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US wants to work with new Pakistan government on regional, international issues

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  • US views Pakistan as an important stakeholder and important partner, says Ned Price. 
  • We look forward to working closely with Shehbaz Sharif government, he says.
  • US has already congratulated new Prime Minister of Pakistan Shehbaz Sharif, says Ned Price.

US State Department spokesperson Ned Price on Tuesday said the United States wants to work closely with the new government of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on regional and international issues.

The latest statement by the US government is of utmost important as  ex-prime minister Imran Khan had repeatedly blamed the US for backing the joint Opposition to oust him from power through a no-trust motion.

Imran Khan was of the view that the US government supported the government change in Pakistan and to prove his point of view, Khan had also highlighted a letter and claimed that the US government threatened Pakistan of dire consequences if he remains in power.

However, after a series of events, eventually on April 10, Imran Khan was ousted as the prime minister of Pakistan from office through a no-confidence motion after the National Assembly debated on the matter for more than 12 hours and the political situation in the country took a critical turn.

Shehbaz Sharif then took oath as the 23rd Prime Minister of Pakistan after he being elected by the joint Opposition.

Today, during a regular press briefing, the US State Department spokesperson termed Pakistan an important partner of the US government.

“We view Pakistan as an important stakeholder and important partner with whom we are engaging and have engaged as we work together to bring about an Afghanistan that is more stable, is more secure, is more prosperous, and importantly an Afghanistan that respects the basic and fundamental rights of its people, all of its people, including its minorities, its women, its girls,” he said. 

Price also appreciated the US relationship with Pakistan and vowed to continue working with the new government.

“For almost 75 years, our relationship with Pakistan has been a vital one and we look forward to continuing that work with the new government in Pakistan across regional and international issues,” he said.

“This is work that has a potential to promote peace and prosperity in Pakistan and throughout the region,” he added.

Price went on to say, “we have already congratulated the new Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on his election, adding, “We look forward to working closely with his government.” 

US Secretary of State congratulates PM Shehbaz Sharif 

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had congratulated Shahbaz Sharif on becoming the new Prime Minister of Pakistan and vowed to continue cooperation with his new government.

“Pakistan has been an important partner on wide-ranging mutual interests for nearly 75 years and we value our relationship. The United States congratulates newly-elected Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and we look forward to continuing our long-standing cooperation with Pakistan’s government,” a statement from the US State Department read.

Pentagon sees continuation of military-to-military ties with Pakistan 

After Shehbaz Sharif’s election as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan, the US Department of Defense also issued a statement and hoped to continue its “healthy” military-to-military ties with Pakistan despite the change in the government.

“We do have a healthy military-to-military relationship with Pakistani armed forces. And we have every expectation that that will be able to continue to be the case,” Pentagon Press Secretary John F Kirby had said.

The Pentagon official said the US recognises that it has shared interests with Pakistan with respect to security and stability. “We recognise that Pakistan plays a key role in the region.”

Ruling out any US military role in Pakistan, he said that America recognises that Pakistan and its people are, themselves, victims of terrorist attacks “inside their own country”.

“I don’t foresee any US military role here. And I’m certainly not going to, again, wade into internal domestic politics in Pakistan,” he told a journalist at the press briefing.

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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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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