Pakistani businessmen raise Rs21 million on WhatsApp for virus most affected

People queue as they wait to receive charity food alongside a road during a government-imposed lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Rawalpindi on March 24, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 25 March 2020

Pakistani businessmen raise Rs21 million on WhatsApp for virus most affected

  • All donations were made via no-touch payment transactions
  • Corporate Pakistan Group (CPG) is also going to support frontline medical staff with personal protective equipment

KARACHI: Within two days, members of a Pakistani group on WhatsApp raised Rs21 million to help the country’s most vulnerable from sinking into poverty, as many commercial activities have been shut down amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The economic impact of the epidemic has already hit millions of Pakistani families, especially those whose livelihoods are dependent on daily wage work, testing both the government’s response and society’s generosity in a time of a major public health crisis. The latter gives hope.
“Two days back I shared my intention with the group members and the response was overwhelming,” said Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, founder of Corporate Pakistan Group (CPG). “Within two days we have received more than Rs21 million pledges made by our members through WhatsApp. Our target was Rs20 million.”
“The initiative was suggested by CPG member Shamsuddin Shaikh and now other members of the group, Zafar Sobani and Saleem Ranjha are managing this initiative with him,” Ahsan added.
CPG has 256 members, including the country’s top businessmen, policy makers, security officials, and scholars. Many of them pledge further donations.
Since cash has been increasingly seen as a vehicle for coronavirus, no-touch payment tools were used for all contributions, Ahsan said, “All transactions have taken place in virtual space without any physical contact.”




Muhammad Azfar Ahsan, founder of Corporate Pakistan Group. (Supplied)

He said the money raised was not transferred to any private account, but channeled directly to three renowned charities — Akhuwat Foundation, Bait-ul-Salam, and Orange Tree Foundation (Robinhood Army). Equal distribution of the funds was managed by two chartered accountants who volunteered their time for the purpose.
Besides organizing emergency food assistance to poor families affected by the crisis, the group is also going to support frontline medical staff with personal protective equipment, as shortages of masks and protective wear in Pakistan are directly putting at risk the lives of those who are saving others from the coronavirus pandemic
“Orders have been placed for manufacturing of safety kits for doctors and paramedical staff,” Ahsan said. “The state has to play major role but we will continue to play our role with continued funding.
“The first phase is challenging, we are preparing to face the challenges,” he said, admitting that the group is planning response activities for the next couple of weeks, as the health crisis situation is unfolding.
In preparation for other crisis scenarios in the future, by the end of the year the group is going to establish a think tank, Ahsan said, “It would be Pakistan’s biggest policy institute.”


Pakistan’s top Shariat court declares ‘compensation marriages’ to settle disputes un-Islamic

Updated 15 sec ago

Pakistan’s top Shariat court declares ‘compensation marriages’ to settle disputes un-Islamic

  • Custom of swara involves girls being given in marriage or servitude to aggrieved family as compensation to end disputes
  • Though laws in 2005 and 2011 declared swara illegal it continues to be practiced and authorities often turn a blind eye

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Federal Shariat Court (FSC) has declared ‘un-Islamic’ the tradition of Swara, a practice in which girls, often minors, are given in marriage or servitude to an aggrieved family as compensation to end disputes, local media reported.
A three-judge bench headed by FSC Chief Justice Noor Mohammad Meskenzai said the tradition of giving away minor girls to settle disputes was against the injunctions of Islam, Dawn newspaper reported.
The petitioner, a woman called Sakeena Bibi, said swara, often the result of punishment decided by a council of tribal elders called a jirga or panchayat, usurped the fundamental rights of a woman or young girl.
“It argued that jirga or panchayat misconstrued the concept ‘badl-i-sulah’ — compensation to settle a dispute by offering a young girl to the aggrieved family. The petitioner requested the court to declare this custom as illegal,” Dawn reported.
Dr. Mohammad Aslam Khaki, a jurist consult at the FSC, said swara violated at least four fundamental rights.
“According to him, since the girl is offered by the accused family, she in most of the cases is deprived of even basic facilities, hence subjected to discrimination. Secondly, she is wedded to a man without her consent. Thirdly, she is not entitled to dowry, and fourthly, she cannot file legal suit for khula — dissolution of marriage,” Khaki said.
Though laws in 2005 and 2011 have declared swara illegal, the custom still continues to be practiced in many parts of Pakistan.
In 2004, the Sindh High Court outlawed all such “parallel justice” systems. But the writ of government is weak in rural areas of the country, and local police often turn a blind eye.


‘Imagine potential’ if Pakistan, India can live like ‘civilized neighbors’ - PM Khan

Updated 9 min 25 sec ago

‘Imagine potential’ if Pakistan, India can live like ‘civilized neighbors’ - PM Khan

  • Khan addresses Pakistan-Saudi Investment Forum a day after Pakistan defeated India for the first time in a World Cup fixture
  • Cheekily says it wasn’t a “good time” to talk about mending fences after Pakistan’s thrashing of Indian cricket team 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said Islamabad and New Delhi only had one conflict, over the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, and urged both nations to resolve it like "civilised" neighbours.
The two countries have fought two wars over Kashmir -- divided between the two nations -- since their independence in 1947.
Addressing the Pakistan-Saudi Investment Forum in Riyadh, the PM highlighted Pakistan's growth potential and its young population and strategic location, which India could benefit from.
"We have two of the biggest markets [India, China] in the world neighbouring us, through Afghanistan we have [access] to Central Asian markets,” Khan said. "We have excellent relations with China, but if somehow we improve our relationship with India…”
He then added cheekily: “I know after last night's thrashing by the Pakistan team in the cricket match, it's not a very good time to talk about improving relations with India,” referring to Pakistan beating India by 10 wickets in a T20 World Cup opener on Sunday.
Decades of bitter rivalry between the neighbors often clouds their cricket encounters. India has largely refused to play bilateral games against Pakistan since 2008, after deadly attacks in Mumbai which India blamed on Pakistan. Islamabad denies state complicity.
Now they only play each other in international events. The last meeting was at the 50-over World Cup two years ago but even that was at the center of boycott calls.
Speaking in Riyadh, the premier said the two countries should try to resolve the Kashmir conflict like "civilised" neighbours.
"It's all about human rights and the rights of the people of Kashmir for self-determination as guaranteed by the United Nations Security Council 72 years ago,” Khan said. "If that right is given to them, we have no other problems. The two countries can live as civilised neighbours … just imagine the potential."
The PM said India could gain access to Central Asia through Pakistan and in turn the latter would gain access to two huge markets.


Pakistani coworking operator Colabs eyes Middle East, Africa expansion 

Updated 21 min 8 sec ago

Pakistani coworking operator Colabs eyes Middle East, Africa expansion 

  • Brainchild of brothers Ali and Omar Shah, Colabs plans to build community of 100,000 entrepreneurs in seven years
  • Backed by Swedish E-commerce giant Bangerhead, the Colabs mission is to “redefine the future of work in Pakistan”

KARACHI: Colabs, a Lahore-based shared workplace startup, has plans to expand its footprint beyond Pakistan in the next two years and has its eyes set on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, the company’s cofounder said this week.
Coworking operators around the world usually rent out property space which hordes of self-employed persons or companies then share, amid a growing belief that shared spaces deliver greater synergies by driving up innovation and productivity.
Backed by Swedish E-commerce giant Bangerhead, Pakistani firm Colabs says it wants to “redefine the future of work in Pakistan” and create a community of 100,000 entrepreneurs across the country within seven years. It has set a 5,000-seat target in the next 18 months and aims for 10,000 seats over the next two years.
Colabs offers seats to individuals and companies on a rental basis to work and organize workshops or seminars in a complete office environment The Colabs community currently has 1,000 seats and services over 100 companies across multiple facilities in Pakistan. Sixty percent of the firm’s co-working space is occupied by tech companies. Users include a mix of freelancers, startups, small and medium enterprises and multinational corporations, including Rocket Internet, Patari, SadaPay, 10pearls, USAID, OMD and Coca Cola.
“We have created co-working space with 1,000 seats for over 100 companies since the launch of Colabs in 2019 and target creating 100,000 seats across the country,” CEO and cofounder Omar Shah, who established the company with his twin brother Ali, said in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
“Funding will be raised for targeted 4,000 seats within the next 18 months across Pakistan, including 1,000 each in Karachi and Islamabad, before starting overseas operations,” Omar said, without divulging how much funding would be required for the expansion.

People can be seen working at a coworking space built by Colabs in Lahore, Pakistan, in this photo shared by the Pakistani startup on October 25, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Colabs) 

Shah, who has around sevens years of work experience as a private equity and venture capital investor in Dubai, with a focus on emerging markets like Mexico, UAE, Turkey, and Pakistan, wants his startup to act as a “gateway” for foreign investment into Pakistan.
“We are projecting Colabs as a gateway to Pakistan by enabling international companies to enter and accelerate growth in the Pakistani market,” Shah said. “Young startups mainly in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region want access to Pakistan.”
The startup is eyeing the MENA region, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka to set up its overseas operations after achieving a 5,000-seat target in Pakistan.
“Companies come to us and ask for setting up offices, hiring and managing teams, including their payroll… in this scenario international expansion is in our plan and we will go to other markets,” he said. “Within two years, we would like to enter other markets, for example Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.”
The demand for co-working spaces was increasing with the growth of startups and freelancers, and they would replicate the same co-working space model in other countries, the Colabs CEO said.
“Such space in Pakistan is limited roughly to around 8,000 to 9,000 seats, but in neighboring India, such seats are available to the tune of 250,000-300,000,” he said.
Shah said Colabs needed 5 million square feet of space to meet its goal of 100,000 seats, which was easily available across Pakistan.

In this undated photo, the logo for Colabs, a Pakistan coworking space operator, is seen on the company's headquarters in Lahore, Pakistan (Photo courtesy: Colabs)

Earlier this month, Abdul Razak Dawood, adviser for commerce and investment to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, said the country’s startups had set a record by raising $305 million during January and September 2021.
A group of young startups have made splashy funding announcements in recent weeks.
Quick-commerce startup Airlift unveiled a record $85 million Series B round last month, followed by business-to-business (B2B) venture Bazaar’s record $30 million Series A round. Last month, Tag, a one-year-old Pakistani startup that offers banking and financial services, raised over $12 million in what is now the largest seed financing round in Pakistan, and Oraan raised $3 million in the largest seed funding closed by a women-led startup in the country.
“India was the hub, where global investors were sitting for over a decade but in Pakistan people for the first time are coming to invest, including institutional and venture capitals,” Shah said.
However, he warned:
“Everyone is bullish on Pakistan today and we need to be very vigilant about the utilization of foreign funds that must not be stolen or wrongly utilized in the absence of a governance structure.”


PM Khan meets Saudi crown prince, addresses Middle East Green summit in Riyadh

Updated 25 October 2021

PM Khan meets Saudi crown prince, addresses Middle East Green summit in Riyadh

  • Pakistan will share experience of ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ project with Saudi Arabia, Khan says
  • Saudi crown prince announces $10.4 billion initiatives to combat climate change

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) summit in Riyadh and discussed with him a range of issues, including climate change, measures to tackle it and the Afghanistan situation. 
At the launch of the summit in Riyadh, Crown Prince Mohammed announced two initiatives at a cost of $10.39 billion to combat climate change. The projects include an investment fund for carbon economy solutions in the region and a global initiative that will contribute to clean fuel solutions to feed more than 750 million people worldwide. Saudi Arabia will contribute around 15 percent of the entire cost. 
PM Khan traveled to the kingdom on the invitation of the Saudi crown prince to attend the MGO summit and share his perspective on challenges faced by developing countries due to climate change.
During his meeting with the crown prince, PM Khan paid tribute to the leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz, in the progress and development of the kingdom. He lauded the crown prince for the Saudi Vision 2030, a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism.
“The prime minister warmly congratulated the crown prince on successfully organizing the Middle East Green Initiative (MGI) Summit on Climate Change,” his office said in a statement. 
“The summit clearly demonstrated the commitment of the Saudi leadership to take tangible steps for effectively tackling the challenge of Climate Change. The Prime Minister noted that the Saudi Green Initiative and the Middle East Green Initiative aligned closely with Pakistan’s Climate Change Initiatives – ‘Clean and Green Pakistan’ and the ‘Ten Billion Tree Tsunami’.” 

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on October 25, 2021 shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) welcoming Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) during the Middle East Green Initiative Summit (MGI) in the Saudi capital Riyadh. (AFP)

He reiterated Pakistan’s support in the implementation of the initiatives and highlighted the significance Pakistan attached to its strategic ties with the kingdom. 
The prime minister also expressed gratitude to Saudi Arabia for its steadfast support to Pakistan at every crucial juncture, according to PM Khan’s office. The two leaders agreed to further strengthen bilateral cooperation across all fields. 
On the latest developments in Afghanistan, the Pakistan premier stressed the importance of active and constructive engagement of the international community to help alleviate the suffering of the Afghan people. He expressed concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and hoped that the international community would take urgent steps to prevent a humanitarian crisis and economic collapse in Afghanistan. 
In his address to the MGI summit earlier, PM Khan said, “All the experience that we have had in so far planting 2.5 billion trees in Pakistan and our target is 10 billion trees, so we will be sharing all our experience with you Highness [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman].” 
He said climate change was probably one of the biggest crises facing humanity: “Unfortunately, this crisis was quite visible 20 years ago, but somehow we were all in self-denial. No one thought that this would actually happen, that the temperature was getting warmer. No one believed there would be effects of this.” 

 Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan (left) addressses the Middle East Green Initiative Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on October 25, 2021. (Photo courtesy: PTI/Twitter)

Khan highlighted the actions Pakistan was taking to combat climate change and emissions, including planting billions of trees and converting coal projects to hydroelectricity. 
“We will shift 60 percent of all our energy into clean energy by 2030. Thirty percent of all transport will be shifted to electric vehicles by 2030. We already shelved 2400 megawatts of coal projects, and replaced them with 3700 megawatts of hydroelectricity, and then committed there would be no new coal projects in Pakistan,” he said. “The only energy through coal will be gasifications and that’s using local coal that is in Pakistan.” 
Khan said Pakistan had focused on nature-based solutions. “Pakistan is the only country where mangrove carbon is growing. Mangroves absorb the highest amount of carbon emissions – we plan to plant 1 billion more of these trees by 2023.” 
The MGI summit is the first of its kind event in the Middle East region. Riyadh, a signatory to the Paris climate pact, on Saturday set out details of its nationally determined contributions (NDCs) — goals for individual states under global efforts to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. 

Top leaders and government officials from around the globe pose for a group photo as they gather in Riyadh on October 25, 2021, for the Middle East Green Initiative Summit mediated by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (sixth from left). (Photo courtesy: Saudi Green Initiative)

The United States and the European Union want Saudi Arabia to join the global initiative on slashing methane emissions by 30 percent by 2030. 
In his address to the summit, Crown Prince Mohammed said the kingdom would build a regional program to reduce carbon emissions within the framework of the Middle East Green Initiative and create a platform to implement the concept of a circular carbon economy. 
“There are gaps in the regional climate action system. And through coordinating regional efforts and sharing experiences and technologies, we can accelerate achievements in our initiatives,” he said. 
“We gather today at this summit to join forces and coordinate our efforts to protect the environment, confront climate change, and develop a roadmap toward reducing carbon emissions in the region by more than 10 percent of global contribution, and plant 50 billion trees in the region, through the largest tree-planting program globally,” the crown prince said. 
“This will contribute to achieving 5 percent of the global target for afforestation,” he added.


New Zealand hope Pakistan won't hold grudges when they meet in Sharjah

Updated 25 October 2021

New Zealand hope Pakistan won't hold grudges when they meet in Sharjah

  • Pakistan cricket authorities were left fuming after New Zealand ended the tour last month
  • Pakistan to face New Zealand on Tuesday in a Twenty20 World Cup match in Sharjah

SHARJAH: Kane Williamson hopes Pakistan will not hold any grudges over New Zealand abandoning a tour on security fears last month, when they meet in a Twenty20 World Cup match in Sharjah on Tuesday. 
Pakistan cricket authorities were left fuming after New Zealand ended the tour minutes before the start of the first one-day international in Rawalpindi, citing an unspecified security alert. 
Williamson, not part of the squad in Pakistan as he was playing in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates, played down talk of a grudge match. 
“There are a lot of good relations within the two teams. Over the years they’ve played a lot against each other, and a number of players have played with each other, as well,” said Williamson on the eve of the match. 
“I am sure the game will be played in the right spirit.” 
A week after New Zealand left, England also withdrew their men’s and women’s teams from a tour to Pakistan due to concerns over the physical and mental health of the players. 
That prompted newly elected chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board Ramiz Raja to proclaim New Zealand will be one of the targets in the T20 World Cup.
“We had one team in our target, our neighbors (India), now add two more teams, New Zealand and England,” Raja said last month. 
Williamson, who admitted the decision to abandon the tour was based on New Zealand government advice, praised the Pakistan team. 
“I suppose the focus now is here at the T20 World Cup, and no doubt after the performance last night, Pakistan have some momentum and are feeling pretty good about their cricket,” said Williamson.
Pakistan thumped arch-rivals India by 10 wickets in the teams’ opening Super 12 match in Dubai on Sunday. 
Williamson labelled Pakistan as one of the “favorites.” 
“Yeah, I mean, it was a fantastic performance. I think Pakistan have come to the T20 World Cup full of confidence, having played in these conditions more than most,” he said. 
“They certainly put it on show last night and showed why they’re one of the favorites in the competition.” 
Spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-31 to keep India to 151-7 in 20 overs before openers Mohammad Rizwan (79 not out) and skipper Babar Azam (68 not out) wiped off the target in just 17.5 overs. 
“Tomorrow I’m sure they’ll be very strong again, so for us, it’s focusing on the cricket that we want to play and trying to adjust to conditions.” 
Pakistan can count on being well supported after playing most of their home matches in UAE in the wake of terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. 
Williamson said Pakistan, who at third are ranked one place above New Zealand in T20, have a key blend of youth and experience. 
“They’ve got a very well-balanced side, and also a great mix between youth and experience with Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the middle order, as well, which brings a lot of experience to the side.” 
Williamson has declared himself fit after a recurrence of his elbow injury.
“My elbow is improving. It’s just a work in progress. But I think all in all, it’s showing improvement, which is good.”