In province known for deadly mining accidents, a Pakistani man invents anti-risk helmet

Ali Gul, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, receives an appreciation letter for his prototype of the Smart Eye Helmet at the Islamabad Startup Club held in February this year. (Photo courtesy: Ali Gul)
Updated 25 July 2019

In province known for deadly mining accidents, a Pakistani man invents anti-risk helmet

  • Ali Gul’s Eye Smart Helmet uses sensors to monitor coal mine conditions, toxic gases, explosion risks, location and health vitals of miners
  • At least 120 workers die on average each year in mining accidents in Balochistan, 94 killed in first seven months of 2019 alone

KARACHI: A school bag slung over his shoulder and a dream in his eyes, little Ali Gul would often stop by at the coal mine where his brother worked on his way to school each morning in the mining town of Sinjawi in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province. 
There he would sit for a while among the acrid smell of burning coal and quietly watch the miners, their faces caked in toxic dust and dried sweat from working up to 1,200 feet underground on grueling 8-hour shifts. 
As he would walk off to school moments later, Gul couldn’t help but wonder if he too might end up working at the mines like his brother Gul Muhammad and so many other relatives and friends from his village in Ziarat district, a few kilometers from the coal-mining center of Duki.
Instead, Gul traveled far away from home every single day for many years to attend school and eventually university in Quetta, resolved never to set foot in a coal mine.
In February 2015, Gul’s family received news that his brother had passed out in a mine after a toxic gas leak. Though Muhammad survived, the incident so shook Gul that he decided he had to do something to improve the precarious conditions that Balochistan’s 300,000 coal miners worked in at 3,000 mines across the province.
Just last week, rescue teams saved two miners and retrieved the bodies of eight others after a methane explosion trapped the 10 in a coal mine in Balochistan. Safety standards are widely ignored in the coal-mining industry in Pakistan, leading to numerous deadly incidents.

Ali Gul, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, works on the design of the Smart Eye Helmet project, which earned him a Rs14 million grant from Pakistan's Higher Education Commission on May 2, 2019: Photo taken on July 23, 2019. (Photo courtesy: Ali Gul)

“After my brother’s injury, I would think I have to do something to stop these lethal incidents from happening,” Gul, 24, told Arab News via telephone from Quetta. “It was usual for us to keep hearing about a new accident or that an acquaintance had died or was seriously hurt.”
When Gul moved to Quetta to study computer engineering at the Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences (BUITEMS), his roommate, Gul Ustad, turned out to be a former coal miner himself, providing Gul with an even greater impetus to put his plan into action. 
Soon after, Gul started to conduct research and found that at least 120 workers died on average each year in mining incidents in Balochistan. Gul thus began to work on a prototype for what would come to be called the Eye Smart Helmet: a special headgear that uses sensors to monitor mine conditions, the presence of toxic gases, explosion risks, and the location and health vitals of miners working in a particular mine. 

Ali Gul, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, won a Rs14 million grant from Pakistan's Higher Education Commission on May 2, 2019 for his Eye Smart Helmet project to protect coal miners in Balochistan province, Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: Ali Gul)

Gul’s landlord in Quetta, who also happened to be a mine owner, saw the prototype of the helmet in his room one morning in 2016 and ordered him to make 20 samples. Gul delivered the order in 2017 but could not make any more helmets due to a lack of funds.
At the start of 2018, Gul took his helmet to Islamabad’s Startup Cup, a nonprofit venture that aims to foster entrepreneurial spirit in Pakistan. Here he met Jawad Khan and Muhammad Azeem who had brought their own startup, Qayaam, a platform for short-term renting, to the tournament. The three men got talking and exchanged numbers. 
“His prototype was brilliant but he didn’t know how to generate funds,” Azeem told Arab News, saying him and Khan shared their number with Gul and they all began working together on the project’s financial assessment.
The teamwork paid off. In May this year, Gul and his partners won a Rs14 million grant from the High Education Commission (HEC), which will be released incrementally for product development between July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. Gul and his team will be required to conduct primary research on mines, working conditions as well as the nature of the work and of the mines. They will also use the funds to improve their prototype in light of their research findings before testing it in Balochistan’s mines. After a successful test, set to be carried out before June 30, 2020, the product will begin to be produced for commercial use.

In this photograph taken in January 2018, a coal miner at 98 Quetta Mine Area is wearing a helmet designed by Ali Gul, a student of Balochistan University of Information Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, whose Smart Eye Helmet project won a Rs14 million grant from Pakistan's Higher Education Commission on May 2, 2019. (Photo courtesy: Ali Gul)

“This [helmet] will help us to save the lives of coal miners and enable owners to increase their productivity,” Gul’s colleague Khan said, adding that the headgear would also help predict mine collapses more accurately in the future. 
“Once the project is completed, we will move toward the stage of mass generation and marketing,” said Azeem, whose role in the venture is to strategize and generate funds.
The team says though they have already been approached for orders by clients in Europe, their primary focus is Pakistan.
“We want to save the precious lives of our countrymen first,” Gul said. “We want to save lives and millions of rupees in losses and at the same time tell the world that there are some awesome, innovative made-in-Pakistan products available.”
Gul’s work, he says, is gaining in urgency as the number of mining deaths have gone up in recent years, from 120 deaths on average each year to 172 workers between July 2017-2018. Around 94 people have died in mining accidents in just the first seven months of 2019, according to the All Pakistan Labour Federation Balochistan.
“I had resolved as a young kid that I would never have anything to do with coal mines, that I would make a better life for myself,” Gul said. “I had never imagined I would even enter a coal mine. But now I have,” he said smilingly, “to take safety helmet for miners.”

PM visits Pakistan Pavilion at COP28 in Dubai, appreciates experts for efforts to mitigate climate risks

Updated 01 December 2023

PM visits Pakistan Pavilion at COP28 in Dubai, appreciates experts for efforts to mitigate climate risks

  • Development comes ahead of PM Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s address with the World Climate Action Summit on Saturday
  • He will present Pakistan’s ‘vision for change,’ advocate for shared commitments to mitigating climate risks, Islamabad says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar on Friday visited his country’s pavilion at the venue of United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference, or COP 28, in Dubai, his office said, adding the caretaker premier appreciated efforts of Pakistani experts for the mitigation of climate-related risks. 

The Pakistan prime minister arrived in Dubai this week to attend the World Climate Action Summit during the 28th UN Conference of Parties, which is running from November 30 till December 12 and looks to address some of the most-pressing issues related to what experts say is a rapidly accelerating climate crisis. 

Pakistan, one of the most vulnerable nations to climate change, has set up its own pavilion at the conference venue and will use the conference to remind wealthy countries of their “crucial” responsibility in supporting climate-vulnerable nations and the need for “equity and justice” in global climate policies, according to the Pakistani planning ministry. 

During his visit to the Pakistan Pavilion at COP 28, PM Kakar met with Pakistani climate experts, who briefed him on various initiatives to deal with the looming climate crisis, Kakar’s office said in a statement. 

“The Prime Minister was briefed on the efforts being made by Pakistan with regard to the negotiations and facilitation in operationalization of the Loss and Damage Fund,” it said. 

“The Prime Minister was also briefed on the ‘Living Indus Initiative’ which is designed to rehabilitate the health of the Indus Basin in Pakistan through climate-resilient approaches and nature-based solutions.” 

Nearly 200 nations agreed on Thursday to launch a fund to support countries hit by global warming, in a historic moment at the start of UN climate talks in the oil-rich UAE. The formal establishment of the loss and damage fund, long sought by climate-vulnerable nations, provided an early win at COP28, where sharp divisions over the phasing out of fossil fuels were immediately apparent. 

The momentous occasion followed Pakistan’s crucial role at COP27 in Egypt, where, as the chair of the G77 and China group, it advocated for the establishment of the fund. 

PM Kakar’s visit to his country’s pavilion came a day ahead of his address at the World Climate Action Summit where he would present Pakistan’s “vision for climate change,” according to the Pakistani foreign office. 

“He will address the summit tomorrow, where he will present Pakistan’s vision for climate change, advocating for common commitments in mitigation, adaptation, climate finance, and the loss and damage fund,” the foreign office said on Friday. 

“He will also emphasize equity and global cooperation for climate resilience. At COP28, Pakistan aims to collaborate with developing countries, for the operationalization of the ‘loss and damage’ fund, a meaningful outcome from the Global Stock Take, and the fulfillment of the long-overdue goal of mobilizing $100 billion annually in climate finance.” 

Pakistan headline inflation rises 29.2% year-on-year on back of gas price hike 

Updated 01 December 2023

Pakistan headline inflation rises 29.2% year-on-year on back of gas price hike 

  • Prices went up by 2.7 percent in November as compared to a 1 percent increase in the month before 
  • Analysts say increase in inflation figures for November is ‘in line with expectations’ after gas price hike 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s consumer price index (CPI) jumped 29.2 percent in November on a year-on-year basis, the country’s statistics bureau said on Friday, with analysts attributing monthly increase in prices to a recent hike in gas tariff. 

The headline inflation was recorded at 26.8 percent in October and 23.8 percent in November last year, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). 

Prices went up by 2.7 percent in November as compared to a 1 percent increase in the month before and a rise of 0.8 percent in November 2022. 

Financial analysts say the increase in inflation figures for the month of November was “in line with the expectations” after the gas price hike. 

“The inflation for the month of November is in line with the expectations. The major impact has come from the gas tariff hike,” Samiullah Tariq, a director at the Pakistan Kuwait Investment Company, to Arab News. 

“Going forward we hope that the inflation would ease off.” 

In late October, Pakistan announced a sharp increase in the price of natural gas for most households and industries ahead of the cash-strapped country’s first review of a $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout it entered in July. 

While the government did not increase the tariff for the protected category (57 percent of the domestic consumers), it increased the fixed monthly charge from Rs10 to Rs400 for this category. 

The price of gas was set at Rs2,100/mmbtu for export process industry, Rs2,400/mmbtu for export captive industry, Rs2,200/mmbtu for non-export process industry, Rs2,500/mmbtu for non-export captive industry, and Rs3,600/mmbtu for the CNG sector. 

In November, Pakistan cleared the first review of the nine-month standby arrangement, paving the way for Islamabad to receive a second tranche of around $700 million from the lender. 

Among the food items that recorded highest increase in November prices were tomatoes (60.42 percent), potatoes (14.92 percent), tea (12.95 percent), onions (12.32 percent), dry fruits (7.91 percent), fish (7.75 percent), eggs (7.15 percent) and fresh vegetables (4.47 percent), according to the PBS. 

Non-food items whose prices recorded the highest increased included gas charges (280.55 percent), woolen readymade garments (8.16 percent), dental services (5.19 percent), transport services (5.11 percent) and solid fuel (3.52 percent). 

Pakistan Cricket Board appoints ex-cricketers Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal consultants to chief selector

Updated 01 December 2023

Pakistan Cricket Board appoints ex-cricketers Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal consultants to chief selector

  • The development comes amid a reshuffle in Pakistan national team and the management 
  • It began amid Pakistan’s poor show during the 50-over World Cup tournament last month 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Friday said it had appointed former cricketers Salman Butt, Kamran Akmal and Rao Iftikhar Anjum consultants to Chief Selector Wahab Riaz, amid a reshuffle in the national side and the board’s management. 

The reshuffle began amid Pakistan's poor show at the World Cup that saw the national side crashing out of the showpiece tournament even before the semi-final stage.

Former fast bowler Wahab Riaz was appointed Pakistan’s chief selector last month, after Inzamam-ul-Haq stepped down in October following allegations of a conflict of interests. 

On Friday, the PCB confirmed the appointment of Akmal, Anjum and Butt as consultant members to Riaz.

“The three have assumed their responsibilities in the selection panel with immediate effect. Their first assignment as consultant members to the chief selector includes the upcoming five-match T20I series against New Zealand, set to commence on 12 January 2024 following the conclusion of the Test tour to Australia,” the PCB said in a statement.

“When not engaged in selection duties, the consultant members may be assigned additional tasks such as conducting skills camps.”

Pakistan finished fifth in the 10-team World Cup tournament that culminated last month, with Australia lifting the trophy for a record sixth time.

Babar Azam resigned from the captaincy in all formats and Shan Masood was made test captain. Shaheen Afridi was appointed as skipper of T20 side while former captain Mohammad Hafeez was named as team director, who will also be the head coach of the team on the twin tours of Australia and New Zealand.

The PCB last month also appointed former international players Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal as bowling coaches for the national team.

Pakistan gunmen kill policeman guarding polio vaccination team 

Updated 01 December 2023

Pakistan gunmen kill policeman guarding polio vaccination team 

  • The incident occurred in a tribal border region that was once a haven for Taliban militants 
  • Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are only two countries where polio remains endemic 

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani policeman was killed when militants attacked a polio vaccination team on Friday, police said, the latest casualty in the country’s long campaign against the crippling disease. 

Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan are the only two countries where polio remains endemic and vaccination teams are frequently targeted by militants. 

The latest incident occurred in Malik Din Khel, part of the former tribal border region that was once a haven for Taliban militants. 

“Two gunmen riding a motorbike opened fire on policemen guarding a two-member polio vaccination team,” district police chief Saleem Khan Kulachi told AFP. 

“One policeman died at the scene while another sustained a minor injury,” he said. 

One of the gunmen was shot dead by police. 

Local police official Zahir Ahmed Afridi also confirmed the details, adding that the health care workers were unhurt. 

Pakistan initiated a week-long nationwide polio vaccination campaign on Monday, with the goal of inoculating more than 44 million children across much of the country. 

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Islamist militants, including the Pakistani Taliban, have killed scores of polio vaccination workers and their security escorts in the past. 

Islamist opposition to inoculation grew after the US Central Intelligence Agency organized a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad. 

Pakistan has reported five cases of polio this year, while 20 were reported last year, according to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. 

UAE to invest in Pakistan’s agriculture, power, ports and other sectors under recent agreements — envoy

Updated 01 December 2023

UAE to invest in Pakistan’s agriculture, power, ports and other sectors under recent agreements — envoy

  • Pakistan signed several agreements worth up to $25 billion during Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s UAE visit this week
  • The UAE consul-general applauds the role of Pakistan’s Special Investment Facilitation Council in attracting foreign investment

KARACHI: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) was focusing on Pakistan’s agriculture, ports and logistics, power and other sectors under the recently signed multi-billion-dollar investment agreements with the South Asian country, the Emirati consul-general in Karachi said on Friday. 

Pakistan and the UAE signed the multi-billion-dollar memorandums of understanding (MoUs) during Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s visit to the Gulf nation this week. Under the agreements, the UAE is expected to invest up to $25 billion across diverse sectors in Pakistan. 

“Couple of days ago, Pakistan has signed number of agreements with UAE of $20-25 billion. That is good investment,” Consul-General Dr. Bakheet Ateeq Al-Remeithi said at a press conference at the UAE Consulate in Karachi. 

“[The] UAE always investing in Pakistan and standing beside Pakistan in a lot of sectors in agriculture sector, in port and logistics sector, also in power sector, in free zones to link all these things together to have more bright export and re-export.” 

The Emirati envoy said this investment was mutually beneficial for both nations and the next year would be brighter with regard to inflows that had already started coming into Pakistan. 

“More than this (investment) has also to come because many investors from the UAE’s private sector, apart from the government, also want to invest in Pakistan, particularly in food security, health and education sectors,” he said. 

He appreciated the formation and the “proactive role” of the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC) — a Pakistani civil-military hybrid forum established in June this year — in fast-tracking the decision-making process and promoting investment from foreign nations, particularly Gulf countries. 

“The forum is very fast and effective,” the envoy said, adding he had personally dealt with the forum and things had materialized within days. 

Under the investment coming from the UAE, according to the consul-general, an export hub will be established in Karachi and logistic support will be provided to remote areas of Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan and southern Sindh provinces. 

“The investment of the UAE in Pakistan is a part of relationship and to be together in the business that is to make in the environment and places and to have a short list for the logistics from all areas like and Balochistan and Sindh,” he said. 

Pakistan and the UAE are close allies. The Gulf nation is Pakistan’s third-largest trade partner after China and the United States. It is also viewed as an ideal export destination by policymakers in the South Asian country due to its geographical proximity with Pakistan. 

The UAE is also home to an estimated 1.8 million Pakistani expatriates and, after Saudi Arabia, is the second-largest source of remittances for the South Asian nation of more than 240 million. 

The Pakistan PM, during an ambitious visit to the Gulf region this week, oversaw the signing of the MoUs between Pakistan and the UAE on energy, port operation projects, waste water treatment, food security, logistics, minerals, and banking and financial services sectors. 

“These MoUs will unlock multi-billion dollars of investment from United Arab Emirates into Pakistan and will help realize various initiatives envisioned under [Pakistan’s] Special Investment Facilitation Council,” the Pakistani foreign office said at the time. 

PM Kakar’s UAE visit was followed by his stopover in Kuwait, during which the two countries signed 10 deals worth several billion dollars.