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

Traders gather at the fruit market early in the morning in Lahore, Pakistan, on November 8, 2021. (AFP/File)
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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.

Pakistan records most new COVID cases since start of pandemic

Updated 21 January 2022

Pakistan records most new COVID cases since start of pandemic

  • Pakistan reported 7,678 new coronavirus cases on Friday, its highest since the start of pandemic in February 2020
  • Previous record high was recorded on June 13, 2020, when 6,825 people tested positive for the infection

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday recoded over 7,600 new COVID-19 cases, its highest daily caseload since the beginning of the pandemic.
The National Command Operation Center (NCOC), which is overseeing the pandemic response, recorded 7,678 new coronavirus infections and 23 deaths in the past 24 hours, with the positivity ratio shooting up to 12.93 percent from 11.55 percent the previous day.

The previous record high number of daily cases was reported on June 13, 2020, when 6,825 people in Pakistan tested positive for the infection. 
The rise COVID-19 figures comes as authorities the South Asian nation are imposing new restrictions to curb the fast-spreading omicron strain that is fueling the fifth viral wave sweeping the country.
“There shall be a complete ban on all types of indoor dining in Islamabad w.e.f 21st January 2022 instead of 24th January 2022,” a notification from the office of the Islamabad deputy commissioner said on Thursday. 

Earlier this week, the NCOC banned indoor gatherings and imposed restrictions on schools from Jan. 24 in cities where the COVID-19 positivity rate is above 10 percent.
Despite the rapid surge in cases, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday ruled out a lockdown, saying that Pakistan cannot bring its economy to a standstill.

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister

Updated 46 min 56 sec ago

Widow of lynched Sri Lankan seeks justice from Pakistani prime minister

  • Mob killed the Sri Lankan manager at a Pakistani company and burnt his body on Dec. 3 over blasphemy allegations
  • Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Pakistan and mere accusations of it can trigger violence

COLOMBO: The wife of a Sri Lankan national who was lynched to death by a mob in Pakistan has pleaded for justice from the Pakistani prime minister during a memorial event held by Islamabad’s mission in Colombo.
Kumara, 48, a general manager at a sports apparel factory in the eastern city of Sialkot, was attacked by a mob of hundreds of people, dragged into the street and set ablaze in the eastern Pakistani city of Sialkot on Dec. 3. Police said workers at the factory accused him of desecrating religious posters.
Dozens of people have been arrested in connection with the violence, and Prime Minister Imran Khan has promised severe punishment for those found guilty.
The memorial event organized by Pakistan’s high commissioner designate Umar Farooq Burki on Thursday evening saw in attendance highest-ranking Sri Lankan officials, including the speaker of parliament, ministers, lawmakers, as well as Buddhist and Muslim religious figures.
Kumara’s widow, Nilushi Dissanayaka, arrived with the two sons who survived him.
“I request Imran Khan to bring justice to my husband and punish the culprits as soon as possible. This is not to take revenge. But this should not happen to anyone in future,” she said.
“I thank all the Pakistanis who supported me in this difficult situation and all staff of the high commission for arranging this event. Also, I would like to thank Sri Lankan president, prime minister, other ministers and media institutions for supporting me.”

Nilushi Dissanayaka, right, widow of Priyantha Kumara who was lynched to death by a mob in Pakistan in December, arrives at the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo with her two children to attend a memorial event for her husband on January 20, 2022. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan High Commission)

Dissanayaka told Arab News her goal in life was now to educate her children, Gavith and Lithula, to become professionals and useful members of society.
The business community in Sialkot has raised $100,000 for Kumara’s family. Rajco Industries, where Kumara worked, has pledged to take care of their financial needs by sending a monthly salary of $2,000 for the next 10 years. The Pakistani high commissioner said the funds were transferred to the widow earlier this week.
He added that around $54,000 has also been collected for the family by Pakistani expatriates in the US and Canada.
“Each and every person in Pakistan from the Prime Minister Imran Khan to a common man on the street was aggrieved and strongly condemned this inhumane act,” Burki said.

Pakistan High Commissioner-designate Umar Farooq Burki welcomes Nilushi Dissanayaka, widow of Priyantha Kumara, at the Pakistan High Commission in Colombo in January 20, 2022. (AN photo by Mohammed Rasooldeen)

Pakistani authorities last month announced that suspects in the case will be presented before an anti-terrorism court in jail.
“On strict directions of the prime minister of Pakistan, the trial of the murderers and abettors is going on a daily basis,” Burki said. “The prime minister is directly supervising the proceedings of this trial.”
Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan and carries the death penalty. Mere allegations of blasphemy can trigger mob violence.
International and domestic rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’

Updated 30 min 8 sec ago

PIA pilot refused to continue Riyadh-Islamabad flight over ‘safety of passengers’

  • PIA aircraft was scheduled to arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital on Jan. 14 and then return to Islamabad
  • Upon reaching Riyadh with several hours of delay, the pilot decided to stop the journey as his duty timings had ended

KARACHI: A Pakistani pilot who last week refused to complete a Riyadh-Islamabad flight because his duty timings had ended, made the decision in compliance with aviation rules and for the safety of passengers, airline officials have said.
A plane with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was scheduled to arrive in the Saudi Arabian capital on Jan. 14 and then return to Islamabad, but technical issues delayed its departure from Pakistan, and later bad weather in Riyadh forced it to make an emergency landing in Dammam, where it stayed another six hours before clearance.
Upon finally reaching Riyadh, the pilot of PK 9754 decided to end the journey and did not fly the aircraft back to Islamabad. The pilot’s announcement triggered a protest by passengers, who eventually had to be calmed by airport security personnel.
PIA spokesperson Abdullah Khan told Arab News the captain’s action was in line with the airline’s policy and aviation rules.
“An impression has been created if the airline wanted the captain to operate the flight and he refused. This is completely wrong. The pilot didn’t operate the flight because his duty hours had exceeded due to diversion of the flight to Dammam,” he said on Thursday evening. “Upon reaching Riyadh the duty time of the pilot had completed.”
According to the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority rules, a person whose duty time has been exceeded is not permitted to act as a crew member and must be provided a specified period of rest.
A PIA official familiar with the matter said the captain’s “prime concern was the safety of the passengers.” 
“When asked to fly, the captain refused and said: ‘What I’m doing, I am doing it as per rules. The prime responsibility as captain is to protect aircraft and the passengers,’” the official told Arab News.
All of the 200 to 250 passengers were dependent upon him,” he said. “This was prime responsibility of captain is to protect aircraft and the passengers. Then the reputation of your company — the airline — and your country is also important. The compliance with rules is important for their image as well.”
“One takes a decision keeping all these things in mind.”

Reunited 74 years after India-Pakistan split, brothers hope to spend rest of life together

Updated 21 January 2022

Reunited 74 years after India-Pakistan split, brothers hope to spend rest of life together

  • Partition in 1947 following India’s independence from Britain triggered one of the biggest forced migrations in history
  • Brothers Sikka and Sadiq Khan, who remained on opposite sides of India-Pakistan border, were reunited last week

PHULEWALA: When British India split into two independent states in August 1947, Sikka Khan’s father and elder brother, Sadiq, left Phulewala village in what became the Indian part of Punjab, and returned to their paternal village of Bogran, which found itself in Pakistan.
Just two years old at the time, Sikka was too young to go and stayed behind in India with his mother. The family was to be reunited soon. The parents only wanted to wait until it was safe for the toddler to travel.
But the promise of being together again was cut short by violence and communal rioting that marred one of the biggest forced migrations in history. Following the partition, about 15 million Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs swapped countries in a political upheaval that cost more than a million lives.
Sikka and Sadiq lost their father, mother — who committed suicide when she found out about her husband’s death — and the bond that was only restored last week.
“I told you we would meet again,” Sikka, 76, said through tears, as he embraced his 84-year-old brother when they met in Kartarpur, Pakistan on Jan. 10.
Kartarpur is a border city where Pakistan, in late 2019, opened a visa-free crossing to allow Indian Sikh pilgrims access to one of the holiest sites of their religion, Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, which after the partition, the site found itself on the Pakistani side of the border.
The brothers’ reunion did not last long, as each of them had to return to their countries. For the past seven decades, India-Pakistan cross-border visits have been limited by tensions and conflict.
“It was an emotional moment for us, and I could not believe that I was meeting my brother and his family,” Sikka told Arab News in Phulewala village, where he has remained since 1947.
“Life has given me the opportunity to reunite with my brother and I don’t want to live without him,” he said. “I need the company of my brother more than ever before. I want to live the rest of my life with my elder brother.”
They got in touch in 2019, when Pakistani YouTuber Nasir Dhillon visited Bogran village, where Sadiq still lives, and heard his story. He shared the footage on social media and soon received a message from Jagsir Singh, a doctor in Phulewala, who connected him to Sikka.

Sikka Khan sits at his home in Phulewala village, Punjab, India on January 16, 2022. (AN photo by Sanjay Kumar)

The YouTuber and the doctor helped the brothers meet virtually.
“The brothers for the first time saw each other over a video call two years ago,” Singh told Arab News. “Since then, they have remained in touch with each other through WhatsApp.”
They have been talking to each other at least 15 minutes every day, but it took them two years to meet in person as even the visa-free Kartarpur corridor was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic until late last year. 
“The opening of the Kartarpur corridor in November last year allowed us the opportunity to organize the meeting between the brothers,” Singh said.
When he arrived in Kartarpur, Sikka, who does not have his own family, was accompanied by a dozen villagers from Phulewala.
“For me, my village has been family,” he told Arab News, as he chatted with Sadiq through a video call. “Now I want to go to Pakistan and live with my elder brother for some time. I hope the Pakistani government gives me a visa.
Sadiq, too, wants to visit his brother. 
“I want to meet Sikka in his village,” he said during the video call with his brother. “We want to live together and make up for the time we have lost.”

Body of Pakistani killed in Houthi attack on UAE arrives in Peshawar

Updated 20 January 2022

Body of Pakistani killed in Houthi attack on UAE arrives in Peshawar

  • Houthi rebels launched an aerial strike on the United Arab Emirates on Monday, killing three people including the Pakistani worker
  • Moomor Khan of North Waziristan had been serving ADNOC oil company as a driver for the last five years

ISLAMABAD: Body of a Pakistani worker who died in an attack in Abu Dhabi by Yemen’s Houthi rebels arrived in Peshawar on Thursday, confirmed Pakistani officials.

Moomor Khan was killed along with his two Indian colleagues while serving ADNOC oil company after the rebel group launched on Monday what it said was a missile-and-drone strike, setting off explosions in fuel trucks and causing a fire near the Abu Dhabi airport.

An ambulance carrying mortal remains of a Pakistani man died in an attack in Abu Dhabi by Yemen’s Houthi rebels arrives in Peshawar, Pakistan on January 20, 2022. (Courtesy: Overseas Pakistanis Foundation)

“The human remains of martyr Moomor Khan [son of] Umar Khan were received at the Bacha Khan International Airport in Peshawar today,” the foreign office of Pakistan told Arab News in a statement, adding the body was received by senior officials of the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF) along with the victim’s family.

A senior OPF official confirmed the information, saying the organization made the local transportation arrangements.

“OPF regional head of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and its other senior officials received Khan’s dead body and arranged for its local transportation through ambulance to his hometown near the Pak-Afghan border town in North Waziristan,” director general of OPF’s welfare division Mustafa Haider told Arab News.

He added his organization remained in contact with the country’s diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi to expedite the process of bringing back Khan's body.

“Khan had been working as a driver with Al Mansoor Company, a third party of Abu Dhabi’s ADNOC oil company, for the last five years,” he said. “He was a poor man whose life was affected by the military operation in Pakistan’s tribal region of Wana.”

Haider maintained the OPF would consider Khan's family for financial grant from the foundation’s funds.

“We will also facilitate the family in getting the insurance amount, salary and other financial compensations since it was an accidental death,” he added.

Javed Khan, the deceased’s brother, thanked the UAE authorities and Pakistan’s mission in Abu Dhabi for facilitating the repatriation of the body in the shortest possible period.

“We are thankful to the UAE government and Pakistan embassy in Abu Dhabi since they facilitated the transportation of my brother’s body in the shortest possible time,” he told Arab News. “All the transportation expenses, including the special flight, were taken care of by Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi.”