$7.5 billion CPEC hydropower projects may reduce Pakistan’s reliance on foreign fuel by 2026

A view of hydel power project under China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) built on Jehlum river. (Photo courtesy: Chairman CPEC Authority Asiam Saleem Bajwa twitter)
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Updated 12 July 2020
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$7.5 billion CPEC hydropower projects may reduce Pakistan’s reliance on foreign fuel by 2026

  • The hydropower projects in Pakistan-administered Kashmir are likely to create 8,000 jobs
  • China is constructing more than $20 billion worth of energy projects in Pakistan under the economic corridor arrangement

KARACHI: Pakistan’s plan to add four new hydropower projects with Chinese assistance at a cost of $7.5 billion in the next six years would reduce its reliance on oil and gas purchased from international market and lower its import bill substantially, officials and stakeholders said on Saturday.

The country recently signed an agreement with a transnational corporation, China Gezhouba Group, for the construction of Azad Pattan Hydropower Project for $1.5 billion under the second phase of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

A tripartite agreement was also signed on June 25 for the construction of Kohala Hydropower Project.

The two power generation facilities will be built in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and are going to produce 1,800 megawatts (MW) of clean energy after their completion in 2026. They are also expected to create 8,000 jobs, according to CPEC chairman Asim Saleem Bajwa. 

The projects will also benefit the Kashmir government since it will receive water use charges and take ownership of these plants after the completion of agreed terms.

“The government of Azad Kashmir will take over the projects after 30 years as per the agreement,” Sardar Naveed Sadiq, Chairman of Kashmir Board of Investment, told Arab News.

Two other hydropower projects, Karot and Suki Kinari, are scheduled to commence operations in December 2021 and December 2022, respectively. They are built at a cost of $3.65 billion and will produce 1,590 MW.

China is helping Pakistan with nearly 20 power sector projects worth more than $20 billion, according to the Private Power and Infrastructure Board (PPIB). Four of them have already started commercial production.

The country’s focus on hydropower generation has increased the share of this specific energy component in the overall mix from 25.8 percent to 31 percent this year, according to the latest Pakistan Economic Survey.

“Our initial focus was on coal but we are now focusing on hydel projects. The issues have been resolved and tripartite agreements of Kohala and Azad Pattan were recently signed,” Dr. Liaqat Ali Shah, CPEC’s project director, told Arab News.

“At present, we are generating surplus energy, but we have transmission problems,” he said, adding: “As we go forward and set up huge industries in Special Economic Zones, the demand for power will also surge. That should tell you why we need to increase our energy portfolio.”

Pakistan’s estimated hydropower generation capacity stands at 60,000 MW, though the country is only utilizing about 11,000 MW of that potential annually.

“The country’s power sector is deteriorating and desperately needs to be restructured. We can rapidly reduce 20 percent reliance on imported fuel, however, by making a few changes to it,” Khalid Faizi, international hydropower consultant and founder of Laraib Group, a stakeholder in the Azad Pattan Power Project, told Arab News.

“The production cost of the hydropower plant is Rs0.50 per unit while oil-base power generation costs Rs14 per unit of electricity,” he added. “No one can beat power generated through hydropower production in terms of its cost and Pakistan needs more projects like these.”

Faizi said the Azad Pattan Power Project would produce 3.3 billion kilowatt hour (kWh) electricity per year to meet about 5 percent of the country’s energy requirement of around 130 billion kWh.

“The life of hydro projects is usually around 200 years. The life of solar and wind power projects is somewhere around 25 years and coal power projects can last for 30 years,” he continued. “Pakistan needs to set up long term projects.”

“Dams are used for many purposes other than power generation. They can be helpful with irrigation and flood control. They can also provide wonderful picnic spots. They do require a significant initial investment but offer clean and affordable energy for a much longer tenure,” he added.


Saudi foreign minister arrives in Pakistan on two-day official visit 

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Saudi foreign minister arrives in Pakistan on two-day official visit 

  • Prince Faisal accorded red-carpet welcome at Nur Khan air base, received by Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar
  • Pakistan says Saudi delegation to consult on next stages of investment and issues of implementation 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Pakistan today, Monday, on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation, with local media widely showing footage of the Saudi official being received by Pakistani Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar.

The Saudi foreign minister’s visit comes a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion.

Upon his arrival at the Noor Khan air base in the garrison town of Rawalpindi, the Saudi foreign minister, who is leading a high-level delegation comprising several top ministers, was accorded a red-carpet welcome by Pakistani officials.

“A week after Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s visit to Saudi Arabia (April 6-8), a high-level delegation of Saudi Arabia is coming to Pakistan,” the Pakistani information ministry said in a statement shared with journalists.

“The Saudi delegation will consult on the next stages of investment and implementation issues,” the statement added, saying Saudi Arabia’s planned investment in the Reko Diq gold and copper mining project would also be discussed during the visit.

On Sunday, Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, one of the world’s largest underdeveloped copper-gold areas.

Riyadh was also interested in investing in agriculture, trade, energy, minerals, IT, transport and other sectors in Pakistan, the statement said.

“As a result of this visit, Pakistan’s export capacity will increase, joint ventures will be launched and new opportunities will be paved.”

The Pakistani foreign office said last week the Saudi delegation would comprise the foreign minister, minister of water and agriculture, minister of industry and mineral resources, deputy minister of investment, and senior officials from the Saudi energy ministry and the Saudi Fund for General Investments.

The Saudi delegation is expected to hold meetings with the Pakistani president, the prime minister, the foreign minister and other ministers, as well as the army chief and members of the apex committee of the Special Investment Facilitation Council, set up last year to oversee all foreign investments.

The Saudi government has not yet commented on the agenda of the visit.

Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages. Pakistan’s finance minister, Muhammad Aurangzeb, is currently in Washington to participate in spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and discuss a new bailout program. The last loan deal expired this month. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Saudi Arabia has often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid in the past, regularly providing it oil on deferred payments and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.

Last year, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister said the Kingdom was changing the way it provides assistance to allies, shifting from previously giving direct grants and deposits unconditionally.

“We used to give direct grants and deposits without strings attached and we are changing that. We are working with multilateral institutions to actually say we need to see reforms,” Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said at the World Economic Forum in Davos last January. 

“We are taxing our people, we are expecting also others to do the same, to do their efforts. We want to help but we want you also to do your part.”

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar have increasingly moved toward investing rather than extending direct financial aid.


Probe suggests India behind Lahore death of suspect in killing of Indian spy — Pakistan minister

Updated 15 April 2024
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Probe suggests India behind Lahore death of suspect in killing of Indian spy — Pakistan minister

  • Alleged Indian spy Sarabjit Singh died at a prison in Pakistan's Lahore city in 2013 after inmates attacked him
  • Islamabad has previously accused Indian intelligence agency of being involved in killings inside Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi said on Monday that an investigation had suggested India was behind the death of a Pakistani man, who was suspected of killing alleged Indian spy Sarabjit Singh in 2013.

Amir Tamba was shot dead inside his home in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Saturday. He was a suspect in the death of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian national who was convicted of spying in Pakistan and handed a death sentence in 1991.

Singh died in 2013 after inmates attacked him in a Lahore prison. His killing stoked tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors. Tamba was accused of being involved in Singh’s death but was not convicted.

Asked about possible Indian involvement in Tamba's killing, Naqvi told reporters that India had been directly involved in a few killings inside Pakistan and police were suspecting Indian involvement in Tamba's murder too.

"Right now, the evidence is pointing to them [India]," the minister said. "It is not ideal to say anything until the investigation is completed, but [the killing] has the same pattern."

Islamabad has previously accused India’s intelligence agency of being involved in killings inside Pakistan, saying it had credible evidence linking two Indian agents to the deaths of two Pakistanis last year.

Britain's Guardian newspaper published a report this month, saying the Indian government had killed about 20 people in Pakistan since 2020 as part of a broader plan to eliminate militants residing on foreign soil. Pakistan denies harboring militants.

Last year, both the United States and Canada accused Indian agents of links to assassination plots on their soil. India dismissed the allegation of its involvement in the killing in Canada as “absurd.”

In the case involving the US, India’s foreign ministry said it had set up a high-level committee to investigate the accusations, adding that the alleged link to an Indian official was “a matter of concern” and “against government policy.”


Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 

Updated 15 April 2024
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Saudi FM due in Pakistan on official visit today — foreign office 

  • Visit comes days after Pakistan, Saudi Arabia reaffirmed commitment to expedite $5 billion investment
  • Pakistan state media on Sunday said Saudi Arabia would invest $1 billion in Reko Diq mining project 

ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan will arrive in Pakistan on Monday on a two-day visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries, the Pakistani foreign office said.
The Saudi foreign minister’s visit comes a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Saudi Arabia and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion.
“The visit takes place essentially to expedite follow up on the understanding reached between Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and HRH Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince and Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during their recent meeting in Makkah Al Mukarramah to enhance bilateral economic cooperation,” the foreign office said in a statement. 
“This visit is aimed at lending positive impetus to enhanced bilateral cooperation and mutually rewarding economic partnership.”
The Saudi delegation comprises the foreign minister, minister of water and agriculture, minister of industry and mineral resources, deputy minister of investment, and senior officials from the Saudi energy ministry and the Saudi Fund for General Investments, according to the Pakistani foreign office.
The Saudi delegation is expected to hold meetings with the Pakistani president, the prime minister, the foreign minister and counterpart ministers, as well as the army chief and members of the apex committee of the Special Investment Facilitation Council, set up last year to oversee all foreign investments. 
The Saudi government has not yet commented on the visit or its agenda. 
Cash-strapped Pakistan desperately needs to shore up its foreign reserves and signal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that it can continue to meet requirements for foreign financing that has been a key demand in previous bailout packages.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.
Saudi Arabia has also often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid by regularly providing it oil on deferred payment and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.
On Sunday, Pakistani state media reported Saudi Arabia was likely to invest $1 billion in the Reko Diq copper and gold mine project in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province.


Muslim World League secretary-general meets key Pakistani religious leader, scholars in Islamabad

Updated 15 April 2024
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Muslim World League secretary-general meets key Pakistani religious leader, scholars in Islamabad

  • Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa meets Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the right-wing JUI-F party, other religious scholars
  • Dr. Al-Issa arrived in Pakistan on April 7 to promote bilateral relations between Islamabad and Riyadh, and to promote interfaith harmony 

ISLAMABAD: The secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa met prominent Pakistani religious leader Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman and other Pakistani religious scholars in Islamabad on Monday, Rehman’s party said, as the MWL official’s nine-day visit to the country concludes today. 

Dr. Al-Issa arrived in Islamabad on April 7 on a nine-day trip aimed at fostering interfaith harmony, strengthening bilateral ties between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. He heads the MWL, a Makkah-based non-governmental organization that represents followers of Islam around the world.

During his visit to Pakistan, Dr. Al-Issa delivered the Eid Al-Fitr sermon at the Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad last week in which he called on Muslims to keep Palestinians close to their hearts and in their prayers.

Rehman, who heads the right-wing Jamiat Ulama-e-Pakistan Fazl (JUI-F) party, met Dr. Al-Issa at the house of Nawaf bin Said Al-Malki, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Pakistan, the JUI-F said in a statement. 

“We welcome Muslim World League Secretary-General Dr. Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa and his honorable delegation,” Rehman was quoted as saying by the JUI-F. 

The JUI-F leader said thousands of madrassahs or religious seminaries were being run by Pakistani scholars in the country. He added that Pakistani scholars have played a prominent role in awakening the Muslim community. 

“Pakistani scholars have a longstanding spiritual and brotherly relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Rehman was quoted as saying by the JUI-F. 

Speaking on the Gaza crisis, Rehman criticized the Jewish state for its relentless military campaign and said that the “brutality” against Palestinians cannot be ignored. 

“Zionist Israel has the patronage of international powers where human rights are being trampled and children, women and the elderly are being killed,” he said. “The Palestinian situation demands unity from us and the entire Muslim Ummah is looking toward Saudi Arabia in this regard.”

During his visit to Pakistan, Dr. Al-Issa visited the Ali bin Abi Talib Orphanage in Islamabad to spend time with the orphans there on Eid Al-Fitr. On Saturday, he attended the foundation laying ceremony of the Seerat Museum in Islamabad. The museum, the first of its kind, would exhibit relics related to the life of Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). 


Pakistan Eid tourism surged by over 360 percent amid easing inflation — provincial data

Updated 15 April 2024
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Pakistan Eid tourism surged by over 360 percent amid easing inflation — provincial data

  • Inflation in Pakistan fell to 20.7 percent in March, the country’s lowest in 23 months, data showed
  • Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Galiyat area saw highest number of tourists, 237,500, from April 10-14 last week

ISLAMABAD: Eid tourism in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province surged by over 360 percent this year, with over 580,000 tourists visiting the area’s scenic spots during the five-day holidays last week, data released by the provincial tourism authority on Monday showed, as inflation eases in the economically troubled country. 

Poor weather conditions and soaring inflation led to a staggering 74 percent decline in the number of tourists that visited KP last year during the Eid holidays, as per official figures, when over 125,000 tourists visited the province. The northwestern province is home to many picturesque locations and scenic spots such as Swat Valley, Malam Jabba, Abbottabad, Kaghan, and Shogran that Pakistanis from all over the country visit during the Eid holidays. 

As per figures shared by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Integrated Tourism Development Project (KITE), a provincial initiative by the provincial government to develop tourism in KP, 583,452 tourists in total visited the province from April 10-14. 

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s tourist spots remained tourists’ first priority during Eid holidays,” the KP Culture and Tourism Authority said in a statement. “During the five days [April 10-14], over 583,000 tourists visited the tourist spots of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.”

According to a breakdown shared by KITE, Galiyat saw the highest number of visitors with over 237,500 visiting the area during the five days while 151,900 visited Malam Jabba. As many as 92,470 tourists visited Kumrat Valley while 77,372 toured Naran and Kaghan areas, the data showed. 

Pakistan’s inflation last year peaked at 36.4 percent during April 2023 while food inflation surged to 49.1 percent. The South Asian country’s inflation outpaced price gains even in Sri Lanka as its currency depreciated and Pakistan hiked fuel and energy prices to comply with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 

In March 2024, however, Pakistan’s inflation rate measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell to 20.7 percent, its lowest in 23 months. However, the country continues to face significant financial challenges, with dwindling foreign exchange reserves and a weak national currency.