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.


Babar Azam’s incredible rise from tape-ball cricket to the top of the world 

Updated 10 min 26 sec ago

Babar Azam’s incredible rise from tape-ball cricket to the top of the world 

  • Pakistan captain Azam has ended Virat Kohli’s 1,258-day reign at top of MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings
  • Becomes only the fourth batsman from Pakistan to attain number one position in the latest weekly update

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Babar Azam has ended Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings, becoming only the fourth batsman from his country to attain number one position in the rankings, the International Cricket Council said on Wednesday.
From playing on the streets of Lahore to the top of the world, Azam has officially climbed a peak unreached by any Pakistani since Mohammad Yousuf.
Azam has attained a career high 865 points following a momentous series against South Africa, whom his side defeated 2-1 to grab 20 World Cup Super League points. He now leads Indian captain Kohli by eight points. 
“The Pakistan captain has overtaken Virat Kohli to become the No.1 batsman in the latest @MRFWorldwide ICC men’s ODI rankings,” the ICC said on Twitter. 

“Babar, a star of the ICC Under-19 Men’s Cricket World Cups in 2010 and 2012 and who has been playing ODIs since 2015, had started the series against South Africa at 837 rating points but moved up to 858 (ahead of Kohli) after his score of 103 in the first match. He dropped to 852 by the time of the last weekly rankings update with a score of 32 in the second ODI,” ICC said on its website. 
“By ending Kohli’s 1,258-day supremacy, Babar has emulated compatriots Zaheer Abbas (1983-84), Javed Miandad (1988-89), and Mohammad Yousuf (2003) as the number one ODI batsman. In Tests, Babar has attained a best of fifth position and is currently ranked sixth while in T20Is he is third but has been number one in the past.”
Responding to his new achievement, Azam said he felt “privileged and honored” to have joined the company of the shining stars of Pakistani cricket like Zaheer Abbas, Javed Miandad and Mohammad Yousuf.
“This is another milestone in my career, which will now require even more hard work and absolute consistency with the bat in order for me to hold on to the ranking for an extended period of time, like Sir Vivian Richards from January 1984 to October 1988 and Virat Kohli for 1,258 days,” Azam said. 
“I have also previously topped the T20I rankings, but the ultimate ambition and goal is to lead the Test rankings, which are the real testament and reward to a batsman’s calibre, reputation and skills. I understand to achieve this objective, I will not only have to perform consistently, but more importantly, against the top sides.
“I am looking forward to this challenge and remain confident I will be able to accomplish this target with the support of my team-mates and coaching staff. But at this stage, I will savour the moment as it has come almost 18 months after I was first appointed the white-ball captain and that too at the back of my performances that helped Pakistan become the first Asian side to win two ODI series in South Africa,” Azam said.
By 12, Azam was playing serious tape-ball cricket and at age 14 he had his first meaningful taste of failure in the sport as he was rejected from the national academy. It was only a setback, the ICC said, as a year later he would gain entry and be declared the country’s best Under-15 batsman.
By age 15 he had made his List A debut and by 16 he was a first-class cricketer for ZTBL. By the time he received his first ODI cap he already had six centuries and more than 2,000 List A runs at an average of 47.88 to his name.
“Nowadays, Azam’s place among ODI cricket’s finest players is unquestionable. An average of 56.83 and 13 centuries across just 80 matches will do that sort of thing,” the ICC said.
By September 2018 Azam passed 2,000 runs in ODI cricket, reaching the milestone in just 45 innings. Only one player has ever gotten there quicker and that is South African great Hashim Amla. Amla took just 40 innings.
In the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Azam made history, scoring 474 runs at 67.61 to break Javed Miandad’s 1992 record for the most runs by a Pakistan batsman in a Cricket World Cup campaign.
“Still only 26 years old, Azam’s best years are still ahead of him,” the ICC said. “Given he boasts the third greatest ODI average (56.83) in history right now, that is a scary thought for opposition teams all around the world.”


Pakistan says will manufacture single-dose coronavirus vaccine with Chinese assistance

Updated 49 min 52 sec ago

Pakistan says will manufacture single-dose coronavirus vaccine with Chinese assistance

  • DG of National Institute of Health says Islamabad has requested China to transfer CanSinoBio vaccine technology to Pakistan
  • Raw material for vaccine production expected to arrive this month, NIH has procured all necessary equipment and chemicals, DG NIH says 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan plans to make its own single-dose coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with China, local media reported on Wednesday, quoting the Director General of the National Institute of Health.
Pakistan is currently offering free vaccines to frontline health care workers and people over the age of 50, but the drive has thus far been slow, and last month the country allowed commercial imports by the private sector for the general public.
The first round saw the commercial sale of the two-shot Russian Sputnik V to the general public for about 12,000 Pakistani rupees ($80) for a pack of two doses.
According to Pakistan’s The Express Tribune, the DG of the National Institute of Health (NIH), Major General Aamer Ikram, told the media after briefing a National Assembly standing committee that the country had requested China to transfer CanSinoBio coronavirus vaccine technology to Pakistan, and raw material was expected to arrive this month.
“We hope that we will be able to take some measures for preparation of the vaccine by the end of April,” he was quoted as saying. “The NIH has procured all the equipment and chemicals needed in this regard.”
Ikram said a Pakistani team was ready to undertake the task under the supervision of a Chinese team that was already in Pakistan. 
On Tuesday, Pakistan’s planning minister said 1.3 million people had so far been vaccinated in the nation of 220 million. 


Pakistan to open Munich consulate to expand economic cooperation with Germany

Updated 14 April 2021

Pakistan to open Munich consulate to expand economic cooperation with Germany

  • Announcement made by foreign minister during two-day official visit to Berlin
  • Qureshi says Pakistan to explore cooperation with Germany in IT, solar energy, electric vehicles

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has announced that Islamabad would open a consulate in Munich, Germany, to tap into the economic potential of cooperation between the two countries.
Qureshi’s visit comes as Pakistan moves to lay the foundations of a structured dialogue with a key European country with whom Islamabad has never had a meaningful relationship. 
“For greater economic collaboration between Pakistan and Germany, & in cognizance of growing needs of diaspora, I am happy to announce that Pakistan will be establishing a new Consulate in Munich,” Qureshi said on Twitter. 


“The foreign minister said a Consul General would be appointed at the Munich mission to supplement the diplomatic efforts of embassy in Berlin,” state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported. “He said Pakistan was committed to work out the Strategic Engagement Plan of Europe. He said Pakistan could explore cooperation with Germany particularly in areas of information technology, solar energy and electric vehicles.”
Qureshi said he was satisfied that around 5,000 Pakistani students were currently studying at various educational institutes in Germany, while “efforts would be made to expand the scope of cooperation in education sector by engaging Higher Education Commission so that Germany could become a top destination for Pakistani students.”
In a meeting with a delegation of the Pakistani diaspora in Germany, Qureshi said the government was making serious efforts to give the right to vote to Pakistanis living abroad.
“He said the option of electronic voting was under consideration to facilitate the expatriates,” APP reported. “FM Qureshi acknowledged the services of the Pakistani community, terming it an important linkage for strengthening bilateral relations between the two countries.”


Pakistan says will ensure writ ‘at any cost’ as religious party’s protests escalate

Updated 52 min 34 sec ago

Pakistan says will ensure writ ‘at any cost’ as religious party’s protests escalate

  • Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan is holding protests since Monday when it’s chief was arrested for threatening government over French cartoons
  • Protesters beat a policeman to death in Lahore, TLP says at least seven supporters dead and dozens injured in clashes with law enforcement

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Pakistan’s interior minister on Wednesday said the government would ensure “the writ of the state at any cost” after nationwide protests by a religious party entered the third day and one policeman was beaten to death and dozens of policemen and protesters were injured in towns across the nation.
Demonstrations erupted in major Pakistani cities and quickly turned violent after Saad Rizvi, the head of the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) religious party, was arrested on Monday. 
The government has already given a go-ahead for paramilitary troops to be deployed in major urban centers to quell protests. 
“The writ of the state must be ensured at any cost,” Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid Ahmed was quoted as telling law enforcement agencies while chairing a meeting to review the violence. 
Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Pir Noorul Haq Qadri, the secretary interior and other top government officials, including the police chiefs of Punjab and Islamabad, were present at the meeting. 
“Strict action will be taken against those taking law into their own hands,” the interior minister warned. 
The participants of the meeting also paid tribute to the policemen who had laid down their lives in the line of duty. 
On Sunday, Rizvi had threatened the government with protests if it did not expel France’s envoy to Islamabad over blasphemous caricatures of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Rizvi has called on the government to honor what he said was a commitment made to his party in February to expel the French envoy before April 20 over the publication in France of depictions of the Prophet (pbuh), which has enraged Muslims around the world. 
The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan says it had only committed to debating the matter in parliament. 
“Troops of Pakistan Rangers (Punjab) are required with immediate effect till the request of de-requisition,” the government of Punjab said in a notification. 
Rangers would be deployed in the cities of Rahim Yar Khan, Sheikhupura, Chakwal and Gujranwala, the circular said. 
In a press conference on Tuesday evening, science and technology minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said “no group or party must even think of dictating the government or the state … If a state allows this, then it will disintegrate and there will be chaos.” 
He added: “Every group has a right of protest and we are ready to hold talks [with TLP] if they present their demands in a democratic way.” 
In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, TLP told the government: “You will have to expel the French ambassador under all costs … The country will remain jammed until the French ambassador is expelled.” 
In a separate statement, TLP said its protests would go on until Rizvi was released. 

ARMED PROTESTERS 
Lahore police spokesperson Rana Arif told the daily Dawn newspaper protesters had beaten a police constable to death in Lahore’s Shahdara area on Tuesday, as a result of which a police case had been registered against TLP leaders and supporters. Police have also registered a case against Rizvi on terrorism and other charges, Arif said. 
“Over 300 policemen in Punjab, including 97 in Lahore, had sustained injuries, many of them seriously, after violent protesters attacked them with clubs, bricks and firearms,” Dawn reported. “The Gujrat district police officer and Kharian Deputy superintendent of police were among the injured.” 
“Hundreds of protesters and policemen were injured and thousands of TLP activists and supporters were arrested and booked for attacking law enforcement personnel and blocking main roads and highways,” Dawn added, saying four people, including a policeman, had been killed. 
Police said four policemen had been shot by armed TLP protesters, and the use of firearms by demonstrators had taken law enforcement agencies by surprise. 
“In Lahore alone, four policemen were shot at and injured by the armed men of the TLP in the Shahpur Kanjran area. Similarly, two police constables were shot at and injured in Faisalabad,” Dawn reported, adding: 
“Two video clips from Lahore in this regard showed policemen, Imran and Aslam, being rushed to a hospital with bullet wounds. In another video clip, an on-duty policeman was seen calling for help to dispatch more force, saying they had come under armed attack by the protesters in Shahpur Kanjran.” 
“The TLP armed men opened straight fire on the police and our four constables were injured,” Lahore DIG (operations) Sajid Kiani told reporters on Tuesday evening. 
Under a standing order, he said, police had been deployed unarmed and allowed only to use anti-riot gear against protesters. “But it shocked us that the TLP men used guns against the anti-riot force,” Kiani said. 
Giving one example, Kiani said when police reached Shahpur Kanjran to clear the national highway, announcements were made in nearby mosques urging TLP followers to take on police. 
“Within 10 minutes, some 200 people joined those already present and attacked police,” he said, adding that Lahore police had lodged 19 cases against protesters and cleared the areas of Shahdara, Imamia Colony, Thokar Niaz Baig, Babu Sabu and some parts of Ring Road by Tuesday evening. 
Police also conducted an operation in the Chungi Amar Sidhu area to rescue Model Town SP (operations) Dost Mohammad Khosa and five other policemen from protesters holding them hostage at a power grid station. 
The Shahdra and Thokhar areas of Lahore also turned into battlefields after hundreds of TLP supporters took several policemen hostage. 
In Shahdara, a constable died due to severe head and chest injuries after protesters tortured him with clubs, police said. 
Police said TLP activists had occupied and blocked 22 main roads, intersections and areas of Lahore, while reports of violence had also come from Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Rahim Yar Khan, Sahiwal and Gujrat. 
Reports from other parts of Punjab suggested TLP supporters had occupied over 100 points, roads and major intersections of various cities of the province. 
Over 1,400 activists of the TLP have been arrested across Punjab, Punjab police spokesperson told Dawn, saying Punjab police had launched major operations, cleared nearly 60 roads and areas, and registered multiple police cases against supporters, representatives and leaders of the TLP. 
Speaking to Arab News, Muhammad Ali, a spokesperson of the TLP in Karachi, said at least six workers of the party had died and a large number were wounded due to firing by law enforcement agencies. Hospital and rescue sources only confirmed two deaths. 
In a statement released on Tuesday, TLP said seven of its supporters had been killed in police firing, but the figures could not be independently verified. 
HISTORY OF PROTESTS 
Saad Rizvi became the leader of the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party in November after the sudden death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi. 
Tehreek-e-Labiak and other religious parties denounced French President Emmanuel Macron since October last year, saying he tried to defend caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as freedom of expression. 
Macron’s comments came after a young Muslim beheaded a French school teacher who had shown caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in class. The images had been republished by the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to mark the opening of the trial over the deadly 2015 attack against the publication for the original caricatures. That enraged many Muslims in Pakistan and elsewhere who believe those depictions are blasphemous. 
Rizvi’s party gained prominence in Pakistan’s 2018 federal elections, campaigning to defend the country’s blasphemy law, which calls for the death penalty for anyone who insults Islam. It also has a history of staging protests and sit-ins to pressure the government to accept its demands. 
In November 2017, Rizvi’s followers staged a 21-day protest and sit-in after a reference to the sanctity of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was removed from the text of a government form. 


Pakistan’s real murder mystery: No murders in northern Ghanche district in 15 years

Updated 14 April 2021

Pakistan’s real murder mystery: No murders in northern Ghanche district in 15 years

  • Ghanche, a top tourist destination in Gilgit-Baltistan, borders China’s Xinjiang province and the Indian-administered region of Ladakh
  • Police says no serious crimes like robberies or murders have been reported in the district in the last decade

KHAPLU: A Pakistani northern mountainous district that draws tens of thousands of local and international tourists every year may well be one of the country’s safest places, according to locals and police officials.
Bordering China’s Xinjiang province and the Indian-administered region of Ladakh, Ghanche, known for its picturesque landscapes, is surrounded by some of the tallest mountains in the world. The area has also not recorded any armed robberies or other serious crimes in the last decade, a top police official said, with only one murder reported about 15 years ago.
The Pakistan Army’s brigade headquarters is located at Goma in Ghanche district. The army’s Gayari Sector Battalion Headquarters is 20 miles (32 km) west of Siachen Glacier.
“Ghanche is a very peaceful region of Gilgit-Baltistan since the crime rate here is quite negligible,” the area’s superintendent of police Jan Muhammad told Arab News. “We haven’t witnessed serious crimes like murders or armed robberies here for years.”
Muhammad said the people of the district were hospitable and peaceful, and he had never received any complaints from locals or tourists that their valuables or personal belongings had been stolen.

A young resident of Ghanche district dances at Khaplu View Point, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, on April 11, 2021. (AN Photo)

“This district is one of the safest places in northern Pakistan,” Muhammad said.
Police records show only 34 complaints of “an ordinary nature” registered across the district in 2020. This year, police in Ghanche received only three “minor complaints.”
And despite travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Ghanche continues to host foreign and local tourists, mainly due to its reputation for safety.

Tourists pose for a group photograph in front of Khaplu Fort in Gilgit-Baltistan’s Ghanche district, Pakistan, on April 11, 2021. (AN Photo)

“People prefer to travel to secure places and Ghanche is the best place to visit due to its idyllic surroundings and peaceful environment,” said Muhammad Zanique, a tourist from Lahore. “This is my second trip to the place, and I recommend everyone to visit this area.”
Muhammad Nasim Rashpori, a hotel owner in Ghanche, said people usually left their houses and vehicles unlocked since there was “no concept” of theft in the district.
“Sometimes we find cell phones and wallets of tourists which they mistakenly leave behind in their rooms,” Rashpori said. “We do our best to trace the owners and return them these items.”