Pakistan braces for COVID-19 peak in late June

A Muslim worshiper arrives to attend noon prayers at a mosque, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, April 21, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 30 April 2020

Pakistan braces for COVID-19 peak in late June

  • Government designs special package for frontline health workers
  • Pakistan will partly lift transportation lockdown to facilitate movement ahead of Eid

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is likely to reach the peak of coronavirus infections around the end of June, Planning Minister Asad Umer announced on Wednesday.
"On the basis of available data from last two months and also after analyzing world data, we are expecting the peak of COVID-19 in Pakistan somewhere between the end of June and early July," the minister who heads the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) told reporters in Islamabad. 
NCOC is responsible for coordinating Pakistan's coronavirus response.
As the country has recently observed a sharp rise in known virus cases, the minister attributed it to Pakistan's increasing COVID-19 testing capacity, which he said had improved from around 2,000 to above 8,000 tests in the past two weeks.
"Right now, the number (of known cases) is above 15,000, but still this data is not conclusive as there may be many other people out there who have not been tested so far," he said, adding that with 26 deaths in the past 24 hours the country has witnessed the highest daily mortality rate, bringing the COVID-19 toll to 335.




Planning Minister Asad Umer and NCOC representatives participate in a media briefing on COVID-19 in Islamabad on April 29, 2020. (AN photo)

In its testing efforts, Pakistan relies on polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which according to Umer are 70 percent accurate. Currently, 52 laboratories across the country test samples for the virus, Dr. Mirza, the prime minister's special assistant on public health, said during the same NCOC briefing.
Despite the rising numbers of cases, the Pakistani government is planning to partly lift its transportation lockdown to facilitate movement ahead of the Eid holidays next month.
"We are making very stringent SOPs for the opening of public transport as we have to open intercity and interprovincial bus services by the end of Ramadan to facilitate public to travel to their homes before Eid," Umer said.
NCOC consists of provincial and federal institutions as well as the military. Its standing committee is chaired by Dr. Mirza and it has all provincial health ministers as members. "Federal and provincial information ministries are also part of NCOC to help us spread relevant information," Umer said.
One of the main current problems in Pakistan's efforts to contain the outbreak is the safety of its medical workers. Dr. Mirza said a special scheme has been designed for them.
"We are focusing on the safety of health workers as 480 of them have contracted COVID-19, which is a cause of great concern for us. We have designed a protection and support program for frontline health workers and the federal cabinet has approved a special package for them," he said.


Maersk launches Pakistan’s largest integrated logistics park at Karachi's Port Qasim

Updated 9 sec ago

Maersk launches Pakistan’s largest integrated logistics park at Karachi's Port Qasim

  • Facility holds total footprint of more than 1.3 million square feet across seven cities
  • Park will allow connecting, simplifying supply chains for importers, exporters, traders

ISLAMABAD: In a bid to connect and simplify supply chains for Pakistani importers, exporters and traders, Danish shipping company A.P. Moller Maersk (Maersk) on Wednesday inaugurated an integrated logistics park in Pakistan’s southeastern port city of Karachi, with a total footprint of more than 1.3 million square feet across seven cities, a statement issued by the company said.

Established at Karachi’s Port Qasim, a deep-water seaport situated on the coastline of the Arabian Sea, the park includes six purpose-built sheds, making Maersk the country’s largest logistics and warehousing provider.

The integrated logistics park would act as a warehouse, including a consolidation and fulfillment center and cold storage. This facility will also cater to storage requirements of cargo from retail and lifestyle, fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG), automotive, and technology sectors. It will also serve as the perfect warehouse destination for customers to manage their import and export cargo with the least time delays while connecting to and from vessels.

 “At Maersk, our purpose is to improve life for all by integrating the world,” said Hasan Faraz, Managing Director of Maersk Pakistan commented during the inauguration of the facility.

 “With our state-of-the-art Integrated Logistics Park, we want to ensure that we play an important role in connecting and simplifying the supply chains for importers, exporters, and traders of Pakistan.”

Danish Ambassador to Pakistan, Jakob Linulf (center), inaugurates Maersk's Integrated Logistics Park at Karachi's Port Qasim, Pakistan on November 30, 2022. (@Maersk/Twitter)

Faraz added that he was proud of this major investment in Pakistan as it would serve as a critical building block in the logistics infrastructure.

“It is also apt to recognize the unwavering support our customers have extended, with whom we could have meaningful conversations that helped us design a solution that creates value in their supply chains.”

Jakob Linulf, the Danish Ambassador to Pakistan, who was also present at the facility’s launch ceremony, said Pakistan had incredible potential to grow.

“Despite the various current challenges, Maersk has played an important role as a trusted partner for Pakistan’s traders,” the statement quoted him as saying. “Maersk’s commitment to invest in a large facility such as the one inaugurated today in Port Qasim speaks volumes of the potential that is out there to be harnessed.”

The statement added that the logistics park would come equipped with modern warehouse management systems. 

“With Maersk taking care of the movement of cargo – ocean transportation on one side and landside transportation on the other side of the warehouse – customers will experience lesser handovers of their cargo, leading to higher efficiencies, faster turnaround times, deeper visibility and better control over the cargo movement,” the statement said. “All of this will result in better predictability of supply chains.”


Pakistani brothers, venture capital firm founders, feature on Forbes 30 Under 30 list

Updated 10 min 33 sec ago

Pakistani brothers, venture capital firm founders, feature on Forbes 30 Under 30 list

  • Mohammed Amdani and Ammar Amdani lead a team of eight
  • Most of their team members identify as people of color, Forbes said

KARACHI: Pakistani brothers Mohammed Amdani and Ammar Amdani have made it to this year's Forbes 30 Under 30 list, a litany of young investors who are putting their money to work in companies created by and for their immigrant, people-of-color and other minority peers.

Forbes 30 Under 30 is a set of lists of people under 30 years old issued annually by Forbes magazine and some of its regional editions.

"The Amdani brothers founded Adapt Ventures as an early-stage firm and venture studio investing across the US and Latin America, with $30 million in assets under management," Forbes said on its website.

"They were one of the first backers of unicorn Clara, Italic, Wander and several acquired companies. They've also helped incubate Pluto, a Middle East-focused spend management startup that announced a seed round in February."

The Pakistani-American cofounders lead a team of eight, most of whom identify as people of color, across New York and Miami.

Last year, 13 young Pakistanis have made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list which included startup founders and young innovators like Bazaar Co-founders Hamza Jawaid and Saad Jangda, Dastgyr Co-founders Muhammad Owais Qureshi and Zohaib Ali, CreditBook Co-founders Iman Jamall and Hasib Malik, ModulusTech Co-founders Yaseen Khalid, M. Saquib Malik and Nabeel Siddiqui, Visual artist and designer Misha Japanwala, Producer Abdullah Siddiqui, Eikon7 Managing Partner Shayan Mahmud, and Digital Pakistan Co-founder Hannia Zia.


Pakistan Test commences on schedule today after England stomach bug scare

Updated 31 min 42 sec ago

Pakistan Test commences on schedule today after England stomach bug scare

  • England's cricketers, including skipper Ben Stokes, were struck down with a suspected stomach bug
  • Problems with food and players becoming ill during the Twenty20 series led to the decision to bring a chef

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board said the first Test against England in Rawalpindi would go on as per schedule today, Thursday, after England's cricketers, including skipper Ben Stokes, were struck down with a suspected stomach bug.

There were fears on Wednesday the virus outbreak could force England to change the team for the Test which had been announced on Tuesday.

England are on their first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years, following their Twenty20 side playing seven matches in the country two months ago, taking the series 4-3.

“The ECB has informed the PCB that they are in a position to field an XI, and, as such, the first #PAKvENG Test will commence as per schedule today (Thursday, 1 December) at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium,” PCB said on Twitter.

Problems with food and players becoming ill during the Twenty20 series led to the decision to bring a chef, Omar Meziane, who also worked with the England men's football team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and at Euro 2020.

England and Pakistan will contest a three-Test series with the second in Multan beginning December 9 and the third in Karachi from December 17-21.


Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

Updated 01 December 2022

Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

  • Federal Shariat Court gave a five-year deadline to the government to Islamize the country’s financial system
  • Religious scholars call for practical steps to transform Pakistan’s banking system under the court’s verdict

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar said on Wednesday a dedicated wing would soon be established at the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to ensure the country’s transformation into an interest-free economy to comply with a ruling of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) earlier this year.

The FSC directed the government in April to eliminate riba, or interest, within five years while pointing out its prohibition was absolute in all forms and manifestations in Islam.

The finance minister said his government was committed to transforming Pakistan’s banking system by December 2027, adding it would up the special wing at the SBP to expedite the process.

“A wing would be formed at the SBP and I will notify the formation of wing within a week,” Dar said while addressing at a seminar on the prohibition of riba in Karachi.

“We can’t establish a ministry [to oversee the economic transformation] which is also not needed,” he continued while emphasizing that the role of the central bank was “pivotal” in Islamizing the banking system of the country.

Referring to the deadline set by the court, the finance minister said the conversion of the banking system was doable within five years.

“This is not the work that can’t be done in five years,” he said while asking the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) along with the central bank to diligently work on the project.

“A base has already been established as the share of Islamic banking in terms of the overall assets and deposits has surged by 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the overall banking sector,” he added.

The finance minister noted that significant progress had been made in relation to the Islamization of Pakistan’s banking system during his government’s previous tenure, adding that things came to a halt due to political instability in the country.

“Today the financial share of the Islamic banks would have been 40 percent instead of 20 percent,” he said.

Earlier, the SBP governor, Jameel Ahmad, noted the demand for Islamic banking services was far greater than the conventional ones. He added the central bank was therefore taking more “measures to meet the growing demand.”

“We have already commenced work on a transformation plan to shift to Islamic banking,” Ahmed said.

He informed a high-level working group of officials from the SBP, SECP and finance ministry had been formed and activated which was responsible for developing Sukuk structures.

Ahmed said that Pakistan currently had five full-fledged Islamic banks offering a wide range of products and their annual growth rate over the last five years in terms of their assets and deposits had been 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

This, he noted, was far higher than most conventional banks.

Speaking at the seminar, Mufti Taqi Usmani, a prominent Islamic scholar, appreciated the government’s decision to withdraw appeals against the FSC decision which had earlier been filed in the Supreme Court.

Usmani asked the finance ministry to take practical steps to move toward an interest-free system in the country while pointing out that some private banks had yet not withdrawn their petitions against the FSC ruling.

Political and religious leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and Siraj-ul-Haq, emir of Jamaat-e-Islami party, also participated in the seminar.


Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

  • Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tells General Asim Munir it is a huge honor to lead the Pakistan Army
  • The PM hopes the armed forces will protect the country’s security better under its new leadership

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif praised the military’s professional abilities while holding a meeting with the new army chief Syed Asim Munir on Wednesday, saying it was a huge honor for anyone to lead the armed forces of Pakistan which were tirelessly working for the country’s security.

This was Munir’s first meeting with the prime minister after taking over the army’s command in a ceremony held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. He replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa who retired from the post after leading the army for six years.

“We have full confidence in the professional capabilities of the Pakistan Army,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office after the meeting.

“It is a great honor to lead the Pakistan Army,” he said while addressing the top general. “It is hoped that the armed forces under your leadership will deal with the challenges facing the country’s security in a better way.”

Sharif congratulated Munir on taking charge of his new position.

He maintained the whole nation was proud of the army’s role in protecting the frontiers of the country and fighting violent extremism and militancy.

The army has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 75-year history, either through coups or as an invisible guiding hand in politics.

Munir’s appointment coincides with a dispute between the army and former premier Imran Khan, who blames top military generals for playing a part in his ouster in a parliamentary no-trust vote earlier this year.

Khan also expressed hope earlier in the day the new military leadership would end the “prevailing trust deficit” between the army and the public.

The PM Office said in its statement Sharif’s meeting with the army chief focused on professional issues related to the country’s defense and security.

Munir also met President Arif Alvi during the day.

In a separate meeting, Alvi discussed defense related matters with the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza.

Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi (right) meets army chief Syed Asim Munir in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (PID)