KSRelief food aid, a ‘Ramadan blessing’ for thousands of families in virus-hit Punjab

A KSRelief worker delivers food parcels to a household in Punjab under the Saudi charity's Ramadan aid program. (Photo courtesy: SPA)
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Updated 21 May 2020

KSRelief food aid, a ‘Ramadan blessing’ for thousands of families in virus-hit Punjab

  • KSRelief’s Ramadan food assistance reached 154,000 people in Punjab
  • The aid came as Pakistan’s most populous province faced mass job losses amid coronavirus outbreak

LAHORE: When the coronavirus outbreak brought many businesses in Lahore to a halt, Nazia, a widow who makes a living as a seamstress, was left with no orders and source of income to feed her three children.

As she continued to return home empty-handed, suddenly a call came from local officials who said that a package with food staples was waiting for her.

“I received a call from my area’s union council vice chairman that a food package was waiting for me at the governor’s house. I went there and saw on the parcel that it was from Saudi Arabia,” Nazia told Arab News.




KSRelief workers unload packages with food aid for families in coronavirus-hit Punjab. (Photo courtesy: SPA)

“I thanked God for it. At this moment, when I have no work, this food ration allows me to my feed my family for the entire month,” she said, adding that it was a blessing.

The package came from King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), which on April 23 launched a special Ramadan assistance project for Punjab and with the help of its governor’s office distributed $1 million worth of food parcels in the province.

The aid reached 154,000 people, Sardar Pawan Singh, spokesman for the Punjab governor, told Arab News.

“The governor distributed 21,500 food parcels to needy families, helping 154,000 people in Punjab in the wake of the pandemic. The total worth of the distributed food was Rs160 million,” he said.

Akbar Ali, a roadside carpenter in Lahore, was also one of those who received the help.




A boy carries a food package from KSRelief's food assistance program for Punjab province. (Photo courtesy: SPA)

“The disease has brought us to the verge of starvation. I’ve had no work for the past three months. This food gift was a big relief to me my family,” he said.

Punjab Governor Chaudhary Muhammad Sarwar expressed gratitude to KSRelief for supporting the people of Punjab “in this hour of need.”

“The Saudi government and royal family have always supported Pakistanis. In these difficult moments, their help alleviates the misery,” he said in a statement for Arab News on Monday.

The assistance came as Pakistan’s most populous province faced mass job losses amid business shutdowns enforced to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We started this project from Punjab since it is the most populated province and severely affected by COVID-19,” Dr. Khalid Al-Othmani, director KSRelief Pakistan, told Arab News at the project’s inauguration ceremony in Islamabad.

The beneficiaries were selected with the help of Punjab authorities.

“Local administrations identified the families in need and provided lists. The food packages were delivered to doorsteps. There was no chance of cheating, because people know each other at the neighborhood level,” the Punjab governor’s spokesman said.

Each Ramadan package — weighing about 30 kilograms — contained rice, cooking oil, milk powder, besan, sugar, black tea, dates, and wheat.

Throughout the fasting month, the program has reached families in Lahore, Faisalabad, Jhang, Toba Tek Singh, Khanewal, Muzzafargarh, Rajanpur, Pakpattan, Rahim Yar Khan, and Bahawalnagar.

KSRelief has provided humanitarian and development assistance to millions of beneficiaries in more than 49 countries. Pakistan is the fifth-largest recipient of assistance from the Saudi-based international agency and has received more than $120 million in aid since 2005.


Peshawar says ready to launch Pakistan’s first public bicycle scheme  

Updated 03 March 2021

Peshawar says ready to launch Pakistan’s first public bicycle scheme  

  • TransPeshawar says 360 bicycles are ready for the Zu Bicycle project
  • Company believes that with the bicycle system it will be able to decrease traffic volume in Peshawar

ISLAMABAD: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s transportation company has said it is ready to launch Pakistan’s first bicycle-sharing system in the provincial capital of Peshawar.

Dubbed Zu Bicycle, the system will be rolled out by government-owned TransPeshawar, which manages Peshawar’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), a metro bus service project in the province’s capital.

The word “zu” in the bike project’s name means “let’s go” in Pashto language natively spoken in northwestern Pakistan.

“TransPeshawar has made all necessary arrangements to formally launch the Zu Bicycle sharing system for the public,” TransPeshawar Peshawar said in a statement on Tuesday. “Zu Bicycle sharing system, a state-of-the-art project of BRT Peshawar, is the first of its kind in Pakistan.”
The company believes that with the bicycle system it will be able to decrease traffic volume in the city. It did not specify, however, how soon Zu Bicycle will be launched.

“With the commencement of this system, it will amplify the ease of transport for people from all walks of life, especially for students,” TransPeshawar spokesperson Muhammad Umair Khan said as quoted in the statement.
He added that 360 bicycles are ready for the project. 

To rent a bicycle, a refundable deposit of Rs3,000 needs to be submitted at a BRT ticket office.
The first 30 minutes of a Zu Bicycle ride will be free of charge.


After losing most contested senate seat, PM Khan to seek confidence motion from parliament

Updated 03 March 2021

After losing most contested senate seat, PM Khan to seek confidence motion from parliament

  • In a major blow to the government, joint opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gillani won the general seat from Islamabad
  • Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged PM Khan to accept defeat and resign as the opposition would seek a motion of no confidence against him

ISLAMABAD: After losing the most contested seat in senate elections on Wednesday, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party announced that Prime Minister Imran Khan is going to seek a vote of confidence from parliament.

Election commission officials started counting the votes after 5 p.m. — the official deadline to close the polls — in the National Assembly and provincial assemblies of Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Eleven senators from Punjab have already been declared unopposed winners.

In a major blow to the government, joint opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gillani won the general seat from Islamabad, beating the government’s candidate, finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, in the hotly contested election for 37 seats in the upper house of parliament.

The government and an opposition alliance had both waged a tough competition to get their candidates Shaikh and Gilani elected respectively, to win a majority in the National Assembly.

"PM Khan will take a vote of confidence from Parliament," the ruling party said in a tweet, quoting Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The announcement came after Pakistan Peoples Party chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari urged Khan to accept defeat and resign as the opposition would seek a motion of no confidence against him.

"We will choose our timing when to use the option of no-confidence against the prime minister," Bilawal said while addressing a press conference along with Gilani after the announcement of results by the Election Commission of Pakistan.

Gilani won from Islamabad by securing 169 votes against Shaikh's 164, while a PTI woman candidate Fozia Arshad defeated the opposition candidate by bagging 174 votes out of 340 polled votes in the National Assembly.

The opposition alliance of 11 major opposition parties has been holding mammoth rallies since its inception last September to seek Khan's ouster.

"He should morally resign now, but we know he neither did it before nor will do it now," Bilawal said. "We will now get Yousuf Raza Gilani elected as Chairman Senate."

Speaking on the occasion, Gilani said that the credit for his victory goes to "all the democratic forces" in the country.

"It's a victory of democracy and it’s a victory of the parliament," he said.

Reacting to the Gilani’s victory, Information and Broadcasting Minister Shibli Faraz accused the opposition of winning the seat through money politics.

"The opposition should feel ashamed for talking about the no-confidence motion," Faraz said, adding that Khan would not succumb to any pressure as people who believed in democracy were firmly standing behind him.

Analysts see Gilani's win as was tantamount to a major upset for Khan's government which now has a thin majority in the National Assembly.

"It’s a serious loss for the government of Imran Khan which has lost its majority in the house," Mohammad Malick, senior political journalist and TV anchor, told Arab News.  

“Today, the government has to worry about two things: a resurgent opposition and an ostensibly neutral establishment,” he said.

“Unless Khan regroups, makes big changes in Punjab and center, he might end up with a perpetually neutral establishment and an emboldened opposition — a combination which could prove fatal for his government.”

Voting started at 9 a.m. Wednesday morning for an election that has been marred by accusations of corrupt practices and a controversy over the method of voting.

In Pakistan, a senator serves a term of six years, barring resignation, disqualification, or other extraordinary circumstances. Half of the senators are elected at one time, and the other half three years later.

This year, 52 senators elected in 2015 are set to retire; the other 52 will retire in 2024. However, elections are being held only for 48 seats after Pakistan’s northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2018. The senate thus now comprises 100 lawmakers: 23 each from all the provinces and four from Islamabad. The remaining four senators from FATA will retire in 2024.

The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled this Monday that senate elections would continue to be held through a secret ballot as per the constitution but directed the election commission to use technology to check against corrupt practices in the polls.

The court’s 4:1 verdict came in response to a presidential reference filed in December, seeking the court’s opinion on whether voting in senate elections could be held through an open ballot.

The government of PM Khan has argued that open balloting would introduce transparency into a voting process that has long been plagued by irregularities, with national and provincial lawmakers accused of selling their votes.

Leaders of the opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have opposed the government’s move to try to hold senate elections through an open ballot.

On Tuesday, the election commission said senate elections this year would be held as "per past practices," saying it was setting up a monitoring mechanism to identify corrupt practices in the elections.

On Tuesday night, a video surfaced showing the son of Gillani explaining to lawmakers how they can waste their vote during the election. The government has since demanded the election commission declare Gillani ineligible and has filed a reference with the commission seeking his disqualification for being involved in “corrupt practices.”
 


Azam, Nabi cruise Kings to victory over Peshawar Zalmi

Updated 03 March 2021

Azam, Nabi cruise Kings to victory over Peshawar Zalmi

  • Afghan allrounder Muhammad Nabi declared man of the match for his impressive inning
  • In Wednesday's second match, Multan Sultans are taking on Quetta Gladiators

KARACHI: Pakistan’s star batsman Babar Azam and Afghan allrounder Muhammad Nabi cruised the Karachi Kings to victory over table toppers Peshawar Zalmi, defeating them by six wickets at the national stadium in Karachi on Wednesday.

Karachi Kings won the toss, invited Peshawar Zalmi to bat first and completed a chase of 189 runs with three balls to spare, making it 13 consecutive wins for a chasing team since the start of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2021.

Azam, who scored 77 out of 47 with the help of six fours and three sixes, fell one run short of scoring his 6,000 runs in the Twenty20 cricket career but ensured a win for his side and a place on the top of the points table. Nabi, who was dropped at 20 by Amad Butt, scored 67 of 35 with the help of eight fours and four huge sixes. He made a partnership of 118 runs with Azam, earning victory for his team. 

Nabi was declared man of the match for his impressive inning.

Kings lost their early wickets in their chase of 189 runs. Sharjeel Khan was caught out at the duck, Joe Clarke and Colin Ingram scored only 17 and three runs. Dan Christian, who came to bat after Nabi, scored16 of nine, including the winning shot.

Batting first, Zalmi’s inning started well but debutant Abbas Afridi sent back openers Kamran Akmal and Tom Kohler-Cadmore to the pavilion back-to-back in the fifth over. Akmal scored 21 of 17 and Kohler-Cadmore made 10 of 11. Shoaib Malik, who captained the team in the absence of injured Wahab Riaz, was the third to go in the next over after facing just two balls and making one run. Haider Ali, who batted well in previous innings, could score just nine out of 12 balls and was caught by Afridi on the ball of Christian in the tenth over.

Partnership of 83 runs between Sherfane Rutherford (46 of 32) and Ravi Bopara (58 of 40 not out) provided Zalmi a chance to score a defendable total, but this was Amad Butt’s blitzing 27 on seven balls that made the match interesting. Butt hammered the last over by Christian which turned a treat for the opposition. The Kings’ Australian bowler gave away 32 (almost 17 percent of Zalmi's total) runs in his last year.

Afridi remained the most successful bowler and grabbed two wickets by conceding 27 in his four overs. Muhamad Ilyas took two wickets in his four by giving away 27 runs. Imad Waseem and Arshad Iqbal proved expensive and conceded 16 and 10 respectively in their one and two overs. Christian who took the wicket of dangerous hitter Haider Ali and conceded 13 in first two remained the most expensive due to his over, which provided Peshawar Zalmi a good chance to fight for a win.

In the day's second match, Multan Sultans are taking on Quetta Gladiators which so far have lost all four matches they have played this season.


Major upset as opposition’s Gillani beats finance minister Shaikh for hotly contested senate seat

Updated 03 March 2021

Major upset as opposition’s Gillani beats finance minister Shaikh for hotly contested senate seat

  • Voting ended on Wednesday evening in election for 37 seats in the upper house of parliament
  • Government and opposition alliance battled to get their candidates elected to win a majority in National Assembly

ISLAMABAD: In a major blow to the government, the joint opposition candidate Yousuf Raza Gillani won the general seat from Islamabad, beating the government’s candidate, finance minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh, in a hotly contested election for 37 seats in the upper house of parliament, local media reported. 

Election commission officials started counting the votes after 5pm – the official deadline to close the polls – in the National Assembly and all three provincial assemblies including Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Eleven senators from Punjab have already been declared unopposed winners. 

The ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and an opposition alliance, waged a tough competition to get their candidates Shaikh and Gillani elected respectively, to win a majority in the National Assembly. Pakistani media channels reported on Wednesday evening that Gillani, who is a former prime minister of Pakistan and belongs to the Pakistan Peoples Party, had won against Shaikh, in what is being seen as a major upset for the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan. 

The 342-member lower house of the parliament is the electoral college for the two Islamabad seats where it currently has 341 members, with one vacant seat.

“It’s a serious loss for the government of Imran Khan which has lost its majority in the house,” Mohammad Malick, senior political journalist and TV anchor, told Arab News. “Today the government has to worry about two things: a resurgent opposition and an ostensibly neutral establishment. Unless Khan regroups, makes big changes in Punjab and center, he might end up with a perpetually neutral establishment and an emboldened opposition — a combination which could prove fatal for his government.”

Voting started at 9am this morning for an election that has been marred by accusations of corrupt practices and a controversy over the method of voting. 

In Pakistan, a senator serves a term of six years, barring resignation, disqualification, or other extraordinary circumstances. Half of the senators are elected at one time, and the other half three years later. 

This year, 52 senators elected in 2015 are set to retire; the other 52 will retire in 2024. However, elections are being held only for 48 seats after Pakistan’s northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) were merged with the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in 2018. The Senate thus now comprises 100 lawmakers: 23 each from all the provinces and four from Islamabad. The remaining four senators from FATA will retire in 2024. 

The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled this Monday that upcoming senate elections would continue to be held through a secret ballot as per the constitution but directed the election commission to use technology to check against corrupt practices in the polls. 

The court’s 4:1 verdict came in response to a presidential reference filed on December 23, 2020 seeking the court’s opinion on whether voting in senate elections could be held through an open ballot. 

The government of PM Khan has argued that open balloting would introduce transparency into a voting process that has long been plagued by irregularities, with national and provincial lawmakers accused of selling their votes. 

Leaders of an 11-party opposition alliance, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM), have opposed the government’s move to try to hold senate elections through an open ballot, and one of the major parties in the alliance, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam, had filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Election Amendment Ordinance 2021. 

On Tuesday, the election commission said senate elections this year would be held as ‘per past practices,’ saying it was setting up a monitoring mechanism to identify corrupt practices in the elections. 

On Tuesday night, a video surfaced showing the son of former prime minister Gillani, the joint opposition’s most prominent candidate for the polls, explaining to lawmakers how they can waste their vote during the election. 

The government has since demanded the election commission declare Gillani ineligible and has filed a reference with the commission seeking his disqualification for being involved in “corrupt practices.” 

 


Pakistan to award operational permits to three new domestic airlines

Updated 03 March 2021

Pakistan to award operational permits to three new domestic airlines

  • Legal process to award permits to Q-Airlines, Fly Jinnah, Jet Green Airlines underway, civil aviation authority say
  • With launch of these airlines, Pakistan will have a total of seven airlines including state-owned PIA

KARACHI: Pakistan is in the process of awarding operational permits to three new domestic airlines, officials said on Wednesday, a step industry insiders say will provide a “breather” for a local travel and tourism business badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Q-Airlines, Fly Jinnah and Jet Green Airlines last week applied for Regular Public Transport (RPT) licenses from the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to launch domestic flight operations, a CAA spokesperson told Arab News.
“The process for permission to these airlines for starting domestic flight operations in the country is underway,” Saad Bin Ayub, CAA spokesperson said, declining to give a deadline on when the airlines would become operational. “Apart from CAA, multiple government institutions are involved in the process; that may take time,” he added.
RPT licenses would be issued after the completion of legal formalities and final approval from the federal cabinet, Ayub said.
With the launch of the three airlines, Pakistan will have a total of seven airlines, including state-owned Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). In addition, the number of aircrafts in the country would also increase. Pakistan currently has less than 50 percent the number of aircraft needed for a country of more than 220 million people.
“Pakistan has less than 50 aircrafts in total despite huge potential,” Muhammad Yahya Polani, vice chairman of the Travel Agents Association of Pakistan, told Arab News. “The country would have more airlines, that will trigger competition in the travel sector for the benefit of people as they will be able to avail cheaper travel facilities.”
The airlines seeking permits are legally bound to keep a minimum fleet size of three airworthy aircrafts for domestic operations. They can operate on international routes after the completion of one year in the domestic sector for which a minimum of five airworthy aircraft on a purchase/dry-lease are required, according to the National Aviation Policy 2019.
Pakistan currently has three airlines — Airblue, SereneAir and AirSial — operating in the private sector, of which Airblue and SereneAir have around 11 and five aircrafts respectively and operate international routes covering mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. AirSial, with three aircrafts, launched in December 2020.
People associated with the travel industry hope the new airlines will provide “breathing space” for a dying sector reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Impacted by the severe crisis of coronavirus, our industry has almost collapsed,” said Muhammad Hanif Rinch, chairman of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Agency Program Joint Council. “These new airlines are a ray of hope for our industry, related travel and tourism. We hope for the best.”
Rinch estimated that around 80 percent of travel agents in Pakistan had closed their business as they were unable to sustain losses under during the pandemic.
“We estimate that out of 1,800 IATA approved travel agents, around 1,200 have permanently or temporarily shutdown their businesses while out of 13,000 non-IATA active agents, around 80 percent have succumbed to the COVID-19 crisis”, he added.
Travel agents say new airlines will not only create job opportunities but also help in the promotion of tourism in the country.
“Around 12,000 people from IATA approved agencies are estimated to have lost jobs since the start of the health crisis,” Rinch said. “We expect that most of the people who have spent years in ticketing and tariff sides would get jobs.”
Minimum paid-up capital of Rs 100 million is required to set up an airline in Pakistan. Foreign investment, if any, is allowed but can not be more than 49 percent of the paid up capital so that controlling interest remains in local hands, according to CAA laws.