PM Sharif orders upgradation of road network to link Reko Diq project with Gwadar

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chairs a meeting on Mines and Minerals of Balochistan, including Reqo Dik Project, in Lahore on March 24, 2024. (Photo courtesy: PMO)
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Updated 24 March 2024
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PM Sharif orders upgradation of road network to link Reko Diq project with Gwadar

  • Located in Pakistan’s Balochistan, Reko Diq contains one of the biggest undeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world
  • PM Sharif stresses need to benefit from mineral wealth in Balochistan through planning regarding communication infrastructure

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Sunday ordered upgradation of an existing road network to connect Reko Diq mining project in the country’s southwest to the deep-sea port of Gwadar.
The prime minister gave the instructions while presiding over a meeting in Lahore with regard to mines and minerals in the country’s southwestern Balochistan province. The meeting was also attended by Mark Bristow, chief executive of the Toronto-based firm Barrick Gold Corporation that has been working on the project.
Located in Pakistan’s southwestern Chagai district, Reko Diq contains one of the biggest undeveloped copper and gold deposits in the world, with the potential to produce a large amount of these precious commodities for decades.
During the meeting, PM Sharif stressed the need to benefit from the mineral wealth in Balochistan through comprehensive planning regarding communication infrastructure, including roads and a railway line.
“Upgradation of the existing road network should be done as soon as possible to connect the Reko Diq project with Gwadar,” the prime minister was quoted as saying in a statement issued from his office.
“Wherever new roads are being constructed, their completion should be expedited.”
PM Sharif also directed officials to carve out a strategy regarding feasibility of a railway network from Reko Diq to the Gwadar port.
The Reko Diq project underwent legal and financial disputes, though it is considered highly significant for Pakistan’s mining sector and the broader economy, with the potential to transform the economic landscape of Balochistan and contribute substantially to the country’s overall development.
Separately, Barrick Gold Chief Executive Bristow said the Reko Diq project was “revolutionary” and would change the fate of Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest but most impoverished province, by revolutionizing the local economy, the state-run APP news agency reported.
“An estimated $10 billion would be invested during next eight to nine years, which would boost the mining industry and the local economy,” Bristow was quoted as saying.
He also underscored his company’s commitment to sustainable development, job creation and community empowerment in Balochistan, according to the report.


Pakistan’s Lahore hosts 24th edition of Asian Forum’s tech innovation event

Updated 13 sec ago
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Pakistan’s Lahore hosts 24th edition of Asian Forum’s tech innovation event

  • The three-day exhibition is set to fetch nearly $500 million investment from a dozen countries
  • These companies participating in the expo include Microsoft, Inbox, Lenovo, HP, NetSol and Dell

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore is set to host the 24th edition of Asian Forum’s Information Technology Commerce Network (ITCN) today, on Thursday, Pakistani state media reported.

State Minister for Information Technology Shaza Fatima will be the chief guest, while Digital Cooperation Organization (DCO) Secretary-General Deemah Al-Yahya will be guest of honor on the opening day of summit at Lahore’s Expo Center.

The main sessions include Artificial Intelligence Summit, Global Security Symposium, Gaming and Scholars Roundtable, Investor Summit, Freelancer Summit, Made in Pakistan Roundtable Conference, the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported.

“In this edition, a delegation of international investors belonging to twelve counties will participate along with an investment of five hundred million dollars,” the report read.

“Over seven hundred stalls will be established and renowned international and national technology companies will participate in this event.”

These companies include Microsoft, Inbox, Red Hat, TP-Link, Lenovo, HP, NetSol, Abacus and Dell, according to the report.

The event is being jointly supported by the Pakistani Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunication, Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), Pakistan Software Export Board and Pakistan Software Houses Association.


Pakistan wants to re-engage with Middle Eastern banks in multiple areas — finance minister

Updated 21 min 10 sec ago
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Pakistan wants to re-engage with Middle Eastern banks in multiple areas — finance minister

  • Statement came during Mohammad Aurangzeb’s meeting with his Emirati counterpart on sidelines of his US visit 
  • The Pakistani finance minister briefed about priority areas of taxation, energy and privatization of state entities

ISLAMABAD: Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb on Wednesday met with his Emirati counterpart and expressed his country’s desire to re-engage with Middle Eastern banks in multiple fields, the Pakistani finance ministry said.

Aurangzeb’s meeting with UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs Mohamed bin Hadi Al Hussaini came on the sidelines of his visit to the United States to meet International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank officials.

The Pakistani foreign minister acknowledged long-standing brotherly ties between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and appreciated the Gulf country’s support to help Pakistan deal with its economic challenges.

“The minister briefed UAE’s Minister of State for Financial Affairs about the priority areas of taxation, energy and privatization of SOEs (state-owned enterprises),” the Pakistani finance ministry said in a statement.

“He also informed that Pakistan wanted to re-engage with Middle Eastern Banks.”

Aurangzeb arrived in Washington on Sunday to participate in spring meetings organized by the IMF and World Bank.

On Wednesday, he attended the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Ministers and Governors meeting with the IMF managing director, and highlighted geo-economic fragmentation and its impact on Pakistan.

“He thanked IMF, MDBs (multilateral development banks) and its time-tested sincere bilateral partners for their support in helping the country respond to unprecedented challenges,” Aurangzeb’s ministry said in a separate statement.

“He further underscored aggressive reforms including broadening the tax net, privatizing loss making SOEs, expanding social safety net and facilitating the private sector.”

The minister underlined the importance of rechanneling of special drawing rights (SDRs), review of surcharges policy and prioritizing the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST) in view of climate vulnerabilities.

“The minister called for a more proactive and responsive Global Financial Safety Net to tackle the elevated risks,” the statement read.

“He welcomed the renewed emphasis of the Fund on Capacity Building through Regional Capacity Development Centers (RCDCs).”

During the engagements, Aurangzeb also met with Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) Executive Vice President Hiroshi Matano and appreciated the Agency’s continued support to Pakistan in attracting foreign investments.

“The minister discussed the ongoing economic reforms, investment climate and measures to enhance investor confidence in Pakistan,” his ministry said.

Aurangzeb’s tour is an important one for the South Asian country as an ongoing nine-month, $3 billion loan program with the IMF designed to tackle a balance-of-payments crisis, is set to expire this month.

With the final $1.1 billion tranche of that deal likely to be approved later this month, Pakistan has begun negotiations for a new multi-year IMF loan program worth “billions” of dollars, according to the finance ministry.

In an interview on Monday, Aurangzeb said Pakistan would seek at least a three-year IMF program and planned to continue with necessary policy reforms to rein in deficits, build up reserves and manage soaring debt servicing.


Australia mulls citizenship for Pakistani guard in Sydney mall attack

Updated 55 min 17 sec ago
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Australia mulls citizenship for Pakistani guard in Sydney mall attack

  • The guard, Muhammad Taha, reportedly said he believed he ‘deserved recognition, consideration for citizenship’ after being stabbed
  • He was attacked just after fellow Pakistani security guard, Faraz Tahir, one of the six people killed at the Westfield shopping complex

SYDNEY: Australia’s prime minister said Thursday he will consider granting citizenship to a Pakistani security guard wounded in the deadly Sydney shopping center knife attack.

The guard, Muhammad Taha, reportedly said he believed he “deserved recognition and consideration for citizenship” after being stabbed.

In a bedside interview with The Australian, Taha said he was attacked just after fellow Pakistani security guard Faraz Tahir, one of the six people killed at the Westfield shopping complex in Bondi Junction.

Taha has a graduate visa due to expire in less than a month, the paper said.

The guard reportedly noted that Frenchman Damien Guerot, since dubbed “bollard man,” had been offered permanent residency after video shared on social media showed him using a bollard to fend off the attacker, Joel Cauchi.

Asked in a radio interview if the Australian government would entertain Taha’s citizenship request, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said: “Yes, we certainly will.”

Albanese described the killing of Faraz Tahir as a “tragedy.”

“This other person, Muhammad Taha, he confronted this guy, the perpetrator, Joel Cauchi, on Saturday. And it just shows extraordinary courage,” the prime minister said.

Both men put themselves in danger to protect Australians they did not know, Albanese said.

“That’s the sort of courage that we want to say thank you to, frankly.”

Albanese said Guerot would receive permanent residency, which he had been seeking, on Thursday.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday hailed Guerot and his fellow Frenchman Silas Despreaux for trying to stop the mall attacker.


Pakistan kick off T20 World Cup 2024 preparations with New Zealand series today

Updated 18 April 2024
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Pakistan kick off T20 World Cup 2024 preparations with New Zealand series today

  • Today’s match to see return of Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim and Naseem Shah to Pakistan’s national squad
  • Pakistan’s white-ball captain Babar Azam says team eager to express themselves as a unit in today’s match 

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan cricket team will kick off their preparations for the ICC World Cup 2024 by taking on New Zealand in the first match of the T20I series against the Black Caps in Rawalpindi today, Thursday. 

Led by experienced all-rounder Michael Bracewell, New Zealand’s cricket team arrived in Pakistan last week to play the five-match T20I series from April 14-28. Rawalpindi will also host matches on Saturday and Sunday, while Lahore’s Qaddafi Stadium will be the stage for the remaining two matches next week on Thursday and Saturday.

This will be the third five-match series between the two sides inside a 12-month period. Last year, Pakistan and New Zealand drew the series at two-all in Pakistan, while New Zealand clinched the series 4-1 earlier at their home. 

“This five-match T20I series holds a lot of importance for us as we look forward to preparing for the all-important mega-event,” Pakistan’s white-ball captain Babar Azam said during a news conference on Wednesday. 

“We had a great fitness camp in Kakul and are looking forward to express ourselves as a unit.”

Pakistan have named uncapped Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Irfan Khan and Usman Khan in the 17-player squad. Pacer Mohammad Amir and all-rounder Imad Wasim, who came back from retirement last month. are also back in the national squad. 

The series will also mark fast bowler Naseem Shah’s return to the national squad, who last played for Pakistan in Asia Cup 2023 before suffering a shoulder injury. The injury proved to be a fatal blow for Pakistan, sidelining Shah from the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 and tours of Australia and New Zealand.

Bracewell said he was excited to lead New Zealand on the Pakistan tour, adding that his team was raring to play good cricket against the hosts.

“Pakistan are formidable side at home and we’ll look to put challenges in their backyard,” he said. 

The match is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. Pakistan Standard Time. 

Squads:

Pakistan — Babar Azam (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usama Mir, Usman Khan and Zaman Khan

New Zealand — Michael Bracewell (captain), Tom Blundell, Mark Chapman, Josh Clarkson, Jacob Duffy, Dean Foxcroft, Ben Lister, Cole McConchie, Jimmy Neesham, Will O’Rourke, Tim Robinson, Ben Sears, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi and Zak Foulkes.


Analysts hail Saudi FM’s ‘significant’ visit, say investments will boost Pakistan’s economy

Updated 17 April 2024
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Analysts hail Saudi FM’s ‘significant’ visit, say investments will boost Pakistan’s economy

  • Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister visited Pakistan this week to discuss investments and enhance bilateral economic cooperation
  • Former diplomat says Saudi investments could increase to $25 billion if Pakistan provides conducive environment to Saudi investors

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani diplomats and analysts on Wednesday hailed Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud’s “significant” visit to Pakistan, saying that investment agreements reached between the two sides could lead to the creation of thousands of jobs in the South Asian country and boost its economic prospects. 
Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Islamabad on a two-day official visit on Monday. The minister led a high-powered delegation to Islamabad with his visit aimed at enhancing bilateral economic cooperation and pushing forward previously agreed investment deals. 
His trip came a little over a week after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif in Makkah and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s commitment to expedite investments worth $5 billion.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia enjoy strong trade, defense and cultural ties. The Kingdom is home to over 2.7 million Pakistani expatriates and the top source of remittances to the cash-strapped South Asian country.
“Pakistan has longstanding ties with Saudi Arabia but now it has taken a new dimension of economic cooperation,” Zahid Hussain, a senior journalist and political analyst, told Arab News. 
“And that’s why this visit was very significant.” 
Hussain said the Saudi foreign minister’s visit had turned out to be a “very productive” one as both sides held discussions on investment opportunities that he said Pakistan could offer to Saudi businessmen.
“They have discussed various opportunities which are beneficial for Saudis for investment and that could be said as the turning point in the Pakistan and Saudi relationship,” Hussain added.
During his two-day official trip, the Saudi foreign minister held meetings with top civilian and military leadership including Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and army chief General Syed Asim Munir. The Saudi delegation was also briefed by the Special Investment Facilitation Council (SIFC), a key government body set up in June 2023 to fast-track decisions related to international investment in Pakistan’s key sectors IT, mining, energy and agriculture.
Speaking at a joint press conference in Islamabad on Tuesday along with his counterpart Ishaq Dar, Prince Faisal said there was a “significant opportunity” for the Kingdom to increase its investments in Pakistan. 


Former diplomat Javed Hafeez said potential Saudi investments will enhance Pakistan’s exports and lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs for Pakistani professionals in the energy, mining, agriculture, and other sectors. 
“This would have an overall positive effect on other sectors as well and on Pakistan’s economy,” he noted.
Hafeez said the Kingdom’s investments in Pakistan could increase to the tune of $25 billion from initial investments of $5 billion, provided Islamabad succeeds in ensuring a conducive environment for Saudi investors. 
“I see it [initial investments of $5 billion] as a test case,” Hafeez said. “If we can provide the foolproof security [to Saudi investors] and if these projects are successful, then of course much more investment will come.”