In a first, Pakistani power company appoints five women grid operators

From left, Saba Saleem, Tuba Khan and Neelma Nawab, among the first five women grid operating officers in Pakistan, at their workplace in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Karachi, Pakistan, on March 12, 2021. (AN Photo)
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Updated 18 March 2021

In a first, Pakistani power company appoints five women grid operators

  • Women make up only four percent of the overall workforce in Pakistan’s power sector organizations
  • Women grid operators say are proud to have broken taboo that women can’t work in technical fields

KARACHI: Saba Saleem was a little nervous when she first read her appointment letter for the position of grid operating officer with K-Electric, a power supply company that operates in Pakistan’s southern city of Karachi.
Saleem is one of five women appointed by K-Electric a little over two weeks ago to manage grid stations in its system, a job previously performed entirely by men.
A study conducted by WePower and the World Bank’s Energy Sector Management Assistance Program in 2020 said women make up just a little over four percent of the overall workforce in power sector organizations in Pakistan.
“When I got the appointment letter, I wondered if I could perform this job,” Saleem told Arab News last week. “Now I feel that I fulfil my responsibilities quite well.”
 “This is not a desk job,” she added. “We have to remain very attentive and proactive for about eight to nine hours every day.”




Saba Saleem, one of the first women grid operating officers in Pakistan, speaks to Arab News in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 12, 2021. (AN Photo) 

A power grid is part of an interconnected supply network that delivers electricity to consumers. Saleem and two women colleagues, Neelma Nawab and Tuba Khan, have been appointed to ensure the smooth working of the Gulshan Grid Station, which is among 68 other KE facilities that provide electricity to households in the seaside metropolis of 15 million people.

The other two newly appointed female employees are Saadia Sehar and Alisha Aman Ansari, posted at the Qayumabad Grid Station.

Sadia Dada, KE’s Chief Marketing and Communication Officer told Arab News this was the first time in the country’s history that women were appointed grid officers in the power sector. In 2019, KE also inducted women meter readers into its force.
Pakistan, with an almost gender equal population, ranks very low at 151/153 on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Gender Gap Index 2020. About 80 percent of the female population still struggles to be part of the documented economy.




Saba Saleem, one of the first women grid operating officers in Pakistan, works at a grid station in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 12, 2021. (AN Photo)

The newly appointed grid operators said the recruitment process for the job was not easy. Another hindrance was the reluctance at first of families, who did not think the women were suited to such a technical job.
“When I got this opportunity, all were confused as no one knew before that girls could also join this field, because it’s a technical field and our work is at the operational level,” Neelam Hassan said. “So, my family members also had a different feeling and I had family issues with regard to my safety.”
Eventually, Hassan said, she was able to convince her family that women could also join “such a technical field.”




Neelma Nawab, one of the first women grid operating officers in Pakistan, speaks to Arab News in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 12, 2021. (AN Photo) 

Saleem said she felt proud that she and her colleagues had broken the taboo that such roles were not suitable for women.
“There is an assumption that women cannot do work in many fields, closing doors for them but as you see I am standing here at the grid station,” Saleem said. “Such stereotypes have also reduced employment opportunities for them … but my presence here shows that women are not behind anyone. They just need more opportunities.”


Pakistan’s religion ministry holds annual conference with focus on ‘promotion of unity’

Updated 18 October 2021

Pakistan’s religion ministry holds annual conference with focus on ‘promotion of unity’

  • Conference is part of celebrations for Mawlid Al-Nabi, the birth day of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
  • The conference has been held annually by Ministry of Religious Affairs since 1976

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s 46th National Rehmatul Lil Aalameen Conference kicked off in the federal capital today, Monday, as part of celebrations for the upcoming Mawlid Al-Nabi, the birth day of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Rabi Al-Awwal is the third month in the Islamic calendar. The month holds special significance for Muslims around the world as they observe the 12th of the month as Mawlid Al-Nabi, the birth day of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Last week, Prime Minister urged the nation to celebrate next week’s birth anniversary in an “unprecedented manner” this year.
“The two-day conference titled ‘Role of Masjid, Madaris, Khanqas and Imambargahs for the promotion of unity and harmony in the light of teachings of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),’ would conclude on Tuesday,” state-run APP news agency said on Monday. “National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser would be the chief guest on the inaugural day of the conference.”
The second day, Tuesday, would have sessions presided over by President Dr Arif Alvi and PM Khan.
The conference has been held as the annual event of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony since 1976.
“The conference aimed at highlighting the soft image of Islam would disseminate the teachings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) and also encourage the [Muslim] authors by giving them awards on outstanding books and research papers written on the life of the Holy Prophet (PBUH),” APP said.
“People from all walks of life, including Parliamentarians, ambassadors, Ulema, scholars, students of religious seminaries, universities, deans of universities and representatives of chambers of commerce and industry will attend the moot.”


IMF, Pakistan resume talks today for release of $1 billion loan tranche

Updated 18 October 2021

IMF, Pakistan resume talks today for release of $1 billion loan tranche

  • Finance ministry says negotiations ‘moving forward positively’
  • Denies media reports that talks had concluded last week in ‘failure’

ISLAMABAD: Talks between Pakistani officials and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are “moving forward positively” and will form the basis for the completion of the 6th review of a $6 billion loan program, the Pakistan ministry of finance has said, adding that talks would resume today, Monday.
In 2019, Pakistan reached an accord with the International Monetary Fund for a three-year, $6 billion bailout package aimed at shoring up fragile public finances and strengthening a slowing economy. Pakistani and IMF officials are currently engaged in a fresh round of talks for the release of a $1 billion tranche of the loan.
Five reviews of the program had been completed by March. The sixth is pending since June this year, which, if completed, will enable Pakistan to receive around $1 billion from the fund.
“Fund and Pakistani authorities will resume the talks on Monday [October 18, 2021] from where they were left on Friday,” Muzzamil Aslam, spokesperson for the finance ministry, said in a statement on Sunday. “There is no truth in the news of talks’ failure.”
Negotiations between Pakistan and the IMF are being led by secretary finance division, Yusuf Khan, in Washington, and are “moving forward positively,” the statement said: “No timeframe was set at any stage for conclusion of the talks. The negotiations with the IMF will continue till the successful conclusion.”

Pakistan's Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin (L) arrives in New York ahead of meeting with IMF on October 16, 2021. (Ministry of Finance)

The clarifications from the finance ministry came after local media reported that talks between the fund and Pakistan had concluded on Friday and failed.
Experts said talks may have stalled due to the government’s resistance to the IMF’s demand to increase energy prices even further. A hike of Rs 1.39 per unit was announced last week.
Pakistani Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has been a staunch opponent of power tariff hikes and personal taxes but has showed some flexibility in recent weeks.
“The other stumbling block is the IMF’s insistence to increase the revenue generation target close to Rs 500 billion in addition to the revenue collection target of Rs 5.8 trillion,” Dr. Vaqar Ahmed, joint executive director at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), told Arab News. “This would not be an easy decision to take by the political government under current circumstances.”


Pakistan records lowest daily coronavirus infections since June 

Updated 18 October 2021

Pakistan records lowest daily coronavirus infections since June 

  • Pakistan has administered total of 93,551,193 doses of COVID vaccines so far
  • That’s enough to have vaccinated about 21.6 percent of the country’s population

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported 663 new coronavirus infections in the last 24 hours, the lowest number of COVID-19 cases recorded in a single day since June, health ministry data showed on Monday.
The South Asian country has reported 1,265,047 infections and 28,280 coronavirus-related deaths since the pandemic began. The government has administered a total of at least 93,551,193 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Assuming every person needs two doses, that’s enough to have vaccinated about 21.6 percent of the country’s population.
Official data shows 1,913 patient are admitted in critical care across the country.


On Sunday, Pakistan’s pandemic response body rejected as ‘fake’ a video on social media showing children were reacting adversely to vaccines.



In the last week of September, Pakistan announced it would begin to vaccinate children aged 12 or above.

 


Father suspected of killing two daughters, four grandchildren in Pakistan marriage feud

Updated 18 October 2021

Father suspected of killing two daughters, four grandchildren in Pakistan marriage feud

  • Manzoor Hussain hunted by police after allegedly setting fire to home of sisters Fauzia Bibi and Khurshid Mai in Muzaffargargh district
  • Bibi married Mehboob Ahmad against her father's will in a so-called love marriage, Mai's husband also died in blaze

LAHORE: A father in Pakistan is suspected of killing his two daughters and their four children by setting their house ablaze because one of the women married against his wishes, police said.
Manzoor Hussain is being hunted by police after allegedly setting fire to the home that sisters Fauzia Bibi and Khurshid Mai shared in a village in the Muzaffargargh district of central Pakistan, police official Abdul Majeed told Reuters by phone.
Mai’s husband also died in the blaze, Majeed said.
Bibi had married Mehboob Ahmad about 18 months ago against her father’s will in a so-called love marriage, according to the official, as opposed to an arranged marriage.
“The incident is outcome of the rivalry between the two families over the love marriage,” Majeed said.
Hussain, the father being searched for, lives in a nearby village, he added.
Bibi’s husband Ahmad told police he was not at home at the time of the fire and had found the house ablaze when he returned from work early in the morning, according to his statement to officers, which was seen by Reuters.
Ahmad said his four-month-old son had died, along with Mai’s three children aged two, six and 13.
Hundreds of women in Pakistan are killed by relatives every year for marrying without consent, or against their family’s wishes, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.


Pakistan fails to strike agreement with IMF for release of $1 billion loan tranche

Updated 17 October 2021

Pakistan fails to strike agreement with IMF for release of $1 billion loan tranche

  • Pakistan reached an accord with IMF for three-year, $6 billion bailout package in 2019
  • Pakistani and IMF officials are currently engaged in fresh around of staff-level talks in Washington

ISLAMABAD: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Pakistan have failed to strike a staff-level agreement under a $6 billion Extended Fund Facility, or bailout package, Pakistani media reported on Sunday. 
In 2019, Pakistan reached an accord with the International Monetary Fund for a three-year, $6 billion bailout package aimed at shoring up fragile public finances and strengthening a slowing economy.
Pakistani and IMF officials are currently engaged in a fresh round of talks from October 4 to 15 for the release of a $1 billion tranche of the loan.
“The talks failed despite Pakistan having implemented a prior condition of increasing electricity and petroleum products prices,” the Express Tribune newspaper reported. “However, both sides have shown resolve to remain engaged.”
“The IMF team remains engaged with our Pakistani counterparts on moving forward our work agenda and we are looking forward to our continued discussions with the Pakistani authorities on the set of policies and reforms that could form the basis for the completion of the 6th review under the EFF,” Teresa Dabán Sanchez, the outgoing resident representative of the IMF, told The Express Tribune.
This is the second time Pakistan and the IMF could not find “basis for the completion of the 6th review.,” The first attempt was made in June.