Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, top UN official warns

Mohamed Yahya, the newly appointed Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, speaks during a press conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, on June 13, 2024. (AP)
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Updated 13 June 2024
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Unusually heavy monsoon rains in Pakistan will affect 200,000 people, top UN official warns

  • UN, with help from local authorities, has prepared contingency plan, with $40 million set aside to respond to any emergencies
  • Devastating floods in 2022 killed 1,739 people, destroyed 2 million homes, and covered as much as one-third of the country 

ISLAMABAD: An estimated 200,000 people in Pakistan could be affected by the upcoming monsoon season, which is expected to bring heavier rains than usual, a top UN official warned on Thursday.

The United Nations, with help from local authorities, has prepared a contingency plan, with $40 million set aside to respond to any emergencies, said Mohamed Yahya, the newly appointed Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan.

Yahya told journalists in Islamabad that the weather forecasters in Pakistan are projecting above-normal rainfall in the coming weeks. However, the rains would not be as heavy as in 2022 when devastating floods killed 1,739 people, destroyed 2 million homes, and covered as much as one-third of the country at one point.

Pakistan is one of the countries in the world most vulnerable to climate change, in part because of its immense northern glaciers, which are now melting as air temperatures rise. Warmer air can also hold more moisture, intensifying the rains of the monsoon.

Until recently, public opinion and even some government officials took little account of the possible negative impact from climate change on daily life. Pakistan’s weather patterns have changed in recent years, forcing cities to strengthen their infrastructure and farmers to adapt their practices.

The 2022 floods caused more than $30 billion in damage to Pakistan’s already cash-strapped economy.

Analysts and government officials say Pakistan in recent years failed to achieve goals for economic growth because of man-made disasters, which have repeatedly hit the country in the form of droughts, heatwaves and heavy rains, which badly damaged the road network, bridges, power system and other infrastructure.

Pakistan says despite contributing less than 1 percent to carbon emissions worldwide, it is bearing the brunt of global climate disasters. This year, Pakistan recorded its wettest April since 1961, with more than double the usual monthly rainfall.

Yahya said he was in contact with officials at Pakistan’s ministry of climate change, who were preparing their contingency own plans for monsoon season, which in Pakistan runs from July to October.

Earlier this week, weather forecasters in Pakistan urged people to stay indoors as the third heatwave in a month began. A recent study by the United Nations children’s agency said that Pakistan could avert 175,000 deaths by 2030 by developing resilient energy systems to power its health facilities.

On Thursday, temperatures in various parts of Pakistan soared as high as 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit), forcing many people to stay indoors. Authorities are asking people to hydrate and avoid unnecessary travel.


Two suspected militants killed in Indian-administered Kashmir

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Two suspected militants killed in Indian-administered Kashmir

  • The two men were killed while trying to cross the de facto frontier that divides the Himalayan region between Pakistan, India
  • Indian-administered Kashmir has seen a string of battles between insurgents and Indian security forces in the past two months

SRINAGAR: Two suspected militants were killed in a firefight with soldiers in Indian-administered Kashmir, the defense ministry said Friday, following a spate of attacks in the disputed territory.
The two men were killed on Thursday while trying to cross the de facto frontier that divides the Himalayan region between Pakistan and India.
Troops saw the pair crossing over from the Pakistani side through thick foliage, a defense spokesman said in a statement.
“The infiltrating terrorists were challenged, following which they opened fire leading to an intense firefight,” he said.
Kashmir, particularly its southern Hindu-majority region Jammu, has seen a string of battles between insurgents and Indian security forces in the past two months.
Five Indian security personnel were killed on Monday during a firefight with gunmen in Doda forest.
Last month, nine Indian Hindu pilgrims were killed and dozens more wounded when a gunman opened fire on a bus carrying them from a shrine in Reasi district.
Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947, and each side claims it in full.
Rebel groups have waged an insurgency since 1989, demanding independence or merger with Pakistan, in fighting that has killed tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and rebels.
New Delhi and Islamabad accuse each other of stoking militancy and espionage to undermine each other, and the nuclear-armed rivals have fought multiple conflicts for control of the region.


Pakistan urges Microsoft users to update software as global tech outage eases after disruption

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan urges Microsoft users to update software as global tech outage eases after disruption

  • Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says the global IT outage was caused by a ‘faulty update’ from cybersecurity provider CrowdStrike
  • The outage also raised concerns that many organizations are not well prepared to implement contingency plans when an IT system goes down

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) on Friday urged Microsoft clients to update software from official support portal to restore tech services after a global computer system outage sparked widespread disruptions.
Services from airlines to health care, shipping and finance started coming back online late Friday after the outage was resolved, and companies were dealing with backlogs of delayed and canceled flights and medical appointments, missed orders and other issues that could take days to resolve.
A software update by global cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, one of the largest operators in the industry, triggered systems problems that grounded flights, forced broadcasters off air and left customers without access to services such as health care or banking.
PTA, which regulates Internet in Pakistan, said the significant global IT outage was caused by a “faulty update” from cybersecurity provider CrowdStrike, impacting thousands of Windows machines worldwide.
“This outage also affected consumers of Microsoft in Pakistan. The fault forced affected PCs (personal computers) and servers into a recovery boot loop, preventing proper startup. Some Internet services are also affected because of this,” it said in a statement.
“The fault was identified, isolated and a fix is provided by Crowdstrike, as per Crowdstrike’s website. Clients are now suggested to update the software from their support portal to restore services.”
CrowdStrike is not a household name but it is an $83 billion company with more than 20,000 subscribers around the world including Amazon.com and Microsoft. CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz said on social media platform X that a defect was found “in a single content update for Windows hosts” that affected Microsoft customers.
“We’re deeply sorry for the impact that we’ve caused to customers, to travelers, to anyone affected by this, including our company,” Kurtz told NBC News.
CrowdStrike has one of the largest shares of the highly competitive cybersecurity market, leading some industry analysts to question whether control over such operationally critical software should remain with just a handful of companies.
The outage also raised concerns that many organizations are not well prepared to implement contingency plans when a single point of failure such as an IT system, or a piece of software within it, goes down. But these outages will happen again, experts say, until more contingencies are built into networks and organizations introduce better back-ups.
- With additional input from Reuters


Pakistan IT exports increased by nearly $300 million in June amid growth push

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistan IT exports increased by nearly $300 million in June amid growth push

  • Pakistan is trying to navigate a prolonged economic crisis by actively pursuing foreign investments and enhanced trade opportunities
  • It has lately encouraged its IT sector and facilitated collaboration with a number of nations, including Saudi Arabia, China and Qatar

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s information technology (IT) exports rose by nearly $300 million in the month of June, the country’s state minister for IT said on Friday, amid a push for the growth of IT sector.
Pakistan is trying to navigate a prolonged economic crisis by actively pursuing foreign investments and enhanced trade opportunities, while it has also reached a staff-level agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $7 billion loan.
Pakistan has lately encouraged its IT sector and facilitated collaboration with a number of countries, including Saudi Arabia, China and Qatar, to boost IT exports in the South Asian nation of 241 million.
“Pakistan’s export remittance of ICT services increased by $298 million in June 2024,” State Minister for IT Shaza Fatima said in a statement. “IT exports have increased by 32.44 percent compared to June last year.”
From July 2023 to June 2024, Pakistan’s IT exports reached $3.223 billion, compared to $2.596 billion in the same period of the previous financial year, according to the minister.
Government measures are in progress to increase IT exports of the country.
“Thanks to the government’s ease-of-doing-business measures, our IT exports are increasing,” she said.
“The IT industry is striving to increase IT exports with the full support of SIFC (Special Investment Facilitation Council), IT ministry, Pakistan Software Export Board.”


Pakistani rice traders warn government of drop in exports due to additional taxes

Updated 20 July 2024
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Pakistani rice traders warn government of drop in exports due to additional taxes

  • Local traders of the commodity set $5 billion of export target before government introduced new tax regime
  • National Assembly Standing Committee on Commerce will take up the issue in its forthcoming meeting next week

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani rice traders on Friday warned the government of a possible reduction in their exports to $2 billion, against the ambitious $5 billion target, blaming the new tax regime expected to make them pay a larger share of their earnings than in the past.
The country’s rice exports to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, China, Malaysia and other countries reached $3.9 billion in the last fiscal year, a noticeable improvement compared to the previous year’s $2.1 billion, reflecting an upward trajectory.
For the current fiscal year, Pakistani rice traders have been eyeing $5 billion. However, they say this might not happen due to the government’s decision to replace the Final Tax Regime with the Hybrid Tax Regime, which would double the tax rates and force exporters to file returns each month.
The Final Tax Regime refers to a system where specific sources of income, such as dividends, have final tax deductions made at the source, meaning no further tax is payable. In contrast, the Hybrid Tax Regime applies to businesses or individuals with multiple income streams, combining final taxed income with additional taxable income, requiring more meticulous filing of returns and higher overall tax rates.
“This new tax regime will leave us uncompetitive in the international market,” Chela Ram Kewlani, Chairman Rice Exporters Association of Pakistan, told Arab News. “This will automatically result in a drop in our rice exports to $2 billion as we have already been doing business at record high markup rates and electricity costs.”
He said the new tax regime would open the door for the Federal Board of Revenue (FBR), the country’s tax collection body, to audit their business, resulting in “corruption and harassment” of rice exporters.
“There is a clear contradiction in the government’s statements and actions,” he said. “They want to boost the exports, but at the same time they want to burden the sector with heavy taxes.”
Kewlani said, besides the new tax regime, the government would levy 10 percent super tax if the exports of a trader went beyond Rs4 billion ($14.4 million).
He informed the exporters held a meeting with Federal Minister for Finance Muhammad Aurangzeb last week to discuss the issue, though it did not yield their desired results.
“You are aware of the economic situation, so the government has no option but to levy additional taxes on the rice exports,” he said while quoting the finance minister.
Muhammad Jawed Hanif, Chairman of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Commerce, said he was aware of the challenges posed by additional taxes, adding the committee would discuss the matter in its next meeting.
“We have a meeting on July 24 wherein we will discuss these rice export issues,” he told Arab News.
“All issues related to exports will be on my priority list as the country badly needs foreign exchange through increased exports of our products,” he added.


Pakistan’s election body to enforce top court’s reserved seats verdict, may seek further legal guidance

Updated 19 July 2024
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Pakistan’s election body to enforce top court’s reserved seats verdict, may seek further legal guidance

  • The court said earlier this month ex-PM Khan’s PTI was eligible for reserved seats for women and minorities
  • ECP dismissed PTI’s criticism asking its top official to step down while accusing him of bias against the party

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s election regulatory body said on Friday it would enforce the Supreme Court’s verdict in a case involving the reserved seats for women and minorities in national and provincial legislatures, adding it had asked its lawyers to determine if there were areas where it needed the court’s further guidance.
The country’s top court delivered a major decision in favor of former prime minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, saying it was eligible for reserved seats in national and provincial assemblies, even as it put pressure on the fragile coalition currently ruling the federation.
PTI candidates were forced to contest the February 8 general polls as independents after the party was stripped of its election symbol of the cricket bat by the top court for not holding proper intra-party elections. While these candidates won the most general seats, the ECP ruled they were not entitled to the reserved seats since they were meant for political parties.
Subsequently, these seats were allocated to other political factions, mostly from those in Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s ruling coalition. But the Supreme Court reversed the decision while criticizing the ECP for misconstruing its decision related to the election symbol by depriving PTI of its reserved seats.
“The election commission has decided to implement the Supreme Court’s decision,” the ECP said after holding a meeting to discuss the verdict. “However, the election commission has instructed its legal team to immediately identify any points of the Supreme Court decision that pose implementation challenges so that further guidance can be sought from the court.”
It also responded to PTI’s criticism, which called for the top ECP official to step down following the Supreme Court’s verdict, accusing him of harboring a bias against the party.
“The election commission did not validate PTI’s intra-party elections, which PTI contested on various forums, and the election commission’s decision was upheld,” it said.
It pointed out that PTI lost its election symbol for the same reason.
“Therefore, any accusations against the election commission are highly inappropriate,” it added.
Pakistan’s ruling coalition criticized the Supreme Court’s decision, with some of its members pointing out the court gave relief to PTI, though it had not originally filed the case.
However, the Supreme Court said in its decision that “PTI was and is a party,” despite its earlier verdict depriving it of election emblem right ahead of the general polls.