Pakistani minister urges Hajj, Umrah operators to consider offering ferry services for pilgrims

A handout picture provided by the Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah on October 4, 2020, shows Saudis and foreign residents circumambulating the Kaaba (Tawaf) in the Grand Mosque complex in the holy city of Makkah. (AFP)
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Updated 28 June 2021

Pakistani minister urges Hajj, Umrah operators to consider offering ferry services for pilgrims

  • Invites investments in ferry services to transport intending pilgrims to Saudi Arabia
  • Registered tour operators can ‘design and market’ pilgrimage packages on ferries, maritime minister says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi urged Hajj and Umrah tour operators on Sunday to make use of the “great opportunity” provided by the government by investing in ferry services and “designing” packages for intending pilgrims traveling to Saudi Arabia.

“Registered tour operators in the country can design & market Hajj/Umrah/Ziarat packages,” Zaidi said in a Twitter post on Sunday, sharing a handout by the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation (PNSC).

Most Pakistani pilgrims travel by plane to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, to perform Umrah or the annual Hajj pilgrimage. 

Zaidi, however, said that by launching a ferry service to the Kingdom, tour operators would be able to provide an alternate mode of transport.

He added that the maritime ministry, in collaboration with the PNSC and the Karachi Port Trust (KPT), was working toward “realizing the potential of Pakistan’s Blue Economy” by promoting business opportunities in the areas of maritime tourism, coastal development, and passenger and cargo ferry services.

“Pakistan holds immense potential for the operation of ferry services from, to and within the country,” the PNSC said in a statement, basing it on the country’s 220 million population and “growing needs for regional and international connectivity.”

“PNSC may extend its expertise in manning, militating, technical operations...and agency services thereby facilitating the investors/operators toward success in their ventures,” it added.

Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis visited Saudi Arabia every year, mainly for Umrah and Hajj, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Kingdom is also home to over 2.5 million Pakistanis, while Saudi Arabia and the UAE remained top contributors to Pakistan’s highest ever remittance inflow in April. 


My husband ‘brutally murdered’ after working in Pakistan for years — wife of Sri Lankan 

Updated 9 sec ago

My husband ‘brutally murdered’ after working in Pakistan for years — wife of Sri Lankan 

  • Priyantha Kumara was lynched and burned outside factory he managed over accusations he desecrated religious posters
  • First information report registered by police against 900 workers of garment factory in Sialkot, over 230 people arrested 

ISLAMABAD: The wife of a Sri Lankan man who was lynched and publicly burned over alleged blasphemy in eastern Pakistan on Friday has called on Pakistani and Sri Lankan leaders to ensure justice, saying her husband was an innocent man who was “brutally murdered” after years of working in Pakistan.
A mob of hundreds of enraged Muslims descended on a garment factory in the district of Sialkot in Punjab province after Priyantha Kumara, the Sri Lankan manager of the factory, was accused of blasphemy for removing posters bearing the name of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The mob grabbed Kumara, lynched him and publicly burned the body, police told media after the killing.
Speaking to the BBC on Saturday, Kumara’s grieving wife, Niroshi Dasaniyake, pleaded with both Pakistani and Sri Lankan leaders to ensure justice for her slain husband.
“My husband was an innocent man,” she told BBC Sinhala. “I found out from the news that after working abroad for so long he had been brutally murdered. I saw on the Internet how inhuman the killing was. I appeal to the Sri Lankan president and the Pakistani prime minister and president to conduct a fair investigation so my husband and our two children get justice.”
Sri Lankan news website, Newswire, quoted Colombo’s High Commissioner in Pakistan, Vice Admiral Mohan Wijewickrama, as saying arrangements were being made to transport Kumara’s remains from Lahore to Colombo on a special flight on Monday.
Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestion of an insult to Islam can supercharge protests and incite lynching. Perpetrators of violence in the name of blasphemy often go unpunished.
But police said on Saturday they had arrested over 230 people in the case and filed police reports against 900 workers of the garment factory, Rajco Industries, in Sialkot, Dawn newspaper reported. Uggoki Station House Officer (SHO) Armaghan Maqt lodged the cases under several sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorism Act.
“The applicant admitted that the protesters had slapped, kicked, punched and hit Mr.Kumara with sticks in his presence, and dragged him out of the factory on Wazirabad Road where he died,” Dawn said. “They then set the body on fire. The SHO said he was helpless in front of the mob owing to shortage of personnel.”
Sialkot police are currently conducting raids in Sialkot city, its adjoining villages as well as in the Sambrial, Daska and Pasrur tehsils to arrest the 900 suspects against whom cases have been registered.
“Police are trying to identify the culprits through CCTV footage from the factory cameras as well as video clips that have gone viral on social media,” Dawn reported.
On Saturday, a report in Geo News said the Sri Lankan factory manager was not very popular with workers at the factory who had lodged several complaints against him with the owners of the facility.
Sharing the findings of the criminal investigation in the case, Geo News said Kumara “worked as an honest general manager” and looked after production work at the factory and strictly implemented regulations.
“On the day of the incident, Priyantha Kumara visited the production unit where he reprimanded the supervisor for not keeping the place clean,” the news channel reported, adding that it was supervisor who then allegedly instigated workers against the Sri Lankan manager.
“According to the police, Priyantha Kumara had asked workers to remove posters and stickers from the walls which were being painted,” Geo News said. “He also took off some posters himself including one with a religious inscription which led to an outcry. However, he apologized to people on the instructions of his factory owners.”
The investigation says Kumara did not know the local language and frequently faced communication problems at work.
While the issue had seemingly been settled after his apology, some workers continued to instigate people who then physically attacked the manager. Kumara ran to the roof of the factory to hide but was chased there by a group of angry workers who then killed him.
As his body was dragged by the mob onto the road, security guards deployed at the building left the facility without making an effort at rescue. The man’s corpse was then publicly set on fire in the presence of hundreds of people, many of whom filmed the incident on their cellphones and posted video clips on social media.
Kumara’s post-mortem was completed at Allama Iqbal Teaching Hospital in Sialkot, according to Dawn, with the report saying most of his body was burnt and several bones were broken due to the torture he suffered.
Sialkot Deputy Commissioner Tahir Farooq said Kumara’s body had been transported to a Lahore hospital in a Rescue 1122 ambulance amid tight security.
The Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan has described the incident as “a day of shame” for his country.
“The lynching of a Sri Lankan citizen will not affect Pakistan-Sri Lanka bilateral relations as it was a work of a group of people and the nation or the country cannot be blamed for it,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said during a press conference on Saturday, adding that Islamabad had contacted the family of the deceased and would fulfil their wishes.
Qureshi also tweeted that he had spoken to his Lankan counterpart and offered condolences: “Spoke to my brother FM Gamini Lakshman Peiris of #SriLanka and expressed my deep grief and condolences.”


In Pakistan’s Khaplu valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

Updated 19 min 5 sec ago

In Pakistan’s Khaplu valley, autumn foliage becomes ‘blessing’ fuel for winter survival

  • Villagers collect dry leaves between late November and early December to use as fuel during freezing winters
  • In the absence of reliable gas or electricity sources, people have found alternative means to heat their homes 

KHAPLU, Gilgit-Baltistan: When autumn arrives in Khaplu valley with its foliage of boastful reds, yellows and copper browns, families welcome it as a “blessing” — not for the colorful spectacle, but for the fuel the falling leaves will become when burnt come winter, helping locals survive the harsh weather in Pakistan’s mountainous north.
The valley in the northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, surrounded by some of Pakistan’s highest peaks and glaciers, is home to over 24,000 people who remain largely cut off from the rest of the country in the winter months when temperatures can fall below minus 20 degrees Celsius.
In the absence of reliable gas or electricity sources, residents have had to find alternative means of heating their homes. One option is burning the colorful leaves that fall in autumn, which locals call “gold” and diligently collect between late November and early December to use as burning fuel in the winter ahead.
“We don’t waste dried leaves because they are the main source of heating for us,” Muhammad Jaffar, a 68-year-old resident of Garbong village, told Arab News.
Jaffar, a member of the village’s welfare committee, which is responsible for leaf collection and distribution, said the dried leaves were “the biggest blessing.”

Men and women collect their share of dried leaves after distribution in Garbong village of Khaplu valley in Ghanche district of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, on December 2, 2021. (AN photo by Nisar Ali)

The collection and distribution of dried leaves among Garbong’s 130 households takes almost a week. Each household nominates a woman representative and does not receive leaves if it fails to do so. The same practice is observed in all other villages in Khaplu valley.
Muhammad Ali, who summons residents using a mosque loudspeaker every morning during the week to collect their share of leaves from the nearby Stronpi village, said leaf collection rules and exact dates were established years ago to avoid conflict.

Members of the village committee pose for a photograph at the distribution site in Garbong village of Khaplu valley in Ghanche district of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakista,n on December 2, 2021. (AN photo by Nisar Ali).

“Fifteen years ago, women would fight each other for dried leaves,” he said. “Now, the committee monitors all affairs of the village from mosque to working in the fields and personal disputes as well as dried leaf collection.”
Once distributed among village households, the leaves are burnt in the open air. When they stop giving off smoke, they are brought into the kitchen in a metal pot, placed under a special square table and covered with a blanket or quilt.
“Family members nestle around the table with the brunt leaves placed under it,” Stronpi resident Sajid Ali said.

Family members nestle around a heater table filled with smoldering leaves to keep them warm during winter in Garbong village of Khaplu valley in Ghanche district of Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, on December 3, 2021. (AN photo by Nisar Ali)

Fatima, a village’s elder who only gave her first name, said there was a special room in her basement to store the leaves during winter.
“Without dried leaves, how could we spend the winter days?” she said. “It’s only seasonal dried leaves, but for us it is like gold.”

 

 


Pakistani energy minister denies unemployment rising, says economy to grow 5% this year

Updated 04 December 2021

Pakistani energy minister denies unemployment rising, says economy to grow 5% this year

  • Hammad Azhar says it is not right to blame the government for rising inflation since it cannot do much about global commodity prices
  • Pakistani opposition parties have been questioning the government's economic performance, though officials maintain they are misleading people

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's energy minister Hammad Azhar denied on Saturday unemployment was rising in the country, adding that the national economy was estimated to grow at five percent during the current year.
The government's economic performance has been widely criticized as Pakistan's national currency has drastically lost its value and its import bill has significantly mounted.
The country has also been forced to undertake economic reforms by the International Monetary Fund which agreed to offer a $6 billion bailout package to the administration in Islamabad in July 2019.
"Pakistan's economy is projected to grow at five percent this year," Azhar told the country's state-run PTV channel. "When an economy is growing at that rate, unemployment cannot rise: It can only decline."
Quoting a World Bank assessment, the minister said poverty had also come down in Pakistan despite the economic challenges triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.
He maintained it was not right to blame the government for rising inflation since it could not do much about global commodity prices.
The country's opposition parties have questioned the government's economic performance in recent weeks, though Azhar maintained they were misleading people.


Sri Lankan factory manager was not on good terms with Pakistani workers — local media

Updated 04 December 2021

Sri Lankan factory manager was not on good terms with Pakistani workers — local media

  • Priyantha Kumara, who was lynched by a mob in Sialkot, was accused of blasphemy after he removed a poster with religious inscription from factory’s wall
  • According to police investigation, he did not know the local language and apologized to workers after the incident

ISLAMABAD: A Sri Lankan factory manager who worked with a garment manufacturing company in Pakistan and was lynched by a mob on blasphemy allegation was not too popular with workers who had lodged several complaints against him with the owners of the facility, reported a local news channel on Saturday.
Sharing the findings of the criminal investigation into the case, Geo News said Priyantha Kumara Diyawadana “worked as an honest general manager” in the country’s southeastern Sialkot district where he looked after the production work and strictly implemented factory regulations.
“On the day of the incident, Priyantha Kumara visited the production unit where he reprimanded the supervisor for not keeping the place clean,” reported the news channel, adding the same person allegedly instigated workers against the Sri Lankan manager.
“According to the police, Priyantha Kumara had asked workers to remove posters and stickers from the walls which were being painted,” Geo News added. “He also took off some posters himself including one with a religious inscription which led to an outcry. However, he apologized to people on the instruction of his factory owners.”
The investigation also revealed Diyawadana did not know the local language and frequently faced communication problems at work.
While the issue had seemingly settled down after his apology, some workers continued to instigate people who physically attacked him.
The Sri Lankan factory manager ran to the roof where he wanted to hide, but a group of angry workers also chased him over there.
As Diyawadana’s body was dragged by the mob to the road, the security guards deployed at the building left the facility without making an effort to rescue him. His corpse was publicly set on fire in the presence of hundreds of people, many of whom filmed the incident before posting the video clips on social media.
The Pakistani prime minister described it as “a day of shame” for his country, though more than a hundred people were arrested by the police after the incident who are currently being investigated.


OIC countries to discuss Afghanistan crisis in Pakistan on December 19

Updated 04 December 2021

OIC countries to discuss Afghanistan crisis in Pakistan on December 19

  • There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Taliban takeover
  • Pakistan has also invited the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China to the meeting of Islamic countries

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's foreign minister called on Saturday for a fresh effort to stop neighboring Afghanistan from sliding further into crisis as he announced an extraordinary meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) later this month.

The meeting of foreign ministers from Islamic countries will be held in Islamabad on December 19, with delegations from the European Union and the so-called P5 group of the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China also invited.

"To abandon Afghanistan at this stage would be a historic mistake," Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad, warning that half the country was facing the risk of starvation that could trigger further chaos.

"Instability could give way to renewed conflict, it could trigger an exodus of refugees," he said.

There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Taliban takeover on August 15 and fears of disaster if the situation is not brought under control.

However, getting help in has been hindered by sanctions on dealing with the Taliban, the US decision to freeze billions of dollars of central bank reserves held outside Afghanistan and the collapse of much of the country's banking system.

Pakistan recently agreed to allow 50,000 tons of wheat to transit through its territory from India to help Afghanistan but aid agencies have warned that much more help is urgently needed.