Saudi business tycoon writes letter to Pakistani PM against adviser ‘interfering’ in K-Electric deal 

In this file photo, two technicians work outside the K-Electric building in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 2018. (Photo courtesy: Online)
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Updated 07 April 2021

Saudi business tycoon writes letter to Pakistani PM against adviser ‘interfering’ in K-Electric deal 

  • Aljomaih visited Pakistan last month to resolve payment issues in a 2016 deal for transfer of 66.4% shares to Shanghai Electric power
  • Soon after Aljomiah’s visit, PM aide Tabish Gauhar wrote to Privatization Commission objecting to arbitration terms of reference

KARACHI: Saudi business tycoon Abdulaziz Hamad Aljomaih, a major investor in Pakistan’s power utility company K-Electric (KE) Limited, this week wrote a letter to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to complain about his special adviser on power, Tabish Gauhar, for causing hindrance to the process of removing impediments to conclude a 2016 bid by Shanghai Electric Power (SEP) to acquire 66.4% controlling stakes in KE.
Dubai-based, now collapsed, private equity firm Abraaj Group and Aljomaih/National Industries Group (NIG) of Kuwait have a 66.4% stake in K-Electric, formerly known as Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC), while the government of Pakistan holds 24.36% shares.
Aljomaih is one of the largest investors in KE through the consortium that bought out KESC in 2005 and was the main driver of the privatization process of the company. He also served as the first chairman of KE’s board of directors and continues to serve on the board of KES Power, the controlling and shareholding company of KE.
Former K-Electric chairman Tabish Gauhar was appointed special assistant to the prime minister (SAPM) on power last October. In March this year, he was also given additional charge as the PM’s adviser on petroleum.
In March, Aljomaih visited Pakistan and met with the Pakistani PM, president, and other key officials to resolve outstanding payment issues so that the 2016 SEP deal could be concluded. Soon after Aljomiah’s visit, Gauhar wrote a letter to the Privatization Commission, highlighting objections to the arbitration terms of reference (TORs) under consideration.
“When we met I was assured by all including your excellency [PM Khan] that a dispute resolution document was in the final stages of negotiations to be approved by your office soon”, Aljomaih said in a letter to PM Imran Khan, dated Monday. “However, the matter remains unresolved and potentially even at risk due to last minute negative comments on the agreed documents by your SAPM.”
He added that the document had been finalized by all stakeholders through a “lengthy painstaking process” and was due to be put before the federal cabinet for approval.
“It is my duty to inform you that there is a clear conflict of interest vis a vis involvement of your special assistance Mr. Tabish Ghaur with KE matters,” the Saudi businessman said.
Aljomaih said Gauhar had not been involved in the March deliberations because he had a conflict of interest as a former chief executive and chairman of KE and thus was ill-placed to represent the interests of the federal government without tainting the process.
However, Tabish told Arab News on Tuesday he had no current direct or indirect economic stake in KE, and serving as the company’s CEO and chairman between 2009 and 2015 did not constitute a ‘conflict of interest.’
“I’m just doing my job as one of the GOP [government of Pakistan] functionaries to protect the public interest. I don’t have any personal views on KE, they simply reflect the institutional views of the Power Division, Ministry of Energy,” Gauhar said.
“My internal letter on the arbitration TORs is self-explanatory, and it was written to protect public money,” Gauhar had had told Arab News last month, denying any conflict of interest. “I have no current conflict of interest with KE since I left that organization in October 2015.”
Gauhar had said it was his responsibility to address public interest issues as a member of the inter-ministerial committee set up by the government to resolve the K-Electric deal — already delayed due to pending payment issues related to payables and receivables among K-Electric, Sui Southern Gas Company, National Transmission and Dispatch Company, and the Ministry of Finance.
But in his letter to the PM, Aljomiah said he was “shocked to learn that well before Mr. Gauhar wrote a letter, he also solicited an invite to join on March 10, 2021 an investor briefing call organized and attended by international investors of KE.”
Gauhar denied that he had solicited the invitation, saying he was invited to speak.
“I was requested to speak to them and, in fact, Shan Ashary, chairman of KE and Aljomaih’s chief representative were not only present at the call but spoke after me and confirmed that whatever I’d stated as matters of fact were in line with his understanding too,” Gauhar told Arab News.
The Saudi businessman has also accused Ghaur of running anti-KE campaigns through TV appearances but Gauhar said if talk show hosts asked him a question about KE, he was “obliged to answer as plainly as possible.”
Aljomaih has also said Gauhar’s actions were tantamount to mala fide intent for both KE and Pakistan.
“For foreign investors ... receiving such a message from a Pakistan government functionary while efforts were being made to finalize the conflict resolution documents is most unbecoming and tantamount to mala-fide intent not just for KE but for Pakistan’s reputation as an international investment destination,” Aljomaih said.
But Gauhar said that the fact that the SEP deal was stalled since October 2016 “clearly implies that something fundamental is wrong with the proposed terms & conditions that two successive governments and several bureaucracies have struggled to accept.”
“I’m actually in favor of the proposed change of control at KE [and had earlier suggested to make Shanghai come under the CPEC [China Pakistan Economic Corridor] umbrella to accelerate the proposed transaction and give them more air cover from the state, etc.],” Ghaur said.
“We all want Shanghai’s transaction but at what cost?” he told Arab News. “If it means writing off tens of billions of overdue amounts and penalties, signing a non-commercial based power purchase agreement (against federal cabinet decision), agreeing to further surcharges and tariff increase for the consumers and federal subsidy budget, etc, it’s important for everyone to at least know about the implications.”


Pakistan will talk to India if Kashmir autonomy reverses, foreign minister says in UAE

Updated 40 min 11 sec ago

Pakistan will talk to India if Kashmir autonomy reverses, foreign minister says in UAE

  • Says Islamabad never evaded talks but India would have to revert disputed Kashmir region’s special autonomy
  • Tells reporters about his three-day visit: “My agenda is UAE-Pakistan and not India-Pakistan”

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Monday Pakistan had never evaded peace talks and wanted to live in peace with all its neighbors, including India, but New Delhi would have to reverse an August 5, 2019 move to strip the disputed Kashmir region of its special autonomy.
Kashmir has been divided but claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan since almost immediately after the two countries’ creation in 1947. They have fought three wars against each other, two directly dealing with the disputed region.
India in 2019 stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomy and took direct control over it, sparking unrest. Pakistan has since maintained it is open to talks if New Delhi reverses the August 2019 decision.
The FM’s remarks, reported by Pakistani media, came as he spoke at a news conference in the United Arab Emirates where Qureshi is on three-day official visit.
“Both India and Pakistan will have to think about their bilateral ties,” the foreign minister said. “Pakistan is ready to talk with India if it takes back its steps of August 5. Pakistan cannot ignore the Kashmir issue.”
Qureshi added that Pakistan desired peace in the region because peace would create more economic opportunities.
On Sunday Qureshi ruled out any ‘secret meetings’ between Pakistan and India during his UAE visit.
The announcement that Qureshi’s Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar would also be in the UAE at the same time as the Pakistani foreign minister triggered speculation about a possible meeting. Both leaders’ arrival in the UAE comes just days after the Emirati envoy to Washington confirmed the Gulf state had been mediating between the nuclear-armed rivals to help them reach a “healthy and functional” relationship. 
“There have been a number of speculations about secret meetings between me and the external affairs minister of India, S. Jaishankar but neither was our meeting planned and nor are we meeting,” Qureshi told reporters.
“I am here for a bilateral visit and not an India-specific agenda. My agenda is UAE-Pakistan and not India-Pakistan.”
“I don’t think a meeting is set out with the Indian foreign minister,” Qureshi added.


Hospitals filling up, oxygen supplies ‘under stress’ as coronavirus third wave sweeps Pakistan

Updated 19 April 2021

Hospitals filling up, oxygen supplies ‘under stress’ as coronavirus third wave sweeps Pakistan

  • Over 4,500 patients are now in critical care, 30% higher than June last year
  • Planning minister says citizens making a “huge mistake” by not following coronavirus health guidelines

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s planning minister Asad Umar, who also heads a federal body overseeing the country’s pandemic response, said Pakistani hospitals were filing up fast as coronavirus cases rose and oxygen supplies were “under stress.”
Pakistan on Monday recorded 5,152 new infections and 73 coronavirus-related deaths, government data showed, as a third wave of the coronavirus sweeps the country. The South Asian nation of 220 million has recorded 761,437 infections and 16,316 deaths since the beginning of the outbreak in February last year.
According to official data, 4,515 coronavirus patients are currently in critical condition.
“Hospital fill up continuing to grow. Critical care patients now above 4500, which is 30% higher than peak in June last year. Oxygen supply capacity in the country is now under stress,” Umar said on Twitter, adding that compliance of coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs) remained low. “We are making a huge mistake by not following sops.”


On Sunday, Hong Kong announced it would suspend flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines from April 20 for two weeks after the N501Y mutant COVID-19 strain was detected in the Asian financial hub for the first time. The three countries would be classified as “extremely high risk” after there had been multiple imported cases carrying the strain into Hong Kong in the past 14 days, the government said.
The British government has also banned international arrivals from Pakistan amid concerns over new virus variants.


Pakistan condoles with Egypt after deadly train crash 

Updated 19 April 2021

Pakistan condoles with Egypt after deadly train crash 

  • Eleven people died and 98 were injured after four carriages of the train derailed in a province north of Cairo 
  • Sunday’s incident follows three weeks after two passenger trains collided in the Sohag province 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday extended its condolences to Egypt, a day after 11 people were killed and 98 injured in a train accident in the Qalioubia province, 40km north of the capital, Cairo.
“We convey our deepest sympathies on the tragic train accident in Egypt,” Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a Tweet on Monday.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the government, the brotherly people of Egypt and the families of those who have lost their lives. We wish quick recovery to the injured,” it added.

The accident took place after four carriages of the train, which was heading from Cairo to the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, derailed in Toukh on Sunday. 
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has ordered the military’s engineering authority to investigate the crash, with the driver and rail officials detained for questioning.
Sunday’s incident follows three weeks after two passenger trains collided in the Sohag province of the country, killing at least 18 people and injuring 200, including children.
Pakistan enjoys cordial ties with Egypt, with both countries working toward strengthening their relationship in recent months.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi held talks with President El-Sisi during a two-day visit to Egypt in February this year, where he acknowledged that Egypt was an “important member” of the Muslim world, before describing it as the “gateway to Africa.”


Hong Kong bans flights from India, Pakistan, Philippines for 2 weeks

Updated 19 April 2021

Hong Kong bans flights from India, Pakistan, Philippines for 2 weeks

  • Three countries classified as "extremely high risk" after multiple imported cases of coronavirus into Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong has recorded over 11,600 cases in total and 209 deaths

HONG KONG: Hong Kong will suspend flights from India, Pakistan and the Philippines from April 20 for two weeks after the N501Y mutant COVID-19 strain was detected in the Asian financial hub for the first time, authorities said in a statement late on Sunday.
The three countries would be classified as “extremely high risk” after there had been multiple imported cases carrying the strain into Hong Kong in the past 14 days, the government said.
The city reported 30 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, 29 of which were imported, marking the highest daily toll since March 15. Hong Kong has recorded over 11,600 cases in total and 209 deaths.
Hong Kong authorities have been urging residents to get vaccinated for coronavirus with only around 9% of Hong Kong’s 7.5 million residents vaccinated so far.
The government last week widened the city’s vaccine scheme to include those aged between 16 to 29 years old for the first time, as they aim to boost lacklustre demand for inoculations among residents.
Airlines impacted by Hong Kong’s ban on travelers from India, Pakistan and the Philippines include carriers such as Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, Vistara and Cebu Pacific. 


Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan team allowed to meet arrested leader today after 11 hostages released

Updated 59 min 59 sec ago

Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan team allowed to meet arrested leader today after 11 hostages released

  • Interior minister says policemen released after first round of negotiations with the religious political party which is holding nationwide protests
  • PM Khan says “great misfortune” that political and religious parties “use Islam wrongly and ... do damage to their own country”

KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: A nine-member delegation of the recently banned Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) will meet the religious political party’s chief Saad Rizvi in jail today, Monday, a spokesperson for the group said.
His statement comes after eleven policemen taken hostage by the TLP during clashes in Lahore on Sunday were released in the early hours of Monday, following negotiations with the government.
Rioting by the rightwing group has rocked the country since last Monday when the TLP chief was arrested in Lahore for threatening the government with rallies if it did not expel the French envoy to Islamabad over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) published in France last year.
The protests have paralyzed major cities and highways, leading to the deaths of six policemen, according to the government, with thousands of TLP workers under arrest, police say. The TLP says dozens of its supporters have also been killed but hospital and government officials have not been able to verify this. The riots have prompted the French embassy to recommend all its nationals temporarily leave the country last week.
“A nine member delegation of the religious scholars will go to Kot lakhpat jail to meet the Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan chief Saad Hussain Rizvi,” TLP spokesperson Pir Ejaz Ashrafi, told Arab News. 
Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Sheikh Rahsid Ahmed announced that the TLP had released 11 policemen being held hostage after a successful first round of negotiations. 
“We hope that the second meeting ... will also be successful and matters will be amicably resolved with the TLP,” Ahmed said.
TLP chief Rizvi has called on the government to honor what he said was a commitment it made in February to his party to expel the French envoy before April 20 over the publication in France of depictions of the Prophet (pbuh).
The government of Prime Minister Imran Khan says it had only committed to debating the matter in Parliament.
In a veiled reference to the Tehreek-e-Labbaik party on Monday, Khan said: “ln our country, it is a great misfortune that many times our political parties and religious parties use Islam wrongly and use it such that they do damage to their own country.”
Addressing the groundbreaking ceremony for the Margalla Highway in Islamabad, the PM said hurting people, properties and infrastructure would only hurt our own people and “will not have any impact on them [blasphemers].”
He said he had launched a global campaign against Islamophobia and blasphemy, and would continue the effort: “At some point, people in the West will fear before insulting the honor of our Prophet (pbuh).”
On Sunday evening, Information Minister Fawad Hussain Chaudhry had said the government believed in negotiating but wouldn’t be blackmailed.
“The government believes in negotiations but can’t be blackmailed,” he said.
“The operation was started after police and Rangers personnel were kidnapped. The state can’t be blackmailed by a proscribed armed outfit. [Prime Minister] Imran Khan has the strongest affection with the Prophet (PBUH) and he has talked about this at every forum.”
Earlier on Sunday, a police spokesman, Arif Rana, said the operation against the TLP had been halted as the attackers were armed with petrol bombs and a tanker with 50,000 liters of petrol.
By Sunday evening, he said the situation was “at a standstill” with protesters sitting on roadsides with sticks and petrol bombs in their hands and law enforcement personnel standing guard.
Last week, the interior ministry said it was moving to have the TLP party banned for attacking law enforcement forces and disrupting public life during its protests. The interior ministry’s decision has been approved by the federal cabinet but needs to be ratified by the Supreme Court for the TLP to be dissolved.
In October 2020, protests broke out in several Muslim countries over France’s response to a deadly attack on a teacher who showed cartoons mocking the Prophet Muhammad to his pupils during a civics lesson.
During similar protests in Pakistan, the government negotiated with the TLP and met a number of its demands, including that it would debate expelling the French ambassador in parliament.
A deadline to make that parliamentary move expires on April 20.
Rizvi became the leader of the Tehreek-e-Labiak Pakistan party in November after the sudden death of his father, Khadim Hussein Rizvi.
Rizvi’s party wants the government to boycott French products and expel the French ambassador under an agreement signed by the government with Rizvi’s party in February.
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.