Tag Archives: Pakistan

Just in: Pakistan populous city bans invasive rape test

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A similar case is also underway in the southern province of Sindh with momentum growing for a nationwide ban.

Authorities in Pakistan’s most populous province on Saturday banned an outdated medical procedure in which rape victims are subjected to an invasive physical examination.

The move comes after critics of the “two-finger test” this year sued the government of Punjab province, home to about 110 million people, in a bid to stop the practice dating back to the time of British colonial rule.

Proponents of the internal examination claim it can assess a woman’s sexual promiscuity and her “honour”, and whether she had been “habituated to sexual intercourse”.

Backlash to the test has been growing in recent years, with critics saying it provides zero useful information and is traumatic for rape victims.

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Punjab health authorities in September admitted the test held “limited evidentiary value” but the practice continued.

Saturday’s ban, which takes immediate effect across Punjab, effectively preempts the ongoing court case.

Welcoming Punjab’s ban, Sidra Humayun, a case manager for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, told AFP it would be a challenge to ensure compliance by medical workers.

The mentality that still “links the reliability of a rape victim’s claims to her virtue and honour” in legal cases also must be addressed, she added.

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The World Health Organization has declared the test “unscientific, medically unnecessary and unreliable”.

Neighbouring India banned the two-finger test in 2013 and Bangladesh followed suit in 2018.

Sameer Khosa, the lawyer behind Punjab’s court petition, welcomed the ban but said other problematic practices such as virginity testing through the examination of the hymen are still being performed.

Pakistan is a deeply conservative and patriarchal nation where victims of sexual abuse often are too afraid to speak out, or where police frequently fail to investigate cases seriously.


#Newsworthy…

Pakistan convoy attack claim 14 lives.

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Violence in the northwestern districts of North Waziristan and South Waziristan, once home to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been on the rise this year, with a series of gun attacks and bombings targeting security forces.

Unidentified gunmen killed at least 14 people in the southwestern Pakistani province of Balochistan on Thursday after ambushing a convoy of vehicles travelling on a major highway towards the country’s largest city Karachi.

The vehicles were travelling to Karachi from the port town of Gwadar when they were ambushed near the small town of Ormara, about 250km (155 miles) west of their destination, a security source said.

The dead included security forces personnel who were accompanying the convoy, he said. The official was speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

The bodies of those killed were shifted to a nearby naval base, local officials told Al Jazeera.

Zia Langove, provincial home minister in Balochistan, confirmed the details of the attack but put the death toll at 15. He added the ambush involved at least seven assailants armed “with rocket launchers and other heavy weapons”.

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“The attack was carried out by between seven and eight attackers who fired at the convoy with rocket launchers and other heavy weapons. They escaped from the area,” he said.

Langove said the convoy of vehicles was carrying employees of the state-owned Oil and Gas Development Corporation Limited. He said there were several wounded survivors but did not specify an exact figure.

The highway was temporarily shut down following the attack, as security forces launched a search operation in the area.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the incident was similar to previous assaults by armed ethnic Baloch separatist groups on convoys on the same stretch of highway.

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In April last year, at least 14 people were killed when gunmen attacked their vehicles in the same area as Thursday’s attack.

That attack was claimed by the Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an alliance of armed ethnic Baloch separatist groups who demand independence from Pakistan.

BRAS and its allies regularly carry out attacks targeting security forces and civilians across Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province, the country’s largest and least developed region.

In July, at least eight soldiers were killed and five others wounded when armed ethnic Baloch gunmen attacked a security forces convoy in the Panjgur area, about 160km (99 miles) north of the site of Thursday’s attack.

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In a separate development, at least six Pakistani soldiers were killed when in improvised explosive device attack on their vehicle convoy near the northwestern town of Razmak, in North Waziristan district, on Thursday, Pakistan’s military said in a brief statement.

The military did not provide any further details on that attack.

The area was once virtually ruled by the TTP and its allies, as well as local armed groups, but a large scale Pakistani military operation launched in 2014 killed thousands of fighters and displaced the TTP’s leadership and command structure into neighbouring Afghanistan.

Since then, the military has moved in to take control of the districts, with Pakistan’s parliament passing a landmark law in 2018 to merge the erstwhile “tribal districts” with the country’s constitutional and administrative mainstream.


#Newsworthy…

Pakistan van fire: 15 Casualties.

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At least 15 people were killed when a passenger van travelling in southern Pakistan crashed and caught fire, officials said Sunday.

The van was carrying passengers from Karachi to Hyderabad city when it struck an object and careered off the road late Saturday.

“The death toll in the unfortunate accident has reached 15,” Owais Shah, the transport minister of Sindh province, told AFP.

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Five other people were injured, three of them critically, he said.

Most of the bodies were burned beyond recognition, said Faisal Edhi, head of the non-profit Edhi Foundation which runs the morgue the bodies were taken to.

Investigators were looking to see if a natural gas cylinder aboard the bus had contributed to the inferno.

Such incidents occur frequently on Pakistan’s roads, where speeding, dilapidated vehicles, and badly maintained roads all contribute to the accident rate.


#Newsworthy…

Just in: Pakistan defeats England by five runs

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It was on June 28 that Pakistan arrived on these pandemic-plagued shores and entered the unknown of a biosecure bubble for the sake of cricket. Two months on, as they prepare to finally leave it, few could begrudge them this victory.

After a 1-0 defeat in a rain-decimated Test series, and trailing by the same scoreline in this T20 run, the tourists finally had something concrete to show for their sacrifice as they triumphed by five runs in a thriller at Old Trafford, which went down to the final ball.

Nineteen-year-old Haider Ali made a brilliant half-century on his international debut, but it was two old-timers, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz, who were the match-winners.

Hafeez struck 86 as Pakistan scored 190/4 before Wahab, making his first appearance of the tour, bowled a brilliant, double-wicket penultimate over to halt England just as they looked set to complete another monster chase.

When Eoin Morgan won the toss and opted to bowl he would have been looking for two of the things that England’s white-ball displays have been missing this summer; powerplay wickets, and some, at any time, from Moeen Ali. In the second over he got both as Moeen bowled Fakhar Zaman with his first ball, and it would not be the last time the all-rounder showed signs of a timely return to form ahead of the upcoming series against Australia.

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That brought Haider to the crease and he immediately showed the kind of X-factor that lit up the Pakistan Super League this year and made you wonder how we hadn’t seen him earlier in this series as he walloped his second ball in international cricket for six.

Babar Azam was quickly into his rhythm, too, striking three boundaries off Saqib Mahmood’s second over, so it was a big relief when Tom Curran sent him on his way for 21 with a fuller delivery soon after his introduction to the attack.

By the end of the powerplay Haider had 22 off just 10 balls but the tempo needed lifting. Hafeez, who scored a terrific 69 in Sunday’s defeat, picked up where he left off and hit Lewis Gregory – already dropped for the Australia series – for a colossal six over the long boundary off the bowler’s first delivery.


Banton and Malan looking to stake a claim for regular England roles
Hafeez took the tourists to three figures with back-to-back slog sweep sixes to the short side of the ground off Rashid, before Haider became the first Pakistani to hit a half-century on T20i debut, reaching the landmark off just 28 balls. He was eventually bowled by a terrific yorker from Chris Jordan for 54 but by then Hafeez had reached a fifty of his own and kicked on again.

Haider’s fine start to life at this level may end up the most positive take away from the entire series for Pakistan, but Hafeez, 20 years his senior, made the most meaningful contribution in the short-term, eventually finishing on a career-best 86 not out.

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Jonny Bairstow was the only member of England’s top three assured of his place in the side ahead of Friday’s first T20 against Australia and it was just as well as he was bowled for a duck by a wonderful Shaheen Afridi yorker as the hosts began their chase.

That left Dawid Malan and Banton in the middle once more. The former stuttered out of the blocks but just looked to be finding his groove, striking a four through extra cover, when he was brilliantly caught on the boundary by Fakhar and had to walk for seven.


Banton on the other hand, wasted little time in unveiling his array of shots, including a couple of delightful reverse sweeps for four. He was motoring along until making his first error from the non-striker’s end, rejecting a committed Morgan’s call for a single as he spotted Babar make a terrific diving stop on the circle and instead barbecuing his in-form skipper. Just five balls later he was also trudging back to the pavilion, trapped lbw by Haris Rauf on review having racked up 46 off 31, as England were reduced to 69/4.

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Sam Billings and Moeen were charged with rebuilding and did so in sensible fashion, with a partnership of 57 before the former was caught down at third man.

Moeen had already moved into a gear we’d been yet to see from him this summer – his previous four innings had brought just ten runs in total – taking ten off Shaheen’s first two deliveries after the quick’s return to the attack.

But it was in the 16th over, bowled by Shadab Khan, that the Worcestershire man really brought England back into the game as he clattered three sixes. His half-century came off just 25 balls, and even as Lewis Gregory and Chris Jordan fell around him, he looked on course to take England home. That was until Wahab struck, snaring him caught-and-bowled for 61, and conceding just three runs from the 19th over.

That left England what looked an impossible task, eventually needing 12 off two, only for Haris to remarkably bowl a slower-ball with the penultimate delivery which Curran dispatched into the stands. There was no late twist though, as he recovered with a dot to send Pakistan home with a deserved win.

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Pakistan heavy downpour: Nearly fifty lose to death | Video

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Heavy rain, flash floods claim lives, damage houses across the country; more inclement weather expected this week.


Nearly 50 people have been killed across Pakistan after three days of heavy monsoon rain and flash floods.

According to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, 19 people died in rain-related incidents in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, 12 in southern Sindh province, eight in Punjab province and 10 in the country’s scenic northern Gilgit-Baltistan region in the past three days.

Rain also damaged about 100 homes and caused a breach in a flooded main canal, inundating villages in Sindh province.

Troops with boats rushed to a flood-affected district in Sindh on Sunday to evacuate people to safer places.

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The military said on Sunday that it had rescued more than 100 people from Dadu district in Sindh.

Every year, many cities in Pakistan struggle to cope with the annual monsoon deluge, drawing criticism about poor planning.

The monsoon season runs from July through September, with swelling rivers damaging crops and infrastructure.

Heavy rains also lashed many districts in southwestern Balochistan province and damaged homes. According to local media reports, at least eight people were killed in the province because of the rain and flooding.

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“More than a dozen people are still missing in Balochistan,” Younus Aziz Mengal, a spokesperson for the provincial disaster management authority, said.

The monsoon season runs from July through September, during which swelling rivers damage crops and infrastructure [Anadolu]

He added that the flooding had damaged bridges and highways, cutting off Gawadar, a port city on the Arabian Sea.

Heavy rainfall began last week and continued on Sunday, flooding streets in the eastern city of Lahore. It especially disrupted normal life last week in Karachi, the capital of Sindh province, where sewage flooded most of the streets, prompting Prime Minister Imran Khan to order the army to assist authorities in handling the situation.

According to the Meteorological Department, heavy rains are expected to continue next week.


#Newsworthy..

Pakistani PM, Imran Khan slams India on Kashmir anniversary

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan branded India an “oppressor and aggressor” on Wednesday, a year after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir.

Solidarity marches were held in all major Pakistani cities to mark the anniversary of New Delhi stripping Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status, a move that outraged Islamabad.

Kashmir, a disputed Himalayan territory, has been split since 1947 between India and Pakistan, both of which claim it in full and have fought wars over it.

“India stands exposed before the world, yet again, as an oppressor and aggressor,” Khan said in a statement.

“Its so-called secular and democratic credentials stand fully discredited,” he added, calling India’s action last year a “crime against humanity”.

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Khan led a march through Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, before addressing the region’s legislative assembly.

Across the city, more than 2,000 people turned out at a series of anti-India protests.

“We ask the world to give Kashmiris their right of self-determination, otherwise we will cross the Line of Control and help our brothers on the other side with arms,”, Arslan Ahmad, a refugee who fled Indian-administered Kashmir, told AFP.

“Half of my family is under siege in Indian-occupied Kashmir, my mother is dying to meet her sister, this dispute has left our generations torn apart,” 31-year old Usman Mir added.

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Police were enforcing tight restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday, where religious and political groups had called on residents to observe a “black day”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government had promised the move would bring peace and prosperity to Indian Kashmir after three decades of violence sparked by an anti-India uprising.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan addresses the legislative assembly in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir on August 5, 2020, to mark the one-year anniversary after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir. – Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on August 5 branded India an “oppressor and aggressor” a year after New Delhi imposed direct rule on Indian-administered Kashmir. (Photo by – / AFP)

Pakistan, however, has alleged it is a violation of the rights of Kashmiri people.

Khan accused India of trying to turn Kashmir’s Muslim majority into a minority by ending restrictions on outsiders buying up property “in blatant violation of… UN Security Council Resolutions and international laws”.

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The change in rules has sparked fears that the Modi government is pursuing an Israel-style “settler” project.

A referendum in Kashmir mandated by a UN resolution in 1948 has never taken place.

“India has learned from Israel how to change the demography (of Kashmir),” President Arif Alvi told a rally in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, which observed a one-minute silence.

Hundreds of billboards and banners displayed graphic images purportedly of human rights violations by Indian authorities in Kashmir.

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On Tuesday, Pakistan released a new official map showing all of Kashmir as its territory.

The Pakistan military, meanwhile, said Indian troops had fired a shell across the de-facto border, killing a young woman and wounding six other people.

Such exchanges are common along the Kashmir demarcation line, with shells blasted in both directions.

Pakistan has repeatedly likened Modi to Adolf Hitler and called for international intervention.


#Newsworthy…

Eid-el-kabir: Pakistani PM warns against possible COVID-19 hike

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Imran Khan’s warning comes as Pakistan registers its lowest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases in three months.


Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned citizens to continue to strictly follow government guidelines on limiting interactions, warning of a possible new surge in cases after the Islamic holy day of Eid al-Adha later this week.

Khan’s warning came as the country registered its lowest single-day rise in cases in almost three months, according to the latest government data released on Tuesday.

Pakistan saw COVID-19 cases rise by 936, the lowest single-day rise since April 29. It has recorded a total of at least 275,000 cases, according to official data, with nearly 6,000 deaths.

Khan addressed the nation from his office in the capital Islamabad on Monday, exhorting citizens to continue to follow social distancing protocols so that the economy could be further reopened.

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“If we have to impose a lockdown again, it will affect our economy greatly … We will find it hard to find employment for our people,” he said.

Since July 2, the number of active coronavirus cases has dropped dramatically, driven mainly by a surge in recoveries and lower rates of new infections. Currently, the country has 26,834 active cases, according to official data.

The mortality rate stands at 2.16 percent, consistent with other countries in the region and far lower than many European or North American countries.

“Our intensive care beds, our oxygenated beds … the pressure has greatly reduced on them,” said Khan.

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“The way we are seeing the trends going, it is Allah’s grace … that today Pakistan is among those few countries that has managed to control the spread of this virus.”

A man wears a mask while selling cows for Eid al-Adha at a cattle market in Peshawar, Pakistan [Fayaz Aziz/Reuters]

Averting a ‘second wave’
Khan warned, however, that public gatherings around Eid al-Adha – when Muslims sacrifice animals, distribute their meat to the poor, and gather with extended families and friends – and during Muharram, a month of mourning and mass religious gatherings for Shia Muslims, could lead to a spike in infections.

“The world now knows that as your cases drop, if you are not careful, then your cases can rise once again,” he said, giving the example of a “second wave” of cases in Spain, Australia and Iran.

“Today, I want all Pakistanis to listen to my words carefully: […] you must understand that these two events, of Muharram and Eid, if we are not careful, then our cases can rise again. That will damage us greatly.”

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Also on Monday, the provincial government in Punjab, the country’s most populous province, imposed a surprise complete lockdown, closing all businesses and shops other than grocery stores and pharmacies until August 5.

Punjab province’s Health Minister Yasmin Rashid said the move was made to control possible spread of the virus during Eid al-Adha.

“The lockdown announced today is to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases post-Eid al-Adha,” she said. “To keep the curve flat, keeping in mind the lack of SOPs followed by the public, this step is unavoidable to protect all of us.”

Number of cases could be higher
Preliminary seroprevalence studies suggest that the rate of coronavirus infection in Pakistan is far higher than official figures suggest, but that most of those infected exhibit no symptoms and suffer few ill-effects.

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According to one such study, conducted by multinational pharmaceutical firm Getz Pharma among office workers, healthcare workers and contacts of coronavirus patients in the southern city of Karachi, the number of cases in Pakistan could be far higher than officially reported.

The study, conducted using antibody tests, showed that among the 24,210 people tested, 17.5 percent held antibodies for the virus, indicating they were either currently carrying it or had recovered from it.

People wear protective masks to prevent the spread of coronavirus at a cattle market set up for Eid al-Adha in Peshawar, Pakistan [Muhammad Sajjad/AP]

Extrapolating based on the specific demographics of the categories of those tested, the study suggests the number of total cases in the country could be as high as 4.2 million, 15.2 times the number recorded by the government.

Pakistan’s testing regime has come under criticism in recent days, the rate dropping rapidly from a June 19 hight of 31,681 tests to between 18,000 and 25,000 in the last month.

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On Monday, Pakistan conducted 19,610 tests, registering a test-positive rate of 4.8 percent. Government officials point to the latter figure as a sign that the testing is at an adequate level.

Last week, Dr Zafar Mirza, head of Pakistan’s health ministry, cited a lower number of patients seeking treatment or tests at hospitals as the prime reason for the lower rates of testing.

On Monday, Khan said his government had plans to further reopen the country’s struggling economy, but that depended on how the period over Eid and the month of Muharram goes.

“If you are careful in Eid, and [in] Muharram … then we will get an opportunity to reopen restaurants and tourism,” he said. “And then … we need to reopen our universities, our schools and our colleges.”


#Newsworthy…

Pakistani journalist ‘goes missing’ in Islamabad

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Matiullah Jan, known for his criticism of Pakistan’s powerful military, was last seen outside a school in the capital.


Islamabad, Pakistan

Rights groups have demanded information on the whereabouts of a prominent Pakistani journalist, known for his criticism of the country’s powerful military, after he reportedly disappeared on Tuesday.

Police said Matiullah Jan was last seen outside a government school in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Tuesday morning.

“He came here to the government girls school in the G-6 [neighbourhood], where his wife is a teacher, to drop her off,” said Nasrullah, an officer investigating the case. “His car is still standing here.”

“We are investigating the case presently, and no formal charges have been filed yet.”

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Jan’s wife Kaneez Sughra, 42, told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) she heard sounds of a scuffle outside the school, but she had not thought seriously about it at the time.

“The school is closed and there are no children here, but we do have a little work there to write letters or other administrative work, so I was there.”

Sughra said Jan dropped her at the school at 10am local time (05:00 GMT), and asked to be picked up three hours later. Around an hour later, she heard the scuffle outside the gate.

“I could hear that something was going on outside, but I couldn’t hear my husband’s voice. What I heard was for four or five seconds. Then at 1.15pm (08:15 GMT) when I called him, he was not answering.”

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Sughra said she went outside the school and saw their car was still standing where Jan had left it. “The car was unlocked and the keys were in it. You could see from the state of the car that he was removed forcibly.”

Pakistani Information Minister Shibli Faraz acknowledged the abduction in a press conference held in Islamabad. Faraz was speaking after a weekly cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

“I assure you that, while I do not have all of the details, this much is clear that he was kidnapped,” said Faraz. “We will try our best that today we find out where he is and what steps be taken to recover him. It is obvious that this is the duty of the government, and the government will fulfill its duties.”

Threats from many actors
Journalists in Pakistan are under threat from a variety of actors, with rights groups decrying increasing government and military censorship, intimidation and harassment of journalists in recent years.

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Rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Pakistan 145th out of 180 countries in its 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

Matiullah Jan during an interview in 2019 with Reuters news agency at his office in Islamabad [File: Akhtar Soomro/Reuters]

Since 1992, at least 61 Pakistani journalists have been killed in connection with their work, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

“We are extremely concerned for the fate and wellbeing of Matiullah Jan,” said Amnesty International shortly after the reported disappearance.

“He has been the subject of physical attacks and harassment for his journalism. The authorities must establish his whereabouts immediately.”

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The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) demanded the government “immediately ensure the safe recovery of journalist Matiullah Jan”.

“We are deeply concerned at increasing attempts to control the media, suppress independent voices, and curb political dissent, thereby creating an environment of constant fear,” said Mehdi Hasan, HRCP’s chairperson.

“Matiullah Jan has stood courageously by the people of Pakistan striving to realise their constitutional and fundamental rights… Mr Jan’s abduction is an act of cowardice and warrants immediate redressal.”

Last year, an investigation (known to Noble Reporters Media) uncovered a sustained campaign of censorship through widespread distribution disruptions and intimidation in Pakistan, allegedly committed by Pakistan’s military and civilian governments.

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Jan, known for his outspoken political commentary, had become increasingly critical of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government since 2018, when he resigned from hosting a news television talk show on television station Waqt News.

He has also singled out the country’s military, which has directly ruled the country for roughly half of its 73-year history since independence, for particular criticism, often using tongue-in-cheek YouTube videos to poke fun at senior military and civilian officials.

Last week, the country’s Supreme Court issued a contempt of court notice to Jan over a tweet in which he had criticised the judiciary.


#Newsworthy…

Pakistani pilots allege systemic safety failures – ‘Deadly skies’

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Six Pakistani pilots spoke to Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) about allegations of fraud and improper flight certification practices.


Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistani pilots claim that fraud and improper flight certification practices at the country’s civil aviation regulator are an open secret, while air safety has routinely been compromised by airlines through faulty safety management systems, incomplete reporting and the use of regulatory waivers.

Six Pakistani pilots spoke to Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals from their employers or the regulator.

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the country’s largest airline and only major international carrier, was at the centre of most of the air safety complaints, and denied all of the allegations.

Scrutiny of Pakistan’s commercial aviation sector has increased as pilots have found themselves battling allegations by the country’s aviation minister that almost a third of all licensed Pakistani pilots had obtained their certifications fraudulently.

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His comments came weeks after a PIA passenger jet crashed in the southern city of Karachi, killing 98 people.

The names of three of the six pilots spoken to were on the list of “fake” licence-holders. They deny any wrongdoing.

State-owned PIA grounded 102 pilots and launched an internal inquiry following the aviation minister’s allegations. Pilots at two other Pakistani airlines, SereneAir and Airblue, were also suspended pending clearance.

A crash, and its wake
On May 22, a PIA Airbus A320 crashed into a residential neighbourhood in the southern city of Karachi, killing 97 of the 99 people on board as well as one person on the ground, according to official data.

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While releasing the preliminary investigation report into the crash, Pakistani Aviation Minister Ghulam Sarwar Khan said the crash appeared to be due to “human error”.

He also announced that a separate, ongoing government inquiry had found that 262 of the country’s 860 licensed pilots had obtained their credentials fraudulently. A list of the pilots was drawn up and sent to airlines.

At least 28 pilots have had their licences cancelled since the announcement, while inquiries into the remaining pilots are ongoing, Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) says.

Pilots’ bodies criticised the announcement, claiming the government’s list had a number of errors such as including the names of deceased pilots, confusing pilots with similar names, and classifying pilots as belonging to airlines they had never flown with or taking exams they never attempted.

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One of the major criteria for being listed – having flown a flight on the same day as an exam – has also been disputed, including by all six pilots spoken to, who said that taking an exam in the morning and flying later in the day was “routine” and within regulations.

Pakistani aviation regulations are unclear on the specific issue of taking exams on the same day as a scheduled flight, requiring only that pilots be “adequately rested” before undertaking flight duties.

Within days of the list being released, civil aviation regulators in at least 10 countries and territories, including the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Malaysia, Vietnam, Ethiopia, Bahrain, Turkey and Hong Kong, grounded pilots holding Pakistani licences and asked the PCAA to verify their credentials.

At least 166 of those 176 verification requests have been cleared, the PCAA says.

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Flight safety authorities in the European Union and United Kingdom banned flights by Pakistan’s state-owned PIA into those territories, while the US Federal Aviation Authority downgraded the airline’s safety rating and revoked a limited authorisation for the airline to operate repatriation flights to and from that country.

The Pakistan Air Line Pilots Association (PALPA), the country’s main body representing pilots, has disputed the veracity of the list from the beginning, claiming there was no fraud and that the list was built mainly on clerical errors.

Now, however, several pilots have revealed to Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) the existence of a longstanding “pay to pass” scheme at the country’s aviation regulator.

‘Easier to cheat’
“I am witness to it. I don’t even have to think about it, I have witnessed it,” said “Pilot A”, whose name was on the list of suspected licences. “It’s a well-known thing in the industry that you can either do it the regular way or you can pay someone to [cheat] for you.”

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Pilot A said that he had been approached by colleagues with an offer to help him cheat, with the aid of PCAA officials, in exchange for payment when he had been attempting his commercial pilot’s licence (CPL) written exams in 2009.

Pilot A said that when he and three others reported the fraud to senior PCAA officials, they were repeatedly failed on their final CPL exam until they “apologised”.

“Everyone [in our group of whistle-blowers] who apologised to [the PCAA official], the next attempt they cleared their exams.”

“Pilot B”, a senior instructor at a flight school and later a commercial pilot at PIA, said that while committing fraud on the tests was not widespread, the availability of the option was well known.

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“It was easier to [cheat] than to not do it,” he said. “They give you a bank of 40,000 questions. Then you can either study for it and try to pass, or you pay to get the answer key [from someone].”

In 2011, the PCAA changed its testing processes, increasing the number of exams from three to eight, based on European Joint Aviation Requirements (JAR) standards, and introducing personalised computerised tests for pilots.

Pilots say the method of fraud then changed to paying corrupt PCAA officials to allow them to bypass taking the exams altogether.

“[PCAA employees would] put in the [data] and do the exam and mark you as whatever grade you got,” said another pilot, “Pilot C”. “So you give me [a multiple of] 100,000 rupees ($600) and I’ll make it happen on my day off. […] They were minting money.”

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Other pilots put the price of passing individual exams at between Rs40,000 and Rs100,000 ($240-$600).

Authorities say the current investigation was initiated by a commercial aircraft accident in the southwestern town of Panjgur in November 2018, when an ATR-72 aircraft overshot the runway. An investigation found the lead pilot’s licence had been issued based on an exam supposedly taken on a public holiday, when the PCAA is closed.

To obtain their licences, commercial pilots are also required to undertake both real-world and simulator check-rides. They regularly repeat those tests to maintain the validity of the licences.

Pilots told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) that it was “routine” for instructors and PCAA officials to pass pilots on yearly or biannual simulation check rides, as well as on licensing flight check-rides, based on pressure from the regulator, other parties or the two pilots’ previous relationship.

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“It was so common to do this, to be told to just sign a licence [without certifying],” said Pilot B, of his time as a flight instructor. “It was unbelievable to me.”

Pilot B said he faced punitive action by the regulator if he did not comply with requests to pass pilots, citing the example of one pilot who had not completed the required flight hours.

“When I refused, my licence was put into audit and I was accused of having a forged logbook,” he said.

Pilot A said he once witnessed a PCAA official pressure a foreign flight instructor to pass a pilot on a simulator check-ride conducted in Indonesia.

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“In 2018, he crashed an aircraft on a single-engine emergency 11 times [in a row] on a [simulator] check-ride,” said Pilot A. “And yet was cleared.”

“Later, [that pilot] told me about how to pass papers fraudulently in the PCAA.”

The PCAA says a full-scale investigation into the allegations is ongoing, and that five officials at the regulator, including two senior officers, have been suspended so far.

“I can assure we are working day and night,” aviation ministry spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media). “We are not trying to punish someone innocent, or to spare anyone who is guilty.”

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‘Ticking time bomb’
Pakistan has had a troubled aircraft safety record, with five major commercial or charter airliner crashes in the last decade alone, killing 445 people.

In the same period, there have been numerous other non-fatal safety incidents, including engines shutting down in mid-flight or on takeoff, landing gear failure, runway overruns and on-the-ground collisions, according to official reports and pilot testimony.

In 2019, Pakistan’s aviation industry registered 14.88 accidents per million departures, according to the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), far above the global average of 3.02.

On June 30, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) identified six areas of concern with the airline, singling out the failure to effectively implement the Safety Management System – more than nine months since the EU regulator had first raised the issue as part of its regular audit of PIA’s air safety compliance – as the primary reason for suspending the operator’s authorisation.

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Pilots told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media) the crashes and accidents were a result of a systematic disregard for air safety protocols in some airlines, including PIA.

Many of the concerns centre around allegations that PIA’s Safety Management System (SMS) and Flight Data Management System (FDMS), designed to identify unsafe flight manoeuvres or patterns of unsafe flying, are routinely ignored.

“There have been so many safety violations,” said “Pilot D”, a senior PIA pilot with 13 years of commercial aviation experience. “The European Union Aviation Safety Agency report did not come because of the crash or the ‘fake’ licences, it was a ticking time bomb.”

“[The airline] does not lack the safety management system, it has it, but it has no respect for safety culture,” said Pilot D.

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“When the regulator and operator share a bed, then things become very difficult,” he said, alleging that PCAA, a government-run agency, routinely turned a blind eye to the actions of the state-owned PIA.

“If I want to do a violation, there is provision that … I can get a waiver from the CAA, for emergency use only.”

Pilot D, and other pilots, said the use of waivers had “become a norm in PIA”, for violations such as poorly equipped aircraft being dispatched, or for limitations on how many hours flight crews can operate.

“Aircraft were getting dispatched without the correct parts on board. Operating with less than the prescribed number of crew. Sending crews who are unqualified to run certain routes. All of this was meant to be covered by PCAA, but because there was collusion with the PIA management, there were no consequences,” said Pilot D.

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NRM reviewed flight logs showing flight duty time limitation (FDTL) violations on at least eight occasions in 2020 alone, with flight duties ranging from 19 hours to more than 24 hours. The maximum FDTL under PCAA regulations for an aircraft with two full crews onboard is 18 hours, subject to waivers.

In a statement, PIA denied any regulations had been violated with respect to flight duty times. It said “a handful” of waivers had been obtained due to the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PCAA confirmed waivers had been given for the purpose of emergency repatriation flights but denied that they were given routinely.

‘Hot-and-high’ approaches
Pilot B, who also works with the safety department of PIA, said pilots had been encouraged to conduct approaches to airports “hot and high” – meaning flying for longer at higher altitudes, approaching runways at a steep angle of descent and higher speed – to save fuel.

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“If you come hot and high then you are cruising higher and saving fuel on the way down,” said Pilot B.

“[Management] started writing emails saying that pilots need to log how much fuel they use and how much they saved. Pilots with the highest fuel savings were given the best routes.”

David Greenberg, an international aviation consultant with more than 40 years of experience, said such approaches were inherently unsafe.

“It’s like going down an unstable staircase, and the first thing you do is remove the handrail and then see if you can get to the bottom of the staircase before anyone else,” he told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media)

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Pilot B said there had been more than 30 runway overruns – where pilots had missed their targeted landing range on the runway – and at least three runway threshold overruns – where aircraft actually departed the runway – in the last year alone, all based on a pattern of “hot and high” approaches. PIA denied the allegations.

In one incident in the northern town of Gilgit in July 2019, a PIA-operated ATR-42 aircraft skidded off the end of the runway, completely wrecking the aircraft. There were no fatalities.

“We have a full software for safety that is never monitored,” said “Pilot E”, referring to the SMS and FDMS.

The airliner that crashed in Karachi in May had refused Air Traffic Control (ATC) guidance on its altitude on approach, registering at 9,780ft (2980 metres) when 15 nautical miles from the runway, according to flight data in the preliminary investigation report, more than 6,700ft (2042m) higher than advised by ATC.

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“It became obvious that this hot-and-high thing was an issue that needs to be handled by the regulator,” said Pilot B. “We’d had three overruns which were all incidents [in the last year], the fourth one may not be so lucky. We told them that the fourth one could kill people. And the fourth one was [the crash].”

‘There was chaos’
Pilots said that at PIA and other airlines they were actively discouraged from filing air safety reports (ASRs), a primary means of reporting safety incidents that may have occurred in-flight.

“In Pakistan, they don’t know how to manage ASRs and safety reports,” said Pilot C. “Now, if there is an ASR, you can get in trouble. So guess what? You’re not going to raise an ASR.”

Greenberg, the aviation consultant, described the combination of lax reporting, loose regulatory control and inconsistent safety protocols as “a recipe for disaster”.

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In a statement, PIA denied any wrongdoing regarding safety protocols.

“It is absurd to even suggest that,” said Abdullah Khan, the airline’s spokesperson. “It is true that the management is pushing reforms in the organisation, which had been plagued by a number of challenges, however, safety always takes precedence over anything else.”

The issues are not limited to PIA, however, said pilots with experience in other airlines.

Pilot A narrated an incident on board a flight operated by a different airline to the capital, Islamabad, in 2018, where the captain refused to follow Pilot A’s advice as first officer to divert the aircraft to Lahore due to extreme weather.

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After remaining in a holding pattern for 45 minutes, the captain decided to land the aircraft through the extreme weather, which had seen several other flights divert to other airports, says A.

“It was turbulent, it was bumpy and there was chaos on approach to runway 12,” said Pilot A. “The captain froze at the controls and started praying to God.”

Pilot A was forced to take over control of the aircraft, landing it safely in Islamabad after another argument with the captain approximately six nautical miles out from the runway.

No safety report was ever filed, and no disciplinary action was taken following the incident.


#Newsworthy…

Pakistan govt yes up to 10% increase in Medicine prices

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There is no escape route or back alley for the people of Pakistan as they are now supposed to pay more for each and everything. The latest move in this unending series is the seven to 10 percent further increase in the medicines’ prices which has been authorised by the PTI government.

Noble Reporters Media on Saturday learnt that the price hike has been allowed and justified under consumer price index under which the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) issued a notification after amending the drug pricing policy.

Moreover, this notification allowing the drug manufacturing companies to increase the prices is issued on the recommendation of the federal government and the DRAP Policy Board.

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The notification says the manufacturers and the importers now can increase the prices of basic medicines by seven percent, while this hike is 10 percent in the case of others.

Another alarming feature of the notification is that the DRAP will now increase the prices of the drugs every year on the basis of consumer price index which in the current scenario is expected to rise.


Hence, there is very little chance of any reduction after this yearly review as the inflation is on the rise due to multiple factors, including the devaluation of the rupee.

The drug manufacturers mostly depend on imported ingredients and the devaluation is certainly increasing the cost, not to mention the imported medicines as the price hike is obvious in that case.


#Newsworthy…

COVID-19: Cases in Pakistan surge to 251,625

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Confirmed cases in the country climbed to 251,625 Monday after Pakistan reported 2,769 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours (Sunday), the latest data from the National Command and Control (NCOC) shows. The government’s database on

Confirmed cases in the country climbed to 251,625 Monday after Pakistan reported 2,769 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours (Sunday), the latest data from the National Command and Control (NCOC) shows.

The government’s database on Covid-19 shows that 5,217 more people recovered from the coronavirus during the last 24 hours. This has taken the total number of recovered people to 161,917. According to the portal, the number of critical patients stands at 1,834. There are still 84,442 active cases in the country.

The country also recorded 69 fatalities over the last 24 hours to take the nationwide death toll to 5,266.

Punjab has recorded 487 new coronavirus cases during the last 24 hours, according to the government’s Covid-19 portal, taking the provincial tally to 87,043. The province also recorded 7 additional fatalities, taking the death toll to 2,013. With 2848 new recoveries, 58,023 patients have recovered from the virus in the province so far.

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Sindh has recorded 1713 new cases during the last 24 hours taking the provincial tally to 105,533. The province also recorded 48 additional fatalities, taking the death toll to 1,795. With 1,519 new recoveries, 61,958 patients have recovered from the virus in the province so far.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has recorded 408 new cases during the last 24 hours taking the tally to 304,866. The province also reported 12 new deaths, taking the death toll to 1,099. With 396 new recoveries, 21,158 patients have recovered from the virus in the province so far.

Members of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Corona Relief Tiger Force volunteers sit in front of an area sealed by the authorities in Rawalpindi. AFP

Balochistan has recorded 28 new cases during the last 24 hours taking the tally to 11, 185. It was the second consecutive day that the province has not reported any death, as death toll remains at 126. With 177 new recoveries, 7,598 patients have recovered from the virus in the province so far.

Islamabad has recorded 85 new cases during the last 24 hours taking the tally to 14,108. The capital also reported one new death, taking the death toll to 153. With 238 new recoveries, 10,883 patients have recovered from the virus in the federal capital so far.

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Azad Jammu and Kashmir has recorded 35 new cases during the last 24 hours taking the tally to 1599. With one new death reported, the death toll reaches 44. AJK also reported With 36 new recoveries, as 978 patients have recovered so far from the virus.

Gilgit Baltistan has recorded 13 new cases during the last 24 hours taking the tally to 1671. It was the second consecutive day that the province has not reported any death, as death toll remains at 36. With three new recoveries, 1319 patients have recovered from the virus so far.

The number of tests administered across the country has now increased to 1,585,170 as 22,532 new tests were conducted on Sunday.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: Our Genuine Pilots now fly plane – Shibli says

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Federal Information Minister Senator Shibli Faraz has said that government will take strict action against all the pilots having fake licences.

Briefing media about the decisions taken by the federal cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday, the information minister said that government would take indiscriminate action against the pilots having fake degrees and fake licences.

Shibli said: “Opposition is chanting minus-one slogans only to protect their corruption practices. Opposition leaders should focus on bringing their looted money back. The collation partners are supporting and standing with the government.”

Shibli Faraz said that issue of fake degrees and licenses came up during the cabinet meeting. “Pilots have been fired for having dubious licences and only cleared pilots are flying planes now,” said the information minister.

The government will bring reforms in the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Five CAA officials were also suspended in fake licences case, said the information minister.

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The cabinet meeting also took up the auditor general report for the year 2018-19 pointing irregularities in the government departments.

Prime Minister Imran Khan always said that lack of transparency would ruin the national institutions, the minister said adding that it was due to such measures that PIA and Pakistan Railways became loss-making institutions.

The federal cabinet also approved to conduct audit of SECP. Usman Nasir was appointed head of the Software Export Board.

The cabinet also gave permission of handing over Marghazar Zoo’s (Islamabad) administrative control to Ministry of Climate Change.

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The cabinet deferred the amendment to drug policy until next meeting due to the objections raised by federal ministers.

Shibli Faraz said that the cabinet directed the concerned officials to remove hurdles in the way of wind and solar energy plant.

The cabinet also approved three projects on the likes of Kohala Hydropower project for producing electricity on minimal rates.

Shibli said that the PM also directed to make provincial finance commission functional.


#Newsworthy…

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News+: India behind Karachi terror – Imran Khan says

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Prime Minister Imran Khan while paying glowing tribute to martyred four security guards and policemen who defended Karachi Stock Exchange during Monday’s terrorist attack, has said that Pakistan has no doubt that this attack was planned and orchestrated by India.

Speaking in National Assembly on Tuesday, Imran Khan said “I pay tribute to all the four martyrs including Inspector Shahid and three security guards.” He said no powerful country of the world would have foiled this kind of terror attack like these four Pakistani heroes thwarted it.

In a treasury benches-clad parliament the members of the Opposition parties walked out amid verbal clashes between the rival speakers.

“India planned to destabilize Pakistan,” Imran Khan said, adding “We were all-prepared against such terrorist attacks. We had already foiled four such attacks. But no one can always stop such terror attacks.”

“The government knew that all our intelligence agencies were on high alert. They pre-empted at least four major attempts of terrorism and two of them were around Islamabad.”

The primer said the attackers of Karachi Stock Exchange wanted to make people inside the market as hostage. “The martyrs laid down their lives and saved the country from enemy’s big terror plan,” he said.

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He said the defenders of the country, security guards and policemen and law enforcement agencies (LAEs) foiled the terrorist attack that was being orchestrated in the style of Mumbai-attacks.

“What happened in Mumbai, they wanted to do the same; they wanted to create an uncertain (environment). We have no doubt this was done by India,” Imran Khan.

He said Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were on high alert. “I want to pay tribute to the intelligence agencies of the country.”

Imran Khan responding to the opposition criticism of ill-handling of COVID-19 and other issues pertaining to sugar, wheat and oil scandals that hit the country recently said “Get ready for institutional reforms or get ready for tough times.” He said there is mafia sitting in every institution.

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The Prime Minister said there are mafias in Pakistan International Airlines and now reforms are inevitable in institutions. “They {opposition} asked not to publish PIA report.”

Imran termed Opposition ‘liberally corrupt’. “My mission is to take on the mafia under the rule of law,” Imran vowed.

Criticising the main rival party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Imran Khan said that they had no principles as on the one hand they seek money from Taliban and on the other they become liberal in the US.

Earlier, Imran Khan thanked his team for their efforts which led to the passing of the budget although with some amendments. “There was a lot of speculation that a lot could happen, if you had watched TV you would have thought it was our last day,” he said, referring to fears the budget would be unable to sail through the National Assembly.


#Newsworthy…

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Just in: Gunmen attack Karachi stock exchange building in Pakistan.

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Official says gunmen have attacked stock exchange building in the country’s financial hub and four assailants killed.


Gunmen have attacked the Pakistani stock exchange building in the city of Karachi, and four assailants have been killed, an official said.

The gunmen attacked the building with grenades and guns. The building is in a high-security zone and also houses the head offices of many private banks.

Faisal Edhi, the chief of the country's main rescue ambulance service, said four attackers have been killed by the security forces so far.

“Two were killed at the gate, and two of them went inside in an injured state and were then killed there,” Edhi said, speaking to reporters close to the site of the attack in Karachi’s main business district.


#Newsworthy…

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Gold makes all-time high record in Pakistan

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The price spike of gold in the world market has brought the price of gold in Pakistan to a new all-time high, Noble Reporters Media reported on Monday.

In Pakistan, the price of gold per tola increased by Rs. 1,300 to reach the highest level of Rs. 102,000.

The 10 grams of gold increased by Rs 1,114 to Rs. 87,448 while the price of 22-carat gold became Rs 80,161 rupees per 10 grams.

NRM reported during trading in the global market, the price of gold per ounce increased by 12 dollars and exceeded $1,748.

It is pertinent to note that during the last week, the price of gold per tola in Pakistan also increased by Rs 2700.


#Newsworthy…

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PIA closes office in Saudi Arabia – Pakistanis stranded

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The closure of Pakistan International Airline office in Riyadh has multiplied woes of stranded Pakistanis in Saudi Arabia.

Passengers travelling by the national flag carrier also complained they were being overcharged for the special flights. It was reported that online PIA tickets were also not available, which compelled the expats to visit the PIA office. When the expats reached the PIA office in Riyadh, it was found closed. Passengers complained that agents were charging 3,000 Saudi Riyal instead of 1,800 Riyal announced by the national flag carrier.

On Monday, PIA increased flight prices for those travelling from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan. According to a notification by the Pakistan Embassy in Riyadh, all passengers, travelling from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan’s cities including Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Faisalabad and Multan, will be charged 1,861 Saudi Riyal (Rs81,884) for economy class, and 2,182 Saudi Riyal (Rs96,000) for economy plus class.

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It also mentioned that passengers do not need to come to the Pakistan Embassy in Riyadh or Consulate-General Pakistan, as they could contact the PIA call centre, PIA booking offices and the airline’s website and the travel agents concerned to purchase tickets.

If passengers are overcharged, they could contact Pakistan Embassy in Riyadh and give the contact number of the PIA officials.

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A PIA spokesperson Ather Awan, however, admitted an increase in fare. “All flights between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are special flights because Saudi Arabia had denied entry of passengers after the coronavirus pandemic outbreak,” he said.

“Planes fly without any passengers from Pakistan. To meet expenditures of fuel, the PIA makes it economically viable and fares are slightly high,” Awan added. According to him, the PIA was following the standard operation procedures (SOPs) for air passengers. He said that on Boeing 777, at least 393 passengers can travel, but now only 240 passengers can travel under the set SOPs.


#Newsworthy…

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