Pakistan faces an unexpected dilemma: too much electricity 

A family sits by its tent in front of DPS thermal power station in Muzaffargah, Punjab Province Pakistan, on September 5, 2010. (AFP)
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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.


Pakistani president condemns Israeli ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians

Updated 09 May 2021

Pakistani president condemns Israeli ‘apartheid’ against Palestinians

  • Top Pakistani leaders condemn crackdown of Israeli “occupation forces” on Al-Aqsa Mosque worshippers
  • Israeli police open fire on Palestinians protesting evictions from their homes in East Jerusalem

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s president on Sunday condemned Israel’s “apartheid” practices and violent attacks on worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque in the wake of ongoing protests against forced evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

At least 90 Palestinians were injured by Israeli police on Saturday in a crackdown on protesters in the Old City of Jerusalem, as tens of thousands of Muslim worshippers prayed at nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque. A day earlier, over 200 protesters were injured when Israeli security forces fired tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades on Palestinians who opposed being forced out of their homes claimed by Jewish settlers.

“It is a shame that Israeli apartheid against Palestinians continues. Atrocious attack on peaceful praying Muslims is given the usual media spin of ‘clashes,’” President Arif Alvi said on Twitter.

“My brothers don’t lose hope,” he added. “Time is near when International Politics will be based on morality & not on vested interests.”

Other top Pakistani leaders also condemned the crackdown by Israeli “occupation forces.”
“Condemn in strongest terms attack on innocent worshippers in Al-Aqsa Mosque, first Qibla of Islam, by Israeli Occupation Forces in the holy month of Ramzan. Such brutality is against very spirit of humanity & human rights law,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a tweet, as he expressed Pakistan’s “steadfast support” of the Palestinian cause.

Religious Affairs Minister Noor-ul-Haq Qadri said in a statement that the Israeli shelling on unarmed Palestinians at Al-Aqsa Mosque is the “worst act of terrorism and inhumanity.”

The Pakistani opposition echoed the government’s condemnation.

Top opposition leader Shehbaz Shairf questioned the role of the willingness of the international community in stopping the “worst human rights abuses” that are taking place in Palestine.

“There is no one to put stop to Israel’s desire for occupation of more Palestinian lands,” he said on Twitter.
Meanwhile Pakistani and Saudi leadership reaffirmed full support for legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.
In a joint statement issued on late Saturday, during Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the two countries expressed their “full support for all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, especially, their right to self-determination and establishment of their independent state with pre-1967 borders.”

The also recognized East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine “in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and relevant UN resolutions.”


Pakistan exports record volume of kinnow as sales in Gulf countries increase by 29 percent

Updated 09 May 2021

Pakistan exports record volume of kinnow as sales in Gulf countries increase by 29 percent

  • The country earned a revenue of $253 million by exporting 460,000 tons of the fruit during the latest season
  • Despite significant sales volume, exporters say they suffered significant losses due to exchange rate fluctuations 

KARACHI: Pakistan has earned a sizeable revenue of $253 million by exporting 460,000 tons of kinnow during the latest season, said a representative of the business community involved in the trade on Saturday, adding that the country mainly benefited from the robust demand for the fruit in the Middle Eastern markets. 

Initially, Pakistani traders had set an export target of 350,000 tons of the fruit with an expected earning of $210 million, but they ended up shipping the highest ever export volume in the country’s history toward the end of the 2020-21 season. 

“The demand for kinnow underwent a significant surge across the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic since citrus fruits play a vital role in strengthening our immunity system and protect us from deadly diseases,” Waheed Ahmed, patron-in-chief of the All Pakistan Exporters, Importers and Merchants Association, said. 

During the export season that concluded in April 2021, Pakistan’s international kinnow sales surged by 30 percent as compared to the preceding period when it sold 353,000 tons. 

According to the exporters of the fruit, the country’s aromatic kinnow sold quite well in the Middle East where its export grew by 29 percent due to its unique flavor. 

Pakistan exported about 43,998 tons of kinnow to the United Arab Emirates which was 38 percent higher than its sales in the previous season.

The country’s export of the fruit to Saudi Arabia also increased by about 9 percent where it sold a quantum of about 21,970 tons.

Pakistan also shipped about 66,700 tons of kinnow to other gulf countries, including Oman, Qatar and Iraq.

“Due to the commendable efforts and extensive assistance of the government, the country managed to export a much greater volume of the fruit than anticipated,” Ahmed said. 

However, he added that individual Pakistani exporters sustained huge financial losses despite selling more kinnow due to the dollar-rupee exchange rate fluctuations.

“The export orders materialized when the exchange rate stood at Rs168,” he said. “By the time the payments were made, the Pakistani rupee had acquired greater stability and the exchange rate was at Rs153.”

He also thought that the commodity did not get its fair price in the international market since the freight cost disproportionately increased due to international lockdowns, and local exporters suffered their highest losses in the Russian market. 


This Mother’s Day, some of Pakistani Twitter’s best mom-advice 

Updated 09 May 2021

This Mother’s Day, some of Pakistani Twitter’s best mom-advice 

  • Mother’s Day falls on May 9 this year
  • ‘When you’re a mom, you’ll know!’

RAWALPINDI: For Mother’s Day, Arab News asked Pakistani Twitter to share with us the best mom-advice they’ve ever got. The result is a touching insight into the invaluable lessons parents (and grandparents) give their children.
Here’s a compilation of some of our favorite mom thoughts!

Twitter user @Mahobilli’s mom:
“You can cry and live, or you can laugh and live, either way you will live so choose to laugh.”

Twitter user @SubhaKaboola’s mom: 
 “If you leave a social setting unhappy, try and avoid such settings in the future, it isn’t worth your mental wellbeing.”

Influencer and digital media consultant Nabeha Latif’s mom: 
“Never overdo what you can’t do everyday.”

Writer @Sauliloquy1’s mom:

“If you’re worried about something, work to change it. If you can’t change something, don’t worry about it.”

Twitter user @Rtvnvir’s mom:

“Remember to keep your bank account separate from your husband’s whenever you get married.”

The sentiment was shared by Twitter user @Nawalhussain99’s mom:

“A woman must always be financially independent.”

Twitter user @Maneehaa’s grandmother:

“My grandmother has been advising me to save up for a car since my college days. “Mobility is the key to your freedom and independence.” Proud to have such a progressive nano.

Twitter user @Crycrisis’ mother:

“Truly believing in yourself to the point of arrogance will help you survive in a world where men are always trying to humble women.”


Twitter user @Parathacentral’s mom: 
“There always will be haters. Whether you go this way or the other. You do you.”

Twitter user @Zaaraka: 
“The only thing you came to this world with was self respect. That’s the only thing you can take with you when you leave too.”

Twitter user @Curly_fry88’s 

“When someone makes a decision where it feels like they’re giving up without a fight, always remember that people choose according to the consequences they feel more comfortable facing. Don’t judge them by your standards.”

Screenwriter Kayhan Suleman’s mom:
“You can’t change everything or everyone.”

Educator @SohaTazz’s mom wins with: 
“When you become a mom, then you’ll know!”

 


Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia May 8, 2021. (Photo courtesy: SPA)
Updated 09 May 2021

Saudi Arabia, Pakistan sign agreement to establish Saudi-Pakistani Supreme Coordination Council

  • According to a joint statement, the two countries decided to intensify contacts and cooperation between their government officials and private sector
  • Prime Minister Imran Khan also extended an invitation to the crown prince to visit Pakistan at his earliest

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed the agreement on the establishment of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council in Jeddah, the foreign office said on Saturday. 

Ahead of the visit, Pakistan’s Cabinet on Tuesday approved the establishment of the council — a body created for streamlining bilateral cooperation between the two countries — to ‘remove hurdles’ to investment deals signed during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan in February 2019. 

Khan arrived in the Kingdom on Friday evening for a three-day visit on the invitation of the crown prince, who was present at Jeddah airport to receive him and the first lady. He is accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the foreign minister and other members of the Cabinet. 

Khan and the crown prince held wide-ranging talks on bilateral, regional and international issues in Jeddah, the FO statement said. 

“The two leaders reaffirmed the strong and historic bonds between the two countries rooted firmly in shared beliefs, common values, mutual trust and longstanding tradition of mutual support,” the statement said, and added that the two parties agreed to “further strengthen, deepen and diversify the existing bilateral political, economic, trade, defense and security ties.” 

“Special emphasis was laid on increasing Saudi investments in Pakistan, collaboration in the field of energy, and increased job opportunities for Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia,” the statement said. 

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (L) and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) during the signing of the agreement on the establishment of the Saudi-Pakistan Supreme Coordination Council in Jeddah on May 8, 2021. (Courtesy: SPA)

Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis who remit billions of dollars back home every year. 

On regional issues, Khan outlined his vision of a ‘peaceful neighborhood.’ He lauded the crown prince for efforts and initiatives aimed at reinforcing and promoting regional peace. 

Khan highlighted the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir and stressed the importance of a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. He also said Pakistan had made consistent efforts to support peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan, the statement reported. 

The Afghan question is important in the region against the backdrop of foreign troops pulling out of Pakistan’s neighboring country after a war that has lasted two decades, and that ends with the Taliban controlling huge swathes of the country. 

During talks, issues related to the environment and climate change were discussed and the PM appreciated the crown prince’s ‘Green Saudi Arabia’ initiative. 

Khan has also invited the crown prince to visit Pakistan at his earliest convenience, the foreign office said. 

A host of bilateral agreements were signed during delegation level talks, ranging from crime to narcotics and from transport to energy generation. 

According to a joint statement circulated by the PM House in Islamabad on Saturday evening, the two countries agreed to intensify contacts and cooperation between their government officials and private sector to further strengthen bilateral relations. 

They discussed ways to enhance economic and trade relations by exploring areas of investment and opportunities available in light of the Kingdom's 2030 vision and Pakistan’s development priorities emanating from a shift from geo-politics to geo-economics. 

“Both sides expressed satisfaction at existing cooperation in bilateral military and security relations and agreed to further augment collaboration and cooperation to achieve mutually agreed goals,” the joint statement continued. 

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia also reaffirmed their full support for all the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people, and condemned the attacks of terrorist groups and militias, including the Houthis in Yemen, by ballistic missiles and drones on the Saudi territory. 

“They expressed serious concern at the threats posed to the security of oil exports and the stability of energy supplies, which was vital for the progress and development of the region and its peoples,” the statement added. 

Other than that, the two countries also agreed to continue supporting each other at multilateral fora. 

Khan and his Cabinet members visited the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah on Saturday evening. They are also expected to visit Makkah and perform their umrah.

On Friday, Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whose official visit preluded Khan’s, held talks with the Saudi crown prince and reviewed bilateral ties. 

He also discussed defense cooperation with the Saudi military chief of staff.


Pakistan condemns 'reprehensible' attack at a school in Afghanistan

Updated 08 May 2021

Pakistan condemns 'reprehensible' attack at a school in Afghanistan

  • The bomb attack killed at least 30 people, many of them between 11 and 15 years of age
  • The Taliban denied any responsibility and condemned the explosion

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign office on Saturday condemned a terrorist attack near a girls’ school in Afghanistan that killed at least 30 people, many of them students between 11 and 15 years of age. 

Describing the attack as “reprehensible,” the foreign office offered “heartfelt condolences to the Government and the people of Afghanistan” and prayed for quick recovery of the injured. 

“Pakistan condemns terrorism in all forms and manifestations,” it said in an official statement. “At this moment of grief, Pakistan stands by Afghan brethren in their struggle against the scourge of terrorism. Pakistan will continue to support Afghanistan on its path to peace, progress and prosperity.” 

Meanwhile, the Taliban condemned the deadly bomb blast outside the school and denied any responsibility. 

The insurgent group in recent months has intensified attacks against the Afghan security forces, making regional actors urge its leadership to abandon battlefield tactics to create a more conducive environment for intra-Afghan peace talks.  

The United States already began a formal troop withdrawal in the beginning of this month, and it is likely to finish the process by the 20th anniversary of September 11 this year. 

Saturday’s bombing also raised concern of increasing security deficit in Afghanistan, especially in the context of a pullout of international forces.