98% Pakistanis evacuated from Ukraine, around 30 stuck in areas of ‘intense fight’

A woman from Pakistan feeds her two-month-old baby in a tent at the border crossing in Medyka, eastern Poland as refugees continue to arrive from Ukraine on March 1, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 04 March 2022

98% Pakistanis evacuated from Ukraine, around 30 stuck in areas of ‘intense fight’

  • Pakistan Embassy in Ukraine calls on Russia and Ukraine to open humanitarian corridor for evacuation
  • Russia continues to pound Ukraine in over a week long invasion that has triggered alarm, invited sanctions

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Embassy in Ukraine said on Friday it had evacuated 98 percent of its nationals from the country amid an intensifying Russian invasion, saying an estimated 30 Pakistanis were still stuck in areas of “intense fight”. 
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine late February after which the Pakistan Embassy in Ukraine started evacuating its citizens. Russian forces have continued to pound Ukrainian cities since.
“The Embassy of Pakistan Ukraine has safely evacuated 98 percent Pakistanis from Ukraine,” the Pakistani embassy in Ukraine tweeted, adding that an estimated 30 nationals were still stranded.

In a subsequent tweet, the embassy said it had called on both sides to open a humanitarian corridor so that stranded Pakistanis could be evacuated safely. 

An estimated 3,000 Pakistani nationals were in Ukraine when Russia invaded the country, according to Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
The Russian invasion has drawn sharp rebuke from many countries around the world, raising alarm the attack could trigger a wider conflict. This is the largest attack by one state on another in Europe since World War II. 


Ahmed's 7-114 on test debut helps Pakistan rein in England

Updated 5 sec ago

Ahmed's 7-114 on test debut helps Pakistan rein in England

  • The 24-year-old mystery spinner helped dismiss England for 281 inside the first two sessions
  • England got rid of Pakistan openers before Azam’s unbeaten 61 carried hosts to 107-2 at stumps

MULTAN: Unheralded Abrar Ahmed bagged a rich haul of seven wickets in a dream test debut as Pakistan's spinners kept England’s aggression in check on the first day of the second test on Friday. 

The 24-year-old mystery spinner grabbed 7-114 and got plenty of help from the dry wicket at Multan Cricket Stadium to dismiss England for 281 inside the first two sessions. 

England got rid of both Pakistan openers — Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique — early before captain Babar Azam’s unbeaten 61 carried the home team to 107-2 at stumps when bad light stopped play with 10 overs still remaining in the day. 

Saud Shakeel, who scored a gritty half century in Pakistan’s 74-run defeat in the first test at Rawalpindi, was not out on 32. 

Ahmed was surprisingly left out from the first test despite picking up 43 wickets in this season’s first class tournament. He mystified England with his sharp googlies and carrom balls with only Ben Duckett (63) and Ollie Pope (60) scoring rapid half centuries. 

Legspinner Zahid Mahmood made a forgetful test debut at Rawalpindi, but finished off the tail just before tea to end up with 3-63 after Ahmed’s brilliance constantly posed challenges to England’s aggression. 

Duckett and Pope both scored half centuries in the first session before falling to Ahmed as the legspinner became only the second bowler in test history to pick up five wickets before lunch in his debut test and England reached 180-5. 

Leftarm spinner Alf Valentine of the West Indies was the other bowler to do so when he debuted against England at Manchester in 1950. 

Ahmed struck off his fifth ball as Babar turned to his mystery spinner as early as in the ninth over after Ben Stokes won the toss and elected to bat. 

Ahmed challenged England’s aggression through his variety of bowling on a wicket offering plenty of assistance to the spinners inside the first hour and wasn’t afraid to lure the England batters through his variations. 

Zak Crawley (19) was baffled by Ahmed’s sharp delivery which jagged back into him and knocked back his stumps and then the legspinner successfully won lbw decisions against Duckett and Joe Root (8) through television referrals. 

Duckett and Pope combined in a 79-run stand off 61 balls and briefly dominated even Ahmed through their extravagant reverse sweep shots before the bowler broke through soon after Duckett had completed his half century. 

Allrounder Faheem Ashraf and Ahmed were two of the three changes Pakistan had to make after fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Naseem Shah both were ruled out with injuries, and the home team also dropped experienced No. 3 batter Azhar Ali because of lack of form and brought in allrounder Mohammad Nawaz. 

England didn’t slow down and its fearless approach to score at a rapid pace cost them when Pope was caught at point while going for a reverse sweep and Harry Brook gave a skied shot to Nawaz at mid-off against Ahmed as England reached 180-5. 

Captain Stokes (30) and Will Jacks (31) added 61 runs but Ahmed continued to strike after lunch by removing both batters in his successive overs. Stokes was shocked by Ahmed’s sharp turner that hit the lefthander’s off stump and Jacks was trapped leg before wicket. 

Mark Wood, the only change England made to its playing XI, struck eight fours in his unbeaten 36 off 27 balls to underline England’s aggressive batting throughout the innings before Mahmood wrapped up England’s innings quickly. 

Wood, playing his first test since March, replaced allrounder Liam Livingstone who flew back home after injuring his knee during the first test. 

Veteran James Anderson struck early when he found the outside edge of Imam in his second over without scoring before wicketkeeper Pope held on to another thin edge of Shafique’s bat against Jack Leach when England successfully went for television referral. 

Leach couldn’t get much purchase of the wicket with the new ball after Stokes went to his spinners from the onset in the last session. 

Babar, who pushed himself at No. 3 after Azhar was dropped, was fluent against both spin and pace and completed his half century off 57 balls late in the last session before bad light brought an early closure. 


Pakistan launches animal rights curriculum to shape more 'tolerant and inclusive' society

Updated 35 min 20 sec ago

Pakistan launches animal rights curriculum to shape more 'tolerant and inclusive' society

  • Minister for Education Rana Tanvir launched the curriculum along with children from various schools
  • Official says the purpose of the launch is to ensure children can learn what adults were never taught

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Friday launched an animal rights curriculum for primary schools, an aide to Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said, in a bid to protect animal rights in the country and shape a more “tolerant and inclusive” society. 

Pakistan's Minister for Education Rana Tanvir along with children from various schools launched the curriculum, which will be applicable to both public and private schools.  

Salman Sufi, head of the prime minister's strategic reforms unit, took to Twitter and shared glimpses of the launch ceremony as well as one of the course books. 

“Proud to announce the official launch of Pakistan’s 1st Animal Rights Curriculum on direction of PM @CMShehbaz,” Sufi tweeted.  

“Our children will shape a more tolerant and inclusive Pakistan.” 

Sufi said in September that the curriculum would initially be introduced in schools across the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), but the federal government had plans to work with provincial governments to add courses to their curriculum later. 

He said PM Sharif had been pushing for animal welfare reforms through the unit and the move to introduce the course was a step in that direction.   

“The main purpose is to make sure that children can learn what we were never taught,” Sufi told Arab News in September.  

“That stray animals, pet animals, exotic animals, and any animal has rights, and we have to take care of them. And we have to take care of them in the right way, not just by words but through proper actions.” 

The premier’s aide said he and Climate Change Minister Sherry Rehman were also working on an animal welfare law that would soon be tabled in parliament. 

In June, the Pakistani government also announced Rs15,000 ($73) fine and jail term for animal cruelty offenders as it prohibited testing and surgeries on live animals at veterinary schools and industrial complexes in the federal capital. 

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. 

Days later, Shalin Gala, vice-president of global animal rights advocacy group PETA, hailed the “landmark” reform to ban tests and surgeries on live animals, saying his organization would be working with Pakistani authorities on more critical reforms in training that would spare animal lives. 


'Made-in-Sialkot' Adidas ball puts Pakistan in the World Cup

Updated 09 December 2022

'Made-in-Sialkot' Adidas ball puts Pakistan in the World Cup

  • Sialkot has a rich history of making soccer balls and other sporting equipment dating back to colonial times
  • The eastern Pakistani city made more than 43 million balls valued at $191 million in the 2021-22 financial year

SIALKOT: Even though it is a cricket-mad nation, Pakistan is playing a big part in the soccer World Cup by making the balls used on the training fields in Qatar and the replicas sold to fans worldwide. 

Forward Sports, a multinational sports equipment company in the northeastern city of Sialkot, has been working with Adidas AG for almost 20 years. It is one of the two manufacturers of Adidas’ Al Rihla, the official World Cup ball. 

Hassan Masood Khawaja director of Forward Sports, the official manufacturer of sports goods for Adidas, speaks with Reuters at his factory in Sialkot, Pakistan on November 30, 2022. (REUTERS)

Forward Sports Director Hassan Masood Khawaja said his company had made 5.5 million Al Rihla balls, including 60,000 high-quality replicas of the balls used in matches, only without the real-time technology helping referees with offside and line calls. 

They are used by the teams as they train in Qatar, and sold as a premium product to football enthusiasts across the globe, with the rest sold as lower-priced leisure and souvenir balls. The match balls are made in China. Adidas declined to identify the manufacturer. 

A worker conducts the final check to fix any cavity in the seams of a ball inside the soccer ball factory in Sialkot, Pakistan December 2, 2022. (REUTERS)

For the company, the contract is a source of pride. 

“More than business, it is a matter of prestige and honor for us to make the World Cup ball,” Khawaja said. 

“How do we do it? It’s the skill of the people ... and our love for the sport,” he said. 

Workers check the finish of the soccer balls before packing them inside the soccer ball factory, in Sialkot, Pakistan November 30, 2022. (REUTERS)

While soccer is popular among fans, the national side is ranked 194 out of 211 countries by FIFA. Cricket reigns supreme. 

Sialkot has a rich history of making soccer balls and other sporting equipment dating back to colonial times. 

Pakistan remains one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of soccer balls, along with China and India. The local chamber of commerce said more than 43 million balls valued at $191 million were made in Sialkot in the 2021/22 financial year. 

About 8 percent of Sialkot’s population of around 1 million people work in the industry, but many say they have little time to actually see their product in action. 

“We work all day,” said Forward Sports quality control inspector Amna, when asked if she watched soccer. “At night, when we go home, we need to rest.”


Pakistani central bank reserves decline to near four-year low

Updated 51 min 34 sec ago

Pakistani central bank reserves decline to near four-year low

  • Central bank data shows Pakistan’s liquid foreign exchange reserves stand at $6.7 billion
  • Forex reserves can only cover one month of imports, says finance expert Tahir Abbas

ISLAMABAD: As the forex reserves of Pakistan’s central bank decreased by $782 million to a four-year low of $6.7 billion during the week that ended Dec. 2, a financial expert on Friday said the country needed to employ efforts on a “war footing basis” to manage the crisis.

The State Bank of Pakistan’s (SBP) data showed that it was only left with liquid foreign exchange reserves worth 6.7 billion during the week that ended on December 2. The central bank’s net reserves with other banks remained at $5.867 billion, bringing the country’s total reserves to $12.58 billion.

 

 

The last time the central bank’s reserves were this low was on January 18, 2019, when it had some $6.64 billion in reserves.

The South Asian nation is already undergoing a financial crunch, largely aggravated by the unprecedented floods that affected more than 33 million people. Results from a damage assessment survey estimated that the deluges have cost the country more than $30 billion in damages.

“Pakistan’s forex reserves have fallen to a critical level that can only cover one month of imports,” Tahir Abbas, head of research at Arif Habib Limited, a Pakistani security brokerage firm, told Arab News.

“The government needs to manage the foreign exchange reserves on a war footing basis by expediting the process to complete the impending review of the International Monetary Fund (IMF),” he added.

He added that the completion of the IMF review will not only help inflows from the global money lender, but also from other multinational lenders.

Abbas said to meet the deficit, the government is also trying to arrange $4.2 billion from Saudi Arabia under an emergency relief package, including $3 billion in deposits and $12 billion worth of oil on deferred payments.

“In addition, the government needs to stop the bleeding on the Current Account Deficit (CAD) because the country has to run the CAD at a minimum side,” Abbas said.

The IMF review for the release of Pakistan’s next tranche of funding has been pending since September, which has left the country in dire need of external financing.

Islamabad has said all targets for the IMF review have been completed and that withholding a tranche despite that would not make sense.


Pakistan’s top court declares agreement for Reko Diq revival legal

Updated 09 December 2022

Pakistan’s top court declares agreement for Reko Diq revival legal

  • Pakistan’s top court blocked Reko Diq’s implementation in 2013 over contractual issues
  • Government consulted experts, Balochistan Assembly taken into confidence, observes court

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top court on Friday declared an agreement between the country and two international firms, for the development of the Reko Diq mine, as legal, local media reported.

The Reko Diq mine is located in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province which is said to have one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits. The development of the project was suspended in 2011 after Pakistan denied the Tethyan Copper Company, a joint venture between Barrick Gold of Canada and Antofagasta Minerals of Chile, license to continue work.

The country’s Supreme Court blocked the Tethyan Copper Company in 2013 from developing Reko Diq following a court case on how the contract had been awarded. However, Pakistan reached an out-of-court settlement with the mining firms in March this year to avoid paying the $9 billion penalty announced by the World Bank’s arbitration court, and the government said it was hopeful that Barrick and its partners would invest $10 billion in the project.

The verdict was announced by a five-member bench headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial.

“In its 13-page short order issued today, the court observed that the government had entered the agreement after consulting experts, as per the court order, and the Balochistan Assembly was taken into confidence regarding the agreement,” Dawn, a leading newspaper in Pakistan, reported.

The court observed that the Balochistan Assembly lawmakers were briefed on the matter and they did not raise any objections to the agreement, Dawn said. It said the court order noted that Barrick Gold Corporation had assured labor rights would not be violated during the project’s implementation and that the agreement met environmental requirements.

“There was nothing illegal in the new Reko Diq agreement, the court concluded, adding that it was also not in violation of its 2013 judgment,” Dawn reported.

The revival of Reko Diq project is expected to give a fillip to the economy by creating a more positive investment sentiment and increasing employment opportunities in the country.