Pakistan’s army chief, Oman’s army commander discuss matters of mutual interest

Pakistan's army chief Asim Munir, center right, and Royal Army of Oman (RAO) Commander Major General Matar bin Salim bin Rashid Al-Balushi, center left, salute at the Yadgar-e-Shuhuda (Monument for Martyrs) in Rawalpindi on October 16, 2023. (Photo courtesy: ISPR)
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Updated 16 October 2023
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Pakistan’s army chief, Oman’s army commander discuss matters of mutual interest

  • Oman’s Royal Army commander Major General Matar bin Salim bin Rashid Al-Balushi meets Pakistan’s army chief at GHQ
  • Al-Balushi lauds Pakistan Army’s achievements in fight against militancy, efforts for regional stability, says army’s media wing

ISLAMABAD: Army chief General Syed Asim Munir met the commander of the Royal Army of Oman (RAO) on Monday to discuss matters of mutual interest between the two countries, a statement from the Pakistan Army’s media wing said.

Pakistan enjoys close defense and economic ties with all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), including Oman, and also regularly holds military drills with GCC countries. 

Last Sunday, Pakistan’s air force launched Indus Shield 2023, a 14-nation exercise, at one of its operational bases in the country. The exercise brought together aviation experts from several Middle Eastern countries including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Oman. 

RAO Commander Major General Matar bin Salim bin Rashid Al-Balushi called on Munir at the General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi on Monday, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement. 

“During the meeting, matters of mutual interest were discussed. The visiting dignitary lauded Pakistan Army’s achievements in fight against terrorism and continued efforts for regional peace and stability,” the army’s media wing said. 

Earlier upon his arrival at the GHQ, Al-Balushi laid a floral wreath at the Yadgar-e-Shuhuda (Monument for Martyrs) as a Pakistan Army contingent presented him with a guard-of-honor. 


In telephone call, Deputy PM Dar and Saudi FM discuss Crown Prince’s visit to Pakistan, bilateral cooperation

Updated 4 sec ago
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In telephone call, Deputy PM Dar and Saudi FM discuss Crown Prince’s visit to Pakistan, bilateral cooperation

  • Deputy PM Ishaq Dar this month said the much-awaited visit was ‘on the cards,’ but neither side has confirmed any dates
  • The statement came amid Pakistan and Saudi Arabia’s efforts to increase bilateral trade and reach investment agreements

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar on Sunday held a telephonic conversation with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and discussed with him Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s proposed visit to Pakistan as well as bilateral cooperation between the two countries, the Pakistani foreign ministry said.

Dar this month said the much-awaited visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to Islamabad was “on the cards” and could materialize “any time” during May. But neither of the two sides has confirmed any dates.

His statement followed a series of high-level engagements between the two countries, including the visits of Pakistan PM Shehbaz Sharif to the Kingdom and a visit of the Saudi foreign minister to Islamabad.

On Sunday, Dar and the Saudi foreign minister discussed bilateral relations between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, exploring various avenues for further strengthening cooperation across multiple sectors.

“They reviewed preparations for the visit of the Crown Prince and Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Al-Saud to Pakistan,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.

“Deputy Prime Minister Ishaq Dar underlined that people of Pakistan are eagerly looking forward to the visit of His Royal Highness at a mutually agreed date.”

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have lately been working to increase bilateral trade and investment, with the Crown Prince last month reaffirming the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite an investment package of $5 billion.

A high-level Saudi business delegation, led by the Kingdom’s Assistant Minister of Investment Ibrahim Al-Mubarak, this month visited Pakistan to explore investment opportunities in various sectors, including mineral, energy, agriculture and petroleum.

The visit by the Saudi Crown Prince would mark his first trip to Pakistan in the last five years. His previous visit took place in February 2019 during the tenure of former prime minister Imran Khan.

On Saturday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi said the proposed visit would prove to be a “game changer” in bilateral ties between both countries.

“The historic brotherly friendship of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan is turning into a beneficial economic relationship,” Naqvi was quoted as saying by his ministry. “The people of Pakistan are looking forward to the visit of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense, and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and serves as a top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.

Saudi Arabia has also often come to cash-strapped Pakistan’s aid by regularly providing it oil on deferred payment and offering direct financial support to help stabilize its economy and shore up its forex reserves.


Prayers from top Pakistani leaders as Iranian president’s helicopter crashes

Updated 19 min 7 sec ago
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Prayers from top Pakistani leaders as Iranian president’s helicopter crashes

  • Iranian media says the helicopter landed roughly while crossing a mountainous area on way back from Azerbaijan
  • In April, President Raisi visited Pakistan as the two neighbors sought to mend ties after tit-for-tat strikes this year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday expressed concerns about the crash landing of a helicopter carrying President Ebrahim Raisi in Iran’s northwest and extended their wishes and prayers for his well-being.

The helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian landed roughly when it was crossing a mountainous area in heavy fog on the way back from a visit to Azerbaijan, according to Iranian media.

The bad weather was complicating rescue efforts, the IRNA state news agency reported. Interior Minister Ahmed Vahidi told state TV that one of the helicopters in a group of three had “come down hard,” and that authorities were awaiting further details.

“Heard the distressing news from Iran regarding Hon. President Seyed Ibrahim Raisi’s helicopter. Waiting with great anxiety for good news that all is well,” PM Sharif said on Twitter.

“Our prayers and best wishes are with Hon. President Raisi and the entire Iranian nation.”

President Asif Ali Zardari said he was “deeply concerned” after hearing news about the helicopter incident.

“My heartfelt prayers & good wishes for the well-being & safety of President Raisi so that he may continue to serve the Iranian nation,” he said on X.

Reacting to the development, former foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said their thoughts were with President Raisi, FM Amirabdollahian and the brotherly people of Iran during this critical time.

“We earnestly pray for their safety and swift recovery,” he said in a post on X.

Raisi, 63, was elected president at the second attempt in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a bloody crackdown on anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

In Iran’s dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is the supreme leader rather than the president who has the final say on all major policies.

But many see Raisi as a strong contender to succeed his mentor, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has strongly endorsed Raisi’s main policies.

In April, Raisi arrived in Islamabad on a three-day official visit to Pakistan as the two Muslim neighbors sought to mend ties after unprecedented tit-for-tat military strikes earlier this year.

The Iranian president had held delegation-level meetings in the Pakistani capital as well as one-on-one discussions with Pakistan’s prime minister, president, army chief, Senate chairman and National Assembly speaker.

During the visit, Raisi had also overseen the signing of eight agreements between the two countries that covered different fields, including trade, science technology, agriculture, health, culture, and judicial matters.


Turkish FM arrives in Islamabad amid Pakistan’s efforts to attract foreign investment

Updated 19 May 2024
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Turkish FM arrives in Islamabad amid Pakistan’s efforts to attract foreign investment

  • Pakistan last month completed a short-term $3 billion IMF program that helped stave off a sovereign default last year
  • The country is still dealing with high fiscal shortfall and has to meet a primary budget deficit target of $1.4 billion by June

ISLAMABAD: Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan on Sunday arrived in Islamabad on a two-day official visit to Pakistan, the Pakistani foreign ministry said, amid efforts by the South Asian country to boost foreign direct investment.

Islamabad has seen a flurry of high-level exchanges from diplomats and business delegations in recent weeks from Saudi Arabia, China, Japan, Azerbaijan, Qatar and other countries.

Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has vowed to rid the country of its chronic macroeconomic crisis through foreign investment and efficient handling of the economy.

Upon arrival in Islamabad, Pakistan’s Additional Foreign Secretary Ambassador Ahmed Naseem Warraich received the Turkish foreign minister.

“Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan will call on Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif and hold extensive discussions with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Senator Mohammad Ishaq Dar,” the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The two sides will review the state of bilateral relations and assess preparations for upcoming high-level engagements between the two countries.”

Pakistan, which has been facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, completed a short-term $3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) program in April that helped stave off a sovereign default last year.

However, the South Asian country is still dealing with a high fiscal shortfall and while it has controlled its external account deficit through import control mechanisms, it has come at the expense of stagnating growth, which is expected to be around 2 percent this year, compared to negative growth last year.

Pakistan has to meet a primary budget deficit target of Rs401 billion ($1.44 billion), or 0.4 percent of its gross domestic product, for the current fiscal year before the government presents its budget in June. The country is already in talks with the IMF for a fresh, longer-term bailout.


Pakistan Deputy PM to attend SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Kazakhstan tomorrow

Updated 19 May 2024
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Pakistan Deputy PM to attend SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Kazakhstan tomorrow

  • The SCO is a major trans-regional organization and its member states collectively represent nearly half of world population
  • Deputy PM Ishaq Dar will also hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts on sidelines of the SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting

ISLAMABAD: Ishaq Dar, Pakistan’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, will attend a meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on Monday, Pakistani state media reported.

Founded in 2001, the SCO is a major trans-regional organization spanning South and Central Asia, with China, Russia, Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan as its permanent members. The SCO member states collectively represent nearly half of the world’s population and a quarter of global economic output. 

The organization’s agenda of promoting peace and stability, and seeking enhanced linkages in infrastructure, economic, trade and cultural spheres, is aligned with Pakistan’s own vision of enhancing economic connectivity as well as peace and stability in the region. 

The two-day meeting of the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers will begin in Astana on Monday, according to the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster.

“Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Muhammad Ishaq Dar will represent Pakistan at two-day meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, beginning at Astana in Kazakhstan tomorrow,” the report read.

“The Foreign Minister will also hold bilateral meetings with his counterparts on the sidelines of the Council of Foreign Ministers meeting.”

Since becoming a full member of the SCO in 2017, Pakistan has been actively contributing toward advancing the organization’s core objectives through its participation in various SCO mechanisms.

During his visit to China this week, Dar also met SCO Secretary-General Ambassador Zhang Ming and reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to the organization’s charter and its ideals, the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.

“He expressed Pakistan’s strong commitment to advancing SCO’s security and development cooperation agenda,” the statement said.


Pakistan’s Punjab warns of ‘intense’ heatwave in southern districts next week

Updated 19 May 2024
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Pakistan’s Punjab warns of ‘intense’ heatwave in southern districts next week

  • Authorities asked to set up heatwave counters in all hospitals, ensure supply of essential medicines
  • Citizens are requested to take precautionary measures, avoid exertion and exercise in strong sunlight

ISLAMABAD: Authorities in Pakistan’s Punjab province have warned of an “intense” heat wave in southern districts of the province next week, urging people to take precautions and avoid going outdoors unnecessarily.

There is a severe risk of heatwave in Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Multan districts from May 21 to May 27, according to the provincial disaster management authority (PDMA).

Authorities have been given instructions to set up heatwave counters in all hospitals and ensure the supply of all essential medicines.

“All departments can fight heat wave by working together and cooperating [with each other],” PDMA Director-General Irfan Ali Kathia said in a statement. “The next ten days are predicted to be engulfed by severe heat wave.”

Climate change-induced extreme heat impacts human health in multiple ways. Direct effects of exposure to extreme heat and heatwaves can include heat-related illnesses such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and hyperthermia. It can make certain chronic conditions worse, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and diabetes-related conditions, and can also result in acute incidents, such as hospitalizations due to strokes or renal disease.

Citizens are being informed about the dangers of heatwave through print, electronic and social media, according to the PDMA DG.

“The public is requested to take precautionary measures. Avoid exertion and exercise in strong sunlight,” he said. “Do not step out of the house unnecessarily. Wear light colored cotton clothes.”

People may dial the PDMA helpline 1129 or Rescue 1122 in case of an emergency situation, the official added.

Increased exposure to heat, and more heatwaves, have been identified as one of the key impacts of climate change in Pakistan, with people experiencing extreme heat and seeing some of the highest temperatures in the world in recent years. The South Asian country of more than 241 million, one of the ten most vulnerable nations to climate change impacts, has also recently witnessed untimely downpours, flash floods and droughts.

According to the Global Climate Risk Index, nearly 10,000 Pakistanis have died while the country has suffered economic losses worth $3.8 billion due to climate change impacts between 1999 and 2018. A deadly heatwave that hit Pakistan’s largest city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh, claimed 120 lives in 2015.

In 2022, torrential monsoon rains triggered the most devastating floods in Pakistan’s history, killing around 1,700 people and affecting over 33 million, a staggering number close to the population of Canada. Millions of homes, tens of thousands of schools and thousands of kilometers of roads and railways are yet to be rebuilt.