Virus impact: Prayers, good wishes as Pakistanis join hands for Saudi

A Pakistani man looks at morning newspapers with front-page-coverage of Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman at a roadside stall in Islamabad on February 18, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 21 May 2020

Virus impact: Prayers, good wishes as Pakistanis join hands for Saudi

  • Expats say their prospects for a better future depends on Kingdom’s success
  • Riyadh continues to be one of Islamabad’s main source of remittances despite coronavirus lockdown

KARACHI: Several Muslims have a select list of people to pray for during the holy month of Ramadan.

It usually features family, friends, relatives, or those going through difficult times.

For Ismail Khan, however, that list has always included Saudi Arabia.




Ismail Khan, a Pakistani who works as a private contractor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, oversees the construction of his house in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on May 17, 2020. (AN Photo)

“I offer special prayers for Saudi Arabia because I have an emotional attachment to the country where our holiest sites are located. Also, my life and the better life of my children depends on a prosperous Kingdom,” Khan told Arab News over the phone from his village in Mardan in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province.

With the money earned as an expatriate worker in the Kingdom, Khan said he was able to build a house back home, the work for which is “nearing completion.”

Nowadays, however, his immediate concern and the content for his prayers is for the coronavirus to be completely obliterated from his “second home.”

As of Tuesday, the virus had killed 320 people and infected 57,345 others across the Kingdom.




Ismail Khan, a Pakistani expatriate who works as a private contractor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, speaks to Arab News from his village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on May 17, 2020 (AN Photo)

“I wish that coronavirus vanishes from Pakistan, my country and Saudi Arabia, my second home. I know that the virus has destroyed the global economy. I pray it does not do the same for the Kingdom,” Khan, who works as a private contractor, said.

According to data shared by Pakistan’s central bank last week, Saudi Arabia continues to remain one of its primary sources of remittances, despite the global economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Overseas Pakistanis’ remittances amounted to nearly $18.78 billion between July 2019 and April 2020; 5.5 percent more than those recorded in the previous fiscal year, with $4.4 billion sent from Saudi Arabia alone.

Contrary to the predictions of most economists who said that the cash inflow would decline after several expatriate workers were either furloughed or repatriated due to the pandemic, $451.4 million has been remitted thus far — 5.4 percent more than last year and only 0.2 percent less than those recorded in March 2020, the State Bank of Pakistan data showed.

Additionally, the total remittances received in April amounted to $1.79 billion, 5.5 percent less than the amount recorded in the previous month.

However, the SBP data isn’t enough to allay the fears of several Pakistanis who worry that the outbreak’s impact on businesses could invariably affect their relatives working in Saudi Arabia.

Noor Islam from Charsada in KP province – whose son, Naseer Khan, has been unable to return to Riyadh for work due to the lockdown – is one such example. 

“I am told that the situation is normalizing very quickly and after Eid, he will be working again. I pray to God that this virus may go away from everywhere, especially Saudi Arabia, where my son works,” Islam told Arab News.




Ismail Khan, a Pakistani who works as a private contractor in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, oversees the construction of his house in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on May 17, 2020. (AN Photo)

In Dir, a town in Upper Dir District of the KP province, a majority of residents are either employed in the Kingdom or have relatives working there. The fallout from the coronavirus outbreak is thus a cause for concern for several.

“Dir, compared to two decades ago, has completely transformed now due to remittances from Saudia Arabia,” Faridullah Khan, an educationist who runs a private school and college in Timergara, headquarters of the Lower Dir District, said, adding that if the situation worsened, “it will affect us, as well as the parents who wouldn’t be able to pay fees.” 

Ismail Khan, however, is optimistic that things will take a turn for the better. 

“In Saudi Arabia, there is good leadership that has taken timely decisions to control the spread of the virus. I am in contact with colleagues, and they say work will resume soon,” he said.

“For now, all we can do is to pray. We pray for a prosperous Saudi Arabia.”


Nearly 90% Pakistanis in favor of compulsory Arabic classes — Gallup survey  

Updated 11 min 3 sec ago

Nearly 90% Pakistanis in favor of compulsory Arabic classes — Gallup survey  

  • Senate approved Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 on Feb. 1
  • The bill makes Arabic classes mandatory at all primary and secondary schools in the federal capital

ISLAMABAD: Nearly 90 percent of Pakistanis are in favor of a senate bill that makes Arabic classes compulsory at school, a recent survey shows.

Pakistan’s upper house of parliament last month approved the Compulsory Teaching of the Arabic Language Bill 2020 which makes Arabic classes mandatory at all primary and secondary schools in the capital, Islamabad.

“Eighty-nine percent Pakistanis said that they are in favor of the approval of a Senate bill that calls for Arabic to be a mandatory part of the syllabus in educational institutions,” Gallup & Gilani Pakistan said in the study released on Friday.

The study was carried out on a sample of 1,503 men and women in urban and rural areas of 100 districts of all four provinces of Pakistan between Feb. 6 and Feb. 27.

To become law, the senate bill on Arabic teaching now requires approval by the National Assembly.

The lawmaker who presented the bill, opposition senator Javed Abbasi, argued that a command of Arabic, the official language of over 25 countries, would open up more job opportunities for Pakistanis in the Middle East, leading to lower unemployment and increased remittances.


Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

Updated 07 March 2021

Pakistan Air Force offers support, training to Sri Lankan military

  • Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan earlier this week met Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials in Colombo
  • Pakistan last month offered a $50 million credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security  

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) chief has offered support to and agreed to strengthen cooperation with the Sri Lankan military, PAF said on Saturday.

Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan arrived in Colombo on Thursday, where he met with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and top military officials.

As Marshal Khan lauded the efforts of Sri Lankan Armed Forces in their fight against terrorism during a meeting with Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne, he offered Pakistan's support and cooperation, PAF said in a statement.


In this photo released by Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on March 6, 2021, Pakistan Air Chief Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan meets Sri Lanka Defense Secretary Gen. Kamal Gunaratne in Colombo. (Photo courtesy: PAF)

"The leaders agreed to further enhance bilateral cooperation especially in training and professional enhancement programs," PAF said, adding that Gen. Gunaratne welcomed the Pakistani air chief's visit as "manifestation of the strong bond between the Armed Forces of both the countries, especially the two Air Forces."

The Pakistani air chief's visit follows Prime Minister Imran Khan's official visit in late February, during which Pakistan offered a $50 million new credit line to Sri Lanka for cooperation in the field of defense and security.


Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

Updated 44 min 29 sec ago

Train derails killing 1, injuring 40 in southern Pakistan

  • Accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province
  • Eight cars of the 18-car train from Karachi to Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch

MULTAN: Eight cars of a Lahore-bound train derailed in southern Pakistan early Sunday, killing at least one passenger and injuring 40 others, officials said.

The accident took place between the Rohri and Sangi stations in southern Sindh province and caused a temporary suspension of railway traffic in both directions, said Kamran Lashari, a railway official.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the derailment. Train accidents are common in Pakistan, where successive governments have paid little attention to improving the poorly maintained signal system and aging tracks.

Lashari said eight cars of the 18-car train that departed from Karachi for the eastern city of Lahore derailed and six fell into a shallow ditch.

Rescue official Muhammad Arshad said darkness and the remote location of the derailment hampered rescue efforts. He said the body of the woman who died and 40 injured passengers were taken to hospitals in nearby towns. It wasn’t immediately clear how many passengers were on the train.

Railway Minister Azam Sawati told a local television station that the accident was being investigated and the government would provide financial compensation to the heirs of deceased woman and all the injured.


Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

Updated 41 min 2 sec ago

Pakistan’s security forces kill eight militants in North Waziristan — ISPR

  • The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold for many years until authorities launched military operations in the area
  • The militants killed in the recent attacks were involved in terrorist activities against security forces and locals since 2009

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s security forces conducted two separate intelligence-based operations in North Waziristan district, said the military’s media wing, ISPR, in an official statement on Saturday, adding that eight militants were killed in the ensuing battles. 

The tribal district bordering Afghanistan remained a militant stronghold until Pakistani authorities launched clear-and-hold military operations to destroy the hideouts and communication centers of various proscribed groups. 

The recent operations in the territory were launched against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants in which three senior commanders of the outfit were also killed, the ISPR statement informed. 

It added that these people were “involved in terrorist activities against security forces, law enforcement agencies and locals of the area since 2009.” 

The militants used improvised explosive devices and indulged in target killings, kidnapping for ransom and extortion. 

The statement continued that the TTP members were also involved in recruiting young and impressionable minds, adding that security personnel recovered huge caches of arms from their hideouts. 


PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

Updated 06 March 2021

PM Khan asks Hafeez Shaikh to continue as finance minister after Senate defeat

  • The prime minister expresses his faith in Shaikh's professional abilities while praising him for shoring up the national economy
  • Shaikh can work in his current capacity until June, though the government may try again to get him elected to parliament

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has told his close aide Abdul Hafeez Shaikh to continue working as finance minister after Shaikh lost a general seat from the federal capital to a joint opposition candidate in the recent Senate elections, local media reported on Saturday.
In a one-on-one meeting after securing the vote of confidence from parliament earlier in the day, Khan said he had complete faith in Shaikh's professional abilities and applauded him for shoring up the ailing national economy.
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) administration relied heavily on its finance minister to bring down the current account deficit and keep the financial system on track during the coronavirus pandemic.
After the Islamabad High Court ruled in a case in December that no special assistant or advisor to prime minister could chair or participate in cabinet committee meetings, Khan exercised his constitutional authority to elevate Shaikh as a federal minister for a period of six months.
According to Article 91 (9) of the Constitution, the finance minister cannot be reappointed to the same position as an unelected individual, and his defeat in the Senate election implies he may only be able to serve in his current capacity until June.
According to The Express Tribune, however, the government is likely to make one more effort to get him elected to the upper house of parliament by de-seating an opposition member, Ishaq Dar, who was elected to the Senate from Punjab in 2018 but did not take oath to the office.