Pakistan celebrates Eid Al-Adha amid coronavirus fears 

People offer prayers for the Eid Al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, at a mosque in Rawalpindi on Aug. 1, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 01 August 2020

Pakistan celebrates Eid Al-Adha amid coronavirus fears 

  • PM Khan, President Alvi urge the public to follow anti-virus measures when partaking in celebrations 
  • Authorities working to ensure that the nation remains on track in flattening the curve 

ISLAMABAD: Muslims across Pakistan began their Eid Al-Adha celebrations on Saturday amid COVID-19 restrictions even as the government urged the public to follow anti-virus measures and maintain social distancing to limit the spread of the outbreak in the country. 

Women embrace each other after offering prayers during the Eid Al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, at the Badshahi mosque in Lahore on Aug. 1, 2020. (AFP)

In his statement on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the whole world is passing through a critical phase as the coronavirus pandemic had become a “challenge for humanity.” 

“I request the Pakistani nation to take all precautionary measures on Eid Al-Adha while performing the obligatory rituals of Qurbani (slaughter animals) and include the poor and needy in the celebrations,” he said. 

He was joined by President Arif Alvi who congratulated the nation on the occasion and urged the public “not to forget the deprived in this hour of happiness.” 

“Corona pandemic has been largely controlled with government policies and public discipline,” he said, before asking people to avoid crowded bazaars and cattle markets on Eid. 

He added that the virus could be defeated by “adopting precautionary measures.” 

“Elders are requested to offer Eid prayers at home. I will also offer Eid prayers at home,” he said. 

Pakistani Muslims offer prayers during the Eid Al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice, at the Badshahi mosque in Lahore on Aug. 1, 2020. (AFP)

The two leaders’ messages follow increased security measures across the country with authorities working to ensure that Pakistan remains on track in flattening the curve. 

As of Friday, the total number of cases stood at 278,000 with 5,951 deaths reported. 

Pakistan’s new shipping policy to reduce $5 bln freight bill through localization of vessels

Updated 37 min 41 sec ago

Pakistan’s new shipping policy to reduce $5 bln freight bill through localization of vessels

  • The policy offers tax incentives, low-cost financing to revive the country’s shipping industry
  • Private companies demand open competition for import of petroleum cargo instead of monopolizing it through state-owned corporation

KARACHI: Pakistan’s new shipping policy aims to reduce $5 billion freight bill that the country pays to foreign companies to transport import and export cargoes, officials announced on Friday. 

Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi and Adviser to Prime Minister on Commerce and Investment Abdul Razak Dawood unveiled the amended shipping policy in Islamabad that offers incentives to the country’s own vessels by provided them “priority berthing at all Pakistani ports.” 

“This is business-friendly policy,” Zaidi said, adding that it would reduce the freight bill Pakistan paid annually. 

The country nationalized its industries in the 1970s, including the shipping industry by merging all companies with the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC). Experts believe that the industry could not be revived after that policy decision. 

“This industry is vital since it operates during emergencies and high risk situation as well as peace time. As we rely on international shipping lines for our trade, we lose foreign exchange which can be saved if we develop our own local shipping industry,” said Zaidi. “It is the need of the hour to revive this industry since we lag way behind our regional competitors like Bangladesh.” 

Abdul Razak Dawood, Pakistan’s de facto commerce minister, hoped that local entrepreneurs would view this as an opportunity and benefit from it. 

“The State Bank of Pakistan will extend loans at three percent markup rate for buying vessels and registering them in the country,” Mahmood Maulvi, adviser to the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, told Arab News. “Refinance will be allowed for purchase of ships and vessels.” 

Under the policy, new shipping companies would be exempted from federal taxes until 2030. 

“No federal taxes (direct and indirect) shall be levied to the detriment of Pakistan Resident Ship Owning companies during the exemption period,” the policy document seen by Arab News read. 

However, the transportation of hydrocarbon cargoes will be the sole responsibility of PNSC. 

The shipping sector stakeholders termed the policy as a “good initiative” and called for its implementation in letter and spirit. 

“It is good that the government has realized that Pakistan pays $5 billion of freight bill to foreign shipping companies,” Aasim Siddiqui, chairman of All Pakistan Shipping Association (APSA) told Arab News. “Our association has been lobbying for the last three years for incentives to be given to private sector since we have the potential to create more employment opportunities by attracting the cargo that is transported by foreign vessels.” 

“But it is not enough to release a focused policy,” he continued. “We also need a robust legal framework for its implementation since an oversight of these incentives is also needed. Besides, it is very important to monitor the policy in consultation with the stakeholders.” 

He demanded that instead of monopolizing the import of petroleum products through the PNSC, the government should invite bids from the private sector. 

“Maybe private companies can give you better rates than the PNSC,” he added.