Pakistan bans arrivals from nine more countries over Omicron fears

Airport Security Force (ASF) personnel wearing a mask stand guard at the International arrivals area at Islamabad International Airport, Pakistan, on May 5, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis & HRD/Twitter)
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Updated 06 December 2021

Pakistan bans arrivals from nine more countries over Omicron fears

  • Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe added to 'C Category'
  • South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia as well as Hong Kong were already banned late last month

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday banned flight arrivals from nine more countries over fears surrounding the spread of a new coronavirus strain, Omicron, the country's pandemic response body said.

Much remains unknown about Omicron, which was first detected in southern Africa last month and has been found in at least two dozen countries. Parts of Europe were already grappling with a wave of infections of the Delta variant before it emerged.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has urged countries to boost healthcare capacity and vaccinate people to fight a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Omicron variant, saying travel curbs could buy time but alone were not the answer.

Pakistan reported 10 deaths and 336 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, according to official figures. The country has approved booster shots of coronavirus vaccines from December 1 and asked federating units to speed up their vaccination campaigns over Omicron fears.

The countries that Pakistan on Monday added to its ‘Category C’ list for travel, which means a "complete ban on inbound travel," are Croatia, Hungary, Netherlands, Ukraine, Ireland, Slovenia, Vietnam, Poland and Zimbabwe are the countries that have been added to the list.

South Africa, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia as well as Hong Kong were already banned late last month.

"Essential travel from above mentioned countries would necessitate obtaining exemption certificate from exemption committee with following health protocols: 100% vaccination, manifestation as per obligatory vaccination regime," the NCOC said in a notification.

Both Pakistani and foreign passengers, aged 6 and above, would be required to have a negative PCR test report -max 48 hours old - before boarding a flight to Pakistan, according to the notification. Deportees would be exempted from PCR tests or the requirement of a report.

Passengers travelling via direct or indirect flights from ‘Category C’ countries will also have to take a rapid antigen test (RAT) upon arrival at the airport.

"RAT negative cases will be allowed to proceed," the notification read. "However, RAT negative cases from Omicron variant countries (South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Eswatini, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia) will have to undergo 3 days mandatory quarantine followed by PCR test to be conducted on the 3rd day by civil administration."


Pakistan, Oman discuss bilateral maritime cooperation

Updated 5 sec ago

Pakistan, Oman discuss bilateral maritime cooperation

  • Oman’s naval commander met his Pakistani counterpart in Islamabad on Monday
  • Pakistan and Oman signed a memorandum of understanding in October 2020 to boost military cooperation

ISLAMABAD: Commander Royal Navy of Oman Rear Admiral Saif bin Nasser bin Mohsen Al-Rahbi on Monday met with Pakistan’s Naval Chief Admiral Muhammad Amjad Khan Niazi in Islamabad and discussed bilateral defense ties and ways of strengthening them further, said an official handout.

Pakistan and Oman have close ties and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to enhance military cooperation in October 2020.

The two officials “discussed issues of mutual interest and promotion of bilateral maritime cooperation,” the Pakistan Navy said in a statement.

The visiting dignitary was briefed on Pakistan Navy’s role in the region’s maritime security.

“The visit of Commander Royal Omani Navy will further enhance the bilateral relations between the two countries,” the official statement added.

Last week, Pakistani naval ships Rah Naward and Madadgar along with Hamza submarine visited Oman's Port Sultan Bin Qaboos as part of overseas deployment.

"During the port stay, various bilateral activities including exchange visits onboard afloat units, orientation visits of military installations and coordination meetings were undertaken," the Pakistan Navy said.


President apologizes to senior citizen over administrative injustice by tax collection body

Updated 17 January 2022

President apologizes to senior citizen over administrative injustice by tax collection body

  • An 82-year-old taxpayer was made to undergo extreme agony after he demanded a small refund of Rs2,333
  • The president ordered punitive action against those who humiliated the elderly man by launching a litigation process

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Sunday issued an apology to a senior Pakistani citizen who was mistreated by the country's tax collection body while instructing relevant authorities to take an action against those who dragged the 82-year-old into a litigation process to humiliate him for over a year.

According to the President Office, the senior taxpayer, Abdul Hamid Khan, had to undergo a lot of inconvenience after he demanded a refund of Rs2,333 ($13.21) which was refused by an official of the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR).

Khan was subsequently dragged into a litigation process that lasted for over a year.

“Apologizing to the senior citizen Mr. Abdul Hamid Khan, the President said that our heads should hang in shame for the inconvenience caused by FBR to the senior citizen,” the statement said.

"Punitive action must be taken along the entire line of decision-makers in this case and chairman FBR should ensure that those responsible, in particular, and others, in general, go through courses to teach them priorities and courtesies," it quoted the president as saying.

Khan had claimed the refund on his income tax return for last year by submitting requisite documents of advance tax deduction on October 19, 2020.

“The complainant e-filed refund application on 19th October, 2020, followed by representation to FBR Chairman on 24th December, 2020,” the official statement said. “The Unit officer of FBR rejected his refund claim on the grounds that the applicant had failed to furnish the original certificates required for authentication.”

“This must be the most pitiful and shameful use of bureaucratic authority,” noted the president.

He also regretted that the FBR official had wasted everyone's time, including the tax ombudsman and the president himself.

The statement added Alvi “deplored that no one in the long chain of bureaucrats at the FBR deliberated over the issue to take note of the unfairness, pettiness and superfluousness of the matter.”


Afghanistan turns down Pakistan’s offer to export skilled labor

Updated 17 January 2022

Afghanistan turns down Pakistan’s offer to export skilled labor

  • The Pakistani prime minister offered to send qualified human resource to Afghanistan during a meeting last week
  • Afghanistan’s deputy information minister Zabihullah Mujahid told international media his country had enough educated young people

ISLAMABAD: The interim Taliban administration in Kabul politely turned down Pakistan’s offer to send skilled human resource to Afghanistan on Sunday, saying there were already enough educated young people in the war-battered country.
The idea of exporting “qualified and trained manpower” was floated by Prime Minister Imran Khan during an apex committee meeting on Friday “to stave off humanitarian crisis” to the neighboring state.

However, Afghanistan’s deputy information minister Zabihullah Mujahid in response to Pakistani PM Khan’s thanked Pakistan and said that the country did not need foreign labor, Afghan media said.

“There are enough educated young people to work in the ministries and there is no need for outside manpower,” Mujahid said in an audio recording that was released by an Afghan Taliban official based in the country’s political office in Qatar.

Earlier, Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai had also taken a similar stance while responding to the Pakistani prime minister’s statement.
Karzai wrote in a Twitter post that Afghanistan had experienced staff and professionals, as well as hundreds of thousands of educated young people, including girls and boys, who had been trained at various levels inside and outside the country.
Pakistan has tried to convince the world to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and plans to send its national security adviser Dr. Moeed Yusuf to the neighboring country this week to discuss the overall situation.
Last week, the administration in Islamabad renewed its appeal to the international community and relief agencies to provide aid at this critical juncture to the war-torn country to avert its economic collapse and save precious lives.
“The Apex Committee was informed that Afghanistan is at the verge of hunger and crisis situation during this harsh winter,” the PM Office said in a Twitter post. “The crisis makes it difficult for the people to get enough food and shelter.”

 


Earlier this month, a team of Pakistani engineers and technicians arrived in Kabul to ensure the installation and provision of medical equipment and medicines at three hospitals in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan had told Arab News last week the visit of the Pakistani engineers and technicians would be followed by other such tours in the future so the hospitals could be upgraded further.
The initiative was part of a Rs5 billion Humanitarian Assistance Package announced by the Pakistani prime minister for Afghanistan in November last year.

 

 


Punjab inquiry committee blames Murree tragedy on administrative negligence — local media

Updated 17 January 2022

Punjab inquiry committee blames Murree tragedy on administrative negligence — local media

  • The five-member committee probing the death of 23 snow-tourists in the popular mountainous resort completed its investigation on Sunday
  • A Pakistani court castigated the National Disaster Management Authority last week for not making adequate preparations to prevent the tragedy

ISLAMABAD: A five-member committee that was formed to probe the recent deaths of snow-tourists at a popular mountainous resort in Pakistan attributed the tragedy to administrative negligence after finishing its investigation on Sunday, local media reported.

The committee was set up by the provincial administration of Punjab last week after 23 people, including women and children, lost their lives after getting stuck in a snowstorm in Murree for several hours.

Most of the victims suffered hypothermia as temperatures fell to -8°C (17.6°F). Officials said some died of carbon monoxide poisoning from running their car heaters while their mufflers were choked by snow.

While the inquiry committee is yet to prepare its report which will be presented to Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in the next few days, Geo News reported that it found the local administration responsible for not doing enough while the tragedy was unfolding in Murree.

"The probe has revealed that on the day of the incident, several snow ploughs were parked at the same place which led to road blockages, the administrative staff was absent from duty, while a blizzard warning from the metrological department was blatantly neglected, according to sources," the report said on Monday.

The committee recorded statements of several tourists along with officials of various administrative departments in Murree during its probe.

The Islamabad High Court also looked into the incident last week, blaming the country's National Disaster Management Authority for not making adequate preparations to deal with the situation which led to the death of so many tourists.


Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signs agreements worth $8 billion at Expo Dubai

Updated 17 January 2022

Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa signs agreements worth $8 billion at Expo Dubai

  • Foreign firms, investors express keen interest in industrial, infrastructure, food processing and energy sectors
  • Feasibility reports of projects presented at the mega exhibition have already been completed, officials say

KARACHI: The provincial government of Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province on Sunday signed over 40 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) at Expo 2020 Dubai that would bring foreign investment worth $8 billion, the KP investment board and officials said. 
Described as “the event of the century,” the expo kicked off in October, bringing together representatives from more than 190 countries. The exhibition is the largest global gathering since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic and will run until April 2022. 
Pakistan’s pavilion at the expo has been highlighting investment opportunities, tourism potential and cultural magnificence of the country. In January, its highlight is the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. 
Foreign firms and investors expressed their keen interest in various projects in tourism, industrial, infrastructure, food processing, livestock, energy and power sectors, and a water sports theme park in KP’s Swabi district at an investment conference at Expo Dubai on Sunday. 
“International firms have signed 44 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) worth $8 billion during the Expo 2020 Dubai,” KP finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra said, while addressing attendees at the conference. 
Jhagra said the KP government had presented these projects in a better way. “For the promotion of tourism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the government is presenting ready projects at the expo for investment,” he said. 

KP finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra is addressing the attendees at the conference in Dubai, UAE, on January 16, 2022. (Photo courtesy: @kptourism/Twitter)

KP had vast investment opportunities in tourism, energy and power, infrastructure and other sectors, according to the minister. The Swat Expressway was built under a public-private partnership and now it was being extended to other cities to boost trade and economy, he said. 
Among the attendees at the conference were chief executive officers (CEOs) of the Samara Group, Mazaya Group (EGI), Jannat & AJ Group, Almasa Group and a number of Dubai-based and international investors, who expressed their willingness to invest in various tourism projects in the northwestern Pakistani province. 
“Investment groups that have signed MoUs include Enertech-Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA), Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), Private Office of Sheikh Ahmed Dalmook-Al-Maktoum, Samara Group, VR Group, Sigma Group, Malik Foams, Nobel Future Land & many others,” KP chief minister Mahmood Khan said on Twitter. 
“Investments in the development of food processing zones, integrated tourism zones (ITZ), Solarization of Economic Zones, Construction of Transmission Lines across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will help in transforming KP by creating economic opportunities and increase in employment.” 

 Jhagra said his government had planned to establish an Overseas Pakistan Council to facilitate investors, saying the process was currently in the legislation stage. The KP government had established a special economic zone (SEZ) in Rashakai and that people were now coming to invest in the province, he added. 
KP culture minister Shaukat Yousafzai said the province had a huge potential for investment and these agreements would help increase the flow of foreign investment into the province. 

Pakistan's ambassador to UAE Afzaal Mehmood (first left) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) provincal ministers attend the ceremony at Expo 2020 Dubai in Dubai, UAE, on January 16, 2022. (Photo courtesy: @kptourism/Twitter)

Shahab Ali Shah, the KP additional chief secretary, said only those projects were presented at the expo, whose feasibility reports were complete and only investors were needed. 
“The government is ready to provide a one-window facility to investors,” he added.