Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply agreement between Saudi Aramco, GO Petroleum

An Aramco employee walks near an oil tank at Saudi Aramco's Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia May 21, 2018. (REUTERS)
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Updated 21 May 2024
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Pakistan approves petrol, diesel supply agreement between Saudi Aramco, GO Petroleum

  • Under the agreement, Aramco will meet GO Petroleum’s petrol, diesel demand for its outlets in Pakistan
  • Pakistan last month approved the Saudi oil giant’s move to acquire a 40 percent stake in GO Petroleum

KARACHI: The Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) has granted a time-bound exemption on relevant clauses of a product supply agreement between Saudi oil giant Aramco and Gas & Oil Pakistan Ltd. (GO Petroleum) for the import and sale of petrol and diesel products to Pakistan, the CCP said on Tuesday.
Aramco Trading Company (ATC) Fujairah FZE Ltd. is one of the world’s largest integrated energy and chemicals companies, while GO Petroleum is an oil-marketing company (OMC) registered in Pakistan that operates a network of retail outlets across the country that sell petrol, diesel and lubricants.
Under the agreement, ATC Fujairah intends to meet GO Petroleum’s demand for essential petroleum products for its outlets, which primarily includes petrol and diesel.
“The parties submitted to the CCP that this arrangement is expected to achieve economies of scale in procurement for GO Petroleum, potentially resulting in better prices for Pakistani consumers,” the CCP said in a statement.
“The exemption sought was on exclusivity aspects of the commercial agreement to supply 100 percent demand of imported products for GO Petroleum’s retail outlets. The CCP has accordingly granted exemption on the product supply agreement with certain conditions included therein.”
The CCP grants exemptions pursuant to Section 9 of the Competition Act, 2010, ensuring that such exemptions have economic benefits that outweigh anti-competitive effects.
“The CCP’s conditions stipulate that both parties must refrain from engaging in anti-competitive activities. Importantly, the exemption does not include approval on any pricing terms and mechanisms related to the products,” the CCP statement read.
“Additionally, as the agreement has referred to certain off specification products, however approval of concerned sector regulator should be ensured for import and sales. The applicants have also been directed to ensure required approvals on their terminals and storage facilities by relevant authorities to be used in the execution of this agreement.”
Subject to the conditions, the CCP said, it had granted the exemption until June 2026 and both applicants could approach it for an extension with required details and also identifying the benefits that have accrued to the improved distribution network of petroleum products and enhanced competition in the market.
Last month, the CCP approved Saudi oil giant Aramco’s move to acquire a 40 percent stake in Go Petroleum, officially marking the Saudi company’s entry into Pakistan’s fuels retail market.
The CCP said it had authorized the merger after determining the acquisition would not result in the acquirers’ “dominance” in the relevant market post-transaction. The acquisition would help bring much-needed foreign direct investment in Pakistan’s energy sector, contributing to economic growth and development of the country, it added.
In February 2019, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia inked investment deals totaling $21 billion during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Islamabad. The agreements included about $10 billion for an Aramco oil refinery and $1 billion for a petrochemical complex at the strategic Gwadar Port in Balochistan.
Both countries have lately been working to increase bilateral trade and investment, and the Kingdom recently reaffirmed its commitment to expedite an investment package worth $5 billion.


World Bank approves $535 million for social protection, livestock development in Pakistan

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World Bank approves $535 million for social protection, livestock development in Pakistan

  • The top bank official in Pakistan stresses the importance of building disaster resilience after the 2022 floods
  • The funding is also expected to create growth opportunities in the livestock and aquaculture sectors in Sindh

KARACHI: The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved $535 million for two projects in Pakistan, a statement said on Friday, adding that the funding would strengthen the social protection system for poor households nationwide while promoting climate-smart and competitive producers in the livestock and aquaculture sectors in Sindh.

The bank’s financing is part of its Crisis Resilient Social Protection (CRISP) and Sindh Livestock and Aquaculture Sectors Transformation (LIVAQUA) programs.

The former project has a wider scope as it seeks to increase resilience of vulnerable households to economic shocks in different parts of the country. However, the latter initiative is only confined to Pakistan southeastern province of Sindh.

“The catastrophic floods that hit Pakistan in 2022 were a tragic reminder of the importance to build resilience to such disasters, including by strengthening both social protection and sectors that support economic growth and recovery,” Najy Benhassine, World Bank

Country Director for Pakistan, was quoted in the statement. “It is also imperative to help the vulnerable absorb climate shocks through innovative climate-smart technology and contingency planning.”

It added that the additional financing of $400 million for CRISP would build on the program’s on-going efforts to equip Pakistan’s social protection system with the policy and delivery system foundations necessary for more effective and rapid responses to future crises.

“Since its inception, the CRISP program has achieved significant results with regular safety net support to more than 9 million families and a demonstrated capability of quickly reaching 2.8 million families during the recent floods,” Amjad Zafar Khan, Task Team Leader for the Project, noted.

“The additional financing would not only assist families in becoming more resilient to climate and economic shocks, but also encourage the use of provincial capacities to take up a larger role in social assistance,” he added.

Meanwhile, the $135 million in LIVAQUA funding is expected to facilitate interventions to promote climate-smart production, value addition and inclusive access to markets.

The statement said this will create growth opportunities in the livestock and aquaculture sectors.

“The project will improve the livelihoods of small and medium livestock and aquaculture producers, increase their resilience to animal health and climate-related shocks, strengthen the overall growth of these two sectors in Sindh, and more broadly improve food and nutrition security and reduce the sectors’ contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,” Myriam Chaudron, Task Team Leader for the project, said.


Crowd in Pakistan’s Swat kills man accused of desecrating Holy Qur’an

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Crowd in Pakistan’s Swat kills man accused of desecrating Holy Qur’an

  • The mob stormed the police station where the man had been detained after being accused of burning the Qur’an
  • Chief Minister Ali Amin Gandapur takes notice of the incident, demands an inquiry report from province’s top cop

PESHAWAR: A man accused of desecrating the Holy Qur’an was killed on Thursday by a furious mob in Pakistan’s picturesque Swat valley after it stormed a police precinct where he had been detained, confirmed a senior police official while sharing details of the incident.

Swat, known for its tourism, hosts thousands of visitors from different parts of the country during the Eid holidays.

Madyan, the location of the incident, is a major tourist destination alongside nearby areas such as Kalam, Bahrain, Saidu Sharif and Marghazar.

Speaking to Arab News, District Police Officer (DPO) Dr. Zahid Ullah said a man named Suleman Khan from Pakistan’s Sialkot city was killed by the mob after accusations of burning the Islamic scripture. He added that Khan had been staying at a local hotel since June 18.

“A tourist from Sialkot was accused of desecrating the Qur’an and was surrounded by people in the marketplace outside his hotel in Madyan,” he said.

After learning about the incident, the police took the man into custody at Madyan Police Station, but this did not pacify the large crowd that soon gathered, broke down the door and stormed in.

“The mob pelted stones at the police station and tortured the accused before taking him outside and burning him at a nearby bridge,” the DPO said.

“The angry mob also set fire to the goods and vehicles at the police station,” he continued, adding that 11 people got injured during the mayhem.

lainclothes police officers stand beside the burnt vehicles which were torched by a Muslim mob in an attack, in Madyan in Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, on June 21, 2024. (AP)

Blasphemy, including the desecration of the Holy Qur’an, constitutes an incendiary charge in Pakistan, where just an accusation can lead to mob violence.

Chief Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ali Amin Khan Gandapur took notice of the incident by ordering an inquiry report from the Inspector General of Police and expressed his regret over the incident.

He instructed the police to the police to take necessary measures to bring the situation under control.

Gandapur also urged the citizens to remain peaceful.


US backs direct India-Pakistan talks following PM Sharif’s congratulatory message to Modi

Updated 21 June 2024
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US backs direct India-Pakistan talks following PM Sharif’s congratulatory message to Modi

  • State Department’s Matthew Miller says the ‘pace, scope and character’ should be determined by the two states
  • He highlights ‘a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements’ to combat militant groups like TTP

ISLAMABAD: The United States said on Thursday it would support direct engagement between India and Pakistan after Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif congratulated his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for securing a third term in office earlier this month.

The diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan have deteriorated significantly since August 5, 2019, when New Delhi revoked the special constitutional status of the disputed Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, leading to heightened tensions and a series of retaliatory measures.

The two nuclear-armed neighbors expelled each other’s ambassadors and limited bilateral trade relations, as Modi’s administration decided to integrate the only Muslim-majority region with the rest of the Indian union and imposed a strict curfew and communication blackout in the area.

Pakistan and India have fought wars and a limited conflict over Kashmir since their independence in 1947. Both countries claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it.

“We value our important relationships with both India and Pakistan,” State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a media briefing in Washington while responding a question about the recent exchange between the top political leaders of the two South Asian states.

“As we have said, we support direct discussions between India and Pakistan, but the pace, scope and character should be determined by those two countries, not by us,” he added.

Miller was also asked about Pakistan’s interest in advanced US weapons to fight the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militant network whose operatives have used American military equipment handed over to the Afghan National Army before the withdrawal of international forces. However, he simply mentioned the shared US-Pakistan interest in fighting against such groups.

“The United States and Pakistan have a shared interest in combating threats to regional security,” he said. “We partner with Pakistan on security through our high-level counterterrorism dialogue, including several counterterrorism capacity building programs, and we support a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements.”

“We are in regular communication with the Pakistani leaders as a part of our partnership on CT [counterterrorism] issues, and we will continue to discuss regional security in detail, including through our annual counterterrorism dialogue and other bilateral consultations,” he added.

Pakistan’s interest in US weapons was recently expressed by its envoy to Washington, Ambassador Masood Khan.

Other Pakistani diplomats and officials have also raised concern over the use of automatic assault weapons and night-vision devices by TTP militants in the past.


Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system

Updated 21 June 2024
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Google partners with Pakistan to create smart classrooms, digitally transform education system

  • Search engine giant partners with Pakistan to set up local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks by 2026
  • Pakistan has a staggering population of over 26.2 million out-of-school children, second-highest in the world 

ISLAMABAD: Google and Pakistan’s education ministry on Thursday announced they were partnering up to provide access to education for millions of students across the country, digitally transform Pakistan’s education system and build smart schools, state-run media reported. 

Pakistan has a staggering population of 26.2 million out-of-school children, the second highest in the world, according to Unicef Pakistan. 

Last month, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif declared an education emergency in the country, hoping to ensure access to education for these out-of-school children and improve educational opportunities for them. 

On Thursday, PM Sharif met a high-level delegation of Google for Education headed by its Managing Director Kevin Kells in Islamabad. 

“Ultimately, Google’s collaboration with the Ministry of Federal Education aims to drive a large-scale digital transformation of Pakistan’s education system, creating smart classrooms and fostering a healthy learning ecosystem,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said in a report. 

The state media said Google, through its Google for Education’s country partner Tech Valley, will work with the Pakistani government to establish a local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks by 2026. It would also provide access to digital tools and resources for students and teachers in Pakistan.

Chromebooks are a type of laptop or tablet that runs on Google’s Chrome OS operating system and are more cost-effective than regular laptops. 

“As part of the collaboration, Allied, an Australian manufacturer of Google Chromebooks, will establish an assembly line in Pakistan to locally assemble Google Chromebooks, making them more affordable for educational purposes,” APP said.

It said the goal of such an agreement is to ensure that every student in the country has access to “cutting-edge classroom technology” to enhance their learning experience.

“Under the agreement, the teachers would be trained how to use technology effectively in the classroom, develop and implement innovative learning programs that leverage technology,” it said. 

Pakistan’s Education Minister Dr. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui praised the development, saying it was an important step in ensuring educational access to children. 

“We believe that technology can play a vital role in improving learning outcomes and preparing our students for the future,” he said. 

Farhan S. Qureshi, Google Pakistan’s country director, said access to digital tools will ensure Pakistani children get acclimatized to the digital economy. 
“Also, creating a local assembly of over 500,000 Chromebooks will help Pakistan’s manufacturing industry grow and attract more investments in technology,” Qureshi said.
 


Pakistan’s president advocates ‘political dialogue’ for Balochistan’s stability during Gwadar visit

Updated 21 June 2024
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Pakistan’s president advocates ‘political dialogue’ for Balochistan’s stability during Gwadar visit

  • Balochistan is viewed as strategically vital for Pakistan but has witnessed separatist and militant violence for decades
  • President Asif Ali Zardari calls for improved law enforcement capacity, better prosecution system to counter violence

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday emphasized political dialogue for peace, development and prosperity in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan region, which has been recognized as vital for the country’s strategic interests but has also witnessed prolonged militant and separatist violence.

Pakistan’s largest province by area, Balochistan holds a strategic position that borders Iran and Afghanistan, making it pivotal for regional connectivity and central to the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which aims to strengthen the ties between Pakistan, the Middle East and Central Asia. The government has also taken initiatives to tap the province’s vast mineral and natural resources that largely remain underexploited, hoping to utilize them for the country’s economic growth.

However, Balochistan has witnessed a low-level insurgency carried out by Baloch nationalist groups who have long accused Pakistani governments of profiting from the province’s natural resources while leaving the region underdeveloped for its own residents.

Zardari, who went to the region’s strategic Gwadar port city on a daylong visit, chaired a meeting on the security situation in Balochistan on Thursday.

“Political dialogue is the way forward to bring prosperity, development and peace to Balochistan,” he was quoted as saying by his office after the meeting.

However, the president also spoke about enhancing the capacity of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) in the area, emphasized the deployment of “competent officers” in the province and called for a better prosecution mechanism to counter violence in Balochistan.

“Compensation for the families of martyrs of LEAs in Balochistan should be enhanced, bringing it at par with the rest of the provinces,” he said.

He also instructed the authorities to take necessary measures for the safety of religious tourists from other province who travel to the Middle East from Balochistan.

The president also maintained it was necessary to focus on skill development of people, adding that trained human resources should be equipped with foreign language skills to help them find jobs in other countries.

“There is a need for providing financing and equipment to local fishermen, apart from promoting sustainable fishing practices and checking the production of illegal fishing nets,” he added while speaking about one of the leading livelihood sources for people in Gwadar.

The meeting was also attended by Pakistan’s interior minister Mohsin Naqvi, Balochistan’s chief minister Sarfaraz Bugti and senior military officials.