PM seeks ‘comprehensive strategy’ against violence as Sri Lanka lynching victim’s remains reach Colombo

A representative from Pakistan High Commission to Sri Lanka places a flower wreath next to the coffin with remains of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Kumara, who was beaten to death and burnt by the mob in Punjab province on last Friday, at Bandaranaike International Airport, in Katunayake, Sri Lanka December 6, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 06 December 2021

PM seeks ‘comprehensive strategy’ against violence as Sri Lanka lynching victim’s remains reach Colombo

  • Priyantha Kumara was killed and his body publicly burnt by a Muslim mob in Pakistan’s Sialkot city last week 
  • Islamabad has assured Sri Lanka all those involved in the crime will be brought to justice, PM personally overseeing probe

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday sought the implementation of a ‘comprehensive strategy’ against violence, as a SriLankan Airlines flight arrived in Colombo with the remains of Priyantha Kumara, a Sri Lankan factory manager who had worked in Pakistan for many years and last week was lynched by a Muslim mob over blasphemy allegations. 
On Friday, a mob attacked and killed Kumara, who had worked at a garment factory in the city of Sialkot in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The crowd also publicly burned the Sri Lankan national’s body over what police have said are accusations he desecrated religious posters.
Blasphemy is considered a deeply sensitive issue in Pakistan and carries the death penalty. International and domestic rights groups say accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores. 
Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a meeting attended by Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Jawed Bajwa and senior members of the cabinet to review security in the country after the lynching incident.
“The participants of the meeting were of the view that individuals and mobs cannot be allowed to take the law into their hands and such incidents cannot be tolerated,” a statement issued by the Prime Minister Office said. “Therefore, a comprehensive strategy shall be implemented to curb such incidents and strict punishments to all the perpetrators shall be ensured.”
“The meeting expressed serious concern over the cruel act of killing of Sri Lankan national Priyantha Diyawadanage in Sialkot and expressed the resolve to bring the perpetrators to justice”.
A spokesperson for Sialkot police, Khurram Shehzad, said 132 people had been arrested so far in the case, after being identified with the help of CCTV footage. 
“Police has arrested seven more of the prime suspects including key suspect Imtaiz aka Billi who was involved in torture and disrespecting the dead body,” Shehzad told Arab News in a phone interview, saying 26 key suspects had been remanded in police custody. 
Human Rights Minister Dr. Shireen Mazari told media it was time to fully implement existing policies to combat violence, including the National Action Plan (NAP), a counter-terrorism strategy that was devised in 2014 after militants attacked an army-run school in Peshawar, killing 134 children.
“This lynching was not the first of its kind,” Mazari told Dawn. “It’s now time to take definitive action as the state.”
Meanwhile, Kumara’s remains were transported from the Pakistani city of Lahore via SriLankan Airlines flight UL-186 at 12:30pm on Monday.
The flight landed in Colombo at around 5pm where Kumara’s remains were received by Pakistan’s acting high commissioner in Colombo, Tanvir Ahmed, along with other Sri Lankan officials.
“Pakistan Acting High Commissioner Tanvir Ahmad and Press Secretary Kalsoom Qaiser received the mortal remains and conveyed the sympathies of the people and government of Pakistan to the relatives of the deceased present at the airport,” the Pakistan high commission in Colombo said in a statement.
Representatives from all walks of life visited the Pakistan High Commission on the occasion, the statement added: “They came from Sri Lankan Parliament, Coordinators for the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka for all religions including Hinduism,Christianity, Buddhism & Islam. All of them expressed their satisfaction over the quick action of the Pakistan Government in apprehension of the perpetrators of the Sialkot tragedy.”
On Monday, a delegation of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party met with Sri Lankan high commissioner Mohan Wijewickrama in Islamabad and condoled with him over Kumara’s death. 
“This was a horrific murder and we are concerned the way it was carried out. But we have seen that the government of Pakistan has immediately taken all possible actions at the highest level and they have assured to the family and to us that very stringent actions will be taken against the culprits,” Wijewickrama told the delegates. “And we are seeing it now that a large number of people have been arrested and remanded. So, we believe that the government of Pakistan is very sincere on this issue.” 
Pakistani leaders, including PM Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, have said Islamabad is working closely with Sri Lankan authorities on the case. Top Pakistani leaders have promised accountability after the Sri Lankan leadership demanded Islamabad ensure justice in the case. 
Few issues are as galvanizing in Pakistan as blasphemy, and even the slightest suggestions of an insult to Islam have been known to supercharge protests and incite lynching. Perpetrators of violence in the name of blasphemy often go unpunished. 

PIA to begin Hajj flight operations from May 31

Updated 3 sec ago

PIA to begin Hajj flight operations from May 31

  • Hajj flights to take off from eight Pakistani cities and land in Jeddah and Madinah
  • Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims this year is 81,132 as one million people join this year’s Hajj

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will start this year’s Hajj flight operations from May 31, PIA announced on Thursday, as Saudi Arabia lets up to one million people join the Hajj pilgrimage this year, greatly expanding it to participants from outside the kingdom after two years of tight COVID restrictions.

Pilgrims to Makkah this year must be under age 65 and fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement last month. Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims this year is 81,132 and the maximum age limit of travellers is 65.

“PIA's flight operation will continue with 297 flights from May 31 to August 13," Pakistan’s national flag carrier said in a statement. “Hajj operation will be carried out from 8 cities of Pakistan, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta.”

PIA said the Hajj flights to Saudi Arabia would fly to Jeddah and Madinah.

Saudi Arabia has said participants from abroad must present a recent negative COVID PCR test, and health precautions will be observed.

Last year, the kingdom limited the annual Hajj, one of Islam's five main pillars, to 60,000 domestic participants, compared to the pre-pandemic 2.5 million.

After knowledge portal, Pakistan-China business body plans technology transfer gateway

Updated 22 min 27 sec ago

After knowledge portal, Pakistan-China business body plans technology transfer gateway

  • Nearly 3,000 people have benefitted from the knowledge portal set up last year
  • New online gateway aims to facilitate technology transfer from China

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCJCCI) said on Thursday nearly 3,000 people had benefitted from a knowledge portal established last year to facilitate businesses in the two countries and was now planning to set up an online technology gateway.

The chamber was established in 2013 to promote investment and commerce between Pakistan and China and protect the interests of business entities in both countries.

The two regional allies had also launched the multibillion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the same year under which Beijing pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure and development projects in Pakistan.

“The PCJCCI initiated the first-ever knowledge portal on October 7, 2021, and almost 3,000 people have benefited through this portal so far,” the chamber’s president Wang Zihai told Arab News in a written reply from Beijing.

The knowledge portal contains information on projects and economic collaboration between the two countries and offers registration facilities to companies along with immigration information.

After the "success" of the portal, Zihai said, a Pak-China technology gateway would now be established.

Ehsan Chaudhry, the chamber’s senior vice president, said the gateway would transfer technology no longer used in China to Pakistan to be used for the South Asian country’s industrial requirements.

“The acquisition of appropriate technology from China in the field of renewable energy and alternative sources of energy, such as solar, nanotechnology, wind power, run of the river power plants, will be our top priority,” he told Arab News.

“Pakistan can import traditional machinery from China at a low cost because our labors are much friendly with low-key advanced technology,” he added, without sharing when the technology gateway would be operational. 

Salahuddin Hanif, the chamber’s secretary general, said the joint Pakistan-China body had initiated various Chinese language courses to remove communication barrier between the two nations.

“Around 25,000 students actively participated in these courses,” he told Arab News. “We have also compiled and published various books for making the learning process more comprehensive for Pakistani people.”

Hanif said the chamber was working to encourage Chinese industrialists to collaborate with Pakistan, adding that new courses would soon be announced on the knowledge portal.

“We are going to launch various courses very soon to convey contemporary knowledge and information related to various sectors," Hanif said, "like electronic and automotive advancement, insurance, agriculture, textiles, shoe manufacturing, chemicals, battery recycling plant, and real estate advisory.”

Pakistan raises fuel prices after inconclusive IMF talks in Doha

Updated 26 May 2022

Pakistan raises fuel prices after inconclusive IMF talks in Doha

  • Finance minister Miftah Ismail says the government has increased petroleum prices by Rs30 per liter
  • Pakistan hopes to reach a staff level agreement with the IMF for the resumption of $6 billion loan facility

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Miftah Ismail announced on Thursday the government had decided to increase fuel prices by Rs30 per liter after his negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the resumption of a $6 billion loan package remained inconclusive due to subsidies on petroleum products.

The subsidies were part of a relief package provided by former prime minister Imran Khan in February amid rising inflation which he said was going to cost over $2 billion between April and June 2022. The IMF had objected over his decision while refusing to release the next loan installment of about $1 billion.

Pakistan desperately needs external financing to boost its falling foreign exchange reserves which, at the current level of $10 billion, can barely cover two months of import payments. The new government has been seeking the IMF support since assuming the political power of the country, though it remained reluctant to meet the stringent terms and conditions of the international lending agency.

“The government has decided to protect the poor and its details will soon be announced by the prime minister himself in an address to the nation,” Ismail told a news conference in Islamabad. “I have only come here to tell you that the government has decided that from Friday, 27th of May, the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene oil and light diesel oil will be increased by Rs30 per liter.”

He said that the new price of petrol and diesel would be Rs179.86 and Rs174.15 per liter, respectively.

Ismail hoped the government’s decision would help stabilize markets.

“It will also stabilize the rupee and improve the situation at the stock market,” he continued. “Most importantly, it will bring back some balance within the economy.”

The finance minister maintained it was a difficult decision since increased fuel prices would to negatively impact the government’s political capital.

However, he added it was the right move for the country since it was important for everyone to know that the new administration was truly determined to fix Pakistan’s economic woes.

Responding to a question, he said he was optimistic that Pakistan would soon reach a staff level agreement with the IMF.

The finance minister discussed the possibility of increasing the size of the loan by another $2 billion for an extended period of one year during his meetings with IMF officials in Washington in April.

He later told journalists in the US that the resumption of IMF loan program would also help unlock more funding from multilateral donors.

In the absence of a breakthrough in recent talks with the international lending agency in Doha, however, Pakistan’s national currency hit another all-time low of Rs202.01 against the greenback on Thursday due to increasing demand for the US dollar for import payments.

Pakistani economists criticized the government for not taking tough decisions earlier in the day, saying its indecisiveness was further aggravating the economic crisis.

“With reserves continuing to slide and no signal from the government that it is willing to take tough measures, Pakistan faces a situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control,” Uzair Younus, who works with Pakistan Initiative at Washington-based Atlantic Council, told Arab News. “Once herd mentality kicks in, it will be even more painful to stabilize the economy.”

Four-time champions, Pakistan fail to qualify for Hockey World Cup 2023

Updated 26 May 2022

Four-time champions, Pakistan fail to qualify for Hockey World Cup 2023

  • Pakistan crashed out of Asia Cup after India’s convincing 16-0 win over Indonesia
  • The ongoing tournament in Jakarta serves as qualifier for next year’s World Cup

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday failed to qualify for the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) World Cup 2023 after crashing out of the Asia Cup in the wake of India’s emphatic 16-0 victory over Indonesia, reported the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency.

Once counted among the best hockey teams in the world, Pakistan have won the world cup four times in 1971, 1978, 1981 and 1994.

The last world cup was won by Belgium in 2018.

The green shirts crashed out of the next year’s hockey tournament after they failed to enter the super four stage of the Asia Cup currently played in Jakarta.

“Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia have sealed the FIH World Cup 2023 berths,” the APP said. “India qualify as hosts and Pakistan are out of the race.”

Losing 2-3 to Japan, Pakistan’s fate in the tournament was sealed after India decimated Indonesia to advance into the final four stage of the cup, pushing Pakistan out on goal difference.

Pakistan also failed to qualify for the FIH grand tournament next year since the Asia Cup served as its qualifier.

The green shirts began their Asia Cup bid with a 1-1 draw against India. They thumped Indonesia 13-0 in their next game before losing to Japan.

Inconclusive IMF talks plunge Pakistani currency to Rs202.01 against US dollar

Updated 26 May 2022

Inconclusive IMF talks plunge Pakistani currency to Rs202.01 against US dollar

  • Economists say the government’s inability to take tough decisions is further aggravating the economic crisis
  • Experts warn the situation can spiral out of control if reserves continue to slide in the absence of a viable strategy

KARACHI: Pakistan’s national currency on Thursday plunged to another all-time low of Rs202.01 against the US dollar after the government failed to convince the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Doha, Qatar, to revive a loan program amounting to $6 billion.

The rupee further shed 0.04 percent of its value in the interbank market following the inconclusive talks under the IMF’s Extended Fund Facility (EFF) which the country secured in 2019 to shore up its fragile economy.

“The rupee remains under pressure in the interbank market against the dollar in the absence of major inflows and dwindling forex reserves since the dollar is in high demand for import payments,” Abdul Azeem, head of research at Spectrum Securities, told Arab News.

“The lack of progress in the IMF talks has further exacerbated pressure on the already weakening currency,” he continued.

Fuel subsides remained the main sticking point between the IMF and the Pakistani authorities during their weeklong negotiations, though the country’s finance minister Miftah Ismail still called the discussions “very useful and constructive.”

The subsidies in the oil and power sectors were announced by former prime minister Imran Khan earlier this year who said they would cost over $2 billion between April and June 2022.

“The IMF team emphasised the importance of rolling back fuel & power subsidies, which were given by the previous administration in contravention of its own agreement with the Fund. [The government] is committed to reviving the IMF program & put Pakistan back on a sustainable growth path,” the finance minister said in a Twitter post on Thursday after arriving in Pakistan from Qatar.

“We discussed targets for FY 23, where, in light of high inflation, declining forex reserves and a large current account deficit, we would need to have a tight monetary policy and consolidate our fiscal position,” he added. “Thus [the government] is committed to reducing the budget deficit in FY23.”



Pakistan desperately needs external financing to boost its falling foreign exchange reserves which, at the current level of $10 billion, can barely cover two months of import payments.

The country can immediately secure a release of around $1 billion from the IMF, if it complies with the Fund’s conditions and takes remedial measures like rolling back the subsidies on petroleum products and electricity.

“The crisis of decision making is fast becoming an economic crisis,” Uzair Younus, who works with Pakistan Initiative at Washington-based Atlantic Council, told Arab News.

“With reserves continuing to slide and no signal from the government that it is willing to take tough measures, Pakistan faces a situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control,” he said. “Once herd mentality kicks in, it will be even more painful to stabilize the economy.”

Pakistani economists said the country not only needed fresh inflow of US dollars but also plug financial leakages.

“The shortage of dollar is our main problem,” Dr. Ashfaque Hasan Khan, senior economist and former member of government’s Economic Advisory Council, told Arab News.

“We are earning dollar but there are lot of leakages as well,” he continued. “This means that our imports are too high. If you curb imports through policy measures, then your main problem will be resolved.”

Pakistan’s current account deficit reached $13.78 billion in the first ten months of the current fiscal year, compared with a deficit of $543 million in the same period last year. Higher imports are major contributors to the current account deficit.

The government has already banned imports of 38 items, including vehicles, mobile phones and other luxury goods, to cut the swelling import bill.

However, Khan described the move as a “half-hearted measure” which, he said, was only going to save about half a million dollars.

“We should have done an exercise and selected high value, fast moving, and non-essential items for banning,” he said.

Khan maintained all economic indicators were performing perfectly well apart from the balance of payment issue.

He noted that Pakistan had secured six percent real economic growth along with ten and four percent industrial and agricultural growth, respectively.