ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has announced that over 15 million households in Pakistan will get free flour in the holy month of Ramadan, which commences later this month, state-run Radio Pakistan reported on Monday.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community.
The first fast in Pakistan is likely to be observed on Thursday, March 23, with the Ruet-e-Hilal committee, which sights the new moon and announces the start of Ramadan, scheduled to meet on March 22.
Earlier this month, Pakistani media widely reported that the Economic Coordination Committee had approved a Rs 5 billion Ramadan Relief Package for the Utility Stores Corporation, a Pakistani state-owned enterprise that operates chain stores throughout the country that provide basic commodities to the general public at prices lower than the open market because the government subsidizes them.
“It is first time in history of country that a relief package has been prepared for provision of free flour to deserving people in Ramazan-ul-Mubarak,” Radio Pakistan quoted the PM as saying.
“He said free flour will be distributed to 15.8 million families of Punjab in Ramazan-ul-Mubarak ... distribution of free flour will be made from 25th Shaban to 25th Ramazan.”
The distribution will be done through the country’s 8,500 utility stores as well as 20,000 new points established “for convenience of the general public.”
KARACHI: Pakistani authorities released 200 Indian fishermen on Thursday, who expressed happiness at the thought of meeting their families again but were sad to leave behind fellow Indian prisoners who passed away in Malir prison.
Indian and Pakistani fishermen are routinely detained by both maritime agencies on charges of illegally entering each other’s territorial waters. The nuclear-armed nations’ borders are not clearly defined in the Arabian Sea and many fishing boats lack the technology to steer clear of any intrusion.
Karachi’s Malir prison has been in the headlines since the past year after several detainees of Afghan and Indian origin passed away due to health complications. In May, two Indian fishermen Balo Jetha and Soma Deva passed away after their health deteriorated in prison. Jail authorities insist inmates are treated well and provided medical treatment whenever they fall ill.
Parmar Sajjan, one of the Indian fishermen released on Thursday, expressed joy at being released but said he would miss his friend Deva, whose body is currently kept at a morgue in Karachi.
“We used to live together [in jail], and if he were alive, he would have accompanied us [to India],” Sajjan told Arab News. “I am happy, and I believe he would have been happy too,” he added. Sajjan said his friend was provided health care in jail before he was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Sajjan thanked Pakistani authorities for releasing him, adding that he was “extremely happy” that he would finally get to meet his family.
Another Indian fisherman, Hussain Rahim, wished India would reciprocate the move and release Pakistani fishermen who were languishing in Indian prisons. “I want to express that just as we fishermen are being released here, I hope that the Pakistani fishermen imprisoned in India will also be freed as soon as possible,” Rahim told Arab News.
When asked about the facilities being provided to Indian fishermen in Malir jail, Rahim said they were “treated like brothers” there.
Fatima Majeed, a Pakistani fisherwomen and activist, said she could feel the pain of the Indian inmates as her father was also imprisoned in India in 1988.
“I can feel their pain from very close because I have experienced this time too, I have also passed through it,” Majeed told Arab News. “It’s a very painful time.” She said when fishermen are arrested, the women in their families have to seek work in the informal sector to feed their families.
Pakistan’s Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, in response to a question during a weekly briefing, said by releasing Indian prisoners, Pakistan had demonstrated its “consistent policy of not politicizing humanitarian matters.” She hoped India should also release Pakistani fishermen who were imprisoned in Indian jails.
When asked whether a judicial commission existed to ensure the swift release of fishermen, Baloch responded in the affirmative.
“The commission surely exists and the two sides have remained in contact on the mechanics of such visits which we hope will facilitate the civilians and fishermen who are held in prisons in Pakistan and India,” she said.
ISLAMABAD: Former Australian captain Steve Smith said in a video uploaded by Cricket Australia on Thursday that the Aussies would be wary of “dangerous” Pakistani batter Babar Azam and fiery pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, as the former world champions build the hype for Pakistan’s upcoming tour of the country in December 2023/January 2024.
Pakistan will make a trip Down Under in December 2023 to take on Australia for the Benaud-Qadir Trophy between the two sides. The three Tests – part of the third World Test Championship cycle – will be played at Perth, Melbourne and Sydney in December and January.
The tour will kick off with the first Test at Peth on December 14 and will mark the first instance of Pakistan playing a Test at the venue. The two teams will face off in the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground from December 26-30 while the third and final match will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground from January 3, 2024.
Pakistan will have high hopes from its all-format skipper Azam and fiery left-handed fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi. In recent years, the two cricketers have become a mainstay in Pakistan’s national squad for all formats of the game.
Azam is currently the only batter in the world who is ranked among the top five batters in all three formats of the game. He is the number one ranked batter in ODIs and is placed at number three in the international men’s T20I rankings while in Tests, he is placed at number five. Afridi is ranked at number five in the Test bowlers’ rankings while in ODIs, he is placed at number 10.
“Babar Azam is a wonderful player,” Smith said. “The last few years he’s got better and better. He’s someone we have to look out for, he’s dangerous.”
KARACHI: Pakistani elephant Madhubala “still” has blood infection Trypanosomiasis, Egyptian veterinarian Dr. Amir Khalil said on Thursday, adding that the animal would be shifted to a new sanctuary once it tests negative for the infection.
Madhubala, one of only three captive elephants alive in Pakistan, was brought to the South Asian country with three other elephants from Tanzania in 2009. One of her long-time companions, 17-year-old Noor Jehan, passed away in April after suffering from multiple ailments including the same Trypanosomiasis infection. Noor Jehan’s death prompted animal rights activists and organizations to raise alarm over Karachi Zoo’s poor living conditions. They demanded Madhubala be shifted to a “species-appropriate” sanctuary immediately to avert another potential tragedy.
Khalil, an employee of the international animal rights welfare organization FOUR PAWS, said last week that the Trypanosomiasis infection can be fatal. However, he said Madhubala was luckier than Noor Jehan as she was provided medicine for the infection before it reached an advanced stage. He also said FOUR PAWS is supporting the Karachi city government’s efforts to build an animal sanctuary at the Safari Park and that Madhubala would be shifted to it once it is completed.
“Madublaha has a blood parasite still and she will receive medicine two times within two weeks, then another blood test [needs] to be done,” Khalil told Arab News. “Transfer should be done only when she is negative,” he added.
Khalil had told Arab News last week that work on the sanctuary at Karachi’s Safari Park has already begun, adding that a night enclosure for Madhubala is also being built according to international standards. He said depending upon Madhubala’s health and the speed of the work on her sanctuary, authorities hope to shift her to it by the end of June or the first week of July.
The developments take place more than two years after Kaavan, dubbed as the “world’s loneliest elephant,” was released from a dilapidated zoo in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. Animal rights activists had long campaigned against the plight of the 35-year-old elephant who had lived alone since the death of his mate in 2012.
Kaavan was transferred to Cambodia in late 2020 in a blaze of publicity after his plight caught the attention of US superstar Cher, who helped raise funds for the jumbo relocation.
ISLAMABADA: Former prime minister Imran Khan’s aide and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party president Chaudhry Parvez Elahi was arrested on Thursday from Lahore by the anti-corruption establishment with the help of police in a corruption case, caretaker information minister of Punjab Amir Mir confirmed.
Elahi’s arrest is part of a wider crackdown against Khan’s aides and supporters who have been rounded up across the country since the protests of May 9, when angry PTI protesters torched government buildings and ransacked the house of a senior military official. Several leaders including Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Ejaz Chaudhry, Chaudhry Fawad Hussain, Dr. Yasmin Rashid, Maleeka Bokhari and Dr. Shireen Mazari were arrested after the countrywide protests. Several lawmakers and Khan aides who were released from prison have since then publicly parted ways with the former prime minister and quit the PTI.
Last month, police conducted various raids to arrest the former Punjab chief minister from his residence after he was booked on terror charges. However, they were unable to do so as Elahi was not home.
“Yes, [Elahi] he has been arrested from the Zahoor Elahi road,” Mir told Geo News over the phone. “He was trying to flee his house when he was arrested,” Mir added.
Mir said Elahi was wanted by the law, adding that police arrested him after his vehicle was searched at a checkpoint. He said a window of Elahi’s bulletproof car was damaged when police asked to search the vehicle and Elahi refused to open the door.
In video footage running on Pakistani TV channels, a team of police officials can be seen whisking Elahi away to a vehicle.
Elahi’s son Moonis Elahi, who is reportedly in Spain, reacted to his father’s arrest by vowing that they would stand firm with Khan despite the crackdown. “It is being said that my father has been arrested in a fake case,” Moonis Elahi wrote. “God willing, we are in PTI and we will remain here.”
Khan’s PTI condemned Elahi’s arrest, describing it as an “absolutely ridiculous” move. “Shameful how the regime doesn’t stop their fascism. The inflation has skyrocketed to 38 percent, and their response is arresting former CM Punjab Parvez Elahi,” the PTI wrote on Twitter.
Shameful how the regime doesn’t stop their fascism. The inflation has skyrocketed to 38%, and their response is arresting former CM Punjab Parvez Elahi. Absolutely ridiculous! pic.twitter.com/epfQxGm47e
Elahi dissolved the provincial legislature of Punjab on ex-PM Khan’s instructions earlier this year to force the government to hold snap polls across the country. He was rewarded for his loyalty when Khan appointed Elahi as president of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party in March.
Khan, who has accused Pakistan’s powerful military and the government of illegally arresting his loyalists, has appealed to rights organizations to condemn the alleged violence against his supporters. Rights organizations, journalists and civil society members have urged the government to refrain from trying Khan’s supporters and aides under military laws, fearing the move would impede civilian supremacy in a country where historically, the military has held sway over important policy matters.
Political tensions have been high in Pakistan as the government remains adamant on not accepting Khan’s demands to hold elections across the country before October. Historically, Pakistan has held voting on the same day throughout the country. However, Pakistan’s constitution stipulates that polls must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of an assembly before its tenure expires.
Khan has been piling pressure on the government to hold elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, accusing the coalition government of being fearful of certain defeat due to his rising popularity within the masses. The government maintains it is not possible to hold elections on different dates due to security and economic reasons.
The continuing political turmoil has exacerbated Pakistan’s economic crisis with inflation at record highs, growth is anemic amid fears of a sovereign default on external debts unless the International Monetary Fund (IMF) unlocks delayed disbursements.
Pakistan posts record inflation for second consecutive month
Inflation of 37.97% in May set national record, adding to problems of balance of payment and risk of sovereign default
In April, the bureau said Pakistan's CPI at 36.5% was the highest recorded as well as the highest in South Asia
Updated 01 June 2023
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's annual inflation rate rose to 37.97% in May, the statistics bureau said on Thursday, setting a national record for the second month in a row, adding to its problems of a balance of payment crisis and the risk of a sovereign default.
Already in April, the bureau said Pakistan's CPI at 36.5% was the highest recorded, as well as the highest in South Asia, ahead of Sri Lanka, which posted annual inflation of 25.2% in May.
Pakistan's month-on-month rise in May was 1.58%, the bureau said in a statement, adding vegetables, pulses, wheat, wheat flour, rice, eggs and chicken in food items and fuel and gas prices caused the increase.
Inflation has been on an upward trend since early this year after the government took painful measures as part of fiscal adjustments demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to unlock stalled funding.
The IMF demands include the withdrawal of subsidies, a hike in energy prices, a market-based exchange rate and new taxation to generate extra revenue in a supplementary budget.
Islamabad says it has met the demands, but the IMF has yet to release the $1.1 billion funding stalled since November as part of the $6.5 billion Extended Fund Facility agreed in 2019.
The funding is critical for Pakistan to unlock other bilateral and multilateral financing.