Coronavirus command center reports people not following SOPs — Pakistani planning minister

People wait for food on top of a restaurant on Margalla Hills in Islamabad on August 10, 2020, after government announced it would be lifting most of the country's remaining coronavirus restrictions after seeing new cases drop for several weeks. (AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2020

Coronavirus command center reports people not following SOPs — Pakistani planning minister

  • Asad Umar says National Command and Operation Center had informed him the public was not following coronavirus protection rules in last few days
  • Warned that gains against the virus could be reversed, Pakistan opened virtually all sectors this week after an 80 percent decline in infections and deaths

ISLAMABAD: Planning minister Asad Umar said on Tuesday the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), Pakistan’s top body to oversee coronavirus mitigation efforts, had informed him that people were not following standard operating procedures in the last few days since the government allowed virtually all sectors of the country to resume business. 
In March, Pakistan shut all its schools and land borders and decided to limit international flights and discourage large gatherings to try to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

But with coronavirus infections and deaths in Pakistan down nearly 80 percent since their peak the government opened the tourism sector over the weekend and restaurants from Monday. Schools and wedding halls will open on September 15. 

Following coronavirus rules was “not so difficult,“” the minister said at a press conference. 

“Wear a mask and maintain distance,” Umar said. “The most important thing is your attitude; if you take precautions, we will see [further] improvement.”

He warned that Pakistan’s gains in fighting the coronavirus could be reversed if people did not follow standard operating procedures.
“If we are not careful, the spread of the virus which has reduced because of [the people’s] efforts can increase again,” Umar said. “The improvement you see is because the government and people together took decisions and followed them,” he said, adding that he was “confident that people will not let this victory they have achieved turn into a loss.”


Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister

Updated 31 min 26 sec ago

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister

  • Mob killed the Sri Lankan manager at a Pakistani company and burnt his body on Dec. 3 over blasphemy allegations
  • Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Pakistan and mere accusations of it can trigger violence

Colombo: The wife of a Sri Lankan national who was lynched to death by a mob in Pakistan has pleaded for justice from the Pakistani prime minister during a memorial event held by Islamabad’s mission in Colombo.
Kumara, 48, a general manager at a sports apparel factory in the eastern city of Sialkot, was attacked by a mob of hundreds of people, dragged into the street and set ablaze in the eastern Pakistani city of Sialkot on Dec. 3. Police said workers at the factory accused him of desecrating religious posters.
Dozens of people have been arrested in connection with the violence, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised severe punishment for those found guilty.
The memorial event organized by Pakistan’s high commissioner designate Umar Farooq Burqi on Thursday evening saw in attendance highest-ranking Sri Lankan officials, including the speaker of parliament, ministers, lawmakers, as well as Buddhist and Muslim religious figures.
Kumara’s widow, Nilushi Dissanayaka, arrived with the two sons who survived him.
“I request Imran Khan to bring justice to my husband and punish the culprits as soon as possible. This is not to take revenge. But this should not happen to anyone in future,” she said.
“I thank all the Pakistanis who supported me in this difficult situation and all staff of the high commission for arranging this event. Also, I would like to thank Sri Lankan president, prime minister, other ministers and media institutions for supporting me.”

Nilushi Dissanayaka (right), widow of Priyantha Kumara, Sri Lankan national who was lynched to death by a mob in Pakistan in December 3, 2021, arrives at the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo with her two children to attend a condolence reference in the memory of her husband on January 20, 2022. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan High Commission in Colombo/Facebook)

Dissanayaka told Arab News her goal in life was now to educate her children, Gavith and Lithula, to become professionals and useful members of society.
The business community in Sialkot has raised $100,000 for Kumara’s family. Rajco Industries, where Kumara worked, has pledged to take care of their financial needs by sending a monthly salary of $2,000 for the next 10 years. The Pakistani high commissioner said the funds were transferred to the widow earlier this week.
He added that around $54,000 has also been collected for the family by Pakistani expatriates in the US and Canada.
“Each and every person in Pakistan from the Prime Minister Imran Khan to a common man on the street was aggrieved and strongly condemned this inhumane act,” Burki said.

Pakistan High Commissioner-designate in Colombo Major General (second left) Umar Farooq Burqi presents a gift to Nilushi Dissanayake, wife of Kumara, (right), a condolence reference in the memory of her husband held at the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo in January 20, 2022. (AN photo by Mohammed Rasooldeen)

Pakistani authorities last month announced that suspects in the case will be presented before an anti-terrorism court in jail.
“On strict directions of the prime minister of Pakistan, the trial of the murderers and abettors is going on a daily basis,” Burki said. “The prime minister is directly supervising the proceedings of this trial.”
Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan and carries the death penalty. Mere allegations of blasphemy can trigger mob violence.
International and domestic rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.


PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’

Updated 21 January 2022

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’

  • PIA aircraft was scheduled to arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital on Jan. 14 and then return to Islamabad
  • Upon reaching Riyadh with several hours of delay, the pilot decided to stop the journey as his duty timings had ended

KARACHI: A Pakistani pilot who last week refused to complete a Riyadh-Islamabad flight because his duty timings had ended, made the decision in compliance with aviation rules and for the safety of passengers, airline officials have said.
A plane with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was scheduled to arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital on Jan. 14 and then return to Islamabad, but technical issues delayed the its departure from Pakistan, and later bad weather in Riyadh forced it to make an emergency landing in Dammam, where it stayed another six hours before clearance.
Upon finally reaching Riyadh, the pilot of PK 9754 decided to end the journey and did not fly the aircraft back to Islamabad. The pilot’s announcement triggered a protest by passengers, who eventually had to be calmed by airport security personnel.
PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan told Arab News the captain’s action was in line with the airline’s policy and aviation rules.
“An impression has been created if the airline wanted the captain to operate the flight and he refused. This is completely wrong. The pilot didn’t operate the flight because his duty hours had exceeded due to diversion of the flight to Dammam,” he said on Thursday evening. “Upon reaching Riyadh the duty time of the pilot had completed.”
According to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority rules, a person whose duty time has been exceeded is not permitted to act as a crew member and must be provided a specified period of rest.
A PIA official familiar with the matter said the captain’s “prime concern was the safety of the passengers.” 
“When asked to fly, the captain refused and said: ‘What I’m doing, I am doing it as per rules. The prime responsibility as captain is to protect aircraft and the passengers,’” the official told Arab News.
All of the 200 to 250 passengers were dependent upon him,” he said. “This was prime responsibility of captain is to protect aircraft and the passengers. Then the reputation of your company — the airline — and your country is also important. The compliance with rules is important for their image as well.”
“One takes a decision keeping all these things in mind.”


Reunited 74 years after India-Pakistan split, brothers hope to spend rest of life together

Updated 18 min 38 sec ago

Reunited 74 years after India-Pakistan split, brothers hope to spend rest of life together

  • Partition in 1947 following India’s independence from Britain triggered one of the biggest forced migrations in history
  • Brothers Sikka and Sadiq Khan, who remained on opposite sides of India-Pakistan border, were reunited last week

PHULEWALA: When British India split into two independent states in August 1947, Sikka Khan’s father and elder brother, Sadiq, left Phulewala village in what became the Indian part of Punjab, and returned to their paternal village of Bogran, which found itself in Pakistan.
Just two years old at the time, Sikka was too young to go and stayed behind in India with his mother. The family was to be reunited soon. The parents only wanted to wait until it was safe for the toddler to travel.
But the promise of being together again was cut short by violence and communal rioting that marred one of the biggest forced migrations in history. Following the partition, about 15 million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs swapped countries in a political upheaval that cost more than a million lives.
Sikka and Sadiq lost their father, mother — who committed suicide when she found out about her husband’s death — and the bond that was only restored last week.
“I told you we would meet again,” Sikka, 76, said through tears, as he embraced his 84-year-old brother when they met in Kartarpur, Pakistan on Jan. 10.
Kartarpur is a border city where Pakistan, in late 2019, opened a visa-free crossing to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims access to one of the holiest sites of their religion, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, which after the partition, the site found itself on the Pakistani side of the border.
The brothers’ reunion did not last long, as each of them had to return to their countries. For the past seven decades, India-Pakistan cross-border visits have been limited by tensions and conflict.
“It was an emotional moment for us, and I could not believe that I was meeting my brother and his family,” Sikka told Arab News in Phulewala village, where he has remained since 1947.
“Life has given me the opportunity to reunite with my brother and I don’t want to live without him,” he said. “I need the company of my brother more than ever before. I want to live the rest of my life with my elder brother.”
They got in touch in 2019, when Pakistani YouTuber Nasir Dhillon visited Bogran village, where Sadiq still lives, and heard his story. He shared the footage on social media and soon received a message from Jagsir Singh, a doctor in Phulewala, who connected him to Sikka.

Sikka Khan sits at his home in Phulewala village, Punjab, India on January 16, 2022. (AN photo by Sanjay Kumar)

The YouTuber and the doctor helped the brothers meet virtually.
“The brothers for the first time saw each other over a video call two years ago,” Singh told Arab News. “Since then, they have remained in touch with each other through WhatsApp.”
They have been talking to each other at least 15 minutes every day, but it took them two years to meet in person as even the visa-free Kartarpur corridor was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic until late last year. 
“The opening of the Kartarpur corridor in November last year allowed us the opportunity to organize the meeting between the brothers,” Singh said.
When he arrived in Kartarpur, Sikka, who does not have his own family, was accompanied by a dozen villagers from Phulewala.
“For me, my village has been family,” he told Arab News, as he chatted with Sadiq through a video call. “Now I want to go to Pakistan and live with my elder brother for some time. I hope the Pakistani government gives me a visa.
Sadiq, too, wants to visit his brother. 
“I want to meet Sikka in his village,” he said during the video call with his brother. “We want to live together and make up for the time we have lost.”


Body of Pakistani killed in Houthi attack on UAE arrives in Peshawar

Updated 20 January 2022

Body of Pakistani killed in Houthi attack on UAE arrives in Peshawar

  • Houthi rebels launched an aerial strike on the United Arab Emirates on Monday, killing three people including the Pakistani worker
  • Moomor Khan of North Waziristan had been serving ADNOC oil company as a driver for the last five years

ISLAMABAD: Body of a Pakistani worker who died in an attack in Abu Dhabi by Yemen’s Houthi rebels arrived in Peshawar on Thursday, confirmed Pakistani officials.

Moomor Khan was killed along with his two Indian colleagues while serving ADNOC oil company after the rebel group launched on Monday what it said was a missile-and-drone strike, setting off explosions in fuel trucks and causing a fire near the Abu Dhabi airport.

An ambulance carrying mortal remains of a Pakistani man died in an attack in Abu Dhabi by Yemen’s Houthi rebels arrives in Peshawar, Pakistan on January 20, 2022. (Courtesy: Overseas Pakistanis Foundation)

“The human remains of martyr Moomor Khan [son of] Umar Khan were received at the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar today,” the foreign office of Pakistan told Arab News in a statement, adding the body was received by senior officials of the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) along with the victim’s family.

A senior OPF official confirmed the information, saying the organization made the local transportation arrangements.

“OPF regional head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and its other senior officials received Khan’s dead body and arranged for its local transportation through ambulance to his hometown near the Pak-Afghan border town in North Waziristan,” director general of OPF’s welfare division Mustafa Haider told Arab News.

He added his organization remained in contact with the country’s diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi to expedite the process of bringing back Khan's body.

“Khan had been working as a driver with Al Mansoor Company, a third party of Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC oil company, for the last five years,” he said. “He was a poor man whose life was affected by the military operation in Pakistan’s tribal region of Wana.”

Haider maintained the OPF would consider Khan's family for financial grant from the foundation’s funds.

“We will also facilitate the family in getting the insurance amount, salary and other financial compensations since it was an accidental death,” he added.

Javed Khan, the deceased’s brother, thanked the UAE authorities and Pakistan’s mission in Abu Dhabi for facilitating the repatriation of the body in the shortest possible period.

“We are thankful to the UAE government and Pakistan embassy in Abu Dhabi since they facilitated the transportation of my brother’s body in the shortest possible time,” he told Arab News. “All the transportation expenses, including the special flight, were taken care of by Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi.”


Pakistan plans to double insurance coverage, financial benefits for overseas workers – officials

Updated 20 January 2022

Pakistan plans to double insurance coverage, financial benefits for overseas workers – officials

  • The country’s state-own insurance company wants to increase the coverage period to ten years and take monetary benefit to Rs2 million
  • It also intends to provide organ insurance coverage for those nationals who suffer kidney or liver failures abroad

KARACHI: Pakistan plans to increase insurance coverage period along with financial benefits for its overseas nationals and add organ insurance to its product list, officials said on Thursday.
State Life Insurance Company, the only state-owned entity in the life insurance business, currently covers over half a million Pakistani workers, mostly in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other gulf countries.
Officials are now planning to enhance the coverage of overseas Pakistani workers through the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment.
“We have presented a proposal to the government by working with the Bureau of Emigration to provide maximum monetary benefits to our laborers,” Shoaib Javed Hussain, the company’s chairman, said while briefing members of the Council of Economic and Energy Journalists on Thursday.
“The major insurance usage comes from our labor force based in the UAE and other gulf countries,” he said, adding: “On the whole, about 130 million lives of Pakistanis are covered by the company.”

Chairman State Life Insurance Shoaib Javed Hussain is briefing members of the Council of Economic and Energy Journalists about the performance of the country's only state-owned insurance company in Karachi, Pakistan, on January 20, 2022. (AN photo)

Hussain informed the insurance coverage was currently provided for five years which was proposed to be increased to 10 years while exceeding monetary benefits to two million rupees.
“Currently, Pakistani workers pay a premium of Rs2,500,” Dr. Mushtaq Ahmed Memon, who works with the company as divisional head (group and pension), told Arab News. “We provide the Rs1 million insurance coverage against that amount in case of loss of life or limb.”
“We have proposed to increase the coverage to 10 years and financial benefits to Rs2 million so that overseas Pakistanis can get maximum benefit,” he added.
The company officials said they had also planned to provide insurance coverage to Pakistani workers who suffer organ damages abroad and are eventually repatriated.
“We are going to add organ insurance to our list,” Memon said. “When Pakistanis move abroad, their work environment changes. We frequently hear from them instances of kidney and liver failures. Many of them come back after losing their jobs in such instances. In this case, we have proposed to compensate them with Rs500,000 against a payment of only Rs300.”
Life insurance penetration is only 0.6 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product with a total market size of about Rs243 billion as of 2020. About nine organizations are operating in life insurance in Pakistan, but the state-owned company has the major market share of 54 percent.
The company officials said their net income had increased by more than 34 percent to Rs160 billion after its assets posted a growth of about 14 percent to Rs1.36 trillion.
“The company has paid Rs103.25 billion in claim payments to policy holders which is 60 percent more than the previous year,” its chairman told journalists, adding: “Social protection rather than profit maximization is the core purpose of the company.”
He said that state life was in process of launching health insurance in the country which would be cost effective and provide extensive coverage.