WHO calls for ‘full-scale’ operation as diseases spread in flood-hit Balochistan

Displaced flood-affected families travel atop a tractor with their belongings near a makeshift camp at Dera Allah Yar in Jaffarabad district of Balochistan province on September 20, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 29 September 2022

WHO calls for ‘full-scale’ operation as diseases spread in flood-hit Balochistan

  • Children and women becoming more vulnerable as tens of thousands suffer from infectious and water-borne diseases
  • Sindh and Balochistan provinces have become infested with malaria, dengue fever, diarrhoea and skin problems

ISLAMABAD: A senior official at the World Health Organization warned on Thursday a “full-scale operation” was needed in Pakistan’s flood-hit Balochistan in the aftermath of recent floods that had not only destroyed agriculture and houses but were now also causing the spread of diseases.

Children and women are becoming more vulnerable as tens of thousands of people suffer from infectious and water-borne diseases in flood-hit Pakistan and the death toll from the inundation has surpassed 1,600, a figure that does not include deaths from fast-spreading diseases, according to data from the National Disaster Management Authority.

Around 325 of the total deaths have been in Balochistan.

As flood waters begin to recede, which officials say may take two to six months, the southern Sindh and southwestern Balochistan provinces have become infested with diseases including malaria, dengue fever, diarrhoea and skin problems.

"We are committed to doing everything possible to find the resources, the money, the people, the supplies. There must be going on a full-scale operation,” Executive Director of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme, Dr. Mike Ryan, said after visiting flood-affected districts in Naseerabad Division in Balochistan

“We have no opportunity to waste, if we waste, people die; if we don't get the right focus, people will die. So we have to do many things at one time.”

Record monsoon rains in south and southwest Pakistan and glacial melt in northern areas triggered the flooding that has affected nearly 33 million people in the South Asian nation of 220 million, sweeping away homes, crops, bridges, roads and livestock and causing an estimated $30 billion of damage.

Hundreds of thousands of displaced people are in dire need of food, shelter, clean drinking water, toilets and medicines. Many have been sleeping in the open by the side of elevated highways.

The economic losses from the flooding will slash the country’s GDP growth to around 3 percent from the estimated target of 5 percent set out in the budget when it had narrowly escaped defaulting on its debt in a balance of payment crisis.

Pakistan was already reeling from economic blows when the floods hit, with its foreign reserves falling as low as one month’s worth of imports and its current account deficit widening.


Pakistani brothers, venture capital firm founders, feature on Forbes 30 Under 30 list

Updated 15 sec ago

Pakistani brothers, venture capital firm founders, feature on Forbes 30 Under 30 list

  • Mohammed Amdani and Ammar Amdani lead a team of eight
  • Most of their team members identify as people of color, Forbes said

KARACHI: Pakistani brothers Mohammed Amdani and Ammar Amdani have made it to this year's Forbes 30 Under 30 list, a litany of young investors who are putting their money to work in companies created by and for their immigrant, people-of-color and other minority peers.

Forbes 30 Under 30 is a set of lists of people under 30 years old issued annually by Forbes magazine and some of its regional editions.

"The Amdani brothers founded Adapt Ventures as an early-stage firm and venture studio investing across the US and Latin America, with $30 million in assets under management," Forbes said on its website.

"They were one of the first backers of unicorn Clara, Italic, Wander and several acquired companies. They've also helped incubate Pluto, a Middle East-focused spend management startup that announced a seed round in February."

The Pakistani-American cofounders lead a team of eight, most of whom identify as people of color, across New York and Miami.

Last year, 13 young Pakistanis have made it to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list which included startup founders and young innovators like Bazaar Co-founders Hamza Jawaid and Saad Jangda, Dastgyr Co-founders Muhammad Owais Qureshi and Zohaib Ali, CreditBook Co-founders Iman Jamall and Hasib Malik, ModulusTech Co-founders Yaseen Khalid, M. Saquib Malik and Nabeel Siddiqui, Visual artist and designer Misha Japanwala, Producer Abdullah Siddiqui, Eikon7 Managing Partner Shayan Mahmud, and Digital Pakistan Co-founder Hannia Zia.


Pakistan Test commences on schedule today after England stomach bug scare

Updated 21 min 24 sec ago

Pakistan Test commences on schedule today after England stomach bug scare

  • England's cricketers, including skipper Ben Stokes, were struck down with a suspected stomach bug
  • Problems with food and players becoming ill during the Twenty20 series led to the decision to bring a chef

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Cricket Board said the first Test against England in Rawalpindi would go on as per schedule today, Thursday, after England's cricketers, including skipper Ben Stokes, were struck down with a suspected stomach bug.

There were fears on Wednesday the virus outbreak could force England to change the team for the Test which had been announced on Tuesday.

England are on their first Test tour of Pakistan in 17 years, following their Twenty20 side playing seven matches in the country two months ago, taking the series 4-3.

“The ECB has informed the PCB that they are in a position to field an XI, and, as such, the first #PAKvENG Test will commence as per schedule today (Thursday, 1 December) at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium,” PCB said on Twitter.

Problems with food and players becoming ill during the Twenty20 series led to the decision to bring a chef, Omar Meziane, who also worked with the England men's football team at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and at Euro 2020.

England and Pakistan will contest a three-Test series with the second in Multan beginning December 9 and the third in Karachi from December 17-21.


Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

Updated 01 December 2022

Pakistan central bank to set up special wing to ensure Shariah-compliant banking — finance minister

  • Federal Shariat Court gave a five-year deadline to the government to Islamize the country’s financial system
  • Religious scholars call for practical steps to transform Pakistan’s banking system under the court’s verdict

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Ishaq Dar said on Wednesday a dedicated wing would soon be established at the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to ensure the country’s transformation into an interest-free economy to comply with a ruling of the Federal Shariat Court (FSC) earlier this year.

The FSC directed the government in April to eliminate riba, or interest, within five years while pointing out its prohibition was absolute in all forms and manifestations in Islam.

The finance minister said his government was committed to transforming Pakistan’s banking system by December 2027, adding it would up the special wing at the SBP to expedite the process.

“A wing would be formed at the SBP and I will notify the formation of wing within a week,” Dar said while addressing at a seminar on the prohibition of riba in Karachi.

“We can’t establish a ministry [to oversee the economic transformation] which is also not needed,” he continued while emphasizing that the role of the central bank was “pivotal” in Islamizing the banking system of the country.

Referring to the deadline set by the court, the finance minister said the conversion of the banking system was doable within five years.

“This is not the work that can’t be done in five years,” he said while asking the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) along with the central bank to diligently work on the project.

“A base has already been established as the share of Islamic banking in terms of the overall assets and deposits has surged by 20 percent and 21 percent, respectively, of the overall banking sector,” he added.

The finance minister noted that significant progress had been made in relation to the Islamization of Pakistan’s banking system during his government’s previous tenure, adding that things came to a halt due to political instability in the country.

“Today the financial share of the Islamic banks would have been 40 percent instead of 20 percent,” he said.

Earlier, the SBP governor, Jameel Ahmad, noted the demand for Islamic banking services was far greater than the conventional ones. He added the central bank was therefore taking more “measures to meet the growing demand.”

“We have already commenced work on a transformation plan to shift to Islamic banking,” Ahmed said.

He informed a high-level working group of officials from the SBP, SECP and finance ministry had been formed and activated which was responsible for developing Sukuk structures.

Ahmed said that Pakistan currently had five full-fledged Islamic banks offering a wide range of products and their annual growth rate over the last five years in terms of their assets and deposits had been 25 percent and 22 percent, respectively.

This, he noted, was far higher than most conventional banks.

Speaking at the seminar, Mufti Taqi Usmani, a prominent Islamic scholar, appreciated the government’s decision to withdraw appeals against the FSC decision which had earlier been filed in the Supreme Court.

Usmani asked the finance ministry to take practical steps to move toward an interest-free system in the country while pointing out that some private banks had yet not withdrawn their petitions against the FSC ruling.

Political and religious leaders, including Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islam, and Siraj-ul-Haq, emir of Jamaat-e-Islami party, also participated in the seminar.


Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

Updated 30 November 2022

Pakistan PM meets new army chief, lauds military's professional abilities

  • Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif tells General Asim Munir it is a huge honor to lead the Pakistan Army
  • The PM hopes the armed forces will protect the country’s security better under its new leadership

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif praised the military’s professional abilities while holding a meeting with the new army chief Syed Asim Munir on Wednesday, saying it was a huge honor for anyone to lead the armed forces of Pakistan which were tirelessly working for the country’s security.

This was Munir’s first meeting with the prime minister after taking over the army’s command in a ceremony held at the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Tuesday. He replaced General Qamar Javed Bajwa who retired from the post after leading the army for six years.

“We have full confidence in the professional capabilities of the Pakistan Army,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in a statement released by his office after the meeting.

“It is a great honor to lead the Pakistan Army,” he said while addressing the top general. “It is hoped that the armed forces under your leadership will deal with the challenges facing the country’s security in a better way.”

Sharif congratulated Munir on taking charge of his new position.

He maintained the whole nation was proud of the army’s role in protecting the frontiers of the country and fighting violent extremism and militancy.

The army has ruled Pakistan for almost half of its 75-year history, either through coups or as an invisible guiding hand in politics.

Munir’s appointment coincides with a dispute between the army and former premier Imran Khan, who blames top military generals for playing a part in his ouster in a parliamentary no-trust vote earlier this year.

Khan also expressed hope earlier in the day the new military leadership would end the “prevailing trust deficit” between the army and the public.

The PM Office said in its statement Sharif’s meeting with the army chief focused on professional issues related to the country’s defense and security.

Munir also met President Arif Alvi during the day.

In a separate meeting, Alvi discussed defense related matters with the new Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee General Sahir Shamshad Mirza.

Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi (right) meets army chief Syed Asim Munir in Islamabad, Pakistan, on November 30, 2022. (PID)

 


Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

Updated 30 November 2022

Gas blast at Pakistan coal mine kills nine workers, injures four

  • Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border
  • Mine workers say lack of safety gear, poor working conditions are key causes of accidents

PESHAWAR: A gas blast at a coal mine killed nine workers in a northwestern Pakistani district on Wednesday, a government official said, and a team investigating the incident said gas sparks had caused the explosion.

There were 13 workers in the mine at the time and nine bodies were recovered, said Adnan Farid, the area deputy commissioner.

The remaining four miners were rescued from the rubble and have suffered critical injuries, he said.

A government team from the mineral development department inspected the site of the incident and said the explosion took place "due to gas sparks inside the mine," Orakzai district police chief Nazeer Khan told Reuters.

A government report seen by Reuters said the blast caused the collapse of the mine, and that gas build-up had triggered the blast. It didn't specify what type of gas it was.

Coal deposits are found in the northwestern Orakzai district that sits on the Afghan border and mine accidents are common, mainly due to gas build-ups.

Mine workers have complained that a lack of safety gear and poor working conditions are the key causes of frequent accidents, labor union officials have said in the past.