Turkish Airlines gets third penalty from Pakistan for violating COVID-19 rules

Trucks transport equipments as part of the removal of the Ataturk Airport, next to a Turkish airlines plane, on the last day of flight operations of the Ataturk International airport late on April 5, 2019 in Istanbul. (AFP/File)
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Updated 15 January 2021

Turkish Airlines gets third penalty from Pakistan for violating COVID-19 rules

  • Pakistan also imposed fines on Turkish Airlines on October 13 and 21 last year over coronavirus SOP violations
  • CAA says two passengers on a flight from Senegal to Lahore did not have proof of a negative coronavirus test

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority said on Friday it had imposed a fine of one hundred thousand rupees on Turkish Airlines for failing to follow coronavirus standard operating procedures. 
Pakistan has fined Turkish Airlines twice before — on October 13 and 21 last year — over coronavirus violations. 
In a letter on Friday, CAA said Turkish Airlines had transported two passengers, Abdul Sattar and Tariq Ali, from Dakar, Senegal, to Istanbul for onward journey to Lahore on January 13, 2021 without proof of a negative coronavirus test 
“ln view of the foregoing, Competent Authority has imposed penalty to the tune of PKR 100,000/- on Turkish Airlines and the same shall be deposited in CAA Collection Account … on immediate basis,” the CAA said. “Any recurrent violation of COVID-19 related SOPs shall be dealt with in a more stringent manner including but not limited to revocation of operating authorization granted to Turkish Airlines for flight operations to/from Pakistan.”
Last year, Pakistan issued a travel advisory under which inbound passengers were divided into two categories. Passengers from category A countries like China, Japan, New Zealand, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, do not need to undergo coronavirus tests while passengers from category B countries like Senegal need coronavirus-negative certificates to enter Pakistan.


Pakistan eases coronavirus restrictions, regular school restarts March 1

Updated 25 February 2021

Pakistan eases coronavirus restrictions, regular school restarts March 1

  • Time limits on commercial activities lifted and indoor dining allowed from March 15
  • 50% spectators allowed at Pakistan Super League pool matches, full attendance at semifinals and final 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan this week announced it would ease a number of coronavirus restrictions, including lifting time limits on commercial activities, allowing indoor dining at restaurants from March 15 and restarting regular five-day classes at schools from March 1.
Pakistan recorded 1,361 news cases on Thursday, taking the total number of COVID-19 infections to 575,941, with 12,772 deaths.
Education minister Shafqat Mahmood said on Thursday regular classes would restart at schools from March 1.
“Important announcement. All schools will go back to regular 5 day classes from Monday March 1,” he said on Twitter. “Restrictions imposed in some major cities on schools to conduct staggered classes was only till Feb 28.”


The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees Pakistan’s coronavirus response, said in a statement on Wednesday that it had devised new rules after a “comprehensive review” of the coronavirus situation.
“Time-limit lifted from commercial activities and amusement parks, condition of 50% work from home removed,” NCOC said. “Indoor wedding ceremonies will be allowed from 15th March 21 … Indoor dining allowed from 15th March subject to the review on 10th March.”
The NCOC also allowed cinemas and shrines to reopen from March 15, with coronavirus guidelines in place.
“Wearing of mask, social distancing, smart lockdowns will continue and will be ensured,” the body said.
It said Pakistan Super League pool matches would be allowed with 50% spectators while “full attendance” would be permitted at semifinals and the final match of the tournament.
The NCOC added that these rules could be reviewed and revised whenever necessary.


$316 mln inflows in Roshan Digital Accounts from Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia, UAE 

Updated 25 February 2021

$316 mln inflows in Roshan Digital Accounts from Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia, UAE 

  • Roshan Digital Accounts enable overseas Pakistanis to open bank account online from anywhere outside Pakistan without visiting branch 
  • Since initiative’s launch in Sept 2020, overseas Pakistanis have opened 92,500 accounts and remitted $554 million 

KARACHI: Pakistan has received $554 in five months from Roshan Digital Accounts, a banking initiative for non-resident Pakistanis launched last year, with 57 percent of the remittances, or $316 million, coming from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the central bank has said.
A Roshan Digital Account (RDA) enables overseas Pakistanis to open a bank account online from anywhere outside Pakistan without visiting a branch and permits account holders to send money into the account. Account holders can perform transactions like funds transfer and bill payment via online banking, debit card or cheque books. Online banking is available for all RDA customers.
Since the initiative’s launch in September 2020, overseas Pakistanis have opened 92,500 accounts and remitted $554 million. Thirty four percent of the accounts were opened by Pakistanis living in Saudi Arabia and 24 percent by UAE residents, according to a presentation given by the central bank on Wednesday.
“Out of $554 million put into Roshan Digital Accounts, 22% funds were received from Saudi Arabia and 35% from Pakistani living in UAE,” Syed Irfan Ali, Managing Director of Deposit Protection Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the State Bank of Pakistan, said at a ceremony to mark Dubai Islamic Bank (DIB) joining the RDA initiative.
Roshan Digital Account services were being offered by nine banks including Saudi Samba Bank. Dubai Islamic Bank, the world’s first Islamic bank, is the tenth to join.
“Our existing customer base of over 200,000 in UAE gives us an all-important advantage to capture the potential for Roshan Digital Accounts,” DIB CEO Junaid Ahmed said at the joining ceremony in Karachi. “Moreover, non-resident Pakistanis working in UAE will also benefit from this product. Our focus is on a seamless experience and prompt response time for the customers.”
Roshan Digital Accounts enable overseas Pakistanis to deposit and invest in Pakistan. They also offer an additional financial instrument, Naya Pakistan Certificates (NPCs), through which overseas Pakistanis can invest in USD and Pakistani currency with returns of 75% and 11% on five years maturity.
NPCs offer attractive risk-free returns over different maturities and are available in both conventional and Shariah compliant versions administered by the central bank. So far, central bank officials say overseas Pakistanis have invested $358 through NPCs.


Islamabad beats Karachi in high-scoring PSL game 

Updated 25 February 2021

Islamabad beats Karachi in high-scoring PSL game 

  • Left-handed Sharjeel Khan plundered eight sixes and nine fours in his 105 off 59 balls 
  • Lahore Qalandars and Islamabad share the leaderboard with two wins from as many games in the six-team event 

KARACHI: Islamabad United overcame a blistering century by Karachi Kings opener Sharjeel Khan to record their second successive victory in the Pakistan Super League on Wednesday.
The left-handed Khan, who scored only six runs in the first six overs, plundered eight sixes and nine fours in his 105 off 59 balls to give defending champions a strong total of 196-3.
But the depth in Islamabad’s batting, led by Iftikhar Ahmed’s unbeaten 49, and an early onslaught by Alex Hales (46 off 21 balls) helped the former champions cruise to 197-5 for a five-wicket win in 19.1 overs.
“It was obviously a really big chase and I thought we had to knock the teeth out of it early,” Hales said. “I felt like the pitch was getting slower as the game went on, so my plan was to be really attacking in the Powerplay, get the run rate below 10 and fortunately that worked tonight.”
Hales set up a strong platform for Islamabad by smashing fast bowler Aamer Yamin for 29 runs in only the third over — the most expensive over bowled in the history of PSL.
Hales was caught out at mid off in the sixth over, but the Englishman’s clean hitting had provided a solid base of 75 runs inside the batting powerplay.
Iftikhar and Hussain Talat (42) then combined for a match-winning stand of 94 runs off 67 balls as Karachi’s fast bowlers couldn’t get the breakthrough, with Mohammad Amir (1-44) returning with expensive figures.
Afghanistan’s experienced Twenty20 allrounder Mohammad Nabi (1-26) pegged back Islamabad’s run-chase through his offspin in the middle overs before Asif Ali finished off the game with a rapid 21 off nine balls.
“You don’t lose the tournament if you lose the second game so it’s just the start of the tournament,” Karachi skipper Imad Wasim said. “I think we’ll rectify the errors and come back very hard.”
Earlier, after being put into bat, Khan and Pakistan all-format skipper Babar Azam featured in a PSL record-breaking 176-run opening wicket stand against the erratic Karachi bowlers.
Khan forced Islamabad United captain Shadab Khan out of the attack by smashing the legspiner for four successive sixes in the ninth over but Karachi’s bowlers overstepped at least three times which could have broken the partnership.
Babar was twice caught off Hussain’s no-balls in one over and Karachi also missed out to dismiss Khan on 70 when fast bowler Mohammad Wasim overstepped.
Both batsmen fell on successive deliveries in the penultimate over of Hasan Ali (1-36), but not before Karachi erred once again in the field.
Hales dropped a sitter of Babar at long-on before throwing the ball in time to run out Babar, who went for the second run. Babar made 62 off off 54 balls with six fours and a six.
Khan was trapped leg before wicket off the next ball when Hasan successfully overturned the decision through television referral.
Lahore Qalandars and Islamabad share the leaderboard with two wins from as many games in the six-team event.


Pakistan faces an unexpected dilemma: too much electricity 

Updated 25 February 2021

Pakistan faces an unexpected dilemma: too much electricity 

  • Large-scale construction of new power plants funded by China has dramatically boosted energy capacity
  • But even as supply surges, electric power is still not reaching up to 50 million people in Pakistan

KARACHI: After suffering decades of electricity shortages that left families and businesses in the dark, Pakistan finds itself with a new problem: more electrical generating capacity than it needs.
Large-scale construction of new power plants — largely coal-fired ones funded by China — has dramatically boosted the country’s energy capacity.
“It’s true. We are producing much more than we need,” Tabish Gauhar, a special assistant to the prime minister on power, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by telephone.
But even as supply surges, electric power is still not reaching up to 50 million people in Pakistan who need it, according to a 2018 World Bank report, though expansion of tranmission lines is planned.
Power outages also remain common, with a transmission problem just last month leaving many of the country’s major cities in the dark.
Excess fossil fuel energy capacity also is boosting electricity costs — and raising questions about whether the country will now manage to achieve its climate change goals, with scientists saying coal needs to rapidly disappear from the world’s energy mix to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

RENEWABLES AIM?
Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan promised that Pakistan by 2030 would produce 60% of its electrical power from renewable sources.
Currently the country gets 64% of its electricity from fossil fuels, with another 27% from hydropower, 5% from nuclear power and just 4% from renewables such as solar and wind, Gauhar said.
The country has already scrapped plans for two Chinese-funded coal plants — but another seven commissioned as part of the sweeping China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project have gone ahead, and are expected to add up to 6,600 megawatts of capacity to the grid.
China has also funded new renewable energy but at a smaller scale, with six wind farms set to generate just under 400 MW of power, a 100 MW solar project and four hydropower plants expected to produce 3,400 MW by 2027.
CPEC aims to boost road, rail and air transport links and trade between China, Pakistan and other countries in the region, as well as boosting energy production.
Vaqar Zakaria, the head of Hagler Bailly Pakistan, an environmental consultancy firm based in Islamabad, said Pakistan’s coal-heavy power expansion was in line with its own former national aims.
“I think blaming the Chinese may not entirely be fair as setting up projects on local and imported coal was our country policy and priority,” he said.
Officials at the Chinese embassy in Islamabad did not respond to calls and email asking for comment.
As new largely coal-fired plants come online, Pakistan is expected by 2023 to have 50% more power capacity than currently needed.
Because the government must repay loans taken to build the plants and has signed contracts to buy their power, the overcapacity is producing costs “the government has to pay to the power producers under binding contracts, regardless of actual need,” Gauhar said.
“Our fixed-capacity charges have gone through the roof,” he added.
Those costs currently stand at 850 billion rupees ($5.3 billion) a year, but will rise to almost 1,450 billion rupees ($9 billion) a year by 2023 as new largely coal-fired power plants still being built come online, he said.
That is driving up rates consumers pay for power — 30% in the last two years, Gauhar said — a problem likely to continue unless Pakistan can find more buyers for its new generating capacity, such as by boosting manufacturing or pushing use of electric vehicles.
The government plans to decommission some older fossil fuel plants to cut overcapacity, he said — but it also pushing ahead to add new wind, solar and hydropower capacity to the grid to meet its climate goals.
The government is holding talks to renegotiate tariff rates with the country’s independent power producers, including fossil fuel, hydro, wind and solar companies, he said.
Whether it will seek similar rate renegotiations on Chinese-funded plants still in the pipeline, or longer debt repayment periods, remains unclear.

GAINING POWER
When electricity projects now in the pipeline are completed in the next few years, Pakistan will have about 38,000 MW of capacity, Gauhar said.
But its current summertime peak demand is 25,000 MW, with electricity use falling to 12,000 MW in the winter, he said.
Saadia Qayyum, an energy specialist with the World Bank, said energy over-production was a better problem to have than undersupply as it allowed for growth — but the country needed new ways to use the electricity.
But incentivising electric transport, for instance, will be less than a green solution if a big share of the country’s new electricity is produced by coal plants, energy analysts said.
Gauhar said the government is offering discounted electricity tariffs to industrial customers, to try to lure those now dependent on their own gas-fired plants back to the national grid.
But demand for grid power “is a function of price, availability and reliability,” noted Zakaria, the environmental analyst — and high prices are likely to suppress demand and incentivise power theft, a serious problem in the country.
He predicted high-end residential and commercial customers would end up footing the bill for the excess generation capacity, as industries and agriculture receive power subsidies.
That could mean “paying customers will use less electricity, further worsening the situation,” particularly as more see an economic advantage in buying their own solar panels.
Despite the country’s energy surplus, the World Bank is investing $450 million over the next four years in renewable power in Pakistan, to try to cut the nation’s reliance on fossil fuel imports and lower energy costs, Qayyum said.
Gauhar said Pakistan would need some level of fossil-fuel-powered energy in coming years to help balance “intermittent” sources like solar and wind which do not generate electricity 24 hours a day.
But he said the long-term plan, still being discussed, was to have coal plants contribute no more than 15% of the country’s electricity capacity.


Pakistan, UAE seek ways to enhance military engagement 

Updated 24 February 2021

Pakistan, UAE seek ways to enhance military engagement 

  • Gen. Nadeem Raza visited the International Defense Exhibition & Conference (IDEX) in Abu Dhabi
  • Pakistan has been seeking to enhance defense ties with the Gulf country under the UAE’s Vision 2030  

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani and UAE military have discussed ways to enhance defense ties and engagement during Pakistan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Nadeem Raza’s visit to Abu Dhabi this week, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said on Wednesday.

Gen. Raza met with UAE Armed Forces Chief of Staff Lt. General Hamad Mohammed Thani Al-Rumaithi on Monday as he visited the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) and Naval Defense & Maritime Security Exhibition (NAVDEX) in Abu Dhabi. He also held separate meetings with other UAE chiefs of tri-services.
The Pakistani and UAE military leaders discussed measures to “enhance the level and scope of military engagements between both countries and reaffirmed to continue to forge deeper strategic ties,” the ISPR said in a statement.

“During the meetings, both sides deliberated upon various areas of interest, bilateral cooperation including security, counterterrorism and prevailing regional environment particularly with reference to Kashmir and Afghanistan.”

As Gen. Raza visited Pakistani stalls and naval ships at the two defense technology exhibitions, he welcomed the efforts of IDEX and NAVADEX in “showcasing Pakistan’s indigenously manufactured defense related equipment at global level,” ISPR said.
Pakistan has been seeking to enhance defense ties with the Gulf country under the UAE’s Vision 2030, which emphasizes developing the aviation, aerospace and defense sectors to transform its economy by putting a greater focus on knowledge-based industries.