Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Rotary Darakhshan, LPB call to develop reading culture in Pakistan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The top functionaries of Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan (RCKD) and Library Promotion Bureau (LPB), who jointly organized a seminar on the subject of COVID-19’s impact on libraries at the bureau’s record office, housed in Liaquat Memorial Library, Karachi, on September 30, have called for developing reading culture in the country in order to keep pace with the times. 

“Whatever the circumstances or no matter how long this pandemic stays, we have to devise a strategy whereas people have the tools to access information so that they are not left behind in competing with those living in other parts of the world,” Jahangir Moghul, a former District Governor of Rotary International besides being Charter President of RCKD, reckoned. 

Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari, Founder President of LPB, did not mince words in stating that the government should do much more in engaging the masses into reading, suggesting that the improvement of public libraries and school libraries was the best way to do it. 

Asim Murtaza Khan, President, RCKD, pointed out that COVID-19 crisis has acted as a point of inflection for the shift from conventional libraries to e-libraries during lockdown as people had surplus time at their disposal and quest for knowledge increased during this period. 

Prof Dr Nasim Fatima, a stalwart in the profession of library and information science, regretted the closing of e-libraries in Punjab at a time when rest of the world was busy in creating more digital facilities for its people. She urged for the development of libraries, also providing books at doorstep to the readers. 

Syed Khalid Mahmood, Vice President, RCKD, spoke about the multiple social problems having been caused by the closure of public libraries in the developed countries during the lockdown period. He stressed for better coordination and networking between the various stakeholders for developing library culture in Pakistan.

Syed Ahmed Naqvi of LPB, in his introductory remarks, spoke about the need to develop software for online content to be made available in Urdu and other regional languages for the benefit of the masses while Waqas Moghul, Secretary, RCKD, in his closing comments, described books as the best companion for mankind. 

The programme was organized by RCKD, Rotary International had designated the month of September for basic education and literacy.

Coronavirus Update: Further escalation challenges health system again

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Amidst reports about increase in daily new COVID-19 infections up to 400 in the province, Sindh also witnessed a disturbing escalation in the number of patients utilizing ventilators in Karachi’s hospitals on September 29.

Of the 274 patients hospitalized across the province, as of September 29, as many as 172 were stated to be having critical health condition, while another 37 were put on ventilators at Karachi hospitals against 19 on September 27 and 29 on September 28. 

According to reports, a total of 19 patients were put on ventilators in the public sector hospitals against 10 such patients in private hospitals on September 28. 

These patients were admitted at CHK, Karachi Trauma Centre, Lyari General Hospital, Infectious Diseases Centre, SIUT, LNH, Patel Hospital, AKUH, and Indus Hospital. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his routine COVID-19 statement, shared that there were 416 active patients of the lethal virus in the province, including 3881 in home isolation, six at isolation centres and 274 at hospitals. 

He said that overall 130,137 patients had recovered from the diseases, while the number of patients who lost their lives due to the diseased stood as 2,497, including two fatalities that were registered up to September 29 morning. 

The new infection rate was recorded as about 4% in the province on September 29, against 3% on September 28, 2.58% on September 27 and 2.37% on September 26. 

The district-wise breakdown of 400 new cases, out of 10,881, on September 29 came as: Karachi (297, 74%), Jamshoro (9), Dadu (2), Hyderabad (2), Lakana (2), Shaheed Benazirabad (2), Sukkur (2), Ghotki (1), Kambar Shahdadkot (1), Mirpurkhas (1), Sanghar (10, Umerkot (1) and others. 

As per the official data, updated on September 27, rate of infections at the educational institution was also increasing. 

A maximum of 49 (3.7%) COVID cases were detected in the population of educational institutions located in the Korangi district of Karachi, followed by Matiari (3.5%), Jamshoro (2.4%), Karachi East (2%) and others.

It was further learnt that the majority of the COVID-19 tests were conducted in the private sector laboratories (5,772 samples), against 647 samples handled by the public sector laboratories on September 27. 

In the meantime, Sindh stood second in the lists of provinces and territories in terms of confirmed COVID-19 cases detected among the health providers. As many as 1,690 doctors, 180 nurses and 303 paramedics and other staffs were detected positive for the virus in Sindh, as of September 28.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

ML-1 hailed as symbol of strong Pakistan-China friendship

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
“With the construction of industrial parks and ML-1 project under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the advancement of infrastructure in Pakistan, it is believed that the supply chain of infrastructure projects in Pakistan will be improving.” 

This was observed by Wang Yantao, Executive Vice President of PowerChina International Group Limited, in an interview. 

“With the support of Chinese and Pakistani governments, we hope to actively participate in the construction of ML-1 railway project to drive Pakistan's capacity building, setting up a milestone to China-Pakistan friendship,” Wang said. 

Taking advantage of its leading position in the field of electric power, PowerChina actively carries out infrastructure construction in Pakistan, such as Qasim coal-fired power plant, Dawood wind power project, Tarbela 4th extension hydropower project and Haveli gas power plant. 

Despite the severe impact on domestic and foreign logistics in the midst of COVID-19 outbreak, the company has gone all out to safeguard the delivery of equipment and material, anti-epidemic products in particular, and ensure the operation of construction without shutdown.

“Our company has provided nearly 10,000 jobs in Pakistan. Instead of dismissing any employees during the epidemic, it provided centralized working and living environment to protect them from coronavirus infection,” Wang disclosed. 

With both Chinese and Pakistani staff sticking to their posts amid COVID-19 pandemic, the Qasim coal-fired power station saw an increase in its electric energy production this year, in accordance with Pakistani government's requirement for power dispatch. 

“As Pakistan has a large demographic dividend, its complete education system and vocational skills training system have cultivated engineers and technicians with qualified skills, as well as financial management personnel,” Wang said, citing PowerChina-invested Dawood Power Generation Company, which hires only one Chinese employee, while the rest is locally recruited. 

Wang added that while Pakistan boasts rich building materials of superior quality, such as cement, sand and wood, there’s a lot of room to push forward the industrialization by establishing its own industrial system to save foreign exchange and increase added value. 

In the field of project contracting and infrastructure construction, Pakistani companies have made rapid progress through working side by side with Chinese enterprises on some large projects. 

“While Pakistani project contracting enterprises have advantages in human resources, project management needs to be strengthened through cultivating talents with comprehensive quality and more effective integration with international resources.” Wang commented.

Coronavirus Update: Karachi reports 300 more cases in single day

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Yet another 378 samples out of 12,097 were tested positive for COVID-19 in Sindh, raising the daily infection rate to 3% for Sindh on September 28 when the authorities also confirmed three new related fatalities.

A maximum 300 (79%) new findings pertained to Karachi’s six districts, including South (109 cases), East (92), Korangi (45), Central (25), Malir (25) and West (4). The other districts that reported new cases during the 24 hours ending 8 am on September 28 included Hyderabad (16), Badin (13), Dadu (2), Shikarpur (2), Sukkur (2), Ghotki (1), Mirpurkhas (1), Sanghar (1), Tando Allahyar (1), Tando Mohammad Khan (1), and others. 

In his COVID-19 statement, the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, shared that overall 136,395 people were infected with the lethal virus, while the death tally reached to 2495 on September 28. 

“With 139 cured, lately, total number of patients recovered from the diseases stands as 129,892 now,” he stated. 

He further said that of the 4,008 COVID patients, 3,725 were in home-isolation, while six at the isolation centres and 277 at different hospitals, adding that there were 158 patients whose health condition was stated critical, while 29 were being given the ventilator support.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Railways on path of development: Minister

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Federal Minister for Railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, has said that the $6.8 billion tender for the ML-1 rehabilitation project would be floated soon which would revolutionize the railways' service in the country.

"The country will get massive economic benefit in the form of 150,000 jobs and significant surge in the freight business after conclusion of ML-1 project,” he remarked while talking to the media at his camp office in Karachi. 

He shared that the preparation of coaches for the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) was underway in Islamabad and the service would be revived as per the directives of apex court. 

"Rs.1.8 billion out of earmarked Rs 10.5 billion for the KCR project have been released and 9 kilometres track out of 14 kilometres in the planned first phase revival has been totally rehabilitated" he stated while describing Karachi City as the hub of railways' activities, particularly the freight business. 

Prior to press conference, the railways minister had strictly directed, in a meeting, the complete elimination of encroachments on railways' land alongwith taking stern action against the officers and official involved in the malpractice.

Coronavirus Update: Infection rate rises in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Sindh, which in recent days has witnessed inconstancy in its daily new COVID-19 infection rates, is inching closer to 2,500 fatalities, while authorities on September 27 here confirmed six more out of nine deaths due to the lethal virus reported in the country, along with 251 new infections detected across the province during the last 24 hours.

According to the data, Sindh’s daily infection rate maintained an uptrend on September 27, standing at 2.58%, which was 2.32% on September 26 and 1.42% on September 25. 

In all 11,708 samples were handled by the designated laboratories in the province during the last 24 hours ending at 8 am on September 27, which confirmed 185 (74%) new positive cases at Karachi. 

Karachi was followed by Hyderabad (7), Badin (7), Jacobabad (5), Jamshoro (4), Dadu (3), Larkana (2), Tando Allahyar (2), Ghotki (1), Shaheed Benazirabad (1), Khairpur (1), Sujawal (1), Sukkur (1) and others. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his COVID-19 related statement, shared that there at present were 3,772 patients, including 3,493 those receiving treatment at homes, six at isolation centres and 273 in hospitals, while 158 patients were stated in critical condition, along with 19 on ventilators. 

In the meantime, Sindh's fatalities reached to 2,492 on September 27, against country's tally of 6,466 deaths out of 310,841 infections.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Shariq Vohra elected as KCCI President

By Syed Sajid Aziz 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Shariq Vohra, an eminent entrepreneur and philanthropist, has taken over as the new President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), after being elected unopposed for the year 2020-2021. 

Saqib Goodluck has been elected as the Senior Vice President, while Shams-ul-Islam Khan as become the Vice President of Pakistan’s largest chamber of commerce, having more than 20,000 members in its folds. 

It may be recalled that all the candidates of the Businessmen Group (BMG), headed by Siraj Kasim Teli, had been elected unopposed for the managing committee. 

The committee also includes Mohammad Hanif Ayoob, Qazi Zahid Hussain, Muhammad Hilal Sheikh, Muhammad Ali, Sheikh Muddasir Rafiq Magoon, Tanveer Ahmed Barry, Jawed Siddiq, Chaudhry Muhammad Zahid Bashir, Ahmed Azeem Alavi, Muhammad Iqbal Khamisani, Zaheer Ahmed and Faiz Ahmed.

Rotary Darakhshan, LPB join hands to discuss COVID-19’s impact on libraries

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Rotary Club of Karachi Darakhshan (RCKD), with the collaboration of Library Promotion Bureau (LPB), will be organizing a seminar on the subject of COVID-19’s impact on libraries at the bureau’s record office, housed in Liaquat Memorial Library, Karachi, on September 30. 

Prof Dr Ghani-ul-Akram Sabzwari and Prof Dr Nasim Fatima, two of the stalwarts of the profession of library and information science, along with some of the top Rotary leaders, will be sharing their thoughts on one of the most relevant topics these days. 

Jahangir Moghul, a former District Governor of Rotary International besides being Charter President of RCKD, Asim Murtaza Khan, President, RCKD, and Syed Khalid Mahmood, Vice President, RCKD, will also speak in the session which will begin with introductory remarks from Syed Ahmed Naqvi of LPB while Waqas Moghul, Secretary, RCKD, will present vote of thanks. 

The programme is being organized by RCKD, as part of Rotary International’s designated month of basic education and literacy.

KCR revival promised at fast track

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Federal Minister for Railways, Sheikh Rashid Ahmad, announced that the KCR revival project was progressing at fast track and it would be revived soon as per the directives of apex court. 

While talking to media at Shah Abdul Latif station of the KCR track he added that all the encroachments along the railways lines would be completely eliminated.

"Pakistan Railways is all set to spend Rs. 10.5 billion on the KCR rehabilitation project whereas the responsibility of constructing 24 over head bridges lies over the shoulders of provincial government,” he remarked while highlighting the complete liaison between Pakistan Railways and Sindh government on the historic project's revival. 

He further said that preparation of KCR coaches was in full swing in Islamabad and a model coach would soon be displayed at Cantonment station Karachi. 

The minister visited Gillani, Nazimabad, Gulbai and Shah Abdul Latif stations along the KCR track and inquired the progress of his department on the rehabilitation project. He was accompanied by CEO/Senior General Manager, Nisar Ahmad Memon, DS Karachi, Arshad Salam Khattak, and PD KCR, Ameer Mohammad Daudpota.

Coronavirus Update: Sindh reports 278 more infections

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Sindh failed in maintaining a consistency in terms of new COVID-19 cases on September 26 as the authorities confirmed detection of 278 more infections, out of 11,708 samples tested across the province during the last 24 hours.

According to official data, Sindh had the rate of new infections as 1.42% on September 25, which rose to 2.37% on September 26, while the province’s handling of samples at various laboratories reduced by 25% of what stood on the previous day. 

Keen observers referring to the recent infection rates apprehended that COVID-19 was concentrating again in Sindh. Sindh had five more related fatalities during the last 24 hours, against Pakistan’s six new deaths. 

In all 2,486 patients have died so far in Sindh, out of a tally of 135,766 positive cases. Pakistan had a figure of 280 patients who recovered from the diseases, including 150 from Sindh.  
Any breakdown of new infections in districts of Sindh was not made available to media here on September 26. Sindh’s health department also failed to update its website-page during the last 48 hours.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Pakistan’s textile enterprises impress in Shanghai exhibition

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Several Pakistani textile enterprises took part in China Textile Joint Exhibition organized by China National Textile and Apparel Council (CNTAC) at the National Exhibition and Convention Centre (NECC) in Shanghai to display a number of products made in Pakistan such as cotton yarn, socks and hats. 

Besides Pakistan, the exhibition was largely attended exhibitors from Austria, South Korea, France, Germany, Italy and other countries. 

A total of 4,500 exhibitors participated in the joint exhibition, with an exhibition area spreading 300,000 square meters.

“We have been working with China for ten years. China's textile technology is far ahead, the quality of products is excellent, and the prices are reasonable. Meanwhile the textile market in China is also massive,” Ather Iqbal, a Pakistani exhibitor, informed. 

“Under CPEC, both Pakistani and Chinese governments were implementing many favourable policies such as tariffs and trade procedures that have greatly enhanced our enthusiasm for cooperation,” he pointed out. 

“The COVID-19 epidemic in China has been very efficiently controlled and the measures to ensure the operation of economy have been well developed, so our cooperation with Chinese textile enterprises has not been greatly affected by the pandemic. In the future, we will further strengthen our cooperation with Chinese enterprises and expand our textile trade with them,” the Pakistani businessman added.

Coronavirus Update: Downslide in Sindh

Mukhtar Alam 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh, after a gap of a couple of days, witnessed a downslide in its daily numbers of COVID-19 cases on September 25, though the laboratories tested the samples beyond their collective maximum daily testing capacity of 14,940 during the last 24 hours.

Of the 16,976 samples examined during the last 24 hours, ending at 8 am on September 25, as many as 241 (1.42%) were declared new infections. The province’s daily infection rate was 2.5% on September 24 after being 2.22% on September 23. 

Sindh had registered 135,488 infections, since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country on February 26, while 129,396 (95.5%) have recovered from the diseases. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his routine COVID-19 statement, shared that four more patients died during the last 24 hours in the province, taking the tally of the disease's fatalities to 2,481 for the province, against Pakistan’s overall death figure of 6,451. 

He added that there were still 3,611 people infected people, who were receiving treatment at homes (3328), isolation centres (6), and hospitals 277, including 137 undergoing the critical phase of their health, while 13 were put on ventilators. 

Karachi reported 103 new cases, followed by Sujawal (18), Hyderabad (4), Dadu (4), Shaheed Benazirabad (3), Badin (2), Larkana (2), Matiari (2), Mirpurkhas (2), Sanghar (2), Shikarpur (2), Tharparkar (1), Thatta (1) and others.

Friday, September 25, 2020

PSCC established in Chengdu

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Pakistan-Sichuan Chamber of Commerce (PSCC) has been established in Chengdu, China to promote bilateral trade and to set up close synergy for socio-economic partnership. 

The former Consul General of Pakistan in Chengdu, Muhammad Mudassir Tipu, who is currently Director General (China), delivered a speech at the inaugural meeting in Chengdu in which he stressed that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was a fruitful joint venture and the friendship between the two countries was unbreakable. 

In the future, Southwest China, represented by Sichuan Province, will play an important role in the CPEC. The PSCC will provide both Pakistani and Chinese enterprises a platform for resource sharing, service convergence, project alignment and advantage display. 

“A lot of economic opportunities are being created between the southwest of China and the northeast of Pakistan,” Mudassir Tipu, who has also been at a speaker at the World Economic Forum, reckoned. 

The inaugural meeting of the PSCC was held in Chengdu on September 25 upon the initiatives of the Sichuan enterprises invested in Pakistan. The chamber has been approved by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and supported by the China Department of Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It has set up a secretariat in Islamabad and a representative office in Chengdu. 

“Sichuan province, in fact, the southwest of China is critically important region for Pakistan and the CPEC. A couple of mega projects have been brought into CPEC in this region, Azad Pattan Project and Kohala Power Project. The CPEC Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) meeting to be held in October or November this year it will also be a key element to further deepen bilateral cooperation,” Mudassir Tipu stated. 

He believed that Pakistan already possessed certain ability in industrial and socio-economic field, and the business communities of the two countries should continue to deepen cooperation. 

“Pakistan now has a lot of talent, such as lawyers, doctors, technicians and so on, as well as a lot of mature enterprises in this sector. Therefore, Chinese and Pakistani companies should further cooperate to jointly complete projects in Pakistan,” he added.

Coronavirus Update: Sindh’s infection rate continues rising

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Sindh’s daily COVID-19 infection rate continued rising for the third day running as the authorities in the government on September 24 confirmed detection of 401 new cases, with six more related fatalities across the province during the last 24 hours.

According to the data, Sindh had the rate of new infections as 1.4% on September 22, which increased to 2.5% on September 24 morning, taking the overall infection tally to 135,246 for the province, 129,101 of which were reported to have recovered from the diseases, while 2,477 lost their lives. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his COVID-19 status statement on September 24, shared that as many as 3,668 patients were receiving treatment at homes (3,776), isolation centres (5) and hospitals (287). At hospitals, 135 were told to be critical condition, while 14 were put on ventilators. 

In all 16,093 samples were examined at COVID-19 laboratories across Sindh during the last 24 hours ending at 8 am on September 24, out of which the maximum 244 (61%) from Karachi’s six districts were registered as new positive cases. Hyderabad reported 19 new cases, followed by Badin (8), Dadu (5), Tando Mohammad Khan (4), Jamshoro (4), Larkana (2), Matiari (2), Sukkur (2), Mirpurkhas (1), Sanghar (1), Jacobabad (1) and other districts.

Families of PIA crash victims await justice, regret highhandedness

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The families of the victims of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) flight PK 8303, which had crashed in Karachi earlier this year, have condemned the highhandedness from the concerned authorities while seeking justice.

In a letter addressed to Prime Minister Imran Khan, dated September 22, 2020, whose copy was circulated on social media, some of the affected families have reported having been humiliated at every place where they have gone to seek entitlement during the past four months. 

Members of the affected families had also held a media conference at the Karachi Press Club a few months ago to bring to light their sufferings at the hands of the concerned departments when receiving the bodies of their loved ones.

It may be recalled that the PIA’s scheduled domestic flight from Allama Iqbal International Airport in Lahore to Jinnah International Airport in Karachi had crashed just before landing in the densely populated area of Model Colony on that fateful afternoon of May 22, 2020. 

The Airbus A320 in use perished a few kilometres from the runway, while on a second approach after a failed landing. Of the 91 passengers and 8 crew on board the aircraft (99 onboard), 97 were killed, and two passengers survived with injuries. Eight people on the ground were also reported to have been injured in the accident and one of them reportedly later died from injuries.


Thursday, September 24, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Country’s more than half infections in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The share of Sindh in the daily COVID-19 infections reported on September 23 across the country remained almost over a half, with two new related deaths.

Sindh reported 408 new infections during the last 24 hours ending September 23 morning, against Pakistan’s total 799 new positive cases detected out of 42,299 samples, with five deaths. 

The data revealed that Sindh, which was witnessing its daily COVID-19 infection rates fluctuating in recent days, registered a double of the cases recorded on the preceding day. 

With the new cases, coming out of 18,360 tests during the last 24 hours, Sindh’s overall infection tally reached to 134,845. 

Keen observer said that the province needed to exercise all precaution and apply its medical field forces to trace the lethal virus and detect the carriers well in time. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his COVID-19 statement on September 23, reported that there were still 3,410 active COVID-19 cases in the province, including 3120 those receiving treatment at homes, five placed in isolation centres and 285 in hospitals. 

“As many as 146 were told to be in the critical phase while 17 were placed on ventilators until September 23 morning,” he added. 

The two latest deaths were reported from Central and East districts of Karachi, taking the tally of COVID-19 fatalities to 2,471 for the province. 

The new infections were reported from Karachi (184), Badin (31), Larkana (6), Ghotki (4), Hyderabad (2), Jamshoro (2), Mirpurkhas (2), Sanghar (2), Shikarpur (2), Sujwal (2), Umerkot (2), Dadu (1) and others. 

In the meantime, a report pertaining to laboratory testing of samples drawn from students, teachers and other staff at public and private educational institutions across the province, during a period from September 12 to 22, revealed that as many as 127 samples, out of 21,999 samples were found positive for COVID-19.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

AKU launches teachers’ academy

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Aga Khan University (AKU), in order to recognize excellence in teaching in higher education, has launched the Teachers’ Academy, one of the first interdisciplinary academies of its kind in East Africa and Pakistan. 

“Rewarding and recognizing teachers promotes excellence in teaching, teaching that engages students in their own learning, in pursuing creative work and innovative ideas, and in reaching their full potential. In the rapidly changing environment that we now live in, teaching excellence prepares our students to be future leaders in their communities,” Vice Provost, Dr Tashmin Khamis, remarked. 

“The Academy will develop a community of faculty recognized for teaching excellence, who will be able to promote teaching, and inspire and mentor their peers. It will be developed on the foundation of outstanding AKU teachers, who are recognized for their contribution to teaching and learning in higher education, including those who have benchmarked their practice internationally and attained the UK’s Higher Education Academy Fellowship,” she added. 

Her remarks were reinforced by the AKU President, Firoz Rasul, who noted that the AKU was the first and only institution to be accredited by the Higher Education Academy in South Asia and East Africa. 

"The creation of the academy will enhance AKU’s position among the top universities globally. The Academy will provide tangible recognition to AKU teachers, who are the architects and guardians of the quality of teaching and learning in each of its schools,” Dr Haile T Debas, chair of the Academy’s Advisory Board and chair pro tem of AKU’s Board of Trustees, observed. 

Provost Dr Carl Amrhein lauded the launch of the academy as building on many years of work in improving higher education teaching. These efforts have helped the faculty transition AKU's teaching online without compromising on quality through the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Teaching has gone beyond 'chalk and talk' and video lectures to involve students in active learning. 

The inaugural call for membership to the academy was made at a virtual ceremony hosted by the University’s Network of Quality, Teaching and Learning (QTL_net), which supports the professional development of faculty and seeks to raise teaching standards across AKU’s six campuses around the world. The ceremony was attended by a large number of AKU faculty and staff from Pakistan, East Africa and the United Kingdom.

Coronavirus Update: Six more fatalities in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Sindh registered six more COVID-19 fatalities, the highest single-day deaths during the last two weeks, as authorities here confirmed 194 new cases during the last 24 hours, pushing the tally of infections to 134,243 for the province.

Earlier, according to data, Sindh had reported six deaths on September 1, 2, and 9. Sindh’s six fatalities on September 22 were included in Pakistan’s total 8 of the day, while country’s new number of infections stood at 532. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily COVID-19 status statement on September 22, shared that a total 13,056 were tested during the last 24 hours, with a positivity rate of about 1.5%. 

He added that at present there were 3,286 active patients in Sindh, including 2,930 in home-isolation, five in isolation centre, 351 in hospitals, including critically ill 175 patients, while 20 were on ventilators. 

According to the official statement, Karachi registered 134 new cases, followed by Larkana (7), Jamshoro (3), Thatta (3), Sukkur (2), Dadu (1), Sujawal (1) and others.

CPEC medical corridor’s Cancer Centre to be functional in 2021

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
A signing ceremony of Pakistan-China biotechnology strategic cooperation was held at Beijing on September 22.

As the flagship medical corridor, Pakistani and Chinese companies will jointly build a cancer medical centre and laboratory. 

Initially the 50-bed centre and laboratory with state of the art faculties is expected to be functional by early next year as construction of the building is in full swing in Islamabad. 

The agreement was jointly signed by Dr Waqas Ahmed, CEO, Life Rehealth Technology Pakistan, and Beijing Anlong Gene Medicine Technology. Under the framework, the Pakistani and Chinese companies will jointly carry out exploration and research on cancer medical treatment, and Chinese companies will also share their existing medical technologies with Pakistan. 

Dr Waqas Ahmed , the CEO of Life Rehealth, who had been active in CPEC medical cooperation for a long time, observed in an exclusive interview that, the cancer rate in Pakistan was very high, especially lung cancer, liver cancer and so on. 

“Therefore, the cooperation between Pakistan and China in this medical area was very necessary and will bring great benefits to Pakistanis. China and Pakistan are iron brothers and the Pakistani people deeply trust Chinese. So to develop biotechnology, the best partner must be our good brother China," he observed. 

“The second reason is that China's rapid development in the medical field in recent years is well known to all, and the technology in oncology treatment has also been relatively mature. Therefore, we believe that through this cooperation, Pakistan can import advanced technology from China to help our patients,” Dr Waqas Ahmed, who graduated and settled in China, added. 

Dr Wei Yujun, general manager of Anlong Gene, acknowledged that Pakistan was a friendly neighbour of China and, under the framework of BRI, they should strengthen medical cooperation with their iron brother.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Landmark skyscrapers illuminated in Shanghai

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The landmark skyscrapers in Shanghai were illuminated on September 22 to mark one year countdown of the opening ceremony of the 46th WorldSkills Shanghai 2021 scheduled to be held at the China's Economic Hub next year. 

According to details, WorldSkills Shanghai 2021 will be held from September 22 to 27 in which more than 1,300 competitors from over 60 WorldSkills Member countries and regions will showcase their talents in 56 skills. 

The mega event is expected to attract over 1000 educators, ministers, government officials, leaders of business and industry, and youth together to share best practice and learn about global trends and issues found in Vocational Education and Training (VET), skills demand, skills of the future as well as skills excellence and development.

Beijing lauds Dr Arif Alvi’s CPEC remarks

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

China has lauded President Dr Arif Alvi’s remarks on the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and its role for boosting regional connectivity and benefits to Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics (CARs).

“Just as President Alvi pointed out, the CPEC not only benefits the people of China and Pakistan but will also boost the development of other countries in the region and elevate connectivity and economic cooperation throughout the entire region,” Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson, Wang Wenbin, observed in the regular press briefing at Beijing on September 22.

“We have noted President Alvi’s remarks. The CPEC is an important pilot program of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and a flagship in China-Pakistan cooperation,” he added. 

Tracing the background, he remarked that since its launch six years ago, major progress had been achieved with a large number of projects starting construction or being completed and more than $25 billion direct investment flowing into Pakistan. 

“The completed projects have greatly improved transportation infrastructure and electricity supply in Pakistan, created over 70,000 direct employment opportunities,” the spokesman said. 

“China firmly supports CPEC development and stands ready to work together with Pakistan to act on our leaders’ consensus and, on the basis of continued solid progress in infrastructure development, focus on cooperation in social welfare, industrial and agricultural cooperation, to turn the CPEC into a demonstration project for high-quality BRI development and deliver more benefits for the two countries and regional countries,” he elaborated. 

It may be mentioned that President Dr Arif Alvi in a telephonic talk with his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov had said that the CPEC would boost regional connectivity and particularly Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics would benefit from its road and railway infrastructure.

Coronavirus Update: Sindh’s cases fluctuate

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh, with its fluctuating daily COVID-19 infection rates, registered three of the four related deaths reported in the country on September 21 when authorities here confirmed 296 new infections, out of 15,211 samples, during the last 24 hours.

Pakistan’s fourth COVID-19 fatality of the day was reported from Punjab, which had 59 new cases on September 21. 

Sindh registered an average 284 cases daily during the week till September 21. 

The daily new case numbers ranged from 227 to 341, while its total positive case tally came as 134,243. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his statement related to the COVID-19 status, shared that as many as 128,494 patients had recovered from the diseases, while 3,286 more, including 2,930 in home isolation, five in isolation centres and 351 in hospitals, were receiving treatment for the disease. 

He further stated that condition of 175 patients was stated critical while 20 were put on ventilators, as of September 21. 

According to official data, six districts of Karachi division reported 143 new cases, followed by Badin (25), Hyderabad (5), Matiari (4), Shikarpur (3), Sanghar (2), Shaheed Benazirabad (2), Umerkot (2), Dadu (2), Jacobabad (2), Larkana (1) and Sukkur (1).

The fluctuation in cases, particularly in the province of Sindh, has caused alarms and people have been under some kind of pressure in performing their duties at a time when almost every business activity has resumed.

Phase 3 trials for COVID-19 vaccine start in Pakistan

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), on September 22, has announced the launch of phase 3 clinical trials in Pakistan for a potential vaccine being developed by China’s CanSino Biologics for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). 

The trials for the first couple of phases for the vaccine were held in China. Pakistan, under a public-private partnership between the National Institute of Health (NIH) and CanSino, is among the countries which will carry out Phase 3, the NCOC declared. 

The NIH Executive Director, Maj Gen Aamer Ikram, and the Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr Faisal Sultan, during their joint press conference, described the trial as an important step in which the Pakistanis will also be taking part.

“The entire world is looking towards a vaccine right now. There are seven vaccines for which trials are being conducted, three of them developed in China. This CanSino vaccine is based on recombinant technology in which an adino-vector is made deficient. The virus vector and cell culture has been procured from Canada," Maj Gen Aamer Ikram remarked. 

Meanwhile the Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Minister, Asad Umar, also shared information on the subject. “Just launched the phase 3 trials for COVID-19 vaccine in Pakistan. Vaccine has been developed by a Chinese company. A total of 40,000 people will participate in this trial in seven countries, of which 8 to 10,000 will be Pakistanis. Initial results expected in 4 to 6 months,” he tweeted.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Coronavirus Update: Karachi registers 70% of Sindh infections

By Mukhtar Alam 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Karachi division recorded 70% of the new COVID-19 cases detected across the province of Sindh on September 20 when one more patient was reported expired due to the virus during the last 24 hours.

Official reports revealed that in all 321 new cases were registered in 18 districts during the last 24 hours ending September 20 morning, with an overall daily infection rate of 2.43%, against 1.83% calculated on September 19. 

According to official COVID-19 data, Karachi registered an average 157 new cases every day during the week ending September 20. 

Its share in the total new cases reported across the province remained 53% on September 17, which increased up to 73% by September 19. 

Karachi’s different districts have so far added 86,512 COVID-19 cases to the overall Sindh’s tally, including the maximum 25852 from East district where a total 684 patients lost their lives due to the diseases in hospitals and homes, so far. 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his statement related to COVID-19 status, shared that the new cases were found out of 13,198 samples, pushing the overall number of infections to 133,947 for the province. 

He informed that 2,793 infected persons were at present isolated in homes, while five at the isolation centres and 282 at various hospitals, including 179 critically ill patients, with another 168 people having recovered from the diseases during the last 24 hours. 

The reports said that 24 patients were receiving the ventilator intervention at various hospitals, including six at AKUH, five at CHK, four each at the Infectious Diseases Hospital and Research centre and Indus Hospital Karachi, on September 20. 

The new solitary fatality was reported from Badin which has registered a total 12 COVID-19 deaths, while there are still 152 active patients in the district. Earlier, Badin had reported one death, along with Karachi (three deaths), on September 18. 

The district wise breakdown of new infection remained as: Karachi (225), Dadu (97), Tando Allahyar (7), Hyderabad (6), Thatta (5), Jamshoro (5), Badin (3), Sujawal (3), Matiari (3), Tando Mohammad Khan (3), Larkana (2), Mirpurkhas (1), Shaheed Benazirabad (1) and others. 

In the meantime, an official summary related to samplings done in different targeted areas revealed the highest rate of COVID-19 infection, two percent, was found among people visiting shrines and attending urs/mela (congregations).

Sunday, September 20, 2020

China lunar exploration on course

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The deputy chief designer of China's lunar exploration programme, Yu Dengyun, has said that the preparations were progressing smoothly and the Chang'e-5 probe will make a soft landing on the moon and bring samples back to earth by end 2020. 

Yu revealed this at the ongoing 2020 China Space Conference in Fuzhou, capital of east China's Fujian Province which concluded on September 19. 

China's current lunar programme involves three phases, comprising of orbiting, landing, and return. The first two phases have been completed successfully, Yu informed.

The Chang'e-5 probe is expected to realize lunar sample collection, takeoff from the moon, rendezvous and docking on lunar orbit and high-speed reentry into the Earth's atmosphere, marking breakthroughs in China's aerospace history, he added. 

According to Yu, China was conducting a further verification study for the research and development of space station and the manned lunar mission, and it planned to set up an unmanned lunar research station for manned landings on the moon.

Pakistan-China friendship above CPEC: Ambassador Yao

By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, remained convinced that Pakistan-China friendship was much above the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). 

"CPEC is not the whole thing. We were friends even before the CPEC. There is no doubt CPEC has strengthened the bonds further but the brotherhood is much above a project," he said to a loud applause by the journalists who had come to say good-bye to a friend of Pakistan. 

Ambassador Yao has completed his tenure in Pakistan and will soon leave for Beijing. He has been replaced with the nomination of Nong Rong, Head of Ethnic Affairs Commission of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region 

Speaking at the farewell reception, with an emotional and victorious voice, the senior diplomat remarked that CPEC could not be stopped or delayed on the wishes of the conspirators. 

"Yes, there are conspiracies but CPEC is going on smoothly. I am very satisfied with the pace of work. Let the conspirators do their job as we focus on development and prosperity," he asserted. 

The envoy said he will miss Pakistan as he had spent 11 years of his career in the country under different capacities. "When I first came to Pakistan, I was a junior diplomat. And as I complete my tenure now as the ambassador, I am more in love with Pakistan. I don't know when I will return to Pakistan but my heart and soul will remain in Pakistan," he declared amid the thumping of desks and clapping.

Coronavirus Update: No fatality day in Sindh

By Mukhtar Alam 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sindh for the third time reported no COVID-19 fatality on September 19 when authorities confirmed 264 new cases during the last 24 hours across the province.

Since the outbreak of the lethal virus in the country, the province registered deaths among the virus infected patients every day, excepting September 5, 14 and 19. 

As of morning of September 19, according to official data, Sindh’s total of COVID-19 laboratory tests stood as 1,214,790, out of which 133,626 were found positive. 

The province’s overall infection rate remained 11%, against 9.67% of Pakistan. National dashboard on COVID-19 revealed that Sindh’s 264 (1.8%) positive cases came out of 14,352 samples examined during the last 24 hours. 

With 94 more patients recovered from the disease on September 19, taking the total of cured people to 128,239, while the death tally remained unchanged at 2,459, for the province. The district wise breakdown of new cases in Sindh was not made available by the provincial government, however.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Indus Water Treaty turns 60

By Tariq Asad 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The controversial boundary demarcation of the sub-continent in 1947 by Sir Cyrill Radcliffe germinated the seeds for unrelenting water conflict between the new-born states that have persisted till-date. 

Awarding the Muslim-majority areas like Ferozepur, having headworks for Sutlej River, to India accrued aggression from her by blocking water flow into all the canals entering Pakistan on April 1, 1948. 

Though a Standstill agreement was concluded between the two neighbours but India cropped out in a highly commanding position on water-front. The matter was resolved by the mediation of the World Bank in the form of Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) as India and Pakistan were given exclusive rights on three eastern (Sutlej, Ravi and Bias) and three western rivers (Indus, Jehlum and Chenab) rivers respectively.

September 19, 2020 marks the completion of six decades of the IWT, signed by the then President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Ayub Khan, and the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, in 1960 at Karachi, under the auspices of the World Bank. 

A terse treaty, with 12 articles and 8 appendices (A-H), provided a detailed framework not only for bifurcation of rivers but entails provisions regarding exchange of data, future cooperation, creation of Permanent Indus Commission, settlement of differences and disputes and its modification. 

The treaty has shown remarkable resilience during three scores of its life as it sailed through the war period of 1965, 1971 and Kargil crisis (1999) besides numerous other diplomatic crises between Pakistan and India that abysmally hit the bilateral relations. 

Nevertheless, India’s debatable and objectionable use of permissive features in Article III (2) that allows unrestricted use of western rivers’ waters to Pakistan besides permitting India the limited domestic, non-consumptive, agricultural and hydropower generation use has affronted the treaty provisions. 

Violation from India has been seen, time and again, in construction of engineering works on Jhelum and Chenab in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK). Engineering works there are to be notified to Pakistan well before their initiation so that the design features be mutually agreed upon by the two states under the treaty provisions. Only the design provisions of Salall hydroelectric project were amicably settled in 1978 after some objections raised by Pakistan. 

Bilateral diplomacy could not compel the two intractable Indian governments for stopping the construction of Baghliar and Kishanganga dam in 1999 and 2007 respectively. 

Questions became differences in case of Baghliar Dam on the Chenab River with the unprecedented appointment of Neutral Expert (NE) under Article IX (2a). The NE resolved the matter in February 2007 such that a win-win situation appeared for both parties. 

However, the filling of Baghliar dam gave a severe blow to Pakistan savage reduction of water flow from Marala headworks in September and October affected millions of acres of arable land causing billions of loss to agriculture sector in 2008. 

Kishanganga dam excelled a step further in underscoring India’s grave violations of the IWT. The project envisions diversion from the Kishanganga River through a 22 kilometre long tunnel towards the Bunar Madumati Nullah of River Jehlum for 300 MW hydro-power generation and then its re-route to Jehlum via Wullar lake. The project also fulfills the gains from constructing Wullar Barrage on Wullar River that was objected to by Pakistan in 1985 resulting in halting of engineering work in 1987. 

All kinds of diversion from the western rivers entering into Pakistan from IOK are absolutely barred in the IWT. Kishanganga River is termed as Neelum-Jehlum River when it enters Pakistani-administered Kashmir and is an input source of Pakistan’s 969 MW Neelum-Jehlum project. 

The Indian design will drastically curtail the power generation from the project besides impacting severely on agriculture production and local demography. The construction work started in 2007 but stopped in October 2011 by the Court of Arbitration (CoA) under Pakistan’s request for arbitration. Some other projects on western rivers are also disputed between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours. 

The treaty grapples with the challenge of climate change that was utterly unknown during its negotiating years (1954-1960); the deleterious effects of climate change were unimaginable at the time of signing moment of this historic accord. 

The Swiss NE in Baghliar dam case Professor Raymond Laffitte also hinted and based his decision on multiple factors related to climate change. India, being the upper riparian, is in an advantageous position. The reduction in water flow owing to the causes of climate change must be shared by both the countries and not by Pakistan alone as in the past. 

Former UNSC Secretary General, Boutros Ghali, once famously remarked during his tenure in 1991: “Wars will now be fought over water, neither politics nor oil.” His statement validates the current water conflict between Pakistan and India. 

The incumbent Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has repeatedly threatened abrogation of IWT as well as stopping the flow of water into Pakistan territory. The successive Indian governments during the last 40 years have devised controversial projects on the upstream sides of the western rivers in absolute contradiction to the clauses of IWT. The third party dispute-settling mechanism by NE or CoA is also an exorbitant process draining millions of dollars out from the national exchequer. 

India’s controversial step of annexing the occupied Kashmir last year has exacerbated the situation further. Though voices have been raised from both states in the recent past for revisiting/amending the treaty but in near future it seems almost impossible keeping in view their current state of bilateral relations. Evidently, the status quo will prevail in the years to come.

***The writer is Deputy Director at Pakistan Railways

Sindh delays middle schools reopening

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The Sindh Minister for Education and Labour, Saeed Ghani, announced that the government has decided to defer the reopening of middle schools until September 23 as there were reports confirming the COVID-19 infections among teaching staff. 

"Unfortunately, educational institutions, both private and public, are not fully implementing the prescribed standard operating procedures," he observed in a press statement, while referring to his visits to some of the institutions allowed to resume teaching for Class IX and above classes from September 15 in the province. 

“Despite our efforts, we are seeing a lot of flaws and violations. Therefore we are delaying the second phase of resuming grade 6-8 classes. These classes were slated to resume on September 21 but now it will be pushed back to September 28, if the situation concerning the virus improves. But if the situation remains the same, we might review the decision on Sept 28 again," he added.

Coronavirus Update: Infections increase by 17% in Karachi

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Karachi witnessed a 17% increase in its daily new COVID-19 cases, compared to the preceding day’s numbers, on September 18 when authorities in the government confirmed 237 new cases across the province, with four more related deaths, during the last 24 hours.

Karachi had a share of 163 (53%) new infections in the total 307 cases reported in Sindh on September 17, which increased to 165 (70%), out of 237 cases registered at 8 am on September 18.

The six districts of Karachi had reported its lowest (45% of the Sindh’s overall daily new cases), during the last week, on September 14. 

The other districts which reported new COVID-19 infections by September 18 morning included Badin (11), Hyderabad (9), Tando Mohammad Khan (5), Jamshoro (4), Khairpur (4), Shaheed Benazirabad (4), Ghotki (3), Naushero Feroze (2), Dadu (1), Larkana (1), Mirpurkhas (1), Sanghar (1) and Tando Allahyar (1). 

The Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, in his daily COVID status statement, shared that as many as 154 patients recovered from the diseases, pushing the tall of cured patients to 128,145, against overall 133,362 infections, for the province on September 18. 

He further said that 2481 of the 2758 active COVID-19 patients were isolated at homes, while another five at the isolation centres and 272 at hospitals. “The number of critically ill patients stood at 171, while 23 patients were being given the ventilator intervention,” he mentioned. With four new deaths, the total death tally has reached to 2,459 on September 18.

Friday, September 18, 2020

China to assist in developing agriculture sector

By Masood Sattar Khan 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)
China has decided to assist Pakistan in developing dates processing plants and onion cold storages in Southern Balochistan 

The consensus was reached when the Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, Syed Fakhar Imam, had a farewell meeting with the outgoing Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, on September 18. 

The minister appreciated Ambassador Yao Jing for his contributions in further fostering bilateral ties between the two brotherly countries. 

Fakhar Imam acknowledged the need of expanding the friendly relations between the two Asian nations and reiterated the importance Pakistan attaches to its relations with the People’s Republic of China. 

The Federal Minister stated that the high level visits from both sides have opened up new horizons for our bilateral cooperation, particularly in the field of agriculture. 

He hailed the appointment of an Agricultural Counselor in the Chinese Embassy, which has helped in effective coordination in all areas of agricultural cooperation. 

He reckoned that the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will go a long way to further strengthen relations as well as development of Agriculture and livestock sector in Pakistan.