Pakistani officials say churches repaired, families hit by mob attack on Christians paid compensation

Police stand guard outside the restored church in Jaranwala on the outskirts of Faisalabad on October 12, 2023, as the Pakistani government reconstructed churches that were targeted during the mob attack over blasphemy allegations on August 16. (AN Photo)
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Updated 13 October 2023
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Pakistani officials say churches repaired, families hit by mob attack on Christians paid compensation

  • Charged Muslim mob in Jaranwala city damaged 22 churches in August, burnt houses after reports of Qur’an desecration
  • Government announced families whose homes were damaged would get around $7,000, in compensation

JARANWALA: The government has repaired over 20 churches damaged during a mob attack in August against a Christian community in a central Pakistani town and disbursed two million rupees each to affected families, officials said on Thursday.
The mob assault, the worst case of communal violence in decades, broke out in Jaranwala city on August 16 after two Christians were accused of desecrating the Holy Qur’an.
Suspects found guilty under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws can be sentenced to death. While authorities have yet to carry out capital punishment for a blasphemy offence, often mere accusations can incite mobs to violence and lynching.
In a government-organized visit of foreign media journalists to Jaranwala on Thursday, authorities said they had repaired nearly all destroyed churches and awarded financial compensation to families whose homes were damaged by the mob.
“In all, nearly 22 churches were affected and the government has spent over Rs124 million [$443,649] to restore them all,” Abdullah Nayyar Sheikh, deputy commissioner of Faisalabad, said.
Of the 22 churches the official spoke of, Arab News visited seven, including three main churches, which had been completely burnt.
“Several churches required extensive reconstruction to meet both the structural security standards of the building department and the satisfaction of the Christian community,” Sheikh said. 
Faisalabad’s City Police Officer (CPO), Captain (retired) Muhammad Ali Zia, said a dedicated team headed by a senior official was now investigating the case, in which over 300 people had been arrested to date.
“Twenty-two FIRs [police complaints] have been registered for these churches and more than 300 people arrested so far,” he said, adding that a well-manned police contingent was deployed in the area to check against further violence.




Police stand guard outside the restored church in Jaranwala on the outskirts of Faisalabad on October 12, 2023, as the Pakistani government reconstructed churches that were targeted during the mob attack over blasphemy allegations on August 16. (AN Photo)

Sheikh said authorities had set up a relief camp right after the mob attack, which provided shelter to 52 families and had a temporary school.
“Until electricity, water and gas were not restored, we delivered the meals to these families and provided them relief goods which included different items to get their homes back running, such as towels, blankets and even toys for the kids, sanitation kits and everything for school children,” he added.
Faisalabad’s City Police Officer (CPO), Captain (retired) Muhammad Ali Zia, said a dedicated team headed by a senior official was investigating the case in which over 300 people had been arrested. 
“Twenty-two FIRs [police complaints] have been registered for these churches and more than 300 people have been arrested so far,” he said, adding that a well-manned police contingent was deployed in the area to prevent further violence.
Zia said Muslim residents of Jaranwala offered that Christians use their mosques until their churches were restored, while police had set up 57 centers across the Punjab province to work on interfaith initiatives in a bid to ensure greater social harmony.
Major Mashooq Masih, the bishop of the area, corroborated that 22 churches had been restored after the attack and said five Christian police personnel were deployed at the interfaith center in Faisalabad district address problems of the community on priority. He did not confirm the monetary compensation officials said had been paid. 
“The administration also invited our pastors and bishops to mosques during Friday prayers and Maulanas [Muslim religious leaders] to the churches to promote good relations between the two communities,” Masih added.




Bishop Major Mashooq Masih gestures inside the restored church in Jaranwala on the outskirts of Faisalabad on October 12, 2023, as the Pakistani government reconstructed churches that were targeted during the mob attack over blasphemy allegations in August this year. (AN Photo)

Zia said Muslim residents of Jaranwala offered that Christians use their mosques until their churches were restored, while police had set up 57 centers across the Punjab province to work on interfaith initiatives in a bid to ensure social harmony.
Major Mashooq Masih, the bishop of the area, corroborated that 22 churches had been restored after the attack and said five Christian police personnel were deployed at the interfaith center in Faisalabad district to address problems of the community on priority. 




Security officials and foreign media representatives interact with the Christian community in Jaranwala on the outskirts of Faisalabad on October 12, 2023, as the Pakistani government reconstructed churches that were targeted during the mob attack over blasphemy allegations in August this year. (AN Photo)

“The administration also invited our pastors and bishops to mosques during Friday prayers and Maulanas [Muslim religious leaders] to the churches to promote good relations between the two communities,” Masih added.
In August, days after the attack, Mohsin Naqvi, the chief minister in Punjab province where Jaranwala is located, had announced that families whose homes were destroyed or damaged by the mob would each get Rs2 million, or around $7,000, in compensation.
Deputy Commissioner Sheikh said 80 families had been compensated. Arab News met several Christians during Thursday's media visit who said they had received the funds. Caretaker Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar had also visited Jaranwala on August 21 to express solidarity with the Christian community, and distributed cheques to some of the affected households.
But Christian community members said it was hard to overcome the trauma of the August attack despite the efforts of the government.
“Everything is fine in terms of what the government has done,” Hina Shehbaz, who witnessed the mob attack, told Arab News, confirming that her family had been paid Rs2 million. 
“Still, there are moments when we fear the possibility of a similar incident occurring again.”


Pakistan posts highest current account surplus in 11 months, sees 95% improvement

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Pakistan posts highest current account surplus in 11 months, sees 95% improvement

  • Experts attribute improved current account situation to growth in remittances and increase in exports
  • Pakistan’s IT exports also shot up in April, with local firms branching out in the Middle Eastern market

KARACHI: Pakistan recorded its highest current account surplus in April after a span of nine months, driven by increased remittances and exports that collectively improved the current account situation by 95 percent in the ongoing fiscal year, according to data released by the central bank on Friday.
The country posted a monthly current account surplus of $491 million last month, the highest since June 2023. During the first 10 months of the current fiscal year (10MFY24), the country’s deficit decreased by 95 percent on a year-on-year basis to $202 million. This was in marked contrast to a deficit of $3.92 billion recorded in the corresponding period last year, as per the data released by the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
“Pakistan’s current account improvement was mainly driven by an increase in remittances, month-on-month export growth, along with a decline in imports,” Tahir Abbas, head of research at Arif Habib Limited, told Arab News.
Pakistan received $2.8 billion of workers’ remittances in April 2024, which is 27.9 percent higher on an annual basis. The total inflow of remittance stood at $23.8 billion in the 10-month period of FY24.
“The remittance inflows are mainly due to the upcoming Eid Al-Adha,” Abbas said, referring to a Muslim festivity that follows the Hajj pilgrimage in Makkah. “This is the major contributor to the overall current account improvement.”
The central bank statistics show the monthly information technology (IT) exports from Pakistan increased by 62 percent on an annual and one percent on a monthly basis in the month of April to $310 million.
“This is the highest ever export number in a single month, with the previous highest of $306 million recorded in March 2024,” Topline Securities, a Karachi-based brokerage firm, said in its report issued on Friday.
The monthly IT exports in April are higher than the last 12-month average of $245 million, the brokerage firm added.
The growth in IT exports is due to the expansion of local companies in the Gulf market, especially Saudi Arabia, a relaxation of the permissible retention limit by the SBP from 35 percent to 50 percent in the exporters’ specialized foreign currency accounts, allowing them greater control over their earnings, and stability in the national currency, according to Topline Security.
All of these factors have encouraged IT exporters to bring a higher portion of profits back to the country, it added.
The cumulative IT exports in the first 10 months of the fiscal year increased by 21 percent on an annual basis, reaching $2.59 billion, compared to $2.14 billion recorded in the corresponding period last year. The net IT export number in April is also higher than last 12-month average of $214 million.
The central bank released data on foreign direct investment (FDI) as well that hit $359 million, up 172 percent on a yearly and 39 percent on a monthly basis in April.
This is the highest monthly inflow in nearly four and a half years. The major FDI inflow of $177 million came from China. During the first 10-month period of the ongoing fiscal, the net FDI inflow increased by eight percent on an annual basis to $1.45 billion compared to an inflow of $1.35 million in the corresponding period last year.


Punjab administration orders shortened school hours due to looming heatwaves

Updated 17 May 2024
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Punjab administration orders shortened school hours due to looming heatwaves

  • A notification orders schools to ensure all fans are in working condition and water coolers available
  • Provincial government has also announced summer vacation for all schools from June 1 to August 14

ISLAMABAD: The provincial administration of Punjab announced on Friday it would cut short the usual timings of all public and private schools for the rest of the month amid rising temperatures and warnings from the Meteorological Department of impending heatwaves in the coming weeks.

Just a day earlier, the Met Department warned that a major heatwave was set to engulf much of the country next week, with daytime temperatures expected to rise four to six degrees Celsius above the average.

It also predicted dust storms and heavy rains in various parts of Pakistan, including Punjab.

“In the wake of severe weather, it is hereby notified that following School timings shall be observed in all Public and Private Schools in the Province of Punjab with effect from 18th May to 31st May, 2024,” said a notification circulated by the provincial education department, showing 7 AM as the starting time and 11:30 AM as the finishing hour.

It instructed the schools to end classes at 10:30 AM on Friday and Saturday.

The notification also instructed the school authorities to ensure that all fans were in working condition, water coolers were available and no student was made to sit in uncovered and open spaces like lawns in summer season.

Another notification also announced that all the schools in the province will remain closed from June 1 to August 14 for summer vacation.

“All schools in the province shall reopen with effect from Thursday 15th August, 2024,” it added.

In recent years, Pakistan has experienced extreme weather patterns, including unprecedented rains, flash floods, droughts and heatwaves.

Experts attribute these erratic weather patterns to climate change, placing Pakistan among the ten countries most vulnerable to its impacts.


Pakistan’s army chief vows full support for hockey team after silver medal win in Malaysia

Updated 17 May 2024
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Pakistan’s army chief vows full support for hockey team after silver medal win in Malaysia

  • The national hockey team reached the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup final for the first time in 13 years
  • The Pakistani players were also hosted and praised by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif this week

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s army chief General Asim Munir vowed on Friday to fully support the national hockey team while meeting with its players and applauding them for winning a silver medal in the recent Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia.

A day earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif also hosted the Green Shirts in Islamabad in recognition of their outstanding performance at the tournament, where they reached the finals for the first time in 13 years.

Sharif praised the team’s performance and reiterated his administration’s commitment to promoting sports, particularly hockey, in the country.

The army chief also praised the squad during the interaction with its players in Rawalpindi.

“The hockey team has brought immense pride to the nation, and we are committed to providing them with comprehensive support to ensure their continued success,” he was quoted as saying in a statement released by the military’s media wing, ISPR.

He also extended his best wishes to the players for their future endeavors.

Cricket has generally overshadowed other sports in Pakistan, including hockey, in terms of popularity and media attention.

This is despite the fact that hockey is the country’s national sport and has a rich history of international success. Yet, it has not received the same level of sustained interest or investment as cricket, with the disparity impacting its development and visibility within the country.


England captain Buttler buoyed by return of ‘superstar’ Archer ahead of Pakistan series

Updated 17 May 2024
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England captain Buttler buoyed by return of ‘superstar’ Archer ahead of Pakistan series

  • Injuries have blighted Jofra Archer and he has not played top-level cricket for the past year
  • Buttler says he relies on Archer who has a trick up his sleeve in every cricket tournament

LONDON: England white-ball captain Jos Buttler is glad to see “proper superstar” Jofra Archer back in action following the fast bowler’s wicket-taking return to action for Sussex’s 2nd XI.

Injuries have blighted Archer’s international career and he has not played top-level cricket for the past year.

England, however, have recalled Archer for the defense of their T20 World Cup title in the United States and the West Indies next month, with the paceman also selected for the upcoming warm-up series against Pakistan.

Archer continued his build-up to the four-game series against Pakistan by turning out for Sussex’s second string on Friday.

He was parachuted into the match on day four, taking the new ball and returning figures of 1-11 in six sharp overs in Kent’s second innings at Beckenham.

The 29-year-old, previously playing domestic cricket in his native Barbados, hit home opener Ekansh Singh on the helmet and then had him caught in the slips.

Archer will join the England squad in Leeds ahead of the first Twenty20 international against Pakistan at Headingley on Wednesday.

Buttler, who returned early from the Indian Premier League to oversee England’s World Cup preparations, told Britain’s Press Association news agency: “It’s a huge encouragement for him to be back and see him ready to play.

“Everyone knows what he is capable of and the attitude he possesses. As a captain he is someone you can always turn to in a game because he always has a trick up his sleeve.

“It’s great to be able to call on him but it’s important to manage expectations. He has been out of it for a while now so we will need to look after him and realize that it might just take him a little while to be the Jofra of 2019.”

Dynamic batsman Buttler added: “He is a proper superstar but we do have to be smart with him. It’s a jump in intensity from what he’s doing now to international cricket and you can’t really replicate it.”


Leading fintech outlines vision for affordable remittances for Pakistani users at Dubai summit

Updated 17 May 2024
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Leading fintech outlines vision for affordable remittances for Pakistani users at Dubai summit

  • Unencumbered by traditional banking infrastructure, top JazzCash official sees fintechs offering greater financial inclusion
  • Murtaza Ali says women already constitute 30 percent of JazzCash customers and 17 percent of its lending users

KARACHI: The top official of a leading Pakistani fintech told a summit in Dubai on Friday financial platforms offered by companies like his could boost remittances to the country, making these transfers more affordable and remotely accessible while making the platforms pivotal for millions of local households.

JazzCash, a mobile wallet and branchless banking service provided by a major telecom operator in Pakistan, was originally launched as “MobiCash” in 2012 before it was rebranded four years later.

Earlier this week, it announced a partnership with the United Arab Emirates-based financial service provider, du Pay, for smooth cross-border payments, saying the collaboration, powered by Western Union, would allow Pakistani nationals to send money directly to JazzCash mobile wallets.

According to a statement issued by the company, the JazzCash head, Murtaza Ali, spoke about the financial inclusion provided by fintech organizations while discussing their impact on the country’s economic landscape.

“Detached from traditional limitations like bank branches and agent networks, digital remittances can reach even remote, low-income households, empowering them to participate in the formal financial system,” he told the participants of the Dubai summit.

The Gulf nation hosts a vast Pakistani expatriate community and holds the distinction of being the second-largest contributor of remittances to Pakistan after Saudi Arabia, with $548 million transferred to the South Asian country in March.

Ali also revealed that women constituted 30 percent of JazzCash customers, 17 percent of lending users, 23,000 merchants and 6,000 agents.

“These encouraging numbers reflect the company’s ongoing commitment to enhancing female participation in its services,” he added.

The statement informed he also praised Pakistan’s central bank, telecom authority and financial regulatory agency for their collaborative approach that propelled digital and financial inclusion across the country.

“With a large unbanked population and a cash-dependent SME [small and medium enterprise] sector, we anticipate exponential growth,” it quoted Ali as saying. “Our roadmap involves leveraging data for risk assessment, venturing into Insurtech, and further integrating financial services into everyday transactions.”