Post-Hajj flight operations conclude in Pakistani cities of Lahore, Peshawar, Multan

On April 07, 2018, passengers boarding Pakistan International Airline (PIA) flight at Benazir International Airport Islamabad, Pakistan. (Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority/File)
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Updated 16 August 2022

Post-Hajj flight operations conclude in Pakistani cities of Lahore, Peshawar, Multan

  • Pakistan’s national airline operated over 154 return flights till August 13
  • Over 83,000 Pakistani pilgrims performed the Hajj pilgrimage this year

ISLAMABAD: A spokesperson for the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) said on Tuesday post-Hajj flight operations had been successfully concluded at airports in the Pakistani cities of Peshawar, Multan and Lahore.

Up to one million pilgrims from around the world performed the annual Islamic pilgrimage, Hajj, after Saudi Arabia lifted coronavirus restrictions for the first time in two years. Pilgrims were required to be vaccinated and under 65 years of age. 

The kingdom allotted Pakistan a quota of 83,132 pilgrims this year, out of which 34,453 people availed the government’s Hajj scheme while over 48,000 performed Hajj through private operators.

Pakistan started its post-Hajj flight operations last month, with the first flight of the national carrier, PIA, arriving in Lahore from Jeddah with 213 passengers on July 14.

“After Lahore, post Hajj operations were also completed at Peshawar and Multan airports,” the PCAA spokesman said. “The post Hajj operation at Peshawar Airport started on July 14 and ended on August 13.”

From Peshawar airport, a total of 3,276 pilgrims had gone for Hajj through 40 flights.

“Peshawar’s Bacha Khan International Airport welcomed 3830 pilgrims who returned home in 62 flights,” the spokesperson said.

The post-Hajj operation at Multan International Airport ran from July 15 to August 13.

“A total of 39 flights were operated from Multan Airport through which 4,586 pilgrims traveled,” the spokesman said. “2,345 pilgrims returned home through 31 scheduled flights.”

Battered Pakistan seek livelier pitch in 2nd Test against England

Updated 07 December 2022

Battered Pakistan seek livelier pitch in 2nd Test against England

  • Pakistan lost the first Test by 74 runs after England benefited from batting depth on a dead Rawalpindi wicket
  • Despite not hosting a Test match for 16 years, the pitch in Multan is expected to provide more spin to bowlers

MULTAN: Pakistan hope to get more life from the pitch when they take on England in the second Test in Multan starting Friday.

England took full advantage of winning the toss — and their batting depth — to win the first Test by 74 runs Monday on a dead Rawalpindi wicket that offered nothing to the bowlers.

Multan, however, despite not hosting a Test match for 16 years, could provide more spin if recent domestic matches are anything to go by.

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam, who scored a century in Pakistan’s first innings in Rawalpindi, said he wanted something more lively.

“We wanted a spin pitch (in Rawalpindi),” he told reporters.

“I gave my input ... but unfortunately it was not what we planned.”

Rawalpindi yielded 1,768 runs in four innings — the third most in Test history — with seven individual centuries and five 50s.

But Multan helped spinners in the last first class match played there, with former Test spinner Yasir Shah taking five wickets in each innings.

Still, leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood — who conceded a whopping 319 runs for his six wickets in the first test — may get the axe from the Pakistan selectors.

Mohammad Nawaz and the uncapped Abrar Ahmed are vying for his spot.

Fast bowler Hasan Ali will likely fill in for the injured Haris Rauf, himself a replacement for world-class pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, who is out of the series.

England will also make an injury change, with wicketkeeper-batter Ben Foakes likely coming in for Liam Livingstone, who is heading home for treatment on his knee.

Regardless of the Multan surface, England skipper Ben Stokes has promised no end to “Bazball,” the brand of aggressive cricket coined from the nickname of head coach Brendon McCullum.

“We’re going to play to win every game,” he said after Monday’s win — the seventh in eight Tests since the McCullum-Stokes partnership took over in May.

“It’s not always going to work, but if you’re brave enough and willing enough to go out and play in that way, if you lose a game, it’s still going to be entertaining.”

The weather could also be a factor.

Provincial authorities have issued a fog alert for the next few days, which could eat into playing time.

Teams (from):

Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Nauman Ali, Saud Shakeel, Zahid Mahmood, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Naseem Shah, Agha Salman, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Abrar Ahmed, Shan Masood

England:: Ben Stokes (captain), James Anderson, Harry Brook, Zak Crawley, Ben Duckett, Ben Foakes, Will Jacks, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Jamie Overton, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Mark Wood, Rehan Ahmed

Umpires: Marais Erasmus (RSA) and Aleem Dar (PAK)

Tv umpire: Joel Wilson (WIS)

Punjab schools get three-day weekend due to smog, private offices to close two days a week

Updated 2 min 7 sec ago

Punjab schools get three-day weekend due to smog, private offices to close two days a week

  • Lahore regularly ranks at top of IQAir AirVisual’s live pollution rankings of major global cities
  • As of November 2019, Pakistani authorities still don’t publish real-time PM2.5 air quality data

ISLAMABAD: Amid ‘calamitous’ levels of smog in Punjab province, the government has announced the closure of schools three days a week and of private offices two days a week, the provincial administration said in separate notifications on Wednesday.

The latest ranking showed the PM2.5 concentration in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, at 36.9 times the WHO annual air quality guideline value. PM2.5 is lung-damaging particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns.

Lahore, which is frequently described as the cultural capital of Pakistan, faces heavy smog in the winter months as farmers burn the stubble of harvested crops before planting new ones.

“It is notified that owing to prevailing SMOG condition, all Public & Private Schools in District Lahore shall remain closed on every Friday & Saturday, in addition to the weekly holiday on Sunday till further orders,” a notification released by the provincial education department said.

A separate notification by the Punjab Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said private businesses would remain closed two days a week in favor of “work from home.”

The Lahore High Court had on Tuesday ordered the government to notify the closure of schools in the provincial capital for at least three days a week and of private offices two days a week. Justice Shahid Karim of the LHC passed the order while hearing public interest petitions.

Punjab chief minister, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, has described the smog situation as a “calamity” and instructed the environmental protection department to address its causes. He also announced his administration’s decision to act against farmers who burn crop stubble, which is an illegal practice in the province.

Lahore suffers from high levels of air pollution, with the city regularly ranking at the top of IQAir AirVisual’s live pollution rankings of major global cities. However, pollution only became a public issue in early 2017, when actionable air quality data was published for the first time in Pakistan.

In the absence of publicly available government data, a network of citizen-operated sensors began to monitor PM2.5 and report data in real-time. The data laid bare Lahore’s high levels of air pollution, shocking the public and becoming a media talking point for the first time.

The resulting publicity led to a public interest petition to review the government’s response to the smog crisis, which was heard at the Lahore High Court in November 2017. The court ordered authorities to prepare an updated smog response action plan, and publish daily pollution updates until it was able to publish hourly updates, as the non-government monitors do.

Following the court order, the Punjab Environment Protection Council approved a Smog Action Plan and adopted an Air Quality Index (AQI) classification system in 2017. However, the AQI has been criticized by air quality advocates as being too lax and underreporting the severity of the pollution.

As of November 2019, Pakistani authorities still don’t publish any real-time PM2.5 air quality data. All data come from non-government sensors and the US State Department. The US Embassy in Islamabad, and the three US Consulates in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar began monitoring and publishing real-time PM2.5 data online in the first half of 2019.

Air quality in Lahore usually worsens during the winter season from October to February when farmers in the wider Punjab province set light to the remnants of crops, producing smoke that adds to smog. At the same time, weather changes mean pollutants remain trapped in the air for longer.

Air pollution in Lahore is also caused by a combination of vehicle and industrial emissions, smoke from brick kilns, the burning of crop residue and general waste, and dust from construction sites. Other factors of air pollution include large scale losses of trees to build new roads and buildings.

Winter air pollution is worse due to temperature inversion, which results in a layer of warm air that is prevented from rising trapping air pollutants.

Dissolution of assemblies likely by next June, Nawaz Sharif to end self-exile in January — minister

Updated 07 December 2022

Dissolution of assemblies likely by next June, Nawaz Sharif to end self-exile in January — minister

  • Ayaz Sadiq says Pakistan’s three-time PM will return to ‘reorganize’ party before the ‘award of tickets’ for next elections
  • Nawaz Sharif was banned from political office for life by the Supreme Court and went to London on medical bail in Nov. 2019

ISLAMABAD: The founding leader of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party may return to the country from self-exile in January, said a senior federal minister on Tuesday, adding the country could witness the dissolution of assemblies by June next year.

Nawaz Sharif, who is the elder brother of Pakistan’s current prime minister, was banned from political office for life by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in April 2017. He was also convicted by a local accountability court in a corruption reference the same year.

In November 2019, the three-time former PM left Pakistan on medical bail and has since not returned. He says the cases against him are politically motivated and claims innocence.

Discussing Pakistan’s current political situation on a talk show on Geo News, the country’s economic affairs minister Ayaz Sadiq predicted Sharif’s return in the coming month.

“It seems that the assemblies would be dissolved between March and June 2023,” he said in response to a question.

Sadiq said Sharif would return “before the award of tickets” ahead of the next general elections to “reorganize the party.”

Asked if he would return to Pakistan in December, the minister said: “No, in January.”

Pakistan’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan has demanded early elections in the country since he was driven out of power in a no-confidence vote this April. However, the government repeatedly said the elections would be held as per schedule toward the end of the next year.

More recently, some government ministers encouraged Khan and his party to get into political negotiations over the issue to reach some settlement with the government.

Sadiq’s statement implies the ruling coalition of Pakistan has started evaluating the possibility of getting into an election mode much earlier than previously thought.

Pakistan’s first female Supreme Court judge features on BBC list of 100 inspiring women

Updated 07 December 2022

Pakistan’s first female Supreme Court judge features on BBC list of 100 inspiring women

  • Justice Ayesha A. Malik, who wrote landmark judgments upholding women’s rights, was recently elevated to the top court
  • The BBC list also mentions women who have gained recognition in politics, activism, science, sports, advocacy and culture

ISLAMABAD: Justice Ayesha Malik, the first female judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, on Tuesday made it to the British Broadcasting Cooperation’s list of 100 inspiring women from around the world.

The BBC said it had been compiling the list for about a decade, adding that a number of steps had been taken by nations across the world to recognize women’s rights. However, it warned that there were still places where women did not have basic rights and had a long way to go.

The list included women from different parts of the world who have recognized in politics, education, activism, advocacy, health, science, sports and culture. From Pakistan, Justice Malik was the only woman who was named in the 10th season of 100 Women.

“Appointed this year as the first female judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Justice Ayesha A. Malik has authored judgments protecting the rights of women,” the BBC said while writing her brief introduction. “This includes her landmark judgment which banned the so-called two-finger test of rape victims. These ‘virginity tests’ used to be performed during the examinations of sexual assault cases until they were outlawed in 2021.”

It noted Justice Malik was not only playing an active role in the Supreme Court but was also conducting training for judges around the world.

The BBC said her appointment to Pakistan’s top court encouraged debate about gender perspective in the justice system of the country.

“Women must build a new narrative — one that includes their perspective, shares their experience, and includes their stories,” she was quoted as saying.

The list also reflected the role of women at the heart of conflict around the world in 2022 – from the protesters demanding change in Iran, to the female faces of conflict and resistance in Ukraine and Russia.

Pakistan 'deeply regrets' India turning down visas for blind cricket team

Updated 07 December 2022

Pakistan 'deeply regrets' India turning down visas for blind cricket team

  • Foreign Office says it had conveyed Islamabad's disappointment to India
  • T20 World Cup Cricket for the Blind taking place in India from December 5-17

KARACHI: The foreign office on Tuesday "deeply regretted" India rejecting the visas of the country’s blind cricket team, effectively blocking its participation in the ongoing T20 World Cup Cricket for the Blind.

The tournament is taking place in India from December 5-17.

"As a result of the Indian decision, Pakistani players would be deprived of the opportunity to participate in an international sporting event of special significance," the foreign office said. "This reflects India’s insensitivity towards promotion of sports meant for differently-abled persons."

The sports events must not be politicized, Pakistan said, adding that the foreign office had conveyed Islamabad's disappointment to the Indian side.

Earlier in the day, Syed Sultan Shah, Chairman of the Pakistan Bling Cricket Council, announced that the Indian Ministry of External Affairs had denied the Pakistan Blind Cricket team clearance on "political grounds."

He said Pakistan was a serious contender to win the World Cup as it had been the runner-up twice in the earlier two editions of this format in 2012 and 2017.

“The Pakistani team has also beaten the current T-20 World Champion India five times consecutively in the last five encounters during two tri-nation competitions in 2021 and 2022, respectively."

“It was highly likely that Pakistan and India would have locked horns in the final of the ongoing World Cup and considering the current form of the Green Shirts, Pakistan had a high chance to win the World Cup,” he said.

PBCC “strongly condemned this discriminating act of India,” Shah said.

“Our counterpart Blind Cricket Association in India pleaded with their Govt for Pakistan clearance but nothing was heard,” he added.

Shah said the present Indian government’s “hatred” toward Pakistan also violated the United Nations Charter for Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which induces States to provide equal sports playing opportunities to Persons with Disabilities, he added.

“This discriminating act will have serious consequences on Global Blind Cricket as we at World Blind Cricket will take stern action against them and may not allow India to host future international events.”

The Indian and Pakistani teams were set to face each other at the Siri Fort Ground on December 7.

“We all know it is a challenge to get visas for Pakistan cricketers. The MEA is working on it and we are confident that by the end of the day, they will get their visas,” Mahantesh GK, the president of the Cricket Association for the Blind in India (CABI) had told journalists on December 1.