Pakistan orders probe after forest fires erupt at 15 locations on Islamabad’s Margalla Hills

Workers of Capital Development Authority (CDA) clean residue from burned areas after a fire erupted on Margalla Hills forest amid rising temperature on a hot summer day in Islamabad on May 28, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 May 2024
Follow

Pakistan orders probe after forest fires erupt at 15 locations on Islamabad’s Margalla Hills

  • The forest fires initially erupted at three different locations on Hiking Trails 3 and 5 of Margalla Hills
  • Incidents come at time when Pakistan is experiencing heatwave, with temperatures soaring above 52°C

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mohsin Naqvi on Tuesday ordered an inquiry into forest fires that erupted at 15 different locations on Margalla Hills on the northern edge of the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, the interior ministry said, amid a large-scale operation to douse the fires.

The forest fires initially erupted at three different locations on Hiking Trails 3 and 5 of Margalla Hills, according to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

The authority said it had arranged helicopters after firefighters present on the ground faced difficulties in accessing the fire sites. The fires later erupted at nearly a dozen other locations.

Naqvi, while taking notice of the incidents, spoke to Islamabad Chief Commissioner Muhammad Ali Randhawa and called for a comprehensive probe into the matter, according to the Pakistani interior ministry.

“Investigation must be held to bring out the facts whether the fires were deliberately ignited or they erupted accidentally,” Naqvi was quoted as saying by his ministry.

“A committee should be immediately formed to investigate the fire incidents at 15 places in a single day.”




Smoke rises from a fire, which erupted in Margalla Hills forest amid rising temperatures on a hot summer day in Islamabad on May 28, 2024. (AFP)

On the directives of interior minister, the Islamabad chief commissioner and police chief have tasked officials with investigating the matter, according to the statement.

Margalla Hills, which are part of the Himalayan foothills, have an area of 12,605 hectares and several hiking trails that are frequented by hundreds of people on a daily basis and are famous with picnickers.

The fires have erupted at a time when Pakistan is witnessing a heatwave, with temperatures soaring above 52 degrees Celsius in parts of the country.

Pakistan has reported an increasing number of forest fire incidents amid increasingly hot weather, blamed on climate change, in recent years.

Earlier in the day, senior Islamabad officials visited the site of the forest fires to inspect efforts to extinguish them

“Firefighters are using all resources to put out the fires,” Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon said in a statement.

“Assistance has also been sought from other agencies to put out the fires, which will soon be brought under control.”


Pakistan sets fiscal deficit target of 6.9 percent of GDP in 2024/25

Updated 7 sec ago
Follow

Pakistan sets fiscal deficit target of 6.9 percent of GDP in 2024/25

  • Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb presents federal budget 2024-25 in parliament 
  • Analysts expect budget to set ambitious fiscal targets as Pakistan eyes fresh IMF loan program

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan government will target a budget deficit of 6.9 percent of its GDP and total tax revenue of 13 trillion rupees in the fiscal year starting July 1, the country’s finance minister said in his budget speech on Wednesday.

Analysts expect the budget for the fiscal year to June 2025 to set ambitious fiscal targets as it looks to strengthen the case for a new bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund.

Its in economic review on Tuesday, the government said GDP would expand 2.4 percent in the current year, missing the budgeted target of 3.5 percent, despite revenues being up 30 percent on year, and the fiscal and current account deficits being under control.

While Pakistan is expected to stick to fiscal prudence under a new IMF program, growth is expected to stay constrained, said Abid Suleri of the Sustainable Development Policy Institute think tank.

“Many of the measures taken to achieve fiscal sustainability will impact growth negatively, at least in the near future,” he added.

Pakistan is in talks with the IMF for a loan estimated to range from $6 billion to $8 billion, as it seeks to avert a default for an economy growing at the slowest pace in the region.

But a recent economic uptick following stabilization measures and falling inflation, as well as an interest rate cut by the central bank on Monday, have made the government optimistic about prospects for growth.

The key policy rate could fall further this year and economic growth would continue to rise, Finance Minister Muhammad Aurangzeb had told reporters a day before presenting his first budget. 


Pakistan’s T20 World Cup fate hangs in balance as India face US today

Updated 12 June 2024
Follow

Pakistan’s T20 World Cup fate hangs in balance as India face US today

  • Pakistan need US to lose their remaining two matches against India, Ireland to stay alive
  • Babar Azam’s side lost their opening two matches against India, US in this year’s World Cup

ISLAMABAD: Millions of Pakistani cricket fans will be hoping their arch-rivals India thump the United States on Wednesday when the two sides meet in New York for a T20 World Cup competition so that the green shirts stay alive in the tournament. 

Pakistan, who notched their first win of the T20 World Cup 2024 against Canada on Tuesday night in New York, need the US to lose their remaining two matches against India and Ireland. Skipper Babar Azam’s side, who lost to the US and India in their opening two matches of the World Cup, also need India to beat Canada on June 15 to stand a chance in the tournament. 

If the US wins even one more point, Pakistan’s journey in the World Cup will come to an abrupt end in the first stage. Even one match affected by rain would spell the end for Pakistan, as the US requires only one point to move to the second round.

“USA bracing up for another epic clash,” the International Cricket Council (ICC) wrote on social media platform X. It shared a picture of the American cricketers practicing before the fixture. 

Pakistan’s new white-ball coach Gary Kirsten last week bluntly said the green shirts needed to evolve if they wanted to live up to the standards of international cricket. 

“I think for me the most important thing for every international player is that you continue growing and developing as a player, and understanding what the demands of international competition are,” Kirsten said at the post-match conference after Pakistan lost to India on Sunday. 

“The game is changing pretty much every year. So, if you’re not up to it and you’re not improving, you’re going to get found out somewhere.”

Squads:

India (probable): 1 Rohit Sharma (capt), 2 Virat Kohli, 3 Rishabh Pant (wk), 4 Suryakumar Yadav, 5 Shivam Dube, 6 Hardik Pandya, 7 Ravindra Jadeja, 8 Axar Patel, 9 Jasprit Bumrah, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Arshdeep Singh

USA (probable): 1 Steven Taylor, 2 Monank Patel (capt & wk), 3 Andries Gous, 4 Aaron Jones, 5 Nitish Kumar, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Harmeet Singh, 8 Jasdeep Singh, 9 Nosthush Kenjige, 10 Saurabh Netravalkar, 11 Ali Khan 


Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat

Updated 12 June 2024
Follow

Pakistan unlikely to buy spot LNG in summer despite simmering heat

  • Pakistan unlikely to buy LNG cargoes until November due to oversupply, high prices
  • Countries seek more LNG cargoes due to extreme heat, driving spot prices to high levels

KARACHI: Pakistan is unlikely to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) cargoes on the spot market until at least the beginning of winter in November due to oversupply and high prices, its petroleum minister told Reuters.

Extreme temperatures across Asia have pushed countries to seek more cargoes of LNG to address higher power demand, driving spot prices to their highest since mid-December. Asia spot LNG last traded at $12.00 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) on Friday.

However, LNG demand in the second largest South Asian LNG buyer was “subordinate to supplies,” the minister told Reuters, despite heatwaves baking the country of 300 million people with temperatures surging to a near-record.

“The question of getting more LNG when we can’t sell the amount of LNG that we already are obtaining from our long-term contracts, it does not apply,” Musadik Masood Malik, Pakistan’s petroleum minister, told Reuters in an interview.

Annual power use in Pakistan, which gets over a third of its electricity from natural gas, is expected to fall consecutively for the first time in 16 years, due to higher tariffs curbing household consumption.

Poor and middle-class households are still feeling the impact of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) bailout of Pakistan last year, which contributed to higher retail prices. A series of power tariff hikes over 12 months was a key part of the IMF program which ended in April.

Industrial demand has also remained tepid due to a cloudy economic outlook.

Pakistan, which last bought a spot LNG cargo in late 2023, canceled its spot LNG tender for delivery in January. Malik attributed the cancelation to oversupply, adding that there were “not a lot of customers” at current LNG spot prices.

Malik said Pakistan was keen to adopt more renewable energy to cut its import bill and exposure to geopolitical shocks. The country suffered widespread power outages due to its inability to buy expensive LNG after prices surged due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Any country that is importing $15-18 billion of fuel, how can it be sustainable when the total exports are south of $30 billion? So we have to move away from the imported elements such as LNG,” he said.

Pakistan was also trying to access less expensive natural gas by building a pipeline with Iran, but was wary of sanctions, he said.

“We basically are trying to work out the solution whereby we can have access to less expensive gas, but in a manner which does not invoke any sanctions on Pakistan. It all depends on legal interpretations,” he said.

“From our perspective, we don’t want to get into litigation and we don’t want to get sanctioned.” 


Pakistan, Muslim World League to host global conference on girls’ education in September

Updated 12 June 2024
Follow

Pakistan, Muslim World League to host global conference on girls’ education in September

  • Eminent scholars, education ministers from Islamic countries to attend three-day event
  • Event to explore solutions to various barriers to education millions of girls face daily 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government will join hands with the Muslim World League to host a “landmark” global conference on girls’ education in September, state-run media reported on Wednesday, to ensure girls have better access to education and other facilities. 

According to the Malala Fund, 12 million girls are out of school in Pakistan and only 13 percent of girls advance to grade IX. The international non-governmental organization says social norms such as gender stereotypes and preference for educating boys continue to prevent girls from accessing education. 

State broadcaster Radio Pakistan said the primary objective of the three-day conference is to “explore and formulate” effective strategies to enable institutional responses and ensure better resource allocation for promoting girls’ education on a global scale.

“This event aims to bring together a diverse group of international and national dignitaries, including education ministers from numerous Islamic countries, to address and find solutions to different challenges faced by girls in the education sector,” Radio Pakistan said. 

It said eminent scholars, education experts, policymakers and various other stakeholders are expected to attend the conference. They will share their expertise, experiences, and best practices in the field of girls’ education. 

“The event will serve as a crucial platform for sharing experiences, discussing the multifaceted challenges faced by girls in accessing education, and exploring innovative solutions to overcome these barriers,” Radio Pakistan explained. 

It said PM Sharif has constituted a dedicated committee to organize the event in a “befitting and efficient manner.” 

The state-run media said the committee is headed by Secretary of Education Mohyuddin Wani and includes lawmaker Nausheen Iftikhar, representatives from the foreign office, the federal directorate of education and the Capital Development Authority (CDA). 

“This event marks a significant step toward the global promotion of girls’ education, demonstrating Pakistan’s commitment to being at the forefront of this vital initiative,” Radio Pakistan said. 

“By hosting such a crucial conference, Pakistan aims to contribute substantially to the global dialogue on education and help forge a path toward a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape for girls worldwide.”


Pakistani forces killed 181 militants in 7,000 operations in two months — state media 

Updated 12 June 2024
Follow

Pakistani forces killed 181 militants in 7,000 operations in two months — state media 

  • Pakistan is grappling with a rise in militancy it blames on neighboring Afghanistan
  • Kabul rejects accusations, says rising violence in Pakistan is domestic issue for Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: At least 181 militants were killed by security forces in over 7,000 operations in Pakistan’s southern and northern provinces in the last two months, state media reported on Wednesday, as the South Asian state grapples with a rise in militancy. 

Islamabad blames the uptick in attacks on neighboring Afghanistan, saying Pakistani Taliban, or Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), leaders have taken refuge there and run camps to train militants to launch attacks inside Pakistan. Kabul has previously said rising violence in Pakistan is a domestic issue for Islamabad and it does not allow militants to operate on its territory.

The TTP has been waging a war against the state to try to overthrow the government for nearly two decades. It wants to run Pakistan as an Islamic state governed by its own harsh interpretation of Islam.

“Security forces have killed 181 terrorists in over 7,000 operations in different parts of Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan from April 1 till 10th of this month [June],” Radio Pakistan said on Wednesday. 

The “terrorists” were killed during cross-border infiltration from Afghanistan but “the timely response of security forces foiled the sordid designs of banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan,” the report added, saying infiltration attempts were made in KP’s Bajaur, Dir and Chitral.

“To conceal its failure, TTP forced the people of tribal areas for target killing and kidnapping for ransom,” Radio Pakistan added, referring to a way of killings of security and government officials in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. “The TTP network involved in targeting the Chinese nationals was also behind bars.”

Last week, a bomb blast targeting a military truck killed seven soldiers in northwestern Pakistan along the border with Afghanistan in one of the deadliest attacks on security forces in recent months. In March, a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers that was on its way from Islamabad to a camp in Dasu, the site of a major dam project. Five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the assault.