Pakistani PM inaugurates 1,100-megawatt nuclear power plant built with Chinese assistance

Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif addresses the ceremony for the inauguration of unit 3 of Karachi Nuclear Power Plant (K-3) in Karachi, Pakistan, on February 2, 2023. (PID)
Short Url
Updated 02 February 2023

Pakistani PM inaugurates 1,100-megawatt nuclear power plant built with Chinese assistance

  • Country relies on imported fossil fuels worth $27 billion per year to meet energy needs
  • Currently, the share of renewable energy is only about four percent of Pakistan’s energy mix

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Thursday inaugurated a 1,100-megawatt nuclear power plant in the southern port city of Karachi built with Chinese assistance to augment the supply of electricity, emphasizing the need to transition to clean energy sources so that the cash-strapped country could reduce fuel import costs.

At present, the South Asian nation relies heavily on imported fossil fuels to produce energy, which the prime minister said cost $27 billion per year. Last year, Pakistan said it would increase the share of clean energy in its energy mix to 60 percent by 2030. Currently, the share of renewable energy is only about 4 percent, according to government data.

Oil and energy make up the largest portion of Pakistan’s import bill.

Speaking at the nuclear plant’s inauguration ceremony in Karachi, PM Sharif said Pakistan “desperately” needed to move toward clean energy sources.

“The K-3 Project, the third unit of the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, will lead to the production of 1,100 megawatts of electricity,” PM Sharif said. “This project will augment the power of the plant for Karachi by 2,200 megawatts and will be a step forward in cooperation with Pakistan’s trusted friend China ... I am happy to say that this project will provide Pakistan with cheaper energy in the years to come.”

“While its upfront price is pretty high, like any other hydel project, in 10 to 15 years, it will taper down to a very reasonable level,” the premier said.

Sharif added that he would be holding discussions with Chinese officials tomorrow, Friday, on a pricing mechanism combined with the best possible terms and conditions.

“I hope our Chinese side is fully convinced and appreciates Pakistan’s challenges and problems, therefore, we expect that our Chinese friends will significantly reduce per megawatt price and other terms and conditions,” he said.

The premier added that Chinese cooperation would enable the government of Pakistan to sign another contract for 1,200 megawatts of nuclear energy, called the Chashma Nuclear Power Project-5 (C-5).

The premier said while Pakistan’s hydel power generation system had the potential to generate 60,000 megawatts of electricity, the country was only able to produce 10,000 megawatts, which he said was a “great national loss.”

“Solar energy and wind power generation can play a very important role in reducing Pakistan’s energy imports as the country is currently importing petroleum products to the tune of $27 billion to produce energy, an amount we can hardly afford to finance,” Sharif said.

Balochistan administration to launch green bus transport service in Quetta

Updated 16 sec ago

Balochistan administration to launch green bus transport service in Quetta

  • The project will initially be implemented with eight buses to facilitate commuters in different parts of the city
  • Local transporters have announced to boycott the service, asking officials to first discuss all the routes with them

QUETTA: The provincial administration of Balochistan has decided to launch the first-ever green bus project in Quetta to provide quality transport services to citizens, said a senior official on Saturday.

Other provinces in the country have already implemented similar plans by introducing metro bus services in places like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Multan.

Quetta has had an old public transport system for the last three decades, with an estimated 550 carriers to serve a population of about three million. 

However, there are only seven routes for the buses, making it difficult for people to commute to different locations in the city without hassle.

“The government purchased eight fleet buses in 2021 to start the green bus service in Quetta,” said the provincial transport secretary, Dr. Muhammad Aslam Baloch, while speaking to Arab News. “However, the project could not be implemented due to some reasons. Now, we have decided to resume it under a public-private partnership program.”

“Four buses will cover the transport routes from the Railway Station to Sariab Custom, and four will commute from the Railway Station to Baleli, an outskirt neighborhood in Quetta,” he continued. “We have decided to start the service within the next three months.”

This picture shows old local buses parked in one of the neighborhoods of Quetta city in Pakistan on March 25, 2023. (AN Photo)

Local transporters have announced to boycott the green bus service in Quetta, criticizing the government for not first discussing the routes with local bus owners who, they said, were already running their buses in many areas of the city.

“We will not allow the implementation of the green bus service project in Quetta since the government should first decide all the routes [with us],” Saeed Ahmed Takari, information secretary of All Muttahida Bus Association Quetta, told Arab News. “The government should take the local bus association into confidence.”

Syed Ali Shah, a senior Quetta-based journalist, said the provincial authorities had allocated funds for the green bus service in Quetta two years ago while planning to procure 100 buses. Due to the congested streets of the city, however, the transport department only purchased eight vehicles.

“The government decided to start the project with eight buses,” he said. “But due to a lack of proper policy, the plan was not implemented and the buses were parked inside a government warehouse where they were also damaged due to bad weather conditions.”

Fahad Bin Waseem, a 30-year-old Quetta resident, said the project should be “implemented immediately” and the old buses must also be discarded.

“While the government is planning to start the project with eight buses, it should expand the new transport network across Quetta,” he told Arab News. 

“The provincial transport department should establish new bus stations in the city and separate roads for the green buses.”

Ex-PM Khan promises ‘largest rally’ in Lahore as authorities block roads with shipping containers

Updated 25 March 2023

Ex-PM Khan promises ‘largest rally’ in Lahore as authorities block roads with shipping containers

  • A senior leader of Khan’s party asks local authorities to remove the barriers since a court had allowed the PTI rally
  • PTI’s former National Assembly speaker urges international community to take notice of rights violations in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan has vowed to hold the “largest rally” in the eastern city of Lahore on Saturday, as local authorities have placed shipping containers on different roads leading to the venue of his public gathering.

Khan, who was ousted from power in a parliamentary no-confidence vote last year in April, recently decided to kick off his election campaign by holding a rally at the historic Minar-e-Pakistan monument in Lahore.

However, he had to postpone the plan when a police contingent tried to arrest him after a district court in Islamabad issued his non-bailable arrest warrants in a graft case.

Subsequently, there were clashes outside his Lahore residence between the police and supporters of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party that lasted for about two days before a Pakistani court asked the law enforcement officials to stand down.

As the former prime minister prepared to hold the public rally on Saturday, his party officials complained that the police had arrested hundreds of activists in overnight raids to sabotage the power show.

“We will not back off under any circumstances,” Dawn newspaper quoted Khan as saying after he went to an anti-terrorism court in Lahore to get interim bail in three terrorism cases. “I am saying today that they [the government] will see the largest rally at Minar-e-Pakistan in the country’s history.”

Meanwhile, local news channels widely reported that authorities in Lahore had set up shipping containers at the entry and exit points of the city to prevent PTI activists from nearby areas from attending the rally.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, a top leader of Khan’s political faction, said there was no justification for the authorities to block the roads since a court had allowed his party to hold the gathering.

“The police and the administration are requested to remove these containers,” he said while speaking to the media.

Qureshi maintained such measures were not only undemocratic but also indicated that the government was afraid of Khan.

Pakistan’s Geo News also reported that the former speaker of the National Assembly and a leader of Khan’s party, Asad Qaiser, sent a letter to various global forums, in which he asked the international community to take notice of the present political situation in his country.

Qaiser said grave human rights violations were carried out in Pakistan against the supporters of the PTI party, adding that many of these people had been “abducted.”

He also maintained that “fake criminal complaints” had been filed against Khan to get him disqualified from politics.

However, according to the caretaker Punjab information minister, Amir Mir, the authorities are not preventing anyone from going to the venue of the PTI rally.

He told Geo News that the shipping containers on the road were only meant to ensure the protection of people.

Man arrested in Pakistan’s northwest for helping Afghan nationals illegally obtain citizenship documents

Updated 25 March 2023

Man arrested in Pakistan’s northwest for helping Afghan nationals illegally obtain citizenship documents

  • Pakistan has more than 1.4 million registered Afghans who were forced to flee their homes due to decades of conflict
  • Federal Investigation Agency also arrested Afghan nationals and a Pakistani official in Bannu earlier this week

PESHAWAR: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) arrested an individual on Friday who is suspected of helping Afghan nationals illegally obtain Pakistan’s citizenship documents in the district of Bannu in the northwestern part of the country.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, Pakistan has more than 1.4 million registered Afghans who were forced to flee their homes due to decades of war and factional fighting in their country. A significant number of Afghan nationals also entered Pakistan in recent months after the Taliban seized control of the neighboring state in August 2021.

While the government initially offered amnesty to those Afghans who came to Pakistan on valid visas but prolonged their stay after their travel permits expired, the official relaxation ended last December before the authorities started cracking down on all illegal migrants and launched the deportation process.

“The accused was involved in providing computerized national identity cards [CNICs], domiciles, passports and other documents to Afghan nationals,” Abdul Ghafoor, a public relations official with the FIA, told Arab News. “The culprit took thousands of rupees from Afghan citizens before facilitating them to get these documents.”

The agency also issued a press release on March 22, stating that its Bannu circle had arrested an Afghan national, Muhammad Rauf, from a local hotel where he was staying to obtain Pakistan’s CNIC and passport.

The official statement said the accused had paid Rs650,000 ($2,296) to an agent to obtain these documents, adding that the token numbers of the passport and CNIC were also recovered from him.

After further investigation, the FIA arrested the assistant director of the passport office in Bannu, Siddique Akbar, who was accused of illegally providing Pakistan’s citizenship documents to Afghans.

Ghafoor confirmed that the authorities were probing the matter, adding they would soon share more information with the media.

Meanwhile, Saif Ullah Muhib Kakakhel, an advocate at the Peshawar High Court, told Arab News that cases related to Afghan nationals trying to obtain illegal documents in Pakistan were on the rise.

“Sometimes, officials are involved in such cases who take huge amounts of bribes to provide Pakistani documents to Afghans,” he said.

Kakakhel maintained most Afghan nationals even faced issues while opening a bank account or securing a legal property, though several legal ways were available to them.

“It is easy to stop the illegal ways of obtaining documents by immigrants,” he added, “though it will require making legal ways easier and more accessible by the government.”

Pakistan court sentences man to death for blasphemy

Updated 25 March 2023

Pakistan court sentences man to death for blasphemy

  • Blasphemy is hugely sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mobs, violence
  • Human rights group says in the last 20 years, 774 Muslims, 760 minority members were accused of blasphemy in country

PESHAWAR: An anti-terrorism court in northwest Pakistan has convicted and sentenced a Muslim man to death after he was accused of posting blasphemous content in a WhatsApp group.

Blasphemy is a hugely sensitive issue in Muslim-majority Pakistan, where even unproven allegations can stir mobs and violence.

Syed Muhammad Zeeshan was convicted under the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act and Anti-Terrorist Act by the court in Peshawar on Friday.

“Accused Syed Muhammad Zeeshan, son of Syed Zakaullah in custody has been convicted and sentenced after being found guilty,” the court order said, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

Zeeshan, who is a resident of the northwest city of Mardan, was also fined 1.2 million rupees ($4,300) and handed a total of 23 years imprisonment.

He has the right to appeal.

The case arose after Muhammad Saeed, a resident of Talagang in Punjab province filed an application with the Federal Investigation Agency two years ago accusing Zeeshan of posting blasphemous content in a WhatsApp group, Saeed’s counsel Ibrar Hussain told AFP.

The “FIA had confiscated Zeeshan’s cell phone and its forensic examination proved him guilty,” he said.

While Pakistan’s laws prohibiting blasphemy can carry a potential death sentence, so far it has never been enforced for the crime.

Although many cases involve Muslims accusing fellow Muslims, rights activists have warned that religious minorities — particularly Christians — are often caught in the crossfire, with blasphemy charges used to settle personal scores.

According to the National Commission of Justice and Peace, a human rights and legal aid group in Pakistan, 774 Muslims and 760 members of various minority religious groups were accused of blasphemy in the last 20 years.

Pakistan participates in Earth Hour as world community pledges to fight climate change

Updated 25 March 2023

Pakistan participates in Earth Hour as world community pledges to fight climate change

  • PM Shehbaz Sharif says saving the planet from the impact of climate change requires collective action
  • Millions across the globe observed Earth Hour on Saturday by switching off lights for just one hour

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan joined the global community to observe Earth Hour on Saturday after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said the country would fulfil its obligations related to climate change.

Millions of people from over 190 countries observed Earth Hour by switching off lights for just one hour to reduce carbon emissions and other harmful greenhouse gases.

The occasion, first introduced by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) in 2007, is part of an annual tradition to raise awareness about climate change and spark global conversations on protecting nature, tackling the effects of climate change, and working in collaboration to shape a brighter future for all.

“Pakistan joins the global community today in observing Earth Hour and demonstrating its commitment to the fulfillment of its obligations to climate change actions,” the prime minister wrote in a Twitter post.

“Saving our planet from the ill effects of climate change is a collective endeavor, one in which everyone matters,” he added.

Last year, Pakistan was ranked as the 8th most vulnerable country to the impact of climate change by the “Global Climate Risk Index 2021.” The report maintained that the country’s challenges included water stress, desertification, glacier melting, extreme weather events, and the spread of diseases.

Earlier, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also appealed to the international community to participate in the global event.

“#EarthHour is a call to massively increase #ClimateAction & a reminder that all of us can play our part,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I invite you to switch off your lights for an hour on 25 March at 8.30 pm local time - wherever you are. Every minute and every hour counts.”