Pakistani leaders call for UN intervention as Houthis attack Saudi airport

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The picture shows smoke billowing from a tanker said to have been reportedly attacked off the coast of Oman on June 13, 2019 (AFP Photo/ via IRIB TV)
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Damage of Saudi Arabia's Abha airport is seen after it was attacked by Yemen's Houthi group in Abha, Saudi Arabia June 12, 2019 - SPA
Updated 13 June 2019

Pakistani leaders call for UN intervention as Houthis attack Saudi airport

  • 26 people injured by missile strike on civilian airport on Wednesday
  • Attacks on two oil tankers on Thursday in Gulf of Oman left one ablaze and both adrift

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ruling and opposition political parties on Thursday condemned a missile attack carried out by Houthi rebels on a civilian airport in southern Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, calling on the United Nations and world powers to take note of repeated assaults on the Kingdom that were endangering regional security.
The Houthis said on their media channels that they fired a cruise missile at Abha airport, which is located about 200 kilometers north of the border with Yemen and serves domestic and regional routes. At least 26 people were injured in the strike. 
Wednesday’s attack follows armed drone strikes last month on two oil-pumping stations in the Kingdom. On Thursday, attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman left one ablaze and both adrift and drove oil prices up 4% over worries about Middle East supplies. The attacks were the second in a month near the Strait of Hormuz, a major strategic waterway for world oil supplies.
Omar Sarfraz Cheema, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party’s central information secretary, said it was against the UN charter and international law to target civilians in any conflict. 
“We have always condemned Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and vow to stand by the Kingdom in case of any threat to its territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he told Arab News.
The civil war in Yemen has pitted the Houthis against the government of Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi since 2014. A Saudi-led coalition intervened on the government’s side the following year, accusing Iran of supplying the Houthis with arms, including drones and missiles. 
Since the beginning of the four-year conflict, the Houthis have fired dozens of missiles into Saudi Arabia, most of which have been intercepted by the Saudi military.
“We want peace in the Middle East and urge the United Nations to ensure an immediate ceasefire,” Pakistan Peoples Party’s senior leader Taj Haider told Arab News.
He said simmering tensions in the Arabian Gulf could put the security and safety of the whole region at stake, and it was thus the responsibility of the international community to “help resolve the conflicts among the Arab states as quickly as possible.”
Senator Mushahidullah Khan of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said the Houthis were trying to undermine the security and territorial integrity of Saudi Arabia “on the behest of some other countries,” but they would never succeed in their designs.
“The conflict in Yemen and rising tensions in the Arabian Gulf region are in no one’s interest, and Muslim countries should try to resolve them amicably at the platform of the OIC [Organisation of Islamic Cooperation],” he told Arab News.
Moulana Abdul Akbar Chitrali, a lawmaker belonging to the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, said Houthis and “some other powers” were trying to destabilize Saudi Arabia through missile and rocket attacks without knowing that “they are playing with the fire.”
Pakistan’s foreign office on Wednesday evening condemned the Houthis for their missile attack on the Abha airport.
“Pakistan reiterates its full support and solidarity with the brotherly Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against any threats to its security and territorial integrity,” the foreign office said in a statement.

Legislators, stakeholders decide to revive defunct Pakistan Steel Mills

Updated 21 October 2019

Legislators, stakeholders decide to revive defunct Pakistan Steel Mills

  • Senate body decides to clear Rs14-15 billion of workers’ dues in 18 months, Senator Aurangzeb Khan tells Arab News
  • The mill’s closure has cost the country Rs50 billion during the last 14 months: Stakeholders

KARACHI: Pakistan’s legislators and stakeholders on Monday decided to revive the country’s largest lossmaking public sector megacorporation, the Pakistan Steel Mills, and clear about Rs15 billion belonging to its workers, a senator and stakeholders confirmed to Arab News on Monday.

A meeting of Senate’s Standing Committee on Industries and Production was held to review the revival plan of the Pakistan Steel Mills which has remained non-functional since June 2015 after witnessing a decline in its production since 2008.

“The steel mill will be revived and for that, we have scheduled an advisory meeting in the next 15 days that will determine our future course of action. Today’s meeting was attended by professionals and they have informed us that the mill is 100 percent in working condition. They also maintained that some vested interest groups do not want to run the steel mills,” said Senator Aurangzeb Khan, member of the standing committee.

“When and how to restart the steel mills will be decided in the next meeting,” he assured.

The Pakistan Steel Mills was constructed in 1973 under an agreement signed between the country’s administration and the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) in 1971. The Soviets also agreed to provide technical and financial assistance for the construction work.

The senator said that the accumulated dues of workers and stakeholders had increased to around Rs15 billion since the closure of the mill.

“The steel mill is closed and the workers’ dues have accumulated to Rs14-15 billion. Today we have decided that the dues will be paid in 18-month installments of Rs5 billion which will be released in six months each,” Khan said.

Pakistan is also seeking Chinese and Russian help to revive the steel mills, though the stakeholders informed the senate body they could revive it on their own with local expertise.

“We don’t need any Chinese or Russian experts; we can run the mill with local expertise. Machinery and specialists, if needed, will be allowed to hire,” Mumrez Khan, the convener of the PSM Stakeholders’ Group, comprising employees, pensioners, suppliers, dealers, and contractors, told Arab News.

The incumbent government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is looking at various options to revive the steel mills that include induction of professional management, but no final decision has so far been made in this connection.

“The daily losses are estimated to be around Rs120 million due to the closure of plants,” Mumrez Khan claimed, adding that during the last 14 months of the current administration the closure of the mill has cost the country Rs50 billion.

The stakeholders made the revival of the mill contingent on the reconstitution of the board of directors by inducting relevant experts and professional management.

They also insisted on initiating the accountability process against people responsible for its closure, asking the government to refer their cases to the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and instruct the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to recover the mill’s dues.

“The steel import tariff must be rationalized to provide level playing field to all the competitors in the country,” Khan added, claiming that “the revival of the steel mills will add Rs100 billion revenue.”

“I have informed the legislators that the accumulated losses of the steel mills have jumped to about $11 billion due to the closure of plants and imports of steel products,” he said.

Pakistan is also mulling to privatize this lossmaking public entity but no decision has so far been taken. However, it was decided that the defunct entity would be revived before taking any final decision regarding its privatization.

Spread over an area of 18,600 acres with 10,390 acres for the main plant, the Pakistan Steel Mills is located 40 kilometers from Karachi in the Port Qasim vicinity. The PSM had a production capacity of 1.1 million tons of steel which was expandable to 3 million tons per annum. The main PSM products included coke, pig iron, billets, cold-rolled sheets, hot-rolled sheets, and galvanized sheets.