‘Massive occasion’: Shaheen Afridi has his sights set on Australia ahead of historic tour

Pakistan's Shaheen Shah Afridi reacts during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on October 29, 2021. (AFP/ File)
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Updated 12 February 2022

‘Massive occasion’: Shaheen Afridi has his sights set on Australia ahead of historic tour

  • Australia will tour Pakistan for the first time in 24 years in the coming month to play a full series
  • Shaheen Afridi was declared ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year for his spectacular 2021 performance

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi said on Saturday he was waiting to take on Australia when the latter begin their first cricket tour to his country in March after a gap of 24 years.

Most international teams decided not to set a foot on Pakistan’s soil in recent years due to heightened security concerns after a terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricket players in 2009.

Australia last visited the country in 1998 when Afridi was not even born.

“A series against Australia is always a big one and performing against them gives you recognition as they have always been one of the top sides,” he said.

“I always looked forward to playing against them in the United Arab Emirates or Australia and now playing them at home will be a massive occasion indeed and I am determined to give my best,” he added.

Afridi was in top form last year, taking an impressive number of 47 wickets in nine Tests at an average of 17.06 with an innings best of 6 for 51. The International Cricket Council (ICC) declared him its Cricketer of the Year for 2021.

“Last year our bowling attack was the best in the world and our aim is to maintain the momentum,” he continued. “Hasan [Ali] and I always look to attack and take wickets. I am sure we will get great support from the crowd during the series as fans would be excited to see the Australian side play on our grounds.”

Afridi maintained it was always an advantage for a team to play in home conditions, adding he was counting on Pakistani fans to cheer the players from the stands.

“Home fans also provide an extra incentive to perform,” he added.

The Pakistani pacer is currently playing in HBL Pakistan Super League (PSL) Twenty20 tournament where he is captaining Lahore Qalandars for the first time.

Australia will play three Tests, three one-day internationals (ODIs) and one Twenty-20 International (T20I) in its month-long series in Pakistan.

The tour will start and end in Rawalpindi with the opening Test to be played from March 4-8 and the four white-ball matches to be played from March 29 to April 5.

Pakistan increases prices of petroleum products for third time in one month

Updated 30 June 2022

Pakistan increases prices of petroleum products for third time in one month

  • The government has justified the decision on the bases of exchange rate fluctuations, rising prices in international market
  • The prices of petrol and high-speed diesel in Pakistan have now surged to Rs248.74 and Rs276.54 per liter, respectively

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s finance division announced on Thursday it had increased the prices of petroleum products for the third time in a month, as the country faces double-digit inflation and the government strives to keep the economy afloat.

Pakistan’s new administration has swallowed the bitter pill of raising petroleum prices three times during the course of this month in a desperate hope to revive a stalled $6 billion loan program offered by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF had suspended the loan facility in February after the previous administration of ousted prime minister Imran Khan went against its terms and conditions by announcing subsidies worth billions of rupees for the fuel and power sectors.

Pakistan is actively seeking external finances amid a mounting import bill since its foreign currency reserves have tumbled and its current account deficit has ballooned.

“In view of the fluctuations in petroleum prices in the international market and exchange rate variation, the Government has decided to apply petroleum levy partially and revise the existing prices of petroleum products,” the finance division said in a press release.

It further noted the price of petrol had been increased by Rs14.85 per liter, high-speed diesel by Rs13.23 per liter, kerosene by Rs18.83 per liter, and light diesel oil by Rs18.68 per liter.

The finance division said the new prices of petroleum products would be in place from July 1.

After the latest hike, the price of petrol in Pakistan has surged to Rs248.74 per liter, high-speed diesel to Rs276.54 per liter, kerosene to Rs230.26per liter and light diesel oil to Rs226.15 per liter.

FIFA lifts Pakistan suspension after more than a year

Updated 30 June 2022

FIFA lifts Pakistan suspension after more than a year

  • The suspension was imposed in April 2021 after a hostile takeover of Pakistan Football Federation
  • FIFA says Pakistan can still face suspension or other sanctions mentioned in its statute book

ISLAMABAD: International football governing body FIFA announced on Thursday it had lifted a suspension imposed on the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) in April 2021 due to third-party interference.

FIFA suspended the PFF last year after a dispute broke out among Pakistani football officials that was later resolved by the country’s top court whose decision was not recognized by the international body.

A group of local officials took over the PFF headquarters in Lahore by force in March 2021, sidelining the FIFA-recognized normalization committee (NC) while blaming it for not holding the federation’s elections in a long time.

FIFA barred Pakistan from participating in international competitions soon after the development, though it has now reversed its decision.

“The decision [to lift the suspension] was taken after FIFA received confirmation that the normalization committee of the PFF had regained full control of the PFF’s premises and was in a position to manage its finances,” its statement said.

FIFA informed it had warned the PFF that “undue interference in its affairs or action that could hinder the fulfilment of the mandate of the normalization committee” might lead to Pakistan being suspended again or result in further sanctions provided in the FIFA statute.

It added since the normalization committee could not realistically fulfill its original mandate until June 30, 2022, its tenure had been extended to June 30, 2023.

“This will enable [the committee] to finally carry out the tasks assigned to it in full,” the statement noted.

Government to form commission to investigate energy sector losses during ex-PM Khan’s rule

Updated 30 June 2022

Government to form commission to investigate energy sector losses during ex-PM Khan’s rule

  • Pakistan has been witnessing prolonged power outages amid a rising domestic demand for electricity
  • Hiked fuel prices in international market have made low-cost power generation difficult for the country

ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to form a commission to probe the handling of Pakistan’s fuel and power sectors by the previous administration of ousted prime minister Imran Khan, as it blames the current energy crisis in the country on some of the decisions taken in the last four years.

The announcement to establish the commission was made by Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, a senior member of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, during a joint press conference with federal minister for planning and development Ahsan Iqbal.

Pakistan has been witnessing frequent and prolonged power outages amid a rising domestic demand for electricity and as hiked fuel prices in the international market have made low-cost power generation difficult for the country.

Pakistan has slashed fuel subsidies for a third time in a month in a bid to control the fiscal deficit and secure International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout money.

Ousted Prime Minister Imran Khan had given the subsidy in his last days in power to cool down public sentiment in the face of double-digit inflation, a move the IMF said deviated from the terms of the 2019 deal.

“The prime minister [Shehbaz Sharif] has decided to form a commission that will objectively look into the losses incurred in the fuel and power sectors in the last four years and present a report to the people of Pakistan so they become aware of these developments and understand why electricity and gas have become more expensive in the country and who are the individuals responsible for it,” Abbasi said.

“It has also been decided that the commission’s proceedings will be open to the media and the public,” he added.

The PML-N leader said the previous government had “destroyed” the energy sector of the country.

He also said its policies had led to the depletion of Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves, added to its circular debt and increased economic woes.

The planning minister blamed Khan and his cabinet members for not making long term fuel procurement contracts on cheaper rates in time.

Pakistan's monthly fuel oil imports are set to hit a four-year high in June, latest Refinitiv data shows, as the country struggles to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) for power generation amid a heatwave that is driving demand.

Pakistan had cut fuel oil imports since the second half of 2018 as LNG prices were low, but it had to at times switch back to oil since July 2021 because of sky-high LNG prices.

The country's fuel oil imports could climb to about 700,000 tonnes this month, after hitting 630,000 tonnes in May, according to Refinitiv estimates. Imports last peaked at 680,000 tonnes in May 2018 and 741,000 tonnes in June 2017.

Pakistan rupee gains by 0.13% after China inflows, hopes of IMF deal

Updated 30 June 2022

Pakistan rupee gains by 0.13% after China inflows, hopes of IMF deal

  • Statistics reveal Pakistan’s national currency depreciated by 30% against US dollar in the outgoing fiscal year
  • Analysts warn against political uncertainty and its adverse impact on Pakistan’s economy and currency

KARACHI: Pakistan’s rupee continued to gain against the US dollar on Thursday, appreciating by 0.13% as the market reacted to “positive vibes” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and increase in forex reserves in the wake of the inflows from China, currency dealers and analysts said.

The rupee increased in value against the dollar by Rs0.27 before closing at Rs204.85 in the interbank market.

Pakistan’s national currency has taken a battering during the outgoing fiscal year 2021-22, losing its value by a whopping 30% and touching an all-time low of Rs211.93 against the US dollar on June 22, according to the central bank’s data.

Pakistan’s fast-depleting foreign exchange reserves, a huge import bill and delay in the revival of a $6 billion loan from the IMF have caused the rupee to rapidly depreciate over the past few weeks.

On Tuesday, Pakistan received a Memorandum of Economic and Financial Policies (MEFP) from the IMF for the combined 7th and 8th reviews, the development being considered an important one for the resumption of the loan facility.

“Since positive vibes are coming from the IMF front, the rupee is constantly gaining value against the dollar,” Zafar Paracha, senior currency analyst, told Arab News.

“Today, it was trading at Rs203.50 and was expected to close at Rs203,” he continued. “However, the demand pushed the value of the rupee toward the lower side by the end of the day.”

Paracha said after the recent development on the IMF front, the business sentiment had changed and a downward trend in the value of dollar had been observed in the market.

“Besides, exporters are also selling their dollars in the market while importers are holding back due to currency fluctuations,” he noted, explaining that the demand for the dollar was slow and the supply was high, which was causing the rupee to appreciate.

Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves increased last week when China deposited RMB15 billion (roughly $2.3 billion) into Pakistan’s central bank, a few days after some Chinese banks signed a loan agreement with Pakistan.

Inflows from China and progress in Islamabad’s talks with the IMF had caused the rupee to gain strength, currency dealers said.

“The government has played a key role in its talks with the IMF and it is expected that the authorities will sign an agreement with the fund in July 2022,” Malik Bostan, president of the Forex Association of Pakistan, told Arab News, adding that inflows of $2.3 billion from China had also contributed to the appreciation of the Pakistani rupee.

Bostan said reports of former finance minister Ishaq Dar’s arrival in Pakistan next month had also changed the market sentiment and induced exporters to sell their dollars.

“Dar is known for keeping the dollar in check, so exporters have started selling their dollar holdings,” he added. “Due to this, dollar sales have increased by around 30%.”

Dealers and analysts said the country was expected to receive financial support from friendly countries such as Saudi Arabia and other donors after the completion of the IMF review.

However, they warned against political uncertainty in the country and its adverse impact on Pakistan’s economy and currency.

In rare instance, Pakistan announces fine, jail term for perpetrators of animal cruelty

Updated 30 June 2022

In rare instance, Pakistan announces fine, jail term for perpetrators of animal cruelty

  • The government has banned testing, surgeries on live animals at veterinary schools in the capital territory
  • Pakistan has also announced other strategic reforms to ensure women protection, facilitate laborers going abroad

ISLAMABAD: In a rare move to ensure animal rights in Pakistan, the government on Thursday banned testing and surgeries on live animals at veterinary schools and industrial complexes in the federal capital while announcing Rs15,000 ($73) fine and jail term for animal cruelty offenders.

The decision came only a few weeks after people expressed their outrage after discovering that veterinary schools were using live animals, including dogs, cats and rabbits, to teach students how to perform incision and stitching.

“Live testing of animals in vet colleges and industrial complexes is banned from today in Islamabad Capital Territory,” Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s Strategic Reforms Unit Head Salman Sufi announced during a news conference.

He said the government was introducing amendments to a British-era law to bring about the change, adding a notification had already been issued for the Islamabad region in this connection to ensure animals welfare.

“Amendments for national level law are ready ... The bill will be tabled in the National Assembly during the next session [for debate and approval],” he continued.

Sufi said this was going to be “Pakistan’s first comprehensive animal welfare law” while pointing out the government would also encourage provinces to implement it in their respective territories as well.

He informed that citizens would be able to report any act of cruelty toward animals through a hotline, noting that the offenders would face Rs5,000 to Rs15,000 fine along with jail term.

The head of the PM’s strategic reforms unit noted a standard set of guidelines was also going to be announced to regulate pet markets across the country, adding that violators would be fined and their shops could be closed.

Discussing other reforms, Sufi said the government was going to facilitate laborers and professionals who were planning to go abroad by abolishing the protectorate stamp.

“Our laborers and professionals will no more be required to visit the protectorate office physically,” he said. “They remit precious foreign exchange and it is the responsibility of the government and private sector to facilitate them.”

Other than that, he said the administration of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif was setting up violence against women centers in Punjab and Sindh provinces while also planning to provide scooties to female teachers, students and entrepreneurs on subsidized rates as part of the Women on Wheels program.

“If we want women to participate in the national economy, we will need to remove the biggest hurdle in their mobility by providing them scooties,” he said.

Sufi also informed the government was going to launch “Safar Saheli” app and place panic buttons in train carriages to facilitate female passengers to timely alert authorities in case of any problem.

Among other issues, he also emphasized data privacy of citizens, saying any unsolicited message from companies to cellphone users must have an unsubscribe option from July 1.

“Even after unsubscribing the unwanted messages, if a citizen receives them again, the relevant company will be fined and banned,” he said.