Pakistani Hajj pilgrims under government scheme to receive Rs150,000 in subsidy from August 17

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, Mufti Abdul Shakoor (right), address a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, on August 15, 2022. (Federal Minister for Religious Affairs)
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Updated 15 August 2022

Pakistani Hajj pilgrims under government scheme to receive Rs150,000 in subsidy from August 17

  • The government will inform Hajj pilgrims about the disbursement by sending them text messages
  • Pakistani minister says the country saved substantial amount during Hajj due to Saudi assistance

ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Religious Affairs Mufti Abdul Shakoor said on Monday Pakistani pilgrims performing Hajj under the government scheme would start receiving a subsidy of Rs150,000 from August 17 as the country said it had completed of its Hajj operation this year.

The government announced a subsidy of Rs4.88 billion which would be disbursed among pilgrims who returned from the kingdom after performing the pilgrimage.

The total Hajj expenditure under the government scheme exceeded Rs860,000, though people will now be getting some financial relaxation after the announcement of the subsidy.

“Our Hajj operation has completed successfully and without any untoward incident,” the minister told Arab News on the sidelines of a post-Hajj news conference in the federal capital. “All people who performed their pilgrimage under the government scheme will start getting Rs150,000 back from August 17 and this disbursement process will complete by August 31.”

He said the pilgrims would be informed about the disbursement through text messages.

“They will get the amount by showing that message along with their national identity card and passport to the bank,” the minister continued. “The bank will transfer the amount into the pilgrim’s account after that.”

Saudi Arabia allowed about a million people to perform Hajj this year after lifting strict coronavirus restrictions which were imposed after the emergence of the pandemic.

Pakistan’s religious affairs minister said the kingdom supported his country’s Hajj mission in every possible way, adding it even increased the South Asian nation’s quota by adding 2,000 more people.

“Due to the hard work of our team and cooperation of Saudis, we succeeded in reducing the expenses by nearly 1,500 Riyal per pilgrim than we had initially anticipated,” he said.

The minister also informed that over 15,000 Pakistani pilgrims under the government scheme had also benefitted from the Makkah Route Initiative.

“The pilgrims were provided residences near the Grand Mosque [in Makkah] and four- and five-star hotels in Madinah,” he said. “Apart from that, they were given the best transportation and food services as well.”

The minister informed it was the first time pilgrims under the government scheme got their boarding passes 24 hours before their return to the country.
He added their luggage was also booked much ahead of their return flight, which saved them time at the airport.


Pakistan thanks Kuwait for support after deadly floods

Updated 5 sec ago

Pakistan thanks Kuwait for support after deadly floods

  • Last month, Kuwaiti charities said Pakistan was “witnessing one of the worst humanitarian disasters”
  • Kuwaiti foreign ministry collaborating with 27 local charities to provide urgent relief for flood survivors

ISLAMABAD: Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hina Rabbani Khar, on Thursday thanked Kuwait’s ambassador to Pakistan for the Gulf nation’s support after recent floods in Pakistan that have killed at least 1,700 people and left 33 million scrambling to survive.

Last month, the Kuwait News Agency, KUNA, had reported that the Kuwaiti Ministry of Foreign Affairs was collaborating with 27 local charities to provide urgent relief to Pakistan flood survivors. Other Gulf states like the UAE and Saudi Arabia have also sent thousands of tons of relief goods to Pakistan via land and air routes. 

“Ambassador of Kuwait, H.E. Nassar Abdulrahman J Almutairi, called on Minister of State Hina Rabbani Khar at the Ministry,” the foreign office said. “MOS thanked Ambassador for Kuwait’s support during recent floods in Pakistan.”

Last month, Kuwaiti charities in a joint statement said Pakistan was “witnessing one of the worst humanitarian disasters.”

“Without urgent access to medical aid, food, water, and shelter, those affected are most exposed to grave risks,” the statement added, calling for more aid for the flood-ravaged nation.

The calls for aid from around the world come as hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis who fled their homes are living in government camps set up to accommodate them, or simply out in the open.

Stagnant floodwaters, spread over hundreds of square kilometers (miles), may take two to six months to recede in some places, officials say, and have already led to widespread cases of skin and eye infections, diarrhea, malaria, typhoid and dengue fever.

The crisis hits Pakistan at a particularly bad time. With its economy in crisis, propped up by loans from the International Monetary Fund, it does not have the resources to cope with the longer-term effects of the flooding without international aid. 


Pakistan government to file Supreme Court reference to revive Reko Diq gold mine project

Updated 06 October 2022

Pakistan government to file Supreme Court reference to revive Reko Diq gold mine project

  • Reko Diq project is in southwestern Pakistan hosts one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits
  • Project was suspended in 2011 after Pakistan denied a joint venture, Tethyan Copper Company, a licence to develop it

KARACHI: Pakistan’s federal government will file a reference in the apex court next week for the revival of Reko Diq, a gold and copper project located in Balochistan province, the attorney general said on Thursday.  

The Reko Diq project in southwestern Pakistan, which hosts one of the world’s largest undeveloped copper and gold deposits, was suspended in 2011 after Pakistan denied a joint venture, the Tethyan Copper Company, comprising Barrick Gold of Canada and Antofagasta Minerals of Chile, a licence to develop it. 

Pakistan’s Supreme Court blocked Tethyan Copper in 2013 from developing Reko Diq following a court case over how the contract had been awarded.

But Barrick Gold ended a long-running dispute with Pakistan and is set to start to develop the project under an agreement signed earlier this year.

Under the out-of-court deal, an $11 billion penalty slapped against Pakistan by a World Bank arbitration court and other liabilities will be waived and Barrick and its partners will invest $10 billion in the project, Pakistan’s then Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin had said.

On September 30, the federal cabinet approved filing a reference in the Supreme Court for the revival of the project.

“The reference will be filed after October 9 ... and all the consultations have been completed,” Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali told Arab News. “This reference and the agreement [signed with Barrick Gold] will be put before the apex court with the question of whether it negates the earlier judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.”  

The federal government plans to seek the court’s opinion on two questions:

“Whether the earlier judgment of the Supreme Court, the Constitution of Pakistan, laws or public policy prevent the federal and provincial governments of Balochistan from entering into the Reko Diq Agreements or affect their validity?' and 'If enacted, would the proposed Foreign Investment (Protection and Promotion) Bill, 2022 be valid and constitutional'," Pakistan's state-run media APP reported on Wednesday.

The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in 2019 announced a huge award of $5.8 billion against Pakistan in the Reko Diq case, filed in 2012 by Tethyan Copper. Damages included compensation of $4.087 billion by reference to the fair market value of the Reko Diq project at the time of the mining lease denial, and interest until the date of the award of $1.753 billion. The Tribunal also awarded TCC just under $62 million in costs incurred in enforcing its rights and also imposed another fine of $4 billion.

However, in March this year, the government of former Prime Minister Imran Khan signed an agreement with Barrrick Gold to avoid the $11 billion penalty.

The project will be operated by Barrick, which owns 50% stakes, while 25% shares each will be owned by the Balochistan provincial government and Pakistani state-owned enterprises. 

The first production of copper and gold is expected in 2027-2028.


Pakistan is not seeking climate ‘reparations’ after deadly floods — PM

Updated 06 October 2022

Pakistan is not seeking climate ‘reparations’ after deadly floods — PM

  • Sharif’s own climate minister Sherry Rehman has called for climate reparations from the wealthy polluting nations
  • Rich countries say purse strings tight due to soaring energy costs, fallout of Ukraine war and COVID-19 pandemic

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has said this was not the “proper” time to seek climate reparations from wealthy nations, saying that instead he wanted them to take note of their climate impacts and act before it was too late.

Sharif’s statement comes as vulnerable countries ramp up demands for rich countries to pay compensation for losses inflicted on the world’s poorest people by climate change, and after deadly floods in Pakistan have killed over 1,700 people and affected 33 million, Hundreds of thousands of displaced people who are living in the open are being exposed to diseases like malaria, diarrhea, dengue fever, severe skin and eyes infections, cholera, dog and snake bites, all of which are fast spreading amid stagnant floodwaters that officials say will take several months to recede.

Amid the disaster, many Pakistani commentators, as well as Sharif’s own climate minister, Sherry Rehman, have been calling not for aid but for climate reparations from the wealthy polluting nations.

But in an interview to the Guardian published on Thursday, Sharif pushed back on this suggestion.

“We’re not asking about reparations,” he said. “No, we’re not. I don’t think talk of reparations is proper at this point in time. What I am saying is that they should take notice of the situation, take responsibility and act speedily before it’s too late, before the damage becomes irreparable – not just for Pakistan, but for the world.”

Sharif’s statement comes despite wealthy countries failing to deliver a promise for $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries lower emissions and prepare for climate change. Loss and damage payments would be in addition to that $100 billion.

Indeed, when diplomats from nearly 200 countries meet on November 7 in the beachside resort town of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, for the UN climate summit, this issue is likely to dominate the talks: “loss and damage,” or climate-related destruction to homes, infrastructure and livelihoods in the poorest countries that have contributed least to global warming.

The world’s 46 least developed countries, home to 14 percent of the global population, produce just 1 percent of the world’s annual CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels, according to the UN.

As COP27 approaches, climate losses are surging — in rich and poor countries alike. In recent weeks, wildfires have swallowed huge swathes of land in Morocco, Greece and Canada, drought has ravaged Italy’s vineyards, and fatal floods hit Gambia, China and Pakistan.

But COP27 will not be easy, as rich countries arrive with purse strings tightened by soaring energy costs, the economic fallout of the Ukraine war and the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted wealthy countries spend trillions of dollars propping up their economies.


Pakistan central bank to complete probe soon into alleged FX manipulation by banks

Updated 06 October 2022

Pakistan central bank to complete probe soon into alleged FX manipulation by banks

  • Rupee has fluctuated wildly this year, leading authorities to suspect manipulation by banks and exchange companies
  • Rupee is currently at around 223.94 to the US dollar, down around 20 percent in 2022, it had lost 27% at one stage

KARACHI: Pakistan’s central bank will soon complete an investigation into alleged manipulation by commercial banks of foreign exchange operations in the country, an official said on Wednesday.

Pakistan’s rupee has fluctuated wildly this year, particularly recently, hitting record lows against the US dollar last month before suddenly rising in recent days, leading authorities to suspect manipulation by banks and exchange companies.

“The investigations are being carried out by the regulator and results might come soon,” the chief spokesperson for the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP), Abid Qamar, told Reuters.

He said he could not give an exact date for the completion, but said the probe had started some time back during the tenure of the previous finance minister.

The rupee is currently at around 223.94 to the US dollar, down around 20 percent in 2022. It had lost 27 percent at one stage, hitting a low of 220 on Aug. 31.

A parliamentary committee on Tuesday directed the SBP to take appropriate action against all banks and exchange companies involved in volatility in the exchange rate in recent weeks.

In 16 sessions up to Sept. 22, the rupee lost close to 9 percent against the dollar. Since then, it has gained about 7 percent, without any changes in economic fundamentals.

The rupee gains coincided with the return of Ishaq Dar as finance minister for his fourth stint. Dar has strongly favored intervention in currency markets and has come down hard on exchange speculation in the past.


10 Pakistani kids all set for Street Child World Cup in Doha this month

Updated 06 October 2022

10 Pakistani kids all set for Street Child World Cup in Doha this month

  • This is the third time Pakistan is participating in the series which will take place from October 8-15
  • Pakistan reached final in 2018 but lost to Uzbekistan, latest team chosen after yearlong trail and training

ISLAMABAD: Sometimes, Sahil Khattak still can’t believe his luck.

The sixteen-year-old boy who grew up in a small village in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, working at a shop to earn a daily wage to support his family, is headed this month to Doha as part of a team of 10 Pakistani footballers who will compete in the Street Child World Cup.

The 11-day event, which runs from October 8-15, will include 28 teams from 24 countries, and has been organized by Street Child United, a UK-based non-profit. This is the fourth edition of the tournament, with the last three held in South Africa (2010), Brazil (2014) and Russia (2018).

Pakistan reached the final in 2018 but lost the title to Uzbekistan. In 2014, it finished third place.

“I still can’t believe I have been selected,” Khattak, a goalkeeper, said in Islamabad ahead of practice with his 10-member-team, which has players from Balochistan, KP, Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan.

The team was chosen out of up to 90 players who were trained during a yearlong trial process conducted by the charity Muslim Hands Pakistan, its program officer, Syed Muhammad Owais, said.

“The kids were trained in Mirpur, Azad Kashmir, after the initial selection, and as time passed, there was a final selection process for the top 10,” Owais added.

Muslim Hands Pakistan, which operates worldwide, conducted trials in nine academies in different parts of the country, “providing the opportunity to youth to showcase their passion on an international platform,” Owais said.

Head coach Muhammad Rasheed said the trail project had helped reach street players who did not have the means to enter academies.

“Those who do not get a chance to reach this point, we go to them and conduct trials and bring them here and groom them technically, tactically, mentally and in terms of their PR, we also do personality grooming,” the coach said.

During the trial process, the families of selected candidates were also given stipends so they would allow their children, many of whom work, to play professional football, Owais said.

About 3.3 million Pakistani children are trapped in child labor, depriving them of their childhood, their health and education, and condemning them to a life of poverty, according to UNICEF.

“Basically, I had no support from my family, they never allowed me to play,” Khattak said, smiling wryly. “Even to give the trial, I came without telling my family and took a day off from the shop [where I work], for which I was badly beaten because I didn’t get my daily wage that day.”

“Back in the day, my father was also a goalkeeper but he quit playing football due to [financial] circumstances and warned me against playing also.”

Now, however, Khattak said he was “very happy” to be part of the team and glad that eight long months of training had paid off.

Captain Muhammad Safdar said he was satisfied with the team’s performance and hopeful they could win.

“The way we have been practicing, sir [coach] has trained us day and night,” he said. “So, we are hopeful that we will win the title.”