Pakistan aims to vaccinate 70% of adult population this year

A woman rides on a motor bike as she wears a protective face mask amid the rush of people outside a market as the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in Karachi, Pakistan June 8, 2020. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 22 January 2021

Pakistan aims to vaccinate 70% of adult population this year

  • Pakistan is expecting 500,000 free doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from China by Jan. 31
  • Achieving herd immunity in Pakistan would mean vaccinating some 70 million people

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan aims to vaccinate against the coronavirus 70 percent of its adult population to achieve herd immunity, the country’s de facto health chief said on Thursday.
Pakistan is currently battling its second viral wave and recorded 1,745 new infections on Friday, with 47 deaths. Nearly 528,900 Pakistanis have contracted the disease since the beginning of the outbreak in February and more than 11,200 have died of it.
“The aim is to vaccinate about 70 percent of the eligible population in 2021 and the first batch of doses will be given to frontline health care workers in the first quarter,” Dr. Faisal Sultan, the prime minister’s special assistant on health, said in a media briefing.
“I we can vaccinate 70 percent of our population, I believe the country would achieve immunity,” he said, adding in a tweet that the government will provide vaccine shots free of cost.

As Dr. Sultan said that about 120 million people of the country’s population of 220 million are under 18 years of age, achieving herd immunity would mean vaccinating some 70 million.
Pakistan is in contact with a number of vaccine makers and earlier this month, AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine was approved for emergency use in Pakistan, making it the first coronavirus vaccine to get the green light for use in the South Asian country.
Pakistan is also expecting 500,000 free doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from China by Jan. 31.
Earlier this week, Dr. Sultan said a phase three clinical trial for a potential vaccine being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics was nearly complete and Pakistan would get 20 million doses if the vaccine turned out to be “effective.”
Under Pakistan’s approved vaccine protocol, frontline health care workers would be vaccinated in the first phase followed by people above 65 years of age and the general public in the third phase.
The registration of 300,000 frontline workers for coronavirus vaccination was completed last week.


Multan beats Lahore by 7 wickets for 1st win in PSL

Updated 26 February 2021

Multan beats Lahore by 7 wickets for 1st win in PSL

  • All seven matches in Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 league have so far been won by the team batting second
  • Mohammad Hafeez scored 60 off only 35 balls, but other Lahore batsmen struggled to accelerate against pace

KARACHI: Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan continued to impress with the bat as he led Multan Sultans to their first win in the Pakistan Super League, beating Lahore Qalandars by seven wickets on Friday.
Rizwan hit 76 off 49 balls — his second half century in this year’s PSL — and Pakistan international Sohaib Maqsood made an unbeaten 61 off 41. Multan eased to 159-3 in 16.2 overs in reply to Lahore’s 157-6.
Rizwan and Maqsood shared 110 runs for the third wicket off 65 balls as Lahore badly missed Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan, who had to return for national duty after featuring in his team’s two successive victories.
Opener Rizwan holed out at deep midwicket in the 14th over to give Shaheen Afridi (2-29) his second wicket before Maqsood raised the emphatic victory by smashing Haris Rauf over square leg for a six.
“(Rashid’s) exit has affected our bowling,” Lahore captain Sohail Akhtar said. “I hope we find a replacement.”
Lahore also had a poor day in the field. Rizwan, who hit 12 fours, was dropped soon after completing his half century and Samit Patel floored a sitter in the covers when Maqsood was on 30.
Lahore was earlier restricted in its innings as Rizwan followed the trend of captains opting to field first after winning the toss in this season’s PSL.
With Multan’s successful chase, all seven matches in Pakistan’s premier Twenty20 league have so far been won by the team batting second.
Mohammad Hafeez, who had unbeaten knocks of 73 and 33 against Quetta Gladiators and Peshawar Zalmi, scored 60 off only 35 balls with five sixes and three boundaries, but other Lahore batsmen struggled to accelerate against pace.
West Indian fast bowler Carlos Brathwaite picked up 2-20 and also bowled a maiden over. Young fast bowler Shahnawaz Dhani (2-39) got the key wicket of opener Fakhar Zaman (9) in the batting powerplay before he returned in the death overs and had David Wiese (13) caught by Brathwaite in the deep.
“Our lack of good performances in the death bowling was improved and that’s why we restricted them,” Rizwan said. “Previously we were losing despite dominating most of the match.”
Multan has two points from one win and two losses. Lahore has four points with two victories from three games.


Iran statement about Pakistan’s role in Sistan-Balochistan shooting 'factually incorrect' — foreign office

Updated 26 February 2021

Iran statement about Pakistan’s role in Sistan-Balochistan shooting 'factually incorrect' — foreign office

  • Deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province accused Pakistani forces of firing at gathering of fuel smugglers near the border
  • Human Rights Watch blames the incident on Iran's Revolutionary Guards, urges Tehran to conduct a transparent inquiry

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani foreign office on Friday described a statement by an Iranian official accusing Pakistani security forces of shooting at oil smugglers earlier this week as "factually incorrect," reaffirming that the incident had taken place on the Iranian side of the border.
According to Human Rights Watch, the incident took place on Monday near the Iranian town of Saravan, killing 10 people and injuring five.
Following the development, Iran's deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province, Mohammad Hadi Marashi, accused Pakistani forces of opening fire at a gathering of fuel smugglers near the border who, he claimed, were trying to cross back into Iran.
"The incident occurred on the Iranian side of the border," foreign office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri told the media during a press briefing in Islamabad.
"We are aware of the statement, which is factually incorrect," he said. "We have taken up the matter with the Iranian embassy [in Islamabad] about the statement made by the deputy governor of Sistan-Baluchistan province of Iran."
Pakistan has set aside nearly $20 million to fence its 900-kilometer border with Iran, frequently used for trade and by minority Shia Muslims who travel from Pakistan to Iran for religious pilgrimages. But the border is also the entry point for cross-border militancy and for an illegal fuel trade that authorities have struggled to crackdown on for decades.
"Such unfortunate incidents validate the need to have more formal ways to increase trading opportunities for local people," the foreign office spokesperson said, adding that Pakistan viewed its border with Iran as a model for peace and security.
"We remain engaged with Iranian officials to discuss ways and means of facilitating cross-border commerce for local people living on both sides of the border and ensure the security of our common frontier," he said
According to AFP, Iran was also prodded by Human Rights Watch on Friday to investigate excessive use of force by Revolutionary Guards against smugglers attempting to transport fuel to Pakistan.
Quoting Baluch activists, the rights group claimed that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had blocked a road used to transport fuel before apparently opening fire at people attempting to reopen the route.
The action prompted attacks by angry protesters on government buildings in both Saravan and the Sistan-Baluchistan provincial capital Zahedan. 
"The Iranian authorities should urgently conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the shootings at the Saravan border," said HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far. "The authorities should hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, appropriately compensate victims and ensure that border guards are taking the utmost precautions to respect the right to life and other human rights." 
The rights group noted the lack of employment opportunities in the province, saying it left its ethnic Baluch population with few alternatives but to indulge in illegal trade with their fellow Balochs across the border.
"Similar to the western provinces of Western Azerbaijan and Kurdistan [on the border with Iraq], its lack of economic opportunities has led many residents to engage in unlawful cross-border commerce with Pakistan," said the New York-based watchdog.


Pakistan hopes to save $3 billion through 10-year LNG import contract with Qatar

Updated 26 February 2021

Pakistan hopes to save $3 billion through 10-year LNG import contract with Qatar

  • The government says the agreement is 31 percent cheaper than the one signed in 2016
  • Officials maintain Pakistan will get three million tons of gas at 10.2 percent of Brent under the deal

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Friday Pakistan would save $3 billion through a new 10-year Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) import agreement with Qatar which the government has labeled as one of the cheapest purchase contracts in the global energy sector. 

The two countries signed the agreement in Islamabad under which Qatar will provide three million tons of gas to Pakistan for ten years at 10.2 percent of Brent crude prices. 

Federal Minister for Energy Omar Ayub Khan and Qatar's Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi inked the agreement at the Prime Minister's Office in Islamabad while the premier witnessed the signing ceremony.

The prime minister later claimed while addressing a ceremony in Lahore that Pakistan would save $300 million annually as a result of the new LNG import deal with Qatar.

"Pakistan will save $3 billion in ten-year time," Khan said.

Qatar's Minister al-Kaabi termed the agreement with Pakistan as "historic" and expressed confidence it would open up new vistas of development. 

He said his country would also promote bilateral cooperation in other areas of mutual interest.

Earlier in 2016, Pakistan signed a $16 billion LNG import deal with Qatar until 2031 at prorate of 2.25 metric ton while the price for each cargo was agreed at 13.37 percent of Brent.

Under the new agreement, the government said it would be able to import LNG during winter this year to meet the country's growing energy demand.

"We are upending the costly LNG contract [with Qatar] through a 31 percent new cheaper agreement," Nadeem Babar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan on Petroleum, told reporters in a news conference after signing the deal.

Islamabad would get LNG at cheaper rate even as compared to the spot purchase, he said, adding that the Pakistan State Oil would execute the import agreement.

Providing background information on the new deal, he said the government had been negotiating it with Doha for the last two years and the prime minister had directly spoken to the Emir of Qatar in this connection.

"This is the cheapest agreement in the long-term LNG import deals of the world," he said while denying rumors that the government wanted to keep the agreement a secret. 


Activists call for effective implementation of bill against corporal punishment in Islamabad

Updated 21 min ago

Activists call for effective implementation of bill against corporal punishment in Islamabad

  • The bill was passed by the National Assembly earlier this week to prohibit all forms of corporal punishment in all types of education institutes
  • A popular musician-cum-activist Shehzad Roy says it is important to change the mindset that legitimizes corporal punishment

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani parliamentarians and rights activists on Friday hailed the passage of the ICT Prohibition of Corporal Punishment Bill from the National Assembly earlier this week, urging the government to enact accompanying rules of business and launch a nationwide awareness campaign to change popular mindset on the issue.

The bill which was passed on Tuesday prohibits all forms of corporal punishment in all types of education institutes, including religious seminaries, childcare centers and rehabilitation facilities. The new law intends to penalize individuals for assault and hurt inflicted on children under any circumstances.

"It's a significant development for us since we were campaigning to get the practice banned since 2013," said Shehzad Roy, a popular musician who also runs a non-profit advocacy firm called Zindagi Trust. 

"Protecting our children, however, requires more than just the passage of this bill," he continued. "The rules of business have to be clarified and the mindset that legitimizes corporal punishment needs to be changed by launching informative awareness campaigns."

Roy urged the government to strengthen social welfare departments and child protection units everywhere since he claimed they were not very functional.

He argued that physical punishment left a permanent scar on a child's personality, adding that the new law would not just protect children but also help build "a safer, kinder and more peaceful Pakistan."

According to a 2014 survey by the Society for the Advancement of Education (SAHE) and Alif Ailaan, more than 70 percent of Pakistani teachers consider corporal punishment useful to discipline students. 

Mehnaz Akbar Aziz of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, who tabled the bill in the National Assembly, said the state had finally recognized its responsibility toward its young citizens by making this legislation. 

"Under the bill, the state has for the first time decided to intervene when a child's dignity is taken away by those who are responsible to develop and protect it," Aziz told Arab News. "It took two years of constant effort to push it through the National Assembly and we are now working to get it endorsed by the Senate without further delay."

 

She welcomed an announcement by the provincial administration of Balochistan to start working on a similar law to prohibit corporal punishment.

"It is commendable but this law is applicable only to Islamabad," said Anees Jilani, a lawyer and children's rights activist. "It is needed across the whole country."

"Such punishments were also prohibited in the capital territory under the Islamabad Child Protection Act," Jilani continued. "The real issue is the effective implementation of law."

Roy told Arab News that Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan had their own laws against corporal punishment, but Punjab and Balochistan did not offer any legal protection to schoolgoing children.

"We are trying to get such laws passed by the Punjab and Balochistan assemblies as well," he said.


Human Rights Watch urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

Updated 26 February 2021

Human Rights Watch urges Iran to probe deadly shooting on Pakistan border

  • Monday’s shooting in the border area near the Iranian town of Saravan killed at least 10 people, HRW says
  • Action has prompted attacks by angry protesters on government buildings in Saravan and Sistan-Balochistan provincial capital Zahedan

BEIRUT: Human Rights Watch called on Iran Friday to investigate a deadly shooting by Revolutionary Guards against smugglers attempting to transport fuel into neighboring Pakistan for excessive use of force.
Monday’s shooting in the border area near the town of Saravan killed at least 10 people and wounded five, HRW said, citing Balochi activists.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had blocked a road used to transport fuel before apparently opening fire at people attempting to reopen the route, it added.
The action has prompted attacks by angry protesters on government buildings in both Saravan and the Sistan-Balochistan provincial capital Zahedan.
“The Iranian authorities should urgently conduct a transparent and impartial investigation into the shootings at the Saravan border,” said HRW Iran researcher Tara Sepehri Far.
“The authorities should hold those responsible for wrongdoing to account, appropriately compensate victims and ensure that border guards are taking the utmost precautions to respect the right to life and other human rights.”
Provincial deputy governor Mohammad-Hadi Marashi said Tuesday that the shooting had started from the Pakistani side of the border and one person had been killed and four wounded.
Sistan-Balochistan province has long been a security headache for the Iranian government.
Its large ethnic Baluch population, which staddles the frontier, has made it a flashpoint for cross-border attacks on government or Shiite targets by separatists and Sunni extremists.
HRW said the lack of employment opportunities in the province had left its ethnic Baluch population few alternatives to black market trading with their fellow Balochs across the border.
“Similar to the western provinces of Western Azerbaijan and Kurdistan (on the border with Iraq), its lack of economic opportunities has led many residents to engage in unlawful cross-border commerce with Pakistan,” the New York-based watchdog.