In Pakistan’s Gilgit city, new women’s market is ‘one-stop shop’ for gems and handicrafts

Razia Asif, an entrepreneur, poses for a picture at her shop at the Gems and Handicraft Market on September 30, 2023, in Gilgit, Pakistan. (AN Photo)
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Updated 01 October 2023
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In Pakistan’s Gilgit city, new women’s market is ‘one-stop shop’ for gems and handicrafts

  • Riverside market in Gilgit was inaugurated in August to develop tourism and economically empower local women
  • With 24 shops, market has a wide variety of handmade products that showcase the rich cultural heritage of the region

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.”




The photo taken on September 30, 2023 shows a shop at the Gems and Handicraft Market in Gilgit, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

“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.




The photo taken on September 30, 2023 shows a videw of the Gems and Handicraft Market in Gilgit, Pakistan. (AN Photo)

“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.”


Pakistani bourse surges past 62,000 points fueling expectation to surpass 81,000-mark by next year’s end 

Updated 04 December 2023
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Pakistani bourse surges past 62,000 points fueling expectation to surpass 81,000-mark by next year’s end 

  • Bull run at the stock market continues amid strong earnings growth, hopes of $700 million release from IMF and investment from Gulf nations 
  • KSE100 index has displayed a remarkable journey since July 2023 when Pakistan signed a short-term IMF bailout program, with gains of 42.3 percent 

KARACHI: Pakistan equities on Monday hit yet another record high by breaching the 62,000-point mark, stock brokers and analysts said, amid a bullish sentiment fueled by strong earnings, hopes of investment from Gulf countries and a successful review of a $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout facility. 

The benchmark KSE100 index gained 802 points to close at 62,493 points on hopes of release of a $700 million tranche from the IMF and recent positive developments during the visit of Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar’s to the Middle East that rekindled hopes of multibillion dollar investment in the South Asian country. 

“Stocks closed at new all-time high amid speculations ahead of landmark free trade agreement with GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), government measures over Pakistan Sovereign Wealth Fund and IMF board approval for release of $700 million tranche,” Ahsan Mehanti, a senior equity analyst, told Arab News. 

Rupee’s stability amid renewed foreign interest, a surge in exports by 7.66 percent and a decline in trade deficit by 31.7 percent in November played a catalyst role in the record close, according to Mehanti. 

The key stock index, KSE100, has displayed a remarkable journey since July 3 and gained 18,594 points, or 42.3 percent, when the South Asian country signed a short-term bailout facility with the IMF. 

Pakistani financial experts believe the ongoing robust earnings growth, enticing valuation, substantial domestic liquidity, and comparatively steady economic growth will propel the KSE100 index to above 80,000 points by the end of next year. 

“Redefining the allure of valuation, our December 2024 target for the KSE-100 Index is set at 81,259 points, portraying an upside of 32 percent from the index closing of 1-Dec-2023,” Arif Habib Limited, a Karachi-based brokerage firm, said in its report, titled “Pakistan Investment Strategy 2024,” on Monday. 

The major themes which would come into play during the next year include compelling valuations, substantial domestic liquidity and improving macros and monetary easing. 

“We anticipate robust growth across all sectors, projecting double-digit earnings growth for the majority. Our outlook for KSE100 indicates an expected 17.2 percent percent earnings growth in 2024,” the report read. 

It highlighted the recent announcement for the conduct of general elections on February 8 has also played a key role in boosting stocks. 

“We think that with the arrival of a freshly elected government, a much-needed era of political stability is set to start and this will be positive for the stock market,” the report read further. “We also view that persisting fears of a delay in elections are unfounded.” 

Pakistan is on the verge of completing its latest standby arrangement with the IMF and will immediately be required to enter a new bailout program. Timely elections and a freshly elected government taking charge is essential to continue the economic reforms that have been initiated under the current caretaker administration. 

Pakistani bourse’s performance was also fueled by the recent visit of PM Kakar to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait, which sparked hopes of huge investment inflows into the South Asian country. 

Pakistan and the UAE signed multi-billion-dollar memorandums of understandings (MoUs) last week across diverse sectors, under which the Gulf nation is likely to invest $20-25 billion in Pakistan. 

 In another development, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia reached a consensus on investment modalities with regard to a proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), caretaker commerce minister, Ejaz Gohar, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, said in an X post on Saturday. 


Pakistan minister promises release of funds to election regulator amid reports of polls delay

Updated 27 min 1 sec ago
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Pakistan minister promises release of funds to election regulator amid reports of polls delay

  • The government allocated Rs42 billion for the upcoming national elections, but has only issued Rs10 billion to the election regulator
  • Media reports suggested the election regulator had summoned the finance secretary over delay in disbursement of remaining funds

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi promised on Monday the release of required funds to the country's election regulator, amid reports of a delay in the upcoming national elections scheduled for February 8.

The government allocated Rs42 billion for the upcoming general elections in this year's budget, but it has only issued Rs10 billion to the Election Commission of Pakistan so far. 

Pakistani media widely reported on Monday there had been a delay in the disbursement of the remaining amount, at which the election regulator had summoned the finance secretary. 

Solangi said the election regulator had approached the government for the release of Rs17.4 billion and there was no "crisis on meeting the financial needs of the ECP." 

"Whatever budgeted amount is needed by the ECP will be released as per its needs accordingly," the minister said on X. "We firmly stand behind the ECP in holding free and fair elections." 

 

 

 

Pakistan, following more than a year of political turmoil since the ouster of ex-prime minister Imran Khan in Aprill 2022, is finally headed to general elections in February next year, with many analysts expecting the polls to lead to some stability in the South Asian country. 

The ECP last week put to rest rumors of a delay in election and its top official said the regulator would release a schedule in December for the upcoming general election. 

“Count 54 days backwards from February 8,” Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said in an informal chat with journalists, which means the announcement could be expected in the third week of December. 

The outgoing Pakistani government had amended the Elections Act to empower the ECP to fix and announce the election date and specifying the timeline for the announcement of election schedule, which needs to be done about 54 days before the polling day. 

The election commissioner reassured the journalists that the ECP had been “proactively handling election-related responsibilities” to ensure fair and transparent electoral contest in the country. 


Sarfaraz Ahmed banks on Pakistani batters ahead of Australia Test series

Updated 04 December 2023
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Sarfaraz Ahmed banks on Pakistani batters ahead of Australia Test series

  • Pakistan will play first Test against Australia in Perth on Dec. 14, before traditional Boxing Day Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground
  • Ex-captain Sarfaraz Ahmed says Pakistan are ‘well-equipped’ for the challenge with Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam and other batters

ISLAMABAD: Seasoned Pakistani cricketer Sarfaraz Ahmed has pinned his hopes on Pakistani batters for the upcoming three-match Test series against Australia. 

Pakistan will play the first Test against Australia in Perth on December 14, before the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The third Test will be played in Sydney and begin on January 3. 

Sarfaraz said on Monday he was ready to face the challenges, according to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

“Australia boasts good batters, but we are no less,” the former Pakistan captain said. “With Abdullah, Babar, Imam, Saud, and Agha in our ranks, we are well-equipped for the challenge.” 

Sarfaraz also praised the quality bowling lineup. 

“Shaheen and Hasan are exceptional, and we have the likes of Mir Hamza, Khurram Shehzad, and Fahim, who have proven their mettle in domestic competitions,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said. 

Ahead of the Test series, Pakistan will play Prime Minister’s XI on December 6 at Manuka Oval. 

Sarfaraz said he was inspired by West Indian Chris Gayle 200-run innings at Manuka Oval and the Pakistan side was bracing for the warm-up match. 

“I remember watching Chris Gayle’s incredible innings of 200 runs against Zimbabwe at Manuka Oval. Now, as we brace ourselves for a four-day clash in Canberra against Australia, the weather seems to be good,” he said. 

“This match holds an immense significance as it kickstarts the three-match Test series against the formidable Australian team.” 

PAKISTAN SQUAD

Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jr., Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi 


Pakistan arrests 17 suspects in connection to weekend bus shooting that killed 10 

Updated 04 December 2023
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Pakistan arrests 17 suspects in connection to weekend bus shooting that killed 10 

  • Security forces arrested the men from several areas in northern Gilgit Baltistan where the attack took place 
  • Security forces arrested the men from several areas in northern Gilgit Baltistan where the attack took place 

PESHAWAR: Police in Pakistan arrested at least 17 suspects in the weekend bus shooting that left 10 people dead and 25 others wounded, authorities said Monday. 

Security forces raided several areas in the northern Gilgit Baltistan region — where the attack took place — and arrested the men who were currently being questioned, local police chief Shah Wali said. 

He added that the death toll from the attack rose to 10 on Monday when one critically injured man died in hospital. 

The bus was carrying passengers from Gilgit to the city of Rawalpindi when it was shot at, causing the driver to lose control and crash into a truck, which in turn caught fire. Both drivers were killed on site. 

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, however, the Pakistani Taliban, also known as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, have denied involvement in the shooting in a statement on Sunday. 

The TTP is a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan in August 2021 as US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from the country. The group has waged an insurgency in Pakistan over the past 15 years.


IT minister champions Pakistan as ‘emerging digital hub,’ eyes Qatar’s growing market

Updated 04 December 2023
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IT minister champions Pakistan as ‘emerging digital hub,’ eyes Qatar’s growing market

  • Dr. Umar Saif asks Pakistani tech firms to leverage the country’s diaspora to take foothold in the Qatari market
  • He says his country has potential to provide technological solutions and collaborate with companies in Qatar

ISLAMABAD: Caretaker Information Technology Minister Dr. Umar Saif described Pakistan as the region’s emerging digital hub while addressing a conference in Doha on Monday, urging tech companies in his country to benefit from Qatar’s burgeoning market.

The Pakistani minister is leading his country’s first IT delegation to the Arab state with stated aim to attract investment and explore opportunities for local software houses and freelance developers.

In line with broader trends in the Gulf region, Qatar is actively diversifying its economy and focusing on the technology sector, taking smart city initiatives, launching tech start-ups and hosting technologically advanced events like the FIFA World Cup 2022.

The minister arrived in Doha on a five-day visit over the weekend and inaugurated an IT conference earlier in the day.

“Dr. Umar Saif has said that Pakistan is the emerging digital hub of the region where 30 thousand IT companies and more than 75 thousand IT graduates every year are the way to make this country the future information and communication technology (ICT) hub,” his ministry in Islamabad said in a press statement.

He also pointed out that Qatar was home to abundant Pakistani knowledge workers, asking Pakistani tech companies to leverage the country’s “resourceful diaspora to establish a foothold in the market.”

The Pakistani minister said his country had tremendous potential to provide technological solutions and collaborate with tech firms in Qatar, particularly in emerging fields like AI and cybersecurity.

He commended the Arab state for taking a big leap in establishing data centers and bringing Microsoft Azure Cloud, adding that Pakistan had a lot of capability in cloud management, data center operations and cloud applications.

He mentioned an upcoming gathering of investors and start-ups scheduled to be held in Qatar, hoping that Pakistan would benefit from it and expressing confidence that his country was poised to produce the next billion-dollar unicorn.