Pakistani envoy seeks flights resumption in talks with Saudi civil aviation head 

Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Bilal Akbar holds shield with head of the Kingdom’s civil aviation authority Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Duailej on September 19, 2021. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan embassy Saudi Arabia twitter)
Short Url
Updated 20 September 2021

Pakistani envoy seeks flights resumption in talks with Saudi civil aviation head 

  • Lt-Gen Akbar briefs Al-Duailej on Pakistan’s anti-virus vaccination measures, progress in curbing COVID-19 outbreak 
  • Officials also discussed prioritization of flights for separated families, teachers and students stranded in Pakistan 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia held talks with the head of the Kingdom’s civil aviation authority on Sunday to apprise him of progress in the COVID-19 situation across the South Asian nation and its readiness to resume direct flights between the two countries.
Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Bilal Akbar also briefed Abdulaziz bin Abdullah Al-Duailej, president of Saudi’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), of the “robust and successful” vaccination program to limit the outbreak, Pakistan’s Embassy in Saudi Arabia said in a Twitter post on Sunday.
Hundreds of thousands of Pakistani workers in Saudi Arabia remain stranded at home due to travel and flight restrictions imposed by the Kingdom since last year.
In August, Saudi Arabia lifted an entry ban on expatriates from 20 countries, including Pakistan, with its Foreign Ministry saying the decision only applied to those individuals who had been fully vaccinated in Saudi Arabia before leaving for their home country.
“[The officials spoke about] resumption of direct flights for people vaccinated with first Covid-19 dose in the Kingdom and second in Pakistan with Saudi approved vaccines,” the Embassy said.
The officials also discussed prioritizing flights for separated families, teachers and students stranded in Pakistan.

Al-Duailej, for his part, assured ambassador Akbar that “the proposals will be considered favorably” after consultation with health authorities in the Kingdom, and a solution will be “worked out” to address the plight of Pakistanis stranded in Saudi.

It follows a meeting in July between the foreign ministers of the two countries who discussed how to ease COVID-19 travel curbs.
Pakistan’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi took up the issue with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, who was on a one-day visit to Pakistan.
The Kingdom’s direct entry ban was imposed after a global surge in cases linked to variants detected in England, South Africa and Brazil and fears that vaccines being rolled out worldwide might be less effective against them.
Those seeking to return to the Kingdom must undergo all health measures to ensure they are free from infection.
“Approval for PIA’s [Pakistan International Airline] arrangements for institutional quarantine in KSA to help facilitate direct flights for individuals vaccinated with Sinovac & Sinopharm,” the Embassy said.
Thousands of Pakistanis visit Saudi Arabia annually, mainly for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage to Makkah and Madinah.
The Kingdom is home to over 2.5 Pakistanis who make the largest contribution to the country’s foreign remittances each year.

 


Pakistan begins supplying free medicines to Afghanistan

Updated 13 sec ago

Pakistan begins supplying free medicines to Afghanistan

  • First consignment worth Rs25 million dispatched, Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association says
  • Second batch of Rs100 million to be dispatched in a week, wheelchairs and medical equipment also sent 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) has said it has started supplying free medicines to Afghanistan to fill urgent shortages in medicines and medical supplies.
Afghanistan has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, following the collapse of the Western-backed government and return to power of the Taliban in August.
A first consignment of free medicines worth Rs25 million was dispatched from Karachi, including drugs for the treatment of viral and common diseases as well as stocks of supplies used in emergencies.
“This is the first consignment of our plan of medical assistance in Afghanistan,” Atif Iqbal at the Pakistan Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association (PPMA) was quoted by Dawn as saying. “After a week or so we would be dispatching another such consignment worth Rs100m. The industry has responded to an appeal from Afghanistan’s health minister who had recently sought support from Pakistan’s health sector including health care professionals and pharmaceutical industry.”
He said the industry was trying to figure out the immediate medical needs of Afghanistan and coordinating with member manufacturers in all major cities of Pakistan to come in aid of the neighboring country.
The World Health Organi­sation (WHO) warned in September that Afghanistan’s health system was on the brink of collapse.
“Apart from medicines, we have sent wheelchairs and other crucial medical equi­pment,” Ghulam Hashim Noorani of the Pakistan Chemists and Druggists Associa­tion told Dawn. “It’s a beginning and we hope that our industry would come forward and meet the expectations of our Afghan brothers and sisters. They desperately need our help.”
Pakistani health authorities last month announced they would cooperate with Afghanistan to improve its health care infrastructure, which has been badly affected by decades of conflict. The PM’s Adviser on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan has asked Afghan authorities to ‘define their health needs’ for assistance from Pakistan.
Pakistan has established a 300-bed tertiary-care health facility in Kabul called the “Mohammad Ali Jinnah Hospital,” which is the only functional public health facility in the country currently with 50 oxygenated beds for COVID-19 patients.


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

Updated 36 min 8 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 55 min 4 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.