Startup connecting overseas Pakistanis to families at home plans new office in Dubai

This file photo shows a general view of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE, on March 8, 2020. (AFP/File)
Short Url
Updated 11 December 2021

Startup connecting overseas Pakistanis to families at home plans new office in Dubai

  • InstaKin downloaded by Pakistanis in 86 countries who want to resolve family issues back home
  • Majority of its users are Pakistani nationals residing in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates

KARACHI: A local startup connecting overseas Pakistanis with their families through a mobile app plans to set up new facilities in Dubai and other parts of the South Asian region as part of its international outreach plan to facilitate greater number of immigrant families, its founder said on Saturday.
Launched in August, the InstaKin app has been downloaded by Pakistani nationals residing in 86 countries who want to resolve immediate family issues back home.
Several Pakistani startups in recent months have captured the attention of global venture capitalists, attracting over $300 million during the course of this year.
Most recently, an online travel and ticketing platform, Bookme.pk, and a beauty and fashion startup, Bagallery, raised $7.5 million and $4.5 million, respectively, in Series A rounds.
“Our majority customers are based in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, apart from Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain. The Middle East is therefore an important market for our company,” Yasir Shirazi, the founder and chief executive officer of InstaKin, told Arab News.
“Setting up teams in other South Asian countries will also facilitate members of the region’s other diaspora communities working in the Middle East, whether they belong to Sri Lanka or Bangladesh,” he continued. “We already have two offices in Karachi and the United States. The third one will be established in Dubai.”
The InstaKin mobile app offers various services, including delivery of medicines and food, bill payments, legal services and property management. The platform hopes to tap more than 38 million South Asian immigrants, including nearly 10 million overseas Pakistanis.
The Dubai office having a local team would also facilitate financial services through local banks, according to the InstaKin CEO.
“Recently, I was in Dubai where we partnered with telecom companies and signed agreements with two banks whose customers will be able to use our services,” he said.
The startup is facilitating payments through Roshan Digital Accounts, a facility provided by the Pakistani central bank to overseas nationals to open bank accounts.
Shirazi said he was running his operations through a WhatsApp group before launching the mobile app.
“An overwhelming response from overseas Pakistanis compelled us to come up with our own product,” he said.
The app has so far served over 10,000 customers, mostly from the Middle East.
“Overseas Pakistanis, whose parents need any services come to us and we facilitate them through runners. They hire these runners through us,” the top InstaKin official said.
He maintained the launch of the app reduced the dependency of overseas Pakistanis on friends and relatives.
“Our users tell us they just log into the app and hire a rider,” he added. “They don’t need to call friends or relatives to run errands in their country.”
The startup aims to establish itself as a one-stop solution for users across the globe to reduce day-to-day complexities in the lives of about 250 million immigrants in a simple and instant manner.
“We want to be a one-stop shop for Pakistani immigrants in the Middle East such that if they need any services in Pakistan, they can visit the app and get things done,” Shirazi said.
Responding to a question about overseas funding, he said the Y Combinator, an American technology startup accelerator, was one of its major investors.
“Y Combinator is the world’s largest venture fund based out of Silicon Valley and we are actually one of the very few companies in Pakistan which got investment from it,” the InstaKin CEO said.
“We also have other investors mostly from the Silicon Valley,” he said without divulging the exact investment figure.


Punjab police probe ‘honor killing’ of Pakistani-Spanish sisters

Updated 21 May 2022

Punjab police probe ‘honor killing’ of Pakistani-Spanish sisters

  • Police say women were seeking separation from husbands, family lured them back to Pakistan
  • Hundreds of women are killed each year in Pakistan over perceived damage to “honor”

ISLAMABAD: Punjab police said on Saturday they were investigating the deaths of two Pakistani-Spanish sisters in an apparent honor killing.

Hundreds of women are killed each year in Pakistan, mostly by family members, over perceived damage to “honor” that can involve eloping, fraternizing with men, or seeking separation from their husbands.

There were more than 450 honor killings last year, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Aneesa Abbas, 24, and Arooj Abbas, 21, were found strangled with deadly gunshot wounds in Gujrat, Punjab province.

“Inspector-General (IG) Punjab has directed Gujarat Police to arrest the culprits involved in this tragic incident as soon as possible,” Punjab Police said on Twitter, citing a post saying that the women were killed by their in-laws for demanding divorce from their husbands after forced marriage.

Gujrat Police spokesperson Nauman Hassan told AFP victims’ family made up a story to convince them to come to Pakistan for a couple of days.

“Preliminary investigations show this is a case of honor killing, but it is still developing and the investigation is ongoing,” he said.

Police said the women were being pressurized by their husbands, who were also their cousins, to help them immigrate to Spain.

Seven members of the family are currently wanted for murder.  


Southern Pakistan bans drones over fear of attacks on foreign missions

Updated 21 May 2022

Southern Pakistan bans drones over fear of attacks on foreign missions

  • Series of deadly attacks, including on Chinese nationals, shook Karachi in past three weeks
  • Additional personnel deployed to secure consulates in the city

KARACHI: The government of Sindh has banned the use of drones and strengthened security of foreign missions following a threat alert in the southern Pakistani province, police said on Saturday.

The capital of Sindh, Karachi, came under a series of deadly attacks, including on Chinese nationals, in the past three weeks.

On April 26, a female suicide bomber killed Chinese teachers and their Pakistani driver at Karachi University. On May 12, the Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army (SRA), a dissident faction fighting for independence in the province of Sindh, killed one and injured seven in a bomb blast in downtown Saddar area of the city. On May 16, one person was killed and 11 injured when a bomb ripped through a market near New Memon Masjid in Karachi’s busy Kharadar area.

On Friday, the province’s home department issued a notification banning the flying of drones, as it said that “the terrorist may use low flying drone/unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to target foreign Missions, residences of diplomats and important government buildings.”

Senior Superintendent of Police Arif Aziz, spokesperson of Karachi police, told Arab News the law enforcement agency had also increased the number of security personnel outside foreign diplomatic missions.

“The security of consulates in Karachi has been tightened by deploying additional force,” he said, adding that there was a security alert for the entire city, and Special Security Unit and Rapid Response Force teams were on standby in every zone.

“In the past few weeks there had been a couple of attacks, and to stop such acts in future, a huge deployment of plain-clothes officers has also been made,” he added. “These will keep an eye and will be in touch with uniformed officers who will act upon receiving alerts.”


Court extends Pakistan PM’s bail in money-laundering case

Updated 21 May 2022

Court extends Pakistan PM’s bail in money-laundering case

  • FIA special court in Lahore adjourns hearing in the $80 million case until May 28
  • Sharif and his sons were booked by Federal Investigation Agency in November 2020

ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court on Saturday extended bail for Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his son in a Rs16 billion ($80 million) money laundering case.

Sharif, his sons Hamza, who is chief minister of Punjab province, and Suleman, who resides in London, were booked by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in November 2020 under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Anti Money Laundering Act.

They were set to be indicted in the case in the previous hearing on May 14 but it was delayed because the prime minister was in the UK and postponed his return to the country in order to visit the UAE to offer condolences over the death of its ailing president.

Sharif and Hamza appeared before the FIA special court in Lahore for the first time since assuming office in April.

While the presiding judge adjourned the hearing and extended their bail until May 28, he issued bailable arrest warrants for three other accused in the case, including Suleman, who did not appear in court.

The prime minister said during the hearing that the case against him was “political,” Dawn daily reported.

“Shehbaz, while speaking in the court, said that the United Kingdom's National Crime Agency (NCA) had conducted an investigation for nearly two years but could not find ‘even one rupee of corruption’ against him.”

He added that the NCA was asked by the former Pakistani government to probe him.

Sharif, who became prime minister last month after his immediate predecessor, Imran Khan, was ousted in a no-confidence vote. 

He is the president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party and the younger brother of PMLN-N supremo Nawaz Sharif — three-time prime minister who was barred by the Supreme Court in 2017 from holding public office and went abroad on medical bail after serving a few months of a 10-year jail corruption sentence.

The Sharifs have always said the cases against them are politically motivated and driven by now ex-PM Khan who won power in 2018 vowing to root out corruption among what he cast as a venal political elite.


Close ex-PM Khan aide, former rights minister Shireen Mazari arrested in Islamabad — family

Updated 47 min 10 sec ago

Close ex-PM Khan aide, former rights minister Shireen Mazari arrested in Islamabad — family

  • Officials of the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment tell local media Mazari in custody
  • Members of Khan's PTI party condemn arrest, urge supporters to gather in protest

ISLAMABAD: Former human rights minister Shireen Mazari was "beaten and taken away by male police officers," her daughter said on Saturday, while anti-corruption police in Punjab province told local media the close aide of ex-Prime Minister Khan was in custody.

Local media widely reported that Mazari, who was human rights minister from August 2018 till April 10, 2022, was arrested from outside her residence in Islamabad.

Mazari has recently been highly critical of Pakistan's all-powerful army, writing in daily social media posts about the military's alleged role in last month's ouster of Khan in a no-confidence vote. The army has repeatedly said it does not interfere in politics and urged media and political figures in at least two recent press releases not to drag the military into "political discourse."

"Male police officers have beaten and taken my mother away," Mazari's daughter, Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir, said on Twitter. "All I have been told is that Anti-Corruption Wing Lahore has taken her."

 

 

Officials of the Punjab Anti-Corruption Establishment (ACE) confirmed to the Dawn daily that Mazari had been taken into custody.

In a video posted on Twitter by journalist Asma Shirazi, Mazari-Hazir said she did not have any details of the case except that her mother was picked up by "vagabonds."

"I warn this government: I will come after them if they do this," she said.

 

 

Mazari's arrest comes at a time when ex-PM Khan's party is gearing up for an anti-government march to Islamabad to force the new government of PM Shehbaz Sharif to announce fresh election.

Khan, who last month became the first Pakistani prime minister to be ousted through a no-confidence vote, has blamed his removal on the United States. US officials have repeatedly denied the allegation. Khan and his supporters have also expressed resentment that the army did not block the opposition's bid to oust him.

Members of Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party condemned Mazari's arrest and alleged manhandling by police.

"Strongly condemn the illegal and brutal kidnapping of Dr Shireen Mazari. She was manhandled and mistreated which is shameful," former education minister Shafqat Mehmood said on Twitter.

"There will [be] protest against this arrest in Lahore. Everyone to reach liberty roundabout at 8."

Shahbaz Gill, a Khan advisor, urged party workers to gather at the Kohsar police station in Islamabad.

"Shireen Mazari is a brave daughter of this nation. As a professor, most of the senior officers of our forces are her students. She has been teaching them," Gill said.

"She is highly respected for her human rights services. The final phase has begun. God willing, truth and freedom will succeed."


Pakistan president asks PM to reconsider advice to appoint new Punjab governor 

Updated 21 May 2022

Pakistan president asks PM to reconsider advice to appoint new Punjab governor 

  • Earlier this month, President Alvi rejected PM Sharif’s advice to remove key Imran Khan ally as governor 
  • Punjab chief minister’s fate also hangs in balance as electoral body de-seats 25 provincial lawmakers 

ISLAMABAD: President Arif Alvi on Saturday conveyed to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to reconsider his advice to appoint a new governor of Pakistan’s most populous Punjab province, saying Omar Sarfraz Cheema “still holds the office of the governor and there is no occasion to propose a new appointment,” the president’s office said.

Cheema, a member of ex-PM Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, was appointed Punjab governor last month amid a no-confidence motion filed against Khan in parliament, which saw many of his allies, including then governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar, jumping ship and joining the opposition. Khan was subsequently ousted from office in the no-trust vote and Sharif appointed the new PM by parliament.

In early May, the Sharif-led government sent a summary to the president, also a close Khan aide, to remove Cheema, nominating a senior ruling party leader Baligh-ur-Rehman as his replacement.

President Alvi had on May 9 rejected the summary of the prime minister, but Cheema was removed from the post the same day, with a Cabinet Division notification stating he had ceased to hold the office on the advice of PM Sharif sent to the president on two occasions.

“Referring to President’s Secretariat’s earlier communication, dated May 09, 2022, the President reiterated that ‘the Governor shall hold office during the pleasure of the President,’ as envisaged by Article 101 (2) of the Constitution,” a statement from the president’s office said.

“He added that the present circumstances demanded that the incumbent Governor should continue to hold that position.”

A governor in Pakistan is the appointed head of state of a province. He or she is appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister and can serve for a tenure that lasts up to five years.

The president made a reference to the Punjab governor’s letter, dated April 23, and a May 4 report, which highlighted that the change in loyalties of the members of the Punjab Assembly during the election of the Punjab chief minister and cobbling of the majority by “illegal means had generated serious governance issues in the province as well as violated the Article 63-A of the Constitution.”

President Alvi said the principled stance of the governor had been vindicated by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The top court on May 17 ruled that dissident lawmakers of a party could not cast their vote as it interpreted Article 63-A of the constitution, which relates to the disqualification of parliamentarians for voting, or abstaining from voting, against the party guidelines.

President Alvi said the stance of Governor Cheema was further augmented by the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision, declaring the defection of 25 provincial lawmakers in the election of chief minister as the “worst form of betraying the electorate and party’s policy.”

The ECP on Friday de-seated 25 dissident legislators belonging to Khan’s party, who had defected and voted for opposition candidate Hamza Shehbaz in the election for the Punjab chief minister’s slot last month.

With these 25 lawmakers no longer members of the House, Shehbaz, who won the April 16 election for the chief minister, has lost his majority in the Punjab Assembly, raising questions about the status of his government.

“In view of the above-mentioned facts, the president asked the prime minister to reconsider his advice with regard to the appointment of a new Governor Punjab in accordance with Article 48 (1) of the Constitution,” the statement from the president’s office added.