ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national air carrier issued a statement on Friday, denying the rumors of its closure due to an ongoing financial crisis that had led to recent reports suggesting its management was scaling back flight operations.
The airline is said to be on the brink of default after the government turned down its request for a Rs23 billion ($76 million) bailout package to help alleviate its cash crunch.
The authorities have previously released substantial funds to assist Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) in meeting its operational expenses.
However, the airline has continued to accumulate billions of rupees in arrears and losses over the years, prompting the government to seek a restructuring plan before coming to its rescue.
“The apprehensions and reports regarding the closure of PIA are baseless and untrue,” stated its spokesperson, Abdullah Hafiz Khan. “PIA has suffered significant damage to its reputation due to those who falsely claimed September 15 as the date of its closure.”
Khan confirmed that the airline had paid salaries to its employees and was maintaining its flight operations.
“PIA is built on a strong foundation and has the full capacity to handle such situations. It boasts a robust global network, and its fleet operates worldwide.”
Khan also mentioned that the airline had a sufficient number of aircraft to carry out both domestic and international flights.
PIA confirmed earlier this week it had grounded 14 out of its 31 aircraft due to the financial crisis.
The country’s Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) instructed the Finance Division and the State Bank of Pakistan to assist the airline last week, but only after a restructuring plan was finalized and approved.
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.”
ISLAMABAD: With only a few days left before the World Cup kicks off, Pakistan Team Director Mickey Arthur joined the men’s cricket team in India on Sunday, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement, as the green shirts aim to bolster their preparations for the showpiece tournament.
Arthur, who was appointed by the PCB in April this year to the team director’s post, has been available to the squad in a limited capacity owing to his contract with Derbyshire. The South African was not present with the Pakistani team during their series against Sri Lanka in July and was also unavailable during Pakistan’s series against Afghanistan in August. In the Asia Cup held last month, Arthur joined the team for just one fixture.
“Team director Mickey Arthur has joined the national men’s side in Hyderabad, India,” the PCB said in a statement.
Led by skipper Babar Azam, the Pakistan men’s cricket team arrived in India on Sept. 25 to take part in the 50-over World Cup which is scheduled to begin on Oct. 5. The South Asian country will begin its World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Oct. 6 before taking on Sri Lanka on Oct. 10 and then India on Oct. 14.
Arthur was Pakistan’s head coach from 2016 to 2019, during which the green shirts won the Champions Trophy title in 2017 and also climbed to the top of the T20I rankings.
Pakistan, however, were unable to impress in Test cricket with Arthur and a league-stage exit from the 2019 World Cup led to him being replaced as head coach by former Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq.
After losing to New Zealand in the opening warm-up fixture on Friday, Pakistan will take on Australia in their second and last World Cup warm-up match on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Syed Asim Munir said that the security operation against militants would continue “unabated,” state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) reported on Saturday, a day after two suicide blasts killed at least 65 people in the country.
At least 60 were killed and scores injured on Friday when a suicide blast targeted a gathering held to mark the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Pakistan’s southwestern city of Mustang. In a separate attack the same day, militants targeted a mosque at a police station in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district to kill five more people.
No militant groups have so far taken responsibility for the attacks but Pakistan’s Caretaker Interior Minister Sarfraz Ahmed Bugti said on Saturday that India’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) was behind the blasts.
“Our operation against terrorists would continue unabated and the Armed Forces, Intelligence and Law Enforcement Agencies shall not rest till the menace of terrorism is rooted out from the country,” the APP report quoted the army chief as saying.
Munir said these words during his visit to Quetta where he was briefed on the recent bomb blasts in a meeting attended by senior civil and military leaders.
Without mentioning any entity, the army chief said militants were backed by the “State Sponsors of Terrorism.”
“These terrorists and their facilitators, having no link with religion and ideology, are proxies of the enemies of Pakistan and its people,” he was quoted as saying.
Later, the army chief visited the Combined Military Hospital (CMH) Quetta to inquire after the injured and met the victims’ families. During his visit, Munir lauded Balochistan Police and law enforcement personnel for their bravery and resilience, APP said.
Pakistan has witnessed a surge in militant attacks in the two western provinces located near Afghanistan following the 2021 Taliban return to power in Kabul.
According to statistics compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, the first half of the ongoing year saw about an 80 percent increase in attacks compared to the corresponding period in 2022.
ISLAMABAD: After progressively increasing fuel prices in the country for about two consecutive months, Pakistan offered respite to consumers by cutting the petrol and diesel rates by eight and 10 rupees, respectively, on Saturday.
The country fixes petroleum prices on a fortnightly basis after evaluating fluctuating international energy market costs and the rupee-dollar parity before transferring the impact on domestic consumers.
Last month, the government announced a record increase of up to Rs26 in the prices of petroleum products, breaching the Rs330 mark for the first time in the country’s history as it faced unprecedented inflation.
“In the wake of variations in international prices of petroleum products and the improvement in the exchange rate, the Government of Pakistan has decided to revise the consumer prices of petroleum products,” announced a statement by the finance division.
“The new prices of petroleum products for the fortnight starting 01.01.2023 will be as follows,” it continued while showing the decline in a tabulated form.
The new rate of petrol has dropped from Rs331.38 to Rs323.38, while high-speed diesel is now available for Rs318.18 after the reduction in its previous price of Rs329.18.
Pakistan’s interim information minister Murtaza Solangi said over a week ago that a decrease in petroleum prices was “highly likely” after the Pakistani rupee had gained value against the US dollar due to the caretaker government’s administrative measures.