Pakistan signs deal with China for 27.5 million doses as vaccine shortages reported countrywide 

People register to get a dose of the Covid-19 coronavirus Sinovac vaccine at a mass vaccination centre in Islamabad on June 3, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 18 June 2021

Pakistan signs deal with China for 27.5 million doses as vaccine shortages reported countrywide 

  • On Thursday officials said hundreds of COVID-19 inoculation centers had been shut due to supply chain obstacles
  • Government has said it would be able to provide additional supplies to all provinces by Sunday

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government has entered into an agreement with China to buy 27.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in the form of prepared jabs as well as raw materials to produce shots locally in order to step up an ongoing national vaccination drive, local media reported on Friday.

On Thursday, officials said hundreds of COVID-19 vaccination centers across Pakistan had discontinued their services due to supply chain obstacles, with the government saying it would be able to provide new supplies to all provinces by Sunday. Authorities in Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi also decided on Thursday to temporarily shut down a number of immunization centers due to a shortage of vaccine jabs. 

The vaccine shortage has hit the Sindh province worst, with authorities saying they had shut down at least 40 percent of inoculation centers there. People in Punjab also complained about the unavailability of vaccines in cities like Lahore, Chakwal, Jhelum and Rawalpindi alongwith and several rural areas of the province.

“The National Institute of Health (NIH) said that the [27.5 million] purchased vaccines included Sinopharm, CanSino and SinoVac,” Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper reported, adding that the vaccine doses would be provided in phases by December this year.

“The NIH said that the purchase agreement included 23 million doses of Sinopharm, 2 million ready-made vaccines and raw material from CanSino and 2.5 million doses of Sinovac,” the newspaper said. 

On Wednesday, Pakistani health chief Dr. Faisal Sultan said two million coronavirus vaccine doses were currently present in the nation’s inventory, adding that reported shortages at some centers around the country were only temporary. 

Sultan told Arab News last Friday Pakistan had received 14.5 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine since it kicked off its vaccination campaign in February and planned to buy and receive over 90 million more jabs to vaccinate its adult population in the second half of 2021.

The National Command and Operation Center, the federal government’s main body overseeing the pandemic response, said on Friday 266,959 vaccines were administered across Pakistan on Thursday, with 12,750,760 total vaccines administered so far since the vaccination drive kicked off in February. 

On June 18, the body said, the national coronavirus positive rate stood at 1.90 percent, with 1,043 infections and 39 deaths reported in the last 24 hours. 

Pakistan snatch victory from jaws of defeat, level England series 2-2

Updated 25 September 2022

Pakistan snatch victory from jaws of defeat, level England series 2-2

  • Pakistan beat England by 3 runs as Shan Masood runs out Topley in last over
  • Needing 167 runs to win, England were bundled out for 163

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan won the fourth T20 clash against England on Sunday, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in a thriller that went down to the last over before the hosts emerged victors in Karachi. 

Playing their 200th T20I, Pakistan managed to win by 3 runs, levelling the four-match series 2-2. Set a target of 167 runs to win, England were bundled out for 163 after Reece Topley was run out by Shan Masood in the last over. England needed only four runs to win at that point but had only one wicket in hand.  

Mohammad Nawaz and Haris Rauf both played their part perfectly in Pakistan’s victory, finishing up with figures of 3/35 and 3/32 respectively.  

Pakistan were cruising to victory at one point before Liam Dawson walked in and smashed Hasnain for 24 runs in the 18th over. All seemed lost for Pakistan until Rauf bowled brilliantly the next over, dismissing Dawson and Olly Stone off successive deliveries.  

Mohammad Wasim bowled the last over. Topley dashed for a run but was several inches short of his crease as Masood hit the stumps, ensuring a dramatic Pakistan victory.  

Earlier, Pakistan’s Muhammad Rizwan played another stellar innings, top-scoring with 88 runs. He shared another half-century partnership with skipper Babar Azam, who scored 36 off 28 balls.  

For England, Topley picked up two wickets while Dawson and Willey took one each. Pakistan finished at 166/4 at the end of 20 overs.

Miftah Ismail resigns, PM Sharif nominates Ishaq Dar for finance portfolio

Updated 25 September 2022

Miftah Ismail resigns, PM Sharif nominates Ishaq Dar for finance portfolio

  • Former premier Nawaz Sharif chairs high-level party meeting in London
  • Ex-finance minister Dar is expected to return to Pakistan next week

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his elder brother, three-time former premier Nawaz Sharif on Sunday nominated Ishaq Dar as the country’s new finance minister, Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb confirmed.  

Dar was considered one of the most influential people in Sharif’s cabinet, formed after a 2013 general election, but he left for the UK in October 2017 to seek medical treatment after Sharif was disqualified by the Supreme Court for not declaring a small source of income. The court ordered an investigation into Sharif, his children and Dar, who is also Sharif’s former accountant. 

Dar himself was also disqualified from office by the Supreme Court in July 2017. Months later, after he left for London, he was charged in absentia by an anti-corruption court in Pakistan for amassing wealth beyond known sources of income. The former finance tzar says the case is politically motivated. 

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah on Saturday announced Dar would return to Pakistan next week.  

“Quaid (leader) Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif have nominated Senator Ishaq Dar for the post of finance minister,” Aurangzeb said in a statement.  

The decision was taken in a meeting chaired by Nawaz Sharif in London. Senior PML-N leaders, including PM Sharif, Finance Minister Miftah Ismail, Aurangzeb, Dar, Malik Ahmad Khan and Ahad Cheema were part of the huddle.  

Participants of the meeting discussed Pakistan’s political situation. Ismail, during the meeting, tendered his resignation to Nawaz Sharif.  

“The [finance] ministry was entrusted to me by you, it was you who gave it to me,” Ismail was quoted as saying by the information minister. “I performed to the best of my abilities for the past four months and remained loyal to my party and the country,” he added.  

Nawaz Sharif praised Ismail for fulfilling his responsibilities as finance minister “during the most difficult times”, said Aurangzeb.  

An accountability court on Friday suspended Dar’s permanent arrest orders and prevented the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) from arresting him upon his arrival to Pakistan.  

During his last term as finance minister from 2013 to 2017, Dar was initially lauded for steering Pakistan out of a balance of payments crisis and returning the nuclear-armed country toward a higher growth trajectory. 

But he also faced criticism for his refusal to allow the rupee to weaken to ease macroeconomic pressures, and is accused of eroding the central bank’s independence. 

Reports that Dar will return to Pakistan since June had raised concerns about whether he would replace Ismail, who negotiated the resumption of a stalled $6 billion IMF bailout program last month.

Pakistan police arrest journalist they say aided son's crime

Updated 25 September 2022

Pakistan police arrest journalist they say aided son's crime

  • Veteran journalist Ayaz Amir's son allegedly killed wife with a dumbbell
  • Sara Inam, a Canadian national, married Amir's son four months ago

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani police arrested a veteran journalist for his alleged involvement in his son's beating death of his new wife at their suburban home, police said Sunday.

Police officer Mohammad Faizan said Ayaz Amir, a well-known columnist and TV political analyst in Pakistan, appeared in court in the capital of Islamabad on Sunday accused of aiding his son.
Police were to interrogate him for his role in the death of Sara Inam, 37, who married Amir's son Shahnawaz four months ago.
Inam was allegedly killed Friday by Shahnawaz at the couple's home after a row over a family issue. Shahnawaz was arrested and police say he confessed to hitting his wife repeatedly with a dumbbell and then later tried to hide her body in a bathtub.
Pakistan has a bad track record regarding freedom of expression and several journalists have been assaulted and detained by police in recent months.

Pakistan directs exchange companies to conduct $2,000 or above transactions via banking channels

Updated 25 September 2022

Pakistan directs exchange companies to conduct $2,000 or above transactions via banking channels

  • Move aims to encourage documentation of economy — SBP
  • Debt default fears caused people to buy dollars in bulk — forex association president

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s central bank has directed exchange companies to conduct foreign currency transactions of $2,000 or above against the rupee via banking channels, in a bid to document foreign exchange transactions.   

The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) said in a circular issued on Friday that its directives were meant to enhance transparency and promote documentation of foreign exchange transactions.   

“State Bank of Pakistan has advised the Exchange Companies that all foreign currency sale transactions of USD 2,000/- or above (equivalent in other currencies) against PKR should only be conducted through payment modes, such as bank transfer/cheques from the personal bank account of the customer,” the SBP said.   

Exchange companies were directed to ensure the transaction receipt should contain necessary information related to transactions. This includes the transaction, instrument reference, name of the bank transferring the funds and the bank issuing the funds.   

The SBP directed exchange companies to ensure transaction receipts contain the customer’s identification document number as well.  

“This step is also focused on encouraging the general public to use various banking channels, which are generally more secure, to fulfil their genuine foreign exchange needs,” the central bank said.   

The state bank warned exchange companies of “regulatory action” in case they failed to comply with the instructions. It said action would be taken under relevant provisions of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947.   

Malik Bostan, chairman of the Forex Association of Pakistan, appreciated the move. He said it would help Pakistan’s government document its economy and discourage people from investing in US dollars.   

“The government wants to discourage buying of US dollars and investment in the greenback through the initiative,” he told Arab News. “People have started buying dollars in bulk after fears of debt default soared recently.”   

Bostan advised people to invest in Pakistan’s currency and use banking channels for travel, education and medical expenses. He said the move would strengthen the rupee against the US dollar.   

He urged the SBP and other financial institutions to conduct strict monitoring of online transactions through credit cards, adding that their increasing use was contributing to the deprecation of Pakistan’s reserves.   

“The government should have a strict monitoring of online trading through credit and debit cards to control the outflow of the US dollar,” he said.   

He added more than 50 million Pakistanis were using debit and credit cards for online trading without any regulatory control. 

Will talk to India if it reverses ‘extremist’ positions on Kashmir, Muslims — Pakistan FM

Updated 25 September 2022

Will talk to India if it reverses ‘extremist’ positions on Kashmir, Muslims — Pakistan FM

  • Muslim-majority Himalayan region has been at heart of more than 70 years of animosity between India and Pakistan
  • In August 2019, India withdrew Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten its grip over part of the valley it controls

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Saturday said that his country wants to live peacefully with India, but it is only possible if New Delhi walks back from its "extremist positions on Kashmir and on Islamophobia."   

The Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir has been at the heart of more than 70 years of animosity since the partition of the British colony of India into the separate countries of Muslim Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. Both rule parts of the region but claim it in full and have fought two of their four wars over it.   

In August 2019, New Delhi withdrew Indian-administered Kashmir’s autonomy in order to tighten its grip over the Himalayan territory, provoking outrage in Pakistan and the downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of bilateral trade.   

Islamabad accuses India of attempting to change the demography of the Muslim majority region by issuing domiciles to outsiders, while at the same time denying them to the indigenous Kashmiri people.    

Bhutto-Zardari said Islamabad wishes to peacefully coexist with its neighbours and resolve all outstanding issued, however, India's unilateral actions in 2019 had made the resolution of the Kashmir conflict "particularly difficult."   

"They tried to unilaterally and illegally undermine the disputed status of this region and then pushing forward with converting the last area of Muslim majority within the region into a minority in their own land. These things are totally unacceptable for us," the Pakistani foreign minister said, in an interview with Al-Arabiya News Channel on the sidelines of the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) session in New York.   

"We like to be in a position to talk to India, to live peacefully with our neighbours to solve the Kashmir dispute, but we can only do so if India walks back [from] its extremist positions on Kashmir and on Islamophobia."   

Bhutto-Zardari, who is also chair of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's (OIC) council of foreign ministers, said Islamabad has significantly highlighted the topic at the annual OIC meeting and the OIC's Kashmir group meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA session.   

Asked about the devastation caused by the recent floods in his country, the foreign minister described it as a disaster of "apocalyptic proportions."   

By the time monstrous rains stopped at the end of August, he said, a hundred-kilometer-long lake had been formed in Pakistan, covering a third of the South Asian country's land mass.    

The rains and subsequent deluges have affected 33 million people — one in every seven Pakistanis — including 16 million children and around 600,000 pregnant women, who are now waiting to give birth to their babies under the open sky, according to Bhutto-Zardari.   

"This is a compounding tragedy because not only do we have to deal with initial impacts of the flooding, we are also staring at a potential health crisis, with waterborne diseases spreading at epidemic rate across the affected areas," he said.   

"Then with more than 4 million acres of standing crop destroyed. We are potentially staring at a food security crisis and to top it all off, we just engaged with our agreement with the IMF (International Monetary Fund). We will be receiving our payment, looking forward to some economic breathing space."   

Late last month, the IMF completed seventh and eighth reviews of the extended arrangement under the $6.5 billion program for Pakistan, clearing the way for immediate disbursement of $1.1 billion that brings total disbursements for budget support to the South Asian country to around $3.9 billion.    

However, the Pakistani foreign minister said the figures that their deal was based on had also been washed away by the floods.   

"So, we have a climate catastrophe, a natural disaster, a health emergency, a food insecurity crisis and potentially difficult economic times to come," he said.    

Pakistani officials have blamed the devastation on human-driven climate change and say the South Asian country is unfairly bearing the consequences of irresponsible environmental practices elsewhere in the world.  

About the plans for rehabilitation of affected people amid an economic crisis, Bhutto-Zardari said his country was seeking debt swaps to deal with the aftermath of this devastation.   

"We are not going as far as to forgive our debts or something... we are just speaking about a couple of options. First of all, a moratorium on payments that are due at this very moment. Surely, the countries that we are indebted to, with going forward want their debts repaid and we want to be in a position to be able to do that," he said.   

"We are also talking about supporting us with international financial institutions, particularly... with the risk of lending. And thirdly, a conversation that the UN secretary-general has been having for quite some time is about the concept of debt swap and spending that money instead of paying to the debtor country."   

He said Pakistan would like to see a formula that would focus on greener projects and climate-resilient infrastructure, instead of the sustainable development goals (STGs).   

"And many of the larger countries have this on their agenda now. So, this is the way where those carbon-producing countries, industrialized countries, because Pakistan produces 0.8 percent of the carbon footprint. But we are now one of ten most climate-stressed countries on the planet," the foreign minister said.   

"So, we'd sort of like to trade our financial debt for larger countries' climate debt and instead of paying them back the current repayments directly to them, we could spend that same money directly on green infrastructure projects for our reconstruction and rehabilitation."   

Pakistan is eighth on NGO Germanwatch's Global Climate Risk Index, a list of countries deemed most vulnerable to extreme weather caused by climate change, despite contributing less than 1 percent to global carbon emissions.