL’s Royal Challengers Bangalore in 2014. Two years later, he signed with Hampshire.
Rossouw, 32, improved in the shortest format of the game as the years ticked by, becoming the leading run-scorer in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) by scoring an impressive 558 at an average of 69.75, and then winning PSL with Quetta Gladiators, Rossouw has played 225 T20s where he scored 5,534 runs at an average of 29.75 and has scored three centuries.

Alex Hales

Islamabad United's Alex Hales warms up before the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) T20 cricket match between Islamabad United and Quetta Gladiators at the National Stadium in Karachi on March 2, 2021. (AFP/FILE)

Alex Hales, 31, is one of the world’s most talented openers.
In 2018, he committed himself solely to limited-overs cricket by signing a white-ball only contract with Nottinghamshire and playing IPL for Sunrisers Hyderabad. He had averaged 27.28 in his 11 Tests, and prospects of further opportunities were minimal, although he did signal his intention to reconsider his future after the 2019 World Cup.
In the 327 T20s that Hales has played, he has scored over 9,000 runs at an average of 30.95 and scored five centuries.
In this year’s edition of the PSL, he has been included as a mentor for the Islamabad United squad.

Peshawar Zalmi, Arab News renew partnership for Pakistan Super League

Updated 26 January 2022

Peshawar Zalmi, Arab News renew partnership for Pakistan Super League

  • Arab News has been Peshawar Zalmi’s media partner for the PSL since the tournament’s fifth edition in 2020
  • Seventh edition of the competition will start in Karachi on Thursday and run through Feb. 27

KARACHI: Peshawar Zalmi, one of the six teams of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), on Wednesday named Arab News Pakistan as its international media partner for the tournament.

Peshawar Zalmi represents Peshawar, the capital of the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The other teams come from Lahore, Karachi, Islamabad, Quetta and Multan.

The seventh edition of the competition will start in Karachi on Thursday and run through Feb. 27.

Arab News has been Peshawar Zalmi’s media partner for the PSL since the tournament’s fifth edition in 2020.

“We have chosen Arab News as our international media partner for last two seasons and I am glad to renew this for the 2022 edition,” Javed Afridi, the owner of Peshawar Zalmi, announced on Wednesday. 

“Arab News is not only one of the readers’ first choice in the Middle East but it’s Pakistan digital edition is among the most popular in South Asia due to its excellent coverage and positive reporting.”

Launched in 2018, Arab News Pakistan is an edition of Arab News, the biggest English-language daily in Saudi Arabia and a leading newspaper in the Middle East. 

“We are happy to have partnered with Peshawar Zalmi and hope that the franchise will win the final of the seventh edition,” Asia bureau chief of Arab News, Baker Atyani said. “The team has been showing tremendous performance.” .

He added that the PSL had played a major role in promoting cricket in Pakistan and abroad: “PSL deserves to be credited for the return of cricket to Pakistan, and Peshawar Zalmi is at top of the list because it was its owner Javed Afridi who led the campaign to persuade foreigner players to play in Pakistan.”

“We wish Peshawar Zalmi best of luck for the upcoming tournament, and PSL supporters a very exciting and a successful season.”

Pakistan had largely been starved of international cricket since a 2009 attack on a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore, which killed eight Pakistanis and wounded six players and a British coach. The incident forced Pakistan to play home matches in the United Arab Emirates, with foreign players refusing to play on Pakistani soil.

But the unprecedented popularity of PSL, which brought 40 foreign players to the country in 2019, is seen as pivotal in changing the global cricket community’s opinion of Pakistan’s ability to host international matches. 

Over 80 million people, roughly 70 percent of Pakistan’s TV-viewing public, tuned in to watch the final game of the series last year.

The PSL has been a huge success, even though many of the matches in the first five editions had to be played in the United Arab Emirates due to security risks. In 2020, all matches of the series were played in Pakistan for the first time, but the final in March was delayed due to the COVID-19 outbreak and finally played in November before an empty stadium.

Last year, the tournament was postponed after the first 14 matches due to a surge in coronavirus cases in March, and rest of the games, were played in June in Abu Dhabi.

In the final, Multan Sultans defeated Peshawar Zalmi by 47 runs to lift the trophy.