ISLAMABAD: Federal Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah told a group of Pakistani nationals in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday the government was finalizing the modalities of voting process for citizens living abroad ahead of the next general elections that are scheduled to take place in August next year.
The minister, who went to the kingdom to perform Umrah, met with representatives of Pakistani community in Jeddah where he described the overseas nationals as “the country’s assets.”
Saudi Arabia has the highest number of Pakistani expatriates, making it the top source of remittances for the South Asian country.
“The government will ensure that overseas Pakistanis manage to use their voting right in the coming elections,” the interior minister said, adding it was “finalizing the modalities of the voting procedure.”
Pakistan’s ruling coalition revoked the voting right of overseas Pakistanis in May by passing the Election Amendment Bill, 2022, which also prevented the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in general elections.
The country’s ousted prime minister Imran Khan’s administration sanctioned the use of EVMs during a joint parliamentary sitting in February, though its political rivals resisted the move and vowed to challenge it in the country’s top court.
“Overseas Pakistanis are our best national asset,” Sanaullah said. “Their remittances are key for the economic stability [of the country].”
Discussing the Pak-Saudi ties, the minister said the kingdom had always helped Pakistan in the most difficult of situations.
“We are grateful to the Saudi government for providing employment opportunities to Pakistani workers and professionals,” he added.
ISLAMABAD: Traders in multiple districts of southwestern Pakistan closed their shops and businesses on Sunday to mourn victims of Friday’s suicide blast that killed over 50 in Mastung city.
At least 60 people were killed and 53 were injured on Friday when a suicide blast targeted a gathering in Mastung held to celebrate Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) birthday.
Two days after the blast, markets and shops in Balochistan’s Quetta, Kalat, Mastung, and Khuzdar districts wore a deserted look after traders announced a shutter-down strike to mourn victims of the blast.
“We have been observing shutter-down strikes in Quetta, Mastung, Kalat, and Khuzdar to mourn the people killed in the Mastung blast,” Abdul Rahim Kakar, president of the Anjuman e Tajiran Balochistan, the most prominent association of traders in the province, told Arab News.
“The blast has shattered the entire province, directly impacting business activities in Balochistan,” Kakar continued. “We demand the government arrest the terrorists involved in the suicide attack on innocent people.”
No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, while the Pakistani Taliban distanced themselves from the incident.
Following the blast, Balochistan’s provincial government announced three days of mourning, saying that the national flag would fly at half-mast in all government offices.
Muhammad Yousaf Muhammad Shahi, general secretary of the Mastung Bazaar Association, told Arab News that bazaars and markets in Mastung are closed today, Sunday. He said the local population is gripped with fear after the blast.
“In every street and village of Mastung, mourning prayers are continuing for the victims,” Shahi told Arab News over the phone. “People of Mastung have been witnessing attacks in recent years, which should be stopped now.”
Situated near the provincial capital of Quetta, Mastung is mostly mentioned in the news due to incidents of sectarian violence, insurgency, and militant attacks. The security situation in the area has been volatile for years and it is widely considered as one of the more sensitive districts in Balochistan from a security perspective.
Proscribed entity Daesh, known for attacks in Pakistan and beyond on religious gatherings and minorities, has strong footprints in Balochistan, particularly Mastung.
Pakistan’s interior minister on Saturday accused India’s intelligence agency of having a hand in the blast while Pakistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir vowed that the security operation against militants would continue “unabated.”
Saudi Arabia’s SME authority to help Pakistani IT companies scale businesses in Kingdom— minister
Pakistan’s IT minister is in Saudi Arabia with a delegation of tech companies to explore business opportunities
Pakistan to work with Digital Cooperation Organization on ‘digital passport’ for Pakistani companies, says Saif
Updated 35 min 27 sec ago
ARAB NEWS PAKISTAN
ISLAMABAD: Saudi Arabia’s Small and Medium Enterprises General Authority (Monsha’at) will work with Pakistan to support its IT companies and startups to scale their businesses in the Kingdom, Caretaker IT Minister Umar Saif announced on Sunday.
Established in 2016, Monsha’at aims to regulate, support, develop, and sponsor the SME sector in Saudi Arabia. According to its website, the authority is mandated to develop and support programs and projects that foster a culture of self-employment, entrepreneurship, and innovation.
Pakistan’s IT minister is in Saudi Arabia with a delegation of tech companies to explore business opportunities in the Kingdom. Saif wrote on the social media platform X that he visited Monsha’at’s office in Riyadh and met the authority’s Governor Sami Ibrahim Alhussaini.
“Monsha’at is mandated to support small and medium companies in Saudia, and they will be working with us to support Pakistani IT companies and startups to scale their businesses in Saudia,” Saif wrote.
Very productive visit to Monsha’at in Riyadh and to meet its Governor Sami Ibrahim Alhussaini. Monsha’at is mandated to supported small and medium companies in Saudia, and they will be working with us to support Pakistani IT companies and startups to scale their businesses in… pic.twitter.com/XSB5iPwQJW
The minister also visited the office of the Digital Cooperation Organization— a multi-nation body that works toward the growth of the digital industry— in Saudi Arabia and met its secretary-general, Deemah AlYahya.
He said Pakistan would host the Digital Direct Foreign Investment summit every year for all DCO member states.
“We will be working with DCO for a ‘digital passport’ for Pakistani companies which will enable them to quickly start a business in DCO member countries, starting with Saudia,” Saif wrote.
Wonderful to visit the Digital Cooperation Organisation (DCO) in Riyadh with the Pakistan delegation and meet with Secretary General Deemah AlYahya. DCO is uniquely positioned to help Pakistani companies expand their operations in several GCC counties.
During an exclusive interview with Arab News earlier this week, Saif said the Gulf countries were a highly attractive market for Pakistani IT firms, many of whom were already engaged in projects in the region.
“We are working to market Pakistan as a place from where a lot of technical expertise can come for projects in the GCC region,” he said.
The minister added that during his visit to the Kingdom, the Pakistani delegation will also receive updates on the $100 million Saudi-Pakistan Tech House project announced earlier this year, which aims to strengthen strategic partnerships between IT firms in both countries.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s health authorities have finalized preparations to launch an anti-polio campaign in the country’s northwest that aims to vaccinate 7,478 million children in the area, a report in the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said on Sunday.
According to APP, the five-day campaign will commence across KP from Monday, Oct. 2, and during its first phase, children below five years of age will be administered polio drops in Peshawar, Kohat, Mardan, Malakand, and Hazara divisions.
Polio is a highly infectious and incurable disease caused by the poliovirus, which mainly affects children under the age of five. The virus invades the nervous system and can cause paralysis or even death in some cases. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only two countries in the world where polio remains endemic.
“In the first phase of the campaign, around 63,628,95 children will be vaccinated against polio in all districts of Peshawar, Kohat, Mardan, Malakand, and Hazara divisions,” an official of the National Emergency Operation Center was quoted as saying by the APP.
During the second phase of the campaign, from Oct. 9-13, around 11,1681 children in Bannu and Dera Ismail Khan divisions will be vaccinated against the disease, the official added.
“During this anti-polio campaign, vitamin A will also be given to children to increase their immunity,” the official said, adding that children up to the age of five living in Afghan refugee camps throughout the province would also be vaccinated.
He said a total of 34,551 teams of trained polio workers would take part in the campaign, adding that around 54,567 police personnel have been deployed to ensure their security.
Attempts to eradicate polio in Pakistan have been hit by attacks targeting inoculation teams that have claimed hundreds of lives in over a decade.
Opposition to all forms of inoculation grew after the US Central Intelligence Agency organized a fake vaccination drive to help track down Al-Qaeda’s former leader Osama Bin Laden in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad.
ISLAMABAD: Two militants and a police constable were killed during a gunbattle between Punjab’s Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) and militants on Sunday in the country’s eastern Mianwali district, police said.
According to a statement by the Punjab CTD, militants attacked a police patrolling post in Esakhel town located in Mianwali, prompting a heavy exchange of fire between the two sides.
“After four hours of intense fighting, CTD Punjab killed two terrorists while another was severely injured,” Punjab’s Inspector General Dr. Usman Anwar was quoted as saying in a statement by police.
“A search and sweep operation in the area is underway.”
Anwar said the slain militants were involved in various militant activities across the country, adding that police were further investigating the case.
“Police are further probing the case while the militants’ accomplices are being pursued,” Anwar was quoted as saying.
He appreciated CTD Punjab for foiling the attack and killing the militants, heaping praise on the police constable who was killed in the exchange of fire.
“We salute Constable Haroon Khan who achieved the lofty status of martyrdom during the line of duty,” Anwar was quoted as saying.
The clash between Punjab CTD and militants takes place days after two bomb blasts in Pakistan’s southwestern and northwestern provinces killed at least 65 and injured scores.
On Friday, a suicide blast targeted a crowded gathering held to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Mustang city, killing at least 60 people. Hours later, an explosion in Pakistan’s northwestern Hangu city killed five others.
No militant outfit has so far taken credit for the attacks. Pakistan has accused India of having a hand in the attacks and has vowed to hunt militants across the country.
GILGIT: Every day at the break of dawn, 28-year-old Haseena Farman unlocks her riverside shop of handcrafted shawls, sweaters, gemstones and decorative items and waits for customers.
Business has been going well since she opened the store in a recently inaugurated, eco-friendly women’s market that has become a godsend for women entrepreneurs in the mountainous northern city of Gilgit.
The market, which was inaugurated in August and has 24 shops so far, is a joint project of the Gilgit Development Authority and the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry and has, in the words of businesswomen like Farman, given them a “special place” of trade in a region where, like many other parts of Pakistan, cultural and religious norms and social expectations act as barriers to prevent women’s entry into the business sector.
According to Gilgit-Baltistan’s Education Department, the female literacy rate in the area has been recorded at 41 percent while the male literacy rate has been recorded at 66 percent. Despite high literacy rates, women form only 15.5 percent of the labor force in Gilgit-Baltistan, according to data by the Agha Khan Rural Support Network, a non-profit company.
“Earlier, we [women] didn’t have a special space [to sell our products],” Farman told Arab News. “I used to make these items for my cousins, relatives and sisters … After the opening of this market, we have got a proper setup.”
“So far, it’s going well and I hope it will also continue to be like this in the future.”
Razia Asif, another female entrepreneur at the market who sells gems, jackets and decorative items, said she used to sell her goods from home until the market launched.
“We opened this shop a month ago,” she said. “We have been given the opportunity by the government to bring our products to market.”
Speaking to Arab News, GDA director Sajid Wali described the market as a “one-stop shop” to buy local handicrafts, gemstones, dried fruits and traditional cuisines at affordable rates while enjoying a beautiful riverside view.
Wali also hoped, he said, that the market would serve both as a bustling tourist spot in the near future while empowering women of the region at the same time.
“We know the women of Gilgit-Baltistan have the skills,” he said.
“However, only a limited number of products prepared by them reach our markets due to lack of opportunities. Their [home-based] businesses don’t run very smoothly all the time. We know these things and have tried to bring these women into a proper retail market.”
Mubareka Gul, an executive member of the Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Gilgit division, said women of the area previously found it difficult to market and sell their goods.
“For the first time in history [in Gilgit], women can run these businesses in a friendly environment under tight security,” she said. “This is a family market and families come and visit this place.”
“The women trained by us, who did not have direct market access, have become successful due to the government of Gilgit-Baltistan and the Women Chamber of Commerce,” Gul added. “We hope that this market will become a business hub.”
Gul urged the public to visit the newly inaugurated trade center with family members and explore the products being sold.
“I have visited this market two, three times,” Sultana Karim, a visitor, told Arab News as she bought cushions for her drawing room.
“Each time it is a pleasure to come here because a variety of products are available.”