Massive power breakdown hits Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi

Motorists drive through a residential area during a power blackout in Pakistan's port city of Karachi early on January 10, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 01 September 2021

Massive power breakdown hits Pakistan's commercial capital Karachi

  • K-Electric says outage was caused by breakdown of connection between the utility and national grid
  • Power breakdowns remain common in Pakistan even as electricity supply has surged in recent years

ISLAMABAD: A power cut hit Pakistan’s financial hub of Karachi on Wednesday, with K-Electric saying the outage was caused by the breakdown of a connection between the utility and the national grid.

The sweltering metropolis of 23 million people accounts for half of Pakistan’s national revenues and is home to the stock exchange, the central bank and a giant port.

A spokesperson at the Karachi-based utility said power supply to the city was disrupted due to tripping in an extra high tension transmission line after lightning struck a circuit in Jamshoro city.

“This resulted in a disconnection between KE and NTDC [National Transmission & Despatch Company] circuits,” the utility said on Twitter. “KE’s power plants are operating in island mode which has enabled swift restoration of power. Power connections between KE and NTDC have been restored.”

After suffering decades of electricity shortages, Pakistan now has more electrical generating capacity than it needs, dramatically boosted by the large-scale construction of new power plants, largely coal-fired ones funded by China.

But even as supply surges, electric power is still not reaching up to 50 million people in Pakistan who need it, according to a 2018 World Bank report, though expansion of transmission lines is planned. Power outages also remain common.


After enthralling Karachi leg, Pakistan resume England rivalry in Lahore today

Updated 4 sec ago

After enthralling Karachi leg, Pakistan resume England rivalry in Lahore today

  • Pakistan beat England in last T20I to level seven-match series 2-2
  • Babar Azam needs to score 61 runs to become fastest batter to score 3,000 T20I runs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will take on England in the fifth T20 international match between the two sides at the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore today, Wednesday, after Pakistan levelled the series 2-2 with last week’s enthralling win.

Pakistan brought the Karachi leg of the series to a close on Sunday when the hosts beat England in a thriller. Shan Masood’s under-arm throw from the last match prevented Reece Topley from reaching the crease and England from chasing the 167-run target. 

A bit troubling for Pakistan would be the absence of right-arm pacer Naseem Shah. The fast bowler will miss today’s T20 fixture against England after an infection ruled him out for the match. 

The green shirts are already missing Pakistan’s lethal left-arm bowling sensation, Shaheen Shah Afridi, who also had to sit out the Asia Cup earlier this month due to an injury.

“Naseem was taken to hospital on Tuesday night with a viral infection and will not be available for Wednesday’s match,” a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) spokesman said.

Pakistan will hope skipper Babar Azam scores at least 61 runs in the match today. The Pakistani captain is just 61 runs shy of 3,000 runs. If Azam succeeds in crossing the 3,000-run mark, he will become the fastest batter to reach the milestone— beating the previous record set by Indian skipper Virat Kohli. 

Kohli took 81 innings to reach the milestone of 3,000 runs in T20Is. Currently, Azam has 2,939 runs under his belt from 79 innings.

England, who are on their first tour of Pakistan in 17 years, will play three matches in Lahore. The sixth T20 fixture between the two sides will take place on Friday, September 30 before the final match of the series will take place on Sunday, October 2. 
 


Latest audio leak of ex-PM Khan sheds new light on Pakistani political intrigues

Updated 28 September 2022

Latest audio leak of ex-PM Khan sheds new light on Pakistani political intrigues

  • Leak puts spotlight again on diplomatic cipher at center of Khan’s allegations his ouster was part of regime change conspiracy
  • Khan was ousted in vote of no-confidence in April which he blamed, and continues to blame, on a US conspiracy 

ISLAMABAD: A latest audio leak from the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday has shed new light on Pakistan’s political intrigues, once again bringing into the spotlight a diplomatic cipher that is at the center of ex-premier Imran Khan’s allegations that his ouster earlier this year was part of a regime change conspiracy hatched abroad.

In April, the Khan government handed an official protest to the US embassy over what it called Washington’s interference in the country’s affairs, referring to a diplomatic note from a Pakistani diplomat based on his meetings with US officials that Khan has said was evidence of a foreign conspiracy to oust him from power.

Just weeks later, Khan was removed from office in a parliamentary vote of no-confidence, which he blamed, and continues to blame, on a conspiracy hatched by the United States with Khan’s rivals in Pakistan, including current Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Both deny the charge but Khan has held rallies across the country since, sticking to the theory of a foreign conspiracy and challenging the mandate of the Sharif government.

Last weekend, a slew of audio recordings of conversations between key government figures were leaked online from the PM’s Office, including discussions between PM Sharif and members of his cabinet. But a latest leak released today, Wednesday, features a conversation between Khan when he was PM and his then principal secretary Azam Khan. 

Speaking to reporters after the leak, Khan did not deny the authenticity of the audio file, saying the diplomatic cipher itself should be released so the nation could see “magnitude of the conspiracy.”

The purported audio file starts midway through a conversation between Khan and Azam.

“Now we have to play with this [cipher],” Khan is heard saying. “Don’t take America’s name, just play with this.”

Azam then suggests that the PM call a meeting with Shah Mahmood Qureshi, then foreign minister, and the Foreign Secretary Suhail Mahmood to put on record the threat allegedly contained in the cipher. 

“Qureshi would read out the letter and whatever he reads out, we will turn it into a copy. I will do that in the minutes [of the meeting] that the Foreign Secretary has told this. Then the analysis will be done here [at the PM Office],” the former principal secretary said. 

“We will do analysis of minutes [of meeting] of our own choice, this way minutes would be on the records of the [PM] office. The analysis will be that [the cypher] was a threat.”

On Tuesday, PM Sharif called the audio leaks a ‘serious security lapse’ and said it would be thoroughly investigated.


‘She was trapped,’ says father of woman killed by husband with dumbbells in Islamabad

Updated 28 September 2022

‘She was trapped,’ says father of woman killed by husband with dumbbells in Islamabad

  • Sarah Inam, 37, was allegedly murdered by husband Shahnawaz Amir last Friday, she was laid to rest on Wednesday
  • Father says Inam met Amir only thrice before the marriage, had told her parents about nikkah on July 18 in Chakwal

ISLAMABAD: The father of Sarah Inam, a Pakistani-Canadian who was beaten to death by her husband last week, said on Wednesday before the funeral his daughter had been “trapped” into marriage by Shahnawaz Amir to fleece her out of money.

Inam, a 37-year-old economist who worked in Abu Dhabi, was murdered with dumbbells, according to police, by her husband at a suburban Islamabad home last week. Amir is currently under arrest and being investigated by police.

Inam’s parents and two brothers arrived from Canada and the United States respectively on Monday night to perform Inam’s last rites and pursue the legal case.

Inam got married to Amir of her own choice on July 18 in his hometown of Chakwal. Parents of the couple were not present at the event.

“She was trapped,” Rahim, who arrived from Canada on Monday night, told Arab News before Inam’s funeral prayers at Chak Shahzad in Islamabad. “She thought he [Shahnawaz] was a good man but he trapped her into the marriage to fleece money from her.”

“We will stay here [in Pakistan], pursue the case and not let these criminals go,” he said. “Shahnawaz was a predator from the start and we hope to get justice.”

Rahim said his daughter had met Amir only thrice before the marriage and had told the parents about the relationship and the marriage, which took place on July 18 at Amir’s hometown of Chakwal.

“She was grown up and we believed they would have a happy life,” he said. “Shahnawaz and her mother spoke to me on the phone before the marriage … His mother assured me she would treat Sarah as her own daughter.”

He added: “We never thought this was coming.”

The family, Rahim said, had planned to arrange a formal wedding reception for the couple in Islamabad in October.

The family had so far not been questioned by police but would present their version in the new few days, he added.

According to the first information report filed with police, Amir’s mother had called the police on September 23 and informed them that her son had murdered his wife “with a dumbbell.”

For the funeral, Inam’s body was brought to her home from a morgue in an ambulance just 15 minutes before the burial. Her body was taken inside the house where her parents and immediate family members were present.

Police and other security officials lined the street outside the house, guiding mourners to Inam’s house and the graveyard. Around fifty people, including her father and two brothers, attended the funeral and laid her to rest in a graveyard located some 100 meters from their residence.

The mother, standing to a side with other female relatives, appeared to be in a state of shock.

Nobody from Amir’s family attended the funeral.

Inam’s murder is reminiscent of last year’s headline-grabbing murder of Noor Mukadam, 27, which drew an outpouring of anger over femicides in the South Asian nation. 

In March this year, a Pakistani court sentenced to death Pakistani-American Zahir Jaffer, a childhood friend of Mukadam, for beheading her. Mukadam and Jaffer were widely believed to have been in a romantic relationship, which they had broken off a few months before her murder. 

Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year, while thousands more suffer brutal violence. But few cases receive sustained media attention, and only a small fraction of perpetrators are ever punished or convicted by courts. 

But Mukadam’s shocking murder, involving members of the privileged elite of Pakistani society, triggered an explosive reaction from women’s rights activists reckoning with pervasive violence. 

It also increased pressure for a swift conclusion of the trial in a country known to have a sluggish justice system and where cases typically drag on for years.

Talking to media after the burial, Inam’s father called the killing a “pre-planned act of murder and extortion,” saying the suspect should be tried and convicted at the earliest: “Justice delayed is justice denied.”

“He [Shahnawaz] should be given the maximum punishment, should be hanged,” Rahim said. “Even in my wildest imagination could I have thought my daughter will face this … She was my sweetest child … I contacted her daily through texts or calls.”

Amir is expected to be presented before an Islamabad district court tomorrow, Thursday, after his three-day police remand expires. Inam’s parents will also be attending the hearing along with their legal team.

Inam’s uncle Ikram Rahim, a retired army colonel, said his niece was a “bright child and made her name through hard work.”

“She was a caring and loving girl, but unfortunately was lured by a beast into the marriage,” he told Arab News. “We will fight till the end to get justice.”
 


Pakistan’s Naseem Shah out of fifth England T20

Updated 28 September 2022

Pakistan’s Naseem Shah out of fifth England T20

  • Shah was taken to hospital with an infection and will miss the fifth Twenty20 international against England today
  • The 19-year-old’s availability for the rest of the seven-match series will be decided after assessing his medical reports

LAHORE: Pakistan’s highly rated teenage fast bowler Naseem Shah was taken to hospital with an infection and will miss the fifth Twenty20 international against England later Wednesday, said a cricket board spokesman.

The 19-year-old’s availability for the rest of the seven-match series will be decided after assessing his medical reports.

“Naseem was taken to hospital on Tuesday night with a viral infection and will not be available for Wednesday’s match,” a Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman said.

Naseem played the first match of the series and went for 41 runs in his four wicket-less overs.

The series is tied 2-2 after four matches in Karachi. The remaining three are in Lahore.

England are on their first tour of Pakistan for 17 years.


Pakistan's new finance minister vows to tame inflation, cut interest rates

Updated 28 September 2022

Pakistan's new finance minister vows to tame inflation, cut interest rates

  • Ishaq Dar most famous for strong-arming central bank to liberally inject foreign exchange into market to prop up rupee
  • Pakistan’s foreign reserves currently stand at a level that cover just over a month of imports, making intervention difficult

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s new finance minister, Ishaq Dar, will work to rein in inflation and cut interest rates, he said on Wednesday, calling the rupee currency undervalued and promising a strong response to resolve the South Asian nation’s worst economic crisis.

In his fourth time in the role, the chartered accountant must tackle a balance of payment crisis, foreign reserves that cover barely a month’s imports, historic lows in the rupee, inflation exceeding 27 percent and the aftermath of devastating floods.

“We will control inflation,” Dar told reporters, referring to the deep-rooted challenges ahead, in televised comments made after he was sworn in. “We will bring interest rates down.”

He had a warning for currency market speculators, saying that the Pakistani rupee was undervalued.

“Our currency right now is not at the place where it should be, it is undervalued,” said Dar, who is known to favor currency market intervention to keep the rupee stable.

“I hope the speculators will stop. I think they have already got it and we are seeing the rupee rising,” he added. “No one will be allowed to play with the Pakistani currency.”

A member of parliament’s upper house, Dar got the job after his predecessor, Miftah Ismail became the fifth to quit in less than four years, amid persistent economic turbulence.

The rupee has been gaining firmly ahead of his appointment and stocks responded positively before Wednesday’s swearing-in.

WRECKED ECONOMY

The senior politician belonging to the ruling party of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif flew to Islamabad on Monday night after ending five years in self-exile in London.

In 2017, he had been facing corruption charges he says were politically motivated, but last week an anti-graft court suspended warrants for his arrest, enabling his return.

On Wednesday, the court extended the suspensions.

“I told the court that my passport was revoked,” Dar said after appearing in court.

“I wasn’t able to travel for the last four years,” he added, describing the legal action against him as political victimization by the previous government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Khan’s party denies this.

Analysts say Dar’s key mandate is to halt inflation that mainly stems from his predecessor’s unpopular decisions to stick to preconditions set by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), including rolling back subsidies made by Khan’s government.

Sharif’s coalition government says it inherited a wrecked economy after Khan’s ouster in a vote of no-confidence in April, a charge the former premier denies.

As the new government took over, the IMF’s $6 billion bailout package agreed in 2019 was in the doldrums because of the lack of an agreed policy framework.

Last month the IMF board approved the program’s seventh and eighth reviews, allowing the release of more than $1.1 billion.

The tranche, said former finance minister Ismail, was likely to be boosted after Pakistan sought help to remedy economic losses of an estimated $30 billion caused by the unprecedented floods.

The disaster could cut GDP growth below 3 percent, down from 5 percent estimated for fiscal 2022-23, the government has said.