PayPal not yet ready to extend services to Pakistan 

This file photo shows PayPal's logo outside its headquarters in San Jose, California, on April 9, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2019

PayPal not yet ready to extend services to Pakistan 

  • The online payment company has cited a lack of business opportunities behind its decision
  • IT experts in Pakistan believe PayPal is concerned about Pakistan’s grey-listing by the Financial Action Task Force

KARACHI: PayPal, the American company that operates a global online payment system has refused to extend its services to Pakistan for at least three years, citing a lack of adequate business opportunities, local media reported on Saturday.
As of this year, PayPal operates in 202 markets and has over 286 million active, registered accounts. The company allows customers to send, receive and hold money in multiple currencies.
Last month, a Pakistani delegation from the Ministry of Information Technology traveled to the US to convince PayPal to begin operations in Pakistan. But PayPal officials refused, and said Pakistan was not included in the company’s three-year road map due to inadequate business opportunities, Urdu News reported.
The Elon Musk-founded company, has also previously refused to begin operations in Pakistan, despite the country trying to secure facilitation for its 200,000 freelancers and over 7,000 registered small and medium enterprises (SME’s) in recent years.
The global online payment industry is pegged to grow ten-fold to $500 billion by 2020. Meanwhile, Pakistan expects an expansion of its electronic payments, which represent a potential market of $36 billion by 2025, as the country migrates from a cash based economy to an electronic payment system.
But IT experts believe that PayPal’s refusal to operate in Pakistan is not related to the lack of business opportunities in the country, but to its grey-listing by the Paris-based terror financing watchdog, Financial Action Task Force (FATF).
“Huge business opportunities do exist in Pakistan. I think this is the issue of FATF and not volumes, because PayPal operates even in much smaller countries as compared to Pakistan,” Hamza Matin, an IT expert and former President of Pakistan Software Houses Association (P@SHA), told Arab News.
“PayPal operates with banks and unless the confidence in the banking system is restored, they will not come to Pakistan. They fear money laundering,” he said.
FATF has given Pakistan until February 2020 to implement an action plan to get off its grey list or risk further downgrading to the blacklist which will have severe consequences for the country’s financial and banking system.
In February this year, Asad Umar, then finance minister, said the government was committed to bringing Paypal to Pakistan, and said: “We are chasing PayPal for the breakthrough.”

In Pakistan’s Hyderabad, storehouse hydroponic farm beats drought, land degradation

Updated 6 sec ago

In Pakistan’s Hyderabad, storehouse hydroponic farm beats drought, land degradation

  • Attiq-ur-Rehman Bhayo is using water-based nutrient solution instead of soil to grow tomatoes
  • Shift to urbanization combined with climate change is reducing farmlands in Pakistan, UN official says

HYDERABAD, PAKISTAN: In a large storehouse in the southern Pakistani city of Hyderabad, a 29-year-old entrepreneur is growing tomatoes on a hydroponic farm, defying land degradation, water shortage and power cuts in a country that ranks among the top 10 nations worldwide most affected by climate change.

Attiq-ur-Rehman Bhayo says his solar-powered set-up, in which farming is done in water instead of soil, will provide an urban solution to Pakistan’s agriculture needs as it faces more extreme rainfall, drought and heat waves, crop losses and other worsening threats from climate change.

Instead of soil to grow the tomatoes, Bhayo uses a water-based nutrient solution, coco peat, which is crushed from coconut husks, comes in the form of fine dust or powder and is popular due to its environmental friendliness and sustainability. In hydroponic farming, water is conserved because it is reused multiple times. Hydroponically grown plants also require no pesticides because there are no soil-borne diseases.

Spread over a large 4,000 square feet storehouse, Bhayo’s farm has been registered with the Securities & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) since April 2022 and yielded its first produce in January this year. Since its inception, the farm has produced around 100 kilograms of tomatoes and exotic cherry tomato varieties.

Bhayo said his farm is the first solar-powered vertical farm in Pakistan, though there is no official confirmation of this.

“This is controlled environment agriculture based on hydroponic technology. In this system plant roots are submerged in a nutrient-drenched water solution,” Bhayo, the chief executive officer (CEO) and owner of Sulit Agro (Pvt) Ltd, told Arab News.

“Basically, the main difference between this system and the traditional system is yield and the quality of the fruit. As you can see this is a controlled environment so we don’t use any pesticides or fungicides which give us organic produce.”

Bhayo, who comes from a traditional family of farmers in Pakistan’s Sindh province, decided to pursue hydroponic farming while pursuing a Masters of Science degree in Engineering Business Management in the United Kingdom.

On returning to Pakistan in 2018, he set up his farm under the Prime Minister’s Kamyab Jawan Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme at a cost of Rs20 million.


Hydroponic farming offers many benefits, including minimal food wastage as compared to open field cultivation, the prevention of nutrient runoff pollution that endangers livestock, fertilizer conservation, savings in pesticides, herbicides and fungicides, water conservation through closed-loop systems to avoid aquifer depletion, elimination of tilling to save Co2 emissions and protect soil microbes, and high yield in small spaces, Bhayo explained. 

But the primary distinction between hydroponics and traditional farming was yield and fruit quality, the grower said. 

Under the controlled environment of a hydroponic farm, pesticides and fungicides were unnecessary, resulting in organic produce. Additionally, produce could be available year-round compared with soil-based farming, which typically yields tomatoes for only three or four months annually.

Also, with traditional farming, the average yield per plant is 5 to 8 kilograms per season each year, whereas with hydroponics, the yield is year-round with an average of 36 kilograms per plant. If more advanced hydroponic systems are used in a high-tech temperature-controlled environment with special lights, the yield can go up to to 60 kilograms per plant yearly. 

It is for these reasons that vertical farming is gaining momentum in Pakistan, primarily driven by the private sector, with public sector organizations also embracing the modern agricultural approach.

The Soil Salinity and Reclamation Research Institute (SS&RRI), a provincial body established in Sindh’s Tando Jam town, recently carried out experiments using hydroponics. 

“Under the hydroponic system, we experimented with five vegetables, brinjal, chilies, tomatoes and others,” an official at the institute, Jamila Jamro, told Arab News.

In soil-less farming, she said, plants received essential elements without toxic additions like arsenic and cadmium, making the fruits healthier than those that came from field crops.

“We recommend indoor farming over traditional field farming,” Jamro said.

She said the institute’s future plan was to expand its research to major crops such as rice and wheat, for which it would identify salt-tolerant varieties.


According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world’s population is expected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, 70 percent of which will be living in urban areas mainly in low- and middle-income countries in Africa and Asia.

Against this background, the FAO has been supporting the transformation of urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) into a recognized urban land use and economic activity, integrated into national and local agricultural development strategies as well as food and nutrition programs and urban planning, a Sindh-based FOA official, James Robert Okoth, explained.

He told Arab News the social shift toward urbanization in Pakistan, combined with climate change which was reducing available farmland, had spotlighted the importance of urban farming to enhance food security and availability in communities.

“Urban farming is important for Pakistan, especially in Sindh province, as the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident,” Okoth said. “There is considerable land degradation, and much of the groundwater is becoming brackish, limiting crop options in these areas.”

Urban farming allows for intensification within a small area, enabling the cultivation of diverse, nutritious vegetables, as well as creating employment opportunities, the FOA official added.

Bhayo agrees and hopes the idea will catch on.

After having successfully established his farm, the entrepreneur now offers consultancy on greenhouse technology to others intending to set up similar farms.

“The response is that people are most likely scared whether they will get a return from this huge investment or not,” he said, adding that government support to scale hydroponic farms, through loans and knowledge transfer, was the way forward. 

“This will provide them [farmers] a good opportunity to invest in this system,” Bhayo said. “Once you stabilize the system, there are minimum requirements to maintain the system.”

Pakistani politician writes to Hamas chief, condoles over death of sons in Israeli strike

Updated 12 April 2024

Pakistani politician writes to Hamas chief, condoles over death of sons in Israeli strike

  • The killings came as talks dragged on in Cairo for a temporary ceasefire and hostage release deal
  • Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman calls Israel’s targeting of families of Hamas leaders ‘admission of failure’ 

ISLAMABAD: Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI) religious party, has written a letter to Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh to condole over the death of his three sons in an Israeli strike in Gaza, the JUI said on Thursday.

Israel confirmed the killings that came as talks in Cairo for a temporary ceasefire and hostage release deal dragged on without signs of a breakthrough.

Speaking to Qatari broadcaster Al Jazeera, Haniyeh suggested the strike, which also killed four of his grandchildren, was an attempt to shift Hamas’s negotiating stance.

In his letter to the Hamas chief, Rehman said targeting families and children of Hamas leaders was an “admission of failure” by Israel.

“The blood of these martyrs will not go in vain,” he stated. “We support Hamas’ efforts in fight [against Israeli occupation of Palestine].”

The Pakistani politician said his party condemned the targeting of hospitals and refugee camps by Israel. He called on the international community to end the oppression and violence on the Palestinians forever.

Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.

Rehman’s statement came amid talks, mediated by the United States, Egypt and Qatar, which have been ongoing in Cairo since Sunday.

Despite calls for a ceasefire, Israel has carried out strikes in the Gaza Strip, particularly in the south of the territory, witnesses say.

The war broke out with Hamas’s October 7 attack against Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli figures.

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 33,482 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

IMF chief says Pakistan seeking potential follow-up loan program

Updated 12 April 2024

IMF chief says Pakistan seeking potential follow-up loan program

  • Pakistan, IMF last month reached an agreement on second and final review of the $3 billion stand-by arrangement
  • The IMF board is expected to review the matter in late April, but no firm date has been set, a spokesperson said

WASHINGTON: Pakistan is in discussions with the International Monetary Fund on a potential follow-up program to its nine-month, $3 billion stand-by arrangement, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Thursday, adding that it had important issues to solve.

Georgieva told an event at the Atlantic Council think tank, that Pakistan was successfully completing its existing program with the IMF and its economy was performing somewhat better, with reserves now being built up.

“There is a commitment to continue on this path, and the country is turning to the fund for potentially having a follow-up program,” Georgieva said, flagging issues that the struggling South Asian nation still needed to address.

“There are very important issues to be solved in Pakistan: the tax base, how the richer part of society contributes to the economy, the way public spending is being directed and of course, creating ... a more transparent environment.”

Pakistan and the IMF last month reached a staff-level agreement on the second and last review of the $3 billion stand-by arrangement, which, if cleared by the global lender’s board, will release about $1.1 billion to the struggling South Asian nation. The IMF’s board is expected to review the matter in late April, but no firm date has been set, a spokesperson said.

Both sides have also spoken about negotiating a longer-term bailout and continuing with necessary policy reforms to rein in deficits, build up reserves and manage soaring debt servicing.

Islamabad banned Zainebiyoun Brigade after it became threat to Pakistan’s security — experts

Updated 12 April 2024

Islamabad banned Zainebiyoun Brigade after it became threat to Pakistan’s security — experts

  • The Zainebiyoun Brigade comprises Pakistanis allegedly trained by Iran for fighting in Syria alongside Bashar Assad’s forces
  • Islamabad’s move comes days before Iranian’s president’s expected visit, aimed at repairing ties after tit-for-tat strikes in Jan.

KARACHI: Pakistan designated the Zainebiyoun Brigade, an Iran-backed militant group comprising Pakistani nationals that has been active in Syria, as a “terrorist” organization after it became a potential threat to the country’s security, experts said on Friday.

The Pakistani government had reasons to believe that Zainebiyoun Brigade was engaged in certain activities “prejudicial to the peace and security of the country,” read a notification, issued by the country’s interior minister on March 29, which emerged on Thursday. Subsequently, Pakistan’s National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) updated its official list of proscribed organizations, placing the Iran-backed group at 79th spot.

The development came a day after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned that Israel “must be punished and will be punished,” following an April 1 attack that destroyed Iran’s consulate building in Damascus and killed seven Revolutionary Guards, including two generals. Some analysts believe Tehran might be planning an attack on Israeli interests in the world and could move the Zainebiyoun Brigade for this purpose.

Since the US Treasury added the Zainebiyoun Brigade to its financial blacklist in Jan. 2019, Pakistani authorities have arrested several militants affiliated with the group, notably in the country’s commercial hub of Karachi, a significant recruitment hub for the militant outfit, along with three other regions – Parachinar, Quetta and Gilgit Baltistan.

Security experts say Islamabad moved to outlaw the Zainebiyoun Brigade due to the threat it posed to Pakistan’s security in the current scenario.

“Its [Zainebiyoun’s] activities may trigger major sectarian conflict as it used to be in Pakistan sometimes ago as retaliation by Sunni extremist groups may further complicate the environment,” Abdullah Khan, an Islamabad-based security expert, told Arab News.

Previously, Zainebiyoun members fighting in Syria and Iraq were considered an “indirect threat,” but now the group’s members have reportedly returned to Pakistan and replaced banned sectarian outfit Sipa-e-Muhammad “as the main militant group targeting opponents,” according to Khan. The Zainebiyoun Brigade has now become “a very serious threat to Pakistan’s sectarian harmony.”

A Pakistani official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the decision to designate Zainebiyoun Brigade as a proscribed entity was made after Iran’s attacks inside Pakistan.

“The decision, implemented on March 29, was taken in a high-level meeting following Iran’s attack inside Pakistan,” the official told Arab News. “Increasing attacks in Balochistan by militants based in Iran further pushed for the implementation of this decision.”

In January, Iran targeted two suspected bases of the Jaish-ul-Adl militant group in Pakistan with missiles, prompting a rapid military riposte from Islamabad targeting what it said were separatist militants in Iran.

The tit-for-tat strikes were the highest-profile cross-border intrusions by the two countries in recent years and raised alarm about a wider conflict.

“Iran-Pakistan relations have been strained since the Iranians fired missiles in Pakistan earlier this year, which has triggered questions about Iranian relationship with various armed groups active in Pakistan, including the Zainebiyoun,” Dr. Asfandyar Mir, a senior expert at the US Institute of Peace, told Arab News.

“Even if not a decisive factor in Pakistani calculus to designate Zainebiyoun, it is difficult to separate the decision from the state of Iran-Pakistan bilateral ties.”

Pakistan’s designation of the Zainebiyoun Brigade as a militant outfit also comes days before an expected visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in the third week of April and is likely to put pressure on Tehran in the talks later this month.

Abdul Sayed, a Sweden-based independent scholar on militancy, politics and security, concurred the move was also linked to “growing tensions” between the two countries.

“Recently, amid growing tensions between Pakistan and Iran, this move can be interpreted as Pakistan’s attempt to thwart potential sectarian attacks aimed at destabilizing the country,” he said.

“Iran has accused Pakistan of harboring sanctuaries for Jaish-ul-Adl [militant group] and has threatened repercussions.”

Sayed said the group had emerged as a “dangerous” organization as significant number of youths previously associated with other outfits had joined its ranks.

“Its militants have also been implicated in terrorist attacks against rival sects within Pakistan,” he added.

In January this year, the counter-terrorism department (CTD) in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province said they had apprehended Syed Muhammad Mehdi, a suspected militant associated with the Zainebiyoun Brigade who had been involved in an assassination attempt on Mufti Taqi Usmani, a top Pakistani cleric, in Karachi in 2019. The attack had killed two of Mufti Usmani’s guards.

In July 2022, then Pakistan interior minister Rana Sanaullah Khan told the Senate that Zainebiyoun Brigade members were among the militants “found actively involved in terrorist activities” in the country in 2019-2021.

In recent years, Pakistani authorities have announced the arrest of a number of suspects who they said were affiliated with the Zainebiyoun Brigade and were trained in Iran.

In Nov 2020, an Associated Press report said a number of Pakistanis were among 19 pro-Iran militia fighters killed in eastern Syria.

In March 2020, a senior official told Arab News that up to 50 Pakistani fighters were killed by the Turkish army and Syrian forces in a major rebel stronghold in the northwest of Syria.

Victoria buggies, remnants of colonial times, trot on during Ramadan, Eid days in Karachi

Updated 12 April 2024

Victoria buggies, remnants of colonial times, trot on during Ramadan, Eid days in Karachi

  • Overtaken by cars, buses, rickshaws and motorbikes, horse-drawn carriages were once popular Karachi transport
  • Drivers say portside metropolis had over 7,000 buggies until few decades ago, now less than 100 in city of 20 million

KARACHI: Fazal Aman led his horse Pappu out of a stable in the Soldier Bazaar area of Karachi and clasped it to the British-style Victoria carriage adorned with fairy lights, before setting off on a five-kilometer journey to the port city’s posh Bahadurabad neighborhood in search of passengers.

Remnants of Pakistan’s colonial past, the doorless, four-wheel open carriage named after Queen Victoria and drawn by one or two horses, has a coachman’s seat at the front and a retractable roof over the passenger bench. The carriages used to be among the main modes of transportation in Karachi around a century ago and then remained in use in the older areas of the city around Gandhi Garden, Ajmel Colony, Parsi Colony off M.A. Jinnah Road and adjoining areas. Today, there are less than 100 buggies left on Karachi’s roads, mostly used for sightseeing tours throughout the year or by holiday revelers during festive seasons like Ramadan and Eid.

Indeed, Ramadan in particular brings some respite for carriage drivers, who say they sit idle for the rest of the year. The carriage fee is up to Rs10,000 ($36) for a full day tour but in Ramadan, drivers charge around $18-20 a ride.

“During Ramadan, our business thrives,” Aman said as he finished a ride near the city’s famous Chaar Minaar roundabout. “We manage our expenses, our horse feed expenses are covered, and our children have a good Eid.”

The sight and sound of the carriages pulling up are a source of joy for residents and tourists, particularly children who pile in and jostle for a place on the driver’s seat.

“I really enjoyed the experience. It’s an extremely amazing thing,” said Safa Cochinwala, 13, who took a ride with her siblings and grandfather. “The lights are very nice and the experience is just something else.”

Another resident, Jawad Jafrani, had taken his two kids for a ride after the iftar sunset meal.

“During Ramadan, these activities flourish,” the 36-year-old told Arab News as he helped his children onto a buggy. “Children nowadays are particularly attracted to carriages decorated with lights and insist on riding on those.

“Previously, children used to get to experience carriages at weddings and other special events, but now that trend has faded. Now cars have arrived, the expensive ones, and people drive in them but this [carriage ride] is still unique.”

Karachi resident Adeel Arif remembered a time when carriages were widely used to ferry children, including himself, to and from school and after school classes.

“I tell the children that when I was your age, I used to go for after school classes in this carriage’,” he said. “’While you ride them for leisure, we used to travel in them for studying.”


But despite the post-iftar rides bringing business, Aman worries about the months ahead when he knows the work will once more dry up. When Aman’s father and grandfather were coachmen, there were over 7,000 carriages running on Karachi streets, a number now down to down to less than 100 in a city with a population of more than 20 million people.

This decline has led many, including Aman’s elder brother, to abandon the profession.

“Apart from Ramadan, we usually sit idle, waiting for bookings. When bookings come, we go out of home. If they don’t come, we sit idle for months,” Aman said.

Inflation has also hit the business.

“Many people are leaving the carriage business due to inflation and due to the high prices of horses and even horse feed,” Aman said. “A carriage is prepared at a cost of at least Rs450,000 [$1,618] while I have bought the horse separately for Rs210,000 [$755].”

But despite the challenges, Aman does not want Victoria carriages to die out.

“I want my family legacy to not end. This is an asset of Pakistan, may it always remain so,” he said, wistfully. This is the identity of the city of Karachi, let’s not let it fade away.”