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‘Third’ of Pakistan under water as flood aid efforts gather pace

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  • Rains that began in June unleash worst flooding in more than decade.
  • Authorities and charities struggle to accelerate aid delivery to more than 33 million people affected.
  • United Nations announces launch of formal $160 million appeal on to fund emergency aid.

SUKKUR: Aid efforts ramped up across flooded Pakistan on Tuesday to help tens of millions of people affected by relentless monsoon rains that have submerged a third of the country and claimed more than 1,100 lives.

The rains that began in June have unleashed the worst flooding in more than a decade, washing away swathes of vital crops and damaging or destroying more than a million homes.

Authorities and charities are struggling to accelerate aid delivery to more than 33 million people affected, a challenging task in areas cut off because roads and bridges have been washed away.

In the south and west, dry land is limited, with displaced people crammed onto elevated highways and railroad tracks to escape the flooded plains.

“We don’t even have space to cook food. We need help,” Rimsha Bibi, a schoolgirl in Dera Ghazi Khan in central Pakistan, told AFP.

Pakistan receives heavy — often destructive — rains during its annual monsoon season, which are crucial for agriculture and water supplies.

But such intense downpours have not been seen for three decades.

Pakistani officials have blamed climate change, which is increasing the frequency and intensity of extreme weather around the world.

“To see the devastation on the ground is really mind-boggling,” Pakistan´s climate change minister Sherry Rehman told AFP.

“When we send in water pumps, they say ´Where do we pump the water?´ It´s all one big ocean, there´s no dry land to pump the water out.”

She said “literally a third” of the country was under water, comparing scenes from the disaster to a dystopian movie.

Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal said Pakistan needed more than $10 billion to repair and rebuild damaged infrastructure.

“Massive damage has been caused… especially in the areas of telecommunications, roads, agriculture and livelihoods,” he told AFP Tuesday.

The Indus River, which runs along the length of the South Asian nation, is threatening to burst its banks as torrents of water rush downstream from its tributaries in the north.

Pakistan as a whole had been deluged with twice the usual monsoon rainfall, the meteorological office said, but Balochistan and Sindh provinces had seen more than four times the average of the last three decades.

International help

The disaster could not have come at a worse time for Pakistan, where the economy is in free fall.

Appealing for international help, the government has declared an emergency.

Aid flights have arrived in recent days from Turkey and the UAE, while other nations including Canada, Australia and Japan have also pledged assistance.

The United Nations has announced it will launch a formal $160 million appeal on Tuesday to fund emergency aid.

Pakistan was already desperate for international support and the floods have compounded the challenge.

Prices of basic goods — particularly onions, tomatoes and chickpeas — are soaring as vendors bemoan a lack of supplies from the flooded breadbasket provinces of Sindh and Punjab.

There was some relief on Monday when the International Monetary Fund approved the revival of a loan programme for Pakistan, releasing an initial $1.1 billion.

Makeshift relief camps have sprung up all over Pakistan — in schools, on motorways and in military bases.

In the northwestern town of Nowshera, a technical college was turned into a shelter for up to 2,500 flood victims.

They sweltered in the summer heat with sporadic food aid and little access to water.

“I never thought that one day we will have to live like this,” said 60-year-old Malang Jan.

“We have lost our heaven and are now forced to live a miserable life.”Aid efforts ramped up across flooded Pakistan on Tuesday to help tens of millions of people affected by relentless monsoon rains that have submerged a third of the country and claimed more than 1,100 lives. The rains that began in June have unleashed the worst flooding in more than a decade, washing away swathes of vital crops and damaging or destroying more than a million homes.

Pakistan

Funds invested in real estate used for cancer care: Shaukat Khanum Trust

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  • Invested $3m in endowment funds in real estate: SKMT. 
  • Endowment funds used to provide cancer care: spokesperson.
  • SKMT investments are audited by third parties, says spokesperson. 

LAHORE: Following controversy on Imran Khan’s comments in court, the management of Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) clarified that they invested $3 million in an endowment fund in a real estate project in Oman so they can be used to provide quality cancer care, The News reported on Monday .

The clarification came in response to news items regarding the usage of SKMT funds in real estate by its founder Imran Khan. The SKMT said that its funds have never been misused or “diverted”, by its chairman, Imran Khan, or any other individual

An SKMT spokesperson said that all its funds, including those invested in its endowment fund, are used only to support its mission of providing world-class care to cancer patients.

“As is common for many charity organisations, SKMT created an endowment fund to provide financial security and to cater for expenses in the long term. This endowment fund is supervised by an investment committee, with all investments made by the fund upon the recommendations of this committee. The chairman does not, and has never, made investment decisions in isolation,” the spokesperson said. 

He added, “It is crucial to point out that only non-Zakat funds are invested in this manner, with all Zakat collected being utilised on direct patient care within the year in which it is collected.”

On investment in real estate, the spokesperson said: “In 2008, an amount of US$3 million was invested by the endowment fund in a real estate project in Oman. The investment allowed for an early exit, with a 100% capital guarantee on the investment. In 2015, SKMT exercised its early exit option and the entire amount of US$3 million was duly recovered.”

He added the trust has already shared details of this investment, and recovery of its funds with the public numerous times. Although the investment did not generate a profit in dollar terms, it certainly did in rupees, since the difference in exchange rate referred to in the article in question worked in favour of SKMT, he added.

The spokesperson added: “As with all other financial transactions, all investments made by SKMT and its Endowment Fund are duly audited and reported, with financial reports being made publicly available through the Shaukat Khanum website. Both the initial investment, and its subsequent return were reflected in the organisation’s financial reports, and continue to be publicly available.”

Complete data of all contributions are held and audited by autonomous third parties to guarantee compliance with all relevant laws, not only within Pakistan, but in all jurisdictions where funds are collected on behalf of the SKMT, or to support it.

The spokesperson said that over 30 years, the trust treated more than 45,000 to 50,000 cancer patients every year at SKMT hospitals in Lahore and Peshawar, most of whom would have been unable to access highly specialised cancer treatment elsewhere. It is strictly because of its strong clinical, administrative and governance systems that the SKMT became only the second institution in the world to gain Enterprise Accreditation from the US-based Joint Commission International in September 2022.

The spokesperson added that allegations aiming to sow doubt in their donor’s minds are equivalent to playing with patients’ lives.

The official added that the cost of providing cancer care is continuously on the rise, and despite brittle financial conditions, the management of SKMT is committed not only to providing state-of-the-art cancer treatment to all its patients but also to defending an excellent reputation for financial transparency.

The News reported on Sunday that the PTI Chairman Imran Khan admitted that he invested funds worth $3 million donated to the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust (SKMT) in a housing project.

The revelation was made during a hearing of an Rs10 billion defamation case filed against Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Saturday. The former prime minister appeared in the court from his Lahore residence in Zaman Park via video link.

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Massive power breakdown hits Pakistan

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  • Minister says power generation units are temporarily shut in winter at night.
  • Says frequency variation in national grid triggered outage.
  • Says ministry trying to restore power in next 12 hours.

LAHORE/KARACHI/QUETTA/ISLAMABAD: A countrywide power breakdown, triggered by a “frequency variation” in the national grid early Monday morning, has left large parts of the country including Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Quetta without electricity. 

Power Minister Khurrum Dastagir, while talking to Geo News, said that the power generation units are temporarily shut down in winter at night as an economic measure to save fuel costs.

“When the systems were turned on at 7:30am this morning one by one, frequency variation was reported in the southern part of the country between Jamshoro and Dadu. There was a fluctuation in voltage and power generating units were shut down one by one due to cascading impact. This is not a major crisis,” said the federal minister as the country plunged into darkness for the second time in four months.

The minister said that his ministry has started restoring some grid stations in Tarbela and Warsak. 

“Peshawar Electric Supply Company (PESCO) and some grids of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (IESCO) have already been restored,” claimed the minister.  

Talking about the breakdown in Karachi, the minister said that the matter in the port city is complicated as it has a complete electric supply system.

A shopkeeper speaks with a customer (not pictured) at a medical store during a country-wide power breakdown in Karachi, Pakistan January 23, 2023. — Reuters
A shopkeeper speaks with a customer (not pictured) at a medical store during a country-wide power breakdown in Karachi, Pakistan January 23, 2023. — Reuters

“We provide K-Electric about 1,000-1,100 megawatts routinely, however, it will be restored within a few hours. It is not certain how long will it take to sort this issue. However, my target is to restore electricity in the country in the next 12 hours,” said the minister. 

Before the energy ministry’s announcement, different power distribution companies had confirmed the breakdown.

According to Quetta Electric Supply Company (QESCO), the two transmission lines have tripped leaving 22 districts of Balochistan, including Quetta without power.

Karachi power update

Meanwhile, K-Electric spokesperson Imran Rana said that at approximately 7:34am today, the national grid experienced a loss of frequency, affecting the power supply to multiple cities across Pakistan

“This has also cascaded to KE’s network affecting power supply to Karachi,” Rana said, adding the KE’s network is safe and protected.

“Our teams are actively monitoring the situation and enabling restoration efforts.”

An IESCO spokesperson said that its 117 grid stations were without electricity.

Meanwhile, PESCO also confirmed the outage in areas where it supplies electricity. 

This is the second time within four months that a country was hit by a major power breakdown.

NEPRA takes notice

The National Electric Power Regulatory Authority (NEPRA), in a statement, said that it has taken “serious notice” of the power outage and directed the National Transmission & Despatch Company (NTDC) to submit a “detailed report”.

The statement also said that the regulator has previously imposed fines on similar outages in the 2021 and 2022. It also shared that NEPRA has consistently issued directives and recommendations on tackling such events in future.

Previous breakdown 

In October of last year, Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Quetta, Multan, and Faisalabad were hit by a power outage.

At that time, the power minister said that nearly 8,000 megawatts of power went offline.

Back then, Dastagir had said that the simultaneous faults in two power lines, which had triggered the breakdown, at the same time was concerning for the government. He had also announced that an in-depth inquiry was ordered and promised action.

A timeline of power breakdowns in Pakistan

The country’s generation and distribution network has suffered eight major power breakdowns during the last nine years.

In 2014 and 2017, nationwide blackouts were caused by a fault in Tarbela Power Station while fog, frequency variation and the Guddu Power Plant fault were blamed for breakdowns in 2015, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Every time the party in power announced to conduct a comprehensive probe and vowed to rectify the issues but nothing has happened despite multiple inquiries.

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Pakistan

Karachi weather update: What’s the latest forecast?

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Karachiites will have to bundle themselves up as the weather will be dry and cold at night in the next 24 hours, the weather department said Friday. 

According to the forecast by the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), the mercury in the port city is expected to hover around 10 to 12 degrees Celsius in the next 24 hours. 

The Met department said that the cool winds are blowing from the northeast at a speed of seven to 10 kilometres per hour. The level of humidity in the city is 48%.

During the last 24 hours, the lowest temperature in Karachi was recorded at 14°C.

Weather countrywide 

Meanwhile, in Balochistan, the intensity of the cold has increased due to snowfall in different areas. Consequently, a travel emergency has been imposed on Khojak Pass. 

A day earlier, the weather department predicted rain with snowfall in the upper parts of the country during the coming days.

“Met Office informed that a westerly wave affecting North Balochistan, is likely to grip upper parts on January 20 (night) and may persist till January 25 with occasional gaps,” the statement read. 

It further said that light to moderate rain-wind with snowfall over the hills (isolated hailstorm) is expected in Kashmir, Gilgit- Baltistan, Murree, Galliyat, Islamabad, Pothohar region, Kohistan, Swat, Dir, Chitral, Manshera, Haripur, Abbottabad, Karak, Charsada, Peshawar, Nowshera, Swabi, Buner, Bajaur, Kurram, Waziristan, Kohat, Bannu, Sargodha, Mianwali, Khushab, Bhakkar, Faisalabad, Toba Tek Singh, Jhang, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Lahore, Kasur, Sialkot, Narowal, Sheikhupura and Nankana Sahib from January 21 to January 24 with occasional gaps.

Light rain and drizzle is also expected in Multan, Sahiwal, Okara, Pakpattan, Dera Ghazi Khan, Layyah, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rahimyar Khan, Sukkur and Dera Ismail Khan on January 20-21, the Met department said. 

Meanwhile, rain-wind — moderate to isolated heavy snowfall — is expected in Kashmir, Neelum valley, Muzaffarabad, Poonch, Hattian, Bagh, Haveli, Sudhanoti, Kotli, Bhimber, Mirpur), Murree, Galiyat, Chitral, Dir, Swat, Malakand, Kohistan, Mansehra and Abbottabad from January 23-25. 

What are the possible impacts?

Due to the heavy snowfall, there may be a closure of roads in Murree, Galiyat, Naran, Kaghan, Dir, Swat, Kohistan, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Shangla, Astore, Hunza, Skardu, Neelum valley, Bagh, Poonch and Haveli during the forecast period. 

“Landslides in Upper Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan may also occur during the forecast period,” it said. 

The office said that the tourists are advised to remain extra cautious during the spell, adding that temperatures are likely to fall significantly after the spell.

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