Major social media outlets blocked to ‘maintain public order’ — Pakistan telecoms authority

Pakistani pedestrians wait for transport as they stand in front of an advertisement for a cellular telephone in Rawalpindi on May 14, 2010. (AFP/File)
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Updated 16 April 2021

Major social media outlets blocked to ‘maintain public order’ — Pakistan telecoms authority

  • “In order to maintain public order and safety, access to certain social media applications restricted temporarily,” PPTA spokesperson says
  • Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, TikTok and Telegram blocked on orders of PTA, Internet service provider says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan blocked multiple social media apps temporarily on security grounds on Friday as part of what is believed to be a crackdown against a religious political party that has held violent nationwide protests this week, a telecommunications authority official said, while a major Internet service provider in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad sent text messages to its users apologizing for the “inconvenience.” 
Pakistan Internet users had difficulty accessing apps including What, Facebook, You tube and Twitter from late on Friday morning, Reuters said. 
The Internet blockade comes as Pakistan said this week it would outlaw the religious political party Tehreek-i-Labaik Pakistan after the arrest of its leader on Monday sparked major nationwide protests. Rizvi and his supporters are calling on the government to expel the French ambassador over cartoons published in France depicting the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
“In order to maintain public order and safety, access to certain social media applications has been restricted temporarily,” Khurram Mehran, a spokesperson for the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) told Arab News, without specifying which social media.
Internet, cable TV and phone service provider Nayatel, based in Islamabad, sent text messages to users saying:
“On directions by PTA, below mentioned social media platforms have been blocked. Twitter. Facebook. WhatsApp. YouTube. TikTok. Telegram. Inconvenience is regretted.”
Usama Khilji, a director at digital advocacy group Bolo Bhi, said it was “against the constitution to suspend people’s access to information by blocking social media just because of a group and in the name of law and order.”
“Also, this isn’t a wise security strategy to suspend Internet because this won’t send protesters home, instead it will project a bad image of our country abroad,” he told Arab News. 
Nighat Dad at the Digital Rights Foundation said: 
“What kind of national emergency we are dealing with that government banned entire social media temporarily? These arbitrary decisions of blocking and banning have never done any good instead opened ways to blanket bans.”


Dubai mango festival gives international spotlight to Pakistan’s king of fruits

Updated 56 min 32 sec ago

Dubai mango festival gives international spotlight to Pakistan’s king of fruits

  • Pakistan Mango Festival 2022 was opened on by UAE minister of tolerance
  • South Asia has for centuries used the sweet fruit as a way to smoothen political relations

DUBAI: Pakistani mangoes drew international attention in Dubai over the weekend, during a festival organized to celebrate the South Asian king of fruits and boost the country’s exports and diplomacy.

Pakistan is the world’s fifth-largest producer of mangos after India, China, Thailand and Indonesia, with annual harvests of around 1.8 million tons. While most of the produce is consumed locally, it is also one of the top exporters of the yellow succulent fruit, especially to the Middle East, UK, US and some EU countries.

UAE Minister of Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan opens Pakistan Mango Festival 2022 in Dubai on July 1, 2022. (AN Photo) 

The two-day Pakistan Mango Festival 2022, organized by the Pakistan Association Dubai, was opened on Friday by UAE Minister of Tolerance Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, with guests including diplomats and business players not only from the Gulf state, but also the US, UK, Philippines, South Korea, Lithuania, Ghana, Egypt, and more.  
 
“The idea of this festival was to re-introduce some of the varieties that are not there or are not being introduced the way they should be,” Pakistan’s Consul General to the UAE, Hassan Afzaal Khan, told Arab News.  

He said 15 varieties of Pakistani mangoes, including Chaunsa, Langra, Sindhri, Anwar Ratool, Dusehri, Saroli, Almas, Fajri were up for degustation during the festival.  

“Only 150,000 ton of mangos are exported, so we still have a huge space, and we are able to package them and introduce them to the market in such ways. I am confident that we can claim a big market share,” Khan said.

Different varieties of Pakistani mangoes are presented to guests at Pakistan Mango Festival 2022 in Dubai, UAE, on July 1, 2022. (AN Photo)

Another purpose of the festival was diplomacy as South Asia has for centuries used the sweet fruit as a way to smoothen political relations. The fruits are often used as a gesture of friendship and goodwill and presented as gifts by national or political leaders.

“Pakistan has always used mangoes for diplomacy,” Dr. Faisel Ikram, president of the Pakistan Association Dubai, said. “Today’s event is a pure diplomacy event where we invited foreign missions, consul generals, business councils and government officials to come and see what Pakistan has to offer.”

Stalls representing Pakistani provinces treated the guests to unique mango dishes that originating from each of the regions, including mango achar, chutneys, mango biryani, salads and desserts.
 
“I have tasted many mango varieties and dishes made of mangoes here today, (and) though I do not remember the names of all, I enjoyed them thoroughly,” Muslima Zhumabek, the wife of the consul general of Kazakhstan, told Arab News.

Another guest, Barry Bedford, COO of Mediclinic Dubai said the varieties of Pakistani mango he tried had “brilliant taste,” as he praised the festival initiative: “This event celebrates people coming together, which sets an amazing example.”


Pakistan seizes tankers with oil smuggled from Iran

Updated 41 min 37 sec ago

Pakistan seizes tankers with oil smuggled from Iran

  • Tankers were intercepted as they entered Karachi from Balochistan
  • Smuggled oil is estimated to be worth $135,000

KARACHI: Pakistani authorities have seized two tankers with 30,000 liters of smuggled Iranian oil in Karachi, the customs department said on Saturday.

The two tankers were intercepted as they entered the port city from Balochistan province which borders Iran. The smuggled oil is estimated to be worth $135,000.

“Anti Smuggling team of Customs Enforcement Collectorate Karachi intercepted two Oil Tankers along with 4 drivers loaded with smuggled Iranian diesel near Mochko choke point and recovered 30,000 litres of smuggled diesel (15,000 litres in each). Total value of the seized smuggled diesel and tankers is estimated to be Rs 27.5 million,” the customs department said in a statement.

Syed Muhammad Irfan Ali, spokesperson of the Customs Enforcement Collectorate Karachi, told Arab News it was unclear whether the tankers crossed the border from Iran or filled in Balochistan, “but these are loaded with Iranian oil, which is illegal.”

Iranian oil has been regularly smuggled into neighboring Pakistan. as Iran has some of the world’s cheapest petrol and diesel prices due to very low production costs, international sanctions and a weak currency. 


Young Pakistani bags Diana Award for educating poor children in country’s rural south 

Updated 02 July 2022

Young Pakistani bags Diana Award for educating poor children in country’s rural south 

  • Moazzam Shah Bukhari Syed has helped provide early education to over 3,000 children, send over 1,400 to schools 
  • After Hyderabad and Tharparkar, Syed plans to expand his Walkway School initiative to Sindh’s Jamshoro district 

KARACHI: A young Pakistani, Moazzam Shah Bukhari Syed, on Friday bagged the prestigious Diana Award for his Hyderabad-based ‘The Walkway School’ initiative, which has been striving to enroll poor, out-of-school children in rural areas of Pakistan’s southern Sindh province. 

Established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Diana Award is the most prestigious accolade a young person aged 9-25 can receive for their social action or humanitarian work. The results for the award’s 2022 Roll of Honour were announced on Friday. 

Syed was nominated for the honor in February by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Asia Pacific. Through his Walkway School, a youth-led initiative launched in 2018, he has helped provide early childhood education to over 3,000 children, send over 1,400 children to schools on fully funded scholarships and open multiple schools for over 1,500 children in Sindh’s Hyderabad and Tharparkar districts. He now plans to expand the initiative to Jamshoro district. 

“This endorsement of our cause and winning this prestigious award will open a lot more doors of opportunities for us and it will obviously inspire a lot of other people to get into this work,” he told Arab News on Friday. 

“All of the responsibility is not of the government, some responsibility is ours too toward our society.” 

The Walkway School bridges the gap between communities and public/private sector institutions, and tries to reduce the ratio of out-of-school children by seizing existing opportunities, according to Syed. 

“In primary school, we outsource children from communities,” Syed explained. “We induct them through mobilization and then we process their mainstreaming after which we get them enrolled to private schools with multi-year fully funded scholarships.” 

As a young child, Syed says, he was lucky enough to attend an excellent private school, but that all changed when his family experienced a huge financial crisis. Experiencing the stark difference between the best and the rest of educational opportunities became his inspiration to build a school that would help all children get quality education regardless of their financial status. 

“It was rather a personal trauma which turned into an inspiration where I wanted to do something sustainable that benefits people in the long run instead of feeding them temporarily,” he told Arab News. 

“I know how it feels when you cannot avail an opportunity due to lack of finances. I do relate a lot with it.” 

The Walkway School now has three fully built educational facilities in Hyderabad and Tharparkar districts. 

“Our secondary way of intervention is we create one or two-room spaces, with water sanitation as well as access to clean energy, in rural areas where schools are registered but the buildings do not exist,” Syed said. “So that children can study there without any hindrance.” 

As part of his 2025 expansion plan, Syed wishes to create at least 50 cost-effective, sustainable safe spaces where children from diverse backgrounds can study without having to worry about finances. He intends to go abroad in the next few months to raise funds for the expansion. 


Ex-PM Khan to hold ‘historic’ protest rally in Islamabad today

Updated 46 min 4 sec ago

Ex-PM Khan to hold ‘historic’ protest rally in Islamabad today

  • Khan was removed from office in a vote of no-confidence on April 10 
  • He has since been demanding dissolution of assemblies, fresh elections 

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan has vowed to hold a “historic” rally in Islamabad on Saturday, today, against excessive power cuts and a record increase in fuel prices in the South Asian nation. 

Khan, who blames his ouster on the United States, on May 25 led an anti-government march on Islamabad, which saw clashes between demonstrators and police as well as arrests of hundreds of Khan supporters across the country during the day-long political drama. 

After entering Islamabad, Khan had called off the march and gave the government a six-day ultimatum to dissolve assemblies and announce fresh elections. But the government rejected his demands. 

Khan said late Friday his party would hold a “historic” rally at the Parade Ground in Islamabad against the “imported” government of PM Shehbaz Sharif. 

“God willing, tomorrow will be our historic Islamabad jalsa at Parade Ground against imported government’s political destabilization and crushing our people under the burden of excessive load-shedding in peak of summer and spiraling fuel prices,” he said in a tweet on Friday night. 

“I will be leading a rally from Pindi to Parade Ground.” 

 

 

Khan was removed from office in a vote of no-confidence on April 10, after he lost majority in parliament. He has since held several public rallies across the country, saying his ouster was part of a Washington-backed “foreign conspiracy” and refusing to recognize the new administration of PM Sharif. The US has repeatedly denied the allegations. 

Khan has also requested Pakistanis to donate generously for his party’s political struggle. 

“I request all Pakistanis living in Pakistan and across the world to donate and support PTI’s (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) fight for true freedom,” he said on Twitter. 

“This is a struggle for a sovereign Pakistan,” Khan said, urging people to play their part in this “Jehad.” 

 

 


Pakistan reports highest single-day COVID deaths in over three months 

Updated 02 July 2022

Pakistan reports highest single-day COVID deaths in over three months 

  • National COVID positivity rate rises to 4.47 percent with 818 new infections 
  • Pakistan urges caution during Eid holidays as coronavirus cases rise again 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s health ministry on Saturday reported four deaths from coronavirus, the highest single-day fatalities since March 31, as the South Asian nation once again witnesses a spike in COVID-19 infections. 

The national COVID positivity ratio rose to 4.47 percent in the last 24 hours, nearly double the number at the start of the week on Monday, according to data shared by the National Institute of Health (NIH), which oversees the country’s pandemic response. 

Health authorities conducted 18,305 coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours, of which 818 turned out to be positive. Over 120 patients are currently in critical care across the country. 

On Friday, Pakistani Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel called on the public to take precautionary measures as coronavirus cases once again rise in the country, calling masks “essential” during the upcoming Eid Al-Adha holiday and urging people not to shake hands and hug. 

“We must take precautionary measures against coronavirus and ensure social distancing,” Patel said in a statement. “Mask wearing is essential during the time of Eid-Al-Adha and avoid going to crowded places.” 

Pakistan on Thursday issued fresh standard operating procedures (SOPs) for government offices. 

The NIH in a notification urged government employees to avoid shaking hands and mandated wearing face masks and incorporating social distancing in seating plans and during prayers. 

Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) last week again made it mandatory for all passengers on domestic flights to wear masks. Authorities are also urging eligible individuals to get booster shots of coronavirus vaccine. 

Pakistan disbanded the National Command and Operations Center, its main pandemic response body, on March 31 as infections fell to the lowest since the outbreak began in 2020. 

However, the South Asian country on May 23 reconstituted the NCOC at the NIH after health officials detected a new omicron sub-variant in a passenger arriving from Qatar. The new sub-variant of omicron is said to be highly infectious, though not as deadly as previous coronavirus strains.