PIA says flights ‘severely affected’ as UAE reels for third day after record-breaking storm

A man carries luggage through floodwater caused by heavy rain while waiting for transportation on Sheikh Zayed Road highway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 18 April 2024
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PIA says flights ‘severely affected’ as UAE reels for third day after record-breaking storm

  • Operations at the Dubai airport remain disrupted after Tuesday’s storm flooded the runway
  • The rains were the heaviest experienced by the UAE in 75 years that records have been kept

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flights to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been affected by the recent torrential rains in Sharjah and Dubai and would resume once the situation improves in the Gulf country, a PIA spokesperson said on Thursday.
The United Arab Emirates was still grappling on Thursday with the aftermath of a record-breaking storm this week, with emergency workers trying to clear water-clogged roads and people assessing damages to homes and businesses.
In Dubai, operations at the airport, a major travel hub, remain disrupted after Tuesday’s storm flooded the runway. The airport resumed receiving inbound flights on Thursday morning, but flights continue to be delayed and disrupted.
The PIA said its flight operations were “severely affected” in the wake of the rains, which were the heaviest experienced by the UAE in 75 years.
“Pakistani airlines, including the PIA, await restoration of facilities at Dubai airport,” the PIA spokesperson said in a statement.
“PIA will immediately start its operations as soon as the situation improves.”
Passengers of canceled flights are being accommodated on the next flights on priority, according to the statement. Apart from this, more flights are also being planned.
The national flag-carrier requested travelers to reach its call center at 786 786 111 for information about their flight readjustments.


T20 warmup match between England and Pakistan abandoned due of rain

Updated 6 sec ago
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T20 warmup match between England and Pakistan abandoned due of rain

  • The first match of the series was also wiped out, before England won the second T20 by 23 runs
  • The weather condition in England has jeopardized the T20 World Cup preparations for both teams

CARDIFF, Wales: The T20 World Cup preparations of England and Pakistan were further hurt after the third match of their warmup series was abandoned Tuesday without any play possible in Cardiff because of rain.
The first match of the series was also wiped out, before England won the second T20 by 23 runs in Edgbaston on Saturday.
The fourth and final match of the series is at The Oval in London on Thursday. Bad weather is forecast then, too.
The T20 World Cup begins on Saturday in the United States and the Caribbean, with England’s opening match against Scotland in Barbados on June 4 and Pakistan playing for the first time on June 6 against the US.


Pakistan court likely to announce verdict today on pleas against ruling ex-PM Khan violated marriage law

Updated 29 min 32 sec ago
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Pakistan court likely to announce verdict today on pleas against ruling ex-PM Khan violated marriage law

  • Khan, wife Bushra sentenced to seven years in prison in February by court that ruled their 2018 marriage illegal
  • Bushra is currently serving out two prison sentences at Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail where Khan is also incarcerated

ISLAMABAD: A district and sessions court in Islamabad is expected to announce its verdict today, Wednesday, on appeals challenging seven-year jail sentences each for former Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and his wife Bushra Khan for violating the country’s marriage law.
Khan and his wife were sentenced to seven years in prison and fined in February by a court that ruled their 2018 marriage broke the law. Bushra was accused of not completing the waiting period mandated by Islam, called “Iddat,” after divorcing her previous husband and marrying Khan.
The Khans signed their marriage contract, or “Nikkah,” in January 2018 in a secret ceremony seven months before the former cricket superstar became prime minister for the first time. There was controversy over whether they had wed before the Iddat period was complete. After initial denials of the marriage, Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf confirmed it weeks later.
The Khans both deny wrongdoing.
“The court will announce the judgment on May 29 (Wednesday),” the Pakistani media reported after the last hearing exactly a week ago.
Bushra is currently serving out two prison sentences at Adiala Jail where Khan is also incarcerated. In January, both were sentenced to 14 years in prison in a case that relates to accusations they undervalued gifts from a state repository and gained profits from selling them while Khan was prime minister from 2018-22.
CASES
Khan was first jailed after being handed a three-year prison sentence in August 2023 by the Election Commission for not declaring assets earned from selling gifts worth more than 140 million rupees ($501,000) in state possession and received during his premiership. In January, Khan and Bushra were handed the 14-year jail terms following a separate investigation by the country’s top anti-graft body, or NAB, into the same charges involving state gifts.
An anti-graft court in Islamabad also handed Khan a 10-year jail term in January for revealing state secrets, a week before national elections on Feb. 8. The ruling on his marriage to Bushra and a seven-year sentence each for both also came ahead of the polls.
Khan has also been indicted under Pakistan’s anti-terrorism law in connection with violence against the military that erupted following his brief arrest related to a land graft case on May 9. A section of Pakistan’s 1997 anti-terrorism act prescribes the death penalty as maximum punishment. Khan has denied the charges under the anti-terrorism law, saying he was in detention when the violence took place.
Khan’s convictions, which mean he is banned from holding public office, ruled the 71-year-old out of the February general elections. Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan says all cases against him are motivated to keep him out of politics.
SPIRITUAL LEADER
Bushra’s ex-husband, Khawar Maneka, to whom she was married for about 30 years, brought a criminal complaint against the Khans.
Khan has often called Bushra his spiritual leader. She is known for her devotion to Sufism, a mystical form of Islam.
Born Bushra Riaz Watto, she changed her name to Khan after her marriage. Her husband and followers commonly refer to her as Bushra Bibi or Bushra Begum, titles that denote respect in Urdu.
Khan’s two previous marriages — to Jemima Goldsmith, daughter of tycoon James Goldsmith, and television journalist Reham Nayyar Khan — ended in divorce.


Pakistani real estate tycoon claims raid on company offices, alleges political pressure amid corruption probe

Updated 34 min 37 sec ago
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Pakistani real estate tycoon claims raid on company offices, alleges political pressure amid corruption probe

  • Malik Riaz was declared a proclaimed offender in the Al Qadir Trust case against ex-PM Khan in January this year
  • He says he will not become ‘an approver’ and retain his ‘long-standing stance of neutrality’ in political matters

ISLAMABAD: A leading Pakistani real estate tycoon said on Tuesday the country’s anti-graft body raided his company offices in Rawalpindi, taking away cash, project files, computers, vehicles and nine employees, as he blamed state institutions for putting him under pressure to advance their “political agenda.”
Malik Riaz, the owner of Bahria Town, which has a presence in several Pakistani urban centers, shared video footage of the alleged raid on his social media account, though its authenticity could not be verified independently.
Riaz, known for his strong connections with influential politicians and officials across the country, is involved in the Al Qadir Trust case against former prime minister Imran Khan, centered around land transactions and the misuse of political authority. The case gained attention after the United Kingdom’s National Crime Agency transferred £190 million to Pakistan, obtained from Riaz after investigating him for acquiring assets with illicit funds.
Khan and his wife, Bushra Bibi, were suspected of taking illicit benefits from Riaz after the money was sent to the Supreme Court accounts as a settlement in financial cases the tycoon faced in Pakistan and he donated a piece of land to the Al Qadir Trust, established by them to set up a university.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) is actively investigating the matter against Khan, who has been in prison since last August on multiple charges.
“Malik Riaz will not become an approver,” he wrote in a post on platform X. “Do whatever oppression you want on me.”
“As Chairman of Bahria Town, I assure you, such bullying will not deter me from my stand I have already made public,” he continued. “This arm twisting isn’t hurting me only, it’s crippling the real estate investment in Pakistan. You’re not demolishing my business, your actions are locking up the economic growth of the country. If this is the real agenda behind this witch-hunt, let the people of Pakistan see for what this really is.”

 
He said he believed in Pakistani law was facing all cases on legal forums. Riaz also added he did not want to become part of any “power game” in the country, saying he was reiterating his “long-standing stance of neutrality” and resist pressure tactics to pick a side.
He did not name the Al Qadir Trust case in his social media post, though he was declared a proclaimed offender in it earlier this year in January and has been staying abroad.
So far, there has been no official statement from NAB in response to Riaz’s claims.


In Pakistan’s largest city, women are bound by a common misery: no public toilets

Updated 29 May 2024
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In Pakistan’s largest city, women are bound by a common misery: no public toilets

  • Public toilets are a rare sight in Karachi, city of 20.3 million, which activists say severely impacts women’s mobility, safety
  • Sindh High Court this month ordered local authorities to construct bathrooms in markets, parks, hospitals, other public places

KARACHI: For the past eight years, Mariam Hassan’s biggest concern while out doing her work as a TV health reporter in Karachi has been to limit her water intake lest she has to use the toilet.
Hassan’s problem speaks to one of Pakistan’s most serious public health concerns: public toilets. World Bank data shows 79 million people in the country do not have access to a proper toilet while a recent UNICEF study says 25 million people still practice open defecation.
The lack of toilets for public use is not just a matter of public health but also about safety, women’s rights and human dignity, rights advocates and urban planners say. Indeed, the problem is especially difficult for women, who are not allowed to use the same toilet facilities as men in the conservative Muslim country.
“There is no place available for women and the places that are available are so dirty that you can’t even imagine going there,” Hassan told Arab News, echoing the sentiment of dozens of women interviewed on the subject this week in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and home to over 20 million people.
She recounted an instance in 2018 when she worked tirelessly from 7am until 10 at night covering a protest in the city’s Azizabad area without being able to find a single public restroom in the surroundings.
“At last our cameraperson took me to his relative’s house which was quite embarrassing as you’re going to a stranger’s house just to use the restroom,” Hassan said.
The Sindh High Court, troubled by how many Pakistanis don’t have access to public toilets in the country’s commercial hub, has ordered the government to build new facilities and do maintenance work on existing ones. During the proceedings of the case earlier this month, it was revealed that none of the 182 graveyards, 33 prominent markets, 42 roads, 970 bus stops and 133 hospitals in the city has public toilets on their premises.
Asked about the issue, Karachi Mayor Murtaza Wahab Siddiqui, whose Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) has been ruling the Sindh province since 2008, acknowledged that access to toilets was an issue that had not received due attention in the provincial capital.
“Whether they are public parks, public spaces, buildings or shopping malls, these washrooms were part of the original plan,” he told Arab News. “And as an end result, today, it is evident that this basic necessity is not available to the public the way it should be in public areas.
“The existing toilets and washrooms that have either been encroached upon or converted [into other structures], we will speak to the relevant building associations through the Sindh Building Control Authority so that those washrooms can be reactivated to ensure that people have access to this basic necessity.”
Siddiqui said even before the high court’s ruling, steps had been taken by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to refurbish old toilets in the city’s zoo and two parks and there were plans to construct washrooms along Karachi’s main thoroughfares and redo washrooms in shopping areas that had fallen into disrepair or been turned into shops or other facilities.
MOBILITY
Rights activists say public toilets are essential infrastructure for cities to guarantee citizens’ right to sanitation and their comfort to circulate in public spaces. In Karachi, the lack of public toilets has particularly impeded women’s ability to go about their daily business, whether as working women out in the field and traveling to jobs or housewives out for shopping or other errands.
“Women also need to travel, women can also go to the market, do shopping, and go to their jobs,” Muhammad Toheed, an urban planner and geographer, said. “Whether women are going on a trip or going to the market, they should mentally prepare themselves that they may not find a restroom facility along the way.”
Javed Ahmed, a city dweller in his 60s, reminisced about a time around three decades ago when the city used to have public toilets but said they had gradually disappeared due to a lack of maintenance and “societal conduct.”
“Later on, perhaps they also introduced mobile toilets. I have seen those vehicles that used to roam around, but they have vanished also,” he said, adding that people from the working classes, especially laborers and rickshaw and taxi drivers, and women, gravely required access to restrooms in public spaces.
“Throughout the city, if I may say, public toilets are nowhere to be seen, and if they are present somewhere, half of them are locked or closed,” Summaiya Khursheed, a working professional, said as she shopped at a local market.
“Just like water and food are your basic necessities, toilets are also among your basic needs. Entire markets have been built for women, but it’s not considered that toilets are also a basic necessity for women.”
Housewife Uzma Hassan outlined the steps women had to take before leaving home, knowing they would not be able to find usable toilets.
“It’s stressful that we have to do it before leaving. We mentally prepare ourselves before leaving, thinking that there won’t be any toilets available. [We worry about] what we would have to do and what not to do, and we shop hurriedly so we may get free quickly to go back home,” she told Arab News.
“There are so many markets open in Karachi, with all kinds of people living here but there should be toilets in these markets and parks. The Sindh government should think about this because it is a very big issue, especially for women.”


Pakistan advises Hajj pilgrims to be careful about heatstroke risks during annual pilgrimage

Updated 29 May 2024
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Pakistan advises Hajj pilgrims to be careful about heatstroke risks during annual pilgrimage

  • This year’s Hajj is expected to take place on June 14-19, coinciding with peak of sweltering summer temperatures in region
  • The weather situation has raised concerns about well-being of millions of pilgrims gathering in Makkah from across the world

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Hajj Mission (PHM) on Tuesday advised Pakistani pilgrims to take all-possible precautionary measures against heatstroke, especially during the Hajj pilgrimage, Pakistani state media reported, following a severe heat warning issued by the Saudi National Center for Meteorology.
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.
This year’s Hajj is expected to take place from June 14 to June 19, coinciding with the peak of sweltering summer temperatures in the region and raising concerns about well-being of millions of pilgrims gathering in Makkah from across the world.
“We advise Pakistani pilgrims to avoid sun exposure, particularly during the five Hajj days in Mashair from 8-12 ZilHajj,” PHM Director-General Abdul Wahab Soomro told the state-run APP news agency.
“Drink plenty of water, preferably ORS (Oral Rehydration Salts), use umbrellas, and spend maximum time in air-cooled or air-conditioned tents and shaded areas/tracks.”
He emphasized that although the government of Pakistan had made timely and elaborate arrangements, including transport, accommodation, and catering in Mina, Arafat and Muzdalfa, there would be no homelike comfort in the tent villages.
“It will be a hard time amid millions of people and hot weather conditions, so be prepared for it,” he cautioned.
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.
Soomro noted that the mission and its supporting staff, including doctors, nurses and paramedics as well as local and Pakistan-based assistants, were performing duties to extend round-the-clock to the “guests of Allah Almighty.”
Around 40,000 Pakistani Hajj pilgrims have so far arrived in Madinah and Makkah through 164 flights under the government scheme, according to the official. The number of pilgrims who arrived under the private scheme stood at 5,500.
He said the mission was providing best possible facilities in the most cost-effective Hajj package in the region, including residence, round-the-clock transport from hotel buildings to the Grand Mosque, and three meals a day, besides efficient online monitoring of the overall Hajj operation.
“The PHM was in close contact with all the intending pilgrims through the ‘Pak Hajj App,’ two toll-free helplines, and four WhatsApp numbers to address their concerns round the clock,” Soomro added.