Egyptian startup organizes food relief for daily wage workers in Pakistan

Egyptian transportation company Swvl and representatives of Rizq are distributing food packages in Lahore on March 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Rizq)
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Updated 24 March 2020

Egyptian startup organizes food relief for daily wage workers in Pakistan

  • 7 million daily wage workers affected by ongoing virus lockdowns, says workers’ federation
  • With Pakistani partners, Swvl will distribute at least 2 million ration packs

ISLAMABAD: An Egyptian transportation company has partnered with Pakistani NGOs in a relief effort for workers on daily wage, who have been affected by the shutdown of businesses across the country, as administrations are trying to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

In partnership with Saylani Welfare Trust, Robinhood Army and Rizq, the Egyptian startup, Swvl, will distribute more than 2 million ration packs to those left without work and means to earn, Shahzeb Memon, Swvl Pakistan general manager told Arab News on Tuesday.

A Swvl vehicle is loaded with food ration packs to be distributed among daily wage workers in Karachi on March 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Swvl)

“Approximately 25 percent of Pakistan’s population lives under the poverty line, the disruption to daily economic activities will have a devastating impact on them. Swvl aims to help the impoverished and downtrodden of our society by providing daily ration to millions whose earnings will be hit substantially in these turbulent times due to lockdowns,” he said by phone from Karachi.

Over 7 million daily wage workers will be affected by the shutdown of commercial activity across the country, according to Zahoor Awan, secretary general of Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF).
“More than 7 million daily wage workers cannot go out for work as result of these lockdowns and restrictions in movement due to this pandemic. They need assistance from wealthy people and organizations to feed their families,” Awan said.

“This is a good initiative by Swvl and other partners, as it will lessen the hardship faced by poor families. Other organizations should also come forward with such programs because we don’t know when this pandemic will end,” he said.

Swvl and Saylani workers are distributing food packages in Karachi on March 23, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Saylani Welfare Trust)

The NGOs chosen by Swvl have extensive networks, which will help the company reach those in need, Memon said.

“Our own bus drivers also suffer due to the lockdown, so we are also providing them ration packs and monetary assistance from Rs5,000 to Rs10,000,” he added.

Swvl operates buses on fixed routes, for which customers reserve their seats using an application.

Saylani Welfare Trust’s head of corporate social responsibility, Furqan Aslam, confirmed that they have already started distributing food packages with Swvl in Karachi.

“We are distributing 2 million ration packs to the daily wage workers as they are unable to go to their work due to the lockdown. We can increase it to 3 million packs if lockdown remains for a longer period,” Aslam told Arab News via phone from Karachi.
“Each ration pack contains 10 kilograms wheat flour, 2 kilograms of rice, 2 kilograms of pulses, 3 liters of oil and 1 kilogram of salt. The packs will be distributed in Karachi, Thatha, Hyderabad, Rawalpindi, Quetta, Faisalabad and Peshawar,” he said.

Qasim Javaid, co-founder of Rizq, who for the initiative partners with Swvl in Lahore and Islamabad, said it will reach many people who really need help in this testing time.

“We have different community partners who donate food packs, which Swvl picks up from different areas and helps us in distribution in various areas of Lahore and Islamabad. It is time for all of us to unite to help those who need us the most,” he said, while talking to Arab News from Lahore.

Pakistan regulator asks TV stations to avoid promoting ‘hate mongers’ involved in anti-state activities

Updated 17 min 3 sec ago

Pakistan regulator asks TV stations to avoid promoting ‘hate mongers’ involved in anti-state activities

  • The directive comes as focus turns to ex-PM Imran Khan amid open hearings of a case relating to leaking of state secrets
  • Khan, who has been in jail since August 5, says cases against him are ‘politically motivated,’ aim to keep him out of politics

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) has asked broadcasters not to promote “hate mongers” involved in anti-state activities, citing violent incidents in May that stemmed from the arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan.

Khan, who was ousted in a parliamentary no-trust vote in April 2022, was briefly arrested in a graft case on May 9, which led to attacks on government and military installations in Pakistan by supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

The attacks led to a crackdown on Khan supporters and members of his party. Several top aides of the ex-premier and members of his party have since distanced themselves from the PTI, while many still remain behind bars. 

In its directive to TV stations on Monday, PEMRA said any speech that incites violence, promotes hatred, or poses threat to public order and security could be restricted, noting that it was “crucial to strike a balance between protecting freedom of speech and maintaining public order.”

“In this regard, attention of all the licensees is drawn to a tragic incident occurred on May 9, 2023 and its mastermind, wherein state and public properties were attacked, innocent lives were endangered and anti-state sentiments were prompted, attempting to weaken Federation of Pakistan and state institutions,” the regulator said.

“This is unequivocally a very horrific trend and indeed needs to be condemned and those involved in promoting such activities must be boycotted on media for damaging peace and tranquility in the country. In the wake of aforementioned scenario, all satellite TV channel licensees are directed to remain vigilant and not to promote any hate monger, perpetrators and their facilitators inadvertently or advertently.”

The PEMRA directive comes as Khan once again becomes center of public attention, with public hearings of a case against him relating to the leaking of state secrets. The ex-premier initially faced an in-camera prison trial in the case, however, a Pakistani high court last month ruled that such hearings were illegal and ordered an open trial with media access.

Khan, who has been in jail since August 5 after being convicted in a case involving the sale of state gifts, faces a slew of cases that he says are “politically motivated” and aimed at keeping him out of politics.

Further in its directive, PEMRA asked all licensees to ensure compliance of the provisions of its code of conduct for programs and advertisements aired on electronic media.

“Licensees must adhere to provisions of PEMRA laws and orders of the superior courts by refraining from providing their airtime to such individuals who propagate hate speech and provoke public sentiments against the Federation and State Institutions,” it added.

Islamic Development Bank announces $100 million loan to make Pakistan polio-free

Updated 05 December 2023

Islamic Development Bank announces $100 million loan to make Pakistan polio-free

  • The South Asian country has already received $60 of this amount, the IsDB president says
  • Pakistan, Afghanistan are only two countries in world where polio continues to threaten lives

ISLAMABAD: The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) has announced a $100 million loan to support Pakistan’s polio eradication efforts, the Pakistani health minister and the Bank said, on the sidelines of the ongoing COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai. 

This loan builds on a previous support from the IsDB and includes a $35 million principal buydown from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, according to an IsDB statement.  

The new funding complements previous loans and will be used to secure and deliver millions of polio vaccines needed to protect all children across Pakistan against the debilitating yet preventable virus. 

"I am very pleased to announce that the IsDB approved US$100 million financing in the 4th Phase of Polio Eradication Program for Pakistan in April 2023, which brings the IsDB total financing for Polio eradication in Pakistan to US$ 587 million, making the Bank one of the largest providers of finance to the national polio eradication program in Pakistan," IsDB President Dr. Muhammad Al-Jasser was quoted as saying in the statement.  

"Under this latest phase, I am happy to note that US$60 million of this amount was disbursed in mid-November 2023. We and our partners remain committed and are working hard to win this battle against this disease. We really are at the last mile in this long journey as only 5 cases of wild poliovirus have been reported in the country in 2023.”  

The IsDB president thanked the Pakistani government, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, UN International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) for their steadfast commitment to polio eradication. 

Polio is a highly infectious disease caused by poliovirus mainly affecting children under the age of ten years. It invades the nervous system, and can cause paralysis or even death.  

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio continues to threaten the health and well-being of children.  

“We welcome the support of the IsDB and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in contributing to the critical effort of ending polio in Pakistan,” Pakistan Health Minister Nadeem Jan said, addressing the ‘Reaching the Last Mile’ forum related to polio at COP28. 

“Interrupting poliovirus transmission remains a core focus for the Government of Pakistan, and thanks to the heroic efforts of community health workers, global partners and contributors like the IsDB and the foundation, we have pushed the virus to the brink of eradication.” 

An official of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said they saw this loan as an important step forward for the eradication of polio in Pakistan.  

“We are pleased to partner again with the IsDB and the Government of Pakistan to ensure funding opportunities to provide the needed resources to reach every child with polio vaccines,” said Chris Elias, president of the Global Development Division at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  

“With continued support to health workers and the efforts from partners like the IsDB, I am confident we will end polio in Pakistan.” 

The IsDB said this new loan would enable Pakistan's polio program to reach all children and communities with the life-saving vaccine.  

"It will also help meet the country’s commitment of US$155 million towards its national polio program supported by the partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI)," it added. 

Ailing Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui ‘raped’ inside US prison, lawyer says

Updated 05 December 2023

Ailing Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui ‘raped’ inside US prison, lawyer says

  • Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a 49-year-old mother of three, is serving an 86-year sentence at a US federal prison
  • Her lawyer says she has been abused 'countless times' by guards and prisoners at US detention facility

ISLAMABAD: Ailing Pakistani neuroscientist Aafia Siddiqui, who has been jailed in the United States (US) after being convicted of attacking US troops in Afghanistan, has been "raped" inside a US prison, her lawyer said on Tuesday.

Siddiqui, a 49-year-old mother of three, is currently serving an 86-year sentence at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) in Carswell, Texas after a New York court convicted her in 2010 of attempting to shoot and kill a group of US soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan who wanted to interrogate her for alleged links to Al-Qaeda.  

Her sentencing by a US court has riled many in Pakistan, including former and current Pakistani governments that had campaigned for her release and paid for her legal defense.  

Siddiqui's lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, on Tuesday made shocking disclosures about mistreatment of Siddiqui, a day after his meeting with the Pakistani scientist at FMC Carswell. 

"She has been raped in FMC Carswell, no question about it," Smith, a US-based human rights lawyer who is representing Siddiqui, said in an interview to a Pakistani broadcaster. 

"Well, I mean, at least two times is a formal thing by guards, but in terms of abuse by the guards and prisoners, countless times." 

As an American, Smith said, he was "ashamed of" what the US prison system had done to Siddiqui. 

"I have filed a report on her abuse and what they have been doing to her is pretty unspeakable in terms of the sexual mistreatment," he said. "She has told me in great detail about how she has been abused." 

Smith said Siddiqui's complaints were all "extreme" and "true," and that she had been meted out the "harshest" treatment by the US prison authorities. 

"There are 10,250 women in the [US] federal prison system," the lawyer said. "The woman who has been treated the harshest of all those 10,250 is Aafia Siddiqui." 

Siddiqui, who is reportedly ailing, earned advanced degrees from Brandeis University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before she was sentenced for assaulting US soldiers after being detained in Afghanistan two years earlier.  

Her punishment sparked outrage in Pakistan among political leaders and her supporters, who viewed her as a victim of the US criminal justice system.  

In the years since, Pakistani officials have publicly expressed interest in any sort of deal or swap that could result in her release from US custody, and her case has continued to draw attention from supporters.  

The government of Nawaz Sharif, three-time former prime minister of Pakistan, as well as the outgoing Pakistani administration of his younger brother, Shehbaz Sharif, have made efforts for Siddiqui’s release during their tenure.  

In March this year, the younger Sharif instructed Pakistan’s foreign ministry to remain engaged with the US government and the country’s mission in Washington for the release of jailed Pakistani neuroscientist, following his meeting with Siddiqui's sister, Dr. Fowzia Siddiqui. 

Smith said he had apprised the Pakistani government of Siddiqui's abuse and was certainly going to let Pakistani authorities know of the "gruesome details." 

He, however, said it was the duty of the Pakistani government to protect her from the abuse. 

"That's her government, it is their duty to protect her," he said. "I will do what I can, I am an American, I apologize for what has happened to her. But it is actually, ultimately the job of the government in Pakistan." 

AirBus A320 acquired for $13 million by PIA from Indonesia to fly to Pakistan today

Updated 05 December 2023

AirBus A320 acquired for $13 million by PIA from Indonesia to fly to Pakistan today

  • The purchase by the loss-making airline is part of $26 million two-plane deal
  • PIA has accumulated hundreds of billions of rupees in losses and arrears

KARACHI: An Airbus A320 acquired by Pakistan International Airline (PIA) for $13 million from Indonesia will land in Karachi on Tuesday night, a spokesperson for the airline said.

Loss-making PIA has accumulated hundreds of billions of rupees in losses and arrears. The government announced in August it would privatize the airline, a move that would be in line with an International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal.

PIA leased two Airbus A320 planes from leasing company AirAsia in 2012. The lease concluded in September 2021, after which PIA returned the aircraft to the leasing company. However, a dispute arose when AirAsia declined to accept the planes, contending they were not returned in satisfactory condition.

The row continued for nearly two years and the airline finally struck a deal with the leasing company to buy the two planes after a PIA delegation met with AirAsia officials in Jakarta in October.

“PIA has acquired these aircraft, which were earlier sent to Jakarta for return to the leasing company, AirAsia, upon the completion of a six-year lease,” PIA spokesman Abdullah Khan told Arab News.

“The lessor agreed to PIA's proposal of buying out these aircraft at the price of $26 million.”

PIA made a payment of $13 million last week, the spokesman said, after which one aircraft was released and flying to Pakistan today, Tuesday. 

“One aircraft will land at Karachi airport today at 11pm, while the second one will be acquired after paying the remaining $13 million within the next couple of weeks,” Khan added.

The purchase comes at a time of deep crisis for the loss-making airline, which the government says it can no longer fund. PIA has also been in disputes with the Pakistan State Oil company (PSO) over payments.

The airline has long been in trouble. 

PIA flights to Europe and the UK have been suspended since 2020 after the European Union's Aviation Safety Agency revoked the national carrier's authorization to fly to the bloc following a scandal over pilot licences.

Pakistan to play ‘aggressive’ cricket on Australia Test tour — skipper

Updated 05 December 2023

Pakistan to play ‘aggressive’ cricket on Australia Test tour — skipper

  • Pakistan will play first Test against Australia in Perth on Dec. 14, followed by two others in Melbourne and Sydney
  • Ahead of the first Test match, Pakistan will play Prime Minister’s XI on December 6 at Manuka Oval in Canberra

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will try playing an ‘aggressive’ cricket in their three-match Test series against Australia, skipper Shan Masood said on Monday.

Pakistan will play the first Test against Australia in Perth on December 14, before the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. 

The third Test will be played in Sydney and begin on January 3. 

Masood, who was recently appointed Pakistan Test captain, said Test cricket had undergone a significant change over the years. 

“We will try playing with a positive mindset, an aggressive mindset,” he told reporters in Canberra. 

“Wherever an opportunity came to put the other side under pressure, we will try to put pressure as a bowling unit or a bowling unit.” 

Ahead of the Test series, Pakistan will play Prime Minister’s XI on December 6 at Manuka Oval. 

Masood believed time factor was quite important for his side the games against Australia. 

“As a batting unit, you will have to improve the run rate a bit,” he said, adding Pakistan pacers will also have to strive to bowl as many players out as they can. 


Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jr., Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi