Eight train accidents occurred during present Pakistani government’s term, 195 killed — official data 

A railway worker stands at the site of a train accident in Daharki area of Pakistan's Sindh province on June 7, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 08 June 2021

Eight train accidents occurred during present Pakistani government’s term, 195 killed — official data 

  • Since 2013, Pakistan has witnessed at least 19 major train crashes with 341 killed and hundreds injured
  • Pakistan is banking on $6.8 billion Chinese project to modernize much of its rail-related infrastructure

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Tuesday blamed dilapidated railway tracks for a train crash this week in which 57 people were killed and over 100 injured, as railways data showed that eight accidents had taken place since the current government of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party came to power in 2018, with 195 people killed.
According to railway officials, about 1,100 passengers were on board the two trains. One of them derailed and the other crashed into its carriages near Ghotki town, about 420 km north of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and capital of the Sindh province. 
Railway accidents are common in Pakistan, with derailments and collisions at unmanned railway crossings frequently reported in the media.
“As you know, this railway track is almost 150 years old,” Nazia Jabeen, a Pakistan Railways spokesperson, told Arab News, explaining the reason behind recurrent train accidents in the country.




A paramilitary soldier (L) stands guard near the wreckage of a train in Daharki area of Pakistan's Sindh province on June 7, 2021. (AFP)

Since 2013, Pakistan has witnessed at least 19 major train crashes with 341 people killed and several hundreds injured, according to official data. Eight of these accidents have taken place during the present government’s term.
“We keep doing maintenance [of the track] where necessary,” Jabeen said. “However, as you know this is a public transportation service and we cannot just stop it.”
She said the country was working with China to expand and reconstruct the Main Line-1 (ML-1) and upgrade railway infrastructure.
Pakistan approved the project last year, its costliest to date, as part of the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) agreement, giving the go-ahead for a $6.8 billion project to upgrade its railway lines.
The railway project is meant to be built on a cost-sharing basis between Islamabad and Beijing, with major financing expected through China’s Government Concessional Loan (GCL), though Pakistani authorities will also provide about $800 million as equity for the project.
The country’s entire rail-related infrastructure would be modernized under the project, officials say, including doubling of tracks from Karachi to Peshawar. The speed of passenger trains will also be improved from 110 kilometers per hour to 160 kilometers per hour.
“The government of Pakistan has completed all its work, but negotiations with the Chinese government on the loan [for the project] are still underway,” Jabeen said. “We don’t have a timeframe for this, but we are ready [to implement the project] and waiting for China’s official approval.”
According to the Ministry of Railways, one side of the two train tracks has been cleared and work is now in progress to clear the other one to help restore traffic.
Railway is an essential mode of intercity traveling, especially among middle- and lower-income groups, with a network of tracks across Pakistan. However, carriages are often overcrowded, and many trains are said to be in a poor condition. 
Muhammad Aftab Akbar, a former chief executive officer at Pakistan Railways, said the transportation service had deteriorated due to the old tracks and quality of human resources.
“The number of fatal train crashes has increased since 2013 since our governments have not invested in the improvement of the railway infrastructure,” he told Arab News, adding that the government’s focus on the ML-1 project had held it back from making other “much-needed” investments in the sector.
Akbar said the 300 to 350 kilometers railway track in Sukkur division on which Monday’s accident occurred was “the weakest,” with its infrastructure eroding due to seepage from a canal. 
“The government needs to improve the whole railway infrastructure on a war footing,” Akbar said, “since that is the only way to save this cheap public transportation mechanism.”


Pakistan condemns suicide blast targeting Saudi security forces in Jeddah

Updated 46 sec ago

Pakistan condemns suicide blast targeting Saudi security forces in Jeddah

  • Security forces were targeted while trying to arrest a suspect in a deadly 2015 mosque attack
  • Explosion injured three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan condemned on Saturday a suicide blast that targeted Saudi security forces during an attempt to arrest a man linked to a deadly 2015 bombing in the Kingdom.

Abdullah bin Zayed Abdulrahman Al-Bakri Al-Shehri detonated a suicide vest when security forces attempted to arrest him in Jeddah earlier this week, the Presidency of State Security said on Friday.

When the militant blew himself up, he died at the scene, with the explosion injuring three members of the security forces and a Pakistani resident.

“Pakistan strongly condemns the recent terrorist incident in Jeddah, resulting in injuries, including to a Pakistani national,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement.

“The Government and people of Pakistan reiterate their full support for and deep solidarity with the leadership, government and brotherly people of Saudi Arabia against any threats to the Kingdom’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Al-Shehri was suspected of being a member of a militant cell that coordinated the 2015 suicide bombing of a mosque in Abha frequented by security force members.

Eleven members of the security forces and four Bangladeshi nationals were killed in the 2015 attack.


Finance division says Pakistan’s economy made headway despite challenges since independence

Updated 15 min 47 sec ago

Finance division says Pakistan’s economy made headway despite challenges since independence

  • The country is currently facing the daunting challenge of dealing with a mounting current account deficit, dwindling forex reserves
  • The finance division says its aspiration is to put Pakistan’s economy on higher growth trajectory through investment, efficiency, productivity

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance division on Saturday brought out a comprehensive report on 75 years of the country’s economic journey, showing the economy had improved its growth potential over a period of time despite tough challenges.

Pakistan is poised to celebrate its 75th independence anniversary on Sunday.

The South Asian nation of over 220 million people is currently facing a daunting challenge of managing a stuttering economy, as it faces a huge current account deficit projected at nearly four percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The country’s foreign exchange reserves have also been consistently depleting in recent months, though officials say Pakistan will soon be in a position to stabilize its external sector with the assistance of friendly countries and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“Pakistan’s GDP rose from $3bn to $383bn from 1950-2022,” the report said. “In 1950, GDP was 1.8 percent and in 2022 it is 5.97 percent.”

The report noted the per capita income in Pakistan also rose from $86 to $1,798 within the same period.

“Exports rose from $355.5 million to $72.0 billion from 1950-2022,” it added, “while Tax Revenues rose from Rs. 0.31 billion to Rs. 6,126.1 billion from 1950-2022.”

The finance division said Pakistan only inherited 34 industrial units at the time of its independence out of the 921 currently operating in the country.

“FDI [Foreign Direct Investment] increased from $1.2 million in FY1950 to $1,867.8 million in FY2022,” it noted, “while the remittances increased from $0.14 billion in FY1973 to $31.2 billion in FY2022.”

“Pakistan has made significant headway in spite of the many challenges that it has faced,” the report maintained. “The nation was able to transform itself into a semi-industrial economy and hub for business activities.”

The finance division added its aspiration was to put the economy on a higher growth trajectory through greater investment, efficiency and productivity.
 


Pakistan’s ousted prime minister’s party hires public relations firm for media management in US

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistan’s ousted prime minister’s party hires public relations firm for media management in US

  • The firm will try to improve the party image in the US through information distribution, media briefings
  • Imran Khan’s political rivals say he is ‘begging’ the US after accusing it of toppling his administration in April

ISLAMABAD: Months after Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan said his government was brought down by the administration in Washington, the American chapter of his party has hired a public relations firm to improve its image in the United States through information distribution and media management.
Khan was driven out of power in a no-confidence vote in April after he lost his parliamentary majority. However, he told his workers and supporters he was “punished” for pursuing an independent foreign policy which was not liked by the US.
He also maintained the “international conspiracy” against him had succeeded since it was carried out with the help of “local abettors,” though his allegations were later denied by US and Pakistani officials repeatedly.
According to the agreement, a copy of which is available on the Internet, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) US chapter has engaged Fenton/Arlook LLC for six months from August 1 on a monthly retainer fee of $25,000 to arrange media briefings and help the party with placement of articles and broadcasts.
“Fenton/Arlook shall provide public relations services, including but not limited to distributing information to and briefing journalists, placing articles and broadcasts, arranging interviews with representatives or supporters of PTI, advising on social media efforts and other such public relations services,” the agreement said.
The US firm noted its client did not include the PTI party registered in Pakistan.
“This is an agreement between a PR firm, not a lobbyist, and a group of US citizens,” Sajjad Burki, Khan’s focal person for the US, told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper. “We are not lobbying for PTI Pakistan, and certainly not within the US administration.”
The former prime minister’s political rivals sharply reacted to the development, saying he had many faces.
Senior Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Ahsan Iqbal accused Khan of “begging [the] USA” after telling his followers that his government was toppled on Washington’s behest.

 

 

However, former information minister and Khan’s close aide, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, said the American firm was hired by the PTI USA “to put its point across in the media.”


Pakistani minister threatens to boycott polio campaign amid rising militant activities in tribal districts

Updated 13 August 2022

Pakistani minister threatens to boycott polio campaign amid rising militant activities in tribal districts

  • The religious affairs minister’s warning was issued after a local leader of his political faction was recently gunned down
  • The country has recorded 13 polio cases this year despite routinely carrying out vaccination drives to immunize children

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s religious affairs minister Maulana Abdul Shakoor threatened to boycott polio vaccination campaign in the country’s tribal districts in a recent video clip if the provincial administration of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and security institutions failed to protect people amid rising militant activity in the region.

The minister’s warning came just a few weeks after a local leader of his political faction, Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F), was gunned down in North Waziristan tribal district.

His statement mentioned the anti-polio campaign in the country where 13 cases of the virus have so far been recorded since the beginning of the year.

Among these cases, 12 were reported from North Waziristan district.

“We want to make it clear that if the government and security institutions fail to provide us peace, the people of [former] Federally Administered Tribal Areas will not accept the government’s activities and boycott polio [vaccination],” the minister said in the video clip.

It is not clear when the statement was recorded.

The federal government has also not reacted to the development, though it threatens to undermine the anti-polio drives which are routinely carried out across the country to immunize millions of children.

Militants have targeted dozens of health workers administering polio drops in Pakistan where many parents routinely refuse to get their children inoculated against the crippling disease.

The recent polio cases have dealt a blow to the South Asian nation’s efforts to eradicate the disease which can cause severe paralysis in children.

Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic. In 2021, Pakistan reported only one case, raising hopes it was close to eradicating the disease.


Javelin athlete Arshad Nadeem wins gold for Pakistan at Islamic Solidarity Games

Updated 13 August 2022

Javelin athlete Arshad Nadeem wins gold for Pakistan at Islamic Solidarity Games

  • The Pakistani athlete made history at the Commonwealth Games last week with a throw on 90.18 meters
  • Nadeem also created a new record at Islamic Solidarity Games with a massive throw of 88.55 meters

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top javelin athlete Arshad Nadeem clinched another gold for his country on Friday at the 2022 Islamic Solidarity Games in Konya, Turkey, where he created a new games record with an 88.55-meter throw, confirmed the country’s sports authority.
Last week, Nadeem won the top medal at the Commonwealth Games in a fifth-round throw of 90.18 meters, making a new record at the games where he now holds the title of the biggest throw recorded by a South Asian athlete.
His victory was widely celebrated in Pakistan where he was applauded by the top political and military leadership along with leading celebrities.
“Arshad Nadeem Won Gold Medal for Pakistan at Islamic solidarity Games 2022 with a massive throw of 88.55 meter, a new record and a Great Win,” the Pakistan Sports Board said in a Twitter post, adding that the whole nation was proud of the athlete and naming several officials, including the prime minister, who congratulated him for his new accomplishment.

Nadeem, a poor boy from smalltown Khanewal, is one of nine children of a daily wage laborer who showed great versatility as an athlete from a young age while dabbling in all kinds of sports at school.
Though the family lacked financial means to encourage Nadeem’s enthusiasm for sports, the boy’s spirit earned him the support he needed, with his elder brothers working to help him build a career in sports, the family told Arab News in an interview last year.
After participating in several international tournaments, Nadeem said Pakistani athletes found it difficult to compete with their rivals from other countries due to the lack of facilities.
He noted that the national sports authorities were putting in a lot of effort, though more needed to be done.