Pakistan’s envoy to UAE says food exports to Middle East hit $700 million this year

An overview of the Pakistani pavilion at the Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai, UAE on Feb. 20, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan mission, UAE)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Pakistan’s envoy to UAE says food exports to Middle East hit $700 million this year

  • Pakistan’s envoy to UAE says country’s regular participation in annual Dubai food exhibition resulted in better market access for products 
  • Pakistan’s trade development authority projects food exports to hit $7 billion this fiscal year, up from $4 billion previously

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s top diplomat to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) said this week that the country’s exports of food and agriculture products to the Middle East and Gulf region reached $700 million during the current financial year, crediting Pakistan’s consistent presence at an annual Dubai food exhibition for enhancing market access for the country’s products. 
The five-day Gulfood Exhibition, one of the world’s largest annual food and beverage trade exhibitions, kicked off this year on Feb. 19 and will be held till Feb. 23. The event brings together global industry leaders to showcase food and beverage products. 
Over 500 exhibitors from 200 countries are taking part in the exhibition this year. A total of 100 Pakistani exhibitors are taking part in the ongoing festival, out of which 45 are sponsored by the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP). 
“Pakistan’s exports in this sector (food and agriculture products) stood at $700 million in the Gulf and Middle East region during the financial year 2023-2024 (up to December),” Pakistan’s ambassador to the UAE, Faisal Niaz Tirmizi, told Arab News. 
Gulfood Exhibition features exhibitors from various sectors of the food and beverage industry, including manufacturers, producers, distributors, and suppliers. The event attracts thousands of visitors and exhibitors from across the globe, making it a significant event for the food industry.




An overview of the Pakistani pavilion at the Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai, UAE on Feb. 20, 2024. (Photo courtesy: Pakistan mission, UAE)

Tirmizi said the significant presence of Pakistani firms at the exhibition would lead to increased B2B (business-to-business) collaborations and joint ventures in Pakistan.
“Regular participation in Gulfood has resulted in better market access and expansion,” he said. “Causing around a 40 percent increase in food and agri exports to UAE and Middle East/African markets.”
Tirmizi said Pakistani exhibitors represented diverse sub-sectors including dairy, meat, poultry, and beverages sectors. He said sideline events, such as workshops, chef talks, and investment opportunities, are also discussed at the venue. 
Visitors include traders, investors, government officials, and regulators that come with numerous opportunities for collaboration, the envoy added.
Muhammad Zubair Motiwala, TDAP chief executive, said Pakistani exporters have been participating in the Gulfood Exhibition for several years with the trade authority’s support. He said it was encouraging to see the increasing number of Pakistani exhibitors each year. 




Pakistani entrepreneur engages with visitors at Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai, UAE, on Feb. 20, 2024. (Courtesy: Pakistan mission, UAE)

“Considering the ongoing trends, it is safely projected that our exports of food items will cross $7 billion (globally) by the end of this financial year,” Motiwala told Arab News. 
“Which is in sharp contrast to about $4 billion in annual exports in this sector, previously.”
Motiwala said the TDAP has specifically focused on enhancing food and food-allied products, which was paying dividends in the form of a substantial increase in the country’s exports in the sector.
“It is extremely encouraging to share that there is a remarkable increase of 300 to 400 percent in the exports of sesame seeds this year,” Motiwala disclosed.
He said Pakistani rice exports would cross $3 billion in comparison to the previous figure of $1.5 billion. 




Pakistani entrepreneur engages with visitors at Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai, UAE, on Feb. 20, 2024. (Courtesy: Pakistan mission, UAE)

Motiwala said enhancing Pakistani exports was the way to achieve economic prosperity, adding that TDAP was contributing substantially toward this objective.
Pakistani exhibitors noted that the Gulfood Exhibition helped expand their business outreach to new markets through joint ventures and marketing deals.
Mustafa Hemani, chief executive officer of the Hemani Group of Companies, said his company signed numerous deals with various companies and buyers from around the world during the ongoing exhibition.
“We have signed contracts for sale and market our products with companies from Belgium and Kosovo and a few will be signed in the next two days,” Hemani told Arab News.
“I have been exhibiting at Gulfood for many years, which has helped our products enter 84 countries, resulting in a $50 million business, with $12 million generated solely in Gulf states,” he added.




Pakistani entrepreneur engages with a visitor at the Gulfood Exhibition in Dubai, UAE, on Feb. 20, 2024. (Courtesy: Pakistan mission, UAE)

 


Pakistan welcomes Ireland, Spain, and Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state

Updated 25 sec ago
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Pakistan welcomes Ireland, Spain, and Norway’s recognition of a Palestinian state

  • Ireland, Spain and Norway have said will formally recognize Palestinian state from May 28
  • This followed recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Friday called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to grant Palestine full membership of the world body and welcomed Ireland, Spain and Norway’s announcement they would recognize a Palestinian state on May 28.
The prime ministers of the three countries made the announcement on Wednesday, following recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas. The additions have brought the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to nearly 150.
Speaking at a weekly press briefing, Mumtaz Zahra Baloch, a spokesperson for the Pakistani foreign office, said her country welcomed the recent announcements on recognition for Palestine as a state.
“The State of Palestine is now recognized by an overwhelming majority of UN member states,” she told reporters in Islamabad. “Time has therefore come to accord full membership to the State of Palestine at the United Nations and other international organizations as called for by the UN General Assembly in its recent resolution.”
Baloch reiterated Pakistan’s call to the UN Security Council to “move positively in that direction.”
Pakistan does not recognize the state of Israel and calls for an independent Palestinian state based on “internationally agreed parameters” and the pre-1967 borders with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.
In recent months, the South Asian country has repeatedly raised the issue of Israel’s war on Gaza, launched last October, at the United Nations through its permanent representative, Ambassador Munir Akram.
“These recent announcements serve as another milestone in the decades-long quest of the people of Palestine for their right to self-determination,” she said.
“The Gaza genocide and the entire humanitarian situation there have underlined the urgency of moving toward the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital.”
The statement came as the top UN court was due to rule on a plea to halt the offensive in Gaza over accusations of a “genocide,” amid continuing Israeli military offensive.
Israel launched its war on Gaza after Hamas’s unprecedented attacks on October 7 that resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians. Militants also took 252 hostages, 121 of whom remain in Gaza.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has since killed at least 35,800 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.
UAE INVESTMENT

Baloch also spoke about the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Thursday committing $10 billion to invest in promising economic sectors as Pakistan pushes for foreign investment in a bid to shore up its $350 billion economy, which has struggled with high inflation and low growth as it navigates a tough reforms mandated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Prime Minister Muhammad Shehbaz Sharif paid an official visit to the United Arab of Emirates] yesterday [Thursday] at the invitation of the President of the UAE His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan,” Baloch told reporters.
“The prime minister held a bilateral meeting with the president and held meetings with UAE investors and entrepreneurs.”
She said the two leaders underscored the importance of “galvanizing cooperation and strategic partnership,” particularly in the fields of information and communication technologies, artificial intelligence, renewable energy and tourism. 
“They reaffirmed their commitment to ensure meaningful implementation of investment cooperation agreements in the area of energy, port operation projects, wastewater treatment, food security, logistics, minerals, banking and financial services, signed in November 2023,” Baloch added.
“His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan assured UAE’s support in all circumstances and made commitment of investing $10 billion dollars in multiple sectors in Pakistan.”


Government runs awareness campaign as Pakistan in grips of ‘severe’ heat wave

Updated 18 min 48 sec ago
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Government runs awareness campaign as Pakistan in grips of ‘severe’ heat wave

  • First wave to last till May 30, second to begin from June 7-8 followed by third one in last week of June 
  • Heat wave to persist in Sindh province until June 3, to break in Punjab after June 4, Met office says

ISLAMABAD: The federal government is running an awareness campaign in collaboration with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) amid an ongoing heat wave this month, state-run media reported as the Pakistan Meteorological Department predicted day-time temperatures to “remain above normal” in June also. 
Pakistan has been experiencing severe climatic changes due to global warming in recent years which has led to frequent heat waves, untimely rains and droughts.
On May 21, authorities had urged people to stay indoors ahead of a heat wave which is expected to last until the end of the month. An estimated 18 million students are also unable to attend classes because Pakistan’s most populous province Punjab ordered shutting down schools this month due to rising temperatures.
Chief Meteorologist Dr. Sardar Sarfaraz has also warned that the heat wave would “intensify” from May 23 onwards.
“Ministry of Climate Change and the NDMA are spreading mass awareness for the public through adopting preventive measures and to reduce its impacts through issuing adviseries, public service messages, ring back tone and awareness campaigns through television, radio and social media platforms,” Radio Pakistan reported.
Addressing a press conference, the Prime Minister’s Coordinator on Climate Change Romina Khurshid Alam said 26 districts of the country were in the grips of a heat wave since May 21. 
Alam said the first wave would last till May 30, the second would begin from June 7-8 and the third one in the last week of June. 
May and June were recorded as the “hottest and driest” with higher monthly average temperatures, she added, appealing to the masses, especially children and elderly, to adopt preventive measures.
She noted that the severity of heat waves had increased rapidly during the past few months with 13 districts of Sindh, nine of Punjab and four districts of Balochistan experiencing “severe heat.”
“Global warming is impacting the entire world, and we are seeing its effects in the form of these frequent and intense heat waves,” the official said, blaming deforestation and unsustainable environmental practices for the harsh weather conditions. 
“Public awareness campaigns through various media outlets are ongoing to educate people on the health risks and preventive measures.”
Alam said heat waves were accelerating the process of glacier melting and the risk of forest fires, advising the public to remain cautious in national parks, avoid discarding cigarette butts, leave vehicle windows slightly open, and ensure access to drinking water.
“NO RESPITE”
The NDMA is also urging people to stay hydrated and wear light-colored clothing to minimize the effects of heat and farmers to carry out agricultural activities keeping in mind the prevalent weather conditions. 
Met Department data showed Jacobabad, Dadu and Mohenjo Daro as the hottest places across the country, with temperature in these cities surging from 49°C on Wednesday to 50°C on Thursday. 
“The cities of Jacobabad, Dadu and Mohenjo Daro are known to have 50°C in May. Jacobabad had 52°C in April in 2022,” the chief meteorologist said.
“Harsh weather is likely to persist at least till June 3. There is no possibility for respite, at least for Sindh. The heat spell may break in parts of Punjab but that, too, after June 4.”
Climate change-induced extreme heat can cause 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.
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 heat wave 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.


Lahore, Islamabad courts challenge Pakistan media regulator’s ban on reportage of court cases

Updated 54 min 6 sec ago
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Lahore, Islamabad courts challenge Pakistan media regulator’s ban on reportage of court cases

  • PEMRA ban came amid tensions between government, courts over alleged kidnapping of poet Ahmad Farhad 
  • Farhad’s family says he was abducted from his home on May 14 by officials from the military’s ISI spy agency 

ISLAMABAD: The Lahore and Islamabad high courts on Friday issued notices to the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (PEMRA) while hearing petitions challenging a ban by the regulator on TV channels airing news, opinions and commentary on proceedings of ongoing court cases.
PEMRA announced the ban on Tuesday amid tensions between the government and the Islamabad High Court over hearings into the alleged kidnapping of Kashmiri poet Ahmad Farhad from outside his home on May 14. The poet’s family has filed a case with the IHC and accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency of being behind his disappearance over social media posts critical of the military. The army has not commented on the development or the accusations by the family. 
Pakistan media had been extensively reporting on the hearings of the case this week, with the high court directing authorities to produce the missing poet within four days and fiercely criticizing intelligence agencies for overstepping their jurisdiction.
“The Lahore High Court (LHC), during the hearing of pleas conducted by Justice Abid Aziz Shaikh, also ordered the electronic media watchdog to respond to its notice on May 29,” Pakistan’s Geo News reported. Multiple other Pakistani news websites also reported that the LHC and IHC had sent notices to PEMRA over the ban.
Petitioners against the PEMRA ban have said it is in violation of Article 10-A, 19 and 19-A of the constitution of Pakistan, which pertain to the right to a fair trial as well as freedom of speech and right to information. One of the pleas also requested the court to reject the prosecutor’s plea and declare it “inadmissible” and the PEMRA notification “null and void.”
Petitions challenging the ban have been filed in the Sindh, Lahore and Islamabad high courts as well as the Supreme Court.
Journalists in Pakistan are increasingly reporting on growing media censorship, with many blaming Pakistan’s powerful military for putting pressure on critical voices. The military has repeatedly denied it suppresses the press. 
“TV channels are directed to refrain from airing tickers/headlines with regard to court proceedings and shall only report the written orders of the court,” the PEMRA notification said on Tuesday. 
The regulator also directed TV channels to air “no content including commentary, opinions or suggestions about the potential fate of sub judice matter which tends to prejudice the determination by a court, tribunal.”
However, PEMRA allowed TV channels to report on court proceedings if they were broadcast live by the judiciary.


Pakistan approves $8 million to pay severance packages of PIA-owned Roosevelt Hotel in New York

Updated 8 min 14 sec ago
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Pakistan approves $8 million to pay severance packages of PIA-owned Roosevelt Hotel in New York

  • Pakistan’s national airline bought the Roosevelt Hotel in 1999 for $36.5 million 
  • Islamabad is pushing for privatization of state entities for a fresh IMF bailout

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Thursday approved $8 million to pay severance packages of the Pakistan International Airlines-owned Roosevelt Hotel in New York, Pakistani state media reported, amid the South Asian country’s push for privatization of state entities.
The development came at an ECC meeting presided over by Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb, during which the Ministry of Aviation presented a summary to allow the utilization of $8 million available with National Bank of Pakistan to pay severance packages of the establishment.
Roosevelt Hotel, a 19-story building located at a prime location in New York, was inaugurated in Manhattan on September 22, 1924. Named after the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, Pakistan’s national airline leased it in 1979 through the Pakistan International Airlines Investments Limited (PIA-IL). 
Saudi Prince Faisal bin Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud was also one of the investors in the 1979 investment deal, though the PIA decided to buy the hotel for $36.5 million in 1999 and later struck a deal with its Saudi partner in 2005 to buy his share in the property as well. 
“The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet on Thursday approved $8 million to pay severance packages and operational expenses of the Roosevelt Hotel,” the state-run APP news agency reported.
In 2021, the government of then prime minister Imran Khan had allowed the release of $27.3 million for the payment of liabilities accumulated by the hotel, which permanently closed its door on October 31, 2020, after remaining operational since 1924.
A year earlier, it had also approved $142 million for the PIA-IL last year to meet the hotel’s financial challenges.
The $8 million severance grant comes amid Pakistan’s push for privatization and reforms in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) as it negotiates with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a fresh bailout program, for which Islamabad must implement an ambitious reforms agenda, including the privatization of debt-ridden SOEs.
Among the main entities Pakistan is pushing to privatize is its national flag carrier, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), while the government is putting on the block a stake ranging from 51 percent to 100 percent.
The South Asian country, which has been facing low foreign exchange reserves, currency devaluation and high inflation, last month completed a short-term $3 billion IMF program that helped stave off a sovereign default, but the government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has stressed the need for a fresh, longer-term program to keep the $350 billion economy afloat.


First batch of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrives in Jeddah

Updated 24 May 2024
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First batch of Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrives in Jeddah

  • A total of 34,316 Pakistanis reached Madinah by May 23 in first phase of Pakistan’s pre-Hajj flight operation
  • As many as 114 flights will be transporting another 34,422 Pakistani pilgrims to Jeddah from May 24 to June 9

ISLAMABAD: The first batch of 720 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims arrived in Jeddah on Friday, Pakistani state media reported, a day after Pakistan diverted its pre-Hajj flights from Madinah.
Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and requires every adult Muslim to undertake the journey to the holy Islamic sites in Makkah at least once in their lifetime if they are financially and physically able.
These 720 Pakistani pilgrims departed from Islamabad and Karachi under the Makkah Route initiative and arrived via Saudia airline flights that landed at the King Abdulaziz International Airport, the APP news agency reported.
“The first flight SV-3705, with 370 passengers on board, arrived by 5 a.m. (local time) and the second SV-3727 landed at 6:10 a.m. carrying 350 Hajj pilgrims,” the report read.
Head of Pakistan Hajj Mission Abdul Wahab Soomro, Consul General Khalid Majeed and senior officials of the Pakistani Ministry of Religious Affairs as well as representatives of the Saudi government welcomed the pilgrims.
Under the Makkah Route initiative, the passengers directly left for their hotels avoiding long queues at the immigration counters and their luggage was shifted automatically to their residences.
In the first phase of Pakistan’s pre-Hajj flight operation, a total of 34,316 Pakistanis reached Madinah by May 23 through 146 flights, according to the report.
From May 24 to June 09, as many as 114 flights will be transporting 34,422 Pakistanis to Jeddah.
Pakistan has a Hajj quota of 179,210 pilgrims this year, of which 63,805 people will perform the pilgrimage under the government scheme, while the rest will use private tour operators.
This year’s pilgrimage is expected to run from June 14 till June 19.