Pakistan's Sindh province tightens COVID restrictions ahead of Eid

People walk through a closed commercial market following new restrictions imposed by the authorities to contain the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Karachi on April 9, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 07 May 2021

Pakistan's Sindh province tightens COVID restrictions ahead of Eid

  • Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah says the provincial administration will also shut down recreational facilities after Sunday to curb the coronavirus spread
  • The provincial administration of Sindh may ask the federal government to ban passenger train services during the Eid holidays 

KARACHI: The provincial administration of Sindh on Thursday decided to implement COVID-19 restrictions across the province more strongly as health authorities warned that Karachi alone had recorded a positivity ratio of 14.32 percent.
The decision was announced at a time when hundreds of thousands of residents in the seaside metropolis thronged markets on Thursday afternoon due to limited shopping hours, causing extreme traffic congestion.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah decided to close all shops, including grocery stores, after 6 p.m. while chairing a meeting of a COVID-19 taskforce. He also announced that restaurants would not be allowed to offer takeaway facility after iftar during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
“We will further tighten the enforcement of standard operating procedures after Sunday by closing Hawksbay, Sea View and other such recreational facilities for visitors,” he was quoted in an official handout circulated by the CM House.
The meeting was told that new coronavirus infections were on the rise in Karachi where the positivity ratio stood at 14.32 percent “which was quite dangerous.”
It was also pointed out that COVID-19 cases were on a decline in Hyderabad, another city of the province, where new coronavirus cases had declined to 11.92 percent on Wednesday from 20 percent on 29th April.
According to the provincial administration, authorities had tried to implement health safety precautions by imposing a fine on 627 people in Karachi on May 5. The district administration of the city also sealed 64 shops, arrested seven people and warned 369 others.
“People do not understand the situation,” the chief minister told the meeting. “One should only leave one’s residence for valid reasons after taking necessary precautions these days.”
The participants of the meeting urged the chief minister to talk to the federal government to ban passenger train services during Eid holidays to further prevent the spread of the virus.
Provincial health minister Dr. Azra Fazal Pechuho told the meeting that authorities in Sindh had revived quarantine facilities at local hotels and enhanced virus testing. She added that import of small-scale oxygen generation plants was also in progress.
Meanwhile, traders in Karachi expressed their disappointment at the provincial administration’s decision, accusing the health authorities of aggravating the situation by limiting the number of shopping hours that crowded the markets.
“If the markets are following their usual routine, it doesn’t lead to congestion and it is also easier for us to deal with people,” Shafiq Ahmed, a shop owner at Tariq Road, told Arab News. “Now the whole city is here to shop, and you can look at the situation.”
Agreeing with the traders, Sobia Shah, a costumer, said she would have done her shopping somewhere at night in normal situation.
“Now everyone wants to shop during the few hours available to them,” she added.


Islamabad edges Peshawar in record scoring PSL fixture in Abu Dhabi

Updated 16 min 49 sec ago

Islamabad edges Peshawar in record scoring PSL fixture in Abu Dhabi

  • Islamabad United bettered own previous PSL record of 238-3 against Lahore Qalandars in 2019
  • Peshawar won the toss and elected to bat in its last league game

ABU DHABI: Islamabad United edged spirited Peshawar Zalmi by 15 runs in a record high-scoring Pakistan Super League game on Thursday.
Islamabad stand-in captain Usman Khawaja hit an unbeaten 105 off 56 balls in his team’s PSL record total of 247-2 after Peshawar won the toss and elected to bat in its last league game.
Peshawar nearly upstaged Khawaja’s brilliant effort with a 232-6 reply as Shoaib Malik (68) and Kamran Akmal (53) led the charge.
“It was enjoyable to bat 20 overs,” Khawaja said. “I’m not trying to take anything away from our bowlers because they put in a great effort, but Shadab was resting. We knew we were probably going one short on pace.”
Islamabad bettered its own previous PSL record of 238-3 against Lahore Qalandars in 2019.
The Karachi Kings kept alive their playoff hopes with a seven-run win over the Lahore Qalandars.
The Kings batted first and posted 176-5, with Babar Azam scoring 54 and Martin Guptill belted 43 from 31 balls including three sixes. The Qalandars were right in the chase with contributions from Hohammad Hafeez (36), Tim David (34) and James Faulkner (33) but the chase was strangled by some tight bowling.
Noor Ahmad, the 16-year-old Afghani left-arm spinner, took 2-19 in four overs including the wickets of Hafeez and Ben Dunk (6).
In the opening match, Australian top-order batter Khawaja set the tempo in a brisk 98-run opening stand with Colin Munro (48) off only 59 balls. Munro just missed out on his third half-century in four games.
Islamabad’s ploy to promote power-hitter Asif Ali paid off for the two-time champions as he smacked five sixes and two boundaries in his 43 off 14 balls.
Brandon King added an unbeaten 46 off 22 balls.
Khawaja reached his third T20 century in the last over with a boundary followed by two successive sixes. The Islamabad-born Khawaja hit 13 fours and three sixes.
Peshawar lost Hazratullah Zazai off the first ball, but Akmal and Malik kept them in the hunt. Experienced fast bowler Hasan Ali picked up 3-43 that included the key wicket of Malik in the 17th over.
Sherfane Rutherford (29), captain Wahab Riaz (28) and Umaid Asif (20) played little cameos in the end to narrow the margin of defeat as fast bowler Akif Javed bowled well in the last over, giving away only seven runs.
“We were very pathetic in the field when we won the toss and bowled first knowing they were a bowler short,” Riaz said. “The attitude wasn’t there.”
Islamabad has already qualified for the playoffs, while Peshawar finished the league stage.


Militants kill soldier near airport in southwestern Pakistan

Updated 37 min 1 sec ago

Militants kill soldier near airport in southwestern Pakistan

  • No group immediately claimed responsibility but previous attacks have been blamed on small separatist groups
  • Although Pakistan’s military says it has quelled insurgency in Balochistan, isolated attacks on troops have continued

QUETTA: Suspected militants opened fire on troops at a security post near an airport in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing a soldier before fleeing the scene, the military said.
The attack happened in the Turbat district in Balochistan province, a military statement said. Security forces have launched a search operation in the region to trace and arrest the attackers, it added. The slain soldier was identified as Aqeel Abbas.
No group immediately claimed responsibility but previous such attacks have been blamed on small separatist groups that have been carrying out a long-running insurgency demanding independence from the central government in Islamabad. The Pakistani Taliban and the Daesh group also have a presence in Baluchistan.
Although Pakistan’s military says it has quelled insurgency, isolated attacks on troops have continued.


Pakistani cleric charged with sexual abuse at religious school

Updated 17 June 2021

Pakistani cleric charged with sexual abuse at religious school

  • The 60-something cleric has been expelled from his position at the seminary and stripped off his title of 'mufti'
  • Police could not locate the cleric when they visited the religious school after the student filed the sexual abuse complaint

LAHORE: A Muslim cleric who has led anti-blasphemy rallies in Pakistan has been charged with sexually abusing a student at a religious school, police said on Thursday.
Police said charges were filed against Aziz-ur-Rehman after cellphone videos purporting to show the cleric forcing himself on the student went viral on social media.
The case has caused a stir in Pakistan, a mainly Muslim country, and outrage on social media, with many calling for a strict punishment for the cleric.
Rehman denied the accusation of sexual abuse in a video statement issued on social media, saying that he was drugged before the filming of the alleged abuse. He said this was part of a plot to throw him out of the seminary, the Jamia Manzoor-ul-Islamia.
Rehman, who is in his 60s and is a member of a prominent religious political party, has worked as a custodian of the seminary for several years.
The seminary said the cleric has been expelled from his position, and Wafaq-ul-Madaris, the body that oversees the religious schools system, said it has stripped him off his title, mufti, which means a religious scholar.
A police spokesperson said police could not locate the cleric when they visited the seminary after the student filed the sexual abuse complaint.
The student, who police said appeared to be in his early 20s, said in his complaint that he has given several video and audio recordings to help police investigate, adding he had gone into hiding because he had received death threats.
The police said the student had told them that the cleric had been abusing him for several years. He said he started filming the abuse after he got sick of it and sent the video clips of the abuse to the head of the Wafaq-ul-Madaris.
It was not clear how the video clips began circulating on social media.
Rehman has often been seen in photos and videos of anti-blasphemy rallies held in recent months to denounce publication of cartoons in France depicting the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Over 2.2 million children attend religious seminaries in Pakistan. Sexual abuse cases are often hushed up, although some parents have recently been coming forward to file complaints.
A nongovernment organization called Sahil that works to stop child abuse reported 2,960 cases of child sex abuse in 2020 throughout the country, not just in seminaries.


In Pakistan’s largest city, immunization centers turn away citizens as vaccine stocks finish

Updated 17 June 2021

In Pakistan’s largest city, immunization centers turn away citizens as vaccine stocks finish

  • Medical professionals criticize the government for setting up inoculation facilities without paying much attention to procurement and storage of vaccines
  • Pakistan’s southern Sindh province says it is only left with 376,231 doses of different COVID-19 shots

KARACHI: Authorities in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi have decided to provisionally shut down some immunization centers due to a shortage of coronavirus vaccines, provincial health officials confirmed while talking to Arab News on Thursday.
According to the official statistics, the country’s southern Sindh province is only left with 376,231 doses of various types of COVID-19 vaccines.
This is despite the fact that Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah inaugurated the province’s biggest vaccination facility at the Expo Center in Karachi last month to administer 20,000 more coronavirus shots on a daily basis.
“While we increased our capacity to inoculate more people by establishing such facilities, we could not ensure smooth supply of vaccines that could have helped us endure the pace of our immunization drive which will now be negatively impacted,” Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, general secretary of the Pakistan Medical Association, told Arab News.
He maintained that doctors were previously trying to persuade people to get themselves vaccinated, adding that many medical facilities in the country were now turning them back.
Sajjad maintained it was not just small immunization facilities that were finding it difficult to serve the public but also places like the Expo Center.
Dr. Anila Qureshi, a health official in Karachi’s district east who was suspended earlier this year for vaccinating the family of a former governor before their rightful turn, negated any vaccine shortage at the mega facility.
“Do you need to get vaccinated,” she asked. “We have COVID-19 shots.”
However, Dr. Sajjad insisted many citizens who recently visited the Expo Center had returned unvaccinated.
Mehar Khursheed, a Sindh health department spokesperson, admitted there was a vaccine shortage since the province was not getting sufficient doses from the federal government.
She shared official figures related to the number of remaining COVID-19 shots with Arab News, showing that Sindh was only left with 376,231 doses of Sinopharm (168,330), CanSino (37,768), SinoVac (91,816), AstraZeneca (62,487) and PakVac (15,830).
The province has so far administered 2,755,767 jabs, though 1,954,956 of them are first doses.
According to reports in the local media, authorities in Karachi have temporarily suspended vaccination centers at Korangi and Malir districts to ensure the availability of COVID-19 vaccines at the Expo Center.
Speaking to the media in Islamabad on Wednesday, Dr. Faisal Sultan, who advises Prime Minister Imran Khan on public health, said the vaccine shortage would be over by the end of the month since the government was doing the necessary procurement.
“People who are due to get their second shot should not be worried,” he continued. “The second dose can also be administered after a delay of about a week or so.”


UAE invites Pakistani entrepreneurs to explore market opportunities, promises full cooperation

Updated 17 June 2021

UAE invites Pakistani entrepreneurs to explore market opportunities, promises full cooperation

  • The UAE state minister for foreign trade describes Pakistan as one of his country’s top 25 strategic global trade partners
  • The two countries aspire to double the quantum of bilateral trade during the next five years

ISLAMABAD: The United Arab Emirates is ready to extend full cooperation to Pakistan’s business community and assist its members to explore market opportunities in the Gulf country, a top UAE official was quoted by the Associated Press of Pakistan on Thursday.
The Pakistan Business Council held a trade session in Dubai earlier this week, inviting several high-profile dignitaries including the UAE state minister for foreign trade, Dr. Thani bin Ahmed Al Zeyoudi.
“For us, Pakistan is among the top 25 important strategic global trade partners,” he said.
The minister acknowledged the strong bilateral relations between the two countries while pointing out that they were grounded in a long history and significant level of mutual trust.
He maintained that trade between the two countries had witnessed a significant increased over a period of time.
“The UAE recently announced the 100 percent foreign ownership law, which has spurred economic activity and been hailed by the business community around the world,” Al Zeyoudi told the participants of the gathering.
He continued that Pakistan was his country’s second biggest partner in terms of imports, adding that the two sides also had significant investments in various sectors including real estate.
Pakistani envoy to the UAE Afzaal Mahmood also noted that his country’s entrepreneurs could benefit from the diverse market in the Arab state.
He pointed out that the two economies “complemented each other” while arguing in favor of exploring “value-added advantages in the interest of both sides.”
The event concluded with a resolution that the two countries should do their best to double their trade volume in the next five years.
The APP reported that the quantum of trade between Pakistan and the UAE stood at $8.19 billion in 2019.