Pakistan moves closer to PIA privatization with inaugural holding company meeting

Members of ground staff stand on the tarmac beside a Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) aircraft at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan on September 13, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 27 March 2024
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Pakistan moves closer to PIA privatization with inaugural holding company meeting

  • PIA Holding Company was formed to expedite the airline’s privatization by managing its liabilities and assisting with its transfer
  • The company’s board deliberated on strategic facets of the business to lay down groundwork for its efficient functioning

KARACHI: The government took yet another step toward the privatization of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), as the newly established PIA Holding Company convened its first board meeting in Islamabad on Wednesday, initiating its operations.

The entity was formed following the approval of PIA’s restructuring plan last July by its board of directors, with an aim to expedite the national carrier’s privatization by managing the airline’s liabilities and assisting in its transfer to potential investors.

PIA’s privatization also aligns with the government’s commitment to structural economic reforms under the International Monetary Fund’s financial assistance programs.

“The board in its first meeting held on March 27, 2024, endorsed the Scheme of Arrangement delineating the pathway for the privatization of Pakistan International Airlines,” said an official statement circulated after the holding company’s inaugural board meeting. “This comprehensive scheme, already receiving the stamp of approval from both the Federal Cabinet and the [Pakistan International Airlines Corporation Limited] PIACL Board, sets the stage for the next chapter of the national carrier.”

“Additionally,” it continued, “the board meticulously deliberated on various strategic facets of the business, thereby laying down the groundwork for the efficient functioning of the holding company.”

Only a day earlier, the federal cabinet approved the board of PIA Holding Company, with former central bank governor, Tariq Bajwa, appointed as its chairman.

PIA has faced multiple financial challenges over the years, seeking financial bailouts from successive government.

With a struggling national economy, Pakistan has started working toward its privatization.

The decision is also expected to improve the service provided by the airlines to its customers.
 


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

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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.
 


Helicopter carrying Iran’s president suffers a ‘hard landing,’ state TV says without further details

Updated 19 May 2024
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Helicopter carrying Iran’s president suffers a ‘hard landing,’ state TV says without further details

  • Ebrahim Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province
  • State TV described the area of the incident as being near Jolfa

DUBAI: A helicopter carrying Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi suffered a “hard landing” on Sunday, Iranian state television reported, without immediately elaborating.
Raisi was traveling in Iran’s East Azerbaijan province. State TV described the area of the incident happening as being near Jolfa, a city on the border with with the nation of Azerbaijan, some 600 kilometers (375 miles) northwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran.
Raisi had been in Azerbaijan early Sunday to inaugurate a dam with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev. The dam is the third one that the two nations built on the Aras River.
Iran flies a variety of helicopters in the country, but international sanctions make it difficult to obtain parts for them. Its military air fleet also largely dates back to before the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Raisi, 63, is a hard-liner who formerly led the country’s judiciary. He is viewed as a protégé of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and some analysts have suggested he could replace the 85-year-old leader after his death or resignation from the role.


Around 540 Pakistani students to return from Bishkek today via commercial flights— deputy PM

Updated 19 May 2024
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Around 540 Pakistani students to return from Bishkek today via commercial flights— deputy PM

  • First batch of 130 Pakistani students from Bishkek arrived in Lahore on Saturday night 
  • Fifty students have also registered to return home via special air force flight, says deputy PM

ISLAMABAD: Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Ishaq Dar announced the government has arranged three commercial flights to repatriate around 540 Pakistani students from Bishkek today, Sunday, following violent clashes in the city this week that led to the evacuations.

The development took place after frenzied mobs attacked foreign nationals in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Friday. The attacks began after videos of a brawl between Kyrgyz and Egyptian students went viral on social media, prompting furious mobs to target hostels of medical universities and private lodgings of international students, including Pakistanis, in the city.

The first batch of around 130 Pakistani students arrived in Lahore late Saturday night. According to official statistics, around 10,000 Pakistani students are enrolled in various educational institutions in Kyrgyzstan, with nearly 6,000 residing and studying in Bishkek.

“Three commercial special flights have been arranged for today (Sunday) on which 540 students will come back while 130 returned yesterday,” Dar told reporters during a media briefing in Lahore.

“A special flight of Pakistan Air Force will also bring around 130 students. So far, 50 students have registered themselves to come on this flight,” he added.

Dar said he spoke with the foreign minister of Kyrgyzstan today, Sunday, who assured him that the situation in the country was under control and that no new incidents had occurred since Friday afternoon.

“Kyrgyz foreign minister has confirmed that 16 foreign students including four to five Pakistanis got injured during this incident and are under treatment,” Dar said.

He added that Kyrgyzstan’s government has also assured that security at students’ hostels has been enhanced and that they were constantly monitoring the situation.

Earlier on Saturday evening, the PM’s Office said Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had directed Dar and another cabinet member, Amir Muqam, to travel to Bishkek on Sunday and address the situation there.

Dar said they were not traveling to the country at the Kyrgyzstan government’s request, adding that Pakistan has instead sent two officers from the foreign office to facilitate the country’s embassy.

“We were supposed to leave today for the Kyrgyz republic but their foreign minister requested [us] not to come because it would give the wrong impression about the incident and would provide fuel to the opposition,” Dar said.

He said Kyrgyzstan’s foreign minister has categorically denied any Pakistani students were killed in the clashes.

“Their (Kyrgyzstan) foreign minister also said they have arrested a few culprits and assured that no one involved will be spared,” the deputy prime minister said.

Dar said Pakistan’s foreign office had summoned the Kyrgyz Charge d’Affaires to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday for a demarche over the current situation.

“It [violence] happened due to a clash between students and foreign students were targeted from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Arab countries,” he said.

Dar said Pakistan’s embassy had confirmed the situation is not tense anymore and that Pakistanis injured are being provided the best possible medical facilities.

Separately, in a telephone call with Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan Hasan Ali Zaigham, PM Sharif instructed the embassy to make the necessary arrangements for the special plane to bring back Pakistani students.

The prime minister said injured Pakistani students should be brought back to Pakistan on a priority basis.

“The Prime Minister also instructed to ensure repatriation of family members residing in Kyrgyzstan with the Pakistani students,” PMO said.